§ 3.5 p.m.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be, now read a second time.
In commending this Bill at Third Reading in another place, my right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office said that few laws can have attracted so many attempts at reform but with such little success as has been the case with the Sunday trading laws.
Your Lordships, though, have not found it as difficult as another place to reach an agreed view on what should replace the Sunday trading laws in England and Wales—at least in the past. I hope that that happy position will continue with this Bill. I hope that this Bill will finally enable Parliament to lay the whole subject to rest.
Few, if any, of us come to this debate without a personal view on how the law should be changed. But I fancy that most of us are mesmerised by the complexity of the detail which attaches to the various options. Fortunately—or perhaps unfortunately—this is not an issue which divides us along party lines. But where, I think, all sides are agreed on the subject of Sunday trading is that, in the immortal words of Edward VIII in 1936,"something must be done".
The Sunday trading provisions in the 1950 Shops Act are simply anachronistic; and the way in which they operate in practice is now absurd. The law is widely ignored; and that is bad. Law breaking—whoever does, it and wherever it occurs—cannot be right. Shops now quite openly sell on a Sunday items which are not permitted under the 1950 Act. And we cannot continue with a law which commands so little respect in this country.
We have witnessed, too, the debilitating examples of cases going through our courts, and then being tossed backward and forwards like some unexploded bomb between our courts and the European courts. It has not been an edifying spectacle. People have done their best: local authorities; trading standards officers; and the courts. But it is the law itself which is the problem.
The need to reform the 1950 Act is, therefore, compelling. I do not think that there is anyone who would disagree with that. The difficulty comes in deciding how to reform it.
I think that we need to put aside, to a certain extent, our own personal preferences in order to try to find a 1341 workable solution. What we need is Sunday trading laws which make sense; which work; which can be enforced; and which will be enforced.
There have been laws forbidding activity on a Sunday for over a thousand years. Way back in the year 906 Edward the Elder forbade executions from taking place on a Sunday. I suppose that that was, at least, a start. But it was the Sunday Observance Act of 1677 which had perhaps a more significant influence on the provisions which are in force today. It carried the puritan influence of those days and it was not repealed until 1936. The exemption which allowed milk to be sold on a Sunday, for example, is contained in the 1950 Act, but it dates back to the days of 1677. Curiously enough, so, too, does the exemption for alcoholic drinks—and I dare say that your Lordships may find some contentment in that. The 1936 Shops Act was an attempt to bring the law up to date.
But the 1950 Shops Act really only consolidated the various pieces of legislation which were then in existence. It is not surprising, therefore, that it ended up by being a hotch-potch. The Sunday trading provisions of the 1950 Act, as everyone knows, just do not meet modern needs. It is difficult to defend the logic of an Act which allows the sale of beer and partly-cooked tripe on a Sunday but prohibits the sale of tea and baked beans; or the absurdity which allows you to sell milk and cream, including clotted cream, on a Sunday, but prevents you from selling dried milk or tinned cream unless it is tinned clotted cream. As my right honourable friend the Home Secretary so nimbly put it the other day: "If Peter Piper was still in the habit of picking a peck of pickled peppers, he could not pick them from a shop on Sunday, although he could pick a peck of fresh peppers if he wanted to". That is, if I may say so, a curious pickle to be in.
But for good or ill, life in Britain has changed since 1950 and certainly since 1677: more women work; more people work part-time; there are more cars; and more people now shop on a weekly basis rather than on a daily basis. These changes in society, and in retailing, have seen a growth in the demand for Sunday shopping. Opinion polls suggest that shopping is the most popular leisure activity outside the home, although I am bound to say that I find it extraordinary that people should enjoy shopping to that extent. But there it is. It takes all sorts to make a world.
Because of the pressures for change, the Government set up a committee in the early 1980s to consider how the law might be reformed. That committee was under the chairmanship of Mr. Robin Auld QC, now Mr. Justice Auld. Your Lordships may remember that the Auld Committee came to the conclusion that there was, in its words,no combination of interests which justified the retention of regulation.In other words, it was in favour of total deregulation.
So in 1985 the Government introduced a shops Bill into your Lordships' house. Among other things, it attempted to introduce deregulation of Sunday trading 1342 in England and Wales. The Bill completed its passage in this House successfully, but it was defeated on Second Reading in another place.
Since then there have been further attempts to reform the law on Sunday trading. In all, since the 1950 Act, it is an amazing fact that there have been no fewer than 29 Bills which were, in some way or another, aimed at reforming Sunday trading—including, if I may remind your Lordships, a valiant attempt by my noble friend Lady Trumpington, who, in due course, saw her own ship sunk by Parliament. I am delighted to say that, never disillusioned, she returns to the bridge once again and will conclude the debate this evening. But each of those Bills failed to secure support because, in the majority of cases, the deep divisions in another place were simply irreconcilable.
But we could not continue in that way. So, the Government committed themselves, in their manifesto before the last election, to have another shot at reforming the law on Sunday trading. In practice, though, we realised that only a radical approach could do the trick. Ever full of new ideas, the Government devised a unique procedure. We would suggest to Parliament three options, and it would be up to Parliament to choose which one it wished to see incorporated in the final Act.
Before explaining what those options are, I should make it perfectly clear that the Government themselves did not and do not recommend any particular one of the options. The Government, for once, do not "have a view". Throughout the passage of the Bill, the Government have been neutral between the options, and will remain so. The overriding concern of the Government is that the law should be reformed and that the current "shambles" should be sorted out. The main interest groups were invited to work with officials to draw up models for reform, and I should like to pay tribute to the energy and the genuine effort which they brought to that task.
When the Bill was introduced in another place it contained three options. The first option was full deregulation, under which all shops would be free to open at any time on a Sunday. That is, by and large, the system which operates in Scotland.
The second option was a "regulatory" scheme, which was proposed by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform. It would require the majority of shops to close on a Sunday, but a limited number would be permitted to open. All shops, though, would be allowed to open on the four Sundays before Christmas.
The third option was "partial deregulation", which was proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. It would allow all small shops to trade at any time on Sundays, but would restrict large shops to only six hours' trading between the hours of 10 o'clock in the morning and 6 o'clock in the evening on a Sunday. The large shops would be defined as ones which have a floor area which exceeds 280 square metres. If your Lordships are not too familiar with these kinds of calculations, in round terms it is about the size of a tennis court.
1343 The principle that reform was needed was confirmed in another place when the Bill received its Second Reading there on 29th November last year with a majority of nearly 300. The choice between the options was then decided on a free vote in a Committee of the Whole House. The first option of total deregulation was defeated by over 200 votes. The second option—the "regulatory" scheme which was proposed by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform—was defeated by a much smaller majority of 18. But the third option of partial deregulation secured a majority of 75. That is the option that now finds itself incorporated in Schedule 1 to the Bill, which is in front of your Lordships.
The vote in favour of partial deregulation was confirmed at Report. An amendment which would have prohibited large shops, with very few exceptions, from trading at all on a Sunday was defeated by 61 votes, again on a free vote. Another amendment to restrict trading by large s hops so that they could only open on Sunday mornings also failed—by 50 votes. At Third Reading in another place, the Bill as it appears today was secured by a majority of 93—again, on a free vote. Whatever your Lordships' views on the subject may be, I hope that your Lordships will agree that this shows that, while the chosen option may not have been the first choice of all of tine Members of another place, it has been clearly accepted in another place as the best solution which was available.
The Bill now comes to your Lordships' House to be put through the proverbial wringer. I would just say that your Lordships will also be able to make the same choice between those three options.
I propose, therefore, to table two groups of amendments. The details of them are set out in a memorandum which I have placed in the Printed Paper Office. The first group of amendments would take out of the Bill the scheme of partial deregulation which it contains at present, and would replace it with total deregulation. The second group would replace partial deregulation with the regulatory scheme which is preferred by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform. It is, of course, open to noble Lords to bring forward any other amendments that they may wish, and they could include any other options for reform towards which your Lordships may feel disposed. I would only add, with a certain degree of humility, that there is considerable advantage in making sure that any option is simple and understandable and that the fewer amendments on the Marshalled List, the greater is the concentration of the mind.
I hope that we might begin our Committee stage with the consideration of those groups of amendments which would replace the scheme in the Bill with any other options for reform. The detailed scrutiny of the Bill can then take place, once we know the choice upon which your Lordships have settled. To that end, I shall ask your Lordships immediately after our debate this evening to approve a procedural Motion. This will provide that only Clause 1 and Schedule 1 to the Bill are committed in the first instance to a Committee of the Whole House. That will be sufficient to enable the choice in principle between the options for reform to be made.
1344 The Motion will also provide that, after the Committee has considered Clause 1 and Schedule 1, those provisions should be recommitted, together with the rest of the Bill, to a Committee of the Whole House. So, it will be the whole Bill, as it will stand after the choice between the options has been made, which will be considered in Committee by your Lordships. It is, therefore, only amendments which would introduce new options for consideration which need to be tabled for consideration on the first day of Committee. I suggest that all the detailed amendments to the winning option and to the rest of the Bill need not be tabled until after the first day of Committee, when the choice of your Lordships will have been made and the pattern of the Bill will have become clear.
If your Lordships approve that procedure, day one of Committee will be about the choice between the options for reforms. The remaining days in Committee will consider in detail the option which your Lordships will have chosen. I hope that that procedure will, meet with your Lordships' approval. The Government will offer no guidance on which option should be the preferred option. Like another place, certainly on this side of the House, there will be a free vote and your Lordships can vote which way your Lordships like—a practice, I might add, with which your Lordships are not unfamiliar even when there is not a free vote. There will also he a. free vote both in Committee and on Report on amendments to whichever option might ultimately secure a majority. There will be a free vote, too, on Third Reading.
My own view, for what it is worth, is that I fully sympathise with people who feel that Sunday should be kept as a special day, but that the restrictions of earlier years have, for better or worse, been overwhelmed by the facts, the attitudes and the practices of today. And personally, shall take the simple view that, as another place—miraculously and unprecedentedly—reached a conclusion, there would seem little advantage (and considerable disadvantage) in asking it to go through all that terrible ritual dance again in the quite unlikely proposition that it may, but almost certainly will not, come to a different conclusion. I really think that we will risk inviting continual and unprecedented chaos.
However, having divested myself of that completely "impartial" view, it is only fair to say that there are plenty of people, both within the Government and without, who take a totally different view. And it is equally only fair to say that there would be absolutely nothing improper if your Lordships were to decide otherwise and if your Lordships were to pick a different option from that which was chosen by another place.
In addition to the scheme for partial deregulation which I outlined, the Bill contains other measures. Schedule 2 makes special provision for shops which are owned by people who observe the Jewish sabbath. Those were drawn up in consultation with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and they have their support. We think that they represent a far simpler and fairer procedure to those provisions which were contained in the 1950 Act. Those provisions allow shops which have a floor space which is larger than 280 square metres to open all day—not just six hours—on a Sunday, provided that they notify the local authority that they 1345 intend to close on the Jewish sabbath and that they enclose a letter from the rabbi confirming that the occupier of the shop is of the Jewish religion.
Clause 2 and Schedule 3 together give local authorities the option of adopting a procedure to prohibit deliveries before 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Clause 3 protects leaseholders from being required to open on a Sunday simply because their lease requires them to keep the shop open during "normal business hours".
The Government do not argue for or against those measures, nor will they take a position on amendments to them. Indeed, as a general proposition, while I am more than happy to act as a source of advice to your Lordships as to what individual amendments might achieve—if that were to be considered in any way helpful—I intend to refrain from advising your Lordships on whether any specific amendment might be, in the words of 1066 and All That,a Good Thing or a Bad Thing".Schedule 4 to the Bill is, though, quite different. This is government policy and it will be treated as such. While the issue of shop opening hours crosses party lines, there has always been a clear distinction about the place of employment rights in the statute of the country. Schedule 4 provides a comprehensive list of measures which ensure that no shopworker need fear that he or she could be required to work on Sunday against his or her will. It provides that all existing shopworkers, unless they are employed only to work on Sunday, will have immediate protection from being required to work on Sunday. Those rights apply irrespective of their length of service or of the hours which are worked. The protection extends also to anybody who has agreed to Sunday shop work before the Bill comes into force. The Bill also gives new rights to future shopworkers. Even if they agree to Sunday working, they can opt out of that agreement at any time, subject to three months' notice. Protection is not limited to sales assistants, but it extends to the people who work in or about a shop which is open at any time for Sunday trading—the shelf-fillers, the canteen workers, the managers and so forth. The protection extends to all shopworkers if the shop opens at any time on a Sunday.
We believe that those measures will provide proper and reasonable protection. We know that many shopworkers choose to work on Sundays. Some like to work because it fits in well with their family responsibilities. Others may do so because Sunday working pays good wages. Whatever their reason, shopworkers will be able to decide on Sunday working, safe in the knowledge that, if they later change their minds, then their employers will be obliged to respect their wishes. And those who, for family, religious, social or any other reason, have no wish to work on Sunday, need not do so. It will be up to individuals to choose whether or not to work in a shop on a Sunday.
There is a formidable list of your Lordships who have indicated a desire to speak today, and I have no doubt that most will argue for or against the various options for reform. I have not done so because, as I said, it is central to the Government's position that it is more 1346 important that the law should be reformed than that any specific option should triumph. I would only suggest to your Lordships that the Sunday trading laws in England and Wales really must be reformed, and the sooner the better. I think that this Bill will secure that result and I commend it to your Lordships.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, to some of us sitting behind him it sounded as though he said that the second option was rejected in another place by 80 votes. Can he confirm that the figure was 18?
My Lords, it was my articulation rather than my noble friend's hearing that must have been at fault. The figure was 18.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, the House is grateful to the Minister for introducing the Bill with his customary clarity and panache. How he can do that in the midst of two other enormous Bills escapes me. But he is certainly keeping up his well-deserved reputation in this House.
The noble Earl saved me a great deal of time with his excellent recitation of the history of attempts at restriction on Sunday trading. I can advance rapidly up to and even beyond the Shops Act 1950 which, as he rightly said, is anachronistic not only in the sense that it was badly drawn up in the first place, being a poor and unprofessional consolidation of earlier legislation, but also in the sense that it related to shopping patterns and social habits of what must now appear, after 44 years, to be a bygone generation.
Shopping patterns at a time when few households owned refrigerators, freezers or cars cannot be the same as in a society where nearly every household owns a refrigerator and probably a freezer, and two-thirds of households possess cars. It cannot be the case that, as in 1950, people need to shop on every single day or even most days in order to meet the needs of their families. The Minister therefore is right in saying that the law needs reform and needed it even before the Auld Committee reported.
The noble Earl skated over some of the embarrassments to the Government of the Shops Bill of 1985–86—understandably and perhaps excusably. But what he cannot get away with is claiming that the Government brought the legislation forward at the earliest possible opportunity. It must be said that not only is the present legislation brought forward seven or more years after the earlier legislation, but also that delay has been extremely damaging for the rule of law in this country. In the intervening period there has been widespread breaking of the law by retailers and by shoppers; principally by retailers since they are legally liable for what they do whereas shoppers are simply taking advantage of that illegality. It has been an act of cowardice on the part of the Government over a number of years now not to have come back to Parliament after they lost the vote on the very inadequate Shops Bill of 1985 to 1986. The damage is plain for all to see.
1347 I shall not dwell on the illegalities that have taken place in recent years. However, in view of the participation of the Episcopal Bench in the debate, I think I ought to say that only two days ago in the Cathedral shop in St. Paul's a wide range of goods that it is illegal to sell on Sunday was on sale, including sweat shirts, teeshirts, teapots and tea spoons, mugs and toy soldiers. Those items did not carry the Cathedral logo. It is also necessary to say that in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral—I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool is not in his seat—the Cathedral shop situated in the centre of the Cathedral offered for sale a wide range of goods which it is illegal to sell on Sunday. There had been previous reports that the Cathedral shop was trading illegally but that has not made the Cathedral shop trade legally. As well as church souvenirs that it is legal to sell, the shop was offering for sale cuddly toys, household ornaments in brass, silver and carved wood, and a huge display of toiletries, including bubble bath. Birthday cards, books, cassette and compact disc music, and jam were also on sale.
What then is the present situation in 1994? Our island is divided. In Scotland, where there is legal deregulation of shopping on Sunday, approximately 25 per cent. of shopping capacity is open. In England, where a great deal of Sunday shopping is illegal,38 per cent. of shopping capacity is open. Any suggestion that deregulation, even to the Scottish limit let alone to the limit proposed on the face of the Bill, would result in an enormous increase in Sunday shopping in England is, I suggest, misconceived. At present 11 million adults shop each Sunday. I think it is unlikely that that number would increase very greatly if deregulation took place; indeed, even if this Bill is passed with any of the options likely to be available to your Lordships.
What is the present situation regarding the protection of shop workers? It is most unsatisfactory both in England and in Scotland. With deregulation in Scotland there has been no employee protection. Indeed, at some stage, although the Long Title forbids it now, someone will have to bring in some kind of protection for Scotland equivalent to that which will be available in England and Wales. In England, because of the illegality of much of the opening, there is no legal protection. Despite that fact, all the research and survey work shows that most of those who do not work on Sunday do not want to work on Sunday and most of those who do work on Sunday do want to work on Sunday. We can assume from that research that whatever legislation is passed many people will want to work on Sunday and will and many people will not want to work on Sunday and will not. Schedule 4 to the Bill, as it has been amended in another place, goes far along the road of securing that.
The Bill has many virtues. It has the virtue of a good deal of employee protection. I shall go further into what that means and what further ought to be done. It also has the virtue of offering options to Parliament in order to secure a good debate. I know that some people in all parties think that it is cowardly of the Government to put forward a Bill without expressing their own opinion. I do not take that view in this case. I think it is entirely 1348 proper for the Government to seek to give Parliament a range of options. Our voting procedures make that a little difficult. If we insist on walking through only two Lobbies when there are at least three options, those of us who are engaged in the assessment of public opinion will say that that is a fairly antiquated procedure. There are, after all, other ways of dealing with more than two options, and our Division Lobbies are not the best way of doing it.
I shall not spend time going through the options that have been described by the Minister. I have no doubt that nearly all noble Lords who will take part in the debate have already investigated them and have formed their own views. I have no doubt that we could draw a few vertical lines down the list of speakers and mark each speaker off in terms of which of the options they will fit into. I certainly propose to do that because it will save time in future debate.
I want to express, as the Minister did, a personal opinion and then move rapidly on to other more important issues. In my view—and I shall say a few words about this at the end of my speech—total deregulation is the only rational solution. I do not expect all my noble friends to agree with me; and even if they do agree with me I am not asking them to follow me into any Division Lobby. I must emphasise that we shall have a free vote just as there will be a free vote on the government side. However, I take the view that all legislation which seeks to intervene in the behaviour of individuals in this country and to regulate where there should be no regulation is bound to land up by trailing behind public opinion and public action. If we insist that it is the role of the law to tell people what to do when there is no public interest in telling people what to do, then we will be following public opinion rather than leading it. I suggest that that is not a very dignified role for Parliament, particularly when the experience is that we follow public opinion at a very great distance—a very great lapse of time.
Having made that brief intervention I want to say something about employee protection. The gains that were achieved in the consideration in another place on 9th February were very substantial. We must not in any way underestimate them. What has been achieved in Schedule 4 as it reaches the House is protection for all shop workers on Sunday whether they are full-time or part-time, whether they are management, shop floor or outside, whether they are current or future employees, and from the first day they start work. The amendments that have been made reduce the fear which was expressed by many of my right honourable and honourable friends about the inadequacies of the industrial tribunal procedure. Amendments are still required. My noble friend Lady Turner of Camden, who will be dealing with these matters in Committee and on Report, will go into this area in more detail. I would simply say, in order to put down a marker at the beginning of the debate, that there must be some form of guaranteed enhanced pay for shop workers on Sunday, that there should be a limitation on the hours of work to no more than eight on a Sunday, and that the three months' notice required for opt out should be reduced to one month.
1349 It is proper that I should say a few words about the religious objections. I fully appreciate the sincerity of those Christians who feel strongly about Sunday, just as I sympathise with those of the Jewish faith who would feel strongly about Saturday—or the Sabbath, which is not the same thing—or indeed those of the Moslem faith who would feel strongly about Friday. I suggest to your Lordships that those who wish to observe any religious faith should be enabled to do so but they should not be in a position where they should change the law for other people who do not share those faiths. Those who felt strongly on Sabbatarian grounds for a restrictive Sunday Trading Bill must surely agree that their objections to the Bill are very much less if Christian shop workers are no longer to be required to work on Sunday. It is for that reason that freedom in Sunday shopping hours must go hand in hand with employment protection if it is to overcome the genuine religious objections of those who feel strongly about these matters.
At the end of the passage of this Bill things will not look very different. To a visitor from Mars our country will look the same: neither heaven nor hell will result from the passage of this Bill in whatever form. People already shop on Sunday and they will continue to do so whether or not the law allows it. What the public wishes will determine what happens rather than the way in which we choose to legislate. That is as it should be.
What we can secure is that the law passed is logical—in other words, it achieves public respect; that it is fair both to the public as shoppers, to employees in the industry and that it is enforceable by local authorities. As I said earlier, if the law tries to legislate where it is not appropriate and tries to intervene in people's private behaviour, then we shall trail behind public opinion and put the law into disrespect. I hope that at the end of our debates we shall have a Bill that is logical, fair to everybody concerned and enforceable at law.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Baroness Hamwee
My Lords, it is perhaps a trite observation, but nevertheless true, that 44 years since 1950 is a very short time in the context of human history, but a very long time to many of us. For my generation 1950 is a long time ago and also for many people who are now in the middle of their working lives and who use shop facilities. I cannot remember 1950. I cannot remember anything much before the Coronation which, to many of my contemporaries, was more importantly the occasion when television became readily available in our homes. To me it is rather a grey area of the post-war period and a time of rationing. I mention that simply to point up the words of those who have spoken already in this debate—as many of your Lordships will no doubt do—that the 1950 Act was enacted in a very different world. Indeed, it consolidated legislation which went back to 1936.
Our task today is easier than it will be at the Committee stage. The question at Second Reading is whether there should be change. I agree wholly with the Minister and with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that there should be change. But, as has been said to me by those who have been concerned with lobbying for the 1350 different options, the proper debate will be on the options. There is probably no single right answer: As with many decisions which we have to make, we have to balance competing interests and concerns. The Minister has rightly said that this is a matter of emotion. I freely admit to carrying my own emotional baggage.
However, we need to recognise that we have moved on from the days of spinsters on bikes in the early Sunday morning mist and warm beer following church. Society has moved on and in particular the position of women has changed. Now more than 70 per cent. of married women work outside the home. I feel embarrassed in saying that, because I recognise that those women who work inside the home also work. But the comparison is that in 1950 about 26 per cent. of married women worked outside the home and some 50 per cent. of those had children under the age of 16. The needs of that sector of society may not be the whole issue, but they are a very important aspect.
