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Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore): I regret that I have not been present for the whole debate. I represent a Welsh constituency, Ogmore, which has the largest cell of the Klu Klux Klan in the country. The Anti-Nazi League had a demonstration here in London today, and I had to attend to that. I should like to have been in the Chamber for the start of today's important debate.
The Minister--I hope that he is listening--sent a short two-page letter on 9 February which seemed to suggest that the Bill was of little consequence to many people. I do not share the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) for the Bill, and she does not share my enthusiasm for controlling Sunday trading.
I represent a constituency with beautiful views. It contains Ogmore castle and, not too far from it, a pub. Families would probably like to visit the castle and have a drink at 3 pm, when the pub might be closed. Restrictions have been lifted in Wales. Only a matter of years ago, we restricted Sunday opening hours and even prevented a number of pubs from opening at all on Sunday. I well recall going to a pub in Worcester, half of which was open on Sunday and half of which--the part that happened to be in Wales--was closed. If a customer went into one part, he could have a drink on Sunday, but he could not have a drink in the other half. That was ludicrous and I would not like that to happen today.
I have a fear, which I think is shared by quite a few Christians in the House and throughout the country. We are allowing licensing freedom on Sunday, which has always been a family day. We are allowing shops to open on Sundays and everybody thinks that that is excellent. As the senior Member sponsored by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, I know that, since shops have been legally open on Sunday--they have, for a long time, been opening illegally--USDAW members are finding that our predictions about the promises made to them by some large stores about double-time on Sunday and freedom of choice as to whether to work on Sunday have come true.
The Minister should talk to the licensees who, over the past 12 months, have already suffered the bitter experience of renegotiating their licences with the brewers. They are finding that, even now, they have little time to themselves. It will be worse if they are told that they have to work right through a Sunday. We are talking
Column 1046about giving leisure time to all families, but if licensees want a break to be with their families, they have to ensure that there are staff in the pub so that it can open.
Mr. Powell: I do not have much time. I have been given five minutes. I have been told that that is all I have, so I had better not give way. I shall have a job getting what I would like to say into five minutes.
I can visualise what will happen in my constituency once we tell licensees that they have to open all day. There is between 15 and 20 per cent. unemployment in my constituency, much of it long term. People have been out of work since 1983-84 and the end of the miners' strike: the Government decided to close every colliery in my constituency and declared 12,000 steelworkers redundant. Fathers without a job and without an interest go down to the pub in the week for a drink. On a Sunday they know that they have to get home at 3 o'clock, not only for their Sunday dinner but because the pub shuts. I know what will happen to their family life. The mother, son or daughter will have to go down to the pub and see if dad will come home at the usual time of 3 o'clock.
It is all right for my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen to talk about her lovely walks with her family and calling into the pub for a drink. Other families in Britain, especially in Wales, are out of work and have no money in their pockets, but they find the money for the man to go to the pub. On a Sunday afternoon, so that he can he go back to his family for his lunch--
I was surprised at the brief letter that we received from the Minister. He said that there should be practically no opposition to the Bill. The floodgates are being opened for all-day Sunday licensing hours.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said that, as the House of Commons defeated their measure on VAT on fuel, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor said, "We will get the money from somewhere. We will get it from the brewers. To console them, so that we keep their contribution to Conservative party funds for the next election, we will extend licensing hours on Sundays so that the brewers can rake some more money in." The effect on family life will be catastrophic. The House would be wise to reject the suggestion and keep the restriction on Sunday licensing hours for as long as possible.
Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough): I rise to speak briefly on the Bill as the vice-chairman of the Back-Bench deregulation committee and one who served on the Standing Committee which considered the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill in 1994. I am the Member of Parliament for Scarborough and I also represent Whitby. It is a well-known constituency which relies heavily on tourism for its prosperity. The Bill is a continuation and amplification of the Government's deregulatory moves. The Bill aims to extend choice for both the consumer and the licensee.
Column 1047In 1989, the Government introduced measures to allow pubs and clubs to open on weekday afternoons. I remember in the months leading up to implementation of the measure the dark warnings about eternal damnation, drunkenness on the street, violence and disorder. All have proved to be unfounded. In Scarborough and Whitby those measures have enhanced the prospects for tourism and, therefore, prosperity and employment for my constituents.
