HC Deb 10 April 1872 vol 210 cc1068-73

Order for Second Reading read.


moved that the Bill be now read the second time. On several previous occasions Bills similar to the present had been passed through the House by large majorities. The object of the Bill was not to prohibit but to regulate Sunday traffic in the metropolis. It had been said that this Bill would be a restriction upon liberty; but in truth it would be an addition to the liberty that was now enjoyed, because the Act of Charles II. was the only one that now applied to the metropolis. The Bill recognized the fact that in the metropolis it would be impossible to say that there should be no Sunday trading; but it attempted to confine such trading within narrow limits, and it would in this way confer a great benefit upon many people.

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


in moving that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, said, that ever since the year 1832 the House had been troubled with Bills of this sort, which meandered through the House during the Session, but never became law. The only time a Sunday Trading Bill had had any chance of passing the House was in 1855, and then had given occasion to the well known riots in Hyde Park, in consequence of which the Bill had to be abandoned. But that did not prevent the re-introduction of similar measures, which had haunted the House for whole Sessions, and then quietly died away. Last year, thanks to the indignation stirred up by the proceedings of the Rev. Bee Wright, the House had been moved to definite action, and had thrown out the Bill by a large majority. It was said that the Rev. Bee Wright had left the country; but he did not see that they were better off as long as they were privileged to enjoy the presence of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. G. Talbot) and his Friends. The Bill then before the House, and all similar Bills, were happy combinations of religious intolerance and civil persecution. He opposed the present measure on that ground but he also opposed it because it gave no indication of the possession of intelligible views on the part of the promoters. If they thought the Act of Charles II. should be repealed, why did they no say so? He presumed that that was no their desire, for they had inserted a special clause retaining that Act. If on the other hand, they thought the Ac of Charles II. should be retained, why did they not leave it alone to do its work This Bill, however, took neither course. All that it did was to prohibit Sunday trading in certain articles between certain hours on that day. Now, that was a course which was inconsistent with principle of any kind. The Bill involved a question of religious liberty, and he contended that the representatives of the orthodox Dissenters, who objected to the interference of the State in religious matters, were bound to oppose an attempt to enforce particular views as to the mode of observing the Sabbath upon those who did not hold them. It had been urged that this was a question of the rights of labour, and that the Bill stood between the labouring classes and seven days' work a-week. Now that he entirely denied. If the hours of labour were increasing and impinging on the 24 hours of the Sunday, that might be a reasonable argument; but it was notorious that the contrary was the fact, and that everywhere the hours of labour, protected by the Factory Acts and other Acts, were being narrowed. Why did the Bill apply to the metropolis only? If the principle were sound, why should the metropolis have the sole benefit?—if the principle were bad, why should the metropolis exclusively be injured by its application? A reason for the limitation might possibly lurk in the fact that the framer of the Bill (Sir Thomas Chambers) was one of the Members for the metropolis. If that were so, he would suggest that the action of the Bill should be limited to the borough which the hon. and learned Member represented, and that Marylebone alone should be tortured. The present Bill was if anything more objectionable than any that had preceded it; but one and all they were liable to the fatal objection that they applied only to the poor, and did not in any way touch the rich. The simple fact that it was deliberately attempted by the Bill to prevent the people from reading newspapers and periodicals on Sunday was sufficient to condemn the measure. The Bill appeared to him to include every conceivable evil which attached to a paternal Government, without any of its advantages. He asked the House to throw it out on that ground, and also on the lower ground of time. Moreover, if it became law, it could never be put in practice. It would be better to get rid of the measure at once, instead of having it remaining for some while on the Orders with the slender chance of its coming on late at night. He therefore moved that the Bill be read the second time that day six months.

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, the working and manufacturing classes of this country regarded the Sabbath as a civil institution of very great value for their ease, comfort, and family enjoyment. The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor) made a very great mistake in treating that as a religious question. He trusted the time would never come when the House would neglect its sacred duty of protecting the working man's day of rest from being sacrificed to the rapacity of the capitalist.


regretted to be obliged to oppose this Bill. As to confining its operation to Marylebone alone, as the hon. Member for Leicester had suggested, he begged to say, on behalf of the immense majority of the inhabitants, that it would be received with as much decided hostility in that borough as he was certain it would be in other parts of the metropolis. If there was any place in the kingdom which ought to be excepted from such a measure more than another, it was London. The Bill was an example of class legislation which would provoke one howl of dissatisfaction throughout the metropolis. It would allow those who had good houses over their heads to obtain every comfort and every luxury they desired; while it would deprive the poor of an opportunity of getting the absolute necessaries and conveniences of life. A little girl who sold an orange to a thirsty person in the Park would be fined not only in one penalty for that innocent act, but if she repeated it she would be liable to a cumulative fine for every orange she sold. He could not approve the attempt to make the people religious by Act of Parliament, and he thought the House would exercise a wise discretion in throwing out this measure.


felt that he would not be doing his duty to the section of the metropolitan constituency which he represented, unless he offered in the most formal manner his determined opposition to this Bill. It would prevent the working classes from procuring the necessaries of life and take away from many humble people the means of gaining a scanty but honest livelihood; and it was, moreover, entirely opposed to the principles of religious liberty. He hoped they would have from the Home Secretary a distinct expression of opinion against the principle and spirit of that measure.


protested against this being dealt with as a religious question in any shape or form. The case in favour of the Bill was that it was necessary that there should be a compulsory law of closing in order to enable the great majority of tradesmen of the metropolis to close their shops on Sunday and enjoy a day of rest without being subjected to the unfair competition of the minority who wished to keep their shops open. The promoters of the Bill, however, would, he thought, have adopted a wiser course if they applied it only to the sale of articles which were not of a perishable nature.


confessed that he had been properly castigated by his hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill (Mr. Taylor) for having some years ago attached his name to a measure of a similar character which excited a great sensation and had afterwards to be withdrawn. Since then he had changed his opinion in this matter; and as the upper classes had already corrected their evil courses in respect to unnecessary Sunday trading, so he behoved the working classes, if left to themselves, would gradually correct theirs also. The only effect of passing the Bill would be to create great discontent and discomfort, while it would not in any way advance the object of true religion.


said, he believed this was a Bill which the working classes, as a whole, were anxious to promote. Instead of infringing their liberties it went exactly in an opposite direction, and would protect a large portion of the working classes of the metropolis who were now in a state of slavery. Sunday trading had greatly increased of late years, and it was carried on largely in the New Cut, Lambeth. The traders of the New Cut, at a meeting on the previous evening, were almost unanimous in favour of the measure.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 40; Noes 69: Majority 29.

Words added.

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

Bill put off for six months.