I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I should like to start by craving the indulgence of the House, as, having had 'flu for the last few days, I have not had the usual time and opportunity of giving, that due attention to a speech of this kind which the House expects to be given.
This subject has aroused a very great deal of interest and feeling in the country, but I must say that in the whole course of my political life—and I have been in this House since 1935—I have never received so many abusive letters as I have received since I put my name to this Bill. Some of the sentiments expressed are very surprising. Many people have wished me to be drowned with a millstone round my neck. Others have said they would like to see my eyes put out—and to be there to see it happening.
I think we are all agreed that the type of person who sends petitions and who writes letters is, on the whole, an enthusiast or even a fanatic, but there is, I believe, a certain significance in the fact when so many of the writers are of this particular kind, and that when a body like the Lord's Day Observance Society stirs the water, so much of what comes to the top is scum of this type.
This body, the Lord's Day Observance Society, is one of the strongest pressure groups in this country. Personally, I think it would be very unfortunate if the Churches in this country were ever closely linked with the Lord's Day Observance Society. Fortunately, the main leaders of the Churches have made quite clear that responsible Church opinion takes a different view on many matters from the Lord's Day Observance Society. We in this country are fortunate in that we have never had in modern times any very strong anti-clerical movement; but if we did find Sabbatarianism and the Churches becoming very closely identified, I am certain that some such movement would, I think disastrously, arise in this country.
Another point I should like to make is this. So many people have said in writing to me, "You must be making a large fortune, or will make a large fortune, out of Sunday entertainments." I should like to say that neither I nor, I think, most of the hon. Members supporting and backing this Bill will make any money whatever in consequence of the passage of this Bill, should it be passed. We introduce and support this Bill on a matter of principle. We believe it right that people should be free to choose and decide how they will spend their Sundays, without that being dictated to them by other people. That is a matter of principle, and a matter of principle on which we feel very strongly.
I think that all of us take the view that it would be very wrong if the Roman Catholics were to try to force us all to go to Mass on Sundays, or if the Anglicans were to try to force us all to go to Morning Prayer on Sundays, or if the Presbyterians tried to force us to hear their best preachers on Sundays, or if the agnostics were to try to make us go to meetings organised by the Rationalist Association, or if the orthodox Jews were to try to force us not to eat pork. It is equally wrong for Sabbatarians to try to force their way of life and their religious practices upon the rest of us, and I believe that to, be the view of a very large section of people in this country.
In a country in which there are many different religious opinions there is only one way in which we can live together amicably, and that is on the basis of tolerance. We must be tolerant of one another's opinions, and we must allow full freedom to each person to worship or behave from a religious point of view as he wishes. That is what we stand by in this Bill. We are against any kind of dictatorship, by a minority or by a majority, over other sections of the people. Even if the Sabbatarians were the majority of the population, we think it would he wrong for them to try to force their views on the people. We believe them to be a small minority, and we think it equally wrong for a minority to try to force its views on the majority as to how they should behave.
I say that the onus rests upon those who oppose this Bill to prove that it is right that particular ways of life and particular religious practices should be forced on other people against their wishes. That is where the onus lies in this debate. It has always been the fact that one man's religion is another man's superstition, and we must be prepared to accept that when discussing this matter.
1 was very interested to see that recently the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) put his name to a circular sent out by the No-Conscription Council, of which he happens to be a supporter, and in that circular he states:
Conscription violates the rights of personal decision and of civil liberty.
Now, I fully respect, as we all do, the views of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, but by what right does he try to conscript all of us to do what he wants us to do on Sunday when he takes a different view about military conscription?
An argument put forward in the propaganda of the Lord's Day Observance Society is that the Sunday Observance Acts keep up church attendance. I think the facts need examining. It is very difficult to collect evidence about church attendance in this or any other country, but I have looked at such figures as are available, collected through the various inquiries carried out by Mass Observation and similar bodies, and I have supplemented that from inquiries made from American, British and French journalists who have worked in different European countries, and by people who have worked on embassy staffs. All the evidence points to rather surprising conclusions from the point of view of the Lord's Day Observance Society propaganda. The conclusions are that, of all countries in Northern and Western Europe, church attendance is lowest in England—leaving out Scotland and Wales.
The second point is that church attendance is lower in London than in any of the other capitals of Northern and Western Europe. Most of the figures, which are agreed on the whole by the reports of the Churches, show that, leaving out very young children, under 10 per cent. of the population attend a service in London on any one Sunday. In "wicked" Paris, where they have the "Continental" Sunday so fiercely denounced by the Lord's Day Observance Society, the figures are more than double. A very much higher figure is found not only in cities with a large Roman Catholic population. It is also found in Berne, The Hague, and Copenhagen which are mainly Protestant. All of these have much higher figures for ordinary church attendance on an average Sunday than has London. That disproves entirely this argument of the Lord's Day Observance Society that their propaganda succeeds in maintaining church attendance in this country. Exactly the opposite might well be argued. It might be argued that it is their propaganda which discourages church attendance in this country.
Another argument put forward by the Lord's Day Observance Society is: Do we want a Continental Sunday? First of all, I should like to ask where Sabbatarianism came from? The doctrine was put forward in Western Europe by John Calvin, who was a Frenchman. The French, very wisely I think, rejected his doctrine, but it came here. Sabbatarianism is thus an alien import reflecting a quite different attitude towards Sunday from that obtaining here in the Middle Ages. Be that as it may, at present it is argued by the Lord's Day Observance Society that those in favour of this Bill want to introduce the Continental Sunday here, and when we ask them to particularise, they say "a French Sunday."
Let us look at the French Sunday today and the English Sunday today. Let us look at Sunday as it is spent in Paris and as it is spent in London. Fifty years ago, in the Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec and in the London of Gilbert and Sullivan. it is quite certain that Sunday was a very different day in the two capitals. But today, in 1953, there is very little difference between the way in which the mass of the people spend Sunday in London and in Paris.
Exactly the same kind of people can be found going to Hampton Court, the Tower of London, or Kew Gardens on a pleasant, hot summer afternoon on Sunday as will be found at Fontainebleau or Versailles. Exactly the same types of people can be found queueing up on a wet winter Sunday afternoon to go to the cinema. Exactly the same sorts of people can be found going out to dinner in the West End of London or in Paris. Exactly the same kinds of people can be found going on excursions down to the coast in summer. Exactly the same kinds of people go bathing in the Thames and in the Seine, or punting at Maidenhead or further up the Seine.
There is the same attitude towards Sunday behaviour amongst ordinary people in Paris and in London at the present time. The same kind of youngsters, and men and women, will put on their shorts to go out on their tandems, or on streams of bicycles in order to try to get away from the town and to see some of the country. It is not only that London is similar to Paris. Great similarity is to be found between big towns like Birmingham and Lyons.
Another imporant point is that there is no very great difference to be found in the capitals of either country between the way in which the great mass of churchgoers spend their Sunday after they have been to Church and the way in which those who have not been to Church spend Sunday. The great mass of young people who have been to church will go off cycling, and doing other things, in exactly the same way as those who have not been to church. There is no hard and sharp division between the ways of life of the great mass of churchgoers on Sunday and those who are not churchgoers—apart, of course, from the important Sabbatarian minority in this country.
As there is not very much difference between the way in which Sunday is spent in London and in Paris—the only difference being that there are possibly rather more things to do in Paris than in London—do we want to introduce the French weekend? What is the French weekend? At present, Saturday is practically an ordinary working day; Sunday is a holiday; Monday, certainly from the tourists point of view, is worse than a Scottish Sunday, because one can do nothing in Paris on Monday. On Tuesday the weekend finishes with all the museums and art galleries closed. There is a saying in France that the Jews tried to give France three sabbath days: Moses tried to give them Saturday, the good Lord tried to give them Sunday, Léon Blum tried to give them Monday, but Leon Blum's was the only one that stuck.
We do not wish to change the Sabbath day to another day, which is what the French have done. We wish to abolish the Sabbath day, but will agree that there was a strong case for keeping the Sabbath Day strictly in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries from an economic and sociological point of view. The observance of the many Saints' days and holidays which existed in the Middle Ages had helped to break up the working week. With their abolition the Sabbath became necessary if our economic system was to work at all.
I think that the observance of the Sabbath in this country was thus justified on those grounds. Its strict enforcement was some form of protection for youngsters who were perhaps exploited in their homes in the early stages and in the factories later; it was certainly some form of protecting the workers from over-exploitation, although not a very adequate one.
So long as we had long hours of labour and the trials of the Industrial Revolution, and in the absence of social legislation, there was a strong case from the sociological point of view for preserving the Sabbath day, as it offered some protection for the workers of this country; from the point of view of the enlightened employer, there was an economic case for it, because unless there was an adequate break in the working week labour would be inefficient.
The great mass of the people in those days had neither the energy nor the inclination to do anything else but rest when Sunday came. The great majority of the older people snoozed while listening to the sermon or had a sleep after their mid-day dinner and even the young people wanted to rest and had no desire for activities on a Sunday.
That position, which existed in this country in those centuries, was also the kind of position under which the Sabbath originally arose. The Sabbath, in fact, is one of the earliest of human institutions. Not many people realise that the word "Sabbath" is derived from two Sumerian words—"sa-bât," which meant "to stop beating." In the very early days of man's civilisation in Mesopotamia, it was realised that one could not get good work out of the slaves if one worked them continually. So one day in seven the lash stopped, and the people were allowed to rest. Better work was obtained in that way. The habit became ingrained and was carried on by succeeding civilisations, and when the Jews were carried off into Babylon they had the advantages of the Sabbath driven firmly into them during their captivity. They carried the idea back with them into Palestine. Such is the origin of the Sabbath day, and we see that the conditions under which the Sabbath was created were rather similar economically and sociologically to those which justified its existence in this country during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
In the last 50 years, conditions have changed very much in this country. We are now moving steadily towards a five-day week. Let us recognise the fact that that is going to be the normal working week. We are going to have five days' work and two days between before we go on to the next five days' work. I do not think that the coming of the five-day week should create any conflict with the Churches. We should be able to have just as much respect for church activities on a Sunday and quite as much scope for out-of-church activities, both on Saturday and Sunday, as we have at present.
I think, however, when we are considering this problem, we have both, from the church point of view and the political point of view, to consider the very big changes sociologically and economically which this change-over is having on the situation. That means that the real conflict today is not between those who believe in the Continental Sunday and the old Victorian Sunday, but between those who believe in the British weekend, as it has developed during the last 50 years and as it will continue to develop, and the Australian weekend, which is quite a different thing.
That is the problem which we really have to face. The Australian weekend is of this kind. There they have five days' work and two days off, but the Australians have converted their Saturday into another Sabbath day. The result is that on Saturday and Sunday one can do practically nothing. One can go on to the beach and bathe, and that is almost all that one can do. The great mass of the workers in Australia take the view that if everyone else has a holiday, they are going to have a holiday, too, and therefore nothing can be done by anybody. We have to ask ourselves whether we want that kind of weekend, or whether we want a weekend of the type which we are already developing in this country, and which, I am certain. will develop further? The kind of weekend in this country means that a certain number of workers will have to work on Saturday and on Sunday so that other people can have full enjoyment of leisure and recreation for those two days. We have to face up to that problem.
I think that it is admitted that, when this matter has been discussed, large sections of the trade union movement of this country have realised the implication of this point and have accepted this idea. None of us wants more people to work on either of these two days than is really necessary. We all, I think, take the view that anyone who has to work on either Saturday or Sunday should not only have equivalent time off and extra pay, but, so far as possible, rotas of work should be arranged so as to give the workers those days off whenever it is possible to do so.
In most cases, the unions concerned with the protection of the workers can make their own arrangements about Sunday work, overtime, extra pay, and so on. On the whole, these arrangements have already worked fairly satisfactorily. In my Bill, I bring in proposals for allowing Sunday theatres to open. Practically all the unions concerned are in favour of the proposals in the Bill. I have also put in a definite guarantee of a six-day week for people working in the theatres, which already operates with regard to the cinemas. I take the view that if any particular section of workers would prefer to have stronger legislative protection for Saturday or Sunday than that put into the Bill, it should be put in. If they prefer to leave it to direct bargaining, that is their affair.
When we are considering this question of weekend work, we have to realise that many sections of the population have always worked a very full day on Sunday, and there has been no particular objection to their doing so. The housewife puts in a very full day's work on Sunday, rather more so than the man, and ministers, organists and all the people engaged in running church services do the same.
I should like now to refer to the detailed proposals of the Bill, and I will take some incidental matters first. I have definitely excluded the Shops Act and the Licensing Acts from the scope of the Bill. I think that any adjustments of these Acts should take place as part of any general revision of those Acts.
I exclude Northern Ireland from the Bill. I have had strong protests from one or two people in Northern Ireland because of that. They take the line that Sunday is so much happier South of the Border that it constitutes continual propaganda in favour of the ending of partition and that if only they could have similar conditions in Northern Ireland the British connection would be strengthened. Perhaps such people would get in touch with the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir D. Savory) and ask him to deal with the matter. At any rate, Northern Ireland has its own Parliament and might well deal with the matter itself.
I have also left out Scotland for two reasons. All the Scottish law about the Sabbath is different from the English law and it is also difficult to find out about. If people want to revise it, then a Scottish Member of Parliament should sacrifice himself and introduce a Bill. An important point about Scotland is that it is legal for theatres to open on a Sunday provided the local authority gives permission. That is not done in any particular town, but if public opinion should want a theatre open anywhere it would be permissible. I would ask Scottish hon. Members to remember when they come to vote that, roughly speaking, my Bill introduces to England conditions which already exist in Scotland on this point.
There is another matter which is of some importance to Private Members generally. Paragraph 11 of the Second Schedule reads:
There shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament any increases attributable to any of the provisions of this Schedule in the moneys to be so provided under Part I of the Local Government Act, 1948.
An important change affecting Private Members' Bills was introduced under the 1948 Act without the House realising it. Normally Private Members' Bills do not increase Government expenditure. It was always considered permissible to bring in a Bill making some small charge on public funds which increased the rates, but now all rates get a Government grant and any increase in rates means an increase in Government expenditure. There is, therefore, a very strong limitation on Private Members' Bills. It means that if a Bill making some small charge on the rates gets a Second Reading, the Government itself must be prepared to back it so that the small increased charge may be made. This point needs to be examined when we come to revise our rules of procedure.
The first Clause of the Bill is the most important one. It repeals practically all the old Sunday Observance Acts. The one exception is Section 6 of the 1677 Act which takes away the right to serve a writ on a Sunday. That is a form of freedom with which we can well do without, and I propose to retain it.
The Acts set out in the First Schedule fall into three groups. There are a number of provisions which are obsolete at the present time, a considerable number which are partially in force and others which are fully in force. I propose first to deal with the obsolete ones.
The Press has been fairly full of some of the absurdities in the present law, such as the fact that it is illegal to go out in a boat or to sell ice cream on a Sunday or to have a cricket match between visiting teams on a Sunday, although a match is legal if all the participants live in the same parish. I do not propose to go fully into all the absurdities. On the whole, those provisions are not enforced. All would agree that it would be very much to our advantage if they could be removed from the Statute Book. I do not think many Private Members would waste the winning of a place in the Ballot to do something of that kind, which is not very controversial. On the whole, they would prefer to leave it to the Government to do it when a quiet moment occurs. It wants doing but it is not frightfully important.
However, there are other fields in which the law is partially enforced. One is not allowed to play billiards in public or to dance in public on a Sunday, but one can organise a billiards club or a dancing club with a subscription of 1s. a year and the public can attend, provided they are not charged for admission, and then one can have all the billiards and all the dancing that one wants. One can even run a theatre for that purpose by having a small yearly fee. I belong to the Arts Theatre, paying 5s. a year, and I can go along to it and take a friend any Sunday. The position about such clubs appears to be that the public can attend provided no charge is made for admission.
As an instance of an anomaly, Brighton allows full public dancing on Sunday for the simple reason that it did not adopt the Local Government Act, 1894, for the licensing of dance halls. The Act was introduced for the purpose of creating safe conditions by ensuring that the floors were adequate to take the strain of polkas or jives and that there were adequate fire escapes, and so on. The Act originally introduced for that purpose has been used to prevent Sunday opening, but, on the other hand, as Brighton did not adopt it, dancing can take place in Brighton at any time people wish. Whether Brighton has made other arrangements to enforce safety precautions in dance halls I do not know, but this illustrates one of the curiosities arising out of the antiquated legislation.
There are also provisions where a tightening up of the law has been taking place recently over a wide field. For example, the Table Tennis Association has for 20 years held regional and national tournaments on Saturdays and Sundays. These have been attended by people from the surrounding districts and small charges have been made to competitors and larger charges to others attending them in order to cover the expenses of organising the tournaments. Suddenly the Lord's Day Observance Society pointed out to a local authority in whose area a tournament was being held that it was contrary to the law to charge for entry to the tournament on a Sunday. So the charges on the Sunday had to be dropped. The whole financial basis of the tournament has been destroyed and that very harmless amusement has been interfered with because the Lord's Day Observance Society succeeded in enforcing part of the law which had fallen into disuse.
One cannot have cycling races on the public highways in this country without inconveniencing the public. The National Cyclists' Union obtained permission from the Air Ministry to take over the runways of disused aerodromes and there it had run successful races for a number of years. Some small charge was made for admission. The important point to bear in mind is that the Air Ministry gave permission for the aerodrome to be used. Then the Lord's Day Observance Society discovered that a number of young people were enjoying themselves in the open air on Sunday and complained to the Air Ministry that this was a breach of the law. The Air Ministry withdrew its permission for the use of the aerodromes on Sundays and the races were brought to an end. Motor cyclists have had similar experiences.
Perhaps the most absurd example of interference occurred in my constituency of Dagenham. Every year we have a town show on a Saturday and a Sunday during the summer, and we invite people with different hobbies to display their exhibits, and many attend to see the show. It was proposed to have on a Sunday an exhibition by amateur bee-keepers, of whom there happen to be six in the area. They were all asked to bring their hives so that the people could see them. But the Lord's Day Observance Society found out and wrote to the town clerk pointing out that an exhibition of bees on Sunday was a form of entertainment not permitted under the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932. Therefore, the town clerk had to recommend the council to drop that part of the programme.
