§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Schedule 1.
Lord McCarthy moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 5, line 7, leave out from ("and") to ("plants") in line 8 and insert ("which is not open for the sale of any goods other than").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the object of this amendment is precisely the same as that of the previous amendment. We want to take out "wholly or mainly" and insert "any goods other than". Thus, paragraph 3(1) (c) of Schedule 1 would read,
any shop which is a nursery, garden centre or do-it-yourself home improvement shop, or both, and which is not open for the sale of any goods other than plants, garden supplies and accessories or materials and tools suitable for use in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings".
The paragraph would be limited by the fact that the goods must be any goods included in that list but no goods other than the goods included in that list. However, there are differences between this amendment and the previous amendment in the sense that Schedule 1 to the Bill seeks to modify and restrict a much wider series of goods. We have here plants, garden supplies, accessories, materials, tools,
suitable for use in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration".
§ We have a wide set of goods for sale as against the very narrow list of things which were to be released from the constrictions of the six-hour option in the previous amendment.
Secondly, it was argued by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, in relation to the amendment in Committee that what he was talking about was necessary and emergency related. It dealt with cycle parts and car parts —supplies which might be required for cars that had broken down on motorways and so on. None of that can be said in respect of the exceptions which are being claimed in relation to this amendment. We are in the world of leisure. We are in the world of non-necessities. Indeed, the main argument of the mover of the amendment and his allies in Committee was the almost unmotivated pleasure which would come from unlimited opening of garden centres and do-it-yourself shops. The noble Lord, Lord Hacking, referred to the,
enhancement of the Sunday pastimes".—[Official Report, 14/4/94; col. 1663.]
§ The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, referred (at col. 1669) to Sunday outings where "families browse". The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, referred to the enjoyment, the exercise and the enrichment which came from unrestricted access to garden centres and do-it-yourself emporia.
§ There were two subsidiary arguments of a more mundane kind. When the amendments were moved, it was admitted that this was big business. It was admitted that there were 6 million customers each Sunday. It was admitted that between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. of the business was done on Sunday. It was also said that not only was it big business, but they were big shops; and that several of them were certainly several times the size of a tennis court or several times the size of this Chamber.
§ What was being said was that the same objections which were raised in respect of the previous amendment could be raised here and with more force because already both garden centres and do-it-yourself establishments engaged in a very wide range of activities. They sell everything from barbecue kits to clothes, Christmas lights, cookers, carpets, cleaning materials, china and glass.
§ When one looks at the list which we have been sent by various interested parties, it would appear that between them, garden centres and the do-it-yourself shops sell everything except houses and theatre tickets. Already they do that so that in effect the defence that was put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, as regards the previous amendment—namely, that they kept within their business tasks and that all we need worry about was whether they might do it in future—was not the case. These people who were half of the six-hour compromise; who campaigned for it and who themselves were the leaders in breaking the existing law, in fact were already operating a "wholly or mainly" philosophy. Already, as some people have said, 35 per cent. of their sales have nothing to do with do-it-yourself or garden centres.
§ It therefore follows that they would resist much more strongly—because it is much more serious to them—what we were saying as regards the previous 1281 amendment about the problems of "wholly or mainly" because one would have to identify the qualifying goods. There is a very long list to choose from because as it is now stated in the Bill, there is almost everything in it as it stands, but nevertheless the problem would be: what were the qualifying goods? Would it be a step-ladder, a curtain rail, and what kind of furniture is DIY?
§ As I tried to say to the House in connection with the previous amendment, all these problems are not solved by using "wholly or mainly" because one has to have qualifying goods. If one is trying to observe the implications of the new law, one is trying to have other goods which are subsidiary to those goods and one is trying to quantify what is the proportion of goods which is not "wholly" but only "mainly".
§ Therefore we say that as regards this amendment, to leave an amendment of the kind which was passed at Committee stage without the modifications I am proposing in my amendment, would be to make nonsense of the whole idea of the six-hour option. It would create a whole range of anomalies in which all kinds of shops would be disadvantaged, both large and small, and in which those who could qualify under the terms of this paragraph as it stands at the moment, would be given very serious advantages over their competitors. It would also make nonsense of everything which has been attempted in this Bill until now. I beg to move.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lard Norrie
My Lords, once again I speak as someone who has been connected with the garden centre trade for 20 years. Amendment No. 7 aims to destroy an exemption made in respect of garden and home improvements which was supported by this House only three weeks ago. That support reflects what the ordinary citizen wants as anyone who has visited a garden centre or home improvement store last Sunday, would have observed.
There are two issues involved here. The first is whether garden centres and home improvement stores should be exempt from the six-hour restriction; and, secondly, how that exemption could best be achieved. The first issue was decided in Committee on 14th April. The principle was not a controversial one. Garden centres and home improvement stores were specifically exempted in the regulatory option. It was supported by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, himself. It is far from surprising that they should have been exempted since that is what the overwhelming majority of the public wants. As my noble friend Lord Hacking and I mentioned at Committee stage, over 20 years of trading has demonstrated that as did the Northampton experiment earlier this year when the garden and home improvement centres restricted their opening times from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. just to test people's reactions.
As regards the second point, there was anxiety as to how the exemption should be achieved. Principally, noble Lords were anxious that this marginal relaxation should not pave the way for a spate, of less desirable amendments. I believe that my noble friend Lord Hacking will probably explain that it would not have 1282 that effect. If, under certain circumstances, a dispute should arise as to the meaning of the words "wholly or mainly" it will be adjudicated by those who are best able to decide such an issue; namely, the magistrates. In other words, in the extremely unlikely event that the local authority has difficulty, the magistrates will make the decision as to whether in fact the outlet in question is a garden centre or a home improvement store. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has made that point.
Let us try to take a clear look at what this amendment would achieve in practice. For one-third of their opening time it would close, or render liable to huge fines, practically all 1,400 garden centres and 900 home improvement stores which have, for upwards of 20 years, rightly or wrongly traded between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. I believe that the public would be entitled to believe that we, as legislators, are of unsound mind. Those for whom Sunday represents their only opportunity to work on the home or in the garden would be unable to get their wallpaper or their plants early on Sunday mornings. My noble friend Lord Ferrers; has acknowledged the severe restrictions which would be imposed. Noble Lords may ask why the customer cannot get his wallpaper or plants on Sunday. It is because those garden centres and home improvement stores stock various sideline items. They are gift items in the case of garden centres and perhaps the odd box of carpet tiles in a home improvement store.
In reality, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., that is probably all they do with those sidelines. Yes, they stock them, although in practice very few of those items are actually bought during those hours. We want to avoid the nonsense of sideline being identified and then, under this amendment, removed. That takes us back to the 1950s.
Allowing this amendment, or a similar constraint, takes the plain issue of definition away from the magistrates' courts. More importantly perhaps, it would build an immediate and unnecessary pressure against this regulation which we seek to impose. Leaving matters as they now are in the Bill is our best chance of carrying the public with us in a workable scheme of regulation. The 1950 Act commanded no such support from the public, the local authorities or the courts and hence it was not enforced. We need to learn that lesson.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, it has to be understood (because it does not seem to be understood) that the only reason this amendment is in the Marshalled List tonight is because at Committee stage a successful attempt was made to drive a coach and horses through the Bill as it came from the other place. Now I hope that the House does not complain when some of us, and particularly my noble friend Lord McCarthy, by to make sense of what the House agreed in Committee; namely, to seek to define what can be sold in garden centres and do-it-yourself stores.
I could do it but, like many noble Lords, I have had a letter from the John Lewis Partnership who are experts in this matter. It is a decent, upright and honest department store which treats both its customers and staff fairly and which is respected throughout the land.
1283 What is more, it is a firm that did not break the law. It upheld the law in spite of the fact that it must have suffered some detriment for so doing.
It should be interesting to the House to hear what that decent and upright firm has to say—in any event, I want to read it into the record. Its third paragraph states:What does 'wholly or mainly' mean? In Committee none of the advocates of the amendment could say—only that it was a matter for the Courts to decide".That is what the noble Lord, Lord Norrie, has just said. The paragraph continues:So the Partnership has obtained Counsel's Opinion from Mr. Charles Flint who is on the panel of Treasury Counsel and specialises in public law matters. He advises that for a business to qualify, it would only be necessary that 'the principal purpose of opening the shop is to sell qualifying goods' and that 'the effect of the current draft is that a DIY shop could lawfully sell a wide range of supplies, going beyond those to be used in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings, and the amount of such non-DIY supplies could amount to a substantial proportion of the sales made by the shop'. Furthermore 'as this is a criminal statute any ambiguity in interpretation will lead to it being construed in favour of a defendant who is prosecuted'".That concludes the advice.
The John Lewis Partnership goes on to say:In other words he endorses the fears expressed by many who spoke against the amendment at Committee stage".The letter continues:We have also updated our research into the range of goods sold by DIY shops, garden centres etc. In summary, among the major DIY chains there are already shops selling furniture, kitchens, lighting, telephones, small electrical items, blinds and carpets. As far back as 1988 nearly a quarter of the turnover of such shops came from these areas".That is according to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The letter continues:And it is a developing situation. In searching for higher profit margins, the list has expanded and non-DIY goods in the most recently opened centres include furnishing fabrics, linens, large electrical goods, gifts and decorating accessories, pictures and mirrors, china, glassware and cutlery".No wonder the John Lewis Partnership is concerned about the amendments which were carried in Committee. Undoubtedly, they put a firm like the John Lewis Partnership, and other department stores, most of which obeyed the law throughout the time that others broke it, at an extreme disadvantage. That is why my noble friend's amendment is sensible, reasonable and fair and that is why the House should support it.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it seems to me a pity that this amendment should be being moved again. We went through these exact arguments with the previous amendment and the House rejected the arguments extremely harshly, with a vote of about 20 to 90. It is a great pity to go through all the arguments again, such as those about whether one can define the phrase "wholly or mainly". They apply to the previous amendment as much as to this. It is a great pity that this amendment has been moved because we are going over the same old ground a second time.