But as regards today's question and whether there should be change, to that I would say yes and yes again. The current legislation has no confidence among the public, business or the local authorities whose business it is to enforce it. It is very difficult and costly to enforce. We often express concern about a particular law being in disrepute. This particular law seems to have attracted more snooks being cocked at it than any other I can think of. The local authorities are caught between members of the public who simply do not understand the fuss and who think that there should be no regulation and others who have very strong views about Sunday being a different day.
On the other side, there are the retailers who seem to be able to take legal proceedings in their stride, pay the fines and ride the injunctions. The local authority has to get proof in order to start proceedings against those who are breaking the current law; not just that the shop is open, because that is relatively easy, but that it is selling fresh tomatoes and not tinned, fresh cream and not tinned cream. I did not know until the Minister mentioned it that tinned clotted cream is a commodity that can be sold on a Sunday, but then west London does not produce a great deal of it. That may be more of an issue for other parts of the country. Other examples are that proof of the oil being bought off the shelf is olive oil and not vegetable oil; that the margarine being sold is for spreading and not for cooking. The list goes on and on. No wonder that the public are baffled and uneasy.
I for one—I believe that I must be quite typical in this—do not like being associated with an activity which is in breach of the law. I do not shop on Sunday if I can avoid it. I accept that even by saying that I am ducking the issue. But recently I needed a fuse on a Sunday afternoon. I felt uncomfortable about shopping, but I told myself that this was one of the things which could be sold on a Sunday. But I was wrong. The fuse that I needed was not for my car, which would have been all right, but for my house.
The public are uneasy because they want to enjoy what is now regarded as a leisure activity. We may regard it as puzzling that shopping can be a leisure activity. We may think that it is morally reprehensible 1351 not just because it takes place on a Sunday but because that activity represents a facet of our consumer society with which we are uncomfortable. But that is the current position.
As regards religious concerns, I believe, much as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, does, that this is a matter for personal conscience and not legislation. An individual's views should not be imposed on the rest of society which may have equally strong but different religious views. I am not at all qualified to discuss the religious aspect of this matter, but I cannot help but observe that Ireland, for example—a country which has very strong religious feelings—seems to cope with going to church on Sunday and going shopping immediately afterwards.
The new law must have regard to fundamentals: the right of the individual not to work on a Sunday if he or she chooses not: o. There is also the question of the protection of the employee's rights. I look forward to the debate on the payment of a premium, the length of notice of the intention to opt out, and so on. I hope that we can concentrate on Schedule 4 at a later stage. I accept that we must not be too glib or naive as regards employee rights. The words may look right but enforcement may be a good deal more difficult.
The environment is also a fundamental question. But many of the concerns which I have expressed are not those which should be laid at the door of the deregulation of shopping on a Sunday. For example, there is the matter of traffic congestion. That arises from over-large, out-of-town retail developments which is an allied but separate issue. There are also the pressures on the small shopkeeper. Again, I do not believe that deregulation is the whole issue. The reduced number of small shops is very largely to do with other factors such as the unified business rate, the development of forecourt shops at petrol stations and the structural change of town centre development.
I have to nail my personal colours to the mast. Like everyone else, my colleagues on these Benches will be voting freely, as will the other groups. If anyone were to suggest that they should not, no notice would be taken of that anyway. My personal colours are that because total deregulation does not carry with it enough support, I shall be supporting partial deregulation on the lines proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council—in other words, the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the breaches of the law that he has observed in cathedral shops. I would not wish to see anomalies in the future, such as shops in petrol stations being allowed to function, but not shops in our high streets. I take another venue as an example—not a cathedral, but one which will attract lots of custom. It would be anomalous if at a classical, pop or rock concert taking place on a Sunday programmes could be sold but not recordings of the music or T-shirts commemorating the concert. The new law must be clear, enforceable and logical. It must allow those who want to shop on a Sunday to do so and those who want to work in a shop on a Sunday also to do so.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Lord Chapple
My Lords, I shall be brief for two reasons. First, nothing has been said by the foregoing speakers with which I disagree so I have no need to tackle that problem. Secondly, I may have to leave this evening before the vote is taken if it is taken very late, so I apologise for that. In addition, so much has been said about Sunday trading that when I saw that was again on the agenda for discussion in your Lordships' House, I thought that we would all end up like Cratylus simply wagging our fingers at each other.
When he introduced the Bill, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that there are two issues with which we have to deal. The first is to find a workable rule to solve the problem. The second is that life has changed. I endorse both comments. Life has changed and the world outside is changing. If we do not attempt to legislate to accommodate that, we shall simply end up with more law-breakers than we would wish to have. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that indecision on this matter was leading people to break the law. I go along with him on that.
It may be cowardice on the part of the Government that they have not offered stronger leadership, but I think that they have done the right thing here by throwing the matter open to debate and allowing us all to make up our minds. It is a matter of conscience. Those people who want to keep Sunday special for religious reasons are perfectly entitled to do so. My objection is that I do not want them to interfere with my right to shop on a Sunday and to do the things that I want to do in respect of which I do not break the law other than on this issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, made a good point when she said that she did not think that there was any right answer. That is possibly true because whichever way we go, whether we choose partial or full deregulation, as a result of the application of the legislation anomalies will undoubtedly arise which nobody foresaw when the legislation was passing through both Houses.
Therefore, on the two issues that are before the House—full deregulation or partial eregulation—I stand with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I am for full deregulation simply because I think that partial deregulation will deepen the mess that we are in and that we shall end up with the issue coming back to your Lordships' House once again for further adjudication. I see no point in that. We should deal with the matter today as thoroughly as we can and be done with it.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Ferrers for introducing the Bill with such wit. We all very much enjoyed his speech. I begin with two points on which I think that all noble Lords will unquestionably agree. First, we are grateful to the Government for allowing a free vote in your Lordships' House on the same options as were considered in another place. That enables this House to fulfil its constitutional role as a revising chamber if it should choose to do so. Secondly, I think that all will agree that 1353 the 1950 Shops Act is in need of reform. It is widely ignored, difficult to enforce, and is bringing the law into disrepute.
It is nine years since the matter was last debated and we would all agree that much has changed and that it is right to consider the matter again. What I ask is that when we consider the matter, we consider the serious consequences of the options that are before us. Although it is good fun to make jokes about an out-of-date law, that is not a substitute for thought. Before continuing with my remarks, I should declare an interest in this matter in that I am a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer.
The first and most important point that I would like to make about the Bill is that in reality there are only two options before us. There is the option from the Shopping Hours Reform Council which goes under the name of the "SHRC option", for which another place voted, which is, in effect, deregulation with the same consequences as the total deregulation option. It would be quite wrong to suggest that that is a compromise. By allowing all shops to open on Sundays and large shops to open for six hours on Sundays—I do not believe that any large store wants to open for more than six hours—that is, in effect, deregulation. We are deluding ourselves if we imagine that it is anything else. That would certainly not help small shops. It would have all the adverse consequences of deregulation on town centres. It would affect Sunday, which is still widely regarded as a special day by many people, in exactly the same way. It is difficult to understand whether those in another place who voted overwhelmingly against deregulation understood the impact of the SHRC proposals. I would say that the SHRC proposals are not a compromise, but deregulation.
We have a choice between that and the other option, which is supported by the Keep Sunday Special campaign (KSS) and Retailers for Shops Act Reform (RSAR) which, broadly, allows a wide range of small shops, garden centres and DIY shops to open every Sunday, and all other shops to open only on the four Sundays before Christmas when on a commercial basis it is known that there is a 40 per cent. increase in demand. I believe that that is a practical reform which is in the best interests of consumers, retailers, employees and the community at large. It is supported by all the major retail chains, with a combined turnover of £ 26 billion and some 400,000 employees. It is easy to argue for total deregulation, but we need to consider carefully the consequences of that.
The first argument about which I know that we shall hear a great deal is the consumer interest. We must all be interested in that. However, there has been one major change since the Bill was introduced in another place—the Government's own Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, under which all shops will be able to open from Monday to Saturday for 24 hours a day. That seems to remove a key argument; namely, that working people cannot shop during the week and need Sunday opening. If there is 24 hours' opening for six days a week, I should have thought that it would be difficult to argue that no one can manage to do their shopping.
1354 We shall no doubt have a lot of debate about what people actually think. A number of polls have been taken. A poll by NOP which was taken in September 1993 showed that nearly 80 per cent. of the women interviewed confirmed that the proposals supported by RSAR would satisfy their shopping needs and that they do not in any case shop on a Sunday. What is absolutely clear is that, from the point of view of a business, there is no extra business to be taken on a Sunday. Six days' trading would be spread over seven days, with the consequence that the consumer will end up paying for the increased cost through higher prices.
We need to look carefully at the second effect; namely the effect on small shops about which I have no doubt that we shall also hear a great deal. Sunday trading by large stores would almost certainly lead to the closure of some 10,000 small shops in the next few years. That point has been researched, and the source of the figures is the report The Problems in Rural Areas published in September 1992. Small shops do 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. of their business on Sundays, unlike large supermarkets which do about 5 per cent. The difference for the small shops is the difference between survival and closure with all that means for anyone living in the country without a car, the elderly, the disabled and those in rural communities generally. Considerable research has confirmed that the local shop is a village's most important asset. The closure of small shops will lead also to the decline of the high street—something that the Government have said they wish to maintain. In the long run, deregulation will lead inevitably to less variety, choice or convenience and higher costs for consumers.
I shall of course read carefully what my noble friend the Minister said about the protection of staff, but I wonder whether he can be as confident in that part of the Bill as he said that he was. That is a matter to which we shall return in Committee, but examples have already come to light which show that those employees who opt not to work on a Sunday will be discriminated against, at any rate in their career progression and working arrangements. The Bill does not acknowledge that. I suspect strongly that the employee protection conscience clause is not worth the paper upon which it has been written. It is an issue that needs to be looked at closely.
We need then to look at the effect of the proposal on the community at large. I noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, had to say about that. She is currently involved in local government. There are many people in local authorities who believe that deregulated trading will unquestionably lead to more traffic congestion, more pollution, extra costs for policing, traffic wardens and street cleaning. All that will add to the council tax and I see no prospect of the Government compensating local authorities for their increased costs.
Before concluding I should just like to mention the point about Scotland raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. One of the main arguments used by many people is that if deregulation works in Scotland why should it not work in England. At first sight that appears to be a compelling argument, but shopping patterns are different in Scotland because the population density is 1355 lower, as is car ownership, there are higher transport and energy costs for shops, and there is an insignificant presence of large food multiples. The situation is different in England, and as the noble Lord said only 25 per cent. of shops open in Scotland, whereas in England and Wales 38 per cent. open currently and under deregulation approximately 65 per cent. would open. Probably 75 per cent. of shops would open in the food sector, so the pattern in England and Wales would be different and so would the consequences arising from it. Indeed, given the situation and the expansion of large supermarkets in Scotland, it is likely that the adverse consequences of Sunday trading will occur in Scotland.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene. She has declared an interest as a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer. Will she confirm that Marks & Spencer opens in Scotland?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I am happy to confirm that. I do not pretend that it does not. I am merely saying that the general situation in Scotland is unlike that in England. That is a fact that needs to be borne in mind. Perhaps I may add that Marks & Spencer, unlike other large supermarkets" has never broken the law. I should like that to be noted.
On enforceability, there is no doubt that the Association of District Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities have confirmed that the KSS/RSAR option is enforceable. An amendment made to the Bill in the course of its passage through another place—namely, an increase in the fine to £ 50,000 for those who break the law—will have a salutary effect on whether shops open and whether they should or should not break the law. En any event, enforceability will have increased.
I am conscious that we all have different opinions about this matter. I have stated what mine is. We shall undoubtedly return to consider these matters in great detail in Committee. As I have already said, I welcome the Government's proposals regarding voting on the three options put before another place. It is an important matter not just for retailers, but for the people who work in the stores, consumers, small shops and the countryside. If we vote for deregulation we shall be going into a world that we have not seen before. It is most unlikely that we could turn back the clock. In some countries which have deregulated shopping already people have come greatly to regret that that is the case. I should not like us to fall into that position and to throw away a great many of our Sunday traditions, about which many others will be speaking, but about which I feel strongly. We should not throw them out for something which is, in effect, unnecessary. As I said, we shall return to those issues, recognising that once we go down the deregulation route we shall not be able to put back the clock.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, I do not propose today to discuss the various options and to make comparisons. I should like to make just two brief comments. I support the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who said that the 1356 SHRC option is deregulation by another name, because it would be difficult to enforce. We shall discuss that issue at a later stage. I emphasise also that when the Minister introduced the Bill, he omitted the fact that the RSAR/KSS option includes DIY centres and garden centres opening on Sunday. That is an important point. The noble Baroness mentioned it; I should like to emphasise it.
I wish at this stage merely to put on record my continuing opposition to the proposals which would make Sunday just another working day. I shall give some of my reasons. All over the world, countries with a predominant religion recognise the traditions and practice of that religion in their laws and customs, We still call ourselves a Christian country. Over 37 million of our citizens declare themselves to be Christian. The Christian Church is part of our establishment. Yet we are now being asked to ignore one of its fundamental requirements—that one day in seven should be set aside for rest and worship. Surely that is a basic value that we should not abandon lightly.
My noble friend Lord McIntosh said that if the law is broken consistently, we must change it. He is probably right in this case because, as we have heard, the existing law is ridiculous. The flouting of it has gone on for a long time, and there are no reasons for not: changing it. However, I do not wish to follow him down that road with regard to many other laws.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will permit me to intervene. I did not: say that if a law is broken consistently it should be changed. I would not apply that rule, for example, to criminal offences. What I am saying is that if the law leads to unnecessary interference in people's behaviour which does not damage other people, then it should be changed. That is different.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that clarification, which I am glad to have on record. All the arguments against Sunday trading remain much as they were when we debated the subject in 1985. For example, there is the detrimental effect on family life, and not just for shopworkers. Even now, despite all pressures, Sunday is still a family day for a majority of the population—a day upon which to eat together, to share recreation, to visit friends and relatives and to enjoy the feeling of a day that is different.
Sunday is to the working week what the annual holiday is to the working year; it is a time to refresh and renew. Deregulation would affect not only workers in the retail industry but public health, transport and power workers, police and traffic wardens and a wide circle of suppliers, especially those who supply perishable goods. Can the protection offered in Schedule 4 to the Bill be extended to all those workers? I very much doubt it.
The environmental arguments, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, are as valid as they were in 1985. There would be increased noise, litter and disturbance for residents and an increase in the use of energy, which would add yet more pollution problems. The Association for the Conservation of Energy 1357 estimates that an additional 500,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum would flow from heating and lighting if most shops were to open on Sunday. Other organisations quote even higher figures but it is safer for me to take the lowest. If added to that is the extra pollution from traffic the task of achieving our Rio commitments will be made even more difficult. The increased cost of all those effects will eventually fall on the consumer.
Small shops will inevitably suffer, especially in rural areas, about which I have a particular worry. Many operate on tight margins and only a small percentage shift will tip the balance. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that two-thirds of the population is car owning. That is true but it means that one-third is not. The one-third which does not own cars or have access to them includes many pensioners who will be gravely disadvantaged by the loss of local shops.
Much has been made of the support of USDAW the shopworkers' union, for the SHRC option. I propose to deal with that in greater detail at the next stage of the Bill. For now, however, I merely point out that the USDAW change of heart was made without the support of the full membership and in the expectation of the insertion of certain protective clauses in the Bill. Those clauses were resisted by the Government and USDAW must now rely upon an agreement with the employers, which has no statutory backing. The value of that agreement has yet to be tested. Many of my honourable friends in another place are uneasy with the situation. In any case, some 2 million shopworkers are not covered by the USDAW agreement. Their rights must be considered too and if we do not consider them, who will?
The consumer need for Sunday trading is less than it was in 1985. Many convenience stores now open late in the evenings and, more importantly, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, there is a clause in the forthcoming Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill which will allow 24-hour opening from Monday to Saturday. I should have thought that even the most avid consumer would be satisfied with that. Members in another place were unaware of that proposal when they made their choice of options. I know for certain that some would welcome an opportunity to reconsider their decision. I hope that when the moment comes this House will fulfil its most important role and invite the other place to think again. We have done so on many occasions and should certainly do so in respect of this Bill.
§ 4.14 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, there does indeed need to be a reformed and workable law. There is no disagreement about that on these Benches. However, I do not believe that we should accept the argument that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, appeared to be making; that because another place had at last agreed on a way forward we should fall in line and support it. The role of your Lordships' House is often to be a revising Chamber. In that role there are times when the elected representatives in another place are very glad that actions of this House allow them to think again. I 1358 believe that there is good reason why they should think again about the way they voted on 8th December. I hope that when your Lordships' House votes on the options it will not shrink from returning different answers from those of another place.
Since 8th December two significant changes have occurred which give a new perspective to Sunday trading. The first is publication of the Deregulating and Contracting Out Bill. The second is the failure of the Opposition to persuade the Government to put into the Bill effective protection of workers. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out that the deregulation of shopping hours appears to have shifted the ground of one of the main points made by protagonists for the Bill.
In a future where all the pointers suggest that there will not be enough employment to go round, there should be no need to work impossibly long hours. The convenience of shoppers can be met without recourse to the opening of large stores on Sundays. It seems very remarkable to me that in all the long debate on 8th December no mention was made of the fact that a government proposal for deregulation from Monday to Saturday was just around the corner.
The other change is that since 8th December it has become clear that the Bill does not provide effective worker protection. While the Bill is before Parliament, one might have supposed that employers would be on their best behaviour in this respect. Yet there are already examples of pressure being brought on employees to work on Sundays, whether they want to or not.
If the Bill becomes law there is little doubt in my mind that those who do not want to work on Sundays will face discrimination in obtaining employment and in obtaining supervisory posts. Advice from lawyers—namely, Dr. Simon Deakin of Cambridge University and Professor Keith Ewing of King's College, London—warns that for several reasons sanctions such as industrial tribunals are inadequate. No legal aid is available. Although the Minister, Mr. Lloyd, disagreed, the lawyers pressed the point that the burden of proof that dismissal has taken place because of refusal to work on Sundays rests on the employee. Surveys carried out by Durham University Business School and the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge University show that a majority of shopworkers do not want further Sunday trading. They value the possibility of Sunday being a day which is different for every member of the family.
There is much rhetoric in our public life about strengthening family ties. I have no doubt that those who vote for the opening of big stores for six hours on Sunday—adding on travel-to-work time and time to prepare the store—are voting for a weakening of family ties. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, made the point about children spending more time with their parents on Sundays, the elderly receiving more visits and Sunday lunch being far from an institution which has disappeared from our family lives. Do we really want to weaken all that?
I have tried to put myself in the shoes of those who support the Shopping Hours Reform Council. I met the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and her colleagues, and I 1359 listened carefully to their arguments. I believe that there is a wish for a more streamlined, more modern structure to our week, which is rid of the clutter, as they see it, of regulations. They ask why there should be any interference with the freedom and the convenience of the consumer.
The answer to that is the answer that we would give in defence of all law which limits the freedom of the more powerful; it is that freedom for the more powerful often removes freedoms from those in weaker bargaining positions. That includes, shopworkers, as I said. It includes many others who are increasingly left behind in the scramble for a streamlined world of convenience. I know the theory about marching columns; that if the columns at the front go forward faster those at the back are drawn along with them. I do not believe one single word of that. We are creating more groups of those left behind as the front-marching columns thrust further forward.
Shopping Hours Reform Council leaders told me that they expected large supermarkets mostly to be open in out-of-town centres. That is all very convenient if one has a car, and we have been given figures for that. Many like to assume that because a majority of people own cars everyone in Britain has access to a car. I should like the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to look at the 1991 census figure for Merseyside. There are wards in Liverpool where 80 per cent. of households do not have a car. In urban priority areas and perhaps even more in rural communities, elderly and sick people and those on the lowest incomes, need good corner shops. They are of very great importance to our communities. Those who vote for this proposal, sponsored by the big battalions, are certainly voting for a further loss of such shops. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, gave figures with regard to the loss of those shops. A vote for the RSAR option would be a significant touch on the rudder, offering a better climate in which our small shops could thrive. I have no doubt of the desirability of that in our national life.
The experience of Sunday opening in Scotland is often quoted as though it is universally acclaimed. The Church of Scotland says the reverse. In last year's General Assembly it firmly supported the more regulatory option. I have with me a letter from the Convenor of the Church of Scotland's Church and Nation Committee to the Home Secretary. He wrote:Any suggestion that the system in Scotland is successful and is good practice is mi; leading and in contradiction of the facts".This Bill is a matter of great significance to the Churches. In the debate on the Queen's Speech, I quoted my friend Archbishop Derek Worlock's strong attack on further secularisation of Sunday by the Bill. Christians do not have the right to lay down the law to all people about Sunday observance. But we have the same right—no more, but no less—as other citizens to argue for what we conceive to be for the health of the whole; a rhythm of work and rest for communities as well as for individuals. Indeed, we may have been too coy, because it appears to defend our sectional interest.
Other sectional interests are not very coy about Sunday trading. This creeping secularisation has its effect on the spiritual life of so many. Our critics like to 1360 tell us that we in the Churches have grave responsibility for strengthening moral values. We believe that beneath moral values there need to be spiritual roots. Those spiritual roots need cherishing. The task of the Churches will be made more difficult if there is a further shift in the pattern of Sundays.
I hope that those who use the rhetoric about the importance both of family life and of the spiritual health of the nation will help to keep Sunday special by their vote.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I do not know whether the obviously sincere and somewhat emotional speech of the right reverend Prelate is delivered on his own behalf only or whether he speaks for the Church of which he is an extremely distinguished member.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I do not have the figures at my finger tips, but the General Synod of the Church of England voted by more than 300 to nothing to support the more regulatory option. I speak as chairman of the Board for Social Responsibility of the Church of England, and I do indeed speak for the Church of England.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, as 1: understand it, the Church supports the more regulatory option. Therefore, it supported a move away from the present law. That was not apparent from the speech made by the right reverend Prelate which, as I understood it, attacked any relaxation of the present law on Sunday trading.
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, my first words were:My Lords, there does indeed need to be a reformed and workable law. There is no disagreement about that on these Benches".I did not think that I needed to say more and that is certainly my position.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, does that mean that the right reverend Prelate supports partial deregulation and does it mean also that the cathedrals will cease to open their stalls for the selling, of ordinary products on Sundays?
The Lord Bishop of Liverpool
My Lords, I certainly hope that they will keep the law, as they do now.
