Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : I beg to ask leave to present a petition from the residents of Orpington. My constituents are concerned that any future legislation on Sunday trading and commercial activity should uphold the character of Sunday as a shared and special day for the enjoyment of family life, rest and community worship. The petition is signed by 427 of my constituents and it reads :
"Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House do safeguard the uniqueness of the whole of Sunday, both through the requirements of the law, and through the enforcement of the same. To lie upon the Table.
36 Engineers Regiment
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone) : I have the honour to present a petition signed by 1,200 of my constituents and also by some of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe). The 36 Engineers Regiment has long been based in Maidstone and is currently under the threat of being moved to Thorney island. My constituents believe that that would be to the detriment of the regiment and the town. The petition reads :
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House encourage the Secretary of State for Defence to consider the wishes of both the Regiment and Town and to allow the 36 Engineers to retain their present base.
To lie upon the Table.
Miss Ann Widdicombe (Maidstone) : I have the honour to present a petition signed by 1,800 of my constituents who are worried about the extension of Sunday trading and the effect that it will have on that day of rest, family life, the community and worship. The petition reads :
Wherefore the Petitioners pray that your Honourable House do safeguard the uniqueness of the whole of Sunday, both through the requirements of the law, and through the enforcement of the same. And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, etc. To lie upon the Table.
Column 618Cambridge University Veterinary School
Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge) : I beg to ask leave to present a petition, signed by more than 40,000 Cambridge constituents and others, vigorously opposing the proposed closure of the Cambridge university veterinary school. It concludes :
Wherefore, your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will oppose the recommended closure of the school conveyed to the University Grants Committee by the sub-committee chaired by Sir Ralph Riley.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc. Although the petition refers to the Cambridge school, the one in Glasgow is also under threat of closure. We also deplore that proposal. I am pleased to say that my petition has also been signed by the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith) in whose constituency the Glasgow school resides.
To lie upon the Table.
Football Supporters (Identification Cards)
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : I beg to ask leave to present a petition signed by 12,844 supporters of Aston Villa football club and the Football Supporters Association protesting against the proposed plan to introduce identity cards for football supporters. Mr. Speaker, this is the first of 92 such petitions that will be presented to you--one for every Football League club in the land. The petition reads :
we condemn the proposed legislation to force football supporters to carry identification cards, and we believe that a system of identity cards will have little impact on the problem of football-related violence, will hinder football's attempt to attract a new generation of supporters and will lead to the eventual demise of the game as a spectator sport. And your Petitioners pray that your honourable House will urge the Government to bring forward proposals which have the support of genuine football supporters. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray etc.
To lie upon the Table.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to delay the proceedings of the House, but I do not know whether you have had a chance to hear the tapes of last night's Adjournment debate and note the deliberate, organised disruption of that debate. Will you make a statement on Adjournment debates, so that they can be handled in the traditional way, and, if so, when?
Mr. Speaker : I have no present intention of making a statement. I deprecate disruption of any kind, but it is particularly regrettable during the prized Adjournment debate, which is an opportunity for Back-Bench Members to raise matters of constituency interest.
Order for Second Reading read.
I would not wish the progess of my Bill to be delayed, but, as a shareholder in Aston Villa football club, I can think of no better petition to be presented by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell). He and I have been associated with that football club for a long time, and I wish him well.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who ably moved the Sunday Sports (No. 2) Bill in the last Session of Parliament, and also to Lord Wyatt of Weeford, who moved a similar Bill in another place. Hon. Members will find that I have amended their legislation in two significant respects. In due course, I shall explain the reasons for that.
I shall tell the House about the guiding principle which caused me to enter political life. I have always believed that the people of this country are best able to decide how to run their own lives, and that, by and large, interfering politicians, civil servants, Governments and other do-gooders who put themselves forward as the guardians of public morals and try to tell people what to do are repugnant. I have every faith in the British public. Normally, they have pretty good judgment and can decide for themselves how to run their own lives. Provided that someone does not hurt anybody else, it is up to him to decide what to do on a Sunday or any other day. I am not in favour of sport or gambling on Sunday. I am simply in favour of people being able to decide whether they want to go to sporting events on Sunday, whether they want to organise sporting events on Sunday, and whether to gamble on Sunday. That is not a matter for me or, with respect, for you, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter for individuals to decide. In a free society, it is repugnant to have a nanny state that continually tells us what we should and should not do. Our legislation should be kept to a bare minimum. It should only protect people and not control the great majority and tell them what they should do.