That may sound absurd, but the fact is that in recent years the Lord's Day Observance Society have been trying very successfully to enforce the law once more. Their tactics are to write to the town clerk of the local authority of the area where something is happening and point out to him the way in which the law is being broken. His duty as a servant of the local authority is bound to be to show that authority that it is, in fact, breaking the law, and his advice is bound to be that they should drop that particular proposal. In this way the Lord's Day Observance Society is steadily reintroducing once more a number of laws which had become obsolete. It is because of the progress and activity of this Society that we have the campaign for the abolition of all these Acts. If these Acts had been allowed to fall into disuse and become more and more obsolete, no one would be excited about them today, but when it is discovered that activities that everyone nowadays considers quite legitimate for Sunday are being interfered with once more and as far as possible stopped with the idea of putting back the clock and forcing us to observe the Victorian Sunday again, then we find indignation arising.
I have recently examined some of the literature of the Lord's Day Observance Society. I was interested to find that they have been to great expense in taking legal opinion to see if they could find a way legally of stopping television on Sunday. If they could they would take action. Up to now they have not succeeded in doing so, but we should be wise as to what they are trying to do.
An interesting point arises at Wimbledon. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) is a strong supporter of the Lord's Day Observance Society in their policy of trying once more to enforce the old law. He is the leader of the council in Wimbledon. That council happen to be the owners of the freehold of the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club. They very wisely bought up this ground some years ago to preserve it as an open space. The Royal Wimbledon Golf Club have a lease of this property and normally their members play golf on Sundays. It would be interesting to know when that lease comes up for renewal whether the hon. Member will follow the policy of the Society and recommend the council only to renew the lease on condition the members do not play golf on Sundays.
I am sorry to hear that, but I think that if the hon. Member had the opportunity, that is the action he would take.
In addition there is a third field where the Acts are fully enforced. I was interested to see that the Bishop of London made a strong statement recently de- nouncing commercialised sport on Sunday. People of the same type of mind have made the same accusation. I should like the Bishop and the people who agree with him to tell me what is particularly wrong with commercialised sport.
I should have thought that if we are going to run activities they must pay for themselves. Some may make a large profit, some may not. I do not think that county cricket is particularly profitable, but one should differentiate between sports and not lump them together. There is a big difference between, say, greyhound racing and county cricket, but both are commercialised sports. If the Bishop thinks that any particular commercialised sport is wrongly or badly run in the country, then it is wrongly and badly organised on Saturday as well as on Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He should try to get the customs and rules amended so that it can be properly run on Saturdays as well as Sundays.
That is just the point. If a thing is wrong, it is as wrong on Saturday as on Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, it is. I do not think there is anything particularly wrong with a sport being commercialised, providing it is well and decently run. A particular sport may be badly run. I do not think. that county cricket is badly run, and I do not see why that commercial sport should not be run on Sundays as well as Saturdays. A different point of view might be taken about greyhound racing, but if it is wrong it is equally wrong on Saturday as on Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is a difference of opinion here.
I agree that that is a point which I think will have to be considered.
May I take one of two of these particular sports? Let me take cricket, for example. Mr. R. W. V. Robins, the former England and Middlesex captain, has come out in favour of county cricket on Sundays. He takes the view that organised, first-class cricket on Sundays could not do anything but good and he went on to suggest that games could take place over Saturday, Sunday and Monday when there would be much better crowds, a much better spirit and much better games, with far more amateurs taking part than would be the case during midweek because far more people would get weekends off for county cricket. Although there might be considerable crowds at such matches, I do not think there would be disorderly crowds to see cricket on Sundays.
The same is also true of football. I do not see any important clubs playing matches both on Saturdays and Sundays. They would not last long if they did. Most of them would tend to play on Saturday unless there were a very good reason to the contrary, but it would mean that the same number of fixtures could be spread out more, though on the whole they would tend to favour Saturday rather than Sunday.
The second part of the Bill deals with the theatre. Here I have attempted to give the same permission to the theatres as applies to the opening of cinemas on Sundays. There has been a good deal of controversy on the matter. I have taken the view that if the theatres are to open it must be on the same terms as the cinemas. They could not be given more favourable treatment. Many people hold the view that the present system under which the cinemas open is wrong, but if that is so, let it be altered and the new conditions also apply to the theatre. I have taken the view that if the theatres are to open it must be on the same terms as the cinemas, and the Bill has been drawn up accordingly.
In order that that may apply it is necessary to repeal the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, and to re-enact it under this Bill to apply both to cinemas and to the theatres. I should like to make this point about opening the theatres on Sunday. A play can be seen and heard on television on Sundays and can be heard on the radio. One can join a theatre club and see plays on Sunday, but the ordinary theatre cannot be opened under the law as it stands, and I do not see why it should be so. That seems to be quite unreasonable at the present time.
I am not particularly happy about one or two of the provisions in the Bill. For instance, my own view about local option is that it is not a very satisfactory way of dealing with this kind of problem. It means that if a strong minority wants a certain freedom on Sundays it cannot have it. I believe that, on the whole, it should be given that freedom if it wants it.
I am not particularly happy with the contributions to charity that exist at the present time in regard to cinemas. They are a form of blackmail paid to the Sabbatarian superstition that was introduced in 1932, and will have one day to be revised. Why should cinemas have to pay a contribution to charity when other forms of entertainment do not? I am, however, at the moment proposing to re-enact the 1932 Act, and am therefore introducing the same provision in regard to theatres. A sum of about £400,000 is contributed to charity at the present time by cinemas in any one year.
One ought to take notice of what has happened in regard to the opening of cinemas on Sunday. In 1932, when the Sunday Entertainments Act was passed, 10 million people could go to the cinema. By 1941, the figure had risen to 21 million, and in 1952 the figure was 29 million. At the present time, 68 per cent. of the population live in areas where it is legal for cinemas to open. At least three-quarters of the population now live in areas where they can easily get to cinemas on Sunday. In 80 out of the 83 county boroughs there are Sunday cinemas.
The latest towns to change over are Newcastle-on-Tyne and Cardiff. Cardiff went over by a three-to-one majority, despite the energetic campaign conducted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). The only county boroughs that do not allow, Sunday opening of cinemas are now Merthyr, Blackburn and Tynemouth. I hear that most people in Tynemouth can go to South Shields cinemas if they wish to do so.
It will not be very long before at least 90 per cent. of the people live in areas where cinemas are open on Sunday, and when we have got to that position I think it will be time to sweep away the whole of the 1932 machinery and allow all cinemas to open freely. When we get to that position for cinemas, we ought to extend it to theatres.
Let me show how the cinema position bears upon the position of theatres. There are 307 theatres in Great Britain. Of these, 59 are in Greater London, 216 are in the English provinces, six are in Wales and 26 are in Scotland. Most theatres are in the larger towns. If we had local option for theatre opening I am pretty certain that the towns which have voted in favour of cinema opening on Sunday would also vote in favour of Sunday opening of theatres. I assume therefore that almost all the theatres would open on Sunday under local option arrangements.
Theatrical companies fall roughly into three groups. The first are the repertory companies. I think every hon. Member will agree that the repertory theatre is the mainstay of the English drama. The ordinary repertory cast work every Sunday on rehearsal. If there were Sunday opening of theatres they would do their rehearsal on Monday and have the benefit of a better day for acting. The next group is the travelling companies. They usually travel on Sunday, when transport is at its worst. Theatres that opened on Sunday would probably close on Monday, and the travelling companies would then travel on Monday when travelling conditions are better. They would arrive at their destination earlier and have more leisure. Under the proposed new arrangement these two groups of actors would certainly be no worse off.
In London, some theatres would open on Sunday and close on Monday. Some would run the ordinary week and put on a separate show by another company on the Sunday. That would give the six-day week for which I have made provision in the Bill. There would be a variety of practice. In New York, for example, quite a lot of theatres run a show on all the ordinary week days until attendances begin to fall off. They then open on Sunday, when they have rather better houses. There would be less variety of practice in the provinces, but in the capital actors and actresses would have a very varied opportunity of giving the public what they want.
In the trade unions concerned there is a difference of opinion. The body representative of cinematograph and theatrical hands and the Musicians' Union strongly favour the opening of theatres on Sunday. They have found that the arrangements for the opening of cinemas work satisfactorily and they would like to see the same arrangements in regard to theatres. Equity, the actors' union, is definitely split from top to bottom on the Sunday opening issue and has passed a resolution that they will not pledge themselves to support one view or the other.
For actors and actresses are divided on the subject. Stars in the West End would not gain financially by Sunday opening, taxation being what it is. They would not make any more money, and opportunities of working on television might be somewhat interfered with. Nevertheless, the views of John Gielgud are worth listening to. He says:
I should hate losing my weekends, but the most important thing is what is good for the theatre.
Sybil Thorndike says:
I should hate to give up my Sundays, but if the public really want it we should be prepared to do it.
Nobody is going to force an actor to work on Sunday if he does not wish to do it.
Would the hon. Gentleman expand a little on the subject of the struggling actor in the provinces who does not want to work on Sunday, and faces a conflict between economic necessity and his own conscience?
Nearly all the trade unions concerned with Sunday work have some kind of conscience clause in their agreements with the employers. Very few such workers, however, actually use it for the simple reason that those with strong conscientious objections to Sunday work go into other occupations.
There is complete chaos in regard to variety performances. Under the 1932 Act, singing is allowed but acting is not allowed. If you put on make-up for a performance on the stage that is acting, but if you happen to recite Shakespeare, it is quite all right. If you use gestures. then it is acting. If you happen to be a Scotsman and normally wear a kilt that is all right, but if you put it on for the purpose of a Sunday show, that is "costume" and is illegal. The law is actually got round frequently. Two people on the stage will each talk into a microphone to the audience, although they are really talking to one another and in that way they appear not to be "acting."
There is chaos in the application of the law. Some authorities like the London County Council are strict in enforcing it, but at Margate and some other seaside resorts there is almost complete freedom for actors to do exactly as they like on the stage. Theatrical people, and particularly concert artists and organisers of entertainments, do not know what the conditions are going to be in any particular town, and shows are therefore very difficult to organise from that point of view.
I would sum the matter up in this way: The Lords' Day Observance Acts are in a complete mess, and are unenforceable. They are out of accord with current ideas of Sunday behaviour. There is a strong case for completely repealing them and there is no case for partial amendment. They should be swept away.
I end on this note: no one wants to force anyone to do any specific thing on Sunday. What we are asking for is freedom for people to do what they like on Sunday. It is a point on which many people feel strongly and we shall go ahead until we see the law tidied up and complete repeal carried out.
May I say how glad we all are to see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) back in the House in time to move the Second Reading of his Bill? I do not know how he feels after influenza, but I do not suppose that he feels any better than I did, and he has done a good job in making his speech directly after an attack from which, I understand, he only got out of bed this morning.
First, I want to make two specific points. I hope that hon. Gentlemen who do not agree with us will believe that we who are supporting this Bill believe in God quite as sincerely as other hon. Members. Many of us go to church regularly and would continue to go if this Bill became law. Also, I hope that all hon. Members will vote today in accordance with their consciences. We know the views of somebody like the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who is to move the rejection of the Bill, and we respect them. I wish I could feel the same about everybody who does not go into the Lobby with us. That may sound unkind, but it is not meant in any way.
Further, I know that it is easy for me to vote in accordance with my conscience because I am not standing for election to this honourable House again. I also want to remind hon. Members that people who talk and shout and ring up and write letters are not necessarily in the majority and are not necessarily right. It is only fair to say, however, that I have had a lot of letters and that the majority have been against this Bill.
I believe it is the duty of every person who calls himself a Christian to go to church. I myself go nearly every Sunday, but I am sure that we cannot organise religion by rules and regulations. That is what we are trying to do at the moment simply by shutting everything and I believe we are driving our young people away from church. That is the last thing I want to see. I was absolutely astounded when I went to Holy Communion last Sunday to see that my wife and myself were very nearly the only two people under the age of 40 at that service.
Obviously, the present system is not working, as we found in the Army. When, towards the end of the war, the Government decided to stop church parades there was an automatic reaction for a short time. The men would not go to church because they said they had been dragooned into going for so long. However, after about three months or so they went to church again and, what is far more important, they went because they wanted to do so. I suggest that religion under compulsion, as we had it in the Army, is quite useless. I would rather see the churches empty than have someone go simply because he must.
I am saying that there is compulsion at present partly because, by closing everything else, we are trying to force people into church and, of course, it does not work. That is the object. What other objects are there?
Will my hon. Friend agree that that example is of some importance, particularly in the case of children? If they see a large number of adults behaving on Sunday as on any ordinary day it is likely that they will follow that example.
They see that at the moment and we cannot organise parents. I do not like what I have read about the Victorian Sunday and I do not believe that a child should be paraded for church. My mother adopted a rule which I adopt for my children and which I find successful. I say at breakfast time, "Does anyone want to go to church?" My children do not feel that they are being pushed into church, they want to go because they believe in God. I have no bitterness about church because my mother adopted an attitude which was not usual in the Victorian era.
This Bill is permissive. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything. If people want to spend their Sunday in peace as I do, they can do so. Many hon. Members of this House who are happily married with families, as I am, will appreciate that nothing delights me more than to take my children out on bicycles on Sunday morning though frankly, in the afternoon, I often go to sleep if I can. That is all right if one has a happy home, but many people still have not got homes—Tory Government or no Tory Government. Others have fiancées and I cannot see why they should not go to the cinema or theatre on a Sunday and hold hands in either if they want to do so.
It is silly to argue that people will be forced to work on a Sunday. It is impossible to believe, with the strong organisation of labour we have in this country, that if a group of people do not want to work on a Sunday they will be made to do so. The answer is that they will just not do it. A certain hon. Member of this House who is an official of one of the large trade union organisations has assured me that no man would he penalised if he had conscientious objections to Sunday work. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] No, I am quite certain that anybody—[Interruption.] I cannot see a man being sacked by his employer, because I cannot see an employer daring to do it.
This is a very important point, because it is the crux of the matter. Would my hon. Friend say whether, in his opinion, it is right that a man should be faced with the choice of his conscience on the one hand and of doing what is economically necessary on the other?
I think I have answered the point in regard to church. The answer is that if one's conscience is strong enough the question of economics does not arise; if one's conscience is not strong enough, it is not worth very much. As I have said, that is what I was told by a Member on the other side who is powerful in the trade union world, and I certainly accept his words.
The anomalies in the existing law are frightful when one examines them. For instance, there is the famous Dreamland amusement park in my constituency, with its scenic railway. Battersea funfair has exactly the same kind of scenic railway. Dreamland amusement park is open every Sunday in the summer; in winter it is not needed. When we debated the point during the time of the previous Government, Battersea funfair was not allowed to open on Sunday, and, as far as I know, it is still not allowed to do so, purely because it charges for admission while Dreamland does not. Surely that anomaly is stupid. Either it is right that Dreamland and Battersea should open or that they both should be shut. That is the sort of thing that we have to deal with.
The "Daily Express" is a journal with which I usually disagree. This morning, however, I entirely agree with its leading article, which puts the case very clearly. We all know that under the existing old law, boating on Sundays is illegal, but does anyone take any notice of that? Are there not hon. Members on both sides who have gone boating on a Sunday? A law that is not enforced is always a bad law. The only good law is that which can be enforced and carried out. It is totally wrong to have anomalies of that sort, and especially to have law that we cannot, or do not, carry out.
As the Government Front Bench would say, I should need notice of that question. The answer is that a great many Government Bills exclude Northern Ireland, and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and I felt that it was not right to try to legislate for Northern Ireland without the consent and agreement of Northern Ireland Members.
I was under the impression, perhaps wrongly, that for Wales the position regarding the law is entirely different from that in Northern Ireland, and the hon. Member for Dagenham and I were of the impression that Welsh and English law on this matter could be brought together. [Interruption.] I cannot at this stage argue the case for a Welsh Parliament.
To sum up, I am quite certain—and I think the last few years have shown it—that if there are no organised amusements on Sundays, there will be organised vice. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] What does my hon. Friend know about it? As I have said, I do not believe in the Victorian Sunday, any more than I should believe in the Victorian habit of putting frills round piano legs simply because they were legs. I do not coerce my children to go to church—I want them to go. The two words "coerce" and "want" have entirely different meanings.
I do not think it is proper to quote from the Bible, and I certainly shall not do so—I think that in the House it is a bad thing; but anybody who reads the Bible and who believes in God will know that the whole theme is that God is a God of love. I remember the words of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) during the debate on the Battersea funfair. He talked about women and children enjoying themselves on a Sunday, and he said that his God would not object to that. My God does not object to it either, and for that reason I second the Bill.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
this House is of opinion that the existing legislation with regard to Sunday observance is archaic, anomalous, and out of accord with modern conditions; that for these reasons it is frequently disregarded, and its enforcement is often haphazard and capricious; and this House therefore urges the Government to appoint a commission to inquire in what respects the national welfare calls for a revision of the existing law in England and Wales on the subject.
In effect, the Amendment asks the House to urge on the Government the appointment of a commission to inquire in what respects the national welfare calls for changes in the law on Sunday observance.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) made a very powerful and sincere speech, on which, I am sure, the whole House would wish to congratulate him. It was significant that he supports the Bill on grounds rather different from those on which my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) introduced the Bill. The hon. Member for Thanet supported it on purely Christian grounds; and we should recognise that devout Christians can quite properly take the view that a Bill of this kind should be passed.
I feel, however, that neither my hon. Friend nor the hon. Member for Thanet did justice to the case that exists against the Bill. It is not the fact that the opposition to the Bill comes merely from the Lord's Day Observance Society; it goes much wider than that. The due observance of Sunday is not a particularly or a peculiarly religious question. Habits have changed throughout Christendom as to how Sunday should be observed. As the hon. Member pointed out, Continental countries which can claim to be at least as Christian as we are—perhaps more so—have different methods of observing Sunday.
