HC Deb 26 June 1834 vol 24 cc850-4

The House went into a Committee on the Bill.

On the first Clause, imposing a penalty for keeping open shops on the Lord's-day, being put from the Chair,

Mr. Potter

rose to move as an amendment, that a provision be added to the clause in the following words:—" Provided always that nothing in this Act, or the said recited Acts, shall extend to prohibit the sale of fruit, confectionary, soda-water, ginger-beer, or any other unintoxicating beverage."

Mr. Poulter

regretted it was his duty to interpose to prevent the introduction of such a proviso. He had received numerous applications to enlarge the existing law on this subject, and as he had refused to accede to them, he felt bound on the other hand to prevent any diminution of the law, as it now stood. If the House were to make an exception of any particular trade, shops would immediately be set up in all parts of the town for the sale on Sunday of the article excepted. The amendment proposed by the hon. Member would expose him to the charge of having introduced a Bill for the violation of the Sabbath, rather than one for its better observance.

The Committee divided on the original Clause—Ayes 38; Noes 4: Majority 34. Clause agreed to.

List of the AYES.
Agnew, Sir A. Lennard, T. B.
Barnett, C. J. Miles, J.
Byng, G. Mosely, Sir O.
Colbourne, R. Pelham, C. A. W.
Dare, R. W. H. Plumptre, J.
Dugdale, W. Poulter, J.
Evans, W. Pryme, G.
Eastnor, Viscount Rumbold, C.
Finch, G. Sandon, Lord
Foley, E. Sandford, F. A.
Grey, Sir G. Shawe, R. N.
Greene, T. Sinclair, G.
Heathcote, G. J. Stewart, Sir M. S.
Halcombe, J. Talbot
Hill, Lord M. Tynte, K.
Jermyn, Earl Verney, Sir H.
Langdale, C. Villiers, Lord
Lefevre, S. Wilbraham, G.
Lennox, Lord W. Wilmot, Sir E.

On Clause 2 being put,

Mr. Potter moved an Amendment to the effect of permittting baker's shops to be kept open till two in the afternoon, and also to permit the sale of butchers' meat, fish, or green grocery, before half past nine on the morning of Sunday.

Mr. Poulter

opposed the Amendment. The Bill provided, that shops for the purpose of baking should be kept open until half-past one, which gave ample time to those who sent their provisions to the baker's, without the unnecessary extension of the time to two.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the Bill ought to be called "A Bill to establish Baking on Sundays." He hoped the House would not sanction this Bill. It was childish legislating on such a subject as this. It was admitted, that nothing was more objectionable than legislation between master and servant on the subject of wages, and yet this Bill proposed to interfere on that subject. He hoped the hon. Member would give it up. He would put it to him seriously whether there was not a stricter religious observance of the Lord's-day in London at the present time than there ever had been before. He recollected at the period he was a student at the Temple very few families, comparatively speaking, attended divine service, whereas now nearly every family attended. The observance of the Sabbath seemed to proceed in an inverse ratio to the enforcement of the law. As the laws on this subject became relaxed, the Sabbath was much better observed? If people chose to attend divine worship in the morning of Sunday, and laugh at home in the evening, why should they be prevented? For his part, he thought that was the best way of spending the Sabbath. When the Report was brought up, he should move, that it be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Poulter

would appeal to the House whether the petitions which had been sent up from all parts of the country did not demand legislative interference on this subject? The evils the Bill was intended to remedy were most notorious. He had received many communications from different parts of the country, complaining of the increase of trading on the Sabbath-day; indeed, it was only the other day he was informed by the rector of Lambeth that there was more marketing carried on in some parts of that parish on a Sunday than any other day in the week. He had also received a letter from Dublin requesting him to include Ireland in the Bill, but as the subject had been taken up by his hon. friend, the member for the University of Dublin, he declined to accede to such a recommendation. He believed such a Bill to be necessary, and should therefore not listen to the suggestions of the hon. member for Dublin to abandon it.

