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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : This matter was raised with Mr. Speaker on a point of order, at the beginning of the proceedings this morning, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to read Mr. Speaker's comments in Hansard tomorrow.
"The entertainments and amusements to which the Sunday Observance Act 1780 applies shall not include any race, athletic sports or other sporting event."
Column 637It could be seen as a stalking horse, whether wittingly or unwittingly, for Sunday trading. That is the implication, and that is the next step along from the Bill.
Some say that the Bill would introduce a creeping growth in unfettered Sunday commercial sport and its links to Sunday trading. Against the Bill is a coalition made up of churches, trade unions, retail groups, trade organisations and communities, so that the opposition goes across the spectrum. They are opposed to the Bill because they feel that, if it is passed, the traditional character of Sunday will be fundamentally and irreversibly changed.
Mr. McFall : Yes it has. The issue in Scotland is not relevant to the debate because Scotland was not included in the Shops Bill because the drafters overlooked it, assuming that Scotland, being a Presbyterian country, would not need the restrictions which they thought appropriate for England. That situation held until 10 years ago, when certain major firms-- mostly English-based retailers--decided that it was worth while to take advantage of the loophole in the law of Scotland. Therefore, the position of Scotland is different, and we cannot compare it with that in England.
The Bill will allow shops to be open on Sunday, and if some shops are open the floodgates of complete deregulation will be open, with all its attendant problems. Those who want the Bill advocate deregulation. Hon. Members have referred to questionnaires and have said that a certain percentage of people are in favour of the Bill, but I should like any questionnaire about Sunday trading to be linked to a complementary one about working on Sunday.
When the Auld committee considered the implications of the Shops Bill, it realised that there were many difficulties in the protection of shopworkers. In 1986, the late Earl of Stockton, speaking in the Committee on the Shops Bill, said :
"The Bill is meant to make it possible for people to trade freely on Sundays It is not meant to make life more difficult for shop assistants. It is not meant to make the conditions of their labour worse. I am not talking now about the kind of shops that probably will not open on a Sunday anyway But there are many small shops that will take advantage of this legislation. They will just be the kind of people who will try to exploit the weak and often transient population who are the kind of people likely to become shop assistants."--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 23 January 1986 ; Vol. 470, c. 159.]
Also, Baroness Ewart-Biggs said in a debate in the other place : "We must always remember that the two very vulnerable groups who would be most affected are the shopworkers".--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 8 February 1989 ; Vol. 503, c. 1568.]
Mr. Andrew MacKay : I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I respect his deeply held views. He seems to believe that, if my Bill is passed, shops will be open on Sundays on a fairly large scale. On 12 Sundays of the year, between noon and 6.30, bookmakers would be open, but not any other shops. Sunday opening could not be extended by my Bill. That would require the introduction of fresh legislation.
Mr. McFall : I accept that that is what is in the Bill. However, if the Bill were passed, a head of steam would build up. There is already a lobby in favour of changing the Shops Act and of deregulation. The Bill would give it added impetus.
The racing fraternity wants to have its cake and eat it. Why not simply allow on-course betting? The hon. Member for Berkshire, East spoke about his discussions with the Home Secretary. The Republic of Ireland has introduced racing on Sundays, but its betting shops do not open on Sundays. They take bets on Saturdays, and I see no inconsistency in that. Why should we not apply that system here? Many of those who support the Bill say that they are in favour of preserving the traditional Sunday, but that is fraudulent, because the two are mutually exclusive.
The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers is against the Bill because it fears that there will be no protection for shopworkers against exploitation. I realise that the Bill includes a schedule protecting the rights of existing employees, but employment legislation would need to be revised if the Bill were passed. There cannot be any meaningful protection for workers, and in support of that argument I cite the latest changes to the industrial tribunals for workers which make it harder for them to appeal. Unfortunately, what the hon. Gentleman, in good faith, has put in his Bill will not be sufficient protection for shopworkers.
Mr. Ray Powell : My hon. Friend mentioned USDAW. He will know that that union sponsors me. It is concerned not only about the effects of the Bill but about the fact that it could be the thin edge of the wedge for the introduction of Sunday shop opening. Will my hon. Friend comment on the USDAW stand on this matter since 1986?
