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Amendment made : No. 49, a new schedule,
Meaning of "large shop" 1. In this Schedule "large shop" has the same meaning as in Schedule 1 to this Act.
Consent required for early Sunday loading and unloading 2. The occupier of a large shop in respect of which a notice under paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to this Act has effect shall not load or unload, or permit any other person to load or unload, goods from a vehicle at the shop before 9 a.m. on Sunday in connection with the trade or business carried on in the shop, unless the loading or unloading is carried on--
(a) with the consent of the local authority for the area in which the shop is situated granted under this Schedule, and
(b) in accordance with any conditions subject to which that consent is granted.
3. A consent under this Schedule may be granted subject to such conditions as the local authority considers appropriate.
Application for consent 4. An application for a consent under this Schedule shall be made in writing and shall contain such information as the local authority may reasonably require. 5. An applicant for a consent under this Schedule shall pay such reasonable fee in respect of his application as the local authority may determine.
6. --(1) Where an application is duly made to the local authority for a consent under this Schedule, the authority shall grant the consent unless they are satisfied that the loading or unloading of goods from vehicles before 9 a.m. on Sunday at the shop to which the application relates, in connection with the trade or business carried on at the shop, has caused, or would be likely to cause, undue annoyance to local residents.
(2) Before granting a consent under this Schedule, the local authority shall consult such persons residing in the vicinity of the shop to which the application relates as appear to them to be likely to be affected by any loading or unloading at the shop.
(3) The authority shall determine the application and notify the applicant in writing of their decision within the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which the application is received by the authority.
(4) In a case where a consent is granted, the notification under sub- paragraph (3) above shall specify the conditions, if any, subject to which the consent is granted.
Publication of consent 7. Where a local authority grants a consent under this Schedule, the authority may cause a notice giving details of that consent to be published in a local newspaper circulating in its area.
Offence 8. A person who contravenes paragraph 3 above shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.'. -- [Mr. Patnick.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
Amendment made : No. 52, in page 3, leave out lines 10 and 11.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Mr. Lloyd : After another debate in Committee, and consequent on an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff), I undertook to consider whether it was possible to ensure that outlets that combined retail and wholesale trade, such as Costco, could be
Column 328restricted in respect of trading on Sunday to the same extent as outlets that engage entirely in retail sales. That is the purpose of the group of amendments.
In the Shops Act 1950 "shop" is so defined as to catch any premises where any retail trade or business is carried on. It catches wholesalers who also engage in retail trade. But the definition stretches widely. It catches certain outlets that provide services or hire out goods. It catches premises where any retail trade is carried out, however minimal and whatever the premises' main purpose. The Shopping Hours Reform Council adopted a different approach in developing the model that the House selected and defined "shop" as any premises where there is carried on a trade or business consisting wholly or mainly of the retail sale of goods. That has advantages as it excludes hire purchase and service shops as well as buildings such as churches, where the odd postcard might be sold. It also excludes outlets where the predominant trade is wholesale, even where significant retailing takes place. The amendments seek to remedy that defect while preserving the benefits of the definition as a whole. Amendment No. 27 amends the definition of "shop" so that it becomes premises where there is carried on a trade or business consisting wholly or mainly of the sale of goods. No distinction is drawn between wholesale and retail for that purpose. However, if we left matters there, the Bill would inadvertently bring into the net all wholesalers and suppliers irrespective of whether or not they engaged in retail trade.
Amendment No. 28, which amends paragraph 2(1) of the schedule, would prohibit large shops opening on a Sunday to serve retail customers instead of just customers. As I forewarned members of the Committee, guaranteeing that the schedule applies to mixed wholesalers and retailers, without causing further mischief to the schedule, is a complicated business. That is shown by the fact that it took no less than 11 amendments to achieve. However, in substance, all that the amendments achieve is that any large outlet engaged wholly or mainly in the sale of goods is restricted to six hours retail trade on a Sunday and has to apply to the local authority for listing so to do.
Amendment agreed to.
Madam Deputy Speaker : Before we move on to the formal amendments, I must say that I do not take kindly to the host of private conversations taking place. If hon. Members wish to engage in them, they should do so outside the Chamber.
Amendments made : No. 25, in page 3, line 18, at end insert-- "retail customer" means a person who purchases goods retail ; "retail sale" means any sale other than a sale for use or resale in the course of a trade or business, and references to retail purchase shall be construed accordingly'.
No. 26, in line 19, leave out retail'.
No. 53, in page 3, line 23, at end insert and'.
No. 27, in line 25, leave out retail'.
