Sunday Performances (Temporary Regulation) Bill.

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

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Photo of Sir William Jowitt Sir William Jowitt , Preston

I shall be very brief in my observations, because this subject has already been thoroughly thrashed out. I entirely agree with the observations of the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March), who showed refreshing common sense, if I may say so, in the course of his speech. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Bill said that I was quite wrong in my statement that we were carrying on as before. A reference was made to the opening of the Zoo on Sundays, but there is a special Clause in the Act which provides that if the entertainment is carried on at the expense of a number of subscribers who are entitled to admission by virtue of being subscribers, that constitutes exactly the same thing as payment by money. Certainly the Sunday opening of Whipsnade, where a fee of 6d. is charged, is illegal. As far as I may have anything to do with these cases in the future, I should never dream of granting my fiat to a common informer in such a case as the opening of the Zoo on Sundays. I now turn to consider debates. It is a very common practice in some places to have debates on Sunday where there are a few reserved seats for which a charge is made, and the money raised in that way goes towards the cost of holding the meeting. It is true that in the case of Wright v. Williams it was decided that that was not an offence against the Sunday Observance Act, hut the recent decision in the Court of Appeal has indicated that that decision was wrong, and it was laid down that if you reserve a number of seats at meetings of that kind where somebody pays for them that is a criminal offence. As long as I am Attorney-General, I would like to say that I shall never give my fiat to a common informer in a case of that kind.

I now turn to consider cinemas. I regard this Bill as something setting out the limits of what ought to be done. If a cinema is opened on Sundays in an area where neither cinemas nor concerts have ever before been opened or held on Sundays that would be a breach of the law, and it would be the duty of the Attorney-General, whether he likes it or not, to see that the law is carried out. The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris) said that the Government were seeking by this Measure to make legal what is now illegal. We are seeking by this-Bill to alter the law. I quite agree that in most Bills brought before this House you seek to make illegal what was previously legal, but we are not engaged in that task now because we are trying to remove an unnecessary illegality.