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Vince Cable: First, those supermarkets will not be able to use the Bill as a precedent, because we have made it clear that it is not a precedent. Secondly, many other stores—not just supermarkets—will benefit. We have already explained, in some detail, that a large number of consumers and workers will be able to take advantage of the Bill.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I will take one more intervention, and then I must conclude my speech.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): Is the Secretary of State not creating a precedent in terms of large sporting events? What if, on the next occasion when the Welsh win the rugby grand slam, the supporters say, “They have already done it for the Olympics; why should they not do it for us?”

Vince Cable: Given that I represent Twickenham, I think that I have some sense of the impact of major sporting events, and no one has suggested that the legislation should be changed specifically for rugby union events.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I want to end my speech now. I have taken a great many interventions, and there will be further opportunities for Members to intervene later.

The Government have listened to the concerns expressed about the proposal to suspend temporarily the restrictions on Sunday trading, and we have made every effort to consult and work with a wide range of interested parties. We have spoken not only to the Churches, but to large businesses including supermarkets and other retailers, and to representative bodies such as the British Retail Consortium, the CBI and the British Council of Shopping Centres.

David Wright: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Vince Cable: No, not on this occasion.

We have also spoken to representatives of small businesses such as the Association of Convenience Stores, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Federation of Small Businesses, and to trade unions including the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and Unite. We believe that the Bill strikes the right balance between stressing the legitimate concerns expressed by those groups and securing the flexibility that is needed to ensure that British retailers can take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the Olympic and Paralympic games, such as the opportunity to showcase the United Kingdom’s skills, talents and businesses to the rest of the world.

The games will be an occasion for unparalleled entertainment, and we want to make certain that everyone can take advantage of them to the full. Allowing UK retailers extended Sunday trading is a small change that could have a significant impact on the enjoyment of the games, on the national economy, and on our international image. I commend the Bill to the House.

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6.34 pm

Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab): I am a London boy and very, very proud of it. I believe that the richness, the dynamism and the energy and drive of this city are unrivalled. We were all immensely proud when, on 6 July 2005, we watched the president of the International Olympic Committee announce that our country’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games here in London had been successful. I remember seeing, on television, the shadow Olympics Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), the former—and future—Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and assorted athletes such as Denise Lewis leap about and jump for joy when they heard that the bid had been successful. That was a wonderful moment. Now we find ourselves just 87 days away from the start of the opening ceremony—from seeing the Olympic flame flicker above a state-of-the-art stadium in Stratford, east London.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend recall hearing, at the same time as the announcement of the fantastic news of the bid’s success, the announcement of a synchronised shopping trolley event? If it happened, I missed it, but the Secretary of State seems to be suggesting that it is the new Olympic sport.

Let me now make a serious point. What would my hon. Friend say to workers up and down the country who have tickets for a Sunday Olympic event, and who now know that they will not be able to attend other than through the back door or through devious means because their employers will not let them go?

Mr Umunna: I do not recollect any mention of synchronised shopping trolleys. I will deal with my hon. Friend’s point about workers shortly.

Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Umunna: I will give way to the Member representing the Olympic park.

Lyn Brown: I am minded to support the Bill, although I feel sad about the fact that I will not be in the same Lobby as many of my colleagues. Can my hon. Friend tell me whether there have been discussions with the Government, and specifically with the Secretary of State, about an Olympic premium for those who will be expected to work on a Sunday and to give up much more of their time than they have had to give up hitherto? I am particularly worried about the fact that it seems likely that there will have to be two lots of shift patterns on Sundays, and that there will not be enough staff to work those shifts on a voluntary basis.

Mr Umunna: We have raised that issue with the Secretary of State. Although, according to the Government’s Business Link website, a premium should be considered in circumstances such as this when employees are required to work at unusual times, the Government have decided not to do anything about it.

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David Wright: At what point did the Government raise the issues in the Bill with Opposition Front Benchers? How much notice was given? Does my hon. Friend not find it rather strange that there has been week after week of Back-Bench business when the Government could have presented the Bill and we could have had a proper debate, but it is being rushed through the House in a single day?

Mr Umunna: I was coming to that point.

With the bid won, our party, in government, proceeded to work in close collaboration with others to make a success and a lasting legacy of this once-in-a-lifetime event for the United Kingdom. The stability and transparency of the cross-party working to which my hon. Friend has referred was crucial to the success of our Olympic planning. It was therefore a huge disappointment that the first we heard of these measures was in the omnishambles that was the pre-briefing of this year’s Budget in the Sunday newspapers during the weekend before the Chancellor’s Budget statement. That was the first that we, and others, heard of the proposal to suspend the restrictions on Sunday trading between 22 July and 9 September this year, during the period of the Olympics.

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): I am a former Sports Minister who sat on the Olympic Board, and a former consumer Minister who had to deal with the issue of Sunday trading. I wonder whether my hon. Friend knows the origin of the motivation for this proposal. I certainly never heard anyone call for it during my time on the board, and when, as consumer Minister, I talked to organisations such as the Association of Convenience Stores and the Federation of Newsagents, no one said that they wanted it. Where has it come from?

Mr Umunna: My hon. Friend poses a good question, and I refer him to a piece written by the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) in which she mentions the vigorous Treasury pre-briefing on this matter.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): It is interesting that this Bill has been introduced so very recently. Never has a major legislative proposal emerged so quickly, especially when the opposition to it is so very strong. I have received many e-mails, letters and constituent complaints about it. It is causing a great deal of stress to all small shopkeepers, who are the very people who keep our local communities alive. Only a Liberal Democrat could have invented the idea of giving power to Walmart in America—and with that company’s scandal in Mexico!

Mr Umunna: I have not received a single representation in favour of this Bill, but I have received many opposing it.

This proposal was briefed and released with no advance warning, consultation or negotiation with either us or relevant affected stakeholders. That breaks with the previous spirit of collaborative working. Since taking office, the Government have had many months to plan for the games, and preparations had already been well advanced by my right hon. Friend the shadow Olympics Minister and other colleagues when we were in office.

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Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): Some time ago, the Prime Minister said that

“from here on I want a family test applied to all domestic policy. If it hurts families, if it undermines commitment, if it tramples over the values that keep people together, or stops families from being together, then we shouldn’t do it.”

I know my hon. Friend does not have much time for the Prime Minister, but does he not think that that is reason enough to abandon the Bill?

Mr Umunna: I have some sympathy with that view, and I will come on to address the effect on families.

Gavin Shuker: My hon. Friend is being characteristically generous in taking interventions. He has tabled a number of amendments that would significantly improve the Bill. It is telling that we are dealing with this Bill on the final day of what has been a two-year parliamentary Session. That tells us everything we need to know about the coalition. Does he agree that this Bill speaks volumes, as it shows that in the coalition’s view, working people are for the economy, rather than the economy being for working people?

Mr Umunna: That is certainly the view of many outside this House, too.

One has to ask why the Secretary of State and his colleagues have introduced this legislative change so late in the day when they have been in office for almost two years. That raises a further question: what other matters have they forgotten to consider in advance of the Olympics? It is worth reminding the House that the Government brought the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (Amendment) Act 2011 before Parliament six months ago, after the ten-minute rule Bill to which the Secretary of State referred. Would not the more competent and sensible course of action have been to deal with this matter then, instead of thrusting it on us now, out of the blue, in this rather rushed and haphazard fashion?

Mark Field: Despite the concerns that have been expressed, the reality is that this measure is likely to end up being something of a damp squib. Many shops will not open. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept the Secretary of State’s assurances that no precedent will be set and that this measure will definitely last for only a short period, and that Members will have the opportunity to hold all supermarkets to account to ensure that Sunday trading is not extended beyond sensible limits in years to come?

Mr Umunna: The problem in this respect is that the silence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on these matters has been deafening. If he had said something publicly to reassure people, many of the questions the Secretary of State is having to deal with may not have been posed in the first place.

I mentioned the sensitivities that arose from tampering with the existing settlement under the Sunday Trading Act 1994. Given those sensitivities, it would have made sense for this Bill to have been considered in a more timely manner. Because of the sensitivities, the convention has been for there to be a free vote on these matters, and I have said that that is how the Labour party is treating tonight’s vote. We do so not least because for some the Bill raises important issues of conscience.

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Mike Gapes: Will my hon. Friend say to those people who will be affected by these measures that, even if the Government get this appalling legislation through, our party will resist any erosion of the rights of retail workers in this country and that we will fight tooth and nail to ensure that the Government will not make this a long-term change?

Mr Umunna: I am happy to be able to give the assurance that we certainly would not support any permanent change to the current regime.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): Did my hon. Friend notice that when the Secretary of State was explaining why he considered the Olympic and Paralympic games to be a special case, he referred to the football World cup in Germany, which is a completely different event? Does my hon. Friend share my concern that this Bill will set a precedent for future sporting and cultural events in this country, and open the door to far wider changes to the Sunday trading laws?

Mr Umunna: That is a very valid concern.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): We in Tyneside have a long history of putting on large, huge participation sporting events, such as the great north run—and St James’s park is full most weekends. The great north run has taken place annually for the past 30 years or so, and there has been no great demand for the shops to be open on the Sunday while it takes place. Where is the demand for this change coming from? I cannot see it.

Mr Umunna: I agree. As I have said, no representations have been made to me arguing in favour of the measures in the Bill.

I was talking about those who may object to the Bill as a matter of conscience. For many, Sunday is a day of worship, but for many others, it is not. For everybody, however, Sunday is more than a day of rest. It provides us with something no amount of money can buy: quality time with friends, family and loved ones. Members may have an unhealthy fascination with Sunday political television programmes such as the Marr and Murnaghan shows, but we do not let that get in the way of a good slap-up Sunday roast with our nearest and dearest.

Dame Joan Ruddock: My hon. Friend makes a very valuable point. We should also think about those workers who currently work on Sundays. Does he agree that the Bill allows for a doubling of the number of hours—and, therefore, shifts—that can be worked on Sundays in the big stores, and that that may well lead to a doubling of the number of people involved? Does he agree that it is utterly disingenuous to suggest that the measures will be a matter of choice for those workers?

Mr Umunna: I could not agree more. That is precisely why we have tabled an amendment to ensure that working times on Sundays will be capped.

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): In 2004, I promoted the Christmas Day (Trading) Bill, which became an Act later that year. One of the main supporters of the Bill were the Christian Churches in this country.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a little ironic for the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues to introduce this Bill given that they talk about the importance of Christianity to the nation?

Mr Umunna: May I say how good it is to see my hon. Friend back in the House? He makes a very good point about the Churches.

Hugh Bayley: I am trying to make up my mind whether the Government have been caught napping and forced to ramrod this legislation through the House in a single day or whether they are just trying to avoid scrutiny. In making up my mind, I would be interested to know whether the Secretary of State has indicated that he will accept any of my hon. Friend’s good amendments, which would mitigate the measure.

Mr Umunna: Unfortunately, our amendments were rejected in the other place and I have had no indication that they will be supported in this House.

Mrs Grant: On the family point, does the hon. Gentleman not agree that if larger shops open for longer, that will allow for more flexible time, giving many families the opportunity to enjoy spending more time together during the Olympics period?

Mr Umunna: I do not know about the hon. Lady, but when I spend time with my family on a Sunday, we do not necessarily go shopping in large stores, although I suppose that there may be those who do. The point that we seek to make, which I think is appreciated, is that whether people object to the Bill as a matter of conscience or whether they do not have a great religious affinity, we all regard our Sundays as special, regardless of our creed or background. For that reason, when the noble Baroness Thatcher sought to end Government regulation of Sunday trading through the Shops Bill in 1986, she was defeated; unfortunately, that represented her only defeat in the House of Commons during her time in office, despite the best efforts of my party.