Even in our own country the doctrine about Sabbath observance has changed during the centuries. In fact, some of the things now said by the Lord's Day Observance Society about the observance of Sunday would, I am sure, have horrified the early Fathers, Justin Origen and even Augustine. Therefore, we should be wrong if we looked upon this merely as a religious question. It is one which has to be examined because of its social and general effect upon the well-being of our country.
I put down the Amendment, which has been supported by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, because a great many of us feel that we are in a difficulty. We feel that the law ought to be changed. In its present condition, it is full of anomalies and absurdities; it is chaotic, uncertain and difficult to enforce, and in a great many instances it is not enforced, because to enforce it would be to antagonise public opinion. It is not difficult, therefore, to make out the case that the law ought to be changed. But it is much more difficult to make the case that the Bill ought to be passed. While a great many of us are acutely conscious of the necessity of changing the law and of getting rid of these absurdities, we are not convinced that the Bill is the right way to do it. Many of us think that the Bill goes much too far and would create a secular Sunday in which a Sunday would become practically indistinguishable from a Saturday.
Let me give an illustration. In my constituency there is a well-known football ground, where the Arsenal Football Club play, at Highbury. Every Saturday the district around the Highbury Stadium is thronged with teeming masses of people—50,000 or 60,000—who come from all over the Metropolis and indeed, the provinces, by train, by coach, by car, and on foot. All the streets in the vicinity are thronged with motorcars and other kinds of vehicles before, during and after the match. During the match the concentrated cheers of the crowd can be heard a mile or more away.
All that is perfectly natural and proper and is accepted by the inhabitants of Highbury on a Saturday afternoon, but I am quite sure that a great many of my constituents, the good people of Highbury—not necessarily Sabbatarians in outlook, not necessarily Christians—would regard it as an intolerable invasion of their privacy, an intolerable interference with their domestic quiet if cupties were played at Highbury on Sunday afternoon for the benefit of those who believe that commercialised sport, being a good thing in itself, is equally good on a Sunday as on a Saturday.
Through the centuries we have come to regard Sunday as a day apart. It provides a day of worship for some; a day of private devotion for those who do not observe any of the various forms of institutional religion; and a day apart, even in these days when the number of churchgoers has fallen lamentably when people may rest and have that relaxation which goes with our national habit of the English Sunday. I do not know how they stand numerically, but the kind of way in which we do observe Sunday provides for some opportunities for devotion, and a more important aspect of national life is that it provides a day in which the family can be united. There may be some hardship on the housewife, but I do not think housewives complain particularly about that, as they do about other things.
I do, but as things stand they enjoy to a great deal of recreation and travelling—far more than they had 50 years ago.
After all, Sabbatarianism, as advocated by the Lord's Day Observance Society, has relaxed its outlook very considerably. Such people are provided for and ought to be considered. But this is an important subject, whose roots go deep down into the texture of our national life, and we are discussing something which contributes much to the tangible values of our national life. Everyone is entitled to consideration.
For that reason, I urge the House not hurriedly to give a Second Reading to this Bill. I do not take the extreme view against it that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) will take. I am anxious to see something done and to see all these out-of-date anomalies cleared away. The Attorney-General made a useful contribution by getting rid of the common informer in what he regarded as the Augean stables of obsolete legislation. Something should be done, but I think the best way would be to have an impartial inquiry into the matter. I do not mind whether it is a Royal Commission or a Departmental committee, but it should be a body of well-respected individuals in the community able to speak, after inquiry, with authority and to make pronouncements after hearing all shades of opinion. Something must be done about this and I do not think it can properly be done within the limits of a Private Member's Bill, although we all admire the courage of the hon. Member in having brought the matter to our notice.
I urge the House, particularly those who feel that something must be done, but, equally, those who feel that the Bill goes too far, to reject the Second Reading and to support the proposal urging the Government, as strongly as we can, to appoint a committee of inquiry in order that the whole of the law on the subject can be looked into to see what changes are required in the general wide interest of the national welfare as a whole.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I should say right at the beginning that I think I intend to propose a commission on a very much narrower front than the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) seemed to have in mind. All who have listened to this debate so far can be in very little doubt as to the kind of confusion that obtains about what is, and what is not, legal on Sunday. According to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), the ignorance extends from the Air Ministry downwards and everyone, including the Air Ministry, seems a great deal more doubtful about the law relating to Sunday than the Lord's Day Observance Society.
Secondly, I think it is undesirable, as has been pointed out, that there should be, as at present, such a very general disregard of statutes still on the Statute Book. What has been said already has made quite a strong case for some alteration in the law relating to Sunday. For those two reasons, that it is undesirable to maintain dead letters on the Statute Book and particularly undesirable to encourage the view that some laws exist which need not be kept, I say that something should be done.
In my mind, as, no doubt, in the minds of many hon. Members, there is great confusion as to what is, in fact, lawful and what is not. I ask for a commission for the two reasons given in the Amendment, that the law is "frequently disregarded" and because "its enforcement is often haphazard and capricious." All I suggest that the commission should do is, first, to examine which Sunday activities are lawful, secondly, to examine which Sunday activities are technically unlawful but for which no prosecution would ever be brought. and, thirdly, which activities are unlawful but for which a prosecution might be likely.
I do not feel, and I hope that a number of hon. Members will agree, that the commission should be asked to pronounce for or against the controversial changes proposed in this Bill. I do not believe that any guidance that such a commission should give to any of us on the questions of for or against Sunday theatres, or for or against professional cricket or football on Sundays, would have one single hope of convincing either the supporters or opponents of those things that the opposite view is correct. These questions, I believe, are questions which we should decide today and I hope that we shall be given a chance to decide for or against them this afternoon at four o'clock.
At the same time, I do believe that if a commission were set up and we were able to define activities which are lawful, but for which a prosecution is virtually unthinkable, there would then be suggested certain changes in the law which, in my view, are not only desirable and necessary, but which, I believe, from what has been said this morning, would obtain much support in this House.
The Bill is really not confined to the relatively uncontroversial changes and those desirable changes of which I have been speaking. It may be suggested that the best course today would be to give the Bill a Second Reading and then amend it in Committee. I have considered that possibility, and I am bound to admit that it does not appeal to me. I have looked at the Bill and I find that Clauses 2 and 3, and most of Clauses 5 and 6, are already enforced under the 1932 Act; and that Clause 8 is already in force under the Shops Act, 1950, and other Acts.
Therefore, the new proposals in this Bill are contained, I think, in Clauses 1, 4, and 7, and the two Schedules. If it is the view of the House, as it is my view, that those Clauses and Schedules need either complete omission or drastic revision, all that is left of the Bill are Clauses 9 and 10, the Interpretation and the Short Title. I feel it would be a wrong way of going about the rejection of the Bill to leave only these things, after amending the rest of it.
The meat of the Bill is in the second paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum:
This repeal will legalise the playing of all games and the carrying on of all sports on Sundays which are legal on weekdays.
As I see it, there are three objections to the Bill. The first is that such sports and pastimes as are here legalised are, in fact, unseemly on Sundays. The second is that there would be entailed, were this Bill to become law, some limitation for some people of their existing Sunday freedom. The third is, as the Explanatory Memorandum points out, that it would tend to make Sunday more and more indistinguishable from other days. I have always felt it would be very difficult—I certainly found it so when the opening of the Festival Pleasure Gardens on Sunday was discussed—to differentiate between various Sunday pastimes. It would be a very hard moral distinction to make between playing cricket and watching professional cricket. I find it difficult to distinguish morally between listening to the wireless and going to see a play.
It is perfectly defensible to oppose all Sunday enjoyment, but I gather that relatively few do it. The position in which one approves of certain Sunday enjoyments and disapproves of others is a very hard position to define, and I could not possibly oppose the Bill on those grounds. But I do oppose it for two reasons: first, because of the proposal to widen the choice of Sunday activities for the many at the expense of what I believe to be the free choice of the few. It may be a very few, but there are some. Despite all that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) have said on the question of the forcing of some to do what they do not want to do on Sundays, I am quite certain that some would be forced to spend Sunday otherwise than they would like to do.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dagenham that the local option on the question of theatres would be the same as it has been on the question of cinemas. I think that that is a wild guess, and could not possibly be substantiated. There are cases in which the greatest good of the greatest number is a principle which certainly should be followed, but I do not think that this is one of them. I cannot believe that it would be right to jeopardise the existing freedom of the few to extend more or less complete freedom to the many.
The second reason why I oppose this Bill is, I readily admit, a matter of opinion. The supporters of the Bill talk about producing a brighter Sunday. That is a phrase which one has read a great deal in the newspapers in the last few weeks. I believe that if we try to purchase a brighter Sunday, if we make Sundays indistinguishable from all the other days, we shall do so at the expense of a very much duller week.
I believe that if we could imagine an existence in which we needed neither sleep nor food, and we could not at some time enforce upon ourselves a complete break from our ordinary activities we should all come to the conclusion that the monotony of life was quite intolerable. I am certain that if we made Sunday less and less distinguishable from other days of the week millions of people in this country, whether or not they worship on Sundays, or try to recreate themselves by meditating or playing football, will be the losers.
I hope we can have a commission with, as I say, limited terms of reference. To put it briefly, I should like the commission to consider unlawful but permitted activities. I think that that is as far as we ought to ask the commission to go. I repeat quite sincerely that it is not the commission, but only we ourselves who can consider and decide these very controversial things.
When a commission is appointed surely the position always is that we ourselves still reserve to ourselves the sole right to decide? The job of the commission is to provide additional facts and arguments to enable us to decide. I would much rather postpone the decision from today until we had available to us the results of that investigation on fairly wide lines.
I agree with what the hon. and learned Gentleman says about the final decision obviously resting with ourselves. All I am suggesting is that if we made the terms of reference of this commission very wide the amount of helpful advice they could give on controversial changes would be absolutely nil. They would only be able to help, in my view, in respect of these relatively uncontroversial changes, what one might call the tidying up of the law.
I believe that it is only we ourselves who can consider these matters and decide them, and I hope we shall get the choice of deciding them this afternoon. I do not want the major changes proposed in this Bill, and if I am given the chance I shall vote against it. But I should like to see the existing law on the subject made more comprehensible and fair, and certain in its application and, that being so, I believe that on those lines a commission, were it set up, could give very valuable advice.
It is always difficult on these occasions to know when will be the best opportunity for the Government spokesman to intervene in the debate, but I think that today it will probably be for the convenience of all hon. Members if I speak at an early stage and express the view of the Government on the matters under discussion. The fact that we are having this debate is a good example of the value of Private Members' time. Hon. Members of all shades of opinion will derive benefit from the fact that this matter is under discussion.
The questions raised by the Bill are matters of personal conscience and opinion, or of personal taste if one likes to put it in that way, and they must be treated as such. These questions may. of course, impinge on Government responsibility, for example, for the maintenance of law and order; but in this case I think that everyone will agree that that is not so. For that reason, so far as the Government are concerned, every hon. Member will be entirely free to vote for or against the Bill as he pleases. That, of course, is also true of Members of the Government, who may find themselves in opposite Lobbies. I do not know.
In saying that, I do not for a moment suggest that this is a matter of no importance in civil government. On the contrary, I think that the position was very well put in a well-known passage in "Blackstone's Commentaries," where he said:
The keeping one day in seven holy as a time of relaxation and refreshment as well as for public worship is of admirable service to a State considered merely as a civil institution.
I think that hon. Members in favour of the Bill or of the Amendment would agree with that statement. The difficulty is to say what is the proper method of relaxation and refreshment, and the extent of it.
First, I should say something about the effect of the Bill as the Government see it. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) said something about that, and I will try to be as brief as I can. As the hon. Member for Dagenham said, the whole gist of the Bill is in Clause 1, the Clause which repeals a number of statutes. Perhaps it would assist the House if I said something about these statutes. First, there is the Sunday Observance Act, 1625. That Act prohibited the meeting together of people out of their own parishes on Sundays for sports or pastimes. It has been referred to today as the Act which forbids cricket matches between villages. It has certainly been referred to in that way in the Press in the last few days.
But The machinery of that Act is defective. The maximum penalty which can be imposed under it is 3s. 4d. The Act is quite obsolete. There has been no prosecution under it for many years. It is not that Act which prevents Sunday professional football. That is prevented by another Act to which I shall have to refer later. The repeal of the Act of 1625 would be nothing more than a gesture. Then there is the Sunday Observance Act of 1627. That dealt with travelling and butchering on Sundays. The part of the Act relating to travelling has been held not applicable to modern forms of transport. It is, therefore, quite obsolete. The part relating to butchering has been superseded by the Retail Meat Dealers' Shops (Sunday Closing) Act, 1936, and it is now part of the Consolidation Measure, the Shops Act, 1950. Therefore, the whole of the Act has either been completely brought up to date or made wholly obsolete.
Then there is the Sunday Observance Act, 1677. That dealt mainly with the sale of goods and also, again, with travelling. The part relating to travel is obsolete for the same reason as is the earlier Act. The part relating to the sale of goods has been superseded, this time by the Shops (Sunday Trading Restriction) Act, 1936, an Act which is part of the Consolidation Measure, the Shops Act, 1950. It is true that there is one section of that Act prohibiting the service of process on Sunday except in certain serious cases. That section is still fully effective and is indeed preserved in the terms of the Bill.
The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) referred to existing anomalies, and other hon. Members referred to anomalies; but the fact is that no anomalies are created by these Acts. It is true that they are still on the Statute Book and that they are obsolete, but repeal would have no practical effect whatever. It would be merely a statement of opinion by this House.
If what the Joint Under-Secretary says is correct, can he explain why it was that when this amending legislation which is now in operation was being considered, the House at that time did not list those Acts or parts of them as being repealed by the new legislation?
I cannot enlighten the hon. Member on that question. I imagine that it was that hon. Members felt that they did not wish to make the gesture which would be involved in repealing the Acts. I assure the House that, with the exceptions I have mentioned, the repeal of the Acts would be wholly ineffective.
I come now to the Sunday Observance Act, 1780. It is the repeal of that Act which is the whole substance of this Bill. The Act of 1780 forbids commercial entertainments on Sunday. It made it illegal to open or to use any premises on a Sunday for public entertainment, amusement or debate to which the public are admitted on payment. Moreover, it provided effective means of enforcement against those concerned. It is true that the procedure for enforcement has been amended by the Common Informers Act, 1951, but it is still effective machinery, and it is that Act which is really the whole body of Sunday observance law at present in this connection.
The Act rendered illegal all forms of commercial entertainment on Sundays. The only substantial modification which has been made was that made by the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932. 1 should tell the House something of the history leading up to the passing of that Act. There were cinema performances and some other types of entertainment which had been taking place principally, if not entirely, in London, when by a judicial decision it was held that these were in contravention of the Sunday Observance Act, 1780.
The Government of the day felt that it was necessary to regularise the position which had arisen. They introduced legislation which was passed not without some difficulty—and which contained very considerable safeguards which are proposed to be re-enacted in this Bill—legalising certain Sunday entertainments mentioned in the Act. They were cinemas, museums, picture galleries, zoological and botanical gardens and aquariums, music hall entertainments, and debates.
To that extent, and to that extent only, have the provisions of the Act of 1780 been amended by Parliament to this day, and on only two other occasions has a Government introduced legislation in this connection. The first was in 1941, when the war-time Government sought by Defence Regulation, to open theatres and music halls for the troops, and that regulation was rejected by a small majority. The second was in 1951, when the then Government introduced the Festival of Britain Bill, and the result will be still fresh in the minds of all hon. Members of the House. What this Bill does is to make a substantial extension of the commercial entertainments which may be permitted on Sundays. That is the principle of the Bill, and it is for or against that principle that the House will have to give an opinion today. I should, perhaps, say that the Bill does not repeal all the Acts which impose restrictions on Sunday activities. There is a very old Act of Henry VI, which is now a dead letter. It may be that the promoters failed to discover it, but it is completely dead. There is Section 13 of the Gaming Act, 1845, which prohibits the opening of billiards halls on Sundays. I am not quite certain why the promoters of the Bill thought fit to leave that one out. There are, however, three other classes of legislation in this connection which are not touched by this Bill.
The best reason that I can give the hon. Gentleman is that I am advised that it would now be completely unenforceable owing to its nature.
There are three classes of legislation which are left. There is the Shops Act, 1950, in so far as it relates to Sunday trading, the liquor licensing law, as it relates to Sunday trading, and Section 1 of the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934, which forbids betting on racecourses on Sunday.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he refer to the liquor licensing law so as to take into account the question of the registration of clubs, which are allowed to be open on Sundays in Wales, where public houses are not?
I was trying to state in a compendious form the position of the liquor licensing law as it affects the Sunday opening of public houses, clubs and anything else.
I have no doubt at all that the promoters of the Bill have quite deliberately left out these very large sections of the law in this connection, but I would point out to the House that they are within the terms of the Amendment. I think the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), who moved the Amendment, would not be averse to consideration of this question by the committee which he proposes to set up. On the other hand, it is perfectly plain that the hon. Member for Bridlington had no such intention at all, and it is right that I should draw the attention of the House to these matters before it comes to a conclusion.
The volume of the law in this connection is substantial, and it is also true, as has been said, that a good deal of it is obsolete, quite certainly unenforceable and certainly no longer in force. But it is not true to say, as some hon. Members have suggested, that it is very obscure. It is not obscure at all. For so large a body of law, on the whole, it is remarkably clear and remarkably easily ascertained. If one wishes to know whether it is legal to do something on Sunday, one can be told by most lawyers fairly quickly what the answer is.
I would not for a moment dispute these matters with either of the hon. Gentlemen who have interrupted, and, of course, it is perfectly true that, in any body of law, we may have to draw a dividing line, and there always will be some doubt about cases that fall on the dividing line, which leads to so many committees and commissions being set up to consider these matters. I can tell the House that there really is not as much obscurity about this matter as the House and the country have been led to suppose.
Of course, quite apart from the broad principle of the desirability of the extension of commercial entertainments on Sundays, there is the important question of control. Under the Bill, it is proposed that cinemas, theatres, dance halls and music halls—and, as a matter of fact, in one or two areas, owing to the existence of private Acts, boxing and wrestling matches—should be subject to control by the local authorities. I have no doubt that the reason for the inclusion of these particular subjects in the Bill was that they were already subject to licensing by local authorities, but the Bill itself does not propose any control over such things as motor-cycle racing, football and cricket matches, boxing and wrestling matches in the ordinary way, circuses, fun fairs, and so on.
