John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I live in Carlisle. Last Sunday, I went shopping in Gretna. Is it not right that the people of Carlisle get the same opportunity as Scottish people to decide whether we should be open on Sundays?
Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend will know as well as I do, if not better, that businesses in Carlisle want this power; indeed, the Labour local authority wants it, and it may well bid to be one of the pilots.
I should be very clear: if amendment 1 is not accepted today, we will only go forward in the other House with our new amendment, which will mean there are only 12 pilots—no more than that.
Victoria Borwick (Kensington) (Con): I thank the Minister for letting us know about the zoning proposals. Perhaps he could clarify whether London could be a zone itself, or whether that will be delegated to the individual local authorities. London is obviously a diverse area, and many people would appreciate working on Sundays, whereas they would not like to work on another day—so there is flexibility in this new employment. Equally, on the Minister’s point about America, there is obviously a higher church attendance, but there is also much more freedom on this issue. We are a great capital city, and we would like to trade on Sunday.
Brandon Lewis: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I can appreciate that parts of London would want to come forward as a zone. For example, some of the evidence shows that, in the west end alone, that could be worth almost £400 million a year for the economy, with 2,500 jobs being created. However, it would be for areas to bid to be one of the pilot areas.
London is actually a really good example of how the market drives these things. Even on the days when shops can open for as long as they like, Members may find that, if they wander to the west end in the middle of the week, shops do not open particularly longer hours, so that, by the time we finish in this place, they are not open. Businesses can make that choice; what we want to do is make sure that they have that choice, that it is locally driven and that local residents have a choice as well.
Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP): For the purposes of clarity, will the Minister tell us how the proposals, which we have not yet seen, will assess the impact on premium pay not just in Scotland but in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Brandon Lewis: I would say to the hon. Lady and to colleagues around the House that, as we put these proposals forward, it is important that we make sure that the key performance indicators that will come back to the House a year after the pilots—we will run the pilots for 12 months—cover a whole range of issues. She makes a fair point, and if it is one of the points she and her colleagues want looked at in the pilots, I am very happy to make sure it is. [Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) asks from a sedentary position whether I am going to use up the entire time, and I would gently say to him that, no, I will not. I am about to conclude, but I would just point out to him that I have been spending much of my time taking interventions from his hon. Friends. I find his comments slightly surprising, bearing in mind that this is not an issue he felt needed voting on in Committee.
Mr Shuker: Will the Minister give way?
Brandon Lewis: No, I am not going to take an intervention. We need to allow other hon. Members to have their say.
We have listened to the principled opposition to our plans. I have listened to colleagues who have made strong, passionate and clear proposals to us, and we are amending them accordingly with our proposal for an exploratory evaluative phase, which we will lay amendments for in the other place—a draft is available for colleagues to look at now. I therefore call on all Members to support the Government’s amendment and to vote against amendment 1.
Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): Welcome to our deliberations, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
That really was the “Trust me, I’m Honest Brandon” speech: “We’ve got it wrong so far. We promise to do better next time, so I’m begging you to support me, despite making such a mess of things so far.” Honestly, have we ever heard anything quite so absurd?
The Minister asked why we did not vote against the measure in Committee, so I will read him what my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) said then:
“I will cut short my comments and simply say that we are against these proposals—”
that sounds pretty clear to me—
“but we will not vote against them at this stage because we want the opportunity to test the opinion of the whole House on Report.”––[Official Report, Enterprise Public Bill Committee, 25 February 2016; c. 328.]
Today that is exactly what we are doing.
Let me turn to the Minister’s last-minute—indeed, after-the-last-minute—offer to invite local authorities to participate. Why on earth did he not do that in the first place? Let us be clear: there is no offer today for Government Members to vote for pilots, and no way of guaranteeing them. The Bill contains nothing about pilots. Do we take the Minister at his word, given what has gone before us previously on this subject?
Joan Ryan: Is my hon. Friend aware of any provision that allows Government Members to pre-empt a decision in the other place, or to offer this strange variant on a deferred Division on a proposal that nobody anywhere—other than those on the Government Front Benches, and possibly not all of them—actually wants?