Mr. McFall : USDAW has genuine fears. I have been into shops in my constituency over the past few weeks, knowing that the Bill was to be debated. In many supermarkets, 15, 16 and 17-year-olds take the money, and when I ask them what their conditions of work are they say that they work for a limited time, that there is no protection for them and that they can be dismissed just like that.
In my constituency there are two cases involving young people of 16 and 17. I have written to the supermarkets in question, as I have in other instances in the past year, and in reply to my letters to the supermarket chairmen I receive answers saying that they are sorry and that it will not happen again. That does nothing for the advancement and consolidation of shopworkers' rights. Therefore, USDAW is concerned about the Bill.
Mr. McFall : We are talking about management problems. It has already been suggested that there will be one free day, so that people will be left having to work a six-day week. Marks and Spencer carried out a study of shopping on Sundays. It looked at shopping patterns in America and concluded that the same amount of money is taken in six days as is taken in seven.
Sunday racing is but one step away from Sunday trading and it should be viewed in that light. Shopworkers and local residents ought to be consulted because they will be affected by the Bill. No hon. Member has referred to consulting individuals who will be affected by the Bill. Local issues are involved. There will have to be safeguards against unwarranted problems caused by hooligans. Local authorities as well as local groups have a role to play.
Local authorities should be given the power to license Sunday sport, after consultations with local groups. If the sponsor of the Bill had included such a provision, genuine consultation with all involved would have been assured. That would have been the best way to go about it. The Bill can be compared with the authoritarian way that the Government intend to go about issuing identity cards to football supporters.
There is a precedent for my suggestion that local people ought to be consulted over sporting fixtures--the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. A sports stadium is required to obtain a licence from the local authority before betting is allowed there. If such a provision were included in the Bill, it would be a much better Bill. There is a special quality about Sundays. Soon after the French Revolution of 1789 Sunday was abolished. Latin words were used to describe the days of the week, but Sunday was quickly re-established. Despite what the sponsors of the Bill want to do, I believe that Sunday is here to stay.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) on having introduced the Bill. It improves and expands the Bill that I introduced. It is right and proper that important and contentious matters of this kind should be debated by the House on a number of occasions. In that way they are refined and honed before they go into Committee ; meat can be put on the bare bones. My hon. Friend has done a remarkably good job in carrying out such full and extensive consultation. He has produced a little beauty of a Bill which deserves the full and wholehearted support of the House. At the least, it should be given a Second Reading and considered in Committee.
I regret that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) is not here to take his medicine, but I am going to give it to him in his absence. He made a disagreeable, sanctimonious and arrogant beast of a speech. It was destructive and mean. I think that the all-party racing and bloodstock committee should consider appointing a new vice-chairman. His portrayal of the racing industry was a travesty. No doubt we shall hear a similar speech from the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale). His assertion that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East was not the right and proper person to introduce the Bill was downright offensive. With his sponsors, such as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), my hon. Friend has done a thorough job. They have examined carefully the opportunities that were open to them to produce a better and more effective measure.
Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : Did the hon. Gentleman do my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) the courtesy of telling him that he intended to refer to him in such a way? If he did not, he has not served the House well.
Mr. Soames : That was the most extraordinary remark to make. The hon. Member for Attercliffe made a very long, offensive and controversial speech and then left the Chamber. If he did not have the manners to stay, that is a matter for him. Had I intended to raise the matter on another occasion, of course I should have informed him, but since he has not had the manners to stay he will have to read what I have said about him. I should be happy to repeat what I have said to him outside the Chamber.
Last Sunday, West Ham football club and the club of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), played an important match in front of a crowd of 22,000 people. A further 6 million watched the match on television. I am proud to say--because I know that Opposition Members do not follow football as keenly as Conservative Members--that my hon. Friend's team cantered to an easy victory and that they are coasting towards the final of the Littlewoods cup. We look forward to receiving the same hospitality as we did on the last occasion. Such sporting events take place every Sunday.
Every Sunday, sporting events take place against the background of the Sunday Observance Act 1780, in a spirit that openly and flagrantly breaches the law of the land. By charging for admission--whether for cash or tickets sold in advance, or for car parking or other reasons--Those events are taking place illegally. They include the Wimbledon finals, the British Open golf championships, the Littlewoods cup final, at which we hope to be the guest of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield, the British grand prix, the Sunday cricket league and the International polo championships, so frequented by Opposition Members. The list goes on.
