I beg to move:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order in Council, dated 28th February 1941, made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts, 1939 and 1940, amending Regulation 42B of, and adding Regulation 42BA to, the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, a copy of which was presented to this House on 25th March 1941, be annulled.
I hope the Members of the House can understand the official English of the Prayer. It is rather involved, and in a minute or two, if the House will be good enough to listen to me, I will give it in more detail. It seems to me, however, that before we can understand the full import of the suggested amendment of the Regulation we must have some knowledge of the background, of the cause of its being brought forward in this House in the midst of a war in which we are fighting for our lives and which we see as a spiritual crusade. The last 10 years or so will be known in history as the age of debunking. All things that are sweet and reasonable and Christian have been more and more jeered at and flouted during the last decade or so. We know that art and literature have been befouled; we have only to see some statues in public places, which are supposed to be things of beauty and ought to be a joy for ever, to know how art has been debased, to all men and women of real sense and feeling. We
know that in literature every man is a cad and every woman a vamp, incipient or in fact.
The noble Lady as usual, I am sorry to say, ejaculates before she has heard anything of what has transpired. I say that art and literature have been debased—and music, too. We have the devotees of St. Vitus' dance, called jazz, making their irregular way through what they call music, and volplaning down a chromatic scale. You hear crooners breaking their hearts every night—if anybody broke their necks I should not be sorry. Things are coming to a dreadful pass for anyone who has eyes to see, who has spiritual vision, and who can do the most difficult of all things, read the signs of the times. In regard to cinemas and theatres, London has usually led the way in this declension, as you might expect. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why? "] I will tell you why. It is a cosmopolitan city; it has no communal life for a check. I could tell you in five minutes the name of everyone who matters in Newcastle or Glasgow or Edinburgh, but in London they are as numerous as the lamposts. London is the playground of the idle rich. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It has stood up to Hitler."] And it is the hardest place in the world for the poor to live in. They exist only in drab, dreary, dowdy streets.
The London cinemas unlawfully opened on Sundays in the 'thirties. The 'thirties was a disillusioned period—in many respects, an unmoral, if not immoral, period. When the cinemas opened illegally the theatrical folk took action against them. The judgment of the court was that it was illegal to open the cinemas on Sundays. The cinema proprietors were not punished. They came to this House and said that if we gave them the only thing they wanted, they would never require anything else of us. So Sunday opening was made legal. How does that 1932 Act work? In the area of the London County Council the status quo was maintained. Under the able direction of the L.C.C., and with the good will of the proprietors, Sunday opening is well managed, and, under the provisions of the Act, contributions have been made to charities. With some exceptions, it might be said that for several years Sunday opening of cinemas was confined to the South of England. Until the war came, the great industrial North had found no use for the Act of 1932. The same thing applied to Wales, to East Anglia, to the Midlands, with the exception of Birmingham, and to Devon and Cornwall Cities such as Liverpool, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Leeds and Bradford are still, by their own choice, without Sunday cinemas. Bristol allowed a proportion of the cinemas to open. Cardiff received a plea that cinemas were wanted for the troops. The authorities offered to allow two cinemas to open, but the proprietors declined. Their attitude was all or nothing. It was not a question of the convenience of the troops with them.
Manchester allowed Sunday opening a fortnight ago, but according to Press reports the attendances on, the first Sunday were very disappointing. The "Daily Mail" did not say so. The "Daily Mail" clapped its hands with glee. The afternoon and evening performances were attended by 50,000 people. The "Daily Mail'' made a great song about the results for charities. Charity was to receive £2,000. That, according to my calculation, is 40,000 shillings. Not quite 10d. was the average contribution for charity of all the people attending these cinemas. I wonder who got the rake-off before that £2,000 was turned over to charity. It would be very interesting to know. Scotland was exempted from the previous Act, as it is intended to be from this new Regulation. In September, 1939, a Regulation was made empowering local authorities to permit Sunday opening, on a certificate by a competent military authority that it was considered advisable to open cinemas on Sundays where large numbers of members of His Majesty's Forces were quartered. Draft orders were made and sent to the Home Secretary, there being no poll or plebiscite or voting, as was the case under the 1932 Act. Because it was for the convenience of the military, I imagine Members of this House took no notice. I confess that I did not take any notice, although it may have been remiss of me. So much for the cinemas.
The demand for Sunday theatres is not something that has arisen because of wartime conditions. It was being inspired long before the war by the financiers of the theatrical world. Under this Regulation there are to be no contributions to charity; charity Has gone by the board. I would point out that there is no unanimity among the actors and actresses, from what I know about them. The living stage is entirely different from the cinema. This proposal involves the employment of actors and actresses and of all employed around the theatres, on Sundays, and no other free day is adequate compensation for the loss of Sundays. Speaking for myself—for many may not agree with me—t say that all this technique of sapping and mining the morale of our people that have gone on for years is fifth column work. I say that deliberately. There is no chance of Hitler or anyone else outside this country forcing his will upon our people by open methods; but they are far too clever, unscrupulous and subtle to try that. They embark upon a process of sapping and mining, of careful propaganda, not mixing it too strong at the beginning, creating what they call public opinion, to deride Christianity. Some would deliberately close the churches if they dared. But their technique is that of a far more subtle insidious propaganda. Their plan is to get the people away from the churches. When the 1939 Regulations went through the general public were not much interested, and few in this House were disturbed. It was a military command, as I said before, and a temporary arrangement only for the duration of the war. This has evidently been taken as apathy, and the big financiers behind the cinemas, the big financial interests involved in the amusement world, I think in imagination, said to themselves," This is time to go the whole hog for military and workers." The old Regulation of 1939 is for the military alone. This is for the workers. They do not say that it is for all the people. They are too astute for that. They say it is for the military, and the huge conglomeration of workers. But when you have taken
away the military and all the workers, whom have you left? There are no elections for Parliament, no getting at Members and no elections in the county councils or borough councils, but a Cockney Home Secretary, with the London background, the conqueror of Waterloo Bridge, and the Minister of Labour and—mark this—National Service to push it quietly through this House. The Minister of Labour and National Service believes in the voluntary principle. He would not coerce the dockers in an hon. Member's constituency, not he, but he would coerce this House, and if we will stand for that, we will stand for anything. What is the purport of the Regulation? The competent military authority has his job, and "a competent industrial authority" is proposed to be set up to give a certificate, that
having regard to circumstances arising out of war conditions in which industrial work is carried on in a particular area, is of opinion that premises in that area should be opened and used on Sundays for entertainments, that authority shall furnish a certificate stating that it is of that opinion.
That is all one sentence. That certificate is sent to the local council to consider. There is no plebiscite as under the old machinery, nothing of the kind. The local council—not the licensing authority or a magistrate—if they agree, submit a draft order to the Home Secretary to that effect, and if the Home Secretary is satisfied he makes the Order. But it must come on to the Floor of this House for approval. I make no threat. We have turned one cheek to the cinemas, and, if this Regulation passes, we shall turn the other, I suppose, but there is no reason to say that we will turn anything else. We must stand up for our rights and privileges and for honour and prestige of this House, and vote against this Regulation, and call a halt. Nothing will absolve us from our responsibilities.
It is no use telling me and my constituents that this is a Government measure, when we know there are only two Departments concerned. It will be seen that this competent industrial authority is to be given very wide powers. Nobody knows who they are; nobody has the slightest idea. I hope that we get to know to-day. I wonder whether it is the welfare officers. I have a list of them.
I know the welfare officer of the Northern Division quite well, a friend of mine, but he is no better judge of what is required in the North, certainly in regard to Gates-head. I am the Member for Gateshead and nobody else, and I am as competent a judge as he to say what should be done in my constituency. I said to the Mayor on Saturday night that if I wanted any advice, I would go to him and ask for his opinion, but the welfare officer who has been put into this job for a few months is not competent to do this, if he should be the man concerned, and there is nobody else that I can see. The Minister of Labour and National Service must have someone to give him reports; he cannot go down and look into all these divisions himself. They are competent industrial authorities appointed by him to report to him. What makes them competent, not only to judge, mark you, but to set the Regulations going?
Is there really any need for the amusement of our workers on Sundays compared with the last war? Let us hear what the industrial North has said this week-end. This is taken from the "Sunday Sun" of Newcastle:
Mr. Bowman, Tyne District Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, contrasted the night shift of 13 hours in the last war with the ten hours now. The working week then was one of 53 hours and to-day it is one of 47 hours. The present system preserves continuity of production and the health of the worker.
That is what they think in the North-East. There is no one who approves it; no one in Gateshead, with 78,000 voters and 110,000 in population. No one has said to me that I am doing wrong. If anybody doubts that, let him resign from his seat, and I will resign from mine and fight out an election there. Let the loser pay election expenses; I shall be all right on this issue. The trade union leaders are now talking; these are not my words but theirs:
An 'Evening Chronicle' representative made a number of inquiries to-day from responsible officials of employers' organisations in the shipbuilding, shiprepairing, engineering and other industries engaged on war work, and trade union leaders, and not one had received any information or guidance about the new regulation. Mr. Lawrence, Secretary of the Tyne and Blyth Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said that his Association, representing 40 unions, knew nothing about the regulation except what had appeared in the Press.
So who is making this overpowering demand? I know not. I suggest that I shall hear from other sources that the Ministry of Labour and National Service has been inundated by correspondence demanding this. Trade union leaders on Tyneside know nothing about it. Neither do the local authorities. On Saturday morning I got a letter from the Town Clerk, in which he said:
I understand that the Draft Order has been prepared in connection with the opening of places of entertainment on Sunday. Could you let me have a copy of it if you have one in your possession.
He, like us, is in the dark. Who is managing this behind the scenes? Who is engineering this demand? Before such a far-reaching proposal was decided upon by the Labour Department chiefs what evidence did they have of any demand? I suggest that the evidence was the other way. I can quote figures from Chesterfield and Nottingham about what happened there in regard to the opening of cinemas. The Chief Constable of Chesterfield says in a report that cinemas were apparently opened for the entertainment of troops, but that from his observation of town and district cinemas on 15th December and 26th January soldiers were in a minority. On 26th January there were 463 children at the afternoon performance of one cinema, and at the evening performance not one soldier was there. The Chief Constable of Nottingham says that only 50 of 1,700 people who entered one of the leading city cinemas were members of the Forces.
But I need not go to Nottingham or Chesterfield. I went to Gateshead. The mayor there is running cinema performances for charity, and on Sunday night two men whom I can trust took note of the numbers going through each door at the cinema. Adults numbered 824, children under 16 numbered 242, and members of His Majesty's Forces numbered 83.
