HC Deb 26 April 1871 vol 205 cc1723-44

Order for Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that this was the fifth occasion on which he had brought a Bill on this subject under the consideration of the House. The present measure, however, differed from its predecessors in this—that as it now stood it had reference only to the metropolis. The need for legislation, and the utterly unsatisfactory state of things in the metropolis, was more apparent than ever. Last year he had to state that the number of convictions for Sunday trading under the Act of Charles II. might, for the year, be numbered by tens; but for the year now last past that number might be counted by hundreds. He trusted, therefore, that the House would consider it necessary that, at last, some remedy should be applied to the evil complained of. Since he addressed the House last year upon this subject, a well-known society had been very active in the suppression of Sunday trading, and this society had during the year obtained many hundreds of convictions. He would give an instance or two for the purpose of illustrating the state of things in the metropolitan district. In Hammersmith there had been more than 250 convictions under the Act; and though the magistrate remonstrated against the necessity of convicting, he felt bound to comply with the requirements of the law, and the penalty, including the costs, generally amounted to 11s. or 12s. In the neighbouring district of Marylebone, the magistrates altogether refused to carry out the Act, merely imposing a fine of 1d. without costs. Surely it was time that such a state of thing should cease, for it threw discredit on the administration of the law and brought the office of magistrate into contempt. It was mischievous even here, and in any other country than in England would be dangerous. The first objection against the Bill that he now submitted to the consideration of the House came from those who opposed all legislation for the purpose of enforcing the observance of the Sunday; and the most plausible objection they urged was that this was a Bill by which Dives proposed to legislate for Lazarus—that it was, in short, class legislation directed against the poor. Whatever force that objection might have had in times gone by, it could not hold at the present moment. In a House elected by household and lodger suffrage such an objection was somewhat in the nature of bunkum. Besides, the objection had no truth in it, as the object of the Bill was to relieve 15,000 poor persons compelled to work on Sundays. It was also said that the Bill would diminish the comforts of the people; but anyone who read the Bill would see that this was not the effect of it. It only enacted that those comforts should be procured, and the shopping done before 10 o'clock on Sunday morning, which was a reasonable time in his opinion. It was objected that the Bill would prevent little children buying lollipops when they went out for a walk in the Parks on the Sunday; but by one of the sub-sections to the 3rd clause it was declared that pastry, fruit, or any beverage, for the sale of which no licence was required, might be sold before 10 o'clock and after 1 o'clock in the afternoon on Sunday. This would meet the children's case. With regard to costermongers, the Bill would certainly confine their trade, like all other trades, to a reasonable time on a Sunday, and would not allow them to be bawling about their articles up to the middle of the day, as they would not be allowed to trade after 10 o'clock. He thought, then, that the objections to the Bill which came from this part of the House were unreasonable; and as to those who had supported the Act of Charles II. and who were of opinion that any modification of it would be legalizing a breach of the Commandment as to the Lord's Day, he believed that this opposition had now virtually ceased. The conviction had grown that it would be better to have a moderate law which could be enforced, rather than an unreasonable law, the enforcement of which was opposed to public opinion. He submitted that this Bill would effect a fair compromise of the question, and the second, reading had been several times passed by the House, and it had also been before a Committee. In this way its provisions had been thoroughly sifted; but still the promoters of the Bill would be perfectly ready in Committee to consider any sections that it might be thought would put matters on a better footing. Everybody who was responsible for good order in the metropolis had declared himself in favour of a measure like this. The head of the police had said that it would be a boon to London; and he did not think that there was a single metropolitan Member who would say that he did not consider that the Bill would be a very great improvement upon the present state of things, or that legislation was not absolutely required. Again, there was not a single police magistrate in London who had not declared that the Act of Charles II. ought to be repealed by a reasonable measure, and had not protested against being called upon to enforce the penalties imposed by that Act. He hoped that the Bill would be passed, and would continue in force until the Government should be prepared to bring in a Bill for the re-organization of the municipality of London.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Thomas Hughes.)


