§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I want at the outset to make the position quite clear. Although the Second Reading of this Bill is moved from the Government Front Bench, and although after the Second Reading it will be given further facilities by the Government, it is not a Government Measure. Therefore, it will not entail that automatic loyalty and universal enthusiasm which Government Measures always command and sometimes receive. The Bill will be left at this stage and at all subsequent stages to the free vote of the House—so free that it is even rumoured that the unusual sight may be seen of Cabinet Ministers in opposing Lobbies.
Those hon. Members who were Members in the last Parliament will require little reminder of the facts and arguments in this controversy. They will have still fresh in their minds the fierce struggle of last summer, and no doubt they will remember above all the Second Reading Debate which we then had, when the House, as it always does on these occasions, reached a high standard of strength and sincerity. But it may be for the convenience of hon. Members who were not in the last Parliament, who were not therefore quite so close to the struggle and may not be quite so familiar with these events, if I recall a short history of the facts which have led up to the introduction of this Bill. In order to do so I am afraid it is necessary for me to start by going back for 150 years—150 years which have seen the face of the civilised world change, which have brought revolutionary changes to our national life, which have transformed this island from a small agricultural population into the vast industrial nation which it is to-day. One hundred and fifty years back, when Lord North was sitting on this Treasury Bench, when the windows of London were still unmended after the 834 Gordon riots, the Act was passed which to-day still governs the question of entertainments on Sundays. In 1780 there was passed the Sunday Observance Act, and, if I may, I will quote the first Section of that Act, which is the operative Section. It reads:Any house, room or other place which shall be opened or used for public entertainment or amusement or for publicly debating on any subject whatsoever upon any part of the Lord's Day called Sunday, and to which persons shall be admitted by payment of money or by tickets sold for money, shall be deemed a disorderly house or place.The penalty of £200 a day was provided, which was to be recoverable by the action of the common informer. Hon. Members who are interested in the motives which inspired the passage of that Act will do well to read the account of those Debates in the records of this House. They will find that the motives which inspired its passage were very different indeed from the motives which now inspire those who wish its continuance. But suffice it to say that, whatever the motives were that induced the House to pass the Act, the Act and its provisions remained unchallenged after 1780 for nearly 100 years. It was not till somewhere about the 'eighties of last century that the practice first began of giving Sunday concerts in London. At that time the London County Council had just been formed, and, whether or no it was because they thought that the provisions of this old Act had become obsolete, at any rate they turned a blind eye to the inception of these concerts.
The practice grew until in 1897 the first formal challenge was delivered in the courts in the case, which hon. Members no doubt recall, of Williams and Wright. It was then decided that admission to a concert room, a place of entertainment, could still be deemed to be free, even though a charge was made for a reserved seat, and that therefore the ordinary practice of retaining quite a nominal number of free seats and of charging for the reservation of all the others, excluded these entertainments from the provisions of the Act of 1780. The consequence of that decision was that the practice of giving Sunday concerts became widespread in London and not uncommon in the rest of the country, until to-day, although unfortunately we have no statistics which it is possible to 835 give to the House, the practice of Sunday concerts is to be found in many areas all over the country.
The problem of the Sunday cinema like the cinema itself, was a more recent growth. It is rather difficult for hon. Members of my age to remember that there was ever a pre-Hollywood era. In fact, it was not until 1909 that cinemas were brought under public control at all. Almost immediately after that date the proprietors began to give cinema entertainments on Sundays, the proceeds of which were devoted to charity. The practice became so widespread that in 1916 the London County Council determined as far as possible to regularise the position. They made no attempt whatever to decide whether the Act of 1780 was or was not applicable to the Sunday opening of a cinema. What they did was to enter into arrangements with the producers in London that, provided the cinema proprietors observed certain conditions which the London County Council laid down, the Council would take no proceedings against them under the Sunday Observance Act. The conditions which they imposed were first, that the entertainment given should be of a suitable character; secondly, that they should open only between the hours of six and 11; thirdly, that no employé should be called upon to work seven days in the week; and fourthly, that the profits of the Sunday openings should be paid to charity. From 1916 onwards increasing numbers of cinemas, not only in London but in other areas of the country, began to enter into arrangements of this kind, until at the end of 1930, the majority of cinemas were open on Sunday in London, and, in 96 other areas of the country, Sunday cinema opening was also to be found.
In the year 1930 this arrangement so laboriously built up was brought crashing to the ground. It is interesting to note that this arrangement was not brought to an end by rigid Sabbatarians, but by rival entertainers. The treatment of the cinemas, the privilege given to them of working on Sundays, aroused the envy of the threatre proprietors. They applied to the London County Council for equality of treatment, and, when their application failed, they determined to expose in the courts the illegality of an arrangement of 836 which they had been unable to secure the advantage. The consequence of that was the case of the King against the London County Council ex parte The Entertainments Productions Association. That case, heard first in the High Court and afterwards taken to the Court of Appeal, decided, finally and clearly, that the arrangements which the London County Council had been making were ultra vires, that they had no effect, and that the law of 1780 must still apply. In passing I may say that, although the point was not directly in issue, in the course of the judgment considerable doubt was thrown upon the decision in the case of Williams and Wright to which I have already referred, and, indeed, it is clear that Sunday concerts as well as Sunday cinemas are illegal.
Hon. Members will realise what a tremendous change this decision made in the position. Before the decision some, no doubt, thought that Sunday opening was legal, and others while they might have been doubtful as to the validity of the 1780 Act, at least thought that its provisions had fallen into desuetude. After the decision we had a restatement of the legal position which was both modern and decisive. There was no possibility of misunderstanding, no room left for specious argument or for cunning evasion. It was quite clear that this agreement had to come to an end, the cinemas had to close, and the Sunday concerts had to stop. That was the position with which the Labour Government were faced last year, and, in view of that position, they threw to the winds that doctrine of Cabinet responsibility, to which some of them appear to attach so great and so belated an importance, and introduced a Bill similar to this Bill, which they, too, left to the free vote of the House.
Hon. Members will recall that that Bill obtained a majority of 48 upon its Second Reading. It was sent by this House to Standing Committee and, although it encountered there a spirit of persistent inquiry which, of course, is never to be confused with a desire for Parliamentary obstruction, by the time the House adjourned at the beginning of August, Clause 1 had been disposed of and the greater part of Clause 2 had also been dealt with, and these Clauses, as hon. Members will see, are the controversial 837 and operative parts of the Bill. There was, in fact, no doubt that, had that Parliament lived its normal life, Mr. Clynes's Bill of last year would have passed through all its stages in this House and would, by now, have been law. As hon. Members know, however, the financial crisis of the Autumn supervened, and the House which had risen in August, intent upon the Sunday Cinema Bill, returned in September with far graver matters to face. The financial legislation and the Emergency Measure left the House no time to continue the discussion of the Bill, and the proximity of the General Election made it clear that it would be impossible to proceed further with it.
It was in those circumstances, thinking that this question ought not to be settled merely by insufficiency of time, but that some House of Commons should be given the chance to decide it on principle, that an Act was introduced and passed by the National Government which, in effect, prolonged the existing situation for one year. That Act will expire on 7th October of this year, and, if between now and then there is no fresh legislation on the following Sunday every cinema, every concert throughout the country will close. That is the point which I wish to emphasise. The responsibility which rests upon the House today is clear-cut. I hear it suggested in certain quarters that, even if this Bill is rejected there is still the possibility that some arrangement will be found, by which these Sunday entertainments can continue in the areas which are accustomed to them. I know of no alternative method, of no alternative means, which would enable the position to be regularised if this Bill is rejected. If we are not able to regularise the position by law, then what is the position of the various local authorities up and down the country which are charged with the enforcement of law and order in their areas, confronted by a breach of the law—not, breach of a law which, as it is 150 years old, may safely be disregarded, but breach of a law on which the Appeal Court of this country has passed a clear and decisive judgment within the last 12 months? I, myself, have no doubt that if the House rejects this Bill to-day the consequence will be that in October of this year 500,000 people who for the last 15 years have enjoyed these facilities un- 838 questioned, and unquestioningly, will suddenly find themselves deprived of them.
I will give the House a description of the Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, but I will make it a brief description, because I believe that the House this afternoon is more interested in the principle than in the discussion of the small legal details. It is, however, necessary that the House should know what classes of entertainment are affected, what is the machinery which we propose, and what is the procedure by which that machinery is to be set in motion. The types of entertainment which will be affected by the passage of this Bill are cinemas, concerts, exhibitions of animate or inanimate objects—or, if I may descend for a moment into the vernacular, "Zoos" and museums—and debates. These four types have this in common. At the present moment, as far as we can judge of the law, they are all illegal on Sunday, and they are all types of entertainment which the public has long been accustomed to enjoy on Sunday. The effect of the passage of this Bill would be to exempt these types of entertainment from the provisions of the Sunday Observance Acts of 1625, 1677, and 1780, Acts which deal, respectively, with the audiences, with the people employed, and with the promoters of Sunday entertainments of this character. I want to make it quite clear to the House that this exemption from the operation of those Acts is neither automatic nor universal. The exemption will only occur if and when those types of entertainment are licensed by the appropriate authorities, through the appropriate machinery.
That brings me to the question of who the appropriate authorities are and what the appropriate machinery is. The licensing authorities which would be established under this Bill to license these types of entertainment would be the county councils and the borough councils, and the duty of licensing would not be obligatory, but permissive. It would be within their competence to decide whether they would, in fact, license any or all of these types of entertainment, and that, it is quite true, introduces into this Bill the principle of local option. I know that there are in this House many hon. Members who are not opposed to the principle of Sunday opening, but who 839 do feel very strong objections to the principle of local option which they find in this Bill, and their objections to it, as I see them, are twofold. They object in principle, because they say that a matter of such importance as this ought to be settled nationally, not locally, and they object in practice, because they fear that the battles which raged last year and will rage this year in Parliament may be transferred in future to Local Government elections.
Let me deal, first of all, with their objection in principle. It seems to me that this problem of Sunday opening is essentially a problem of the balance of advantage and disadvantage. I see advantages in Sunday opening, I admit disadvantages, and the question is: Which, at any time, in any circumstances, outweighs the other? It seems to me that that is a question which must depend to a large extent upon the needs and upon the demand of the locality which you are considering. Compare, for instance, a country district, good housing conditions, easy access to the countryside, with the slums of a great city, overcrowded and perhaps not even an open space. I saw to-day in the "Times" a letter from a reverend gentleman, who, it appears, is one of the fortunate incumbents of a City church, who recommends as an alternative to Sunday cinemas a quiet walk. That is something that would weigh very much with me in considering the need for Sunday opening in a quiet district such as mine, but a quiet Sunday walk in Whitechapel or Mile End! Compare, too, a small town where you have a close-knit religious community, where the doings of the minority are matters, not of indifferent hostility, but of open offence to the great majority, with a great city, where neighbour does not know neighbour, where no-one's business is any concern but his own. It seems to me that this is a question which you can only answer rightly if you answer it in accordance with the needs of every locality—Westmorland and Westminster, fell and back street. How can you get one general universal answer which would be correct in all those circumstances?
