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Mr. Ray Powell : I support amendment No. 65 on double-time payments for shopworkers. After leaving Pentre grammar school, my first job, at the age of 16, was behind the counter of the Co-operative Society shop in Treherbert. It was just after the war. There was a sugar supply depot underneath the shop and we were asked to work on Sunday to load the shop's vans with extra sugar supplies. Even then, and I am going back a few years, we were paid double time for working on Sunday.
We are now to decide whether shopworkers should be paid double time for Sunday work, so what has changed? My wages at the Co-operative Society were not high enough, and at the age of 17 I went to work on the railways as a fireman. At that time, almost 50 years ago, British Rail paid its firemen, drivers, porters and guards double time for working on Sunday, yet tonight we are debating whether double time should be paid. The responsibility for that lies with the Government because they presented the Bill on deregulation. At first, they wanted total deregulation, but to appease their friends and others, they decided to support partial deregulation whereby all shops could open and the big shops could open for only six hours on a Sunday. A lot of my hon. Friends fell into the trap, but 90 of the Government's supporters voted for the Keep Sunday Special option.
The debate on keeping Sunday special was about employment protection and double time pay for shopworkers, which is what Keep Sunday Special has advocated since 1986. We have not changed our minds--we are determined that workers should have minimum double time pay if they are expected to work.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : Does not the argument go further than that? Is not my hon. Friend, robustly as always, giving the Minister the chance to enhance his promotion prospects by going "back to basics"?
Mr. Powell : Quite. I do not know where it will lead if we start to debate "back to basics", but surely that policy should mean allowing double pay and maintaining tranquillity on Sundays, as enjoyed by my generation and that of my father and grandfather, and should not lead to the pollution of the environment. Sunday shopping will increase pollution. Last Friday, we had a tremendous debate in the Chamber about the amount of environmental
Column 346pollution that will be created by Sunday opening. Traffic and energy consumption in shops will increase by seven- days-a-week opening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) will have a marvellous time shopping from Monday to Saturday, with shops open 24 hours a day, six days a week--144 hours a week in total. I am sure, therefore, that she will not want to shop on Sunday. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), who boasts that he always shops on Sunday, will not want to do so now that shops are open 144 hours a week. My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford referred to unsocial hours. We worked unsocial hours on the railway. We went to work at 2am or 3am, but we were paid well compared with other people for working unsocial hours. Have the Government considered extra pay for shopworkers who must work unsocial hours and must man shops for 24 hours a day?
Mr. Grocott : Is not it worthy of note that the Government are clearly treating the important amendments with contempt because, on the Government Benches, there is a Whip, who looks rather sleepy and is obliged to be here, a Minister, who is obliged to be here--both of them are paid additional salaries for being here--and a Parliamentary Private Secretary, who hopes to earn an additional salary in the future for his loyal attendance today? That shows the Government's contempt for the issues that we are debating.
Mr. Powell : I am glad that my hon. Friend made that intervention. The lack of Conservative Members is very noticeable. Indeed, during the previous debate, the Minister referred to the empty Benches and, within a matter of minutes, they started to fill, mostly on the Opposition side. The attendance of Conservative Members is deplorable. My hon. Friend is right to raise that matter. The previous amendment, which proposed protection for workers, was voted down by 298 to 280--a majority of 18. That is one vote more than their majority in the Keep Sunday Special vote on 6 December.
I do not know whether the Minister is pleased with the result tonight and with the fact that he has a sufficient majority to vote down every reasoned amendment that the Opposition have tabled. My hon. Friends were deluded into voting for the Government's proposal by promises about employment protection. Those promises were made only four days before the vital vote, but during the two years that I fought for my private Member's Bill on Sunday trading, the Government constantly told me that they would not give concessions on employment protection and would not consider double time for Sunday work. It was not Government policy. During that period, they abolished the wages councils, the only protection on which shopworkers could depend. They now pretend that they will ensure employment protection for shopworkers.
Ms Eagle : Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the Government continually vote against amendments that seek employment protection, those of us who voted for partial deregulation on a wait-and-see basis--we said that we would wait and see what employment protection would amount to when the Bill left Committee--will have no option but to vote against the Bill on Third Reading?
