HC Deb 20 March 1833 vol 16 cc898-902
Sir Andrew Agnew

said, that he rose for the purpose of submitting the Motion which he had brought before the House yesterday, for leave to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the law relating to the observance of the Lord's Day. At that very advanced hour of the night (two o'clock) it was not his intention to occupy the attention of the House by going into any explanation of the grounds on which he should ask the House to sanction this measure. That explanation he would defer to the second reading of the Bill. All he should now ask was, for leave to bring it in and let it be read a first time. He would then move that it be printed, and fix the second reading to a distant day—some five or six weeks hence—he would say that day six weeks. He did hope that, considering the great importance of the subject, and the numerous petitions which had been presented from all parts of the country in support of it, the House would accede to his proposition. The hon. Baronet then moved, "that leave "be given to bring in a Bill to promote the better observance of the Sabbath.

Mr. Shaw

seconded the Motion.

On the Question being put,

Mr. Warburton

expressed a hope that the hon. Baronet would not press his Motion at that hour, as many hon. Members had left the House, who had not expected that the Motion would be brought forward that night; but who, if they were aware of it, would, he knew, oppose the Motion even for the introduction of the Bill. The House ought not to be called upon to assent to a proposition of this kind without hearing an explanation of the grounds on which it was brought forward. That explanation the hon. Baronet had not given; and, as it was too late to enter into the subject at that hour, he did hope, that the Motion would not be pressed; if it was, he should feel it his duty to take the sense of the House upon it.

Mr. Finch

said, that as the Motion had been prefaced for some weeks by the presentation of a vast number of petitions in its favour, bearing the signature of many thousand persons in all parts of the country, and as there were many others still to be presented on the same subject, he did hope that the House would accede to the Motion of the hon. Baronet. The petitions in its support were, as he had said, signed by many thousands; but he might add with safety that they expressed the sentiments of millions of the inhabitants of these kingdoms, who most anxiously desired that some legislative provision should be made for the due observance of the Lord's Day. These were not the opinions of one class or body of men. The petitions were signed by men of all ranks and denominations throughout the country, who, whatever might be their differences in other respects, were all agreed on this one important point. Under these circumstances he did think, that it was not quite fair in the hon. Member to oppose the Motion for leave to bring it in—a course not usual even in the cases of Bills whose principle might be matter of dispute.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

hoped that on a subject in which a very large portion of the community felt so deep an interest, an opposition would not be pressed against the introduction of the measure.

Lord Morpeth

considered that as hon. Members must be aware, that if this Motion were discussed in a full House it would be carried by an overwhelming majority, the opposition to it in the present stage was vexatious. In the propriety of the Motion he fully concurred, and in doing so he felt that he expressed the opinions of the vast majority, not alone of his numerous constituents, but of the empire at large.

Mr. Petre

said, that he had been instructed by his constituents to support this Motion, which he did most cordially. He apprehended that a very erroneous notion had gone abroad with respect to the object of the proposed Bill. It was thought that it was intended by it to curtail the innocent amusements of the poor. Nothing of the kind was intended. The chief object of it, as he understood it, was, to prevent Sunday trading, which tended to so many immoral results, and which was also injurious to the fair trader who was anxious to make the Sabbath what it ought to be, a day of rest.

Mr. Hume

said, that he did not know what were the provisions of the Bill which the hon. Baronet asked leave to introduce, but the subject was one which interested so large a portion of his constituents of all classes, that he should give his support to the Motion, though, at the same time, he should not consider his acquiescence in the introduction and first reading of the Bill as at all pledging him to its provisions when they should become the subject of future discussion. Lender these circumstances he would request of his hon. friend, the member for Bridport, to withdraw his opposition to the Motion.

Mr. Hawes

would give his cordial support to the Motion, as one from which he anticipated the most important results to the community. He could state that, amongst his own constituents, a very large body were anxious for the introduction of a measure of the kind to secure the due observance of the Lord's Day.

Mr. Lamb

hoped, that after the laborious exertions of the Committee which had sat on this subject last year, and after so many petitions had been presented to the House in support, the House would consent to the Motion of the hon. Baronet, which was only a following up of the steps taken in the last Session on that important question.

Mr. Shaw

observed, that no Member of the House was more courteous in giving way in matters where the convenience of the House was concerned than the hon. member for Bridport. He did hope, there-fore, that the hon. Member would not depart from his usual courtesy—by opposing what was now proposed by the hon. Baronet, as that course would certainly tend to the convenience of all parties. Many petitions in favour of such a measure had been intrusted to him from different places in Ireland, which he had not yet had an opportunity of presenting—nor did he know when he might have such opportunity, according to the new arrangement for receiving petitions. But whenever they might come before the House, they would show that this was a subject on which a large portion of the people of Ireland felt an interest equally strong with that of their fellow-subjects in England.

Mr. Hull

expressed a hope, that the hon. Member would not persevere in opposing its introduction.

Mr. Pryme

said, that he had a petition to present on this subject, and in favour of such a measure as that for which the hon. Baronet now moved. He would say that, in its prayer, he fully concurred, and therefore he would give his support to the Motion before the House.

Mr. Ruthven

said, that he bad as large a constituency as most hon. Members in that House, a considerable portion of whom were favourable to some measure of the kind proposed by the hon. Baronet.

Sir Michael Shaw Stuart

supported the Motion. He had several petitions on the subject, which he would present on the first opportunity.

Mr. Warburton

repeated his objection to the introduction of a measure in the absence of many hon. Members, who would oppose it if they were present. He must also observe, that he expected a declaration of the objects of the Bill before it was submitted to the vote of the House. He would not, however, object, if the hon. Baronet would consent to let the debate on the subject be adjourned. It was not, in his mind, sufficient that they bad the Bill itself instead of a speech. They ought to have also stated to them the grounds on which the Bill rested. The omission of those grounds was getting quietly over the first stage.

Sir Andrew Agnew

did not think, that this was getting over the first stage so very quietly, considering the labours of the Committee last year. That the feeling of the country had become more general in favour of such a measure since then, was proved by the number of petitions which had been presented in favour of it. He possessed fifty-four petitions on the subject, but had not yet had an opportunity of presenting them. It was not his fault; neither could the absence of hon. Members, who might have taken a part in the discussion, be urged as an objection to his Motion, as full notice of it had been given.

Mr. Warburton

was not disposed to attach much weight to the evidence before the Committee, which he looked upon as ex parte.

Sir Andrew Agnew

said, that a great part of the evidence given before the Committee was by parties who had come voluntarily before it.

Mr. Warburton

moved, as an Amendment, that the debate be adjourned till tomorrow.

The Amendment negatived, and original Motion agreed to.

Bill read a first time.