Then, as to the objections in practice, I would remind hon. Members that in fact Sunday cinemas have been opening, with the knowledge and the approval of 840 certain local authorities, for 15 years. It is quite true that local authorities have never been called upon to decide up to now whether they would grant to a Sunday cinema a legal licence, but they have had to decide whether they would make with the cinema an illegal arrangement, and it appears to me that the opportunities for electoral controversy have been just as great during the past 15 years as they will be in the future if this Bill is passed, and yet I think Members here of the London County Council will tell the House that it has never been their experience, and certainly in the Home Office I can find no trace, that in the past this has formed any permanent feature in local government elections. I feel, though I agree with hon. Members as to the dangers and the difficulties of local option, that, apart from the difficulties of this particular situation, apart from the desire to make the controversy less difficult than it already is, the proper way to solve this problem is to solve it according, not to the dictates of the nation, but the desires of the locality.
Before these councils are in a position to grant, if they wish to do so, licences for Sunday opening, certain requirements have to be fulfilled. They must, first of all, pass an affirmative resolution of the council in favour of licensing for Sunday opening, a resolution which may apply either to the whole of their area or to one part of it, and before they can pass that resolution they have to be satisfied that there is a substantial demand in the area for that Sunday opening. They have to give notice by advertisement that the resolution is to be discussed, in order that those who wish it may make representations to them, and those representations have to be taken into account.
One substantial change hon. Members will find in this Bill from the Bill as it was introduced by Mr. Clynes last year. It is the result of an Amendment which was carried in Standing Committee last year. In future under this Bill it will be necessary in urban areas—which include not only the areas of urban district councils, but also municipal boroughs—with a population of over 10,000, for the urban authority to pass a resolution in favour of Sunday opening, and only if such a resolution is passed will the county be able to grant licences in respect of that area; and, similarly, if that urban area passes a resolution in favour of Sunday 841 opening, then it, will be obligatory on the county council to grant licences in respect of that urban area.
Now, having completed those formalities, the local authorities are in a position to license. They may license all or any of those four types of entertainment to which I referred. One council may license only concerts, another council may license concerts and cinemas, and in doing so they may impose what conditions they like. The only provision is that with regard to cinemas they must impose these two conditions, first, that no employé shall work for more than six days a week, and, secondly, that the profits of the opening shall be devoted to charity. There follows a rather intricate scheme of penalties, with which I need not trouble the House, except to point out that by this Bill the common informer procedure will be swept away, and, whether Sunday opening is licensed in an area or not, the enforcement of the law will in future depend upon the local licensing authority. This Bill does not apply to Scotland, where the law is different from that of England. Nor does it apply to Northern Ireland, because these matters come within their own jurisdiction, and fall to be dealt with by the Northern Ireland Parliament.
Those are, briefly, the contents of the Bill, and I think it is quite apparent—it certainly is to me—from the propaganda. I have received against the Bill, that there are certain very fundamental misconceptions as to its scope and as to its effect. I should like to deal with the three main misconceptions. First of all, it is obviously believed that this Bill deals only with cinemas. It is called a Sunday cinema Bill. It is, of course, the fact that. it touches not only cinemas, but concerts and exhibitions of animate and inanimate objects, and debate. There are many areas where it may be thought that because there are no Sunday cinemas open within their boundaries, they have no interest in this Bill, but they will find that if it fails to pass, the Sunday concerts which have been a feature of their life will come to an end. Wales is one of the chief examples. I have received a number of representations from Welsh societies protesting against the Application of this Bill to Wales, where no cinema ever opens on a Sunday, but not 842 one of those representations even mentions the question of Sunday concerts, which are, in fact, I am informed, a very common feature of Welsh life, and, equally with the Sunday cinemas, will be brought to an end by the failure of this Bill to pass.
The second misconception with which I want to deal is that this Bill is obligatory. It is obvious that some of the people who write to the papers think that, if this House were to pass the Bill, there would be a sudden and immediate opening of cinemas on Sunday all over the country. Inhabitants of country villages who have never seen a cinema even on a weekday fear that the consequence of this Bill will be the desecration of the Sabbath by the opening of a cinema on Sunday. It is clear that this Bill is in no way obligatory, that it is purely permissive, that it is, in fact, hedged round with such stringent conditions that there is no possibility of the Sunday opening of entertainments in any area, unless by the will and at the desire of the inhabitants of the area. Finally, there is the misconception—for misconception I believe it to be—that this Bill represents some great, new departure. It may be quite true that this Bill is new law, but it is old practice. It is quite true that its passage will change the law. It will make something legal that has hitherto been illegal. But it will not enable something to be done that has not been clone in the past. On the contrary, it will enable something to continue which has been done for years, and whatever this Bill may mean to lawyers, I am convinced that the man-in-the-street will regard a change in the law as following not the passage but the rejection of the Bill.
I have finished the task which has been imposed upon me of introducing this Bill, but I realise that, as my name alone appears upon it, I must bear some responsibility for it, and that some part of the odium which attaches to this Bill in certain quarters will fall upon me. I do not object. I voted for Mr. Clynes's Bill last year. I should have voted for this Bill this year, even if it were not my official duty to introduce it, but I know the House, which is always indulgent in these matters, will not grudge me a few minutes in explaining my personal position in regard to this 843 matter. During the course of this Debate we shall have many sincere speeches against this Measure. They will no doubt make many points—the strictly religious point of view, the offence which Sunday entertainments give to the churchman, the desirability of as many people as possible having a common day of rest.
No doubt those points will be answered equally sincerely by supporters of the Bill in the Debate, but there is one point—and one only—with which I want to deal. It will be said that for six days in the week we have to bear the exacting work, the restless pleasures of this mechanical and material world; should not we on the seventh have a rest, not only from the week's labours, but also from its pleasures? Is it not a good thing for us as individuals that for one day a week we should cast aside our growing dependence on externals, and depend on ourselves and our own resources for our rest and for our enjoyment? I agree with that argument. Some years ago, when I was given the opportunity of taking a humble part in the adult education movement, it was that idea which appealed to me, not merely to give men more information, not merely to make men more efficient, but to teach them to use their leisure, to teach them to find their own enjoyments, instead of paying other people to make their enjoyments for them. That is a great idea. It is an idea and an ideal for which many men, churchmen and sceptics alike, have devoted their lives. But if they fail, if the Church cannot create the demand, if education cannot provide the means, then are we to turn to the State to do by coercion what we have failed to do by persuasion? Are we to say that if we cannot teach these people to want to spend their leisure in our way, at least we will get the State to see that they do not spend it in any other? I sympathise with the crusader, but I hesitate at the coercion. And even if we get the right to do it, is it any good? I can see the value in a man so confident of his own resources, so independent of others, that of his own free will he prefers the Sunday at home to the Sunday at a cinema. I do not see any value in a man bored with himself, bankrupt of ideas, vacant, sullen, sitting 844 at home only because the State will not let him go anywhere else.
In conclusion, I have an uneasy feeling that when we discuss in this House the values of contemplation, the quiet Sunday at home, the rest and reflection, are we facing the facts? To me, and to most hon. Members of this House, a quiet Sunday at home means comfortable surroundings, complete privacy, every aid to intellectual enjoyment, while a visit to the cinema may be only an unnecessary surrender to the restlessness of the age. But are there not many thousands of people in this country to whom the Sunday at home does not mean that, to whom it may mean a continuance of the terrible intimacy of overcrowded houses, of the round of household drudgery from which we are exempt, of the drab surroundings which they see every day of their lives, and to whom a visit to the cinema, however meretricious it may be, means at least privacy, warmth, colour, life; and if those people go to the cinema on Sunday evening, I, for one, will not admit that Christianity condemns their action until I am sure that Christianity approves their conditions.
§ Mr. R. J. RUSSELL
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
We have listened to the speech of the Under-Secretary with interest and pleasure. We fully expected that in that speech clarity and courtesy would unite, and they have. It is clear that in this House to-day there is a fairly large measure of agreement upon fundamental things. I find myself to a very large extent, indeed, in complete agreement with the Under-Secretary, and I want to reiterate, in the first place, the sentiment expressed by the hon. Gentleman's predecessor in moving the Bill last year, that we should not in any sense treat this matter in any flippant or light way. The hon. Gentleman has ventured this afternoon to express opinions which, I think, I am justified in criticising. He said that had the last Parliament continued, this Pill would now be an Act. As one of those who for many weeks tried very hard to elicit further information, as he put it, and who at the end of the Parliament was still opposed to the passing of the 845 Bill, I may surely express myself as differing from that opinion. I also differ from him in the further opinion he expressed that he knows of no other method by which the position could be regularised. I suggest that it would have been possible all the way through, if there had been a spirit of compromise, a spirit of give-and-take between the respective sides in this matter, to have come to an agreement, and to have had the whole matter settled long ago.
It is because of fundamental differences that the Measure is still opposed. Let me give one or two instances of those differences. Had an Amendment been accepted in Committee limiting it to London, I do not think that the opposition would have been continued in anything like its strength, and there was considerable possibility that the Bill might have become law. There was a further Amendment in Committee that would have taken from the Bill all possibility of profit. Had that been accepted, I do not think the opposition would have continued to anything like the extent it did, and by now the Bill might have become law. There was the other point, that had a reasonable control of the type of films to be exhibited been assured, the opposition to the Bill would have been considerably less, and by now the Bill might have become law. The hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office said, when he brought this matter forward on the last occasion:I ask that hon. Members shall not regard the subject of this Bill as a trumpery or unimportant matter.No Government could hope to reconcile the divergent views, anda solution can only be found by the collective wisdom of the House."—[0FFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1931; cols. 633 and 637, Vol. 251.]Having given this expression of opinion, he proposed that the Bill be sent away from the collective wisdom of the House and delegated to a Committee upstairs. In that Committee there was such a difference as regards the numbers and the enthusiasm of those representing the different sides that there was only one thing that one side could do, and that was to adopt the tactics which I regret having had to adopt, but which was the only way within Parliamentary procedure in which we could keep up the end for which we stood. I am glad that the House is facing this matter and facing it, 846 I believe, in the serious spirit in which it deserves to be faced.
Let us fully understand our respective positions. It is almost impossible to expect that when we come to the consideration of a question like this names will not be hurled about. One name has been used pretty freely in a somewhat derogatory fashion. I mean the name "Sabbatarian." I do not take up any position such as that generally alleged when that name is used. I am not here to apologise for the Ten Commandments. I doubt very much if any hon. Member is prepared to take up such a position. I am, however, prepared to say that if Moses had never written the Ten Commandments, modern physiology, modern hygiene and modern science would have written indelibly 'across our law, "There must be rest for the individual." The Sabbath, as we understand it, is not something which is imposed from without it is something which is indissolubly bound up with the nature of things. The most restless thing that I know is the heart; yet in every heart beat there is a systole, diastole, and a pause. Therefore, it is no use saying that you are going so far back as the Ten Commandments to deal with this problem. There are others who say that they stand for the Christian Sunday. Once again I am prepared to defend, if necessary and in the right place, the Christian Sunday. I have no doubt that before we have gone far in this Debate we shall have quoted to us that often quoted text:The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.I agree with that both in its working and its full implication, but I do not expect the same speakers to quote that other passage:One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law.I do not suppose that those who oppose this Bill and take up the position of the Christian Sabbath will say that it is wrong to go through the cornfields on Sundays, nor desire to prevent that. The position we take up, and by which we stand, is that nature demands rest, that in Sunday we have an institution which for ages has in the finest possible way provided that rest, and that its destruction must bring about that decay which has always supervened whenever rest has been destroyed. Our fathers said that 847 the highest form of that rest was not only to seek it from ceasing to deal with material things, but to switch over the whole mind and system to spiritual things; and, when they did so, they did it in a wider way than they thought, both theologically and physiologically.
