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Column 395Thomason, Roy
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Irvine Patnick and
Mr. Timothy Kirkhope.
Question accordingly negatived.
Amendments made : No. 23, in page 15, line 3, at end insert Employer's duty to give explanatory statement
10A.--(1) Where a person becomes a shop worker to whom paragraph 4 above applies, his employer shall, before the end of the period of two months beginning with the day on which that person becomes such a shop worker, give him a written statement in the prescribed form. (2) If
(a) an employer fails to comply with sub-paragraph (1) above in relation to any shop worker, and
(b) the shop worker, on giving the employer an opting-out notice, becomes an opted-out shop worker,
paragraph 6 above shall have effect, in relation to the shop worker, with the substitution for "three months" of "one month".
(3) An employer shall not be regarded as failing to comply with sub- paragraph (1) above in any case where, before the end of the period referred to in that sub-paragraph, the shop worker has given him an opting- out notice.
(4) Subject to sub-paragraph (5) below, the prescribed form is as follows
"STATUTORY RIGHTS IN RELATION TO SUNDAY SHOP WORK
You have become employed as a shop worker and are or can be required under your contract of employment to do the Sunday work your contract provides for.
However, if you wish, you can give a notice, as described in the next paragraph, to your employer and you will then have the right not to work in or about a shop on any Sunday on which the shop is open once three months have passed from the date on which you gave the notice.
Your notice must
be in writing ;
be signed and dated by you ;
say that you object to Sunday working.
For three months after you give the notice, your employer can still require you to do all the Sunday work your contract provides for. After the three month period has ended, you have the right to complain to an industrial tribunal if, because of your refusal to work on Sundays on which the shop is open, your employer
dismisses you, or
does something else detrimental to you, for example failing to promote you.
Once you have the rights described, you can surrender them only by giving your employer a further notice, signed and dated by you, saying that you wish to work on Sunday or that you do not object to Sunday working and then agreeing with your employer to work on Sundays or on a particular Sunday."
(5) The Secretary of State may by order amend the prescribed form set out in sub-paragraph (4) above.
(6) An order under sub-paragraph (5) above shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'
No. 36, in page 16, line 32, after period' insert
(in this paragraph referred to as "the contractual Sunday hours").
Column 396No. 37, in page 16, line 33, at end insert--
(2) Where, under the contract of employment, the hours of work actually done on weekdays in any period would be taken into account in determining the contractual Sunday hours, they shall be taken into account in determining the contractual Sunday hours for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1) above.'
No. 60, in page 17, line 3, leave out from for' to end of line 5 and insert
"by virtue of any provision of Part IV of this Act, other than section sixty-two, is" there shall be substituted "is lawfully".'.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
For many years the Shops Act 1950 has been acknowledged as needing thoroughgoing reform. I know of no other law that generations of hon. Members have tried so hard to repeal, revise or amend with so little success. It has taken this unique Bill to give the House the chance to break the pattern. It is by providing Parliament with the opportunity-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Lloyd : It is by providing Parliament with the opportunity to choose between the major options for change that we have been able to take advantage of the belief on all sides of the House that, one way or another, Sunday must be sorted out and to begin to find our way through this complex and controversial issue.
Although the Bill is a Government Bill, we have been neutral between the options and have helped even-handedly the various campaigning groups in the preparation of their section of the Bill. Although Sunday trading is an issue which has aroused passionate feeling, our debates have been marked largely by good humour and much good sense, and I think that all of us who have taken part in it have valued-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House would be keen to listen to the Minister, but it appears that many of them are not. I should be obliged if they would listen.
Although our personal views on how far the law should regulate shop opening on Sundays have varied, there has been common ground. We have all recognised that the Shops Act 1950 has outlived its time and that we need a new law which is clear, respected, enforceable and enforced. We also all agree that, whatever our view of Sunday shopping, Sunday is a special day and that if shops
Column 397are to open more freely on Sunday shopworkers who make Sunday opening possible should have a continuing choice as to whether to work on Sunday.
The party difference has been marked by the imposition of normal party Whips on matters related to employment terms and conditions, but party differences should not be allowed to obscure the comprehensive and radical arrangement that the Bill makes for present and future shopworkers to withdraw from Sunday working if that is their wish. In this respect, all shopworkers will have gained a continuing right, not a once-and-for-all choice, to decide whether they are available for work on Sundays.
No matter how clear the law, it serves no purpose if it is ignored. The Standing Committee decided--in my view, rightly--to support an amendment moved by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) to increase the maximum fine for breaches of the law to £50, 000. The House is indebted to him for that initiative. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) drew our attention to the position of leaseholders who might have been required to open on a Sunday even if they did not wish to do so because their lease required them to trade during normal business hours. I am grateful to her and for the opportunity to bring forward an amendment which I believe goes to the heart of her own and others' genuine concern on the issue.
Likewise, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock), who raised the fears which we all understand of people living near large shops whose Sunday mornings could be disturbed by pre-breakfast deliveries. We have been able earlier this evening to give local authorities the muscle to ban all such deliveries from taking place before 9 am.