Even my most severe critics would concede that the current legislation is arcane and outdated. The Sunday Observance Act 1780 expressly forbids sporting events for which the public are charged admission to be organised on a Sunday. Those who organise the men's finals day at Wimbledon, the final rounds of most of our major professional and amateur golf championships, the British grand prix, athletic meetings, professional football matches and professional cricket matches on Sunday are breaching the law.
One may well ask, "So what? There has not been a prosecution since 1956. Is it necessary to change the law? Is this not an irrelevant measure?" Every hon. Member should believe in the rule of law. In a free society--a democracy--we must obey the law. We have two choices. We must either prosecute those who break the law, which is clearly absurd and would be immensely unpopular, or we must amend or scrap arcane and outdated laws. That is what I am seeking to do. It is manifestly absurd that otherwise law -abiding people, such as the organisers of sporting events to which I referred, should find themselves breaking the law. I am anxious to change that and to bring them within the law.
It is quite wrong that the organisers of sporting events are breaking the law. From discussions that I have had in the House and elsewhere with supporters and opponents of the measure, I sense that there is general agreement that sporting events should be brought within the law.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone) : I have much sympathy with my hon. Friend, but does he accept that, by deregulating Sunday piecemeal, he will increase rather than decrease anomalies? Whereas, under his proposals, betting shops will be able to function, grocery shops will not. He is not tidying up the law ; he is creating further anomalies.
Mr. MacKay : I shall refer to betting shops in some detail later. I do not see a direct relationship between Sunday trading, which we are not discussing today, and Sunday sport and leisure, which we are discussing. Many of our colleagues who voted against the Sunday trading legislation in the previous Parliament will support me in the Lobby because they believe that it is right that there should be leisure on Sunday and that it is wrong that we should trade on Sunday. They are two distinct issues.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : My hon. Friend is dealing with matters of principle, anomalies and so on with regard to Sunday. I have one specific question. Does he believe that Sunday should be kept special?
There is general consensus that we should amend or abolish the law on sporting events. A more controversial matter is what we should do about Sunday racing, which is inextricably linked to gambling. There is no suggestion that we can have horse racing without gambling. As somebody who is not closely associated with horse racing, my first reaction was to say that sports should take place on a Sunday if people want to organise them and others wish to attend, but that there should be on-course betting only. That would avoid the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) referred--the anomaly of having bookmakers open for business in our high streets on a Sunday.
I went to see my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. He said, "If you have on-course betting only, you will return to the 1950s. You will return to illegal gambling and racketeering. I, as Home Secretary, could not possibly countenance that. The Government would withdraw their support for your Bill and would do everything possible to oppose it and ensure that it did not proceed." When I am advised by the Home Secretary that that would lead to illegal gambling, I must take note, and the House, too, will want to take note of that. Clearly, Sunday racing can proceed only with on and off-course betting, which means bookmakers being open on a Sunday.
It is worth clarifying the fact that bookmakers would be open on a Sunday between noon and 6.30 pm. They would not be open all day, as some critics have suggested. I
Column 621acknowledge that many, including the Keep Sunday Special campaign and other moderate critics who are not Sabbatarians, are worried about bookmaker shops in our high streets and shopping malls being open on a Sunday. The additional clause that I have added, which differentiates this Bill from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, will restrict gambling to 12 Sundays a year, which will also restrict horse racing to 12 Sundays a year. As the House will readily concede, we are not likely to have horse racing without gambling. For 40 Sundays a year bookmakers could not be open, and on 12 Sundays between noon and 6.30 pm they could. "Ah," say my critics, "This is the foot in the door. You start with 12 and it will increase." I have noted that point. Whereas initially I was minded to say that Parliament could increase or decrease the 12 Sunday limit by Order in Council, the Bill does not provide for that. If the Bill becomes law and anybody wishes to change the limit, they will have to introduce completely fresh legislation. There is no possibility of quietly and quickly rushing through an order to increase that limit. There are 59 race courses in this country. The Jockey Club advises me that it is unlikely that there would be more than three meetings per Sunday. Three times 12 makes 36. Therefore, a number of race courses will never be open on a Sunday. If some race courses have two or three meetings a year on a Sunday, a majority of race courses will possibly never have racing on a Sunday.