There was, however, a relaxation of the law in 1994, and it allowed large stores to open on Sunday for a maximum of six hours between 10 am and 6 pm. Small shops are not subject to those restrictions and can open when and for as long as they like. Our small shops estimate that they do 15% to 20% of their trade on Sunday, so they see the current rules as an important way of levelling the playing field with their much bigger rivals. That point has been made forcefully by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Association of Convenience Stores.

There have been consultations on changing the permanent Sunday trading settlement. We consulted on it in government, but the response always indicated little desire, if any, for an alteration of the permanent settlement. That situation does not appear to have changed. The Government have twice consulted on the matter, in their retail growth review and the red tape challenge, and neither of those consultations elicited evidence of a desire for change. Likewise, in a GfK NOP poll for the Association of Convenience Stores in 2010, 89% of the public opposed further liberalisation of Sunday trading laws.

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I will say it again: as a point of principle, and given the importance that we all attach to our Sundays, we would strongly resist any attempt to alter the existing Sunday trading regime on a permanent basis, and there is clearly no desire for that change. As the Secretary of State said, the Government have introduced the Bill as a temporary measure in the light of the exceptional event that will be happening on our shores. He and the noble Lord Sassoon have said that the Bill will not be used as a Trojan horse to effect any permanent change. As I said, the Chancellor has not been forthcoming with a reassurance in that regard, but if he were to seek to use the success of a temporary relaxation of restrictions in the Bill as justification for permanent change, he would be wrong. As the former Olympic athlete Baroness Grey-Thompson said on Second Reading in the other place last week, given the completely and utterly exceptional nature of the games, the temporary measures in the Bill could not be treated as an accurate trial of whether such a relaxation would work or be justified on a permanent basis.

As has been said, the rationale advanced by the Government for the relaxation on a temporary basis is primarily economic. The Government say that the Bill presents an opportunity to show that Britain is open for business. As was pointed out in the other place, that would tend to suggest that at the end of the eight-week period, we will be shut for business, but that is surely not the message that we intend to convey.

We asked the Government to publish their impact assessment for the Bill so that all could see it. Unfortunately, they did so only after Second Reading in the other place last Tuesday, although thankfully this House had the benefit of seeing it before today’s debate. It is clear from the assessment that although it would be foolhardy to deny that substantial economic benefits are likely to flow from London’s hosting the 2012 Olympic games, it is far from clear what economic benefits will flow from the measures in the Bill.

The impact assessment states:

“The unique nature of the Olympics and Paralympics makes an accurate assessment of the potential impact difficult”.

It is not clear how many large shops will choose to take advantage of suspension or how shopping patterns and demand will change. I suspect that the substantial economic benefits that we are likely to derive from the games will, in the main, be unaffected by the Bill. Notwithstanding that, and at the risk of contradicting myself, we do recognise that a temporary lifting of Sunday trading restrictions during this historic and exceptional event does at least deserve consideration; the fact that it is difficult to discern the economic benefit does not mean that there is not any. That is why, on pragmatic grounds, we agree to the fast-tracking of the Bill and have sought to reach a constructive consensus on the way forward.

At this juncture, I should point out that all along, we have approached negotiations on the Bill in good faith in the interests of ensuring that the country gets the maximum benefit from the games. In fairness to the Secretary of State, the Minister—the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk)—and the noble Lord Sassoon, although the handling of the Bill has been somewhat wanting, I believe that they have approached the matter in good faith as well, for which I am grateful to them.

That said, we were clear from the outset that, if we were to recommend support for the Bill, we would need to be satisfied that sufficient employment protections

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would be put in place. Of course, it is the employees who would be required to work on the Sundays in question, and who otherwise might not be required to do so, who stand to be most adversely affected. In particular, we would need to be satisfied that those employees would be free to choose and would not be forced into working on those Sundays given that they, like everyone else, may want to be able to enjoy what the Olympics will offer.

Ian Lavery: I asked the Secretary of State a question earlier and was a little baffled by the response; perhaps my hon. Friend could be clearer. Is it misleading to suggest that individuals could simply opt out of working on a Sunday during the period? Would they be able only to apply to opt out, it being up to the employer whether to grant that application?

Mr Umunna: On the first part of the question, I should say as a former employment lawyer that, notwithstanding the technical rights in the Bill and in legislation, the reality of the situation may be different. The employee may have rights, but they may feel under pressure to agree to a request to work. In relation to my hon. Friend’s second point, if somebody has served notice to opt out and objects to working on a Sunday, the employer legally could not force them to do so.

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): My constituents have been going to their employers saying, “We need extra hours because we lose our tax credits unless we do 24 hours.” Does my hon. Friend agree that it is totally unrealistic to expect them to say that they do not want to work on Sundays because they object to losing their family time?

Mr Umunna: It is reasonable for any employee to object to working on a Sunday so that they can spend more time with their family.

Members on both sides of the House will have been contacted by USDAW, the shop workers’ union, on this issue. USDAW does an excellent job for its members and we are proud to be associated with it. Its members power one of our most successful and internationally competitive sectors. In short, its 400,000 members are wealth creators and we should celebrate and take notice of them. USDAW has surveyed more than 20,000 members, and some 78% of those surveyed oppose longer opening hours on Sundays during the period of the operation of this Bill; 51% said they already felt pressurised to work on Sundays against their will; and 73% said that longer Sunday opening would lead to pressure on them to work on Sundays against their will.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): It is already clear that many shop workers feel pressure to work on Sundays, despite the legal protections enshrined in the original Sunday Trading Act 1994, which are totally ineffective. Does it not say much about the Tories that the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) argued that this Sunday trading would give more flexibility to families without realising that the families of many shop workers would have their Sunday time destroyed by this Bill? Do they not also deserve time with their families at the weekends?

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Mr Umunna: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend that those workers deserve time with their families; she is absolutely right about that.

The group of employees who stand to lose most under this Bill are those who started employment after the provisions of the 1994 Act came into effect and who, under their contracts of employment, not only work on Sundays but can be required to do so in addition to working other days of the week. So we have asked for two things. The first relates to the fact that, in general, there is no statutory minimum period of notice that must be given by employers to shop workers notifying them of a request to work on Sundays. The only thing an employer is required to do is to give new employees a written statement within two months of the start of their employment telling them that they could be asked to work on Sundays and explaining their right to opt out. Importantly, there is no requirement for employers to tell their employees when they will exercise their right to require them to work on Sundays after they have started employment. It would be unreasonable, as well as a breach of trust and confidence under the employment contract, not to give any notice, but the point is that there is no prescribed minimum period of notice that employers must give.

Many employees will have received the written statement I have just mentioned a very long time ago. They may not even realise that they can be made to work on Sundays and that they can subsequently object, because it has never become an issue before. Because of the exceptional nature of the Olympics and the fact that a relaxation of trading restrictions on Sundays will inevitably lead to increased demands on shop workers to work on the Sundays concerned, we feel that it is not unreasonable to require employers to give employees two months’ notice of a request to work on any of the Sundays in question. To put it simply, how will employees know that the law has temporarily changed, that they can object to working on Sundays and that they should object in time if proper notice of a request to work on those Sundays has not been communicated to them by their employer?

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman said that 78% of USDAW workers did not want to work extra on a Sunday. Given that the Labour party has been banging on about how it wants the Government to do things that will create extra jobs, it is ridiculous to see that party equivocating on something—liberalising Sunday trading laws—that would create extra jobs. Why does he want to prevent the 22% who do want to work extra on a Sunday from doing those extra hours? When I worked for a supermarket chain and asked people in the store to work overtime, I found that the easiest time to get them to work extra hours was on a Sunday, because that suited so many people. Why is his party equivocating about something that is good for those employees and would create more jobs if it were rolled out permanently?

Mr Umunna: I have worked in several shops and I do not recall everybody rushing to work on a Sunday. I have already referred to the Government’s impact assessment, and it is far from clear that liberalisation on a temporary basis will create lots of jobs. I have seen no economic evidence to suggest that an overall liberalisation would create loads of new jobs if the permanent regime were changed.

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Gavin Shuker: Is not the point here that Sundays are perhaps easier to fill because many employers pay a premium to have staff working on a Sunday? When I worked in Woolworths for five years, I received time and a half on a Sunday. Is not the reality—[Interruption.] There should be no laughter about the demise of Woolworths, because it was a great store for pick ‘n’ mix, among other things. Labour Members fear that this measure will act as a Trojan horse and that we will be on a slippery slope whereby we end up with those rights being diminished, and with time and a half or time and a third arrangements going completely.

Mr Umunna: My hon. Friend is quite right, and of course that is the great concern.

I was about to deal with the notice of objection required from employees. Under the existing regime, they can object and opt out of working on Sundays by giving three months’ notice to their employer, as the Secretary of State mentioned. The effect is that they can be forced to work during the three-month period but not after its expiry. The late introduction of this Bill means that it would not be possible, under the current arrangements, for employees to give notice to object within the three-month time frame, so the Government have agreed to reduce the notice period to two months during the period of the suspension of the usual arrangements.

That is good, but it is not sufficient. Ideally, we would like the notice required from employees in this instance to be reduced to one month. The late passing of this Bill and the close proximity in time to the Sundays in question mean that the two months that the Government have agreed to will allow very little time for employees to consider their position—a notice period of one month will afford them a little longer.

A further issue has been brought to our attention during the passage of the Bill. It has been mentioned today and it was raised during the Committee stage in the other place. We make no apologies for not raising it earlier; had the Bill been brought forward at a much earlier stage, we would have been able to flush out and deal with these issues in a timely fashion, in the usual way, in advance. The temporary relaxation of trading restrictions on the Sundays concerned is rather open-ended; the affected stores can open for as long as, and until as late as, they like. That is clearly unsatisfactory and some kind of limit should be imposed so that workers are not exploited. Our amendments propose that the opening runs until an 11 pm limit, allowing workers such as those in London, for example, to make their way home before the tubes and the trains stop. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) has said, many of these workers are women.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend will be aware that although London has been blessed with a good public transport system, other areas of the country do not have anything more than a basic Sunday service. Getting to work is already a struggle for a lot of workers on Sundays, but getting to work on a bus service that is very haphazard is almost an impossible ask.

Mr Umunna: I completely agree with what my hon. Friend says, which is why we have tabled our amendments. Again, I do not believe that they make an unreasonable

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request. If the Government were to agree to our amendments, that would reinforce the message that this is not a Trojan horse for permanent change and it would, in part, help to keep Sunday special. The Government have already indicated that they will oppose our amendments, which is a great shame.

In conclusion, I appreciate what the Government are seeking to do with this Bill. I do not think the proposed measures are as straightforward as they sound in the first instance, and the relative merits and adverse effects of the Bill are finely balanced. One would have thought that the Bill would command the support of the large stores that it purports to seek to help, but the House may wish to reflect on the comments of the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, who also sits on the board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. When asked whether he supported the temporary relaxation of Sunday trading restrictions in The Sunday Telegraph at the beginning of this month, he responded:

“We don’t believe in, have not campaigned for and will not campaign for a general relaxation of the Sunday trading laws

Our customers aren’t asking for it. I’ve never had a letter from a customer saying, ‘Please campaign for longer opening hours on Sundays’. The compromise that’s been reached is essentially to keep Sunday special. If you want to do your shopping on Sunday, you can.