I do not want the House to think that I am bringing any adverse criticism to bear on the Bill by calling attention to that fact. The House should know that, if it thought fit to impose control over any of these matters, there would be no difficulty about amending the Bill so as to do so, either by bringing in provision for local option or for some general licensing control. It is fair that I should say that to the House. My duty is to indicate the far-reaching nature of this Measure—how far, in fact, it goes—and I think it is because of the far-reaching nature of the Measure that there is a demand in the House for a commission to be set up. I think that is quite plain from what has been said, and, indeed, from what has been said outside the House in the Press.
It is obviously tempting for all of us to wish to refer this matter to some commission or committee. It involves a very difficult decision for every hon. Member, and, when we are confronted with a difficult decision, all of us naturally say, "We would like some more information about it, and some more time in which to consider this matter." I think myself that the House would wish to know what the Government's view is as regards the possibility of setting up such a commission. It is a matter on which the Government will be, as they always are, guided by what is said during debate.
On the other hand, I do not want the House to think that we have no views and will merely await the outcome of the debate. Clearly, the Government have given this matter very careful thought, and it is right that I should put some broad considerations before the House before it arrives at a decision.
There are really two reasons for referring a question to a committee of a commission. We may do so either to ascertain complicated and doubtful questions of fact and law—to marshal them, to lay them out before the House and country so that opinion may be properly and fully informed of all the circumstances before arriving at a decision; or there is the second reason which has been suggested—I think it was suggested by the hon. Member for Islington, East—the purpose being to get the various parties and interests concerned round the table together with a view to discussing the matter, and, if possible, arriving at some compromise solution. Those are the two reasons that would call for the setting up of a committee or a commission.
Is there not a third class, namely, cases like divorce and gambling, where quite recently we have had Royal Commissions to consider matters of the widest interest to the nation as a whole? They did not fall within either of the categories the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, and this question of Sunday observance is much more analogous to a question like divorce than anything I can think of.
I should think that cases which the hon. Gentleman has referred to do very much fall within those classes. The purpose of the Commission has been to ascertain the law, to ascertain the facts, and, if possible, to put forward some agreed proposals which may be acceptable to the country and to the House; but in the present case there really are no complicated questions of fact or law involved.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way once more? He has been very good about giving way. I am entirely with the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) in saying that the issue here, on each of these proposals, is: how much does the liberty of the many impinge upon the liberty of the few? That is precisely what I want more information about. We want to look at each of these problems to see, if we give this liberty, how much that will impinge upon the liberty of the other people concerned. That is why I want this commission.
I appreciate the hon. and learned Member's point. I am not at the moment at all convinced that it would be possible to get any more information on that by the machinery of a commission or a committee. I say, as I said at the outset of my remarks, that the hon. and learned Member will develop that in his speech and indicate whether he thinks this matter can be usefully explored. Of course, attention will be given to it by the Government, but at the present moment the view of the Government is that, although this is, of course, a large subject, and although there is a good deal of law involved in it, nevertheless, having regard to their breadth and importance, the questions are relatively clear and easily ascertained.
Much has been said about the old 17th Century Acts, but those are virtually dead, whatever hon. Members may say. Prosecutions under them are virtually unknown—which is hardly surprising, as the penalties are 3s. in one case and 5s. in another; and the amendment or the repeal of those Acts really would make very little difference indeed. I am not for a moment saying it may not be a good thing to amend or to repeal them, but I do say quite certainly that if that were all that were involved in this we should not be debating this subject today.
The real issue before the House is the Act of 1780. That Act makes illegal every form of public entertainment on Sunday for which there is payment, except in so far as it has since been amended. The prohibition in the Act of 1780 is absolute and unequivocal. It has been amended by the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, to the extent that the House at that time thought right, and the question that the House has to consider today is whether or not any further modification is required.
Would not the commission or the committee look into the obvious cases in which the law is evaded, as, for example, in the case of billiards clubs, or by not charging payment? In fact, on the question whether the spirit of the law is being broken to the general disrepute of the law, would not the committee be very useful in looking into that sort of thing?
I would never say that one cannot examine the question of the amendment of any breach of the law, but I do not think it would help the House very much in coming to a decision on the real question before it today.
Of course, the main question which I have just posed breaks up into a number of separate questions. Each of these is quite separate and quite simple. The House must consider whether we want Sunday theatres, whether we want Sunday cricket matches, whether we want Sunday football matches, whether we want Sunday motor-cycle racing; but each of those issues is a perfectly clear-cut issue on which the House can make up its mind, and on which no amount of further information will assist hon. Members in making up their minds.
If the answer to any of those questions is given in the affirmative, there is no great difficulty about implementing it. It could be done either by this Bill with Amendments or by some other Bill. It does not require any further elaborate inquiry. These are questions which a committee really cannot answer. They are questions as to which I myself feel that if they were referred to a committee I should not be willing to accept the answer of that Committee. That is what I feel about it. That, I think, is the feeling of every member of the Government and of every Member of the House of Commons, and I am bound to bring that to the attention of the House before it comes to a decision.
This Bill is a Bill on which there are different opinions in the House on the merits of the Bill itself, and while I have suggested that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a solution by delegating this matter to a commission, I think that the House can very properly come to a decision on the merits of the main question today. Every hon. Member will have to vote in accordance with his own opinion, and certainly I hope that nothing that I have said from this Box will put any pressure on any Member as to which way he should decide.
An hon. Friend of mine said to me yesterday that if it were not for religion, politics, and the hon. Member for Nottingham, North-West (Mr. O'Brien) we could probably lead a very tranquil life in this House, and it is, of course, true that when we get on to a subject such as this some of us, at any rate—and I have to confess a natural tendency that way—find that it does stir rather deep emotions. We have very strong feelings about such a subject.
We are indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) for bringing this matter before us, and I should like to congratulate him on the very temperate way in which he expounded his Bill to us. Some of us, of course, cannot agree with many of the things he said, and I could not altogether escape the conclusion that the hon. Gentleman himself, who is a great personal friend of mine, was not altogether happy in having to put forward this Bill. I felt that he was rather uneasy about it. He went to great lengths to expound all sorts of things that happened on the Continent, and to tell us why perhaps they ought to happen here.
This is one of the occasions when I think as many hon. Members as possible should have an opportunity freely to express their views on an important matter of conscience, and I shall be brief, and I must say I thought my hon. Friend took a very large slice of the time which the House might very well have used. My remarks will be confined mostly to two things.
First of all, I want to refer to the attitude of the churches. I beg the House to realise that when we talk in this way we are not necessarily thinking of the Lord's Day Observance Society. There are many of us who are adherents to various religious faiths who do not see eye to eye with the Lord's Day Observance Society on many of the things they do. What is remarkable is the great degree of agreement, almost unanimous, among all Christian churches in this country on this subject. I welcome that. It is really remarkable that we have almost unanimous agreement in our attitude towards this matter.
I am a Methodist, and I have the authority clearly to state here today what
we feel about this. I am going to do so from the record, because I think this should be accurately reported. We say:
Our ground for opposition to the Sunday Observance Bill is, firstly, that it attempts to deal with an unsatisfactory situation by a method of hasty and drastic revocation of legislation, a method which is likely to result in a situation even more unsatisfactory than that now existing; secondly, that the proposals would open wide the door to a most undesirable commercial exploitation of our Sunday; thirdly, that the proposals would add considerably to the total of Sunday labour, and would affront the conscience of many loyal and devout Christians.
I want to make it abundantly clear that, so far as we are concerned as a church, we do not request a simple negation of this Bill. Nor, because we believe that we should have a Royal Commission on the subject, do we suggest a Royal Commission of inquiry into this matter simply as a tactical delaying device. We believe that we have reached the point in our history when we can no longer shelve these responsibilities; that we have to face them, and that the best way to face them is first to be armed with the facts which may be supplied to us by those appointed to make a thorough investigation into the existing law, including various archaic provisions.
One of my hon. Friends spent the whole of yesterday searching out all manner of stupid existing laws which might readily be quoted in support of this Bill. We do not ask for a Royal Commission as a tactical delaying device. We say that it is due. We must at some time come to a decision about what we are going to do. Let us have the information.
My final point, which I will put very briefly, is something about which I feel most deeply. The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) considered that the second paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum was the most important. He is probably right, because it says:
This repeal will legalise the playing of all games and the carrying on of all sports on Sundays which are legal on weekdays.
In the first paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum my hon. Friend points out that his desire is to remove the restrictions upon personal freedom. This is a perfectly monstrous suggestion, because I think he will do precisely the opposite. He will restrict our personal freedom. Who doubts for one moment that if the opportunity is there to do these things it will be taken?
If, by this Bill, my hon. Friend permits all manner of sports, whether it be cricket, football or greyhound racing—and who wants to see that on the Sabbath day, anyway—it must inevitably result in hundreds of thousands of people being called upon to work on the Sabbath day. In my judgment, it is not sufficient for my hon. Friend to say, "But I have made provision in the Bill that no one shall work on more than six days a week." That in itself is very strange to me at a time when the trade union movement has secured a five-day week for the majority of its members.
Then my hon. Friend says, "My Bill provides that no one shall be compelled to work on the Sabbath day." My employment before the war was in the newspaper industry, on the mechanical side. Everyone knows that if horse racing, dog racing, cricket, football and all these other things are permitted on Sunday, inevitably the evening newspapers will come out, first of all, in the morning, with racing tips and all the rest of it, and then, in the afternoon, with the results that the people will be anxious to see.
I do not know the minds of my colleagues in the industry on this matter, but I put myself back on the machine, being called upon to help to produce the newspapers which will convey all these items of news to the public after a day of sport. If I had gone to my late employer, who has recently retired, and said, "Mr. Coombs, I have an absolutely rooted, conscientious objection to working on the Sabbath day on this newspaper," I am convinced that he, and the management, would have said to me, "Very well, Will. If you don't want to work on the Sabbath day you needn't." I am sure he would have said that. In other words, I could take my day off for the week on the Sabbath.
Do hon. Members know where the screw will come from? Not from the employers. Not from the boss. Not from the trade unions, because I believe the trade unions would do all they could to preserve the man's freedom of conscience. The screw would come from the men one works with, who would say, "Why should he have Sunday off every week when we have to come in and do the work?" They are the people who would put the screw on the individual; and they would do it rightly and naturally, because I would do precisely the same thing myself if I were in that position.
I agree. I agree that in many industries our people are called upon to work on the Sabbath day in order that the public service may be provided. But when they accept their employment those men go into those industries knowing their responsibilities and their commitments to the public and to the industry.
I do not want my hon. Friend to withdraw this Bill. I want the House to vote on it, and before I sit down there is one thing I want to say to the Government, and particularly to the Government Front Bench. I am delighted to know that this is a non-party Bill; that we can vote according to our consciences.
I sincerely hope that I am misinformed, but I am told that there are certain suggestions, shall I say, floating around the House that this Bill will be defeated on a Closure Motion. If that is so. I appeal to hon. Members in the House who have such an idea in their minds, and say: Let us not be cowardly about this matter and defeat it by a back-door method. Let us have a vote on the Bill and destroy it here on the Floor of the House, but, at the same time, preserve to ourselves the opportunity of voting subsequently as to whether we desire a Royal Commission to be appointed or not.
I say to anyone who may have had this idea in mind: Please do not let us choose this cowardly way out of defeating the Bill on the Closure Motion. Let us defeat it as a Bill, and afterwards we can make a final decision as to whether we think that further inquiry ought to be made into the way in which our Sabbath is conducted.
I rise for only a few minutes to speak against this Bill, as I did on another occasion in 1941, when we carried a Prayer against a Government Regulation on a free vote of the House. That Regulation only permitted theatres and music-halls to open on Sundays; but this Bill goes much further, as other hon. Members have pointed out, and seeks to remove most of the controls, if not all, on Sunday entertainments. It permits, as the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) has said, horse racing. dog racing and even professional football and boxing, as far as I can see.
I wonder if the promoters of this Bill realise what this means as regards extra transport—trains, motor coaches and buses—and catering of all kinds, and that many more of our overworked police would be called out for duty on Sundays. There would be big football matches taking place, as the hon. Member for Islington. East (Mr. E. Fletcher), has said.
This Bill has been rather sprung on us, because it was only available in the Vote Office 10 days ago, and no efforts whatever appear to have been made to consult the various interests concerned, as was done when proposals were being made to allow certain cinemas to open on Sundays. That is a great pity, because up to now the churches and the promoters of such Bills have been getting on very well by mutual agreement.
If this Bill becomes law, it would be impossible to distinguish a Saturday from a Sunday. In the Explanatory Memorandum, I read:
This repeal will legalise the playing of all games and the carrying on of all sports on Sundays which are legal on week days.
It would, therefore, mean a complete revolution in our way of life, which most politicians on both sides of the House are always saying they want to preserve.
The proposals contained in the Bill would lead to very heavy secular pressure on the population as a whole. It would be felt especially, in my view, by the young and adolescents whose interests and future we in Parliament should be safeguarding very carefully. I maintain that it is our duty to do this as far as we possibly can in order that they may have every chance of Christian influences from whatever source.
With all the speeches and exhortations which we read and hear, urging us to give a lead to making a better and more Christian world, to my mind it would be quite inconsistent for people who hold these views to take a strong materialistic line now, and just at the time when we are introducing a new Education Bill which will enable more and more religious instruction and training to be given.
In an age when paganism has won so many victories all over the world, I and my hon. Friends sincerely believe in the traditional English Sunday, as opposed to a Continental one, and we know that this belief is held by thousands of men and women in all parts of the country and in almost all walks of life. because it must, in our view, strengthen our moral and spiritual resources
Parliament, as has been said, quite recently turned down the proposal that the Fun Fair in Battersea Park should be opened on Sundays, and a considerable number of Labour Members, in addition to a large number of Conservatives, went into the Lobby against the proposal. I hope that we shall get Members from both sides of the House to vote against this Bill this afternoon, because it is certainly not a party matter.
The only check provided in this Bill against a completely secular Sunday is that of local option. This is, at best, a clumsy expedient, as is seen especially in the arrangements for taking a poll in the London area. There are further objections, in my view, to local option. First, those interested in the financial side of Sunday amusements would naturally spend large sums in propaganda and advertisements, urging people to vote for Sunday opening. Secondly, local option would provide a variety of customs in different parts of the country. This seems to me particularly undesirable in a matter which concerns the interests not only of one section of society, but of every citizen, young and old, throughout the country.
We know that Scotland and Northern Ireland are excluded from this Bill. "The Times," in a leading article headed "The English Sunday," pointed out that these omissions can only be taken as a well-meant, if forlorn, attempt to reduce the strength of the Opposition. I hope that Scotsmen and the Members from Northern Ireland will be with us in the Lobby this afternoon.
Those of us who are opposing this Bill are not fanatics or cranks who are trying to drive people to church. I oppose because I cannot support any proposal which gives further opportunities to commercialise Sundays and so make it more difficult for people to obtain rest and peace on Sundays, and because, as a Christian country. we should see that Sunday is recognised as a different day compared with the ordinary weekday, and that people all over the world should realise that in Great Britain, Sunday is different and that the hurly-burly of the week is stilled, anyway to a large extent. To thousands it is a precious heritage that has helped to uplift and strengthen the character of our people.
Have we forgotten so soon how our country was saved during the war and how, as a nation, we were given the will and the strength to fight on even when we stood alone? We should show our humbleness and thankfulness for ever for the Divine deliverance from Hitler and his Nazi hordes, instead of hindering and impeding the work of the Church.
We have all had a large number of letters urging us to oppose this Bill—not just printed postcards, but letters written in a most sincere and intimate style. I do not for one moment suggest that we are sent here as delegates, but, on the other hand, we cannot shirk our responsibility to do as we think right, each according to his conscience, irrespective of whether we gain or lose votes. But it must be recognised as a fact that conscientious objection to the proposals are deep-seated and widespread all over the country.
In conclusion, I quote a short extract from one letter which I have received, because it interprets my point of view almost exactly. It reads as follows:
I believe that the British Sunday is a priceless heritage, which, once lost, would be difficult to recover. I look to the Government for strength of purpose and courageous leadership in all matters affecting the destiny of the nation.
I read that the Secretary of the Sunday Freedom Association says he is prepared for strong opposition from the reactionary sections of the population and the churches. If to uphold the principles in which one sincerely believes is his idea of a reactionary, I am proud to be called one. I hope that the House will reject this Bill.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Finchley (Sir J. Crowder) will not mind if I do not follow him in what I am certain was a very earnest plea for the rejection of the Bill, even though I think that some of his observations, if he does not mind my saying so, were quite irrelevant.
I support the Bill. I want to make it clear that it is not because I, personally, want to see a commercialised Sunday with commercialised football and sports of all kinds. On the contrary. I want Sunday spent as time of meditation, real recreation and, for those who are inclined as I am, worship. if the Bill were passed and local option operated, I should do my best in my own locality and elsewhere to persuade people to vote against certain forms of Sunday amusement which I considered detrimental to the local community.
In so doing, one discriminates between one kind of recreation and another. I cannot see any harm in a number of youths having a quiet game of cricket on the village green or in an urban park on a Sunday, but I do draw a distinction between that and an influx of large numbers of people who might disturb the neighbourhood. I want to emphasise that I do not support the Bill because I desire an atmosphere of commercialism and superficial entertainment; I want to preserve the best elements, as compared with the worst elements. in our Sabbatarian tradition.
