HC Deb 24 July 1867 vol 189 cc35-9

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Penalties for selling, offering, and exposing for Sale).


said, he believed the House was not aware of the nature of the clause it was about to pass. It enacted that no person could hawk, carry, sell, expose for sale, or deliver any goods except as thereafter mentioned. It was very extraordinary that such a clause as that should be prepared. It would include any person selling an orange, a newspaper, a Bible, a prayer-book, a psalm-book, or, in fact, anything. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Hughes), who introduced the Bill, would do well to postpone it until the new Parliament assembled, because it was admitted that the present Parliament did not represent the bulk of the people. See what the household and lodger franchise would do with the Bill. If the people chose to restrict themselves they had a right to do so, but he would not consent to curtail their privileges. The House of Lords had twice rejected Bills of the kind, because they did not think it possible to make people religious by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member for Lambeth appeared to found his Bill on the evils of the New Cut. It was very hard that so strong a measure should be passed because there were inconveniences in the New Cut. Why should not persons be allowed to do what they pleased if they did not inconvenience anybody else? He would ask the hon. Gentleman not to go on with the Bill.


said, it was evident the hon. and learned Member for Southwark had not read the Bill—especially that part relating to excepted articles—or listened to the discussion on the Motion for a second reading. The sale of oranges and newspapers was not interfered with. Everything he had advanced was considered by the House on a former occasion, and yet the Bill was read a second time. He declined to enter into a fresh discussion on the general principles of the Bill, but assured his hon. and learned Friend that there were some places in his own borough which as much needed the sanitary and economical reforms this Bill proposed as the New Cut. He, too, thought it undesirable to attempt to make people religious by Act of Parliament.


said, he wished to ask the Attorney General, whether the provisions of the Bill respecting excepted articles would nullify the effect of the Act of Charles II, with regard to those articles? If so, Sunday Trading would be on a better footing under the Bill than it was at present.


said, that the hon. and learned Member for Southwark seemed to think that the evils dealt with by the Bill did not exist. He was of a contrary opinion, and thought the Bill a step in the right direction. Representations had been made to him on the part of the lower classes highly approving the measure. It was certainly not an attempt to make the world religious by Act of Parliament.


said, he wished to ask the hon. Member for Lambeth, whether this Bill was to be limited to the metropolis? The 4th clause provided that any prisoner previously convicted would be subject to imprisonment with hard labour for not less than six months. That he thought was a very large power to leave in the discretion of a magistrate.


said, he was opposed to the whole principle of the measure. The Bill had not received the consideration it ought to have had. He knew very well the neighbourhood to which allusion had been made in Lambeth, and he knew also that the Bill did not emanate from the poor working people, but from certain shopkeepers who thought their interests were interfered with by the competition of the Sunday shops. It was well known that many of the working men did not obtain their wages from their employers till between eleven and twelve o'clock on Saturday night; and sometimes their employers were even obliged to borrow from the publicans in order to pay their workmen. How could the poor man who had to walk home, perhaps five or six miles from his work on Saturday night, find opportunity to buy until the Sunday morning? The Bill would work a great deal of moral injury to the labouring classes. If this Bill were passed it would be morally impossible for the poor to procure those articles which were absolutely necessary for their sustenance. The poor should have an opportunity of purchasing their necessaries as well as the rich, and the one should not be deprived of this privilege any more than the other. He moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. Brady.)


said, that the remarks just made were in favour of the Bill. The payment of wages on Saturday night was one of the greatest evils under which the working classes laboured, and if it could be remedied by any Act of Parliament he should be most happy to support such a proposal. The Bill was not a shopkeepers' measure, and the better class of shopkeepers were indifferent to it so far as their own interests were concerned. The small shopkeepers, on the other hand, who were obliged by the strength of competition to keep open their places on Sundays, would be themselves the first to rejoice if Parliament took the matter in hand and relieved them from so irksome a duty by compelling all without distinction to close their shops. The hon. Member for Lambeth had on a former occasion stated that the Bill consisted of two parts — one being for the suppression and the other for the legalizing of certain trades on Sundays. He (Mr. Powell) could not sanction any Bill that proposed to legalize any branch of Sunday trading. He should like to know whether the hon. Member for Lambeth would support a clause for keeping in force the Act of Parliament of the reign of Charles II?


said, the Bill had been very ill-drawn, and he believed no tradesman, not even if he had received an University education, would understand what he might do under it. He could not believe that it had been drawn by a lawyer. He had discussed the matter with trades-people, and a hairdresser had said to him, "You'll support us, of course?" "Oh, no," was the answer; "Why should I?" "If we shut up on Sundays," said the hairdresser, "others will open." He told him that did not matter, asked him whether he had no moral feeling, and assured him that if he did not get his reward in this world he would in the next. The hairdresser did not seem to understand this at all, although he explained to him that the cabmen who did not run on Sundays got their reward in this world. The small trades-people looked at the question on very narrow grounds, talked of their little ones, and the loss of profits. He objected to the Bill also because it was a persecuting measure. The penalties were increased to an extraordinary extent. If a poor man were found guilty under the Act, he would be liable to cumulative penalties, so that he might have to pay £10 or £20 for a single day. He wished the pretended friends of the poor, who were in reality their bitterest enemies, would act a little consistently by proposing to shut up the Zoological Gardens and Clubs, and the other places of resort of the wealthier classes. He believed the Bill a worthless jumble, and that the greatest folly into which the pretended friends of the poor could fall was to attempt to make people religious by Act of Parliament. He could not understand why, if the Bill was a good thing, it should be limited to places having 10,000 inhabitants or upwards. In most parts the Sunday was very well observed, and the people were becoming more and more religious. These harsh restrictions would create great disgust.


said, that he regarded the Act of Charles II. as inoperative; attempts had been made in his own borough and in other places to carry it out. The present Bill would be a partial substitute for it, but in other cases that Act would remain unaffected. He did not propose to apply the Bill to country towns, because he did not know whether it was wanted there.

The Committee divided: — Ayes 20; Noes 82: Majority 62.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Certain cases to which this Act does not apply).


said, he moved the insertion of "butcher's" before "meat." There were preserved and other meats, which he thought should not be dealt with. If opposed, however, he did not press his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved the omission of the words "fish, poultry, and game."


said, he could not but remark on the difficulty in settling exemptions, and on the absurdity of this kind of legislation. Some would wish to exempt eggs, others bacon, others sausages, and others cigars. He objected, moreover, to nine o'clock being the hour after which no purchases should be made, since working men did not like to be forced to get up early on the Sunday morning, and the churches were not opened till eleven. He could not understand who had asked the hon. Member for Lambeth for this Bill. Working men who objected to buying after nine were quite at liberty to abstain from doing so, but why should they ask Parliament to prohibit it? They must be excessively fond of legislation, and must think that Parliament, even though it had Reform to deal with, was in want of a job.


said, he would propose to insert "ten" instead of "nine" in line 6, with the view of rendering the operation of the Bill less stringent to the working classes.


said, he thought "poultry and game" might be omitted from the list of articles allowed to be sold.


said, he was sure the Bill could not go on.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress, to sit again To-morrow.