When the hon. Member who has just interrupted broadcast on Sunday night he said that he stood for all the loved institutions of England, and I said to myself, "He will vote for me," because Sunday is the greatest of all our institutions. In England it is the bulwark of our Christianity. At another cinema there were 1,324 people present—perhaps because there was no jazz on anywhere—and of these 24 were children under 16 years of age, and 102 represented His Majesty's Forces. Not 7 percent. of the attendance were soldiers. Yet it is said there is a public demand. Let those who say so bring forward the evidence if they can. The news that this Regulation was to be made was received with paeans of praise by the Press. On the very day that I entered the Vote Office and asked whether it was true that the Regulation had been printed, and received the answer, "Not yet," I saw the "Evening Standard" at King's Cross Station, half-an-hour afterwards. In big headlines it said that the first shows would be on 20th April and spoke about getting ready to open. It was a terrific shock to me, and I said to my colleagues on the train that it was time we got busy. That very night, when I got home I heard a conversation over the wireless between some bright fellows, those very charming, clever fellows. One of them said, "Don't you know, theatres and music halls are to be opened on Sunday? Great news, boys, what? Isn't it curious? — A dictator, Cromwell, closed theatres, and another dictator, Hitler, will open them." I thought that man evidently had as little sense as he had knowledge of true history. That is the sort of propaganda that is put across over the wireless. What the newspapers say is ''bossed" by a sub-editor with a blue-pencil, who crosses out what is not in consonance with the views of the advertisers and the big money.
How was this announcement received by the nation? It was received with amazement. The nation was shocked and grieved. I have received the most intimate letters, beautiful and devoted letters. Why are these people so concerned? It is because they are of the opinion of Voltaire; they have never heard of him, but they are of the same opinion as he was when he said that if he could capture the English Sunday, he could destroy Christianity. Why ought this Prayer which is before us to-day to be rejected? To put first things first, it ought to be rejected because it violates the Commandment of God. Some have denied that it does so, but I have a Prayer Book in my hand, and in it there is the Commandment to keep holy the
Sabbath day. Last Saturday night I met a Catholic friend of mine, and he said that no good Catholic could defend the opening of theatres and music-halls on Sunday. I asked why, and he said he would send me the Catechism. I have it here:
How are we to keep the Sunday holy? We are to keep the Sunday holy by hearing Mass and resting from servile works.
On no account must they employ anybody for their pleasure or gain on a Sunday. So the Catholic Church says. I maintain that the opening of theatres and music-halls on Sunday would offend and hurt abominably the Christian conscience of the nation. It would undermine the influence of the Church and irreparably damage the work of the Sunday Schools. I have been put on a panel by the Home Secretary to consider what is the cause of the huge rise in juvenile crime, which is60 per cent. higher than it was last year. Hundreds of thousands of our children are running the streets, unable to receive education and to be disciplined, every day of the week. On Sunday afternoons they might receive some education that would do them good and make them good citizens. Now it is proposed to open the theatres and music-halls on Sundays. If the Lord's Day is completely secularised, it will appear to be just the same as any other day, and will in fact soon become so. The observance of Sunday in worship, in rest, and in peace is the main evidence to show that this is a Christian country. I cannot put the matter better than it has been put by the present Prime Minister:
It is a divine and priceless institution.
I ask the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. P. Herbert) to note that.
It is a divine and priceless institution—a birthright of every British subject.
We cannot be any party as trustees of the people's rights and privileges to breaking that birthright. It is an indispensable anchor of our faith. Of course, when the highest men desire prayer and intercession, that is quite a different thing. A man may be content with national prayer and intercession, but for the rest of the year he is a half-timer. If anyone says that Dunkirk had nothing to do with the Day of Prayer, and that last week's happenings had nothing to do with Sunday's prayers, he can think so, but he will limit his spiritual insight by saying so. You
can call it a coincidence and cut prayer out altogether, but the wonderful wireless telegraphy of vivid thought can dispose the hearts not only of our men but of the enemy. If this anchor for Christian tradition is cut adrift—if it ceases to hold us—we are at once as a people, in the gravest danger of losing our soul.
I have a great many more things I could say, but I think it would be only fair if I brought my remarks to a conclusion, because I know many Members wish to speak, and there is little time for them to do so. I conclude by saying that I take the most serious view of this situation. To me it is a water-shed. I have stood at the head of the rivers Tyne and Wear. If the wind went West, it was the Tyne, and if it went East it was the Wear. It all depended on how the wind blew. If it blew from the East, the river went West, and for us if the wind blows from the East, we all go West. I pray—and I am not the only one, because there are millions who at this time are thinking and praying for us—that the wind may blow from out the fields of God upon the soul of this House.
I propose to be the first of the speakers to limit my remarks to 10 minutes. How far one will be able to do so I do not know, but I assure the hon. Member for Gates-head (Mr. Magnay), who has moved this extremely important Motion and was bound to put his case at some length, that in limiting my remarks it is no reflection upon him. I do not wish to go over the ground he has covered and which others will cover. I recognise the fact that, whereas it is said that some 80 per cent. of our population never go inside a church except for deaths or marriages, it is true that we have to appeal to that 80 per cent. on grounds other than those directly of religion. I wish to speak from the point of view of the health of those concerned and the health of the nation. There are two different points of view. One relates to the health of those who are concerned. Some of my correspondents have mixed up the question to-day as if we were deciding the opening of cinemas as well as of theatres and music halls. That has nothing to do with the issue. We now have to consider whether we shall go one step further and allow the authorities to put forward an Order for the opening of theatres and music halls.
In the first place, 1 want to represent this as being a further inroad on what has seemed to us in the public health world as being a very serious question of a tax on the mental health of the people at large. One thinks of what are called the workers, the great mass of the insured population, but it applies to everyone equally. I am sure no class is immune from the fact that there has been this gradual inroad made upon the seventh day of rest. This matter is being put forward from the point of view of the necessary amusement and entertainment of the troops especially, and also of the workers on Sundays. We know how important it is that the troops should have somewhere to go on Sunday evenings, but the main possibility of entertainment for them, if they do not go to church, is the cinema, and cinemas are fairly common throughout the country, whereas theatres and music halls are less so, except in the towns. If you compare one with the other, think of the labour attached to theatres and music halls compared with that in cinemas. There are not only the actors and actresses and artists who take part in the performances, but the stage hands who have to prepare the stage beforehand, the dressing-room and green-room attendants, and the general mass of the people concerned in the ticket offices and so on, compared with whom those employed in cinemas are a very small number. Moreover, the theatres and music halls naturally draw from a wider congregation of clients, which entails a great deal of travelling, and although I am not opposed to a certain amount of travelling on Sundays, which is obviously desirable from the point of view of people getting into the country or going to see their friends, we must recognise the amount of labour entailed by travelling, especially if it is unnecessary, to those concerned in the locomotive industry, on the roads, or on the railways.
That is the point of view of those immediately concerned, but there is something further to be considered. There is the general question of Sunday observance. If you go back to the origin of Sunday observance, it is essentially a part of the physiological, medical or health requisite of the individual and the community. From the religious point of view, the Bible starts off with the creation of the world and the enjoyment of one day in seven for rest. From the point of view of the health of the people as now understood, everyone recognises the necessity of a rest from work. It was found to be essentially so in the last war. So much was the constant drive of munition working telling on the health of the people that a special inquiry was made and a valuable report issued by Professor E. L. Collis on the health of the industrial worker. It was issued with all the authority of Government and obtained general recognition throughout the country. It showed the necessity first of rest pauses during the hours of work, and then of a proper amount of evening rest, and from that to a proper amount of weekly rest and a proper amount of annual rest or holidays. That is common ground to all of us and we have to consider in what way we can keep it going.
My medical colleagues outside and inside the House will agree that that is essential from the point of view of the most vital problem that we see in front of us. During the past 50 years we have gone a long way towards the prevention of preventable causes of physical illness, but there has been a slide down in mental unsettlement and unrest and all that flows from it. That is likely to be increased more and more, and the way in which the people's leisure is so often directed, largely by financial and commercial interests, towards jaunting and gadding about, away from the quieter forms of entertainment and amusement, is a serious inroad upon the people's mental health. I do not think it is possible to enlarge upon this, but we ought to recognise that the constant increase in the mobility of the people involves a great increase in unrest. I remember that one of the most striking lessons I had was in Japan during the Russo-Japanese War. I met a nurse who had been sent out by Her Gracious Majesty Queen Alexandra to see in what way we could help the Japanese Government. When in Manchuria she was one day on the roadside and saw Japanese troops marching up country. She noticed three Japanese soldiers drawing a handcart. They stopped in the heat of the day and deposited the cart. Two of them sat down to their meal, and the third went and plucked a lotus flower and put it in a cigarette tin for them to look at. The working people of other countries enjoy beauty and restful amusement and entertainment, and the more we can do that the better. We are moving away from that direction, and I think that we are going steadily downhill as regards mental health. The worst of it is, as Professor Jowitt remarked, that the necessity for preventive methods is seldom recognised until it is too late to prevent the disease. That is a real danger to the health of the nation and by far the best preventive of the danger is the preservation of our Sundays for purposes that give the least labour to other people. The danger is what one may call the "jazzification" of Sundays, and I ask the House to refuse to sanction it in this case.
I intervene for a few moments as a member of the Church of England and for other reasons because I feel so strongly that this proposal will do much more harm than good from the point of view of our national war effort at this critical time. What most people want in these days of hard work, stress and strain, speed and noise is some time for a little rest and quiet. Therefore I say what better day to choose than Sunday? We have heard a lot on the wireless lately and have read a good deal in the Press about the need for building a new world, the need for more religious education in our schools and there has been a great call for a higher tone and outlook in life, both in our private lives and our public lives, and if we are sincere and believe in these ideals, surely we should not at this time, When we are facing the greatest crisis that this country has ever known, seek to extend the scope of Sunday entertainment for the benefit of a small number of theatre and music hall proprietors when, in my opinion, they will be frequented in most cases only by the leisured few.
If we had as fearless and far-seeing leadership in the Church to-day as we have in the State it would not be necessary for me to stand here as a mere layman to plead the cause of trying to keep our. Sundays in keeping with our country's great traditions. These traditions have, I maintain, given us the foundation of our character as a nation, our toleration of all creeds and races and our willingness to help all nations whether they be great or small. They have given us our power of resistance, and it should be our determination to continue to preserve these traditions and our very soul. The Prime-Minister last week made a dramatic announcement. He said "I have great news to tell you. Yugoslavia has found her soul. "Do not let us do anything which will help to destroy our own. Do not let us lose what is particularly British and precious to so many, or we shall have what will undoubtedly become as time goes, a continental Sunday. That is what will surely happen if we allow ourselves to slip much further down the slippery slope.
If this Order is approved I am certain we shall have demands from various vested interests to have dog-racing, horse-racing, all-in wrestling, boxing and other attractions of a money-making kind on Sundays. Let there be no doubt about it, this Order is the thin end of the wedge for more and more demands. Religious life in this country will then be pushed aside step by step. I feel it my duty to do what I can to help the younger generation of this country and not to make things more difficult for them. Never has there been more need than there is to-day for Christian influence in our homes and in our lives to help up to stand firm and resolute against whatever perils and difficulties are in store for us. If we are really in earnest in our fight for a better world and a more sincere democracy, if we are fighting for a standard based on such principles, let us do everything we possibly can to uphold these ideals.
