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The right hon. Gentleman asked some specific questions. In the few weeks he has been in charge of Border Force, Brian Moore has visited Heathrow twice, including over Easter—one of the peak busiest times of the year—to see precisely how Border Force coped over that difficult and challenging period. The answer was that, despite the predictions we had that Easter would mean gridlock at Heathrow, actually it did not. Heathrow coped well over Easter.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked about e-gates and iris recognition immigration system gates. The IRIS gates commissioned by the previous Government are being phased out because they have come to the end of their technological life. They are less reliable than the e-gates that we are replacing them with and which provide a much better passenger experience.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about risk-based controls. As he knows, I have said—as has the Home Secretary in front of the Home Affairs Committee—that the principle of risk-based controls is a sound one to explore, but he will know that, as the John Vine report showed, what we had, when we thought we had risk-based controls, actually were not risk-based controls. Information had been withheld from successive Ministers over the previous five years.

The right hon. Gentleman asked, quite reasonably, what we have done. I have mentioned some of the actions we have already taken. We have rebalanced staff across Heathrow’s terminals; we are opening the new control room to allow us to monitor and deal with demand across the airports, so Border Force staff will not be stuck in terminals, as they used to be; we have completed our recruitment to mobile teams that can deal with unexpected surges; and we are encouraging all eligible passengers to use the e-passport gates, and are now getting close to 50% of those eligible to use them doing so, which significantly improves the flow-through, particularly for UK citizens.

We have, as a result, freed up more experienced staff from those e-passport gates to man the non-EU desks and to help reduce queues there. We are cross-training more and more of our staff so that they can work flexibly across all areas of border control. So very significant steps have been taken in the past few months to make the airports work more efficiently, and I am sure that passengers and the House will see the effects of that in the coming months.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments, but is there any way to give greater priority to British passport holders when there are very long queues?

Damian Green: British and—I suspect my hon. Friend might not wish to hear this—other EU citizens have priority. We do fewer checks on them, for obvious reasons. Our service level agreement is that 95% of them should go through in fewer than 25 minutes, as opposed to 95% in fewer than 45 minutes for non-British and non-EU passengers. We try to make the welcome back to this country for British tourists or business people travelling abroad as good as possible.

Mr Speaker: I call Yvette Cooper.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Or me.

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Mr Speaker: I beg the hon. Gentleman’s pardon. More particularly, I beg the right hon. Lady’s pardon. I am sorry. I had it down that she would be performing, but of course it would not be a normal day if we did not hear from the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Bryant: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

I have to say to the Minister that his was a ludicrously complacent answer. Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of man, especially with increased technology, to do two things at the same time: secure the borders and have reasonably swift queues. The problems at Heathrow and Gatwick have given a shocking impression of a Government who are out of control, just when Britain is facing a special security challenge in advance of the Olympics and when the British tourism industry is keen to make as good an impression as possible. I gather that No. 10 is now blaming it on the weather.

The figures that the Minister gave are not the full story. Even before last week, between 1 April and 15 April, Border Force missed its waiting targets for non-European economic area nationals on 13 out of 15 days, and even for people returning home to their own country, it missed them on four days. There was not a single day in that two-week period when it met all its targets.

It might be understandable if long queues meant better security, but no airport in the world is designed to kettle thousands of passengers for hours prior to passing through immigration, which is why it is vital that the Government provide enough resources to Border Force.

Sir John Vine expressly recommended that a clear understanding of what constitutes health and safety grounds for suspension should be agreed. Has that happened? Have there been any such suspensions in the last month? I ask the Minister that because I have been contacted by one passenger who says that on arrival on a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to terminal 4, his passport was not swiped at all. How many UK or other European nationals have had to wait more than the target of 25 minutes?

Will most people not be perplexed by the Government’s priorities? They have already cut 500 border staff—they are going to cut another 1,000—while at the same time they are spending £2.5 million on new uniforms. How can that possibly be the right set of priorities? Numbers at Heathrow are set to rise, not only for the Olympics and Paralympics, but year on year into the future, yet Border Force is running at 100% capacity, with no room for the unexpected—and clearly the Government are running way past their capacity. Is it not time that the Government shouldered their responsibility and gave Border Force the resources it truly needs to do the job properly?

Damian Green: Up to that point, we had heard the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, make a thoughtful contribution to what is a serious debate. Sadly, the shadow Minister for Immigration has let the side down, with a rant that had no purpose whatever. He also clearly wrote it before he had heard my statement, which addressed the measures we are taking in some detail. The only solution he has—this is instructive, as a glimpse into Labour’s approach to everything—is to spend more taxpayers’ money; and this from a member of the Government who left this country bankrupt, because of their profligate spending over 13 years.

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In the midst of that rant, the hon. Gentleman raised one or two issues, so let me deal with them. First, he talked about the uniforms and implied that it was a terrible waste of money to buy new uniforms. I have to tell him that the current Border Force uniform was bought by the previous Government and was designed to last only three years, so it is now out of date and has to be replaced anyway. That money would therefore have to be spent under any circumstances.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about what was happening at the border. However, I am afraid that he is relying on unreliable reports. The monitoring for this period shows that in the first two weeks of April, we met all our targets for EU passengers, meeting targets for non-EU passengers on 11 days out of 15. Of course I would prefer to meet our targets for non-EU passengers on 15 days out of 15, but he is relying on information that does not accord with the official figures given by Border Force.

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has no particular answers to give. Indeed, what is quite surprising about everything he said was—[ Interruption. ] He should agree with this statement, which was made last November:

“We seemed to have a consensus from Labour ministers and I thought from…Tory ministers as well that with every year that went by, you should be strengthening the checks at the borders, adding better technology and that kind of thing”.

That was said by the shadow Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman is now saying that we should make fewer checks. I suggest that he and she get their act together.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): May I ask my hon. Friend to ensure that the hard-pressed border officers, who in times of pressure are told to get a move on, are still able to put their top priority—the safety and security of our country—first?

Damian Green: My hon. Friend is exactly right that, beneath this debate, we all need to remember—I can absolutely assure him that every member of Border Force securing our border knows this—that our first priority must be the security of our border. That is what had been compromised, we discovered, over many years, because when the queues rose at airports, people were ordered to reduce the checks. The big change that has happened in the past few months is that we now conduct proper checks at every airport, all the time, which is significantly improving the security of every citizen of this country.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): What representations have been made by the Transport Secretary to ensure that Home Office services enable our airports to operate efficiently and safely?

Damian Green: The Secretary of State for Transport—who is here, as is the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers)—the Home Secretary and I meet regularly and we all agree on this matter. Although the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) does not seem to agree with his boss, I agree with mine, and we all agree on the need for proper checks and efficiently flowing airports. That is obviously a priority for the Department for Transport as well. It is a dual priority

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for every Government, and certainly for this one. I can only re-emphasise that we will not compromise border security in any circumstances.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Will the Minister tell the House whether equipment failures have been the source of any delays, and whether the contingency arrangements relating to equipment failure have been reviewed? If the problem is the result of the sheer volume of passengers, would he consider introducing genuine risk-based passenger assessment, which would have the potential to speed up the passage of people through airports and to improve security?

Damian Green: There have been one or two specific incidents in which either equipment failure or wider technical failure has contributed to problems. For example, there was a problem at Birmingham airport that was caused by a power surge that knocked out all the electrical equipment across the airport for a time. Accidents such as that will happen. On my right hon. Friend’s point about ever-rising numbers, which might well happen, this is a question of being able to deploy staff flexibly enough so that, when we know that more people are coming in, we can have more staff at the right gates and encourage as many people as possible to use the technology at the e-gates, which enables more people to go through more smoothly. That is the focus of what we are trying to do.

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): While no one doubts the Minister’s good intentions, does he not understand that quoting averages at passengers who have been waiting for two or three hours in very difficult conditions only makes Britain’s reputation worse, rather than better? Does he also understand that, among many senior business people—in Turkey, for example, but elsewhere as well—there is a high level of frustration at being put through an unnecessary number of hoops to get a visa in the first place, when they have been coming to this country quite safely for years, then at having to face an insulting environment when they get to Heathrow or Gatwick?

Damian Green: I make no apology for the fact that our visa checks are more thorough and more secure than they were when the right hon. Gentleman was Home Secretary in the previous Government. His other point is simply wrong. If he had listened to what I said, he would have heard me quite deliberately quoting the longest queuing times. I am not trying to hide behind averages. I said that the longest queuing time was one and a half hours, and that that was unacceptable and we would seek to do better. I should also say that the use of average times was not invented by this Government; the previous Government did it as well.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): My hon. Friend the Minister will know that everyone in the House—except perhaps those on the Opposition Front Bench—welcomes the steps that he is taking to improve efficiency in airports in order to move people through. Does he accept, however, that the absolute priority of the Government and the UK Border Force has to be national security?