said: * In opposing this Bill of my hon. Friend (Mr. T. Hughes), which I do not do for the first time, I wish to do full justice to the motives which have actuated him in bringing it forward, and I trust that in any observations I may make on this Bill—a Bill which I hold in the most profound contempt—the hon. Member will not apply anything I may say against the Bill to himself. Virtue is by no means always hereditary, and this Bill is a very bad child of a very worthy father. My hon. Friend has told us something about the actual state of the law on this subject; but he has not told us all. The existing Act was passed in the reign of that eminently virtuous Monarch Charles II., and it is of so sweeping and severe a character that it is impossible to put it in general force. It is made, in certain localities, a means of persecution against a number of the poorer and more helpless traders; but its general application is simply impossible; and amongst other reasons is the fact, that on the face of it, it is an honest Act, dealing with the rich as well as with the poor, with tradesmen of every grade, and with labour as well as with trade. It enacts that— All and every person whatsoever shall, on every Sunday, apply themselves to the observation of the same, by exercising themselves thereon in the duties of piety and true religion, publicly and privately. Does my hon. Friend suppose that people are to be driven to religion in this way in these days? The Act goes on to say— And that no tradesman, artificer, &c., or other person whatsoever, shall do or exercise any worldly labour or work of their ordinary callings, except necessity or charity; a provision that obviously might be, and, as I shall show directly, has been brought to bear with great effect on the convenience of the upper classes; in respect, for instance, to the use of their carriages on the Sunday. Well, this Act of Charles II. obviously cannot be made to work at the present day, and what my hon. Friend wants to do, is to bring in a Bill so much moderated in its provisions that it may be made to work—be brought to bear—that is, on the poor; for, as I shall show, the rich will escape altogether. My hon. Friend has divided the opponents of his Bill into two classes; those who on Sabbatarian grounds are opposed to all trading whatever on the Sunday, and those who are against all legislation on the subject, and are presumably careless on the subject of a weekly holiday. Now, my hon. Friend was hardly fair towards me on this latter definition, as I am distinctly in favour of a weekly holiday, as complete as is possible, for all; and if my hon. Friend will bring in a Bill free from the taint of Sabbatarianism, that would give good hope of approximation to that object, I promise him my best support. But my hon. Friend, in attempting to give new vitality to the principle of Sunday legislation, is giving encouragement, under the auspices of a so-called religious association, to a new class of persons exercising their ordinary calling, and that not exactly one of necessity or charity, on the Sunday—the miserable class of spies and informers who, on that day, go about to spy, and inform of, and ruin other people; and their ordinary calling is not interfered with by this Bill. Now, I will give as an illustration of this kind of Sunday labour a case that has happened to come under my own observation. I spent the morning of last Sunday in inquiring into it, and I trust that for so doing I shall not fall under the rebuke of my hon. Friend. There is a poor woman living not a mile from my own residence—in the high road between Kensington and Hammersmith—who sells ginger-beer, cigars, and lemonade. She has lived 22 years in the same house, was born in the parish, and has paid rates for 40 years. I hear of nothing to her disadvantage; but, on the contrary, that she is much respected in the neighbourhood. She has, however, unhappily fallen under the ban of these harpies, and has been four times already this year dragged before the magistrates for the sin of selling a cigar. On the last occasion, about a fortnight ago, the agent of a religious society—and it makes one sick to talk of religion in connection with such proceedings—an agent of a religious society called on this poor old woman, and, informing her his secretary was gone for a summons, added—"An old person like you, on the brink of the grave, breaking the Sabbath, and closing the gates of Heaven against you, ought to be ashamed of yourself;" and he added that he would summon her, and fine her 7s. every week unless she closed her shop; and no doubt he will be as bad as his word. This poor woman assures me that the harmless articles she sells on Sunday form an important proportion of her little business; and that, in face of this continued persecution, she has no alternative but to shut up her shop and go to the workhouse. I find her neighbours full of sympathy for her, and that assistance has been given her to help her to meet these prosecutions. [Mr. HUGHES: The punishment inflicted in this case is incurred under the existing law.] My hon. Friend knows very well that the action of these people would be precisely the same under his Bill; cigars and tobacco being among the pro- hibited articles. There is not only the injustice of such a case as this, but there is the opportunity given for indulging in personal malice and vengeance. I asked the poor old woman whether her neighbours were treated in the same way, and she said so far as she knew they were not; and I took the pains to go into a shop in the neighbourhood, selling the same articles, within a quarter of a mile of her house, and I said to the man—"Excuse my asking you; but have they persecuted you for selling on the Sunday?" and he said—"No; they have neither summoned me nor threatened me," and he expressed the indignation that he felt that this poor old woman should have been persecuted in this manner. I understand the old lady is a Catholic. Can this be, as has been whispered, an exhibition of Protestant liberality? I would fain hope not. Now, there is nothing that I detest more than violence; but I confess to the House, in confidence, that I advised the old lady to provide a mop and a pail of water and put them under the counter for use on a proper opportunity. My hon. Friend says that this is the fifth time that he has brought this Bill before the House; but these are only the last of a long succession of similar Bills. There have been at least 11 of these Bills since 1832, and against those various Bills as they have been brought forward, I will bring the opinion of distinguished Members of this House, who enjoyed the confidence of the House and of the country, and some of whom spoke most contemptuously of of them. It is said by the Sunday Rest Association, which my hon. Friend patronizes—or they patronize him—it is said that these Bills have some fatality about them; that they get through the second reading, or through Committee, and then, somehow or other, they sink, as it were, into the sand. The fact is easily explained; the House has no real intention of passing such Bills. There is a little harmless flirtation between a number of hon. Members and certain sections of their constituencies. There is a needless pretence of doing something, and, after a great deal of trouble has been given to the House, the end of the Session closes the farce. Amongst those who have from time to time opposed these Bills, I find such names as those of Mr. John Bright, Sir Benjamin Hall, Henry Drummond, Joseph Hume, Richard Cob- den, Thomas Duncombe, W. J. Fox, and Mr. Massey. If our Government thought such a measure expedient, they ought to have brought one forward, whereas here upon a question clearly affecting the liberty of the subject, as advocates of which the Whig Ministry have risen to power, there is only one Member of the Government present. I am