Bill Esterson: My right hon. Friend makes a good point, and the Government have had ample opportunity in the Lords—[Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue) reminds me, this provision was not even mentioned in the Lords. It was not in the original Bill, and it was not mentioned until Second Reading, when the Secretary of State announced for the first time that the Bill would cover Sunday trading. The Minister had plenty of time to table amendments then, in Committee, or today, but he chose not to. Why should we believe a word he says?
Mr Shuker: Let me underline the point made by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes). If we want enhanced provisions, surely the logical thing is to vote for amendment 1. There is nothing to prevent the Minister from bringing his provision forward in the House of Lords, regardless of the vote, other than the fact that we have not amended the Bill and it stands in the way he has presented it to us today.
Bill Esterson: I completely agree—
Brandon Lewis rose—
Bill Esterson: Let me answer my hon. Friend. Perhaps the Minister will answer the similar point made by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope). Why does he not go back to the drawing board, start again with a new Bill, and bring it back to us once it has been properly considered? Both Houses should have ample opportunity to consider this issue properly, debate it fully, and get the right conclusions and legislation. He could start again.
Brandon Lewis: Let me help the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. I outlined the measures in the way I did because, if amendment 1 is accepted, the Sunday trading clauses will not apply. We need to support the Government amendments in order to amend the Government amendments in the House of Lords. From a technical
9 Mar 2016 : Column 344
point of view, that is why we did it in that way. I want to ensure that we run these pilots for the benefit of local economies.
Bill Esterson: That is complete nonsense. The Minister had long enough when he was on his feet to demonstrate the nonsense of what he is saying. The only way to do this is to start from scratch, and enough hon. Members across the House have made that point. The Minister should listen, particularly to his own Members, who have made that point well.
Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Are we moving towards talking about a hypothetical amendment with hypothetical evidence, when in fact this provision could create huge risk for neighbouring areas that will not be part of the pilot? In 12 months’ time, those businesses may no longer exist.
Bill Esterson: That is an excellent point, and I will expand on it later.
Mark Durkan: Do we not have a choice today between a clear amendment that we can understand, feel and touch, and, not just a flat-pack pilot scheme, but an artist’s impression of a flat-pack pilot scheme? It would be ludicrous for the House to buy that.
Bill Esterson: In both his interventions the hon. Gentleman has made the point as well as anybody, and I completely agree with what he said.
Several hon. Members rose—
Bill Esterson: I really should make progress and I will take more interventions later.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) and all who have signed his amendment. He gave an excellent speech with a measured and appropriate tone. I commend the Keep Sunday Special campaign for its hard work in making sure all the arguments were marshalled, given the Government’s failure to provide evidence in a timely fashion.
Sunday is the one day a week when workers in larger stores do not have the prospect of having to work long hours. It is the one day a week when those workers have the prospect of spending at least a part of the day with their families. For many people of faith it is more than that: it is the most important day of the week. For many people of faith and otherwise, Sunday is a day of rest. It is also the one day a week when smaller retailers have a slight competitive advantage and can stay open longer if they wish.
Nearly 3 million people, one in 10 of our workforce, work in the retail sector. This matters a great deal. There will be profound changes to the lives of many people, both at work and outside, if the changes go through.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman the same question I asked my hon. Friend the Minister. What discussions has he had on what is effectively the pilot operating in Scotland, which we can look at to see how beneficial, leaving aside what is being paid to the workers, liberalisation has been to the Scottish economy? Has he looked at that?
9 Mar 2016 : Column 345
Bill Esterson: I am sure SNP Members will answer the hon. Lady’s question. The reality is that we have a great British compromise that allows different situations in different parts of the United Kingdom.
Before the election, as we have been reminded a number of times, the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that the Prime Minister had no plans to change Sunday trading. The Conservative party manifesto did not state that it would change Sunday trading. Many Conservative candidates—a number of them have told me this—wrote in good faith to constituents to confirm that the Government would not be implementing such changes.
