Orders of the Day — Sunday Entertainments Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th February 1969.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 28th February 1969

Mr. Speaker has appealed to us to make short speeches. If I give way mine will be extended. I had intended to make a rather long one, but I must cut it short.

The Daily Express said on Thursday: If Mr. John Parker's Bill for a Brighter British Sunday goes through we could be spending Sunday shouting for our favourite football team or popping into the theatre."— and paying for both. Mr. Parker's Bill would provide freedom for professional sport and the stage to treat Sunday as a weekday. I am fundamentally against having two Saturdays instead of one Saturday and a Sunday in a weekend.

Daily Express also said: There are powerful opponents to Sunday shopping, which, of course, would increase under the Bill— the shopworkers. At its last conference their union overwhelmingly opposed Sunday opening, feeling it would deprive shopworkers of a 'recognised day of rest and relaxation with the family'. That is what the last union meeting of the biggest number of men who will be affected by the Bill felt about the proposal. The Daily Express continued: … despite the fact that both sides claim massive public support,"— which the hon. Gentleman seems to claim— a Daily Express poll taken earlier this week of people in all age groups, of varying religious persuasion or none, and in all walks of life, showed marked indifference to change. There is no demand for the Bill. Some of the rather harsh things that the hon. Gentleman said about people who oppose it will have done it a great deal of harm.

I admit that there is a good deal to be said for removing certain of the present absurdities, but I do not think that it justifies the sweeping changes that would inevitably result from the Bill. Much of the support for it comes from people or organisations who hope to make money from the proposals.

As a generality, I am all in favour of people making money, provided that they make it honestly and it is not made against the public interest. It is because I believe that the proposed changes and the money-making that lies behind them are against the public interest that I oppose the Bill.

Obviously, the restrictions of 1677, which the Bill intends to sweep away, are not good today. Some changes should be made, because we live in a completely different world. But that does not justify all that lies behind the Bill, and all that would come out of it. Much more would come out of it than the hon. Gentleman seems to think. It is clear to me that if admission charges were not allowed, and money could not be made directly or indirectly from the proposed changes, the Bill would not receive half the support that it has. The House should recognise the Bill for what it really is—a money-making proposition.

The rights of the individual and the cause of personal freedoms are pretentious smoke-screens behind which the money-maker hopes to operate. If the Bill were in the public interest, I would fight for it, but because I think that it is against the public interest I am bitterly opposed to it.

Like other hon. Members, I have had many letters from the Football Association, which strongly supports the Bill. I like to watch a good soccer match. It gives me great pleasure, and I usually stay up on Saturday nights to watch "Match of the Day", which, I think, is great entertainment. If the Bill were passed, it is quite probable that there would be two days of weekend football. But I doubt whether the Football Association would get bigger gates, which is what it wants. We must face the fact that it is more money that people are after. People could not afford to go to two matches every weekend. The appetite for soccer would become cloyed. There would be two inferior games instead of one, half-supported by half-indifferent crowds. I believe that the F.A. would bitterly regret the changes the Bill would permit.

I should like my friends in the F.A. to have a thought for the police, who are overworked. They have to deal with demonstrators, and so on at weekends, and to add to their burden would be unfair to them. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department laughs, but they are entitled to their weekend at home with their families just like anyone else. If the Bill goes through they will have to help both inside and outside the ground and in dealing with the traffic.

My objection to the Bill is economic more than moral, though I have strong objections on moral grounds. Yesterday's announcement about Bank Rate—and this is not a party matter; we are all in it together—shows that the Government are determined, I believe rightly, to cut personal expenditure—[An HON. MEMBER: "On a Sunday?"] Whether it be Saturday or Sunday does not matter.

As a nation, we are living beyond our means. The Government are courageously determined to cut down personal expenditure through their current economic policy, including the use of Bank Rate. It is the only salvation for our country, and I support the Chancellor of the Exchequer in what he is trying to do. The Bill goes contrary to that policy. It must inevitably make people spend more money. If it did not, the Football Association and the actors' association would not be interested. It is more money they want. I beg hon. Members to remember that we cannot afford it. Since the war, there has been a tendency in all walks of life to demand a higher and higher standard of living. I am not against that—so long as we earn it. But the demand is for automatic increases, whether we earn them or not. That problem faces every Government of either party.

The Bill would tend to increase the movement for more and more in order to spend more and more, to have two Saturdays instead of one Saturday and one Sunday. That would increase the Government's terrible problems in trying to convince the nation that we do face an economic crisis and that we must all make an effort to overcome it.

The Bill could not have come at a worse time, or—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, since I do not mean it personally—from a worse quarter. I remind him that, at present, in his constituency, 12,500 workers at Ford's——