My Lords, I supported the rejection of the last amendment of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, but I am much more in favour of this one. Perhaps I could explain the differences that I see. I was involved for some long time in running a motor shop and there is 1284 not much opportunity for abuse when you are running that kind of business. We could have added racks of skirts; we could have added sandwich bars or almost anything that you care to think of, and we would not have sold any of it because a shop selling spares for motor cars is not a congenial place for buying much else. You can sell a few tools; you can sell a few books to do with cars, but people come in there to think, talk and buy car spares and they do not come in there to do other things. That is why those sorts of shops have never developed large scale abuses.
But the same does not apply to DIY shops and garden centres. Indeed, it is obvious from what has been said this evening that there are already large scale abuses. It has always been the practice as long as I can remember for garden centres to sell animals—often in very large quantities on every plant! There have been many other examples given this evening of ways in which these classes of stores will use the exemptions which they are given under the Bill as it now stands to compete unfairly with stores which are restricted. But I still have a problem with the particular wording which has been chosen by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I think that in putting an absolute shut-off in the words "no goods other than", it is going to create an awful lot of problems as to where the dividing line is, which is and which is not, and will prevent the sale of a lot of goods that ought properly to be sold by DIY shops and garden centres.
What I would prefer to see and what I hope we shall see at Third Reading is an amendment to take out the word "mainly" and to substitute "very substantially" which to my mind and in my experience would mean something closer to 80 or 90 per cent. of turnover.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, I noted what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, but I do hope nonetheless to introduce perhaps a couple of points that were not made on the previous amendment. The first point is that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, when moving his amendment No. 5 said that the vagueness of the phrase "wholly or mainly" simply meant that it would have to be left to the courts to decide precisely what was meant by it. I think that is a very regrettable and defeatist view to be expressed in your Lordships' House. My own feeling is that whenever some matter in an Act has to be decided by the courts because it is not clear enough, that reflects very badly on the legislators who have sent inadequate legislation to the country.
Then again, the noble Earl said that "mainly"—I understood him to say—meant anything up to 90 per cent. That is the language that he used—not more than 90 per cent., but up to 90 per cent.; presumably from 51 per cent. to 90 per cent. What that means, in fact, is that any of these shops that we are talking about would be able to carry on their business although practically half of what they were selling were not articles covered by the amendment.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, perhaps I may correct the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. I am sure that the noble Earl to whom he refers made a slip of the tongue and that what he actually meant was 90 per cent. to 100 per 1285 cent.—not 51 per cent. to 90 per cent. I am absolutely certain that that 'was the meaning, although the noble Ear] is not here at the moment.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for making that point because I think that if we look at the Official Report tomorrow we will find that what the noble Earl did say —because I wrote it down at the time—was "up to 90 per cent". If it is "from 90 to 100 per cent.", that, of course, makes it much more acceptable.
I just draw attention to the fact that in Amendment No. 9, to which I have put my name, we have chosen the same language that my noble friend Lord McCarthy is trying to put into this amendment and to say "any goods other than" and I feel that we were absolutely right to chose that. I think that it is far better to have a phrase that can be understood without any doubt.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, of all the observations —my noble friend is seeking to say something to me.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I am extremely sorry, but my noble friend is once again transgressing by speaking in the Gangway.
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, I shall lock myself in so that I do not transgress again. It so happens that there are no noble Lords going up and down the Gangway who can he disturbed by my position in it.
Of all the comments that have been made during this evening's proceedings, the one that has caused me the greatest concern is the one made by my noble friend Lord Lucas when he talked of large-scale abuses. Since the matter came before your Lordships' House, I have visited a number of garden centres, DIY stores and motor and cycle supply shops. I went round a number of them last weekend. I found no large-scale abuses. If one visits a garden centre, one finds an entity that is unmistakably and unquestionably a garden centre, and similarly with a DIY store and motor and cycle supply shops. What one does find are a few sidelines. That is partly what we are trying to deal with this evening.
I have been trying to get a message over to those noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, who have been worried about the words "wholly or mainly". I sent a handwritten letter to him, but unfortunately I have been unable to speak to him. The message that I have been trying to get over is that we are all agreed; we are all on the same side. Those of us who have been seeking exemptions for garden centres and DIY stores have not been seeking exemptions for multiple stores; we have been seeking exemptions for those stones which are genuinely carrying out the business of garden centres and DIY stores. Furthermore, we have tried to give comfort to those noble Lords who have been concerned.
We have pointed out that, contrary to the views expressed by Mr. Charles Flint of Counsel, Section 101 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 applies. If a defendant is relying upon an exemption, the burden is on him to prove that he fits into that exemption. We have also said that before one even reaches the words 1286 "wholly or mainly", the first test that the magistrates' court has to apply is the test of whether the entity is a garden centre or a DIY store. If, for example, a DIY store is selling a large quantity—40 per cent. or more or less—of goods that are not genuine home improvement goods, how can a magistrates' court, which has the opportunity to visit the premises, come to the conclusion that that is a DIY store within the Bill? Similarly how can a store be a garden centre when it is selling a multitude of goods which are not in the category of garden supplies?.
Certain items are made available and sold, as I noticed when I was going around garden centres and DIY stores during the past few weeks, which do not come strictly within the definition of a garden plant or garden accessory. They are all ancillary. For example, there may be books relating to gardening, cards which picture gardens, dried flowers, or even things like barbecue sets or pottery. Those are the extra items that are available to the public. They are there because the public likes to have the opportunity to buy certain products which are associated closely with the main business of the store but which are not central to it. It is only that flexibility that we have been seeking to achieve.
There are many other protections through which I could take your Lordships. There is planning consent, for example. Planning consents for DIY stores in out-of-town centres almost invariably carry tight restrictions on the use of the site. Landlords' leases also contain restrictions. We are not dealing with the matter in isolation; there is a whole structure in society which will contain all of these shops. There is also the very practical point; that is, when your Lordships go into a garden centre, you are not going in to buy a packet of cornflakes, margarine or similar products; you are going into that store to buy the products that that store is holding itself out to sell. Thus commercial reasons also add restraints.
There is another factor which is of some importance. If garden centres and DIY stores are kept within the exempt status and the discipline of the exempt status that I am urging upon your Lordships, that will encourage them to remain selling only their core goods. Once that is taken away from them, and they are placed in the position of having to trade against multiple stores, it is then that I venture to suggest that the exclusivity of DIY stores and garden centres could be lost.
Much has been said about the definition of "wholly or mainly", but there is something that we have already been doing in debate, and something that we could perhaps do with greater clarity on Third Reading. Since the Pepper judgment was given by your Lordships' House, the courts have had the right to look at our Official Report to get clearly what is the intent of Parliament. We have already begun to develop guidelines. I should join willingly with the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and my noble friend the Minister to define our intent. I know what my intent is. I moved the amendment which is now subject to proposed revision by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. My intent when 1287 moving the amendment was to do no more and no less than to give a freedom of hours to garden centres and DIY stores which are genuinely trading as such.
I hope that those observations are helpful. We are all on the same side. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, will recognise that.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he mentioned the Pepper judgment. Is it not the case that that refers only to statements made by the Minister at the time the Bill is going through Parliament?
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, I do not believe that it is restricted to that degree. In any event, this is not a government Bill. It is a Bill that rests with your Lordships. If the courts were looking for further assistance in the interpretation of the Bill, it would be entirely proper for them to look at our debates and to those who moved the amendment, because there they will find the intent. It is this intent which persuaded your Lordships to put the amendment into the Bill, and therefore as a matter of logic, the courts can find the intent from our speeches.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, at this quiet hour of the night, I do not want to add much to the powerful remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, against the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, moved it with such attractive moderation, if I may say so, that it is possible that he might be persuaded that this is not the occasion upon which he wants to take it to a on. I listened to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart. He was less moderate when engaging in his hyperbole when he said that the amendment agreed by this place on 14th April would drive a coach and horses through the Bill. It may drive a wheelbarrow and a few harmless plants through the Bill, but the idea that it will entirely reverse the purport of the House in its decision on 29th March is surely foolish.
I share the noble Lord's admiration for the John Lewis Partnership, but I cannot believe that, with its fine record of giving value for money and its first-rate management and staff, it will find it impossible to compete merely because the House decides to retain the amendment as made in Committee.
The other day I resolved to create a new lawn in the garden of my house in London which I had just moved into. Late on Sunday I discovered that I did not know how to do it. I went to my garden centre and bought the Royal Horticultural Society's Step-by-Step Book of Gardening Techniques. That was wholly relevant to my do-it-yourself gardening on Sunday afternoon. I would not be bothered, and I do not believe that the John Lewis Partnership would be bothered—indeed, I do not know who would be bothered - if some other person at some other time wishes to buy the Royal Horticultural Society's Step-by-Step Book of Gardening Techniques and happens to buy it from a garden centre which is open. That is being only reasonable and not dogmatic or slightly ideological. None of us wishes to be ideological 1288 about the Bill. We want it to be a good Bill that is based on common sense and we wish to support amendments on their merits.
The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, argued that Amendment No. 7 was unlike Amendment No. 6. He claimed that the amendment passed by the House on 14th April opened the door very wide. It does not open it very wide. But even if it opened only a little more, the case against the amendment is that which prevailed in the House in respect of the previous amendment. We discussed the matter fully and the House made a decision. It was not a decision that everyone liked but it was reached after mature consideration. Surely it is now for another place to decide whether it likes our amendment and, if not, to reject it. It is not for us this evening to make a Bill more complicated than it need be. I hope that on those grounds, if on no other, your Lordships will reject this amendment too.