My reason for supporting the Bill is threefold. First, I am a democrat, and, whatever my own views may be, I feel that I have no right to try to impose them on others who do not hold them. I have had a number of letters from my constituents and I am sure they are all sincere and earnest. I suppose I have had about 50 letters, and I have sent a personal reply to most of them. But my electorate numbers about 80,000. Most of the others are inarticulate. Recently I made a calculation of the numbers in my district who attend churches of one kind and another, including Catholics, of whom a much larger proportion attend church than in the case of Protestants. I calculate that not more than 10 per cent. attend church with anything like regularity. The other 90 per cent. already spend their time in some other way. I may think it is deplorable, and I may wish—in fact, I do wish—that a much larger proportion than 10 per cent. went to church to worship, but I have to face the fact that that applies in other respects as well. There are many ideas and opinions in my constituency and elsewhere with which I may disagree. I should like to see a much larger percentage of my constituents giving serious and regular attention to some of the great problems of the day and not merely relying on headlines or catchlines, but if they do not respond to that plea I have to respect the fact that they do not do so.
We have to realise in no self-righteous way that the very principle of democracy is here on trial, rightly or wrongly. I believe that if 90 per cent. disagree and wish to go some other way, I have no right to interfere with their free choice. Although I agree that we are not delegates but representatives, nevertheless that does not absolve us from appreciating that we are representatives of the general body of opinion in our constituencies.
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that any large proportion of the 90 per cent. who do not go to church are really calling for the Bill to be passed; in other words, that they want to spend their Sundays in the way the Bill permits?
I do not know and neither does anybody else. If we had local option. we should find out. Local option in the case of the Sunday opening of cinemas was opposed by the same people who are opposing the Bill, but I believe that in no case where local option has operated has there been any result other than an overwhelming majority for the Sunday opening of cinemas.
That is an extremely rare instance. I have not yet finished making my case, and hon. Gentlemen cannot agree or disagree with it until I have done so. There may be instances like the one which has been quoted, but I say very deliberately that in most cases, as in my district, the Sunday opening of cinemas has been requested by an overwhelming majority of the people. On the other hand, if in a given area there were a strong opinion against it, that could be registered and the result would be that neither cinemas nor theatres would open on Sundays.
I am trying to emphasise that there is a principle which I know must not be applied automatically. I know that we are not delegates, and I know that at times we have to stand for things which may be temporarily or permanently unpopular in our constituencies, but in the long run the precious spirit of democracy, which is still young in the world's history, will only be preserved if those who put forward a minority point of view which they believe to be right do not attempt by subterfuge, pressure or deception to impose it on the rest.
My second reason for supporting the Bill is on the grounds of consistency. If many of the arguments which have been used today were carried to their logical conclusions, it would mean that we should try to reverse the option we now grant to localities to open or not to open cinemas on Sunday. Furthermore, let us realise that, however horrified we may be at the prospect of people seeing plays on Sunday, they can see them on Sunday now. Anyone who can afford a television set can see a play every Sunday, apart from which those who cannot afford television sets or who do not like them—I am in both categories—can hear entertainment merely by switching on a wireless set.
I was rather struck by the fact that only last Sunday or thereabouts there was a discussion in "Any Questions?" in which a gentleman, who is well known to us all as a commentator and a spokesman on the broadcasting service, declared that we must do all we can to preserve the English Sunday, although he himself regularly every Sunday broadcasts to the nation and provides the public with very great entertainment.
We should also remember that we have Sunday concerts. In my own locality we have a very fine voluntary orchestra, the Leyton Municipal Orchestra, which on one Sunday every month gives a programme of first-class music, which is a form of entertainment, in the local baths hall. Those concerts are attended by 600 or 700 people, some of whom have already been to church, as in my case, and the others who have not been to church are at least getting some cultural benefit and spiritual inspiration. Does anyone suggest that, because such a concert involves a certain amount of labour, it should be abolished? Nobody suggests it.
I would remind the House that there was a time when the kind of intense hostility which is being shown towards this Bill was being exhibited towards the possibility of the opening of not merely cinemas but even parks and open spaces, museums and art galleries on Sunday. I am sure nobody would now suggest that there is anything wrong about going on a Sunday to the British Museum to see the Elgin Marbles or to an art gallery to see ancient or modern art. We take that for granted, and the principle has been admitted.
If we want to be logical and conform to the Fourth Commandment as it was originally intended, we ought to be like some members of our community who on Sundays will not even light their fires or blow their noses unless their handkerchiefs are tied round their wrists. But that sort of thing has long gone and we now live in a different age.
The Bill is really no departure from a principle which has already been admitted. However, in some respects it may be a somewhat extravagant extension of the principle, and we might very well examine the terms of the Bill to ensure that they do not go too far if we feel that the general body of opinion in the country is hostile to an extravagant extension.
Lastly, I support this Bill on the ground of my own Christian faith. It may be unorthodox but it is strong, and the more I live and think and read the more certain I am that it contains the truth. The one reason why there is a kind of iron curtain today between the members of the Churches and the rest of the community is the feeling on the part of the rest of the community that in many respects the Churches, when they cannot get their way by persuasion, do all they can to obstruct others in going the way they want. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is so, because again I must remind the House of the fact that, although the majority of the people in my constituency do not go to church, nevertheless the church people did their utmost to prevent the cinemas being opened on Sundays.
That does not commend the Christian faith at all. It does not do anything to secure responsiveness from those people whom we want to win to the faith which we hold. I happen to hold this faith, and it is for the sake of those principles in which I believe that I do not want any suggestion, directly or indirectly, of pressure brought to bear on people to go to church, nor do I want the slightest suggestion on the part of Christian people that if they cannot get people to church by persuasion and by appeal then they must adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude.
I want that to be avoided, and that is why I support the Bill.
The only other word I want to say is that naturally we all profoundly respect the point of view of possibly the majority of this House who want this Bill rejected. I should like to see a proper Commission set up to investigate the matter so that there could be brought forward constructive proposals to meet as far as possible the best interests of both minorities and majorities on this issue. I am all for approaching these matters on the lines of adapting oneself to the circumstances and to get reconciliation if one can.
Having said that, I want to say quite definitely that I shall give my vote for this Bill with a clear conscience and with firm conviction. I do not want to see great changes in our present Sunday social conditions. I want to see the Churches grow in strength and more and more people turn quietly to the things of the spirit and to the values that are fundamental. I will do my utmost to that end in my area. If there is local option, I shall do my best to persuade the people in my locality to use their vote to prevent certain kinds of entertainment which I think would be inimical to the spirit of Sunday. Having said that, I want to say—
But would my hon. Friend be in a position to do that under the terms of this Bill, because, as I understand it, the main purpose of the Bill is to make no difference between Sunday and any other day?
I believe the weakness in the Bill is that it does not cover every form of recreation, and I would strongly support local option being extended to include all other forms of recreation. That is my point of view, and if the Bill gets a Second Reading I will draft an Amendment accordingly.
I have spoken longer than I intended, but I have been subject to some interruption. I hope that those who have interrupted me will appreciate that I am just as sincere as they are, and that my judgment in this matter is just as scrupulous as I am sure theirs is. In voting for this Bill I shall do so not because I want to see any great transformations in our Sunday social conditions, but because of the three principles which rather sketchily I have enunciated—firstly, the principle of democracy; secondly, the principle of consistency; and, above all, the best way of commending the Christian faith.
No Member of this House could have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) without being most thoroughly persuaded of the sincerity which underlay everything he said, and if I advocate a course to this House which is diametrically opposed to the course he has advised I am quite certain that he and all hon. Members will be prepared to credit me with equal sincerity.
A great deal has been said today about the anomalies, so-called, in the existing law, and I should like to make it perfectly clear at the outset that it is no part of my case today to defend in toto the existing state of the law regarding Sunday observance. It would be foolish for me to attempt to do so, and the case I intend to submit to the House does not require that I should, although I must point out that it does not necessarily follow that because an Act is of considerable antiquity it is, therefore, bad or wrong. The Ten Commandments are considerably older than the Act of 1625, but most of the evil from which the country suffers today springs from the fact that a great many people fail to observe them.
Having said that, I want to confine my remarks to my objections to the two main proposals of the Bill, the proposal to legalise the opening of theatres and music halls on Sundays, subject to certain conditions and safeguards, and the proposal to legalise professional sport on Sunday. My objections to these proposals fall under two heads. Firstly I object to the proposals on the grounds that they are an offence to the deeply held convictions of multitudes in this country of ours.
That can be instanced by reference to the fact that there was presented to this honourable House only yesterday a Petition containing more than half a million signatures of persons living in all parts of the British Isles who desired to leave this House in no doubt as to the grave offence which will be caused to them if the proposals of the Bill were to find their place upon the Statute Book.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins), whose speech we all listened to with such interest and appreciation, referred to the attitude of the churches on this matter. I do not want to spend any time in the brief speech I want to make in dealing with the attitude of the churches, because I feel that the hon. Member for Bristol, South dealt adequately with that question. But when we consider the view of the churches of this matter, I submit that it is important that we should not overlook the views of those branches of the church and those Christian organisations which are particularly concerned with the religious education of the young.
In this connection, I want to bring to the notice of the House a letter which I have received from the General Secretary of the National Sunday School Union, and which I am authorised to read today. It is as follows:
I am directed by the Board of Management of the National Sunday School Union,
representing over 120,000 Sunday school teachers in all parts of the country, to write to you of our concern at the Sunday Observance Bill which is to be debated on January 30th. The particular concern of the Sunday School Movement is with moral and spiritual training of children. The evident need for this training does not need to be stated at this point. The provisions of the Bill as published will further endanger the Christian training of children to the irreparable harm in their own personal character, and with serious social consequences. We hope that you and other Members of Parliament together may secure a rejection of this Bill.
Hon. Members and the public are seriously concerned with the very grave incidence of juvenile delinquency, which is unlikely to be cured apart from the sound religious training of the young. I ask the House to consider whether, at this moment above all others, we wish to take a step which is regarded so seriously and with such grave concern by those who are most qualified to speak in this matter?
My second objection has also been referred to, and is that the proposals of the Bill would inevitably lead to a vast increase in Sunday labour. It is no reply to say that those who will be engaged on Sundays will be adequately recompensed by being given another day off in the week in place of Sunday. Members of this House could not fail to be impressed by the dignity of the deeply sincere letter sent to every Member by a large and influential group of actors and actresses.
I would refer to one paragraph in the letter. The writers submit:
that this day of rest is valueless to them if, by the arbitrary will of local authorities and of managers, it is varied in each contract. for Sunday is the day on which wives, husbands and children are released from labour. Actors and actresses who are denied this day will be debarred from the happiness of private life, and, though profit may be increased, humanity will suffer.
I do not think that the case could be better stated.
What is true in the case of the comparatively small number of actors and actresses who may be concerned is equally true of the vastly greater number of other workers who will be compelled to work on Sundays if the proposals of the Bill become law. It is no answer for some hon. Members to say that everybody should have the right to spend Sunday as he or she wishes. If I insist upon my so-called right in this particular I shall by that act be denying to other people the right that I claim for myself, the right of rest and worship, and the right to share Sunday with my family as the day especially set aside when families can meet together.
The hon. Member quoted the letter that we have all received from a number of well-known actors and actresses. Is he not aware that there are thousands of actors and actresses who are out of work today—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and who are falling over themselves to try to get contracts or engagements to perform on Sundays in theatres which are already open under the guise of clubs?
The hon. Member who was addressing the House gave way to me. I want to point out that there is no shortage of actors and actresses for performances on television and radio, and, furthermore, that at least one of the actors who signed—
I would do everything within my power to assist actors and actresses who might be unemployed and to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred, but not at the cost that would be involved by adopting these proposals.
The case for the observance of Sunday has probably never been so strong as it is today. The argument used 50 years ago, that there were many people, who, by reason of their employment, only had Sunday on which they could enjoy entertainments and sports, had a measure of truth in it, but whatever the strength of that contention then it has very much less force today. With the curtailment of working hours, and multitudes of people working only a five-day week, the opportunities, for entertainment and sport during weekdays have never been so great as they are. What we suffer from today is not lack of leisure, but the fact that multitudes of people have not learned to use aright the additional leisure that they possess.
It is a fact that the strain and stress of modern life have increased to such an extent as to reinforce the necessity for setting aside one day in the week for rest, meditation and worship, a day when men and women can turn aside from those pursuits and interests with which they are concerned during the days of the week to realise that the things which are seen are temporal while the things which are unseen are eternal.
I would conclude by saying that the greatness of this country down the long years of its history has not been established primarily upon its military prowess, nor upon its success in commerce nor even upon the far-flung character of the world-wide Empire which we have been able to build up; but rather upon the moral and spiritual leadership which, in many dark days, we have been able to give to the world. It would be tragic if, at this moment when there is so much error, hatred and darkness in the world, we should weaken or even forfeit the right to exercise that leadership by a thoughtless and foolish vote today. I hope with all my heart that the House will decisively reject the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
Opponents of the Bill appear to be under the illusion that Sunday is regarded by the vast majority of people in this country as a day of rest and relaxation. It is not. If they were to keep their eyes open in the big cities and small towns they would see outside the cinemas which are permitted by local option to open queues forming early on Sundays of people anxious to go into those cinemas. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Yes. I will offer to go with any hon. Member who disagrees to any town he may name where the cinemas are open on Sunday, in order that we may observe what happens on Sunday afternoon.
I shall be happy to visit the hon. and gallant Member's town with him. Perhaps we can meet outside the Chamber and arrange it.
Those of us who visit our constituencies at weekends know that we rely on the work of people on Sundays so that we may put up in hotels, have transport, meals and hospitality. Otherwise we could not perform our duties at weekends. Therefore, people have to work on Sundays in order to supply us with the means of carrying out our public duty.
But if they are under no legal necessity it is up to them to decide whether they wish to do Sunday duty or not. If they are adequately safeguarded by strong trade unions, as they are today, and receive either double or treble pay for working on Sunday or have a day off in lieu, there is no lack of volunteers who are willing to perform Sunday duty in view of the privileges that result. We see this now in various forms of recreation and entertainment such as the art galleries and museums—
I support this Bill because it is based upon reason and logic. Today there are innumerable anomalies, which even the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) would not presume to defend, because he knows they exist, in the sphere of entertainment and other activities. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) touched on some of them. Where cinemas are permitted to open on Sunday, one can see any form of entertainment which has passed the film censor. However crude, however horrible, however brutal, however licentious and lustful that particular film may be and however unsuitable we may regard it even for week-day entertainment, it is permitted on a Sunday—
Today one cannot see a play with cultural value performed in a theatre but one can go to a cinema, despite the fact that many films are totally unsuitable for Sundays. At the same time plays can be seen on television and heard on the radio.
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way and, at the relevant point, I shall explain how I have such an intimate knowledge of the entertainment industry.
If I may resume, one can at present visit concerts on a Sunday provided they keep strictly within certain narrow limits. For instance, the performers cannot make up, they cannot wear any kind of costume, they cannot make any gesture, they cannot indulge in dancing. Strangely enough there can be one comedian telling stories but not two comedians indulging in cross-talk. Yet, as the Under-Secretary explained to us, by some strange whim there can be debates. Apparently cross-talk and debates are divided into two categories. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not always."]
But it is easy to evade the regulations because of the illogical way in which we conduct our Sunday entertainments at present. If the promoters form a club with a small annual subscription, they can present any form of entertainment they wish, even a play. In order to get an audience they permit members of the club, for that small annual subscription, to purchase as many tickets as they like for the Sunday performance either for sale or distribution to their friends.
Recently we had in the west end of London—not in the theatre with which I am connected—a play in aid of charity being performed on Sunday. Passers-by asking at the box office for tickets were told, "I am sorry but we cannot sell you tickets because this is a Sunday performance. However, if you go across the road to the public house you will find a man in a bowler hat sitting in the right-hand corner of the bar and he will be able to sell you tickets." Or else, "We cannot sell you tickets in this theatre, but outside you will see a blue car parked. There is a man there with tickets for sale."
There is another way whereby those in the box office may say, "We cannot sell you a ticket because you are not a member of the club. Here are two free tickets, and here is the address of our organisation, you can send us a donation afterwards." Those are the silly, illogical and hypocritical ways in which the present law is being evaded. Surely we want to do away with that, and either abolish Sunday entertainments entirely or else put them on a free and open basis in the same way as the cinema.
In this Bill we are not asking for the complete freedom which many people would like. We are asking for that degree of limited freedom which the cinemas enjoy already. If, in its wisdom, this great assembly and the mass of the people in the country have agreed in the past that they wish to have the right to enter cinemas on Sunday, why should we deny them that same right in regard to other innocent—sometimes more innocent—forms of entertainment in exactly the same way and with exactly the same safeguards?
The Bill proposes to set the people free—to use a phrase that has been used extensively in other connections; freedom to do as they like so long as they are not causing hurt or offence to other reasonable people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Certainly, what is there that offends in the theatre and does not offend in the cinema? If we have the local option provided in this Bill, then we shall be extending to people that phrase which was current a little while ago in the political field, "Trust the people." That is precisely what we propose to do in this Bill, and we do not suggest that the man in Whitehall knows best. We are suggesting that the men and women in their localities know best.
No one would be forced to go to any form of entertainment on a Sunday if he preferred to go to the Sunday meetings that are addressed regularly by those who are opposing this Bill but who take part in Sunday political meetings. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, there are hon. Members present who address political meetings on Sundays and yet are opposing this Bill.
Is the hon. Member suggesting that Sunday political meetings, which are not organised by those on this side of the House, are commercial enterprises? Is not that a new conception of a political meeting?
If hon. Members on the other side wish to dissociate themselves from Sunday meetings they may do so. They are given the freedom to have Sunday meetings if they wish and they can exercise that freedom in the way that suits them best. If they do not choose to have Sunday meetings, no one forces them to do so.
Apart from the difference between the two parties in the House on the question of political meetings, is the hon. Member not aware that there are members of his own party, which by long practice holds meetings on Sundays, who for reasons of deep conviction will not take part in Sunday meetings?
The hon. Member has been answered: they are left free to decide, just as audiences are free to decide whether they want to attend such meetings. There is one town in my constituency where, I understand, local public feeling, although in favour of me politically, would not welcome political meetings on a Sunday. Therefore, I do not hold meetings there on Sundays. In another area, where the people are used to political meetings on a Sunday, they always expect them, and I therefore address them on Sundays. It is entirely a case of local option in accordance with the wishes of the people, their social habits, and the way in which they choose to spend their Sunday, and I conform to their desires in that way.
The hon. and gallant Member, who has walked on both sides of the House at different times, is the best judge of that.