Visitors to Whitby, which is the home of Captain Cook and much else, come from all four corners of the world. Now, on weekdays, they can enjoy a drink in any of the numerous harbour bars, but not on Sunday. The walkers who tramp the glorious north Yorkshire moors can enjoy a drink when they arrive at Goathland--otherwise known as Aidensfield in the famous television series "Heartbeat", which is filmed in my constituency--during the week, but not on Sunday. Why is a Sunday afternoon drink any different from a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday afternoon drink? The Bill will put that right.
The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 introduced, for the first time, children's certificates for pubs. That was a welcome measure for families with children. Many families, mine included, enjoy going for a drink on a weekday during the recess or on a Saturday, but we cannot do so on a Sunday afternoon. The measure works well, except on Sundays. The Bill will put that right. Whenever I go to a pub on a Sunday afternoon, there seems to be a polite stampede to the bar at 10 minutes to 3. Blokes line up pint after pint and other assorted drinks to have before closing time. They drink them as quickly as they can get them down their throats, which leads to intoxication. The Bill will help to ensure that that does not happen and that people take a much more measured view of drinking.
At present, the licensing laws prevent shops that open on Sundays from selling alcohol between 3 pm and 7 pm. It is becoming impossible to justify preventing customers who have access to a complete range of goods, including food and tobacco--which, in my book, is far more dangerous than alcohol--from buying a bottle of wine. I do not see anything wrong with being able to buy a bottle of wine at any time of the day.
The measures in the Bill are extremely welcome. They will enhance tourism. I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. 6.36 pm
Mr. George Howarth: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This has been an interesting and long day for the Minister and for me. We started at 10 o'clock this morning dealing with drugs. This afternoon, we moved on to the problems of Sunday licensing hours. During the debate, we touched on such a wide range of interesting subjects as the origins of licensing controls in the first world war, Europe and the role of Germany in all this. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) and I raised the implications for the casino industry. No corner of the entertainment life of the great British public was left out. At one stage, there
Column 1048was even a minor skirmish into the consequences of the "back to basics" debate, but on that subject, the least said, soonest mended. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) expressed a view that is not entirely unfamiliar to the House. He has been consistent and proper in the views that he has expressed. To put the record straight and to show that he is consistent with the debate that has taken place in Wales, I should like to quote from The Guardian of Tuesday 20 August 1968. The article is headed, "For a wet Sunday welcome in Wales". It makes the connection with the points that my hon. Friend made. It begins:
"Welsh beer is a headier brew than most when there is a suggestion that it should be served on a Sunday: just thinking about the idea is enough to make some heads spin; talking about it triggers the passionate nationalism every Welsh man believes he ought to feel about internal affairs."
The lineage of the sentiment has just been expressed again by my hon. Friend.
Help is at hand from my hon. Friend's part of the world. I have before me a letter from the director of leisure of Ogwr borough council, which covers my hon. Friend's constituency. The director of leisure appears to support the idea of Sunday drinking. He says: "Without having to express any opinion on the merits or otherwise I do feel that if such changes are to be introduced that consideration at the same time be given to reviewing the law as it relates to public music and dancing. At present there can be no public dancing on a Sunday--which creates particular problems when say New Year's Eve falls or runs into a Sunday (clubs are in the main not affected as they are not `public')."
If the Bill is given a Second Reading and eventually ends up on the statute book, on the first Sunday after that there will be dancing in my hon. Friend's constituency.
In certain contexts, the question of Sunday being a special day has been irredeemably changed. The argument about Sunday trading was the watershed for that. Until then, a number of other hon. Members and I had clung to the Keep Sunday Special position, but we have now moved beyond that--perhaps for good, perhaps for ill. This Bill is a tidying-up measure rather than a great issue of principle that should divide the House. Of course, I am not suggesting that there should not be a Division, if that is what some hon. Members want. There is now trading on a Sunday and Sundays generally are viewed by the majority of people more as days of leisure than as days of worship. As someone who regularly attends church, I thought it wise to speak to my local vicar, Rev. Tom Steele, on the telephone yesterday. His view is that the argument is more or less in the past and that we cannot defend the historic position. He also said--this is characteristic of him-- that he had spent many happy hours in a pub on a Sunday.
For those who want to worship on a Sunday--I am one--it is not impossible to enjoy a day of leisure, which might include a visit to a pub and Sunday worship, all within the one day.
Some hon. Members have raised important points that should be either answered by the Minister when he replies or, as some of them are quite detailed, dealt with in Committee.