I do not believe there is a widespread desire for the opening of music-halls and theatres on Sunday. With the permission of the House I will read a short extract from one of the letters which I have received from my constituents. The writer is employed by the London Passenger Transport Board, and he says that he has noticed in the past that the people who are so anxious for Sunday amusements are mostly the people of leisure who have never been called upon to work on Sunday,
like we transport workers, who value a Sunday off duty more than any other day of the week.
As an Army welfare officer, I have received no requests for such amusements as are contemplated in the Order, but I have received many requests for outdoor games such as cricket, tennis and football
and I have gladly given them out. I hope that they will be used as much as possible in the long summer evenings that are before us. These games will give healthy outdoor amusement; and will give no extra work to anybody. I have received no requests from the trade unions. I believe that munition workers, when they get a Sunday off—they get only one every seven weeks, I believe—do not want to rush off to a theatre or music-hall but are glad of a day's rest.
I do not understand why the Government have seen fit to put forward this proposal and whom it is expected to benefit. It is in direct opposition to the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who rightly continues to urge us to save our money and to lend it to the Government. I am glad that the Government have seen their way to give us a free vote on this matter. I hope that they will be able to go a step further and to withdraw this Order. If they do not, I can only say that I and many of my hon. Friends will follow the hon. Member for Gates-head (Mr. Magnay) into the Lobby in favour of the Prayer and in favour of his efforts to uphold and preserve our traditions of Christian principles for our country. Hitler is failing to break those traditions; do not let us, by any action of ours now, help him in his efforts.
In conclusion, I should like to read to the House an extract from the "Theatre Managers' Journal." It states:
If these adverse criticisms are carefully studied it will be realised by the fair-minded, that they emanate, mostly, from persons whose clear judgment is clouded by religious zeal—in other words, fanatics; or by those who, without thought, repeat the shibboleths of a bye-gone age.
If that is how these people describe the traditions of our country, and if this is their policy, I am glad to have an opportunity of registering my vote against it.
This is the first time since the outbreak of war that I have ventured to address the House. I ask the House to reject the Prayer, and I do so not from any lack of religious scruples. Indeed, I was brought up as a Plymouth Brother, but if I seek the same goal through some other door than that marked "Strictly Private," it does not make me any less a Christian. I am equally sincere with the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay), who made a very sincere and moving speech which showed his deep feeling in this matter. Other hon. Members can claim to be as good Christians as he and are equally sincere in all that we say and do in these days. My hon. Friend made one or two mistakes in his speech. He said that there was no unanimity among actors. I have had many letters from actors and actresses and others engaged in the theatrical profession, but not one asking that this change should not take place. I was not quite clear as to what analogy the hon. Member wished to draw when he talked about an increase in juvenile crime, when no theatres are open and when his Sunday schools could certainly take the children off the streets and give them some discipline and training, of which they stand in need.
I would like the House to look at this matter in its proper perspective. It is permissive legislation, and even if the Prayer is rejected and if the Order in Council is approved, which I think it will be, it does not necessarily follow that one single theatre will open. It is purely a matter of local option, and if the theatres do open, it is not necessary for people to go to them if they do not want to. All that this Order allows is complete freedom, and for what else are we fighting but complete freedom? If I ask the hon. Member for Gateshead to accompany me to hear some Shakespeare on a Sunday afternoon, he is free to refuse. If he asks me to hear him preach, I am free to refuse. It is a blessed thing, this freedom. We do not want any sort of dictatorship, not even a sacerdotal dictatorship. The hon. Member for Gateshead made play about people being coerced, but he is trying in every possible way to coerce us. There is a definite demand and a necessity for this Sunday entertainment, and I speak with the assurance born of experience. Most of last winter I was in a small country town with about 1,300 or 1,400 men, most of them straight from the streets on the call-up. I am not sure, but there may have been two public houses, although I think there was only one. There were no cinemas open, and on Sunday afternoons there was nowhere whatever for these fellows to sit down except in the barrack rooms or in the N.A.A.F.I., or, in some cases, in homes which were opened to them by kind Christian folk, for which I, as a commanding officer, was deeply thankful. But that was not enough. There was nowhere for them to take their wives or sweethearts. It was a cold winter, as we all remember. Yet, in spite of this, these men emulated their ancestors, of whom Sir John Moore wrote in his despatches from Corunna, that they, the Artillery, were a particularly well-behaved body of men. I have no doubt the same can be said of other regiments.
There is a decided need for recreation. I cannot speak for the Government. I know they have made their inquiries, and I too have made inquiries. This Order-in-Council has been decided upon in the interests of those who cannot at the present time get recreation, such as war workers and men in the Fighting Services. The air raids have, to a large extent, stopped evening performances of the theatres; people who are working in the day-time cannot attend matinees, and so a great many of them have been completely cut off from their normal form of amusement. I cannot help feeling that a lot of the opposition to this Order has been organised by those who would like to see all theatres and music halls closed at all times. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Gateshead, and he was extremely scathing on art and music. He may not like either; I do not like everything that goes on, but the impression that I got was that he would not like them to go on at all.
It is within the memory of the House that I said that I was a lover of art and music, but that the declension shown in what transpires to-day and goes under the name of music is quite a different matter.
There, I am with my hon. Friend the whole way. I dislike this declension as much as anybody else. All the national papers, as my hon. Friend pointed out, have supported this move with the exception of one, which represents the public houses, which, it strikes me, are naturally hostile because they fear competition. There is no question of competing with religion at all. There is no interference with divine service. I asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 20th February,
when he announced this matter, whether he would recommend that the times of such amusements should not clash with the morning church services, and the answer he gave me was:
No doubt the local authorities will keep that in mind. I will take it into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th February, 1941; col. 291, Vol. 369.]
So there is no intention to do that. I have noticed the great solicitude for the actors shown by people who say that the actors need their day of rest. They will have their day of rest. At the present moment they do not get their day of rest on Sunday, as anybody connected with the profession knows perfectly well. Arrangements have been made for a day of rest for them in the normal way. These travelling companies of actors have to travel on Sunday in bad trains. I address myself in particular to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), who made this point about travelling on Sundays. They travel when all conceivable travelling facilities are lacking, and the hardest work has to be done on that day—properties and scenery have to be moved at the stations, taken to the theatre, and the scenery very often set up that very evening. Many of these actors and actresses arrive late and tired, and have to seek rooms in the black-out. They would be thankful to have their day of rest, as it were, when they move from one town to another, on some other day than Sunday, when travelling facilities are normal. Not only would they be thankful, but those who are responsible for their transport would be extremely thankful too.
It is argued that this will be prejudicial to spiritual issues. Which is worse—to see a vulgar cinema show, to see Shakespeare, or to listen to an opera? What I say is this:
Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do,
and I have had experience of that in welfare work that I was doing in an attempt to better the lot of the sailor in strange ports. There we found that the best way to combat vice was to offer an alternative to vice, and it is that that we seek to do at the present moment. Not that I think there is much vice at the present moment. I have noticed no spiritual decline among the soldiers under my command; in fact, I have been very
pleasantly surprised by the numbers of men who have asked for religious instruction—quite a large and appreciable number. At the same time, they have all said that they would welcome a show on Sunday afternoons. The opposition has not been showing a very Christian spirit in argument. They have imputed the lowest possible motives wherever they could; they have been suggesting vested interests and have used such phrases as "Sordid gain," and "Who gets the rake-off?" to quote the hon. Member for Gateshead.
I have not gone into the ins and outs of what they do in Gateshead. Most of the arguments have exhibited, if not a narrow-minded prejudice, certainly an inconsistency. In one town which firmly resisted Sunday opening the mayor has asked theatrical artists to perform on Sunday in aid of the Spitfire Fund. That is not very consistent.
I have had the demand. That was the pledge I gave to my electors from many platforms. I made no definite pledge about anything, but said that I would do my best, as circumstances arose, when they arose. I have a perfectly clear conscience about that.
Is it not the case that the question and answer were directed to normal peacetime conditions, and had no regard at all to the abnormal conditions pertaining to war-time?
That is quite right. The opposition do not mind using Sunday transport, drinking Sunday milk, accepting Sunday domestic service or Sunday electricity or gas, or reading on Monday morning the newspapers printed on Sunday—and being very critical if the reporters have not taken down the sermons correctly.
Are the Monday morning papers a necessity or a mercy? A mercy, I suppose. Personally, I welcome the justice of giving live performances in the theatre the same rights as those enjoyed by the B.B.C. and the cinemas. I do not want more than is at present enjoyed by them. The restrictions are so many, the safeguards so thorough, that I have no hesitation whatever in asking the House to reject the Prayer.
It has been suggested that the supporters of the Prayer are trying to obstruct the development of the drama. As a matter of fact, if this Prayer is rejected and Sunday opening becomes law, the theatre will not be helped in the least. It will mean the opening of the music-halls, not of the theatres. I do not believe that a single theatre in the whole of Staffordshire will open as a result of this Measure. People go to the theatre on some Sundays when the good and great, like myself, go on to a platform and make a speech for some charity; but for the ordinary theatrical performance on a Sunday—or on a week day—there is no demand at all in the provincial towns. The music-halls will be opened; and what we are considering to-day is whether it is in the interests of this country in war-time that the music-halls should be opened on Sundays. Before we decide that, there are two points we must consider; first, what is the demand, and second, what is the drawback involved?
I do not agree with the Mover of this Prayer that the drawback is the work entailed on Sundays. I think that the real drawback is that it would hurt the feelings of a great mass of people in this country who are devoted to keeping the Sabbath holy. We may not do it ourselves, but we all know that a vast number of people in this country—particularly now, in the middle of a war which they regard almost as in the nature of a crusade—feel that maintenance of the Sabbath, not as a day of rest, but as a day of reflection, as a day of elevation, should not be seized upon by the variety profession for a better chance of making a livelihood. That is one thing. We have to remember that ours is still a Bible-reading people and therefore there are a lot of people who, if we pass this Measure to-day will be greatly shocked and whose enthusiasm behind the Government will be injured. On the other side, we have to consider the demand for this change. None of the speeches or arguments that I have heard shows at present any demand for the opening of the music-halls on Sunday. Much the best thermometer of any demand is opinion among Members of Parliament themselves. If there were a demand for this, we would get letters from our constituents pointing out that it was the greatest injustice that music-halls did not open. I doubt whether half-a-dozen Members of this House have had anything in the nature of a mail in favour of this proposal and I doubt whether half-a-dozen have not had a large mail against it.
I ask the Home Secretary when he replies to the Debate to tell us from where the demand comes. I thought when the Debate opened such demand would probably come from welfare officers, but the only welfare officer who has spoken in the Debate to-day has said that he has had no demand at all during his time on that job. Then where does the demand arise? I have seen a great deal of the soldiers of to-day. They are quite different from the old type. I have seen men from all over the country; I have asked them about their amusements, their training, whether there were dances to which they could go and whether picture-houses were open and what books they read and whether they had a chance of improving their minds. They all talked to me quite openly, and as far as variety shows were concerned they had had—those who had been at the front—enough of them in France. They said that throughout France they were given shows which were paid for by the Government, and really they had had enough of what they called "leg dis- plays." Soldiers to-day are very different from the old type. Whether they had had enough of it in France or not, when they got back to England they really did not need the sexual excitement that was to be got from variety shows.