I have some knowledge of the theatrical industry, because I happen to be a director of a theatrical company which owns one West End theatre and one provincial theatre. I know a number of managers and I know quite a number of actors and actresses. There is a division of opinion amongst the managers as to whether they should support the Bill. In the main, they are in favour of freedom to open on Sundays if they wish. In the main, they are against the hampering provisions of the Bill, such as those concerning donations to charity and the provision against seven days' work. Therefore, I cannot claim to speak on behalf of the theatre managers; I can only express my own point of view and say that I have an interest in the industry.
As I attempted to point out to the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), however, there are thousands of actors and actresses who would feel it no compulsion to work on Sundays, because they already do so. Many of them are very anxious to take part in radio or television plays, and there is always a demand for theatres at which they can put on a performance which they may use as a shop window, to show to agents and managers exactly how they can act, and from which they might hope to obtain engagements.
Furthermore, as I attempted to point out but was not allowed to do so, at least one of the signatories of the letter from the actors and actresses was an actor who is very anxious that every Sunday he should have a free day because he plays regularly in the actors' cricket team. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not an act of worship or rest. His only desire to have a free Sunday is so that he might play cricket, which, I should think, is just as much against the wishes of the opponents of the Bill as is acting or providing amusement for other people.
Actors on tour have to travel on Sunday from town to town and most rehearse on Sunday in order to perform on the Monday. For that purpose, thousands of them are already either employed on Sundays or would gladly be employed on Sundays. Their trade unions adequately protect them in this respect. I have with me a current copy of "The Stage," which is the theatrical industy's newspaper, in which a leading article deals with the question of Sunday observance. It says:
Performers are ready enough to work at club theatres on Sunday or to take part in radio and television programmes. … Equity"—
that is, their trade union—
is more than powerful enough to see that its members are not exploited.
They say, further:
The National Association of Theatrical and Kine Employees will safeguard the interests of other members of the entertainment industry.
They plead for a commonsense approach to this question. That is what we appeal for.
Although the Bill may not entirely satisfy some of us who are backing it, just as it may not satisfy some of those who require a commission of inquiry and as it may not satisfy the total abstainers from Sunday entertainment, I feel confident that if the Bill can be carried by the House today, it can be so amended in Committee as to form that basis of a compromise agreement which will satisfy to a large extent the vast majority of the country.
About twenty-five years ago in this House the Prayer Book was discussed and very deep feelings were aroused, unexpected feelings from unexpected quarters. My husband was a Member of the House at that time and I remember the violent discussions that took place outside and inside, including, as I say, contributions from very unexpected quarters. The effect abroad was very marked, because arising out of that discussion a side of the character of Great Britain became apparent which had not been apparent for some time.
Although I admit that I was not very happy when first I heard that this Bill was to be discussed today, I think I was wrong. It has given an opportunity for discussion and expression of different views which is proving very valuable indeed, and we all appreciate that those who support the Bill and those who are opposing it are doing so in all sincerity, I hope that a vote will take place at four o'clock and that the Bill will be overwhelmingly defeated.
This issue is particularly important at this time, when religion and Christianity are being so seriously challenged. I do not think there has ever been a period in our history when the maintenance of the Sabbath as a day that is different from other days was more vital. I do not want to tell people how they are to spend their Sundays, but if Sunday is to become another bank holiday, or, indeed, another weekday, when more and more people will be involved and, by degrees, will be expected to work for or to amuse the larger section of the population, who would expect to an increasing extent to be entertained by an ever-increasing number of people, I am convinced that it would be disastrous.
In these days of rush and hurry and noise, when so many people live their lives, or the greater part of them, with machinery, a day of comparative peace, when a large section of the population can rest physically and, more important, spiritually, is vital so that they shall be able to gain that spiritual and mental refreshment and strength with which they can carry on the work of the week that lies ahead. Whatever arguments may be put forward, that is the psychological effect of the present British Sabbath day, and it should not be denied to the thousands who serve and amuse the public during the other six days of the week but who would be forced to work on Sundays if further professional entertainment and sporting events were allowed.
I am not sure that a commission could produce the results for which some hon. Members hope, and for that reason I do not support the Amendment. But I agree very strongly with the hon. Member for Bristol. South (Mr. Wilkins), in saying that he hoped there would be a very clear vote this afternoon and no evasion of it, and that we should express clearly, as a House, what we feel about the Bill. There is a great responsibility on our shoulders today, and I sincerely hope and pray that the Bill, which strikes at something really vital, more vital than some people realise—at the spiritual life and soul of the nation—will be defeated.
The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) has, I believe, expressed the thoughts and feelings of people scattered in the villages, towns and cities of the country. It is nearly eight years since I made my maiden speech in the House, and I have never lost—and I trust I shall never lose—the sense of privilege at being allowed to speak in this, the Mother of Parliaments. The prestige of this House is great in foreign parts. It is even greater where it is known the best: here at home, where it is regarded by people who have no interest in the strife of politics as the custodian of all that is best in the British heritage. It is regarded as the guardian of our traditions where they are in the interests of our people.
It is the proud inheritance of every baby born in these islands that he shall enjoy a sense of freedom, that he shall have a love of justice, that he shall develop an instinct for democracy which will enable him to be tolerant of another person's point of view—
—and to be patient when another man is speaking. It is my deep conviction that all that is best in the British character, indefinable as it is, springs from the Christian background of our people. I do not expect my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) to understand exactly how we who share the Christian faith approach this question. I think I have a right to say this. I am not trying to interfere with anyone else's Sabbath Day. I therefore feel that I have a right to say to the House, and I am sure the House has a right to say to the nation, that those who do happen to hold religious convictions connected with the Christian faith have a full right to approach it in their own special way.
We deeply respect my hon. Friend's sincerity and he is absolutely entitled to put his point of view, but in doing so will he please try not to imply that he is speaking for all of us who hold the Christian faith, because that was the implication of what he said?
I am very glad that I gave way to my hon. Friend. Far be it from me to suggest that I was speaking in the name of the Christian community as a whole in this country. I believe that no man who speaks in this House today is able to do other than speak for himself and from his own heart. We are not here as delegates, as Burke once reminded us, and on this question a man must be honest with himself. If hon. Members knew my constituency, they would know that I am not taking the easiest course this afternoon. I am by no means seeking popularity in my constituency by advancing the point of view which I seek to advance, but I should be a worm, as others would be also, to allow pressure from people who disagree with us to silence us in this House.
I happen to believe that Christianity is the cornerstone of democracy; that its emphasis on the value of the individual, on the rights and responsibilities of men is all-important in the fashioning of our way of life. After all, it is the Christian faith that has given to the world a lively concern for the sick, the poor, the oppressed and the down-trodden. I join with hon. Members who point out that in a world where dark forces are struggling for the very soul of man it is essential that we, as the custodians of the British heritage, shall move cautiously in legislation which would radically transform the way of life of this nation.
What do we believe regarding Sunday? It was the French Voltaire who said:
If you wish to destroy Christianity you must destroy the Christian Sunday first.
In Holland I understand that this day is spoken of as God's Dyke. Just as their dykes protect their low-lying land from the on-rushing waters, so Sunday protects the working people of the land from the on-rushing tides of materialism, commercialism and exploitation in general. A distinguished Member of this House once said that Sunday is not just another day, it is an institution in the country. It is one of our typically British institutions in the way in which it is regarded here.
I am aware that there are plenty of anomalies about the way in which Sunday is kept in this country. It does not need a particularly intelligent hon. Member to point out the inconsistencies in legislation that has grown up through the centuries. We know they are there, but this country has never based everything on logic. The British constitution itself is the most illogical in the world. No one in this House can define it. An hon. Member might think he can do so, but he would not satisfy many other hon. Members. But we all respect it. It is something which we cannot explain and yet which we understand. Is there anything more illogical than that?
Of course, we do not base our way of life on cold logic, but we understand that we have to adapt ourselves very often to what appears to be contradictory. This Bill might remove some anomalies; it would create many more. Why not open the shops on Sundays? Why not freedom for the man who wants to go and buy what he likes on the Sabbath Day? Is it because they are afraid of the shop assistants' trade union? Why not open all the public houses? I see that they particularly cut out any reference to licensing—
Yes, in a second, I will with pleasure. Why do these supporters of the Bill not say complete freedom? Why any licensing hours at all? Why should the worker not have a glass of beer at 2 o'clock and yet be entitled to one at 3 o'clock? Why not wipe out all the anomalies? We should be left with a jungle rather than a community of civilised people.
Would my hon. Friend care to explain why in his own constituency and those adjacent to it in Wales, for anyone of us, particularly a newspaper reporter or anyone going there on a job, it is far easier to get drinks after hours in Wales in a licensed club than it is in England?
It is quite clear that the parts of Cardiff known to my hon. Friend are different from the parts of Cardiff known to me. Perhaps at some time he will give me such information as his experience has earned for him.
There is another aspect of this question. If this Bill were carried, with the right to hold greyhound racing, motorcycle racing, professional football matches and boxing on Sundays, would it be possible for the supporters of the Bill, or this House, to say that nobody else would have to work because these places were open? Obviously those who own restaurants would not like to miss the chance of the profit forthcoming from feeding the supporters of these sporting activities. This Bill would end the British Sunday, and our decision has to be whether we want to see the way of life of our people changed completely.
I am convinced that in its method this Bill would throw out the baby with the bath water. It would go far further than I like to think its promoters intend. It would destroy safeguards which have proved of great value to our people in bygone days. It was not Parliament that gave Sunday to the nation; but it is Parliament that has provided safeguards, and we, who have the honour to sit in places occupied by the leaders of Britain down through the corridor of time, have to ask ourselves whether today we will wantonly throw out what has been safeguarded by this Mother of Parliaments through the years. I understand that family life is regarded by all hon. Members of this House as one of the buttresses of our civilisation; and Sunday has been a potent factor in building up the quality of our family life. It is the only day when father can be assured of the company of his children; the only day, too, in millions of working-class homes in this country, when the children can be assured that they will be able to spend their time with their father and mother.
Another rest day will be offered by my hon. Friends. That experience was tried after the French Revolution, it was tried after the Russian Revolution, and it failed in both places. How can people rest when six-sevenths of the nation are working? It would be a different thing altogether so far as our people are concerned.
I have in my pocket a letter from the Bishop of Wakefield who, in very balanced language—as we would expect from the Bishop—attempts to support the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher). I came into this House this morning strongly inclined to support my hon. Friend. I thought it would put the subject out of the atmosphere of campaign postcards and letters. I thought it would give us a chance to reach a balanced judgment on this question after all the evidence had been collected. But I must confess—I hope the Home Office will not be too hurt, if they are hurt at all—that the lead given by the Minister was very hard to discover. The Minister seemed to favour everything until the end and then turn down all the proposals.
I gather that the Government are not in favour of a commission. and on second thoughts I wonder if I am myself, because it is an easy way out. One tries to please everybody. That is one of the attractions of a Royal Commission, but it is one of its weaknesses as well. Let us have the moral courage to say whether we are for or against a changed Sunday. That is the way we should vote.
I believe that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) brought the attention of the House to a very important subject when he referred to the Sunday School movement. There are excellent youth clubs in this country organised by the Churches and by local authorities. Will the job of the youth movement organisers be made harder or easier if this Measure goes through? A youth detached from religious influence is a youth who is a problem for society. We know that the Ten Commandments are restraining and that all restraints are irksome. But we cannot avoid them merely by ignoring them. There is more in our responsibility here than satisfying the majority, whichever way it may be.
For me Sunday is a symbol of the things which check a tendency to decay and degeneration. In these post-war years we are seeing the beginning of a new way of life in Britain which we call the Welfare State. It asks for much greater moral strength from individual citizens. It requires the man in the street to ask himself, "What shall I do?" not, "What can I dodge?" It requires him to ask, "What can I give?" not, "What can I get?" and, "How can I serve?" not, "How can I be amused?" I believe that we shall help to create that spirit in the nation if we preserve and cherish our Sunday, rather than if we wantonly throw it overboard.
When I have listened to an effective and a telling speech I have wondered at the temerity of some hon. Members who have spoken afterwards. I feel myself to be in that position today. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has I feel put up an unassailable case for the rejection of this Bill. He spoke with great feeling and deep sincerity and I am sure that he made a great impression on the House.
Throughout our discussions it has been mentioned that this Bill does not apply to Scotland, and therefore it may seem a little strange that a Scotsman, representing a Scottish constituency, should intervene in this debate. Generally speaking, what Scotland thinks today England does tomorrow, but in this instance it may well be that were this Bill passed a similar kind of Bill might eventually be presented for Scotland, and Scottish Members as a whole have no desire that that should take place. I consider that this Bill is one of the most important to be presented to this House during the time I have been a Member. We have spent the greater part of this week discussing iron and steel. Today, we are spending a few hours discussing a subject which, I believe, occupies a far more important place than any Bill on nationalisation or denationalisation, foreign affairs, housing, education or, indeed, the Budget. These subjects have to do with this life, and this life alone. They are temporal in their character.
This Bill has a two-fold effect. It affects the social and moral welfare of the community in time; but it also goes beyond that and attacks something which has a spiritual and eternal value. Because of that two-fold effect, I say that we ought to show the greatest concern about it and give the matter our utmost attention. I am utterly opposed to this Bill. If it is passed it will break down the barriers of protection which surround our Sunday as we know it today.
The question of freedom has been effectively dealt with and one hon. Member spoke at considerable length on the question of local option. But nothing was said about the power to run Sunday sports and games of all description. I enjoy watching a game of football. I was tremendously disappointed and almost saddened by an article which appeared in the "Daily Mirror" last Tuesday. The football expert who wrote the article mentioned that Mr. George Measure, of the London Sunday F.A. had stated:
All Sunday football organisations are backing this Bill. We are affiliated to the Sunday Freedom League. If the existing law is changed we could, for instance, use Wembley Stadium for one of our big games, charging admission.
There is a question I wish to ask those who support the Bill on this question of freedom. In the exercise of this freedom resulting in professional football games on Sunday, what about the people who live in the vicinity of the grounds? We all know what Wembley is like on a cup-tie day, or when there is any big game. There may be an attendance of between 80,000 and 100,000. In the Wembley district there are people who are not interested in football. They want to retire to their gardens on a Sunday afternoon to sit there and meditate upon all that has transpired during the week, to readjust their lives and to make fresh resolutions for the week that lies ahead. But the people in this district, or those who live in the vicinity of any other ground, are to be annoyed on Sundays.
They are to have their liberty interfered with and their freedom jeopardised as a result of all the noise that accompanies big football games. That aspect has not been considered as it ought to have been.
In addition, there are other professional sports, such as dog racing and motor cycling, which will be allowed to take place if this Bill is passed. I hope that the House will resist it. Sunday labour has been mentioned. On the occasion of a big football match or a cricket match on a Sunday the local shops will have to open and street vendors will attend in their hundreds. There will be the rattle and noise of the selling of club colours and other incidentals. That kind of thing is bound to happen on our Sundays if this Bill is approved.
Do we want that, or do we want the rest and the quiet, the time of meditation, which so many of us have enjoyed? Is that to go as a result of this Bill? The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) mentioned the question of church attendance. He was right when he said that church attendance in England was extremely low. Today, America is the greatest church-going country in the world. Sixty per cent. of the American population are regular church-goers, whereas in England the figure is only 6 per cent.
I have made my statement. I will make full investigations and if I am wrong I will come to the House and report.
At any rate, the sorrowful figure here is 6 per cent. That should cause us concern. In America, the churches are packed to overcrowding. I have been there within the past 12 months. Bible colleges are coming into being all over the country and they cannot accommodate the numbers of young men and women who are anxious to be admitted. But in England and Scotland the figure is 6 per cent. I submit that there is something wrong in our national life, and I am convinced that this Bill will not put this right.
This Bill will not help matters. I believe that the problem which confronts this country and the world today is not an economic one. I believe that we have let go the faith of our fathers. The questions of great moral and spiritual value have not got their place today either here or in many other parts of the world. There never was a time like the present, when the sky was so darkened with clouds and when statesmen of the highest rank, with all their expert advisers, were gathered together to try to solve the problems which confronts them.
What is wrong is that we have not taken into account His way of life and His way of guidance. Our hearts have been bolted and barred against Him. I hope that the day will come when there will be a resurgence of a desire to return to the things of spiritual and moral value. For these reasons I appeal to the House to reject this Bill in the hope that the Church and other religious organisations will continue to carry out their services on Sunday, the day that God has given to us.
First, I want to say that I am definitely opposed to this Bill, and secondly, I wish to state that the whole matter of the law relating to Sunday observance should be thoroughly investigated. Everyone agrees that the legislation in force today on this subject is obsolete according to modern thought and outlook. But I consider that the gravest question we have to face is how to legislate without interfering with the sanctity of the Sabbath.
As a nation we are a Christian nation. We have given a lead to the world both by means of our propaganda and our outlook in regard to the Christian way of life, and also in the fact that no restrictions have been placed upon us in the expression of our views. That is the kind of organisation to which we have become accustomed. We have been allowed to go our own way in accordance with our convictions, and yet I often wonder whether it has been all to the good, and whether, instead of making a progressive move in accordance with our convictions. we are not now going backwards.
Certainly, Christian organisations have set high moral standards for their members, and I think it would be right to say that many of the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years have been agreed upon because of modern thought and an advanced outlook. Many of us can remember in our lifetime the attitude of many believers in some of the principal organisations who objected that it would be wrong to introduce any kind of sport on Sunday, but those in the Methodist Church have had to accept the change of thought and outlook that has come about.
I want to make an admission here today. I am a Methodist, and am proud of it, and I have indeed occupied a Methodist pulpit as a local preacher since 1932. It has not been easy to convince those attending many of our Methodist churches that they would have to adapt themselves to fit in with modern ideas and outlooks, and, of course, to agree that these various changes ought to take place. The fact is that, in my own opinion, we as a nation have been seeking to travel too fast and our individual responsibilities have been shirked. If we try to carry on in this way, we shall eventually find ourselves in a chaotic situation, not only morally but spiritually as well.