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Damian Green: That is right, and it cannot be emphasised often enough. Of course people feel frustrated when they are in a queue. We all feel that, but we would all feel much worse if we thought that our country was not being made as safe as possible. The borders are a significant line of defence against people who want to commit criminal acts, as well as those who want to commit acts of terrorism, and I am absolutely determined that we will not compromise our security in any way.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the staff of the UK Border Agency, who have been working incredibly hard and flexibly over the past few months and, indeed, years? There are real concerns on the front line about the lack of staff numbers, and real worries about what will happen during the Olympics. We must not score an own goal in that regard. Will he take up the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) that he visit Heathrow and meet the front-line staff, the trade unions and other stakeholders to explore their views on what could be done to improve matters?

Damian Green: The hon. Gentleman can be assured that I visit Heathrow regularly. I am happy to join him in paying tribute not just to the hard work of those who work as immigration officers and customs officers at our borders, but to the dedication they bring to the job. They are very serious about keeping the wrong people and the wrong things out of our country. As I say, I visit Heathrow extremely regularly and will be glad to go there in the coming weeks to see the new control room and the more flexible rostering that we are setting up and to see the better use we intend to make of those dedicated staff.

Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): Does the Minister agree that airports themselves as well as Border Force can do more to improve this process and make sure that the right number of staff are available at the right times to deal with the expected flight volume?

Damian Green: I do. There are two significant areas where work could be done by our partners at airports. One is in the provision of information so that Border Force can respond as quickly as possible to any delays caused by wind or that sort of thing that makes planes occasionally bunch in their arrivals. The other is the physical layout of the airports, which is a role for airport operators. For example, people need to have clear lines of sight so that they can see the gates for as long as possible, and as much emphasis as possible should be given to reassuring passengers that they are going through a process smoothly, as often happens on the retailing side of airports.

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): May I welcome the efforts that the Minister is making and join in the tributes to the important and hard work of the border staff? Does my hon. Friend agree that these delays, which he has explained this afternoon, are not limited to Heathrow, as they apply to Gatwick and Stansted? While I know he agrees—and has made the point—that the delays harm Britain’s reputation, does he also agree that British business men who have to go in and out of the country all the time as they engage in the hard work of the export industry are extremely irritated by the way

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in which they are regularly kept in unacceptably long queues? I know that my hon. Friend will do his best to get this matter resolved, but will he acknowledge the fact that these queue problems really need to be resolved quickly?

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. It is always a great pleasure to hear the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames). Erroneously, however, I called two Government Members in succession, so I will subsequently call two Opposition Members in succession to redress the balance. [Interruption.] It is certainly not the fault of the right hon. Member, to whose dulcet tones I feel sure we listened with considerable enthusiasm.

Damian Green: If the rules can be relaxed for anyone, Mr Speaker, they should be relaxed for my right hon. Friend. I take the importance of what he says. It is of course annoying not just for British business men coming back, but for foreign business people who also want as smooth a procedure as possible. That is why we worked so hard to introduce the e-passport gates. With every year that passes, 10% more British people get a new modern passport that enables them to use those gates, which can often provide a considerable improvement in itself. This debate is bedevilled by anecdote, with everyone having an individual story to tell, either good or bad. My own is that I came through Heathrow last Thursday and used the e-gates. I am happy to say that from arriving in the immigration hall to leaving took precisely four minutes.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Does the Minister understand that British subjects and British passport holders are not really interested in targets, but in getting back into their own country as quickly as possible? Will he now answer the question asked by one of his hon. Friends? Why can we not simply say to the European Union that we are going to give priority to our British passport holders, who are going to have a separate queuing lane so that they can join it and get in first? Surely that is what we should be doing as an independent country.

Damian Green: As the hon. Lady knows perfectly well, that would require significant changes to the law going way beyond immigration policy. I gently suggest to her that all her constituents who want to go on holiday to other countries in the European Union would feel slightly short-changed if they had to wait much longer because there was a separate lane there, too.

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): Terminal 5 was a triumph of British construction whose reputation was seriously marred by inept management on its opening day. Now the country is spending billions on arrangements for the Olympics, brilliantly built and organised, and our international image is already being damaged by the queues being caused once again by the useless Border Agency management. Today the Minister’s main excuse seemed to be the weather at the weekend: the wrong sort of rain. When will he really get a grip?

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Damian Green: I am not conscious that the word “rain” has passed my lips. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would care to listen to what I am saying. Let me also gently point out to him that the management of terminal 5 has nothing to do with the UK Border Agency or Border Force, and that it was an entirely commercial operation at that time.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Olympics. Of course we are aware that this summer will be much busier, which is why we will ensure that all immigration desks at Heathrow—terminal 5 and the other terminals—and at other key ports and airports in the south-east are fully staffed whenever necessary during peak arrival periods. We are working closely with the British Airports Authority and other airport operators to ensure that the supply of information to which I referred earlier is better than ever during that period, so that we can provide the best possible experience at our airports at a time when the eyes of the world will indeed be upon us.

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): We all want passengers to pass efficiently through passport control and immigration, but can the Minister confirm that what we will never see repeated is what happened on occasion during Labour’s watch in 2004, when all passport gates at Heathrow terminal 3 were left open and no checks were made at all?

Damian Green: I can only agree with my hon. Friend. That was indeed shocking. The whole point of the reforms that we have instituted since the John Vine report is to avoid the sort of crisis in which the first reaction is often to say “We will just let everyone through to avoid queues”, because that creates a much less secure border.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): When passengers arrive at airports and experience problems, they think that they should complain to the airports. We recently tried to amend the Civil Aviation Bill to require the Civil Aviation Authority to publish annual figures for delays at immigration desks, but we were effectively rebuffed by the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers). Will the Minister assure the House that those who wish to complain will know how to complain and who to complain to, and that his Department will publish those annual figures?

Damian Green: I am happy to report to the hon. Gentleman, who I know has transport expertise, that I too have asked the question about the ability to complain, and that Border Force is now very alive to the fact that it needs to advertise the complaints procedure and make forms available at terminals. It is aware of its responsibilities in that regard.

Richard Harrington (Watford) (Con): I am sure the Minister is aware that Hilton Hotels runs its entire worldwide operation from Watford, where it is a very large employer in my constituency and brings many, many tourists into the country. It is not concerned about the short-term matters that have been discussed by many people who have tried to take political advantage of the situation, both inside and outside the House. It is concerned about the need for the Government to make long-term arrangements to ensure that tourists arriving

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in this country from all over the world benefit from a world-class operation that ensures security for the country, and also makes it clear that it is as good as any other country in the world at putting people through immigration.

Damian Green: First, I must confess to my hon. Friend that I did not know that Hilton Hotels was based in Watford. I am ashamed of my lack of knowledge of a fact with which I have now managed to catch up.

Chris Bryant: Even I knew that.

Damian Green: The shadow Immigration Minister says that even he knew that, which makes me feel doubly ashamed.

My hon. Friend has made a very good point. It is not just for this summer and the Olympics that we need an improvement, although the summer will clearly be a hugely important time for our airports and the British tourism industry generally. What we need is a permanent improvement, which is why I hope that my hon. Friend has been reassured by the many changes that I announced in response to the original question. It is important not just to do something for the summer, but to change the way in which our Border Force operates and the way in which our airport operators and airlines go about their business, to ensure that there is a permanent improvement for all who travel into and out of the country.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): As the Minister knows, my constituency is close to Heathrow. He may not know, however, that more headquarters of European multinational companies are located in it than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. In recent meetings with different representatives of those companies, the first question I am asked is, “Why are the queues so long and what are you going to do about it? We may move our investment elsewhere.” The Minister will be aware of Brodie Clark’s article in The Times on 23 April, in which he said that targeting in border checks led to a 10% increase in detections and seizures. Why is the Minister not using a targeted system, as that saves money and works better?

Damian Green: The problem with the figures Brodie Clark quoted—and which I am sure I quoted in the past—is that they came out of the pilot that we now know was tainted by the fact that, unknown to anyone else, Border Force was relaxing the controls in an unauthorised way. We will need to think about that again, when, and if, we get to that point. I have said that, in principle, risk-based controls are an option any Government should consider, but I hope the hon. Lady will be reassured by the fact that that pilot was ended because it was tainted, and since then we have taken, and are taking, a number of practical measures to ensure that the many important businesses in her constituency can do their job efficiently.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I call Mr Richard Fuller. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman was previously interested, but he does not have to ask a question if he does not want to; it is not obligatory.

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Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, but the question I was going to ask has already been asked.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is in danger of setting a real precedent: that because it has already been said, it does not need to be said again. That really is setting a new precedent in parliamentary practice! I call Mr Stewart Jackson.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Given the news that next year Hungary will issue Hungarian passports to ethnic Hungarians who do not live in the European Union, I am somewhat surprised by the Minister’s rather nonchalant response to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey). Why in this particular situation is it impossible for a sovereign nation to disaggregate in respect of its treatment between its own citizens and European Union citizens, and why are we not doing more, for instance on criminal records checks of EU citizens at our ports of entry?

Damian Green: Criminal records checks depend on the quality of information we get from the sending country, and that will differ between different European countries. I am conscious of my hon. Friend’s attitude to the EU, but as we are talking about the immigration laws under the current laws of this country, I think we have said enough on that particular topic for this afternoon.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): The queues at Heathrow are unacceptable, but there are also reports of long queues at Gatwick and the channel tunnel. Three weeks ago, I came into Gatwick at about half-past midnight and had to wait for more than half an hour to enter the country. I witnessed families with young children who were struggling badly with the delay. What inquiries has the Minister made into queues faced by travellers outside the capital?

