Sunday Working (Scotland) Bill

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The Chairman: Before I invite the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill to respond to the debate, the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) has told me that, unfortunately, he has to attend a Select Committee hearing at 10 o'clock. That is an example of conflicting business in the House. As the hon. Gentleman has courteously notified the Chair, I feel that it is appropriate to notify the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde, who may wish to respond to his questions.

David Cairns: Indeed, the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire informed me yesterday that he had to attend a Select Committee meeting.

This has been a useful and enlightening debate. I am grateful for the support that the Bill has received and shall reply briefly to some of the questions raised.

The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale spoke of the experiences of business men and of his links with Greenock. I thought that he might repeat the claims that were made by my Liberal Democrat opponent in the last general election. At the first hustings debate, we were describing our links with the constituency. I said that I had been born there, grew up there and went to school there, and the Conservative candidate said the same about himself. The Liberal Democrat said that he had not been born there but had been conceived in Greenock high street.

Mr. Carmichael: The gentleman in question was not only conceived in Greenockówe will take his word for thatóbut I seem to recall that subsequently he was shot there and, fortunately, that after that he joined the Scottish National party.

The Chairman: Order. There is something that is known as too much information.

10 am

David Cairns: All that I remember about Mr. Brodie, who was a Liberal Democrat candidate, is that in every conversation I had with him he spent the entire time going on about how terrible the Scottish Nationalists were, and to my complete surprise he has

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since joined them. I shall intrude no more on that piece of private grief.

The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale rightly said that this Bill ties up some loose ends. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir). In his small contribution, he made excellent cases for the importance of the strength of the Union and the relevance of this House. I could not have put those cases better myself and I am grateful to him for his strong support for the Union.

Mr. Weir: I cannot let that pass. I would hate for it to be on the record that I support the Union in any way. It is unfortunate that Scotland does not have the power to deal with this matter: it would undoubtedly have had that power many years ago and it would have dealt with this much more quickly. I am sorry that it has taken so long to get here.

David Cairns: It is not unfortunate that we are doing this here; it is because the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland wish to continue with the Union, and the hon. Gentleman's party has been singularly poor at convincing them of the merits of separation.

The Chairman: Order. When the hon. Gentleman referred to the Union, I assumed that he was referring to the shop workers union. He is in grave danger of becoming out of order.

David Cairns: Thank you, Mr. Gale, for that ruling.

The hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire spoke briefly about people who are not covered by this legislation. The definition is narrow and it was praised as such by the shadow Leader of the House, so I am certainly not going to test his patience by widening it. The object of this exercise is to harmonise the law in Scotland with that in England and Wales, rather than to go further. I do not believe that it is within the scope of a private Member's Bill to attempt such a hugely ambitious endeavouróthat would be a matter for the Government.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North for his tireless efforts on behalf of his constituents. He, along with his central Aberdeen colleague and my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) did a great deal to bring this issue into the public's consciousness: they more than anyone else were responsible for laying the grounds that have led to us being here today.

I welcome the support of the Liberal Democrat party, as expressed by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. I take it from his remarks that this measure has the unqualified support of all parts of his party this morning and I welcome that. He spoke about the Sabbatarians and one of the unintended consequences of this Bill is that I have become something of a hero among the Wee Free community, which is a delightful if somewhat unexpected position for me at my time of life. I am enjoying it while it lasts.

My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the consultation. I did not mention it because it was a

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stand-alone consultation, although it obviously has implications for the measure that we are discussing. Therefore, I also extend my thanks to those who made the effort to respond to the consultation and to those who collated the information and provided it for the Committee in advance of today's discussions. I would especially like to thank all Members of this House and the Scottish Parliament who wrote in in support of the legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Transitory, transitional

and saving provisions

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

David Cairns: There is no need to spend as much time on this clause as it is a fairly standard clause in Bills such as these.

I crave your indulgence for just one second, Mr. Gale, because I neglected to discuss human rights compatibility.

Mrs. McGuire: I wonder whether I could reassure my hon. Friend so that he does not have to seek legal opinion on its compatibility with the European convention on human rights. Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is not applicable, as this is not a Government Bill. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was correct; there is a slightly different procedure. We are considering a private Member's Bill and although we all feel that it is compatible with the 1998 Act, the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde does not need to make a specific statement to that effect.

David Cairns: I am extremely grateful to the Minister and I trust that that answers the question.

Clause 2 is a standard clause conferring a power on the Secretary of State to make by order transitory transitional saving provisions that may be required to give full effect to any provision of the legislation. Mindful of the consultation that was under way, I was keen that the clause be inserted. It may have been clear as a result of the consultation that there were either sectoral or geographical circumstances that would have required some sort of transitional power. I am not aware that that has come out so far.

The hon. Member for Bridgwater mentioned pensions. I cannot think of any obvious implications for pensions. It is important to remember that for those who opt out of Sunday working, employers are not obliged to provide another day's work. The cost to the employer in relation to salary and pensions should be neutral. I am not entirely sure that there are implications in that respect. The Bill must travel through another place, which has a great deal of business and trade union experience and something may emerge there. Although I am not anticipating what the orders may be, it is prudent at this stage that clause 2 should stand part of the Bill.

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Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 3 and 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Bill to be reported, without amendment.

Committee rose at six minutes past Ten o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Gale, Mr. Roger (Chairman)
Cairns, David
Carmichael, Mr.
Duncan, Mr. Peter
Harris, Mr. Tom
Joyce, Mr.
Liddell-Grainger, Mr.
MacDonald, Mr.
MacDougall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
McKechin, Ann
Osborne, Sandra
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Savidge, Mr.
Selous, Andrew
Sheridan, Jim
Weir, Mr.

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