My Lords, in Committee your Lordships agreed to amend the Bill to provide that large DIY shops and garden centres should be allowed to trade at any hour on a Sunday. As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, said, many of your Lordships had anxieties about those amendments, which I shared. The Government did not, and do not, seek to intervene. We must wait to see what another place does about the matter.
The 1950 Shops Act has been roundly criticised in the 44 years since its enactment for the anomalies which it produced. As your Lordships are aware, Schedule 5 to that Act permits only certain transactions to take place on a Sunday. So, a shop can open legally to sell partly-cooked tripe on a Sunday but not to sell baked beans. We are all familiar with many similar examples.
The model which was proposed by the Shopping Hours Reform Council, and which is now in the Bill as the choice of another place and of your Lordships, attempted to do away with that kind of approach in order to keep the law as simple and as enforceable as possible. But the amendments which some noble Lords seek to introduce would mark at least a partial step back to what one might call a "transaction type" test. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, would mean that the shops in question—that is the DIY stores and the garden centres—could not open for the sale of any goods at all other than those listed in the Bill, save in respect of the six-hour period which is allowed to all large stores, when they will be able to sell anything they liked.
Some of your Lordships may agree with the noble Lords that a step backwards may be a necessary step to take if it makes the provisions fairer. But the key question which your Lordships need to consider is whether the amendments before us represent a practicable proposition.
The way these amendments are meant to operate in practice, I fancy, is that DIY stores and garden centres would be able to sell their full product range for the six hours which is allowed to all large shops on a Sunday by the Bill, but the amendments would restrict their sales outside that six-hour period to the specific goods which are allowed by the amendment. In the case of DIY 1289 stores, that would be materials and tools which would be suitable for us in the construction, maintenance, repair or decoration of the structure of dwellings.
I do not know how many of your Lordships are DIY enthusiasts. I must admit that it is not one of my favourite pastimes. I hate doing it—I am not very good at it either. However, I am advised that DIY stores sell a great number of things which are not used to repair or decorate the structure of dwellings.
So, if this amendment were passed, DIY stores who wish to enjoy the exemption would not be permitted, for example, to sell washing up bowls unless it could be shown that the bowl could be used for decorating a house. And the sad fact is that if these amendments are agreed, there may very well be cases which will turn on whether a washing up bowl or other such item is or is not a decorating requisite. Would that be a sensible improvement to the Bill?.
Under these amendments, a DIY shop enjoying its exemption could sell an electric plug to be used on an electric drill but it could not sell a plug to be used on a hairdryer unless the hairdryer were to be used to dry paint. Most DIY stores sell smoke alarms but sales of these would not be permitted outside the six-hour period, nor would sales of fire extinguishers. One then asks whether a curtain track can be considered as an item which is used to decorate the structure of dwellings. If your Lordships believe that it would, I ask your Lordships whether they would be so confident about curtain hooks. These are the questions which will plague local authority inspectors and the courts if we agree to the noble Lord's amendments.
Many of these stores sell sweets at the check-out point. Sweets, quite clearly, would not be permitted beyond the six-hour period. I imagine that parents with their arms full of paint, wallpaper and screaming children would find it somewhat bizarre if they were told that they could buy the paint and the wallpaper but the children would have to go on screaming because they could not buy sweets at the check-out point. One wonders whether that is a practical proposition.
Your Lordships might feel that such problems would be worth bearing in order to make the exemption fairer. Or your Lordships might consider that it would be better to leave the provision as it stands and accept that, although DIYs will sell some items which are not strictly necessary when it comes to repairing or decorating, that is part of the price which we have to pay for allowing the exemption in the first place.
As I have said, these are matters entirely for your Lordships. The Government would not seek to persuade your Lordships but I know which way I would go.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Lord McCarthy
My Lords, as we come to one amendment after another, of course, we have heard the argument all before. One of the main reasons that we shall hear it a lot more is because people keep trying to upset the balance of the Bill. We have more amendments to come and the same comments will be made about those who table them unless we become tired and fed up and walk away. The answer to them will be the same and the debate will continue. The reason 1290 that it has lasted so long and that it is only half over is because there are many more things that people wish to drive through the exemption clauses in the Bill.
Therefore, one is bound to be repetitive because one is answering repetitive questions. The noble Lord, Lord Norrie, said that this is what ordinary citizens want. But it has been said from that side of the House by the noble Baroness Lady Young, who is not now in her place, that we do not know what ordinary citizens want. It is not just a question of what ordinary citizens want. However, we are not trying to achieve what ordinary citizens want. The amendment, which is the basis of Schedule 1 of the present Bill, seeks to achieve a balance between what workers want and what the large and small shops want. In fact, we are trying to find a balance between the conflicting interests. That has been said over and over again and will be said several more times this evening.
The noble Earl assumes that I agreed with the Keep Sunday Special acceptance of the Bill. One did not do that. There were three options: total deregulation, the six-hour option, and the Keep Sunday Special campaign. One picked the option that one found to be closest to one's heart's desire. One was not able to pick out one part of it. From my point of view, I should not have agreed to that part in any event. But that is not the issue. We had three different options and, in the end, most of us selected the six-hour option. That is the position which I am now trying to defend.
I am told that it is narrow, special pleading. Most of the changes proposed this evening are narrow, special pleadings. Arguments are being brought forward on behalf of different groups. Later there is art amendment dealing with bookshops. I am very fond of bookshops. One can make money out of bookshops. But that is special pleading. All the amendments seek to disturb the balance of the Bill.
I have been around this matter before and perhaps I shall go round it subsequently. The problem is not solved by saying that it is difficult to define the number and precise nature of what is to be included if my amendment is accepted. If the "wholly or mainly" provision is accepted, the same questions arise. The noble Earl mentioned curtain rails and items of that kind. It will have to be decided whether they fall under the "wholly or mainly" provision and in what proportion they are being sold. In that case, there are two problems, rather than one. The noble Earl said that there are difficulties and uncertainties which will produce litigation. However, the use of the phrase "wholly or mainly" does not solve the problem unless one believes—and I am not saying that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, believes this—that that provision is included in the Bill because we know that it cannot be enforced. We do not care. It is merely an undercover way of achieving deregulation. If that phrase is taken seriously, it is twice as difficult.
Nevertheless, I realise that I shall not get far this evening. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested another word to me and I may think about that and perhaps return to the matter on Third Reading. With all that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1291
Lord Hacking moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 5, line 10, leave out ("the structure of dwellings") and insert ("buildings").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment with which I hope your Lordships will be able to deal without difficulty.
§ It has been suggested by parliamentary draftsmen that the words "the structure of dwellings" in reference to the materials and tools suitable for the construction, maintenance and repair or decoration of buildings is too narrow a definition. It has been pointed out that DIY enthusiasts can, with suitable planning permission, become involved in the building of garages, garden huts and houses, perhaps an Irish folly or two, gazebos, sundials and patios. Therefore, it is thought that the word "buildings" would be more suitable with regard to this exemption in the Bill. It is a purely technical amendment and I hope that it will be treated as such. I beg to move.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I am most surprised by this amendment and I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, should move it, bearing in mind the way in which he told off my noble friend Lord McCarthy for daring to try to interfere with an amendment which was moved in Committee. Now the noble Lord is trying to amend that amendment himself.
He says that it is a simple amendment; that someone may wish to construct a garden folly and that is a building. I took the trouble to look up the word "building" in the dictionary. The dictionary definition of a building is:A permanent fixed thing built for occupation, as a house, school, factory, stable".Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, seeks to widen this measure to a very great extent indeed. Of course, if this amendment is accepted we shall find that all sorts of other items will be sold at garden centres or DIY stores which have no connection at all with DIY.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, I have just given them. I have just read out the definition of a building. It means that those DIY stores could convert themselves into builders' merchants. That would enable people who wish to build schools or factories to use those do-it-yourself stores at any time that they wish to do so.
The noble Lord should make up his mind whether he wants those firms to be do-it-yourself firms because, after all, that was what was agreed in Committee. We did not agree to the use of the word "buildings". That was not the issue at all. The reason why the Committee reached that agreement was because it was felt convenient for people to go into a DIY store to enable them to decorate or repair their houses. It went no further than that.
If that is what the noble Lord really wants there is absolutely no reason for this amendment. I believe that a folly or a garden shed would be deemed by any court or by any sensible person to be part of a building. Therefore, there is no need for the amendment. I hope 1292 that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment, bearing in mind his attitude towards my noble friend on the last amendment.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, we should remember at this stage that we are not talking about banning the sale of these goods on a Sunday. We are merely restricting the period within which they can be sold to six hours. The construction of a building is a major investment project. There is no need for a person undertaking such a project to buy the materials at eight o'clock in the morning. There can be no problem at all about waiting until ten o'clock. It is also not likely that a decision will be made at half past four and then the items have to be bought at six o'clock in the evening.
It may appear that I am speaking against myself. Even before the Bill came to this House I made it clear that I was for total deregulation because I thought that the whole thing was a nonsense. That is what it is turning out to be. However, I accept 100 per cent. that this House agreed to the compromise option. We are making fools of ourselves if we continue to whittle away at the compromise to achieve total, deregulation. If, in three or four years' time, we decide that the legislation is not working, we shall then have to reconsider and debate the deregulation option. However, we have made a decision and I believe that these discussions are crazy.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, I fully support the remarks just made by the noble Baroness. I believe that she is absolutely right. We have heard the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, on the principle of the compromise stating that there should be no further extensions for other widening of what shops should be open. In my view, we should stick to that and we should not agree to any further extensions of opening as regards the projects now before us. I hope that all such amendments will be withdrawn, especially this one, which seeks to extend the opening hours to cover all buildings.
