I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
We have now reached, I trust, what will prove to be the last chapter, at all events in our time, in the tangled history of Sunday cinemas. This question has cut across all the ordinary divisions that divide Parliament. It raises no issue such as those which separate Governments and Oppositions. Divergent views are held in every quarter, and we were told in our last debate by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) that even the group of four Members of the Independent Labour party were equally divided upon this subject.
On previous occasions the House was left free and uninfluenced by former Governments and by this Government in arriving at a conclusion, but while in such circumstances the House of Commons is at its best in the elevation of its debates, it is not always at its best in the effectiveness of its decisions, and the division of view has proved to be too equal. As a consequence, we have found ourselves in an impasse. In those circumstances, the Government have felt it their duty, as the executive committee of Parliament, to take the matter in band and to try to arrive at the greatest common measure of agreement. We have, therefore, prepared this Bill, which, we think, fulfils that purpose. I now present it to the House, and urge the House to pass it into law.
The succession of Debates and discussions which has taken place in the House and in its committees has revealed, however, a measure of agreement on a number of points which are embodied in this Bill. It is, I think, the almost unanimous opinion that there ought to be no interference with the free access on Sundays to museums, including places where models are exhibited, picture galleries, zoological and botanical gardens and aquariums. No licence is required for any of those things. At the same time, they are subject to the Sunday Observance Acts, and we propose in this Bill that they should be completely exempt from its operations. It will then be lawful, without let or hindrance, for the public on Sundays, if they so wish, to go and see caged lions at the Zoo, or Cabinet Ministers at Madame Tussaud's. Concerts, also, are probably illegal on Sundays, and the Bill proposes that they shall be legalised in all places which are licensed for concerts on weekdays.
The law is not quite certain, but, as at present held by the Courts, it is payment which makes them illegal. However, as I have said, there may be some shadow of doubt about it arising out of the judgment given in the courts which now governs the case of cinemas, and, in order to make the law perfectly clear, it is included in this Bill, and if the Bill is passed into law, it will be quite certain that the Sunday Observance Acts will not apply in these cases.
There is another general measure of agreement, I think, in the House. No-one proposes that all restrictions upon Sunday entertainments should be completely removed. There may be some one person in the House who holds the view that all legislation affecting Sundays should be repealed, no matter what its character, but I think that that does not represent any large body of opinion in the House, and that there is what I have termed a general measure of agreement that restrictions of some kind should be imposed. Of course, in theory, there are many who say, "Why should not a man do as he likes on Sundays? If he is not to be fully free to do as he will with his own so far as his property is concerned, at all events he ought to be free to do as he will with his own time. And if he wishes to visit the theatre or the cinema on any day of the week, why should the law intervene in the matter?" And also there may be those who, having extremely logical minds, may say, "If a man desires to earn extra money by work- ing seven days a week, why should the law intervene in that case? Why should Parliament prohibit either the enjoyment of some or the employment of others on any particular day of the week?" But, so far as labour regulation is concerned, almost all of us, I think, have come to the conclusion that what is liberty in name may prove to be compulsion in fact, and that if Parliament says to the workman, "You may work if you wish", he very soon finds that he must work whether he wishes it or not. When the law intervenes, although it is restrictive in form, it may be liberating in fact, and in this matter, as in many others, more law may mean more liberty. It is generally agreed that universal employment for the whole population on seven days a week would be disastrous physically and mentally, and most injurious to family life.
Therefore the common measure of agreement in Parliament and the country certainly includes that one day's rest in seven should be guaranteed so far as possible to the working classes, but it is said with regard to the individual, "Why should he not be free to spend his time as he likes? This is an individual matter which should come within the sphere of personal liberty." There is then this consideration on the other side, that environment is a social thing and does come within the sphere of legislative action. The individual can only rest fully if the nation rests at the same time. I happen to have been responsible for introducing to Parliament and assisting to pass into law when I held the office of Home Secretary during the War, a Bill for the enactment of Summer Time. There were then a few who said that if people wished to get up an hour earlier in the morning and wished to go to bed an hour earlier at night, why should they not do so by their own action without the intervention of a Statute. It was at once seen, however, that in such a matter the nation must move as a whole, that the railway timetables, the hours of beginning and ending work in factories and all industrial establishments, theatres and other amusements all affected the matter; and instead of being left to the confused and unorganised action of individuals, it-would be simpler if the whole country altered the time of its clocks and watches and simultaneously adjusted itself to earlier hours during the summer months as was proposed by Mr. Willett.
Each man cannot make a summer time for himself, and, similarly, each man cannot make a rest day for himself. The community must act as a whole. The rest day is a social matter and therefore properly comes within the province of legislation. It is said that the fear of what is called the Continental Sunday is merely a bogy. I do not think that that is so at all. We all remember how-some years ago, though it is altered now, in most parts of the Continent the greater number of the shops, and sometimes all the shops were opened as on an ordinary day, as well as all the amusements; and that the railway time tables made no distinction between Sunday and other days of the week. We may recall how recently in Russia it was attempted—I do not know whether it is now continued—to run the industrial establishments continuously all through the year, each workman in rotation having one day's rest in five. I do not know whether that practice still prevails, but the attempt was made. On the Continent there has been in more recent years a strong re-action from the uniformity of life all through the week, and in France in particular there has been a powerful movement, which has had a great measure of success, towards the English week. "La semaine Anglaise" has become a usual phrase, and the week end is becoming a usual practice.
It will be strange if, when the experience of other countries leads them to think that on the whole the British practice has great virtues and advantages, we in this country should tend the other way towards a custom of life which is to a large extent being discarded. It is a sound instinct of revulsion against the excessive rush, hurry and scramble of workaday life.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
Fundamentally this nation is, I believe, a religious nation, and if it cares less than in earlier times for theology, it cares more for a real inward religion. I think it is one of the most remarkable instances in the life of any country that, on an occasion like the final for the Football Cup, when 100,000 people are gathered together for a football
match, before the match begins they should join in community singing of the hymn "Abide with me," and any one who has heard that will remember it as a most moving experience. I am convinced that the House would not be representative of the real mind of the British people if it regarded as of no account that element in the life of our country, or if it were to pass legislation which ignored the distinctive character of the day of rest. That is why, I believe, there is such a powerful body of opinion in this House against any tendency to sweep away all the restrictions which have come down to us from previous generations.
When these Measures were first introduced there was a feeling of deep anxiety lest, if cinemas were legalised on Sundays, they would proceed to theatres and other forms of entertainment, and lest if it were made lawful in London it should be made easily lawful everywhere else, and that step by step we should arrive at a uniform workaday week. These were the reasons, so far as I am concerned—and I believe the same reasons animated many other Members—which led us, in obedience to what we thought were the desires of the general body of our constituents, to vote against the Bills which were first introduced. But if it is made plain by Parliament that this legislation is not to apply to theatres and to all other entertainments; if it is made plain that while it is applicable to the present areas in which cinemas are now opened it is not to go far beyond or easily beyond that area; if any extension that is made is only to be in response to a real public desire and not obedient to the inducement of private profit; and if a day's rest is safeguarded for the workers concerned, this anxiety would be lessened and opposition would be diminished. That point of view has been stated in previous Debates by many of those who opposed the previous Bills.
The Government in seeking to arrive at what is the greatest common measure of agreement in the House of Commons has therefore followed those lines. The class of entertainment to be legalised is limited. The scope of the Bill is restricted to the areas where already the custom of Sunday opening prevails. There is to be no general extension, and no particular extension without the knowledge and sanction of Parliament. The local authorities are empowered to require the profits derived from Sunday opening to be devoted to charities, so that any extension may result from the pull of public demand and not from the push of private profit. Lastly, the day's rest for employés is to be guaranteed. There remains one outstanding point of importance on which there is still a considerable difference of opinion, namely, how far the Sunday opening which is to be permitted is to extend beyond the areas where it already prevails. The Bill, of course, is by its very nature illogical. That is unavoidable in the circumstances, for illogicality attaches to most compromises, and this Bill is avowedly a compromise. But it would be too illogical if we were to say that any area which allowed Sunday opening before a given date is to continue it, but that no other area in any circumstances should have it, and that we should draw a line at October 6th, 1931, and regard that line as an absolute bar.
I do not think Parliament really wishes that, but feels that if there is to be an extension it should be made subject to the control of Parliament, that it should not be left to each local authority to decide, so that the matter became a standing controversy at local elections, interfering with ordinary decisions on matters of local government. But if Parliament is to have control in the last resort, we ought not so to enforce that control that the expense and delay become so great that any extension would become in practice impossible, and that while not in form establishing an absolute bar at the date of October 6th, 1931, we should do so in practice by making extensions difficult, expensive and cumbersome. That is why the Government have come to the conclusion that it would not be suitable to suggest that extensions should be made by the ordinary Private Bill procedure.
Private Bill procedure involves considerable expense. Its central feature is the reference of a Bill to a Private Bill Committee, which goes into the matter in detail, which can hear counsel on one side or the other, and then makes its recommendations to the House. That stage in the procedure is not suitable for any Bill not open to modification or amendment. The question would be merely the simple one of whether the Statute, with all its clauses, should be extended to a particular area or not, and that is not a matter for argument by counsel or for the Committee stage of a Parliamentary Bill. The same considerations apply to the Provisional Order procedure. A Provisional Order would require, in the first place, that a Government Department should express an opinion as to whether it was proper to proceed or not, whether the Sunday opening should be allowed in the area concerned or continue to be prohibited. That is not a matter on which any Government Department could form a very adequate opinion. Furthermore, the Provisional Order procedure provides for a Committee stage, as in the case of the Private Bill Procedure, and for the reasons I have given that again would be out of place.
We suggest, therefore, in order to give an opportunity for ascertaining what public opinion is locally, that the earlier stages of the Private Bill procedure should be adopted, that is to say the stage which has to be passed through before a Bill is presented to the House, and the essential part of that procedure is a poll of the local government electors. Therefore, without framing any new legislative machinery, we adopt the ordinary Statutes relating to that matter, and make them applicable in this case. If in any area it is proposed that Sunday opening should be permitted, a poll is to be taken of the electors, but the present Statutes provide that it is unnecessary to take a poll if there is no opposition, and in order to ascertain whether there is opposition or not a public meeting has to be held, a town's meeting presided over by the Lord Mayor or the Mayor as the case may be. That, of course, is not a good way of arriving at a decision in a matter such as this. To call a meeting which, perhaps, 500,000 people would be entitled to attend, and to expect them to debate seriously a question of this kind, and arrive at a reasoned conclusion, is not a practicable proposal; but that is not what, in fact, takes place. At the present time when a question arises as to whether a Private Bill should be promoted in Parliament for dealing with some local matter a public meeting is called, and, if it be obvious that there are 100 objectors, then immediately a poll is ordered without further debate. That is what will take place in this case. We cannot eliminate the public meeting altogether, because that would mean that the district would have to go to the expense of a poll even if there were no opposition; but it is not intended or expected that a public meeting is to arrive at a reasoned conclusion; it will only provide an opportunity for it to be made clear to the local authority whether there are 100 objectors in the town, and, if so, a poll must be ordered straight away.
This procedure is not, however, suitable to rural districts. Seldom, if ever, probably, will there be any desire in the rural districts for the application of this legislation, and yet we cannot exclude them altogether from the purview of the Statute, because it is possible that in some particular case there might be such a desire, and Parliament ought not to exclude that possibility. Therefore, we suggest a special procedure, though we feel that it will hardly ever be put into operation. In such cases the Secretary of State will have to hold a local inquiry, and on being satisfied from that local inquiry that the predominant opinion is in favour of Sunday opening he would then propose a resolution in each House, and by our ordinary customary procedure in dealing with such Resolutions the decision of Parliament would be obtained. A Resolution having been passed by both Houses, the order would then become operative, and the Sunday opening would be legalised. It may be said that this is a very restrictive procedure. It is, and is so intended to be. That is one side of the compromise that has been reached, the other side being the legalisation of the present opening of Sunday cinemas in the districts where it has been the practice. I would remind the House that this Bill does not apply either to Scotland or to Northern Ireland.
Those are the provisions of the Measure, the Second Reading of which I am now moving. In seeking a common measure of agreement we believe that the predominant feeling in this House is that the time has come when Parliament must act. If Parliament does not act, then next October all the cinemas in London will be closed on Sundays from then henceforth; and not only the cinemas, but numbers of concerts, debates and other activities would be in peril of being stopped not only in London but throughout the country. In view of such an eventuality my predecessor (Mr. Clynes) introduced a Bill to deal with the subject in 1931. It was carried on Second reading by a majority of 48, but it met with a slow and lingering death in Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "There were only two days."] The Committee stage was so prolonged that there was little chance of any sufficient time being available to pass the Measure into law before that Parliament came to an end. The first National Government realised that the House could not give its attention to this controversial matter in the emergency conditions which then prevailed, and introduced a stop-gap Bill which had application for one year only, and which received the assent of the then House of Commons on a distinct understanding and assurance that it would not be prolonged for more than one year by the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and that more permanent legislation would be introduced. That Bill was passed into law and is now on the Statute Book.
The present National Government introduced a Bill in March, 1932, similar in its terms to Mr. Clynes' Bill, which passed its Second Reading by a majority of only 18, and also found an end in the sands of the Standing Committee. Now, in May, 1932, we are introducing another Bill which we urge should be passed effectively into law. Two Parliaments, three Governments and four Bills have been found necessary to deal with this matter, and it is time that we reached a conclusion. This Bill, as I have said, is undoubtedly illogical, but that need not disturb us too much, because most matters affecting this country are illogical, from the spelling of the English langauge to the Constitution of the British Empire. If there is still a difference of view as to the procedure for dealing with additional areas that may wish to be included, I think there is a general agreement that that difference of view is of much less importance than the importance of securing some settlement. Taking into account the time already spent over this matter by the courts of law, by the trade associations concerned, and by a number of propagandist bodies on one side and the other, by the Standing Committees of this House, and by the House of Commons itself, I think we shall arrive at the conclusion that the Government and Parliament will be doing less than their duty if they do not now cooperate to bring this matter to a definite settlement.
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add instead thereof the words "upon this day three months."
The right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has given a very clear exposition of its provisions, but he has failed to show us why the Attorney-General and himself have abandoned the position which they occupied of opposition to a Measure which would secularise the British Sunday. It amounts to this, that he and the Attorney-General have abandoned principle in favour of expediency. The Home Secretary said in his speech that something or other had got to be done, and, if something has got to be done, he has to come down from the side he occupied on this question of opposing the Bill. The Home Secretary has told us that this Bill represents the greatest common measure of agreement, but let me assure the right hon. Gentleman that it certainly does not do that, and, as far as those of us who are opposed on principle to the secularising of the British Sunday are concerned, there is no measure of common agreement whatever. The Home Secretary told us that this Measure represented a compromise which has been reached, but it does not represent a compromise which has been reached by anybody who was in opposition to the last Measure. It is a compromise which has apparently been reached by the Cabinet to get the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General on the same side, but on the opposite side to that which they have hitherto occupied on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that when earlier Bills were introduced on this subject deep anxiety was felt lest there should be a general extension both in the kind of entertainments and in the places where those entertainments were given. That apprehension is still as active in the country, and is as present in our minds, and the minds of those who are opposing this Bill to-day, as it was when either of the earlier Bills was introduced. The Home Secretary seemed to attach great
importance to the fact that the profits of these entertainments would be devoted to charity, and I understood him to say that this was not to be a question of Sunday gain. I do not find that in the Bill at all. The Bill says:
that the whole, or such proportion as may be determined by the authority, of the profits from cinematograph entertainments given while the place is open on Sundays.
That is entirely an open question, and presently I will deal with the question of the influence of that provision on the cinema industry, and what is likely to be the result if this Bill is passed. Why I have risen to oppose this Bill, and why I have moved its rejection is that, in essence, it is the same as the last Bill. Its purpose is the same. Its principle, if it has any principle, is also the same, and the result which it will achieve is also the same as the result which would have been achieved by the previous Bill. I do not hold that this Measure is in any sense a compromise, and, if I may give the House an idea of what might have constituted a compromise—I hate the word—or a solution of this difficulty, I think it is admirably expressed in a very brief statement which I have received to-day from the Free Church Council of Leeds and which I will read to the House:
I do not attach much importance to the Private Bill procedure, and probably the Free Church Council do not quite understand that procedure. The essence of that resolution is that they wish everybody to be placed on the same basis, and that no additional privilege should be given to those who break the law. The letter proceeds:
'2. That in cases where the Sunday opening of places of entertainment is permitted no commercial profits should be allowed. After deduction of legitimate expenses the balance of the takings should go to approved charities. Accounts should be
subject to public audit to ensure that the full profits from Sunday opening are available for this purpose.