My Lords, perhaps I may suggest that we are getting ourselves into something of a tangle. It is more like Committee stage than Second Reading. I believe that we should try to stick a little more closely to the rules.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I always give way when someone intervenes and I was glad to gather that the question of stalls in cathedrals is being looked at. It is not good enough to denounce Sunday trading with the vigour and determination shown by the light reverend Prelate when, at the same time, the great institution of which he is a leading figure breaks the law consistently.
Indeed, it is clear that unless one or other of these measures is carried, the Church will continue to be in 1361 breach of the law in performing what many of us regard as an extremely sensible method of raising funds. I speak with some feeling about this matter because I am a member of the Church of England and I am a church warden. I believe that the Church has got itself into a considerable tangle and the right reverend Prelate did absolutely nothing to disentangle it.
By way of contrast, I found myself wholly in agreement—for the first time in my life, I think—with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. I found nothing in his speech with which I could possibly disagree. That made me wonder whether I can be right. If the noble Lord will allow me to say so, he seemed to speak extraordinarily good sense in advocating what is the only possible solution to our difficulties.
There is before your Lordships' House a choice between total deregulation, such as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, advocated and on which he has my full support, or partial deregulation by one of the other expedients proposed. However, it is clear that if we adopt the partial deregulation alternative extremely complicated difficulties will continue to arise and there will be difficult marginal cases. We shall then have to return to the subject.
I cannot see why opening a shop should be an act which requires special legal permission. Most other activities are open to ordinary citizens. They are not regulated and controlled in that way. One can open an office and all kinds of organisations without the slightest need to consider what restrictions apply. What is so peculiar about shops which means that there must be special, rather complex legal restrictions on them? That does not seem to make sense.
If your Lordships and Parliament adopt the alternative scheme under which some regulations will continue to apply, we shall undoubtedly find in a few years' time that the situation has become impossible and final legislation will have to be introduced. Now Parliament has the opportunity to clear up this legal mess and to deregulate entirely.
The only argument of any strength in favour of the second alternative was that put forward by my noble friend Lady Young when she referred to the position of small shops. One must accept that total deregulation will have an adverse effect on small shops. On the other hand, can it really be argued that because the competition that would be released in that way would be effective and perhaps damaging to small shops, one should use the legislative process to prevent the development of that competition? It seems to most of us that opening a shop is a perfectly ordinary procedure. Why should it be restricted because it will have an adverse effect on other activities in the same direction?
I do not believe that such restrictions are right and wise. I am quite certain that they will give rise to just the same problems which we have at present of prosecutions continually having to be instituted and with continual access to the courts in order to enforce what is plainly unenforceable and which no one outside the small shop area wants to see maintained. I see that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, wishes to intervene. I give way.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am much obliged. Perhaps I may attempt to salvage a shred of my political reputation by disagreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Does the noble Lord have any evidence to show that small shops in Scotland have suffered as a result of deregulation?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I have not been referring specifically to Scotland and I do not pretend to be an expert on the area. I was simply accepting the argument put forward by my noble friend, for what it was worth, so that I could deal with it. I was not accepting that she was right. Indeed, if I suggested that my noble friend was right then I have entirely misled the noble Lord, because I believe that she is quite wrong. My noble friend is wrong for the reason that it is surely not appropriate to use legal powers restricting otherwise ordinary, sensible action because it will hurt other people. I see that my noble friend wishes to respond. I give way.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, as I was referred to in that exchange, perhaps I may make one point about Scotland. There is already evidence to show that small shops are closing in Scotland. I suggest that that trend will accelerate as more multiples open up in Scotland. That is an established fact. As regards my noble friend's other argument, one really has to consider one-third of the population which is non-car owning and the effect that the proposals will have upon those people.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, my noble friend's arguments lead her further than she realises. She is saying that an ordinary, reasonable action should be stopped by law if it is liable to injure the interests of one particular section of society. I believe that is a very dangerous argument to adduce. If my noble friend really thinks about it, she will realise that that is what she is saying. She is saying that we should forbid an otherwise acceptable activity because it will prove to be too competitive for small shops. Sorry though I would be for the small shops, that seems to me to be a very dangerous argument.
There are many points to cover, but we have a very long list of speakers. Therefore, I shall add but one further point. In my view, the Bill provides proper protection for employees who may find themselves faced with a demand for Sunday working. I have some experience of the situation. Some years ago I was chairman of a cement-making company which, as I am sure noble Lords are aware, is a continuous process industry. I received one or two complaints. They came from employees who said that the foreman obviously had a grievance against them because he had not allocated them vacancies on the Sunday working rota. Of course, Sunday workers in that, as in most other industries, are paid more than on week days. The only grievances that came to me as chairman were not that it was persecution to be asked to work on Sundays, but that it indicated prejudice against you if you were not in fact given the opportunity so to do. That is my practical experience of the matter.
1363 Finally, I ask your Lordships to consider very seriously the views of the Consumers' Association. In a letter to me—and, indeed, to many other noble Lords—the association said:As may be seen, our preferred option for reform of the 1950 Act remains total deregulation of opening hours for all sizes and types of shops".Surely we are really concerned, above all, with the interests of consumers. We shall have to decide on a choice between two alternatives. I believe that my noble friend Lord Ferrers indicated that because another place had taken the partial deregulation line it would be wise and save trouble for us also to adopt it. I do not take that view. Now that we have come to legislate after a gap of some years on such an important subject we ought to go for the alternative which seems to us to be right and best and give another place the opportunity to think again as to whether the whole difficult subject can be safely put out of the way by going for complete deregulation and treating shops like any other economic activity in the country.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde
My Lords, it is generally accepted today that the 1950 Shops Act is an anachronism icy today's society. There is no doubt about it. In 1950, only 26 per cent. of married women went out to work. However, today the figure is 70 per cent. and that is just the tip of the major changes which have taken place in our society. I support partial deregulation. I was concerned to hear some views which seemed to say that if you believe in family activity and family values you will really be opposing that option. It is because I believe in such activities and values that I support the option.
I find it very difficult to accept that it is regarded as an acceptable family activity on Sunday for a family to go to a garden centre or even a boot sale, while to go shopping together (as families increasingly do today) is not so regarded. There is no doubting the fact that our society has changed considerably. It is not people turning their backs on the Church or on Christian values who are seeking such changes but a recognition of the way that society has changed.
Today there are many illegal openings of shops. However, it is no argument simply to say that we should therefore now make Sunday trading legal. I totally reject that argument. It is equally no argument to say that, because of the deregulation Bill, shops will be able to open Monday to Saturday for 24 hours a day. Many working women with families often work a hard day, often on a split shift, with long hours. Therefore, to say that because the shops are open 24 hours they can do their day's work and then do their shopping afterwards does not answer the question of who looks after the children. The fact is that, by and large, women in Britain today are still responsible for the family shopping. It does not answer the anachronism that you can buy a newspaper but you cannot buy a toilet roll, or that you can buy pot plants but you cannot buy the family groceries. That is my standpoint.
The employment opportunities which have become available, and the changes that took place in the other 1364 place which provide some kind of employee protection, are to be welcomed. However, they do not go far enough. Those are the issues that I want to see dealt with in Committee. For example, it seems wrong that an employee has to give three months' notice of his desire not to work on Sundays. It also seems wrong there is no guarantee of enhanced pay. There needs to be some improvement in that direction.
There is no provision for protection against working long hours on a Sunday. There are also no guarantees that alternative days of working will be found. One can debate all those issues in Committee. I feel that the partial deregulation recognises the changes that have taken place. I believe that to go for full deregulation would be wrong. Equally, I cannot reconcile in my own thinking the alternate view that because consumer demand increases by about 40 per cent. it is all right to open on four Sundays before Christmas, but it is wrong to open on other Sundays in the year. If the principle of Sunday opening is right, it is right; but, if it is wrong, it is wrong. I believe that partial deregulation recognises those facts. It provides some employee protection, although not enough. I hope that it will have the support of the majority in this House.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Jakobovits
My Lords, I join in the tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for the immaculate skill and judicious impartiality with which he opened this notable debate. If I have any quarrel with his arguments, it is only with the suggestion that because a law has been broken it should be abolished. As mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, the logic of that argument would lead to our opening up all the prisons because the law has clearly been broken.
I listened with particular gratification to the reflection of some of my own thinking in the notable speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Nicol, and above all that of my dear friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, who delivered a speech which was spiritually elevating and, to me, of particular value.
It may be argued that I have enough unfinished business trying to prevail upon Jews to observe the. Jewish sabbath on Saturdays without adding the Christian Sunday to my commitments. I do so because, born as I was to a people that gave the world its weekly day of rest, enshrined in the Ten Commandments, I have a sense of almost proprietary or at least hereditary interest in the continued existence of this weekly day of rest.
A 19th century American economist, Henry George wrote:That there is one day in the week that the working man may call his own, one day in the week on which hammer is silent and loom stands idle is due, through Christianity, to Judaism".The preservation of that unique spiritual and social treasure cannot be a matter of indifference to any citizen of this land, least of all to Jews.
In history two attempts have been made to eliminate the weekly day of rest: one after the French Revolution when a 10-day week was tried and the other in the 1920s by the Communists in the Soviet Union who wanted a 1365 five-day week. In both cases the avowed aim was to destroy Christianity and religion in general. Both attempts failed. The seven-day cycle is almost innate in man. In fact, an early Jewish source suggests that the cycle is reflected in nature itself. In the height of man six-sevenths is made up of the body while one-seventh is the head, crowning and controlling the body—one elevated part to six more mundane parts.
The loss of the sabbath would deprive Britain of the last visible vestige of national spirituality and sanctification. For most citizens regular worship every week was given up long ago and is now a dim memory of former generations. The sanctification of the family through lifelong marital faithfulness also endures in ever fewer homes. But at least on Sundays even the streets proclaim that man does not live by bread alone, that the material quest for profit can be interrupted and that there is more to human happiness than the pursuit of wealth and of power over others.
Representing, as it were, the originators of the sabbath, perhaps I may say a few words on its special significance to us in the modern world. By closing our shops and work places we proclaim the equality of all men. The rich do not earn more than the poor. For once we do not measure all values in life by their material price or rewards. [Interruption.]
Of course, I recognise that what the Bill demands in keeping Sunday different is still a far cry from the severe Jewish impositions to sanctify the sabbath. For us the sabbath requires that for one day a week we suspend the exploitation of the powers of nature, that we become creatures instead of rivalling the Creator.
Perhaps I may explain. Under our relatively rigid laws, on the sabbath we have to abstain not only from physical toil and hard labour but also from creative work. We must not switch on the light, nor use the radio or television, nor drive by car or use the telephone. For one day we are to be liberated from the tyranny of the machine. And what a tyranny the television and the telephone can be! Nature is to be emancipated from, and remain untrammelled by, man's domination. We are to demonstrate once every seven days that we are not the ultimate masters of the universe after all, that there is a master above us, and that greater than the capacity to harness the infinite forces of nature is the capacity of man to know when to stop. For the sabbath celebrates not the six days of creation—they are not holy days—but the seventh day on which God ceased creating in order to control what he had created.
Perhaps there is no lesson that we need to learn more urgently in our time of the ceaseless drive for technological and scientific conquest than knowing when to stop. The supreme lesson of the sabbath is to teach us that, greater than the God who called the heavens and the earth and all their infinite powers into existence, is the God who knew when to stop and when to call a halt in order to control what he had created.
It may be that the entire future of man will depend on our capacity to learn when to call a halt, at least occasionally, to what man's inventiveness has created, whether in scientific or medical research, in the exploitation of atomic energy, or in the disposal of 1366 waste material without polluting the air we breathe, our soil, the rivers and the seas on which human life depends. On that capacity to keep what we create in check and to stop occasionally in order to survey where we are and where we are going, on such a sabbath periodically suspending our work, human survival may depend.
Reinforced as I am by three and a half thousand years of uninterrupted sabbath observance, I therefore plead with your Lordships not to abandon this priceless national and human asset and not to allow the creeping secularisation of life to make further inroads into the last remaining bastion of spirituality.
Of the sabbath in relation to the Jewish people, it has been said, more than we kept the sabbath has the sabbath kept us. Likewise, I can assert, so long as we keep the sabbath special, it will keep us safe from moral decay and self-destruction.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Viscount Caldecote
My Lords, I have always admired the speeches of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. However, I was sad today to hear him make somewhat mocking comments on the excellent speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Liverpool. In particular, my noble friend asked,"What is special about shop opening?" I would reply that it is the same as house building: we are restricted as to where and when we may build a house because that is in the national interest. That is the case that those of us who agree with my noble friend Lady Young maintain on this subject.
There is no disagreement that the Sunday trading law must be reformed. Now is not the time to go into detail on how that should be done. There will be plenty of time to discuss it at Committee stage. The question today is whether we should have any restrictions on the Sunday opening of shops. The Bill as drafted amounts to complete deregulation, as my noble friend Lady Young has already said.
There are two main issues: religious and the common good or quality of life. Scripture teaches us that one day a week should be different—ideally no work. That was possible long ago but not now when many have to work to keep services going. When provoked, Jesus said,"The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath". I believe that that implies that we should be sensible about work on Sunday, but not insensitive.
Another religious argument sometimes used is that opening on Sundays will discourage people from attending church. I am not sure that that is a strong argument. There are already many tempting alter-natives, and those who wish to go to church on Sundays will go to church, whether or not shops are open.
I believe that the Christian case for regulation rests mainly on the need to keep Sunday different while taking a sensible, balanced view in today's circumstances. That brings me to the questions: what is sensible? What is best for the common good of the people, of society? Broadly, the case for deregulation, for freedom to open, rests on the argument that consumers want it, the public want it, and the retailers should therefore provide it.
1367 I had an interesting conversation not long ago with the chief executive of a large retailing group which supports deregulation. He said,"We will sell more and that is good for customers and our shareholders, and shareholders are very important to us". That implies that those retailers would not open unless it was profitable for their shareholders despite consumer demand. So much for the consumer argument. Much of the increased profits, if profits are to be made on Sunday opening, will inevitably come from the small shops which will in time close. That attitude is revealing; and the opinion expressed by the chief executive to whom I spoke is shared by most retail supporters of deregulation.
It is relevant, too, that deregulation is an example of more individual freedom. In principle, greater freedom is good. But it has to be tempered by the restraints of public interest. We have speed limits. As I made clear earlier, we have planning regulations. There is evidence from other examples where we have greater freedom: the permissive society led to weaker discipline, easy divorce, abortion, and removal of censorship so that virtually anything goes. Can we be sure that such additional freedom; have contributed to the sum total of human happiness? I think not. Therefore we need to be very careful before taking the steps advocated in the Bill as now drafted.
The arguments against major change towards complete deregulation are strong. The feverish pace of life today gives little time for relaxation and quiet rest for those who seek it. If we have virtually complete deregulation our high streets on Sundays will have more cars and buses, and lorries delivering supplies, with consequent problems of traffic control and the like. That will greatly detract from the peace of Sunday for those who want it. It is not, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said, just a matter of individual freedom. It is a question of the right amount of freedom taking account of the values and wishes of other people.
The loss of a regular, quiet day for worship, for relaxation with family and friends and for taking part in community activities is surely not something that we should advocate lightly. Surely the concept of deregulation providing extensive opportunity for family shopping outings is a very weak argument, particularly as in future the working week will be shorter and the weekday shopping hours longer.
As I indicated earlier, small local and village shops would suffer greatly by the increased competition. They are a vital part of community life for many people, in particular, those without cars, older, less mobile people and lone parents. It is also relevant—it has not been mentioned previously—that the "Continental" Sunday, permitting free opening, is a myth. Only one quarter of the European countries allow free opening on Sunday.
Another myth put about by the SHRC is that two—thirds of the public want deregulation. In fact what the two-thirds said was that the law should be changed to allow other shops to open on Sundays. That is a very different thing, for all the alternatives that we might propose would satisfy that.
The alternatives to complete deregulation will be discussed in detail in Committee. Suffice to say now that the law is unworkable and must be changed, but not 1368 necessarily to complete deregulation. There are satisfactory alternatives which provide fully adequate freedom to enjoy Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation while maintaining the value of Sunday as a special day. There are many supporters of such alternatives: Churches of all denominations, the Chief Rabbi—it was indicated in the excellent speech by the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits—major unions, major retailers who have not broken the law, small and medium-sized retailers and voluntary youth bodies such as the British Youth Council, including the Young Conservatives.
Therefore I submit that we should be extremely careful before we change the law in the way that the Bill suggests. We should look most carefully and sympathetically at amendments at Committee stage in line with the RSAR and KSS compromise which provide a much better alternative than would be obtained by complete deregulation. I hope that we shall consider carefully those alternatives at Committee stage. I would support those carefully thought out proposals.
§ 5 p.m.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I must begin by declaring an important interest in the Bill. I chair the Shopping Hours Reform Council which, as your Lordships have heard this afternoon, gained substantial majorities for its option on a sensible compromise Bill in another place. Declaring my interest in it this afternoon is not only to observe the rules of procedure in your Lordships' House, but because the Shopping Hours Reform Council has often been wrongly caricatured—and it has been caricatured in that way this afternoon—as simply representing the big retailers, the supermarket bully boys. I wish to speak as an ordinary shopping consumer. My personal interest in the Bill is as an individual member of the shopping public. I chair the SHRC but I have no commercial investment in the successful reform of Sunday trading. The SHRC and its option for change have broad support.
Of course, many of the well-known retailers have played a crucial role in its campaign, but so have consumer associations and many individual members of the public; and recently—I think most significantly—so has USDAW, the shopworkers' trade union.
Perhaps I may expand a little on my personal reasons for supporting Sunday trading reform. I went shopping last Sunday and so did about 16 million other people. Many of them were probably women like me who had been juggling the commitments of a busy career and running a home. Others perhaps were families shopping on a day when they were free to go together, perhaps to choose something for their home or garden. Technically, as has been pointed out this afternoon, we were all breaking the law, colluding with the shopkeepers who "commit crimes" by opening their stores on Sunday.
It has been widely mentioned this afternoon that the Shops Act 1950 is anomalous. It seems that in your Lordships' House, perhaps with one or two respectable and well respected exceptions, there are few people who feel that the approach of the 1950 Act is sensible. The 1369 question is therefore not so much: "shall we change the law?" but "how shall we change it?" I think we face a stark choice: effective and lasting reform or modest tinkering; a modern law for a modern age or a re-hash of the current Sunday restrictions which are so patently out of step with most people's contemporary lives.
Other noble Baronesses who have spoken—the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lady Dean—have mentioned the change in women's lives since 1950. That lies very much at the heart of the issue for me. Were I a full-time housewife with a well stocked freezer of home-made dishes and time to shop at my leisure, I might feel rather differently. But not many women of working age in 1994 live like that. As my noble friend Lady Dean said, since the Shops Act 1950 came into force, the number of married women under 60 working outside their homes has almost tripled from 26 per cent. to the current level of over 70 per cent. Those changes reflect the widening opportunities for women which probably represent the biggest social transformation in my adult lifetime.
I welcome that transformation; but we have to recognise that it has led to demands for other changes. Access to shops outside the traditional opening times is one of those changes because, again as my noble friend Lady Dean pointed out, one of the traditional roles which has not changed for women is that of the family shopper.
I have often heard the argument, and it has been made this afternoon, particularly in the context of the forthcoming deregulation legislation, that shops do not need to be open seven days a week because well organised women should be able to do their shopping in six. In my experience, male Members of Parliament are particularly vociferous on this subject. The implication of course is that if we women could get ourselves properly organised, there would be no need for an extra shopping day. I find that view extraordinarily patronising. In any case, it is not just the working women who want to see the law reformed; it is quite clear that most of the population supports Sunday trading.
The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who spoke before me, raised the question of the validity of opinion polls on this issue. One could argue that polls only tell you what the listener wants to hear. That is clearly debatable; but what one cannot deny is that if public opinion is one thing and debatable, public action—voting with the shopping trolley—is quite another. In 1994 a total of 28.8 million people shop regularly—that means at least once every four weeks—on a Sunday. That is not just public opinion; these are people who want the shops to open because they serve a real need.
Opponents of reform argue that the need is stoked up by the cunning greedy retailers. We are becoming, it is said, a nation of "shopaholics"—degenerate, mindless slaves with an insatiable compulsion to shop.
There is no doubt that some people find shopping a pleasure. Why not? I do not find that reprehensible, I do not find it socially destructive. But if I may say so in the privileged surroundings of your Lordships' House, I am certainly not one of them. I expect my retailing friends 1370 will find this difficult; but like many people, I shop from necessity, not from a shortage of other things to do. I do not think that my life is either disorganised or decadent because I shop on a Sunday. But it is certainly easier.
Of course, more choice and convenience for consumers has to be matched by choice and convenience for the people who work in the shops. I am a firm supporter of statutory protection for shop staff. I welcome the measures now included in the Bill to ensure that staff cannot be forced to work on Sundays. All the evidence shows that consumers like me do not want their shopping lives improved at the expense of the very people—and many of them are women, too—whose work would make improvement possible. They must be properly protected.
I hope that we will be looking at amendments in Committee to further strengthen the shopworker protection measures which have come to us from another place as my noble friend Lord McIntosh mentioned in opening the debate from this side of the House. However, it is worth noting, in this Second Reading debate, that USDAW, the shopworkers' union, stated after the debate on employees' protection in another place:Shop workers will be best served by the speedy passage of the Bill. To return to the Shops Act 1950 would cost shop workers their jobs".I fully sympathise with those who have feared that shopping hours reform might lead to shopworkers' exploitation. But I am afraid that I have far less patience with the minority who threaten that some indefinable "special Sunday atmosphere" will disappear in the wake of the new laws.
For substantial periods of my adult life over the past 20 years I have lived in the United States, a country where far more people attend Church services on Sundays than in Britain, but where the supermarkets and department stores are regularly open. Nowadays, I spend most of my holidays in the far South-West of the Irish Republic—as remote and peaceful a community as any I know. But even in my tiny village, there the shops are always open immediately after Mass on Sundays—and very busy they are. Sunday trading has never been outlawed in Ireland (another country where the Church plays a more prominent role in most people's lives than it does here) but where the Church does not oppose its congregations both worshipping and shopping on Sundays.
Scotland has been mentioned several times this afternoon, and some noble Lords have reflected on whether Sunday trading in Scotland has improved lives for people who live there or has made life more difficult; whether it is popular in Scotland or unpopular. I think the way to look at Scotland is to turn the question on its head: what would happen if the Scots suddenly found themselves without the freedom to shop on Sunday? Do we really suppose that there would be some visible moral improvement? That the fabric of family life north of the Border would be noticeably enhanced? Would the Church attendance—which is anyway already higher in Scotland than in England and Wales—rise dramatically? Would the traditional values that we have heard about return? Would the Scots be better people for being 1371 told how to spend: heir day of rest and relaxation instead of being able to choose? I really do not think we can possibly make that case. What would simply happen is that Scottish consumers would be inconvenienced and people who depend on Sunday work would lose their jobs.