happy to see my hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) present. I am sure that, so far as his power extends, he will take care of the liberty of the subject. Then men who have occupied the position of Home Secretary have equally objected to these Bills—such men as Sir George Grey and Sir James Graham. I trust the Government will take a course somewhat different from that which they have hitherto taken. Hitherto they have said that needless labour on the Sunday was not a desirable thing; that the intentions of my hon. Friend were very creditable, and deserved approval; that the Bill itself was impracticable, and they would therefore give it a second reading with the view to render it more inoperative in Committee. No doubt that is a very convenient mode of dealing with the subject; but I maintain that it is throwing over the due responsibility of Government, and wasting the time of the House. But we are now told that the present Bill is an altered and improved Bill and that it only touches the metropolis. Only touches the metropolis! What has London done that it should be made the corpus vile upon which this experiment should be tried? Of all places in this country, it is the one place where it would be impossible that legislation of this sort could be carried out. To pick out London for the application of a Bill of this kind is an insult to the country, and an injury to London. My hon. Friend does not represent London in Parliament now. He did sit for one of the metropolitan constituencies once, but now he stands on a rock afar off, and fires at his old constituency. I do not believe that there is a single metropolitan Member who would venture to bring forward such a measure as this. It may be asked, how is it that there are no expressions of feeling on this subject out-of-doors. I will tell you how it is. A number of working-class leaders have told me that they have asked the working classes—"Why do you not oppose this Bill?" but they will not do so; they only laugh at it. The fact is that the cry of "Wolf!" has been raised so long, that they do not care for it. But let us pass this Bill, and then see what they will say. It was only on Monday last that you had a demonstration of match girls and women employed in the match trade, but it was sufficient to explode a Budget. If you go to the people of the East end of London, and tell them, not that you will cripple one branch of their industry, but that you will take the bread out of their mouths, the result will be such that bolder men than the Chancellor of the Exchequer will sit alarmed upon the Treasury Bench. My hon. Friend says that this is not a Bill against the poor; but I say that it is especially and decidedly against the poor—"a Bill in which Dives proposes to legislate for Lazarus"—and if my hon. Friend points to this House in contradiction of that view, I say it does not represent the mass, but the wealth of the people. It is obvious that any such restrictions as those contained in this Bill must act specially upon the poor. Their wages are often paid late on Saturday night, and it is convenient to them to make their purchases then or perhaps early on Sunday morning. Then they have no convenience for keeping food in their houses, and if they did so keep it, it would be subject to deterioration and damage. This is emphatically a law against the poor. If it were a law against work, such as was the Act of Charles II., there might be something consistent in it. The great work done in this metropolis on Sundays is the work of domestic servants. I should say that there is no Member of this House who has not one, two, or three persons ministering to his own comfort, and where the wealthy are aggregated together for their own convenience and comfort, as in the clubs and so forth, you find the same thing on a larger scale. But does the hon. Gentleman propose to deal with that? Not a bit of it. Our galleries of pictures, our gardens, and all that we possess of our own the poor cannot possess. The rich can join together in their clubs on the Sunday; or take the Zoological Gardens—there every Sunday you will see the wealthy by thousands, and I am told that since the Darwinian theory has been started, they congregate there more than ever, and I am not surprised at that. I am not surprised that the supporters of my hon. Friend should go to the Zoological Gardens on Sunday, and that they should think it a religious duty to do so, in order to observe the wisdom of our ancestors. And there is another respect in which this Bill is an injury to the poor. I have spoken of the poor consumer—his tradesman, the costermonger, is specially attacked. His coarse but welcome cry in the poorer neighbourhoods seems to be offensive, not, of course, to my hon. Friend, but to the principles of his Bill. My hon. Friend permits pastry and fruit to be sold; but there are other perishable articles besides pastry and fruit, which are considered quite as savoury by the poor, and which are quite as perishable. I see in my own neighbourhood costermongers going about with shrimps, periwinkles, and other articles which are really held in considerable esteem by the poorer classes of the community. Then no poor man can be shaved on Sundays. Now, my hon. Friend has been greatly exercised in regard to barbers. They appeared in some of his Bills, and were included in some clauses in Committee with various modifications. I have no doubt my hon. Friend again means to do something with barbers when he gets into Committee, if he ever does get into Committee. If I might make a proposal as a compromise for all parties, it would be that a man should only be shaved on one side of his face on Sundays. Although the statement that this Bill is a Bill against the poor may be denied or slurred over in this House, I am glad to say that in "another place" they are more frank. The Bishop of Gloucester distinctly declared in the House of Lords that this Bill "must greatly interfere with the means of livelihood of a great many of the poorer classes." Now, I say that that sentence alone ought to be sufficient to make this House pause before it passes this Bill. I declare, in all earnestness, that in the face of the present harrowing condition of suffering in many parts of this city—and especially at the East end—it would be, in my opinion, an act little short of insanity in the Government and the House to pass a Bill which throws any difficulty in the way of enabling people to get a livelihood. A poet—and I know my hon. Friend is himself a poet—has said— The poor man's sins are glaring, In the face of saintly warning— When caught in the fact Of a lawless act— Buying greens on Sunday morning. The rich man's sins are 'under The rose' of wealth and station, And escape the sight Of 'the children of light,' Who are 'wise in their generation.' Now, Sir, I will quote Henry Drummond. Perhaps there are not many of us here who knew him. He was an eccentric, but noble-hearted old Tory, and what did he say? He said— The Bill is to put a stop to unnecessary trading on Sunday; but unnecessary trading on the Sunday can only he trading by the rich. If this were a Bill for shutting up the clubs, I would vote for it. I have already alluded to the extent to which the Act of Charles II. might be applied to the avocation and recreations of the wealthier classes, provided there were magistrates who had sufficient courage and sense of justice to carry it out to its full extent. In one of these debates, an hon. Member told a story of a person in humble life who, having been convicted of Sunday trading, took out an information against the vicar's coachman, and the effect of this was to keep every carriage away from Islington, church. The magistrate who tried the case held that it was contrary to law to drive a carriage on Sunday, unless it could be shown to be an act of necessity, in which category it seemed he