'3. That no employé should work seven days a week. Provisions should be made for each employé to be assured a certain number of Sundays per annum free from employment.'
'4. That the local authority should exorcise a vigilant supervision to insure that the form of entertainment provided should appeal to the best moral sense of the community '.
If the Bill had done these things, I will not say that it would have been a compromise, but it would have been a solution of the difficulty which clearly would have met with a far larger measure of agreement than this Bill is ever likely to do. What does this Bill propose to do? It says at the commencement that cinemas may be allowed to be open in any area on Sundays. It imposes two restrictions. In Sub-section (4) of Clause 1, the operation of the Bill is restricted to those areas where cinemas have been open and used on Sundays within the period of twelve months ending on the 6th October, 1931, with or without a licence. They clearly were open illegally, whether they were licensed or not, for Sunday entertainments, but in some cases, I understand, they have been open in defiance even of the authority of the local authorities. They may have been opened on only one Sunday, or they may have been opened for the whole year—the Bill does not say which; as long as they have been open at all, no matter how, during the twelve months prior to the 6th October, 1931, they immediately assume the privileged position which is given to them under the Bill.
These are really what are known as the 96 areas, though I see there are actually 97, and I would call the attention of the House to the fact that it was precisely on this very point, as to limiting the opening without further procedure to the London County Council area, that the recent Bill was defeated in Committee. It was precisely there that a majority of the Committee decided that this Sunday opening should be restricted as a matter of course to the London area Why should not these 96 or 97 other areas be placed in the same position as the rest of the country?
The Under-Secretary for the Home Office has very kindly furnished me with a list of these areas, and it is very enlightening. I find that there is only a very limited number of counties—14 or 15 in all, including two in Wales—with any areas at all where Sunday opening has been in vogue, and I find that in most of them the number of such places is only small, life three, four or five, and in many of them only one. In the County of Durham, however, there are no fewer than 39 areas where Sunday opening has been allowed, but when I look through the list of the 39 I find that, with the exception of Bishop Auckland, Chester-le-Street, Durham itself, Seaham Harbour and West Hartlepool, there is hardly one whose name would have been heard of by any hon. Member not specially associated with the district and knowing its local details. The county of Flint and the county of Glamorgan have each one, namely, Rhyl and Porthcawl respectively, and the county of Monmouth also has only one, namely, Bargoed. Kent has 12 such places, which call for no special mention; and Northumberland has 15, to which the same remark applies that I have just made about Durham—there are only two which could be called places of any importance, namely Hexham and Morpeth. The others are mostly places which at any rate my knowledge of geography does not enable me to identify as being in any way distinguished for their importance, either numerically or otherwise. Sussex has six, which are entirely seaside resorts—Bognor, Brighton, Horsham, Hove, Littlehampton and Worthing—[Interruption]. Horsham, of course, is not a seaside resort, but with that exception they all are. Warwickshire has five, and the whole of Yorkshire only one. The total, excluding the London County Council area is 97. What is the special reason why these places should be placed in one position and the rest of the country in another?
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Baronet, but I should like to be clear on this point. When he speaks about the 97 places in various counties, is he including London?
No; I thought I had made that point clear; I said "excluding the London County Council area." If it were proposed to treat every place outside the London area alike, I do not say that those who are opposed to the Bill would have agreed to it, but I do say that it would make a vast difference if there were even that restriction, because we should say that at any rate it will not be very easy in all cases to prove that public opinion in the locality is in favour of Sunday opening—although the formality of the consent of Parliament I should regard as practically eye-wash; I do not think it is going to affect the difficulty of getting the permission at all—and in that case there would have been some ground for saying that at any rate the Bill was proceeding on the lines which were clearly shown in Committee to be the lines to which those who opposed the other Bill attached considerable importance.
May I give in a little more detail a few reasons why I specially oppose this Bill? The first is that it proceeds on the basis of legalising illegality. It makes the change in the observance of Sunday because the law has been broken, and the places where the law has been broken are placed in a privileged position. These places are unimportant in the main; they are casually distributed; and there is no reason, other than the fact that they have successfully broken the law, for their being placed in that position.
Secondly, the Bill proposes to do this by local option. It does not remove the possibility of controversy, as some hon. Members seem to think, from local government elections. Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 starts by providing that the local authority has to move in the matter. From that point of view it is obviously of importance to those who desire Sunday opening that they should have a local authority composed of people in favour of Sunday opening; while those who are opposed to Sunday opening will take exactly the opposite view. Therefore, if you have an authority which has not moved up to a point in this matter, when there is a new election all those who want a move to be made will vote for candidates who promise that they will be in favour of Sunday opening, and we shall be exactly where we were before, that is to say, this question may be made the principal question at a local government election, overriding all other questions on which the election really ought to turn.
Thirdly, this Bill undoubtedly legalises Sunday trading for gain. I would ask
the House to consider Sub-section (1, b) of Clause 1, which provides, as I have already pointed out, that the whole, or such proportion as may be determined by the authority, of the profits, shall be applied to charitable objects. If any one has any doubt as to whether Sunday gain does not come into the question, I would ask the House to allow me to quote a brief extract from a paper that has come into my hands, the "Southport Visitor," of the 30th April of this year. There was a question before the licensing authority as to whether all the cinemas in the outer area should be allowed to be opened again as well as the cinemas in the inner area, and it says here:
The decision of the magistrates is that in future there will be no differentiation between houses in the centre of the town and those in the outskirts, and the licensing authority, subject to all necessary powers vested in them, Will be authorised to grant seven day licences to all the houses.
Later, it is made clear that a Mr. Cunliffe, a barrister, was instructed to appear in support of a seven-day licence for the Plaza Cinema. May I read the argument that this gentleman put forward. He said:
The financial position of these houses, without exception, was being affected very gravely by the jack of facilities for Sunday shows. The Birkdale Picture Palace was in a very serious financial position. They had Sunday pictures before, and they paid their way. Now the position was so serious that there was to be a meeting of the company the next day and, if the Bench said they were not to have that which they had had before, it might result in that cinema closing down. He agreed that the Bench were not Concerned whether the house was run at a profit or at a loss. Their duty was to see that the law relating to cinemas was administered. But he did think that, where cinemas had had permission to open on Sundays before and this had been taken off them, and it had resulted in them losing money, they should seriously consider whether they should not be given back that permission.
The whole plea was that the cinema could be made to pay if it could open on Sunday, and it could not be made to pay if it did not. Where does the giving of the profits to charity come in, and not trading on Sunday for gain, which seemed to influence the Home Secretary as a reason for supporting this Bill.
The next objection that I have is that it undoubtedly legalises Sunday labour.
In my view, the provision with regard to persons being employed on Sundays under Clause I (a):
that no person will be employed on any Sunday in connection with a cinematograph entertainment or any other entertainment or exhibition given therewith who has been employed in connection with similar entertainments or exhibitions on each of the six previous days
is exceedingly weak and it undoubtedly does not prevent people working for six days in anything that is not held to be exactly similar to a cinematograph entertainment and doing a seventh day's work in connection with these Sunday cinemas.
The next objection that I have is that it places the cinema in a privileged position as compared with theatres and other forms of entertainment. I do not say that I desire for a moment that there should be any general extension of this principle to other forms of entertainment, but it is impossible to believe that you are going permanently to benefit the cinema entertainment only at the expense of other forms of entertainment which are British, and that you are going to benefit an American form of enterprise at the expense of the British drama production. It is said that the cinema employs far less labour on Sundays than the theatre, and, therefore, they do not stand on the same footing, but I ask hon. Members to consider what that means. It means that you are going to authorise a form of entertainment which gives the maximum return for capital and the smallest possible return to labour. It means that an American capitalist who runs this industry here is to be allowed to earn an extra seventh, less some small proportion which may be devoted here and there to charity, on his capital invested in the enterprise, and the reason why you do it is that it gives practically no employment to British labour, and labour gets nothing out of it. I do not think that is a very good reason, but it undoubtedly means ultimately its extension to all other forms of entertainment. If hon. Members doubt that, may I read one passage from a memorandum that reached me to-day from the Entertainment Protection Association. The Society of West End Theatre Managers and the Theatrical Managers Association.
It was, therefore, decided, notwithstanding the unpardonable injustice being done to the British dramatic stage by its exclusion under the Bill from equal rights with the cinema, to await the inevitable march of time when, after the principle of Sunday opening had once been established by Parliament, the unfairness of favouring one form of entertainment against another must become so obvious as to make the obtaining of equality ultimately inevitable.
Hon. Members will see the faulty reasoning of the arguments that induced the Home Secretary to propose the Bill, namely, that it was so watertight that it confined it exclusively to the cinema and did not allow any other form of entertainment on Sunday. The right hon. Gentleman was approached directly the other Bill was killed by the Stage Guild and others and asked to see that there was no discrimination against their art and that they were to have equal privileges with the cinema. This Bill is the result, and I hold that it does not mean for a moment that you are not opening the British Sunday to general exploitation for profit by any other form of entertainment. From the point of view that the National Government was elected to see what it could do to balance our trade, and the like, it has a very material bearing on the question why they should be prepared to license for seven days in the week this particular form of enterprise which takes such an enormous amount of capital out of the country. It is directly opposed to the policy that the Government have adopted in the matter of tariffs and other policies of that kind and to the object with which the Government was placed in power.
Another objection is that which I term the cloak of charity. I think that is the most unutterable humbug. The thing is either right or wrong. There is an enormous feeling on the part of millions of people in the country that this is opening the flood gates to the complete secularisation of Sunday, and that that will be the ultimate result. To tell us that this thing which all those millions of people believe to be absolutely wrong in essence is right because the local authority may allocate whatever portion of the profits it chooses for charitable objects is really the very lowest form of argument which can possibly be put before the House. I will tell hon. Members what appears to me to be the parallel. The only parallel of which I can think, and which is almost exact, is the sale of indulgences which used to bring enormous revenue into the coffers of Rome throughout the Middle Ages.
I do not think that it is necessary for me to quote any authority for the fact that the sale of indulgences was a source of immense revenue to the Roman See. The authority which the hon. Member wants is any history book which deals with that period. It is a deplorable thing that we should come back to the same principle and say that anything we hold to be wrong in essence, and which has been illegal hitherto, is to be held to be right because there is some small proportion of the profits and gains on one day in the week—the Sunday—which are to be given to charity.
I come to my last point. The one thing which I thought we might have been assured would have been put into the Bill, seeing that we have the name of the Attorney-General on the back of it, would have been some effective provision for requiring that the films to be produced on a Sunday should be of a decent and of a moral character. It cannot be questioned that many—I do not want to exaggerate and say most—of the films which have been exhibited have been a direct incentive and suggestion to crime of the new variety which is now being introduced into this country and which I regard as an importation from the other side of the Atlantic—banditry and utter lawlessness. Upon all sides I believe that those films, by their suggestive character, have been a very great influence in lowering the standard of sexual morality in this country. I may be asked; If this goes on for six days in the week, what is the difference? There is a difference between showing things on Sunday, which is, after all, still regarded in this country as a Holy day, and showing them on the other six days of the week. It is a monstrous proposition to put forward that what is good enough for week-days is good enough for Sundays.
There are several small points, but I am not going to trouble the House with more than a few as they are Committee points. As I have mentioned the word "Committee," I should like to say—and I can speak for my hon. Friends whose names at any rate appear upon the Order Paper in connection with the Amendment—that we do not propose, if the Government are determined to send the Bill upstairs to Committee, any form of factious opposition to the Bill. We shall make our protest upon points of substance, not a great many but quite a few, where we believe we can induce the Government possibly to improve the Bill if it gets a Second Reading and is sent upstairs. It is as well to make that clear, because we do not want to obstruct the general course of Government business as we fully realise the urgency of that business in present circumstances.
I will put one general consideration, I must leave it to each individual Member to consider whether in this matter it is a question of post hoc or propter hoc, but I think it is very remarkable that precisely as religion has weakened its hold, not only in this country but throughout the nations of the world, so the troubles which are now so thick upon us have grown. We see at the present moment trade blighted, people in their millions everywhere unemployed, and masses of produce not wanted because it cannot be bought by the masses of people who want it. We find gold, which for thousands of years has been regarded as the symbol of wealth, hoarded in one or two places and rendered absolutely useless for carrying on the whole world trade. We find these problems which seem to baffle human ingenuity, and contradictions which seem to be impossible to understand, and at the same time the secularisation of Sunday growing everywhere except perhaps in France, where the Home Secretary said the tendency recently has been the other way. We find in country after country the Sabbath being thrust out, and we see these other things happening.
I ask the House to contrast for a moment and to consider the state of this country, say 50 years ago, or even 30 years ago, before the opening of Sunday entertainments first came into being, the state of its trade and its industry, and the state of its churches and its religious life, and then to ask itself whether these things had nothing in common. I do not say that they are cause and effect, but there are millions of people in this country who believe from the bottom of their hearts that they see cause and effect in this state of things. I ask myself: What was this Government returned to do? It certainly was returned, with its great majority, first and foremost, to try and find a way out for this country from all these appalling difficulties which we see accumulating upon us. I am certain that it has not authority from the electors to proceed to the destruction of our Sunday both as a Holy day and as a day of rest.
I beg to second the Amendment.
The first thing I have to do is to congratulate the Home Secretary on the very lucid statement which he made in introducing the Measure, but I think the arguments he employed were very much stronger against the Bill than they were in its favour. I approach the subject from an angle rather different from that of the hon. Gentleman who has moved the rejection of the Bill. I do not approach the subject as a Sabbatarian, because if all the cinemas and all the shows in this country were closed on Sunday by law it would not follow that a single additional person would be added to the congregation of the Church. The Church has its own work to do, and it will have to take its own means to attract adherents apart altogether from any legal imposition of any kind.
Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have complained bitterly about the number of circulars which they have received from organisations which take the same point of view as I do. If there is any complaint at all, it must be against the Press of this country, because in my opinion, the Government of the day have been stampeded into producing this measure by a Press campaign. I have no hesitation in believing that were it not for the revenue they derive from these shows the Press would be more free to speak its mind on the subject.
The attitude of the trade unions towards this problem has been mistaken. I have made it my business to inquire from one of the trade unions mostly concerned with the people employed in the entertainment industry and they tell me that the trade unions have opposed all along the opening of shows on Sundays, but with the weight and pressure of public opinion and the tendency in Parliament in favour of opening cinemas on Sundays they have had to accept the fact and to make the best possible labour conditions they could for a seven or a six day week for their members.
It is a national union covering the workers employed in entertainments. I am sorry I forget its exact title, but it is not the Musicians' Union. It represents in the main the women and girls who work in cinemas; they are the largest number of any section of the employees in the industry. Although this is a Government Measure we on this side of the House are entitled to speak and vote as we wish. I am voicing my own opinion, but I hope that I may be able to convince some of my hon. Friends to my point of view. With regard to the trade union attitude I know of no trade union in this or any other country that would agree to its members working on Sundays if they could avoid it. That has been the attitude adopted by trade unions ever since they were established. They have of course accepted the view that where the employers were strong enough to demand that they should work on Sunday they must make the best bargain they could for wages and conditions on Sundays.
Those of us who are in the Labour movement have to be very careful what we do on this issue. Once public opinion takes the view that Sunday does not count we shall have all sorts of undesirable things happening. For instance, in Monmouthshire the mining employers recently called upon some of their workpeople to cut coal on Sunday, but the Miners' Federation in that county protested and carried their protest to a successful conclusion. I use that illustration because it is beyond my comprehension that anyone belonging to the Labour movement should ever declare the principle that so long as the community requires people to work the community is entitled to call upon them to work even on Sundays. I protest against that idea especially in relation to the provision of amusement.