In theory as well as in fact, all these events take place quite improperly. Their organisers are breaking the law when they charge for admission. The law is self-evidently being brought into disrepute. The House of Commons should not allow that to continue for a moment longer. It is a most unhappy and unsatisfactory state of affairs which cannot and must not be allowed to continue. It should not be for this House to prevent the extension of facilities for the further enjoyment of leisure by millions of our constituents. Sundays have changed. In my view they have changed for the better. Sunday is becoming an even more special day. More and more opportunities are opening up for families to spend the day together at a wide variety of events--and rightly so. The leisure industry, which is one of our biggest and most important of employers, is expanding all the time as demand grows.
Mr. Soames : I do not regard betting shops as being the crux of the Bill, but they are an important part of it. I understand the hang-up that the hon. Gentleman has about gambling, but I think that he is talking nonsense. It is perfectly possible and legal for all of us to go into a pub, or a bingo hall, or any other public place and fill slot machines with 50p coins on a Sunday. We can go to a casino--I am sure that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is never out of them on Sundays. If, like Opposition Members, we are better off, we probably have credit accounts at Ladbrokes, but the ordinary fellow who is not deemed creditworthy by that august organisation is not permitted to have a bet. It is a leftover from the nanny state which could be swept aside without any harm to the British populace. It is the worst sort of class distinction-- the sort that the Opposition have practised for many years.
Mr. Beith rose --
More than 110,000 public houses, restaurants and other licensed premises are open on Sundays. They have reached harmonious, honourable and satisfactory arrangements with their employees. There is no reason why racing should not do the same. There are many thousands more cafes, pizza parlours, hamburger houses and other eating places that do not sell drinks and are open on Sundays.
I hear no great clamour in the House for those facilities to be closed. I hear no great claims from the Lord's Day Observance Society that those are unsatisfactory and improper places. Does the House really believe that the opening of National Trust properties, gardens and museums as well as casinos and bingo halls has wrecked the spirit of the family Sunday? Of course it has not, and no more would racing on Sundays.
By and large, those who oppose the Bill are entirely out of touch with the feelings, demands and aspirations of family life in Britain today. They tend to use the word "family" as an entirely emotive red herring. The Bill prevents no one from going to church. Nor, I am glad to say, does it make it compulsory for people to go to church, and it does not stop people staying at home if they want to. But it does enable people to go legally, with or without their family, to the sporting event of their choice, and-- whisper it not in Sodom--to have a bet. It is hardly Sodom and Gomorrah made flesh at Kempton Park on a Sunday afternoon. We welcome back the hon. Member for Attercliffe. I am so sorry that he was away when I was having a word about his disagreeable little speech.
Mr. Duffy : One of the most strictly observed conventions of the House is that an hon. Member does not refer to another hon. Member without giving him notice of his intention to do so or, during the course of the debate, waiting until that hon. Member has resumed his seat. The hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that after I sat down I would be required in the Hansard room, as he shall be soon.
Mr. Soames : The hon. Gentleman speaks with much more experience than I do, but normally when one receives a note from Hansard it says, "Your speech will be ready for inspection within one hour." Because the hon.
Column 642Gentleman's speech was extremely simplistic, I am sure that it will be ready in about 10 minutes. I was not to know that the hon. Member would spend so long correcting his speech, although it was a rotten little speech. I was not to know that the hon. Gentleman would come back, and I shall be very happy to repeat to the hon. Gentleman outside the Chamber exactly what I said inside the Chamber. Although the hon. Gentleman is a senior Member, he would do well to remember that if he plans to make a constroversial speech, he should wait to hear what other folk have to say about it.
At present, sporting events are taking place entirely in contravention and breach of the Sunday Observance Act 1780, which describes such gatherings as "disorderly houses" or, "disorderly places"--rather like the parliamentary Labour party. [Interruption.] I am so sorry ; that was a terrible thing to say. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not be offended.