We need to ask the simple question: why cannot we have a similar system here? After all, I think all of us note the need for a different rhythm of life on one day of the week. But today, what makes Sunday special for most people is that it is the one day when they can choose their own activities. They can choose whether they wish to spend time with their family, or with their friends; they have time to wash the car; tidy the garden; go to the pub; or of course go to Church. I saw no change in that relaxed, different Sunday rhythm during the time that I lived in the United States; or during the time that I now spend in my holiday house in southern Ireland; or indeed, I have to say, in the past two years in my part of west London, where many small shops and some larger supermarkets now open their doors on Sundays. Sundays are different and special because most people do riot have to work on that day, not because the shops are closed.
Having said that, I recognise that some people hold deep reservations about Sunday opening. Unlike my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, I do not favour a free-for-all with no restrictions at all on opening hours and no protection for shop workers—in other words, total deregulation.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will permit me to interrupt. I certainly did not favour a free-for-all with no protection for shopworkers, as I am sure she would agree.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am very glad to hear my noble friend correct me in that way. I think he would agree that total deregulation as it was previously understood had little shopworker protection in it. However, let us not quibble over that point. We certainly have a very substantive issue of agreement between us on the need for shopworker protection. But I do not want to see a situation in which there are no restrictions on opening hours. The issue that has been raised by several noble Lords about the question of small shops is met by the compromise position that SHRC have put forward. Many of the small shops would be able to open all day. They would be able to continue to serve their local communities; and there is no reason why that should be taken away. At the end of the day it will be the individual shops which can make that decision. But it will certainly not be a free-for-all. It will simply mean that the larger shops can open for only six hours and the smaller shops will retain their competitive advantage by opening all day.
This question is a simple one of not trying to turn the clock back. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, we may be opening a door and know not where we are going. But I believe that to vote for this Bill is to accept the changes that have already occurred in our society. My Lords, they are acceptable to another place; they are acceptable to the majority of the population. This is the way of life for most people in the 21st Century.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, because of a long-standing business engagement, it might be necessary for me to leave before the end of this debate. I apologise in advance, both to the Minister and to the House. I must also declare an interest. I am a non-executive director of two retail organisations. One is Tesco, which supports the option that has been agreed in the other place. The other is Sears, which is a bit more ambivalent about the matter. I have to say that my views on this issue are my own. They have evolved over many years, taking into account the changing social patterns that exist in this country and the needs resulting from those changing patterns.
Since we last debated this issue in this House in January 1992, much has changed. The current Bill has been presented in the other place and has undergone long-searching, in-depth, closest scrutiny. It has received a considerable degree of support. hope that your Lordships will give it equal support.
As many have already said, the current situation is totally untenable. A complete ban is not practicable: that is absolutely impossible. My preference would be for complete deregulation, rather like the noble Lords, Lord Boyd-Carpenter and Lord McIntosh. I am amazed today, because that principle seems to have been much more generally agreed than I had been led to believe. However, I have been convinced over the past few months that the solution adopted by the other place is probably the better way, bearing in mind the general concerns, and the serious concerns of many sections of the population, not least of those who live close to trading estates and shops.
Many of the points which could, and did, cause concern have been dealt with in this Bill. Worker protection is now assured. In fact, there is a compact between USDAW and Asda, Boots, Safeway, Sainsbury, W. H. Smith, Tesco and others. That compact extends even beyond the provisions of the Bill that is now before us.
There has been a significant change in the attitude of USDAW in the past 12 months. The union has listened to and taken into account the views of its members. Together they are determined to do the best for their industry and to meet customer demand. There is a huge customer demand for shopping on Sunday. The union's support for the Bill is a reflection of the popularity of Sunday working by those employed in large supermarkets and DIY chains. Doubtless due to the fact that check-out operators are paid £ 8 per hour on Sunday, which is double the normal rate, Sunday working has become a very valuable addition to the income of many households. We must not disregard the wishes of supermarket employees. When USDAW convened a meeting of Tesco shop stewards to discuss Sunday trading, some 93 out of 96 voted in favour of Sunday opening and their right to work.
I should like to bring two facts before the House from the Tesco survey. First, when the company conducted independent professional market research to ascertain staff views,70 per cent. supported Sunday opening, and a further 24 per cent. did not have any strong views one 1373 way or the other. Secondly, every Sunday some 19,000 employees volunteer to work. Those staff want a change in Sunday trading legislation.
It is probably not a bad idea to mention that nobody will be forced to work on a Sunday. Certainly those who do work on Sunday will have time off during the week to compensate. There is no suggestion that by working on a Sunday the working hours of any employee will be extended.
On other areas of concern, I fear that there is quite a lot of misapprehension regarding the social and economic situation which now pertains in this country. Worries have been expressed about the probable erosion of the family unit as a result of Sunday trading. For a long time we have subscribed to the myth—I fear that it is a myth—that the ideal family of two adults plus 2.4 children is the norm. That family, so constituted, has long since vanished and now accounts for something like 20 per cent. of all households. Married couples with children (not the narrower category of two children) accounted for 52 per cent. of total households in 1960. Now, that figure has dropped to less than 40 per cent., which is of course a minority.
From my previous experience in the food industry, I can suggest that the traditional "family Sunday" has long since vanished. Roast beef Sunday lunches are the exception rather than the rule. Instead of behaving in the way that we think they behave, today's families are much more mobile. They are "out and about"; and shopping is one of the activities that they take part in together. A visit to a DIY or garden centre on a Sunday will convince one of that—so indeed will a visit to a supermarket. Shopping on a Sunday has become a family activity. That is one reason why I try to avoid it. Supermarkets cluttered up with kids is not my idea of efficient shopping. As for the concerns about those who do not have a car, very many supermarkets provide free bus transport services between their supermarkets and local centres of population. Much research has shown that the lonely (that is, those who live alone) enjoy going shopping. For some it is their only social contact. In 1961 some 3.9 per cent. of households in this country were single-person households. According to the latest edition of Social Trends, that percentage has now risen to 11.1 per cent., which is almost a quadrupling in the interim period. Freeing-up Sunday trading gives those people an outlet. We should not deprive them of it.
For a committed Christian, the religious argument should be the most difficult. But in my case it is not, and for two reasons. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, quoted a high figure of membership of Christian Churches. But sadly, active church membership in this country is only 15 per cent. Does the minority of 15 per cent. have the right to impose its view on the majority of 85 per cent? That is not democracy as we assess it. Secondly, those who have firm religious faith do not compartmentalise their prayer or their worship life into just one day of the week. God is for every day, not just for Sunday. It is no great hardship to attend church services at 8 a.m., long before the shops open. There will doubtless be many genuine concerns about the Bill.
1374 But we must accept that the rapidly changing social and economic scene in this country has resulted in a change in demand for shopping hours.
Much can be said about the pressures on wives and mothers who have employment outside the home. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, in a very strong—indeed a marvellous—speech touched on that point. On many occasions it is just not possible to organise the domestic responsibilities so that Sunday can be spent in total relaxation and recreation—would that it were. Most of us know that the frenetic pace at which we live is fundamentally stressful. We do not want yet another stress-inducing issue, making sure that we get all the shopping done before Sunday. Just knowing that one can do it, if one needs to buy essentials on a Sunday acts as a pressure reliever.
We are told frequently that we must allow time and space to recharge our batteries and relax, otherwise, the ever increasing pace of life will catch up on us and damage our health and strength. Of course that is right. I guess that the person whom I most envy in life is my local vicar. Every time I read the church magazine and look through the diary for the week to see in black figures "Monday—vicar's day off', I feel that he is a lucky man. One day I shall emulate my vicar and have a day off. But it will not be a Sunday. There is something wonderfully refreshing and even slightly wicked about having a day off when the rest of the world is working. Those who are employed in shops on Sundays have that pleasure. I am sure that they do not want to relinquish it.
In an ideal world we would revert to the pre-world War Two days and stay cosseted in the comfort of our homes, going as a family to church and eating Sunday lunch together. But there must be very few among us who believe that such a situation is likely. The world has moved on and so must we. We must accept that there is a huge demand out there for relaxation of the current unsupportable position on shopping hours. I hope that this Bill will have a swift and smooth passage through your Lordships' House.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I should like first strenuously to deny the accusation made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, that I am a law-breaker. She said that last Sunday 16 million people went shopping and all of them broke the law. I was one of those people. I bought a newspaper, but I was not breaking the law. It is important that we should consider what we are discussing. We are not discussing whether all shops should be shut on Sunday, nor are we discussing a world in which the noble Baroness said—if I heard her rightly—that 28.8 million people shopped regularly on Sunday this year. I very much hope that she will send me the statistics on which that figure is based so that we can discuss them in Committee.
Having risen to the noble Baroness's juicy fly, I return to what I had intended to say some minutes after I came into the Chamber, which is not what I intended to say when I came into the Chamber. It seems to me that some of your Lordships are discussing this matter entirely as though it were a material and economic 1375 question. That includes my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Other noble Lords approach it as though it were an entirely spiritual matter, and that includes the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits. I believe that those who come in between are right. In fact, we are the physical creatures of a spiritual creator and this is an issue where the spiritual and the physical coincide. One has to consider both elements to get the right answer.
In a most interesting speech, which I shall read again with great interest. the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, took us through the Old Testament origins of the sabbath. He drew attention to an important aspect of human life which I believe that most noble Lords recognise, whatever their spiritual position or none; namely, that there i s a sort of hebdomadal cycle in life and at the end of six days one needs to rest and be refreshed. I accept the origins which the noble Lord gave us because we of the Christian Church have received them from his forefathers. But your Lordships will notice that the sabbath day was created on the last day of the week whereas Sunday occurs on the first day. The transition took place to celebrate the triumphant resurrection of our Lord and Saviour and the fact that He has made available to us all the same victory over death, if we choose to avail ourselves of the redemption that he offers.
I should like to see a perfect world in which we all—the whole of creation—were free to celebrate that marvellous fact on one day a week. In a somewhat less perfect world, most of us would either be doing that or persuading others to join them. But that is not attainable at the moment. Nor is it an argument likely to appeal to this House, the other place or to the electorate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said, one therefore needs to look at the simple questions. What are the alternatives? One is total deregulation, to which both Chambers have now made clear they do not want to accede; one is the compromise that we now have; and another is the compromise which is rather closer to full regulation offered by Keep Sunday Special.
I opt for the latter. The simple question I ask is: why? Here we are on ground that can be shared by noble Lords, whatever our political persuasion or religious position. We need a cohesive society, whereas we have one that is fragmenting. We need a society in which people are careful and aware of the personal circumstances of their neighbours and friends, whereas we are decreasingly so aware. That depends on us not only having a seven day cycle of rest but as many of us as possible having it on the same day. One cannot get one's family together round the lunch table on a Sunday if three working members of the family have their day off on Tuesday and another on Wednesday. Nor can one's family be brought together for the same day from one end of greater London to the other in half a day. A day is needed for the travel, the reunion and the dispersal. That goes not only for families but for groups of friends. If you do not work at a friendship, you lose it; and not only do you lose the support of the friend but your friend loses your support.
So we need a society in which as many of us as possible share a day of rest. For obvious reasons I 1376 believe that that day should be Sunday. It already is Sunday and there are the spiritual reasons that I gave before.
It can be argued that we are discussing a day off for only a handful of people: those shopworkers who are not already working on Sundays. A great many already are working on Sunday because of the flagrant breaches of the law openly undertaken by numerous large commercial concerns, thus, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, put it, bringing the law into disrepute. He said that if one sought to tell people what to do when there was no public interest in telling them what to do, one would fall rapidly behind public opinion and bring the law into disrepute. I think I remember the phrase correctly.
I differ from the noble Lord in believing that there is a public interest. I have already tried to describe it. It concerns not only those who work in shops on Sundays and in my view should not; it concerns also their friends and relations. It refers to the traffic wardens who will be required to keep the streets passable, to the cleansing departments who will have to keep the streets decent, to the police who will have to be on duty in extra numbers and to the people who will have to serve them. So we are looking at a much larger iceberg than the tip of it suggests.
I ask noble Lords to consider whether they can lightly turn aside the alternative offered by Keep Sunday Special, which was defeated, as my noble friend was kind enough to confirm at the end of his speech, by only 18 votes out of 520-something in another place. It is not a lost cause. It is a cause that was very nearly won in another place. I feel that your Lordships should put to the other place that they should think again, and load that suggestion with the arguments that your Lordships can put forward in Committee.
There is only one other point that I want to make, because I should like to appeal to as many people as possible to take that position. I merely wish to endorse what my noble friend Lady Young said in a powerful speech about the fragility, if not the almost non-existence, of the reassurance given to USDAW (the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers) as to the employment of people on Sunday. What can be put in a contract and what can he proved in a court are apt to be rather different. As my noble friend said, even if you have a contract with cast iron protection of your position if you refuse to work on a Sunday, you will not be the person who springs to mind for promotion. Also there is the question of the terms on which new employees can be taken on.
I ask anybody who reposes confidence in the undertakings of people, no matter how senior and how honourable, in the commercial world as to what their policy will be, to remember that those people will only last a certain time. The more senior they are, the less time they will be in a position to honour that undertaking and after that there is nothing but a memory to defend the unfortunate. This is a question of extremely great importance. I hope your Lordships will persuade the other place to think again.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Beaumont of Whitley
My Lords, that speech is a hard act to follow. The other day I had the pleasure and the privilege to introduce into your Lordships' house a debate on a sustainable economy. That was based on the declaration of the Rio Conference that the world is going to have to settle for a sustainable economy rather than for continual growth. That implication was accepted by all the major nations of the world, including Her Majesty's Government. It means that the seemingly unstoppable stampede of industrialisation—of which the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, spoke—has already been halted and, indeed, is slightly in reverse. The noble Lord was right in saying that its tendency is to crush human rhythms. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was absolutely right to tell us that we must re-establish and keep those human rhythms.
I do not wish to be able to buy ripe strawberries during every hour of the 24 on every day of the 365. I may be eccentric but I do not want it; not for my friends and not for my children. I know perfectly well that my grandchildren will not have the option anyway, whatever happens. They will, I believe, have to live more in tune with the rhythms of the natural world as our parents did and as 150 years ago the whole population of the world did. In history the period in which we now live may be seen as an aberration.
It will be argued—and has been argued—that this is entirely a matter for the individual. I believe that to be nonsense. There is probably no more than one Member of your Lordships' House, if that, who really thinks that there is no such thing as "society". If certain options are to be available to the individual, they have to be provided by society. If we want one day of the week to be less stressed, more available for families to relax together, to be less polluted by traffic and easier in which to move around, we must do it corporately. As your Lordships know, I am a priest of the Church of England. But I must confess that I have no views as to whether the day of rest should be a Sunday, as Christians are used to; a Saturday, as most Jews observe; or a Friday, as Moslems prefer. If Parliament decided to call a plague on all our religions and settled for Woden's Day, I would be quite happy as long as there was one day available for everyone.
If I was arguing the Christian case as such, I might argue that this is the perfect case for saying that one cannot serve God and Mammon. As it is, I shall settle for arguing that one cannot serve civilisation and Mammon. And to those who raise the point of logic and complete consistency in the law, I would point out that civilised life has never been tidy and I would argue that, by definition, never could be. Of course we have to frame laws as best we can to avoid blatant injustices and inconsistencies. But there will always be inconsistencies and we have to live with them. I do not think that we necessarily have to deplore their existence.
I believe that we should opt for what is called the "Marks & Spencers" option—I am sure your Lordships know what I mean. I may say in passing that those who raise the idyllic picture of families shopping together must do their shopping with their eyes and ears closed. 1378 As someone who is rarely involved in the family, I obtain a lot of the ammunition which I need to argue that our families are disintegrating, from watching families in supermarkets on ordinary days shopping together, which they sometimes are.
I do not need to emphasise the spiritual vein because the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, did that; I do not need to emphasise the common sense, civilised and humane vein, because the noble Lord, Lord Elton, did that. I ask those who are tempted to vote for either deregulation or virtual deregulation to contemplate one matter: are you aware that you are voting for traffic wardens seven days a week?
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of High Cross
My Lords, I am delighted with the prospect that this may prove to be the final joust before we pull down the shutters altogether on this long-running shops saga. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, is not in her place. I particularly wanted to pay her a tribute for her role in bringing about this happy development, though I am not sure whether her function was in the nature of maternity or midwifery.
For my money, the true mother—indeed I would almost say grandmother—of this great breakthrough since 1950 was the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. After all, it was her modest Motion in 1981 on the need to amend the Shops Act that initiated me into the mysteries of the schedules with their forbidden fruit. It was the reception in your Lordships' House that emboldened her, with the support of the Repeal Group, to produce a Private Member's repeal Bill. I brought it here today to display it in all its simplicity—a one-page, two-clause Bill which passed through this House on a free vote in all its stages in April 1982. The Chief Whip, the Lord Chancellor, the Leader of the House and all kinds of other Tory swells trooped through the Lobby of their own accord to support repeal.
Though the repeal was not pursued at that time, it was that event which led to the setting up of the Auld Committee in 1983–84, which recommended outright repeal with protection for existing employees who did not wish to become entangled in Sunday working. Following that report the Government courageously brought forth their own Bill for deregulation with protection for existing staff, which passed through this House in all its stages with minor amendment, despite spirited opposition by the Bishops' Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. But it was overturned in the Commons on Second Reading in April 1986.
We now have the great British compromise, which I regard as splitting the difference between good sense and nonsense. I regard the compromise as being unnecessary because today, with some slight exaggeration, everybody admits the anomalies; everybody acknowledges the impossibility of enforcement, and everybody has witnessed the wide consumer demand for family shopping on a Sunday. Today even USDAW is prepared to admit the truth, which it previously denied, that a return to the 1950 Act would severely reduce jobs.
What is the reason for this fantastic conversion in the past five or 10 years? Obviously the reason is good 1379 empiricism; it is the experience that we have had with the virtual abandonment of enforcement over recent years. We have found that de facto deregulation is acceptable. We have found that freedom actually works. Yet in place of the straightforward, one page, two clause Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, we now have 20 tortuous pages of tortured lawyers' English. I thought of the old couplet:0 what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive".When we read through the Bill we find three pages on the meaning and treatment of large shops. We find three more pages of supplementary provisions, including forced entry by inspectors, and all the rest of it. We then find two pages on the certification of members of the Jewish religion. We have a page on the loading and unloading of vehicles. Then, I am afraid, we have eight pages of what I regard as verbiage on the protection of shopworkers who do not wish to work on Sunday. Does anyone suppose that shopworkers or independent retailers would really understand all of that detail? It is a tangled web, but where is the deception? The deception is that all the parliamentary draftsman's gobbledegook is really necessary, when we actually know people are queuing up to work on Sundays and forced working on Sundays is an extremely rare event that has caused very little outcry or difficulty.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the assurances advertised in the Sunday Shopper which the SHRC distributed do not amount to very much. They talk of an "historic agreement" with the union. They say that employers undertake to continue current premium rates. They say that they:will only deviate if there is a significant change in the circumstances in which retail work is rewarded".They continue:Employers recognise that a premium will be required to attract sufficiently high quality employees".Why then all this fuss? What we are seeing is that the market will itself make reasonable provision. The employers have put their name to an agreement which is governed by their ability to employ and to pay premium rates. They acknowledge that if circumstances were to change to make that difficult the matter would have to be looked at again.
We must acknowledge that it is inevitably the needs of a competitive market that will ultimately determine both the amount of employment and the premium rates that might be paid. We should not shrink from the notion of the market deciding, because the market is people. It is those people whom the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, tries to avoid on a Sunday if they have children. She goes elsewhere. Market forces are us going to shops and our friends, neighbours or relatives serving behind the counter at the same time.
I really am distressed that we should run to a 20-page statute with all this fine-sounding, empty nonsense about employee protection. I am not a lawyer, and that is a handicap in some respects, although when I asked two solicitors to ex plain some part of the schedules that I did not understand, they both withdrew and said that it was not their special subject. I did not try offering them a fee because I did not any longer have confidence in their answers. For my money, as a non-lawyer, I 1380 regard the whole of this as bringing the majesty of law into something approaching contempt. Law is defiled and belittled by this kind of free-range writing and scribbling on every feature of shopping that occurs to the parliamentary draftsman's mind.
What is it all for? It is to regulate the right: of ordinary people to go about on a Sunday of their choice to buy things from people who wish to sell things to them. There are two quite distinct issues that divide the openers from the closers. The first is the fundamental economic question which I phrase as being the choice between progress or security. It is whether we put flexibility before fixity; whether we put dynamism before stagnation; whether we put the future before the past; whether in fact we support the liberalism of a Conservative Government rather than the conservatism of the Labour and Bishops' Benches. The second question is a political question: whether we trust the people as free-choosing, responsible agents.
In my view the casual coercion still scattered throughout the Bill would be justified only to prevent a major national public evil. The Scottish experience reveals that there is no such justification, and therefore I look forward to joining the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and others, with whom I have riot normally been seen in the Lobby, in supporting the total deregulation option and, as a fallback, the Government's half-way measure which I still think is a courageous effort by the present Government.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Lord Norrie
My Lords, I have a long-standing interest in Sunday trading and I am pleased that at last a rational solution seems to be possible. Laws which are consistently ignored and patchily enforced lose credibility. As we all know, that fate befell the Sunday trading restrictions several years ago. Shops—large and small—open on Sundays. Shoppers use them in considerable numbers. Local authorities, with rare exceptions, turn a blind eye.
Society has changed radically since 1950. The workforce is now more evenly balanced between men and women. The conventional nine to five 'working day with one hour for lunch has become increasingly infrequent. Shops have responded to social change by altering their opening times and product ranges. We may well have mixed views about these changes—perhaps not all of which have been beneficial—but we cannot and must not pretend they have not taken place. In an age where the management of continuous change is a constant challenge to business and society, an age where the life cycle of a product can be as short as three months, we are still struggling to make sense of an Act which is 44 years old.
I have discussed and debated the central question on many occasions and in my experience it is hard to find defenders of the existing law. The rules applying to contemporary retailing need to be clear and fair. Consumers want access to a wider range of shops than the 1950 Act permits. And not least, local authorities whom we have entrusted to enforce the law want simple, clear-cut rules which can be upheld with the minimum of expense.
1381 The case for reform, as the Minister said, is unquestionable. Our energies should now be clearly focused on establishing a retail Act for the 1990s and beyond—an Act which is both relevant and credible. The decision taken in another place was that all shops should have the opportunity to open on Sundays but that stores over 3,000 square feet should be restricted to only six hours between 10 in the morning and six in the afternoon. There will be some who disagree with that decision. Certainly, some noble Lords feel that that goes too far. I myself would prefer a complete absence of regulation. That may of course suggest that the other place has probably got the balance about right. Before long, however, we too will be faced with a choice on the options for reform. We must choose whether to abide by the decision already taken in another place or to opt for a more liberal change, on the one hand, or for a more restrictive approach, on the other.