I have spent most of my life trying to organise the people who are the most helpless, and on this point I support the Home Secretary. So far as railwaymen, coalminers and factory workers are concerned their trade unions can take care of them. In my trade union I think we can take care of our members too, although we have had difficulties on some occasions to prevent some of our members being called upon to work on Sundays. The vast majority of the people employed in the entertainment and kindred industries are unorganised. No trade union can accomplish for the workpeople what the idea of the sanctity of one day's rest in seven can do for them in securing that day as a day of rest. As soon as we open the cinemas on Sundays there will be no argument left against opening boxing booths and theatres, but my main trouble is that once we open these places of entertainment, every argument will have gone against opening shops on Sundays. The Attorney-General told us recently that in the borough of Kensington there are 1,100 shops open on Sundays. In the City of Manchester the shops are practically universally closed on Sundays, but if this Bill is brought into operation in Manchester and other industrial towns of the North and every cinema and every boxing booth is to be opened, and if we have cricket matches and football matches on Sundays too, there will be nothing then to prevent the opening of shops of all kinds on Sundays. That is the main reason why I oppose the Bill. I oppose it not because of the first move, but because I fear the second move that must follow as a consequence.
If that be so and it will bring about the general opening on Sunday, if it were coupled with a legal condition that a person employed on the Sunday should be exempt from work on a previous day, and that no industrial agreement should run for more than six days, would that satisfy the hon. Member?
That is a very important point. The law cannot work, however, unless there are two factors operating to bring it into force, namely, an adequate inspectorate and a strong and powerful trade union. I am satisfied that you cannot organise the people employed in the distributive and domestic trades to such an extent that they can enforce the law in their favour by organisation. For instance, there is a law on the Statute Book to provide seats in shops for shop assistants, but there is no organisation anywhere to say that they shall be allowed to sit on them. I cannot conceive that the Home Office would at any time appoint a sufficient number of inspectors to see that the law is carried out even in that respect. Unfortunately, with the economic depression that prevails, if a young woman complained that she was called upon to work seven days a week it would mean that as soon as she made the complaint she would be dismissed. Therefore, unless the two powerful factors to which I have referred were available to enforce the law, the law would be of no avail.
Let me now turn to the question of charity. I cannot understand the argument with regard to the hospitals. The hospitals were here before the cinema came into existence and they will probably be here I should imagine when the cinemas are things of the past.
Supposing it does. In some towns there is hardly any organised charity except the hospitals. I was glad to see a report the other day that the income of the medical charities in Manchester and Salford, where the cinemas are closed on Sundays, was greater last year than it was the year before. The point is this. I am as sure as I stand here that those who are now helping these medical charities, as many of us do in our own way, if they are satisfied that they are receiving contributions from other sources such as cinemas, will not be so charitably minded as they have been in the past. I am informed on good authority that contributions to hospitals from voluntary sources have declined in almost the same proportion as the income received from the cinemas.
I am putting forward the general proposition that the charitably disposed towards hospitals would decline to contribute because of the fact that you are providing the hospitals with funds from this source.
The statement has been made so often that I should have thought that the Under-Secretary would know all about it. It is presumed by everybody who has argued that we should open cinemas on seven days of the week that if cinemas opened on Sundays they would, in fact, open for seven days of the week. That does not follow. In the United States of America in some towns where cinemas have been opened on Sundays, they have been closed on Thursdays or on Fridays. Surely there is not a single hon. Member, even though he may be in agreement with the proposal to open cinemas on Sundays, who wants them to close on Thursday or Friday instead? At any rate, there is very little sense in opening them on Sundays and closing them on one or two working days of the week. I am not, as stated, opposing the Bill on Sabbatarian or Nonconformist grounds. I think I know as much as most people about the conditions of life of young men and women in the distributive and allied trades and I feel sorry that Parliament should do anything at all to degrade their conditions of employment; because in the ultimate result that is what this means. Every blow that is struck against the day of rest, by opening cinemas, merely makes the case easier for opening other establishments. There are many men in this country who own small factories and workshops. Once you open places of entertainment you must open shops, and there is nothing in the end to prevent factories and workshops opening as well.
They will manage their business in their own way. On that point I am informed that some of these gentlemen who hand over a sum to charities from the Sunday opening of cinemas make sure in the first place that the administrative expenses are pretty well secured. There is no accountant in the world who can get beyond that.
I shall oppose any attempt whatsoever to employ young people on Sundays, even for the purposes of the community enjoying itself. Let the community make its own arrangements for amusements. There was a time when everybody entertained himself on every day of the week, and I protest against any attempt to extend the area of employment because no legal regulations of the employment of labour will satisfy my requirements. What I want above all is a universal day of rest in seven.
Hon. Members who object to this Measure base their case on convictions which everyone will respect. Let me deal with one of their principal arguments. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) denies that this Measure is a compromise. But are we not always inclined to deny that a thing is a compromise if we do not like it; are we not inclined to say that it is not a compromise if it does not coincide with our own view? This Bill has one feature of a compromise in as much as it completely satisfies nobody. It is admittedly an attempt to get us out of a difficult position. It is salvage rather than constructive work. In the few observations which I ask to be allowed to make to the House I should like to put forward a proposal which seems to be really constructive and which might be accepted both by those who dislike and by those who approve of the principle behind the Bill. It is a proposal which it is hoped to embody in an Amendment for the Committee stage and which was accepted by the late Government on a former Bill when the late Attorney-General agreed to incorporate it in that Measure. In a word it is this. Under this Bill there is a provision that the profits of the Sunday cinema should, with certain deductions, be given to charity. The proposal is that a proportion of these profits, a small proportion, say 5 per cent., should go to the assistance and development of British films.
One of the strongest arguments against this Measure, put very forcibly by the hon. Member for Barnstaple, is the poorness of the quality of the stuff which is supposed to take the place of hours formerly given to religious worship. If the thing is to be allowed surely it is common sense to try and snatch opportunity out of difficulty; if we are to permit what many persons gravely dislike to try and get rid of the main objection. Let me briefly sketch the history of this proposal. Some three years ago a Committee was appointed on Cultural and Educational Films as the result of a conference of over 100 learned and scientific bodies. That Committee was very authoritative in composition and contained representatives of several Government Departments. It has prepared a report which is about to be issued. Its main proposal is for the formation of a central organisation which should be a clearing house for all information on the subject, a staff college for the study of technique, and a power house for new ideas.
We have nothing in this country so far to correspond to what they have in Germany and Italy and America, an organisation which definitely seeks to develop the best side of the film. To deal with outrageous films, we have the British Board of Film Censors, and their ruling is more or less followed by the local licensing authorities. But that is merely a negative thing. What those who are interested in the matter desire to see is something positive, a constructive effort to help in the development of this great medium of instruction and entertainment. We want some kind of link between the trade and the public, something which will help to develop what is best in the films and will relate that to the other interests of the national life. At the moment there is no point of contact between the trade and the intelligent public, and surely it is absurd that the public intelligence of this country should be divorced from what must play so great a part in the country's future.
I am given to understand that this proposal would be warmly welcomed by the trade itself. The idea is ultimately the creation of a film institute, not a Government Department but a private body with a charter under the aegis and support of the Government. If this proposal for the allocation of a small quota of the Sunday profits were approved, that quota would go into the hands of the Board of Education till such time as the institute came into being, and when it came into being I have reason to believe that this initial endowment would be handsomely supplemented by contributions from the trade itself.
Let me briefly recapitulate the purposes of such a central organisation. In the first place it would be a school for the study of technique and the interchange of ideas. British films have made very remarkable progress in recent years, but they have still a great deal to learn from the practice of other countries. In the second place it would help to improve the public taste and make the public demand the first-rate instead of the fourth-rate and the fifth-rate. In the third place it would advise teachers and education authorities about the educational possibilities of the film, which, as hon. Members know, are very great. In the fourth place it would advise Government Departments as to the use of films, and I believe that very soon there will be few Government Departments who are not compelled to use the film in some way or other in their ordinary work. Again, it would advise about the distribution of films throughout the Empire, a most important matter when we consider the enormous variety of cultural stages that the Empire contains. Finally and generally, it would do a great deal to secure the development of the great assets for film production which this country and the Empire possess. I believe that these assets are enormous. I do not think they are possessed in equal measure by any other country in the world. But we shall never develop them properly by haphazard. What we want is some kind of rationalisation of them on a great national plan.
Whether we are interested in the film or not we cannot deny its enormous public importance. It is the most power-
ful engine of propaganda and advertisement on the globe to-day. It appeals to every class. It has an enormous influence on the education of youth. It is an amazing platform for the dissemination of ideas, good or bad. Power always carries danger, and a thing so powerful must have its dangers. I dare say some nonsense has been talked about these dangers. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in a speech in this House some time ago was inclined to think that the influence of the film upon the increase of crime had been a good deal exaggerated. The really vicious film is not very common; it is very rare. What we have to complain of much more is silliness and vulgarity. We are all familiar with the kind of trash described by Mr. Kipling in his last book.
And here be merry murtherings,
And steeds with fiery hoofs,
And furious hordes with guns and swords,
And clamberings over roofs,
And horrid tumblings down from Heaven,
And flights with wheels and wings,
And always one weak Virgin
Who is chased through all these things.
But vulgarity may be a real danger, if it results in a general degradation of the public taste and a communal softening of the brain.
There is another side to the matter, and that is the real artistic possibilities of this new method of entertainment—the superb photography which you get in many British and Continental films; the poetry and imagination that you get in Russian propaganda films—very innocent propaganda, it seems to me when it is combined with so much poetry and imagination—the marvellous technique and humour and virtuosity of many American films. I believe that the film as a form of art is capable of enormous development and, from the point of view of this House still more important, it is an instrument of immense educational possibilities. I do not mean education in the conventional sense; I mean the whole building up and shaping of the public outlook. And, more, now that the world is drawn so closely together, it is highly important that each nation should understand other nations. As has been shown by Sir Stephen Tallents, of the Empire Marketing Board, in a brilliant recent pamphlet, there is no better medium than the film for inter- preting Britain to the world and the world to Britain.
Can we allow this colossal power to develop haphazard? Ought we not now, while there is still time, to make some effort to allow quality to come to its own? I am no believer in restriction; I am no lover of censorship in any form, except on the narrowest lines. I do not believe that any of us are good enough to censor morals, and I do not believe that any of us are wise or clever enough to censor art. In Italy they have an arrangement by which films of a certain quality must be obligatory in every programme. In Germany they have an arrangement under which films of an approved quality included in a programme carry with them a deduction in Entertainments Duty. That is to say, in Italy you have a certain amount of quality made compulsory by law, and in Germany you have a bonus given upon quality.
I am not sure that either method is the best for us. I think the right way for us is to work out a scheme for our national interests on the lines which I have suggested, and to make a real constructive effort to assist in the production of good films—good, not goody-goody—in every department, in the wildest farce and melodrama, as well as in the more ambitious artistic forms, because, happily, "quality" is a word of wide interpretation. That is the first step. The second step is to induce our people to demand that quality. Not restriction, not exclusion, should be our aim, but the compelling power of a better article. If the first purpose were achieved, I am quite certain that the second would follow, for I have the utmost confidence in the good sense and the good taste of my countrymen, if they are given a fair choice.
I do not think that many people in this House or indeed throughout the country will quarrel with what the Home Secretary said in introducing this Bill in regard to the great danger of abandoning altogether the sanctity of the English Sunday. But whereas the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) was consistent when he opposed any greater freedom on Sunday, the Home Secretary, if I may say so, in this cynical Bill, which has all the vices of cowardly legislation, proposes to give local authorities far more power than they would have had under the two previous Bills. Under the two previous Bills local authorities, before they could permit Sunday entertainments, had to ascertain that there was a general desire and demand from the electors for such entertainment. Under this Bill the Home Secretary proposes to give to local authorities in 97 areas the right to licence Sunday cinemas, not because those authorities have ascertained that the electorate requires these entertainments, but because, in fact, those authorities have been licensing them for many years past. The Home Secretary goes further and he proposes also to give these particular licensing areas the right to licence Sunday concerts and musical entertainments.
If hon. Members refer to the Bill they will find in Clause 2 that any public authority which has already the right to give a licence for a concert or musical entertainment on weekdays is now to have the right to give the same licence for Sundays, so that the Home Secretary proposes to confer upon local authorities a much greater right than they enjoy at the present moment.
That was not the hon. Gentleman's original statement. He said that the Home Secretary was giving some special privilege in regard to Sunday concerts to the authorities in 97 areas, and I only desired to correct that statement by pointing out that all licensing areas will have exactly the same privileges with regard to licensing Sunday concerts.
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear, but what I was trying to explain to the House was that the Home Secretary in this Bill is not only going to confer a right on those local authorities which already allow cinemas to be open on Sundays, but, in addition, he is going to give the right to all local authorities which at present permit or licence musical entertainments on weekdays, to licence those entertainments on Sundays as well. To that extent he is conferring a much greater power of licensing on the local authorities than was contemplated in the two previous Measures. It was never contemplated in those Bills that they should have the right to grant licences for musical entertainments on Sunday, unless they had obtained from the local electors a rather overwhelming demand that they should do so.
The point which I am most anxious to make is this. The Home Secretary in this Bill has made provision that there shall be no seven days' labour in the week, and with that provision I believe the House is unanimously in accord. But I desire to ascertain from him, why is he now going to limit Sunday entertainments to cinemas and musical entertainments and deprive the theatre of the same right? As I have said on previous occasions, I believe that, however much many people may regret the extension of Sunday entertainment, it has been allowed to take place, particularly in London, too long to admit of arresting it now. But it is intolerable that the Home Secretary, who is an advocate of restricting Sunday entertainments, should ask the House to get him out of a dilemma—created because he has not been enforcing the law—by inflicting a great injustice upon the British theatre, which is going to be very hardly hit if, as a right, cinema representations and musical entertainments of all kinds can take place on Sunday. Either it is right or it is wrong. It certainly cannot be just for the British House of Commons further to penalise the British theatre for the benefit of an industry which, as the hon. Member for Barnstaple said, is largely in control of, and the profits of which are largely distributed to, foreign countries.
Another point which has been raised relates to the question of the profits of Sunday entertainments. As I have said, either the principle is right or it is wrong, and the question of profits ought not to arise, but in this Bill there is no obligation to pay anything whatever in connection with these Sunday entertainments beyond a nominal amount. The Bill does not lay down any particular proportion of the profits of Sunday entertainments to be given to charity. It merely lays down that "the whole or such proportion as may be determined by the authorities" shall be given to charities. It is a fact that at the present moment, outside the London area, these 96 or 97 authorities only ask for a nominal contribution, and in many cases do not ask for anything at all, and I believe that it has been stated publicly that they do not propose to ask for anything except a nominal sum under this Bill. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will not be mislead by the suggestion of a distribution of profits from these entertainments to charities.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), in a speech to which we listened with great interest, speaking of the desire to improve the films, suggested that this Measure might be used as an opportunity to create a fund in order that films might be raised to a higher level of efficiency, beauty and moral tone. I cannot help thinking that this is not the place—in any case if it is the place that is not the method—for doing so. I wish finally to make this appeal to the House. If this Measure goes through, it is not going to settle the question. It is only going to sow seeds of discord and create new controversy. It is not a compromise that has been agreed, as far as I can ascertain. The theatres have never been consulted. I, in common with other hon. Members, received a memorandum only this morning stating that, so far from having been consulted in answer to their request, which seems to me to have been reasonable, to see the Home Secretary, a request made on the 12th May, they have had no answer except a bare acknowledgment; and when they saw that this Bill was coming before the House and communicated with the right hon. Gentleman by telegram, they were informed, two days ago, that he had not the time to consider their case until after the Second Reading of the Bill.
I do not think that that is the proper way for the Minister to treat an industry which is likely to be harshly hit by this Measure, and I hope the House will express most strongly its desire that fair play shall be given to a British industry. I propose to support the Measure on this occasion, because I do not think we can put the clock back. You have allowed the cinema to grow, you have allowed it to become a part certainly of the people's entertainment in London—
The hon. Member is right, but at all events the Law Officers of the Crown allowed it. Cinemas have been allowed to break the law persistently for the last 16 years, and the Home Secretary now has not the courage to face up to the facts. He either ought to introduce legislation allowing fair play to all forms of entertainment which are analogous to the cinema, or he ought to insist upon the law being obeyed by the law breakers. This Measure will create a vested interest in the people who have been deliberately breaking the law for the last 15 years. I find that the Attorney-General, who is opposed to Sunday entertainments very strongly, has put his name on the back of this Bill. Why? The answer is obvious. It is because he knows very well that while you cannot close those places that are now opened, this will, at all events, for all practical purposes, prevent any new places being added, and we shall have the same situation with regard to these cinemas as we have with the public houses. You will have tied cinemas, you will have people paying a premium, and you will have them advertising a cinema for sale, with Sunday opening rights.