The present state of the law has surprised and shocked some of the eminent and important people who attend the Wimbledon finals and other great sporting occasions which take place on Sundays. The organisers of such events are liable to fines and, indeed, imprisonment. The law is still liable to pounce on Sunday sport, but it is largely unenforceable and unenforced, and for that reason it is brought into disrepute. That is an unattractive and unwelcome state of affairs for any Government of whatever persuasion. I believe that it should be put right.
Cricket, football and rugger matches at which admission is charged are held on Sundays as a matter of course. Some organisers, particularly of Sunday gold tournaments, try to get round the law by making spectators one-day club members. Sports venues such as Wembley have one free gate which they hope and pray no one will find. If it is found, there is room only for 200 people. Such transparent devices would rightly founder if tested in court. Some sporting organisations that do not have the muscle of the big sporting bodies are frightened to stage events on Sundays, although their members would very much like them to do so. That is further evidence of the higly discriminatory nature of the way in which the law has evolved. The sporting organisations, which I know have been fully canvassed by my hon. Friend, contrary to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), strongly wish these matters to be cleared up so that they no longer have to resort to subterfuge and continued malpractice. Surely, when a law is so widely and frequently broken in the presence of so many millions of people, it must be right for the House to adjust it to remove the threat of penalties. That is what happened when the Sunday Entertainments Act 1932 at last allowed admission to be charged for singing, musical and similar entertainments. Forty years later the Sunday Theatre Act 1972 made a similar provision and Sunday cinema shows have gradually been made legal and become popular. I hear no great cry from the Opposition, or from Conservative Members who disagree with the Bill, that such facilities should be withdrawn. But sport remains a major and serious victim. Parliament should not be seen to be too lax or easy going about such matters, but every Sunday the law of the land is brought into grave disrepute.
Although I greatly respect the views of the hon. Member for Dumbarton, the Bill has nothing to do with the Shops Act. I hope that he will accept that when I introduced my Bill, and when my hon. Friend the Member
Column 643for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) introduced his, it had nothing to do with the Shops Act. It is not a stalking horse for Sunday trading. I share the views of the Opposition about some aspects of Sunday trading.
Mr. Lofthouse : We accept that that is the case and we accept the sincerity with which the hon. Gentleman has spoken. However, does he agree that the Bill will make it legal for betting shops to be opened on Sundays? Why does he feel that that is essential and why are they to open on 12 Sundays? Why should they be open at all?
Mr. Soames : The guidance that my hon. Friend was given by the Home Secretary is that it would be acceptable for those betting shops to be open on only 12 Sundays a year. The hon. Gentleman may laugh, but the Bill provides for betting shops to open on only 12 Sundays a year.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : The hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) was not in his place when I made the point, so I shall clarify it for him. I would have been quite happy with on-course betting only when the organisers wanted to stage horse racing meetings on Sundays. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear that he and his advisers believed that having only on-course betting would lead to a return to the bad old days of the 1950s with illegal gambling and racketeering. I have to accept that from an eminent Home Secretary who has good professional advice. In order to take into account the views of hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), who are concerned about bookmakers opening on a Sunday, they have been restricted to opening on only 12 Sundays a year between noon and 6.30 pm.
Mr. Soames : I know and understand the reservations of the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), but he must accept in good faith that the Bill is not a stalking horse for the Shops Act. It would not allow a single extra retail shop to open or to spoil in any way the special nature of Sunday.
Most fixtures take place on grounds away from major centres of population. Horse racing is gravely discriminated against by Sunday laws and yet it is the favourite sport of millions of our fellow citizens from all backgrounds and all parts of the United Kingdom. The racing industry is rightly proud that it already provides marvellous entertainment for all the family. No other sporting gathering should find such favour with the Labour party. There is no sporting gathering at which the atmosphere is more friendly and welcoming than a gathering at a racecourse. A day at the races is a proper, old-fashioned day out in the open air with the added attraction of a superb spectator sport.
By their very nature, most of the 59 racecourses in Britain are away from built-up areas. To open racecourses on a Sunday would do no more to destroy the special nature of Sundays than does the opening of historic houses, garden centres, safari parks and museums. We are the only major racing country, apart from New Zealand, which does not have Sunday racing. In France, more than three times as many people go racing on a Sunday as the daily average for the rest of the week, including Saturday.