You can do it unhindered in small shops but only for six hours in big shops. That seems to us to be the happy British compromise. We’re content that Sunday is special and we don’t see customer demand for a change in the current law.”

So this is not a straightforward issue and, again, I am not clear where the support for the Bill is.

As I said, Labour is treating this matter as a free vote, but in the absence of ground being given on the issues I have mentioned, and taking account of all the thoughtful and considered views that have been put to us by business, employee and other groups, we do not feel able, on balance, to recommend to Opposition Members that, in exercising their free vote today, they support this Bill. Notwithstanding whether it passes, the House should be in no doubt that Labour Members are incredibly excited about London 2012 and have no doubt it will be a huge success for our country.

7.9 pm

Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con): I begin by declaring my long-standing support for the retail trade. It would be very strange if I did not, because I have been associated with different aspects of the retail trade for most of my working life. When I left school in 1964 at the age of 16—hon. Members can do the maths—I went to work in the stock room of my local Woolworths store in Chatham. As I was a parliamentary candidate in Luton South in 2001, the hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker) and I have at least two things in common, but of course he is a lot younger than me, and would not be aware of the conditions in shops when I first started out. In those days, we worked five and a half days a week, with only Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays off. That experience made me appreciate the special nature of Sundays. Even today, as a Member of Parliament, I try hard not to work on Sundays. Many in the retail industry would love an opportunity to do the same, but sadly, for all sorts of reasons, they do not have the choice of treating Sunday as a special day of the week.

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Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): It seems to me that people in the retail trade have a choice; they do not have to work on a Sunday. Indeed, under the Bill, stores do not have to open on a Sunday.

Gordon Henderson: I take it that my hon. Friend has never worked in the retail industry, so he would not understand that often people have no choice other than to work on a Sunday. Let me give one small example. My wife had a couple of small shops, one of which was in a shopping centre. The contract stated that she had to open on a Sunday. That meant that she had to work on a Sunday, though she does not do so now. People might not be forced by their employer to work on a Sunday, and might have a choice, but they are often forced to do so due to circumstances, because the shop is open.

Philip Davies: My hon. Friend rightly says that some people do not want to work on a Sunday, and I certainly respect their right not to do so, but does he accept that many people want to work on a Sunday? Why does he think that people should not be forced to work on a Sunday, but want to deprive people who do want to work then of the chance to do so? We already have fully liberated hours in Scotland, and the sky does not appear to have fallen in there.

Gordon Henderson: I accept that there are people in the retail trade who want to work on a Sunday, and of course those people already have the opportunity to do so. [Interruption.] Yes, I do. Stores are allowed to open on a Sunday for six hours between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. Major stores are open. Small stores of under 3,000 square feet are allowed to open any time on a Sunday. If people in retail want to work on Sunday, there is always the opportunity to do so. We are not talking about that; we are talking about relaxing the rules still further.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that stores are not allowed to open on Easter Sunday, and the world did not stop on that day?

Gordon Henderson: I could not agree more. The special nature of Sunday was recognised by the Sunday Trading Act 1994, which restricted opening hours to the times that I mentioned. It is worth pointing out that in recent years, some larger stores have tried to bend the rules by opening an hour earlier for what is called browsing time, during which time shoppers can fill up their baskets but cannot put those goods through the till. It is such tactics that make many workers suspicious of the proposals to suspend Sunday trading restrictions during the Olympics and Paralympics. I fear that many retail chains will feel that the proposals give them the green light to campaign more vigorously for restrictions to be dropped permanently.

Dame Joan Ruddock: I am old enough—perhaps the hon. Gentleman is, too—to remember when the big stores opened on Sundays illegally, before we had the legislation. That is another reason for a lack of trust when it comes to the motives that some of them have.

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Gordon Henderson: I cannot say that I remember that, and I go back a long way, albeit out in the sticks; perhaps the practice was prevalent in London. It certainly was not prevalent in the Medway towns, or in Sittingbourne and Sheppey, where I live now.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): I am probably old enough to remember when there were no stores to open. I have some sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but does he recognise that the relaxation will apply for eight weeks, and that there is no proposal to extend that? Does he very much welcome the fact that we are talking about an eight-week period, and does he hope that we would think long and hard before there was any suggestion of extending the period?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Before the hon. Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Gordon Henderson) responds, may I remind Members to face the middle of the Chamber when they speak, so that the microphones pick up what is said, and so that I can hear what is said?

Gordon Henderson: I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies), but the 1994 Act recognised that Sunday is special. Perhaps he should explain why Sundays during the Olympics and Paralympics are any less special than those during the rest of the year. That is the point. This is not about opening; it is about Sundays.

One reason that we have been given for suspending the restrictions is that it would allow those visiting for the Olympics and Paralympics to shop if they so choose. Let me ask the Minister another question: why can all those visitors not buy their souvenirs and trinkets from the hundreds of small shops that are under 3,000 square feet and already have unrestricted Sunday trading hours? Indeed, rather than suspending Sunday trading restrictions to help the large stores cash in, would it not make sense to keep the restrictions in place during the Olympics? That would give a much-needed boost to small shops that are struggling to survive in the face of competition from supermarkets, which continually extend the range of non-food items that they offer.

Philip Davies: I am puzzled as to why my hon. Friend thinks that it is important for Sunday to be kept special for workers in supermarkets, when he does not seem to think it worth keeping it special for people who work in small convenience stores. If he wishes to be consistent, surely he should want it to be special for those people, too.

Gordon Henderson: I agree 100% with my hon. Friend. The point is that Sunday is special; the 1994 Act recognised that by providing for certain opening hours for large stores, and certain opening hours for small stores. I am not looking to change that; the Bill looks to change that for eight weeks this year. That is all that I am objecting to.

As I have mentioned, my wife had a couple of small shops; they closed because she could no longer face the competition from supermarkets that were moving into selling non-food goods, and the type of fancy goods and gifts that she sold, so perhaps I ought to declare an interest.

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There is something else that puzzles me. We have been given assurances by the Front Benchers, but if it is true that it is important to suspend the restrictions because only large shops will be able to cater to the needs of visitors who come for the Olympics and Paralympics, why does the suspension have to take in the whole of England and Wales? I simply do not understand that. I appreciate fully that loads of visitors might stream into Stratford and the borough during the Olympics, but I cannot see that happening in Sheffield, Stourbridge, Swansea, Sittingbourne or Sheerness. Unless the Government intend to lay on buses that go from Stratford straight to Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, bringing thousands of people down to shop in Black Cat and other places—we would be grateful for that—I do not see why the measures have to apply nationwide, rather than being restricted to London.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): On the contrary, will we not be looking for a significant boost in north Kent from the Olympics? We have Ebbsfleet in the area, and in the Rochester and Strood constituency we are very much looking forward to the Olympics and the business opportunities generated from them.

Gordon Henderson: I have great respect for my hon. Friend, as he is well aware, but I think he is being a little naive if he thinks thousands upon thousands of people will be streaming out of London down to the Medway towns. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect I am not.

There may be an argument for holding a debate on the principle of changing the current restrictions on Sunday trading, and that debate might convince me to support it. There might even be an argument for undertaking a trial period to test the water. But, of course, this is not such a debate, or so we are led to believe. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister have given assurances from the Front Bench that the Bill is a temporary measure, but frankly, I am not convinced. I believe that this proposal is nothing less than a trial run for a permanent relaxation of the restrictions. If it can be proved that sales have increased significantly during the trial period, pressure will no doubt follow for the 1994 Act to be repealed once and for all. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect I am not wrong, which is why I cannot and will not support the Bill.

7.21 pm

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): Britain’s success in hosting the 2012 Olympic games provides a fantastic opportunity for people throughout the country to experience directly this world-class sporting and cultural event. Our business and tourism industry can thrive during the summer. From the beginning of the bid process there has been cross-party support to make these the best games possible for the thousands and thousands of extra visitors we are expecting. Unfortunately, the Government have handled very poorly the suspension of existing Sunday trading restrictions, resulting in confusion and anger from those directly affected—namely, shop workers and small businesses.

If the Bill is not being used as the thin end of the wedge for permanent change, why did the Government not limit the temporary relaxation of Sunday trading laws to the specifically affected areas—that is, London?

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We have heard that there are events in one or two other places, but those are much smaller and they will not receive the large number of visitors that will come to London.

Nick de Bois (Enfield North) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that the problem with the idea that this is the thin end of the wedge and a trial for permanent expansion is that it would be a ludicrous trial basis, given that we will have hundreds of thousands of new visitors and customers and it would be foolish to make a judgment based on that new market?

Meg Munn: Many, many people are concerned and suspicious of that. Clearly, the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman has some merit, but the concerns expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Gordon Henderson), who has worked in the retail industry, also have a great deal of merit.

Helen Jones: My hon. Friend, like me, represents a constituency a long way from London. Does she agree that it is most unfair that shop workers in my constituency and hers should be forced to work on Sundays, and that convenience stores should suffer the resulting drop in trade, because the Government have decided to extend the experiment throughout the country?

Meg Munn: That is precisely my point. If the Government had set out to undertake proper consultation, the suggested changes could have been tightly focused and would have reassured, instead of increasing bad feeling and suspicion about the Government’s intentions.

Jim Shannon: Is the hon. Lady aware that the Chancellor has said that the suspension will be a temporary measure, but that the Treasury may “learn lessons” from this experiment? What lessons does she think the Government may learn?

Meg Munn: If the Treasury decides to come forward with that, the hon. Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) will no doubt express his strong view that it has no merit whatever.

The Association of Convenience Stores has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members already. Its poll showed that Sunday trading liberalisation is unpopular: 89% of the public were opposed to further change in the law and, as we have heard, a survey of more than 20,000 USDAW members conducted after the March Budget announcement found that 78% opposed the suspension of Sunday trading laws during the Olympic games. As it is, 51% already come under pressure from their employers to work Sundays, and 73% said that they would come under more pressure to work on Sundays if shops were allowed to open for longer. Shop workers deserve the right to enjoy the Olympics just like everybody else.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is making a very good and thoughtful speech. Does she agree that there are two other concerns? If a shop worker has been lucky enough to get a ticket to an event on a Sunday, there is a risk that they will go to their employer and be told, “No, sorry, you’ve got to get rid of the ticket. You’re not going,” or that their colleagues will be upset because the employee will say to their employer, “I have a ticket.

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I would like to go,” and the employer will say, “Yes, you can go, but that means one of your colleagues now has to fill your place on Sunday.”

Meg Munn: My hon. Friend introduces just two circumstances that could occur. I shall shortly come on to others that cause me concern.

It has already been made clear that workers wishing to exercise their right to opt out of working on a Sunday under the Bill would have to notify their employer by 22 May. That is surely unreasonable. Many workers will not be aware of this important date, and I ask the Minister what the Government intend to do to tell them. I remind the House that these additional opening hours could be 7 am until midnight, hours that could significantly affect family life.

Without appropriate safeguards during the Olympics, extended Sunday working hours will provide an excuse for employers to move contracted weekday hours to a Sunday. Despite current Sunday opt-out rules, many shop workers are already being forced to spend that time at work. They experience difficulties getting into work on a Sunday, as we heard. Some also experience the problem of a lack of child care, which is especially hard for single parents. There is currently a demand for retail staff to be flexible with working hours. An extension of Sunday trading hours will simply add to the strain.