I am coming to that point. The cinemas are open. The Army consists now not solely of recluses in a monastic establishment. You have now none of the difficulties you had when the Army was in France. There is quite enough family life and affection for men in the Army to-day. Men and girls in uniform are much better satisfied to go to the cinema than to go to a vulgar music hall performance. It is difficult for a girl to refuse if a man says he will take her to a variety show. She probably does not like the doubtful jokes and is perhaps a bit ashamed of the "leg display," but she dare not say so, and she goes. Exactly the same happens in the case of the man who does not want to go either. He would much rather go to the cinema, but he wants to show that he is a man, and is doing the right thing, and, therefore, he offers to take the girl to the variety show. Both would infinitely prefer the dusk and sentiment of the cinema, where they could hold each others' hands. The glare and publicity of the music hall leaves them a little ashamed. At music halls they laugh at jokes which they probably think afterwards they ought not to have laughed at. The demand to-day is not for the music hall. It is for opportunities of meeting a nice girl and of preparing for a happy married life. It may be sentiment to say so, but I am perfectly certain that to-day you find a far larger amount of happiness in the Army than there was in France because so many men have picked up nice girls and have a sympathy which the ordinary soldier at war never gets. That applies to the girls, too; they are having a thundering good time.
We have smashed up endless businesses, have thrown people out of work all over the country in order to restrict useless work and to stop people wasting money. We have been preaching all over the country "Do not spend but save." We have brought in a Purchase Tax to prevent people from buying goods. We have ruined people in countless trades. We have thrown them out hoping that they would be picked up by munition factories. Why are we leaving out of this drastic restriction of spending, this coercion into munitions, just the one trade which tends to benefit by the particular Regulation which we are debating to-day? [HON. MEMBERS: "Time."] Yes, it is time I stopped. The music-hall profession, dog-racing people and tipsters—their jobs are preserved. They can go on enabling people to waste their money. They will not be drafted into war industries. But we here represent a far larger number of people who are making sacrifices and I hope we shall, to-day, show that there are still people in this country determined to help soldiers and workers in munitions factories not to go to music-halls, but to win the war by a better determination. Let us take the war seriously, let us see that money is saved and that men and women, whether they be in the acting profession or in any other profession, are henceforward employed in making munitions and goods for the export trade.
We have all, I am sure, admired the sincerity and eloquence, though not always the Christianity, of the speeches that have supported this Prayer. I admire their dexterity the more, in that at least three hon. Members who have spoken have committed themselves to two incompatible propositions, first, that nobody wants Sunday facilities and that when they are granted nobody really uses them; and secondly, that if there are Sunday facilities the Christian Church will be brought down in ruins and the Sunday school will come to an end. It is related that the late Lord Melbourne, after having attended a sermon about profane swearing, returned to lunch and said:
I yield to no one in my admiration for the Church of England, but things have come to a pretty pass if religion is going to invade the sphere of our private lives.
That quotation is perhaps a gift to the other side. But I must confess that I
have not been moved by any of these eloquent and sincere speeches to believe that on my rare Sundays off I may not allow myself, if the local authority decides that I may, to go to a play by Shakespeare or even to a music hall. [Interruption.] I have so much admiration for the brave work which the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has been doing in her constituency that I hope she will not provoke me into making a sharp reply to her. I think it is right to tell the House, especially after the importance attached by the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) to letters and "mail," that I have the honour—and if anyone says that the honour is undeserved I shall not argue very hotly—to represent more clergymen of the Church of England than any other Member of the House. Of my constituents, I reckon that about 25 per cent. are clergymen. I may be regarded now as a lost soul, I am not often at home, postage is very expensive, and the price of protest is high, but owing to special circumstances I have been at home during the last few days, and I have not received a single protest against this Prayer from a single clergyman of the Church of England. I do not want to press that argument too far, but I think it is worth mentioning, because it seems to me that much of the opposition outside—I do not speak of the very sincere speeches we have heard to-day—is what I may call a sort of professional opposition from societies which exist to oppose, and, to use that horrible and almost meaningless phrase, have a "vested interest" in opposing this sort of thing, and which very soon will be out of business.
That leads me to my main point. I do not know whether hon. Members have read a famous book by an American writer, Captain Joseph Slocum entitled, "Sailing Around the World." Having sailed three quarters round the world, he arrived in South Africa where President Kruger was still ruling. President Kruger, up to the day of his death, insisted that the earth was flat, and even when confronted with a man who had just sailed round the world, he insisted on that opinion. With great respect, that seems to me to be the situation here. When anybody talks about bringing down the English Sunday in ruins and so on, he should remember that the kind of Sunday he is talking about rightly or wrongly no longer exists. You are not merely shutting the door after the horse has gone, but when it is far away up the road.
Let me justify that statement. There are two main points always in this controversy. First of all, there are the interests of those who may be required to serve on Sundays, the actors and actresses and so forth. So long as I understood they were against the proposal I made no move in favour of it, but I understand that on the whole they are for it. Secondly, there are the interests of those who are going to be served, and that is the general interest. On that, I would point out that we are at war, and, whatever anyone may say, soldiers and sailors and Civil Defence workers cannot take their leave when they wish, and therefore cannot always put in their theatrical time, so to speak, during the week. I was told by an hon. Member just now of a unit which carefully puts its men off on Saturdays so that they can go to the theatre, and makes them work on Sunday.
Supposing a soldier or sailor does take his leave on Sundays, there are a great many recreations open to him. First of all, the pubs are open. Secondly, there are what are called the perils of the streets; and if my hon. Friend had ever spent a fortnight in a barge with a barrage balloon, even he might not be so careful about the company he kept on the following Sunday. Thirdly, a man can go to the cinema and see the enlightened and instructive—we must say no more, in view of what the United States are doing just now—film displays of Hollywood. Fourthly, if the man stays at home, or if he goes to the house of a friend, and there is an efficient wireless, he can enjoy the entertainments put over by the British Broadcasting Corporation. And this is important. Let us look at what happened last Sunday—[Interruption]— forgetting the unfortunate episode to which my hon. Friends refer. According to the "Radio Times," there were no fewer than seven theatrical entertainments put forward by the B.B.C. last Sunday. The entertainments, which were performed by professional actors, would be unlawful in the theatre outside. At 4.30 in the Home Service programme, at the time when in Victorian days the children were massing about their mothers' knees, there was a performance, with elaborate music and dialogue, of the degrading stage play called "Peter Pan." It lasted one and a quarter hours. At 9.25 there was a play by the alien writer Euripides. The position was far more serious on the Forces programme, where there were at least five such performances. At 12.30 there was "Services Variety," at 1.15 "Music Hall," and at 2.15 "Sunday Matinee," and at 6.30 something called "Hi-Gang." All these performances were given by well-known actors and actresses. At 8 o'clock an entertainment with the horrible name of "Happidrome" was given, and at 10.8 there was Bobbie Pagan at the theatre organ.
Meanwhile, as my hon. Friend has already pointed out, on Sundays in Fleet Street and in every other big town there were hundreds of thousands of men preparing Monday's "Times" and "Express" and all the papers which my hon. Friend reads in bed on a Monday without a protest or a qualm. Let me put it in another way. Take it from the point of view of a well-known actor, like John Gielgud. On Sunday, if the B.B.C. like, he can act Hamlet or Henry V all day long. He can appear on the films as Hamlet or Henry V. He can give a long lecture on Hamlet or Henry V. He can appear—and this is remarkable—at a concert or cinema and act passages from "Henry V" so long as he does not make up, put on costume and do the job properly. In other words, I think we are trying to keep the horse in the stable long after it is far away. I do not think that this picture of a quiet, peaceful, Christian Sunday, into which we are now going to throw some new and devastating explosive, corresponds to the facts. Anyhow, if the English Sunday is worth anything, surely it does not exist in bolts and bars and prohibitions. It exists in the hearts of the people, and it will never be displaced if it is a real thing, as I think it is. That is my answer to the hon. Member when he tells me about institutions. I believe in the Church of England, and I believe in a real sense in the British Sunday. But we are at war. The bells of our churches are no longer ringing to call the people across the valleys. The sons of the village are not there to walk with their fathers across the fields. But they will come back, or some of them will; and the bells will be heard again, but in that day I do not believe that their appeal will be any the less because of the little thing that we do for those boys to-day.
I am glad to have an opportunity of adding a word or two in this interesting Debate, though I must confess, anxious as I was to hear any fresh argument which would justify me in voting for the Prayer, I have not heard one at all. The speech of the mover, if I may use language which I think he will appreciate, fell from grace by virtue of the fact that it consisted of a riot of over-statement and extravagance. To talk about people who desire theatrical performances on Sunday as Fifth Columnists is such excessive language that he does harm to his case by using it. In common with, I suppose, all other Members of Parliament, I have received a number of letters from constituents urging me to support the Prayer. I endeavoured as conscientiously as I could to consider the matter and not thoughtlessly to cast my vote. The letters usually asked me to read a number of Old Testament quotations, but no one suggested that I should read a New Testament quotation:
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
My understanding of the development of the Christian religion is that the Old Testament has been superseded by the New Testament and that we should look to the New Testament for light and guidance. One of the letters that came to me—I refer to it with the utmost respect—is from a man whom I do not know, but it no doubt embodies a sincerely held conviction. I quote his words, because I think they are typical of the minds of a number of people:
On behalf of my wife and myself, I beg you to lodge a protest against polluting our Sabbath Day by the opening of theatres on Sundays.
Note the word "polluting." That typifies to me the wrong approach to this problem. Speaking for myself—and this must be a similar experience to that of other hon. Members—I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the English stage, and
I am grateful beyond words that I can look back over my life and recapture the gladness and joy I have had from great theatrical actors. I remember walking from Hampstead, where I lived, to Notting Hill, because I could not afford the fare, in order to sit in the gallery and hear Mr. Forbes Robertson perform his "Hamlet" over 40 years ago. I remember the wonderful succession of performances in Shakespeare's plays by Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty's Theatre. I remember the rich contralto voice of Constance Collier as Cleopatra. I am glad I heard them and can remember them. Those performances were helpful to me in my intellectual life, and they would have been just as helpful if they had occurred on Sundays instead of on week nights. To talk about plays like Galsworthy's "Silver Box," Shaw's "Saint Joan," Drinkwater's "Abraham Lincoln," or even "Thunder Rock" and "Dear Brutus," which are being shown in London now, as polluting men's minds is a gross misuse of the English language.
To hear some of the critics talk about this Order one would think that it would mean that the floodgates of evil were to be opened. Of course, no such thing will occur at all. I may be reminded that not all theatrical performances are of the same high tone as those I have mentioned. I know that a good many theatres produce musical comedies or revues, with a few pretty faces, a few pretty dresses and a few wisecracks, and they are very pleasurable and enjoyable. I want to plead for the men and women who work tremendously hard for very long hours. Their work is all the harder because of the zeal with which they set about their jobs in these trying times. I want them to have the opportunity—and if it comes on Sunday, to have it on that day—to go to the theatre so that they can get out of themselves. There is nothing so effective as a good stage performance for making men and women forget their troubles, their burdens and their complexities and live a life as if it were part of the performance they are beholding. One could paraphrase the words of Wordsworth's sonnet and say, "The war is too much with us, Late and soon we spend our powers." Men and women want to get away from things and they can do that in a theatre better than anywhere else.