I know that many people have said that we are spiritually dead, that the Church's personality has vanished and that we are becoming a decadent State. I want to refute that. I believe that the Church today is just as spiritually alive as ever, and it is tragic to think that there are certain sections of the community which would seek to make further inroads into that one day which has meant so much to us throughout the generations.
What we have to consider in regard to this Bill is that it proposes, by the drastic revocation of legislation, to find a solution to an admittedly unsatisfactory position, but in my view it will result in a situation even more unsatisfactory than that which at present exists. I may be reminded by many hon. Members that, as the law stands, many of the things we are not allowed to do are definitely out of place in the time in which we live. I agree with that view, and I want something to be done about it, but is this Bill likely to assist in bringing the solution which is most desirable?
What this Bill attempts to do is give a right of undesirable commercial exploitation of the Sabbath Day, and many of my hon. Friends have no doubt heard me say time and time again that I do not like the attitude of any snooper who, as the law stands, can take action under old legislation. I think that the best way in which we can attempt to remedy this situation is to agree with the Amendment which calls for the appointment of a Royal Commission to settle the whole matter. Let us make no mistake about it. If this Bill is passed, I am of the opinion that the day will come when this situation will have to be faced and some Government or other will have to do something about it.
I consider that, if Sunday is to be commercialised and become like any other day of the week, it will be bound to affect the labour force in this country. As a matter of fact, on this point I have had no representations at all made to me, but the great majority of the people employed in the various forms of industry look forward to Sunday, not so much as a day for recreation and amusement, as has been repeatedly stated in the debate, but as a day of rest from the arduous tasks which they are called upon to perform in their employment.
I would say to my trade union friends that, within the objects of many of our organisations, an agitation has been going on for a five-day week, which has been almost generally established. We ought to take a warning and realise that, if this Bill is to become effective, it might eventually be found to have an effect in many industries in regard to the wages and conditions applying in those industries.
I think of my own particular industry in which, as a result of agitation over a long period of time, we have established certain standards of wages and conditions for the workpeople. The story of how these conditions were arrived at is a long one. I am afraid that, if Sunday is to be commercialised, a lever will be placed in the hands of industrialists in the country whereby they might break down the structure which has been built up and which we desire should remain. Some people may say that we shall remedy the position because of the advancement of education, but I advise them not to rely on that.
As an individual hon. Member of this House, I am prepared, like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), to accept my responsibility in voting against the Second Reading of this Bill and in giving my sincere support to the Amendment for a Royal Commission to be set up.
We have heard a great deal today about the conscience of the individual Members, but I suggest to the House that this is just the sort of matter upon which every Member should strive to ascertain and express by word and by vote the feeling of his own constituents.
If I felt that the Bill were designed merely to remove certain anomalies in the existing law and to bring into tune with current practice the Acts on the Statute Book then I should have no feelings about supporting it. But that is not the case. This Bill is designed to introduce a radical reform; in my opinion, ahead of public opinion, and at variance with public opinion; and for that reason I have no hesitation whatever in both speaking against the Bill now, and voting against it in an hour's time.
If I felt that the opposition to this Bill outside the House came from people who were relying upon the Fourth Commandment, and regarded that Commandment as divine law never to be upset or even modified by man, if I felt that it was the most rigid Sabbatarians who were promoting the opposition to this Bill—the people who would oppose any extension of Sunday recreation because they had not the physique, or, perhaps, the temperament, to share in it themselves—then I should not express myself so strongly as I am now, and I should be against those Malvolios and say,
Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?
But that is not the case. We are not speaking of a majority decision. We cannot take count of all the heads in the country, and even if we could I suggest that it would be quite wrong to base our decision today upon the result.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Will the passage of this Bill into law give more and deeper pleasure to some than it will cause pain and inconvenience to others? Who are the people to whom the framers and sponsors of this Bill claim their Bill will give pleasure? There are certainly a few promoters of commercial enterprises, but, apart from those, who are those people who are supposed to benefit so much from the passage of this Bill? Can any person who takes part in the theatrical profession or with sporting clubs claim that under the existing regulations he is debarred from giving full expression to his skill or to his art? Can any normal individual who attends these spectacles claim that, just because they are not allowed to happen on Sundays, therefore he is given inadequate opportunities of exercising his powers of appreciation and enjoyment? I do not think so.
But the people we must think of even more are those to whom the passage of this Bill would give pain. Now, we know who those people are. It is not only the clergy or the regular churchgoers. Among the 90 per cent. of the people of this country who rarely, if ever, go to church there are many, many thousands, if not millions, who would feel as strongly against the passage of this Bill as those who are directly concerned in the church services as clergy or as regular congregations. If this Bill is allowed to pass we shall be removing a restraint on those who, wittingly or unwittingly, would destroy what others hold precious.
If we allow a secular Sunday we shall be creating a situation in which the State is deliberately discouraging what the Church is endeavouring to promote. I suggest that we here in Parliament are allies of the Church in such a matter. It has no secular arm; and it is our spiritual arm. We must work in co-operation with each other. If we pass this Bill we shall become opponents of the Church in undoing much of the teaching it is endeavouring to spread abroad.
The Church in these days, as, probably, always, needs certain props—the props of self-discipline, of custom, and of regulations. The Church, by its precepts and by its example, can induce the virtue of self-discipline. The people can themselves form custom, and abide by it or let it perish. We here, as the originators of law, can alone provide those regulations which constitute the third prop which is needed to sustain an institutional Church and the institutional Sunday which is part of the tradition of that Church.
If we pass this Bill the churches will inevitably become emptier. A little time will pass before the effects will be fully realised. Though it is certainly true, as the Bible tells us. that where two or three are gathered together there is a spirit among us, it is also true that the church which is well filled, not by two or three but by two or three hundred, is a church in which the spirit it expresses is more fully realised. Under this Bill it would be very difficult for some even to attend church services, because they would be occupied in gainful living, and among that vast multitude outside the idea will grow up that the Church is being discouraged by the State from pursuing the teaching it has given hitherto.
What about the mass of the people? We shall be introducing a Continental Sunday. We shall be introducing Mediterranean manners without grafting on to the temperament of our people a Mediterranean attitude of mind, and we shall lose much. Our puritanical attitude has often been ridiculed by foreigners, and in many cases it has gone too far. Nevertheless, I suggest that solidity in the British character owes something, if not a great deal, to the fact that we have for so many hundreds of years had this conventional Sunday, which we should not change now.
To pass this Bill will be to break the rhythm of our week. It will establish that any day is as good as any other day for rest, and rest will not thereby gain. It will discourage people from attending church services, and allow them to believe that their religion can be found just as easily in the middle of a rugger scrum or on the boards of a music-hall stage. Furthermore, it will be telling people that the State is no longer actively behind the Church. We shall lose that aura which surrounds our present Sunday, which is so difficult to describe without seeming over-sentimental or sanctimonious. Let me remind the House of a story told by the French philosopher Montesquieu, who one day asked his gardener if he went to church; the gardener replied, "No, I do not go myself," and then added to the philosopher's delight, "but it gives me pleasure that other people are going." We all know that feeling. Every hon. Member, whether he goes to church or not, must on occasion, while he has been sitting reading, or writing, or thinking, have heard from the distance the sound of church bells upon a Sunday morning. What is his reaction? I am prepared to bet that the reaction of every person is one of immediate pleasure and not of indifference, or of disgust. That is the feeling which we are preserving by having a regular English Sunday.
Let me say a word or two about the details of the Bill. It is stated that to safeguard the interests of actors and other performers they will be able to take a day off in another part of the week if they are obliged to work on Sunday. When we look at it in a little more detail, we see a terrible loophole, which has so far not been mentioned this afternoon. Clause 5 (a, i) provides that in the
unavoidable absence of a skilled worker due to attend on that Sunday for whom no substitute could readily have been obtained
that safeguard shall not operate.
What theatrical manager, on being given the choice between a substitute, a stand-in, for one of his star performers or the chance this loophole presents of retaining the star for his Sunday afternoon performance, would choose the former and not the latter? It would be impossible for any actor or actress to obtain the rest which he or she obtains now if this Bill were passed. To say that he or she might be given a Tuesday evening off, when other people are working, will mean that eventually such people will feel none of that family solidarity which comes of having a common Sunday observance.
I turn, finally, to the provisions which are made for local option. It is stated in the Bill that any town may say that it does not want to enforce these provisions. May I refer to the town of Bournemouth, part of which lies in my own constituency. It is a seaside town which is, at the moment, very much a church observing place, but in the summer it is open to thousands upon hundreds of thousands of visitors. Were it left entirely to its local residents, it would almost certainly not opt to have Sunday performances. In the summer, visitors who go there on holiday demand entertainment, and that town would be obliged, for the sake of its own self-preservation, to see that facilities for all forms of Sunday entertainment allowed under the Bill were given, and, therefore, the local residents' real wishes would no longer be observed.
I suggest that the two examples which I have given are typical of the inconsistency of the Bill. Even more important is the fact that its aim is at variance with what most of the public want, and it should be rejected out of hand, here and now, this afternoon.
I was reluctant to speak today and I feel obliged to do so only because so many of the speeches that have been made today by hon. Members who are members of various Christian denominations have seemed to me to contain, if I may say so with all respect to my colleagues, elements of confusion and elements of unconscious humbug. [Interruption.] It is not very easy to speak in this atmosphere. I personally have listened attentively and respectfully to every speech that has been made while I have been in the Chamber, even when I disagreed with it most strongly.
I agree very strongly with the final words of the most eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—that passage in his speech in which he referred to the Welfare State and the need for a spirit of service and mutual help, the spirit of "How can I serve?" rather than, "What can I get out of it?" I agree with that, but I regard those remarks, quite frankly, for all their eloquence, as largely irrelevant to this particular debate.
In reply to that passage in my hon. Friend's speech, I would make a point which, I hope, will not seem too farfetched, although it may look like that at first sight. I make it sincerely. I would suggest that, in the spirit outlined by my hon. Friend, a Christian actor or a Christian worker in a theatre or restaurant might find an opportunity for self-denial and sacrifice in Sunday work, in catering to the needs of the vast mass of the people who, as other hon. Members have said, have no other opportunity for reasonable relaxation, recreation and rest than on Sundays.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, whose speech was rightly applauded on all sides of the House for its eloquence, laid great stress on the family aspect of Sunday. He said that it is the only occasion when many working class and other families can enjoy some rest and relaxation together. That is true, but is it not also true that on such occasions many thousands, and even millions, of families would like to enjoy an outing together, perhaps going to a theatre together? In millions of families it is genuinely difficult for that to happen on any week-day.
Many people are still working for the greater part of Saturday and wives have the weekend shopping to do, and thus it is not always easy to have a united family excursion to the theatre or some other place of amusement on a Saturday. Sunday is really the ideal day for it, and I do not believe that to make it more possible for that to happen would be destroying the character of Sunday—in its non-Christian aspect, as providing a break in the working week.
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that there is some difference in spirit between Sunday as it has been understood in this country and Sunday as understood in many countries abroad?
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that having entertainments like football, speedway racing and dog racing on Sundays means a vast increase in the number of men, particularly in the transport industry, who would have to do a full day's work on Sunday?
A great many people in the transport industry already have to work on Sundays, and I should like to deal with that point in a few moments when I come to argue the Royal Commission aspect of the debate.
The first interruption brings me most conveniently to the next point that I was going to make, arising again out of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, and other speeches. Here there seems to me to be one of the fundamental confusions in their thought. Each of us speaks for himself, sincerely giving his own views, and none of us has the right to say that he represents a majority opinion in any denomination or otherwise; but my hon. Friend seems to me to be confused in that he equates what he calls the British Sunday with what he also calls the Christian Sunday. There seems to me to be, putting it no higher, a certain insularity in that equation.
My hon. Friend also poured scorn on the idea of a Royal Commission. He said it was apparently an attempt to "please everybody." I do not think it would please quite everybody. It certainly would not please the Lord's Day Observance Society, and I do not think it would please my hon. Friend, but when there are great controversial issues to be discussed and decided, I do not see that there is anything so contemptible in the idea of having an impartial body which can consider the facts and evidence in relation to those issues. It might serve as a method, not, indeed, of pleasing everybody—to use my hon. Friend's contemptuous phrase—but of bringing together the various perfectly legitimate points of view and interests and people of good will both inside the Christian Churches and outside them.
After all, citizens who may very well be good citizens, although they are not practising Christians, have just as much right to express their point of view about Sunday as have practising Christians. I think that a Royal Commission, which is not, after all, subject to electoral pressure of any kind—and here I am bound to say that I think there has been a refreshing absence today of any significant response by hon. Members to mere postcard pressure; we have tried to argue the matter out seriously—would be an ideal forum for the presentation of arguments and facts.
I thought that what the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department said, on behalf of the Government, on the subject of a Royal Commission was really rather weak. He said that the facts and the legal position are already sufficiently clear. But all the facts are not clear. All sorts of allegations have been made in this debate that the adoption of this Bill would mean an immense increase in Sunday work. There have been replies to that, but I do not think that either side in this debate has ventured to attempt in any way to prove or to disprove that statement. A Royal Commission could invite arguments and facts from interested parties, including the trade unions, and, if necessary, each of the trade unions most likely to be affected could take a poll of its members. It would surely be sensible to set up a Commission to investigate that important aspect of the matter alone. Although, therefore, I myself in general support the Bill on principle, for its probable practical usefulness I would welcome the setting-up of the Commission suggested in the Amendment.
I was a little puzzled by that part of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) which referred to newspaper work on Sundays. As he perhaps knows, I also have worked in the newspaper industry almost all my life, and for most of my working life I have been with a daily newspaper published on Mondays and, therefore, have had to work on Sundays. I could not see the point that he was trying to establish, because a considerable proportion of the newspaper staffs have to do quite a considerable amount of Sunday work as it is. If I may just add this word, without affectation—when I was working on a daily newspaper I never found it incompatible or difficult to do my Sunday work in the afternoon and evening and combine that with going to church in the morning.
The point I was making was that staffs, when they accepted their appointment, knew they were going to be required to work on Sunday. I was distinguishing between those people and others employed on newspapers who have no Sunday obligations, but who might by various means be compelled to work on Sundays if evening newspapers were published on that day.
That may very well be a valid point, but many of my hon. Friends who represent trade unions are always urging us in this House to leave matters concerning conditions of work for negotiation and discussion outside rather than to attempt to thrash them out across the Floor of the House. That is another example of the kind of thing that could usefully be determined by a Royal Commission, because obviously it would hear representations from the P. & K.T.F., the various journalists' and printing trade unions, and others concerned.
In addition to what I have already said. I think that I ought to state why I as a churchman find it possible, and indeed necessary, to support this Bill on principle. May I, in doing so, venture to quote just a few sentences from a letter which I sent out to my constituents who have written to me, merely because in them I express my point of view concisely; this will save time and allow another speech to be made before the winding-up speech:
My view of Sunday is that it is not the same as the Old Testament Sabbath, It is a joyful festival in commemoration of the Resurrection. The risen Christ is the Lord of all life, including our everyday secular life with all its joys and sorrows. Pleasures which are wrong on Sundays are wrong on weekdays: pleasures which are harmless on weekdays are harmless on Sundays. There is nothing intrinsically sinful in going to a dog-racing track or a fun-fair (though some of us may think them vulgar and noisy). Sunday, in my view, should be spent, first, in worship, and secondly, in rest and reasonable recreation, if possible with one's family. One should abstain from unnecessary work, or from causing others unnecessary work; but I would not regard as unnecessary or wrong the work done to enable others to spend a recreative and happy Sunday—for instance, by some transport workers and some catering workers.
I ventured also in this letter to quote what I regard as some extremely wise words by that great man, the late William Temple. He wrote:
It is worth while to notice how absolute was Christ's respect for the freedom of personal choice. He would neither bribe nor coerce men to become followers. Judas must he allowed to betray Him if he is so determined. Not even to save a man from that will the Lord over-ride his freedom. For on freedom all spiritual life utterly depends. It is astonishing and terrifying"—
added Archbishop Temple—
that the Church has so often failed to understand this.
I hope and pray that churchpeople and Christians of all denominations are learning more and more to understand the message conveyed in those words. I believe that many of them are. I gladly pay tribute to the much more reasoned, courteous and tolerant letters that I have had in the last few days, from Methodists in particular in my constituency, than one has sometimes been accustomed to
expect during previous pressure campaigns of this kind. It is, however, in the spirit of those words by William Temple that I, as a churchman, find it my duty to support the Bill.
I think everyone will agree that the level of debate today has been exceptionally high. One has had the feeling that whoever has spoken has done so from the depth of his or her conviction and with the utmost sincerity. I hope to be able to give the same impression in opposing the Bill.
Reading the Bill for the first time, I felt opposed to it, but I am much more opposed as the result of hearing speeches today in favour of the Bill. Those who have spoken in favour of the Bill have had only two points to raise. One was that the Bill would in some way result in greater freedom in this country and the second was that the Bill would remove existing legal anomalies. Perhaps I may deal first with the point about anomalies.
If we in this Parliament were to attempt to obliterate, cancel or annul anomalies that exist in this country we should never have time to devote to anything else. The whole of our institution here is an anomaly and our transactions in this House are based upon historical anomalies. Looking at the Front Bench, one might say that in a free, democratic Parliament the very existence of Whips is an anomaly that should not lightly be borne by any Parliament. This year we are to celebrate one of the greatest anomalies of all, a Coronation in a medieval form which has long since ceased to have any practical use.
Yet, although these anomalies exist, no one would say that they lack a spiritual significance of tremendous importance, and that is the point behind the anomalous Acts which this Bill attacks. It attacks the Sunday Observance Acts from 1625 to 1780, saying that they are anomalies in law, as indeed they are, but in spirit they maintain something which is part and parcel of the characteristics of the people of this island, the determination that everyone has had for hundreds of years that there shall be one day in the week free from the normal interruptions, rows, noises and contests of the workaday world.
This Bill seeks to destroy that. I am not speaking from deep religious conviction in this matter, but rather as one who believes that Sunday is a practical necessity in an age which is getting ever more nervously noisy and more calculated to destroy what one might call the pleasant balance that one used to have before the present worship of noise. This spirit of Sunday we as a nation must maintain at all costs. It does not necessarily mean that all people must go to church whether they like it or not. I believe that people should be allowed to enjoy Sunday in any way they please provided their enjoyment does not annoy or vex other people, or compel them to work for the amusement of others.