did not include the act of riding instead of walking to church. I say, then, let the House beware of retaliation on the part of the working classes, if they pass this Bill; and let hon. Members recollect how many acts of the wealthier classes violate Sabbatarian legislation. The late Sir Benjamin Hall told an excellent story about the case of— A fashionable barouche, with two slapping horses, and attended by two footmen in powdered wigs, taking up two dogs only, in a fashionable square, for an airing in the Park, which this Bill would not interfere with. Nor would the Bill of the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes) interfere with such Sabbath breaking as this. Now, this Bill is defended on the ground that it would act as a protection to the honest and religiously-minded trader, who would be happy to shut up his shop on a Sunday, but who finds that the money-grubbers and irreligious shopkeepers of the neighbourhood will not permit him. This appears to me extraordinary reasoning, and that the hon. Member for Frome comes to a strange conclusion; as the operation of the Bill, when looked at from that point of view, would be simply to protect the scruples of the great at the expense of the necessities of the small. Here we have people who are wealthy and good, but who, at the game time, are afraid to shut up their shops on Sundays, lest their poorer neighbours should monopolize all the Sunday trade. If these rich people have scruples, let them indulge them at their own cost, and not endeavour to combine religion with worldly wisdom, by levying the cost of their abstention from Sunday trade out of the pockets of the poor. Mr. Henley, when replying to the arguments of Lord Claude Hamilton on the 15th May, 1867, said that the noble Lord's assertion was, that there were thousands in this metropolis who were afraid of obeying God's commandments, lest, by so doing, they might suffer in pocket; but, replied Mr. Henley— If people are disposed to treat the commandments of God in that way, they had no right to ask Parliament to strengthen their hands."—[3 Hansard, clxxxvii. 591.] Mr. W. J. Fox, speaking on the 18th of June, 1851, said— It seemed to him that the sect for whom this Bill had been introduced were the classes who loved the Sabbath much, but loved the shop more. They had great solicitude for the salvation of their souls, but still greater solicitude for the retention of their great profits."—[3 Hansard, cxvii. 963.] Mr. Craven Berkeley mentioned, in evidence given before the Committee, the case of a boy who had been taken up opposite Sir Edward Buxton's brewery for selling dry figs on the Sabbath, whilst, at the same time, within the brewery itself heavy work was being performed, steam was issuing, chains rattling, and every other noise incidental to a great factory in full work. Sir Edward Buxton assured the House that his firm sanctioned no Sunday labour that was not limited to works of necessity. But Mr. Muntz, in reply to this, asked was it less a work of necessity for the boy to soil figs in order to live. Again, Lord Beaumont described the Sabbath Bill of the period as a measure to protect the larger shopkeepers against the smaller. My hon. Friend proposes that the operation of his Bill shall be confined to the metropolis, and I am informed that certain hon. Members, who were once my staunch supporters, have been bought off by this limitation. They were very enthusiastic at first, but now, having been told that their constituents shall not suffer, they are inclined to relax in their opposition to the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) has been my warm supporter up to the present time; but I am given to understand that he is cooling very much, and talks about an equitable compromise. Is the meaning of this compromise that Warrington is not to come within the operation of the Bill? I can remember when my hon. Friend used to have larger and' more generous views, which I am much surprised to find can be modified by such a compromise as this. I can remember also how indignant my hon. Friend was on behalf of the orange girls, and how he said that the only way of abolishing Sunday trading was to improve the taste, raise the education, and elevate the religious feeling of the poor. I shall have to trouble the House but for a very little longer; but I must make one further observation. My hon. Friend may say that gigantic evils demand exceptional remedies. Now, if my hon. Friend thinks that the whole morality of London is in danger of being swallowed up by the amount of Sunday trading in existence, he is very much mistaken. As a matter of fact, that amount is by no means alarming. There are no grounds for indulging in the slightest apprehension on that score. If we take a Sunday ramble through our London streets, we shall find little to complain of as exceptions to the dull and decorous demeanour characteristic of the British Sunday. In corroboration of this I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets, who, in the course of a debate in this House on the 3rd March, 1869, said, "he concurred in the opinion that the inhabitants of London were not degenerating in regard to the observance of Sunday." I may also quote the Report of the Committee of the Sunday Rest Association. In the pamphlet published by that Association on May 25th, 1869, I find the following passage— The Committee have made another inquiry into the extent of Sunday trading in London, and are able to say that Sunday trading remains, on the whole, in the same state as it was 12 years ago. Let me also appeal to the magistracy on this point. When Mr. Burcham, the late police magistrate for Southwark, was examined before the Committee on the Sale of Liquors on Sunday, in 1868, he gave the following evidence. In answer to Question 503 he said— There are in certain districts shops open on Sunday morning; for instance, in the New Cut for the sale of vegetables, and, generally speaking, for necessaries; but with these exceptions I do not think that Sunday trading is at all common. So that in fact, so far as your district is concerned, there is no necessity for further legislation even upon Sunday trading?—No."—[Q. 504.] Well, Sir, I have done. This is not the time at which to discuss the ridiculous absurdities and gross anomalies to be found in the details of this Bill. If, unhappily, my hon. Friend should persuade this House and the Government to trouble us further with the Bill, these absurdities will come under consideration in Committee; but let me mention one or two. Here I find, in one place, that the sale of human food is prohibited after 10 o'clock on Sunday morning, and immediately after that the sale of pastry is permitted. A shopkeeper may sell oranges; but if he attempts to sell cabbage he is sure to be prosecuted. Pastry is permitted; but shrimps are prohibited. Then, again, tobacco, which, the public is not to be permitted by my hon. Friend to buy of my poor old lady in Hammersmith, they can, however, purchase without reproach at any publichouse; her shop must be shut up, but smokers may get that, and a glass of gin besides, next door. But there is a still more terrible prohibition. No newspaper is to be sold after 10 o'clock. Let us hope that my hon. Friend will add a provision prohibiting all classes from all sorts of reading on Sundays, except the Bible or Prayer Book. Then let us look at the penalties of this Bill. The penalties which poor people may have to pay are—for the first offence 20s., and for subsequent offences 40s.; or, in default, imprisonment for one month. But enough of details; all I shall say further now will be to pledge myself to oppose, as I have done before, by every means in my power, at every stage, and in every way, a Bill which I look upon as being needless, harrassing, tyrannical, and uncalled for. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.