I have been connected all my life with the railway trade union movement. We have 500,000 railway trade unionists in this country, and every Sunday tens of thousands of them are working, but no protest comes from the Sabbatarians on that score. The same happens with regard to Sunday newspapers, busmen and all kinds of workers. It almost tempts one to believe that the Sabbatarian mind does not object to what are euphemistically called works of necessity and works of mercy, but that it objects to things happening on Sunday that bring joy and gladness into the lives of men. They have the kind of outlook that makes them confuse dreariness with religion—a fatal fault. Robert Louis Stevenson some years ago had a word to say on this which I should like to read to the House:
There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their neighbours good. One person I have to make good, myself; but my duty to my neighbour is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy.
Anything that will add to the happiness of mankind ought to be encouraged. The evil that is being done in the world at any time is never done by happy people but by miserable people, introspective people. The two greatest manufacturers of evil in the world at the present time—how does one picture them? Not as laughing in a glad, happy, care-free way, but as knitting their brows, biting their finger nails and conspiring against humanity. To allow thousands of people to go into theatres on Sunday evenings for an innocent evening's enjoyment will help the war effort, will help men and women to bear their burdens bravely, and I cannot see that it will endanger the cause of religion. I confess that I believe the world is going to be redeemed by religion; but not by the Old Testament religion, that consists of stern, peremptory forbidding commands; not by "Thou shalt not." It will be saved by the religion that urges and inspires men and women to live a life of spiritual and social service for mankind. One gets hints of that religion in all the great drama of the world, and men and women ought to be permitted whenever the opportunity comes, of going to see and hear that great drama. I shall vote against the Prayer and support the Minister.
I rise to support with all my heart the Prayer before the House for the annulment of this unfor- tunate Order. I am no kill-joy. The hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) said the world would not be redeemed and renewed by the Old Testament. The world will be redeemed and renewed by the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Old Testament speaks, and I stand, of course, on the Old Testament. Where would we be but for the Old Testament? Thank God for it. But I want to say that the electors who have sent the representatives of Northern Ireland to this House are most determined and uncompromising in their opposition to this proposed Regulation for the opening of theatres and music-halls on Sundays, as they feel that what is being attempted in England to-day will be attempted in Ulster to-morrow, and this degradation of the Lord's Day our people in Ulster will not have at any cost. The Regulation under which theatres and music-halls may be opened on the Lord's Day with the sanction of the local authorities is to me one of the most serious and daring proposals brought before this House since I entered it. The sanctioning of such a proposal, even as a war measure, is an open defiance of God, and a distinct breach of divine law. Do not let us forget the Old Testament. This is a direct challenge to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and to the claim that the Church of Christ should have one day in seven on which to try to bring redemption to our people. Theatres and music-halls have a run of six days; surely it is not too much to ask hon. Members to give God his unchallenged right to one day in seven.
Instead of impeding and hindering the work of the Church, let us give an opportunity to men and women to turn their thoughts to God and to the Church to bring them into touch with the unseen and eternal on the Lord's Day. Man, as has often been said, does not live by bread alone. Thank God we are a Christian country. What man needs above all else is to be fed with the Bread of God from Heaven. Soldier and civilian alike need that replenishment of soul and uplift of spirit which can only be had by waiting upon God, through the means of grace appointed by Himself. Theatres and music-halls cannot accomplish this essential thing. There is a depth in man that such external things cannot touch. It is the deep things that are important, and that are the province of the Church, and any Government or authority which attempts to interfere with the sanctity of Sunday is depriving the people of our land of the things which they most need, Christian salvation and Christian culture—soul culture. Surely we should hesitate, as the greatest legislative Assembly in the world—thank God for that—before taking such a hurtful step for our fellow-men.
I read and expound the Old Testament, and I thank God for the Old Testament. As we read it, we must be struck by the emphasis that God lays on the strict observance of the Sabbath, and how His judgments, time and again, came upon Israel when that nation disregarded his holy day. Here is what God said through the Prophet Ezekiel:
I gave them my Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord … and My Sabbaths they greatly polluted; then, I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness to consume them.
The strict observance of the Sabbath was the sign that cut them off from the ungodly nations around them. Then, again, pronouncing His blessing upon those who kept the Sabbath, God speaking through the Prophet Isaiah promised to all such "an everlasting name." Then, as to His worship, there was no option left:
From one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord.
In the New Testament, to which an hon. Member opposite referred, our Blessed Lord was shown to be a strict observer of the Sabbath. He attended the synagogue regularly on that day. I do not accept the exegesis from the hon. Member opposite who told us that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The purpose of the Sabbath was for man's rest, refreshment, spiritual health and bodily recuperation. Do the threatres and music-halls provide those? I would ask hon. Members a question. In the early Church at the time it was making its greatest conquests three leading Church fathers tell us how the Lord's Day was observed. Tertullian said:
The Lord's Day was the holy day of the Christian Church.
Let every friend of Christ celebrate the Lord's Day.
It was to be spent, not in fun and frolic, but in the worship of God. Justin Martyr, said:
on the Lord's Day all Christians in the city and country assemble together, because that is the day of the Lord's Resurrection.
The decline of religion and religious life has always shown itself in the neglect and desecration of the Sabbath. In the days of Queen Victoria, of blessed memory, no business of any kind was transacted upon a Sunday that could be transacted on another day of the week. To-day, to our hurt and loss, we have gone to the other extreme and anything that can well be done on a week-day must be done on a Sunday. Here is the testimony of Lord Macaulay, our great historian. I would ask hon. Members to pay attention to this:
When industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory, a process is going on quite as important to the welfare of the nation as any performed on more busy days. Man, the machine of machines, is repairing and winding up so that he returns to his labours on Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirits and with renewed corporeal vigour.
Here is the testimony of one of England's greatest sons. Again, we have the testimony of our great Christian poet, Robert Browning:
Thou art my single day, God lends to leaven
What were all earth else, with a feel of Heaven.
You do not get that feeling of Heaven in your music-hall, cinema or theatre. George MacDonald, the great Christian author, with whose writings we are all familiar, says:
Sunday is a quiet hollow in the windy hill of the week.
So I would ask you, dear friends, to think and meditate on these things. If we want help and assistance of a friend, we must keep in that friend's good graces. So, if God is to be our help in these distressful days, we need to stand right with Him.
By order of His Majesty the King, we have had three National Days of Prayer. God's response to the first day of prayer was the mighty deliverance at Dunkirk, which will be spoken of in ages to come as one of the greatest deliverances which ever came to Great Britain. That deliverance came through the direct intervention of God. Thank God for our heroes and for enabling them to keep up their spirits and play football between the bombing attacks. God's answer to the second prayer was the prevention of the attempt at invasion by the enemy. The enemy was driven back. Think of last week and the wonderful change in Yugoslavia, when men imagined that all there was lost to the Allied cause. Through God's intervention a whole series of victories has been granted us during the week, and all has been crowned by that wonderful naval victory against the Italians. That has come in direct answer to our third National Day of Prayer. I would say to hon. Members, not to forget that when they go into the Lobby to-day. Surely, as the Parliament of the nation, we are not going to express our thanks to God for all he has done for us by passing an Order for desecrating His day, dishonouring His name and hampering the work of HisChurch by the opening of theatres and music-halls and bars for the sale of liquor, with all its attendant evils. I would say to the Home Secretary and to the supporters of this unholy Regulation: Along that way lie hurt, harm and loss to the individual and to the nation, and we cannot hope to escape the judgment of God if we defy it.
I have noticed that at these Sunday entertainments there has been only a small number of soldiers present. I am satisfied that the demand for Sunday theatres and music-halls arises far more from a desire for gain than from any altruistic desire to entertain our soldiers. There has been a repeated demand for the opening of cinemas in Belfast on Sunday, on the plea that the military wanted such opening, but no soldier has ever said to me that he wanted to attend any such show. The people of Northern Ireland treat the soldiers with every kindness, and the men themselves would seem to prefer a quiet Sunday evening in a home or hall, in Christian surroundings, to any show or entertainment. I want to say to you in this House that these brave men, whom we honour and welcome and for whose presence we thank God, are largely your own sons from this country. I ask hon. Members of this House to be warned in time, and to do nothing to displease God when we need His help so much. Your vote given to-day against this Regulation for the Sunday opening of theatres and music-halls would be well pleasing to God, and in thus honouring Him, we can be sure that he will stand by us, and lead us forward to certain victory. Stand by God and He will stand by you.
The last speaker has shown himself a great zealot, but when in a free vote of the House he threatens one side with God's curse and promises the other side God's blessing, I think that as God's agent, he goes too far. If I had come here with an open mind, prepared to be influenced by the course of the Debate—which would be an ideal condition in Parliament—the speeches for this Prayer would have driven me into the Lobby against it. It seems to me that we arc going back almost to the Dark Ages, back to the Puritanism which killed the arts, which suppressed the spirit, and which, although I agree it did much to produce a high character, in the end produced the Revolution.
I would say, having listened to the speeches given in favour of this Prayer—and I recognise at once that every speech has been absolutely sincere—that the cinema industry, which I once knew very well, could have found no better advocates for its monopoly of Sunday entertainment. The brewers could have found no better advocates, and I understand that the Noble Lady is ready to speak on behalf of the monopoly of the brewers. Here, there is no comparison between going in to see a play and going into the public-house. The Noble Lady wants to keep the theatre closed.
The point I want to put is this. Each one of us in this House has received many letters, and I think they have all been on one side, namely, protesting against the opening of theatres on Sunday. From a strictly constituency standpoint, it would be easier to vote for this Prayer than against it. But we must speak and vote according to our consciences to-day, and, if the House will forgive me, I want to speak very personally. I, with many other thousands and tens of thousands of Canadians, came to this country for the first time during the last war. I came here, like them, boasting of knowing my England more from Dickens than from the history books. We had had tours by such actors as Forbes Robertson—and I appreciated very much the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite about the theatre—and Ellen Terry. England was our home, the centre of Empire, the inspiration of all that we held most dear, although our families perhaps had not seen it for generations. When I came on leave to London, not knowng a soul in London, not having a friend to come with me, I came rejoicing in the companionship of Mr. Pecksniff, Tom Pinch and all the characters that come from the stage and from literature. [AN HON. MEMBER: "And Mark Tapley."] Yes, Mark Tapley; he was there, as always.
