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Mr. Greg Knight: Can my hon. Friend shed any light on the words to which I referred in my opening remarks? Lords amendment No. 1 refers to loading

Does he share my concern that that could enable a coach and horses to be driven through the restrictions? If, for example, a shopkeeper was carrying out major construction work inside the shop, would not it mean that the delivery of materials that were not connected with the trade or business carried on in the shop would be exempt?

Mr. Chope: I note my right hon. Friend's point, but if we removed that limitation we might as well say that all activity should be restricted on the morning of Christmas day.

Mr. Greg Knight: Why not?

Mr. Chope: I do not support that. Christmas day, when shops are closed, may give people an opportunity to carry out improvements to their shops if they want to do so. My right hon. Friend may think I am being uncommonly open-minded. I am not sure about the scope issue, but arbitrarily to prohibit on Christmas day or Sunday any vehicular activity at a shop that is not connected with the trade or business being carried on there would be rather draconian.

10.45 am

Mr. Randall: Refurbishment could already be covered by the measure; it could be argued that that was in connection with the trade or business, as it would presumably be designed to enhance the business or
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trade. That could apply to maintenance work, too, unless it was essential maintenance, so I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) may be worrying unduly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) is right to point out.

Mr. Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. He has probably read the provisions rather more carefully than I have, and the concerns of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire should be allayed by what he said.

Mr. Bercow: Might not the concern of our right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire be grounded in the possibility that a large store of that kind could be planning to take loads with a view to operating a mail-order business that would not be undertaken from within the physical confines of the shop? That is a possible get-out clause and we should be alert to it.

Mr. Chope: Yes, that may be so. In this ghastly internet world, that sort of thing might happen. My hon. Friend may be described as a moderniser, but he certainly anticipates the ghastly things that might happen in the future. Perhaps if he is successful in the private Members' ballot, he may want to bring forward a measure to address those awful developments. He is right to draw the House's attention to that concern.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): As one of the few Members of Parliament who holds a heavy goods vehicle operating certificate and who has had to organise for such vehicles to deliver, I can tell the House that drivers prefer to get up early in the morning and reach their destination at the earliest possible time. There could thus be a scenario where there is not simply one lorry at 9 o'clock in the morning but a queue of several lorries, so amending the time from 9 am to 10 am would have considerable benefits for local residents.

Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend has been rather reticent. We did not realise that he had such expertise in these matters and I hope that we will benefit further from it. He refers to the problems of lorries queuing up and although I am instinctively against regulation, we may need further regulation in future.

In the United States, there is a contractual arrangement whereby a lorry has a 20-minute window of opportunity only, so it has to be at the gates on time. If it is not, it loses its slot and has to come back several hours later.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend is exactly right and that is precisely what happens in this country. If a lorry is not there on time, it loses its slot and the driver is told that, if he is lucky, he can come back later in the day. If he is not lucky, he loses the slot altogether.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We are of course discussing amendments relating to Christmas day.

Mr. Chope: I am sure that my hon. Friend was addressing his remarks to the situation on Christmas day. If he is right and such distinct slots are used—I know that the slot system is used in north America, but
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I did not realise that it is used in this country—the question is: what should vehicles do that arrive early in anticipation of reaching their destination? The problem will probably not be so great on Christmas day because, as I have said, in general the traffic on that day is much lighter and therefore more predictable. So there should be no need for vehicle operators to advise their drivers to allow a two or three-hour margin in case of possible motorway congestion, or of a motorway's being closed to all traffic because of an incident.

The situation on Christmas day is probably not as serious as on other days, therefore, and for that reason I agree with you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that there is a distinction to be drawn here that appears to favour keeping the Bill in its current amended form, rather than adopting the 10 o'clock provision. As Members can tell, I am slightly in two minds about this issue. Obviously, 10 o'clock would be better than 9 o'clock, but I am worried about losing the benefit that the Bill will bring.

The points that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire made about penalties and deterrents are very important indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) reminded us just how cavalier a large commercial organisation can be when inconvenienced by the problem of fines. In the case of Sunday trading, in the end it was necessary for local authorities to seek injunctions—involving effectively unlimited penalties and the possibility of imprisonment—in order to bring these large organisations to book. So there is a need for a deterrent penalty, and probably even more so on Christmas day. We do not necessarily want to have to employ a huge number of police officers on Christmas day, and people from local trading standards departments probably do not want to be got out of their beds on that day. If a deterrent penalty can be established that is likely to result in greater compliance with the law, so much the better. Indeed, on that issue, it might be in the spirit of Christmas day to say that no speed cameras will operate on that day, for example. As a result, people from the—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. That is wide of the scope of the amendments. Perhaps any further remarks might address them.

