Sunday Performances (Temporary Regulation) Bill.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 6th October 1931.

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Photo of Mr Ernest Evans Mr Ernest Evans , University of Wales

I desire to support my hon. Friend in opposing the Third Reading of this Measure. Members were called back at this period of the Session in order to support the National Government in dealing with a national emergency, and I am one of those who have supported the Government, but for the life of me I cannot see any national emergency arising out of this Bill, and, quite frankly, I resent the attitude of the Government in using this emergency Session to put through a substitute for a Bill which probably would never have passed the House had it pursued the normal course before we adjourned. The excuse put forward is, "There is no reason to worry; this is a purely temporary Measure until we can deal with the matter satisfactorily." Many Members have heard that excuse used in regard to different Measures, and have then found that there are means of continuing what are called temporary Measures for a very long time. If the House now assents to the Third Reading it may very well be that next Session the Government will say, "We have not time to discuss now whether cinemas should be open on Sunday or not and we will make temporary provision to continue this Bill for another year." So it will go on from year to year. I accept the assurance that it is meant to be only a temporary Measure, but in the emergency which may exist next year and for a few more years to come we may find this temporary Measure coming to embody the permanent law of the country.

This is a Bill to legalise something which everybody admits is illegal, which the courts, after a most careful consideration of the law, have declared to be illegal. I agree that Parliament can legalise anything it likes. I do not want to say, as some people do, that Parliament can do anything except make a man a woman and a woman a man, but it can make anything which has been illegal become legal. It is altogether a different proposition, however, for Parliament to say, "We know that a thing is illegal, we do not think it should be made legal from now onwards for ever, but we will make it legal for a year." That is a very vicious proposition to put before the House. I think that the Government are very unwise in pressing this Measure forward. They will offend the views and consciences of a large number of people who represent the very opinion on which they will rely in asking for the support of the country to deal with a national emergency.