Shortly after this war started, I went on a Saturday afternoon to see Wilde's play "The Importance of being Earnest." While I was buying a ticket, I heard a familiar accent. At first I thought it was Lord Beaverbrook, but I found that it was two Canadian soldiers. I was rather surprised that they had selected this highly stylised comedy of Wilde's. I said, "What brings you here?" These boys, who were from the prairies, said, "We thought that we would like to see an English play, with English actors." Somewhat doubtfully, I played host to them, and bought them their tickets. Half-way through the play, I went to them, and said, "How do you like it?" They said, "This is one of the great treats of our lives." They were listening to superb English dialogue, spoken by superb English voices. I am on the Canadian Red Cross Committee. One of our biggest problems is that of dealing with the thousands of Canadian boys who come to London on leave at the weekends. Our opponents say that these boys may go to a cinema to see Clark Gable in a gangster film, but that they must not go to a theatre to see John Gielgud in "Julius Caesar," which is the best gangster play ever written. The American voice now falls very gratefully on our ears. I think our favourite tune should be "Hail, Columbia," for we owe much to the Americans. But it is downright hypocrisy and humbug to say, "You can have your Clark Gable; you must not have your Gielgud. You can have your Joan Crawford, but not you Lilian Braithwaite."
There is some point in that which I leave to the brilliant brain of my hon. and gallant Friend to explain. You can hear a discordant voice from a picture, but you must not gaze on the speaker himself. I will grant that point. We have handed over the screen of this country to Hollywood, partly because Hollywood makes such good films, and partly because of the blunderings of successive Presidents of the Board of Trade. But I make this plea for the many Empire soldiers here. Let them hear the English language, let them see English plays; and do not let us persist in hypocrisy such as Mr. Pecksniff himself could not have exceeded.
I have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) with great attention. I can assure him that I, at any rate, am not going to take my definition of humbug and hypocrisy from him. I understood him to complain about certain speeches which had preceded his, either for or against this Prayer. I think he ought to have had the gentlemanliness to say, at any rate, that some of us who hold strong views on this matter do hold them sincerely.
The hon. Member forgot evidently what he said in the earlier part of his speech, and he characterises, as I understood him, the opponents of this Order and the supporters of the Prayer as being hypocrites and humbugs. I am not going to take it from him, of all people.
On a point of Order. I have been personally attacked. The hon. Gentleman opposite has said that he will not take this from me, of all people, which seems to imply a direct charge from which I ask you, Sir, to protect me, or that the hon. Member should withdraw.
The hon. Gentleman opposite said that he would not accept a charge of hypocrisy from me of all people, thereby implying something which he is not ready to develop to its utmost extent. If he will, I shall be very glad; otherwise I think he ought to withdraw.
I have said what I have to say, and I withdraw nothing. I only want to say a few words from a standpoint which has not been mentioned in this Debate before, and that is the standpoint of a country, a constituency of which I have the honour to represent, namely, the Principality of Wales. The hon. Member who spoke from Ulster said with great pride that this Order does not apply to his part of the country, but nevertheless he took a quarter-of-an-hour to speak on this subject in this House. He is fortunate; we in Wales are not so fortunate. This Order is imposed upon us without our consent, and whatever hon. Members may say from English constituencies and the University of Oxford, there is no demand for this Order in Wales. In fact, there is a profound, deep-seated, widespread hostility to anything of the kind. There can be no doubt about that in Wales, and that point of view is understood to have the respect and consideration of this House. Why is it that Scotland and Ulster, and Scotland particularly, remain untouched by this Order? Why is it that the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland does not introduce an Order of this kind giving facilities for the opening of cinemas and theatres in Scotland? The answer is, because they dare not, or, in a more modest way, because there is no demand for it in Scotland. They have satisfied themselves apparently that there is no clear demand for such an Order in Scotland. I wonder whether Scotland is any the worse for that. Is Scotland not playing a great part in the building-up of the character of the Dominions, including Canada? Has it not, by its Puritan training, built up the character of most notable sons of Canada who have come from Scotland? It has been stimulated and invigorated in character by the Puritan feeling in Scotland. If there is no demand for this in Scotland, there is still less demand in Wales.
Is the hon. Member aware that it is a matter for the local authorities in Scotland and that there are queues almost half-a-mile long for the picture houses in Glasgow every Sunday night?
I was about to deal with that point, which is certain to be put by the Home Secretary against the argument that it rests entirely with the decision of the local authority. The term "local option" has been used in the course of this Debate, but there is no such thing in this Order as local option in the true sense of the word. What we understand by local option is that there should be a plebiscite by the people themselves, but there is no such option here at all. It is not necessary to tell me that Welsh Members ought not to complain because this Order gives Welsh people power to decide for themselves. We are not given such power. No local elections have been held, and are not likely to be held for a long time to come.
Already Wales has been treated differently from England, not on political grounds but on moral, spiritual and cultural grounds. There was the special Intermediate Education Act because of the thirst in Wales for the general education of the mass of the people and the Act for the establishment of the Church in Wales, which has done a great deal of good for the Church in Wales in that it has brought it closer to the national life of our country. The recognition of the strong feeling for religious equality and freedom goes much beyond mere religious toleration. The Sunday closing of licensed houses in Wales proves the conviction of the Welsh people that trading in alcoholic liquor on the Lord's Day is an affront to Christian religion. So I say that the Home Secretary ought to give special consideration to Wales in this matter.
We are all in favour of giving joy and gladness, in the true sense of the word, to our troops and to those engaged in munitions. One hon. Member said that we were against giving joy and gladness to the people. That is untrue. I can take him to my constituency, where there are now hundreds of thousands of troops for the first time, and show him the voluntary and genuine efforts which people there are making in order to give joy and gladness to the soldiers. They are doing it by means of all sorts of lectures, culture and music on Sundays and on evenings during the week. On these grounds I ask the Home Secretary to have due regard to the arguments which have been put against this Prayer. I do not profess to be what is called a reforming saint, but with the calls to worship seeming to get fewer, I believe that no greater calamity can befall a nation than to lose opportunities of freedom to worship.
If I rise to say a few words about this Prayer, it is because I wish to speak as a young man typical of hundreds of thousands of my kind. Like all other hon. Members, I have had many letters from constituents, all of them urging me to support this Prayer. Those were organised letters, every one of them was organised; and I have taken the trouble to go round the ordinary men who are serving with me in the Forces to find out what is their opinion on the matter. To one man, they are in favour of allowing men and women, if they wish to do so, to pass part of their Sundays by the normal amusement of looking at a music-hall or theatre.
With all respect to hon. Members who have spoken, I think both sides of the case have been put rather too strongly. If I felt that by prohibiting men and women from going to theatres and music-halls on Sunday we could induce a small section of the public to be more religious-minded, I would have walked from my Army station in order to support this Prayer. But I believe that rather the opposite is true. Hundreds of thousands of young men and young women in this country to-day, alas, have no faith, or very little faith. It is because they have felt, in the hurly-burly of the modern world, that there is no place for religion, which they feel to be austere and cold. Surely, that is untrue. Religion in its very meaning is the word "love," spreading a little happiness in corners of the world that want happiness. If ever a better hallmark existed, surely it is the Cross—myself crossed out. That is what really matters—not how many times you put on a top hat and go to church, not whether you happen to listen to Gracie Fields or Flanagan and Allen on Sunday afternoon. I do not believe that the ordinary Army soldier who, grievously wounded at the front, gives his water-bottle to his pal is any less Christian because of the fact that he happened to go to a music-hall or watch what one hon. Member called a "leg-show" the Sunday before. Surely, that is the real meaning of Christianity. You may lead a man to church, but you cannot force him to believe, except by the outliving of your life and the example you set. I do not believe the Church will put forward the fact that if you open theatres and music halls you will lessen the pull that religion has. That would be rather the same as saying, "Cut off the Forces programme, or no one will listen to the Home Service."
That is all I wish to say, except to refer to the speech of the hon. Member opposite who spoke so delightfully and quoted from our Lord's own words in the New Testament, when He said that man is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man. That was on the occasion when He was healing on a Sunday, working in a church, and hypocrites, as always, tried to question what he was doing. When a man like Mr. Vic Oliver happens to be able to give a performance that enables thousands and thousands of people to carry on smiling through the sweat of the following week, is he not doing good? Is not that a Christian act, even if he is paid? Therefore, at this particular moment let us not, through smug piety, fail to reject the Prayer. Otherwise, I really believe we shall be April fools.
In Debates of this kind there is always the danger, because feelings are passionately aroused, of ending up by calling each other humbugs and words of that description. I think it will be far better if, without quarrelling, we all approach this matter as people honestly trying to arrive at what we think best. In these days, all of us in the House are actuated by one over-riding motive, and that is the desire to win this war, and to win it as quickly as we possibly can. I should like to warn hon. Members that there is a danger that this necessity for winning the war may be exploited by persons for their own private enterprise. I will be perfectly frank; I believe there is something of that in this agitation which is now going on. I approach this matter from a rather different aspect from that expressed very sincerely by those who, up to now, have supported the Prayer. I accept the text used by the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins), in a speech which delighted us all, that the Sabbath was made for man. That is a text which I wish to apply to this new Order and every other Order which destroys Sunday as a day of rest.
I believe that there was never a time in the history of this country or the world when the setting aside of a day, a day which we deliberately make different from others, was more necessary. We are living under the storms and stresses of war, but even before the war, and after the war is ended, we were and shall be living in the midst of a machine world where the strains and stresses are tremendous. It has become essential, on physical as well as moral grounds, that we should set aside this one day and make it a quiet day of relaxation. I have been striving and fighting for this all the way through. I would take the liberty of speaking on behalf of my colleagues in the trade union movement, and the pioneers who have spent generations in trying to stop Sunday work. We have tried to stop Sunday working by all kinds of protective regulations. We have sought to make Sunday working unprofitable. Why do we ask for double-time on Sundays, and put on restrictions, and struggle and fight against it? It is because we believe that one day ought to be set aside for the workman, and that he is entitled to that complete rest from work. It is not so much that this Order in itself is so vital, but it is the whole tendency. When one begins to accept these things, there is no stopping—we are making Sunday just another ordinary day. It is a problem we cannot face at the present moment because of the exigencies of war, but we shall have to face up to it after the war.
In every industry, including the one with which I have been associated, the machine is coming in. I have had the argument put to me that if production is to be maintained, you must keep the cycle of mechanical processes seven days a week and tie the man down to the machine. I say to my fellow-workmen, with some knowledge of the development of industry, that one of these days the workers will have to choose between making it a five-day week and see the Sunday go completely in the interests of the machine. I know that the Sabbath was made for man, I want to keep it for man and not surrender it to the machine. If it went, I believe something of great value to the nation would be lost. Nations in Europe have collapsed for all kinds of curious reasons. There is something of value to the nation in keeping this quiet day. It is something of priceless value to the workers.
We are told that there is a demand for these facilities from those serving in the Armed Forces. I, like every other Member, receive dozens or scores of letters. Every day there are letters in the post from members of the Armed Forces about all kinds of problems, but I have not had a single letter from a soldier on this, and I have not met a colleague who has. They write to us familiarly. If they regarded this as a burning issue, they would not hesitate to write about it. This demand, as far as I know, has not come from our brothers who are serving in the Armed Forces. I do not take second place to anyone in my love for English literature and the English theatre. What has happened to the English theatre? Who has killed it? It is not the Puritans. It is not I and my colleagues. It is the profiteers who have killed it. I want to sustain the living theatre; I want to give its actors, actresses and artistes a place in our life. It will not be sustained unless the nation makes the living theatre a part of its national system of education. But supposing we open the theatres on Sundays, how many soldiers will get a chance to go to them? In South Wales there is only one theatre left. All the rest have been killed by the vested interests, who do not care a bit about Shakespeare. There are not five per cent. of the men in the Armed Forces who are within reach of a theatre.
We are all concerned about the welfare and entertainment of these men. They are scattered all over the country in remote rural areas, and all kinds of people are providing for their welfare and entertainment and are looking after them. In remote parts of Wales the care and entertainment of these men are now being organised. People in religious institutions are doing everything they can to care for their welfare and entertainment, whereas the opening of the theatres will not touch
the fringe of the problem. Suppose the theatres are open on Sunday, how many of the men will be able to afford the money to go to them? Will those who are very enthusiastic for the opening of Sunday theatres accept the implication that they must give enough money to the men to enjoy the facility? It is not possible for a very large number of the men to enjoy the theatres because they cannot afford it. We all want to see these men cared for, we want to see them entertained, and we want to give them the best in every way. If I were satisfied that behind this Order were a desire to provide this kind of entertainment for the men in the Forces and that nothing else was behind it I might be persuaded in its favour. I will make one quotation from the large number of pamphlets and letters that have been sent to me. It is from the "Theatrical Managers' Journal," and I want to quote it because I think that it indicates that behind it is the desire for gain. They say:
Naturally theatrical proprietors hope that Sunday performances will pay; otherwise they will not give them.
If the giving of performances on Sunday in theatres depends on whether they are a commercial success or not, how can it be claimed that they are needed for the welfare of the men in the Forces?
What I am saying is that a good deal has been said about there being behind this Order the desire to seek the welfare of the men in the Forces. Against that, I am entitled to quote the theatrical managers, who say that unless Sunday theatres pay they will close them down. I would like to say a word in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans), who put the special point of view of Wales. There is a good deal of feeling that Whitehall treats Wales as a county and not as a nation, with a culture, language and institutions of its own which ought to be recognised, and I urge the Home Secretary to give consideration to that problem. There is not a single request that I know of for this Order from anybody in Wales. There is, on the other hand, deep hostility to it, and I ask my right hon. Friend to consider that fact. I shall go into the Lobby for this Prayer because I think that it is in the best interests of this nation, in the best interests of the people whom I immediately represent, and in the interests of all of us to maintain a day which is set aside for quiet and reflection and is made deliberately different from other days.
The hon. Member says that it has gone already. I believe we have to recover it, if not for any narrow Puritan reasons. I have heard in this Debate many references to the Nonconformist conscience, and no doubt there was a great deal that was very narrow in it, but may we not be getting towards a world without a conscience at all? I would far rather we should go back to the Nonconformist conscience than to a world without a conscience. I believe it is in the best interests of this nation and of the workpeople of this nation to keep Sunday a day of rest, a day of reflection, and to refuse to commercialise it, and that is why I shall go into the Lobby for the Prayer.
I should like to express to my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) my appreciation of his action in agreeing that I might follow rather than precede him. I was anxious to speak as late as possible in the Debate, in order that I might have the advantage of hearing all points of view, including the important point of view represented by my hon. Friend. I think we have all listened with great interest to this Debate, which has been a good Debate. My hon. Friend has put the point of view of the religious-minded and thinking workmen of Wales with very great competence and with great sincerity, and I would say nothing in any way disrespectful of what he has said. I particularly agree that we must all be on our guard against the changes or modifications, even the relaxations, of war-time being exaggerated—taken farther than they should because of war conditions. We ought not to permit the war to be used as a light and easy excuse to upset the general conceptions, the moral codes or the religious feelings of the community. I do not argue this case from that point of view, and I think my hon. Friend will concede that I would not permit myself to be intimidated by interests outside. Moreover, I share with him a feeling that the Nonconformist conscience, as it was called, criticised and denounced in many quarters as it was, was one of the elements of the British character, and I think that the country, politically as well as in a religious sense, may have lost something by the relative weakening of Nonconformity and, indeed, by the weakening of the Established Church in many parts of the country.
While these things happen, while the people's attitude towards religion changes and there is a growing feeling that the individual has a right to think for himself, nevertheless I would join with my hon. Friend in saying that if the Established Church or the Nonconformist Churches are weakening in their hold over the people, it is, to say the least, desirable that we should all try to see that the vacancy created shall be filled by something that is not less worthy of the ideals and the conceptions which were associated with those Churches. Therefore, it is desirable in this discussion, if we take the view, as I do personally,—I may be right or wrong, because it is very difficult to be certain about these matters—that the violent and strong opposition to this Regulation comes not from a majority but from a minority in this country, that we should not argue that merely because it is a minorityx2014;if it be so—it should necessarily be disregarded by this House. We must consider the quality of minorities as well as their number. We must also consider the quality of majorities as well as their number. Therefore, I hope that the House will accept the assurance that I give as Home Secretary that neither I nor my colleagues in the Government, who have made this decision collectively, have taken the decision lightly or with any feeling of contempt or indifference towards the deep and sincere conscientious convictions, not only of people of religious mind, but of people who are not altogether orthodox in religion, but many of whom have similar feelings to those which have been expressed in the Debate by the supporters of the Prayer.
It has been argued that hon. Members gave undertakings during the last General Election that they would oppose Sunday entertainments. Perhaps I may be permitted to say something about election pledges. As for the filling-up of questionnaires and so on, I do not do it, and I do not propose to do it. I am not sure that a candidate for Parliament who signs on the dotted line, in the absence of knowledge of the circumstances which will have to be faced when he may have to vote upon the subjects in question in the House of Commons, and who thus commits himself to detail and definitely, is worthy of being a candidate for Membership of this great Assembly.
The hon. Gentleman's voice is not exactly a whisper, and I note that, as usual, he has had his customary humorous response from some quarters of the House; but I cannot see the relevance of his interruption.
I cannot see the relevance of that interruption. Rightly or wrongly, and I think wrongly, a certain number of present Members of the House gave, in 1935, when they were candidates, undertakings that they would oppose Sunday opening and the principle of Sunday entertainments. I think it is unwise for candidates for Parliament to sign these questionnaires on the dotted line and to commit themselves in detail about what they will do, in circumstances which may not have arisen and which they cannot foresee. Those promises were given in 1935, and this is 1941. They were given in the days of peace, but we are living in very different conditions to-day. Hon. Members have a perfect right to consider this Motion, not in the circumstances in which they gave their undertakings during the Election of 1935, but in the circumstances of to-day. They must think again, in the light of the conditions which obtain in war-times.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend thinks that when you join the Government you can do what you like. If he thinks that, he has a very youthful conception of government. One cannot do it. Government must be a unity. When one joins a Government one joins it on the basis that the Government acts collectively. Apart from the Government, this is a free vote, and the hon. Members who clamoured for a free vote might be more appreciative when they get it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not bound to give it, but he did. Hon. Members ought to be, as I say, more appreciative, and should not adopt the extreme doctrine that when a Government has made a defence Regulation, the Government can afterwards split up and each Member do as he likes. That is the way to chaos. Therefore, the free vote having been given, I urge upon hon. Members to exercise their individual responsibilities as Members of Parliament in circumstances that did not exist in 1935, that are materially different from those of 1935, and to give their vote according to what they think is right in the interests of the country at the present time. Whether they vote my way or the other way, that is all I ask.
I would remind the House of the conception of a Member of Parliament, which was stated by a great Parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, quoted in the little book associated with my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) which was referred to a few days ago. I prefer this doctrine to the doctrine of the man who signs away his rights on a dotted line on the eve of an election. This is what Edmund Burke said after he was elected for the city of Bristol:
To deliver an opinion is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the Member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience: these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our Constitution.
I think that is worth thinking of, in view of the arguments we have heard to the effect that Members have received from their constituents far more postcards and communications against this Regulation than they have for it. Indeed, many have received none at all. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. P. Herbert) has received none against. When Members of Parliament permit their judgment, their minds and their position to be determined by the number of postcards they receive, British democracy will be in a serious position.
The changes in this matter of Sunday entertainments have extended over a period of years. The House will remember that by a legal decision the action of certain local authorities in permitting Sunday opening of cinemas was held to be illegal. Under the Sunday Entertainment Act, 1932, which regularised the position in those areas where opening had already taken place, a local authority's decision in favour of Sunday opening in a new area could be challenged by a poll of the electors. If the poll was in favour of Sunday opening, an Order is made by the Home Secretary and is subject to the approval of both Houses. After the war broke out there was made a Regulation under which the poll was dispensed with, subject to a certificate being received from the competent military authority. This new Regulation does not sell the pass as to the principle of Sunday opening at all. Extensive opening of cinemas already exists. Further opening can be authorised on the matter being raised by the competent military authority and action being subsequently taken by the local authority, subject to the approval by Parliament of Orders made by the Secretary of State. Cinemas are open all over the country. All that the Order proposes is first to give to the competent industrial authority a right of initiative equal to that enjoyed by the competent military authority in respect of cinemas, and, secondly, to apply the Regulation to theatres and music halls.
With all the good will in the world, I cannot see that it is more wicked to permit a theatre—the living stage—to be open than a cinema. Some films are beautiful and dignified things, some of them are somewhat on the light side, and others, some people might say, are some- what on the vulgar side. I do not criticise the cinema; I used to go myself before I was a Minister of the Crown, and I should like to go now, but I cannot. I have nothing against the cinema, but I cannot see that the legitimate stage, with living British actors and actresses, is necessarily morally inferior to the screen, with its artistes coming from all parts of the world. That is all that is being done by this Regulation, coupled with the right of the industrial authority to move the local authority to consider the matter.
Why have we brought in the competent industrial authority? The competent military authority is already in and has acted in many cases. But the competent military authority does not decide, nor will the competent industrial authority decide. The local authority is still the decisive instrument in this matter, and nobody else. If local opinion is dead against Sunday opening, as I agree it probably is in most of Wales—
Yes, Sir, he will be nominated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and will probably be the divisional controller, an important local officer of the Ministry of Labour, as I think the competent military authority is the General Officer Commanding in the Area.
Why are we making this change? Just as it is the case that men are moved away from their homes for military, naval or air force service, and are living in new districts away from their friends, having hours of work which are materially different from what they were before, and therefore, in our view, needing additional facilities for entertainment and enjoyment, so it is the case that there have been important changes in conditions of labour, in the location of industrial works and in other circumstances. There have been many transfers of industrial workers, hours of labour have tended to lengthen in the war factories, Sunday working in the war factories has been on the increase—and the purpose has been not to break the Sabbath but to get the maximum production out of the plant, machinery and general organisation of the undertaking—giving the workpeople time off on another day. Industrial circumstances are vastly different from what they were before the war. Workpeople are working at some strain, they are working different hours and different shifts, many of them are working on Sundays, and many of them are away from their own home towns, families and immediate friends. It is very important that the industrial worker should be kept happy and cheerful [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Scotland?"] I will come to that presently if the hon. Member will let me continue to be happy and cheerful meantime. [An HON. MEMBER: "We should be glad to see you up there."] It is a vital necessity, in the interests of the successful prosecution of the war, that not only shall the soldier, the sailor and the airman be kept as cheerful as we can keep him—or, at any rate, be prevented from becoming miserable and depressed—but of equal importance that that should be done for the industrial worker as well. That is the reason why the Government recommend to the House, as they firmly do, that the Prayer should be rejected. The Regulation arises from the war, it is for the purposes of the war, and will automatically come to an end when the war is over.
If my hon. Friend is taking advice on law from the theatrical profession, I will tell him that they never were good at law. It does not depend on the Regulation. The power under which the Regulation itself is made comes to an end at the end of the war, and, therefore, the Regulation must automatically come to an end, too. Let the House not bother itself about what is to happen at the end of the war. This is a war-time Measure. If at the end of the war any Government wish to continue Sunday theatres, they will not be able to do it under this Regulation. They will have to bring in a Bill and go through all the stages of Parliamentary legislation. The point is amply safeguarded. Nor does this Regulation say to the whole country that theatres must be allowed to open on Sundays. The local authority at Llanelly will have an absolute right to say that they will not have the theatres open.
I know something about that, from the local authority of which I am still a member. Such questions were always awkward for that local authority, especially in days of peace; but that authority is running peacefully now. Can anybody say that this discussion in the House to-day will have a bad effect on us? I do not think so. I think it has all gone off very nicely. Tempers have been good. We have had a day out of the ordinary rut. We shall probably be all the better for having had a perfectly free and independent discussion. I do not think the local authorities will be hurt. Some of the leading councillors will have a bit of anxiety; but it will be a change for them, a new form of anxiety, and I not think it will do them any harm. My point is that the local authority will decide. If the competent military authority say that they want the theatres open, the local authority can say, "We do not"; and they will not be open. In a limited number of cases the local authorities have rejected the application of the competent military authority. They can do the same with the application of the competent industrial authority.
The present position as regards Sunday opening is that it is extensively allowed. The Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, legalised Sunday opening in areas where it had already taken place; the population of such areas was 10,100,000 persons. The number of Orders made under the Act was 90, affecting an additional 4,034,000 persons. Then came the first Defence Regulation. The number of Orders made under that Regulation was 174, including some very quiet and respectable places, which thought it the right thing to do. The number of Orders made is 174, affecting a population of 7,600,000. So, the population in the areas where Sunday opening takes place is already 21,700,000. Who can say, or who is going to say that the morale of the people in this war has been worsened in consequence of this widespread Sunday opening? I think that on the whole it has been the better. I do not like my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead saying that London is the wickedest city on earth.
I never said that: I said that it was a cosmopolitan city and that there was no comparison between it and any city in the provinces. There is no comparison at all because there is no parity; it is a contrast.
I do not dispute that at all, but I gathered from his tone of voice and his references to me as the boss of London and the conqueror of Waterloo Bridge—I do not complain about it—that he had some feeling on the point. But the cinemas in London have been opened for many years on a Sunday. It was, I do not say the pioneer of this practice, but one of the pioneers, and cinemas have been opened for years, and there have been Sunday games in the parks for years. Will my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead disagree with me when I say that, despite this long period of Sunday opening and Sunday games, the morale, stamina and grit of the people of this capital city have not been below that of other cities? I think the argument that Sunday entertainments lead to deterioration and lack of morale is wrong; and what is true of London in this respect is true of other parts of the country. And the morale is equally fine where Sunday opening has not taken place.
I sum up, therefore, by saying that the Government, having given this question the most careful consideration, and having the warmest respect and deepest regard for the conscientious principles and religious convictions of all hon. Members and their constituents—none of us would do anything light-heartedly to upset these convictions—nevertheless, feel—and we have a fair amount of religious opinion on our side as well as against us—that on balance this is a desirable thing in the interest of the prosecution of the war. The Regulation ends with the war. Local option is preserved. I think it would have been wrong to exclude Wales, because it would have denied to local authorities in Wales the right to decide for themselves in the same way as English authorities. If the local authorities of Wales and the Welsh people do not want Sunday opening, they will not have it, but it would be wrong not to give them the right to decide. The position in Scotland is that apparently the Sunday Observance Acts are not held to apply, a position which was a surprise, I am sure, to the bulk of Members of this House, as it was to me. The legal position in Scotland is substantially what it is in England and Wales under the Defence Regulations. Wales need not in any way be jealous of Scotland. I can put it this way: Scotland is excluded from the Regulation because she is already able to deal with the matter by another method.
When other kinds of Sunday legislation have come before this House consideration has always been granted to Wales. This is the first piece of Sunday legislation in which the special position of Wales is not recognised.
I quite agree. If it is so, the counties of Cornwall and Devon will have the right to keep cinemas and theatres closed. They have this free right under this Defence Regulation, and is it not equally proper that the rights of local self-government and local decision of the authorities in Wales should be equal to those of local authorities in Cornwall and Devon? I do not want Wales to be in an inferior position, as regards local self-government, to England, but I entirely appreciate the other point of view. I would advise the theatre and music hall people, in deciding what kind of plays and shows they should put on on Sundays, to exercise discrimination and restraint. They must take account of the opinion which exists. I think they ought to do so, and that it would be wise for them to do so. I would remind them also that local authorities can, if they wish, attach conditions to the granting of licences. If they want to exclude the cruder kinds of entertainment, they can do as a condition of granting a licence. There is not a great deal they cannot do as a condition of granting a licence.
They cannot usurp the functions of the Censor, but they can give guidance to managements as to the kind of think they should do. They could tell them, "Do not go too far by making it vulgar, cheap or crude. If you do, you will be in trouble sooner or later." This kind of thing can be done. I have done it. Managements are not fools, and if local authorities give them the tip, they are usually wise enough to take it.
If that is in a theatre licensed by a local authority, then the local authority can deal with it. If it is a military establishment under the auspices of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War, then I will say nothing whatever about it. But the Noble Lady may leave it to him. There is, I gather, some feeling in certain parts of the House that this facility ought not to be exercised before a reasonable hour on Sunday—that the morning, at any rate, ought to be left clear. I think that is reasonable, and that there should be an hour in the middle of the day before which opening cannot take place. I do not think many local authorities will take any other view, but if the House agrees, I propose to advise the licensing authorities and the local authorities that they should not in any case permit Sunday opening before 1.30 p.m. I feel sure that will be effective and operative. However, if there should be any serious difficulty about it, we can consider whether the Defence Regulation can be amended, although I cannot be sure that is legally practicable. I propose to give that advice to the local authorities, and I feel sure they will observe it.
I was having regard to religious opinion generally as far as I could. I was not aware that only one Church had morning services. I thought all of them had. Therefore, I think my proposal would be of some advantage to all Churches, but if any Churches would prefer that there should be no restriction of that kind, and that theatres and music halls should be permitted to open as early as they like, I should have to think again. I have not gathered that that is their point of view. In conclusion, I wish to thank hon. Members for the spirit in which the Debate has been conducted. There has been hard hitting, but it has been a good Debate. The Government feel it is right that this Regulation should be approved. We ask the House to reject the Prayer, and we honestly believe that in so doing it will be doing the right thing in the circumstances in which we are
|Division No. 11.]||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Peat, C. U.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Pete s, Dr. S. J.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Radford, E. A.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Hannah, I. C.||Richards, R.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Riley, B.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hardie, Agnes||Ritson, J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Hepworth, J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Holmes, J. S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ruggles-Brise, Col. C. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Hunter, T.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)|
|Browne, Captain A. C. (Belfast W.)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jackson, W. F.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Burton, Col. H. W||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar).|
|Butcher, H. W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sloan, A|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||John, W.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Colfox, Major Sir W. P.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Lawson, J. J.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Southby, Comd. Sir A. R. J.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Stewart, W. Joseph (H'gton-le-Spring)|
|Cove, W. G.||Loftus, P. C.||Storey, S.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Daggar, G.||Lunn, W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||McCorquodale, Flight-Lt. Malcolm S.||Summers, G. S.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sykes, Sir F. H|
|De la Bère, R.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||McKie, J. H.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Doland, G. F.||McKinlay, A. S.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Drewe, C.||MacLaren, A.||Train, Sir J.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Maitland, Sir A.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kens'gt'n, N.)||Mander, G. le M.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Dunn, E.||Martin, J. H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mathers, G.||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Medlicott, Major Frank||Weston, W. Garfield|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Fraser, Capt. Sir Ian||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Fyfe, Major D. P. M.||Mort, D. L.||Woolley, W. E.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Muff, G.||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Gibbins, J.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Granville, E. L.||Pearson, A.||Mr. Magnay and Sir Francis Fremantle.|
|Adams, D. Consett)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Broad, F. A|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Benson, G.||Brooke, H.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h. Univ.)||Bevan, A.||Buchanan, G.|
|Assheton, R.||Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Bullock Capt. M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Campbell, Sir E. T|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
placed. I believe that the Regulation will help to keep people cheerful and happy, a factor which will materially help in the prosecution of the war. In rejecting the prayer, the House may be assured that at the end of the war the position will be entirely open and free. It will then be for the House to take such course of action as it thinks fit. I ask that the prayer be rejected.
|Channon, H.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Ep'ing)||Leach, W.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Levy, T.||Scott, R. D. (Wansbeck)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Liddall, W. S.||Selley, H. R.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Lipson, D. L.||Silkin, L.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G's.)||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lyttelton, Capt. Rt. Hon. O.||Simmonds, D. E.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Less- (K'ly)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||McEntee, V. La T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||McGovern, J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Stuart, Rt. Hn. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dobbie, W.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Milner, Major J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Molson, A. H. E.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Frankel, D.||Montague, F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Gallacher, W.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Gledhill, G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Morrison R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Naylor, T. E.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Oliver, G. H.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Paling W.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. P.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Parker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Harvey, T. E.||Peake, O.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)||Price, M. P.||Wilmot, John|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Profumo, J. D.||Windsor, W.|
|Hill, Dr. A. V (Cambridge U.)||Rathbone, Beatrice F. (Bodmin)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W. J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (H'ckn'y, N.)||Read, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Jagger, J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wright, Wing Commander J. A. C.|
|Johnstone, H. (Middesbrough, W.)||Rickards, G. W.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Ridley, G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jewitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Colonel Sandeman Allen and|
|King-Hall, Commander, W. S. R.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Mr. Denville.|
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that the Order in Council, dated 28th February 1941, made under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Acts 1939 and 1940, amending Regulation 42B of, and adding Regulation 42BA to, the Defence (General) Regulations, 1939, a copy of which was presented to this House on 25th March, 1941, be annulled.
That the Draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under the Gas Undertakings Acts, 1920 to 1934, on the application of the Cardigan and
Fishguard Gas Company, Limited, which was presented on 11th March and published, be approved subject to the following modifications:—
Clause 3, page 2, lines 46 and 47, leave out 'thirty-first day of March, 1941,' and insert 'date of this Order.'