Mr. Chope: Okay, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps that subject will have to be dealt with through a separate private Member's Bill on another occasion. On the importance of deterrents, I am far from convinced that the level 3 fine will succeed, but let us hope that it does. If there is compliance, there will be no need to amend the provision. But if compliance is not forthcoming, or if it appears that one of the large companies is collectively intent on defying the law, we should consider the possibility of obtaining an injunction against it.

I am enthusiastic about the Lords amendment and I am delighted that we have enabled such an amendment to the Bill by sitting on this Friday in October. I am also delighted that their lordships trusted that this House would not try to destroy the Bill in bringing it back here. I hope that, in terms of its future progress, its promoter or the Minister will advise us on the consequences of accepting one or more of the amendments.

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Mr. Kevan Jones: Lords amendment No. 1 arose from our discussions on Report and the efforts of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who, sadly, cannot be with us today. In the course of piloting the Bill through this House in the past few months, I have had the benefit—on balance, it is a benefit—of getting to know the right hon. Gentleman very well. I should point out that his public and private personas are very different. He has played a very constructive role on this Bill, and he, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) argued the case for the amendment—that a provision on loading and unloading should form part of the Bill—genuinely. In the spirit of the good will and good-natured debate that took place on Report—indeed, there have been good contributions and some good-natured debate throughout the Bill's passage—I gave a commitment to introduce an amendment, with the Minister's help, that deals with the loading and unloading issue. That is the process by which we arrived at the amendment before us.

I congratulate the Lords on the amendment, which does improve the Bill and is clear and tightly defined in its dealing with loading and unloading. I have listened carefully to today's discussion, and although I am flattered by the praise that has been offered for my piloting of the Bill through this place, as I said on Report and Third Reading, in order to get a private Member's Bill through one has to keep the definitions within it very tight. Some of the suggestions made today would widen the Bill's scope tremendously and thereby create problems not just on Christmas day, but in respect of other issues. That said, those suggestions were genuinely argued, and issues such as noise do arise, but I doubt whether this is the Bill in which to deal with them.

The Lords amendment introduces a core prohibition of loading and unloading before 9 am in loading and unloading control areas designated by a local authority, unless the large shop concerned has the local authority's consent, which might be subject to conditions. Subsection (2) of the amendment applies paragraphs 3 to 8 of schedule 3 to the Sunday Trading Act 1994 to clause 1. Paragraph 3(1) concerns a local authority's ability to apply conditions to consent given to loading and unloading. Paragraph 3(2) concerns the local authority's ability to vary the conditions under which consent was granted, and its giving notice of any variations made.

Paragraph 4 of schedule 3 deals with the procedure for applying for consent to load and unload in a designated area. It requires the applicant to apply in writing and to include the relevant information, which is the information that the local authority regards as fit to assess the application. Paragraph 5 is concerned with the fee payable. An applicant must pay a reasonable fee, which is determined by the local authority in question. Paragraph 6(1) establishes the grounds on which a local authority might refuse consent—namely, that loading and unloading has caused, or would be likely to cause, annoyance to local residents. As has been argued this morning and on Report, that is the core reason why the Lords amendment is needed. Indeed, the hon. Member for Canterbury argued the case for such a provision very eloquently on Report.
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We have had a fascinating discussion on the issues raised this morning and on the amendments before us. I come back to the fact that the amendment is tight—deliberately so—and we need to ask whether it is ever possible to have an amendment that covers every aspect of a problem. I am not sure that we can. In this instance, we are dealing with large shops trading on Christmas day, though we have posed a range of other issues around noise and, fundamentally, the way modern society is structured.

11 am

The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire explained that the point behind his amendment (a) was to restrict other activities in the shops and he referred particularly to demolition. I know from my days in local government that much of that would be covered by building control regulations and, in the case of noise nuisance, by anti-noise legislation. Many local authorities, including mine at the time, had what was called a considerate contractors' contract, where one of the key aims was to ensure that no nuisance was caused to neighbours. Thus I believe that other provisions cover the point and there is no need for the amendment.

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