In Committee, the Minister justified the changes by saying the current rules date from a time before the internet—1994, to be precise. In a Populus survey from January this year, however, not a single respondent said that restrictions on Sunday trading were a reason for them shopping online—not a single person out of 2,008 people in a representative sample. Yet online trading is given as a key reason for needing to extend Sunday trading. For good measure, not a single industry or media analyst suggested that the recent poor Christmas trading results were caused by a lack of opportunity for shoppers on Sundays. Unbelievable!
The Minister told us in Committee that the reason for the change of mind was that when the Prime Minister’s office wrote the letter it was as the Prime Minister of a coalition Government, but that now he is the Prime Minister of a Conservative majority Government everything has changed. Presumably, he intended to become the Prime Minister of a majority Government when his office wrote the letter and when it wrote the manifesto, and I rather doubt that that cuts much ice with Conservative Back Benchers who support the Keep Sunday Special campaign.
The Minister also told us that the proposed changes were about devolution and decisions being taken by local people. However, as council chief executives have clearly said, in most areas, the changes would be applied to out-of-town shopping centres, to the detriment of high streets. Those same chief executives have also pointed out that, if one council introduces changes to Sunday trading, their neighbours will have little or no choice other than to follow suit, or run the risk that trade would migrate to businesses in the neighbouring authority. This is not the localism the Government claim. It is passing on the blame for an unpopular measure that only one in eight people support, according to a Populus poll last September. We were told that the changes would help the high street.
John Stevenson: Does the hon. Gentleman not think it is right that the people of Carlisle should decide whether shops are open on a Sunday, so that they can compete on an equal footing with Scotland, which is only nine miles away?
Bill Esterson: If the hon. Gentleman wants to organise an Adjournment debate about the people of Carlisle, I am sure the Minister will answer him. The reality is, however, that if one—[Hon. Members: “Answer!”] If hon. Members will let me answer the question, I will. If one council changes its rules, then neighbouring authorities will feel under pressure to do exactly the same thing. They will have no choice. If a Tesco opens on a Sunday
9 Mar 2016 : Column 346
until 10 o’clock at night, then the Tesco, Asda or Morrisons in the borough next door will have to open until that time, too.
Kevin Hollinrake: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Esterson: I am going to make some progress, because unfortunately the Minister took up so much time.
Sammy Wilson: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) has just made his point for him? If the people of Carlisle were to decide what happened in their area so that they could compete with Scotland, the next-door council would make exactly the same argument. The shadow Minister is exactly right: that would have the effect of ensuring that this was not localism, but a national decision.
Bill Esterson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The hon. Member for Kensington (Victoria Borwick) asked the Minister about zoning and whether London could be a single zone, but why stop at London? Why not designate England as a single zone, given that that is exactly what would happen because of the domino effect of the proposal?
Barbara Keeley: My hon. Friend is making a very good speech. The Trafford centre is a large shopping centre situated next to my constituency. It attracts an enormous amount of traffic, so if it extends its hours my constituency will never get a moment’s peace. Moreover, building work on the Government’s motorway project can take place only when the Trafford centre is not busy. [Interruption.] It is not my council. If the Trafford centre opens 24/7, the logistics will make things impossible for my constituents.
Bill Esterson: There are similar examples up and down the country. My hon. Friend is absolutely right.
Let me turn to some of the evidence we have been given in the lead-up to this debate. During the Olympics, convenience stores experienced a fall in Sunday trade of up to 7%. There was also a displacement of trade to different times of the week, but, instead of an increase in overall trade, there was a slight fall. The Government assumption that people will have more money to spend just because the shops are open longer does not bear scrutiny once we start to look at the evidence.
Meanwhile, the extra Sunday hours would increase costs in those large stores that stay open longer, and while there will be some displacement from convenience stores to larger retailers, as happened during the Olympics, there will be little or no overall increase in trade to pay for the increased cost in most shops.