Mr. Powell : I am very glad that my hon. Friend raised that important point. On Report we shall highlight the fact that the Government clearly promised employment protection and, in so doing, denied us the right to amend the Bill by turning down all our amendments. We tabled 23 amendments and four new clauses and I should not be surprised if, at the end of tonight's debate, we find that we have been defeated on them all. We should bear that in mind on Report and Third Reading. I am confident that unless the Minister promises to support double-time payments now he will find that some Conservative Members will join us in voting against the Bill. What would happen then?
If the Bill were defeated, we should be left with the Shops Act 1950. We should not be afraid of that. It would give my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), who is the president of the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers, the satisfaction of knowing that her members would be protected to a certain extent. Shopworkers have some protection under the Act but the Bill would take it away. I am not aware of all the information distributed by USDAW--perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Preston or my party's Front-Bench spokesmen have it. For some unknown reason, my sources of information from USDAW have dried up since USDAW changed its mind about supporting Keep Sunday Special and decided to support the Shopping Hours Reform Council. I do not know why I no longer receive information. I do not seek a confrontation with USDAW and I accept its decision.
I was talking about the promises that the Tories made when the Bill was first debated. When I read the Second Reading debate, I believed that the Government would be reasonable and offer three options but, in fact, there were four. I cannot blame the Government for the fourth but I know their strategy. The first option was total deregulation ; the second was the Keep Sunday Special option ; and the third was that supported by the Shopping Hours Reform Council. The Government tried their best to confuse us by allowing a fourth option to be introduced but Keep Sunday Special was prepared to do everything possible to reduce the complexity of the vote on 8 December, unlike the Government.
It is passing strange to say the least that the press did not highlight the Government's defeat on 8 December which was far worse than the defeat in 1986 when I was proud to be able to announce that the Government were beaten by 14 votes despite having a majority of 140. This time, the Government received 174 votes for total deregulation but there were 404 against. That clearly shows the feelings of hon. Members at the time.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : If the hon. Gentleman was right and the Government's option was total deregulation--which it was not--the voting should tell him that the Government allowed a completely free vote so the result was a true decision of the House. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not muddy the water by pretending that the Government had a secret agenda--they did not.
Mr. Powell : The Minister made the same comment to me in Committee on 8 December. However, in the week before the vote on 8 December the Evening Standard carried one big headline which said that Major supported total deregulation. It was also reported on the inside pages that the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the
Column 348Exchequer supported total deregulation. It stated that 90 per cent. of the Cabinet and a number of hon. Members supported that option, so the Minister cannot argue that total deregulation was not the Government's preference when all his senior Cabinet colleagues supported it. He said that there was a free vote on 8 December ; why is there not a free vote tonight on employment protection? Why is there not a free vote on double-time payments? If there were a free vote, I am sure that 298 hon. Members would not have voted against the previous amendment.
Mr. Powell : Of course we have a three-line Whip. The Government used a three-line Whip to get the partial deregulation option passed. If we examine the chapter and verse of what they were offering in terms of employment protection, it is clear that some of my colleagues were conned. We tried to explain where they have been conned and criticised them for it but some Conservative Members have also been conned.
This group of amendments contains some reasonable and realistic proposals. I refer in particular to amendment No. 60 which deals with the hourly rate of pay and amendment No. 65 which deals with double time. I ask the Committee to ensure that they are carried with a good majority.
Mr. Alton : I am happy to support the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and I congratulate him on his impassioned plea to the Committee to accept the amendments which go to the very heart of the Bill. No one who values the right of employees and workers to receive a decent remuneration for their labours can be ambivalent about them.
It is clear that the so-called compromise is nothing but a deregulatory option and was simply second best for those who favour total deregulation. Some people believed that there would be employment protection but the Government must have seen them coming. Let us consider the Government's record since 1986. They have abolished the wages councils and we all know their attitude to the social chapter, to the rights of workers in general and to trade unions. If one considers the Government's approach only this week to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill which covers every day-- not only Sunday--it is clear that they did not intend to provide employment protection in this Bill. They will never ensure a proper rate for the job.