But consider the effects of the 3,000 square foot restriction clause. Tourist shops, particularly those supporting the income of historic houses, often exceed 3,000 square feet, and they would therefore be limited in their ability to contribute to the upkeep of their historic buildings. Large food stores claim a 5 to 7 per cent. turnover on Sunday, but for many businesses Sunday turnover is a staggering 25 to 40 per cent., representing the difference between success and failure. Such businesses include the DIY trade.
London Economics research, commissioned by the Government themselves, stressed that Sunday is the most important day for DIY shopping. DIY materials require a lot of space often greater than 3000 square feet. The other business which fits squarely into this category, and is perhaps the most traditional of all British leisure pursuits, is gardening. I am concerned that the interests of this particular sector of retailing with very special needs may not be met by this Bill.
Here I must declare an interest. I was a full-time working director of a garden centre for 19 years. My experience in this trade and the related leisure retailing industry confirms that it is the customer who has created the demand for leisure services on a Sunday and it is the customers who have ultimately indicated by their actions that more opening is required. A significant number of garden centres exceed the 3,000 square feet limit contained in the Bill as it came from the House of Commons. Garden centres in this position would be allowed to open for six hours only in the period between 10 o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the evening.
Gardening is a seasonal trade. Any gardener will confirm that spring, and to a lesser extent autumn, are the key planting periods of the year; the time when most work is done in the garden. Any garden centre operator can show that the spring months of March, April, May and June are the busy months of the year for the trade. Around three-quarters of an average garden centre's annual turn over takes place during those months; and Sunday accounts for approximately 40 per cent. of the weekly trade.
§ Baroness Nicol
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Is he aware that the RSAR option places no restriction on the size of garden centres which may open?
§ Lord Norrie
My Lords, the noble Baroness will see what I have to say about that in a moment. If restrictions on opening hours in the spring will cause problems for customers, by the same token it will be catastrophic for the survival of businesses. Let us remember that the modern garden centre is a sophisticated business, often made up of multiple franchises. In the case of my own garden centre and seven franchises that was certainly true. Between us we employed 40 people on a full and part-time basis on a Sunday. The spring months are crucial to the health of garden centres. Every hour of opening in this period is vital.
In all the years I have been involved with this issue, the Sunday opening of garden centres has never been a matter of controversy. Gardening is complementary to family life and Sunday traditions. Indeed, as I understand it, the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, which led the campaign against widespread Sunday trading, made all-day opening for garden centres a key part of its proposals. It argued, quite rightly in my view, that gardening was one of the country's most popular leisure activities; and Sunday is, of course, one of the most popular days for gardening. Indeed, people who work all week may well find Sunday is the only day they can be in the garden.
The opening of garden centres on Sunday—while not perhaps always strictly legal in every last detail—has always been widely accepted as a feature for many years. It is ironic that the Bill before us will represent what I consider to be a step forward for many retailers. But for some garden centres it will represent a step back—a step, I fear, into bankruptcy. I shall at a later stage be introducing amendments which reflect that view and I shall be asking your Lordships to give this particular case special attention.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Baroness Gould of Potternewton
My Lords, I am probably one of the few Members of your Lordships' House who has had the practical experience of working behind a shop counter and of attempting to comply with the idiosyncrasies of the Shops Act 1950.
As a dispensing chemist, Sunday was the day that sections of the shop had to be covered with green cloths so that customers could not see what they could not buy and staff would not inadvertently sell those items that were not permissible under the Act. We were repeatedly warned that the unknown customer might be a shops' inspector. It was a stupid and badly drawn up piece of legislation to operate. It is the operation of the legislation which I wish to concentrate on today.
There is no argument that the law needs changing, but the muddle of the past 40 years must not be repeated. I fear that the Keep Sunday Special Campaign proposals can only perpetuate that muddle. There would be uncertainty for shopkeepers and local authorities about who can and who cannot open. The inevitable problems with enforcement and the threat of more prolonged 1383 litigation will be a consequent disincentive for local authorities carrying out their statutory duties, leading once again to widely different enforcement practices across the country. Definitions of types of shops and lists of permitted goods inevitably bring in their wake anomalies and ambiguities. This option would allow some kinds of shop to open as convenience stores but not others. There would be difficulties in attempting to define the type of shop which presumably has to be based on the type of goods which that shop sells. That would take us straight back to the almost identical problems of the 1950 Act and its many anomalies.
The list of exemptions would be formidable. Every exemption would require a tight legal definition if it was not to result in expensive test cases to determine the precise meaning of such phrases as "wholly or mainly". We would be back to my chemist's shop of the 1950s selling "wholly or mainly" medicinal products and surgical appliances. The question would be: what is a surgical appliance? Does it include surgical instruments or apparatus that may be necessary to apply that medical product? What sense would be made of a restriction that permits a large pharmacist to sell antibiotics at any hour of the day yet prohibits the same pharmacist from also dispensing a box of paper hankies outside certain hours? It is a nonsense.
The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, referred to DIY shops which carry an extensive range of goods from tools and materials to curtains and an assortment of electrical items. To allow large DIY stores to open as long as they sell only permitted goods would lead to immense confusion. A DIY store would be able to sell floor tiles, but riot carpets. So how would one define a carpet tile? Would it require case law to determine whether a carpet tile is a floor tile or a carpet or, similarly, whether a fire extinguisher, legally sold for use in the car, was actually being illegally used in the home? It seems to me to be a beanfeast for the legal profession but a dog's dinner for the consumer, the retailer and the local authority.
While Parliament will determine the legislation, it is the local authorities up and down the country that will have to enforce its provisions. Local authorities all want change, but they must have confidence that the law will be sufficiently robust to enable it to be enforced; that it will be easy to understand and police and that it will make entirely clear, without any ambiguity, those shops which are permitted to open and those which are not. That is why the local authority associations believe that the Bill before us today will command support from their relevant councils. The Association of District Councils only indicated its support after consultation with its individual authorities. A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy concluded that the majority of local authorities favoured a deregulatory option on the grounds of ease of enforcement.
The CIPFA also looked at the impact of the Bill on local authority resources, identifying, as might be expected, that the cost of enforcement will relate largely to the complexity of the Bill—not an unimportant consideration when local authorities are facing continual budget cuts. In response to comments made earlier on the cost of partial or full deregulation of the 1384 extra services that might be required, the Association of County Councils is of the view that any additional cost will be only marginal.
There will, however, be considerable additional costs if the law continues to be based on restrictions. Those restrictions would involve local authority inspectors in a huge amount of work, as there is no commonsense basis to many of the exceptions. Local authorities have better things to do with their money and officer time than pursue small and large shops that might be breaking the law, checking not only on the size of the establishment but also on the "wholly or mainly" provisions and the stock being carried. While the Shopping Hours Reform Council option will require enforcement, it is the view of the local authorities that it will be considerably more straightforward. Local inspectors could ignore the vast majority of shops under 3,000 square feet, and as the stores have to put up a sign saying what their permitted hours are, the public are likely to report breaches which now carry a £ 50,000 fine for every Sunday that the law is broken. Not many shops will be inclined to break the law.
The ADC, in its response to the Bill, also welcomed the protection in Schedule 3 for those people who might be subject to disturbance from early morning deliveries, and expressed its willingness to work with retailers to develop good practice for the benefit of the residents. It is right that local authorities should only be able to give consent for deliveries before 9 a.m. after consultation with local residents.
Equally, it is right that the future of Sunday shopping should take into account the wishes of the shoppers and the shopworkers, and that means looking at the impact on the lives of women. It is women as consumers, employees, or both, who are most affected by the reforms. Since the 1950s their lives have changed considerably, and, as my noble friend Lady Jay so eloquently showed, they now take on an ever-increasing number of tasks.
It has been said that 70 per cent. of married women now work full or part-time. I was one of the 26 per cent. who worked in the 1950s. Even then it was difficult to find the time to do the shopping. I only wish that the shops had been open for me then on a Sunday. It is not surprising that a MORI poll in October last year showed that 83 per cent. of working women said that they would find Sunday shopping convenient, with 69 per cent. wanting to see more shops open on a Sunday.
Nearly two-thirds of retail sector workers are women, many of whom find it convenient to work on a Sunday rather than the alternative of trying to find work during the week. The latter can often mean working unsocial hours and having the difficult task of finding child care for the hours being worked. Many women prefer to go to work knowing that their children are together and being looked after by another member of the family, which would normally be the case on a Sunday.1 am worried about the restrictive proposals that would deny those women the right to have a job, as part of the estimated 170,000 jobs that would be put at risk by those proposals.
Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, none of the options would have been acceptable to me 1385 without the provision for all employees, present and future, whether on the shop floor, in the loading bay, or elsewhere, to have the statutory protection to work when and where they choose and to be confident that they will suffer no retribution for declining to work on a Sunday.
It is unfortunate that the provision for statutory premium pay is not included in the Bill, but I believe that it is fortunate for the workers that USDAW secured an agreement with the large retailers that they would continue to pay the current Sunday premium. As has been said, other amendments to protect workers will be tabled in Committee.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that there have been 29 unsuccessful attempts to reform the law. It seems that at last we have before us a Bill which provides an acceptable way forward for the majority. The consensus in favour must be unique. That involves a degree of compromise. Nevertheless, the consensus has the support of the trade unions and employees. Retailers and local authorities believe that the Bill is enforceable. It is accepted as being legally viable and will satisfy those many millions of consumers who have the Sunday shopping habit. It is a consensus to which I believe that your Lordships' House should give its support. This time we must have a conclusion.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of London
My Lords, I too am among those who are greatly encouraged that this House is to have the freedom to express its mind on the three basic options with regard to Sunday trading. That issue has now been discussed and debated for so long that I suspect that it is possible that we might all be beginning to suffer from what one might call "issue fatigue".
However, the issue of Sunday trading raises in my mind questions of a considerably more substantial and fundamental nature; namely, about the kind of persons we are, the nature of our society and what I might term "the spirit of our nation". There are, it is true, more specifically religious and Christian considerations of which I would not wish to lose sight. It is significant that the great faith traditions of the world, and certainly the Judeo-Christian tradition, have a built-in rhythm in which there is a regular time for rest, respite, and relaxation not only in an individual context, but in a community and social context. Here, I believe, is a principle which is not simply or only for religious or Christian persons, but for individuals and society as a whole: for our good and wellbeing; for our body, mind and spirit; for our cohesion—indeed, for our very sanity and survival.
There is no doubt whatever—and I agree—that the current legislation is entirely unsatisfactory. That is well recognised by all. However, that really is no excuse for the law to be flouted as it has been and, indeed, still is—and the Church is no exception. I assure the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that tomorrow morning I shall be making a clear inquiry of the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral in that regard.
Only this last Sunday, driving out through central London and some of the suburbs there was the usual congestion of traffic at various points where such 1386 establishments were open. It was almost as bad as on any weekday. In fact, in some ways it was rather worse because at present the usual parking restrictions do not apply on Sundays. In the run-up to Christmas, the West End was well nigh impossible. Having lived in the West End and now in Westminster, I must say that the prospect of large shops being open every Sunday, even for the proposed six hours, fills me with considerable dismay. Walking about the streets of London on a Sunday, one can almost hear a sigh of relief from the streets and buildings themselves. Even the bricks and mortar celebrate their freedom and welcome the one day of comparative relief. The whole atmosphere is quite different. It becomes almost a pleasure to walk around the capital. There is no doubt that even such legislation as now comes to us from the other place will no longer allow that comparative peace, relaxation and renewal which we presently enjoy over the weekend.
I note also that Sundays particularly are the only day on which vital and necessary works can be carried out. Streets are often closed off, with roadways under repair. I foresee little respite from the traffic congestion of the rest of the week for those who do have to travel. In fact, it might become a good deal worse. In that connection, I noted from a report in the Financial Times towards the end of last year that the cross-party Association of District Councils has warned of the danger of Sunday trading increasing traffic congestion, which would force local authorities to levy the increased cost of traffic wardens on to the motorist through car park charges. There are also serious environmental factors to be considered.
Furthermore, the extension of retailing powers will inevitably push up the demand for public services, as has already been mentioned. I suspect that the needs and demands will become the same as on any other day. Have we really thought sufficiently carefully about the knock-on effects of seven-day trading?
The issue of Sunday trading is an example of where some commercial interests have not just acted unlawfully, but continue to act unlawfully and with little concern for the development of our social and community life. Certain stores have broken the law persistently, ultimately only in order to change the law. Indeed, the irony now is that I have seen posters which say that we should save Sunday shopping.
I am concerned too about the impact of Sunday trading on community life through its effect on families. Traditionally, Sunday has been a day for families; for recreation; for families to go out and enjoy time together; for the deepening of family relationships—a real being one with another, young with the old—and is best still characterised by the family meal (the Sunday lunch) which is certainly doing a roaring trade in these parts. It remains a highly popular, traditional feature of our Sundays.
Furthermore, Sunday trading has major implications for labour demands. That was borne in on me not so long ago when I visited a large shopping complex in outer London and saw the number of behind-the-scenes people—cleaners, administrators, security officers, car-park attendants and so on—which such establish-ments need and demand, quite properly, to enable and 1387 ensure shop-front service. Such demands are large indeed. We shall surely see more people being expected to work on Sundays or unable to resist the pressures upon them from their employers to work on Sundays. I am well aware that it is stated that employment protection will pre vent people from being exploited in that way, but I suggest that there are already cases where exploitation and discrimination are well documented.
Will employment protection really work, or shall we see an equally cavalier attitude to any such legislation as there presently is to the, albeit unsatisfactory, Shops Act? Our society cannot surely allow purely commercial interests to override or neglect the interests of the altogether wider community. Sunday trading is an example of where the choice and wishes of some should be restrained in pursuit of the greater good of all for the sake of our humanity and for the sake of our well-being as a society and a nation.
I hope that when the time comes for this House to express its mind i: will do so clearly and strongly in favour of the joint option from the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR, thus firmly ensuring the continuing traditional place of Sunday in our national life and heritage.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Lucas of Chilworth
My Lords, with the Bill we are attempting again to meet the needs of three different groups of people. We are trying to meet the needs of those who wish to shop; those who wish to work; and those who wish to have nothing to do with the other two groups. It is almost an impossible task of course; but that is what the Bill is about because, as my noble friend the Minister said at the outset, life in Britain has changed. It has changed enormously over the past 30 years. There is no going back. There is no turning back the clock. The change is irreversible. Social life, family life and work life have changed. I believe that they will change again over the next 20 years. Whatever decision we come to over the next few weeks, I do not believe that it will remain in place for the 40 years that, with all its imperfections, the 1950 Act has.
From listening to nearly everyone who has spoken, there seems to be some idea that Sunday trading is driven by "big business". Nothing is further from the truth. Business is responding to the needs of people, properly expressed. It is trying to manage the change in work patterns and life styles. Why then did the employers happily agree to the arrangements made in the other place for the protection of workers? Because they are right and proper. That is part of the management of that change by business. That fact should be taken into account. Business is responding to that change.
When I have talked to representatives of some of the stores—big ones and smaller ones—they have said,"We are not going to open every Sunday, in such and such a location because we could not staff it. Anyway, there aren't any customers. We might do in such and such an area. We might look forward to additional business around Christmas".
1388 How about staffing? There is no lack of people to staff shops on a Sunday. There is a queue of people—part-time, some ladies, some men, some young people, and, surprisingly, some older people who may have taken early retirement or been made redundant. They have been happy to take seven, eight or 10 hours' work a week, and they provide much of the supervisory staff in such stores. There is no compulsion upon them to work. So there are no problems there. That they, and others, should be protected is right and proper because we have labour protection laws in our ordinary day-to-day business.
I suspect that the change that has occurred over the years, manifesting itself in Sunday trading, has provoked some fear in the minds of a number of people. There is a fear that some of the things that they hold dear will be destroyed totally and absolutely. I do not believe that is so. If you wish to protect your Sunday, you can do so. If you want to find that time in the week when the family gathers together, that is up to you. You can do it. When my children were in their early and later teens, I found that was almost impossible because of the various claims on their time such as sports activities, part-time jobs, and my own work. I used to work on Sundays to serve your Lordships. I ran petrol stations. I managed my string of petrol stations on a Sunday because my ordinary weekday staff did not want to work on Sundays. They managed it Monday to Saturdays while I did something else. I took my day off at a different time. There will always be some disruption in some families, but if one works hard enough one can find that time for reunion.
I must confess, rather like the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, and others, that my preferred option is total deregulation. It has been all along. It would prevent some of the anomalies that will occur. It would remove some of the monitoring and policing that will add cost and disruption. From what I gather not many of your Lordships have confessed to that preference; but if your Lordships cannot accept that proposition, we come to the other two. I am sorry that my noble friend Lady Young, who supports the KSS/RASR proposition, is not in her place. She suggested that the SHRC compromise. was not a compromise but was deregulation by another name. How on earth can that be so with the firm restriction relating to the number of hours between certain times? There is a restriction, which is contrary to total deregulation.
If your Lordships cannot accept total deregulation, compromise is the better option. However, corn-promises always have detractions and problems. Some of the potential problems are those which we experienced in respect of the 1950 Act. There is no doubt that in our subsequent discussions we shall confuse ourselves about the real issues. My noble friend Lord Norrie suggested that he will table amendments to certain parts of the Bill and that will promote other noble Lords to do the same.
The longer the list of exemptions, the more difficulties there will be. Perhaps the best exemption will be that the stores, irrespective of size, which serve the emergency services, may trade. We must then, of course, define "emergency services". It may be the 1389 pharmacist, the garage repairer and parts supplier or whoever; but we shall have real problems in that respect.
We must take the best of what is available and look a little farther than the law. We must take the spirit of intent which will lie behind it. We must pass a Bill that will work and which for the next five, six or seven years people will be happy to obey because the law cannot be flouted. It may well be that we shall have to return to the subject on another day. I am not fearful of change, which is inevitable. We must grasp the change and take the opportunity to service the three groups of people which I defined. We can make the Bill work if we have the heart to do it.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, I speak neither as a Christian nor a Jew. I was born a Hindu and for me there is no holy day in the week. The absence has not caused great spiritual loss to the nation. I am not a religious person but before dealing with the religious objections to the proposals I wish to declare openly that I shall follow the line of my noble friend Lord McIntosh and opt for deregulation. However, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I am in favour of Schedule 4 to the Bill.
My mind is clear on the matter. I am in favour of deregulated free markets which involve commodities that have nothing special about them. When it comes to labour, I am for protection and for unions. When it comes to health, education or housing, I am willing to debate and to defend limits to the market. But when it comes to buying bananas or fresh milk, renting a video or changing money, I do not see why the market cannot be allowed to do what it does best, which is to meet consumer needs.
Much has been said about what will happen to small and large shops if there is complete deregulation. That opinion is based on a static view of what business is about. Some people believe that if large shops stay open all the time small shops will be hurt; that there is a fixed amount of business to be divided up and if one gets more the other gets less. That is a static view of the world. During the past 15 years shopping habits and shopping technology have changed. As many large shops as small shops have closed. I have data showing that in the food sector a larger percentage of multiple outlet shops closed compared with single outlet shops. However, more shops have opened in non-food outlets. Technology and habits change and if shops close that will be due as much to the influence of technology, taste and the wish of consumers as it is to legislation.
It was pointed out by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool that many people in this country do not own cars. As a result, the small corner shop will remain in business. Those people will shop at the corner store, as will many car owners who do not wish to travel further. During the past 10 or 15 years small shops have flourished. That is no surprise because many people who came from Uganda and Kenya were hard working and willing to work extra hours to keep the shops open. They were not bothered too much about a spiritual day of rest. Therefore, in our large cities—I have not lived 1390 in a village and do not know about them—many more small shops are open. They will survive because their location is convenient. Large shops may charge lower prices but people are willing to pay slightly more for the convenience of shopping locally. As an economist, I find that obvious—but perhaps that is why it is difficult for some people to grasp.
We must realise that shopping technology will change even more. Soon people will be able to shop by television and telephone and do more long distance shopping. Recently we have seen many more people travelling across the Channel to buy as much beer and wine as they want. That is a simple effect of the single market.
We must understand that people will change because they need to change. Their family size, working habits and preferences change. As secondary legislators, it is our duty to go with the grain of people's wishes provided it does not do any group any great harm. That should be the principle and from that point of view I see no great problem.
I am told that at present about 46 per cent. of food shops open on Sunday and about 35 per cent. of non-food outlets. If the proposals of the Shopping Hours Reform Council are adopted those figures will rise to 60 per cent. of food shops and 40 per cent. of non-food shops. If total deregulation occurred not all shops will stay open because they cannot afford to. After all, they must make a profit and they will not stay open just because the law allows them to do so. London Economics, a consulting group, calculates that 76 per cent. of food shops will stay open as will 56 per cent. of non-food shops.
If the Keep Sunday Special Campaign were adopted,6 per cent. of food shops would stay open as would 5 per cent. of non-food shops. Therefore, the keep Sunday special option is not a status quo option; it is a drastic reform which imposes a greater restriction on the ability of people to shop.
I am not a very religious person and I have great difficulty in understanding the fact that because it was laid down in the scriptures that there should be a day of rest—for some it is Saturday and for others it is Sunday—on that day one is required or enjoined to do nothing whatever. One may drive a car or work in the garden. Indeed, women have to work in the house. It is not a day of rest for them. They have to cook, wash and look after the children. Therefore, it is not a day of rest for everybody. You can do anything but you cannot shop.
The Keep Sunday Special Campaign says that you shall not buy certain items but you can buy others. It says that your spirituality is not affected if you rent a video from a small shop but if you rent it from a large shop you have a problem. I fail to see the logic of the idea that somehow the act of shopping on a certain day is deeply and morally corrupt.
The noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, adopted what I would call a consistent, logical position; namely, if you are going to be serious about it, be serious about it and do not do anything at all. I recall when I first came to London that I was walking in Golders Green towards dusk when someone came to me and asked me to switch 1391 on the lights in his home. I agreed to do that and he explained why it was necessary. I think that that is cheating, but I shall not go into that.
I do not believe that anyone puts forward seriously that we should return to such strict observances. Once a compromise is embarked upon it is extremely difficult to draw a clear line on principles. It is not as though the Church of England is anti-commercial. I know that the Church is not very good at handling its financial affairs and that it has made large losses, but it is not anti-commercial. Therefore, I do not see where the line should be drawn 2. S regards the day of rest.
It is said that some people may have to work on Sundays, but many people already do that. They do not work in large shops but they do work. The right way to look after people who do not wish to work on Sundays is by supporting and strengthening Schedule 4 so that anyone who does riot wish to work on a Sunday need not do so.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the most unusual people agree with each other on this subject. In this day and age I do not believe that it is possible to compel people to work if they do not wish to do so. I know that unions have been weakened during the past 10 years but I do not believe that we have reached that situation.