Chris Philp: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Esterson: I am going to make some more progress before I take any more interventions.
The larger retailers that open longer will have to find a way to reduce costs, which means removing the premium for shop workers. Given that the major retailers operate UK-wide, a change in pay and conditions in England and Wales will mean changes in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well. Premium pay on Sundays is viable across the UK because large retailers in most of the UK are restricted to six hours’ opening. The time and a half
9 Mar 2016 : Column 347
paid to many shop workers will be under threat to make up for staying open longer across the UK, which, of course, is why this is a UK-wide matter and why it is entirely appropriate that Members from across the UK have a vote on this very important proposal.
Removing time and a half would cost shop staff who work an average shift in Scotland £1,400 a year, which in anybody’s money is a very significant hit, particularly for those on low pay in the retail sector. The proposed changes in England in Wales would have a profound effect on workers in Scotland, and I am glad that the SNP recognises that Scottish workers will be hit. I was a bit surprised when the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) told us in Committee that, while her concerns focused on Scottish workers, the SNP welcomed the additional employee protections in the Bill, which she ascribed to
“the strong and principled action of the SNP”.––[Official Report, Enterprise Public Bill Committee, 25 February 2016; c. 322.]
We will come to how those protections will not do what the Government claim they will, but I am glad that the letter from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of Scottish Labour, Kezia Dugdale, has had the desired effect. I welcome the SNP’s confirmation that its Members will vote against the Government, and I look forward to them joining us in the Lobby.
Hannah Bardell: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Esterson: I don’t have a choice, do I?
Hannah Bardell: On a point of clarity, the hon. Gentleman can read the record for himself, as can members of the public and Members of this House, but we have been very clear. We engaged with all sides of the argument up until the point where we took a decision at our group meeting as part of a democratic process.
Bill Esterson: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that intervention. All I will say is that I am glad that she and her colleagues came to the right decision in the end; it does not matter how they got there.
Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Esterson: I am not going to take any more interventions at the moment. We have not got very long, because the Minister took so much time, and a lot of Members want to speak.
The Minister claimed that the Bill would help workers, but 91% of shop staff oppose longer Sunday opening hours and only 6% want more hours on Sundays. Listening to the Minister in Committee, we might have been forgiven for thinking that the figures were the other way around. The Minister says that he is improving workers’ ability to opt out of Sunday working. Let us just go through some of what happens now. Staff who apply for jobs with some retailers are asked whether they will work Sundays. Failure to say yes can mean no interview. Staff who are still in their notice period who try to opt out of Sunday working can and do lose their jobs. Staff who try to opt out of Sunday working can and do lose
9 Mar 2016 : Column 348
hours. Staff who want to opt out come under pressure from managers and colleagues not to do so. The reality is that staff already have to work on Sundays in too many large retailers when they do not want to, when they would rather spend more time with their children or—as most people want to do on Sundays—enjoy leisure time or rest. What happened to the family test?
Chris Philp: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Bill Esterson: No, I am not going to give way.
The Prime Minister said that the family test should apply to all legislation. I understand that it is in the impact assessment. I have not had time to read it in detail, because we had only two hours’ notice of its publication, but I understand that it says that when it comes to the family test, the overall impact is unclear. It is clear enough to families of shop workers up and down the country that the measure will have a profound effect on them and on what happens on Sundays.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?
Bill Esterson: I am not going to give way at this stage.
Because of the cost of going to an employment tribunal, it is beyond the means of most workers to challenge their employer, especially if they have just been fired. The changes to employee rights will not change the realities faced by shop workers, and they will not change the difficulty of getting access to justice at an employment tribunal. Shop workers will, all too often, have no choice, just as they often have no choice at present. They will have to work longer hours, in many cases, whether they want to or not.
What of the evidence for the reforms? We have heard the farcical answers about the consultation, and how the Department cannot publish the details because people chose to write their answers in their own words. What absolute nonsense. There are so many things to choose from in this farce, but that really sticks out. The Government have claimed that a majority of large businesses are in favour of the changes. That is one bit of the consultation that they have bothered to publish. However, retailers, including Sainsbury, Tesco, John Lewis, Dixons and Marks & Spencer, expressed their opposition to the Prime Minister at a meeting last week and pointed out that their customers do not want to be able to shop for longer on Sundays.