Our first point in opposition to this Bill is that it gives the authority of the House to the commercialisation of Sunday. The Under-Secretary has cited the things which you cannot do if this Bill does not pass. He has not emphasised that it is on the question of making a charge for these things that the Bill is operative. That is the fundamental difference in the position. The Under-Secretary told us what happened in 1909 and after. We have heard that the demand was made to open the cinemas under the guise of charity. They did open, and it was not very long before those who were responsible realised, like the Trojans of old, that the horse they had taken within the ramparts contained within it a carefully trained band of warriors of commercialism, who from that time to this have steadily enlarged their boundary and increased their profits. To-day they unblushingly come forward and tell us that the real reason they want this Bill is for what they are going to get out of it. The "Cinema World" has declared:We will be charged with opening the cinemas on Sunday for commercial reasons. Let us be quite frank on the point and inform our critics that we will open our cinemas on Sunday for the same reason that we open them on Monday, namely, for the provision of legitimate entertainment for which we expect and demand monetary compensation. Taking the annual receipts of the British cinemas at £32,000,000"—and inter alia, I may say that figures I have indicate that in all probability the amount is double that—but I take their own figures—I estimate that the concession of Sunday opening will be worth £7,000,000 a year to the British exhibitors.That is the issue before the House. The "Bioscope" also said:Sunday opening, therefore, is a prize worth winning. It is a prize which will be immediately payable in cash to the whole industry.If anyone suggests that these statements are exaggerated, let him remember what 848 happened on the last occasion when this Bill was before the House. Every effort was made to carry Amendments removing profit but without avail. Take again the vastness of the cinema industry. Does the House realise that 26,000,000 people visit the pictures every week, and that in all probability over £1,300,000 is spent weekly for the privilege. We have been engaged in the last few months in what we call balancing trade. We have passed legislation about it, and there has been much hesitation and heartburning in order that we may stop the export of money as we put it from the country. Yet every year through this industry we export £12,000,000. Surely that is a point that needs some expression from the supporters of the policy which we have been pursuing.
I shall be told that the Bill does not do what I have said it does because it simply remits the question of opening to the local authorities to decide. I have spent the best years of my life in local government, and I have yet to learn that the local authorities make any demand for this. The burdens on the local authorities are enormous, and year by year this House places more burdens upon them. Whenever there is an unpleasant task to be discharged, it is pushed on to them, and everywhere there is a sense that the burdens upon the local authorities are far too much for them. Is the record of the local authorities in this matter good? Is it not because of a misunderstanding on the part of a local authority that we find ourselves: in this position to-day? Had it not been for the action of the greatest local authority in the country, this matter would never have arisen at all.
Where is the demand for this from the people? So far as the evidence goes, there is no demand. There was a unique statement a year ago when we were considering this Bill. The "Daily Herald," which had a leading article dealing with this point of popular demand, said:Will Members of Parliament be fully representative and vote in accordance with the popular desire? What then should be the attitude of the average Member of Parliament in to-night's Division? Is he going into the 'No' Lobby in craven fear of the Sabbatarians, whose numbers are in inverse ratio to their zeal. If Members of Parliament fail, the episode will not be forgotten.849 The Mover of the Second Reading a year ago and the sponsor of the Bill through the Committee stage sought to re-enter this House with much zeal and almost with tears, but he is not here. Whatever might have been thought to be the demand a year ago, there is ample evidence that the people do not want the Bill. There are clear signs that the people of this country and throughout the world are getting somewhat tired of the cinema and of cinema activities. There are signs of a shrinkage in the demand. Whereas Hollywood is in the habit of turning out 700 films a year, we are told that this year they will produce only 400. This Bill is designed to bolster up at a critical time a certain industry. I want to take the House to another aspect of this question. The Bill seeks to give a charter of liberty to one particular enterprise. It is all very well to say there are other things in the Bill, but I do not think anyone will venture to assert that it would ever have been brought forward if it had not been for the cinema—the cinema alone. We have a right, then, to ask "What is the cinema to-day?" I have no hesitation in saying that in the cinema we have one of the greatest instruments ever produced for human education and human culture, but is it being used in those directions? I do not pose as an authority by personal contact. When the cinema was in its infancy I had a considerable amount of contact with those who were developing it, but since it has been grown up I have very largely parted company with it. Still, I am justified in asking the House to consider the evidences that are open to everybody at the present time. One only needs to look at what happens in Hollywood. Whenever I read of Hollywood I am reminded of a woman who went to a certain well and was there reproved by the words "Woman, thou hast had five husbands and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband." Out of such conditions, what is the type of film that is produced? One of the greatest critics of the films uses these words about them:The talking pictures have stripped woman not only of clothing but of morals, decency, truth, fidelity and every civilised quality or virtue. Woman according to the film producer, represents nothing but the most primitive and elemental aspects of sex.850 Another philosophical traveller says:The White man's world as revealed in the films: A world of crooks and half wits, motions and sharpers …. A world where men and women have instincts, desires, and emotions, but no thoughts. A world, in brief, from which all that gives the modern West its power … has been left out.I wish to look at the same question from another angle. There was a film called "The Big House." What has been some of the consequences of that film? In the "Daily Express" on 26th January appeared an article signed by one who had come from Dartmoor immediately after the trouble there. He wrote:Trouble was brewing when I arrived at the prison. I had not been in Dartmoor many hours before I realised that. One of the first questions I was asked by some of the 'old lags' was, 'Have you seen the film "The Big House"?' I had, and without knowing then the motive behind their questions I told them all they wanted to know about the American screen drama of prison mutiny. But the old lags wanted to know so much. They wanted me to go so much into detail. I had to tell them all about the mutiny, how it was carried out …. It was all done in that secret code talk' which nothing can stop.In Birmingham there was an examination into the influences and effects of the films. Here are three examples of what the children say about the films:I have learnt to shoot through my pocket.I have seen boys doing the different robberies.Not long ago … Picture House showed an item every week about confidence tricksters which learned me dodges used by people who make their living defrauding innocent people.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
I will come to that point in a moment. I am not aware that they are prohibited at any time. Next I inquired into criminal statistics from the same angle. I have the latest returns from the Home Office, where one would expect to find the effects of this type of thing reflected, I think, in the details of misdemeanour and violence, sexual cases, burglary, etc. I find that as regards malicious misdemeanour there has been an increase from an average of 446 during four years to 1,251, in sexual crime an increase from an average of 879 during four years to 1,871. In defilement 851 of girls there is an increase from 184 to 402. In housebreaking there was an increase from an average of under 4,000 to just over 10,000, and in shopbreaking, from an average of under 5,000 to just under 12,000. On page 6 of the book there is this remarkable statement:Two-thirds of all the persons found guilty of crime are of ages below 30, and two-fifths of the gross total are aged below 24. Only seven in 100 are over 50, and even persons of ages between 30 and 50 constitute only one in four. This transfer of the preponderance of crime to the young continues year by year, in spite of the fact that the numbers of the maturer and aged elements in the population are considerably swollen by increased expectation of life, while the numbers of the young are depleted by falls in the birth-rate.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am sure the hon. Member will point out to the House that the increase in crime has been greater in the North, where cinemas are not open on Sundays, than in the South.
§ Mr. RUSSELL
We are talking now about extending the influence of the cinema from six days a week to seven days. I do not know that that entirely answers the point. I am not here to blame the cinema for all I have pointed out. All I have to say is that there are evidences that crime has increased in those phases of it which are most often depicted on the screen, and among people of an age when they are most influenced by the pictures. Anyone who is not alarmed at the world moral outlook must be sadly unimpressionable. I do not blame the cinema for all this increase of crime, but I do say that with such an outlook this is not the time either to increase the knowledge of or the incentive to further crime. In this country we spend £70,000,000 a year from rates and taxes upon education. The purpose of that education is to develop character. Yet we spend almost as much in allowing pictures to be shown which definitely do harm to the formation of character. To-day there are a vast number of people who are looking on at this House. They are anxious not for dividends and not for revenue, but for more imperishable things. They are concerned with the character of future generations. They are asking the question, "What are we going to do?" An anxious 852 country returned this Parliament to face a national crisis, to stop national degeneration if possible and to check the tendency to decay. Sunday has through the years been the symbol of the things which will do this. What the nation requires to-day is not more frivolity but more thrift, and for this reason we look to this House to reject this Measure and stop the drift in the direction which I have indicated.
§ Sir GERVAIS RENTOUL
The argument of the Under-Secretary in introducing this Measure seemed to me, and I believe to the majority of Members, to be so comprehensive and so well developed that it merited a much more complete reply than has been given in the speech of the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. J. Russell). A somewhat curious inconsistency seemed to underlie his speech, because although he based his objections to this Bill on high moral and religious grounds he admitted at the outset that the previous Measure might have been passed into law if there had been a willingness to adopt a certain compromise with regard to confining its application to London, eliminating profit and endeavouring to obtain better films. I should have thought that if the objection to the Bill were based on high principle it would not, indeed, ought not to, admit of any compromise. Further, he seemed to be under some misapprehension as to the proposals in this Bill. He suggested that it had been inspired and was being supported by the cinema industry in order that they might make vastly increased profits. I understand that under the provisions of this Bill that point is safeguarded as far as it can be, and it is to be a condition of the licence that a cinema is not to obtain a profit therefrom. He further suggested, though I suppose it was not an argument he desired us to take seriously, that one of the reasons, or the chief reason, why the right hon. Gentleman 'mho introduced this Bill on the last occasion is no longer with us is to be found in his connection with that Bill. I would not venture to compare myself with the right hon. Gentleman, but I spoke and voted for this Bill, and I was pressed a good deal during the election as to whether I would give any pledge. I consistently refused to do so, and, in spite of that, I was returned by a vastly increased majority.
853 This is one of the rare occasions, which we all welcome, when the House is permitted to give a free vote apart from any tactical or party considerations. Therefore, I am glad to have a few moments in which to explain the reasons why I support this Bill, in spite of the fact that, like many other hon. Members, I have received many expressions of opposition to it from constituents, and comparatively few representations in its favour. I am satisfied, nevertheless, that the protests which most of us have received against this Bill do not truly represent public opinion, but that they are an indication of a well-organised, vigorous propaganda on the part of a minority. I have always felt the strongest resentment to this kind of pressure which we all experience on these occasions in the avalanche of printed postcards which has descended upon us. I hope that other hon. Members do the same as I do and never look at them at all, but put them straight away into the wastepaper basket. They do not represent the feeling or the desire of the majority, and even if they do, surely this Bill provides adequate machinery for putting that matter to the test. It would be the duty of the local authority, before granting a licence, to take certain steps in order to test public feeling and public opinion. I will go further and say that, even if I thought there was a majority of the people opposed to this Bill, I should still reserve to myself the right to vote in its favour, because I believe that the majority would be wrong.
We all in this House have the right to act as public representatives, to express our own opinion, and not regard ourselves merely as delegates from our constituencies. I hope that, whatever views hon. Members may express, or whatever course they make take in regard to the provisions of this Bill, they will not allow themselves to be influenced by any of this organised propaganda to which we have been subjected. I listened to the previous discussions that have taken place on this matter with the closest attention, and I am still entirely unconvinced by the case which has been put by the opponents of the Measure. You cannot make people moral or religious by Act of Parliament, and each person must exercise his or her own judgment in regard to questions like this. If a man thinks it is wrong to go to a cinema he will not go, and we shall all respect his 854 point of view; but, if a person thinks it is not wrong, I fail to see why he should be prevented from going by any Act of Parliament. There is only one objection that I think merits serious consideration at this stage of our proceedings, and that is, as the Under-Secretary has said, the question of principle. The details can surely be argued out and discussed in Committee much more properly than on the Floor of the House. I can fully appreciate the point of view of those who oppose this Measure as a question of principle, and say it is morally wrong and contrary to divine law to do this thing, but, apart from that, the arguments which have been put forward on previous occasions appear very largely to contradict that contention.