seconded the Amendment. He said, he did not believe that by legislation people could be made either moral or religious, or that anything in the New Testament imposed upon society such Sabbath observances as were contained in the Bill. The hon. Promoter of it had stated that the heads of the police had given evidence in favour of the measure; but some of the magistrates had fined those who broke the law as it now stood only 1d., which showed their opinion of such legislation. Instead of being a recommendation, he thought it an objection to the Bill that it was confined to the metropolis. If it was a good Bill for the metropolis, why should it not be extended to the whole country? Such a Bill would not teach the poor respect for the law, for when they saw that poor children could not get lollipops on Sunday, but that the rich could go into the Zoological Gardens and get lollipops, sandwiches, whisky, and wine, they would look upon the law as very unjust. He believed the Bill would encourage drinking on Sunday. A small tradesman must not sell tobacco, but it could be got at the publichouse and other places, as hotels, taverns, and beerhouses, which were exempted from its operation. This Bill reminded him of a controversy he once had with a very good man; but, like many other good men, an enthusiast in his way. Enthusiasts generally carried their views on subjects like this just to that point where their own feelings and their own stomachs were not interfered with. His friend told him he would not take a cab to go to church, and never employed his servants in cooking upon Sundays, for he always dined upon cold meat. "Well, then," said he to his friend, "you need never ask me to dine with you on a Sunday, for I don't like cold potatoes." "Oh, but," said his friend, "we always have potatoes boiled."