Until noon today, we awaited the publication of the impact assessment, on which, presumably, the Sunday trading clauses are based. We were told in Committee that it would be published soon. It has been published, as of two hours ago, so Members have had less than three hours to consider the Government’s impact assessment on a piece of legislation. Seriously, what a way to do business. It really is an outrage.
The measure represents a broken election promise. It will have a domino effect among local authorities. High streets will be harmed, not helped. Smaller retailers will lose business. Staff will be unable to refuse to work longer hours. There will be cuts to premium pay in Scotland, as well as in the rest of the UK. That is all backed up by the lack of any published evidence to support the measure until the last minute, and I am not convinced that it does back it up. Remember that the
9 Mar 2016 : Column 349
Bill started life in the Lords, and Sunday trading was introduced in the Commons only at the very last minute. The measure has not had any scrutiny in the Lords. This is a significant change for businesses, shop workers, faith groups, families and all who want to keep Sunday special. The Government have not made the case for their proposal, and the suggested possible amendment, which may be introduced at some time in the future, will not do so either.
We know that the Government want to make this change, although many large retailers do not. If they really insist that this is right and that there are serious reasons to introduce something so far reaching that was not in the manifesto, they should do so with full scrutiny and with evidence. They should give Members of both Houses the opportunity to make sure that any changes made are done with great care, given the far-reaching consequences of what is proposed. That does not mean tabling a last-minute manuscript amendment in a desperate bid for a last-minute deal.
As far as what is proposed on the amendment paper today and the way in which it has been proposed is concerned, Labour Members will stick to the consistent line we have had all along. Let us keep our great British compromise on Sunday trading and support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate.
Several hon. Members rose—
Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Hon. Members can see how many people want to speak and only a little over an hour is left before the end of the debate. If they could keep their speeches very brief, the whole House will be grateful.
Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): I rise to speak because if I said this in an intervention, I would test the patience of the House by speaking for too long.
When I first arrived in the House, I was told by a veteran that in the House were good men, clever men and those with good grace. I want to pay tribute to the Minister, who has somehow managed to climb the greasy pole while embodying all three qualities. As Members on both sides of the House know, he is an incredibly hard working Minister for Housing and Planning. When were in opposition, I was always quick to praise Labour Ministers, including those who once held a similar position. I will forgive him for the fact that he is sending notes to love bomb the waverers.
I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes). It would have been a shock, from what I know of his 11 years in the House, if he had not led on this amendment today. He is a man of huge principle. Those of us who have been in the House during those 11 years and have heard him speak with huge conviction on such issues will understand why he has led on this amendment and why so many of us support him.
This whole issue is rooted in devolution, the natural direction of which is towards localism. Therefore, at the risk of sounding like the Leader of the Opposition, I want to speak on behalf of my constituents. Mr Kishor Patel was shortlisted for retailer of the year last year. He came to the House of Commons and was the runner-up. He runs Nisa in Toddington in my constituency, where he has opened a number of stores. He is an amazing
9 Mar 2016 : Column 350
small retailer. He recently took a derelict pub in my constituency and turned it into a restaurant. He says that he does not want me to support the proposal in the Bill; he wants me to vote against it. His pub is at its busiest, with families enjoying themselves, on Sundays. He is incredibly worried that, if the proposal goes forward and bigger stores can open for longer on Sundays, pubs like his will not stay open for longer, but will fail. It is the business he does on Sundays, when families can enjoy themselves at the local pub, that makes the difference between its being profitable and not profitable.
Mr Patel also does not want me not to support the proposal in the Bill because of the impact on his small high street shops, which are valued by local communities. In my constituency, it is not particularly easy to get out to the big stores, so people depend on small high street stores. However, the situation would be quite different if the big stores were open all day, because people would make the effort to go out to the bigger stores or to travel into London, and that would have a huge impact on local shops in Mid Bedfordshire.