I suppose that no one in this House or in this country desires to see the English Sunday lose its special character, although I often believe that we are apt to talk in a somewhat arrogant spirit when we speak about the Continental Sunday. We seem to claim a special virtue to ourselves which I am not entirely sure that we always merit. Certainly no one desires to see Sunday in this country commercialised to the extent that it is in many foreign cities. But is it not absurd to suggest that the opening of cinemas or theatres on Sunday evening would involve Anything of that kind? It is equally ridiculous to talk about the commercialisation of the Sabbath. If the opening of cinemas would commercialise the Sabbath, then what about railway excursions, char-a-banc trips, the unnecessary opening of restaurants and teashops, the production of newspapers, and innumerable other matters of that kind which occur on Sunday? All those things create unnecessary labour, and, if this particular proposal is wrong on moral grounds, then all those other things I have mentioned are equally wrong, and ought to receive similar condemnation. Those are activities which are sanctioned by public opinion. I do not think anyone would deny that those things involve unnecessary labour, but they do not necessarily involve a seven-day week. I am sure that we should all like to see imposed safeguards that would prevent anything of that kind, and that is a danger which can be guarded against. The seven-day week is actually guarded against in one of the Clauses of this Bill.
855 We have been told, and will no doubt be told again, that the opening of cinemas on Sundays would interfere with religious worship. Surely, when we remember that cinemas in practice have only been opened in the evenings, and presumably will continue only to be opened in the evenings, that is a very weak argument. It is a poor outlook for religion in this country if people are to be driven to church through excess of boredom. I know a good many Churchmen who do not hold that view. An interesting manifesto was issued by the Council of Christian Ministers on Social Questions, and it was signed by clergymen of all denominations. We are told that to carry this Bill would be contrary to Divine law, but on that matter we must each judge for ourselves. I contend that the opening of cinemas on Sunday evenings is distinctly beneficial. I believe that it keeps thousands and thousands of people off the streets and out of the public-houses. That is not only my opinion, but it is endorsed by the evidence of many chief constables in different parts of the country who have had great experience. One of them has said that the streets have been more orderly and licensed houses have not been so well patronised as they were before the cinemas were open on Sunday evenings. That is an expression of opinion to which we ought to attach considerable weight, because nothing can be worse, from the point of view of morality, than aimless wandering about the streets at night. After all, to many people, particularly those who live in industrial areas, Sunday is the only day for recreation, and it seems to me sheer hypocrisy to condemn cinemas, while Sunday excursions And all those other activities which I have mentioned are being carried on, and sometimes participated in even by the very people who are opposing this Measure.
We have been told by the hon. Member for Eddisbury that there is no demand for this Bill, and he says that he has seen no demand for it. I believe that there is a very real demand for the Measure. It is not a Measure to satisfy any idea of commercial greed. Personally, I have no interest of any kind in the cinema except as a member of the 856 ordinary public, but I do know that millions of people—this is a fact—go to cinemas, and have been accustomed to go to them every Sunday evening for years. Is it suggested that they only go to cinemas because they are open, and not because they want to go? The Bill will test whether there is that demand, and it should go some distance towards satisfying my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury on that point because it will put that matter beyond all doubt.
The hon. Member for Eddisbury devoted a considerable part of his criticisms to a general condemnation of the character of the films that are shown in the cinemas. That appears to me to be entirely irrelevant. I believe that many of the films shown in this country have a distinctly demoralising and pernicious influence. I would very much like to see a more strict censorship. I was somewhat interested to notice when the Under-Secretary was speaking that he said that one of the conditions to be considered, when a licence is being granted for the opening of the cinema on Sunday, is the character of the films to be shown. I think that is a condition which might be much more strictly carried out than has been the case hitherto. There does not, so far as I am aware, appear to have been any distinction drawn between the kind of film that may be shown on Sunday and the kind of film that may be shown on week-days. The opening of cinemas on Sunday provides an opportunity for a much stricter supervision with regard to the nature of the films. But, after all, a general attack of that kind on the cinema as an institution is surely not relevant to the particular matter which is now under discussion.
The Under-Secretary, in moving the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill, did not refer specifically to the question of the theatre. I have no doubt that that point will be raised in the course of this discussion, because it is extremely difficult to draw any logical difference between the position of the cinema and the position of the theatre. I for one should be prepared, if the point were raised, to give equal treatment to both, subject to the safeguard that the theatre would have to close compulsorily on one day per week so as to avoid the seven-day week. I do not think that there 857 is the same public demand for the opening of theatres on Sunday evening as there is in the case of the cinema. In other words, I believe that the cinemas give adequate facilities for dramatic entertainment, but I do not think that would be fair to the theatre which is in a position of very great difficulty due to severe competition, and it is only right to the theatre, if such a demand were put forward, that it should be sympathetically considered. For these reasons I support the Bill, as I have supported these proposals on two previous occasions, without any hesitation. I support it because I believe that it is based on a general principle of liberty, and because I believe that it is consistent with the desires and wishes of the majority of the people of this country.
§ Mr. GORDON MACDONALD
In rising to oppose the Bill, I should like to say that there were a few sentences in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Renton]) with which I entirely agree. I agree that Members of this House ought to resist and resent every kind of intimidation on every question, whether it be by postcard or by leaders in the various sections of the Press. I also agree that to-day every Member of the House ought to express his personal convictions on this question, and ought not to be driven by any pressure from any direction, whether inside or outside his division, against what he considers to be the wiser course. I agree, too, that you cannot make people moral by compulsion. If I thought that the opposition to this Bill was based on an attempt to compel people to be moral, I am afraid that I should be in the "Aye" and not in the "No" Lobby to-night. Further, I think that the hon. and learned Member's remarks on the question of stricter censorship are very timely and appropriate. If ever there was a time for a stricter censorship of films, it is when we are considering the question of allowing films to be shown on a Sunday.
As regards the speech of the Under-Secretary in moving the Second Reading, it may be an impertinence, but I feel compelled to pay him a sincere compliment on the manner in which he presented the Bill. Every sentence of his speech bore the stamp of sincerity, and, 858 what is more, I find the same thing throughout the Bill. I fail to find anywhere in the Bill, having read every syllable of it, anything but a sincere attempt to deal with an admitted difficulty. I was very much impressed by the concluding words of the Under-Secretary's speech. If there is anything that is of vital importance to this and every other country, it is the use which the younger people make of their leisure. On that depends the future of the country. If this or any other country fails, it will fail because its young people have refused to make a right and proper use of their leisure.
I do not think that the opposition to the Bill from outside has been as wise and discreet as it might have been. I do not like to see anyone allow his zeal and enthusiasm for a cause to run away with his judgment and discretion, and I do not like being informed by the opponents of the Bill, that, if I do not take a certain course, the Almighty will deal with me. I claim to know the Almighty as well as any opponent of the Bill and I do not think that He will condemn me if I act in the way suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft, that is to say, if I act in a conscientious manner and register my vote in the way that I think right. I do not believe that, in whichever Lobby I vote, the Almighty will deal with me in the way suggested by some of the opponents of the Bill.
I did not think that the Under-Secretary was quite as happy as he might have been when he was dealing with the fact that this is not a Government Measure. He seemed to shelter behind the fact that the Bill introduced by Mr. Clynes last year, which was almost the same as this Bill, was not a Government Measure. The hon. Gentleman knows, however, that there is a slight difference between last year and this year. He knows that the Prime Minister of the Labour Government was a man who was very strict as regards constitutional practice, and that the Prime Minister of the Labour Government, when he could not get a united Cabinet behind a Measure, resisted the bringing in of the Measure by the Cabinet. But the Prime Minister of the present Government does not hold the same opinion. As the hon. 859 Gentleman knows, the Prime Minister of the National Government believes in a little laxity, a little change, as he has shown within the last few months. Dealing with a Prime Minister who resists any change in constitutional practice is a vastly different matter from dealing with a Prime Minister who agrees with such a change. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the same practice!"] That is the trouble. The Government have said that unanimity in the Cabinet is not necessary for the bringing in of a Government Measure—that they can bring in a Government Measure when there is disunity in the Cabinet, and can even allow the minority in the Cabinet to speak and vote against that Government Measure. That being so, what was there to prevent this Measure from being brought in as a Government Measure? Surely there is a majority one way or the other in the Cabinet. I do not blame the Under-Secretary; he does not enjoy the privileges of Cabinet discussion, though I think that he will before long, and that he is entitled to do so: but the case that he put forward on this point was not a, very strong one. If a majority of the Members of the National Government believe this Bill to be a right method of dealing with the difficulty, it ought to have been a Government Measure.
Nor did I think that the hon. Gentleman was quite happy, although he put forward a very sound case, on the question of local option. The question of local option presents peculiar difficulties. In my Division there are five urban district councils, every one of which has in its area a number of cinemas, and I can see one of these councils, owing to its political complexion, granting a licence for a cinema to open on Sunday, while an adjacent one refuses any licence. The cinemas are very near together, and I can see this question being made an election cry, and shutting out far more important social questions. My view is that on this question we in this House ought to accept the responsibility of deciding for the country, rather than leave local councils to be pestered to death in regard to it.
We have to realise that it is impossible to leave out of consideration the consequences of passing this Bill. To my mind, it brings before the House a definite issue: Should Sunday be different 860 from any other day of the week? I do not see how we can dodge that issue. It may be said that the Bill only deals with cinemas, but there is more behind it. The hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft has said—and I very much admire him for saying it—that, like many other Members, he would, if this Bill went through, support the granting to theatres of the same privilege as the cinemas. I am not very fond either of theatres or cinemas, but there are certain forms of entertainment which I enjoy, and I do not think that any Member who supports the inclusion of certain forms of entertainment in the Bill can shut out other entertainments. Therefore, I say that the Bill would result in a drastic change as regards the present Sabbath. I know that there are Members of this House, and even on this bench, who say that whatever is not prohibited on a week-day ought not to be prohibited on a Sunday. I quite appreciate that view, and anyone who holds it should give wholehearted support to this Bill. Some of us, however, do not hold that view, but think that it will be a backward step if the House and the country decide that Sunday shall be dealt with like all other days.
No one who knows me will charge me with being a Sabbatarian in any sense of the term, but we have to realise that there are things to-day in this country which many would resent if they took place on a Sunday. The question for us all is: Will the passing of this Bill put us in a stronger position to resist any further change in the direction of making Sunday more like other days, or will it weaken our resisting power? The Under-Secretary put that question very fairly. In whichever Lobby we vote to-night, we have to ask ourselves whether, if and when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the House will be in a stronger position to resist any further encroachment on our Sunday. If I thought that it would, I should be found in the "Aye" Lobby to-night, but, because I feel to the depths of my soul that it will not, I shall vote in the "No" Lobby. We cannot afford to lessen the difference between Sunday and the rest of the week.
I felt the force of the Under-Secretary's argument when he said that it is very 861 easy for those who live in decent circumstances, and who may have a wireless set in the house, to say that cinemas ought to be closed simply because cinemas offer no attraction to them, owing to the good circumstances in which they are placed.