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Taylor.)


said, he was deeply impressed with the great advantage to be derived from the observance of one day in seven as a day of rest, so far as it could be so observed without interfering with the necessities and comforts of the people. Not only was this so in England; but in America the observance of Sunday was even more strictly carried out than in this country, so that it could not be charged against this Bill that it was an attempt upon the part of the upper classes to coerce the lower. With respect to this Bill it should be remembered that they were not now going to deal with the subject de novo. The question was, should they enforce, repeal, or improve the present law as enacted by the statute of Charles II.? The Act could not be absolutely enforced; the religious feeling of the people would not allow it to be repealed; it only therefore remained to improve it. They should endeavour so to regulate the observance of the Sunday as to protect those who could not protect themselves. There was a very large class of assistants to shopkeepers, who were employed from early morning to the latest hours on Saturday night, who had no Saturday half-holiday, and now worked great part of the Sunday, and without some protection of this sort they would have no Sunday rest whatever. No Government had ever opposed these Sunday Bills. The present Home Secretary supported this Bill, and even the Primo Minister shared his opinion. He altogether denied that the Bill was intended or calculated to oppress the poor, and he should give it his hearty support.


said, he thought it was inexpedient to allow the Bill to pass in its present form, and he should, therefore, oppose it. The Bill being a local Bill should have been introduced as such, its requirements applying quite as exclusively to the metropolis as those of the Metropolis Local Management Act. The Bill would produce this extraordinary state of things—it would make certain acts criminal if done within a certain line, and not criminal if the same acts were done just beyond that line. Nothing could be more monstrous than that. [Mr. T. HUGHES said, the hon. and learned Member for New Ross had misread the Bill.] The Bill would allow things to be done within the metropolis that it would not permit out- side; and making 3,000,000 of people subject to exceptional legislation, which they did not require, as it did, it would have been much better if his hon. and learned Friend had looked more to the legal effect of the measure before he had brought it in. For the reason above stated alone it ought to be rejected. If the metropolis had really required such a measure it ought to have been introduced by one of its representatives, and not by one who had ceased to have any local connection with the metropolis. The Act of Charles II. provided that all the penalties recovered under that Act should be paid to the poor of the parish in which the offence was committed; but the fines imposed under this Bill would be paid in the City of London to the City Chamberlain, and in the metropolis to the receiver of the metropolitan police. It was wrong in principle that justices should have the remotest interest in the disposal of penalties. This was not, properly speaking, a Sunday Trading Bill, but one for the repression of certain trades in London on the Sunday. On all these additional grounds also he hoped it would be rejected.