I agree that the situation has to be dealt with, but I would ask the Home Secretary now, even at the last moment, to reconsider the whole question, and to give the local authorities the right to grant permission, not only for cinemas, but for theatres as well, to be opened if they so desire. There is no doubt that the whole of the trade unions concerned can protect the hours of labour of their members, but it is intolerable that the Home Secretary should come to this House and ask us to pass a Measure to subsidise cinemas that have been breaking the law for the last 15 years, at the expense of the British theatre and of those employed in it, who are likely to be handicapped sorely by this further bonus to the foreigner. I hope, therefore, that the House will reject this Measure, unless the Home Secretary gives us some assurance—
Yes, but if the hon. Member would allow me to finish my sentence, I was going to say that I hope the House will reject this Measure when we come to the Third Heading—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am quite consistent. If the Clauses with regard to the people who are at present excluded are amended so as to give them the same right, I shall certainly support the Bill. I propose to support the Bill to-day, so that it may have a Second Reading, but I hope that in Committee the theatres will be given fair play. Otherwise, on the Third Reading of the Bill, I propose to oppose it, and I hope the House will do so as well.
As this is my first effort in the Mother of Parliaments, I trust that I may ask, with a certain amount of confidence, for the indulgence of this House. I rise to support this Bill, not because I am in the habit of going to the pictures on Sundays, for I have never been to one in my life, nor have I the slightest intention of doing so. I am only concerned with one aspect of this question, and that is the liberty of the people to demand the right to choose for themselves whether they shall go to the pictures or stay away. I have very religiously gone through this Bill, and it falls very far short of what I would like to see. I would like to see a more broad-minded and wider effort emanating from the Home Secretary. I would like to see something of a national character, something calculated to add to the honour of this country and of this Government, and not delegating this authority to local councils. In the first place with regard to the question of profits, the Bill says:
The whole, or such proportion as may be determined by the authority,
shall be given to charity. I understand that this is a compromising Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If it is a compromising Bill, where does the compromise come in, if these profits are to be determined by the local authorities? If I am drawing £1,000 a year and the Income Tax people tell me that I am drawing £2,000, and they assess me accordingly, that is not just, and it appears to me that in this Bill a local authority can determine how these profits shall be computed in the manner that it thinks fit. That is not compromise. Then I see that we are going to modify the Sunday Observance Acts, 1625 to 1780. Why cannot we re-codify the lot; why
cannot we wash these obsolete Acts completely out of existence, and why cannot we devise something that will fit in with the 20th century demand of the people of this country?
I hope that when the Bill goes into Committee it will be so altered that it will be really a sensible Measure when it comes through. I see that the Bill is not to extend to Scotland or to Northern Ireland, and I wonder what we mean by the term "National Government." Why should poor Scotland be left out? I have been told by people who oppose this Bill that in Glasgow there are nearly a million people who are not able to enjoy their Sundays properly, many of whom would like to go to the pictures. I have heard in this House of the dreadful slum conditions in the High Street of Edinburgh, and I am wondering why Scotland, and also Wales, should be left out of this Bill and why it should only apply to England. That is why I ask what we mean by the term "National Government"? Then I am told in the Bill that
A public meeting of such electors as aforesaid shall be held in accordance with the notice, and in relation to the meeting and to any poll and other proceedings subsequent thereto.
Let me take that delightful City in the Midlands called Birmingham. It has 1,000,000 people, and I wonder what kind of architect we are to have to build a hall to hold the people of Birmingham when they come to discuss this question, and whether if there is a meeting you are not going to pack it with all the Chadbands and Grundys you can rake up from everywhere, and whether, if the Home Secretary sends his representative, he will come back to this House and tell us that because these little Chadbands and Grundys have kicked up a row in Birmingham, it is a sign of public opinion, and, as a consequence, Birmingham will not be permitted to have a licence to open its picture palaces. Then I read that a person is to be appointed by the Home Secretary. Who is this wonderful psycho-analyst who is to be appointed? Who is this gentleman who is going to ascertain public opinion? I am only a simple, unassuming fellow, merely one of the men-in-the-street, but I represent a constituency in the North part of London where people do go to the pictures, and where they want to go, and where I am determined, so far as my
power is concerned, that they shall go if they want to go.
Has it ever been any hon. Member's experience to be stranded in Birmingham on a Sunday? I have had that most unfortunate experience. A few weeks ago, to my horror and consternation, I was left entirely alone and unattended in the great city of Birmingham. I looked at that city, and it struck me as a city of the dead. Hardly a light was burning. I went to the hotel porter and said, "Where can I go to kill the time because if I cannot kill the time, the time will surely kill me?" He said, "I am very sorry, sir. There is only one thing you can do, and that is to jump on a tramcar and go to West Bromwich." In a spirit of recklessness and devilry, I invested 3d. and went to West Bromwich. To my profound surprise, I saw a town full of glittering lights, and happy and merry looking people walking along the streets. I was like little Alice in Wonderland, for the picture houses were open and the girls and boys were going in to see the shows. The funny part about it is that the majority of them were the unfortunate people of Birmingham, who had gone the same excursion as myself. The proprietor of the picture house told me that he had an entirely different audience on the Sunday, and that they were mainly people who came from Birmingham, in order that they might enjoy a little part of the Sunday.
In this Mother of Parliaments we have always been the champion of minorities. We have always, or at least for the last 200 years, befriended every form of religion. There is no country in the world to-day that has a more broadminded and tolerant outlook on the religions of the world than Great Britain. She is paramount among the nations of the world. She is the one shining example in the world. Yet all this talk is being made about the Christian Sunday, the Sunday which, after all, is not Sunday at all, as the Sabbath is not the seventh but really the first day of the week. So that our friends who are defending the Sabbath are really defending the wrong day. But I have a great regard for every form of religion. As long as the religion is sincere and the people in it are sincere, I have the most profound regard and respect for those people, no matter what they may represent. Why should not we as a House of Commons close on Saturday every picture palace owned by a Jew to enable the Jew to go to his Synagogue on his Sabbath? If you do it in one case, why not in the other, and show how impartial you are? I am as God-fearing and as ardent in support of my faith as any man in this House, but I do not think I am a terrible person if I go to a theatre or picture house on Sunday, or even play a game of football. If I listen in to the wireless at home, I do not think that I am going to eternal damnation because of it. I feel, like many do, that after paying my just tribute to my Creator on Sunday, I can give full vent to all my healthy instincts in order to make me worthy of the task which enables me to do duty to my Creator and my fellow-neighbour in the following six days of the week.
Last Sunday but one I happened to walk across to Westminster Cathedral and saw the boys playing in the football field. They had been to their service just as sincerely and were just as good and nice as everybody else, but when it was all over the free atmosphere of Heaven was inhaled in their lungs. They gave full exercise to their mental and physical abilities on the football ground, and I could not see where the evil came in. For the life of me I could not see where these people were committing a crime in the eyes of God. All my thought was that it was the making of a vigorous and virile race, and demonstrating that the Briton, after all, was not the little, narrow-minded, shrunken piece of human parchment which some people are trying to make him into to-day. I say, without hesitation, that if this country is going to indulge in legislation of this kind, God help the future of the British race! If you are going to have all the little Chad-bands, the little Grundys, the kill-joys, the Mr. Stigginses and the rest of them shrieking around the parish pump, telling you and me how to live, then say goodbye to your British Empire, because your people will develop more wishbone than backbone. It is backbone I wish to see. I am concerned about the liberty of the people of this country.
We are too much tied down to-day by silly restrictions and legislation. When I stood before the people in my Division, I told them what a wonderful people they were. I said, "Trust the people." Why not still trust the people? I do not believe that it is necessary for us to pass every little kind of restriction to limit the liberties of the people. If we say that we are going to trust the people, why cannot we trust them to use their own discretion whether they consider it evil or otherwise to go to the pictures on Sundays? I have every respect for the Church, and no one is more reverent in regard to it than I am, and I hold no brief for some of the pictures which are shown in picture houses; but I say honestly and candidly that I have seen some delightful productions in picture houses which have taught me far greater lessons in honesty, humanity and Christian feeling than some of the sermons I have listened to from the pulpit. The other week I saw a picture called "Champ" and people came out after the show with tears in their eyes. They had enjoyed it because, it seemed to me, it gave them some little idea of human sympathy.
If we say that these pictures are terrible and bad, here is an opportunity of improving them. Give the Board of Film Censors greater power, and stipulate that pictures shown on Sunday are made by British artists and British producers. Stop the films from Hollywood coming in. We are not paragons of excellence, but we can control our own productions if we cannot control the foreign. Here is a chance for the Government to do this, and if we insist that pictures are British made by British artists in British studios, it will enable this country to enlarge its film quota and to put our people back into work. I am voting for this Measure, and when it goes into Committee I hope that many of the anomalies will be removed. I hope that it will be made broader in its scope and that it will give confidence to the people of this country and demonstrate to the world that we are national and not parochial in our legislation.
It is not my intention to deal with the general aspect of this Bill. We have heard from hon. Members interesting speeches on both sides of the question, and I should like to refer particularly to the very interesting maiden speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Doran). I am certain that the House will look forward to more speeches from him of the very powerful and aggressive character of that to which we have listened to-day. My object in intervening is merely to refer to the position of Wales. My hon. Friend who has just sat down suggested that Wales has been excluded from the operation of the Bill. So far, unfortunately, Wales in included, but Northern Ireland and Scotland are excluded. I trust that the Bill will be rejected, or, if the House thinks that there is good reason why it should be given a Second Beading, I trust that in Committee Wales will be excluded. Hon. Members will notice that I have on the Order Paper a Motion in this connection. I endeavoured to get it in a stronger form as a mandatory direction to the Committee to exclude Wales from the Bill, but I was rightly told by the Clerk at the table that such a Motion was not in Order. The Motion on the Paper is very much weaker, but at the same time it expresses what I am seeking.
A great point which has been made in support of the Bill is that cinemas are not to be open unless there is a substantial demand on the part of the residents in the particular localities. We already have overwhelming evidence that the people of Wales are opposed to anything which would legalise the opening of cinemas on Sunday. One way in which we can arrive at the opinion of the nation is to find out what the representatives of that nation do in the national legislature. There have been two occasions already where this question has been decided in the House to a certain extent. In April of last year a Bill was introduced by the late Home Secretary, and the arguments that were adduced from both sides were very similar to those that have been adduced to-day. Out of 36 Welsh Members who were then in the House, four voted for the Bill and 25 against. Seven were absent or did not go into the Division Lobby. There was, therefore, an expression of opinion from those who voted of six to one against the Bill. In April this year, when the state of the House so far as Welsh representation was concerned was changed in a large number of constituencies, six voted for the Bill and 24 against. Six were absent. Thus, although there was an appeal that the Bill should be given a Second Reading and amended in Committee, there was still a vote of four to one by Welsh Members against it.
Where you have such an overwhelming majority of the representatives from any part of the country, that is an indication of the sentiment of the electorate whom they represent. I am justified in saying that local sentiment in Wales is surprisingly opposed to the Bill. I had resolutions from religious bodies in my constituency and from other parts of Wales in the first instance strongly opposing the Bill as it stands, and afterwards appealing to me, as to all the other Welsh Members, to support the exclusion of Wales from the operation of the Bill even if conditions justify its application to England. I have had a large number of letters and post-cards from individual constituents in the same sense, and it is remarkable that I have not received a single post-card, letter or resolution from my own constituency or anywhere else in Wales urging me to support the Bill.
A few weeks ago two representatives of cinemas in my own county called to see me as a deputation with regard to the entertainment tax, and appealed to me to do what I could to secure its reduction. I pointed out quite frankly to the deputation that, the national situation being what it is, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer insisted that the entertainment tax must remain as it is I should not be prepared to vote against it. Having said that I turned to the two representatives—one from one. end of the county and the other from the other—and said "In a few weeks we shall be dealing with Sunday cinemas, and I would like to have your frank opinion on that matter." Both of them told me that personally they were opposed to the Sunday opening of cinemas in the towns from which they came, and implored me to vote against the Bill so as to render it impossible for their competitors to secure Sunday opening and compel them to have to follow suit in their own interests.
For a large number of years the House of Commons has recognised that Wales is entitled to legislation peculiar to Wales. We have our own education department, and matters of health have very largely been delegated to the Welsh Board of Health; and 52 years ago the House passed a Sunday Closing Bill for Wales, and although from time to time attempts have been made to secure its repeal, public opinion in Wales is to-day stronger than ever in favour of the continuance of Sunday closing. One of the great arguments, and I admit that it is a strong argument, for allowing cinemas to be open on Sundays is found in the question "What are the young people in London and other large towns to do on Sundays? We cannot dragoon them into the churches, and if we close the cinemas, which have been open for 15 or 20 years, shall we not drive them to the only place which will be open to them—the public house?" Fortunately, however, that argument cannot apply in Wales, where licensed houses are closed on Sundays, and I think that it is an unanswerable reason for excluding Wales from the operation of this Bill.
I appeal to the Home Secretary, before a Second Reading is given to the Bill, to give an undertaking, on behalf of the Government, that whatever the fate of the Bill may be in other respects he will consent to an Amendment which will exclude Wales, if not from the operation of the entire Bill at any rate from the operation of Clause 1. In doing so he will be responding to what is, I am convinced, the national sentiment of the people of Wales. If, on the other hand, the Government decline to make this concession to the people of Wales I am certain that there will be a great feeling of annoyance that the Government have not met in this respect, as they have in other respects, the national sentiments of the different peoples who constitute this great commonwealth of nations.
I wish to support this Bill, in spite of the many objections which I could advance to it in its present form. I hope it may be amended in Committee, though from a different standpoint to that represented by the Amendment which has been referred to by previous speakers. I want it amended so that it may be widened, that its operation shall be general, and that districts which do not now have the privilege of cinemas on Sundays shall not be compelled to resort to the cumbersome and expensive methods embodied in this Bill in order to secure that privilege. I think the method in the old Bill is infinitely preferable to that of the present Bill, and I cannot help feeling that the method in the new Bill is rather meant to make the Bill more difficult to get through. The argument against the Bill which was before us a few weeks ago was that it would import animosity and bad feeling into local elections, and turn what ought to be an election of representatives to serve the best interests of a district into a mere dogfight over whether cinemas should or should not be open on Sundays. I suggest to the Home Secretary that the new method is not an improvement in that respect. The local council are to determine whether there is any demand for Sunday opening. They are to call a town's meeting, and if there is any difference of opinion, as there certainly will be in every district, because the opposition to Sunday opening will certainly be organised, then a poll is to be taken. Is it not apparent that if a poll is taken every member of the council will be asked to declare his opinion? No doubt the candidate will be told, when the next election comes, that support or opposition to him will be determined by the position which he has taken up in regard to the opening of cinemas.
I think the method adopted in this Bill to determine whether Sunday cinemas should be open or not is rather an improvement on the last Bill, and that when this Bill goes to Committee it will be found much less cumbersome and will cause less feeling than the previous Measure. The main argument of the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) who moved the rejection of the Bill was that this Measure, in essence, was no different from the last Bill; in fact, he said that its purpose was exactly the same. Of course, its purpose is the same. I do not know that there could be any other purpose except that of giving permission to open cinemas and other entertainments on Sunday. That was the purpose of the last Bill, and that is the purpose which has rendered this Bill necessary. If the objection raised is to the purpose of this Measure it means that hon. Members do not wish anything at all to be done in regard to this question.
The hon. Member for Barnstaple quoted a letter from the Leeds Free Church Council, and I was very much struck with one of the resolutions passed by that Council, which seemed to indicate that they were not opposed in principle to Sunday opening. The manifesto issued by the Leeds Free Church Council admits the principle and gives reasons why cinemas should be regulated. The hon. Member for Barnstaple said that an advantage would be given to those who had previously broken the law. The obvious logic of that argument is that we should give that privilege to those who have not broken the law. I think we should give that privilege to all of them and place them all upon the same footing. The hon. Member for Barn-staple seemed to read into the manifesto of the Leeds Free Church Council that it was their intention to take away the privilege now possessed by certain cinemas, and not to give that privilege to any other cinemas.
The hon. Baronet referred to the statement in the Leeds Free Church Council manifesto that, after deduction of legitimate expenses, the balance of the takings should go to approved charities. There may be some substance in that argument, but surely it indicates that the Free Church Council are in favour of the principles behind the Bill. When the Committee upstairs was considering the last Bill, which was defeated in Committee, we were told by more than one speaker that no cinemas were opened in Wales on Sundays. I challenged that statement, but I was told that it was perfectly true. We have heard to-day that there are cinemas open in Wales on Sundays. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones) referred to Wales in his speech and he said he hoped that, in regard to the Sunday opening of cinemas, Wales would be taken out of the Bill altogether. My view is that if Wales had been left out of the Bill the whole of the Welsh members would have been on their feet pointing out that England was getting certain privileges which were being denied to Wales.