If I thought that the making of this position legal would give more real pleasure to any citizen of this country than would be given otherwise, I should feel very much inclined to support the Bill. I do not think, however, that it is wise for Members of the House to take up the position that those who oppose this Bill are antediluvians, though they may appear to be so. We have to realise that a vital question is at stake, namely, the continuance of the English Sunday. I do not mind people of materialistic and atheistic tendencies decrying a religious attitude, but I do feel that our standard in this country is the highest in the world, and that is largely due to the fact that no other country has the same regard for the Sabbath day as we have.
I should never think, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will think no longer, that, because only his name appears on this Bill, he will be marked down in history as the man who led us astray. Oil the contrary, I think that he has done a wise and courageous thing, since he believes this to be the right step to take. To-night he will find me—a Lancashire man like himself—in the opposite Lobby to him for one reason only, and that is that I am not satisfied that by taking this step we shall strengthen our power of resistance to the present tendency to make Sunday like the rest of the week. I am a trade unionist, and, as a trade unionist, I fear this tendency. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Lowestoft that much work is done on Sunday, but that is not a very convincing argument in favour of more being done. I agree with the hon. and learned Member, also, that our action to-day will decide what is to happen in the future in regard to other spheres of entertainment; but I should like to ask the Under-Secretary, or whoever replies, whether, if this Bill becomes law, it will mean that rigid action will be taken against everybody who is not included under the Act? Does it mean that any 862 attempt to open any other place of amusement will be dealt with rigidly?
What are we doing? We are making a concession to the law-breakers. We say: "A certain number of people have thought it wise to break the law for a number of years. We will legalise their action, and we will allow them to continue to do it. The cinemas have refused to abide by the law. Therefore, we make them a concession. The theatres have abided by the law. Therefore, they must not enjoy the concession which the lawbreakers get." I believe this is an attempt on the part of supporters of the Bill to do what they think is in the interest of the country, but I disagree with that contention, and that is the only basis of my opposition. I think it is a wrong step, a false step, and a dangerous step, and, because I fear the consequences of the Bill, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. C. T. WILSON
I should not have ventured to make a maiden speech in this very important Debate had it not been for the fact that I was chairman of the Entertainments Committee of the London County Council when the circumstances arose which led to the introduction of the Bill. For many years past it has been the practice of the London County Council to raise no objection to Sunday concerts and cinema exhibitions providing certain conditions are fulfilled. The most important of them is that the profits of the entertainment shall be paid to charity. That practice went unchallenged until a body called the Entertainments Protection Association approached the council with a view to securing what was described as equal treatment for the theatres, but what on examination turned out to be a demand that the theatres should be permitted to open on Sundays on the usual commercial profit-making basis. That demand was rejected by the council, quite rightly as I think, and in consequence the Entertainments Protection Association started the proceedings against the council which established that its practice was illegal and that Sunday entertainments to which the public are admitted on payment of money on the Lord's Day are a breach of the Lord's Day Observance Act, 1780.
The proceedings went to the Court of Appeal, and there it was held in effect that, while charity might cover a multi- 863 tude of sins, it could not excuse a breach of the law. Right through these proceedings the attitude of the Entertainments Protection Society was that of a legal dog in the manger. Because they could not open their theatres for profit on Sundays, they took steps to prevent the cinemas opening for charity. These proceedings took place in December, 1930, and in February last year I led a deputation to the then Home Secretary, Mr. Clynes, which was representative of all parties on the London County Council, and they were unanimous in their desire to promote legislation which would legalise what the council has been doing. The council was not by any means the only law breaker when the trouble began. The Lord Chamberlain persistently broke the law in permitting entertainments in theatres under his control on Sundays, and we have heard from the Under-Secretary that in more than 90 provincial areas cinemas were open on Sunday without let or hindrance from the local authority. Further, successive Governments have not scrupled to collect Entertainments Duty from entertainments which they knew or ought to have known, were illegal.
It is very necessary that something should be done to meet the position that will arise when the temporary Act expires in October, and this Bill enables local authorities to impose the conditions which have been for many years imposed in London by the county council. There is a Clause securing for the worker one day's rest in seven, and another which allows the local authorities to impose the charity condition. In London the licensees of cinemas are required to produce duly certified balance sheets to the council and, on their receipt, the council requires the licensee to pay over the whole profits, as fixed by the council, to certain duly approved charities. It may he asked why the cinema proprietors open their cinemas on Sunday if they have to pay over the whole of the profits to charity. The answer is that the council allows them to charge expenses properly incurred in giving the entertainment, including a seventh of the rent and rates. To that extent Sunday opening is an advantage to the cinema proprietor.
The amount at present paid by the cinemas of London to hospitals, infant 864 welfare centres, clinics and such like, amounts to about £3,000 a week. I need not remind the House that, in a time of financial stringency such as the present, it would be a serious matter for the charities if the Bill were defeated and cinemas shut down, and they had to find this large sum of money elsewhere. As recently as last Saturday the London hospitals and charities held a meeting at which they passed a resolution welcoming this Bill and thanking the cinematograph theatres for the financial support which they had received by way of this charitable contribution. Further, according to information possessed by the council, over 400,000 people in London attended Sunday entertainments of one kind or another. On a wet Sunday evening, particularly, this large body of people, many of whom are living under conditions which are not exactly ideal for a pleasant Sunday evening, attend these cinema entertainments and, although everyone is agreed that it would be more desirable that they should go to places of worship, still Parliament must face the position as it is.
It seems extraordinary that the only place of entertainment licensed by the State to open on Sunday should be the public-house, and still more remarkable that many Members of the House who usually support the cause of temperance and local option are in opposition to the passage of a Bill which establishes the principle of local option as regards certain Sunday amusements and which is a valuable contribution to the cause of temperance, at any rate, as far as London is concerned. In London the public-houses are open on Sunday, but the rules of management imposed by the county council forbid any intoxicating drink to be sold or consumed in cinemas either on Sunday or on any other day of the week. For these reasons, I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I have the great misfortune to differ from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Anyone who is opposing the Bill must recognise that he has indeed a formidable case to meet when it is presented by my hon. Friend. I agree with the hon. Member opposite that the subject is full of difficulty and complexity, and I am by no means clear 865 in my own mind what I should do if I were a dictator, although I shall have one or two suggestions to make as to an alternative to these proposals. The subject is difficult, as the hon. Member said, partly because one industry, it is true with the assistance of the London County Council, has taken upon itself to break the law. My hon. Friend, who has so ably and with so much clarity and candour stated the case for the Bill from the point of view of those who created the emergency, has advanced some admirable reasons for supporting it. It is because there are such admirable reasons for supporting it that those who are opposing it must, at any rate, realise that they must be prepared with something a little more reasonable, I was going to say, and up-to-date than mere negative opposition to any change in the law as it exists in the Lord's Day Observance Act. I think the practice which my hon. Friend described originally arose because it was thought that the cinemas might be allowed to open on Sundays as it was an industry that employed comparatively little labour. I suspect that the London County Council would never have allowed cinemas to open if it had been realised that a large cinema probably employs rather more people while it is open than a theatre does during the same hours of business. But, whatever the reason may be, it is certain that the cinema industry is now a very large addition to the volume of Sunday labour.
It is said that those of us who are opposing the Bill are mere Sabbatarians, and killjoys. Those epithets appear with unfailing regularity in some organs of the Press with reference to the Bill. I spent a great part of my life, until I lost the power to do so, in playing games, and I have spent a considerable part of it in making it easy for other people to play games, and I entirely disclaim any suggestion that those who are opposing the Bill are killjoys. But the question is not to be decided by arguments of that sort. I recognise the moderation of many of those who are advocating the Bill. There was an admirable leading article in the "Times" newspaper a day or two ago presenting the case in its most attractive aspect, but there is, in fact, an honest difference of opinion about the Bill, and it would be, indeed, 866 unreasonable on the part of any of us not to recognise the weight of the arguments which have been and can be presented. Some of them, I think, are not so sound. I do not think the argument mentioned by my hon. Friend behind me, the case of the hospitals, is a very good one. I do not altogether understand the attitude of the hospitals. If, as some people think, cinemas are necessary to a bright Sunday, so, I understand, some people think lotteries are necessary to a bright week-day. The hospitals, apparently, would repudiate the assistance to be derived from lotteries, but would accept the assistance to be derived from Sunday cinemas. I do not altogether understand the consistency of the hospitals, and I think it is a great pity that the question has been to some extent complicated by the introduction of these questions.
There have been complaints about the way the opposition has been organised. I do not attach any particular weight to the mere volume or multiplication of postcards, especially if they are printed and distributed. It would be a very poor case that could not get up a large outdoor meeting or a respectable show of postcards. All the same, it is proper that people should by any means show their opinions, and there is nothing objectionable in people who hold deep convictions attempting, by whatever means they think proper, to bring the weight of their opinions to bear upon Members of the House.
I observe a strong disposition to criticise the opponents of the Bill outside the House because they have taken pains to inform their representatives of what public opinion is outside the House. The words "substantial demand" are used in the Bill. No licence is to be granted unless the local council is satisfied that there is a substantial demand. Why should we wait until the Bill is passed before we ascertain whether there is a substantial demand for the opening of cinemas. Suppose the proposal was to abolish the weekly half-holiday. Would it not be proper for public opinion to organise itself in any way it thought fit so as to convince the House that it was not a proposal to be tolerated? Why should public opinion outside the House 867 not be organised, even with fanaticism if you like, in order to convince the House that it is just as objectionable to abolish the Sunday as the weekly half-holiday? We have made great advances in the last few years in the direction of providing more leisure for the public, such as the weekly half-holiday, and early closing, of which the great protagonist, Captain Larking, died a few days ago. He was a convinced opponent of this Bill. Why? Because he took the same ground as he did when he advocated early closing and the weekly half-holiday. Anything that deprives even a small portion of the population of its opportunity for leisure, recreation and worship is an affront to those most in need of those advantages if we can preserve them for them.
It is our duty as parliamentary representatives to listen to the voice of our constituents. We each have our own way of estimating the value of the opinions expressed. There is no doubt about it that in the country there is deep and sincere anxiety about the Bill. You may, in the atmosphere in which we live in this great metropolis, with its horrid blot of over-development in this part of England—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, this version is a wen as Cobbett used to call it, a blot upon the face of the land. In the atmosphere in which we live in London it is very easy to under-estimate the anxiety which people feel all over the country, and particularly in the smaller towns, about the provisions of the Bill. It is a fact, I believe, that even in towns of 50,000 inhabitants and over, only 12 out of the 100 or more towns which might have opened their cinemas, have availed themselves of the opportunity of following the example of the London County Council. I believe—and there is no reason why we should be ashamed of it—that religious sentiment is at the bottom of a good deal of the opposition. Why should religious sentiment always be regarded as something of which to be ashamed? The national character has been formed largely by education and training in the true religious sentiment which has entitled this country to respect, quite independently of churches or denominations. Although I speak with proper humility and respect for others, I am proud to think that religious sentiment in this country is still 868 strong enough to inform public opinion about the ultimate effect of this Measure.