Mr. Martlew : Many times today France has been offered as an example that we should follow. Is it not a fact that in France one can lose one's money on a horse on Sunday and then eat the horse for dinner on Monday evening? They eat horses in France. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should follow the French example?
I should tell the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) that my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson), the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was a practising butcher before coming to the House. He went to see the film "Watership Down" and, as a good selling point, he bought 150 rabbits which he strung up outside his shop. He put a sign underneath saying "You've read the book, you've seen the film, now eat the cast." I know that that will be deeply shocking to Opposition Members, who are all vegetarian.
The House should know that many more people go to church in France than in Britain.
The point made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe with which I have the most sympathy--if it is possible to have such sympathy--is the only serious point in his speech. It concerns the difficulties of work and the problems attached to that. The hon. Gentleman and I duelled across the Floor when we debated this matter last year. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East consulted various bodies, including jockeys' valets, and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Sir C. Morrison) consulted many more organisations. I think that we have covered everybody. None of us was in any doubt that Sunday racing could not take place, and nor would the racing industry wish it to take place, without honourable and decent arrangements being made for all those who would take part, including stable lads, jockeys, jockeys' valets, racecourse staff and everyone else. An agreement would have to be arrived at which would enable Sunday racing to take place. That must go without saying.
Clause 3 incorporates a schedule into the Bill, which is certainly not perfect--my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East does not claim that it is perfect--but it is a decent starting point for the Bill to go into Committee and for discussions to take place which will help us to arrive at an honourable arrangement.
Mr. Thurnham : My hon. Friend said that more people in France go to church on a Sunday--and may then go to a race if they wish--than go to church in this country. Does he not think that the Lord's Day Observance Society should address itself more to that problem? In my constituency there are more Moslems in their mosques on a Friday and Jews in their synagogues on a Saturday than Christians in church on a Sunday.
Mr. Soames : I would not wish to be drawn into such an argument because I may have to debate those matters with the bishop of Durham. I agree with my hon. Friend that that is one of the fallacies of the argument put by Opposition Members. Those who oppose the Bill do so for such rag, tag and bobtail reasons that it is difficult to find out where their objections lie.
This is an excellent and important Bill. It will bring great pleasure to millions of ordinary folk in Britain and will harm no one. It will return to the law the respect to
Column 645which it is entitled. I urge the House to consider carefully allowing the Bill to go into Committee for further and deeper consideration.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : I am glad to be the first Opposition Member to endorse the Bill and to congratulate the hon. Members for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) and for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who introduced a similar Bill on a previous occasion, on the impeccable logic of their speeches today as well as their support for the measure. I should also like to congratulate Lord Wyatt in another place who introduced a similar Bill and, with great skill, persuaded their Lordships that it should be passed into law.
I have a record on this matter. On 14 March 1958, shortly after coming to the House, I won first place in a ballot for private Members' motions. I introduced a motion calling for a Select Committee to be set up to deal with Sunday observance. It is now 30 years on and one would have liked to think that we would have made more progress on people's cultural activities, which is how sport should be described.
When we changed the rules for the arts, music and the theatre we had none of the unacceptable and illogical opposition that arises when we deal with sport. As a sporting man, I take grave exception to the distinction that has been made by some--and I am sorry to say that some of the opposition comes from my hon. Friends--between one man's sporting and leisure activities and those of another. I hope that we can put that right.
The Sunday observance laws still obtain in this country and go back to the 17th century. I mention that because we have to explain how we approach these matters. I respect the views of those who have spoken today but with which I thoroughly disagree. Few people in the House or outside would think it right to defend legislation of a social character which looked back over 300 years. The Sunday Observance Act 1625 says that there should be no sport or pastimes on a Sunday and a fine is still in operation. It is three shillings and fourpence. In those days I suppose that it was a lot of money. There was further legislation on Sunday observance in 1677 and 1780. Those who oppose the Bill for football supporters' identity cards will find a certain piquancy about the Sunday Observance Act 1780 which in retrospect, should be known as the "Moynihan Act". It makes it illegal to row or ride in a boat which is mechanically propelled. Hon. Members know that the Minister with responsibility for sport does no sport better than rowing a boat. The legislation, which was 300 years ahead of its time, was designed to curtail his activities. I only hope that the authors of the legislation come to our assistance when we debate the diabolical plan to introduce football identity cards.