In the debate on schedule 2 in Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said in an intervention that people must have the choice of being allowed to work on Sundays. Interestingly, the hon. Gentleman revealed that that would enable people who could work on a Sunday to earn £16 for their efforts. That is the sort of sum that we are talking about. Double time ? Double what ? People will be forced to work on Sundays ; they will have no choice. They will lose their jobs, or not get jobs in the first place, if they will not work on Sundays, so we are right to be passionate about the amendments, which go to the heart of the Bill.
I say to hon. Members who are reconsidering the question, and are looking intelligently at what is on the agenda, as the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) has
Column 349done, that there will be another opportunity before Third Reading to undo the damage that the Bill seeks to do. We can do that on Report. The hon. Member for Ogmore told us that on an earlier vote this evening the majority was 18. In other words, if eight or nine Members changed their votes on Report we could narrow and restrict the Bill. The same was true of the Government's three-card trick when we first considered the options. The majority then was 19. The only genuine employment protection will be to restrict the number of shops that can open on Sundays to those that meet the reasonable needs of most people. By and large, that will distinguish between the big hypermarket stores and the small convenience shops that serve our communities. We should support the protection of the jobs in those small corner shops, and the people whose livelihoods are based on their being able to stay in business. That, too, is employment protection.
We should do well to consider the evidence from elsewhere, and unregulated countries provide some evidence of what may happen. During an earlier debate I mentioned a survey in Scotland. One in five of the shops that replied to that survey admitted that they did not give any premium pay whatever for working on a Sunday, and more than one in three did not give a day off in lieu. That is what will happen if we have purely voluntary arrangements here. There will be a continued erosion and continued downward pressure on rates of pay. In a study of 900 small retailers in Cambridge, Coventry, York, Wales and London surveyed in 1993 by the department of applied economics at Cambridge university, two thirds of the staff working on Sunday received no premium payments whatever. In New Zealand, where legislation almost identical to that in the Bill was recently introduced, the Second Sweating Commission, set up in 1990 to consider the conditions of employment of shop workers, concluded : "The extension of shop trading hours has gone hand in hand with the deterioration of employee rates of pay and conditions. Extensions to shop trading hours strengthen the position of the employers while weakening and handicapping the ability to improve [employees'] wages and conditions".
That is the main reason for the amendment, and the reason why we must build in proper remuneration for people already being required to sacrifice the time that they want to spend at home with their families on Sunday.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) rightly asked for two votes at the end of the debate, because there is another issue associated with the group of amendments--the number of hours that people work. When hon. Members voted for the semi-deregulatory option last year, they believed that people would work for a total of six hours. That is not the case. The time when the shop is being prepared beforehand and cleared up afterwards is an extension of the six hours, so that we already have the eight hours that many in the Shopping Hours Reform Council and others have on their agenda. We know where that is leading--down what the hon. Member for Deptford called the slippery slope.
If the amendments are not accepted, no one in his right mind will be able to carry on supporting the Bill. Anyone who gave it the benefit of the doubt on previous votes must surely change his or her vote on Report, and reduce the number of premises that will be allowed to open on Sunday. I hope that we shall be able to return to that debate in the context of whatever we decide today. We should not rely on a vote on Third Reading. It is all very well for some
Column 350to say we shall go back to the 1950 position if we proceed to a Third Reading vote that simply negatives the whole Bill, but most of us do not want to go back to that position. We want proper employee protection and reasonable remuneration, and we want to tighten the categories of shops that can open on Sundays--the very provisions that the hon. Member for Ogmore proposed in his private Member's Bill last year.
Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East) : I shall speak to amendment No. 60, but I also support the other amendments in the names of my hon. Friends and all that has been said about them. I ask hon. Members to consider a minimum hourly rate because, although there is an amendment on double pay, it has already been said that double nothing is still nothing. There is a minimum level of pay that should apply in any society that regards itself as having any semblance of decency. The suggested formula linked to social security payments would not give a fortune to people who turn out to work on Sunday, but it would provide a reasonable return for a proper day's work, especially for a Sunday-only worker.