said, the speeches of hon. Members who approved the object of the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), but who quarrelled with all he proposed, entitled him to say— Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me downstairs? What the hon. Member sought to remedy would be remedied by degrees by education and the formation of religious habits. There could be no doubt that the Bill had been introduced with the best intention, and with the desire of settling the question, and it was impossible to deny that some legislation was wanted. The Act of Charles II. was passed by a very bigoted House of Commons, and in the hope that it would largely contribute to the power of a profligate Court to tyrannize over the people. The Bill proposed to lay down a rule for the future, and yet it embodied a clause to the effect that nothing in the Bill should interfere with the Act of Charles II.; so that a man who, under the Bill would commit no offence, might still be convicted under the Act of Charles II. It would be impossible to have both in operation together; that would make confusion more confounded; and, instead of diminishing, it would increase difficulty. The Bill was an improvement on that of last year, and it might, perhaps, be further improved by a year's delay. Instead of passing this Bill, it would, be better to say that, after a certain date, the operation of the Act of Charles II. should cease. If Parliament legislated on the matter at all, it must legislate not for London only, but at the least for the towns of England and Wales. This was a case of legislation for the poor by the rich; by those who had no idea of the circumstances, wants, and sorrows of the poor, and of the anxiety with which the last halfpenny was expended. In the manufacturing districts the rule was to pay wages early on the Saturday afternoon; but the rule was not extended to vast numbers, who were obliged to trudge three or four miles to market at night or to make purchases on the Sunday morning; and for these people Sunday trading was a necessity. We had a higher authority than an Act of Parliament for holding that the Sabbath was made for man, and, where Sunday trading was a necessity, we ought not to be severe. There was a feeling in the country, and it was a growing one, that if the satisfaction of the necessities of the poor were interfered with by Act of Parliament, the unnecessary luxuries of the rich should be curtailed. He hoped the Bill would be withdrawn.


said, that while he admitted there was great force in the observations of the last speaker, he must remind the hon. Member that this Bill was entirely in accordance with his sentiments, inasmuch as it gave increased facilities to the poor to buy necessaries on the Sunday morning. Perhaps it might be urged, with some apparent justice, that the Bill conceded facilities to the people who least required them, because it could not be said that in London poor people had to travel four or five miles to make their purchases. He was anxious to answer the appeal which had been made to him by the hon. Member for West Kent (Mr. J. G. Talbot). Having spoken once or twice on the subject, he wished it to be understood he had spoken in his own name, and not as representing the opinions of the Government, who had not gone thoroughly into the matter, as they would have done if they had felt that they had time to deal with this important and difficult question. Speaking, therefore, not as representing the Government, but as expressing his own opinions only, he thought there was much in this Bill to recommend it. He could not gratify the anticipations in which the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor) had indulged, for he did not mean to propose that the Bill should be read a second time for the purpose of being dropped. The object of the Bill was to get rid of a great scandal which continued to exist under the Act of Charles II. It might be said that the Bill was imperfect, inasmuch as it did not extend to the whole country, but it had been pointed out in the course of the debate that the necessities of one district were not always those of another; that publichouses were not open in the country at the same hours they were in London; and that, in many cases, local authorities were invested with the power of making bylaws for promoting good order and decency in the towns under their jurisdiction. It happened in this case that the demand for legislation had arisen in the metropolis, and not in other parts of the country. He was assured that there were vast numbers of people in London who would be heartily glad to be relieved of the necessity of carrying on their trade on the Sunday, and would cease to do so, if that would not put them in a disadvantageous position as compared with their competitors. In fact, there was a general coincidence of feeling that, while increased facilities should be given to the poorer classes to supply themselves on Sunday mornings with the necessaries of life, something should be done to promote that good order and decency which an enormous majority of the people desired to see observed. The necessity for a change was greater in London than elsewhere, and for these reasons and no other he supported the measure. He did not mean to say it was complete; but there were matters of daily occurrence under the present law which it was desirable to reform, and as a measure of amendment he could not refuse it his support.