Although they are still on the statute book, those laws have fallen into disrepute, and we must face up to that fact. Many years ago, it was illegal for a working man to place a bet with a bookmaker. I used to do that on behalf of my father when he was ill. It gave him a lot of pleasure to have a flutter. It occupied his mind to read the Daily Herald, as it was in those days, and ask, "Would you please put a bet on for me?" That was his great interest in life. Some hon. Members like to think that they represent the working classes. I accept that the definition of working people is
Column 646much broader than it was in the old days, but we must not despise the simple pleasures of ordinary people who want to have a bet on a Sunday or on any other day.
Sport and worship on a Sunday are not incompatible. I regularly watch Warwickshire cricket club play on Sundays and then go to evensong, which happens to be my favourite service, and I greatly enjoy it. Next Sunday, when I am in Torquay having a weekend's break, I shall go to the United Reformed central club. If it were possible to watch Torquay United, I would do so, but they will not be playing. I shall indulge in some other pleasures which certainly rely upon the employment of people in the hotel, leisure, recreation or boating industries. If I decide, as I often do when I am on holiday, to do a little sea angling and hire a boat and a boatman to take me out to sea, it never occurs to me that there is anything incompatible between worship and that enjoyment.
It has always been my approach to life that, in essence, the purpose of recreation is spiritual. We should emphasise the word "recreation". That is what we do on Sundays, and that is one reason I do not want to see the nature of Sunday greatly transformed and why I have always voted against Sunday trading regulations, and I shall continue to do so. Sport, recreation, theatre and the arts are part of recreation.
On a theological subject, if the House will not mind my indulging myself for a moment. I shall refer to something that I said in the House on 14 March 1958. I said that William Temple, one of the greatest archbishops of this country--I am certain that that is accepted by Opposition Members-- speaking on this very subject, said : "The most precious gift of God to man is that of individual free will."
On the importance of individual free will, which he said was greater than almost any other concept in a democratic society, he said :
"It is worthwhile to notice how absolute was Christ's respect for the freedom of personal choice. He would neither bribe nor coerce men to become followers. Judas must be allowed to betray Him if he is so determined. Not even to save a man from that will the Lord override his freedom. For on freedom all spiritual life utterly depends. It is astonishing and terrifying that the Church has so often failed to understand this."
That is extremely moving writing by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and we should take it into account. I rest my case on the essence of free will representing the centre of the Christian faith. I have another interest to confess. More than anybody else, I am responsible for the start of Sunday football in this country. It started during the war when we were working six and a half days a week in Birmingham. The only time we had for relaxation was on Sunday afternoons. Therefore, I decided to form a Sunday football league. It was the first Sunday league ever affliated with the Football Association. Such was the humbug operating in those days that, to get it affliated, we had to call it the Birmingham Monday League--Sunday Section. That is how Sunday football originated in this country. At the end of the war, when people were a little more relaxed and we were clearly winning and there was the development of Sunday cricket, the great Cavaliers organisation was started by the late Basil Harvey, and it included people such as Denis Compton and others who, although they were in the forces, turned out on Sundays. One of the greatest cricket performances I have ever seen was performed by the late Sir Learie Constantine, who
Column 647later became Lord Constantine--he was Learie to us. He gave a magnificent demonstration of all aspects of cricket-- batting, bowling and fielding--on a Sunday at the Edgbaston cricket ground. I had spiritual uplifting from that performance. Some people might find that hard to understand, but I treasure that experience.
As we have been told many times today, Sunday sport is an essential part of the fabric of life of this country. No right hon. or hon. Member would dare say that we want to invoke the Sunday Observance Act and stop all Sunday sport. I am glad to say that nodoby is proposing any such thing. One of the great virtues of the Bill, against which people have a legitimate point to raise in opposition, is its sense of balance. Hon. Members must ask themselves whether, because they object to betting shops being open on 12 Sundays, they should oppose legitimising all sport. The royal family and the Prime Minister attend events such as Wimbledon. I like to think that the right hon. Lady's occasional association with sport is for the benefit of the nation. I wish that she would go more often. We might then get better political decisions from her.