§ Lord Cochrane of Cults
My Lords, I agree with much of what has been said. However, it seems to me that some speakers have totally discounted the possibility that the compromise, about which we have heard so much from the noble and learned Lord and others, may not be complete and perfect. Of course, it is not perfect. Therefore, as a revising Chamber, it is our duty to try to make it better within the original intentions. That inevitably means some relaxation here and some redefinition there.
It will fall to me presently to move an amendment which I hope I can persuade your Lordships is worth while. It falls within the ambit of something that was not considered at the time of the original negotiations. We would be very foolish to say, "Well, okay, we have the compromise. It is like an order in the German army. It cannot be altered, varied, challenged or in any way doubted because otherwise we will get our heads chopped off'. That is not a wise way of operating a revising Chamber. Therefore, I hope that we shall exercise due moderation in considering what possibility 1293 there is that errors and omissions were made during the course of negotiating the settlement between the Keep Sundays Special Campaign and the other groups.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may remind him that the amendment—
My Lords, if the noble Lord is actually going to interrupt another noble Lord and not make a second speech, I should remind him that he ought to ask a question.
§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
My Lords, in that case, I shall speak very loudly. I thank the noble Lord for giving way. However, perhaps I may remind him that the amendment to which we are now speaking is an amendment to another amendment which was agreed in Committee.
§ Lord Cochrane of Cults
My Lords, I fear that I did not detect any matter of interrogation in what the noble Lord just said.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, having listened carefully to both sides of the argument—both of which I think have merits—I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, might consider withdrawing his amendment and bringing it back in a slightly amended form on Third Reading so that it refers to "domestic buildings". I take the point that "buildings" could be interpreted so widely so as to allow the erection of schools, shops, factories, or whatever. However, non-domestic buildings are well known in the rating system; indeed, they almost define themselves. I believe that the phrase "domestic buildings" would cover the garage, the garden folly or whatever, and that that might answer the worries expressed on both sides of the House.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it all seems to me to be slightly odd. I cannot think of anything which would be viable in a shop larger than 809 square cubics which, as your Lordships know, is the equivalent to 280 square metres. If it cannot be used for "the structure of dwellings", then it cannot be used on "buildings" and vice versa. It does not seem to matter which of the two words are put into the Bill. If the parliamentary draftsman says that the wording in the Bill is better, then we should take note of what he says.
My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, made a pretty good meal of the amendment. However, I do not blame him for doing so. It is not often that we have to ask the noble Lord to speak up—which, incidentally, he did valiantly. Moreover, it is not often that one suggests to the noble Lord that he ought to ask a question—which, in this case, he accepted entirely but then proceeded not to ask a question. But we shall let that pass.
My noble friend Lord Hacking made it clear that in his view the amendment was essentially technical. I 1294 should just add that the Government will be bringing forward amendments on Third Reading to the amendment which my noble friend moved (and which was accepted in Committee) simply in order to tidy up the amendment in drafting terms.
One of the matters that concerned us was whether it was possible sensibly to talk about "decorating, and so on, the structure of dwellings". Most internal walls of houses today are not necessarily structural in any sense; indeed, some noble Lords might find them distinctly flimsy. We wondered whether,decorating the structure of dwellingswas the equivalent of saying, in relation to cosmetics, that it is rather like "putting make-up on a skeleton".
We are not discussing a matter of substance. It seems to me that whether paint on sale in a DIY shop will be used for painting the outside of a house, the outside of a garage or the outside of a municipal building is not something that the retailer, the local authority inspector or a court could reasonably or satisfactorily determine. I thought the amendment was a matter of drafting. It is entirely a matter for your Lordships to decide, but I should have thought that the amendment as such would be an improvement. I, for one, would support it.
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, I have no intention of taking such a technical amendment to a Division tonight. Indeed, it would just take up your Lordships time unnecessarily. The purpose of the amendment was to deal with a technical matter. It was suggested by parliamentary draftsmen and it seemed to me that it was doing no more and no less than more closely defining your Lordships' original intention when passing the other amendment in Committee.
However, if it is to be treated as a matter of controversy, I am more than happy to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, perhaps I should test the. opinion of the House, certainly orally, so that a judgment could be reached on what your Lordships truly feel about the matter. I put the amendment before your Lordships because it seemed to me that it was dealing with genuine DIY activities. It does not deal with the building of schools or factories; indeed, it is quite ridiculous to make such suggestions. It deals with activities carried out in and around the home of the DIY enthusiast. I defer to the view and I should like to test the opinion of the House.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 41; Not-Contents, 18.1295
|Division No. 6|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Cadman, L.|
|Annaly, L.||Clanwilliam, E.|
|Blyth, L.||Cochrane of Cults, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Cumberlege, B.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Darcy (de Knayth), B.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Denton of Wakefield, B.|
|Butterworth, L.||Dixon-Smith, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Lucas, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Masham of Ilton, B.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Hacking, L. [Teller.]||Mountevans, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Onslow, E. [Teller.]|
|Harris of High Cross, L.||Reay, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Rodger of Earlsferry, L.|
|Henley, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Slynn of Hadley, L.|
|Howe, E.||St. Davids, V.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Lawrence, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Newcastle, Bp.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Falkland, V.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Richard, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B. [Teller.]||Stoddart of Swindon, L. [Teller.]|
|Judd, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|McCarthy, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 9.15 p.m.
The Earl of Buckinghamshire moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 5, line 10, at end insert:
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, before I begin I wish to declare an interest. Not only am I a passionate book reader, but I have been an adviser to a major publisher in the UK—Harper Collins—for many years.
§ Your Lordships may recall that I withdrew a similar amendment at Committee stage. Many noble Lords may well hope that I shall do so again fairly promptly tonight, but I shall disappoint them. Last time I gave my reason for withdrawing the amendment as the lateness of the hour. However, the main reason was that I wanted to read Hansard and consider some of the comments made by your Lordships in relation to the previous amendments, particularly those relating to the difficulties of dealing with the words "wholly and mainly", which have been raised again today.
§ As a consequence, the amendment I put before the House tonight has been redrafted so that it is very focused on the selling of books, audio books (so that the blind are not disadvantaged) and book tokens. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that bookshops of over 3,000 square feet may open at any time on a Sunday. Surprisingly, there are 243 such bookshops over that size out of some 3,300 in England and Wales.
§ I await with some interest your Lordships' comments on compromise, endless whittling away of the Bill and jeopardising the Bill. But before I sit down I should like to make three points as to why I believe that bookshops should be treated in this way. In saying that, that is not special pleading.
§ The first reason is that shopping for books is still mainly a leisure activity. It is one that involves the family. Secondly, it takes place in local economies which are heavily dependent on the sale of books. One has only to think of Hay-on-Wye. Thirdly, it is not a question of large bookshops jeopardising the financial 1296 interests of small bookshops. Unlike food shops and supermarkets, there is generally no price advantage in going to a large bookshop, because of the net book agreement. Your Lordships will be even more relieved that we are not discussing the net book agreement tonight.
The Earl of Buckinghamshire
Another time perhaps. Discounts in those large bookshops are generally few and far between. Discounting is more likely to take place in second-hand bookshops and smaller bookshops.
I believe that the large bookshops offer the Sunday shopper an opportunity to browse and spend time at leisure which he does not have on other days of the week. Because of that, I believe that the amendment that I put before the House, as the Consumers' Association agrees, gives a wider choice to us all.
In conclusion, I hope that the amendment finds favour. I shall listen and accept the fusillades. Fortunately, I believe that I have the last word. I beg to move.
§ Lord Monson
, My Lords, a number of noble Lords with whom I briefly discussed the amendment privately said to me: "Yes, but what is so special about bookshops?" I shall suggest a few reasons why the large ones should be allowed to open for more than six hours on a Sunday.
First, bookshops are tranquil oases in a large city; they are civilised places which attract civilised people. Browsing in a bookshop is a quintessentially proper and suitable Sunday activity. Secondly, you rarely need a car to make a purchase from a bookshop; most people can and do arrive on foot or by public transport. They do not generate the slamming of car doors, the honking of car horns or the revving of car engines that shops which deal in bulky or heavy goods tend to. They have much the same attraction for lonely single people as garden centres have for families. They enormously help our tourist trade and enhance Britain's prestige in the world. People come from all over the world to visit our famous secondhand bookshops, many of them larger than 3,000 square feet, whether they be in London or elsewhere. The noble Earl has already mentioned the famous antiquarian bookshop just over the Welsh border. Incidentally, I spoke to the people in the shop this evening and they are anxious to open for 10 hours a day seven days a week. If the amendment is not agreed to, it will grievously harm the business they hope to carry on. After all, they earn a considerable amount in dollars, yen, Swiss francs, deutschmarks and so on for the country, and it would be a pity if that were curtailed.
Large bookshops do not normally compete, in price at any rate, with small bookshops in the way that supermarkets ruthlessly compete with corner grocery shops and sub-post offices. Moreover, there is often no alternative to large bookshops. Apart from one small religious bookshop, there are only three bookshops within 15 minutes' walking distance from me and all happen to be large. If I wanted to buy any book on a Sunday before 10 o'clock or after 6 o'clock, I should 1297 have to get in the car and drive a fair distance. Of course, the big shops can carry stock which small shops cannot, with a much wider range of classics plus, for example, a much wider range of foreign language dictionaries. Small shops will probably carry dictionaries and phrasebooks in French, Spanish, German and Italian, but if I am going abroad and need a phrasebook in Urdu, Thai or Turkish, I would have to go to a larger store.