This brings me to my second point, that those who have been speaking in favour of the Bill have urged that it would give greater freedom to a portion of the community somewhere. I dispute that. I can see no way in which we can attain a greater freedom for the mass of this country by forcing other people to work on Sunday for the amusement of others. I can see no possible excuse for that. In this respect, I will mention one instance where this Bill will certainly upset the peacefulness, the calm and the characteristics of a neighbourhood that has been unchanged for hundreds of years. It is near to the area that I have the honour to represent.
I live in and represent the northern part of Buckinghamshire. Just over the border, in Northamptonshire, there is a village which until a few years ago was unknown to almost everybody outside the area, the village of Silverstone. Silver-stone has become one of the motor racing tracks of the country and, when meetings are on, all the surrounding quiet villages are wakened out of their pleasant torpor by the sounds that only racing motor cars and heavy vehicles can make.
Under this Bill it is proposed not only that these noises, this nervous shattering of life, shall continue on weekdays but on Sundays as well. That is a thoroughly bad proposal and those who have brought forward this Bill have done so, I suggest, without adequate thought for its full repercussions on our people.
In conclusion, like most hon. Members I have had a heavy post-bag on this Bill, amounting to about 300 letters. The majority of these letters lead me to believe that those who have brought forward the Bill do not represent the bulk of opinion in this country and that if the Bill is passed as it stands, it will be against the will of the country. I hope, therefore, that it will be defeated, and by an overwhelming majority.
It is a difficult task to wind up a debate on a Bill of this nature after the debate we have had. As always, the House has conducted itself with a high realisation of its responsibilities and of all the issues involved in dealing with a matter of this kind, where the consciences and deep convictions of so many people must be involved. It has been particularly noticeable that there has been no attempt to divide the House along party lines in any way whatsoever, but there has been one attempt to divide the House along lines which I slightly deprecate.
I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) said in his excellent speech: that all those who profess themselves to be Christians are not on one side of this matter against all those who are professed atheists or agnostics. It would be found, I think, that the majority of the churches are, in fact, in favour of revising all the laws which are connected with Sunday observance. They may not go as far as the promoters of the Bill, but they are certainly not in favour of the status quo, because often it is only a very small group of rather vocal persons who are in favour of leaving things exactly as they are and not touching them at all; and there are vast numbers of Christians who want to feel that Sunday has been brought into keeping with our modern way of living.
What does the Bill do? To hear some people speak, one would think that it was seeking to turn the whole structure of society upside down, but it is really a very simple little Bill and there is not a great deal to it. First, it merely sweeps away all the agreed and admitted absurdities which challenge our life on Sundays and which may bring people into court on the most ridiculous charges. Secondly. it simply allows people to play those games and sports on Sundays which are legal on weekdays.
I know that some people are concerned about the aspect of commercial sports that may be involved in this and are afraid that a great deal of commercialism and also disturbance may take place in localities where football matches, for instance, might take place on a Sunday. I say straightaway on this point that my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), the promoter of the Bill, would be very happy in Committee to see an Amendment made to ensure local option if commercial football and county cricket were to be played on a Sunday in any area. It is this local option point which is so extremely important.
The second part of the Bill—and this part appears to be the most controversial—makes it possible for theatres to be open on a Sunday in the same way that cinemas are open on Sunday; but, again, it is a question of local option. Theatres will not be suddenly opened all over the country by a whim of the central authority. They can only be opened after the proper procedure has been gone through, in exactly the same way that it has been gone through for cinemas.
I do not, therefore, understand the anxiety of some of my hon. Friends for Wales—for instance, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who proudly tells us that no cinemas are open on a Sunday in Brecon. In that case, under the Bill no theatres will be open on a Sunday in Brecon, so why is he so concerned to defeat the Bill? I am sure that Wales will remain as convinced about theatres as it has been convinced about cinemas, so there is no need to prevent—
I am very glad to hear it. It is a tribute to the pertinacity with which my right hon. Friend has looked after it that he should be so confident of being able to prevent theatres being opened in Wales on a Sunday if he is so inclined. There is no need for Members from Wales to feel anxious about the Bill, because it has no greater danger to them than that of the opening of cinemas, which they have defeated. This Bill does not allow, as some people seem to think, a general breaking down of the accepted usages of Sunday as far as the opening of shops and work of factories is concerned. None of those things is touched by the Bill in any way.
I should like to refer to some of the objections to the Bill advanced in the debate. One might begin with the most extreme objections, which, I think, will not be shared by many people. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) and the noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) suggested that the preservation of Sunday exactly as it is today was wrapped up with British prestige and that if we were to modify our views on what is legal on a Sunday foreigners would think the less of us. I do not think anyone can seriously sustain that as an argument for not altering the laws relating to Sunday observance.
Another argument advanced by the hon. Member for Wimbledon was when he said, or seemed to say, that to vary the laws relating to Sunday observance in any way would lead to a rise in juvenile delinquency. That seems a very strange argument. I should think that if it were possible for potential juvenile delinquents to watch sports, or to take part in them, on a Sunday, or to go to a theatre or engage in some other recreation possible under this Bill, they would be less likely to find an opportunity for delinquency than at present. In some of the back streets of large towns such as Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds there is very little to do on a Sunday except to get into mischief. If ever there was an inducement to juvenile delinquency it is the present archaic structure of our laws on Sunday observance.
Then I come to the more serious objections, the first of which related to the proposition that if theatres were open on a Sunday and if sports for which entrance money was paid took place on Sunday a vastly greater number of people would be called upon to work on a Sunday than would otherwise be called upon to do so. This may be a serious objection but, when one has regard to the total effect and the total number of people who already have to work on Sundays—people who work on newspapers on Sundays, run our transport services, keep our electricity supplies running and the thousand and one services and conveniences of modern life—it would not amount to a very large proportion of those called on to do some work on a Sunday and I do not think it is a serious objection.
There has been quoted and mentioned quite frequently a letter from actors in the theatre saying that they did not want to be called upon to act on a Sunday. I think there are only 48 actors involved in that and the vast majority of actors have no objection whatever. In fact, whenever they can get employment on a Sunday they do so already. There is considerable unemployment in the theatrical profession and it would be much easier for them to get jobs because many performances would be duplicated if theatres were allowed to open on a Sunday.
Does the hon. Member realise that what he is saying, in effect, is that theatrical managers would be in a position to discriminate against those who had a conscientious objection on the matter?
I am not saying anything of the sort, because it is frequently found in countries where the theatres open on Sundays that a different type of performance is given on Sunday than during the rest of the week and managers would not be able to discriminate to any great extent.
I think that point adequately answers the objection. One of the signatories of this letter himself is advertised as taking part in entertainment broadcasts from Radio Luxembourg every Sunday. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is recorded."] Entertainment takes place on Sunday and I imagine that there are persons who put on the record.
What I would call the next serious objection is the traditional British Sunday. I can understand people being worried that the traditional British Sunday would be eaten into by this Bill and that a strong and pious tradition would be broken by the very moderate alterations made under it, but I think that those who take this view overlook the fact that the traditional British Sunday disappeared years ago. No longer is it possible for a Prime Minister to be rebuked, as Disraeli was rebuked by the Vicar of Hughenden, for taking a rail journey on a Sunday. That was the traditional British Sunday, when no activity or enjoyment of any sort was to take place on Sunday.
I would quote a few lines from Mr. Michael Barsley which rather illustrate the point:
The 'News of the World' is at last unfurled
In the strait-lace curtained window.
Far from the steeple they read in the 'People'
The views of the prophet Lyndoe.
That is exactly what has happened to the traditional British Sunday.
I would quote from the current issue of the "Tablet," which I do not think any of my hon. Friends would describe as a religious paper, even though it is an organ of the Roman Catholic Church—
All right. In the current issue they point out:
There are … obvious social and religious advantages in the old-fashioned English Sunday. A day spent at home did nobody any harm, and when it was devoted to reading good, though not necessarily religious literature, it undoubtedly enriched the nation. The new doctrine, that where there is no television the people perish, having completed the destruction of that tradition, there seems to be no powerful argument against going to see Shakespeare instead.
I believe that those who so strenuously advocate the theory that if anything were done in this way it would damage the traditional British Sunday are clinging to a form from which the substance has departed. They are endeavouring to
stimulate an artificial religion by hanging on to an outward form of something no longer there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) told us that Parliament did not give us the British Sunday. But in fact he is quite wrong. It was Parliament which gave us the British Sunday. Until Parliament passed various Sunday Observance Acts, beginning in 1625, and moving on into the 18th century, the British Sunday was quite different. In those days it may have been a popular move, or such that Parliament was justified in giving us the present British Sunday. But I do not think anybody can maintain that popular feeling is still the same today. It is now the duty of Parliament, if it is to reflect popular feeling, to remove those laws passed in earlier times.
The next serious objection with which I would deal is the contention that were the Bill to be passed Sunday would become indistinguishable from any other day. This point is put forward with great sincerity by many people. I do not think that is true. What makes Sunday distinguishable, and will continue to do so, is the absence of workers rushing to work on a Sunday morning, the absence of bustle, scurry and hustle in the streets—which will go on after this Bill is passed—the fact that shops are not open and that there is no life and activity in the community as there is on a week day.
In New York, for example, theatres are open on Sunday, but one can walk down Fifth Avenue on Sunday morning and imagine that one is really back in a London street on a Sunday morning—it is so lifeless, so dead—or. if one prefers to put it the other way, it is so quiet and peaceful. And, as I am reminded by one of my hon. Friends, the churches are a great deal fuller in New York than they are in London. It is that calm, that quiet and peacefulness which I think the advocates of this argument want to retain in our British Sunday, and I think that we can still do it after the passing of this very modest Bill.
I should like to list again some of the advantages which will be obtained by passing this Bill. First, it would give much more of a free choice to everybody as to how they are to use their Sunday. I should have thought that it was the essence of any true religion that the choice must be a free one for the individual. He may make the wrong choice. but it is for the individual to choose how he will use his Sunday, entertaining himself or otherwise. It would, in that way, make it much more truly a day of leisure.
Secondly, it would clear away those absurdities which we have heard discussed several times today. It would, for example, remove this absurd anomaly by which one can watch a television play on a Sunday but not see a play at the local theatre. Thirdly, it would allow cricket matches and football matches to take place on a Sunday which would meet, I think, a very wide-spread and deeply felt need. In fact, there is a strong argument for saying that the whole standard of county cricket might be improved by allowing it to be played on Sunday, because it would be possible for people to play on a Sunday who would be doing jobs during the week. There are enough people in this House who are, or who have been, distinguished cricketers to know that one of the difficulties in cricket today is to persuade people to give up such a large part of the week to playing first-class county cricket.
Lastly, it would give a much more cheerful atmosphere to our Sunday. It would make it a much more truly recreative day than it can be at present. It is all very well for those who are well off to say that there is no need to improve the quality of entertainment on a Sunday, but for those who live in back streets in large towns there is a great deal of need.
I should like, in the last few minutes, to deal with the question of whether or not we should pass this Bill this afternoon or refer the whole matter to a Royal Commission. I would ask supporters of the Bill to vote for the Bill when the Question is put. If by any chance the Closure should be moved, I ask them to vote for the Closure so that we may have the Question put upon the Bill. If by some mischance the Second Reading of the Bill should not be carried, I ask supporters of the Bill to vote for the Royal Commission as the next best thing.
I should like to say why 1 think that a Royal Commission is not as satisfactory as a Bill. First, we do not require a Royal Commission in order to sweep away the absurdities which everybody agrees are contained in the Sunday Observance Act. The machinery of a Royal Commission is altogether too large a one to deal with so trivial a matter. Secondly, we do not require a Royal Commission to decide whether or not we should be allowed to play games and sports on a Sunday and whether or not there should be local option to open theatres on a Sunday. I would hope, incidentally, that if there is a Royal Commission it will not be so confined and so narrow in its survey as was suggested by the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood). I think it would be a mistake to reduce it to so narrow a character.
I think there is a tendency—and this was rather suggested by the Joint UnderSecretary—to use the device of the Royal Commission as a shelter for one's conscience rather than to find out new information. I would appeal to hon. Members today to consider this matter on its merits, because it is a very simple matter, and not try to shelve the question by referring it to a Royal Commission. Even if they do shelve it on a Royal Commission, it will come back, because it will make its report to this House, which will still have to make the decision, and there is not a great deal of information which a Royal Commission can discover which is not quite well within our experience and knowledge today.
I would therefore ask all right hon. and hon. Members to make up their minds today and not rely on that device. In the past, there has been a great deal of pressure from a minority in every constituency, who seem to be strong, vocal and powerfully entrenched, but I do not think that when it comes to polling day they really make very much difference to the result.
The great disadvantage of a Royal Commission is that it would only add still further to the delay which would result before any action was taken. The Royal Commission is often the classic device used in this country to postpone action about something which may be unpopular in certain quarters, and I think that a Royal Commission might be used in just such a way if one were to be set up as the result of this debate. If the Bill is not carried I would, nevertheless, ask supporters of it to vote for the Amendment which calls for a Royal Commission. There is no possible religious objection, and all the churches are agreed upon it. Lastly, I would say that those who believe that they will be upholding religion by defeating this Bill or by defeating the Amendment are. in fact, doing the very reverse, because
|Division No. 70.]||AYES||[3.58 p.m.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hay, John||Pannell, Charles|
|Baird, J.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Benson, G.||Houghton, Douglas||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lewis, Arthur||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Daines, P.||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Mellish, R. J.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Deer, G.||Mikardo, Ian||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Morley, R.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Mulley, F. W.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Nally, W|
|Fienburgh, W.||O'Brien, T||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Paget, R. T.||Mr. Parker and Mr. Carson.|
|Adams, Richard||Cranborne, Viscount||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hare, Hon. J. H.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crouch, R. F.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Davidson, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Davidson, Viscountess||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Barber, Anthony||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bartley, P.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Heath, Edward|
|Baxter, A. B.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Donner, P. W.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bell, Philip (Belton, E.)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Drayson, G. B.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)|
|Beswick, F.||Drewe, C.||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Duthie, W. S.||Holt, A. F.|
|Blackburn, F.||Eccles, Rt. Hon, D. M.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Horobin, I. M.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bowen, E. R.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Finch, H. J.||Hudson, Sir Austen (Lewisham, N.)|
|Braine, B. R.||Finlay, Graeme||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Fisher, Nigel||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Hurd, A. R.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Fort, R.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hutchinson, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gammans, L. D.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H|
|Burden, F. F. A.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Gibson, C. W||Janner, B.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Godber, J. B.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Carr, Robert||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Champion, A. J.||Gooch, E. G.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Channon, H.||Gough, C. F. H.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Gower, H. R.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Cole, Norman||Grenfell, Rt. Hon, D. R.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Collick, P. H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Kerr, H. W.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Nutting, Anthony||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Oakshott, H. D.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Oldfield, W. H.||Spens Sir Patrick (Kensington, S)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Oliver, G. H.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Storey, S.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Osborne, C.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Padley, W. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Pearson, A.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Proctor, W. T.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|McLeavy, F.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Redmayne, M.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Renton, D. L. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Richards, R.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Robertson, Sir David||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Markham, Major S. F.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wellwood, W.|
|Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Roper, Sir Harold||West, D. G.|
|Maude, Angus||Ross, William||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Russell, R. S.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Messer, F.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Willey, F. T.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham S.)||Shepherd, William||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsdon)|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Slater, J.||Wills, G.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Mr. G. Thomas and Mr. Black|
|Division No. 71.]||AYES||[4.8 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard||Collick, p. H.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S)||Hastings, S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cranborne, Viscount||Hay, John|
|Baird, J.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Barber, Anthony||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Bartley, P.||Daines, P.||Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Holt, A. F.|
|Benson, G.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Beswick, F.||Deer, G.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Delargy, H. J.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Janner, B.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fienburgh, W.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Finch, H. J.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Finlay, Graeme||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Fisher, Nigel||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Fort, R.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Carr, Robert||Gibson, C. W.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Lewis Arthur|
|Champion, A. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Channon, H.||Hamilton, W. W. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hamilton, W. W.||McAdden, S. J.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Popplewell, E.||Teeling, W.|
|McLeavy, F.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Marshall, Sir Sidney (Sutton)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Proctor, W. T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mellish, R. J||Reeves, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Messer, F.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Ross, William||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Russell, R. S.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Morley, R.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Malley, F. W.||Shepherd, William||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Nally, W.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Willey, F. T.|
|O'Brien, T.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Oliver, G. H.||Slater, J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Han. W. D.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N)||Sorensen, R. W.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Padley, W. E.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Paget, R. T.||Sparks, J. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Pannell, Charles||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Swingler, S. T.||Mr. Anthony Greenwood and|
|Parker, J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Mr. Godfrey Nicholson.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Nutting, Anthony|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Heath, Edward||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Hichingbrooke, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Hobson, C. R.||Osborne, C.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Pearson, A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Perkins, W. R. O.|
|Bowen, E. R.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Horobin, I. M.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Braine, B. R.||Horsburgh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Pitman, I. J.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G (Bristol, N.W.)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Bullard, D. G.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Raynor, Brig. R.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redmayne, M.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hurd, A. R.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hutchinson, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Richards, R.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cole, Norman||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Kenyon, C.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Kerr, H. W.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Lambert, Hon. G.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Crowder, Petra (Ruislip—Northwood)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lindsay, Martin||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C E. McA||Longden, Gilbert||Storey, S.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Drayson, G. B.||McKibbin, A. J.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Drewe, C.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Macmillian, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Macmillian, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gammons, L. D.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|George, Rt. Hon Maj. G. Lloyd||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Godber, J. B.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Manuel, A. C.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Gooch, E G.||Markham, Major S. F.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminister)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Wellwood, W.|
|Gower, H. R.||Maude, Angus||West, D. G.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Williams, W. R. (Dreylsdon)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wills, G.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. G. Thomas and Mr. Black.|