The hon. Member for Barnstaple has described the charity Clause in this Bill as the most unutterable humbug, but that does not apply to those who are supporting this Measure. The main opposition to the Bill has been mostly a post-card campaign. Some of us know a good deal about the way these post-card campaigns are organized. I know from a long experience how those campaigns spring up. Somebody wants a job and he gets it by becoming the secretary of some movement that is popular, and, if there is some money behind it, the organizer is able to get a job for himself and to perform a useful service to society at the same time. In this case there is a definite organization—the Lord's Day Observance Society—which is carrying on the opposition to this Bill, and I should not like to say that they are not perfectly sincere people trying to secure the observance of Sunday. I remember seeing the play called "Bunty pulls the strings," in which those strict, old-fashioned Scottish people were very much shocked at seeing that someone was going to pull up the blind on a Sunday, saying, "Do not pull up the blind, it is the Sabbath day."
In regard to what has been called unutterable humbug, some of my hon. Friends, when this Bill was going through the House during an all-night sitting, were proposing to introduce a Clause that would prohibit young persons under 14 years of age from working on a Sunday. I believed in the sincerity of most Members of the House, at any rate in regard to their opposition to the last Bill, because the suggestion was that under that Bill the Sabbath would be in some way broken by Sunday labour; and I thought that those of us who supported that Amendment had a right to expect that those who talked so much in this House about the terrible consequences of Sunday labour in the cinema industry would support a proposal to prohibit the employment of children under 14 years of age on a Sunday. I was even hoping—not very strongly, I admit—that the Lord's Day Observance Society might be induced to carry on another postcard campaign in favour of that Amendment of ours, because one would imagine, if there were any real sincerity behind this movement for the observance of the Sabbath, that, when it was a question as between children and adults, the whole force of the power behind them would be in favour of the children.
Was it? Where was the hon. Baronet the Member for Barn staple at that time, or the hon. Member for Flintshire? Where were all those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who were so concerned about the observance of the Sabbath, and so determined that they would do everything in their power to preserve as sacred the Sabbath Day and see that no labour is done on that day? Not a solitary one of them came into the Division Lobby with us, and not one of them uttered a word of protest against the employment of children under 14 years of age continuously on a Sunday. I wonder how many of them, if one could see the whole picture of their life, are drawing dividends from Sunday work—from those various industrial concerns, such as railways and so on, where Sunday labour is employed, where they know it to be employed, and whence, of course, they get a considerable portion of their income. If I had the audacity to speak as strongly as some hon. Members speak against any form of Sunday labour when we are discussing a Measure of this kind, I should at least modify my language if I knew, as many of them must know, that they are drawing income from Sunday labour at the present time, while they gave no support to an Amendment such as that to which I have just referred in regard to Sunday labour by children under 14.
Again, it is well known that many Members of the House themselves play tennis, golf and other games on Sundays. I am not saying that they should not. I do not play those games myself; I do not get the opportunity; but I certainly have no objection to the playing of them. On the contrary, I think it is a good thing and ought to be encouraged. But I do think that people who live in glass houses in that respect ought not to be so anxious to throw stones at other people who are just as good as themselves. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple said that there would be no factious opposition to the Bill in Committee. I might say that, so far as we who support the Bill are concerned, although we desire to see it amended, we shall offer no factious opposition either; but I hope that the promise made by the hon. Baronet will be observed a little better than was the case when the other Bill was being considered. If that be not so, I am afraid that the opposition will not only be factious, but, in my view at any rate, very unfair.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) suggested that five per cent. of the takings might be set aside for the purpose of improving the films. I think everyone will agree that there is need for improvement in the films generally, and that some effort ought to be made to improve them, but whether the method suggested by the hon. Member is the best or not I do not know. While he was speaking, however, I was thinking of a fund of which many hon. Members on this side of the House know a great deal, namely, the Miners' Welfare Fund. I understand that the very small contributions that are made to that Fund have enabled very great improvements to be made in the mining districts. I have been in those districts, and have had experience—for quite a short time, it is true—of many of the improvements that have been made there as a consequence of these comparatively small contributions, and I think that the principle behind the maintenance of that Fund might be introduced in some way into the film industry. Employed as suggested by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities, it would be very useful, and might enable great improvements to be made in the industry itself.
If I may, in conclusion, mention the area in which, of course, I am most interested, namely, my own area, I think that the experience there will be the experience of scores of other areas. We live on the border of an area in which cinemas are open on Sundays. I do not know why people in my area, which is as populous as the others to which I have referred, should be prevented from going to a cinema on Sunday, whereas, if they cross the road into the other area, they will find any number of cinemas open, but it is the fact that people are compelled to go out of their own area into other areas for this purpose. The Undersecretary will probably reply that opportunity will be given under the Bill to make the alteration, but I am not quite sure that it will. If there were no organisation, it would, but I am trying to picture what will happen if the Bill passes in its present form.
We shall have our town's meeting, which, on this matter, will be a sort of bear-garden. Afterwards there will be a poll, and then the organisation will commence. The Churches are all well organised, and most of them appear to be opposed to the Bill, and they will have behind them the organisation of the Lord's Day Observance Society. They will come into the district, and, of course, every kind of organised effort will be made against the Bill. That, I think, will compel those of us who believe in Sunday opening to organise, but we are not organised yet. There is no organisation by which opinion can be expressed in favour of Sunday opening. We shall be compelled to get that organisation, and, if we do, and two strong organisations are opposed to one another, I shudder to think what will happen. I am afraid that there will be, in effect, a real dog-fight, and that not only the elections, but everything else—
I said at the very beginning that I was in favour of the Bill and am supporting it. But, while I support it even in its present form, I would like to see it amended. It is because I see a need for improvement in this particular respect that I am making reference to it, and I hope that the Clause will be so amended as to do away with the probability of the dog-fight experience that we may get as a consequence of the method by which the question of Sunday opening will have to be determined. Personally, I shall support the Bill in any case, and shall seek to get it widened in Committee.
I am sorry that I must commence by drawing attention to the very objectionable way in which the Government have put on the Whips for this Debate. It is right that the Government should use every possible endeavour to obtain a strong muster of its party when a party question is forward, but this is a question not of party but of conscience. Of all the questions that I have known before the House lately, this is a question of every man's Christian conscience, and to put on the Whips on a point like this seems to me to be absolutely criminal. If the Government is so sure of the righteousness of its views, it need not put on the Whips. The Tory party, with its usual loyalty, will follow it. If the Government is not aware that the whole of the party is convinced of the righteousness of the measures that it is bringing forward, I call it absolutely criminal to endeavour to put official pressure to make a man vote against his conscience. I have never in the 13 years I have been in the House heard anything which I should censure so much as the action of the Government on the great question of Sabbath observation, a question on which it is perfectly well aware that the Conservative party is entirely divided, and its use of pressure by means of the Whips. It is humorous to see that the Government is not very anxious that these docile myrmidons should hear the Debate. Oh, no. The notice that we received this morning suggested that Members should turn up at 3 o'clock. There is not the least intention that they should hear the Debate, except possibly a summary by one of our great deserters who have left the Opposition and joined the Government, I suppose on the delightful principle that Lord Melbourne once brought forward, that "it does not matter what we say but we had better all say the same thing." It is curious that, on a matter of conscience like this, this question of Cabinet unanimity should he brought in, but in other respects, as the most eloquent person who sits on the front bench below me pointed out last week, it is not altogether to be noticed that the Government speaks with one voice on subjects of very high importance in which the moral element is not so prominent as the financial.
I do not understand the hon. Member. That may be intended to be funny. Was it intended to be funny? I will proceed to more serious business. Having made my short protest against the conduct of the Government, may I point out why I am going to vote against the Bill? It is a very simple thesis and it will not take long to develop. I am not going to oppose the Bill from the point of view of rabid Sabbatarianism. I can understand that there might be no very great harm in the Sunday evenings of children being spent in seeing films of picturesque Palestine, or the growth of the cotton plant, or Yak travel in Thibet, or Antarctic exploration, penguins and all. What I protest against is that under the present arrangements the whole film industry, wherever a house is open, will for a certain percentage of its exhibits be flooded with stuff most deleterious, most harmful and most demoralising to children. There is no dispute that children are the greatest patrons of the picture palaces and there is no doubt that the picture palace industry at present is extremely wickedly conducted.
It is perhaps not altogether unnatural that that should be the case. Who are the British film censors? They are a body appointed by the film industry. They are the servants of the film industry. They may, no doubt, reject a certain number of films, but they have to keep in with their paymasters. Is it to be supposed that, if the film censors rejected every film brought forward, they would long retain their positions and their pay? These people are dependent for their bread and butter on the film producers. You cannot serve God and Mammon. The moral instruction of the youth of England should not be in the hands of a body of people appointed and dismissable by the producers themselves. What must the stuff which these censors rule out—they do dismiss a certain amount—be like? Much of the stuff that they do pass is so empty, so rotten and so deleterious that I can only suppose that what they do not pass is absolute garbage.
My hon. Friend must know that the only people in this country who have any legal power of censorship are the licensing authorities, and it is open to any licensing authority to forbid the exhibition of a film even if it has been passed by the Board of Film Censors.
It is so likely, is it not, that the Little Pedlington licensing authority will discover in time that "Too hot for Paris" is deleterious? The film censors in London are passing very bad things wholesale. Is it likely, if little authorities all over the country appoint committees, that a committee in some small rural district will be able to spend its whole time in seeing whether films proposed to be produced locally are really moral and excellent and suitable for children? Of course, it is not. The whole thing is eyewash. Still more eyewash is a thing lately introduced by the Home Secretary. I questioned him last week as to what is the use of his Advisory Committee that is appointed to look after the film censors. I put to him some very simple questions. What would happen supposing the Advisory Committee clashed with the opinion of the film censors? The Home Secretary said I took rather a black view of things. He said that, if they did clash, the committee might appeal to him. Knowing the views of the Home Secretary on the whole subject, that is worth noting.
The second question I asked him is: Has this Advisory Committee any power whatever against the censors, when they clash? And he answered that they had no statutory powers. What is the use of a committee, appointed with so much show and ostentation, with absolutely no powers whatever, and whose sole privilege would be, in the case of a clash on some moral point with the film censors, to make an appeal to the Home Secretary. The views of the Home Secretary on the subject we know very well. To those who appealed to him last week, he said: "No, he did not think that there need be some creation of a commission to revise the sort of stuff at present being passed". I received this information from a Member of the committee who visited the right hon. Gentleman, who did not think there was anything much in the request. An appeal therefore to the Home Secretary will not be of very much use. The cen- sorship of films in England ought to be done by an official body, not paid by the film producers. The fact that film producers nominate and pay the present body vitiates the whole business. Suppose that there was a parallel case of overloading ships and the seaworthiness of ships being placed under the supervision of a committee appointed by small shipowners—that would be an exactly parallel case—would anyone tolerate such an arrangement?
The main point I wish to adduce as my reason for voting against the Bill is as follows. The film industry as at present conducted is a deleterious agency corrupting the children of England. I am not saying this from vague newspaper knowledge, but after very grave consultation with Sir Charles Grant Robertson and the Birmingham Committee, who have gone into the cases of hundreds of thousands of children. They have sent me their admirable report, of which I think I may make some use. Some 285 films were shown in Birmingham last year. They were investigated by Sir Charles Grant Robertson's committee, which is not composed of fanatical ministers. It is composed of professors, doctors, schoolmasters, business men, men of leisure, all chosen for their intellectual powers and common sense, and all more or less men of the world. It is not the product of the views of a body of fanatical clergy. Of the 285 films shown, the committee has held that 79 were in every respect objectionable, and of those 79 more than half were films licensed for children as well as for adults. You may guess what the films licensed for children were like from a few of their titles: "The Compulsory Husband", "One Mad Kiss", "His Other Wife" and "Too Hot for Paris". That is the sort of stuff which, under this Bill, can be shown to children in Birmingham on Sunday evenings. The second group of films, 81 in number, of the total of 285, dealt not with exactly the same subjects as the first group but were films which the committee resolved might not be too deleterious possibly for adults, but which were absolutely unsuitable for children for various reasons. For instance, firstly emphasis laid on drunkenness or sexuality; secondly, horrors and murder and unhealthy ex- citement; and thirdly, details of gambling, burglary and cardsharping. You may guess the sort of films they were from their titles: "The House of Horror", "The Godless Girl", "The Man who was Girl-Crazy" and "The Unkissed Man". It is clear that all these subjects are absolutely things which are wicked to lay before children.
I will add another sort of thing—cruelty—from my own experience. I once saw, on a film where I least expected it, a sight which has left a tinge of horror on my mind until this day. It was an enlarged film showing how the spider deals with flies. It was a web, with the spider enlarged many sizes, and the wretched fly was made to fly into it. The spider seized it, strangled it, tore up parts of it and hung it up as a sort of little mummy or corpse in the corner of the web. Is that the sort of thing to put before children? I saw it put before children. It was horrible to me as an exhibition of spider-life, and I imagine that to children it must have been still more horrible. All this sort of thing is going on at the present time, and will go on.
Unfortunately, the films are at present educating far more than the schools. They are the greatest educative force in England. Statistics show that children visit them in percentages that would be surprising if you did not know them. Of those Birmingham children, 80,000 of them, concerning whom statistical tables were made, a good half went regularly once a week, probably on a Saturday, but a quarter or a fifth more went twice a week. It is absolutely certain that of the films those children went to see a great many must have been absolutely deleterious. In fact, we know that they were deleterious because we have the answers of the children to the Birmingham committee's very interesting set of inquiries as to what was their main impression after seeing so many films. The comments by the Birmingham children may be interesting to the House. "What have you learned?" was a question. One answer was "Discontent", a second was "I have learned how the idle rich live", a third was "I think that the men who put those rude posters on the screen ought to go to gaol", and a fourth, which is rather amusing, was "They put nasty large coloured papers on the wall to catch people to come in. Posters of that kind are like magnets to people with nasty minds."
Another observation in reply to the question, "What do you learn?" made by one of those Birmingham children was, "How to murder people". That is really interesting. Another was, "how to kiss". A further comment perhaps is still more worth preserving, "When you have a woman without clothes it is called a love story". [An HON. MEMBER: "Did you see this one?"] Good heavens, no. These are the Birmingham children's observations. I am trying to make out what is the effect upon young children in seeing those Birmingham productions. Another answer to the question "What have you learned?" was, "Oh I have learned a lot about American gangsters who throw knives at people and kill them". There is a similar answer, probably of a child who had seen a similar film, "I think that the best way of shooting people is to shoot out of your pocket before they notice." Again, "I have learned how to choke wild animals." Those are the sort of films those children must have been seeing, films where you have "ladies without clothes, which is called a love story," or where you learn that "the best way to shoot is through your pocket."
I think there is something rotten in the film production of England when these things go to Birmingham. What is the use of the film censors when films are allowed with these objectionable names and features. So long as film production in England is under the present arrangement it is my opinion that to make it possible for children to see them on seven nights instead of six nights, is absolutely wrong. I am leaving out the point that appeals to me very strongly that the seventh night is a night which some of us still hold with very great reverence. What I am insisting upon is that the stuff that is being shown on the six nights, that is to be shown on the seventh night, is often awful and abominabel. If I have seemed not to be sufficiently serious in quoting the stories and names of these wretched films shown in Birmingham, I am going to be very serious now. We are dealing with films that are going to be shown to the children of England, very young children in many cases. I know that there are splendid films, to
which I have taken children and grandchildren, films which are in every way uplifting and good, but there is an abominable amount of wicked stuff shown which no children should see. I would ask hon. Members who vote for the Bill to remember Who it was that used these words
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones…it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
I am pleased that the Bill is a Government Measure. That being so, it will prevent some hon. Members from abstaining from voting for fear of alienating their supporters and from going against their principles by voting against the Bill because of the outside pressure of a vocal and prejudiced minority. I am pleased for another reason that it is a Government Measure. On three occasions the House has been faced with a fierce struggle on this question, and no satisfactory solution has been found. There were two occasions last year and one this spring. Hon. Members can now confidently look forward to a condition of affairs which will bring order out of chaos and take the law out of the disrepute into which it has fallen. The first Clause gives power to those authorities that have the power to grant licences under the Cinematograph Act to extend those licences to Sunday on conditions such as the authority think ought to be imposed. That Clause is necessary because of the existence of certain Acts of Parliament dating from 1625, which were passed in times when the national life of this country was vastly different from what it is now. The highly industrialised towns of to-day were either non-existent or merely agricultural hamlets with small populations when those Acts of Parliament were passed. The people in those days had neither the facilities nor the desire to spend Sunday in any way other than they did.
