Previous Section Home Page

Mrs. Wise : Is my hon. Friend aware that passing goods through the check-out is designed to be performed to targets and that the operator is expected to process anything up to 25 items a minute? Does she agree that, hour after hour, that is enormously fatiguing?

Ms Jackson : I entirely agree. I have no doubt that given the commercial pressures which retailers are under, the number of goods which will be required to pass through the check-out will increase and the amount of time given to the assistant sitting there will decrease. That is invariably the case.

The Committee must acknowledge that we are talking about real work. There is great sacrifice, in the main, on the part of women employees, who will be the majority of Sunday-only workers. The Committee should ensure, as far as it is humanly possible, that the sacrifices and skills of those women are acknowledged. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North- East said, the service


Column 377

that those women have provided for their fellow citizens should also be acknowledged. If it is not the will of the Committee that those skills, sacrifices and services are acknowledged in hard cash, I strongly urge Conservative Members to support them being acknowledged in kind.

It is a difficult job to deal with the general public, especially when there is a marked stress on output. We have heard in previous debates that many retailers allow long queues to gather at check-outs because they are always conscious of overhead costs. Those at the sharp end in all such circumstances are the women sitting at the check-outs. The House should as far as possible--that possibility is infinitely wider than preceding votes have shown--support those women.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I am once again constrained by the clock, so I shall sum up the Government's view of the new clause as quickly as I can. If I have followed what it means correctly, or certainly what it is intended to mean, the new clause would require that all the terms and conditions which are made available by an employer to his full-time, weekly staff would have to be available to Sunday-only staff.

I have considerable sympathy for the general idea, although we are talking more about part-time workers, not only about Sunday-only workers. Again I am dubious about whether it is fair and practical that workers who work one day or a limited time during the week should automatically receive all the benefits enjoyed by those who have earned those benefits, who have devoted far longer hours or years to their work. Those full-time workers rely on their jobs for their pensions, bonus rights, maternity benefits and career breaks. The new clause makes it clear that the employer is obliged to make available similar terms.

For example, an employer would have to make arrangements for Sunday-only workers to join the company pension scheme. That would certainly create problems for a properly managed pension scheme. I suspect that it would also be unwelcome to many, if not all, Sunday workers, who would not want to see stoppages taken out of their pay for the pension fund, especially if they were building a pension with another employer, or were students who had not yet entered into full-time work, or were wives who wanted to build up some income to pay for a mortgage or for a particular occasion, as has been said before.

Of course, the Government want to see good pay and conditions, but the trade-off between the two is best left to the employers and the employees, or the unions on their behalf, to negotiate. I do not believe that the new clause would do Sunday workers a good turn. It would certainly impose a rigidity that would diminish the amount of Sunday work available and the level of straight remuneration in the form of take-home pay for Sunday-only workers. It would probably dilute some benefits for full-time workers. It would certainly cut the unions out of helping Sunday workers to secure the best deal available for them as part-timers.

The interests and needs of part-timers are not always the same as those of full-time staff, and the benefits can be quite different. On benefits, certainly, the matter is much more complicated than the amendment recognises and it would be in everyone's interest for the provisions in this


Column 378

Bill to be left unchanged--although I accept that the House may wish to return to the position of part-time workers in a different Bill and on another occasion. That is a matter for the House and for my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment, who was sitting next to me a few moments ago and who will no doubt read with enormous interest what I have said.

Mr. Alton : This is a good new clause because it recognises that people who are employed on a Sunday should receive treatment commensurate with that accorded to those employed during the rest of the week, on a pro rata basis. It recognises that those who work on a Sunday should have the same dignity and rights as anyone else. We should not underestimate the Bill's scope. The Shops Act 1950 has led to about 300,000 people being employed. The Keep Sunday Special option would have led to about 100,000 extra people being employed. The deregulatory option to which the House agreed--the so-called compromise--will lead to about 1 million extra people being employed on a Sunday. Unless we build in safeguards such as that proposed in the new clause, those people will be exploited on rack rates of pay and we shall have a charter for the downgrading of the retail trade. Jobs that were once permanent full-time jobs will be replaced by part-time work, with people being exploited as a consequence. That is why it is important that the Committee should accept the new clause.

Ms Ruddock : I regret to say that the Minister has once again missed the point. I reiterate what I said in my opening speech : if the Bill is enacted, the Government will be creating a new group of workers--workers who go to work on Sunday because it has become legal to trade on Sunday. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) has given us the figures, which are very substantial. Those new workers will go to work without any form of employment protection. The new clause seeks to give them not different or wonderful conditions but decent conditions commensurate with those enjoyed by workers working for the same employer in the same retail outlet on a weekday. That is very little to ask and it is typical of the Government that they should refuse that most modest of requests. We are talking about a pool of the most vulnerable and poorly paid workers. As my hon. Friends have so eloquently said, many women go to work for very little money. Difficult family circumstances often render their wages vital. They go to work out of economic necessity. They should not go to work to line other people's pockets and provide profits for companies and services for the public without any recognition of the sacrifices that they make and of the fact that their responsibilities often go beyond the workplace and include care of the young and the elderly and other family responsibilities. That group of workers clearly needs protection. Our new clause offers the most modest provision to ensure that such workers are given the terms and conditions developed for weekday workers, often as a result of trade union pressure in the workplace. Those who will work on Sundays under the Bill are a new pool of workers who are not protected. This new clause seeks to protect them and give them some reasonable conditions. We will take the new clause to a vote because we believe that this new pool of workers must gain some recognition for their service to


Column 379

the community if the Bill is passed. We urge Tory Members to join us in voting for this modest proposal and for the protection of Sunday-only workers.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The Committee divided : Ayes 273, Noes 305.

Division No. 116] [10.00 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Austin-Walker, John

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret

Beggs, Roy

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, Andrew F.

Benton, Joe

Bermingham, Gerald

Berry, Dr. Roger

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Cann, Jamie

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clapham, Michael

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cohen, Harry

Connarty, Michael

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Corston, Ms Jean

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Denham, John

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Donohoe, Brian H.

Dowd, Jim

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Enright, Derek

Etherington, Bill

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Fatchett, Derek

Faulds, Andrew

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flynn, Paul

Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)

Foster, Rt Hon Derek

Foster, Don (Bath)

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galloway, George

Gapes, Mike

Garrett, John

George, Bruce

Gerrard, Neil

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Godsiff, Roger

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Gunnell, John

Hain, Peter

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Henderson, Doug

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hoey, Kate

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Hoon, Geoffrey

Howarth, George (Knowsley N)

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Hutton, John

Ingram, Adam

Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)

Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Jamieson, David

Johnston, Sir Russell

Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)

Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)

Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)

Jowell, Tessa

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Keen, Alan

Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)

Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)


Next Section

  Home Page