Moderate opponents of the Bill make a further criticism. They ask whether people who live near sporting grounds and race courses will be affected. Apart from horse racing, other sporting events are already taking place on a Sunday. The law is being breached and ignored, and there have been no prosecutions. If more football clubs want to change their fixtures from Saturday to Sunday they will do so whether or not the Bill is passed. The only change that the Bill makes in practice is that there would be horse racing on 12 Sundays a year, at no race course more than once or twice and at a majority not at all. Therefore, the argument that my measure would lead to greater nuisance for people who live near sporting stadiums is invalid.
Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe) : When the hon. Gentleman discussed with the Jockey Club the implications of Sunday racing and the number of fixtures did he ask how many fixtures might take place on a bank holiday Sunday?
Mr. MacKay : I did not. That is entirely a matter for the Jockey Club. It is the governing body and can decide. The hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in horse racing, knows that a limited number of horses, jockeys and trainers are available, so logistically it would be impossible to have every race course open on a Sunday. I am advised by the Jockey Club that for practical reasons it is unlikely that there can normally be more than three race meetings on a Sunday.
Mr. Duffy : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are already a dozen or more fixtures on more than one bank holiday Monday? Those fixtures are already running into double figures. Is it not conceivable that some, if not most, will spill over to Sunday, given the attractions that the Jockey Club now attaches to Sunday racing?
Mr. MacKay : That is for the Jockey Club to decide. Logistically there cannot be a large number of horse race meetings on two consecutive days because the horses are not available. The hon. Gentleman will confirm that.
That brings me to another interesting point. There are not likely to be additional meetings or sporting events in any sport, just a change of dates. There are enough people going to football grounds, as the right hon. Member for Small Heath will recall--even at Birmingham City--to disturb those who live near the grounds. That disturbance will be moved from a Saturday to a Sunday. It is having a disruption at any time that offends them, not having it on a particular day of the week. So the House will need to address that matter at another time.
Every horse racing country, with the exception of Great Britain and New Zealand, has Sunday racing. It appears to be most popular in France, Italy and, most recently, the Republic of Ireland. The House will agree that those countries are deeply religious. There is absolutely no doubt that there is greater religious observance there than there ever is in Great Britain. That confirms the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East. There is nothing unchristian about enjoying a Sunday. There is nothing anomalous in worshiping in the morning and seeing Aston Villa play in the afternoon. There is nothing unreasonable about gambling in the afternoon and going on to Evensong, particularly if one puts most of one's winnings in the collection.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley) : In developing his argument about racing on Sunday, is my hon. Friend aware that churchgoing per head in France is far higher than here? Perhaps the most attractive part of racing on Sunday in France is the large presence of families and children. It is part of the French way of life to worship in the morning, have an agreeable family lunch and go racing--excellent provisions are made for children--in the afternoon.
I have no doubt that racecourses in Great Britain would seek to provide exactly the same facilities, which is more than can be said for any other sports.
Mr. MacKay : I entirely agree. My hon. Friend makes the point very well about the large number of people who go to church in France--in fact, it is a family occasion. The more that sporting events can be a family occasion the better. I can think of no better way of spending a Sunday than going to a sporting event.
Of course, the killjoys will disagree. When Dr. Donald Coggan was Archbishop of Canterbury, he said :
"a Christian is not a killjoy. If he is, he ought to question whether he's a Christian."
I would ask the House to consider what Dr. Coggan said. I can see no connection between being a practising Christian and a Sabbatarian and opposing leisure facilities on a Sunday. It makes no sense. Moderate critics have raised another worry, which I have covered in a second additional clause to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley. It is what I would deem an employment protection clause. There are those who believe that it would be possible for existing employees, who decline to work on a Sunday, to be dismissed. Frankly, I am doubtful about that. We can look at the Scottish experience of Sunday trading. The complaint of most employers is that far more of their employees want to work on a Sunday than there are jobs available. The discrimination is that employees say to their
Column 623employers, "You have chosen your favourites to work on a Sunday and get double time and a day off in the week. Why have you not chosen me?" I acknowledge, however, that there are those who fear dismissal. My employment protection clause, therefore, clearly states that no existing employee can be dismissed for declining to work on a Sunday.
Horse racing will be the only addition to the sports that take place on a Sunday, and many people in that sport already work on a Sunday. With Sunday racing on the Continent, many or most jockeys race, and almost all trainers and stable lads already work on a Sunday. Few of those would have their lives radically changed.
