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Baroness Blatch: I have said that it must be a matter for individual conscience. I do not want my intentions to influence people and for them to feel that they must take a

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lead from me as Minister. I have made the Government's position clear and I will exercise my vote as an individual in this matter.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I am grateful for that clarification. Am I right in thinking that, although the Minister pointed out other anomalies, she did not say that the amendment itself was defective?

Baroness Blatch: That is absolutely right. The amendment is not defective in itself.

Lord Peston: I am sorry to have to join in the debate. This is such a sensible amendment that I took it for granted, since it was within the spirit of the Government's legislation which I totally support although I am probably more extremist than the Government, that the Minister would say, "This is a perfectly good idea and let's get on with it". Is it the Minister's wish that the Committee divides on the amendment so that Members can express their opinion? I am lost as to what is going on. I just came in for decorative purposes.

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I may make the position clear. What I said was that it is not for the Government to accept the amendment on behalf of the whole Committee. I think that it would be presumptuous of the Government to do that.

There is an issue here. The issue, which I believe will be a matter for people's consciences, is to determine whether Good Friday should be considered as any other day of the week or whether it should be consistent with the rules which apply on Sundays. That is the issue before the Committee. It must be a matter for individual Members to consider.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: We are grateful for that. Although the Minister still states that there are wider issues as to the comparability of Good Friday with other days of the week which are not dealt with within the amendment, the Minister has confirmed that the amendment is not defective and that it achieves the objectives that we seek. Although other anomalies still remain, I believe that it is appropriate that I seek the opinion of the Committee.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The Question is that the amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content". The "Contents" have it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 2:


After Clause 3, insert the following new clause:

("Employment protection

. Schedule (Schedule to be inserted in the Licensing Act 1964 after Schedule 14) shall have effect in relation to the rights of bar workers in relation to work during the previously restricted hours on Sundays.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 2, I speak also to Amendment No. 3. I make it clear from the outset that on these amendments the Labour Party has a

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policy. It is the policy of protecting the rights of those who are required to work on Sunday. These matters were rehearsed at considerable length in debates on the Sunday Trading Bill last year. Comparable amendments were put forward although not in these terms.

The new schedule in Amendment No. 3 is lengthy and I apologise for that. However, employment protection legislation is lengthy and complicated. I was encouraged to hear the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor move the First Reading of new employment protection consolidation legislation which may make life easier for those of us who seek to amend the 1978 Act in future.

Paragraph (1) of the schedule deals with definitions generally. Paragraph (2) defines a protected bar worker, which is the category of worker with which the amendment deals. Paragraph (3) makes sure that there is no discrimination either way by making provision for those who work in bars on a Sunday to opt into the existing legislation. Paragraph (4) deals with the notice of objection to Sunday working. Paragraph (5) provides a definition of the meaning of "opted-out bar worker"—that is someone who has chosen not to work the extended hours proposed in the Bill. Paragraph (6) deals with a notice period. Paragraphs (7) and (8), the core of the schedule, deal with the right not to be dismissed for refusing to work between the hours of three o'clock and seven o'clock on a Sunday. Paragraph (8) deals with the redundancy excuse which an employer might be tempted to use. Paragraph (9) deals with the qualifying period and the upper age limit. It again refers back to the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. Paragraph (10) goes further than dismissal by giving protected bar workers the right not to suffer detriment in their employment. I am told that in employment legislation that has a specific meaning.

Paragraph (11) requires the employer to give an explanatory statement of his policy so far as concerns Sunday working. Paragraphs (12) to (15) deal with contract of employment rights. Paragraph (16) is technical and deals with proceedings for contravention. Paragraphs (17) and (18) deal with restrictions on contracting out of the schedule. Paragraph (19) deals with transitional protection mainly in maternity cases. Paragraphs (20) to (22) are miscellaneous amendments to the 1978 Act.

The principle underlying the amendment—although it is lengthy I believe that it is reasonably clear—is this. Having extended the hours on which bar workers may well be required to work on a Sunday they should be given some protection for their family life and indeed for their religious obligations on a Sunday in addition to that which is already provided under the Sunday Trading Act 1994.

The amendment relates only to protected bar workers. The Minister, Mr. Forsyth, replied to a comparabe amendment in another place, at col. 1782 of the Official Report on 5th April. With admirable honesty, he said:


    "I now come to the part of my brief marked 'Use only if pressed'. There is an anomaly, and the hon. Gentleman is right to mention it, but the people who work in off-licences are shop workers, and as such already have the right to decline Sunday work. It would be irrational for the law to pretend that employees in pubs, restaurants, hotels, sports clubs and so on are shop workers and should therefore have the same rights, simply because the premises in which they happen to work happen to have liquor licences".

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We are legislating for two groups of people: those who are bar workers working in on-licences; and those who are working in off-licences. Mr. Forsyth did not come to the conclusion to which I come: that the anomaly is that there should be differential protection—a higher lever of protection for those who work in off-licences and are shop workers—and a lower level of protection for those who work in bars. That distinction cannot be right.

Perhaps I may say this to the Minister, in the most conciliatory of spirits because she has been helpful this afternoon. I hope that she recognises that that is the anomaly which remains in the legislation. That is the anomaly which should be dealt with by this modest extension to employment protection rights. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: This Bill continues the process of sensible deregulation to which the Government are committed, allowing businesses to stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions as to how they should operate. I believe the proposed Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are unnecessary and would be a retrograde step in a Bill which otherwise moves forward in line with the demands and expectations of today's society.