Damian Green: As I have already explained, the service level agreement is that 95% of UK and EU passengers should be processed within 25 minutes and non-EU passengers should be processed within 45 minutes. Those are the targets Border Force has been set. Without knowing the details of the individuals to whom the hon. Lady refers, I cannot say whether or not they were processed in accordance with service standards. The point she makes about Calais and Coquelles is particularly ill-advised in that we have been told that, along with Easter, the February half-term is one of the busiest weeks at Calais and Coquelles because of schools coming back from half-term trips, and we prepared and planned, and there were no problems over that busy weekend.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): What steps is my hon. Friend taking to prepare our borders for next week’s planned strike, and does he detect, as I do, a whiff of political opportunism in the timing of this urgent question?

Damian Green: On my hon. Friend’s second point, I think that that is taken as read. On the strike set for next week, I simply say that, as on previous strike days, we will make contingency arrangements to ensure our borders are open and Britain is open for business, and if any members of the immigration service are planning to go

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on strike, I urge them to think again. It will do them no good, and it may do some damage to this country. I very much hope this strike does not take place.

Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): This morning, the Prime Minister’s spokesman sought to blame the bad weather for the meltdown at Heathrow last week, but bad weather cannot be blamed for machines that are not working properly, or—worse—a lack of adequate staff training. What is the Minister going to do to make sure, in particular in advance of the Olympics, not only that all the machines will work, but that all relevant staff will know how to use them?

Damian Green: As I have already explained, we are ensuring that more staff will be available at peak times during the Olympics. We are proceeding on the assumption that every flight landing at Heathrow for a seven-week period will be 100% full. That assumption is likely to be wrong, but it seems a prudent assumption to make. We are making all our plans about technology and people with regard to that overall plan. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Lady that we are fully aware of the importance of the Olympics period for this country’s reputation and we are doing absolutely everything that we can to make sure that our reputation is preserved.

Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con): Can the Minister tell the House what steps he is taking to ensure that the most up-to-date working practices are used by the UK Border Force to ensure that the supply of labour meets demand, particularly at peak times?

Damian Green: My hon. Friend hits on exactly the right point. The deployment of staff in a flexible and efficient way, particularly around Heathrow, makes all the difference. That is why we have now set up the central control room, which will enable us to see minute by minute where queues may be building up and where the mobile teams that we have set up in the past few months can best be deployed. In that way, we will get the best possible value out of our many hard-working members of staff.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): London Luton airport is seeking to expand and make a greater contribution to south-east airports’ capacity. However, the airport operator, Luton borough council and the staff themselves have serious concerns about undercapacity at immigration control and long queues. Will the Minister give specific attention to Luton airport?

Damian Green: Absolutely. We all want better airport capacity in the south-east of England, and I am sure that Luton airport will play an important role in that. One of the jobs of the UK Border Force is to make sure that people get through all airports as fast as possible. I know that e-gates were introduced at Luton airport relatively early, so that we can get the benefits of the technology. We will continue to treat Luton airport very seriously.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that having secure borders is always more important than having short queues?

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Damian Green: I hope that my hon. Friend has been reassured by my repeated assurance that absolutely the first priority of this Government and any responsible Government is the security of our border. That will not be compromised in any way.

Mr Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): We want secure borders and decent queues. When we turn left on to a long haul plane, it is usually a nice experience. When we turn left at Heathrow terminal 5 or Gatwick, leaving the American, Canadian, Indian or Turkish passenger whom we have been chatting with, to struggle through those queues, it is a very unpleasant welcome.

I welcome what the Minister has said; it is a good idea to have squads who can run around filling in the holes. But every time I have come back to Britain recently—and I come back a lot—it is embarrassing that there are so many empty control points. I really hope that hon. Members—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Hon. Members should be asking short questions, not making speeches. [Interruption.] Mr MacShane, you can throw yourself back on the Bench as much as you want, but it is not going to impress me. I brought you on early to get you in, and I am sorry that you are disgruntled.

Damian Green: The right hon. Gentleman cannot come back often enough for some of us in the House. I take his point, but the whole purpose of having flexible rostering and flexible use of staff is that when large numbers of people are arriving, more gates will be open. It is not rocket science; that is a sensible way to run an airport.

Kris Hopkins (Keighley) (Con): The British public have not forgiven the previous Labour Government for their reckless open-door immigration policy, which reached the point where they could not put a number on how many people had come into the country. Will the Minister reassure us that we will give our officers as much time as they require to check who is legally allowed to enter the country?

Damian Green: Yes, and not only will we give them the time required, but we will allow them to use, on all occasions, the relevant technology. That was the problem before: when queues started building up, the technology was simply turned off. The investment made, in large part by the previous Government, in getting these electronic systems to make our border secure was not being allowed to do its job. We are determined not to repeat that mistake.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I know that the Minister travels with ordinary people on planes all the time, separated only by a thin curtain, but, in the light of his statement, will he condemn the remarks the Mayor of London made today that this crisis at Heathrow is damaging the reputation of the country?

Damian Green: I say to the hon. Gentleman that he is not up to date with the new era of Government austerity and that Ministers travel steerage class these days. The Mayor of London is, of course, concerned about the

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reputation of London and the ability of its airports to cope, and I look forward to working with him after he is re-elected triumphantly on Thursday.

Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con): Does the Minister agree that queues at Heathrow are not the sole responsibility of the UK Border Agency?

Damian Green: My hon. Friend is quite right. When people talk about their experience, they will obviously measure it from the moment the plane touches the tarmac. Their view will depend on how long it takes to find a stand; how long the walk is to the immigration hall; and how long it takes to collect their baggage at the end of it. Immigration control and the actions of the UK Border Force are some of the things that people have to go through, but clearly people have other experiences between getting off the plane and getting out of the airport. We must all work together to ensure that that goes as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): This may not be popular, but I am not sure that the Minister has any need to apologise for queues that result from genuine border security operations. However, will he give a commitment to update the House at the earliest available opportunity if subsequent investigations reveal that any of these delays were in part due to staff shortages or bad management decisions at UKBA?

Damian Green: I believe that the hon. Gentleman is a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs—

Steve McCabe indicated assent.

Damian Green: Well, I will be appearing before the Committee in a couple of weeks’ time, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to ask me the question again then. Of course this will be a regular discussion to be had, because it is important, but I should remind him of what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant): the UK Border Force has part of the responsibility for ensuring that airports run smoothly, just as airport operators and airlines do, and we all need to work together to make the experience of going through Britain’s airports as smooth and efficient as possible.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): The hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) and I attended a briefing held by BAA, which led to our Select Committee writing to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. I am pleased to say that he has responded and we have published the letter today, which suggests that greater co-operation is needed. Does the Minister agree that it is imperative that BAA takes its fair share of the responsibility to make sure that passengers get through the airport and that the UK Border Force and BAA do not drop the baton between them?

Damian Green: I am absolutely convinced that that is right. This is about not just BAA, but the airlines and Border Force. All of us need to work together, to share information and to share systems. As we do that, the experience will get better.

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Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Despite the length of time that the Minister has been answering questions, I have still not heard him explain why there were 107 breaches of waiting times in the first 15 days of April, what caused them and what part staff cuts played in those delays.

Damian Green: I am sorry if the hon. Lady does not feel that she has been given enough information in the past 50 minutes or so, because I have tried to explain, repeatedly, that a range of things need to be improved at our airports to reduce these queues. To say that one reason accounts for all the delays that individual passengers may face is overly simplistic. That is not the way the world works and it is not the way airports work. What the Home Office, the Department for Transport, the airline operators and the airport operators agree is that a team effort is needed to make this better, and it is very important that we get it right.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Under the previous Government, the morale of the UK Border Force was in freefall. Will my hon. Friend tell the House what steps are being taken to improve rostering and shift patterns to improve the morale at Border Force as well as to improve the experience of passengers at airports and ports?

Damian Green: We are changing the rostering arrangements to ensure that we have the people who are needed at the right time and at the right place. I am sure that the many hugely conscientious and hugely keen members of Border Force will recognise that having them in the right place at the right time will enable them to do their very important job more effectively than ever before.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), the Minister said that he intends to run Heathrow for seven weeks at 100% border capacity. What assurances will he give that regional airports and smaller London airports will not have staff taken away to bring about that goal?

Damian Green: As I have said—I am happy to repeat it—for the seven-week Olympic period, the UK Border Force will ensure that all immigration desks at Heathrow and key ports and airports in the south-east are staffed whenever necessary during peak arrival periods. I hope that will reassure him.

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): May I welcome the characteristic moderation and competence with which my hon. Friend has replied to this urgent question?Interruption. ] His response has been much better than that of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). My hon. Friend will be aware that it is not an unreasonable expectation of returning British citizens or foreign visitors that we should be able to combine both speed and competence. My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) asked about shift working and the like. Will the Minister tell the House whether he has had any conversations with the trade unions about their likely support for those measures and others that are necessary?