Is it not strange and sad that, whereas it will be possible, as the Bill stands, to buy pornography for up to 18 hours a day on Sundays from newsagents and specialised so-called adult shops, it will remain illegal, if the amendment fails, for a large shop to sell a Bible for more than a third of that time? Would it not be ironic if someone wanting to buy a Bible, for example, before 10 o'clock so that he could rehearse the lesson he had been invited to read in the church at morning service, were told: "Sorry, we dare not sell you one because we risk a fine of £50,000 if we do"? Noble Lords may laugh, but such shops risk a fine of £50,000 if they sell a Bible before 10 o'clock or after 6 o'clock. I urge noble Lords to support the amendment.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am beginning to feel that those of us who are trying—somewhat unsuccessfully, I must say—to resist the various amendments on the grounds that, as has been said several times this afternoon, they undermine the basis of the compromise solution which was agreed to, are beginning to feel as though we were in a madrigal set, part singing. The noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, made those points on the previous amendment and I shall now try to make them again. I cannot pretend to your Lordships that I shall say anything original.
As the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, said on the previous amendments, we are in danger of making complete fools of ourselves. The noble Lord who just spoke in support of this amendment, I am afraid to say, demonstrated that very well. It is extraordinary. If I were wearing my normal portfolio hat and speaking on health policy, I would feel like doing what would be called in that context "shroud waving". What we seem to be attempting to do is to undermine the principle of the Bill. Every noble Lord who speaks, whether or not in favour of the compromise when we voted on it, always begins by saying, "We all wish to see a revision of the 1950s law".
We are in danger of ending up with the 1950s law simply because we shall unpick every single underlying principle—and we can argue until the cows come home about whether or not it is an underlying principle—which formed the compromise solution on which we voted and on which the other place voted. We shall end up with the 1950s Shops Act, which I thought we all agreed was precisely the solution that we did not want to achieve. As I said, this is becoming like part singing. Every time we have one of these amendments, one or other of us who objects to the amendment on the grounds of the principle of the compromise makes precisely the same points. I can do no more.
§ The Earl of Onslow
My Lords, it is possible for those of us who are free traders and non-bosses, and who want people to do whatever they like within reason, 1298 to say that this law is just as silly as the, 1950 Act. But new laws tend to have greater force to them. Therefore, if this particular effort collapses, and we are handed back the 1950 Act, eventually a proper and liberal Bill will come forward and a proper free trader will get a decent deal. That will be a very good thing.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, perhaps I may just make one point on the speeches so far, The major discounting in books is done by the major chain, Dillons, which bust the net book agreement. It has large shops, so I am afraid there is a misnomer. It is not the small bookshops that discount; it is the large ones.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, on every amendment we are indeed obliged to have two separate debates: one on the merits of the case—which I would have thought was the decisive consideration—and the other about the historic compromise to which many of us were not parties. I find it tiresome, as other—
Baroness Jay of. Paddington
I apologise for intervening so early in the noble Lord's speech, but it is unfortunate that he continues to say that we were not parties to this compromise, as though in some sense it was a double deal done in a smoke filled room. Everyone who was present during the options debate and who voted on their preferred option was party to the compromise.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
The noble Baroness may do it again if she so wishes. Indeed, I am grateful to her. She begins to re-make part of the case I made earlier in the day. It is for those who voted, on what I regard as the equivalent of the Second Reading of the Bill on 29th March, for the option which is incorporated in it to decide whether or not they are breaching some sort of compromise. However, I do not see how those who voted against it can possibly be accused of breaking a compromise in which they did not share least of all those of us who for one reason or another were absent. We did not participate in the debate and therefore did not vote either way. I cannot see why, on some historic compromise that was not reached in this House, except on the basis of an agreement reached outside beforehand, we should be denied the opportunity—which is surely the right of Parliament—to discuss a matter that is before Parliament and decide, on the merits of the case, what this Bill ought to say. I cannot see any way round that essential constitutional position.
There is another argument. It is not one that 'we have heard today or on other occasions. It is an argument of common sense. It says: forget the compromise. The fact is that progress has to be made with a situation that has been unsatisfactory for many years, and this looks like a reasonable compromise of common sense; let us just vote for common sense. I am in favour of voting for common sense. But why am I obliged to be a party to an agreement, in which I was not involved, about what was and what was not put in the Bill? If a number of matters had been put in the Bill which had earlier been omitted 1299 from the Bill, I could readily accept the fact that those who were responsible for it were making wise decisions. But I see no earthly reason why DIYs and garden centres, upon which the House has decided, why farm shops, on which the House has decided, and now why bookshops should have been omitted from the Bill in the first place.
That is my view. It may not be the view of other noble Lords. But if it is my view and that of any other noble Lord, what is wrong with our saying so and saying, "You failed to put it in for no reason that we have heard"—because the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was not against the merits of the case at all but only that it was omitted by an agreement to which some of us were not a party. So I say again to the House, we must look at this issue on the merits of the case. Do we want to exclude bookshops in the way that the Bill now excludes them?.
I should like to make two or three very simple points. I apologise to the House that I was obliged to answer what I thought was a totally bogus argument which seeks to undermine every amendment and indeed the rights of the House to decide on their merits. I am a very strong supporter of small bookshops. I can recommend noble Lords the bookshop called the Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town Road where I have bought my books, when I could do so, for over 20 years. It is a very good bookshop. If, on a Sunday, the Owl Bookshop, which is small, did not have, and could not be expected to have, a fairly rare book, why should I, not having found it at a small bookshop, be denied the opportunity of going to a larger bookshop which might have the book in stock? I can see no rhyme or reason for not being able to do that. But that is what the position will be. A small bookshop will be open but may not have the book and a big bookshop which may have the book will be closed.
§ Baroness O'Cathain
My Lords, it will not be closed. The whole point is that the big bookshop will be open for six hours.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
I totally understand that. Of course it will be open for six hours, but the point is that it will not be open as long as the small bookshop. If we agree to this amendment, at least there will be a further opportunity of two hours in which, if I cannot get my book in a small book shop I can go to a big one. It is a matter of simple common sense.
This evening I went into the Library and took out The Times Literary Supplement. I looked at the books that it was reviewing this week: six volumes of a book on Thomas Chatterton; a book of prose by Ted Hughes called Winter Pollen; three books on Frank Lloyd Wright and three books on France under De Gaulle and Mitterrand. It may well be that on a Sunday I come back from the country at 5.30 in the afternoon. Perhaps it has been a rainy day and I have spent all day in bed reading the papers. When I go to my small bookshop, it does not have the books mentioned in The Times Literary Supplement, the Spectator or the New Statesman. I know that those books are available at Waterstone's but I 1300 cannot go there because Waterstone's, having been open for six hours, is now closed. I do not believe that there is any rhyme or reason in that.
We have discussed many matters but we are now talking about books, which means matters of the mind and spirit. They are something which makes us more than simple consumers of food and the other goods that we require. Why are we leaving out books? I should have been prepared not to support the amendment if I had heard one rational argument which was not based on a compromise but based on merit. Why should we be denied two hours more in which to buy the books that we want on a Sunday? That case has not been made.
The Earl of Clanwilliam
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him how many Waterstone's shops he knows which are the same size as your Lordships' debating Chamber?
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, there are several, certainly, if not the one I use. There are several. That is my answer to the noble Lord.
§ Lord McCarthy
My Lords, perhaps I can try to give the noble Lord reasons. However, they will be reasons within the context of Schedule 1 and the present option. The present option is based on the idea that there shall be small shops; there shall be large shops, and there shall be exceptions. The idea is that the small shops shall be free to open whatever they sell and the large shops shall not be free to open for more than six hours. To that dichotomy there shall be added a limited number of exceptions.
The noble Lord is quite right. It is not clear how those exceptions arrived in the Bill. One can think about why, but here they are. They consist of intoxicating liquor, pharmacists, airports, railway shops and service areas. I took the view when we debated the three options that somehow the Bill was looking at necessary items; the goods we need. For instance, we need intoxicating liquor, pharmaceutical goods or we may be stuck in an airport where there is only one shop. But there was not a real set of criteria. The important point was that they were limited. A limited number of exceptions were made between the dichotomy of big shops and small shops.
The noble Lord is saying that into that list of intoxicating liquor, pharmacists, railway shops, service areas and all the others added in the debate, we should shove bookshops. The danger is that if we go on putting in more and more exceptions they will not be exceptions; they will be the rule. We will then be very close to the third alternative of deregulation, which was defeated in the House.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, perhaps I can make just two points. With the greatest respect to my noble friend Lord Buckinghamshire, he said that the exception was not special pleading. I cannot see why it is not special pleading for the large bookshops.
Another point that was made is that books are one leisure category and music is another. If the amendment is accepted then shops could sell books for the blind and other items of that sort. So why should not music shops 1301 be open as well? One thing leads to another and we are on a slippery road downhill. If this is not a Trojan horse, then I suggest that it might be a "Trojan Penguin".
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I have always taken as read that this House included among its ranks individuals who enjoyed books and reading. I fancy that there are many who enjoy reading on a Sunday. Whether there is sympathy for those who share that enjoyment which will lead the House to expand the list of those shops which will be exempt from the six-hour restriction on trade by larger shops on Sunday to include large bookshops is a matter for your Lordships.
In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, of course we have the right to query any addition to the Bill. But at the same time it is also correct that adding to the list of exempt shops necessarily involves adding complexity to the Bill. Additional exemptions also involve the "me too" factor. Every time your Lordships decide to allow a different category of shop to be exempt, to continue with the truism which has been repeated ad nauseam, it is inevitable that there will be those who feel that it is either unfair on them or that they too should be given a similar exemption.
I should remind your Lordships that as the Bill is drafted all small bookshops will be able to open at any time on a Sunday; large bookshops, along with other large stores, will be able to open for six hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. provided they notify the local authority of an intention to do so. Your Lordships will note that as the Bill is drafted there is no likelihood that members of the public will be left in the unfortunate situation of being forced to spend Sunday without a book to hand. It is rare that it is so urgent a pleasure that it would be sheer torment to be denied the right to buy a book other than at a small bookshop before 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Your Lordships may wish to consider what reason would justify giving a large bookshop an exemption, but not a large video shop or a large shop selling compact discs. Would it not be strange to give an exemption to a large shop selling audio books—by which my noble friend presumably means books on cassettes or on compact discs—but not to large shops selling music, as my noble friend mentioned, on cassettes or compact discs. Your Lordships may want to be certain before permitting further exemptions that the case is truly strong enough to warrant it. Whether or not such a case has been made in respect of bookshops is of course for your Lordships to decide.