I am in doubt altogether how to regard the Bill. I should be very much interested to hear whether my hon. Friend who moved it regards it as a Bill to remove restrictions upon Sunday amusements or to increase the restrictions upon Sunday amusements. An hon. Gentleman opposite asked a very pertinent question: Are the powers under the Bill to be used to repress amusements other than those mentioned in Clause 1 of the Bill? If so, I imagine that there are a great many people who are supporting the Bill who will be a little dismayed. It is a little inconsistent to say that cinemas ought to be opened because it is wrong to restrict others on Sunday, and yet to say somebody else's amusement must be restricted. My hon. Friend seems to be in danger of falling between two stools. Is he in favour of complete liberty of amusement even if it involves more labour on Sunday, or is he in favour of restricting the amount of amusement to which the public may be entitled I only mention that fact so as to try to persuade hon. Members that it is not true to say that we who are opposing the Bill are in favour of restrictions any more than he is. He is in favour of drawing the line at one point; we are in favour of drawing the line at another. There are some who, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Sir G. Rentoul), would draw the line at a still further point. The whole question is as to where at is wise and necessary to stop in this matter of the multiplication of activities upon Sundays. I do not know why cinemas have been selected. Have they such a specially attractive and refining influence that on the first day of the week they should be chosen for an exposition of all that is best and brightest in our English life?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Yes, but there is no money in museums, or even in concerts. My hon. Friend is giving me an opportunity of saying that if the Lord's Day Observance Act, with its obsolete machinery and common informer, was proposed to be repealed, I should support the repeal. Whatever some associated with me might say about me, I 869 should support a Measure to make it lawful for museums and places of that sort to be opened, and for a genuine concert to be held, but not an entertainment of a theatrical character which immediately involves a great deal of labour. You may tell me that I am inconsistent. There is a great distinction in principle as well as in fact between a mere musical concert and an entertainment which involves a great supply of labour. It is not a question of the difference between profane and sacred music. All sacred music is good music, but then that is not an industry like the cinema industry. It will never reach the great proportions which the exploitation of the cinema will reach, and has reached at the present time.
I was dealing with the character of the cinema. Why should it be selected? I observe that a well-known actor who recently went to America was asked what he was going to do at Hollywood, and he replied, "Oh, the usual sex stuff." This is a Bill to enable the cinema, which cannot raise above the usual sex stuff, to open on Sunday. [Interruption.] I am not making a rhetorical statement; I am stating a fact. Even my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lowestoft has deplored the character of the entertainment afforded by the cinemas. No one would rejoice more heartily than I, if the Bill is to go through, if it results in an improvement in the character of the entertainment. I say in this part of my argument that if life is so drab that it requires the cinema to be opened on Sunday, why stop at the cinema? There are hundreds and thousands of people who take no interest in the cinema. If they live in slums and either do not want to go to the cinema or cannot afford to do so, why should we not open other opportunities of entertainment to them, however much Sunday labour it involves? [An HON. MEMBER: "The dance hall!"] Yes, the dance hall, boxing entertainments or the theatres. I cannot understand the argument which says that slum life is so miserable and wretched that you must open cinemas to relieve it if you do not go the whole distance and say, "We will provide as many entertainments as possible, provide a sort of narcotic for those whom we allow, in our folly, to live in those miserable surronnd- 870 ings." I believe that the Bill cannot be discussed on lines of this sort.
Clause 2 of the Bill shows the anxiety my hon. Friend feels about the effect of the Bill. The licence is to be subject to conditions. Nobody is to be allowed to work more than six days in a week. Does anybody suppose that that is a condition which can be enforced? I believe I am right in saying that there has been some attempt to enforce it even in present conditions. I have a letter here from a cinema manager of 20 years' standing in one of our seaside places, informing me that for 20 years he has not had an opportunity of attending with any member of his family at public worship because if he avoided the duties which his employers put upon him, he would lose his position. You may make that condition if you like, but you will not be able to enforce it. Supposing you can enforce it, are we going to say that there is no difference between giving a man a Sunday with his family and giving him a Wednesday or a Thursday?
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will the learned Attorney-General explain how it was that the man he mentioned was unable to attend service, in view of the fact that no cinemas are open in the morning?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My Noble Friend may have the letter as long as he respects the signature and the place from which it comes. The writer states that he and the other employés are required to attend the cinema on a Sunday morning to prepare it for the entertainments which begin later. That is his explanation. My Noble Friend may shake his head, but an ounce of fact is worth any amount of theory. I was pointing out that my hon. Friend shows his anxiety in connection with Clause 2. Those of us who have availed ourselves, as most of us have, of the opportunities of recreation and association with our families, with our children on the first day of the week, would not think that we had had a fair exchange if we had as substitute a Wednesday for a Sunday when the children were at school or the older members of the family were at work, and the turmoil of the day was different from the peace and the quiet of the first day to which we had been accustomed. Therefore, I do not very much mind whether the conditions in Clause 2 can be enforced or not. It is not the same thing 871 which you are offering those who will be required to give their labour.
The question of Sunday labour is a growing problem and I shall be very much surprised if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is not faced, sooner or later, with the necessity of introducing legislation to restrict Sunday labour. It will be a question of restricting Sunday labour with one hand and increasing it with the other. I have here details of a census taken in the Borough of Islington on Sunday, 7th February, 1932, when the Islington Chamber of Commerce found that 1,556 retail shops were opened on Sunday, not merely provision shops, but 81 drapers and haberdashers, and 44 radio and gramophone shops. Imagine the amount of dismay on the part of the retail traders of Islington when they see that they must either lose their customers to their competitors or follow suit. You are gradually by this process accustoming the people of this country to think that there is no difference between Sunday and other days in the week. I can imagine the anxiety of hon. Members who specially claim to represent the interests of the working class when they see step by step one of the greatest and brightest possessions of the working class taken from them on the day we call Sunday.
I think that I see in the Bill local option in its worst aspect. The hon. Gentleman opposite has elaborated the point, and I do not wish to dwell upon it. I notice that the council have to be satisfied that there is a substantial demand before it grants a licence. If any of us hold a conviction deeply we have no difficulty in thinking that there is a substantial agreement with our opinion. I do not think that if any local council is determined to open on Sunday it will find any difficulty in saying, "We are so satisfied that there is a substantial demand that we shall open cinemas on Sunday." That, I venture to think, is a face-saving provision in this Clause of the Bill. How can you ascertain what is a substantial demand? If Sunday is captured by the cinema industry, imagine how the activities of that great and powerful industry will, quite naturally, properly and legally, be transferred to the big industrial centres all over the country. One by one there will be mass 872 attacks so as to make it appear that there is a substantial demand, and, instead of electing councillors to look after housing needs, or the economy of a district, or the proper administration of public money, we shall have people elected because they are for or against cinemas opening on Sunday. There is a great deal to be said for the Bill, but I think it would be very much better with anything in the way of local option left out of it. Let the Bill, if it be a Bill to open cinemas on Sundays, face the issue on the ground that it is proper to provide amusements for the people on Sunday, and then we shall know what the issue is.
It is said—I saw the statement in one of to-night's newspapers—that if this Bill does not pass we shall have a duller Sunday. It only requires a little greyhound racing started, and a few boxing entertainments held to enable the same newspaper to say: "Do not suppress these entertainments. We shall have a duller Sunday if they are stopped."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Even if they do, that does not affect my argument. I am pointing out that the people who support this Bill outside the House are not in favour of such activities as greyhound racing, boxing fights, public shows of all kinds on Sundays. This argument about a duller Sunday is an appeal to prejudice and not to reason. It is no use saying that because cinemas have done this for 20 years, Sundays will be duller than they have been for those 20 years if we suppress them. I do not condemn those who hold the view that this country ought to have brighter Sundays, but I do not agree with them. There are those who think that Sunday should be made a day to attract the foreigner, the cosmopolitan pleasure seeker, and that London should be organised so that those who grow restless and who cannot find satisfaction in anything but excitement shall find all they want on Sundays. That is a possible ideal, a possible view of Sunday, but it is not my view. I do not believe it is the view of the race, and I do not believe that it is the view of this House. Many hon. Members, perhaps all hon. Members, find it difficult to vouchsafe to anyone else 873 their most sacred, inmost feelings. We none of us like to lay bare the place where faith sits enthroned, but I will be greatly daring. I say of those men of our race who are accustomed to think of this day as the Lord's Day, if we admit to ourselves that it is too obsolete or too old-fashioned for modern England, we shall have lost one of the few glimpses vouchsafed to us of the heavenly city.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I intervene in the Debate to deal with two principles. First of all, there is a strong feeling in Scotland, and particularly in the North of Scotland, against the Bill. That feeling is organised and vocal, but, unlike the Attorney-General, I do not hold the opinion that hon. Members of this House should vote as their constituents direct them. I think that hon. Members have a duty to take into consideration what they themselves believe to be in the best interests of the country as a whole, and I for one deprecate very strongly the hurricane postcard campaign which it seems to me is intended more to terrorise than to persuade Members of this. House, as was the case before the last Bill and as has been the case in connection with the present Bill.
The further reason why I intervene is because I believe that some hon. Friends of mine who are agreed upon the Sunday opening of cinemas are going to oppose it and vote against it to-night because they disagree with the principle of local option. I want to address an appeal particularly to them. I think that in that attitude they are mistaken. I dislike the principle of local option, as I think the majority of the House do, but I am bound to point out that as far as drink is concerned it has worked in Scotland surprisingly well during the last few years. I agree with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that if there is any subject which ought to be handled by local authorities it is this subject, above all others, because of the extraordinary difference between the various districts and their requirements. I think most hon. Members will agree with me that it is impossible in measuring the requirements of any population as far as the opening of Sunday cinemas is concerned to compare a rural district with a great teeming industrial area.
874 Therefore, in the first stage at any rate, it is desirable to allow this question to be settled by the local authorities in accordance with their own wishes, because they are best qualified to judge of the needs of their own localities. Even if my hon. Friends do strongly disapprove of the principle of local option, as many of them do, I would ask them to think very hard and to think twice before, while agreeing with the principle of the Bill, they tear up the Bill and, in so doing, bring complete chaos into the present legislative position and reverse what has been practised in this country in many of the largest towns, particularly in London, for the last 15 years, thereby preventing millions of their fellow citizens from going on Sundays to a cinema which, in principle, they approve of their doing. That is a very formidable method of giving vent to an objection of the principle of local option. They could do it much more effectively on a later and more suitable occasion.
I should like to deal with one or two objections which have been raised to the Bill, as such. The hon. Member who moved its rejection said that if the protagonists of the Bill had been more reasonable, if they had shown more of a spirit of compromise they might have got it as an agreed Measure. He suggested, for example, that if it had applied to London only there would have been very little difficulty in allowing it to pass. If Sunday opening of cinemas is wrong for the provinces, why is it not wrong for London? It is an impossible line of argument for the opponents of the Bill to say it is wrong for the provinces but right for London to go to cinemas on Sunday. Perhaps the most formidable argument which has been addressed to the House by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, and by the Attorney-General, has been that it is necessary to have a day of rest in this country. My answer to that argument is that the Bill contains perfectly adequate provision that those who operate the cinemas are not to work seven days a week. I think that answers the argument as regards the people who run cinemas. I would point out to the Attorney-General that under the Bill no cinema would be allowed to open before five o'clock on Sunday afternoon. That is a provision which he completely ignored.
875 It is very easy to disparage the cinema at the present time. It has been disparaged in some of the speeches that have been delivered. I was sorry to hear the Under-Secretary for the Home Department cast some slur upon the cinema industry. I would point out that it is a very young industry and that it can be developed.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
If my hon. Friend says that, I accept it, but I thought that in one part of his speech he suggested that some aspects of the cinema were not very desirable at the present moment. That is true, but I do not think it ought to be emphasised at the present time. One ought not to judge the cinema industry of the future—at least, I hope not—by the cinema industry of to-day. No one, whether opposing or supporting the Bill, is going to claim for a moment, or to base an argument on the suggestion, that the cinema has reached the last stage in its advance so far as artistic achievement is concerned. I do not claim that from the aesthetic point of view it can at the moment compare with the stage. Its technique is entirely inadequate at the present time, but who will say that the cinema is incapable of further development, of aesthetic development of the highest possible kind? There are many people who believe that in the heart of the cinema lies one of the greatest aesthetic hopes of the future. During the past few years the technical advance and the general advance of the cinema over the preceding years has been very striking.