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Damian Green: As I said, new rosters are coming in at Heathrow in the coming weeks, which have been agreed with the work force. That is a significant step forward, because it will mean that they can be there when they need to be there to do the most effective job. I can only repeat what I have said before: the vast majority of the workers in Border Force are extremely knowledgeable about their job and know how important it is. They want to do it as effectively as possible and it is the job of the management of Border Force to enable them to do that.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I happened to be in the immigration queue in Birmingham airport when the systems went down—the incident to which the Minister referred. I must thank members of the UK Border Force and staff at Birmingham airport who were on hand at the time to ensure that it was resolved as soon as possible. I noticed that there seemed to be a bit of confusion about what action should be taken when the systems go down. Will he reassure me that steps are in place so that, should that happen again, we will not have the kind of delays that could have happened?

Damian Green: One of the lessons we drew from the John Vine report was that there needed to be much clearer instructions about what to do in those very rare emergencies. That work is now advanced and is an extremely important part of the improvements that we will see.

Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): Given the combined challenge of securing the border, keeping unavoidable delays to a minimum and doing all that within a very constrained budget, does my hon. Friend agree that one of the things we most urgently need is a better working relationship between the UK Border Force and our airport operators?

Damian Green: Yes. We do work closely together, but we can always work more closely together. The Home Secretary, the senior management of Border Force and I are absolutely determined to set up systems that make it instinctive for Border Force, the airport operators and the airlines to work together, not only for the mutual benefit of all those organisations but, even more importantly, for the benefit of the hundreds of millions of passengers who use our airports every year.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I call Mr Pincher.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and thanks to my fans for that unsolicited testimonial.

I should like to recapitulate a sentiment that has already been expressed, certainly by Government Members: having a few queues occasionally may dent Britain’s reputation, but security lapses do infinitely more damage to our reputation, and that is what our constituents are most concerned about.

Damian Green: That may be an appropriate thought on which to end this session, because it is absolutely correct that the first priority has to be the security of our borders; that is the first priority of this Government.

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Points of Order

5.14 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister told the House earlier this afternoon that the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport had, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), published all the correspondence between the Government and News Corp relating to its bid for BSkyB, yet the answer makes it clear that that is not the case. It says:

“Records of meetings, telephone calls held between officials and press officers with outside parties and records of telephone calls and email exchanges between officials and Ministers and outside parties are not recorded centrally and would incur a disproportionate cost to collect.”

The answer concludes:

“A search for correspondence from officials, press officers and special advisers to and from all the individuals listed would incur disproportionate cost to collect.”—[Official Report, 7 September 2011; Vol. 532, c. 616W.]

Will you consider the matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, and see whether there is any way in which the Prime Minister can be brought here to correct the record, so that the House has accurate information on what actually occurred?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): The point has been made and is certainly on the record. If the hon. Lady is unhappy, perhaps it would be an idea for her to write to the Speaker with her views.

Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Last Friday, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced the Government’s plans for student number controls to be applied to higher education institutions for the academic year 2013-14. The announcement was made in a press release on the Department’s website. This is the second time that the Government have not brought an announcement on student number controls to the House first. In addition, the Department has not yet provided a response to the consultation on student number controls following the publication of the White Paper last summer. Will you advise me, Mr Deputy Speaker, on how we can ensure that such important decisions, which have far-reaching consequences for higher education institutions and students alike, are made in the House first, and subject to full parliamentary scrutiny?

Mr Deputy Speaker: Mr Speaker has a strong view and opinion on the subject. He believes that this House should hear announcements through oral or written statements. Of course, the point is now on the record.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the Prime Minister’s statement earlier today, he refused—not for the first time—to answer a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) on account of his age. That sort of discrimination would not be accepted against black or female Members, so I have no idea why this House has tolerated, on numerous occasions, Members at the Dispatch Box refusing to answer my hon. Friend’s questions. Will you—or, indeed, Mr Speaker—say what

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action can be taken? I ask not on behalf of my hon. Friend, who can stick up for himself, but on behalf of every person in my constituency who gets discriminated against because of their age, and sees the Prime Minister do exactly that. This House should be above that. What action can be taken to make sure that today is the last time we have to see this disgusting spectacle?

Mr Deputy Speaker: There is no place in this Chamber for racism, ageism, gender discrimination—I could go on. That is about respect to all Members. The point has quite rightly been put on the record; I hope that people will take on board what I have said, and what the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) has stated. Dennis Skinner is a long-serving Member of this House, and like all other Members, he should be treated with respect.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you or the Speaker have received a request from the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General to make a statement on a report, published today by the National Children’s Bureau, that suggests that 25% of the children’s charities that took part in the research could close as a direct result of Government funding cuts, despite the importance of such charities in helping some of the most vulnerable in the country. Will that not be just one more reason for the country to think that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are out of touch with reality and the rest of us?

Mr Deputy Speaker: As you know, that is not a point of order for the Chair, but the point is now on the record; anybody who wished to hear it has either heard it, or can read it in Hansard.

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Sittings of the House (1 May)

5.19 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): I beg to move,

That at the sitting on Tuesday 1 May—

(1) the House shall sit at 1.30 pm;

(2) there shall be no sitting in Westminster Hall; and

(3) the Speaker shall not adjourn the House, if a Message from the Lords Commissioners is expected, until that Message has been received.

All good things must eventually come to an end, and this extraordinarily productive Session of Parliament is no exception to the rule. The motion before us is quite usual in the run-up to Prorogation to facilitate the meeting of the House as it comes to the end of the Session. The first part of the motion sets out the time that the House shall sit tomorrow. Of course the House would normally sit at 2.30 pm on a Tuesday, but it is quite usual when the House is meeting to prorogue that it meets earlier than usual. Perhaps the proposed time is slightly later than would be normal in these circumstances. The reason for that is that the other place is debating the Joint Committee report on House of Lords reform on Tuesday morning and, as Parliament prorogues as a whole, the proposed time at which we are sitting reflects the negotiations in the other place to conclude the debate on the subject which began there today.

It is also in accordance with the past practice of arrangements for Prorogation to cancel the sitting in Westminster Hall, and paragraph (2) of the motion achieves that aim. It is unfortunate for Members who were successful in the ballots that their debates will not take place. Also, it is quite usual at the end of the Session that some scheduled business has to fall, once the House sets the time for Prorogation. I hope those hon. Members will be successful in securing debates early in the next Session.

By the time of Prorogation, we will have sat for a total of 290 days in this Session.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The longest ever.

Mr Heath: As the hon. Gentleman says, as always from a sedentary position, it is the longest ever. This stems from the move to spring-to-spring Sessions, which moves the start of the Session to the spring from the autumn. It is the longest Session that I can remember, and it is right that we now bring it to an end with the final piece of legislation in the Government’s planned programme.

The business managers have aimed to balance the needs of the House this Session, providing adequate time for scrutiny of legislation, including the provision of multiple days on Report for nine Bills. Members should also be aware that 18 Public Bill Committees finished their work early. As well as introducing 40 Bills implementing a wide range of coalition policy, we provided 58 days for the Backbench Business Committee, with more than 40 of those enabling debate on the Floor of the House. I know that Members around the House will welcome this inclusion in the balance of time available to the House. I look forward to the outcome of the Procedure Committee report on the work of the Backbench

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Business Committee, as the House continues to improve it in the future. In addition, extra time was provided both for private Members’ Bills and for Opposition time, in recognition of the unusual length of the Session. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

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Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill [Lords] (Allocation of Time)

5.22 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Mark Prisk): I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill [Lords]:


1. (1) Proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on Consideration and on Third Reading shall be completed at today’s sitting.

(2) Proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on Consideration and on Third Reading shall so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

2. When the Bill has been read a second time—

(a) notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order) it shall stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

3. (1) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Chair shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(2) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

4. For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1, the Speaker or Chair shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others) in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply—

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

5. On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chair or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

6. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chair or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

7. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chair shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.

Subsequent stages

8. (1) Any Message from the Lords on the Bill shall be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

(2) Proceedings on any Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

9. (1) This paragraph applies for the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 8.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair.

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(3) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on or relevant to any of the remaining items in the Lords Message.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the Question that this House agrees with the Lords in all of the remaining Lords Proposals.

Reasons Committee

10. (1) The Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment, nomination and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the appointment of its Chair.

(2) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(3) Proceedings in the Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion 30 minutes after their commencement.

(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with sub-paragraph (3), the Chair shall—

(a) first put forthwith any Question which has been proposed from the Chair, and

(b) then put forthwith successively Questions on Motions which may be made by a Minister of the Crown for assigning a Reason for disagreeing with the Lords in any of their Amendments.

(5) The proceedings of the Committee shall be reported without any further Question being put.


11. Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.

12. (1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

(2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.

13. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

14. (1) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to re-commit the Bill.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

15. (1) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

16. The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) at today’s sitting before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

17. (1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies if the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(2) No notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

18. Proceedings to which this Order applies may not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

19. (1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at 7.00 pm, 4.00 pm or 3.00 pm (as the case may be) on a day on which the Bill has been set down to be taken as an Order of the Day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day.

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(2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before the moment of interruption, for a period equal to the time elapsing between 7.00 pm, 4.00 pm or 3.00 pm (as the case may be) and the conclusion of those proceedings.