The Earl of Buckinghamshire
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for summing up the situation facing your Lordships in coming to a decision tonight. Before I close, perhaps I may answer very briefly some of the points that have been made. First, on the question of Dillons and discounting, yes, that is quite true. I used the words carefully when I spoke; but generally. Dillons is not the largest group of bookshops, but it is one of the largest groups. Secondly, on the question of compromise and jeopardising the Bill, many noble Lords who have participated in this important debate may well me the day they used such words because they will be facing Bills coming up from the 1302 other place in which compromises had been constructed down there to which noble Lords will take fairly violent exception up here. Thirdly, I make it quite clear that this is not special pleading on behalf of the large booksellers. There is a genuine reason for having bookshops open over the period to cover the tourist trade and consumers who may wish to buy books later in the evening. I make my final point to my noble friend Lord Brentford. I am not sure what a "Trojan Penguin" is, but no doubt he will tell me. I beg to move.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 17; Not-Contents, 47.
|Division No. 7|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lindsey and Abingdon, B.|
|Buckinghamshire, E. [Teller.]||Monson, L. [Teller.]|
|Cadman, L.||Newall, L.|
|Cochrane of Cults, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Darcy (de Knayth), B.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Downshire, M.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Harris of High Cross, L.||Slynn of Hadley, L.|
|Kilbracken, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Allenby of Megiddo, V.||Long, V.|
|Annaly, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Blyth, L.||McCarthy, L. [Teller.]|
|Brentford, V.||Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Masham of Ilton, B|
|Burnham, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Clark of Kempston, L.||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Courtown, E.||Mountevans, L.|
|Cumberlege, B.||Newcastle, Bp.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Norrie, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Falkland, V.||O'Cathain, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Fraser of Carmyllie, L.||Reay, L.|
|Gardner of Parkes, B.||St. Davids, V.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Seccombe, B.|
|[Teller.]||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Hemphill, L.||Turner of Camden, B.|
|Henley, L.||Ullswater, V.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||Wakeham, L.|
|Jay of Paddington, B.||(Lord Privy Seal)|
|Jeffreys, L.||Wynford, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 9.50 p.m.
Lord Hacking moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 5, line 14, after ("products") insert (" and medical").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am moving this amendment in place of the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield. As a distinguished physician, the noble Lord has for many years been associated with the sufferers of diabetes. He feels very keenly about this amendment and greatly regrets not being present in the House to move it.
§ I could describe this as a "technical" amendment, but I fear to do so lest the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, reaches again for the dictionary and we have the type of 1303 rather lengthy debate that we had on the last amendment that I described as "technical". Therefore, I shall describe this amendment differently.
It deals with a clear omission in the Bill. I am seeking to fill that omission with the amendment. Schedule 5 of the Shops Act 1950 contains a number of exemptions, one of which is for registered pharmacies selling,
medicines and medical and surgical appliances".
§ However, following your Lordships' adoption of this option in the "options debate" of 29th March, the Bill contains a provision relating to the exemption of registered pharmacies which does not cover medical appliances. It covers only medical products and surgical appliances. The simplicity of this amendment is that it seeks to include the word "medical" as relating to appliances.
§ It is an important amendment because it affects a number of products that are much needed—sometimes in moments of emergency. It affects, for example, inhaling devices for asthmatics. Under the present drafting of the Bill, the medication can be supplied, but not the equipment. It affects hypodermic syringes for diabetics. At present, the insulin can be supplied, but not the syringe. It affects oxygen therapy equipment, where at present the gas can be supplied but not the mask. It affects thermometers and a number of other medical appliances.
§ There is a special need for the larger pharmacies—that is, those over 280 square metres—to be able to provide these important devices which, as I have said, are sometimes needed in emergencies. All pharmacies —whether they be large or small—are required under contract with the family health services authorities to open before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. to provide pharmaceutical services. Medical appliances are among the items which pharmacies are required to dispense under the terms of the National Health Service contract. When I spoke last night to the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, and he expressed his great regret at not being able to move the amendment himself, he pointed out that the larger pharmacies keep a greater range of such products. In addition, they are the pharmacies to which people go in search of help when they are in a state of great distress because of asthma or diabetes. Therefore, as the noble Lord put it, it is extremely important that the larger pharmacies should be able to supply such medical appliances and that they should fall within the exemption. Finally, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, will have noticed that we are not dealing with "wholly or mainly". I beg to move.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I think that we are all agreed that whatever the restrictions on large shops in respect of Sunday trading, pharmacists need to be able to open at any time on a Sunday to dispense medicine and sell products which can genuinely be considered to have a medical application. We have heard from my noble friend Lord Hacking that the current wording in the Bill would restrict pharmacists to selling a narrower range of products than those which they are permitted to supply under the 1950 Shops Act.
1304 Whereas under the 1950 Act, pharmacies may sell medicines and medical and surgical appliances, the Bill, as worded, provides an exemption only for the sale of medicinal products and surgical appliances. Medicinal products take the same meaning as in the Medicines Act 1968. I understand that that wording means that items such as pregnancy testing kits and thermometers could not be sold by large pharmacies beyond the permitted hours on a Sunday.
Now, your Lordships may feel that, as the normal human gestation period is nine months, it would not impose a great degree of hardship to require those who want to buy a pregnancy testing kit to do so before six o'clock in the evening, to wait to buy one until Monday morning, or to go to a small pharmacy which will be unrestricted by the Bill. But I accept that these amendments simply allow large pharmacies to sell those items which they are permitted to sell under current legislation. I suspect that your Lordships would accept that if a parent is worried about a sick child, then it would be unreasonable for a large pharmacy not to be able to sell a thermometer after six o'clock in the evening. But, my Lords, it is entirely up to you again.
§ Lord Hacking
My Lords, this seems to be a blessed moment: no one has spoken against the amendment. I therefore invite your Lordships to accept it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Cochrane of Cults moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 5, line 23, at end insert:
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 11, I shall be bold enough to claim that it is different from any of the amendments seeking further exemptions that have been moved previously, whether approved or not, because this amendment deals with the happiness of people on holiday. It also avoids the difficulty of attempting definition by transaction. On the contrary, it is precisely defined. It is not a Trojan horse. Nor even is it the very thin edge of a wedge, which I know is a thing of great terror to my noble friend who was kind enough to see me this morning at the Home Office. I sympathise with his feelings. But what has happened is that the resort exemptions about which I have spoken on an earlier occasion, and will not repeat, have been dropped, and nothing of comparable effect in relation to premises which formerly enjoyed their benefit, has been put in their place.
§ People on holiday expect to have good service. They expect to be able to shop. The premises about which I am talking are within holiday camps. A noble Lord asked me on a previous occasion why such shops were necessary. As I had only taken on the amendment faute de mieux following the illness of the mother of the previous mover, I was slightly stumped at that. But the answer is that the largest of these holiday camps can accommodate up to almost 10,000 people at one time. They all go to sleep at the same time. These big camps are the size of moderate towns. For example, I thought that I would look along the Front Bench to see which of 1305 my noble friends had a town of that sort of size named after him. Unfortunately, no one lives at my noble friend's place of title, Ullswater, although it has a frightfully good restaurant. Eventually I discovered that about 10,000 people live at Henley and there are two other places which may be familiar to your Lordships: Uttoxeter, which has a race-course, and Tewkesbury, which has a bishop, and which, as I am sure my noble friend will agree, was the site of a rather bloody battle.
§ That is the size of the problem. I am asking your Lordships to agree that people who go to those holiday camps—which are defined; they are there; they have paid money to go—should be allowed to shop in private in those premises. Those premises are defined by a perimeter wall. A noble Lord asked me how they were defined. I have five definitions, but finally one has to get down to it and it is a matter for the courts to decide. However, their principal purpose is rather easier to describe. It is to provide enjoyable holidays in agreeable surroundings which are good value for money. In the interests of economy, many people now prefer to cater for themselves, hence the need for shopping facilities.
§ In Committee a noble Lord asked what would happen if a shopping mall were built. Of course, that is a commercial risk on the part of the proprietor. He was afraid that people would rush in to buy things when they should be confined to the six-hour regime or go to a small shop. All the large parks which allow day visitors impose charges. For example, if one went there in one's car on a Sunday morning to buy a pound of sausages it would most likely cost £6.50 extra. If one took all one's family too and wanted to buy a chicken it would probably cost something like £27 to go in. We are talking about deterrent pricing. The charge is not to deter people from shopping but to make sure that they pay their fair share towards enjoying all the other facilities. The shopping is incidental.
§ There is no risk of people using them as a surreptitious large shop. The exemption already exists and those who have taken advantage of it are now to be disadvantaged. I urge your Lordships to accept that the amendment does not try to widen the scope of what goes on but merely puts right a lacuna, gap or hiatus in the Bill. For those reasons, I commend the amendment to the House and I beg to move.
§ 10 p.m.
§ Lord McCarthy
My Lords, I wish to ask the noble Lord several questions, principally for clarification. I think I know what a holiday park is. What I do not know are the goods which the noble Lord says can be sold there. His amendment provides that a holiday park should be,open only for the sale of goods".However, the noble Lord does not state what kind of goods. He provides that they should be,goods as an incidental facility".What is "an incidental facility"? What is the difference between an incidental facility and a facility? The noble Lord provides,to paying guests".What is the difference between a paying guest and a customer? The noble Lord provides, 1306using or enjoying other facilities at the park".What other facilities? What would be different if the amendment provided,any shop within a holiday park and open for the sale of anything"?What is the difference?