The old-fashioned idea of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work was a good one. It is still good, but regrettably people are working for less than £1 an hour these days. Indeed, this morning I heard of someone working for 80p an hour. Hon. Members may ask why on earth people agree to work for so little, but the answer is clear. Hon. Members who take the time to visit their constituencies and move among the people who live there know that there is considerable pressure on people to earn a few more bob to look after themselves and their families. Unemployment appears to be endemic in this society. The idea that people can come to a voluntary agreement about how much they will sell their labour for is nonsense. The truth is that with unemployment so high--notwithstanding the small but welcome decreases, it looks as though it will stay high and we do not know the true level--it is not possible for an individual worker to be in a position of equality with an employer which would enable him or her to negotiate a proper rate of pay.
Ms Eagle : Does my hon. Friend agree that Conservative Members who trust the market to preserve premium payments, and who therefore oppose statutory premium payments for Sunday working, are being naive about the dynamics of how the market works? Does he also agree that proof positive of the downward pressure on wages is provided by what has happened in former wages council industries since wages councils were abolished? Wages in those industries have plummeted from what were already low enough levels to rates such as he has just mentioned.
Mr. Purchase : My hon. Friend is right. Her experience in the trade union movement has shown her clearly the dynamics of the market as they affect supply of and demand for labour. Unfortunately, thousands of people who work for a pittance on Sundays, and on other days, have no real knowledge or experience of how to maximise their position within the market. Inevitably such people have to fall back on the Houses of Parliament to offer them some kind of protection consistent with decency in a decent society. That is certain.
I turn briefly to the question of those employees who are covered by trade union agreements and who have good representation. The calculation that I offer, which is based
Column 351on social security levels, would produce an hourly rate of £3.57. That does not seem much, I agree. However, compared to what is currently paid, at least it makes sense for people to work on Sunday in the belief that they will make a real contribution to, usually, their children.
We have read recently about child poverty in the United Kingdom. I am ashamed as a citizen of the country to learn--I thought that I knew about child poverty--that our children are in such poverty and that we are in the bottom quartile of any league table. I know that those people who will work on Sundays will be mainly women, single parents and married women. The sole purpose will be to give a little extra to those children. I make an impassioned plea on behalf of children because more than ever they need the benefit of a little more coming into the home. If we as parliamentarians cannot make a law that enables people to look after their children under difficult circumstances, we must ask ourselves whether there is any moral basis on which we can gather as parties and agree that there are certain levels of pay below which no one should be paid.
It is regrettable that the Government have already stated that they will resist double-time working. If that proposal is lost, it would be a disgrace. If they fail to recognise the justice of the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), at least we should provide some kind of fallback of a modest, hourly rate of £3.57, which would be indexed to social security payments year on year, or whenever they were changed to take account of increases in the cost of living. The overwhelming fraction of people who work in the retail industry and who are not covered by trade union agreements have a right to look to us to offer some minimum protection.
Of course, to offer protection would fly in the face of everything that the Government have been saying. The Government have said that we should get rid of the wages councils, and the International Labour Organisation conventions. The Government have asked why they matter and have said that everybody is free to sell their labour for what they can. However, only under conditions when markets are clearly in demand for labour can workers assert themselves and claim what is rightfully theirs. Those conditions do not apply.
If we cannot guarantee double-time working as my hon. Friend has suggested, we should have a minimum rate of pay. That would still mean that people would earn less than £30 for eight hours' work on a Sunday. We have decided that Sunday is special and that shops are to open only for six hours. Yet we know that that day will run into eight hours, and if one adds the travelling time of possibly half an hour each way, people will be away from home on a Sunday for nine hours. All that I am proposing is that they receive a reward of, probably, less than £30.
In the past month, Conservative Members and, I suspect, Opposition Members, too, have paid £30 just for a bit of dinner in one of the restaurants in London. I have seen them. Yet, when it comes to the vote tonight, I wonder whether they will have the decency to recognise that people working on that special day have a right to a decent level of remuneration.
If we do not establish a minimum rate for Sunday work, there will be Sunday -only workers, working for low wages, which are probably less than the rates for which they work the rest of the week. The people who have to go to work for extra money will be taken on as Sunday-only workers
Column 352and employers will not be quick to pay the same rate as they pay in the week if there is a reserve army of labour which is ready, forced and with no option but to work for less. Those people will be employed and we will discover scandalous rates of pay.