Bearing in mind what has been done in another place as regards the age of consent, I do not believe that compromise is always good. If a compromise is adopted, the problem will return to haunt us in another five years. I do not believe that we should worry whether a shop is 280 square metres or 279 square metres. Let us go for straight deregulation, as was advocated by my noble friend Lord McIntosh.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord Greenway
My Lords, I came to the debate today with no particular feelings about the merits or otherwise of deregulation and Sunday trading. However, it strikes me that if 11 million,16 million or 28 million people—whatever the figure is—wish to shop on a Sunday and if there are people who are willing to serve them, then who are we to deny them?
In listening to the debate, I have become increasingly persuaded that in this regard, the horse is long gone and it is time that we shut the stable door firmly and let it get on with what it wants to do.
My reason for speaking is to raise one small but significant point which is of concern to those in the boating industry. It relates to exhibitions or, more precisely, to exhibition stands. Under the existing Shops Act, exemptions have been arranged with some local authorities in relation to Sunday trading. And that is certainly so in the case of large exhibition sites. Such arrangements will fall if the Bill is enacted.
If one looks at the exemptions in the current Bill, one sees no mention of exhibition stands, some of which are sufficiently large to fall into the category which will be restricted to limited opening hours if, as seems likely, the partial deregulation option is adopted. That seems to me to be an anomalous situation, and I wish to give notice that I shall return to the matter in Committee.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord McColl of Dulwich
My Lords, as most of what I was going to say has already been said, I shall not repeat it. I shall concentrate on one area which concerns me. Two weeks ago we had a debate in your Lordships' House about the future of family life in this country. Today we are faced with a Bill which could have a profound impact on the future of family life in this country. We have an opportunity to prove that the strong support for the family which was expressed in that debate was not merely empty rhetoric but rather a commitment to see legislation fashioned to support family life.
A former Prime Minister described the family as the,building block of society. It is a nursery, a school, a hospital, a leisure centre, a place of refuge and a place of rest".The Prime Minister has also stressed his support for the family unit. He said:We must strengthen the family. Unless we do so, we will be faced with heart-rending social problems which no Government could possibly cure".Of course, prevention is better than cure.
The family unit is important in cementing together society and in providing us with a value system and a sense of right and wrong. An understanding of morality needs to be taught and encouraged from the earliest years and the family unit is the place to begin.
We should consider very carefully the possible impact that deregulation of Sunday trading will have on an already damaged family life. Many good reasons can be put both for and against deregulation of Sunday trading. We have come through one of the hardest recessions that this country has seen for a long time and I am aware that commercial interests are keen to maintain and develop new markets. However, I am concerned that deregulation could prove to be just another nail in the coffin of the institution of the family.
It is common sense that if employees are placed in a position in which they must spend long hours away from their children at weekends, their family lives. may be damaged. There will be no time at which the family can go out together for the day, to go for a walk i n the park, to visit the country or to learn to relate to each other. If either parent must be at the shop working all day, then the family unit will be broken and time spent together with be lost.
Deregulation will not only affect the lives of families whose members work in shops; it will affect also those who have to work as a result of the increased commercial activities—employees of subsidiary com-panies, lorry drivers, dustmen, traffic wardens and many other categories of workers. Where there is only one parent in the first place, children will have to be placed with friends or minders and, again, important family time together will be lost.
Noble Lords will be familiar with the expression "latchkey kids". Those children have to return to empty homes as both parents are out at work. With deregulation will come an increase in the number of latchkey kids. Bearing in mind that a large percentage of crime is committed by teenagers, would it not be. good to make sure that a member of the family is around on a Sunday to prevent such trouble?
1393 As noble Lords will be aware, there are several studies which suggest that, where parents are absent, the community will suffer. It is known as the "parenting deficit". In 1979, a study was undertaken among doctors' wives which showed that weaker emotional bonds existed between those husbands and wives with reduced opportunities for time together. With more women than ever before being given the opportunity to work, the need for a mutual day off is all the more important. For some, working on Sunday is a necessity. As a surgeon, I appreciate the difficulties. However, for the thousands involved in high street commercial activity, there is no need to work on Sunday.
Some people argue that deregulation will give families the opportunity of going shopping together and that, therefore, deregulation will enhance family life. They describe it as if a child actually enjoys a trip to the shops as much as a kick-around in the park, a bicycle ride or a walk with the dog. What a strange idea. Some people regard shopping with the family as a type of medieval torture.
A survey in 1989 by the Harris Institute showed that there is not a great demand for shops to be open on a Sunday. People were asked what were the five most popular things to do on a Sunday. In first place, with a figure of 21 per cent., was spending time with husband/wife and children. In second place, with a figure of 15 per cent., was having a quiet day at home. In third place, with a figure of 12 per cent., was visiting relatives and in fourth place, with a figure of 11 per cent., was a day out. In fifth place, with a figure of 8 per cent., was going to church. Just I per cent.—they occupied 1lth position—said that they would like to go shopping on Sunday.
Some people argue that the concept of a family Sunday is rather old-fashioned and outdated. However, I suggest that a walk in Battersea Park may disillusion those who think so. For example, last Sunday, by 11 o'clock in the morning, the park was full of families enjoying a break from the activities of the week and relaxing together. Opinion polls have shown that the significance of Sunday as a family day should not be underestimated. A further study by the Harris Research Centre showed that 82 per cent. of adults eat Sunday lunch together as a family on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, over half the women surveyed agreed with the statement that,Sunday is just about the only day we eat together as a family and I would not want to lose that".Moreover,91 per cent. of women interviewed agreed with the statement that,Sunday is a family day when you can give time and attention to those around you".In addition,78 per cent. of women felt that,More than any other day. Sunday gives you time to spend with your husband".With the divorce rate rising all the time, it seems both common sense and a good, statistically proven fact that there is a need for Sunday to be protected so that it can perform its vital function of giving time to family life.
A further argument of those who favour deregulation is that there will be no need for anyone to work on Sunday who does not want to do so. A number of 1394 much-publicised cases has shown that such employment protection does not work in practice, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool so clearly stated in his splendid speech which I do not think should have been criticised in the way it was.
It is always encouraging for me to hear the clear, unmistakable call from our spiritual leaders—namely, the bishops and the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits—not to abandon the sabbath. I believe that the proposals of the Retailers for Shops Act Reform and the KSSC are a very sensible compromise.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, last night, I was sitting worrying about how to open my remarks today when I happened to switch on the television and watch ITV's "News at Ten". After viewing that depressing bulletin for half an hour, the problem was solved: the opening words fell naturally into place.
At a time when the incidence of murder, rape, burglary, vandalism, car theft, mugging, ram-raiding, joy-riding and every sort of violence and assault upon persons and property is at an all-time peak and in a week when a man has just been sentenced and convicted for raping his 13-month old—not 13 year-old—daughter and an 85 year-old lady walking to church in a quiet Dorset village was stabbed to death, here we all are gathered together solemnly to debate whether it should be a criminal offence, punishable by a massive fine, if Smith wants to purvey to Jones perfectly harmless and probably extremely useful and necessary goods outside a restricted window of time on a specific day of the week. Viewed from that perspective, it all seems rather odd.
I dare say that the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh of Haringey and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, among others, will agree with what I say. After all, we are not talking about goods and services which, while giving pleasure to millions, may nevertheless have some harmful side-effects; for example, tobacco, alcoholic drink, drugs, firearms or the provision of gambling facilities. No, we are talking about a varied range of goods and services which are beneficial and useful and which range from armchairs to doorknobs, to screwdrivers, light-bulbs, and floor polish; to pairs of jeans, pairs of tights, reference books, novels, sunglasses, and lamb chops; and—to pick up on something that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said—fully-cooked tripe, or frozen chicken tikka.
Trade—that is to say, the interchange of goods and services—is a feature of all civilisations. Indeed, not only is it a feature, but it is also a prerequisite for the evolution of such civilisations. Trade is a consequence of specialisation and the division of labour. Without trade we would be no further advanced than the Australian aborigines. Therefore, it follows that, provided you exclude the narrow range of potentially slightly harmful goods to which I have already referred, trade ought to be restricted solely to the extent that it causes nuisance to others; in other words, when, and only when, the rights of buyers and sellers clash with the rights of others to enjoy a reasonably quiet life. When I talk about "nuisance", I mean something that can be 1395 measured objectively. Considerations such as religious sensibilities and the so-called public good are subjective.
Having once been in favour of total deregulation, I am now persuaded that the latter principle would be breached by total deregulation, which would cause too much nuisance to too many people. Therefore, the proposal for a six-hour limitation for the larger stores is, broadly, the right one. However, the proposal needs fine tuning: it should be made a little more restrictive in some respects and a little less restrictive in others. This is not only because of considerations of nuisance. Long before the extravagances of the common agricultural policy, most governments and electorates thought it right to subsidise modestly their farmers, partly for strategic considerations and partly in order to keep the countryside neat and attractive.
In other words, people generally were prepared to pay a little more for their food for reasons of amenity. The same considerations apply to small shopkeepers, whose disappearance would be regretted not only by elderly people and the immobile but by the public at large. To that extent I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, although I would not go nearly so far as she suggested to protect the small shopkeeper.
It should be remembered that at present the playing field is not exactly level in that small retailers have to pay their wholesalers much more than large retailers because they do not qualify for large discounts. In order to give a little more protection to small shopkeepers and because of the nuisance aspect, I believe that the eight hour time frame within which large stores in urban areas would be able to open individually for six hours each is excessive. It might cause almost as much hustle and bustle and traffic congestion as the eight-and-a-half hour opening period on the average weekday.
Therefore, subject to two exceptions, I suggest that large stores should be permitted to open only between either 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. This would be easier to police and would, incidentally, fit in much better with the times of church services for those, whether shoppers or shopworkers, who want to attend. If that meant that a family setting out for a picnic on Sunday morning were obliged to buy their bread, cheese, tomatoes, fruit, and so on, at the local corner shop rather than a big supermarket, and that somebody who wanted to put up a shelf had to buy his Rawlplugs, screws and Polyfilla at a high street ironmonger rather than a big DIY store, all well and good if it keeps the small stores in business.
However, I suggest two exceptions to that tightening up. Garden centres were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, among others. Garden centres are nearly all situated out of town. By and large, they do not compete with small shops. I see no reason why they should not stay open for an extra hour or more in the evenings.
My other hobbyhorse is bookshops. What could be a more quintessentially suitable and seemly Sunday occupation than browsing in a bookshop? Yet as the proposal stands, a young person—or a not so young person—could spend the entire day browsing through racks of pornographic magazines in a newsagent or at a petrol filling station but be highly restricted in the time 1396 that could be spent in a respected and well-run bookshop reading rather more improving literature. I believe that that restriction could well go.
I apologise to your Lordships if I have introduced what may seem to be Committee stage arguments this evening, but I may be away for part of the Committee stage and this may therefore be my only opportunity to make these points.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Ferrers on the way in which he introduced the Bill so clearly, so wittily and with such panache, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said.
There are three reasons why I am so pleased by the way in which he introduced the Bill and by the fact that the Bill comes before your Lordships now.
First, I wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend—as I believe everybody else speaking in the debate agrees—that the present law on Sunday trading needs reform. The Bill seeks to tackle the inadequacies in the present law and also to stop the dreadful law breaking which has been taking place and which brings the law, the Government and local authorities into such disrepute.
Secondly, I should like to comment briefly on a number of small provisions in the Bill. The first is Clause 3(1), on which my noble friend commented in his opening speech. That provision relates to the construction of certain leases and agreements which, if entered into before the coming into law of this Bill, would have meant that shops had to open whether or not the shopkeepers wished to do so. That is a very good example of the listening Government which we have today. I believe that solicitors pointed out the difficulties that could arise. I am glad that the Government took account of those problems and as a result introduced Clause 3 into the Bill. It is a very equitable and sensible provision.
I should also like to mention subparagraph (1) of paragraph 7 of Schedule 1, which has also been mentioned in the debate. It is very pleasing to your Lordships that another place introduced this provision for the maximum fine to be raised to £ 50,000. Here again another place listened to your Lordships. As the House will remember, on 17th January 1992 your Lordships approved at Second Reading the Sunday Trading (Amendment) Bill which raised the fine to £ 50,000. That Bill did not proceed because of the forthcoming election, but it was your Lordships' view that the fine should be increased to a maximum of £ 50,000. Therefore, it is very pleasing that another place agreed with us.
My primary objective is to see introduced into the Bill the joint option sponsored by the Keep Sunday Special campaign and the Retailers for Shops Act Reform. Indeed, the third reason why I am so pleased at the way in which the Bill has been prepared is that your Lordships have the option to vote for the same three options as were before the other place. I am pleased that it has been pointed out by a number of noble Lords that the joint option is a compromise. The other two options 1397 —total deregulation or the SHRC virtual deregulation proposal—are at one end of the spectrum of options, but this joint option means that we in the Keep Sunday Special campaign have moved a long way from where we stood in the past. That option is a compromise that we have agreed with the RSAR, and we have moved a long way in order to meet objections. I hope that your Lordships will agree that that is the best option.
Of course there are disadvantages in compromise. There are disadvantages in having a law at all on the subject. I am sure that if there were no law of theft and nobody had to worry about what was stolen from anybody else life would be much simpler for those who have to enforce it. But, as has been very clearly pointed out, one man's freedom is another man's restriction. We believe that that option is a fair compromise.
In that option we have sought to tackle three objectives. First, we have tried to meet the reasonable needs of consumers on Sunday so that a wide range of shops will be permitted to open, providing for the recreational, emergency, social and travel needs of consumers. Secondly, there is the important objective of protecting vulnerable groups in society for whom Sunday provides the only respite from work, stress, environmental pollution, hassle and bustle. There are many vulnerable members of society and it is important that they are protected by the laws that we pass in Parliament. Thirdly, we have sought to protect small shops from unfair competition. Clearly it would be grossly unfair if the large superstores were permitted to open on Sundays while their competitors in the high street had to remain closed.
I should like to make one point in relation to surveys. A number of noble Lords have mentioned surveys which have conflicting results. In a survey the answer you receive depends on how the question is phrased. If, on the one hand, you ask the question,"Would you like all shops to be open on Sunday?" you will get one answer. On the other hand, if you introduce into the question some of the problems resulting from all the shops opening, you will receive a totally different answer. I said one day to an American that we were involved in the Sunday trading issue. He said,"Poor you. In the States we had Sunday trading brought on us and it meant a 10 per cent. increase in costs overall". If one asks the question,"Do you wish all shops to be able to open on Sundays if that means a 10 per cent. increase in costs?", one would receive a very big reduction in the affirmative answer.
It has been said that we ought to stick to the decision on the option that was made in another place. I believe very strongly that that is not a point of view which should commend itself to your Lordships. On the contrary, I believe that we should give another place the chance to think again about the option to be chosen. I have two main reasons for saying that. First, our option was narrowly defeated by 18 votes in another place on 8th December, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers said in the opening discussion. Since that date, the Government have published a Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill which was given its Second Reading in another place on 8th January. Clause 17 of that Bill removes all existing 1398 restrictions on opening hours for shops from Monday to Saturday. I wonder how many Members in another place would have changed their vote if they had known that that deregulation Bill was in the process of coming before them. Secondly, a number of Members in another place voted for the SHRC option expecting there to be stronger protection for employees and enforceable rights for premium payments for those who work on Sundays. For those reasons, I have no hesitation in voting for our option and for recommending that your Lordships pass it. We look forward to fighting that battle on another day.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, I, too, welcome the opportunity provided by the Bill to reform the law on Sunday trading. For my part, I agree with those who consider that the so-called compromise solution proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, which now forms Schedule 1 of the Bill, is not a compromise. In practice, its commercial, social and environmental effects will be no different from the total deregulation which I opposed when we last debated the subject eight years ago. In my view, the proposal for a six-hour trading limit, far from being a response to overwhelming public demand, is in reality simply the period that certain large stores—they have already shown their contempt for the law by flouting it—believe that the Sunday market will bear. From such a base it would be a small step to undifferentiated seven-day shopping.
I share the view that increased Sunday trading will not make the retail cake any bigger. If those who work on Sunday are to be properly compensated there will be, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, argued, seven days of costs for six days of trading. For the customer that means either higher prices or a reduced quality of service; or both.
It is said that deregulation will offer more choice. I fear that by hastening the closure of small shops it will reduce choice for thousands of elderly and disabled people, and for those without cars, who depend on local shops. Apart from ethical considerations, like a number of other noble Lords who have spoken I further believe that we all stand to benefit from the natural cycle which in every week provides for a day's break for rest and recreation. Moreover, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that so far as possible it is better that there should continue to be a common day of rest with all its attendant benefits for the family and the wider community. Now that it has come to the crunch, I cannot subscribe to what I regard as an unacceptable devaluation of the traditional English Sunday in the Bill as it stands.
I should like to offer one or two comments on the subject of employment rights. Under Schedule 4 to the Bill both present and prospective employees will have the right not to suffer detriment for refusing to work on Sundays. That sounds fine. But to prove what is the real reason for not being employed, or promoted, is what will count. For that to be accomplished without legal aid, and before an industrial tribunal, it will take months to produce some small recompense. The only way now 1399 open to us to ensure true employment protection is to prevent shops above a certain size from opening on any except the four Sundays before Christmas, as advocated in the option put forward by the Retailers for Shops Act Reform.
I would much rather that there was no additional retailing even on those days. But we have to legislate for the world as it is. The option which I advocate, although it cannot be defended in principle, in my view represents a realistic compromise on which I hope we could build a consensus. On the basis of the small majority who voted against it in another place, and the introduction of the deregulation Bill after that vote was taken, we might even persuade Members in another place to think again.
The same arguments apply to the question of premium pay—or pay for abnormal time as it was called when long ago I bore some responsibility for negotiating such payments. Of course, people who work on Sundays should be properly compensated for so doing. But I fear that once the large stores willingly or reluctantly, in order to preserve their market share, are open for six hours it will not be long before, first, smaller shops and then other businesses in the high street, follow suit. If that happens, and Sunday becomes just like any other day, why should work on Sunday any longer be regarded as abnormal, thus warranting premium pay? Again, the only way to make sure that that situation does not arise is to support the RSAR/KSS option. If it is possible for me to be present at the start of the Committee stage I shall certainly vote for the amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, which will enable me to support that option.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Baroness Eccles of Moulton
My Lords, perhaps I, too" may start by thanking my noble friend Lord Ferrers for his clear and impartial introduction of the Bill, and of the procedures which will follow today's debate. I must declare an interest as a director of Sainsburys. Sainsburys supports the Shopping Hours Reform Council whose position has been so excellently presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay. It is most fortunate that my personal views on Sunday trading coincide with those of SHRC. Through my connections with retailing, I am especially aware of the problems which the anomalies in the existing law have caused. There is no doubt that the law needs to be brought up to date. The option for partial deregulation, chosen by the House of Commons in a free vote, is both sensible and has wide public support. I do not wish to say any more about the choice of options at this stage as it is the subject of later discussion. Speaking at this point in the debate, I shall repeat some of the comments made by previous speakers, but I hope that they will bear repetition.
Since the failed Shops Bill of 1985, considerable change has taken place on several fronts. Disposable incomes have increased, so has car ownership. The growth of edge-of-town and out-of-town supermarkets and other retail outlets has been remarkable. At the same time, people have had the opportunity to find out whether they like shopping on Sunday. The overwhelm-ing evidence is that they do.
1400 Opinion polls—at least the ones that I consulted—show that two-thirds of the population support Sunday shopping. In practice, about half the population now shop regularly on Sundays. Each Sunday millions of people visit a wide variety of retail outlets, including car boot sales, antique and craft fairs, garden centres, DIY stores and many small shops as well as supermarkets.
Before the advent of the modern supermarket, meeting the daily household shopping needs fell largely to the housewife. In many instances she could only buy what she could carry and for any but the smallest urban household that would mean going to the shops or market nearly every day. Today, most household shopping lists will still be written by women, but I suggest that a visit to the supermarket has become much more of a family outing. Members of my family who would not have dreamt of going on a shopping expedition in the past now not only volunteer but enjoy themselves when they get there. Of course, the Saturday morning family visit to the high street for comparative shopping for non-consumables has always been the tradition, certainly where I live in the north of England.
We have an opportunity through the Bill before us to regularise the extension of that family experience to Sunday. By presenting Parliament with a choice of options, the Government have provided an opportunity for a consensus to be reached which not only recognises legitimate concerns but also responds to the interests of customers, workers and retailers.
During its progress through the Committee stage in the House of Commons, the Bill received few amendments and those made were minor. The question of employment protection was widely debated but the provision for statutory premium pay did not receive majority support. However, since then the deputy general secretary of USDAW has reached an agreement with major retailers on a range of employment protection measures which go beyond those contained in the Bill. The measures include a commitment to continue to pay premium rates of pay for Sunday working.
More than half the nation's workforce are women and almost three-quarters of married women now work. Similar comments were made earlier. Not surprisingly, Sunday opening is strongly supported by working women on two counts: first, because they wish to retain the right to choose whether or not to work on Sundays and the Bill protects their right not to work; and, secondly, because for many working women Sunday opening provides an opportunity to shop enjoyably and at leisure rather than in an exhausted rush at the end of the working day.
The Bill provides an excellent basis for a reform of the law which would be both practical and popular. I strongly support it.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Lord Plant of Highfield
My Lords, perhaps I should state the conclusion of my speech before I start. I am opposed to total deregulation. The SHRC proposals are embodied in the Bill as it has come from the other place, ably defended by my noble friend Lady Jay, and I have yet to be persuaded that that falls short 1401 of the degree of deregulation which is our objective. Perhaps I should say why I am opposed to complete deregulation.
My first reason for opposing it has to do with the difficult but nevertheless important idea about what seems to be a continual privatisation of public and collective values. We have seen the gradual erosion of the idea that we as a society can collectively endorse certain kinds of values and in their place the issue is put entirely in terms of individual choice. The values that we have are the values that we choose, and that is all there is to it. The economic market is the best exemplar of that. After all, the market is an institutional embodiment of subjectivism about values. The value of something is determined by preference in a market. Thus I am worried about the idea—and Sunday trading is only one small part of it—that we can have a gradual erosion of collective common values in our society.
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, has just entered the Chamber. The institute ably headed by him has had second thoughts about those issues. It has recently published a range of interesting pamphlets on the moral foundations of market institutions and civic capitalism. There is the idea that markets have to be embedded in a set of collectively endorsed moral values. We have no experience of running societies in which there is no collective agreement about values.
In my youth I used to believe that the liberal state should be neutral between conceptions of the good and therefore the framework of law should facilitate the opportunity for each individual to pursue whatever he or she valued in their own way. In a sense, the deregulation of Sunday trading would be consistent with the idea that the state should be neutral between different ideas of the good, and between different values.