The motion applies to the proceedings on the Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill. I shall not detain the House unduly as I am aware that a number of Members will wish to speak on Second Reading. The motion seeks the approval of the House to consider all stages of this short but important Bill in a single day.

By way of background, briefly, the Bill will suspend the current restrictions that govern when some large shops may open on Sundays for the duration of the London 2012 games period. Currently, the Sunday Trading Act 1994 limits the opening times on Sundays of certain shops with the relevant floor area of more than 3,000 square feet. In particular, the Act restricts them to opening on a Sunday for a maximum six-hour period between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. The Bill will temporarily ease those restrictions, allowing for a suspension that will be in effect between Sunday 22 July and Sunday 9 September this year. I should point out the inclusion of a sunset clause, which means that the Bill will cease to have effect after that date.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Will my hon. Friend reassure a significant number of Harlow residents who have written to me that the Bill is just a temporary Bill for the Olympics, and that there are no plans to extend Sunday trading per se?

Mr Prisk: I am happy to give that assurance. I do not want to test the patience of the Deputy Speaker. The motion is about the proceedings of the House, but I want to make it crystal clear that the Bill will come off the statute book immediately after 9 September.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Everyone in this country has known for many years that we would be hosting the Olympics and Paralympics, so why has the Minister come forward with this Bill at the very last minute?

Mr Prisk: As usual, the hon. Lady is entirely prescient, because that is exactly what I was about to explain. The permanent relaxation of the Sunday trading laws was considered and rejected as part of the Government’s red tape challenge in June last year. A private Member’s Bill subsequently brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) proposed the suspension of the rules for the period of the games, albeit in a different form from the one being proposed today. Although his proposal was subsequently withdrawn, it focused our thinking on the issue and we came to the conclusion that we should provide for a temporary suspension of the rules, hence the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement in the Budget.

To take full advantage of the suspension, businesses will need to prepare well ahead. They will need to agree trading hours and working hours with staff and ensure that customers know about their extended hours. More importantly, we believe that we need to ensure that shop workers have time to choose whether to work on those eight Sundays.

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Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister, who is being generous in giving way. Does the fact that he, as a Treasury Minister, is moving this allocation of time motion—[ Interruption. ] I am sorry. As a Business, Innovation and Skills Minister, can he confirm whether the pressure for this change came from the Treasury and not from BIS, because BIS is more concerned about the effect on smaller shops than the Treasury seems to be?

Mr Prisk: The hon. Lady’s question might have worked better if she had my correct job title. The point is that this is the policy of the Government, devised by the Government and supported by the Government, and we believe that it will add considerably to the opportunities that the Olympics present.

Using the fast-track legislative process will give businesses and shop workers the necessary time to make their own arrangements for the period of the Olympics and Paralympics. In deciding to use the fast-track procedure, we have consulted those directly affected and Members of both Houses. Indeed, consultations have been held with, among others, representatives from the Association of Convenience Stores, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, the CBI, leading supermarkets and the unions, including USDAW and Unite. Indeed, Ministers have consulted senior religious representatives, the official Opposition and Members of this House. We are grateful to everyone for engaging in this process in what has been a very positive fashion, regardless of their views on the wider issue of trading or working on a Sunday.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Is not the truth that the Minister had a consultation and then, as is normal for the Government, ignored the views of people, because most of the people he has just mentioned were actually against this happening? If he had listened to the views expressed in the consultation, we would not be debating this tonight.

Mr Prisk: Again, I do not want to stretch your patience too far, Mr Deputy Speaker, but the fact that the Bill was amended during its passage in the other House after we listened to those representations and on the very question of the notice procedure demonstrates that the hon. Gentleman is wrong on that point.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Prisk: I will give way once more because this is a programme motion and I want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to make a proper contribution on Second Reading.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): My point is about the speed and programming of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Sunday trading is one of the most controversial items in this House. I think that I am right in saying that it was the only item on which Margaret Thatcher was defeated when she was Prime Minister. Does he agree that that makes the Bill completely inappropriate for fast-tracking at the last minute and that this is a sneaky way of dealing with a very difficult issue?

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Mr Prisk: I do not accept that at all. This measure does not do anything beyond eight Sundays and the Act will leave the statute book on 10 September, so the idea that it is some kind of Trojan horse is a false argument. As a practising Christian, I understand the concerns, and we have done our level best to ensure that we listen carefully to Members of both Houses.

To conclude, we believe that the Bill strikes the right balance between addressing legitimate concerns and ensuring that retailers have the flexibility to take full advantage of the tremendous commercial opportunities presented by the games. As such, I commend the motion to the House.

5.29 pm

Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab): I do not wish to speak for long on the programme motion, because I do not intend to extend the discussion beyond what is necessary, having already indicated our agreement to use the fast-track procedure. I shall explain more about that on Second Reading. I have a number of substantive points in relation to the Bill, but again the proper time for me to raise them is on Second Reading. I have a number of things to say about the handling of this matter, which has necessitated the use of the fast-track procedure, but again I shall mention those later.

In relation to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) made, I am happy to confirm that, with an awareness of the sensitivities of this matter, Her Majesty’s official Opposition are going to treat this as a free vote for all concerned on our Benches.

5.30 pm

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): I was not going to make a speech, but the Minister refused to give way, and that forces me to stand at this point.

I shall make two brief points on the programme motion, which is what we are discussing. First, it is interesting that the Minister is proposing to allow shops to open for as long as they like, but allowing us to discuss this matter only until 10 pm this evening.

Secondly, the Minister mentioned all the people whom he had consulted on the matter. I do not think that any of us were surprised that he ignored the work force in shops or some religious organisations, but I was quite surprised that he ignored the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, who said that the measure was unnecessary. What everyone is trying to get to the bottom of is: who is the driving force behind putting through this temporary legislation? Who is really behind it? Perhaps this evening we might discover the answer to that question. I have read the Lords debate and I am none the wiser.

5.31 pm

Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): I shall address my comments specifically to the programme motion.

We have known about the Olympics since 6 July 2005. Today, at the fag end of a weary and exhausted parliamentary Session, we are being asked to go through every single stage of a Bill that, as the Minister rightly said, is short but important. It is important because of the effect that it will have on the lives of many thousands of workers and their families in London. For him to say

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from the Dispatch Box that he does not want to speak for too long but wants to allow the rest of us to have our say, when we have to stop talking about such a massively important Bill at 10 pm, is rather disingenuous. I have a lot of time for the Minister—he is a good Minister, for a Tory—but on this particular issue I do not think that he is being entirely fair.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if somebody has a good idea towards the end of a time scale, it should be ignored because it comes at an inconvenient moment? If somebody comes up with a good idea, albeit late in the day, surely it is right that the Government take notice, listen and do something about it. He should commend that, not criticise it.

Mr Harris: The hon. Gentleman has a strange idea of what is a new idea. This proposal was debated and defeated under the Thatcher Government, and as the Minister said, one of his own Back Benchers, the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), brought forward proposals on it last year. This is not a new proposal; it has been on the take-off ground for a long time.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We are in danger of opening up the debate. We are just dealing with the allocation of time. I am bothered that the intervention was sidetracking you, Mr Harris.

Mr Harris: I am grateful for your instruction, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I also question the fact that this debate is taking place on, essentially, the last day of the Session, given that the issue has always been subject to a one-line Whip and is a matter of conscience. So the Government knew that a great many Members would not be in the Chamber, but would be out campaigning in the local elections. That shows a degree of cynicism that, even for this Government, is quite outrageous.

The Government knew that many people who are opposed to this measure on principle would not be here. That is a question for their business managers. In my notes, I have put an asterisk after the term “business managers”, because when it comes to this Government, that is a very generous term. We have had very many days during this Parliament when the Whips have been frantically running around looking for stuff to vote on and not being able to find it, and we have all been sent home early. Day after day, there has not been a vote, and suddenly an issue of importance comes before us on the last day of the Session and we are all expected to come down to London to vote on it. That is a disgrace.

5.35 pm

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I, too, oppose the timetable motion. During my years in Parliament, the House has not passed legislation as quickly as this unless there really was an emergency and it was crucial to get it through in a very short time by taking it all on one day. I genuinely think that the Government have messed up on this. The Bill could have come at any time during the past year, or even earlier, particularly once the Back-Bench Bill had been introduced, and there is no need to rush it through like this, leaving aside the principle of the issue, about which I have very strong feelings. As those

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of us who were around in 1994 remember, it has been an incredibly contentious issue about which people feel very strongly and on which Labour Members have always had a free vote.

I am very concerned that pushing the Bill through in this way is yet another example of the increasing tendency to say, “If it is about the Olympics and the Paralympics, anything can be changed or moved.” I think that the Olympics and the Paralympics are incredibly important to this country and that they will be a huge success, but people could be cynical about the fact that they increasingly seem to be used as excuses for all sorts of things to be done, changed and made different—including those who suddenly discovered at the weekend that they might have missiles of some kind on top of their houses.