Where workers in any industry are asked to take on additional work or to change their working hours, that is a contractual matter for them to decide. Hours of work are for agreement between employers and their employees, whether they work in licensed premises or elsewhere. It would be wrong to impose unnecessary restrictions on the way that businesses in the leisure and catering industries operate.

The proposed new schedule, to which the proposed new clause would give effect, is aimed at giving bar workers the right to refuse to work during the additional Sunday hours permitted by this Bill—that is, between three o'clock and seven o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. It would add to this Bill employment provisions similar to those introduced for Sunday shop workers in the Sunday Trading Act 1994 and for Sunday betting workers in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994.

In the Government's view, it is plainly wrong to seek to replicate and apply provisions which are specifically appropriate in one set of circumstances to circumstances in which they are not appropriate. We do not accept that the position of employees of licensed premises is directly comparable with that of shop workers or betting workers. Their situation is in fact quite different. Until the recent changes, legislation prohibited on Sundays the very activity that shop and betting workers were employed to do, and the employees in question could reasonably have expected never to have been required to work on Sundays. However, for pubs, restaurants and clubs, Sunday has been a long established and important trading day. It has been quite lawful to sell alcoholic drinks on Sundays, and to employ people to do so, and the afternoon break is largely regarded as archaic and a nuisance.

The very nature of work in licensed premises encourages more flexible working patterns. This has long been the case and bar work and the like has provided opportunities for many employees who prefer this type of work or who may be unable to work more conventional hours. This Bill must not put constraints on the freedom of employers and employees to agree hours which suit their individual circumstances and preferences.

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This Bill seeks to remove barriers and anomalies and to allow businesses to trade freely. The leisure industry is competitive, with various attractions vying for our attention, particularly at weekends when many families enjoy time together. Many hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs will welcome the additional trading hours in order to allow them to compete on an equal footing with other businesses in the industry. Others may have no wish to take advantage of the new regime. However, that is a commercial decision for them to take. It should not be the role of Government to impose unnecessary administrative burdens.

Not only would the provisions contained in the amendment be extraordinarily cumbersome, they would also create new and indefensible anomalies between the rights of different groups of staff working in licensed premises. Those involved in serving alcoholic drinks would have the right to stop working for four hours on Sundays whereas their colleagues working alongside them on different activities would not. To put it another way, employees in a particular branch of a particular industry would have the right to refuse to work between three o'clock and seven o'clock on a Sunday, irrespective of what their contract of employment said, but between midday and three o'clock, and between seven o'clock and half past 10 in the evening, they would be be bound by their normal contractual terms.

Were the amendment to be accepted I only hope that none of your Lordships is ever in a restaurant ordering lunch at three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon! It would certainly be a strange experience to have the wine waiter down tools while the rest of the restaurant carried on as normal. Perhaps the scene would be reminiscent of pubs at "last orders", with customers rushing to beat the bell, ordering the drinks they think sufficient to last them through their meal. Or perhaps the bons viveurs would hold on until seven o'clock, when they would finally be able to round off their lunch with a glass of port. I see no reason to legislate in this area and I hope that the noble Lord may be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The last few sentences of the Minister's reply were quite extraordinary. We had something of a debate at Second Reading, initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Bradford, about the indefensible difference between restaurant licences and full on-licences. Although my amendments refer merely to on-licences—in other words, to bar workers—the Minister has chosen to attempt to make fun of the amendments by talking as if they referred to restaurants as well. They clearly do not. Restaurants serving drinks on a Sunday will still be able to do so after three o'clock. My amendment refers only to bar workers and protected bar workers, it will not apply to restaurants.

Another curious aspect of the Minister's speech was the idea that in pubs there are people serving alcohol and people working alongside them who are not serving alcohol. It is true that in large pubs when lunch is being served there are people who are mainly serving food or mainly preparing food, but in any pub that I have ever seen, whether on a Sunday or another day, people do whatever work is to be done. They do not have

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demarcation disputes between them. I am clear, from the way in which my schedule has been drafted, that it would apply to all bar workers and that it would apply equally.

It is simply not true that people who work in pubs have accepted unlimited Sunday working. Of course, they have accepted Sunday working and flexible working patterns for many years. But anyone who has listened to or read the debates, both in this House and in another place, on the Bill and on the Sunday Trading Bill last year, will agree that the extension of licensing hours in pubs from 12 o'clock to three o'clock and from seven o'clock to 10.30, to 12 noon to 10.30, means a substantial difference in the obligations imposed on those who work there. It makes a huge difference to their family life and their ability to make contact and spend time with their families on those days.

As I said at the time of the Sunday Trading Bill, I suspect that a high proportion of bar workers will not wish to opt out of the gap of working between three o'clock and seven o'clock. I suspect that they will wish to make other arrangements to spend time with their families or engage in their own leisure pursuits. I suspect that there will be very little disruption as a result of any amendment of this kind.

Frankly, the reasons which the Minister has given for opposing the amendments do not stand up at all. She did not really deal with my point about the difference between those working in off-licences and those working in pubs with on-licences, except by asserting that what we are trying to do is to extend conditions from circumstances in which they are appropriate to circumstances in which they are not appropriate. She said that they are not directly comparable. I suggest that in all material respects they are directly comparable. We are dealing with people who have to make judgments about the hours they work and the way they organise their lives. Those who wish to make provision of that kind have expressed the view that they need extra protection.

I do not believe that it is appropriate at this stage for me to pursue the matter to a Division. However, I give notice that we may have to return to the matter at a later stage in the proceedings. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.


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