No. 54, in line 25, leave out from goods' to end of line 33.
No. 2, leave out lines 44 to 46.
Column 329No. 38, in line 45, leave out from shop' to end of line 46 and insert--
(a) in respect of any Sunday other than a Sunday specified in sub-paragraph (b) below, before 1 pm, and
(b) in respect of any Sunday falling within the period in any year commencing with 27th November and ending with 24th December, before 4 pm.'.
No. 14, in line 46, at end insert
but this sub-paragraph has effect subject to sub-paragraph (4) below.
(4) The exemption conferred by sub-paragraph (3) above does not apply where the Sunday is Easter Day or Christmas Day'.
No. 3, in page 4, leave out from beginning of line 36 to end of line 2 on page 5.
No. 39, in line 38, leave out from Sunday' to end of line 41. No. 40, in line 43, leave out from notice' to cancel' in line 47.
No. 41, in page 5, line 1, leave out
superseded by a subsequent notice or'.
No. 4, leave out lines 4 to 21.
No. 42, in line 7, leave out from shop' to end of line. No. 43, leave out lines 15 to 21.
No. 5, leave out lines 26 to 28.
No. 6, leave out lines 29 to 35.
No. 45, in line 32, leave out
specified in a notice under paragraph 4 above'.
Mr. Alison : The effect of amendments Nos. 1 to 6 is that the broad structure of the option that the House chose last December is left in place. There is no reversion to the "type of shop" approach that the House rejected on 8 December. The amendments retain the provision that all small shops, under 3,000 sq ft or 280 sq m, should be allowed to open. They also provide for a short list of exempt shops of any size at any time on a Sunday. Importantly, they delete the provision allowing large shops to open for six hours on a Sunday--the aching tooth that I seek to extract from the gum of the Bill. That extraction greatly shortens and simplifies the Bill. We no longer need a notification scheme or rules governing precisely how and where large shops can open. The list of offences is reduced. Most of the amendments tabled in my name shorten the Bill because the provisions are no longer necessary.
The main reason for once again asking which shops should be allowed to open on Sundays is the publication and subsequent Second Reading of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. That allows shops to open from Monday to Saturday for 24 hours a day if they wish to do so. Although some reference was made to the possible introduction of the provision in the Government's White Paper on the deregulation Bill which was published last October, there was no confirmation that the provision would be included before the debate on the Sunday trading options on 8 December. It is striking that, in all that long debate on 8 December, no mention was made of the possibility of full deregulation from Monday to Saturday.
Clearly, the deregulation of shop opening hours during the working week has a major impact on the main arguments used against Sunday trading. I shall list a few of the implications for full weekday deregulation on the connected issue of Sunday trading, the first of which relates to consumer convenience. Many of those who argued in favour of Sunday trading at the end of last year did so on the ground that consumers needed the extra hours to shop on Sunday owing to the pressures of their weekday
Column 330commitments. It was argued that many people could not get to the shops easily between Monday and Saturday and needed them to open on Sunday. It was alleged that it was extremely inconvenient for such people that shops did not open on Sunday. If shops can open from Monday to Saturday up to 10 pm or 11 pm, instead of closing at 8 pm--or 9 pm one night a week--as under the present law, weekday deregulation will add at least an extra 11 hours on to the 67-hour shopping week of Monday to Saturday. That is a 15 per cent. increase in shopping hours and represents a much longer additional period than is offered on Sunday under the Shopping Hours Reform Council proposals. If shops open until 11 rather than 12 o'clock, it will add a further six hours and represent an increase of 20 per cent.
Mr. Fabricant : My right hon. Friend has been my sparring partner on this issue for several months. Although I take his point about the deregulation Bill and the extra hours that will be available on weekdays, when it comes to acquiring fresh food, plants and so on does not he accept that supermarkets still need to be open on Sundays? The extra hours on weekdays will not satisfy housewives' needs for shopping on Sunday mornings and afternoons.
Mr. Alison : I am very happy with the deregulation Bill and am not criticising it. The hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I am merely showing that the deregulation Bill's provisions were so sweeping and beneficial that there are good grounds for the House to decide that the need for the extensive opening of large shops on Sundays has been evacuated and eviscerated. Three cheers for the deregulation Bill, precisely as a result of that provision.
Mr. Alison : It is not for me but for the shops to determine the hours that they may open during the week. The hon. Gentleman has probably received, as I have, a letter from Sainsbury. He may treat it with a grain of doubt, but it says that it does not propose to open any extra hours during weekdays. That remains to be seen, but it is not for me to decide.