Soon after, the gaffer would sidle up to them, tell them that they did a good job for him on a Sunday, ask them if they would like to work on a Saturday afternoon and pay them the same rate. Before you can say "Jack Robinson", Dame Janet, you can be absolutely sure that the rates of pay in the retail industry will be pushed down and they shall be not only in the lowest quartile, but right at the bottom of the pay league for people who labour in difficult and, on occasions, dangerous circumstances. In some of the shopping queues in the sales, people need protection.
I am absolutely serious in saying that it will not be long before the general rate of pay in the retail industry becomes smaller and smaller. Recently, we have witnessed a new phenomenon of large, decent, proper and fair employers buying out trade union representations. Under constraints, the workers may be prepared to take a fistful of dollars or 30 pieces of silver to sell their trade unions rights. In the longer term, with the lack of proper, reasonable and fair employers, we know that they are on to the game and that they intend to come out the winners. By opening on a Sunday, they know that there will be no more sales made, but that the sales will be merely transferred from one day to another.
Our duty is to press the Government as we have never pressed them before and to tell them that they will be accused and be seen as being unfair to people who give up their Sunday for the convenience of those who wish to shop on a Sunday. The people who shop are, in almost every circumstance, better paid than those labouring in the shops. The Government will be seen as unfair and unreasonable in not accepting a minimum rate of pay on Sundays, which is tied to the pathetic levels of social security that we presently endure. I ask the Committee to support the group of amendments.
Ms Jackson : May I say what a pleasure it is to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mr. Purchase). I heartily endorse every argument that he made, but I shall speak to the amendment on premium pay for Sunday workers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) referred to the fact that there is no choice or freedom for millions of people over the decision whether they will work on Sunday. We should consider not only that unemployment has risen to intolerable levels, but that one in four of the poorest people in the entire European Community lives in these islands. Concomitant with unemployment are increasing and deeper levels of poverty throughout Britain. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North- East pointed out, those who suffer most are invariably the most vulnerable- -children.
In my constituency I know of women who are desperate to work on Sunday, even though the rates of pay are shamefully low in a country as rich as ours and when we are so close to the 21st century. Those women want to work for two essential reasons. Sunday is probably the only day on which they are free of their domestic responsibilities, their children, to be able to work to bring home that little bit extra which may mean that their
Column 353children have, for example, a new pair of shoes. Women work on Sunday not because they have empty hours to fill and want to make a little pin money but for the basic essentials of life with which to provide their children. We know that 1.5 million families in which the breadwinner is in full-time employment are eligible to claim family credit. Thus, low rates of pay are becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), I was not at all in two minds over how to vote on the issue of Sunday trading. I have never believed, and I do not believe now, that a Government who have brought in their train the reduction of workers' rights as exercised by trade unions, who have abolished wages councils and who advertise the British work force to our European competitors as the cheapest in Europe will defend workers and workers' wages. Many women who work on Sundays give up time with their children and time with their partners. One of the arguments advanced on Second Reading was that Sunday shopping was a leisure activity that families should be able to enjoy together. We should bear in mind the fact that women who work on Sundays to provide the basics for their families have given up that possibility, as have their children and partners. They are being asked to subsidise families whose economic circumstances are much better than their own. That is something for which the House should not legislate. The House should legislate for the entire population who will be affected by the Bill.
The House spoke comparatively clearly on the issue of Sunday trading : it did not want total deregulation and it definitely felt that Sunday should still be regarded as something of a special day. One of the easy ways of preserving that special element is to ensure that those who work in the retail industry receive premium payments--that they get double pay.