Mr. MacKay : My Bill covers all Sunday sports. However, I have received no indication from those involved in dog racing that they have any desire to race dogs on a Sunday. I have deliberately had endless contacts with every interested party on this controversial issue, but I have not heard from those involved in dog racing. I hope that you will not rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because what I am about to say is not directly relevant to the Bill. There is a real worry about the stable lads. I have received very powerful representations from the Stable Lads Association and I have also met representatives of the Transport and General Workers Union. The case put forward by the Stable Lads Association is a strong one. As somebody who is not involved in the racing industry, I find it amazing, and anomalous, that there is a terrific amount of money in the industry--substantial amounts of prize money and substantial amounts of money changing hands when good horses are sold--but that stable lads are just about the worst-paid people anywhere in the country. I am appalled by their conditions of service, the hours that they work, and their pay.
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to the position of stable lads. Does my hon. Friend feel that during the past nine years the Horserace Betting Levy Board has been negligent in its duty in the way in which it hands out the money that is collected from bookmakers to put back into the industry? It has complete control over that money, but it fails miserably to look after the lot of the stable lads, who, incidentally, have to work on a Sunday with or without my hon. Friend's Bill, because they must feed and clean out the horses?
Mr. MacKay : I agree with my hon. Friend that, of course, on a rota system stable lads must exercise and feed the horses. I do not believe that this is an appropriate time to say how the matter will be resolved, but I feel that it is important that the House returns at a later date to tackle this subject properly. People with expert knowledge, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), would then be able to speak on the matter, and action would be taken.
I want to leave the House with my clear impressions as an outsider. Perhaps it is more significant when someone not involved in the racing industry mentions the working
Column 624conditions of stable lads than it is when someone who has a vested or constituency interests mentions those matters. I have no stable lads in my suburban constituency. A terrific amount of money is washing around within horse racing, but, at the same time, a group of dedicated people are being appallingly treated. I suggest to the business managers--I can see the Government Whip on the Front Bench--that there should be an opportunity for hon. Members on both sides of the House- -I believe there is terrific agreement--to discuss the matter further.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) : I sympathise with much that the hon. Gentleman has said. He would perhaps have been better introducing a Bill that would improve the lot of the stable lads. How can we really be justified in making special provisions for those who work in the racing industry and in the betting shops, but not protect the other workers who must work on a Sunday? That appears anomalous.
Mr. MacKay : I believe that the hon. Gentleman has missed the point. My employment protection clause covers anybody connected with Sunday sports. It could just as easily affect someone who was working for a football or a tennis club. It does not concern only horse racing.
Mr. Martlew rose--
I know many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak and I shall finish, as I started, by saying that I believe in freedom of choice. People know best how to run their own lives, and the House would do well to pass this measure of deregulation and trust the people.
Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe) : I do not believe that this is the right time to introduce a Bill of this kind. I thought so, too, when Lord Wyatt introduced a similar measure in the other place--and I told him so. The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) will recall that before he introduced his Bill to the House I invited him to withdraw it, because I again believed that it was not an appropriate time, and its assured defeat would only set back the cause of Sunday racing unnecessarily. I maintain the same views about the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay).
Those within the racing industry also share my belief that timing is important. I am vice-chairman of the all-party racing and bloodstock industries group and I serve under the distinguished chairmanship of the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) for whom I have affection as well as respect. We work together harmoniously but we disagree about this matter.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East is not the right person to introduce such a Bill. Such a sensitive issue calls for careful handling and there are only a few hon. Members-- [Interruption.] Well, the hon. Gentleman could not have invited more unnecessary controversy in recent weeks if he had tried. He has generated controversy in that quarter of the population from whom he could not have relied upon for support and, after a moment's, consideration he should have realised that such a group could retaliate once this Bill was introduced. That
Column 625unnecessary controversy in no way detracts from his integrity or his effective parliamentary skills. Nevertheless in recent weeks his judgment has slipped a little.
There are not many hon. Members who are qualified to introduce such a Bill. It must be someone who understands racing, commands the confidence of both sides of the House and the confidence of the Labour movement. It is not enough for the hon. Member for Berkshire, East to say that the wages of stable lads are appalling, he should be closer to that part of the industry. Having been drawn number four in the ballot for private Members' Bills, he should not simply have taken up this issue as a suitable vehicle, he should have been identified with the cause in advance.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : The hon. Gentleman has said that I was not associated with the cause in advance, but my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) will confirm that, last year, I was one of the sponsors of his Bill. An alternative argument to that advanced by the hon. Gentleman has been put to me by people in the racing industry who claim that it would not be helpful if such a Bill was introduced by someone whom outsiders saw as having a vested interest and that it would be more helpful if that person was neutral. Although the hon. Gentleman and I have devoted much of our speeches to horse racing, which is the most controversial part of the Bill, he should bear in mind that that is only one element of the Bill, which covers all sports.