To say that to-day large aggregations of people who work six days per week in factories and workshops, bearing the heat and burden of the day, should be denied the right of innocent amusement by visiting a cinema on Sunday, savours to me of despotism of the most virulent type. What right have I or any other hon. Member to deny to any person the freedom and liberty to spend his or her Sunday in whatever manner he or she likes, provided they do not interfere with my liberty or outrage my conscience? I would much rather see a man or woman spending an evening in the cinema, enjoying the educational advantage of it, than visiting public houses on Sunday evening. Why all this cant about the ethical aspect of this question? If all the cinemas and places of entertainment were to remain closed on Sunday, not one single extra person would attend Church. If it be an objection to the Bill that the opening of cinemas and other places of entertainment on Sunday is driving people from the churches, surely that is a very sad commentary on the standard of efficiency of the clergy of this country. To those social reformers who object to Sunday labour I would point out that the Bill does not perpetuate the evil that they are opposing. In Clause 1 (1, a) it is definitely laid down that people will not be employed on Sunday who have been employed during the previous six days. Therefore, the only objection that I have to the Bill is provided for.
I am sorry that the Government have thought it necessary to introduce Subsection (4) into Clause 1. I would have preferred that they had gone the whole hog and made uniform the issuing of licences by the local authorities. By what stretch of the imagination can it be maintained that people who have not hitherto enjoyed the benefit of Sunday entertainments are still unfit to enjoy such entertainments? I would call the attention of the Home Secretary to paragraphs (3) and (16) of the Borough Funds Act, 1903. If I read those paragraphs aright it will be possible for 100 people in the area of a local authority to decide for the whole of the borough. On the other hand, what is going to happen in the case of a large borough with a population of 250,000 if sufficient interest is aroused in the borough that 20,000 people will attend a public meeting convened to consider a draft order prepared by the Council? I know that the majority of people who attend such meetings are closely identified with the objects of the Lord's Day Observance Society, people, as a rule, who are anti-this and anti-everything.
I am sorry if the junior Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) thinks that I am including him in that category, and I apologise to him, because I know him to be the most tolerant temperance Member of this House. I hope he will not think it unjust of me, having in mind how he has tutored me in politics, if I apologise most sincerely for having included him in that category. I hope that by consenting to Sunday entertainments all these imaginary evils will disappear just as the objections raised by the opponents to the present Bill.
I am reminded of what happened in my own golf club, a few years ago when the question of Sunday caddies was brought up for discussion. At that meeting the question was lost, and I took the trouble to find out exactly whether those members who objected to the employment of caddies on Sunday employed Sunday labour themselves. I found that in every case every member who objected to the employment of caddies on Sundays read his own newspaper, employed the Post Office or telephone service, used the tramways or the train services, employed his cook and his gardener, employed his chauffeur to take him into the country or to and from church, indeed, with few exceptions they all played golf or tennis on Sunday. What happened to the caddies? I discovered that 12 of them spent the afternoon and evening playing pitch and toss and banker, eight of them employed their time playing football in back streets, two were engaged as extra help in public houses, and the younger element spent their time bird nesting and trespassing. From whatever angle you judge the position of these caddies would they not have been much better in the open air on the golf links augmenting their small weekly pittance.
For people to talk about Sunday labour who are living in comfortable surroundings and conditions is pure cant and humbug. What about the poor man who has to eke out an exigious existence, probably unemployed, or only working a few days a week, with a wife and children or parents dependent upon him? Is it a Christian spirit to deny that man the right to increase his wages and thereby assist in keeping his dependants in better conditions? I shall vote for the Bill for that reason, and that reason only. I am not so blessed with providential guidance as to be able to tell a man whether he shall work or not on Sundays if he wishes to do so. I am pleased to see the name of the Attorney-General on the back of this Bill. I am certain that he has backed the Bill because he Bees the necessity for it, and I would advise hon. Members who followed the Attorney-General into the Lobby on the last occasion to do likewise on this occasion, because the right hon. and learned Member knows perfectly well that there is nothing in this Bill which is inimical to the interests of Christianity or the country as a whole.
I should like to preface the few observations that I propose to make by saying that I come to the consideration of this Bill with a strong feeling of resentment. This House is considering this question of the opening of cinemas on Sundays with its hands tied as a result of the illegal action of the London County Council, which deliberately broke the law. As a result we have now to consider this important question not in a clear light but with all kinds of considerations wrongfully created by the London County Council. Those who are jealous of the dignity and prestige of the House of Commons, as we all ought to be, and as, I think, we all are, will resent having to consider this question in a situation and in a light illegally created by the illegal action of the London County Council. The false position thus created has produced a most unjust and illogical Bill. I would not mind it being illogical if it were just, but it is grossly unjust, indeed, it is so unjust that I am astonished that men so fair minded as the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary should be sponsors for it.
The Bill proposes to give to cinemas, one section of the entertainment industry of this country, the privilege of opening on Sundays with all the opportunities that gives of large income and large returns. It denies to the theatres, which have an equal right with the cinema, the privilege of opening on Sundays. Why am I to be at liberty to go to a cinema and see a gangster film, the Secret Sins of Salt Lake City, and be debarred from going to a theatre and seeing Macbeth, King Lear or The Merchant of Venice? The position has been made ridiculous by the invention of the talkies, where you have an imitation of the drama. I am debarred under this unjust Bill from going to the theatre and listening to the plays I have described, yet I may go to a cinema and see some ridiculous film couched in an American accent, which I can hardly understand, dealing with the underworld life of New York and Chicago.
The theatres say that there is only so much money available for amusement in each week, and one of the things of which they complain is that on the first night of the week the cinemas get the pull and that there is so much less afterwards for the theatres. I am not in favour of opening theatres—I am as much opposed to the opening of theatres as I am to the opening of cinemas—but if you open the cinemas the theatres claim an equal right to open, and they will certainly insist upon their claim. The theatres will be followed by the shops, and we shall have the Continental Sunday—and we all know what that means. The "Times" has expressed what I have to say very much better than I can say it. Let me read a short passage from a leading article a short time ago—
The opening of theatres on that day means a change of habit; it means much more forced employment, and it must involve at once the opening of music-halls and cabarets, with a strong likelihood of yet wider changes to follow. This is assuredly not the time for legislation to encourage the public in spending yet more money on amusement, and still less is it the time for weakening the influence of Sunday on our national life. Indeed the influence of Sunday as a space for religious thought and quiet and home life was never more needed than in our present circumstances.
I stand as the opponent of the opening of cinemas and theatres and shops, and as an opponent of the Continental Sunday. Let me now touch upon the question of money. I quite agree with the strong language that has been used by previous speakers as to the meanness of introducing the financial element into this question. The cinema proprietors have been using the hospitals as catspaws for their purpose. Earlier in the year, when the other Bill was being discussed, there was a meet-
ing of a large number of representatives of charitable institutions. One gentleman, speaking for the Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital in Golden Square, said:
The Cinemas Bill was due for its Second Heading in a few days' time. The Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association were anxious that as much influence as possible should be brought to bear on the Second Reading and in the Committee stages.
Another speaker said:
Three years ago the amount that they received from Sunday performances was about £100,000.
Let me again avail myself of the language of the "Times," which puts things very much better than I can do. The comment of the "Times" on the demand of the hospitals to get funds from the cinemas was:
As for the use of the hospitals and their needs that is being made by advocates of the change, that, to speak frankly, is a quite deplorable appeal to sentimental-ism and loose thinking. To change the character of the English Sunday by opening the theatres is either right or wrong. If it is wrong, it will not become right because some part of the money gained from it will be made over to very deserving institutions.
We were told by one speaker to-day, and he seemed to speak with a good deal of knowledge, that a great deal less money was given by the cinemas to hospitals than people imagined. In some cases the cinemas gave no money at all to the hospitals. Let me call attention to something I have read, and if any representatives of the cinemas are present I wish them to make a special note of it. I read this report two years ago, and I have kept it in my locker ever since in the hope that I might one day read it to the House. We are told that the cinemas are bursting with philanthropy, bursting with a desire to help the local hospitals and charities surrounding them. There are certain institutions in London called Cecil Houses. There a woman may get, for a shilling, a good bed, a hot bath, hot tea and biscuits, and facilities for washing her clothes. Here in a report is a description of a customer of one of the Cecil Houses:
A girl came in, about 18, with very flaxen hair, blue eyes, a pink and white complexion. She was unusually pretty. After speaking to the matron she made for the fire and sat down, and this is what she told me after the matron had broken the ice:
'I work at the cinema selling chocolates. We are given a uniform, but we have to find our silk stockings and our make-up, for we have to U6e rouge and powder and lipstick. We also have to have our hair waved once a week. They only give us £1 a week, so you see it is difficult to keep going. If it were not for this place I do not know what I should do.'
I hope that when hon. Members are told about the large sums of money given by the cinemas they will try to prevent unfortunate girls who are employed by the cinemas having to go to places where they get a bed and tea and biscuits for a shilling a night.
I wish next to touch on the subject of local option. I regard local option as in the highest degree unsatisfactory. In London, Brighton, Southend, Durham, Blackpool, Scarborough and Southport we have cinemas open. We have them closed in Croydon, Bournemouth, Whitby, Preston, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham. We know how badly local option has worked in connection with the sale of drink in Scotland. I should regard it as very unsatisfactory to have dotted about the country areas in which cinemas are allowed to open and other areas where opening is forbidden. I am sure the instinct of England has been right in all ways, until recently, fighting for the preservation of the Sunday. I remember reading some years ago of processions in Italy of working men who were celebrating the recovery of certain rights of leisure on Sundays. What the Italians rejoiced over, the securing of leisure on Sundays, too many people in this country are only too ready to part with. We must preserve Sunday from the mechanical spirit of this age. There is a tendency for small groups of people to seize opportunities of pleasure and enjoyment regardless of the comfort and convenience of other people. I hope I shall not be irrelevant if I read a very short paragraph that I saw in the "Times" yesterday:
The Rev. W. F. B. Ward, Rector of Little Wittenham, Berkshire, where motorcycle trials were held last summer, has appealed on behalf of the village that all who go to Little Wittenham should do their best to preserve the quiet of the place. 'Last year,' he said yesterday, 'the place became more like Piccadilly Circus than an English village.'
That kind of thing is going on all around us. I am sitting upstairs in a Committee which is considering whether
people shall be able to write upon the sky "Buy Barrett's Pills" or "Drink Someone's Beer". All around us, in this mechanical age, we have the enjoyment of people spoiled by the selfishness of those who seize the opportunities of pleasure regardless of the comfort and convenience of large masses of people. I am glad to have this opportunity of saying that I shall take no responsibility for planting this crown of thorns on the people of this country. I wish to oppose in the strongest terms this breach in the tradition of English history, the opening of cinemas on Sundays, with the resulting evils that I am certain will follow.
I should like to say, first, in regard to the speech to which we have just listened that although I differ from the hon. Member for Lich-field (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) in almost everything he has said, yet I think all Members of the House respect those who hold the views which he holds so very strongly. On the other hand, he himself will allow that on nearly every one of the last questions which he raised in his speech, there is room for a great deal of difference of opinion. For instance I have not any objection to sky-signs. I admire the skill of the man in an aeroplane who executes skywriting and if those signs were advertising Socialism I should see no objection whatever—
Well, that perhaps is the right hon. Gentleman's idea, but as I say, I see no objection to the mere fact of skywriting being done. The other point I wish to make is that I do not want to abolish the machine. I only want to control it. I am glad that I have been privileged to live in this age which is, I think, the finest and most marvellous age the world has ever known. I am not going to deal in detail with the question of Sabbath observance, but I believe that the whole of the Sabbatarian argument, involving the imposition of rules and regulations about Sunday, only leads ultimately to a complete revolt against that kind of Sabbath observance.
In my own person I have been a witness to that. I was brought up in the strictest of Sabbatarian homes but two or three things in life altered my attitude. First, I found rich people in their carriages going to church on Sundays, while their coachmen and footmen stood round the corner and never went inside the church at all. I expect they revolted against the idea of sitting and listening to the commandment "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day" while they were being employed in uniform to bring their employers to church. Then I worked in a factory where the employés had to work on Sunday. The proprietors were fine, excellent people. They went to church and were strict Sabbatarians, but they did not object to using the money earned by their workmen on Sundays. Then I went abroad and met people on the Continent—in Scandinavia and elsewhere—and also in Australia and America, and I did not find those people any more immoral or wicked than I was myself. I always attempt to judge people's standards of life very much by my own and I think if we all did so we should be much more tolerant.
I also discovered, in Scandinavia and Bolshevist Russia, that the one thing which I had to do without during my stay was the Monday newspaper. The printers there did not work on Sundays, but had the day's holiday like other people even in atheistic Russia. At the same time all kinds of amusements were going on in those places on Sundays, and, balancing the two things together, it seemed to me that the people there were rather more rational than the Sabbatarians in England who buy their Monday newspaper and never trouble to inquire how or under what conditions it is produced. The proprietors of our newspapers are nearly all Christians. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] Well, I suppose I ought to withdraw that statement. They are, perhaps, rather cosmopolitan but, at any rate, some of them are Christians. When I was editing a newspaper, my hardest day was Sunday. That is the day on which an editor has to look round to see whether he cannot manufacture a murder or something else for Monday's front page because there is such a dearth of news on Sunday.
We ought to be realists about this matter. I have tried to be a realist and if I could see a way of carrying out the old Sabbatarian laws I might give way and say "Let us do it." But you cannot do it. Who is going to say that you can stop railways, and stop golfing, tennis and the rest of it on Sundays? Who is going to say that you must not ride to church or chapel on Sundays, or to the cinemas or anywhere else where there is any amusement? The fact of the matter is that that position cannot be maintained. A statement was made by the Attorney-General in the last Debate on this subject about hundreds of shops being open in Islington. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will find in the East End of London hundreds, and I believe thousands of shops open on Sundays but most of those shops belong to people of the Jewish persuasion and these shops are religiously shut up on Saturdays. Those who use that argument against opening cinemas on Sundays must be very hard put to it for arguments. It must be remembered that this House, only a couple of years ago, passed a Bill which established the very position which is now said to be impossible. The House then enacted that barbers' shops should be closed on Sundays, but it gave the Jews the right to open their shops on the Sunday and to close their shops on their Sabbath day. The truth is that if people want this thing done, it will be done—that is to say, there shall be one clear day's rest in seven for everybody who works. The House laid down that principle in the case of the barbers and it was carried out.
My hon. Friend who spoke against the Bill from this Front Bench earlier in the Debate spoke for himself, as I am speaking for myself. We are in a position, I am happy to say, of greater freedom and less responsibility than if we were on the other side of the House; but I regret very much that the Government of which I was a Member had not the power or the courage, call it what you please, to bring in a Bill to settle this question in the way in which it ought to be settled—by giving absolute freedom. I say so because this compromise Bill is not a Bill that I would choose, but, being a moderate person, I am perfectly willing to accept what we can get in order to bring about at least a temporary settlement of the question. My hon. Friend who spoke from this side feels very keenly about the labour aspect of the question. I can only say, as representing the Labour party in this House, that the only communication which we have received from our friends of the Trades Union Congress has been a representation in regard to some Amendments which tighten up the labour provisions in the Bill.
We have not received a single protest against the Bill or a single request from the Trades Union Congress to vote against it. I do not wonder at that, because the policy of the Labour movement is not to say that this day or that day shall be sacred. That is a matter for individual people. What we have always insisted upon is either a 48 hour or a 40 hour week in order that the total hours of work of a week shall be within six days. That is a perfectly logical position, and I challenge anyone to say here that they are in favour of stopping all work on Sundays. If you are not prepared to pass an Act to stop all work on Sunday for goodness sake do not talk about the sacredness of the business and the religion of the business. I would like to point out further to those who were on the Committee that they gave their whole case away when they said, "We will leave London to stew in its sink of iniquity." When I heard the opponents of the Bill bring forward an Amendment which, to all intents and purposes, said "We will treat London as a kind of Sodom and Gomorrah and put them into this Bill and leave them where they are," where is the intelligence of that sort of proposition? Where is the reality of your view on the matter? If you really believe that this thing is wrong, you ought not to want me and my friends to be subject to this terrible iniquity. Therefore, when you voted for that and killed the previous Bill, you in effect gave your whole religious case away.