We have Sunday football. I acknowledge the great achievements of Luton Town. I wish the team well in its forthcoming encounters. In the presence of the distinguished chairman of that club, the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans), I am glad to say that if his team goes to Wembley, none of his supporters will need identification cards. Many more thousands will be there to cheer them on than he could manage to get into his ground at Luton, where he is keeping them out. But that matter is for another day. I genuinely wish Luton every success.
What are we to say to the 500,000 people who turn up to watch motor racing events such as the grand prix? Are we to discount those people and say that they are engaged in some evil activity? Certainly not. What about people who watch motorcycle scrambles, rugby league matches and golf--the Ryder cup and the British Open? We have to take account of their wishes. If there are good reasons, who is to override them? We are not entitled to do so. That is our purpose here. But there are no good reasons to override the recreational activities of millions of British people.
I wonder what people who object to Sunday sport do on Sundays in their homes. If they were logical, they would never turn on the radio or watch the television. Millions of people get pleasure from watching football matches, cricket or golf on television on Sundays. Sometimes they even watch racing, but that must be projected from abroad. I have never met people--I suspect that there are only few--who say that they will not allow any activity on Sunday in their household, and who do not listen to the radio or watch television. To provide us with those pleasures entails the employment on Sunday of large numbers of people, most of whom do not wish to work on Sundays.
I am a lifelong trade unionist. This is almost my 50th year of membership of my union, for 12 years of which I have been president. I understand the difficulties about trade union rights and protecting working people. The Bill will give more statutory protection to workers in Sunday employment than has ever been put on the statute book by any Act in my 30-odd years in this House. I welcome that and want to take advantage of it.
Column 648If Ladbrokes will not allow people to join the union, to which I understand one of my colleagues who is sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union will draw attention, that is disgraceful. Everybody has a right to join a trade union and to be organised. If I am fortunate enough to serve on the Committee, I shall be happy to do what I can to extend trade union rights, protections and recognition as far as possible. Certainly protection for those who do not want to work on Sundays and proper rates of pay for Sunday work can be included in the Bill. That will be a great advance for the trade union movement and something which we have not had previously.
Mr. Soames : I know that the right hon. Gentleman was extremely helpful to me last year when we were discussing these matters and that he helped Lord Wyatt to draft the schedule. Does he agree that it is not possible to have racing on Sunday, leaving aside the question of TGWU representation in betting offices, unless an honourable agreement is reached by all concerned on day one? It would not work without it.
Mr. Howell : I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. At the end of the day we must have good will to enact anything. However, I have sympathy with the points raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) read, I think from a survey in The Times, about the conditions of race courses. Some of us would like to apply our mind to that. The Jockey Club and other institutions must be as zealous about safeguarding conditions and paying proper wages to stable boys and others as about prize money and other aspects of racing. I should like them to go down that road. It is to the great credit of Lord Wyatt that in the other place he raised several outrageous matters and managed to get the Jockey Club and others for the first time to think about the welfare of their employees.
I am all for protecting stable boys and people in betting shops, but we all take full advantage of others who work on Sundays, for example, in hotels, restaurants and seaside resorts. When my hon. Friends tell me that we must not allow anything which causes a disturbance on Sunday, I wonder what they think happens in Blackpool, Torquay or Cornwall during the summer season. People work for our pleasure and convenience and we should be glad that they do. As a trade unionist and Socialist, I want those people to have every possible protection, the right to join a union and proper rates of overtime. That is perfectly legitimate and arguable. We can no longer say to people in the leisure business, any more than we can say to doctors, nurses, and workers in the gas, electricity, water and transport industries, "We do not want you to work on Sundays." We know that they do not want to work on Sundays, but they work for the convenience of the nation. We should ensure that their rights and conditions are protected.
Mr. Thurnham : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that more than 5.5 million people work on Sundays? The proposals to deregulate Sundays would increase that figure by only about 10 per cent. or less. Does he agree that a great deal of humbug and hypocrisy is spoken about this?
Mr. Howell : I would not go that far, but I know from my 35 years' experience in this House that a lot of humbug and hypocrisy is spoken on every conceivable subject that we are likely to debate. We must consider these matters as reasonable men and women.