In the light of the deregulation Bill, it must be decided whether large shops still need to open on Sundays. We can expect major supermarket chains, such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Gateway, to open frequently in the evenings until 10 o'clock if there is public demand, which is the key point. They have expressed a great willingness to try to meet the convenience of consumers, often claiming that they earn little additional profit in doing so. If large numbers of employed women find it difficult to shop during existing opening hours, we can expect supermarket chains--this is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant)--to open late in the evening to accommodate that wish.
Column 331I ask hon. Members to bear the following point closely in mind when envisaging what will happen on Sundays. I am reliably informed that, in the United States, 34 per cent. of supermarket chains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Over there, it is difficult to find a large supermarket that is not open until 10 or 11 pm every day of the week. If all those extra hours are available on weekdays, the argument that we need Sunday trading for the convenience of consumers, including those who use supermarkets or fresh food stores--we shall also keep smaller shops open on Sundays--loses much of its impelling logic.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : It is mostly women who go shopping and, as my right hon. Friend will be aware, these days most of them go to work. Will he take it from me that, if a woman has been at work all day, shopping late in the evening, particularly getting home in the dark in the winter, is extremely unattractive? Does my right hon. Friend agree that shopping in daylight hours on Sundays and being able to take one's children and, if one is lucky, one's husband to carry home the shopping, is a much more attractive arrangement for women who work?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend will agree that even better things can be done with one's family on a Sunday than haunting the halls of supermarkets if it is possible to get one's shopping done during the week, even in the dark. I am sure that a few fluorescent lights will be brought to bear on the supermarket environment. Better pursuits, such as my hon. Friend would want to engage in with family and friends, can then be indulged in on a Sunday.
Mr. John Marshall : My right hon. Friend seems to be producing a shopping pattern for insomniacs rather than average families. Does he accept that most people would like to shop at midday rather than midnight and that, although America has many supermarkets open on Sundays, Sunday shopping there is accompanied by much greater church attendance than in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend's reference to church attendance is superfluous and irrelevant because people who want to go to church on Sundays will do so and will find a chance to shop at other times. He makes too big an issue of the unsurpassed, ecstatic joy of being able to shop at midday, as if shopping in daylight were a sure sign of all the possible enticements, inducements, benefits and joys that could accrue to a human being. I remind him that shopping in daylight at 12 o'clock on a particular day of the week is not what everybody lives for. People want to engage in a vast number of other activities. On Sundays, they can find plenty of things to do other than shopping if the shopping chore can be dealt with during the most convenient hours, by day or night, from Monday to Saturday. My hon. Friend's point is, therefore, not compelling.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : My right hon. Friend is making an interesting case. I agree that shopping, at any time, is a chore and that shopping on Sundays is not the height of family values. Will he deal with the point relating to the freedom to shop during the week? If his argument is consistent--he says that it is up to shops to decide how long to open-- surely the same applies to Sundays. If people decide voluntarily to shop in the evening when that
Column 332becomes possible in the light of the deregulation legislation, the demand for Sunday shopping will no longer exist and shops will therefore decide not to open. The Bill does not oblige shops, whatever their size, to open, but gives them the possibility to open if the demand from the public is persistent.
Mr. Alison : Sainsbury may have written to my hon. Friend, as it has written to me, saying that following deregulation it does not propose to increase its current weekday opening hours. But it may discover that Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, or Budgen intend to stay open until 10 or 11 or 12 o'clock on weekdays. In that case, I draw an analogy with people watching a spectacle. At first they are all seated, but one stands up to get a better view and slowly everybody else stands up to get a better view. In the end, they all stand up and no one gets a better view.
The application of that little analogy is that, one after another, shops will all be forced to open on weekdays until a much later hour. One will find that if one large shop is permitted to open on Sunday, the same phenomenon that I described for weekdays will occur. One after another, shops will, of necessity and due to commercial pressures, have to open on Sunday. No one will be better off and everyone will find that Sunday has become just another day. I have attempted to give a rational response to my hon. Friend's intervention.
Mr. Pike : When Sainsbury started to open on Sundays, it said that it had entered the Sunday market only because its competitors had done so and it felt that it had to follow suit. Does not that underline the argument advanced by the right hon. Gentleman? His predictions of what will happen with late weekday opening will prove correct, despite what Sainsbury says in the letter to which he referred.
I do not want to delay the House too long, so I shall move on to my second argument in favour of restricting the opening of large shops on Sundays. One of the major concerns expressed about allowing Sunday trading concerned its impact on small shops. If large shops open on Sundays, most small shops will have to open to compete. The owner of a small shop cannot afford to keep his shop shut when his competitors' shops are open. Even the loss of a few percentage points in market share could lead to small shops having to close. We have seen the widespread closure of small shops in the past decade. Many run close to the margins of profitability.