said, it might be thought he had no business to interfere in a Bill of this character, but he should like to see everybody observing his Sabbath, whatever it was. He was convinced, however, that we could not make people observe their Sabbaths, any more than we could make them moral by Act of Parliament. If Parliament passed this Bill, it must also pass the next Bill on the Paper, for assuredly a public prosecutor would be required to look after the lawbreakers, who would be created by this Bill; or else there would spring up a class of informers who would go about making small purchases, in order that they might summon traders before the magistrates. Another objection to the Bill was its partial application, for that which was wrong in London could not be right in the country, and vice versâ; and we could not have a criminal law applying only to the metropolis and not to other parts of the country. The Act of Charles II. was passed under peculiar circumstances. He supposed that at that time we had the most immoral Court which had over existed in this country; he believed that, in consequence of the immoral condition of the Court, the people generally were rather more than less immoral; and the Act was passed in order to preserve a kind of outward decency which did not cover any beautiful internal state of things. For a longtime that Act had been treated as a dead letter; but recently a society had endeavoured to enforce it. It was most partial in its operation, and it oppressed the little trader who could not afford to close his shop because he lived in a poor neighbourhood, in which the people were paid so late on the Saturday that they could not make their purchases that night, whilst it did not interfere with the great trader who made large profits. It was a bad Act; and this Bill would, in some respects, aggravate its inequalities. For these, and various other reasons, he considered it was a very bad Bill. For himself, he always paid his labourers in good time on Friday, so that they might buy provisions on Saturday, because he wished all to observe their Sabbath; but as this observance could not be promoted by Act of Parliament, he opposed the second reading of the Bill.


said, he supported the Bill, because it was for the general convenience that Sunday should be observed as a holiday as far as possible, and because a majority of those in London who traded on Sunday were compelled to do so against their will by the action of a minority. Upon those grounds, he con- sidered that the Bill should be read a second time.


said, he objected to exceptional legislation of the nature provided by this Bill. He wished to know why, if the metropolis wanted the Bill, it had not been introduced by the metropolitan Members? He believed there was not one of them present to support it, and certainly not one of them had spoken in its favour. He hoped the Bill would be rejected.


said, if the Act of Charles II. were repealed, there would be no necessity for this Bill; and he drew a distinction between the trades affected by this Bill, which in themselves were harmless, and the licensed trade in drink, which admittedly involved evil that required curtailment. Local by-laws were not forced upon any town without being asked for; but, in this case, it was proposed to force upon London that which was not asked for. The subject ought to be dealt with as a whole, and not in that partial manner; because, in the matter of legislating for Sunday trading, it was impossible to separate London from the country. If it were necessary to make legal provision for a general holiday, it ought to be done upon some intelligible principle, providing under what circumstances Sunday trading should be allowed; and if the Government took the matter in hand he hoped they would deal with the whole question upon principle. He regretted that he could not support the Bill.


said, that he had on former occasions supported the Bill of his hon. Friend; but he regretted that he could no longer do so, for the following reasons:—He objected to legislation for London alone, agreeing as he did with the hon. Member for Knaresborough that legislation on the subject should apply to the whole country. He further thought that the matter was one which ought to be dealt with by the responsible Government, and he heard with regret from his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Government were not at present prepared to introduce a Bill on the subject. But his special objection to the present Bill was, that he feared it would bear more hardly in practice upon the poorer classes than the existing Act of Charles II. The magistrates appeared to look upon that Act as an antiquated statute, and im- posed the lightest penalties under it that they possibly could; whereas, if it was re-enacted in the shape proposed in this Bill, they would probably feel it their duty to impose much heavier penalties, in deference to what they would consider to be the recently expressed decision of the Legislature. On these grounds he should reluctantly be compelled to vote against the second reading of the Bill.


said, in reply, that the hon. Member for Leicester had deliberately based his argument against the Bill on a false issue.


rose to Order.


ruled that the expression used by the hon. Member for Frome was improper.


apologized, and explained that he had merely used the expression in the technical and legal sense, and had no intention of imputing falsehood to his hon. Friend. The Act of Charles II. was a disabling Act. According to it, all that was done in the markets and shops of London on every Sunday at the present time was illegal. There was a society in existence for enforcing this old Act. Last year, it instituted between 300 and 400 prosecutions, and in nearly all the cases the magistrates felt themselves obliged to convict and to impose penalties. But this Bill was an enabling Bill; it would take away the hardship of the present law, and would enable some thousands of persons to do that which was now absolutely illegal; that was to say, it would enable them to sell and buy necessaries on the Sunday morning. This was the real issue, and not that which had been raised by the hon. Member for Leicester. Every instance of oppression which he had cited was due to the operation of the present law, and would be relieved by the operation of the Bill. It would enable the old woman who had been named, to sell ginger beer; and, as to cigars, he was quite willing to introduce a clause to allow the tobacconists to open their shops during the hours that the publichouses were open. At present great fairs were held in certain districts of London up till 1 o'clock, and decent poor people living in them could neither get rest, nor walk comfortably to a place of worship. This state of things was becoming more and more serious every year; and unless Parliament passed this Bill, or some measure like it, the matter would grow until, as Earl Russell said, it would pass out of their hands.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 47; Noes 80: Majority 33.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.