Standing Committee C
Wednesday 4 April 2001
[Mr. Eric Illsley in the Chair]
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with the Bill. Copies are available in the Room.
Large shops not to open on Christmas Day
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 12, leave out `religion' and insert `Sabbath'.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendments Nos. 2 to 6.
Mr. O'Brien: I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Illsley. I am sure that under your wise and considered judgment we will make suitable progress.
As hon. Members know, the Government are neutral on the Bill. The amendments make minor and technical drafting changes. Amendment No. 1 reflects the language used in the Sunday Trading Act 1994 in defining exemptions from the Bill. Those exempted include members of all religious bodies who observe the Jewish Sabbath by closing their shops on Saturday, not simply those of the Jewish faith. Amendment No. 2 is a minor drafting amendment.
Amendment No. 3 modifies the definition of ``large shop'' so that the reference to Sunday in paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the 1994 Act has effect in the Bill as a reference to Christmas day. Amendment No. 4 has a similar effect; it means that in considering whether the shops specified in paragraph 3(2) of schedule 1 to the 1994 Act are exempt, regard should be had to the business being carried out on days of the year other than Christmas day. Amendment No. 5 makes clear that the commencement date will be appointed by the Secretary of State by order in a statutory instrument. Amendment No. 6 makes a minor drafting change.
The amendments are put forward in a spirit of neutrality on the merits of the Bill. They are intended to ensure that the Bill is well drafted and that it will make good law should the House pass it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Amendments made: No. 2, in page 1, line 18, leave out
`shall have the same meaning as in'
`has the meaning given by'.
No. 3, in page 1, line 21, leave out from beginning to `by' in line 22 and insert
No. 4, in page 1, line 23, at end insert
`(2) Paragraph 3(2) of Schedule 1 to the 1994 Act has effect for the purposes of section 1(2)(a) above as if
(a) the reference to weekdays were a reference to days of the year other than Christmas Day, and
(b) the reference to Sunday were a reference to Christmas Day.'.[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]
Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Short title, commencement and extent
Amendment made: No. 5, in page 2, line 3, after `order' insert `made by statutory instrument'.[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]
Clause 4, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New clause 1
`.(1) Paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the 1994 Act (large shops not to open on Sunday except in accordance with notice to local authority) is amended as follows.
(2) In sub-paragraph (4), the words ``or Christmas Day'' are omitted.
(3) After that sub-paragraph there is inserted
``(5) Nothing in this paragraph applies where the Sunday is Christmas Day.''.'.[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
General enforcement provisions
Amendment made: No. 6, in page 3, line 13, after `3', insert `as'.[Mr. Mike O'Brien.]
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Seldom, Mr. Illsley, have I enjoyed such expeditious, efficient and superb chairmanship. I should be wrong not to pay tribute to your work in that capacity. I also put on record my appreciation of all who have helped with the Bill, especially the Clerks, the other servants of the House and all those who care greatly about the matter. The Bill will be important to a lot of people; I receive many letters from women who are asked to work on Christmas day at short notice. We might think that because Bills such as this are processed in a short and formalistic way they do not encompass the problems of people's lives, but they do. I am grateful to the Home Office, not so much for its neutrality but for the fact that it has put into legal language those things that we might otherwise have got wrong.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the opportunity to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) for her work in presenting the Bill. It is important. I understand the use of the word ``Sabbath'', as I come from that part of the Christian Church that still talks about the Sabbath. However, I remember that, with a touch of humour, I once told a congregation that, as Presbyterians, we had moved a long way from the days when we did not keep Christmas day because it was not a Sabbath, to the days when we do not keep the Sabbath because it is Christmas day. Bearing in mind the pressures on families, it is important that we protect the family atmosphere, rather than allowing everything to be dictated by large traders. I congratulate the hon. Lady on bringing the Bill before us, and the Home Office for its expeditious help.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
The following Members attended the Committee:
Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Eleven o'clock.
Illsley, Mr. Eric (Chairman)
Chapman, Mr. Ben
Griffiths, Mr. Win
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Smyth, Rev. Martin