When I visit supermarkets in my constituency, what I hear from the staff is that many employers are issuing low-hours contracts, meaning that employees have to work whatever additional hours are available and offered, rather than what fits their own circumstances. The hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) made the point that sometimes workers indeed want extra hours because they do not have a contract that gives them enough money to live on. If their contract is 20 hours whereas they would like to work full-time, they may well be offered only the Sunday hours. So the idea that there is real choice is ill-founded.

We know that in surveys workers have commented as follows:

“Large stores give you 28 days to change your contract to comply with their requests to cover the extra shifts. This is bullying because they know people need to keep their jobs.”

Another said:

“Although Sunday working is optional, to ask for a Sunday off is a crime and to try and book it off as a holiday, 9 out of 10 will get refused.”

Other staff are worried about the increased risk of crime within stores, with fewer police working on a Sunday and fewer staff in the stores.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): The hon. Lady and other Members have alluded to the USDAW survey and the concerns of existing employees. Is there not another issue? Given the hoped-for and anticipated increase in trade generally in the retail sector during the Olympics, people who are not currently in retail but will be over the next few months will feel under even more pressure, as they are very new employees who do not understand the difficulties of pressure in the workplace?

Meg Munn: Of course there will be that concern for newly employed staff, but we know from existing practices that extra staff may well not be taken on. The existing

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staff will be expected to cover the additional time by reducing the hours worked from Monday to Friday. There are many problems. Managers in particular feel the pressure of having to work Sundays themselves, with the added pressure of having to ask their teams to cover longer hours. Like many other Members, I have been contacted by constituents and petitioners who find that very difficult.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): On that point, I am not sure how many hon. Members have actually worked in a shop, but I worked for Marks & Spencer on the shop floor for seven years and know that it is physically quite a demanding job. When looking at the expectation that people will work yet more time, we need to remember that physically that will be quite difficult for some. The other issue I want to touch on is benefits. A number of these people, if they do extra hours, will go above the benefit cut-off point for a few weeks and then down again. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is potentially a bureaucratic nightmare?

Meg Munn: I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. We know that when someone receiving benefits has flexible hours the different amounts coming in can lead to great complexity and cause them many problems.

Dr Thérèse Coffey: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Meg Munn: I will make a little progress.

The Association of Convenience Stores has strong concerns about the Government’s impact assessment. Two major studies referenced in the assessment failed to make the case for a significant amount of additional spending resulting from the liberalisation. The Centre for Retail Research has estimated an overall increase in sales of £189.9 million, but the impact assessment fails to set this in the context of the sales value of the UK retail sector, which is in excess of £300 billion. It uses a limited research base and is not a sound basis for estimating the impact of the legislation. This study is just a reflection of the Government’s hasty action in introducing legislation without understanding the full implications.

The total cost for the 40,000 convenience stores across England and Wales will be £480 million over the eight weekends of the Olympic and Paralympic games, which again raises the question of why these legislative changes will apply to the whole country. The impact assessment fails to recognise that convenience stores might be strongly affected. The Co-operative group has strongly expressed the view that the legislation threatens high streets and secondary shopping locations up and down the country, rather than helping them to stay vibrant. It believes that any relaxation of the existing Sunday trading laws will have a detrimental effect on independent retailers, who make a vital contribution to sustainable and viable local communities.

I must echo some of the feelings expressed in contributions made by hon. Friends. What is this desperate need to get to a shop? Under the coalition Government, we now live in a country in which it can take two weeks to get an appointment with a GP when something is wrong, so why do they think people cannot wait a

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few hours to get into a large shop? I must say that the reasons for that escape me. The Government must make it clear that there will be no future attempt to change Sunday trading rules without an extensive consultation period. If these changes are purely in the interests of national and community gain throughout the period of the Olympic games, they should be subject to more vigorous scrutiny, target the specific areas of London that will be affected, assure a temporary time limit and guarantee that shop workers’ rights will be protected.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. Members should please resume their seats. This is a popular debate and a number of Members have indicated that they wish to speak, and of course we will have the wind-ups as well, so at this stage I appeal to Members to focus on some time restraints in order to get as many Members in as possible, and even allow time for Committee stage and Third Reading.

7.33 pm

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I want to make a few remarks about this short Bill and seek assurances on behalf of some interested parties about its scope and limits. On the whole, I believe that it makes sense for the tourists who will flock to the UK for the Olympics to be able to spend as much time as they want in shops, and at times that they find convenient. The economy needs it and I believe that we should not hamper the retail sector in taking advantage of it.

Mrs Moon: Does the hon. Lady not accept that the people who will flock to the UK also need to see the other areas that we can rightly be proud of, such as our countryside, our heritage and our cultural opportunities? These are also places where people can spend money, enjoy themselves and get a wider view of the UK than simply our large and convenient stores. Why are we not promoting our cultural, heritage and environmental opportunities, rather than just our shopping?

Lorely Burt: I could not agree more with the hon. Lady; we should be promoting other tourist opportunities in other parts of the country, as I believe we are. I am hopeful that, because we are allowing the extension of Sunday trading to other parts of the country, they might also benefit in some part. As I was saying, the Bill does not spell good news for everyone, particularly in areas to which Olympic and Paralympic tourists will not be flocking. We have heard the argument about small shops and the fear that the window of competitive opportunity will close for the period covered by the Bill.

Bob Stewart: It seems to me that, if there is no demand for extended hours on a Sunday, large shops will not open. That is highly likely, and it might well be a damp squib in much of the country, and I hope that that happens.

Lorely Burt: I totally agree. I think that many shops outside the tourist areas will elect not to open, because if trade is predicted not to increase, why would they spread the same volume of revenue over a longer period, thereby incurring larger overheads?

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Andrew Gwynne: I understand the hon. Lady’s argument, but is not the danger for, and the concern of, small convenience shops that the larger stores will open for longer and, because there will be no increase in overall trade, all that will happen is that they will suck the custom away from small traders?

Lorely Burt: I have agreed with everyone who has intervened, which is probably not very politically correct. I completely acknowledge the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but I think that sensible economic decisions will be made by the larger retailers in non-tourist areas. Indeed, the British Retail Consortium is divided on the issue, and not just along the line dividing large and smaller shops. However, small shops in the tourism areas will reap additional revenue benefits by virtue of where they are located. I do not think that it is all doom and gloom, but I do think that the potential bonanza is likely to be realised only in the main tourist areas.

I do not think that this is the time or the place for reopening the Sunday trading debate. Many small retailers fear that the Bill will pave the way for Sunday trading by the back door without protection or consultation with the groups opposed to widening Sunday trading, such as the Keep Sunday Special campaign. Organisations such as the Association of Convenience Stores and unions representing shop workers, such as the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers, found that the majority of their members were also opposed to the Bill, as has already been mentioned. Of course, there is also the fact that a large proportion of shop workers are women with caring responsibilities, so it would be wrong to make anything other than temporary changes without all those affected having a proper say.

Of course, some people will welcome the opportunity for more hours of work on a Sunday, although we have heard about the USDAW workers and there has been great discussion about how employees can be pressured against their wishes into working on a Sunday. I have sympathy for anyone who is pressured into Sunday working. However, I gently remind the House that for other industries there is no legal opt-out for Sunday working because the needs of their business dictate that some staff must be there on a Sunday. I think that we need to keep a sense of proportion when considering this temporary period.

On the two-months’ notice for shop workers, I have concerns that 22 May, the limit on when notice has to be given, is too short a period for shop workers not only to plan for, but to learn about the changes that are coming forward. It represents fewer than three weeks, so can the Minister assure me that workers will be informed in time and that any blank refusal to accede to a legitimate request from an employee will be covered by industrial relations legislation?

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk): The hon. Lady makes a specific point, and I am aware that several Members want to speak, so I shall be brief. I can give her that assurance. That is absolutely clear. Many workers like the fact that they will be able to have a shorter notice period, because they will be the ones giving notice and they recognise that it is advantageous to them, so the hon. Lady makes a sensible point and I am happy to assure her on that basis.

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Lorely Burt: I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance.

Several Opposition colleagues have mentioned the Bill’s timing. A private Member’s Bill to the effect of this Bill was brought to the House just before Christmas, and the question has been put, “Why not take forward that Bill, rather than the Government imposing their own?” I imagine the answer is that proper reflection on its implications and consultation with all parties would need to take place, and it has. Will the Minister confirm that proper consideration, not any devious motive that Opposition Members might invent, was the reason for this Bill?

Mr Anderson: My understanding is that across government the norm for consultation is 13 weeks. The Bill was first brought before the House formally on 21 March, and the end date for notice is 22 May—which amounts to just over eight weeks. Surely that is not proper consultation.

Lorely Burt: The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point, but given the time scale, the fact that the Government have had to put forward their own consideration and think through the implications themselves, and the short and temporary nature of the legislation, a shorter period is not entirely unreasonable.

Liberal Democrats have been banging on about a sunset clause, a phrase that has been dear to us for many years, so can the Minister assure us also that the sunset clause in this Bill will ensure that the legislation is not used as a precedent for future changes to Sunday trading laws, and that proper pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation will take place if the relaxation of such laws is ever considered again?

7.43 pm

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): Unusually, but not uniquely, I did not support London’s bid for the Olympic games. I said so in the House during preparations for the bid, and I advised against it. I did so for two reasons, one of which is relevant to the debate. The first reason, which is not really relevant, is that no other UK city was allowed to compete with London for the right to represent the UK in the International Olympic Committee’s competition.

The second reason is that I simply did not believe the prospectus that London put out on the impact and cost of the games. Financially, that view has turned out to be right, as the cost of the games has increased by a factor of threefold or fourfold, the sustainability criteria have been thrown out of the plans for the Olympic games and the participation that was promised has not occurred. It has been repeated, as it was repeated during the bid, however, that the economic benefits of the Olympic games will be spread throughout the country.

I do not doubt—I am certain—that there will be economic benefits from the Olympic games. They will be felt in east London, in particular, and throughout the rest of London, but no Minister—from any party when in government—whom I have ever asked about the Blake report, which the previous Government commissioned, has answered my questions on it. The report showed that, although there would be benefits, there would also be a £4.5 billion disbenefit to the rest of the United Kingdom, meaning that the benefit to London would be even greater.

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One can of course go to individual businesses and find that there will be a particular benefit. Steel will be provided for the Olympic games from Bolton, for instance, and one can go around the country and find such things, but the Blake report, which was produced at a time of economic growth, stated that overall there would be a disbenefit.

No Minister has contradicted the report, because it has been kept a great secret from them by officials or by more senior Ministers who know about it, but if one takes that analysis and places against it the Sunday trading proposals in the Bill, which will increase the Sunday trading of large stores, one sees that the impact is likely to be negative on many small stores and street traders throughout the rest of England.

I received a letter 10 days ago. It is not, as it happens, from a shop that will be affected by the legislation, but it shows the difficulties that small traders are currently experiencing—similar to many convenience stores on the street corners and high streets in our towns, cities and rural areas. The man in question runs an angling shop, which, when my 12-year-old son was into fishing, I used to visit fairly regularly. He wrote to me and—excuse the language, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the inaccurate constitutional position that my constituent took—said, “Will you sack that idiot in the Cabinet Office who has made people fill up all their cars with petrol. I used to employ four people in this shop, I am having the greatest difficulty making ends meet, I might be out of business within six weeks and trade was just beginning to increase in the spring. Now everybody’s gone and spent their money on their cars and nobody is coming into my shop.”