We have to be very careful, as a Parliament, that we consider legislation within a time scale that treats it with the seriousness that it deserves. The Bill does not need to be rushed through in this way, and it should not be. I hope that many hon. Government Members—I presume that they have a free vote as well; if not, they should—will join us in opposing the Bill, or at least its timetabling.

5.37 pm

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): I cast my mind back to 1994, when the House passed the current Sunday trading legislation, which has passed the test of time. A good compromise was struck in that legislation—particularly in giving some Sunday lifeblood to small high street traders by preventing the bigger shops, particularly the out-of-town shops, from taking business away from them—but it was achieved only after hours and hours of debate. The Government are making a big mistake in using a procedure that was intended to deal with a national emergency such as a terrorist attack to take through a piece of legislation that it would be very easy to get wrong. Indeed, by rushing it through in a single sitting of the House, there is a danger that the Government will get it wrong.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), I believe that the Olympic games are extremely important, but they are a festival of sport, not a festival of shopping. The Government should think again and bring back a proposal when we have more time to debate it after the Queen’s Speech.

5.39 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): My hon. Friend the Minister knows that I have concerns about the Bill, and I wish that more time had been set aside so that amendments about geography could have been debated rather than being perceived as wrecking amendments.

Kevin Brennan: The hon. Lady says that she has concerns. Has she a free vote on the matter?

Dr Coffey: As the hon. Gentleman knows, every vote in the House is a free vote.

I stress to my hon. Friends on the Front Bench that the amendments that some of us thought about tabling would have tried to be helpful. As was mentioned earlier, we are considering a festival of sport—one of the greatest things that will ever happen in our country. The route from Stratford or Pudding Mill takes people

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through a shopping centre, and it would be odd if they could not buy something on their way home, but I am not sure what excuse there is for some of the shopping centres further afield to be open.

I understand that the matter is important for the Government and I did not table any amendments because I did not want to be perceived as trying to wreck the Bill, but I hope that any other debate on Sunday trading hours will be given time for hon. Members to discuss the subject properly.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 281, Noes 112.

Division No. 542]

[5.40 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brown, Lyn

Bruce, Fiona

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, rh Mr Frank

Field, Mark

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Crabb and

James Duddridge


Abbott, Ms Diane

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blears, rh Hazel

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Bryant, Chris

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Eagle, Ms Angela

Efford, Clive

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Farrelly, Paul

Flello, Robert

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hanson, rh Mr David

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hilling, Julie

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lloyd, Tony

Lucas, Caroline

MacShane, rh Mr Denis

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCrea, Dr William

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Onwurah, Chi

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reynolds, Emma

Rotheram, Steve

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Shannon, Jim

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stringer, Graham

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Twigg, Derek

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Winnick, Mr David

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Tom Harris and

Kate Hoey

Question accordingly agreed to.

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1286

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1287

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1288

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1289

Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Bill [Lords]

Second Reading

5.54 pm

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Vince Cable): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I will start by setting out the context of the Bill. The opportunity to host the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime national event, and we have to make the most of the opportunities that hosting them will bring. The games will attract significant numbers of visitors from around the world to the UK, and consequently the economic benefits to the UK are expected to be considerable. By way of contrast, the Australian 2000 games attracted 1.6 million additional visitors, and Beijing 4.4 million. We have had an independent estimate that about 6 million additional visits will be made to the UK as a consequence of the games.

The UK retail sector stands to be one of the prime beneficiaries of the additional demand, and the Bill will give retailers the flexibility to capitalise on the commercial opportunities presented by the games.

David Wright (Telford) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Vince Cable: I will happily give way, but may I first finish my introduction? Hon. Members know that I am always generous with interventions. I will take the hon. Gentleman’s in a few seconds.

The Government recognise that plans to relax temporarily the restrictions on Sunday trading between 22 July and 9 September—eight Sundays—have caused concern, but before I address those concerns, I will briefly outline the benefits that we believe relaxing the rules will deliver.

David Wright: I know that the Secretary of State is trying to outline the broad principles of the Bill, but I would like to ask him a simple question. Telford is 150 miles away from where the Olympics will be held. Why should shop workers in Telford have to work longer during the Olympics on Sundays, when they want to be at home with their families watching the games?

Vince Cable: They will not have to. We are discussing how individual workers can opt out, should they wish to do so or have a conscience, and to make that as easy as possible for them. As I will say later, though, there will be many opportunities across the UK, not just in London, for people to enjoy the benefits of the games.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): I have some sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Telford (David Wright), but will the Secretary of State explain the difficulties there would have been with introducing a hybrid Bill, making exceptions for particular parts of London and other areas where the Olympics will be held? In comparison, this Bill will provide for a temporary measure that could apply to

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1290

the whole of the UK but which, obviously, is unlikely to be utilised in areas outside where the Olympics will take place.

Vince Cable: Undoubtedly, there are practical difficulties in defining geographical boundaries, but actually that is not the real reason. The reason is that we believe that the whole of the UK will benefit, and we want the potential benefits of flexibility in the retail sector to apply.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): In the light of that answer, what sort of assurance can the Secretary of State give the House that the Bill, or the experience of deregulated trading during the Olympics, will not be used as a Trojan horse to introduce wider deregulation measures? Will he promise the House that that will not happen?

Vince Cable: The Trojan horse was invoked several times in the earlier debate, but I can give the right hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance that this is not a precedent. I shall dwell later on how we will reinforce that absolute commitment.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. He is being extremely generous very early on in his remarks. Will he give me some reassurance? What protection will be in place for, say, volunteer sports coaches or church workers with commitments on Sundays, if their volunteer commitments are threatened by having to work extra hours?

Vince Cable: Of course, they could opt out of the commitments, as is already provided for under existing legislation, which means that they will receive all the protections subject to unfair dismissal legislation.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I will take two more interventions.

Dame Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): The Secretary of State will have had discussions with the major shopping chains throughout the UK. Have they indicated to him that they would wish to use this provision for all their stores throughout the UK, rather than just in London?

Vince Cable: The different companies will avail themselves of the Bill to varying degrees and in various parts of the country. The whole purpose is not to provide a blanket provision; it is to provide flexibility, both in time and in different parts of the country.

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): I am sure that my right hon. Friend knows that I have been opposed to Sunday trading since day one. I voted against it under Margaret Thatcher, and I am still opposed to it. Will he give the House an absolute assurance that under this Government—he cannot bind a future Government—the Bill will not be used to introduce a more permanent arrangement thereafter?

Vince Cable: Yes; I have already given that assurance to the right hon. Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith), and I can repeat it to the hon. Gentleman. That is

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absolutely not the intention of the Government. I do not think I need to repeat it again, but I am happy to do so—

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The Secretary of State is trying to answer one intervention and there are about 10 people on their feet. I understand that people want to intervene on him, but they should give him a little time to get through his answers.

Vince Cable: I will take one more intervention and then move on.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, and I have a lot of sympathy with the comments that the hon. Member for Telford (David Wright) made. Some moments ago, the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk) gave a commitment that the legislation would not go beyond September. However, that commitment appeared to be a personal commitment, albeit well meant. Ministers come and go, and I am sure that my hon. Friend is likely to be promoted upwards from Minister of State. Indeed, even Secretaries of State come and go. I wonder whether the Secretary of State will put it on the record that it is the commitment of the Government not to go beyond 10 September, and not the personal commitment of Ministers.

Vince Cable: I can repeat what I have already said. This is not just a personal commitment by the Minister of State or me; it is a Government commitment. There is a sunset clause in the Bill, which can be debated in detail as we make progress through the rest of the day.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab) rose—

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab) rose—

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op) rose—

Vince Cable: I will take further interventions later if hon. Members still have unanswered questions.

Let me say a little about the benefits. It is difficult to quantify them in a very precise way, but the Centre for Retail Research has estimated that an additional benefit to the UK economy of something in the order of £190 million will be generated by the games. Using old Department of Trade and Industry methodology, we estimate that the effects of today’s change will generate something in the order of £175 million, although we recognise that these figures are extremely imprecise.

As I have mentioned, the flexibility provided by the Bill will boost sales for retailers. Longer opening hours will be an effective showcase for British retailers, allowing visitors to sample the outstanding shopping we offer at a time that suits them. For shop workers, the Bill will create a welcome opportunity—for those who wish to take it—to earn extra money by doing more shifts, while at the same time protecting the right to opt out from Sunday working for those who wish to do so. In addition, it is likely that the suspension of Sunday trading restrictions will increase the opportunities for

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temporary employment. For consumers, the Bill will allow flexibility over when to go shopping, enabling individuals to combine it with attending Olympic events or watching the coverage on television as they wish. The Bill applies across the country, as was raised in an earlier intervention. The games are a national event, not just a London event. We want families, whether they live in the east of London or the east of England, to have the freedom to plan their weekends so that they can participate in the 1,000 events that will happen right across the country.

Luciana Berger: The Secretary of State has been kind in allowing interventions. He has said twice in his opening remarks that workers will have the opportunity to opt out. However, the date by which they would have to do so is 22 May, which is just over three weeks away. Does he acknowledge that that leaves people very little time?