Mr. Fysche Palmer

strongly objected to many of the enactments contained in this Bill. He would put it to the House whether it was just to compel the labouring man, who perhaps had but one room for all his family, to purchase his meat on a Saturday night, and hang it up in his bed-room until the Sunday morning, in every season of the year, because it might be injurious to some tradesmen to permit the sale of provisions on a Sunday morning, or because it was considered by some persons to be a breach of the religious observance of the Sabbath. He agreed with the hon. member for Dublin that the Sabbath was much better observed now than formerly.

Mr. Ward

had told his constituents, that it was by their own individual exertions, and the exertions of the clergymen, that the morality of the people would be improved. The recommendation he had given had produced an entire change in their sentiments, and he had not received another application to support the Sabbath Bill. He thought that legislation on such a subject would be attended with bad consequences.

Mr. Finch

admitted the subject was a most difficult one to legislate upon; but the speech of the hon. member for Dublin would prevent any legislation on the subject. He thought this Bill would check immorality, and therefore he should give it his support.

Mr. Gisborne

agreed that the Sabbath was much better observed now than formerly, The hon. Member had said this Bill was only a revival of the old law. If the old law had fallen into disuse, he asked why that was? Was it not because it was opposed to the general feelings. He was of opinion that any legislation a whit beyond the general feelings on the subject would be attended with the most injurious effects. It was said the tradesman who refused from conscientious motives to open his shop on the Sabbath would be greatly injured by permitting any trade to be carried on on the Sunday. He was of a different opinion; he thought the conscientious buyer would always protect the conscientious seller. The feeling which once existed in the country in favour of this measure had very much cooled.

Mr. Poulter

denied, that any diminution of the public feeling on this subject had taken place. An hon. Member held thirty petitions in favour of some legislative measure of this kind, but had not been permitted to present them before the discussion commenced. So far as he himself was concerned, he had no personal wish on the subject; he only desired the sense of the House should be expressed. He denied, however, that either law legislation, or the feeling of the country had slept on the subject.

Mr. O'Connell

said, as there had been so much legislation on the subject, a most decisive reason had been given for not adding to the heap. He should therefore move, that the Chairman Report Progress.

Sir George Grey

said, the course pursued by the hon. and learned member for Dublin was a most extraordinary one. He should be glad if that hon. Gentleman would point out from what part of England a petition had not come calling upon the House to pass some measure on this subject. The House last Session sanctioned the principle, that some legislation ought to take place on the subject, though it rejected the particular Bill that was introduced. A Bill had now been sub- mitted, merely to revive existing statutes. Its principle had been admitted, and now the hon. and learned Member came down to the House when the Bill had proceeded to Committee, and sought to get rid of it altogether by a side wind.

Mr. Beaumont

hoped the hon. Member would press his Amendment to a division, if it was only to show the opinion the House entertained of that feeling of puritanical fanaticism which had mingled itself up of late too much with the spirit and temper of the times.

Mr. O'Connell

said, undoubtedly his intention was to get rid of this Bill, though he did not think the mode he had adopted a very desirable one. He thought, however, it would be much more convenient to throw it out now, than after two or three days' tedious discussion in Committee during this sultry weather.

Sir Andrew Agnew

said, that so far from this Bill being an oppression to the poor, the majority of the petitions in its favour had proceeded from them.

The Committee divided on Mr. O'Connell's Amendment—Ayes 32: Noes 67; Majority 35.

The several Clauses of the Bill were agreed to, with some verbal amendments, and after the Committee had twice divided upon Amendments tending to mitigate the severity of some of the enactments,

The House resumed, and the Report was brought up.

On the Motion, that the Report be received on Monday,

Mr. O'Connell moved that it be received that day six months.

The House divided on the original Motion—Ayes 71; Noes 26: Majority 45. Report to be received on Monday.

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