by Jack O'Sullivan.
SOME 14 Catholic Tory MPs rejected Church calls to oppose total deregulation of Sunday trading and voted for the Government bill, thrown out on Monday night.
Ironically, if the same number of Ulster Unionists had not unexpectedly broken their selfimposed Parliamentary boycott and joined the opposition, the bill would have survived.
The late-night Second Reading defeat was by 296 votes to 282.
Church leaders were jubilant at the result. Cardinal Hume, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Free Church Federation Council welcomed the decision to "uphold the special character of Sunday".
In a joint statement, they said ways could be found to draft and uphold regulations which "do not sacrifice the values implicit in the religious and social traditions we have inherited".
Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool said: "This is good news. Evidently commonsense and respect for conscience prevailed". The Keep Sunday Special campaign failed to achieve a free-vote on the issue. The Government ordered a three-line whip in the bill's support while Labour sent out a similar command to oppose the legislation. All 16 Catholic Labour MPs passed through the "Nos" lobby apart from three on official business abroad. Both Catholic Alliance members, David Alton (Liberal) and Charles Kennedy. (SDP) voted against the bill.
They were joined by six Catholic Tory rebels; Sir Patrick Wall, Sir John Biggs-Davison, David Amess, Stefan Terlezki, James Pawsey and Kenneth Hargreaves.
The 14 Catholic Conservatives who stuck with the Government included three ministers, (Chris Patten, John Patten and Barney Hayhoe) and two Parliamentary Private Secretaries (David Atkinson and Gerald Malone).
Sir Hugh Rossi, Norman St John-Stevas, William Cash and Albert McQuarrie were also among supporters of the bill.
The Keep Sunday Special campaign was delighted this week with the success of its lobby. A spokesman said: "1 think it made impressions on Christians particularly. At one time the Catholic members had representations made to them by us very forcefully. "Several Catholics such as David Alton, James Pawsey and John BiggsDavison made it quite clear from the very beginning that they would not have any truck with this bill."
Mr St John-Stevas this week said he voted for the bill because he believed it would have been better had it. been passed and amended at committee stage.
The issue is highly unlikely to come up again during the life of the present Government.