Column 1049The first point relates to the rights of those employed in the industry, whether they be bar staff, tenants, managers, licensees or others. It is important that those currently employed should not be expected, as a matter of course, to work additional hours. They should not be subject to any disciplinary action if, as is perfectly reasonable, they choose not to work additional hours on a Sunday. At a later stage of the Bill's passage, we shall seek reassurances on that point. Another point of concern is the lack of consultation on the proposals. That was mentioned by several hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe), for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson).
It is odd that, only a month or six weeks after the announcement was made in a great flourish of prime ministerial activity, the Bill has reached its Second Reading stage. Between now and the Bill going into Committee there should be further consultation on exactly how the proposals will affect all those associated with the industry. All the anomalies in the licensed trade will not be sorted out by the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Leigh and many others who are involved in the all-party non-profit-making clubs group and those who are associated with the club industry feel that things need to be changed. I understand that, in due course, they hope either to introduce a private Member's Bill in this place or to follow the applicable procedure in the other place, and I hope that the issues can be dealt with in that context.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen said, it would have been both proper and useful to bring all those matters together in this one Bill so that they could be dealt with at the same time. Those issues remain to be resolved and there are some anomalies that need to be dealt with.
One of my reservations has been mentioned by several hon. Members on both sides of the House: although we welcome the move towards pubs becoming more family friendly and are glad that the new system has been introduced, there is clear concern that the trade has not risen to the challenge. All too often, pubs and clubs are not attractive to families. No one wants to return to the archetypal image of pubs which was so unattractive that children were often left on the pub steps with packets of crisps and bottles of lemonade while mum and dad were inside having a drink. Those days were most undesirable. The challenge for the trade is to make pubs attractive, bright, clean, decent places where families want to go, rather than, as all too often happens, places where no person would want to take his family for a couple of hours' entertainment. All the issues need more time given to them and more detailed investigation.
Mr. Ray Powell: Does my hon. Friend really think that children should be taken into a pub at 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon when that pub might already have been open for three or four hours? Most of the people there would have been drinking for three or four hours. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that it would be ideal to take children into that sort of place?
Mr. Howarth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, but I do not think that his question was intended to make me feel that way. It would be inappropriate to take a young family into many establishments. The force of my argument is that we should make more establishments
Column 1050family friendly. I have three children--a teenage son and two children under the age of 10. On occasions, my wife and I have taken them into pubs that serve food on a Sunday. It has been an enjoyable experience. Some pubs cater specifically for children and they provide special facilities such as colouring-in books. I would never want to take any of my children--or, indeed, even my wife--into a pub where people were drunk and there was violence or other difficulties. People make a choice and generally they would not take their families into that sort of establishment.
All these issues can be raised at a later stage in the Bill's passage, but they certainly require further discussion. It is a free vote tonight, so my hon. Friends will make their decisions on which way to vote. Having listened to their speeches, I know that how they will vote is fairly predictable. I do not mean that in any way as a criticism; I happen to think that the Bill deserves a Second Reading and we can discuss our reservations at a later stage. I shall vote in favour of the Bill.
Mr. Michael Forsyth: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to respond to this useful debate. I very much welcome the support of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth). As he said, we began our day this morning on drugs and we have ended up on drinking on the sabbath day. There has been a surprising degree of consensus on both those matters. I hope that it will not be long before we can find matters on which we disagree because so much consensus in one day is ruining my reputation.
Mr. Forsyth: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is not here, but I hope that the message will go out to every miners' welfare in the land that the hon. Gentleman is the man who wants to stop miners being able to drink there on Sunday afternoons. Indeed, he told us that there was no demand for this measure. I do not know where he spends his time these days, but it is obviously not in the clubs and pubs around the country--
Mr. Forsyth: My hon. Friend suggests that he knows. The hon. Member for Bolsover obviously does not spend his time in the miners' welfares or in the other establishments that will benefit from this legislation. Meanwhile, with some trepidation, I give way to my hon. Friend.
Mr. Evans: I just thought the Minister might like to know that the hon. Member for Bolsover spends a good deal of his time in Belgravia, in disguise, waiting for his American friend to summon him to her presence.
Mr. Forsyth: I shall not follow my hon. Friend down that path. The hon. Member for Knowsley, North referred to employment protection and drew a parallel with the provisions of the Sunday Trading Act 1994. There is a distinction: that Act created a situation in which people would be required to work on Sundays when they had
Column 1051every expectation that that was not a possibility, given the nature of the law. This Bill does not do that; it merely extends Sunday working hours, so I do not see a parallel. I am sure, in any case, that we can discuss the matter in Committee--the hon. Gentleman gave notice to that effect.