Opening small shops on Sundays, however, adds greatly to the stress of family life. It means that there is no longer even one day when shopkeepers can rest quietly with their families. If, under deregulation, they face competition every evening of the week, potentially until 10 or 11 pm at night, what will be left of their family lives? Many small shops will need to stay open much later in the evening to compete with larger shops.
Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West) : My right hon. Friend said that small shops will be forced to open on Sundays and that family life will be damaged. Perhaps he does not fully appreciate that small shops need to open on Sundays and provide a good service because supermarkets are closed. It is the economics of being able to open on
Column 333Sundays that enables small shops to stay in business. My concern and, I hope, that of my right hon. Friend is that many villages will be deprived of their small shops if their trade is swamped by the supermarkets on Sundays.
Mr. Alison : The purpose of my amendment is to leave in place the proposal to allow the unrestricted opening of small shops of under 3, 000 sq ft. My hon. Friend's argument is well taken. Those shops will have at least one day when the competitive pressures are such as to enable them to determine for themselves where their real interest lies.
The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) keeps returning to his bone of contention about the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill. If he thinks that that Bill will be responsible for some of the pressures on small shops during the week, he should at least endorse the principle that keeping big shops shut on Sundays makes the best of what is, in his view, a bad world.
Mr. Barron rose --
Mr. Barron : I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that support. He was advancing the argument that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will impose stress because shops will be able to open 24 hours a day.
Mr. Alison : If the hon. Gentleman has diagnosed stress, let him accept the remedy, prescription, pill or drug--whatever he wants to call it --that I have prescribed to reduce it. That remedy involves shutting the big shops on Sundays and giving the smaller shops a chance to catch up some of the ground. The logic of his objection to the extra stress is for him to support the proposition that big shops should not be allowed to open on Sundays.
Everyone knows that there is no potential for increased turnover from opening on Sundays. Everyone agrees that extra money will not be spent if shops open for longer hours--the butter is simply spread more thinly over the bread. The argument in favour of protecting small shops from the pressure of competition from large shops on Sundays and the pressure imposed on their family lives by having to work all hours of the day and night is doubly strengthened by the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill and its impact on Sunday-to-Saturday trade. More than ever, those who run small shops need one day when they are free from competitive pressures and when they can have a day of rest and quiet with their families.
Similar arguments apply to the 1 million or so shopworkers who will feel additional pressure to work on a Sunday. Longer weekday working hours will mean more irregular hours away from the home and family and will make it more difficult for shopworkers to spend time with their children when they are out of school, and with the spouse or partner when he or she is home from work. If we want to protect the home lives of our citizens and encourage families to stay together, we must pay attention to the impact of longer weekday hours on shopworkers. Longer weekday hours mean that it is even more vital to protect Sundays, when they can be at home with their families.
Column 334Urban residents will also suffer from longer weekday hours. Noise, bustle and general disturbance, including parking problems, will afflict them into the evening if shops can open until 10 or 11 o'clock, or even later.
Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham) : My right hon. Friend said that he has received the same letter as I received from directors of Sainsbury, which said that there will not be a significant lengthening of the hours that it will open during the week. That seems likely to be the same for all the major stores. Who wants to shop between 8 pm and 11 pm or even midnight? He cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that they are not going to open, but that they will have longer hours for deliveries. He is arguing against his own case.
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend has not followed the line of my argument, which was that Sainsbury has written to me, as it has written to him, to say that it is not proposing to extend its existing hours of opening. That should be taken with a pinch of salt because it is not the wishes of the customers that will determine Sainsbury's opening hours, although I am not implying that it is an anti-social outfit. What will determine its weekday opening hours will be what Tesco, Asda, Gateway and other such shops do. It only needs one of those to extend its opening hours for all the others to extend theirs. So I am being consistent in saying that deregulation will lead to a widespread extension of opening hours for all the big shops.
I repeat my figures about supermarket chains in the United States--34 per cent. are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days in the year. That is likely to begin to apply here under deregulation and it is all the more reason for having a precinct of sanctity, quiet and peace on Sundays, with big shops closed.
Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that although Sainsbury says that it will not open in the evening, it is assuming that it will be open on Sundays? Is it not more likely to open in the evenings if it cannot open on Sundays?
