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(a) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure of the Secretary of State incurred in consequence of the Act;
(b) the payment out of such money or the Consolidated Fund of sums in respect of contributions or benefits in respect of judicial pensions arising in connection with the appointment of the holder of a United Kingdom judicial office as a judge of the International Criminal Court;
(c) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act.--[Mr. Jamieson.]

Question agreed to.

3 Apr 2001 : Column 295

Christmas Day (Trading) Bill [Money]

Queen's recommendation having been signified--

10.59 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I beg to move,

As drafted, the Christmas Day (Trading)--[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): Order. Will hon. Members leaving the Chamber please do so quickly and quietly so that this debate can commence?

Mr. O'Brien: As drafted, the Christmas Day (Trading) Bill may have some small expenditure implications for the Treasury purse, and a money resolution is therefore required. The small amount of extra expenditure would be in respect of inspectors to enforce the prohibition on the opening of large shops on Christmas day.

Only a handful of such shops have so far opened on Christmas day, and enforcement should be assisted by the fact that advance local publicity would almost certainly be required if large shops intended to open in future. Although the implications are relatively small, it is none the less appropriate to put this motion before the House.

11 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): At least the Minister has taken the trouble, on this occasion, to come to the House and give a brief explanation of the money resolution. For that, I suppose we should be grateful, but I am not sure that the Minister said enough to persuade me that the resolution should be approved--at least, not without some further thought.

The Bill has far-reaching ramifications. It may be short, which is commendable in a private Member's Bill, but it has substantial implications. Clause 1 is entitled "Large shops not to open on Christmas Day", and that gives a fair idea of what the Bill is about. The schedule to the Bill gives some indication of the ramifications.

I shall pass over what I believe is a grammatical error in the first line of the schedule, which states:

I should have thought that the phrase "its area" would have been more appropriate. Perhaps we should vote money for literacy lessons for parliamentary draftsmen and Home Office officials, so that the Bill could be got right. That would be a proper use for money flowing from the money resolution.

I exonerate the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) from any blame for that error, as I suspect that the Bill was drafted either by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers or by the Government, or a bit of both.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): I do not always rise to the right hon. Gentleman's bait,

3 Apr 2001 : Column 296

but I cannot let him get away with something on which he is totally wrong. The Bill was not drafted by USDAW or the Government.

Mr. Forth: In that case, the hon. Lady must plead guilty to the grammatical error that I have pointed out, but I shall not hold that against her.

The resolution would allow the effects of the responsibilities outlined in the schedule to be carried out. The schedule states, grammar notwithstanding, that local authorities are to be given an additional responsibility to enforce the provisions of clause 1(1) in their areas. It continues:

It adds that those inspectors may already have been appointed as inspectors by the local authority. However, they may not have been so appointed, which means that additional inspectors might have to be appointed so that local authorities can properly discharge the duties laid on them by the Bill.

Therefore, the Minister was not right to brush aside or minimise the Bill's financial impact. How many inspectors would be required adequately to police shops on Christmas day? People paid by the hour would be on double or triple time. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, will know more about that sort of thing than I, and the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich certainly knows a lot about it. Perhaps she will tell the House later in the debate whether inspectors would be paid triple time on Christmas day as they go around ensuring that all the large stores do not open in defiance of the Bill.

Straight away we have the potential for considerable expenditure. I presume also that inspectors would be on expenses, so they would be paid triple time and expenses in order properly to discharge their duties. One can just imagine a veritable army of inspectors plodding around large stores on Christmas day to ensure that they were not opening in defiance of the Bill.

That is bad enough. When we come to paragraph 3 of the schedule, which states:

we realise that we are getting into much more serious territory. Here we have the possibility--the financial implications can only be guessed at, but that is what we are here to do--of inspectors seeking to enter the premises to see whether they are open. Presumably, premises would be quite easy to enter if they were open, and if they were not open, the inspectors would not have to enter them, so the provision may be otiose.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) that the Chamber is not the place for doing work that is not to do with the debate.

Mr. Forth: We are faced with a conundrum as to whether the powers of entry and obstruction would carry with them any financial implications. I am, I confess, somewhat confused as to whether that would be the case. I suspect that the inspectors, frequently mentioned in the schedule, would be the Bill's largest financial implication. However, we should take into account a contrary factor that may contribute to a minimising of the financial implications.

3 Apr 2001 : Column 297

As right hon. and hon. Members will know, because they will have studied the Bill very closely, clause 1(3) provides that, if subsection (1) is contravened,

Were that to be the case, the Bill could be almost self-financing. The fines imposed on large stores opening in contravention of the Act--were the Bill to reach the statute book--might well pay for the peripatetic inspectors. We would be in the rather satisfactory position of the shops opening in defiance of the Act, being found out by the wandering inspectors and paying the fine, which would go to pay the triple time and expenses earned by the inspectors.

The whole thing would have an elegant simplicity, and the self-financing aspect might well render the money resolution otiose. Perhaps we could talk ourselves into not passing the money resolution in the secure knowledge that the Bill would be self-financing. I do not know whether the Minister, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich or some of my colleagues find that an attractive idea. However, I think that these matters should be considered before we rush into deciding whether to vote for or against the motion.

All in all, we should be grateful to the hon. Lady for giving us a chance to consider the Bill. She can be sure that we shall have a good old go at it on Report when it comes out of Committee--I envisage most of a day spent debating it then. However, we may want to give a little more thought as to whether the money resolution is as onerous as I first thought.

Mrs. Dunwoody: Is the right hon. Gentleman's objection to the Bill that he would prefer people to work on Christmas day when it does not fall on a Sunday?

Mr. Forth: My preference is for people to work whenever they want to. I am very keen on people doing lots of work on lots of occasions. I am very much opposed to heavy-handed interventionist regulation, especially when it is driven by trade unions and especially when it would deny people the freedom to choose to work on any day of the year on which they wanted to do so. That is my view, and it remains unaltered.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): I fear that my right hon. Friend's prognosis is a triumph of optimism over reality. I challenge him to tell me whether he can enumerate, in the course of a 10-minute speech, the number of occasions on which a money resolution has proved to be self-financing. As the declaration of interests is of paramount importance in our proceedings, may I just say that I speak from some experience on the subject of working on Christmas day? For 20 years at least, I worked on Christmas day teaching my mother how to play tennis, which was an extremely burdensome way in which to make a living.

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