Vince Cable: We are reducing the period to two months, in order to give everybody the opportunity to opt out before the games period begins, and we are talking to employers about how to ensure that they communicate to their work force the fact that that opportunity is available to them.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I very much support the Government with this Bill. However, if the Secretary of State believes it is right for shoppers and workers to have the right to shop and work any time they wish on a Sunday during the Olympic games, can he explain why he does not think the same people should have exactly the same rights to shop and work when they choose outside the time scale of the Olympic games? I do not understand why there is this great distinction.

Vince Cable: All the interventions so far have made a clear distinction between a temporary exception and a permanent change. I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about the need for a permanent liberalisation, and there may be others in the House who do so too, but they will have to make that case separately, should an opportunity arise. This Bill does not reflect on the argument for a permanent change.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): I share the concerns expressed about the way in which the work force will be treated, but I want to turn the Secretary of State’s attention to the economic argument. I have received representations from those running small convenience stores in my constituency who have told me that the extra hours will simply mean the larger stores—the main supermarkets—hoovering up any extra business, thereby damaging the smaller stores’ marginal profits in that period. Has the Secretary of State taken that into account in his economic assessment of the benefits of the Bill?

Vince Cable: Yes, we have indeed taken into account the Association of Convenience Stores, which has submitted some impressive evidence. The point that we have made back is that it is not simply a question of switching demand from one type of shop to another; rather, there will be substantial additional shopping and other activity. We believe that there will be net benefits, although they are very difficult to quantify.

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Yasmin Qureshi: But 60,000 shopkeepers are saying that they will suffer as a result of the extension for larger stores, which will hoover up the rest of the market, as has been suggested. Is the Secretary of State really saying that those 60,000 shopkeepers are wrong?

Vince Cable: I think those 60,000 shopkeepers—that is indeed the number—are probably being too pessimistic. As I have said, there will be two effects. One will be an increase in demand, with more visitors and more shopping opportunities. At the same time, there will be some degree of switching. Looked at as a whole, the change will have considerable benefits for the British retail sector.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I will take one more intervention and then move on.

Mr Tom Harris (Glasgow South) (Lab): An hon. Member no longer in his place made a valid point, even though I come at this from a completely opposite direction. The Secretary of State is responsible for business and enterprise in this country. He has said that there will be a huge economic benefit from the Bill even outside London during the Olympics and Paralympics. If he is correct and we see however many hundreds of millions of pounds-worth of economic growth outside London, is he saying that, as someone who is responsible for the economic growth of the country, he will be willing and able to resist the inevitable pressure to extend the measure, irrespective of when the Olympics takes place? Will he be able to resist all those pressures, especially in the current period of austerity?

Vince Cable: We will return in more detail to the areas outside London, but the Centre for Retail Research, to which I have referred, estimated that something in the order of 40% of the additional retail spending would take place outside London and the south-east.

Let me address the concerns that have been expressed. The Government are aware that the temporary suspension of Sunday trading is causing anxiety for some groups of people. Let me try to address those concerns. First, there is the suspicion, which we have already had aired, that the Bill is a Trojan horse preparing the way for a permanent relaxation of the rules. It is not: the Bill sets out clear time limits and contains a sunset clause. It is worth noting that Germany, which—for people who worry about these things—has notoriously tight restrictions on Sunday trading, eased its restrictions during the football World cup and then re-imposed them. They have remained in place subsequently. Any move towards the abolition of the UK’s Sunday trading laws would require new legislation, a full consultation and extensive parliamentary scrutiny. Let me repeat, therefore, that the Bill is not a signal of the Government’s intent on the broader issue of Sunday trading; rather, it is motivated by a desire to capitalise on the unprecedented benefits that accrue from the privilege of hosting the Olympics.

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): Have the Government given any consideration to the impact of this proposal on drunkenness, in view of the fact that one of the major contributions of the big stores is to sell booze at less than cost price? Is it not likely that, given

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the celebratory atmosphere, they will do so even more? I am a strong supporter of the Olympics and the Paralympics, but I am fearful that in many town centres this proposal will be more about people getting paralytic than about the Paralympics.

Vince Cable: That was a good pun, but the right hon. Gentleman will know that the licensing of alcohol is governed by separate provisions overseen by local authorities, so the Bill will not have the negative effect that he describes.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): The Secretary of State has talked a great deal about capitalising on the Olympics and showcasing the UK. Surely we ought also to be showcasing the tourist opportunities in our countryside and coastal resorts, where we do not, on the whole, find the large shops whose opening hours he is talking about liberalising. Is the Bill not going to draw people away from other trading and employment opportunities in the countryside and in our tourist resorts on the coast?

Vince Cable: I am just as great a fan of Welsh tourism as the hon. Lady, but as she says, large shops do not exist in many of the coastal areas of Wales, and they will therefore not be competing with the small shops either.

Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): I do not want the Secretary of State to move on before we have dealt with his substantive point. He said that any future Sunday trading legislation in this Parliament would be subject to consultation. Will he now rule out any further legislation in this Parliament relating to Sunday trading?

Vince Cable: Of course I cannot commit Her Majesty the Queen or the processes of the House in deciding on its business. I can say absolutely unequivocally that it is not the intention of the Government to proceed to permanent liberalisation.

Stephen Pound (Ealing North) (Lab): It might come as a shock to the Secretary of State and to the House to learn that this will be my second London Olympics, although I was swaying in a bassinet in Queen Charlotte’s hospital in 1948. If the Secretary of State will not accept that the Bill represents a win, win for Westfield and the end of the line for the convenience stores, will he tell us what the great body of consumers will be so desperate to purchase during the Olympics that they cannot purchase at the moment? What evidence does he have of a vast pent-up longing to go out and buy goods in east London that is not being met at the moment?

Vince Cable: The evidence for the pent-up demand comes from the additional number of visitors; it is as simple as that. We need to ensure that the retail sector can be as flexible as possible.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): The Secretary of State has gone to great pains to state that this will be a temporary position, and that it is not part of a longer-term Government strategy. I have sympathy for him as someone who has been the victim of briefings from the Treasury, but does he acknowledge that there would be less concern about the measure if the Treasury had not

30 Apr 2012 : Column 1295

briefed that this would provide an opportunity to determine whether there was demand for further liberalisation in the future?

Vince Cable: I am not aware of any such separate briefing from the Treasury. I am working alongside my colleagues on this; it is a Government initiative, not one from any particular Government Department.

Let me turn from the Trojan horse issue to the very genuine religious concerns that have been expressed. The Government are sensitive to the fact that, for many people, Sunday has particular religious significance as a day that is set aside for worship. We have therefore consulted the Churches in advance of the Bill—the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Church in Wales; Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate arrangements—in order to emphasise the temporary nature of the changes. I should add that the Lords Spiritual in the other place did not oppose the measure when they were reassured that this would be a one-off change.

Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab): Given what the Secretary of State has just said about the religious sensitivities surrounding the issue, why will there not be a free vote on the matter for Government Members?

Vince Cable: I will endeavour, through my eloquence, to persuade my hon. Friends to vote for the Bill on its merits, and I am sure that they all will. This is an important piece of Government legislation designed to ensure that the games are a success.

I want to move on to the issue of workers’ rights. There is a worry that the temporary relaxation of the rules will water down the right of most shop workers to opt out of Sunday working. That is a unique employment protection that is not shared by the vast majority of the work force. It is also worth remembering that most workers in the retail sector do not come within the existing protections, and that many people choose to work on Sundays. That is their choice.

I want to stress that the Bill is not a charter for retailers to exploit their workers during the Olympics. Indeed, in response to concerns raised in the first instance by the Opposition, the Government tabled an amendment, which was accepted in another place, in order to ensure that the opportunity to exercise existing legal rights would not in any way be adversely affected should the Bill become law. The amendment reduces from three months to two months the notice period for some employees exercising their right to opt out of Sunday working. Shop workers for whom a one-month notice period already applies—which is the case in several leading chains—will be unaffected by the change.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): If the Bill is passed, the suspension period will run from 22 July to 9 September, covering the whole of the school holiday period. Shop workers, like other people, like to go on holiday with their children during the summer. Does the Secretary of State believe that retailers will allow their employees to take their holidays at that time, or might they put a block on them doing so during August if the legislation goes through? Has he consulted the trade unions on the holiday issue in particular?

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Vince Cable: Perfectly normal contractual arrangements will apply in respect of holidays. We are speaking extensively to the main employers to ensure that they respect and support workers who wish to opt out, and protect their employment rights in the process.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State confirm whether an employer has the right to deny a valid application not to work?

Vince Cable: The existing rules and rights will apply; they will not be changed in any way.

Mr Umunna: Will the Secretary of State explain the practical effect of the change in the notice period for employees giving notice of their wish to opt out? For the benefit of those outside the Chamber, will he tell us how long the notice period would last if notice were given on, say, 10 May, and how long it would last if it were given on 10 July?

Vince Cable: I am trying to understand the logic of the hon. Gentleman’s question. As I understand it, if notice is given in good time within the two-month period, a worker will be covered for the whole of the period of the Olympic games. I would be happy to clarify that in writing if he wishes.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): I am very supportive of many elements of the Bill, but one aspect that concerns me is the fact that the two-month notice period will mean that shop workers will have only 21 days before 22 May in which to give notice of their wish to opt out. What methods will my right hon. Friend use to ensure that shop workers understand that they must give that notice within the next three weeks?