That shows how difficult small traders are finding things at present. If we take the fact that the Olympic games are going to have a negative impact, that overall there will be less money about throughout the regions and that people are going to go into Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrison’s at times when they could not previously go into them and spend money, we find that the Bill is going to put small businesses out of business. They will not exist, and the Bill will have a greater negative impact on them than probably anything else at present.

That is the prime reason why I oppose the Bill, but I also urge some caution on the figures that Government Front Benchers have provided, because they are not net figures. I do not doubt that 6 million people are likely to come into the country during the Olympic games period, if that is what we are told, but the experience of many host cities is that, although people go to watch the games and to enjoy the sporting and cultural experience, many people who would otherwise visit the city—to look at the Tower of London and London’s other great tourist experiences, for example—do not do so. Los Angeles’ lowest bed occupancy in more than a decade occurred in 1984, at the time of its Olympic games.

I have been fortunate enough to go to a number of Olympics, and had Members been in Atlanta in 1996 they would not have known that the games were taking place—unless they had been in the stadiums or nearby. As many people went to those games as went to any other Olympics, but other people left the city. Even according to the impact assessment—my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) did a very good job of showing how inadequate it is—the impact is unlikely to be as impressive as it might seem.

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It has been said several times that this will not be a precedent. I would advise people to go and look at a dictionary. Whatever anyone says, it is a precedent, because it has not happened before. Hon. Members are saying—I do not disbelieve them; they are honourable people—that they will not use it as a precedent, but other people might do so. Nothing can stop that, and it will be extremely bad for small shopkeepers and small businesses.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is right to point to the concern that this may be used as a precedent. Was he as surprised as I was that the Secretary of State, in giving an example of this, could not cite another Olympic host city but had to cite the football World cup in Germany?

Graham Stringer: I was not surprised. I suspect that this is driven by lobbying by the very big stores, which want to open permanently in the long term—

Stephen Pound: It is driven by the Treasury.

Graham Stringer: It is also, as my hon. Friend says, driven by the Treasury. Ministers would not be able to give examples from other Olympic games because this has not happened in those cases.

I have been fortunate enough to go to a number of Olympic games, and the last thing that would have occurred to me at any of those games would have been to find the local supermarket and spend time in there. That did not occur to me, and I suspect that it will not occur to the people who come to London. This is about something larger—the power of very large supermarkets to change the structure of shopping in this country.

7.51 pm

Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) (Con): With the Olympics, we have an amazing opportunity ahead of us whereby, as many have said over the past few years, we have a shop window on the world. It is sensible that the Government are making sure that the facility is there for shops to open the doors so that people need not just look through the window but can come to spend some of their money in this country while we have them here.

When I was council leader in Great Yarmouth, it was likely that we would have an Olympic event—mountain biking—although it has now been moved and will take place in the council authority of Castle Point. At various briefings and meetings with people from Barcelona, Athens and Australia, we kept hearing about the impact in their towns, during and after the Olympics, of people returning home and talking about them. The effect of being in that shop window was absolutely phenomenal, with an increase of up to four times in the number of visitors over the subsequent four or five years. It is therefore important that the Government make sure that they do all they can to open the doors of London to every visitor in every way possible. It is logical that when visitors come over here from Europe and around the world, one of the things they will potentially think about at weekends, including Sundays, is going shopping.

Yasmin Qureshi: The hon. Gentleman talks about London, but my constituency is 230 miles away from the Olympics. This Bill will not benefit anywhere in

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Bolton, but it will result in certain shops forcing their employees to come in on Sundays.

Brandon Lewis: My constituency is not hosting an Olympic event and is more than 100 miles away from London. However, as I suspect the Minister will outline, if there were to be some rule about this affecting only London or areas where there is an Olympic event, it is likely that there could be issues to do with competition law and other similar matters, apart from the hybrid Bill problem.

It is important that we open up this opportunity. Over the years, when I have spoken to people in various parts of London, they have talked about going to places such as Dubai, and particularly about the amazing shopping there. Shopping centres around the world are becoming destinations in their own right. That is why people went to Lakeside when it first opened, and then to Bluewater and to Westfield.

Mr Umunna: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that ultimately the problem that the Bill presents is that we have to counterbalance the economic issues that he has raised with the rights of others? He used Dubai as an example, but Dubai notoriously treats its workers and employees in all those shopping centres in an absolutely dreadful fashion.

Brandon Lewis: I referred to Westfield, Bluewater and Lakeside because people are making trips to shopping centres which are themselves becoming destinations. Obviously, with the Olympics, the sporting venue is central, but people will be going to events at these venues, with or without other family members, and at weekends, when they are not at those events, having Sundays available to shop gives them another opportunity to spend their money in this country at a time when I would have thought most Members would welcome that extra investment in our economy.

We must also bear in mind that we are talking about some stores potentially choosing to open for eight hours on specific days.

Mrs Moon: The hon. Gentleman is the Member for a constituency that is a small coastal resort. In my constituency, I have the resort of Porthcawl. Sunday traffic through that resort is fairly critical to the largely very small traders and shopkeepers within it. If we have this extension of Sunday trading for the large stores, are not visitors in my constituency’s coastal resort and that of the hon. Gentleman’s likely to be drawn away to the larger stores rather than spending their time enjoying our wonderful coast and perhaps spending in the ice cream parlours, cafes and small shops that are open?

Brandon Lewis: I disagree with the hon. Lady: Great Yarmouth is the second largest seaside resort in the country, and we have large stores and small independent stores. However, I understand her point—there is a risk of that. But there is also the advantage that when a visitor is in London for the Olympics, we may be able to advertise to them the fact that while they are here they are not that far away from Norfolk and the Broads, from where they can visit the seafront at Great Yarmouth and enjoy a classic English holiday.

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Dr Thérèse Coffey: I have visited Great Yarmouth and it is a delightful place—just as delightful as the towns in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be useful for the Minister to explain why the Bill covers two Sundays when the Olympics and Paralympics are not happening—namely, 19 and 26 August, for which perhaps these arguments cannot be used?

Brandon Lewis: I am sure that the Minister will cover those details. One of the key reasons I am happy to support the Bill is that, as the Secretary of State confirmed, it is a temporary measure for the Olympics to open this shop door to the world. If it applied to a longer period beyond that, there would be an issue.

One of the unique selling points of small independent stores is their ability to have more flexible hours. My constituency is a mixture of big towns with all the big stores open 24 hours a day and small rural areas with village shops for which, over a longer period, this would be a real problem. When I talk to some of those small retailers, they say that they do not see the big stores in town and on the edge of the town as being as much competition as they might be in other areas. In their view, they offer a personalised service that is better than and different from that offered by the large stores. Equally, in some rural areas, they benefit from the fact that they are local to people who do not want to travel into the town or to out-of-town stores.

On Friday, I had a meeting with some local independent retailers in Great Yarmouth, all of whom had come to see me about their concerns about plain packaging. They are worried that that will massively affect their business, and I have sympathy with that. I asked them specifically about this issue, knowing that we were going to have this debate, and none of them had any great concern about the impact that it would have on them; in fact, quite the opposite. Their view was that it is a very good thing, on a temporary scale for the Olympics only, to have the shop door open; they understood the logic of it and were supportive of it.

We should support this Bill because it represents a clear economic opportunity for this country. If stores want to open, and if people want to work and take advantage of this opportunity, they can do so. It is not being imposed; it is a really good opportunity to say to the world, “We’re open and we’ve got some of the best shops and facilities in the world.”

7.59 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I rise to state clearly that we oppose the change in Sunday trading and that the Democratic Unionist party, of which I have the pleasure of being a member, will divide the House on the Bill if the Labour party decides not to do that.

I have always loved the Olympics. As everyone has said, that is not the issue. We are all as pleased as punch to have the Olympics here, and pleased that there will be such a big event in London. Many of us will try to make our way over here to watch the sport. When I was younger, I stayed up late to watch the winners as they were awarded the gold, silver and bronze medals. I was always proud to see the Ulster flag or the Union flag being hoisted. Many people felt pride in their hearts for the success of our Olympians.

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I am not an official Olympics sponsor by any means, but I want to lay out from the beginning my opinions, which I believe reflect those of my party and of a great many people whom we represent. They are not against the Olympics or the money, but they want the best for the workers—the theme that has run through the discussion today. Perhaps some Government Members will want to speak about that, too. As was said earlier, we all knew in 2005 that the Olympics were coming, yet seven years later, this measure is nudged in at the last. Only a matter of weeks before the Olympics, we find that the Government are trying to push through legislation that will change a great many people’s working lives.

Margaret Thatcher and the comment about a nation of shopkeepers have been mentioned several times. My father and mother were part of that nation of shopkeepers. I grew up with parents who owned the local shop. When I went into business, I was a retailer to the shops and when I owned a business, it had close connections with the shops. My son has taken over that business. Three generations of my family have been involved in the retail trade and I believe that that qualifies me to say that we need Sunday as a day of rest. We will therefore oppose the legislative change to Sunday trading.

It is impossible to function well for any space of time when working a seven-day week. That is why people have the option of working only five hours on Sundays, and why the smaller retailers feel that they can take time off or shut their businesses on that day. That view is backed up by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which said that the vast majority of shop workers and retailers oppose extending opening hours in England and Wales for eight Sundays from 22 July.

The Secretary of State said that he had contacted the unions. However, if we contact people and get a clear point of view, do we ignore it or do we act on it? John Hannett, USDAW general secretary, made some interesting comments:

“USDAW members want MPs to put family, sport and the Olympics first…by voting against this ill-conceived and rushed piece of legislation. The vast majority of shopworkers don’t want to work extra hours on a Sunday and they quite rightly blamed their increasingly difficult struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family on the twin demands for more flexibility and unsocial working hours. These demands also reduce the opportunity of workers and their children to participate in organised sports and leisure activities.”

As someone who has experience of trying to juggle family life with the pressure of a business—everyone in the Chamber experiences juggling family life with the pressure of work—I wholeheartedly agree with the union representatives on that matter.

Yasmin Qureshi: Does the hon. Gentleman know that 1.4 million parents already work regularly through the weekend? The Bill will simply increase the number of parents who work on Sundays.

Jim Shannon: I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, which clearly sum up an issue that many people have mentioned. We should encourage families to sit together and watch the Olympics, not force mum or dad or both into another shift at work. People who do not want to work on Sundays are increasingly being pressured to do

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that. With more shifts that need workers, it will soon be impossible for them to have a Sunday with their families or at their church.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): At the beginning of the debate, the Business Secretary gave us a figure of x million pounds that the Bill could generate. He gave the impression that it would perhaps turn round the UK economy. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that if the measure is passed, people will simply spread their shopping over a longer time, and that the net gain could be very small.

Jim Shannon: I thank my hon. Friend for making an important point. I sometimes wonder, when figures are bandied about in the Chamber, on what they are based. Where do £75 million or £185 million come from? Is the economy on the turn on the strength of the Olympics and nothing else? We hope so, but reality may be very different.

Mr Gregory Campbell: Does my hon. Friend agree that, in a series of shallow comments that the Business Secretary made, the most shallow was probably the contention that a few extra hours for eight weeks would dramatically turn around the prospects for the economy and increase employment? The idea that that could be realistic is absurd.

Jim Shannon: Some Government Members have said that the Bill is a recipe for changing the economy, but, as my hon. Friend states, it is not.