Those who oppose this Bill voted against the whole of the other Bill on the Second Reading, and when we had been defeated on Second Reading and were upstairs in Committee, we had to make the best of the situation as it was then and limit the Bill as far as we possibly could; and, according to the wording of the Bill, the greatest and indeed the obvious limitation was to limit it to London.
I knew all that, and I still think that it was thoroughly inconsistent for anyone to take that view who really believes that the opening of cinemas on Sunday is an offence to the Almighty. I cannot understand the logic of the minds that arrived at that conclusion. I hope the Government will heed the proposal of the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). I want better films. I want everything in life done better that we can get done better, and it seems to me that something along the line suggested by the hon. Member is the way in which we ought to move.
I also want to say something with regard to this question of public entertainment, because I am very jealous of the age in which I am living. When I was a boy the things to go to were—I will not use in this House the words by which they ought to be described—sinks of iniquity, in the East End of London, where you could go for 2d. and see and hear the foulest things possible. No cinema comes within a thousand miles of them, and to talk as people talk to-day, as if we were living in an age of downright vice and crime, is an insult to the intelligence of the people. Girls go about now in our streets and in our cars dressed, and decent, and wholesome, and healthy, and whoever thinks, except some lunatic now and them, anything about it but that it is a jolly fine thing to see them carrying themselves in the way they do and going through life in the self-reliant manner they do? I am ashamed of those who think that, because you see young women and young men living the wholesome, decent, happy lives that they do, there is vulgarity. I wonder what peoples' minds are like who think such things.
In this London, when I was a boy, there were Cremorne Gardens, a sink of iniquity, a downright, double-dose sink of iniquity, but that was in the West End. In the East End we had the North Woolwich Gardens, which were a small model of the other. Do not, for goodness' sake, go about denouncing and thinking evil of the times you are living in because they have changed. Some pictures are bad, but my children and grandchildren have gone to the pictures ever since they could go, and there is not one of them who has been badly influenced. They have laughed at the silly things put on. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) read out a lot of silly nonsense. Do you think that affected a healthy child's mind? Of course not. It was fine to hear some of the answers that the children gave. Anyhow, I would appeal to the House to look at this question from the really common-sense point of view, and to understand that true religion is not what you profess, not how many times you go to church, but what you really are.
I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has just said. He has once again proved himself to be the youngest of us all in this House. But I also think that when the whole Government manage to agree about a Bill, and when the Leader of the Opposition agrees too, it is time for somebody to be very careful, particularly when it is a Friday Bill, because Friday Bills have a very bad reputation in this Assembly. We have had a very interesting debate, during which there have been various streams of opposition to this Measure. There has been, of course, the general opposition from the Sabbatarian point of view, and there has been a good deal of opposition which is frankly anti-cinema. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) was not talking about Sundays at all. His speech would have been perfectly apposite in an academic debate as to whether or not cinemas should be shown to children.
There is yet another stream of opposition to this Bill, which I might briefly describe as anti-hypocrisy opposition, from the people who think that it is ridiculous to put into this Bill anything to do with part of the proceeds going in a certain direction, namely, to charity. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) supported that point of view when he said that some proportion should go towards improving British films—again quite irrelevant, if I may say so with respect, because why should only Sunday takings go towards that admirable object? If they went to that object on every week-day, the hon. Member would get six times as much, but while that is a very laudable object, it has really nothing to do with the question at issue.
I voted for the earlier Bill and was in favour of the last Bill. I am not, therefore, opposed to the principle of the opening of cinemas on Sunday, resting great force on the argument which the right hon. Gentleman has just put forward, but, having said that, I intend to oppose this Bill, not on the grounds already indicated—the Sabbatarian, the anti-cinema, and the anti-hypocrisy grounds, though I agree with the last two certainly—but on the still further ground that it is the worst possible Bill which could have been introduced to deal with this subject. I know from my own knowledge that a great number of Members of this House who are supporters of the Government as strongly as I am are going to abstain from voting, if not to vote against this Bill for the sole reason that it is a bad Bill, dealing with a very difficult subject in the most unimaginative possible way.
When the Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, told us that the time had come for Parliament to act, that it was time we reached a conclusion, that this was the last chapter of a tangled history, and so on, they were very brave words, but they were absolute nonsense. He knows perfectly well that this is not the end of the story. He knows perfectly well that if this Bill were passed verbatim as it is now, it would eventually be his duty, in certain circumstances, to lay Orders before the House which would have to receive confirmation by this House; that is to say, in future any new areas which want cinemas will have to go through the procedure outlined in this Bill which will inevitably cause discussion here, and there, again, it only requires extremist Members to object, to raise a debate and force a Division in this House.
Therefore, it is not quite right to say that this is the end of the story. Of course, I admit with him, that this is a different Bill from the last one. The last Bill was called Sunday Performances (Regulation). This is Sunday Entertainments. We do not know by what process he and the Attorney-General could not swallow Sunday Performances (Regulation) but could readily accept Sunday Entertainments. It is true, that in detail there are all sorts of funny little differences. Before, you had to make publication in two newspapers circulating in the area. This time it is enough if you put it in one newspaper two weeks running—a very important difference. Last time my hon. and gallant Friend was like the boy standing on the burning deck, but this time he is supported by the Lord President and, if I may say so, the law and profits. [Interruption.] I am coming to that point. But it has also, apparently, justified the Home Secretary in changing his attitude, and therefore I am arguing that I am entitled to do the same owing to the grave differences in the Bill. The smaller ones I have indicated, but the larger point is this. In the old Bill it was left, as I understood, purely and simply to the areas to decide, and when the council had agreed on all the rest of the action which was required to be taken, the licence should be granted. That was the end of it. That was the general effect in all areas, as I understood the Bill, and, therefore, the principle the House had to decide was the very simple point whether it was desirable in certain circumstances to open cinemas. It has decided it three times already, and, therefore, what we are up against to-day is not that fundamental issue. The last House and this House have settled that once for all in principle, but that is very different from saying that we should swallow this Bill.
This Bill says, as I understand it—I am not a lawyer, and cannot profess to understand necessarily all the technique—but it says that where areas have been opening illegally, they shall in future carry on. There is no provision for taking any poll. They will just carry on only by the indemnity which this Bill affords, and it will be legal instead of technically illegal. We all know about Acts of indemnity. This House had to pass one the other day in defence of the President of the Board of Trade. It is a common thing to pass an Act of Indemnity. That is done for the areas which hitherto have been illegally opening, but when it comes to the rest of the country, instead of leaving it purely to the local authority to decide, after giving certain notice, here you eliminate the local authority, and make provision for a poll to be taken. But, as I understand it, the ratepayers have not got what is called the right of initiative. It is the council which decides that, in the first place, or some member of the council—it is not clear—but it is the council in the first instance. Therefore, all the argument about local elections coming in and making it complicated, so that a councillor might be elected on this issue, as far as I read it that still remains. We have not got away from that at all. Councils have to have the initiative. The ratepayers have not the right; the Councils have. Therefore, you have the perfectly idiotic position about public meetings. I say idiotic because such a thing is going on in the part of the country that is concerned with the Humber Bridge; they have all this sort of thing going on—ratepayers' meetings, and all the rest of it.
When the local area decides by a majority that it wants cinemas, the application goes to the Home Secretary, who is a sort of Post Office. He has to put a draft Order before this House, which has to decide whether the express wish of the majority of the ratepayers in an area is to be conceded or not. If the ratepayers decide on a thing which this House has agreed is a matter for local consideration, it is ridiculous for this House to have final control over that decision, when ipso facto 614 out of the 615 members do not know the local conditions. Only one of them can know them. As far as he is concerned, his own people have said that they want cinemas, yet under this Bill it is open to any Member to object and to divide the House, and for the House to reject the Order in spite of the known fact that the area wants it. Really, that is not the way to legislate. I would put this question to the hon. Gentleman who will wind up for the Government. On what conceivable grounds does he think that the House in these circumstances will be justified in denying the Order when the area has by a large majority asked the House to give it? This House cannot, on any moral grounds, possibly deny an area the opening of cinemas when the opening is asked for by a majority, because the first Clause of this Bill permits the openings on Sundays. There the case is given away, and for the House to legislate on that sort of basis is absolutely preposterous. On those grounds, I shall vote against the Bill.
It all comes back, as I have said so often here and elsewhere, to the fact that this is the wrong way of introducing a controversial Measure of this kind. I am certain that it would be a good thing if the Government of the day would make more use of the old practice of the House of advancing legislation by resolution in the first place. If the question had been fundamentally decided in favour of Sunday cinemas the Committee would have had to accept that situation and try to make the best Bill it could. Here we come back for the second time within two months to decide the fundamental issue which has been argued. That particular issue has been settled, and therefore what we have to do is to make the best of a bad job and pass the best Bill we can. If the fundamental question that there is nothing wrong in opening cinemas on Sunday is decided, as I submit that it has been, the areas most concerned ought to have the final say. I cannot see why the House should not agree to that point.
Everyone of us has made dozens of speeches in which we have said, Look at the greatness of this people. In August, 1914, everybody rallied to the right—except a few insignificant people who have apparently made good since. We saw the same thing in the general strike when everyone rallied round the right cause. Then we had the great crisis in 1931. That particular type of drum has been beaten with effect and a great deal of truth, and yet we are not to give the least say to the people, who three times in my own life have saved the country whether or not it is a good thing for their own areas to have cinemas opened on Sunday. To introduce legislation like this is perfectly preposterous. It is supposed to be a compromise, but nobody has yet pointed out what it is a compromise upon. Is it intended that this Bill should make it easier or more difficult for cinemas which are not open on Sundays at present to be opened in future? I do not know the answer but seeing the Attorney-General in the crew now I have a shrewd suspicion that the whole idea is that there should not be any more opened—that they cannot help it if some cinemas are open now, but that they are going to take extraordinarily good care that it does not happen again. This Bill is nothing but preposterous, pusillanimous patchwork, and for that reason alone I intend to vote against it, and I hope that a great many other hon. Members will make a similar protest in the Lobby.
Although I have sat through the Debate since 11 o'clock I will content myself at this late hour with making only one or two points which I think the House ought to bear in mind, and which I have been asked to express, because of the maiden speech I made on this subject only five short weeks ago. I repeat what I then said, what many of us said, that there is no mandate for this Bill from the country. The people do not expect us to have anything to do with a matter like this. Scarcely five weeks ago the Under-Secretary waxed eloquent about the necessity of concerts and zoos on Sundays, and the cinemas were wrapped up in the parcel, were in the warp and woof of the Bill; but now we have cinemas, naked and unashamed, put first, and the others a long way behind, in Clause 3. There is no demand for such a Bill as this in the north country, and I have heard no member from the North speaking in this Debate. We know what happened in the City of Durham. When a licence for Sunday opening was granted unexpectedly, it was not the people of Durham who went to the cinemas but the people from outside.
Further, I say that operators in cinemas do not want Sunday opening. I have been amazed at the number of letters I have received from all parts of the country—asking me for Heaven's sake not to give their names or addresses away—saying that 90 per cent. of the operators in cinemas would vote against Sunday opening. [Interruption.] They say so, and I believe them, because I know many of the men myself. When I went back to the North after the last Debate I saw the manager of one cinema and expected that I should hear that I had lost the auditing of the accounts of that cinema, which was one of my jobs as an accountant, but to my amazement I was told that the best day's work I ever did was when I voted against that Bill. Men and women operators have written to me to say that no other day will take the place of the Sunday; that men and women, boys and girls meet for communal life on that day and on that day alone, and that no other day can take its place.
If we pass this Bill there is no guarantee that in assessing the profits the costs and expenses would be the normal expenses. Everyone knows that the film directors are behind this Bill, and that is the hidden hand. What is to stop the directors saying that the usual wages paid during weekdays shall be doubled on the Sunday. I have audited many cinema accounts, and I should be bound to pass anything of that kind as a true and proper cost. They could do that quite easily, and the men who do not usually work on Sundays might be employed and paid fancy wages, and consequently the money which should go to charities would be lost to that extent. I think there ought to be a proper board of censors to see that the films are suitable for the Lord's Day. If we pass this Bill, I am sure that we shall be opening a door which no man can shut, and mark my word. When we went to Prayers in this House this morning Eleven o'clock was striking, and I was interested to see which would finish first, the clock, which might be the passing bell, or the Lord's Prayer, and the Lord's prayer lasted the longest. This morning the Free Church Council asked me to present their views to the House, and to ask hon. Members to think once, twice or thrice before giving away this heritage which has come down to us, and which we ought to pass on undiminished to our successors.
A great many of the criticisms which have been directed against this Bill seem to me to be founded, not upon a misconception, but upon a fundamental ignoring of the true position. We have been attacked because of a supposed lack of consistent principle in this Bill. We have been told that we have introduced a Bill which we consider a perfect solution of the problem, but surely every hon. Member knows that the situation is nothing of the kind. We are not dealing with a problem which has just arisen. We are not now, in regard to this matter, on a fresh virgin field, but on a stricken battlefield littered with the débris of Parliamentary warfare. It is idle for hon. Members to criticise the Bill we have introduced in the way that they have done unless they are prepared to suggest that, in the circumstances, it is possible to follow a more logical course.
Hon. Members will agree that this problem first arose, not with this Government, but when the previous Government was in power. I do not criticise the action that that Government took to meet the problem. It may or may not have been the action which we should like to take if the problem to-day confronted us anew; but hon. Members at least, if they are sincere, must recognise that the free vote on, if I may say so, a compromise Bill, which was given in the House of Commons last year, has compromised, and must compromise, the success of the efforts to deal with the problem. Hon. Members may say that the Bill for the Second Reading of which I am now appealing contains illogicalities, and that, of course, is true; but no Bill could be introduced on this subject which would not contain illogicalities, except a Bill either to repeal all the Sunday Observance Acts or to enforce them all—not to enforce just those little bits of the Sunday Observance Acts which some hon. Members would like to see enforced. We have to ask ourselves whether either of these two alternative courses is applicable.
I read the other day a letter, I think in the "Times," from one of our most prominent publicists, a gentleman who in his lighter moments delights us in the columns of "Punch," and in his more serious moments is the self-elected president of a society for the abolition of ministerial grandmothers. Publicists are in a very fortunate position. They can always proceed on two assumptions. The first is that all sensible people agree with the writer, and the second is that the majority of the people of this country are sensible. But we politicians every now and then are forced by disagreeable facts to realise that at least one of those assumptions is not true; and when I am told by this gentleman that only one thing is necessary to make it possible for this House, by an overwhelming majority, to vote for the entire repeal of all the Sunday Observance Acts, and that that one thing is nothing more than that the vote should be taken in secret, I do not believe that he is correct.
Are we really to believe that a House of Commons which voted almost half and half for such a modified, restricted form of Sunday opening as was provided for in the Bill introduced last April, would now, if only they could do it in secret, if only their constituents did not know, vote almost unanimously for the total repeal of the Sunday Observance Acts? I do not believe that the Members of this House act on those principles. They may differ from me; I may think they are wrong; but I believe that they would vote according to the sincere convictions which they themselves hold, or because they honestly believe that they are representing the views held by the majority of their constituents. Therefore, unless we are to take such an insulting view of the sincerity of hon. Members, we must rule out the total repeal of these Sunday Observance Acts as, whether it nay be desirable or not, at least a Parliamentary impossibility.
Now for the other alternative—their enforcement. It is all very well for hon. Members to say, "Enforce the little bit that we want to see enforced"; but, if we are to be logical—and that is what they are all asking me to be this afternoon—we must enforce them all. We must assume that the only time when the Legislature of this country, speaking for the people of this country, was able, with the Divine sanction, to lay down rules for the keeping of the Sabbath, was between 1625 and 1780. We must assume that no one before the year 1625 knew how to keep the Sabbath, that no one since 1780 will know how to do so in future, and that the laws passed between those two years must stand unaltered for even as laying down the final, inescapable form which the proper English Sunday should take. If that be the view, let us act up to it. Do not let us stop only cinemas; let us stop concerts also; and let us stop the gentleman who inadvertently, when he seeks his Sunday game of golf, strays over the borders of his own parish into the neighbouring parish. If we are really to believe that the age of the Cavalier, the age of the Restoration, the age of the Medmenham Club, were the days when alone the people of this country were competent to decide on how they were to keep their Sabbath in a proper religious spirit, let us act up to what we believe. But I do not think that any hon. Member in this House would tolerate that for a minute—would stop the Monday newspaper, would stop the golfer, the tennis player and the joy-rider, or the hiker when he calls at a cottage for a cup of tea. There can be no logicality in a matter which so closely divides the general opinion of the country.