Vince Cable: We are giving the message very strongly to employers that they should communicate that to their work force. There is now adequate time for workers to opt out of Sunday working, should they wish to do so. I want to make that absolutely clear; that is the purpose of the reduction of the notice period from three months to two months.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Is the Secretary of State aware of the survey carried out among 20,000 members of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers? It showed that 78% opposed extending opening hours during the Olympics, that 51% of staff already felt that they were being forced to work on Sundays when they did not want to, and that 73% said that the measures would add more pressure on them to work on Sundays in the future. That is what is happening in the real world. If the Secretary of State is serious about people being able to give notice of their wish to opt out, is it not incumbent on the Government to inform employees about that, rather than employers?

Vince Cable: I am not sure what is meant by saying that 73% of people believe this will affect future rights. These provisions are temporary and, as we have made clear, they do not extend beyond the period of the Olympic games. We have made it absolutely clear that existing rights are fully protected.

Several hon. Members rose

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Vince Cable: I shall take one more intervention, but then I want to make some progress.

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State recognise that the average retail worker in London is a woman who has a family? Does he also recognise that when we are on holiday in continental Europe and want to go shopping we often find the shopkeeper having a siesta? Why does he think that those visiting London are not able to shop between 11 am and 4 pm on a Sunday when they can shop for hours on six other days? Are these people so stupid that they cannot work out our current laws?

Vince Cable: I understand that, as I occasionally go on holidays across the channel. Several European countries are very pragmatic about how they deal with this. For example, the centres of major tourist areas are de-restricted in order to enable retailers to take full advantage of the provisions. Of course I am aware that most shop workers are women and have family responsibilities. That is why it is important that all workers, particularly women in this case, have the right to opt out.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I shall move on now and take further interventions later.

The provision that I have described will ensure that, following Royal Assent, any shop worker who wishes to exercise the right to opt out so as to avoid the possibility of having to work on Sundays during the games will be able to acquire the right not to work on Sundays by the start of the suspension period. We have been working with employers—we are talking about 6,000 large stores—to help ensure that employees are aware of this right and of when they can use it. We know that many employers are talking to their staff about this Bill and how they can all take advantage of the benefits it offers in a way that suits all parties. In addition, the Government have given an undertaking to publish guidance for employers and employees outlining what the suspension means for them in respect of the right to opt out of Sunday working.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab) rose—

Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con):

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) rose—

Vince Cable: I shall take the intervention from the Ulster Unionist Benches.

Jim Shannon: For the record, I am a Democratic Unionist, not an Ulster Unionist. In an earlier response, the Minister said that he was not sure what 73% of shop workers were after. What they were saying was that they were concerned about legislative change being made permanent for the future. The issue they were worried about was changing Sunday trading for ever.

Vince Cable: If that was the worry, we have dealt with it effectively, making it absolutely clear that this is a one-off, temporary and very specific change.

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John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Let us be clear. Will employers be legally obliged to inform their workers of the new regulations?

Vince Cable: No, they are not legally obliged, but we are working with them to ensure that they do. I think most will welcome the commitment and loyalty of their work force, and they will take good measures to ensure that they are informed. There is no legal compulsion.

Joan Walley: For the sake of clarity, given that employers will not be required to set out the new arrangements, will the Secretary of State set out the rights of those who have already opted in to Sunday working, but who do not wish to work the extra hours that would be required as a result of the legislation?

Vince Cable: They will be able to opt out if they wish.

Mrs Grant: I am in favour of this Bill, and I would like the Secretary of State to reconfirm that the provisions offer a huge opportunity for many families and workers to earn much-needed money?

Vince Cable: We have heard many negative interventions, expressing worry about the impact, but for most people, whether they be workers or consumers, the Bill provides wider opportunities. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for stressing an obvious, but much-neglected point in the debate.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Secretary of State tell us what legal advice he has had about what will happen if, in the period between now and the Olympics, someone decides to mount a legal challenge? Will that lead to a delay in implementation, or will it go ahead regardless?

Vince Cable: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is talking about a legal challenge to the Government, or a legal challenge to an individual employer. If the latter, there will no wider ramifications.

Mike Gapes: Both.

Vince Cable: Well, if the trade unions or others wish to make legal challenges, applying for a judicial review or through any other mechanisms, they are perfectly entitled to do so. We are not aware of any significant problem in that respect, but we will wait to see what happens.

Dame Joan Ruddock rose—

Vince Cable: I have already allowed the right hon. Lady one intervention, so I hope she will not mind if I move on.

Let me return to the question of the wider impact on the rest of the UK. Some have argued that the provisions should apply only in London or only in those areas hosting Olympic and Paralympic events. We believe that that would be the wrong approach. We believe the games are for the whole country and not just for London, so the benefits should be shared as widely possible. As I said in response to an earlier intervention, research suggests that 40% of the benefit would accrue outside

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London and the south-east. That is why the Bill will apply to the whole of England and Wales. Scotland is already deregulated in respect of Sunday trading, and Northern Ireland has its own laws.

Ann Coffey rose—

Vince Cable: I shall give way in a moment. If the hon. Lady waits patiently, I will take her intervention.

It would make no economic sense to relax the rules purely for London, which would merely extend the competitive advantage the capital enjoys in comparison with regional retail centres. Let us say we used the M25 to demarcate where the suspension would apply. It would mean that the Bluewater shopping centre, just outside the M25 could open late, whereas the Lakeside shopping centre just the other side of the Dartford crossing would be barred from extending its opening hours on a Sunday. [Interruption.] Moreover, tourism will not be confined to London.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I will take further interventions in a moment. [Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order.

Vince Cable: Let me finish this point. Then I will take hon. Members’ interventions, as I have done throughout the debate.

Tourism will not be confined to London. Sports events are taking place in a number of locations: football in Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle and Coventry; sailing in Weymouth; mountain biking in Essex; rowing in Eton Dorney; Paralympic road cycling at Brands Hatch; and canoe slalom in Hertfordshire. In addition, big screens are being put up in towns and cities around the country to enable people to get together to watch the games. We want tourists and visitors right across the country to be free to take advantage of longer shop opening hours.

Ann Coffey: Like many others, Stockport town centre is struggling. Can the Secretary of State tell me what on earth the benefit will be to Stockport town centre to have the shops at Old Trafford open for extended hours on a Sunday, thus dragging shoppers out of Stockport. What is the economic benefit to Stockport there?

Vince Cable: There will be significant additional activity in the Manchester area. I cannot decide at this stage—and I am sure the hon. Lady cannot decide either—how the benefits will be distributed between north, south, east or west Manchester.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): What economic impact assessment tells the Secretary of State that all these visitors in London for the Olympics want to travel to Bluewater to shop on a Sunday? What does that say to the independent traders in my high street in south-east London who will be decimated if Bluewater can open for longer hours during that period?

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Vince Cable: We have covered that already in our earlier discussion and I have provided figures on economic benefit. There is no question of traders in the hon. Gentleman’s area being decimated, but there is a genuine issue about how much shopping will be displaced from one type of retail outlet to another.

Mr Lammy: Why was it not considered appropriate to change our rules for the Commonwealth games in Manchester? When I was responsible for Liverpool as the city of culture, we did not think it important to change our rules for that city. Why are we reducing the Olympics to a culture of shopping, when it is supposed to be a celebration of sport and family life? How is this going to do justice to British culture; is it all about a shopping mall?

Vince Cable: I know that the right hon. Gentleman is, like me, a strong supporter of the Commonwealth, but I am sure he agrees that the Commonwealth games did not constitute an event on anything remotely like the same scale as the Olympics. However, it is possible that an opportunity was missed in Liverpool: perhaps we should have taken the same action then.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): The Secretary of State is being very generous in allowing Members to make their points. The headquarters of Nisa Today’s, a major supplier to convenience stores, is in my constituency. Research conducted by the Association of Convenience Stores shows that each convenience store will lose £1,500 a week as a result of the Bill. What has the Secretary of State to say to those small businesses, which are the backbone of the country?

Vince Cable: I am familiar with the research carried out by the Association of Convenience Stores, which has done a significant amount of work. I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is fair to say that its calculations were based on the most pessimistic assumptions. In other words, the ACS assumed that the bigger stores would take the maximum possible advantage of the opportunity, and that there would be the maximum possible switching of shopping from its stores to the supermarkets. I think we agree that, in the real world, we are probably not dealing with the extremes.

Several hon. Members rose

Vince Cable: I will take two more interventions, one from each side of the House. I am sure that other Members who wish to ask questions will be able to ask them during the main part of the debate.

Mark Field: I think many of us feel that, 25 years ago or thereabouts, we reached a sensible compromise over Sunday trading, which would benefit smaller businesses while imposing certain restrictions on the large supermarket chains. I support the Bill, especially because the west end shopping organisations desperately want its provisions to be adopted. However, I fear that the lobbying has been carried out solely by the largest supermarkets. I broadly support what those supermarkets do in general, but does the Secretary of State recognise that there is an overwhelming feeling that they not only maintain a dominant position in many of our high streets, but will use the Bill as a precedent for the future?