For many people in this country, whatever hon. Members may say, the cinema as it is now is a rest, because it brings change from the dreary, dull, drab routine of every-day working life, especially in the industrial districts. It is the greatest form of rest. It is no good the Attorney-General saying that life in industrial districts in this country is not drab. Of course, it is drab. All industrial life is drab, and we claim that the cinema, by bringing a change, brings perhaps the greatest form of rest and of mental relaxation that we can possibly have. I will go further and say that it brings warmth and life to many people to whom it is very difficult to bring those 876 things. It has very great educational value. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I venture to say that hon. Members below the Gangway who interrupt have probably seen much more of the world through the cinema than they ever would have done otherwise. [Interruption.] Certainly. Over and over again I have been thrilled not by mere lurid drama, with strong sex interest, but by the display of commercial activity, native activity in various countries of the world, as revealed at the cinema. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh—but it is a fact. I have seen things that I could never have hoped to have seen with my own eyes but for the cinema.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Yes, scenic beauty, too. There is hardly one hon. Member who on the Sunday, if lie wishes, cannot get rest, solitude and peace, but there are many people in this country, particularly among the younger generation, who get none of those three things in their home on Sunday. Therefore, to say that the younger generation in the towns must be compelled to remain at home in order to get that mental rest, peace and quietude which are so desirable for them on the Sabbath day, is a piece of most flagrant hypocrisy. No one wants to bring in any class question into this discussion, but I would ask hon. Members who belong to the Labour party to say whether what I have just said is not a fact. They know perfectly well that it is true. Many hon. Members are prepared while opposing this Bill to go out and play a round of golf on Sunday. No one would say that it is sinful and wicked to play a round of golf on Sunday, yet it means that you employ some form of locomotion, you may employ a caddie and you certainly employ someone to give you a meal in the middle of the day. It is nonsense therefore, to say that you are against all forms of employment on the Sabbath day. For my part, I am not prepared to give myself some relaxation on the golf links on a Sunday and at the same time prohibit by an act of this House the working-classes in an industrial district on a wet Sunday night leaving what is probably an overcrowded home and taking their own form of relaxation.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
That is another aspect of the question. I agree with the Attorney-General that it is a great pity that the hospitals argument has been raised. It is not a strong argument. I base my support of the Bill on a far deeper principle than the mere argument of raising money for hospitals. I base it upon a principle which has been far too long forgotten by this House, and that is the principle of freedom. We in this country used to pride ourselves upon the liberty we accorded to the individual citizen. Britain was the land of the free; and so it was in those days. But that claim can no longer be made. During the last 15 years the liberty and freedom of the individual subject in this country has been insidiously removed by this House, and it is now no exaggeration to say that, except in those countries which have an autocracy or dictatorship, there is no country in the world where the freedom and liberty of the individual citizen is so restricted as it is in this country; and it is rapidly becoming unendurable. Take the speech of the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. He wanted not only to stop the Sunday opening of cinemas, but to stop them altogether, or at least to impose a very heavy censorship over them. It is not the business of this House to restrict the private activities of the citizens of the country in that way.
The Attorney-General spoke at some length on the religious aspect of the question. I suggest that religion flourishes best in an atmosphere of toleration. You cannot impose religion or ethics or morals on any part of the country by a, Statute of this House, still less can you impose character upon a people. The Attorney-General spoke about the race. You will not make this nation grow up a strong race by restrictions of this kind. May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that no civilisation evoked by man has surpassed the Greek civilisation, and that civilisation was founded on the two principles of civic responsibility and the private liberty of the individual citizen? In no country are the civic responsibilities more onerous than they were in Athens, and in no country is the freedom of the individual so great as it was in Greece.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I was careful to refer to the individual citizen of Greece. I admit that there was some slavery, but it is to be hoped that in the course of time we shall supplant the slave by the machine. We are doing so at the moment. I merely say that from the attitude which hon. Members who oppose the Bill are taking up one might suppose that we who are supporting the Bill were trying to compel someone to do something. We are not trying to compel anyone to do anything. We are not trying to make anyone go to the cinema on a Sunday; we wish to make it possible for those who desire to take their relaxation in that way to do so. But that is the difficulty which those who champion the cause of individual freedom and liberty have to contend with all the time. It is as though we were trying to make the people do something, whereas we are only trying to give toleration and freedom to our people in their private lives. Sooner or later this House will have to face up to this question, not only in regard to the cinema, but in regard to many other matters as well. Let me say this to those who are opposing the Bill because they are opposed to local option. They must remember that if the Bill is rejected it will produce absolute chaos throughout the country. It will deprive many people who at present enjoy this quite innocuous freedom of the right to enjoy themselves as they wish on Sunday evenings, and it will be a setback to the cause of freedom and liberty, which many of us have so much at heart.
§ Major OWEN
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby) at any length. It seems to me that the hon. Member and also the Under-Secretary of State have made the same mistake. They seem to think that if they provide entertainment on Sundays for people who live in unhappy and drab surroundings they have done all that is necessary to render their state more satisfactory and happy. That is a fallacy which was put forward time and again 879 during the Debates of last year and is going to be used again to-day. Cinemas are not going to improve the social conditions of the people in the poorer districts in the slightest degree. I agree that the Under-Secretary put the case fairly and justly, but in attempting to justify his own position he based his argument on false premises altogether. I rise to oppose the Bill. It is with a feeling of deep and sincere regret that I view the reintroduction of this Measure. Last year, when the then Home Secretary introduced a Measure similar in almost every respect to this Bill, I felt great misgivings and apprehensions as to its effect on the highest and best interests of the State. To-day, after mature and serious consideration, I feel still greater misgivings and apprehensions as to its harmful effect on the moral and spiritual welfare of this nation.
I do not propose to take up the time of the House in examining in detail the events which have led to the introduction of the Bill, but briefly this is the position, as I understand it—and it is just as well for the House to remember how this position has arisen. During the last 20 or 30 years a new form of public amusement, the cinema, has come into being. The persons connected with this industry soon realised that this new form of entertainment was not only popular with the public but very profitable to themselves. The industry developed quickly, but the promoters were not satisfied with making substantial profits on six days of the week, and began to extend their operations, particularly in London, to Sundays, so that they might increase the large profits they were already making. They did this in spite of the existence of laws, which were perfectly well known, expressly forbidding such performances for profit on the Lord's Day. These people deliberately, openly, brazenly, and flagrantly opened their cinemas on Sundays and defied the law, although they knew perfectly well that they were subject to heavy penalties for doing so. They did it with their eyes open, and if the penalties are now being imposed they have no reason to complain.
The London County Council and a few other municipal bodies stepped in and forbade the opening of cinemas on Sundays except by licence. These local authorities were quite well aware that 880 they had no power whatever to grant such a licence, and they laid down the condition that they would only grant a licence and abstain from prosecuting the offenders provided the promoters paid over to charities the profits they made on Sundays. The whole procedure was irregular. The cinema proprietors were openly breaking the law and local authorities were conniving at it. Obviously, local authorities were not very happy about it, but as a sop or a salve to their consciences they demanded that part of the profits, in fact the whole of the profits, should be given over to charities. That is the position. The local authorities in every case knew that they were doing wrong in giving permission for performances on Sundays which were expressly forbidden by law. They did not like it; and that is the general feeling throughout the country.
The general feeling among the people of this country, inculcated in them for generations, is against any further inroad upon the sanctity and peace and quietness of the Sabbath. Then there appeared upon the scene the common informer, and immediately there was an outcry on the part of cinema proprietors that they would be ruined because, as they said, of the existence of certain ancient hoary and obsolete laws. We all know that the criminal will always condemn the law which punishes him; and that is exactly what these people are doing. They proceeded to condemn the laws of this country, which have been in operation over a long period of time, merely because, as they said, they were old and hoary and obsolete. The fact that a law is old is no condemnation of that law. If it were so, then the Ten Commandments would be condemned out of hand. There are certain things which in my opinion are fundamental, and age and antiquity only enhance their value and their worth.
May I remind the House that Britain after all is a Christian country? This assembly of which we are members is a Christian assembly, and at least 99 per cent. of its members have been returned by communities which, in the main, are Christian communities. The established religion of this country is the Christian religion and we as Members of this House are the guardians and trustees of that religion. The Christian Sunday is 881 an integral and fundamental part of the Christian religion. It was Voltaire who said, "If you want to destroy Christianity you must first of all destroy the Christian Sunday." What does this Bill propose to do? It proposes to legalise illegality and to render immune from penalties those who have for years deliberately broken the law. In the course of the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill of last year I well recall a statement which was made by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, namely, that that Bill introduced no new principle. I believe that that is claimed for this Bill as well. That may be true; no new principle may be introduced. But the Bill certainly introduces a new precedent and a very pernicious one, that if a certain section of industry or of the community continues to break the law with immunity for a sufficiently long time it can force this House, force the Government of the day, to give it immunity by legislation from the penalties arising from its wrongdoing.
The Early Closing Act has been referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General. I think that this House and everyone in the country will recognise that that Act is a good and beneficial Act. What if the great stores in London and the Provinces were to combine and deliberately and flagrantly to infringe that law? What if they were supported by certain section of the community? The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department claims that there are only 500,000 people out of 45,000,000 who go to cinema on Sundays. What if the great stores got a certain portion of the public to support them? They could come to this House, after pursuing their policy of breaking the law, and compel this House to do away with the Early Closing Act. That is an exact analogy to what is happening in connection with this Bill.
The Bill asks us to give the sanction of law to four separate kinds of performances on Sunday. In other words we are asked to give the sanction of law to certain definite inroads into the sanctity and peace of the Christian Sunday. Whatever may be said in criticism of the penalties and the methods of prosecution under the Sunday Observance Act—I agree with the learned Attorney-General 882 and would willingly support a Bill that would do away with the penalties as they are imposed under the Sunday Observance Act, and do away with the common informer—I think the House would agree that our predecessors, realising their responsibility as members of a Christian Assembly, were genuinely and conscientiously anxious to observe and preserve the sanctity of our Sunday. I sincerely believe that if a plebiscite of the people of the nation were taken to-day there would be an overwhelming majority against this Bill and in favour of a retention of Sunday observance—a day of rest and peace and religious observance. May I, therefore, appeal sincerely and reverently to the Members of this House, gravely and seriously to pause and consider before they give their assent to any Measure which seeks in any way to encroach on a great and noble heritage. Let it not be said by future generations that this House, faced by a grave crisis in our nation, has failed in its trust and duty to the best and highest interest of the State.
I have so far endeavoured to explain why it is that I oppose this Measure whole-heartedly. I oppose it on general grounds, but I oppose it also on a. specific ground. Clause 7 (3) states:This Act shall not extend to Scotland or to Northern Ireland.In other words the Bill does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland, but it does apply to Wales. I do not profess to know with any degree of certainty what, deep down, is the attitude of the English nation to Measures of this character, but as a Welshman representing a Welsh constituency I do claim to know what are the views of the large majority of the Welsh nation with regard to this Bill, and with what repugnance and abhorrence they view any legislation which tends in any way to detract from the sanctity and holiness of Sunday. The position in Wales with regard to Sunday is quite different from that which exists in England. In Wales no cinemas are opened on Sunday, and there is not, and never has been, any demand that they should be opened. The overwhelming opinion in the country is definitely against any inroads on the sanctity of Sunday. [An HON. MEMBER: "Concerts."] An hon. Gentleman behind me refers to concerts. Yes, concerts are 883 held on Sunday nights in Wales, but they are generally, or rather invariably, of a sacred character. It will make no difference whatever to the holding of those concerts in Wales if this Bill is not accepted by the House, because those concerts are not held for profit, but are given for the benefit, for the moral and cultural welfare of the people.