The hon. Gentleman was also concerned about consultation. I do not know whether I am allowed to say this, but the fact that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that this measure would be introduced as part of the deregulation exercise has helped no end in ensuring the necessary agreement to bring the Bill before the House. I believe that the country will welcome that.
The hon. Gentleman feels that there has been so much speed about the process that there has not been enough time for consultation. We shall welcome any views expressed on the implementation of the Bill, but it does extend people's freedom and I think that it will prove popular. There has been widespread bewilderment on the part of the general public when they, able to shop for the first time on Sundays, have found partitions put up at certain times of the day in supermarkets, screening off the sections that sell alcohol and deal with licensed sales.
The hon. Gentleman also expressed anxiety at the fact that, when the 1988 Act was passed, there was no mention of any wish to liberalise Sunday hours --a fair point. The explanation is that the Government at the time had just had something of a setback on the issue of Sunday trading. Many of those who had signed early-day motions did not actually support the findings of the Auld report when it came to voting in the Division Lobbies. It would not have been right to introduce such a measure while the issue of Sunday trading was still up in the air.
In 1988, Sunday drinking hours were extended from 2 pm to 3 pm. That became known as the Ferrers hour, after my right hon. and noble Friend. I understand that the Ferrers hour has met with general approval throughout the land. This measure provides for a further popular extension of hours. I have no idea whether anyone's name will be attached to that extension, but we all live in hope--
The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) got himself into a real tangle. Let me have a third go at explaining the position. He asked, I think, whether supermarkets would be able to trade on Sundays when Christmas day is a Sunday, and on Easter day, as a result of the measure which provides for the sale of alcohol on those days when shops are able to trade. The answer to his question is no. The Sunday Trading Act specifically prevents large shops from trading on Christmas day when it falls on a Sunday, and on Easter day. I hope that that reassures the right hon. Gentleman and that he may even feel disposed to support the Bill tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Hawksley) asked about licensing committees and the exercise of discretion. I was concerned to hear what he had to say, based on his experience, about what is happening in respect of new children's certificates and the conditions that are being
Column 1052implemented. I can assure him that I will get Home Office officials to monitor carefully what is going on. It is early days yet, and I very much hope that this will be a real opportunity to create the family pub which most, if not all, hon. Members would like. Worries expressed about the exercise of discretion by magistrates do not appear to be reflected in the decisions that they have taken in respect of afternoon openings and their ability to control them when problems have arisen and there has been a need for restriction orders. I am not sure whether it is right not to allow magistrates some element of discretion.
The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed suggested that the protections in clause 3 would be limited to disorder--not so, as I explained in my opening speech.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) made an extraordinary speech in which he detected all kinds of conspiracies behind the Bill. That was unworthy of him, but I do agree with his remarks about alcohol misuse and the dangers that it represents to our society. Part of ensuring responsible drinking is encouraging people to see pubs as family places, not restricting their hours unreasonably.
My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), who apologised for not being present at the end of the debate, made a moving plea for what I can only describe as the harmonisation of our licensing laws with Europe's--an interesting reversal of the position that he usually adopts in the House. I expect that, if he were here, he would intervene to tell me that at least this decision would be taken by the House of Commons.
The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) made an excellent speech which stood in contrast to the one by the hon. Member for Swansea, East. She described finding herself after a Sunday walk outside a closed pub at 5 o'clock. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country have had a similar experience and will benefit from the legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman), with his considerable experience in the licensed trade, gave us an insider's view of how this legislation would benefit the licensed trade, which is experiencing some difficulties at the moment.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) made the speech that we would expect of him and came up with the extraordinary proposition that pubs should be closed to stop people going who do not have the money to go to them. That is ludicrous--why should the rest of the population who want to spend their leisure time as they choose have restrictions placed on them so as to deal with those who run their lives less responsibly?
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), in an excellent speech, underlined the importance of the measure for tourism and described how jobs and prosperity depend on the removal of petty restrictions of the sort with which the Bill deals. He said that he wanted it pushed through the House as quickly as possible. If the House gives the Bill a fair wind and it completes its stages here and in the other place, it will be possible to implement its provisions rapidly after Royal Assent. Whether the tourist and leisure industries have the benefit of the legislation in the coming summer season is in the hands of hon. Members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put , That the Bill be now read a Second time:--
Column 1053The House divided : Ayes 304, Noes 116.
Division No. 74] [6.59 pm
Column 1053Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Beresford, Sir Paul
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Bright, Sir Graham
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (Dorset)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Donohoe, Brian H
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James