There was never any doubt in my mind : I knew that the Government would never allow worker protection and would whip against the possibility of double pay on Sunday. But I know that some Conservative Members were prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt and went through the Lobby thinking that they would give the Government the opportunity to show that they were concerned for workers in the transmogrification--if that is the correct word--of Sunday from a special day into a partially special day. Regrettably, none of them is present at the moment, but I would say to them that they can make the difference in the vote tonight. We have an absolute duty to our people to ensure that, in this instance, the Government truly mean what they say. They should not whip for total deregulation and they should allow everyone to exercise his or her conscience in respect of partial deregulation on the understanding that the Bill would afford sufficient protection to those who, for a variety of reasons, have to work on Sundays. I say to those Conservative Members that they should make their Government--for the first time in my experience of this Administration--deliver their promise.
Mrs. Wise : I do not think that the Government are naive in wanting to leave wages, including wages on Sunday, to market forces. They are under no illusions : they know that the process will result in lower and lower wages. They want to make true their statement that low pay is
Column 354better than no pay. They are driving social security rates down as near to no pay as they can manage, compelling people to feel that low pay is better. That is absolutely deplorable. It is deplorable from Monday to Saturday and it is deplorable on Sunday. The Minister himself said that Sunday has always been treated differently. Are we not therefore entitled to expect that difference to be followed through, especially in these times when wages are being driven down? It is deplorable that the number of hon. Members on the Conservative Benches has varied between two and five. Of course, we do not expect them to be interested in this matter. What we expect and what we get are crocodile tears and pseudo-concern for the work force. They say that people want to work on Sunday. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) that the reason why people volunteer to work on Sunday is straightforward and simple : it is not just that they want the money ; it is that they need the money. Those of my hon. Friends who have talked about desperation hit the nail on the head. People are desperate to earn the money.
At the moment, for many people, going to work on Sunday is more remunerative than going to work on any other day. I suggest that there are three reasons why many large companies are willing to pay double time or significant premium payments short of double time. The first reason is trade union organisation, which long ago produced a better rate for Sunday- -buttressed in the past by the fact that there was a legal minimum rate for Sunday working. Until 1986, the wages councils could deal with, for example, premium pay for unsocial hours, holidays and Sunday work. There has always been some Sunday work in shops and the legal minimum was double time.
The trade unions built on that and secured voluntary agreements with the better employers to pay double time, which outlived the abolition of the power of the wages councils to fix Sunday rates. Double time is not a new idea on the part of the trade unions or of Labour Members. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) said, it has a long tradition--it is the norm and the custom and it should be the absolute minimum.
Another reason why some employers still pay double time is that, until now, workers have had other choices and have had to be attracted into working on a Sunday. Until very recently, most shops did not open on a Sunday and workers had other choices. If retailers wanted to attract workers to work on Sunday, they had to do something special, and double time was the answer.
The third reason is that many employers have been trying to induce people to work illegally. Given that they were trying to persuade workers to break the law, it is not surprising that they had to have something substantial on offer to those workers.
Once this Bill and the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill have gone through, at least two of those conditions will no longer apply : more and more shops will be opening and it will be harder for people to find alternatives. There will not need to be inducements for illegal work because Sunday working will be legal.
Until a short time ago, it was hard to persuade people to work on Sunday. I shall tell the House about workers who picketed against Sunday work two years ago--they stood outside their shops with placards protesting against Sunday work. Some of those workers now work on Sunday because conditions have deteriorated in the past two years
Column 355and they feel more driven into Sunday work. With this situation of workers being driven into such work, we need legal protection as we have never needed it before.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I agree fully with the line of my hon. Friend's argument about Sunday shop work. Is she aware that if the Government's proposal goes through, the next thing is that deregulated street sweepers, refuse collectors and all those other grades will suffer in exactly the same way? It does not stop at shop work ; it goes on. There will be virtually a compulsion for workers in the public cleansing sector to clean shopping centres because they will be so busy on Sundays.
Mrs. Wise : My hon. Friend is right. Of course, this goes far beyond those who will be immediately affected by the Bill. That point has been made several times this evening. There is a danger for all workers if Sunday becomes simply another working day, and that is exactly the road down which we are headed.
Some of those employers who are most vociferously in favour of Sunday trading were against it not long ago. Tesco and Sainsburys have not always been in the Sunday trading lobby. What changed the minds of many large retailers was the chill wind of competition. Some retailers were willing to break the law. They stole a march on those who traded legally, made a killing and forced retailers who wanted to trade legally into the same shabby route of illegal trading. That is what happened. Competition has been an engine for more and more illegal trading. That is exactly what will happen with wage rates.
