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Mr. Fabricant: My hon. Friend makes a powerful, sensible point that directly relates to the cost of implementing this laudable Bill. An inspector need not be employed if it is apparent to all whether a shop is open. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst takes exception to my support for the Bill, and I can understand that. Nevertheless, I do not believe that inspectors are necessary to ensure that it is implemented.
I come now to clause 2, which relates directly to the money resolution. It refers to the 1994 Act and the expressions "large shop", "retail customers" and "shop", which should have the meaning given to them by paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the Act. I may be wrong, but I recall that a large shop is defined as 5,000 sq m.
Mr. Fabricant: The argument about whether the measurement is in feet or metres has nothing to do with the money resolution, as you rightly say, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the exact size of a shop has every relevance. What if a shop were on the margin? Would an inspector be expected to go into John Lewis at Bluewater, if I may give that example again? May I say that I do not have to declare an interest--I have no involvement whatever with the John Lewis Partnership, other than having many friends who work for it. Are the inspectors meant to enter the store and measure the size of the trading floor? If they are--
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Would my hon. Friend like to say that he fears that one of the big problems with the money resolution is that the figures that have been given are lamentably lacking and likely to be totally wrong? We have seen that so many times with the regulatory rubbish that the Government come out with. They tell us that it will not be very costly, and then a year or two later we discover that it is massively costly. Would my hon. Friend like to give the House his thoughts on that point?
My point, which I want to make very clearly so that there is no misunderstanding, is that the definition of "large shop" is important to the cost covered by the money resolution. If there were any doubt, an inspector would have to determine whether the shop was large, in which case it would come within the ambit of the Bill, or whether it was small, as defined by the 1994 Act, in which case it would not. Someone will have to determine the size of the shop. In case of dispute, someone will have to measure the selling area, and that will cost money.
I challenge the Minister to tell the House precisely how much the Bill will cost to implement. Let there be no doubt that a cost is always entailed when the Government introduce a Bill--or, indeed, when a private Member introduces a Bill with Government support. The money does not come from a bottomless bucket. The cost is not borne by the Government--it is borne by you, Madam Speaker; it is borne by I--
Mr. Bercow: Far be it from me to interrupt my hon. Friend's oration--or, more particularly, what might be described as his peroration--but does he agree that the lacuna in the money resolution is that it is as gloriously vague on the cost to the taxpayer, as is clause 3(1) on the likely cost to the retailer?
Mr. Fabricant: There is more than one lacuna; there are several lacunae. That is the problem--"there's the rub." Yet again, the taxpayer has to cough up the cost of a Bill. Once again, when challenged to tell us the cost, the Minister is unable to do so. He is unable even to give us an order of magnitude. Does he think that the Bill will cost the taxpayer £10,000, £100,000, £1 million or £10 million a year, or will it cost more than that? The Minister benevolently smiles at me, but let Hansard and the people note that there is no indication of what the Bill will cost to implement.
I believe that not just the John Lewis Partnership but all organisations must, in effect, have the co-operation of their staff to determine whether to open on Sundays--which is dealt with under the 1994 Act--or, if the Bill is enacted, whether a shop opens on Christmas day. Without the co-operation of the staff, shops, especially large ones, cannot open on those days. I have to question whether it is necessary to have inspectors, whether they need powers of entry, whether rules against obstruction should exist
If the Minister were to assure the House that inspectors are not necessary, or that there would be a small number of them, it would have a direct impact on the resolution. Clearly, with few or no inspectors, there would not be a major consequence on the taxpayer. However, if the Minister envisages teams of inspectors marching around the country with their measuring tapes, paid on double, triple or quadruple time, determining whether shops are large under the terms of the 1994 Act, that would place an appropriately large cost on the taxpayer.
As I was saying about five minutes ago in my peroration, Madam Deputy Speaker, we in the House should always remember that the Government do not stump up the money for such Bills and that the state does not stump up the money for them; it is you and me and, more importantly, our constituents whom we represent.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I shall be brief. These debates serve a useful purpose--after all, Parliament was created to hold the Executive to account on money; that is what we are about. Often a worthy Bill--this is a worthy Bill--goes through because there is no great opposition to it. [Hon. Members: "There is."] There is some opposition to the Bill, because my hon. Friends make that clear, even though the fashionable view may be that it is distasteful to trade on Christmas day.
Mr. Leigh: I was happy to assist my right hon. Friend in testing the will of the House. On money resolutions, on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report, it is important that people outside know that the House has properly debated the issues and that a considerable number of Members have bothered to turn up to consider and vote for the Bills. However small or worthy a Bill, it is right that we should have a proper debate on its money resolution and hold the Executive to account. That is why we are here.
What worries me is that a convention has grown up in recent years--I do not blame this Government entirely--that private Members' Bills that entail the expenditure of public moneys can be introduced in the House. In the long term, large sums of public moneys may be involved. Previously, it was generally understood that the Executive--and not private Members--would introduce Bills that entailed the expenditure of public moneys. That is why we have our procedures for private Members' Bills. Now, year after year and month after month, private Members bring Bills to the House and the Executive have to step in to provide money for those Bills. I am not sure that that is the right way to proceed. If the Executive get involved, it is incumbent on them to provide a full explanation of what they are doing.
The resolution is framed in the usual format, but no information is given. We are completely in the dark as to what moneys will be expended on promoting the Bill. I do not blame the Government, because such motions have gone through Parliament in this form for many years, but we might have expected the Minister to explain the cost of the measure. That is not difficult. The Bill involves trading on one day--Christmas day occurs once a year--so we should have a fair idea of which stores are involved. Although the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) about the size of the stores caused some merriment, it was perfectly serious. It is not impossible for the Government to work out roughly and in broad terms what the Bill might cost. Is that an unreasonable question for Parliament to ask?
Will the Bill cost a few thousand pounds because it involves a few inspectors? Perhaps it will not be necessary for any inspectors to be on the road on Christmas day because, once the Bill comes into force, no large stores might want to take on the Government. Therefore, the costs might be absolutely minimal. Would it not have been easier for the Minister, in a few brief opening remarks, to have made that clear to the House?
The Minister could have said that it would be an easy Bill to administer and that he did not expect any extra expense to be incurred by local government or central Government, so the cost of the measure would be minimal. However, he provided no details at all. Alternatively, he might have said that the cost might be £100,000, £500,000 or £1 million--it would have been nice for Parliament to have been told.