Some Members touched on religion and church worship. It is important that we do not simply touch on it and dander on about it for only 20 seconds of our contributions. For many people in this country, attending church on Sunday is important to their lives. It is important for their family life, their moral standing and for their life in the church and the standards that they maintain in their lives. That should not simply be brushed aside or briefly mentioned. Those who want to attend church—they have a right to do so—should be able to do that.

Clearly, I understand Ministers’ points. However, in the current economic climate, people are fearful about retaining their jobs and subsequently about annoying management. My hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) made an important point about young people who are perhaps in their first few months of work and are asked to work the extra hours on Sunday. They feel that they have been there only a wee while and they need the job, so they will sign up to the extra hours straight away, even though they do not believe that they should have to do that. The Government need to take account of that. The management may not strong arm those people per se, but there is a clear mentality that suggests that, if they do not do as asked, they will miss out on other shifts and get a black mark against their name. That is the thin edge of the wedge.

In the Budget debate a few weeks ago, there was little or no direct comment on the Chancellor’s announcement about suspending Sunday trading law. However, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) raised concerns that

“the move could be a trial run for a permanent change in the law.”—[Official Report, 21 March 2012; Vol. 542, c. 860.]

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The Bishop of Chichester said in the House of Lords that he was concerned that removing all restrictions for eight weeks

“sounds suspiciously like a stalking horse for the wider deregulation for which some large retailers have been campaigning for a long time.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 22 March 2012; Vol. 736, c. 1042.]

Not to be outdone, the Chancellor confirmed that the suspension would be a temporary measure, but added that the Treasury could “learn lessons” from the experiment. What lessons will the Treasury learn?

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): The point about whether the Bill is a Trojan horse has been mentioned several times. Our fears are compounded by quotes that appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, in which a senior Whitehall source was quoted as saying that

“the Treasury believes the move would provide evidence of the economic benefits of a permanent relaxation of Sunday trading laws”.

The House can understand where the fears come from because officials were giving such briefings. My hon. Friend is therefore right to highlight that.

Jim Shannon: I thank my right hon. Friend for those comments. It is an underlying issue for us all. We feel that the Bill is the thin edge of the wedge. It is little wonder that it has provoked many people outside the House, who feel that a permanent deregulation of Sunday trading is just around the corner.

Mr Prisk: We have had a Trojan horse and stalking horse—the debate is in danger of becoming too equine—but as the Secretary of State has said, and as I said in the debate on the allocation of time motion, we have no intention of making the measure permanent and have included a sunset regulation. I understand the concern that many hon. Members have expressed, but we want to make that clear. I hope that will give the hon. Gentleman some comfort, whatever equine form he intends to allude to next.

Jim Shannon: I am reminded of a comment I made last week: if it smells like a horse and looks like a horse, we do not want it to become a donkey.

Mrs Moon: We have heard the reassurance from the Government that there is no stalking horse and that no precedent is set by the measure. I spoke to a young student at the weekend who is working in a local supermarket to earn the money to pay for his university tuition fees. I asked him about the Bill, and his response was: “We were promised no rise in tuition fees. How much do you trust these offers and promises?” What does the hon. Gentleman suggest I say to that young man?

Jim Shannon: Obviously, it is not for me to say—perhaps the Minister can comment on that—but we all know what we feel in our hearts, which is clearly the issue.

Last year, two listening exercises were held on whether to repeal the current restrictions on Sunday trading. The results showed that the current settlement was proportionate and that there was no real appetite to change the law. In fact, a lot of people are opposed to any change or relaxation. The hon. Member for Blaydon

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(Mr Anderson) commented on this earlier, but an USDAW survey of 10,000 shop workers, which is a significant number, clearly illustrates their opinion. Seventy-seven per cent. oppose longer opening on Sundays during the Olympics; only 12% support it, but we are pushing ahead with legislative change. Forty-eight per cent. of staff are already under pressure to work on Sundays when they do not want to do it to start with, and 71% of shop workers believe that longer Sunday opening will lead to more pressure on them to work on Sundays against their will, which is the very issue described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds), which many hon. Members feel is important.

Those figures could not be clearer. What is the point of asking people and then ignoring their response? There is no point. The democratic process means that we should listen to the opinions of our constituents and represent the majority of them in the House. It would be remiss of all hon. Members not to aim to do so. The question is: if we do not allow the extra hours of trading, will retailers’ Sunday opening hours harm our reputation and ability to host the games? The answer is no, and there is no evidence to say otherwise.

Visitors will still be able to eat in a plethora of first-class restaurants and enjoy the ambiance of typical English pubs, and purchase any necessaries in the many garages that are now almost like small supermarkets. Why do we need the big stores for that? Visitors can still go to a Sunday market or enjoy an evening at the cinema or concerts. Will their view of the UK be tainted by the fact that some stores open for only a few hours one day a week? Again, the answer is no. None of that would detract from people enjoying what we have to offer or stop people returning and enjoying the long and rich British history of which we are all proud to be part.

We can be assured that people will enjoy their visit not because our supermarkets are open seven days a week, but because they are greeted with a smile in the streets, or because they see beautiful towns and thrive on our legendary hospitality in this country. The length of time that shops are open is irrelevant, and we should not change Sunday trading laws.

Any Olympian will say that the body needs rest from training. If they push too hard, they will see no benefit, but will suffer breakdown and injury. Our business people work hard and deserve their few hours off at the weekend. To take that away will only cause harm and injury to our families and individuals across the country, and I cannot support that.

The Prime Minister has said that we need to emphasise our Christianity and go back to being that Christian country that we were once famed as being. I wish that was true and I wish the evidence meant I could say, “Yes, that is exactly right,” but tonight there is a one-line Whip for Opposition Members and a three-line Whip for Government Members. Is it true, as the Prime Minister has said, that we must emphasise our Christianity? The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we will see what happens when it comes to the vote later on. That being the case, enabling people to enjoy their family life, their attendance at church and the inspiration of their preachers, and their day of rest, is a firm foundation, and to take it away is to erode that foundation, which I wish to see retained. I believe many Members on both sides of the Chamber wish it to be retained.

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I oppose the relaxation of Sunday trading legislation and urge hon. Members to consider more than profit and loss, and more than the ledger book, when casting their votes tonight.

8.15 pm

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): Out of respect for the number of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in tonight’s debate, I will try to keep my comments short. I congratulate the Government and welcome the introduction of the Bill, because I believe it represents a common-sense solution at a time when the eyes of the world are upon us.

Some in the House may remember that I previously proposed amending Sunday trading laws during the Olympics by introducing a ten-minute rule Bill before the summer recess, so it will come as no surprise that I am entirely supportive of this measure. People will find unacceptable the idea of visitors from all over the world finding Britain shutting up shop at 4 pm or 5 pm on a Sunday in a tough economic climate.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Which countries have longer opening on Sundays than ours?

Mark Menzies: The USA is one example. An hon. Member asked whether other countries that have held the Olympic games amended Sunday trading laws, but many did not have to amend their laws. Sunday trading legislation in Scotland is very lax—people in Scotland can shop at 10 o’clock at night if they so wish—so saying that the proposed change in the law in England will be somehow draconian is wrong.

My Sunday Trading (Amendment) Bill had a very clear purpose. The aim was, for the six weeks of the Olympics and Paralympics, to facilitate visitors shopping in and around London and other games venues to allow them to get the most from the event. It was driven by a couple of things. First, I spoke to the Westfield shopping centre, which is right next to the main Olympic park. Westfield had concerns about the sheer volume of people who would be packed in because of the concentrated six-hour Sunday shopping period. Allowing it to flex its trading pattern would help to facilitate the movements of the vast numbers who are shopping while huge numbers are also coming in and going out of Olympic venues.

The second key driver was that three out of the four official Olympic trading venues on the Olympic site were too big to open for more than six hours on a Sunday. We would therefore have had the crazy anomaly of people travelling from all hon. Members’ constituencies to the closing ceremony or the men’s 100 metres final and coming out of the main stadium to get their merchandise and finding that the shops had shut. The practicalities did not make sense. Those were some of the key drivers behind my ten-minute rule Bill.

Before entering this place, I spent 15 years in retail, so I do not lack an understanding of the sector or the pressures on shop workers. Many right hon. and hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, have made valid points about the pressures on people in trying to maintain a home-life balance and so on—I respect them for doing so—but the Minister has made it clear, as I

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did in my Bill, that existing shop worker rights should not only be protected but enhanced to ensure that people are not compelled or pressurised to work longer.

The temporary relaxation of Sunday trading will come at a time when students, in particular, will be desperate for additional shifts. When I worked in stores and was trying to fill up my rota, students were always desperate for additional shifts, particularly on Sundays, because they were an awful lot easier to fit into their normal routine. Most retailers in this country, particularly larger ones, will proceed responsibly, because they will not want to upset work force relations. Unions such as USDAW have a role to play. They will be working on behalf of their workers, and if there is any hint or suggestion that people are being forced or compelled, they will not be shy—and neither will Members who have spoken tonight—in naming and shaming retailers who are going against good practice. That is one of the things that gives me great reassurance. I do not, therefore, approach the Bill with great fear or concern. People in general, and particularly those who represent shop workers, will not be shy in ensuring that the Bill is not used and abused.

Much of the policy is built on the premise that during the Olympics, there will be a retail boom—a bonanza in which millions of pounds are sloshing about—but the opposite could be true. People are creatures of habit and tend to do the same thing, but they might not. Instead of sticking to their normal shopping routine, they might stay at home to watch the men’s 100 metre final, the javelin, Tom Daley in the diving or whatever. If we see such behaviour, retail sales, rather then being maintained or boosted, might fall off a cliff. By allowing retailers to flex their trading hours, the Bill gives people the opportunity to do their shopping at an alternative time, rather than not do it at all. Although that might be less the case with food shopping—supermarkets might get off lightly—non-food retailers, particularly clothing retailers, could be hit. The Bill is a common-sense, practical solution to help address that situation.

I want to turn to small stores. Most people do not seek out small stores, particularly small independent stores on the high street. It is often the big boys—Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and so on—that drive people into their town and city centres. As a result, they will often then visit the small independents. If people think that the high street is not open on a Sunday, they will be less likely to visit, but if they know that M&S and other big multiples are open, they might make the effort, and as a result some of the small independents might benefit from increased footfall. It is beholden on town centre managers and big retailers up and down the land to think sensitively about how they market and promote their extended opening hours and help to ensure that small retailers benefit as a result.

It would be completely wrong to think that multiples will have a uniform opening strategy across the country. I am pretty sure that big retailers in London and out-of-town shopping centres will open on a Sunday, but they will do so on a case-by-case basis. Retailers are commercial operations, and if they do not think that opening longer on Sundays will produce the necessary sales uplift to the meet the increased overheads and staff costs, they will not open. Some are concerned that this will happen across the country and that everyone will be hard hit, but we do not know that yet. We have to wait and see what commercial decisions retailers take.

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The Government have put forward a common-sense solution. The sunset clause gives me the reassurance to vote for the Bill tonight. It provides protection for the work force and recognises that they have to be protected. Having listened to the powerful contributions from Opposition Members, I know that they will not be shy in holding retailers to account, if there is any deviation. This summer represents an outstanding opportunity for the UK, and I want retailers and people who want additional shifts to benefit from it. I want us to get on with this and make it something well worth doing.

8.24 pm

Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), even though I oppose the majority of what he said.