What is the position of the Government in those circumstances? They have to find to the best of their ability not only a course which goes as far as possible be solve the problem of the moment, but also a course which will receive Parliamentary support. It is all very well for my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), in his passionate appeal to trust the people, to say, "Why do you not let the areas choose for themselves?" I can tell him exactly why. Because about a fortnight ago a Standing Committee said the House of Commons was not prepared to trust those local authorities. That is what I, in company with a lot of other Members of the House, wanted to see done. It is what we tried to see done. It is only because the House of Commons, acting through their Standing Committee, would not allow it that I appear to-day appealing for the Second Reading of this Bill. I do not think it is very useful to criticise provisions which we know to be imperfect when all that you can pretend to substitute for them are provisions which the House of Commons has so recently rejected and which we all know it would be impossible to pass into law during the course of this Session. We must in these circumstances, whatever our personal views, be influenced by Parliamentary considerations. We must realise and recognise the position which Members in the past have taken up in all sincerity in the exercise of the free right which has been given them to note on successive Measures. When the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) said how criminal it was to put the Whips on, it was because we were making it a Government Bill, because we were putting the Whips on, because we do not want to have a test between the loyalty of the politician to his Government and the loyalty of the individual to his conscience—
If my hon. Friend had extended to me the privilege which I am sure he exacts from those who listen to his lectures, that they should wait till the end of the sentence, he would have heard that I was claiming that it was because we are now making it a Govern- ment Bill that it is impossible to introduce in it provisions which hon. Members in the exercise of their individual right of choice, have rejected. Those are the reasons for the introduction of the Bill in this form. I believe to a large extent it meets with agreement, not as an ideal solution in which no holes can be picked but as, in very difficult circumstances, the best thing we can do. We proceed on these principles that, with regard to the concerts, the museums and the zoo, there is no real opposition, that it is better once and for all to clear that out of the way and, with regard to cinemas, we proceed on the principle that we will simplify and make easy the right which local authorities already have of appealing to Parliament for these powers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), as I understood, opposed the Bill. I do not think he can quite claim to speak for all those who opposed the last Bill, because there are some who took as important a part as he did in the opposition to it who are now prepared to support this Bill. I could not quite understand upon what he based his objection. Is it that he objects to any compromise at all, or is it that he says that it is a wrong compromise? Is he opposed to any opening of Sunday cinemas or is he saying that here in this Bill we are opening the wrong cinemas in the wrong places? When I consider some of the statements which have been made, not only by him, but by some of his colleagues, on the Amendment to reject the Bill, I have to come to the conclusion that what lies between us is really very small. Lectures, museums and concerts I dismiss as common ground between both parties. Coming down to cinemas, we have, first of all, the objection of the hon. Baronet and his friends that we are going to leave out London. I expressly challenged the hon. Baronet when he was talking about the 97 areas who were going to receive privileges because they had broken the law. I asked him if he included London, and he said "No, London is quite different." I remember in Committee the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) talking about London and saying:
For 20 years the overcrowded populations of London have been accustomed to the cinemas being open. Much against our will, let us recognise that fact and deal with it. That is a very fair-minded
way of approaching the question, and it is a long step in advance towards compromise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee B), 10th May, 1932, Cols. 53 and 54.]
I think we have a right to assume that these opponents of the Bill might not wish to extend to London the privilege of continuing to open the cinemas which have been opened illegally in the past. But I think I may take it that they will agree with me that in the new procedure we have adopted it will enable other fresh authorities to add themselves to this list in the future. The House will remember that on the Second Reading of the previous Bill it was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. Russell) who, as leader of the opponents of the Bill, was chosen to move its rejection. Unfortunately, owing, I think, to illness, he is not able to be here to-day. Here is what the hon. Gentleman said in Committee. He was talking about how in future areas outside London could acquire powers to open cinemas on Sunday and said that they could easily do so by these private Bills. He said:
No matter what may be our opinion, we have no right to say that if the majority of the people in any district say by a poll that they require certain things they shall not have them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee B), 10th May, 1932, Col. 51.]
We are providing in this procedure for exactly what the hon. Member wants. We are providing for a poll. The House will be able to know whether there is a majority in favour, and, that being so, the hon. Member who so firmly opposed the previous Bill will be enabled to respect the desires of the majority. We are narrowed down really to the one point that the difference between the hon. baronet and myself, and between those who support and those who oppose the Bill, is not a question of Sunday opening. It is not what you might call the Sabbatarian view. It is not even really the question of the machinery of the Bill. It is simply whether the 96 other areas outside London shall be authorised by a vote taken in Parliament to-day to keep their cinemas open or whether they have to go through the form of holding town meetings, a poll of the area and applying one by one for Parliamentary sanction at some time in the future. I cannot think that that is
a difference which is so fundamental that it really calls for the rejection of the Bill. The point has been made that we are giving some special treatment to the existing houses simply because those people were so undisciplined and so regardless of the law in the past, and that they will, in the future, be saved trouble and expense. That argument is a specious one. It is an argument which is sound theoretically but which in practice carries no weight. It is all very well for us to do what we used to call in my city days, "jobbing backwards." We know since the declaration of the High Court that the opening of Sunday cinemas, even by agreement, is illegal. But we accepted it as a matter of fact. Between 1916 and 1930 not only did people not know that it was illegal but a great many people assumed that because London—the hon. Baronet is not going to penalise London—had done it, that it was a law which had fallen into obsolesence. I do not believe that any of our local authorities who wanted Sunday cinemas to be open in their areas, where there was a really substantial demand for their opening, were held back simply by the fear that they were doing something illegal. I do not believe that there was any council that said: "It is true that London is breaking the law, and although we want cinemas to open on Sundays and our ratepayers demand it, we are not going to follow the example of London."
The opening of Sunday cinemas prior to the decision of the Court in 1930 was, I believe, founded only on cases where there was a demand for it in the locality, and it is because of that fact that we are I believe on quite logical grounds in deciding to treat those areas in a different way from those where no overt sign has yet been made. Before 1930 every area where there was a substantial local demand had already permitted their cinemas to open on Sundays, and Parliament is entitled to take that as a sign that there is a demand in those localities and to relieve them from the machinery which is laid down for the others. Even if it were not so, even if there was no logical basis at all for treating these 96 areas in any different way from the others, who is going to be hurt by it? The only two ways of removing the inequality is either by letting everybody have their Sunday opening of cinemas by the vote of the House to-day, without any machinery, or by letting none have it. You might let them all have it, but that would be doing exactly what the House has, up to now, refused to do. If you let none of them have it, it is true that you will punish the 96 areas where such cinemas are already open on Sundays, and you may make Morecambe, Blackpool, Brighton, Hove and other places spend money in coming to this House for their protection, but you will not help a single one of the areas which are left out of this privileged position. I cannot believe that anything is to be gained by a desire for this theoretical equality, which I believe can be contradicted even on theoretical lines, by imposing on the 96 areas an unnecessary expense and trouble which will help not one whit the areas which are excluded from these privileges.
The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough said that in this Bill we have not done away with local option. That is true. There is no Bill that can do away with local option except a Bill to repeal the Sunday Observance Act. But we have removed the danger of local option by several degrees. Before, all that the man had to worry himself about if he wanted cinemas to open or if he wanted them to remain closed was to look to the election of the council, and if he succeeded in selecting a council according to his own views he would be able to open or shut the cinemas. Now, be has two other steps to take. He has not only to have a council which agrees with his views but he has to get a majority of the ratepayers in accord with his views. Even then he has to be sure that there is a majority in the House of Commons in favour of them. If there was a danger of this matter becoming a subject of great controversy in local politics when the Council itself had to say whether the cinemas should be open or shut, the danger has been completely removed when the decision of the council has to be qualified by a decision of the majority of the ratepayers and, finally, by a decision of Parliament itself.
A point has been made with regard to the character of the films which are shown, and the hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough quite rightly pointed out that most of the speeches have been speeches against the cinema as such and not against the opening of cinemas on Sun- days. The Member for Oxford University entertained the House with a list of startling titles of films to which children had been and scarified the House with the answers which children had given when questioned as to the impression these films may have had upon them. I do not think that the hon. Member need be quite so terrified as to the impression which these things make upon children. When I was a child the opportunities for education by the cinema were not so frequent or so good as they are now, and I acquired a good part of my education from the text books of the hon. Member. If I had been questioned at the time as to the impression these text books made upon me I should have said that the chief impression I got was that there were about 99 battles every 100 years in the history of the world and that the best people who ever lived were the people who had killed most of their enemies. Subsequent experience has proved that the impression I got of history was quite wrong, I have no doubt that the fleeting impression which children get from the cinema is not really the true one.
Really we are all agreed that there is a great deal about which to complain in the type of the films that are shown. It is not that a film is either decent or indecent but that there are a considerable number which are distasteful. It is the lack of taste about which we complain. There are two ways in which you can deal with that problem. I am not going to subscribe to what I consider to be the monstrous proposition put forward that a film which is bad, which is sexually obscene and criminal on weekdays, becomes worse because it is shown on Sundays. If it is bad it is bad on whatever day of the week it is shown. But there are two ways in which we can deal with the problem. We can deal with it by restrictions, by the exercise of some form of censorship; and I would point out that although censorship may prevent the showing of the obscene it can never compel the showing of the good. To that extent it is necessary to give no further powers than are already possessed. Licensing authorities have complete power of censorship. It is true that they generally adopt, for the sake of convenience, films already passed by the British Board of Censors, but in doing so they do not abrogate their statutory right of imposing conditions as to the type of film shown. Here I think that the consultative committee about which the hon. Member for Oxford University was so contemptuous, might be of great assistance. My hon. Friend does not appear to realise that the committee is composed of the people who possess the powers of censorship. They are representatives of the Municipal Association, the County Councils Association, the Justices, the people who in fact are the censors. I have no doubt that it might be well to refer to such a body the possibility of indicating in some way films which are particularly suitable for showing on Sundays, just as to-day we indicate films which are particularly suitable for showing to children.
The other way is the constructive way, and that is the way proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). As he knows, I was not entirely unacquainted with the inception of the scheme which he has been advocating to-day. He believes that the best way of getting a better standard of film is not by the use of censorship but by the use of some active means of improving the existing material, and he desires that some proportion of the contributions which have to go to charitable objects should be devoted to the improvement of the films in this country by means of some central cultural film institute. That is a topic which I hope he will develop when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, and that he will give us an opportunity of seeing in greater de tail the kind of body to which such moneys could be devoted and the kind of objects they would have in view.
There has been a good deal of talk about the cloak of charity. Speaker after-speaker who has opposed this Bill has got up and said how monstrous it was to urge forward this Bill under the cloak of charity. As a matter of fact, I have not heard a single speaker who supported the Bill use that argument at all. Hon. Members who were present at the Second Reading of the last Bill or in the Standing Committee upstairs, will admit that I, for one, have never used the charity argument as one of the reasons for the passage of the Bill. I absolutely agree that if a thing is wrong you do not make it right by paying some small sum to charity. Frankly I decline to take the hypercritical point of view about this. That is the reason why hon. Members will see that in the Bill as now printed the local authority may take all or a portion of the profits. I do not subscribe to the view that the Sunday opening of cinemas is entirely due to the fact that cinema owners are pushing the opening for the sake of profit. I believe it is due largely to the fact that a great number of the people see no harm in going to cinemas on Sundays, and their demands have led to the cinemas being open.
If you take my view that this is a service which the public demand and to which they are entitled upon a Sunday, then you must logically take the view that the people who provide that service are entitled to a reasonable profit for that service, just as they are entitled to a reasonable profit on any other service that they provide. What I do say is that, though they are entitled to a reasonable profit for the service that they provide, it is not right that there should be a particular inducement to make Sunday the day on which of all others they expect to secure a profitable return, in fact to make the Sunday opening more profitable to them than the opening on any other day. It is, therefore, quite logical that, while you allow a reasonable profit to be given to those who provide the service, you should be entitled to take some proportion for the sake of charitable objects in the neighbourhood.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple, who so ably moved the rejection of the Bill and who during our discussions of the last Bill in Committee was always so courteous, was hardly justified in some of the remarks which he made in the course of his peroration to-day. He drew the attention of the House to the nature of the days through which we are passing, which, after all, must be present in the minds of all of us and to the anxieties and dangers around us at the present time. He asked the House to remember that 30 years ago when Sunday cinemas were not open, we had not any of those dangers; that trade was good then and we were all prosperous. Really, are we to start the cry that you have only to close the Sunday cinemas to bring back prosperity? That suggestion strikes me as being more worthy of an African witch doctor than a Member of Parliament. If it were true that the closing of Sunday cinemas would cause a return of prosperity to the world, we should all vote for the closing of Sunday cinemas to-morrow. No, Sir, I do not think it is quite fair to play on the fears and anxieties which everybody feels today, in order to get this particular sectional point of view established.
Then the hon. baronet concluded by an appeal to the National Government. He said that the National Government, supported as it is by so many Members, had been sent to this House to deal with one thing only, and that was the recovery of trade in this country. It is because I agree with him that I want the House to pass this Bill to-day. I want this Parliament to be given time to deal with these matters which we were sent here to deal with, and I want the National Government to deal with them too. I do not want to see a repetition of the controversies of the last few weeks. I do not
want myself to be divided from, and to become more and more emphatically divided from people, with whom I think alike on nearly every other subject, and people with whom I desire to work for the vital ends which matter to-day. You are not going to stop controversy by rejecting this Bill, by allowing chaos to come next October, by closing all Sunday cinemas. But I believe that if this Bill is passed to-day you will establish the position as it is; you wall give reasonable but not excessive facilities for further extensions where they are justified by public demand, and I believe that, as a result, this House and this Government will be able to turn their attention to those matters which unite and do not divide us, and the solution of which is the real reason for our presence in this House this afternoon.
|Division No. 203.]||AYES.||[3.58 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir j. A.(Birm., W)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds. W.)||Chotzner, Alfred James||Graves, Marjorie|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Greene, William P. C.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Colman, N. C. D.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover||Conant, R. J. E.||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Cooke, Douglas||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cooper, A. Duff||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Grimston, R. V.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Cranborne, Viscount||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Craven-Ellis, William||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hales, Harold K.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Crossley, A. C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)|
|Beaumont, Hn. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Harris, Sir Percy|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Davison, Sir William Henry||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hicks, Ernest George|
|Borodale, Viscount||Denville, Alfred||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Doran, Edward||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Llonel||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Duggan, Hubert John||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Briant, Frank||Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Ednam, Viscount||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Buchan, John||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Janner, Barnett|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Entwistle, Cyrll Fullard||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Fox, Sir Gifford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Fraser, Captain Ian||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Knight, Holford|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Goldie, Noel B.||Lawson, John James|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Levy, Thomas||O'Connor, Terence James||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Lewis, Oswald||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ormiston, Thomas||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunllffe-||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Palmer, Francis Noel||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Patrick, Colin M.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Penny, Sir George||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Percy, Lord Eustace||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Petherick, M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Lymington, Viscount||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Mabane, William||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Potter, John||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|McEntee, Valentine L.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Price, Gabriel||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Ramsden, E.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Rathbone, Eleanor||Vaughan-Morgan, sir Kenyon|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Meller, Richard James||Ray, Sir William||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Rea, Walter Russell||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Remer, John R.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Womersley, Walter James|
|Munro, Patrick||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Nathan, Major H. L.||Salmon, Major Isidore||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Nunn, William||Selly, Harry R.||Lord Erskine and Commander Southby.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Pearson, William G.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Hurd, Percy A.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Jenkins, Sir William||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Law, Sir Alfred||Rankin, Robert|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanot)||Leckie, J. A.||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Liddall, Walter S.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Scone, Lord|
|Burnett, John George||Lunn, William||Shaw, Captain William T. (Fortar)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stewart, William J.|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||McKie, John Hamilton||Stones, James|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Magnay, Thomas||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maitland, Adam||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Dickie, John P.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Edwards, Charles||Milner, Major James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Moreing, Adrian C.||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Granville, Edgar||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Parkinson, John Allen||Mr. Lovat-Fraser and Sir Wilfrid Sugden.|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.