My Lords, I do not know whether my noble friend intends to make a concluding speech. If he does, he will be in danger of speaking three times.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I believe that I can answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. In practice, we are talking about a small number of shops. Perhaps I should declare an interest in that I am a director of a company called Center Pares, which has two such shops. There are less than 50 shops and the vast majority—all except two or three—are open only for a number of weeks during the summer season.
The shops which exceed the 280 square metre size limit are without exception food shops; they are supermarkets. They are associated with and are part and parcel of the total self-catering character of the village. They are the way in which people living in a holiday village feed themselves. They are incidental facilities because they are incidental to the fact that these people are resident in the village. These are resident people; they are like guests in an hotel and are living there. They are paying guests because they are paying to live there.
It is not a question of people walking in to buy goods; it is an internal facility for members of the club—for people who are living there. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about a small number of shops which are an integral part of the self-catering facility.
As to what a holiday village is, it is a self-catering holiday facility in this country such as Butlin's, Pontin's, and—perhaps I may say at the top of the market Center Pares. Those are places where people go for a summer holiday or for a short break holiday. They live in villas or chalets and enjoy sporting facilities. They are, I believe without exclusion, family holiday places. They are geared to children. For example, I know that in our restaurants we have tables with Lego on them. In our villages, and I believe that the same is true of Butlin's, we have an interdenominational church in which services are available on Sunday. I cannot say that there is an enormous take-up but the services are available. The centres are intended to provide a comfortable, economical family holiday for people who are perhaps not so well off.
An essential part of that family holiday is the feeling that you can buy what is needed. One of the problems is that people tend to travel at the weekend. Therefore, they may arrive on a Saturday and if they live some distance away, they may arrive late, after the supermarket is closed. In that case, it is fairly tough if they have to wait until 10 o'clock the following morning 1307 in order to buy something for breakfast, setting aside the fact that we provide hot rolls and hot croissants for breakfast.
Therefore, I argue that the facility is needed as part of the catering needs of a family. It is for a special group of people who are contained entirely within the camp. Few people come in from outside; conversely, no trade will be taken from people outside because most of the holiday villages are in the countryside and, therefore, people would not normally go out of the village to trade elsewhere.
There is no unfair advantage as against self-catering guests in other kinds of self-catering accommodation such as flats in holiday resorts because those people can use small shops. In a holiday village, which is isolated in the countryside, there are no small shops. Therefore, I argue that there is no unfair competition. This is not the thin end of the wedge. It is a special situation in which the ability to buy food in a raw form is part of the catering for that particular type of holiday.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, there is one point about which I disagree with my noble friend who moved the amendment. Perhaps when the Minister replies, he will explain it. I understood my noble friend Lord Cochrane to say that this provision would mean no change in the law from the Shops Act 1950. However, my reading of the Act is that under Section 51, a local authority may pass an order authorising such classes of shops in holiday resorts to open but only for 18 Sundays in a year and only for the sale of a very limited range of goods earmarked for the tourist trade. Perhaps the Minister can expand on that when he speaks.
If I am right in that interpretation, then the amendment will widen the law, yet again, quite extensively. It seems to me that it will also create further anomalies in the Sunday trading law. We are giving preferential treatment to large shops in holiday parks while other cultural and holiday areas will not have the same benefit.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, will the noble Viscount give way? Will he take my point that in other areas there is the availability of small shops? Those small shops are not available in a holiday park.
§ Viscount Brentford
My Lords, it is my experience that quite often there are small shops open in holiday villages as well. However, I believe that the small shops, and indeed large shops, can provide what is needed. My prime point is that I believe that this is a real widening of the law.
§ Lord Airedale
My Lords, whether the amendment refers to a holiday camp, a holiday park or a holiday village, I suggest that what we need is a full stop after the word "camp", "park" or "village". The rest of the wording adds nothing: it would merely provide a field day for lawyers.
My Lords, in Committee we spent some time discussing the question of whether large shops in holiday parks should be exempt. I should remind your Lordships that Section 51 of the Shops Act 1308 1950 allows local authorities to make an order authorising shops in resort areas to sell goods which are listed in Schedule 7 to the Act on a Sunday in addition to the goods which are listed in Schedule 5 of the Act which all shops are allowed to do.
My noble friend Lord Brentford was worried about the latter. Perhaps I may explain to him that such an order does not permit shops to trade in those goods every Sunday in the year. It permits shops to trade in those goods only for 18 Sundays in the year. Schedule 7 by no means allows the sale of everything. It permits the sale of any article required for bathing or fishing; toys, souvenirs and fancy goods; books, stationery and postcards; and any item of food. It does not allow the sale of clothes and shoes, unless, presumably, they are of the plastic variety which some of your Lordships might feel inclined to wear while paddling at the seaside to stop your Lordships' feet being cut by stones or being nibbled by crabs.
Schedule 7 does not allow the sale of picnic equipment, for example, things like Thermos flasks or plastic beakers. Schedule 7 does not even allow the sale of the corkscrew which my noble friend Lord Cochrane suggested in Committee was an indispensable item on sale at holiday park shops because the ones which are supplied in the chalets tended to go missing.
I only mention that because I believe that we need to be absolutely clear that the Bill does not remove an exemption for holiday parks which they previously enjoyed. Indeed, the Bill would, in some respects, make the law more liberal in respect of such premises: small shops will be able to open at any time; and large shops will be able to open for six hours on a Sunday to sell their whole product range. Shops in holiday parks will not be limited to trading on 18 Sundays a year. They will be able to trade on every Sunday. Nor will the rights of large shops to trade for six hours depend upon a local council choosing to make an order to allow them to do so. They will be able to do so by law.
Your Lordships may feel that that does not go far enough. Some local authorities may have taken the provision which is contained in Section 51 of the 1950 Act as an indicator that they should allow holiday park shops to open without restriction. That is what some such shops may have been doing in practice, although, if they have been, most of them will almost certainly have been in contravention of the Act in respect of at least some of their sales.
Noble Lords may be persuaded by the argument that holiday-makers could be seriously inconvenienced were they not to accept the amendment, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. On the other hand, your Lordships may feel that for years many holiday-makers, along with everyone else, have coped with shops being, for the most part, shut on a Sunday. They have planned their lives accordingly. It would not therefore be a grave problem for them to plan for the large shops being open, albeit only for six hours. Those who forgot to stock up on marmalade the evening before, would not have long to wait before the shop was open on a Sunday morning. I fancy that some noble Lords might believe that the only civilised time to take breakfast on a holiday is 10 o'clock in the morning.
1309 I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the amendment would only exempt holiday parks from restrictions on Sunday trading. It would not permit large shops in holiday resorts to open beyond six hours. Your Lordships might wish to be convinced that it would be fair if those staying in flatlets in the town cannot visit a large shop beyond the permitted six-hour period, while those who are in a holiday park can. It is true that those who visit resort towns can use the smaller shops, whereas holiday parks are often at some distance from the town which means that there are no handy corner shops in the vicinity. Therefore, your Lordships may consider that the amendment would not put town resorts or their visitors at a disadvantage. I can only say to your Lordships that those are the arguments for both sides. However, it is a matter for noble Lords to choose which they think is right.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Cochrane of Cults
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his courteous and informative reply. I would respectfully suggest to him that one of the hazards of going on holiday is that if one has young children they are so excited they wake up at the most desperate hour in the morning. If, with his great experience of life, my noble friend is prepared to tolerate a howling grandchild from five o'clock until ten o'clock because, due to a mistake on the part of the parents, they have not got the requisite chocolate or whatever one gives children to shut them up these days —smacking being forbidden—I rather envy him.
The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, asked me what these shops sold. The answer is that they sell pretty well everything you can think of, but principally food, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, with his vast experience, explained.
I must also apologise at this point. I omitted in the excitement of the moment and the lateness of the hour to mention that I have an interest to declare, although I think a very small one. I have been a director of a holiday park company for many, many years and I am now chairman. We are quite small and we cannot hold more than 1,000 people, however hard we try. The holiday park is situated in Scotland. I hope your Lordships will accept that I present the case with true impartiality because whether this amendment is passed or not makes not the slightest difference to me. But it does make a difference to the people who are on the receiving end in England and Wales and if this amendment is not accepted they will have something to complain about.
I suppose there will be a good market for signs saying, "Not open until 10 o'clock by Government order". When it says, "by Government order" that will be true as this time it will not be the fault of the EC. Resort exemptions are very imperfect but this Bill is intended to reform the present situation. The Bill does not address resort exemptions as they at present work. I agree they are imperfect but one would have hoped that the drafters of the Bill would have felt that they should at least be modernised, and as some large shops exist that were built in good faith they would feel hard done by if they are restricted; albeit they get more weeks open 1310 but fewer hours in each Sunday during which to open. I hope that I have put the question fairly but in view of the lateness of the hour I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Greenway moved Amendment. No. 12:
Page 5, line 23, at end insert:
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 1 to which your Lordships agreed. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment: agreed to.
The Earl of Onslow moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 5, line 23, at end insert:
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Lyell is not here but this amendment has already been spoken to with an earlier one. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment: negatived.
§ [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 5, line 47, leave out ("10 a.m.") and insert ("10.30 a.m.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 15 I speak also to the consequential amendment, Amendment No. 24. I hope that I can convince the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and others who sit on the same Benches that I for one am not trying to drive a coach and horses through this Bill and introduce total deregulation by the back door.