I rise to oppose the Bill, and I will vote against it on three main grounds. The first is to do with how it affects working people in the retail trade. Many Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna), said that they used to work in a shop, and so did I, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), in my first job. We started our working lives on Saturdays and in the holidays in Dickins and Jones in Richmond, so we know what it is like. The hon. Member for Fylde said that students were desperate to get the extra work, and yes, they are. However, the point is that because they are single, they do not have families to go home to—they do not have to juggle jobs with other things, as women have to—which is why they want the extra work.

Many hon. Members have mentioned the fact that USDAW, which is the fastest growing union—one wonders why—has conducted a poll of 20,000 people, 78% of whom were against Sunday trading. However, a poll that I have seen shows almost the same thing, and it was conducted this year. It was a poll of 10,000 workers, 77% of whom said that they were opposed. That poll, of 10,000 people, surveyed more people than do the polls taken by some of the papers on who will be the next Prime Minister. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned that 71% of workers believe that the Bill will erode their rights not to have to work. Many people—71%—believe that longer Sunday trading will lead to more pressure on them to work. Members should know that we already have evidence from our constituencies—I have had evidence in my constituency—of pressure being put on people to work on Boxing day. That pressure already exists, and I have written to many of the big retailers, in particular Asda, which was the store concerned in that case.

Secondly, the Association of Convenience Stores has said that its members are against the proposal. Lots of Members have mentioned that, but the ACS has put a figure on how much the eight weeks will affect its members, and that figure is £480 million. One has to worry about that, because the ACS has also said that some of the smaller shops will close, with jobs having to be lost. We are talking about convenience stores, which will be there long after the Olympics have gone, and we should take account of their view.

Thirdly, over 60% of the retail work force are female, and whatever anyone says, we tend to have to juggle work and our families the majority of the time. Therefore, the proposals that the Government have put before us will affect families no matter what Ministers say.

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Alison Seabeck: My hon. Friend makes an important point about the bulk of the workers being female. We should also bear in mind that if shops are opening longer hours on Sunday, those workers will be subject to Sunday services, which means that getting to and from work by public transport will undoubtedly take them a lot longer, thereby taking a much bigger chunk out of their day.

Valerie Vaz: My hon. Friend makes an important point, because the people who travel on the buses are mostly women.

All those who do other things on Sundays—my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) mentioned that people like to go and visit places of interest—will be prevented from doing so. The Minister mentioned that he was of Christian faith, and it is a basic point, but there will also be people who want to worship or go to church. Many people find that the early evening Sunday mass sets them up for the week, yet families will be prevented from going.

Mr Prisk: The hon. Lady says that families will be prevented. However, we made it clear—this is something that, as the Minister responsible, I wanted to make absolutely clear when I was asked to take the Bill on—that there will be no change to the statutory rights of the workers. We wanted to ensure that the notice procedure was adjusted so that people could opt out when they wanted to, but beyond that there is no change in the statutory rights. I hope that the hon. Lady will appreciate that that is one thing we have tried to do; indeed, I was grateful to the official Opposition for working with us to try to achieve it.

Valerie Vaz: I thank the Minister for that intervention. I do not know whether he has ever been a worker right at the bottom of the pile, but it is very difficult for such people to refuse when an employer tells them to do something. Many people, myself included, have been prevented from getting promotion because they were not flexible enough. People who work in shops also have to think about that, because a refusal to work on Sundays could be used against them.

I have a number of questions for the Minister. Has he had any discussions with the police about the extra numbers who will have to be on duty as a result of the crimes that could take place in shops during the longer opening hours? Secondly, what evidence led him to say that the Bill was needed? Was there a special adviser, a point man, whose job was to liaise with Westfield, for example? Thirdly, is the Minister aware of a GfK/NOP poll conducted in 2010 that showed that 89% of people were against further liberalisation of Sunday trading? The workers are against the Bill, small businesses are against it, and it is against family values. None of those people wants it, and the majority of the British people will gain no benefit from it. I urge Members to vote against the Bill.

8.30 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): It is a cause for real celebration that our country is hosting the Olympics and Paralympics this year, but I have grave concerns that the Bill will be pointed to as a precedent for further deregulation of Sunday trading by others who are not in this place today, some time in the future, notwithstanding

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what I am sure are the entirely honourable assurances to the contrary from Ministers. I understand the reasons for the Government bringing forward the Bill, but as a matter of conscience, I cannot let the debate pass without registering my concerns about its potential impact and warning against any permanent deregulation.

Sunday is still a day on which many people in this country can come together with family and friends to wind down, to exercise, to have a different kind of day or, most importantly, to recharge our batteries. That is an essential component of our health and well-being, individually, relationally and as a nation. We erode it further at our peril. Will further deregulation actually create any increase in productivity? I am reminded of the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted. The same could be said of shopping, but does anyone really win?

It is interesting to note that there are businesses that choose to stay closed on Sundays, even though they could open for a number of hours, and that those businesses flourish. One example is a motor dealership in Cheshire run by Mark Mitchell. Anyone who goes there on a Sunday will find it closed, and a sign on the door that reads:

“On Sundays our staff are at home with their families.”

Mark Mitchell’s business has been one of the most consistently high-performing car dealerships among its peers for years.

My concerns about the welfare impacts of the legislation are shared by many others. I shall quote just a few of them. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children makes the point that parents need time with their children. It states:

“Spending time with children is important to their development and studies show that children’s development is best encouraged by parents spending time with them, providing them with emotional support, giving everyday assistance and monitoring their behaviour and discipline. Working during weekends when children are at home for longer means missing out on their development and socialisation.”

In 2006, a cross-party group of MPs and peers chaired by Lord Anderson found that the then Department of Trade and Industry had

“failed to pay sufficient attention to the impact that extended Sunday work could have on parents and the time they have with their children, on juvenile anti-social behaviour and the resultant increase in expenditure by local authorities and the effects of a poor work-life balance on health.”

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that parents of both sexes—and their children—disliked weekend working, especially on Sundays, yet

“one-quarter of mothers and just under one-third of fathers worked once a month or more on Sundays”.

Do we want more? Do we need more? Is the cost in health and well-being worth paying?

Research conducted by the university of London showed that those parents in lower socio-economic groups were more likely to say they had no option about working at atypical times and hours, and that there was no scope to negotiate more flexible arrangements. This is in comparison with parents in professional jobs, who were more likely to say their working arrangements were chosen to suit their career aspirations. For this

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reason, it is clear that working on Sunday without any choice disproportionately affects lower socio-economic and disadvantaged groups.

Children are not the only ones who might need time with their families. Those with other dependants, such as elderly, disabled or terminally ill relatives might have fewer options for alternative care, and their needs are more unpredictable than those of children. These workers need greater flexibility, so enforced longer weekend working hours could create substantial difficulties for carers.

The wider community, not just families, benefit from Sundays as we now enjoy them. For many people of faith, Sunday has a special significance. Religious freedoms are important. As a Christian, I believe that our minds and bodies were created to function best when incorporated into our week is a day when we do not have to function at full tilt. Some would call it a Sabbath rest. I do. That is something that we ignore individually and as a nation at our peril, paying the price in increased stress, weakened family ties and many other ways. We are asking our children to pay that price, too. Individual and corporate productivity actually declines rather than increases, and the very thing we have fruitlessly chased is lost at the price of many other values and principles of far greater worth. I sincerely hope that this is not the Olympic legacy that this Bill creates.

8.36 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): The Olympic games have had an adverse impact on my constituency. For example, we have seen a number of miners’ welfare charities suffer. They are usually funded by different revenue streams, but some of those have focused their finances on the Olympic games here in London. The Olympic games were heralded as providing a beacon of employment for people throughout the country, but that has not happened in my constituency, where very few people, if any, have benefited from any of the tenders for various forms of employment at the Olympic village.

That said, it is important to set out my wholehearted support for the Olympics and Paralympics. I am optimistic about them and I dearly hope that they will be a huge success. It has been suggested that this is a once-in-a-lifetime sporting occasion, so that is great—we should all work together to make sure that it succeeds. The original bid was led by the last Labour Government and it was carried forward in a spirit of cross-party collaboration. It was unifying and collegiate, and it sought to bring on board the widest range of organisations to create a lasting legacy for Britain—something of which we could all be proud. That is why the way in which these proposals have been handled—or, rather, mishandled—by Ministers is so disappointing.

The issue of Sunday trading has always been a divisive issue, one that splits many communities. Whether it be the Keep Sunday Special group, the trade unions, Church groups or community groups, the issue has proved truly divisive. It on behalf of those people and groups that I would like to speak, so I shall put their views to the House tonight.

It is puzzling that this issue is coming before us today, when the games are just three months ahead of us. It has been asked why this issue was not dealt with last year when the London Olympic Games and Paralympic

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Games (Amendment) Bill was considered. Instead, we are being asked to make a last-minute judgment without any proper consideration of the consequences or of the impact on workers, small businesses and other affected groups. Ministers have made no effort to hold proper consultations. On the contrary, we have experienced their usual high-handed antics and failure to have any regard for the people on whom their policies will have an impact.

I am seriously concerned about the impact on shop workers, and on employment rights in the workplace. The last-minute attempt to push through these changes clearly does not allow enough time for workers to be informed of the need to exempt themselves if they do not wish to work on Sundays during the Olympics. The Secretary of State said earlier that employers were not even obliged to inform employees of that requirement, and I believe that a wide range of them will be entirely unaware of the provisions in the Bill.

Many Members have mentioned USDAW’s poll of more than 20,000 members, which revealed that 51% of shop workers were routinely put under pressure to work on Sundays when they did not want to do so, while 73% believed that the pressure on them to work on Sundays against their will would increase as a result of the extended working hours during the Olympics. Shop workers who already work unsocial hours during the week, and who rely on Sunday’s limited trading hours to spend time with their families, fear that they will lose that precious time. The views of those workers should have been of paramount importance, but the Government should at least have listened to them. The poll also revealed that 78% of shop workers opposed longer opening on Sundays during the Olympics, and that only 11% supported it.

Mr Anderson: Does this not conform to a pattern? Just as throughout the debate on the Health and Social Care Bill the Government consistently ignored the voice of the people we ask to deliver our health services, they are now ignoring the voice of the people who work to keep our retail services going. What they are doing now is completely and utterly in line with what they do in other contexts. They are so out of touch that it is untrue.

Ian Lavery: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend.

I am sure that not just my constituents but those of every other Member have expressed concern about the legislation that is being pushed through at this late stage. There are many reasons for their concern, all of them valid. First, why should ordinary people not have the same opportunity to sit and watch the fantastic Olympic games on a Sunday afternoon? The answer is “Because they are shop workers.” Those workers fear that pressure will be put on them to work on more Sundays and for longer hours during the games, and that the Bill will set a precedent for the introduction of weekday hours on Sundays which would not be reversed after the Olympics.

I have asked a number of questions today about the voluntary aspect of Sunday working. If, at a time when 22.2 people are after each jobcentre vacancy, someone who works in a shop in Wansbeck says to the manager, “I don’t want to work on Sundays”, the manager is

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unlikely to say, “That’s fine: we understand. Do you want to watch the triathlon?” What he will probably say is, “There are plenty of people out there who are willing to work on Sundays. Bear that in mind, and come back tomorrow to give me your views.” Any Member who believes for one minute that the Sunday working will be voluntary is living in cloud cuckoo land. If it is as easy as that, why did we not ask employees to opt into working on Sundays during the Olympics, rather than asking them to opt out? Many shop workers are forced to work on Sundays now, in spite of the Sunday opt-out rules. Like other people, they want to be able to choose how they spend their Sundays. The shorter trading and working hours on Sundays often mean Sunday is the only day they can spend time with their families. In spite of the pressure that is put on a significant minority of staff, most can still choose whether to work on Sundays, allowing them the option to spend time with their children or other family members on that day, or to attend religious worship. They know that if trading hours are extended, they will be forced to work on Sundays.