I want to declare an interest in that my family owned a local shop. The hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) mentioned the Trafford centre. When that opened and got busy, the family local shop stopped opening on a Sunday and began to suffer as a result. It is a known fact that small high street shops must constantly go the extra mile to compete with the big stores. They do not have the resources to man their stores seven days a week—and seven nights a week, because the paperwork, the ordering, the PAYE and so on is done while the shop is closed, not when it is open.
This proposal was not in our manifesto. The Bill began in the Lords, not in this House, and the policy has never received sufficient public discussion. If we want to do this, let us put a measure in the Queen’s Speech and let the public know about it properly, and let us have a full consultation and a public debate.
Hannah Bardell: I am pleased that we have the opportunity to debate the extension of Sunday trading hours. Since the original proposals were withdrawn by the Government, my colleagues and I have been engaging widely with people and organisations on both sides of the debate. Contrary to media speculation and the misinformation peddled by Government Front Benchers, the SNP has, as we said we would, reached our conclusions on the basis of the evidence that has been presented to us.
There are a variety of views across this House and across the country. I intend to outline my concerns about the effect of the UK Government’s proposals on workers’ rights and benefits in Scotland and the UK. However, I should say at the outset that my SNP colleagues and I have no objection to the principle of extending trading hours on Sundays. After all, in Scotland, as has been said many times, we already enjoy unrestricted trading hours on Sundays. It is important to note that in the past, restraints on Sunday opening in Scotland have existed, but they have largely been social rather than legal. There are, of course, areas of Scotland where there is greater religious observance and Sunday opening hours are more restricted but, in general, the practice of longer opening hours on Sundays, particularly in retail, is now well established throughout Scotland, and some evidence suggests that that has been the case since the late 1980s.
9 Mar 2016 : Column 351
The UK Government’s proposals represent the uniform deregulation of trading hours restrictions across these islands. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but without adequate legal protections, which we and others have called for, the employment protections of workers and their remuneration would be threatened.
The Government’s impact assessment, which was published only this morning, identifies more than 450,000 retail workers across the UK who receive premium pay, but in the 44-page assessment, the Government dedicate just one paragraph to that and dismiss out of hand the concerns of workers and of USDAW. Even now, faced with defeat, the UK Government refuse to offer assurances about premium pay. They engage in ping-pong politics, looking for ways to get the numbers through the Lobby.
Alan Brown: My hon. Friend rightly underlines the point that we have always made about the long-term erosion of premium pay. A sham of a pilot has been offered, but does my hon. Friend agree that that cannot address the long-term erosion of premium pay? Nobody participating in a pilot is going to take away premium pay—they will have to wait until the pilot is finished.
Hannah Bardell: I entirely agree.
My SNP colleagues and I made it clear in November last year that we would oppose the UK Government’s proposals, and we oppose them now. We challenged the UK Government to think again about how they could provide the necessary guarantees and safeguards to shop workers in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I was pleased that the Government tabled a new schedule in Committee—it now forms part of the Bill, although it is threatened with removal—that sought to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give more explicit protection to shop workers opting out of Sunday work, including protections against such workers being discriminated. Our Labour colleagues have referred to the legal opinion that they obtained.
SNP Members welcome the extra protections for workers. They show that the UK Government can, when they want to, listen and, on occasion, act to do the right thing. The SNP commissioned its own legal opinion from a leading Scottish silk to examine the protections in detail. We are satisfied that they represent a significant increase in employment protection across the UK, and those protections would not have materialised without the SNP’s opposition.
There remains, however, the issue of the implications of an effective UK-wide deregulation for the provision of premium pay in Scotland. The shop workers trade union, USDAW—I pay tribute to it and to its general secretary, John Hannett—has done a huge amount of work on this issue and has engaged extensively with parties across the Chamber and, indeed, across society. It has warned that the implication of the legislation, without safeguards, is that premium pay for Scottish workers, and indeed workers across the UK, will be threatened by erosion. The Scotland-based consultancy BiGGAR Economics has estimated that the loss of premium pay would affect some 60,000 workers in Scotland, with an estimated loss of income of up to £74 million a year.