§ At first glance this amendment may seem excessively modest and even trivial in its effect, but I assure your Lordships that it is not. It may be that an extra half hour's peace and quiet on a Sunday morning for the many people who have no option but to live in the vicinity of large shops seems trivial to those fortunate enough to live in rural tranquillity, but it is certainly not trivial to the many who would benefit from the effects of the amendment. The advantage for those who have to enforce the law is that they 'would only have to work a seven-and-a-half hour Sunday rather than an eight hour one. That advantage may not seem great to us but I have no doubt that it would be highly welcome to those who have to perform the task in question. Once they have heard the evidence few people would deny the immense benefit acceptance of the amendment would bring to small shopkeepers, their families and their employees.
§ It is true that, as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, pointed out earlier, one organisation representing small shopkeepers—with the acronym OPEN—appeared to favour a 10 a.m. starting time for large stores. However, I interpret its letter as support for the general principle of a fixed six-hour period rather than specifically for a 10 a.m. starting time. Even if my interpretation is wrong, three other organisations representing small shopkeepers take a very different view.
§ The British Independent Grocers' Association, which tells me that it represents some 2,500 independent grocers plus their staff and families, suggests that the trading hours should be between 10.30 a. m. and 1311 4.30 p.m. to give the independent stores an extra half hour to trade as most people do not start to shop on Sunday mornings until around 8.30 to 9.00 a.m. The effect of the amendment would be to increase the free run that those stores have without competition from supermarkets by between 33.3 and 50 per cent. In other words, instead of trading only between 8.30 a.m. or 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., they would have an extra half hour, which would be of considerable help to them.
§ The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters says that if it were possible to introduce an amendment which would prevent larger stores from opening until 10.30 a.m. or even 11 a.m. that would be beneficial to small traders, including sub-postmasters in their private capacity. An amendment along these lines would cater for members of the public wishing to make the emergency purchase on a Sunday morning, which has traditionally been the prerogative of the corner shop, and prevent that aspect of the trading pattern of the small retailer being monopolised by the larger traders.
§ I have been in communication with an organisation called the National Organisation of Asian Businesses which points out that in inner cities some 85 per cent. of small businesses are Asian-owned and operated. It tells me that the jobs of 100,000 people are at stake among Asian traders, their families and employees if something is not done. Unfortunately, the facts which it promised to send have been lost in the post but I have been assured verbally that in principle the organisation supports the amendment.
§ To sum up, the amendment would seriously inconvenience virtually nobody. It would moderately benefit those who happen to live near large stores. It would benefit to some extent those who have to enforce the law, but would benefit considerably many tens of thousands of small shopkeepers, their families and employees. I beg to move.
My Lords, we all have some sympathy with the belief of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that we all need a respite from the turmoil of the week. I suspect also that we all recognise that people want to spend their time in different ways. There are some who, far from wanting a quiet, possibly rather dull, Sunday, want a Sunday with things to do and places to go. It was that need to strike a balance between the quiet Sunday and the Sunday on which those who want to shop can be free to do so which led both your Lordships and another place to choose partial deregulation to replace the Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act 1950. This will allow shops to open at 10 o'clock and, under the provisions in Schedule 3, will give local authorities the power to prohibit loading and unloading before 9 o'clock. It is for your Lordships to decide whether this balance is right.
The noble Lord, Lord Monson, believes that, if the time when large shops may open is put back to 10.30, this will bring a benefit to residents who will have half an hour longer of relative peace and quiet in the mornings. The noble Lord believes that a 10.30 start will not make much difference to the shops.
1312 I wonder whether that is really the case. People who go shopping on a Sunday may want to make a relatively early start, perhaps so that they can enjoy other activities such as visiting relatives or friends on a Sunday—or even possibly going to church which is an admirable occupation for a Sunday morning. They could find it frustrating if large shops could not open until 10.30.
As the schedule will enable shops to choose their own opening times, it is reasonable to assume that large shops will only choose to open at 10 o'clock rather than at 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock because enough of their customers find it convenient to shop at that time. If there is no demand at 10 o'clock in the morning, the shops will not choose to make a start at that time; they will make a later start.
If the shops do not open until 10.30 then it is argued that it would be practicable to allow local authorities to prohibit deliveries until 9.30 rather than 9 o'clock which the Bill at present allows. The noble Lord, Lord Monson, thinks that local residents would benefit from the extra half hour's peace and quiet. But although this is a matter entirely for your Lordships to decide, it is my impression that the world has woken up by 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning. By then, the normal noises of the day have begun; there is traffic on the streets by 9 o'clock. I am not talking about delivery lorries but people going about their business, perhaps going to the local sports club or whatever, or to church.
I fancy that we all accept that the Bill is a compromise which inevitably means that there will be aspects of the provisions which are not to everyone's liking. The question for your Lordships to consider is whether, on the matter of time, we have got the balance right. Although this is entirely a matter for your Lordships, I personally think that, following the months of debate which we have had, it would be better to leave the time at which shops can open, if they choose, unchanged at 10 o'clock.
To my mind, that is late enough to mark Sunday as a day which is different from the other days of the week; but it is early enough to allow those whose chosen Sunday activity is to go shopping to enjoy it, or for those who need to go shopping on a Sunday before doing other things to have enough of the day left to enjoy those other activities. That is the choice which your Lordships will have to make.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl that some people always want to be able to buy things on Sunday before 10.30 a.m. My point was that if they needed, for example, to buy a few slices of ham and a quarter of a pound of cheese for a picnic, they could easily get it from a corner grocery store —Asian-owned, European-owned or owned by anyone else. It would probably not cost them more than lop more than if they went to a supermarket and, taking into account the saving in petrol, it would probably cost them less.
The main thrust of my amendment was to protect the small shopkeepers. The peace and quiet element is important, as is the slight saving in administration costs and on the council tax which would flow from it. However, it is the effect of the 10 a.m. opening on small shopkeepers that most concerns me. I am a little 1313 surprised that the Keep Sunday Special lobby, who have made much of their concern for small shopkeepers, have been totally silent this evening while the amendment was being discussed. However, that being the case, there seems no point in proceeding further at this stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 16 to 18 not moved.]
§ Schedule 2 [Supplementary provisions]:
§ [Amendment No. 19 not moved.]
§ Clause 2 [Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning]:
§ 10.30 p.m.
Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 20:
Leave out Clause 2 and insert the following new clause:
Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning
("2.—(1) A local authority may by resolution designate their area as a loading control area for the purposes of this section with effect from a date specified in the resolution, which must be a date at least one month after the date on which the resolution is passed.
(2) A local authority may by resolution revoke any designation made by them under subsection (1) above.
(3) It shall be the duty of a local authority, before making or revoking any designation under subsection (1) above, to consult persons appearing to the local authority to be likely to be affected by the proposed designation or revocation (whether as the occupiers of shops or as local residents) or persons appearing to the local authority to represent such persons.
(4) Where a local authority make or revoke a designation under this section, they shall publish notice of the designation or revocation in such manner as they consider appropriate.
(5) Schedule 3 to this Act (which imposes restrictions on loading and unloading on Sunday before 9 a.m. at large shops in loading control areas) shall have effect.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 20; and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 21 to 23 and Amendments Nos. 25, 26 and 53.
§ Clause 2 and Schedule 3 together provide a procedure which enables local authorities to prohibit deliveries taking place within their area at large shops before 9 o'clock on a Sunday morning. If the local authority takes advantage of this opportunity, deliveries at large shops may take place before 9 o'clock only with the local authority's consent and subject to any conditions which the local authority may apply. These provisions were added to the Bill by amendments at Report stage in another place in response to concerns that were expressed there that local authorities needed new, specific powers to ensure that the opening of large shops on a Sunday morning would not unduly jeopardise the peace and quiet of Sunday mornings for local residents.
§ The provisions were welcomed on all sides in another place; but it was recognised that they had been designed in hurried consultation with local authorities and retailers and that they might benefit from fine-tuning by your Lordships. That is what these amendments are designed to achieve. They have been drawn up in consultation with retailers and associations representing local authorities. I understand that they are supported by both sides of the equation, as it were.
§ The amendments seek to achieve a number of changes. To meet the concerns of local authorities we 1314 have redesigned the powers to make them more flexible. So a local authority will be able not only to adopt: the power to prohibit deliveries but also to forgo that power subsequently, if it so wishes. Equally, the amendments enable a local authority to withdraw in certain circumstances the consent 'which it may have given to deliveries taking place at a large shop, as well as to vary any conditions which it may have imposed on any consent which it has allowed.
§ So far as retailers are concerned, we have shifted the time at which consultation is to take place. As the Bill is drafted, a local authority must consult when it is considering whether or not to grant a consent to deliveries taking place. The amendments require the local authority to consult when it is considering whether or not to adopt in the first place the general power to prohibit deliveries. It seems eminently reasonable that those who will be affected by these new powers should be consulted before they are adopted. That is what the amendments achieve.
§ The amendments also require local authorities to publish any decision which they will make in respect of adopting or subsequently forgoing these new powers.
§ In redesigning the powers in this way, we have to do some technical or. drafting surgery, which is why the amendments take on their fairly formidable appearance. But, in essence, the Government have acted as what one might describe as an honest broker in this matter. We have endeavoured to come up with a number of amendments which local authorities consider will be a useful, if limited, addition to their powers to protect their residents and which retailers do not believe to be unfair. I hope that the amendments will therefore commend themselves to your Lordships.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Loading and unloading at large shops on Sunday morning]
Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 21 to 23:
Page 10, leave out lines 16 and 17 and insert:
("1. This Schedule applies to any shop
Page 10, line 19, leave out from first ("a") to ("shall") in line 20 and insert ("shop to which this Schedule applies").
Page 10, line 29, at end insert:
("( ) The local authority may at any time vary the conditions subject to which a consent is granted, and shall give notice of the variation to the person to whom the consent was granted.").
§ On Question, amendments agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 24 not moved.]
Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 25 and 26:
Page 10, leave out lines 42 to 45.
Page 11, line 6, at end insert: