Before this order is approved, I would like to ask the Home Secretary whether in this case a poll was taken; and if a poll was taken how many people were entitled to vote; how many people did, in fact, vote; and of those people who did vote, how many voted "aye" and how many voted "no" and whether, in view of those figures that he must have with him he is satisfied that that poll did, in fact, represent local opinion?
There are no statistics on this occasion because, as a matter of fact, after the public meeting had been held, it decided in favour of Sunday cinemas, and no poll was demanded by the defeated party; and, therefore, the information as to how opinion in the poll was divided is not available. They decided to save the expense of going to a poll.
I would like to ask the Home Secretary if the Churches have been consulted in the city of Peterborough as regards this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman has not told the House anything about the opinion of the Churches on this issue of Sunday cinemas. Peterborough is a cathedral city. It has a bishop and an assistant bishop, and a number of deans and canons.
One dean, and a number of canons. One would have thought the House might have been informed as to what the opinion of the Church movement was in the city of Peterborough, whether it was proper and right that cinemas should be held upon Sundays. In addition to that, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the policy of the Government that Motion after Motion should be passed allowing the opening on Sundays of cinemas which, for the most part, take American films. We are short of dollars, and I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is somewhat worried by the dollar supply.
With respect, why is it the case that on Sundays in these towns and cities of England there should be repeatedly shown two feature films imported from the United States upon which dollars are expended?
Then may I ask the Home Secretary to look into the propriety of opening cinemas in towns and cities of England upon Sundays which might offend against public taste, offend against the general policy of the Churches, and use up American dollars quite unnecessarily.
I wish to ask exactly what it is that the Home Secretary is putting before us. I am surprised that a Resolution such as this should be moved at this time of night. My noble Friend has spoken on behalf of the Church of England. I speak as a Nonconformist, and I say quite frankly that this type of Motion does fill many Nonconformists with a considerable amount of perturbation. To put before the House this type of Motion at 2.30 in the morning is an abuse of Parliament and to put it before the House with the kind of explanation that has been put before us tonight—a nod of the head from the Home Secretary—is really an insult to our intelligence. I would like to know exactly on what grounds the Home Secretary is asking us to support this Motion, of what it consists, and what it is he is putting before us. I would ask if he has consulted Church of England and Nonconformist opinion. We are entitled to have much more explanation. It is a very much more serious matter than one would think. I would ask the Home Secretary to pay the House the compliment of giving it a little more information on these matters than he appears to be prepared to give at present
I have remained these past two hours for the Scottish Debate, and would now associate myself with the Noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) in this matter of the desecration of the Sabbath, as we call it in Scotland, which is not a wholly Scottish matter, but an English matter as well. There have been views expressed with some authority on the Church of England—
I am one of those people who take a little time to arrive at the point. Under your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have arrived at the point, and I express myself in agreement with the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member for Wirral in this matter of the extension of Sunday cinematograph entertainment as an undesirable one, whether in Peterborough or any other English cities or boroughs, which, as you see, are listed at some length, and which I cannot mention in these circumstances—nor shall I mention other boroughs—but the opportunity of speaking about the city of Peterborough on these matters is.one which, with your permission, I am entitled to take. So far as Sunday cinematograph attendances are concerned, I would say that from the experience of Peterborough which I have, they are neither widely demanded nor thought to be necessary. Peterborough has many other attractions on a Sunday. It has its great cathedral, and other attractions, and I want to say, as a Scotsman, that the views and opinions expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) are neither narrow nor limited. They are shared with expressions of good will in all parts of this island, and, as a Scottish Member I support most wholeheartedly those views.
I welcome this opportunity of explaining this order. Might I say to hon. Members opposite that, if they desire to have these orders explained, I will dog so in moving them. I have been here for the whole of the evening for the mere purpose of participating in this Debate should I be called upon to do so. Previously, I had sat here all the evening, and then merely nodded my head six times, which seems to me to be rather a sad end to a happy day.
Peterborough is a county town of the most remarkable administrative county in England—the Soke of Peterborough. It is also a place associated in English history with Hereward the Wake. It is also remarkable for the fact that it produced the largest majority of all in favour of having cinmas open on Sundays. Such of the members of the deanery and chapter of the cathedral of Peterborough as are electors, had the opportunity of attending the meeting and of participating in the poll if they so desired. They had' the right of citizens just as my fellow Noncomformists had, and I might add that I am so sound a Nonconformist that I regard the vote of a bishop as something equal to the vote of a dissenting minister. I might get what is commonly called a. "raspberry" if I questioned the dean and chapter and the Noncomformist ministers of that city as to whether they voted and what their views were. My duty is to carry out an Act of Parliament, and that I will do; but that does not impose on me the power to inquire as to whether ecclesiastical dignitaries behave as ordinary citizens. I have my suspicions, but far be it from me to place my suspicions before the House of Commons.
A public meeting was held and the decision was in favour of the proposal. Those who objected to the decision had to find a hundred signatories for a poll. With great diligence they searehed the purlieus of the cathedral. They searehed well—
They did not go into the underground cellars. Purlieus are not cellars. They found 103 electors to sign the petition. A poll was held on 28th April, 1947, and there were 7,102 votes in favour of the proposal and 1,796 against, giving a majority in favour of 5,306. That has been certified to me by the mayor of the city, as the returning officer in this case, and that being so, I have decided to make and submit the order to the House. I suggest that a majority of that kind in a place where both the Church of England and Nonconformism are very strong—and I have no doubt some members of the Church of England community and members of the various Nonconformist bodies voted on both sides—my reading of the reports of the meetings showed that some Church of England clergy were in support and some were not, the same as Nonconformists—
I should hardly think that is so in the case of the city of Peterborough. I am not dealing with the Soke, but with the city. I know the total population is under 60,000, so there can hardly be 59,000 electors. I do happen to know that, because Peterborough always gets a straight deal with regard to local legislation because it contains more than half the population of the Soke. In these circumstances, I have no other responsibility than to submit the order to the House, and to suggest that if democracy counts for anything, one cannot take account of the electors who did not turn up.