Mr. Duffy : It is also important to have a feel for the subject matter. The hon. Gentleman has claimed that his credentials rest on being a sponsor of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Crawley. Eleven other hon. Members are sponsors of the Bill that has been proposed today, but only three of them are present. Prior to drawing number four in the private Members' ballot, the hon. Member for Berkshire, East never came near the all-party racing group nor those Labour Members who are closely involved with some of the problems with which the hon. Gentleman has expressed commendable sympathy.
My belief that the hon. Member for Berkshire, East is the wrong person to introduce such a Bill also rests on an article that appeared in The Racing Post three weeks ago when he described racing as "boring". It all adds up to a lack of conviction, credibility and acceptability to both sides of the House which, to my mind, cannot but seriously prejudice his chances of success today.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : I am listening with some incredulity to these objections. I am a sponsor of the Bill and if the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) gets a Second Reading for his Bill today I wonder whether he would kindly hand the Bill over to me so that I can take it through the House? I wonder whether that would meet the objections raised by my hon. Friend and we could proceed without further difficulties?
Mr. Duffy : No. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) stimulates me into revealing to the House that he was a close adviser to Lord Wyatt and we know what happened to his Bill. As far as I am aware, my right hon. Friend had no supporters on the Labour Benches for that Bill.
Mr. Denis Howell rose --
Sir Charles Morrison (Devizes) : The hon. Gentleman said that we all know what happened to the Bill introduced by Lord Wyatt--what happened what that it achieved a Third Reading in the House in which it started.
Mr. Duffy : I will say no more about Lord Wyatt except, in common with the hon. Member for Berkshire, East, he was the wrong person at the wrong time and I told him so. Lord Wyatt's Bill would not be accepted if it reached the House.
The hon. Member for Berkshire, East has provided the House with the wrong brief and his presentation is indistinguishable from a Jockey Club brief-- in recent years its judgment on this matter has been deplorable and I have told it so.
The hon. Gentleman displays a woeful ignorance of the structure of racing, its organisation and the present opinion within the industry on Sunday racing. In the absence of Sunday racing, he believes that the industry is placed at a "severe disadvantage" compared with other sports, but the reverse is true. No spectator sport enjoys greater exposure than racing, which takes place on every weekday--most days it takes place at more than one venue. There are evening meetings during the summer and on bank holidays, as I have already reminded the hon. Gentleman, the number of racing fixtures runs into double figures. According to the last annual report from the Jockey Club's senior steward, Lord Fairhaven, racing
"has rarely looked so challenging and exciting".
He says that with attendances, betting turnover and prize money all on the increase
"racing is in an exceptionally healthy state".
Therefore the racing industry is not desperate for the Bill.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : I do not want to keep interrupting the hon. Gentleman's speech and I hope that this will be the last time that I do so. The hon. Gentleman has said that I do not appear to be in touch or to understand people involved with horse racing and they do not share my views. I have corresponded, spoken to or met every possible organisation within horse racing. They are all strongly in favour of my Bill with two exceptions. One is the Transport and General Workers Union--my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will confirm its opposition as he was at the meeting. The other exception is the Stable Lads Association which has serious reservations about the Bill, some of which I have acknowledged today. Everyone else is in favour and, with the greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, it is possible that I am more in touch with the industry than he is.
Mr. Duffy : I shall be surprised if the hon. Gentleman is able to sustain that argument after he hears the rest of my speech. The hon. Gentleman has sought to draw an unfavourable comparison between Britain and other countries where racing takes place. In terms of fixtures, however, the British racegoer is much better provided for
Column 627than those in other countries--I only wish that our racegoers were as well provided with facilities. No doubt the hon. Gentleman has noticed that, during the past six months, The Times has published a weekly guide to racecourses. I am sure that he has read some of the biting criticisms in those surveys to which I shall return later. The pattern of racing at home is different from that found in the countries mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has recognised that the success of Sunday racing rests on the willing co-operation of the 100,000 people engaged in the racing and betting industries. Apart from consulting the Jockey Club I wonder how thoroughly the hon. Gentleman has sought to discover the opinion of the racing industry? Did the hon. Gentleman consult the Horserace Betting Levy Board?