However, I am less convinced now of the feasibility of that idea. I believe that social and public policy has to be underpinned by values. I see the total deregulation of Sunday trading as an abandonment of the idea that we can share, endorse collective values and hold up to ourselves as a society not just one but various ideas of what might consist of a worthwhile life. I am worried about the consequences of that because we have no experience of running a society, particularly a market-based society, in which the moral underpinnings of the market, the moral inheritance on which the market has traded is continually being eroded. I am worried about the country.
We must also look at the impact of the erosion of collective values on private values. I have never been able to understand the idea that morality is entirely a matter for private life and that there are standards in private life but we cannot have collective moral values. I believe that that does not work. My own party has a strong belief, for example, in the value of the community and social justice. Those are collective values. If we persist in going down the road that we must always reduce values to individual choice and preference, then our own distinctive moral values as a political party—and the Conservative party too has emphasised throughout its history the idea of 1402 community—those values will not exist for us to build on when we need them. I believe we shall need them in the future.
That is a rather arcane theoretical worry; but, nevertheless, it is real. We can only learn individual responsibility and individual values if we live in a community in which there is a community sense of responsibility. We must believe that we are responsible for the outcomes of markets; they are not just matters of individual choice. We must learn individual responsibility and individual values in the context of community values and a sense of community responsibility. The social values that are threatened by total deregulation are those of community and social justice.
I do not share the confidence of my noble friend Lord Desai that small shops will flourish as a result of total deregulation because if there is a demand, the market will meet it. I believe that those shops exist on small profit margins and if those who are mobile are able to use their cars to go into towns, it will divert enough potential consumers away from small shops to put them at risk. My mother lives in a small village in north Lincolnshire. Those villages which I visit when I go there would be marooned without the local shop.
It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said that we have to look at the economy in a dynamic and not a static way. But it seems to me that if sufficient numbers of potential consumers are diverted into shopping in large shops which are deregulated, then small shops are likely to suffer.
I am also worried about the impact of deregulation on social justice. I do not regard the existing protection outlined in the Bill as adequate. The local shop also has an impact on the community. It also has an impact on social justice; those without cars may well be at the highest degree of disadvantage.
My second reason for opposing total deregulation—as I said, I need convincing about the proposal outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay—is, paradoxically, on grounds of liberty. After all, if one reads the greatest text in English on the nature of liberty, that of John Stuart Mill, there is an argument for restricting liberty if it harmfully affects the interests of others. There are cases—I have tried to outline two or three of them—where total deregulation would harmfully affect the interests of others: for example, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, said, of those who live close to such large stores. Their whole life would be dominated by shopping, traffic, and so forth. It would have a harmful effect on those people's interests. It is a position perfectly consistent with liberalism to say that liberty can be restricted in terms of some judgment about the harmful effects of action to people's interests. I disagree with the point of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that there must be a wholly objective measure. I do not believe that it is possible to produce an objective measure. It is the job of politicians to conjecture what might be; to put forward a defensible account of harm to interest; and write that into legislation and hope that it is acceptable.
Equally, I do not believe that we can say, as many economic liberals do, that if the effect of deregulation is that shops are driven out of business and those harmful 1403 effects do occur, then we are not responsible for them. The argument of the economic liberals is: we can be responsible only for what we do intentionally. Of course, the outcomes of markets, such as the effect on small shops, are not "intended" by anyone. They may in fact be deplored by people. But, it is said, because we did not intend it, we are not responsible for it; it is not an injustice that it has happened. That seems to me to be an absurd argument—despite its having emanated from the pen of the eminent economist, Friedrich Hayek.
The reason why it is absurd is that we are responsible for what we can foresee. It is the job of political chambers such as this one to make guesses about what we can foresee. What I can foresee, and others who support the less than total deregulation line, is a certain range of harmful effects, to obviate which we must put forms of protection in place. That is why I am against total deregulation. I am not sure at the moment, as between the two other alternatives, exactly which I would prefer. As I have tried to argue in this House before, there is a case for looking for what I call the overlapping consensus. I am not sure which of the two proposals I would regard as producing the overlapping consensus. At the moment, I have still to be convinced by those who think that the proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, embodies the best compromise between the range of options that are available.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Baroness Flather
My Lords, I am mindful of the fact that your Lordships must by now have reached saturation point. Therefore I shall put forward just a few very personal thoughts. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that today is the International Day of Women. I speak as the founder member of the Working Women for Sunday Shopping group.
Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I do remember 1950. I remember 1951,1952 and the years when I was a student here. And I remember the Sundays then. They were indeed special—but not for a young person. They were days when we wondered what we were going to do, and how we were going to fill our time. We were not providing then for a family and there was very little to do, at least in London. I do not know about the rest of the country, but I would assume that there was even less to do.
I became a wife and mother in the middle to late 1950s. It was a time when the shops used to shut very firmly at 1 o'clock on Saturdays. If you had forgotten something, you would not be able to get it. The worst of all times was when a long holiday was coming and you had to plan ahead, order your bread and make sure that you had enough of everything. It was difficult to keep food. As has been pointed out, we did not have fridges and freezers. You had to buy bread on Saturday before the shops shut. If you did not buy it then, you had had it. You had to order it, and if you did not get there by a certain time it was sold to the next person in line. Some of us do remember the problems of shopping in those days, and it is not with a great deal of pleasure.
What amazes me nowadays is that when you go to the shops before Christmas, everybody is buying everything as if the shops are going to shut. They do not shut any 1404 more. All sorts of shops are open. There is no need any more to prepare for a siege. But the mentality still continues, which is quite surprising.
These days, like the noble Baronesses, Lady Jay and Lady Dean, I too find that I am constantly juggling with my time and trying to match up all the different responsibilities: to get the shopping done; to get the work done; to go to meetings. How is it that people want us to come and speak at meetings on Sundays? Why do they not keep Sunday special, and not ask us to attend conferences and meetings all over the place? If they could keep those matters out of Sundays, then we would not need all this flexibility and choice about shopping.
It is interesting also that many noble Lords—gentlemen, I might say—have spoken about family values and keeping Sunday special. My memories as a woman of the days when we kept Sunday special are of getting up in the morning, getting everybody's breakfast and then cooking the Sunday lunch. I learnt to make Yorkshire pudding because my husband is from Yorkshire—in fact, I had to work jolly hard all day on Sunday so that the rest of my family (whom I adore and love dearly) could have a special day. Could that have something to do with the fact that so few noble Baronesses have spoken eloquently about keeping Sunday special, while so many of the gentlemen remember Sunday as a very special day? We did not object because our lives were tied into that process. But now life has opened out, and many women are in the position where they do all sorts of things outside such tasks as cooking the Sunday lunch. They need choice and flexibility. For that reason I support the Shopping Hours Reform Council option.
It has been said that some people see shopping as a leisure activity and that families will troop to the supermarket when it opens. I do not believe that that will happen. I do not think that all families will troop to the supermarket as an outing. I believe that they will still prefer to go to the park, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord McColl. What will happen is that if there are very young children, then women will leave those children with their husbands and quickly do their shopping if they have not been able to do it at some other time; or the husbands will go and do the shopping, and then they will go out to the park; or before that, they will go to church. I do not believe that shopping will stop people doing the things that they really like doing. The only time that I like shopping is when I am in another country. I am sure that there are many noble Baronesses here who feel the same way. There it is a leisure activity and part of the enjoyment of being in another country.
I was very concerned that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool should see shopping as a threat to family life. Regrettably, it is an essential part of family life. I do not think that any families can survive without somebody doing the shopping. In the United States the shops are open and the churches are full. Maybe it is time to go and see what recipe they can provide for keeping their churches full.
The noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, spoke very eloquently. Perhaps he is hankering after a golden age. 1405 From time to time I hanker after a golden age but I am not sure that stopping shops from opening on Sunday will bring back such a time.
A great many people now work on Sunday in rotation but they are unseen. Some of the essential services are visible. We see policemen, firemen and all kinds of people who provide us with essential services. They all work on Sundays. But we do not see many other people who make our lives possible by working on a Sunday. We take them for granted. We say that it is all right for such people to work but that nobody should work in a shop. I do not know whether that is justifiable or whether it is hypocritical.
There has been much anxiety over small shops. I should be absolutely devastated if my small shop closed. I can tell noble Lords what will close it. It will not be the big supermarket which opens on Sunday; it will be the big petrol station which has just opened a huge shop 500 yards from my door. That is the threat to my small shop. It is not the supermarket which will open on Sunday that poses the threat. We shall be able to walk down to our petrol stations and buy whatever we want. They are getting bigger and bigger. They are the real threat to the small shops. The small shops need to survive for the sake of all of us and if they are to survive, they should start thinking of service.
When I first came to the area in which I live, the small shops there would deliver. They do not deliver now. Delivery is not heard of. But, given the unemployment now in the country perhaps one could think about the delivery of goods. I am sure that people, especially working women, would pay extra for delivery if the small shops started to offer that service. I hope that small shops will also think about new and innovative practices to make themselves more viable.
People who do not have cars will shop at small shops. Even if the supermarket is open on Sunday, they will not be enabled to go there. Such people still cannot get to the supermarket. If they were able to get there they might do so during the week in any case. I am not sure that the argument is not some kind of a red herring.
Women as much as men are in favour of family life, perhaps more so because we are the fulcrum of family life. We know it. No matter how much equality is achieved, if women do not make the family work, then the family will not survive. But women's lives have changed so much that they need the flexibility of being able to shop on whichever day they have the time in order to find more time to devote to the family. It is choice and flexibility that we are after. We need it very badly. I hope that when the time comes the House will support the Shopping Hours Reform Council option.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord Broadbridge
My Lords, although noble Lords are not supposed to use foreign languages in your Lordships' House I have a strong feeling of dê já vu this evening, having spoken on the Second Reading of the Shops Bill on 2nd December 1985, as did many of today's speakers. That was eight years ago and what was proposed was total deregulation. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on bringing forward originally a 1406 uniquely structured Bill embodying three options; to put it crudely, the two opposite ends of the Sunday trading spectrum and something in between.
In general terms I support the "something in between" and more specifically the RSAR proposal, which in shorthand is gardening and DIY centres and shops under 3,000 square feet open, unregulated, and the rest open for the four Sundays before Christmas.
The pace of life and its accompanying stresses increase daily. I am told that between the two world wars Prime Minister Baldwin used to go on holiday for six weeks in the summer and not read a newspaper throughout that time. Now, after an arduous multinational tour, his successors are expected to speak definitively to the media from the steps of their homecoming aircraft. I think it vital for theological, family life and human resource reasons that one day of the week—Sunday—should be different from the rest. Many of us, in an increasingly irreligious age, still need it for prayer. But I suggest that we all need it to recharge batteries, whether with or without family.
I am minded of the story of the English explorer in Africa in the last century who force-marched through the jungle for 14 days, at the end of which his head porter approached him and said,"Sir, we need a day's rest." Asked why, the man replied,"To let our souls catch up with our bodies." There is much to ponder on in that. I might add that when I ask friends who have returned from holiday in southern Ireland what they enjoyed most, before naming specific attractions they almost all quote the slow and relaxed pace of life. We all need one day off in the week—not necessarily for idleness. We may be rather busy but we need it for variety, which, after all, is the spice of life.
A particular section of the community which needs that time is the family with young and teenage children. We all complain bitterly about the seemingly inexorable rise of teenage crime and the general mayhem which some teenagers cause. Most of us say that it is the duty of their parents to bring them up properly. In my direct experience, Sunday is the one day of the week when most families are together, with all that that implies for love, support, organisation and, to the point of my theme, discipline. The focus is the Sunday meal, whatever it may be and wherever it may take place. Part or full-time employment of one or both parents on Sunday is usually undertaken to earn more money to pay for things which might be better not bought in the first place. It may be a case of wrong priorities. But there is an element of greed in all of us.
The togetherness of the Sunday meal is particularly important to parents who are in full-time employment during the week, and perhaps Saturday too. The Employment Gazette indicates that there were some 21 million full-time employed men and women in Britain at the end of 1993. It is perhaps also very significant in the context of the family that only yesterday it was widely reported on the news services that a parents' forum had asked the Secretary of State for Education to include lessons at school for parents on how to bring up a family. Might a good start be to keep Sunday as a special family day?
1407 In considering the RSAR proposal, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, on what seems like the day before yesterday, it is crucial to bear in mind a factor which is both recent and quite absent from the 1985 proposals; namely, the deregulation Bill. The effect of the Bill will be to allow complete deregulation of trading hours to all shops—I have in mind particularly grocery retail outlets—from Monday to Saturday. There is therefore no reason why the Sainsbury's and Tesco's of this world should not soon stay open until, say,11 p.m. on some or indeed all days of the week, if motivated so to do.
I cannot believe that with the new found freedom to open from, say,8.30 a.m. to a very late hour, the needs of shoppers (including shift workers) on the one hand and retailers, who sell their goods, on the other cannot be adequately met. That includes those with young children who cannot easily be left at home. Indeed, on that important point, my personal experience is that most parents now take their young children shopping with them, to their great enjoyment since, apart from producing a certain happy element of variety and chaos to the rather dull routine of shopping, they usually manage, unseen, to insert a favourite item or two into the trolley.
I should like to address the matter of part-time shop workers. The SHRC, in its somewhat polemical February/March 1994 issue of Sunday Shopper, states that,more than 170,000 people would lose their Sunday jobs were the House of Commons to accept Keep Sunday Special Campaign's latest cynical amendments to the Sunday Trading Bill".As I said, I support the RSAR proposals, which are less rigorous. But I suppose that a fairly large proportion of that 170,000 figure—perhaps 150,000—would be affected; less than the total 170,000 because of the freedom to open all sub-3,000 square feet shops, garden and DIY centres. But those people all obtained their jobs illegally under the present law. By analogy perhaps I may mention the burglar. Suppose he commits, say,50 burglaries without being caught. If he then beseeched your Lordships to protect his employment I suggest your Lordships would be outraged. While, of course, never for a moment associating the baser criminal aspects of burglary with the civil offence of Sunday trading, from a strictly dry as dust legal point of view the two cases have elements in common: they are both illegal.
Thus we are asked by supporters of the SHRC option—that is, opening for six hours between 10 and 6—to cherish the illegally obtained part-time work of some 150,000 at the expense of the peace, tranquillity and freedom from traffic and crowds of the 21 million in full-time employment. That is a ratio of 0.007 to one, or 0.7 per cent. Is it really reasonable to expect the employment of less than 1 per cent. of the population to radically affect the lives of the remaining 99 per cent. plus? It seems to me that the tail is very much being asked to wag the dog.
I have not been convinced by anything I have seen that the viability of shops would be threatened by the RSAR proposals. Indeed, I do not see evidence of increased turnover, let alone profitability, through 1408 Sunday trading. Although trading may spread over seven days, there are significant costs to Sunday trading such as premium wages, lighting and policing of traffic congestion. It has been suggested that, to avoid price rises, the big supermarkets would absorb those costs and not pass them on. But from my reading of the financial press those groups are already extremely stretched to maintain the profitability which largely governs share prices. To mention only one, the retail sector's touchstone, J. Sainsbury's 1993–94 high-low share range is 584 p. to 342 p. and was yesterday 372 p.—some £ 2 off the high of nearly £ 6 or a massive one-third for a share which might be considered a sound investment for children, widows and trustees.
In conclusion, I believe that the RSAR specification is the best. I shall support the option which comes closest to it with hope of amendment to the MAR profile.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Ferrers for initiating this debate. Any opportunity of listening to him is a treat and it was especially so today. After 30 speakers, and I forget how many days, I promise to be brief. But there are 10 points that I should like to make in support of the Keep Sunday Special and RSAR option, which seems to me to be the best and most reasonable way forward.
First, on religious grounds—and I do believe that this comes into it for those of us who object in principle to shopping on Sunday—even the Almighty, when He made the world, rested on the seventh day. I have never seen anything to suggest that any of us is more powerful or less in need of rest than He.
Secondly, there is an argument that shopping with the family is fun and keeps the family together. So it is. No one is trying to shut garden centres or do-it-yourself stores or places where a family, having been to church, or got out of bed, or read the Sunday papers or whatever, can issue out en masse to collect stuff for the afternoon's and evening's amusement.
Thirdly, most people have done their weekly food shopping by Sunday. People used to be paid on Friday and would then shop on Saturday for the week. Now it is not so clear cut. But on the whole people shop for the weekend, when they will be at home for meals. In my grandmother's day vegetables had to be peeled and left in water on Saturday night so that no one worked on Sunday.
Fourthly, with regard to employment, the Bill as framed would allow shopworkers to opt out of Sunday working if they so wished. It would be bound, in the end, to create second-class workers—those who, for one reason or another, did not want to work on Sundays.
Fifthly, we must have regard to infrastructure. The quiet Sunday streets would be alive with the sound of heavy goods vehicles delivering fruit and vegetables in the early mornings. Cars filled with happy family shoppers would come pouring in, many discarding litter as they went, pursued by happy traffic wardens. What difference would there be from any other day?
That brings me to my sixth point—cost. If a shop is open seven days rather than six, there is the extra cost of 1409 staffing, heating, lighting, cleaning and security. The shoppers will have no more money to spend but what they buy will cost one-seventh, or roughly 14 per cent., more. The extra costs of opening will have to come out of the sales of goods.
My seventh point concerns shape—the shape of the week. Everything in this world has a shape, except an amoeba and we have rather got beyond that. Our lives have a shape. We start as babies; work our way through the seven ages of man if we are lucky, and then die. The year has a shape with its seasons; springtime and harvest; summer and winter. The day has a shape with morning and evening, darkness and light. The week has a shape starting with the Monday morning feeling and going through to Sunday when we relax, unwind, recuperate, regenerate and prepare and re-gear ourselves to start again on Monday. To destroy any of those shapes is to destroy part of our humanity, of our existence. I could go on a great deal but I have promised to be brief, and I shall.
Eighthly, what about Scotland? Everyone says that we have total deregulation and it works. So we do. So it does. But there are various factors which do not apply to England. We have many fewer people per square mile. Many of us live in rural areas—shopping involves a car and a total expedition. There are fewer car owners in Scotland. And there is a strong Scottish Sunday tradition. We probably all collect Sunday papers from our local shop or garage. We may buy milk there, or bread, or something we have run out of. On the whole, like my grandmother's vegetables, the shopping has been done.
Ninthly, what of Europe? Of our 11 European partners only Ireland and Portugal have a Sunday free-for-all. The others do not. There are some exceptions in Belgium. There are some exceptions in Greece for tourism. In France and Luxembourg the employees have to be family.
That brings me to point 10, my last point—so noble Lords can relax. I refer to small shops. They are open almost everywhere on Sunday. We all, I think, feel strongly about the small or local shop and not one single option would overset the right of the small shopkeepers to open as they choose. But if everyone were allowed to open for however short a time on Sunday, the future of the small shopkeeper would be doomed. And that would be a sad day for us British, for we are, after all is said, a nation of small shopkeepers.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, this debate has brought some strange coalitions and very odd bedfellows. I find the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, defending a strictly libertarian view of his own interpretation. Well, I am going to challenge him that that libertarian view overlooks social and community values. We seem to be changing places. Of course, if the freedom to shop on Sunday were simply a personal freedom and had no effect on anyone else, then his argument would be right, as the noble Lord, Lord Plant, pointed out—quoting John Stuart Mill very properly in doing so—that the definition of liberty which we support is a liberty which 1410 does not interfere with the liberties of other people. If other people are deeply concerned to see that a particular kind of Sunday is maintained, then the extreme libertarian views, almost to the Manchester school, of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, are in conflict with the views of John Stuart Mill, with those of his noble colleague Lord Plant, with my views and with those of many people on these Benches.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I take it that the noble Baroness does not read newspapers on Monday.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I am not saying that any of us will be consistent about this. People are working. You have to have compromise. We would not be politicians if we did not believe in compromise. It is the only way you can get through in the political scene. You have to make sensible compromises and trust your judgment that those compromises are sensible. I am certainly not arguing the purist view and I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is either. He is a great compromiser on most occasions. On this occasion he does not wish to compromise because it does not suit him.
I find it very strange that the Labour Front Bench is entirely satisfied with the protection being given to workers.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, they shake their heads. I hope that they will say more about it. If they really believe that what is written in the Bill will give adequate protection they have come a very long way from the position that they used to take. Those of us who have had experience inside industry know that you can have laws and regulations but that it is extremely easy to get round them. We have legislation for no discrimination on grounds of gender and no discrimination on grounds of race. We surely all know that there is still discrimination on grounds of gender and a great deal of discrimination on grounds of race. Yet we have legislation. It is not enough to say that because there are provisions in the Bill everything is all right. Of course it is not. It is very easy indeed to circumvent the legislation. It will not affect people. They will not be got rid of. Of course not. But how about their promotion? How about all the other things which can be done so subtly to influence people's lives inside industry if they do not agree with what it is required that they should do and what it is assumed that they ought to be doing. I do not believe the protection is anything like adequate. I do not believe you can strengthen it. We have to remember that a great many of the shopworkers are not even in trade unions. I do not think even the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, would be able to persuade that large number of shopworkers who are not in trade unions to join up just to have their position protected.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the noble Baroness can try; and if anyone could do it I have no doubt that she 1411 could. But I should be very surprised if she succeeded. The idea that shopworkers are adequately protected simply will not stand up.
It has also been said that women are so different from how they used to be and they need all this time for shopping. In the days when shops closed at 5.30 p.m.I remember campaigning very strongly for the extension of shopping hours in the interests of working women who stopped work at 5.30 and who used to do their shopping in the lunch hour, foregoing their lunches because that was the only time they could shop. However, as everyone has said when it suited their particular argument best this afternoon, times have changed. They have indeed. The deregulation Bill has changed things beyond all recognition. It seems that shops will be able to open all day and all night in the week and all day on Saturday. I have been sitting here wondering what on earth the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, needs to do on Sunday which she cannot do on Saturday and in the 24 hours of all the other days when the shops are open. I can tell her, because I happen to know her district very well, that if she forgets to buy anything on Saturday she can pop round to Formosa Street and do it very satisfactorily indeed. She does not in the least need to have the big shops open. So the argument that women have to have the shops open is totally, but totally, unconvincing.
On the question of worker protection, we have been told that USDAW is in favour; and formally USDAW is. I have heard murmurs that not everyone in USDAW went along with that decision. I have also heard that UNISON is not in favour. We must not assume that USDAW is the only trade union organisation which represents the interests of workers in this regard. I may be wrong on that. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, will correct me if I am. But I am sure she will agree that there is by no means universal agreement among workers that this legislation is in their interests.