The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but she is going rather wide of the group of amendments relating to a limitation on hours and rates of pay.
Many of the firms which now negotiate with trade unions, and which seek to be better and fairer employers, will find that unless they as well as their workers are buttressed by legal provision, they will be driven even against their will to cut wages and make it harder to enter into reasonable voluntary agreements. Better employers need worker protection to be written into the Bill, especially with regard to wage rates, or they will suffer the pressure of competition and their workers will suffer the consequences.
Those who say that they want to work because they need the money and they are getting double time, and think that this will continue indefinitely, will find that they have been living in a fool's paradise because of the relentless driving down of wages as a result of the relentless chill wind of competition. It is imperative for hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, who have regard for the needs of workers and better employers to be protected against unfair competition, to vote for double time and protection against excessive hours being worked on Sundays. Without such protection, we will be on a slippery slope. Many workers who now say that they want to work will in
Column 356the not-too-distant future say to hon. Members, "How could you let this happen?" They will have undercut their conditions and those of shopworkers in general.
Mr. Donald Anderson : In a series of powerful speeches, my hon. Friends have shown that the amendments relating to hours of work and premium payments should be at the heart of the Bill. They relate to dilution, the wretched effect on other sectors of workers and the increasing pressure on families. In spite of that, it is saddening but perhaps not surprising that throughout this debate we have heard from only three Tory Members. That shows how little significance the Government attach to the provisions relating to the protection of vulnerable sections of our society.
From the start, many of us argued that, essentially, there were not three options but two options before the House--deregulation and the attempt at an orderly regulation of what happens on Sunday. Effectively, the Shopping Hours Reform Council option was the most that those who truly wanted total deregulation could get at that time. They realised that there would be slippage. If we allowed six hours, why not allow seven or eight hours? That was the most that they would get.
Is not removal of all protection on wages wholly consistent with the philosophy of deregulation? It is sad that a number of my hon. Friends naively placed faith in the Government and were prepared to give them the benefit of their judgment. The Government have now proved that it was highly misplaced faith. They do not want to include forms of protection for workers. Indeed, the way in which they are reacting to the amendment suggests that they had a hidden agenda from the start : to remove all premium payments. The Bill is a means to do that.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said, perhaps about 11 per cent. of the work force work on Sunday at present, but the more people who work on Sunday, the more who will be forced to work in ancillary trades and the more Sunday will become just like any other day. If Sunday becomes just like any other day, as the Government would like, with all the attendant social disadvantages that we foresee, what possible argument can there be for having premium payments on that day? This is what the Government want ; it is consistent with the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. Indeed, if that Bill had been before the House earlier, that would have fundamentally altered the basis on which this Bill has been debated. Why would we need freedom to shop on Sunday if there were freedom to shop every hour of the day on the other six days? There will be slippage. That is why we say that there must be statutory protection as set out in the amendment. Voluntary protection is good only at the time that it is entered into. It is absolutely clear that the army of distressed people- -Tesco workers and others--who were dragooned by their employers to lobby us during earlier debates were put up to that by their employers. We know that they had draft letters to send to us. Those same shop troops--the poor, bloody infantry of Tesco--will be dropped as soon as it suits Tesco to do so. Indeed, any premium payments that are now paid will be dropped when it is convenient for employers to do so. They were useful at the time, and when they are no longer useful and have served their purpose, they will be dropped.
I promised the Whips that I would be brief, so I shall end on this note. For the Government, there is a basic
Column 357question. Do they acknowledge in any way that Sunday should be different? The workers will have to give up their family life and leisure pursuits on a Sunday, and will have the hassle of going into work. The travelling time and so on will mean that it will be not just for six hours, but for much more. Do the Government accept that those workers should in some way be compensated, because Sunday is special?
We cannot rely on the employers to compensate workers. We know jolly well that there will be dilution as soon as it becomes practicable. The only way to compensate and protect those workers is by statute. That is why I, and my hon. Friends, support the amendment.