I am grateful to all those who have worked constructively in Committtee and on the Floor of the House to improve the Bill, and I am grateful to the campaign groups, successful and unsuccessful, who worked long hours with my officials to refine and clarify their options. I wish particularly to mention the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), with whom I generally disagree, but whose tenacity and ingenuity in his cause I recognise and respect. I also mention with deepest respect my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), with whom I am more regularly in agreement on other issues. He has taken a close, continuous and highly principled part in our deliberations on the Bill wherever possible.
All those efforts have produced a Bill that is not exactly what any of us would ideally want. All our experience shows that, on the subject of Sunday trading, differences within and between parties and in the country at large are too great for that to be possible. But we now have a Bill that is clear and enforceable and will commend itself to the majority of people in the country.
People want the muddle of Sunday trading to be sorted out after years of failed attempts, and I do not believe that they will readily forgive us if we miss the hard-won opportunity to do so. I hope that the House will give the Bill a resounding Third Reading.
Column 39811.32 pm
The Bill has been difficult and controversial, not least because of the strong feelings held on both sides of the House, particularly in the Labour party. The Labour Front Bench team have been rigorously neutral on the options that have come before the House. We said from the outset that Labour Members would be free to choose and best represent their constituents as they saw fit. Our task was to unite our party around the issue of employment protection and, as the Minister acknowledged, it is on that issue that the House has been divided.
Now that a decision has been taken on the options, with a limitation on large shops opening and liberalisation for small shops, if the Bill is given a Third Reading we shall expect those provisions to be rigorously enforced. [Interruption.] We can assure all hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), who interrupts from a sedentary position, that we shall be resolute in trying to ensure that the workers and our constituents are protected, and that the law is properly enforced. We sought throughout to improve on the employment protection conditions. We never said that it was necessary to have double- time payments, but we believed that it was vital to strive for those payments because they were the conditions under which workers were most likely to volunteer for Sunday working. We said that essential to any liberalisation in the Sunday trading laws was the right of existing workers to opt out of Sunday working and the right of future workers to say that they would not work on a Sunday. That provision is contained in the Bill.
We wanted further to clarify that workers thus provided for could opt in and out more than once, and the Government accepted that request. We believed that it was necessary for workers to be absolutely clear about the rights that they would acquire under the Bill. Again, the Government tabled an amendment to meet our request. As the Minister acknowledged, we sought to deal both with the difficult issue of disturbance from deliveries and to protect leaseholders from being forced to open on a Sunday. Once again, our requests were met.
I thank the Minister for the way in which he has worked to meet our requests and for the courteous way in which he personally has dealt with my requests at meetings with him. We have striven for more, however, and we shall remain at odds with the Minister over that. I join the Minister in thanking members of the Committee for the way in which they have worked and the speedy progress that we were able to make. I join him also in thanking the campaign groups, all of whom I dealt with and liaised with over a considerable period and with whom there were courteous exchanges.
It remains only for me to assure the House that, while we have pursued the question of employment protection on party political lines, at this point on Third Reading Opposition Members are free to vote as they choose.
Mr. Alton : I join the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) in thanking the Minister of State who, throughout the Committee proceedings and again tonight, has been a model of how any Minister should deal with Opposition spokesmen during proceedings on a Bill.
Column 399He has been courteous and, despite the fact that we have disagreed on many parts of the Bill and shall continue to do so, I thank him warmly for the way in which he has dealt with points that Members have made.
My reservations about the Bill, which I expressed when the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) introduced his excellent private Member's Bill last year, have remained. As we have now reached Third Reading, I remain more concerned than ever about the nature of this legislation.
For nearly 1,000 years, this country has had laws to regulate trading on Sundays. For the first time, we are to be without a regulatory framework. Before giving the Bill a Third Reading, the House should seriously consider the implications for family and community life. At a time when one in three families is collapsing and up to a million elderly people do not see a friend, relative or neighbour during the course of an average week, it should be clear to us that what is missing in today's society is time for people to spend with one another. In the absence of a traditional Sunday, people will not have time to spend with their families and visit elderly people or their children.
We are putting an additional commercial and materialistic pressure on life. Our country is already sufficiently devoid of spiritual value and we should think carefully before giving the Bill a Third Reading as it will further suppress the spiritual nature of life in favour of materialism and consumerism.
My other reason for urging hon. Members not to give the Bill a Third Reading revolves around the issue of employment protection. Labour Members can pride themselves that, throughout this century, they have fought for the rights of ordinary working people. They must share my concern that, without proper protection for workers, double-time payments or any of the protections that we might properly expect for ordinary people, many hon. Members have nevertheless voted for legislation which, even before the minor amendment made earlier, may even require people to work on Christmas day and Easter day. What will happen to the 2.2 million retail workers, most of whom have no trade union protection--only some 300,000 or 400,000 of them belong to trade unions--as a result of the Bill? They will be exploited and will not have time to spend with their families, all in the name of so-called "choice." We should learn that choice should not become God.
Whatever the vote this evening, the fight will not be over but will be resumed in the House of Lords. I hope that the Bishops' Bench will give the country a lead and that, when the Lords' amendments come here, the House will reject the Bill if it fails to do so on Third Reading today.