There is also the straight economic issue. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Desai, is not in his place. I have the greatest possible respect, having been a colleague of his for many years, for his vastly superior economic knowledge in comparison with mine. However, I was surprised that he did not make the point, which the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, made, that there will not be arty extra money to spend as a result of the shops being open. The trade will not increase because the shops are open. People have a certain amount of money to spend, and if they spend it on Sunday they will not spend it on Saturday and other days. Someone will suffer.
There will be, as everyone has agreed, increased costs in opening on Sunday. I have not looked at the statistics—judging from the conflicting statistics which we have had flung at us today I do not think I have lost much by not looking at them—but if the shops are open on Sunday it is quite obvious that there will be some heavy costs. There is lighting, heating and cleaning and there are all the back-room people who have to be employed as well as the people on the counters. There are the extra premium payments which the unions will certainly press to get, and probably will get, and probably should get. These all add up to considerable 1412 sums. There are also the additional costs which fall on local authorities. I have no idea how much those will be but there are additional costs that come when people are moving into towns. You have to have greater security, more cleaning and all the rest of it. More money will have to be spent by the shops and there will not be more money spent in total. Something has to go.
What will go without a doubt is the small shop. It is denying facts not to recognise that if the big stores are open and people go to the big stores in their cars and fill the boots of their cars with the good things they want to eat they will not be going to the small shops. The small shops will continue for local people but they have very small margins. If they lose the money from their better off customers, because those better off customers have gone on Sunday with their cars and bought the goods they would otherwise have bought in the local shops, those local shops will go broke. I do not think there is much doubt about that.
I was also surprised that neither the noble Lord, Lord Desai, nor the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, made a point that has been made very strongly to me by the Asian traders. The Asian traders have contributed very greatly indeed to trading in this country. The small Asian shops have been extremely valuable. I have had representations, and I thought most other noble Lords would have done, that they are extremely anxious about the effect of the Bill and what it will do for their shops. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, shakes his head.1 do not know why I should have been honoured and he has not been. I can show the noble Lord the letters. I have been approached by Asian shopkeepers. This is a real consideration. We owe a great deal to the Asian traders. They have taught us a great deal about how to trade and how to service customers. They are a great deal better at it than a great many local people. They have built up businesses by hard work and by family collaboration. It would be a great shame if they were undermined by this legislation.
Those are real objections to the proposed changes. I go along absolutely with the people who say that the partial deregulation proposed by the Government is anything other than total deregulation in disguise. If shops are going to be open for six hours a day for a period between 10 o'clock and six o'clock then a great many shops will be open. There will be shops open everywhere and people in the high streets between 10 o'clock and six o'clock. People will be travelling to work before and afterwards. The situation will be practically the same as deregulation.
So let us get this matter quite clear. Either we are voting for deregulation tout d'un coup or we are voting for the modified form put forward by the Keep Sunday Special Campaign. That proposal will save the small shops which are vital to people who have not got cars, who are old and decrepit and vital to rural people. I suppose that a great many Members of your Lordships' House, like myself, are not rural people, but noble Lords must realise that there are many rural areas which are virtually cut off and in which public transport is so inadequate that the local residents rely very heavily on their local shop. It is not only where they go to buy 1413 things; it is a social centre where they go to gossip and learn what is going on. The social shop is very valuable in rural areas and at our peril do we abandon it.
I realise that I have gone on too long. That leaves what has been for many people a major issue; namely, that of the family and the Sunday issue from the point of view of religion, and as a social requirement in our lives for peace and quiet and something different. I am a member of the Church of England. I believe that most church people would find a way of going to church whatever happens to the shopping hours.
But that is not my primary reason for wanting to keep Sunday special. I am profoundly convinced that human beings everywhere, and indeed the animal creation, respond to rhythm. They need rhythm and something which is different, as the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, said. That runs right through nature; night and day and ebb and flow. We need a day which is different. I believe I am right in saying that in the early days of the Soviet Union they tried to get rid of the one day in seven and they went for the one day off in ten. It did not work, not for religious reasons but because of some deep necessity inside human beings that life can be different and that there is a time for rest and a time for work.
If we get rid of that by making Sunday just like any other day—and as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, if we do that now we shall not reverse it because that kind of Sunday will be gone for good—we shall have lost something which is not only very valuable in our national life but which is deeply important to all of us, psychologically as well as spiritually.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Baroness Turner of Camden
My Lords, we have had a very good debate this afternoon in which practically every aspect of the subject that could possibly be covered has been covered. On the last occasion Sunday trading was discussed by your Lordships, I was a comparative newcomer to your Lordships' House. At that time I took up the position of those who supported the Keep Sunday Special Campaign.
My reasons for doing that were that I thought—and to some extent still do, although I am not a religious person—that there was a case for having one day a week when the whole atmosphere is much more relaxed. I live in a road which adjoins one of the busiest thoroughfares in North London—a road which is also a busy shopping area. It is noticeably quieter on Sunday mornings and that is really a great relief. It is to be noted that this was one of the issues which troubled the Auld Committee which reported on the matter in 1984 and whose report was the subject of much discussion in this House last time.
The committee concluded (I think optimistically) that the trend was towards large, purpose-built shopping centres with their own parking facilities in town centres and out-of-town superstores. Although it is true that there have been developments in that direction, that has not been so marked as had once been anticipated. 1414 Personally, I am rather glad of that because some of these huge stores seem to me to be pretty awful, soulless places.
I myself am fortunate in that I can normally shop on a Saturday morning at my local store although it tends to be very crowded and it is certainly not a pleasure to shop there. I have always acknowledged that for many women the opportunity to shop on a Sunday can be very beneficial. Moreover, many families enjoy shopping together and have only Sunday when that can be done. A number of noble Lords have made that point and it is a very valid one.
My main reason for supporting the Keep Sunday Special Campaign last time was that there was no adequate protection in that Bill for shopworkers who, for various reasons, did not want to work on a Sunday. It is true that that Bill provided some sort of protection, although very minimal, for those already in shop employment at a time when the Bill was to become law, but since that did not extend to new employees, it was quite worthless.
I well remember the debates which we had in 1985 when Lord Stockton roundly declared that we should not attempt to make progress at the expense of the poor and the vulnerable, which is what many shopworkers were and actually still are. It is not too much to say that the reason for the failure of previous attempts to legislate for general Sunday trading was the concern of people from all parties about the pressure that might be put on shopworkers to work on Sundays against their will.
One of the main differences between then and now is that there seems to have been a genuine attempt to protect those whose job it is to provide a shop service. For these reasons, the unions organising shopworkers have moved from their position of opposing Sunday trading altogether into the camp of those who are supporting what is now, I suppose, the "preferred option" because it attracted majority support in the other place. I understand that it is not just USDAW; the GMWU has taken that position as has the Transport and General Workers' Union. As a result of amendments accepted in the other place, there has also been an attempt to protect to some extent the right of residents in shopping areas to have relatively undisturbed Sunday mornings since restrictions are to be placed on lorries unloading.
My own position therefore has changed. Some of my concerns about workers' rights have been met. Perhaps in Committee we shall be able to close some of the loopholes which still exist in that area. The Bill provides that present and future shopworkers may opt out of Sunday working without any penalty and that dismissal of an opted-out worker of whatever age is automatically unfair if the reason for dismissal is the refusal or proposed refusal to do work on Sundays. Of course, it is quite true that it is difficult to enforce employment rights. I accept what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in that connection. But that is true of all employment rights and not simply employment rights enshrined in this 1415 proposed legislation. That is another reason for having unions to ensure chat people who are in them have the capacity to enforce the rights which actually exist.
The Bill stipulates that a worker has to give an employer three months' notice to opt out of Sunday working. That seems a little long to me and there may be a case for shortening that period. I would like to see the number of hours limited that a worker is expected to work on Sundays, because workers are often expected to work before the shop opens and after it closes. Furthermore, should not employers also have a reasonable duty to provide alternative weekly hours of work to reduce the loss of income that might be suffered by a worker who opts out of Sunday working? In Committee we m ay also be putting to your Lordships the notion that workers who work on a Sunday should have a statutory entitlement to enhanced pay. All these points were made by my noble friend Lord McIntosh when introducing the debate on behalf of our side of the House this afternoon, but it is worth emphasising them yet again because it remains the position as far as concerns this Front Bench.
I remain opposed to total deregulation. In my view, Sunday is not a clay like any other. There is merit in there being a day which is regarded as a special day—a day to rest, if one wishes to put it that way—for the majority of the population. There is a religious argument even though it is not one which I am making. It has been made by other noble Lords in debate and it warrants serious consideration. However, if workers are expected to work on that day in order to provide a service for the rest of us who either want to rest or to enjoy ourselves, then they are entitled to special consideration for doing SO.
There is also the undoubted fact that there are employees who like to work on a Sunday, particularly if they receive additional pay for so doing. As time goes by they undoubtedly come to rely on that additional pay. I accept that many people, particularly women, on whom the burden of shopping for the family inevitably falls. will find the opportunity to shop on a Sunday of great benefit.
I do not share the view expressed by some Members of the other place and by a number of noble Lords this afternoon that with the deregulation which we are promised, shopping until late in the evening will become a possibility and that that will mean that Sunday shopping is no longer a matter of importance. Leaving aside the fact that there are arguments to be advanced against deregulation of the kind envisaged, I personally do not rate that option very highly. Many women, including myself, do not like being out late at night and are unlikely to see that as the preferred option. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said, women who work during the day will not feel like joining pressurised shopping in the evening.
I accept that a lot of Sunday trading goes on already. Garden centres and DIY shops have been opening on Sundays for a long time and small family-owned shops have also been trading on Sundays. The pressure, therefore, is for a change in the existing law since the present law is widely disregarded and practically all noble Lords who have spoken today have been in favour 1416 of changing the law as it now stands. It seems to me that there is wide consensus around the so-called "preferred option", under which large stores may open to trade for six hours on a Sunday with no restrictions at all on smaller shops. It may well be that there is only a limited amount of consumer cash available anyway. If that is so, some larger shops may well not find it profitable enough to open on a Sunday. Some managements have already indicated to me that that will be the case, but that will be a commercial decision for them to take.
I do not share the view that that option is a threat to small shops. As has already been said, it will be possible for them to continue to trade for as long as they wish to do so. Moreover, their clientele is unlikely to change. My own belief is that the threat to small shops does not come from Sunday trading under this option, but comes about because when their leases fall through, they simply cannot afford to pay the increased rentals that are increasingly being asked of them. It has nothing whatever to do with the competition that they may face from larger shops.
There is a third option, under which only small shops would be allowed to open, plus leisure and garden centres, with other large shops being allowed to open on Sundays in the run-up to Christmas. It seems to me that that is virtually the same as the Keep Sunday Special position, brought up to date a little since it is quite clear that times have moved on since the issue was last debated and there is a move towards Sunday trading among consumers and the public generally. Moreover, worker opposition has been eroded due to the concessions which have been made in the Bill and the fact that the unions, as has already been stated, have been able to negotiate agreements, in advance of the Bill, with a number of leading companies supporting the so-called "preferred option". Of course, a lot of people want to work on a Sunday.
Our position on the Front Bench is that this is not a party issue at all. There is to be a free vote, Our concern remains adequate employee protection, which would remain our concern whichever option is eventually chosen. We shall look at that in some detail in Committee when we hope to be able to effect some improvements in the provisions in that area meanwhile, I hope that when we have finished with this Bill, we shall finally have laid to rest the controversy which has surrounded this issue for a very long time, and that everyone will be prepared to settle for what is eventually agreed as the final word on the subject.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross, for saying that I am the grandmother of Sunday trading reform. Your Lordships will appreciate my feelings this evening that at last, in 1994, it is granny's very great pleasure to sum up on today's debate. It is my fervent wish that this time I shall see success not only in your Lordships' House, but that this time that success will be united in our two Houses. I am therefore grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrers for inviting me to play a part in this debate.
1417 As your Lordships know, I introduced a Shops Bill in 1982 when I sought to abolish all restrictions on shop opening hours. Although this Bill does not do everything which I sought then, I am in no doubt that it represents a considerable improvement on the current situation. I do not intend to speak about the problems with the 1950 Shops Act. They are well recognised. As I said previously, we all accept that a law which permits the sale of prawn balls from a Chinese takeaway but not fish and chips from a fish and chip shop should have no place on the statute book. Then again, why should it be lawful to be served meals in restaurants while not being permitted to buy the ingredients for a meal?
But of course it is not as easy as that. For although the 1950 Act's shortcomings have been recognised ever since its enactment, getting agreement on what to replace it has been far from simple. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, commented on the time that the Government have taken to bring forward another Bill. My answer to him is that Home Office Ministers spent much of that time consulting a wide-ranging number of individuals and organisations in an ultimately fruitless search for consensus. That work had to be done conscientiously and thoroughly before any further Bill might be brought forward.
The Bill before us today represents one solution to this problem. As your Lordships are well aware, it is not the solution that I would have chosen as a first preference. I have always firmly believed that the criminal law should play no part in regulating shop opening hours. But I recognise that there are others who feel differently and passionately about this. We have heard today from noble Lords who would prefer the majority of shops to close on Sundays. In that category, I include the two right reverend Prelates who have expressed their views cogently and as one would expect of them. Of course, I respect those views. Others have spoken equally passionately in favour of total deregulation. What we have before us is a compromise.
Even though some of your Lordships might personally prefer a different solution, I hope that all will agree that this compromise must be better than the provisions of the 1950 Act which it would replace. And it is a compromise that has been consistently supported on a series of free votes in another place. For that reason, like my noble friend the Minister, I see no purpose in seeking to replace that option with my personal preference, which can have little hope of securing support in the other place, even if this House were to accept it.
Your Lordships have raised a number of points in debate, which in the normal course of events a government spokesperson might be expected to respond to. But this is not a normal situation. Most, if not all, of those points are germane to the issue of the choice between the options; and were I to respond to them as a government spokesperson, that might lead some to see the Government as arguing for or against one or other option. The Government have not and will not do that.
So, the best I can offer in many cases will be some personal views on points raised and, in other instances, to offer no view at all. I hope that that will explain my 1418 omitting to mention some of your Lordships' contributions and your Lordships' names. I shall be able to respond fully on points on Schedule 4, which is government policy. I hope that your Lordships will find this a sensible way to proceed.
Your Lordships will have heard today of the special case that may be made in Committee for certain types of large store, garden centres, DIY stores and motor supply shops, for example, to enjoy an exemption from the prohibition on large shops trading on Sunday for not more than six hours. Again, that is not a matter for the Government. It will be for your Lordships to decide in each case whether to make special provision for those shops. My own view is that I see difficulty in singling out some shops for special favour and leaving their competitors at a disadvantage. If DIY stores are to trade, why not carpet or furniture stores? But that is a matter for your Lordships.
Throughout the debate, there has been much concern expressed about the position of shopworkers. Whatever our view of Sunday opening, I think we are all agreed that if the law is to be changed to allow customers to shop more freely on Sundays, whether for recreation or for necessities, it should not be at the expense of shopworkers.
We cannot be sure how many shops will choose to open on Sundays. I was interested by the statistics given by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I am aware that London Economics, which carried out a study for the Government, predicted that as many as half would open under partial deregulation; but that remains to be seen. In Scotland, where there have been no laws restricting Sunday trading, your Lordships are well aware that the opening levels are far lower than that. But we can be sure that however many shops decide to open, the employment package in Schedule 4 will ensure that all those workers are volunteers.
I shall just remind your Lordships how comprehen-sive those measures are. All existing shopworkers have immediate protection from being required to work on Sunday unless they are Sunday-only workers. To qualify for protection, workers will not have to serve a qualifying period of service; the protection will apply even if they are beyond the normal retirement age, and it makes no difference how many hours a week they work.
The protection is not limited to shop assistants. Whether you are a shop manager, a canteen worker, or the person who collects the trolleys from around the shop, you will still qualify for protection if you work in or about a shop which opens on Sunday.
It is not only existing employees who are covered by the provisions. New recruits will also be protected. If a shopworker takes a position which requires Sunday working, he or she is able to opt-out again, subject to three months' notice. That is recognition that circumstances can change. So, new employees will have the comfort of knowing that if they accept a job which involves Sunday working and they want to be able to spend the day differently—take part in Sunday sport, or church observances, or just spending it slumped in front of the "telly" or lazing in bed—then that will be up to them.
1419 The rights do not extend merely to protecting shopworkers from dismissal, they extend also to protecting them from any detrimental action short of dismissal. That might be a failure to offer promotion, or training or indeed any other measure which the employee felt penalised him or her for a refusal to work on Sunday.
During the debate the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, raised the question of premium pay. The Government have always made it clear that such a provision was impracticable and unwelcome. We believe that pay should be a matter for negotiation between individual employees and employers. Individual businesses know what they can afford. The Government do not. I am aware that many of the large shops are committed to pay a premium rate, and I am sure that Members of this House welcome that. But it is precisely because any shopworker will be able to choose not to work on Sunday that shops will find that they need to pay the rates necessary to attract the staff they need for Sunday working.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said that the employment rights in Schedule 4 should be amended to reduce the notice period for opting out from Sunday shop work from three months to one month. My reply is that the right to opt out is a radical and far-reaching departure from the normal contractual position under which contractual terms, once agreed, are binding on both parties. The purpose of the notice period is to ensure that all retail employers, large or small, and those employing specialist staff, have adequate time in which to make alternative arrange-ments should any of their employees decide that they no longer wish to work on Sundays. A three-month period is the minimum period which will meet the needs of the retail industry as a whole.
Further comments by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, related to the limitation of hours of work on Sunday to eight. It is a well-established government policy that generally terms and conditions of employment such as hours of work are matters for agreement between individual employees, or their representatives, and employers, without statutory interference. Under each of the options for reform which will he considered small shops will be able to open on Sunday without restriction. If, for example, an employee of a newsagent wishes to work on a Sunday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.(nine hours) and those are the hours which the employer chooses to employ him, it is not clear upon what grounds the law should seek to prevent that.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool I think said that the employment rights in Schedule 4 will not be effective in protecting workers because of the weakness in industrial tribunals. My answer to him is that Schedule 4 gives shopworkers new individual employment rights, enforceable by complaint to an industrial tribunal. They substantially improve the current position of shopworkers. The Government believe firmly that employment protection rights are effective and so do employees. If they did not, applications would not have increased from 43,000 in 1990–91 to nearly 72,000 in 1992–93—an increase of 67 1420 per cent. There is nothing to suggest that the absence of legal aid to fund legal representation will affect significantly an employee's prospect of success. Industrial tribunals are informal and speedy compared with other courts, and their procedures are designed to make representation unnecessary. It is a misconception that the burden of proof is on the employee. The burden is on the employer to show the reason for dismissal.
It is true that a shopworker who does not have the normal qualifying period needed to claim unfair dismissal, will need to produce some evidence showing that he was dismissed for refusing to work on Sundays. That is only right and proper; and it is not a difficult hurdle to surmount.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London commented that changes in the Sunday trading provisions could affect the tenor of life in this country. Some appear to believe that life will never be the same again. Again, speaking personally, those of us who know Scotland find that difficult to believe. Cross the Border and you do not discover a ferment of shops open on Sundays. The environment has not been damaged by the fact that shops are not prohibited by law from opening on a Sunday.
My noble friend Lady Strange was worried about the possibility of the peace and quiet of Sunday being disturbed by morning deliveries. At present, many shops will have deliveries on Sunday so that the shelves are full for Monday shopping; but the Government have included in the Bill a measure which will enable local authorities to choose to adopt a procedure to prevent deliveries to large shops from taking place before 9 a.m. without their consent.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, the noble Lord, Lord Plant of Highfield, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, raised the issue of the disturbance caused to residents by shoppers parking in their streets on what was their one day of rest. Again, that is not a matter for the Government; but the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 enables a local authority to control parking in any street, by making a traffic regulation order, if it considers that necessary to preserve or improve the amenities of the area.
My noble friend Lady Young suggested that Sunday opening was not necessary because the deregulation Bill includes a measure which will allow shops to open at any time during weekdays. I have to say that that is fanciful. There is nothing to suggest that Britain is going to emulate the example of Hong Kong and go in for 24-hour shopping. Anybody who has tried to make some last minute purchases at ten to six on a Saturday will know that, far from being able to count on a further two or three hours' shopping time, which is what the current law allows, they will need to make their purchases before six o' clock when nearly all shops tend to close. True, there are exceptions. Garages, off-licences and some food shops all stay open in the evenings and sell some of their products legally. The deregulation Bill will allow them to sell their whole product range. But the reason that other shops dc not open in the evenings is simply that there is no demand for them to do so.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, perhaps my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting on that one issue. The reason why shops do not open for longer hours on week days is that the law does not allow them to do so. Once the law allows them to do so, they can have later shopping hours so that the people who wish to shop will not be caught by being unable to buy something at ten to six on a Saturday evening, but can make their purchase during an evening in the week or on a Saturday. Therefore, the situation is not quite as my noble friend described.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I am still in dispute with my noble friend, but I wish to press on. I have bought many items in Harrods on late-night shopping days—when I have had the money!
I say to my old friend Lady Nicol—if I may call her that—that it is not a question of must, but a question of may. I hope that she will continue to spend her Sundays in the way that gives her the greatest pleasure.
The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, said that when the vote on the options was held in another place, Members did not know of the Government's plans to end the restrictions on week-day shopping, and had they done so they might have voted differently. The Government's plans to end closing hour restrictions should not have come as a surprise to any Members of the other place. The Command Paper reforming the law on Sunday trading, which was published in July last year, stated that there had been general agreement that closing hour provisions were anachronistic and ripe for repeal, and that the Government expected that a separate measure to deal with them would be brought forward when parliamen-tary time permitted. That appears at paragraph 53 of the Command Paper. Members of another place had the opportunity of reconsidering the provisions of the Bill on Report. That took place after the deregulation Bill 1422 was published when all the Members knew that the Government intended to end the closing hour restrictions not just some time in the future but this very Session. However, they voted against an amendment to prohibit large shops from opening by a majority of 61.
I do not know how noble Lords do their shopping, but I entirely agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Dean and Lady Jay, that after a day spent working, or even in a more leisurely fashion, there are few people who would choose to keep the kids up late, with the supper in the 'fridge and then spend the evening late shopping. Sunday, however, is quite another matter. Sunday can represent a day when the whole family can get together to make joint purchases. I submit that the family that shops together stops together.
Members of another place gave the Bill an overwhelming majority on a free vote at Third Reading. It offers the prospect of removing from the statute book once and for all the nonsense on the Sunday trading in the Shops Act 1950. I look forward to the debates to come on precisely how that should be done. But we are all agreed that it must be done. It has often been said that politics are the art of the possible. I suggest that your Lordships might care to bear that saying in mind in the context of this Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time.
§ Moved, That Clause 1 and Schedule 1 of the Sunday Trading Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House; that thereafter Clause 1 and Schedule 1 be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House and that the remaining Clauses and Schedules of the Bill be then also committed to a Committee of the Whole House.—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before nine o'clock.