Mr. Bayley : I regret that the House voted at Second Reading to give the public the right to shop in any shop whose owners wished it to open for a six-hour period on Sunday. The House voted to allow the big chain stores to obtain a greater market share and to make bigger profits, at the expense of smaller businesses, some of which will go out of business if the Bill is passed.
I shall speak briefly on the matter. This amendment is, in fact, the crunch. The Commitee must decide whether to balance the right of big firms to make bigger profits against the right for their workers to get an enhanced payment on the day when the firms are making those bigger profits. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) has talked about "back to basics", and I have not been surprised at the number of people who, in letters to me, used that phrase in relation to Sunday trading.
For example, my constituent Mr. Blakeborough wrote :
"The PM talks about back to basics'. For many people like myself Sunday is very real basic" ; it is God's day, and by the way Tories MPs voted they have shown that materialism is all."
I hope that those Conservatives who have put their faith in that slogan will vote on a "back to basics" basis this evening. That would make sure that higher profits for the big chain stores are balanced by a decent enhanced rate of pay for shopworkers who work on Sunday. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) said that 50 years ago when he worked on the railways and in retailing he got double pay for working on Sundays. Are we saying that we are now abandoning the basic double pay rate for Sundays that applied 50 years ago? If the Government want shops to open on Sunday-- clearly they do--the Committee must consider at what cost that will be. If at the end of the 20th century it is sweated labour of the work force, the cost will be too high.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I shall start by referring to amendment No. 50, which would keep Sunday working to the equivalent of a normal eight-hour day. I doubt whether the large stores, which are confined to six hours opening by the Bill, would want to employ staff on Sunday for anywhere near as long as eight hours, whatever the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) might think. It would not be particularly good business to keep workers in a shop when it was not open and trading.
The difficulty with the amendments is how they apply to small shops. The hours of small shops are unrestricted under all of the choices that have been put before the House. A small shop could reasonably decide to open from 9 am to 6 pm. That would be nine hours, and the amendment would cut across any such decision and result in the shop having the trouble and expense of having to
Column 358shut earlier than it wished. The shop would otherwise have to employ another Sunday worker for the latter part of day, and probably for a length of time for which nobody would be interested in working.
The principal reason why I must say no to the amendment is that employers and employees in retailing, as in virtually every other occupation, should be and are free to decide between them what arrangements they enter into. Having entered into them, they should keep them. The schedule creates a massive exception to the rule, so that any employee who also works on a weekday for the same employer will have the enormous additional leverage over the terms of his Sunday work by being able to opt out. The Sunday-only worker can leave the job only if he does not like the terms but, equally, they are terms that he found acceptable when he took the job.
That is the same as in every other industry. Why should hours be limited in that way just for shop work? Why should hours be restricted in shops when they are not in factories, in the leisure industry and in catering? Indeed, hours are only limited across the board when safety is the issue.
I suspect that there will be as many Sunday workers who regret the shortness of working time available in large shops as there are those who find that the working day in small shops is too long. I do not believe that Opposition Members have made out a case for a restriction on working hours in the retail trade that does not exist elsewhere.
At the heart of the group of amendments is the fact that it would bring double pay for Sunday work. Hon. Members have spoken passionately in support of double time, and they will have been expecting that I would not be able to give them encouragement on the amendments. We are at one on the general principle that shopworkers should be able to choose whether to work on Sunday. Again, I am sure that the freedom of choice--this is directly relevant to pay--will give Sunday workers an effective lever in their negotiations with employers about their rates of pay for Sunday work.
It would not be right for the law to step in and set those rates that the amendments would. It is not the Government's job to do that. Having established that employees have the freedom to choose whether to work on Sunday, it is up to employers and employees to make their own terms.
Employees and employers must make their own terms depending on individual businesses. The situation may vary sharply. Some large and profitable retailers will be able to afford double time pay. They pay it now, and they will go on doing so. Often, however, smaller shops will not be able to do so. The amendments would simply have the effect of driving them out of business or preventing them from opening on Sundays. Either way, there would be fewer jobs and, once again, wage fixing would have proven to be the enemy of employment. It would inevitably reduce the range and quality of retail services that are available to the public.