Many Members have given examples of workers not having a choice about whether to work on Sundays. Pressure is already exerted on many workers to change their hours and work on Sundays, in spite of the current opt-out right. Many shop workers are on flexible contracts that require them to work on any five days out of seven. A lot of companies would not employ someone who did not agree to work on Sundays. There are huge difficulties, therefore.

The impact on family life has been well aired tonight. The precious time families have together could be disrupted for two, or even three, months. Extending the Sunday opening times would have a devastating effect on staff, especially those with children. Many Members have pointed out that it is the only time that many people can spend with their families, because of school and other commitments including employment commitments, in the week. One lady said that she gets to spend only six hours a week with her children. Another commented that extending Sunday hours

“would truly destroy what little home life we have left.”

Someone else said:

“I have tried to organise working hours with kids and I believe Sundays to be a family day. Unfortunately I have difficulty getting weekend days off to spend time with my kids as they are at school Mon-Fri”—

as are most kids! Shop workers would welcome shorter working hours.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): A few weeks ago, I tabled a parliamentary question on the issue of the amount of time parents and children get to spend together. The answer is that it has increased dramatically. Society has made gains in this regard. In 1975, mothers and children spent between eight and 21 minutes per day together. That had increased to between 51 and 86 minutes per day in 2000. That is progress. If these proposals are introduced and become permanent, we will regress.

Ian Lavery: I fully agree, and I was not aware of those statistics.

Many staff find it difficult to work on Sundays because of practical problems, such as lack of transport due to Sunday bus and train services. Where I live,

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there are very few transport facilities in any case. We in south-east Northumberland have not even got a train service.

Retail staff also experience seemingly endless demands for flexibility in their working hours. They know that if stores open for longer on Sundays, existing trade will shift from other times of the week and staff will be required to work more hours on Sundays and fewer at other times, such as weekdays, when it may be easier and more family-friendly for them to be at work. Based on the evidence of current widespread practices in retail, we know that if shops open for longer on Sundays, additional staff will not be taken on, but, instead, current employees will be forced to shift more of their working hours from weekdays to Sundays.

Is it not in everyone’s best interests to support the Opposition amendments? I hope the whole House agrees that the hard-working people in this country, and in particular those in the retail sector, are crucial to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic games—something we all crave for. No one here hopes that the games will not be a tremendous success. We want the games to be the envy of the world, but why have the Government not listened? Is it that ordinary people working in shops do not count? Is it that the Government are simply out of touch, or that they simply do not care?

There have been many guarantees. People have said that the Bill should not be seen as a test case for the future relaxation of the laws—“a Trojan horse”, as it has been described. The Minister and the Secretary of State have said that it will definitely not be; the Secretary of State was adamant that under his brief no such precedent would be set. However, as has been said, if the Bill goes ahead it will be a precedent.

The fact is that we have all experienced what the coalition Government have done in the name of the best interests of the nation, the national interest—“We have come together as a coalition in the national interest and we have to make difficult decisions.” We have seen the decisions on VAT and tuition fees. I tell you now, Madam Deputy Speaker, that not many people out there trust a single word that the Liberal Democrats say; if they and the rest of the coalition are telling people out there to believe them, they have a hard job on their hands. We should listen to hard-working ordinary people, who should be allowed the same choices as everyone else during the fantastic period of the Olympics.

8.51 pm

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery); I agree with his general thrust, although not with everything that he said.

I must declare an interest in the Olympics, as the sailing games, to be hosted in Weymouth and Portland, are in my constituency. We are very proud of that. With that in mind, I must speak up for my local shops and constituents—the very lifeblood of a coastal seat such as mine. They feel threatened by the temporary liberalisation of the Sunday trading laws for eight weeks this summer. Those eight weeks—games or no games—are the eight weeks on which convenience stores in holiday destinations such as South Dorset depend for most of the year’s profit. When the large retailers close for the day, the smaller ones continue to work flat out.

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Michael and Barbara Clements, who run the local SPAR shop in Weymouth, tell me that their busiest time is between 4 pm and 9 pm on Sundays. Sensitive to seasonal demand, their takings increase significantly in summer. Mr and Mrs Clements tell me that normally they would make one third of their annual income during the summer—the precise period when Sunday trading restrictions are to be lifted. As a result, they will lose out, which strikes them as unfair and unnecessary—unfair because they cannot possibly compete against the giant multiples, and unnecessary because the Olympic and Paralympic games will take place at a few well publicised sites around the country.

Although one could conceivably make an argument for opening shops in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic village and sites, the need to open every large shop in the country is not overwhelmingly apparent, and such a move is not supported by the majority of those who work in them. As a spokesman for the shop workers’ union said, the Olympics is not a festival of retail and shopping is not an Olympic sport.

The statistics cited by the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) seem to be similar to the ones in my speech, so perhaps she borrowed them. The Association of Convenience Stores estimates that the temporary suspension will cost small shops £480 million over those eight Sundays—a not inconsiderable sum. That is an average of £1,500 per store per Sunday for eight weeks. Most importantly, the Clements and many other small shop owners are anxious to ensure that the Bill is not the thin end of the wedge. They would like some form of guarantee that, having experimented with the idea once, the Government will not revisit it. I hope that the Chancellor, wherever he is, is listening. To that end, they welcome the sunset clause, which will repeal the eight-week liberalisation of Sunday trading, without any further debate, on 9 September. That is to be welcomed. Like the Clements and many others in South Dorset, I hope that this will be an end to it.

Much of the research used to underpin this very rushed Bill is left over from earlier attempts to liberalise Sunday trading laws, but there is genuinely no demand for this move. Again I refer to what the hon. Member for Walsall South said when I talk about another of the statistics I have here. We should remember that in the poll to which she referred 89% of the public were opposed to further liberalisation of Sunday trading.

Finally, although we welcome the Olympics with open arms, it is important that when the games are gone, the communities that hosted them are left with desirable legacies only—the ones we were promised. [Interruption.] Bless you. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) has been sneezing, and I hope she gets better. The legacies we were promised were: more housing; faster broadband; better roads; and communications and services. We do not want damaging new laws that hurt precisely the small businesses we have pledged to support and encourage. Lest we forget, in the hurly-burly of a coalition Government—a sneezing Government— those are our core voters; they are the very fabric and soul of the community. We must support them. I shall end by saying that I will support the Government tonight on the relaxation of the provisions in law for this period only, but when they come back before the House, as they will have to do, I shall not be supporting that move.

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8.56 pm

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to contribute to the debate. May I begin by telling the House that I have been a member of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers—that great campaigning union on behalf of shop workers and their families—for more than 30 years? For much of that time, I was in the buying division of Littlewoods.

I wish to make it clear at the outset that we all want the Olympics and Paralympics to be a great success, but this Bill is a sledgehammer that is being used to crack a nut and it is a step too far. I wonder whether it was the realisation that the five Olympic stores would be caught by the existing Sunday trading regulations that initiated the need for the Bill. We have ended up with a Bill that will allow a complete suspension of Sunday trading regulations across the whole of the UK, and I am not assured—not one bit assured—that the Bill is not a prelude to rolling back the existing Sunday trading regulations, as it allows a free-for-all and abandons the principles underpinning those regulations. To add to that threat, we have heard the Chancellor stating that the Treasury could “learn lessons” from this experiment.

We are told that the Bill will create more jobs and economic growth. Indeed, we may see a small increase in the number of temporary jobs and increased spending for eight weeks, but these are not permanent jobs and this will not be sustained economic growth. I get a sense that the Government desperately hope that the Olympics will provide an eight-week boost to the economy, such as their policies are currently holding back.

What we need is a strategy and policies to ensure job creation and economic growth for 52 weeks of the year, and not just an eight-week hope. I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), who is not in his place, but I am not persuaded that students will rescue extended Sunday trading hours during the Olympics, because this will be forced on some shop workers and hard-pressed families.

A cost-benefit analysis carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2006 concluded that extending the hours of Sunday trading would not result in any increase in retail sales or employment. People visiting the United Kingdom for the Olympics will be able to shop for an incredible 150 hours during the week, from Monday to Saturday. We have very extensive and relaxed shopping hours, especially compared with some European countries. On top of that, we must not forget that on Sundays, shops can open for trading for six hours.

Many small businesses rely on Sunday trading, as it is the only competitive advantage that they can secure over the large chain stores. They rely on the existing regulations to maximise their income; that enables them to stay open and keep providing jobs for local people. Eight weeks’ deregulation could have an enormous impact on those small businesses. We often hear the Government say that small businesses are vital to local economies and are the backbone of the British economy. The same much-vaunted small businesses that the Conservatives praised in opposition now appear to be collateral damage.

Finally and most importantly, we must consider the impact of deregulation on shop workers. As we have heard many times in this debate, the USDAW survey found that the majority of shop workers oppose the

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Bill. The figures cannot be ignored. Sunday is a day of collective rest and worship—a day for families to spend together. In our Christian country, Sundays are special. The message that the Government are sending is that not all Sundays are special—just some of them. How long will it be before none of them is? This is a very slippery slope. I have heard Ministers’ assurances, but the public judge us on what we do, not on what is said, and what we are doing is smashing through Sunday trading regulations. People will believe that this is a cynical attempt to desensitise the issue.

Retail workers and their families already bear the burden of existing opening hours for shops. People are working different shifts and hours, which makes it hard to have a good work-life balance and to be home at the same time as the rest of the family. That is why Sunday trading restrictions have always been important for retail workers. They, too, should have an opportunity to enjoy the Olympics. If the Government want shops to open longer on Sundays, perhaps they should be prepared to get behind those tills on a Sunday. Only when they do so will they have a sense of what they are expecting of our retail workers. Sadly, this is yet another example of how out of touch with ordinary families the Government are. Please do not tell us that we are all in this together—we are obviously not.

I urge all hon. Members to oppose the Bill as a statement of support for shop workers and their families, who will be asked to give up even more of their family time during the Olympics and Paralympics if the Bill is passed, and as a statement of support for small businesses that rely for their income on Sunday trading at a time when they are not in direct competition with major chain stores.

9.2 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): There is an old saying that in politics timing is everything, but as we keep on being blessed by the Budget that keeps giving, even that old adage is being tested. We have spoken tonight about the retail review and the red tape review, and the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) told us about his private Member’s Bill, which was brought forward before the last summer recess. All of a sudden, at the last minute, there has been a great rush to move things forward. Why the rush? We have known about the Olympics since 6 July 2005, and were planning for it long before then. Lots of public money and time have been spent, and people have been working together in lots of private business partnerships. This should have been planned properly.

The truth is that at no point before 21 March this year did anyone seriously suggest that workers needed to work extra hours on a Sunday. In case anyone needs reminding, 21 March was day one of the Chancellor’s year zero. The Chancellor—the man with two names—decided that it must be so. This is his answer to the double-dip recession, the plan A for growth: we will work our way out of the mess that he has got us into. What is his idea? “Let’s make shop workers work longer hours on a Sunday.” What a farce.

One of the saddest things about this farce is that decent Front-Benchers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been sidelined. We have seen the sad spectacle of the Member whom we used to know as the sage of Twickenham reduced to being the stooge of Westminster, the stooge of George Osborne.