Mr. Alison : I cannot be dogmatic about how it will behave in the evenings. I am simply saying that, in essence, my amendment is a limited fail-safe provision that, after deregulation, big shops should not open on Sundays because they are likely to be opening much more extensively on weekdays. That fail-safe provision will at least regulate and contain the impact of big shops in so far as they affect the one day that has traditionally been a precinct day for family life, relative peace and quiet, absence of bustle, confusion, noise and the necessity to deploy all the extra services.
Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey) : There have been a number of critical interventions during my right hon. Friend's speech. In a constituency such as mine, with 170 villages and about six market towns, it will be the death knell of the small shopkeeper if the amendment is not carried.
Mr. Alison : I am grateful for the unquestionably weighty support of my hon. Friend, whose intellectual scope and power is widely recognised in the House. My hon. Friend's intervention is such an enormous advantage to the deployment of my argument that I can almost sit down.
Mr. Donald Anderson : If we interpret the Sainsbury letter at its face value, do we not see that it is not Sainsbury's intention to extend its current opening? Sainsbury has altered its position on Sunday trading because of actual and anticipated competition. In the same way, its current intention, however honest, is likely to move with the movement of trade.
Mr. Alison : That is inescapable and it is why we need a statutory safe haven, a ring-fenced day in the week when small shops can open if they wish but larger shops are barred from opening by the will of the House.
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) : The right hon. Gentleman said that in America some shops are open for 24 hours. I recently watched some programmes on Sky television and I noticed that shopworkers in America had to ride shotgun because of the lateness of their hours in 24- hour opening shops. I worked for Rolls-Royce on the night shift and nothing was more dismal and soul destroying than to be forced to do a night shift turn and have to spend it away from the family. At least Rolls-Royce paid us a premium wage for Sundays. The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that we were not forced to work on Sundays in Rolls-Royce, but were expected to do so if the company was under pressure. But we got at least double pay. Britain's shopworkers seem to be treated as second-class citizens who can get their Sundays only if they can bargain and put in a good bid. I hope to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Alison : The hon. Gentleman has made a valid point and I seek to recruit his support for my amendment by saying that the aspersions that he cast on big employers such as Rolls-Royce, which he would no doubt like to direct at large shopkeepers, retail stores and big multiples, are best avoided by preventing them from opening on Sundays. By that means the difficulties of double pay are entirely avoided.
I apologise to the House for taking so long, but I thought that it was right to give way to some interventions. It is reasonable to assume that when hon. Members decided to support the Shopping Hours Reform Council option on 8 December, they had weighed the arguments and had considered the desire of some employees to work on Sundays, although I think that the number of such employees is quite small. They also considered the convenience of customers in having access to shops on Sundays and that applied especially to married women in employment, although in a recent poll well under 10 per cent. of such women wanted Sunday shopping. They will also have considered the needs of small shops to have one day without competition from larger shops, the need for shopworkers to have a day with their families and partners, and the need for urban residents for a day of peace and quiet.
Deregulation of weekday hours tilts the balance of the argument much more in the direction of keeping Sunday special. That is what makes me believe that there is an urgent need to reconsider our earlier decision to allow all shops to open for six hours every Sunday. That is why I urge all hon. Members to support amendments Nos. 1 to 6.
Mr. Donald Anderson : I was delighted to add my name to the amendments moved by the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison). I almost called him my right hon. Friend, because he certainly is on this issue. I congratulate him on the way in which he spoke to his amendment. Like me, the right hon. Gentleman believes in "back to basics," which we construe as applying to a Government who are honest about their intentions and who seek, as far as they are able by legislation, to encourage family values and do not put up obstacles to the proper functioning of the family.
It is certain that one of the effects of the Bill would be to add to pressures on the family, which the right hon. Gentleman and I--and, I am confident, a substantial number of hon. Members in all parts of the House-- believe to be the cornerstone of our society.
I have two reasons for supporting the amendment. First, unlike the six-hour option, the amendment represents a true and fair compromise between the interests of consumers and retailers and their staff. Secondly, I support it because of the many absurdities that are likely to be generated by the six-hour option. Those two points are closely linked. It is precisely because the six-hour option would be so difficult and expensive for local authorities to enforce and to police that it would speedily degenerate into a total deregulation. I have argued, and shall not repeat, that in no wise is the six-hour option a compromise : it is what those who want total deregulation feel they can get at this time. There is no logical stopping point, because people will say, "If six hours, why not seven or eight?" As some hon. Members have forcefully said, even the six-hour option would need to have hours on either side for deliveries and so on. In effect, it would take up the whole of Sunday. The Shopping Hours Reform Council option was designed to be, and is, a Trojan horse designed to smuggle total deregulation into our society.