9 Mar 2016 : Column 352
Chris Philp: Will the hon. Lady confirm that if these proposals are passed, they will increase protections for workers in Scotland? Will she also confirm that the arrangements in Scotland and England would be identical, meaning that she will be voting against arrangements that already apply in Scotland?
Hannah Bardell: As I have just said, employment protections will increase, but no Minister has said anything about pay protection, which I shall speak about later.
Low-paid workers might lose out even further if they lose their premium pay. USDAW has expressed significant concern that when universal credit is rolled out in May 2016, any loss of Sunday premium pay by families working in retail would trigger the end of their transitional protection at tax credit rates and they would be transferred to the far lower rate of universal credit. That is an extremely important point.
It is an interesting phenomenon that a greater proportion of lone parents work in retail on Sundays than on any other day of the week, yet if one of those lone parents was to lose their premium pay and to be transferred to the lower rate of universal credit, they would have over £2,000 less in their pocket. I and my SNP colleagues are not prepared to gamble with the pay packets of some of Scotland and the UK’s lowest paid workers.
Moreover, it is an obvious point, but the erosion of premium pay as a result of Sunday trading hours is a real threat not just to Scottish workers, but to shop workers across the UK. We said ahead of the 2015 general election that the SNP would be a progressive force in Westminster and that we would work with others to pursue progressive policies and protect the most vulnerable—and not just in Scotland, but across the UK. In voting against these ill-conceived measures, that is exactly what we are doing. We in the SNP do not just write our manifesto commitments down; we actually deliver on them.
Although the crux of our argument is about the erosion of premium pay, there is a wider debate going on. We should focus our minds on the wider issue of fair pay. In my maiden speech, I spoke about the importance of decent pay for decent work, and about my own family heritage, being from mining and shop worker roots. My grandfather was a miner and believed firmly that no worker should have to seek overtime to make ends meet. Therefore, while we must protect the premium pay of the lowest paid, we should also be continuing the fight for fair pay for the lowest paid in our society. That means a real living wage, not the fake one dreamt up by this UK Government.
We have challenged the UK Government to give assurances and to provide safeguards for the provision of premium pay in Scotland, and they have failed to do so. There is not a single clause in the Bill, or any sentence that any UK Government Minister has uttered in our proceedings on it, that is significant enough a reassurance that Scottish shop workers, and indeed shop workers across the UK, will not lose out because of a lack of protection for their traditional rates of pay. We will oppose anything that puts in doubt the premium payments that lower-paid shop workers in Scotland have for Sunday working.
9 Mar 2016 : Column 353
John Stevenson: The hon. Lady is banging on about fairness. Is it fair for a business in Scotland potentially to have a competitive advantage over a business that is 9 miles away?
Hannah Bardell: The hon. Gentleman is missing the point. What is not fair is for the UK Government to bring in provisions that will have a knock-on impact on Scottish workers and reduce wages. It is on that basis that we oppose them. The UK Government have had time to bring forward the necessary safeguards and guarantees that there will be no detriment to shop workers in Scotland or the rest of the UK, but they have failed to do so.
There is a fundamental point about process and respect for Parliament, its Members and the constituents we represent. We owe it to our constituents to do our business in a manner that is fair, open and transparent. The Secretary of State and the Minister should listen to that. The way in which the provisions have been shoehorned into successive Bills as a last-ditch slapdash amendment is appalling. The Government should do their business better if they want to command the support of the House or the UK public.
The UK Government have left it to the last possible moment to publish the impact assessment and the family test, and they would not devolve employment law to Scotland. For that reason, and for the good of shop workers across Scotland and the UK, and the 450,000 of them who receive premium pay, my SNP colleagues and I will support the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) to remove the Government’s proposals from the Bill.