It is important also to remember that for over 50 years the Sunday Closing Act has been in operation in Wales and has had enormously beneficial effects. There is a strong fear among the people of Wales that, once legislative sanction has been given to any alteration in the observance of Sunday, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the further secularisation and commercialisation of the Lord's Day. There is evidence of this already. I have here a letter from licensed victuallers in Wales, in which they claim that if cinemas are to be opened on Sundays by sanction of the law it is only right and fair that public houses in Wales should be opened also. The real trouble and the real danger of a Bill of this kind is that it gives the sanction of law for the first time to inroads upon the Christian Sunday, and that it will open the way for a further extension of the secularisation and commercialisation of the one day of rest and worship that we know in this country.
§ Mrs. RUNGE
In rising to make a maiden speech I hope that the House will show that indulgence of which I am in great need at the present moment. Let me say at once that in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill my object is not to champion the cause of cinema proprietors. I have seldom been to one of their entertainments without wishing that I were elsewhere. I have never been to a cinema on a Sunday, but I think a Member of this House ought to approach a subject of this nature, not from the personal point of view but from the point of view of what is best for the community as a whole. I am frankly opposed to treating this as a purely religious issue. I object to the suggestion that because some of us uphold the provision of reasonable Sunday entertainment we are therefore irreligious, callously indifferent to the preservation of the British Sunday, 884 and utterly unconcerned with the moral well-being of our fellows.
This Bill is no doubt highly controversial, but, as has already been said, its fundamental principle is local option, Where there is no demand there will be no supply. The Bill does not prohibit; it allows. Sunday cinema performances are not general throughout the country, but in certain areas—London in particular—they satisfy a very large public demand. I represent an industrial constituency, and I ask myself whether hon. Members who oppose this Bill stop to think how their home conditions compare with those of the poorer community. If their family is large its individual members are not herded together like sheep; they can get away from one another; they can rest or read or, if they like, they can play bridge. I venture to suggest that there are plenty of people who do play bridge on Sundays. To all of these it is a matter of absolute indifference whether the cinemas are open or not.
Now let me turn to the conditions of the poor. They live in streets of small houses, with large families often crowded together in one room. If this Bill is rejected those people will be deprived of something to which they have become accustomed and nothing will be offered to them in its place. We shall not only deprive the children of their entertainment, but also the fathers, and in particular the mothers. You may say that fathers and mothers do not go to the cinemas. But they can send their children and thereby gain a little rest themselves. I appeal to the House to consider what that word "rest" really means in the house of the very poor. Then take the moral aspect of the question. Are the morals of the community prejudicially affected by the opening of cinemas? I suggest that there is not one single person, knowing the facts fully, who will contend that they are. in all districts where cinemas are open on Sundays the police are in favour of their continuing to open. I know, too, that there is a good deal of approval, even among church-people, who regard the Sunday cinema as a useful counter-attraction to the lure of the streets. I could wish that the general tone of the films was on a higher level, for, although I do not suggest that cinema entertainments 885 should necessarily elevate, I do suggest that they should not unnecessarily debase. In considering this Bill we must bear in mind the object with which it has been introduced. It is not to redress a grievance or to right a wrong, but to legalise an irregularity. I am trying to look upon it dispassionately and without prejudice. This Bill is a non-party Measure, and will be left to a free vote of the House. It is more a question of ethics than of politics, and I have come to the conclusion that I shall not be doing violence to my conscience by voting for the Bill, nor shall I be inflicting any harm upon the community because I see no impropriety in attending a Sunday cinema or a Sunday concert.
In this connection I call the attention of the House to the Sunday programmes of the British Broadcasting Corporation which is, to all intents and purposes, a Government institution. I take no exception to them. I merely say that that Corporation offers to its subscribers entertainment, as well as the opportunity of listening-in to church services. They also publish, or allow to be published, foreign programmes which include operas, dance music, popular songs, and variety items. I am the last person in the world to offend the religious susceptibilities of the opponents of the Bill. I have the greatest respect for all those who have conscientious objections to Sunday entertainments, but I ask, in all seriousness, if these programmes are allowed, how can similar entertainment be denied to members of the public who perhaps cannot afford the cost of licences and the upkeep of wireless sets or who, for any other reason, are not subscribers to the British Broadcasting Corporation.
This is a burning subject and I can hardly expect to escape without being scorched. I might have decided to abstain from voting, but, speaking generally, I conceive it to be the duty of a Member of Parliament to have the courage of his or her convictions, and, if necessary, to give expression to them. This Bill has a large force of public opinion behind it. In my view it is urgently needed. If passed, it will put an end to an intolerable situation. It will evolve order out or chaos. If rejected, it will make confusion worse 886 confounded. I shall cast my vote for law and order.
§ Sir GEORGE HUME
I am greatly privileged to have the opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mrs. Runge) on her maiden speech, in which she treated this subject with comprehensiveness and with courage. We London Members have to face a difficult task in dealing with this Bill. Whatever vote we give, one way or the other, we shall be in trouble. It is not my habit to give a reason for my vote, and I seldom trouble the House, but on this occasion I feel it essential that I should do so. For 20 odd years I have been on the London County Council and for seven of those years I have been leader of the Council and responsible for its work. During that period we stood by the compromise which was entered into on this question. The grounds of that compromise have already been stated this afternoon and are well known to the House. All through that time, discontented as one was with the situation, we did our utmost to see that that compromise was not broken because we realised that if it was broken, the whole question would be thrown into the melting pot. London was working quietly under that arrangement and it is the entertainment interests themselves who, have broken up the compromise and thrown down the gage of battle.
Like all other Members of the House I listened to and was captivated by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate with such charm, and in very large measure I agree with what he said. If we look at this matter entirely from the social side, there is a great deal to be said for permitting these entertainments. But there are two grounds on which I intend to vote against the Bill. As individuals we have to offend public opinion in one direction or another. When I realise the amount of work which is being done by devoted bands of young men and women, and by older people as well, among our children on the Sabbath, to try to bring them up to some ideal, to some religious view, to some acknowledgment of the higher things of life—when I realise that I have to choose between discouraging these humble workers who get no remuneration, no 887 thanks, except the knowledge of the goodness of their work, and encouraging those who merely wish to seek their pleasure, then I say that I would very much sooner offend the latter than the former.
There is a second point on which I do not agree with those who are supporting the Bill. I wish to take these things on a higher plane altogether. When we look back on the history of this land we find that this nation has grown and thriven and prospered in a remarkable way and that at critical moments we have been saved as a nation by what were almost miracles and enabled to continue that national development. I believe that the Divine Power still overrules the things of this earth. I believe that we have prospered because we have recognised that Power, nationally, in the past. I will not refer back to the old Commandments, but I would remind the House of these words:They that honour me, I will honour.This nation has been carrying out that injunction and, in my view, anything which is going to turn our attention more in the direction of pleasure than in the direction of duty, is a step backwards. It is for that reason that I feel myself bound to say "No" here to-night. One thing more. We have heard arguments about our alleged inconsistency. We are asked to-day, nationally, to amend the law in a certain direction. We may be inconsistent but an hon. Member opposite let the cat out of the bag when he told us that every argument used in favour of the Bill could be used in favour of allowing us to go much further It is just that of which we are afraid. We are afraid of the base line being advanced. We in the London County Council trespassed on the base line a good distance, but if that base line is advanced further there will be further trespasses, and public opinion may be educated until a point is reached at which those trespasses will not be resented. To those of us who attach any importance to this nation, as a nation, continuing as in the past, and standing as it has stood, and showing its respect for the Ruler of all things, I think it must appear necessary that we should vote against the Bill.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in a most lucid and 888 arresting speech, pointed out that this Bill is necessary because the High Court has declared illegal, proceedings which have been going on in connection with cinema entertainment for many years past. Other speakers have dealt with the moral aspect of the question, but I believe the House will agree that the Acts of 1625, 1677 and 1780 have no relation whatever to modern life and conditions and are for the most part disregarded. I am informed that under one of these Acts, I think that of 1625, it is illegal to play golf outside one's own parish on 'Sunday and any Member of this House could be prosecuted for doing so. I could have hoped, therefore, that the Under-Secretary, instead of introducing a Bill to perpetuate those three Acts, while excepting from them four specific cases, would have persuaded the Home Secretary and the Government to introduce a Bill amending entirely the Sunday Observance Acts. But since such a proposal is not before us, I am anxious to point out to the Under-Secretary the position which he is creating by this Bill. Previous speakers have urged that the cinemas should be permitted on Sunday because such permission has existed for the last 15 years. It has existed, illegally, and what it is now proposed to do is to legalise an irregularity.
I believe that as far as London is concerned there is a genuine demand for Sunday entertainment, but it is intolerable to reward the cinema which has been carrying on irrespective of the law, and to penalise the theatre which has been obeying the law. When the previous Bill was introduced by Mr. Clynes, he stated that the theatre had not been included because, as it had not been allowed to give any performances on Sunday, there was no demand for it. I think hon. Members will realise that it is very difficult for there to be a demand when the, supply has been prohibited. I have been connected with the theatrical industry for the last 25 years, though to-night I am speaking without any interest whatsoever either in the theatre or in the cinema, but I want to point out that if the House is going to permit the cinema to open on a Sunday night and to deny the theatre the same right, it is going to fix a grave hardship upon the oldest theatrical art in the world and upon an art which is essentially British.
889 At the present moment the theatre is feeling the appalling opposition of the cinema. I do not propose to deal with the merits of the difference between the cinema and the theatre. On equal terms the theatre will do what it can to protect itself, but there is this great differ enee, that the theatre employs almost wholly British artists, not people whose names are household words, artists who can easily take care of themselves, but many many thousands of people whose names are unknown to the public when they go to the theatre, who earn a, very small income, and who have no possibility of saving anything for their old age beyond their weekly wages. In addition, the theatre employs a large number of musicians, who are at the present moment feeling terribly the difficulty of getting employment, stage hands, electricians, and a large number of humble people in front of the theatre as well as behind; and, lastly, by the purchases that it makes for the costly and large productions in the theatres, it spends very large sums of money in various trades throughout the country.
At the present moment the cinema is causing a very large number of theatres to close. If the Bill is going to permit the cinemas to open on Sunday night, and still further to penalise the theatres, I am perfectly confident that you are going to cause great and increasing unemployment in the theatre. I know that one argument, and probably the strangest argument, against including the theatre in the Bill is the question of seven days' labour. The whole time during which I was actively engaged in the theatre I was opposed to Sunday opening, on the ground that I think everyone requires one day's rest out of seven, but I can tell the House this fact, that the problem with the theatre to-day is not to ensure for them one day's rest, but to ensure for them one day's work, because I am certain that I am not exaggerating the position when I say, that, if you take one day a week, that means roughly seven weeks in a whole year, and there are very few people engaged in the theatrical industry who get seven weeks' employment during the year.
I believe that it is too late to turn back. I believe that, so far as London is concerned, the cinema has to be per- 890 mitted on Sunday night, but I am going to appeal to the House not to inflict a great injustice on a British art. It may well be, as the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) said, that the cinema is instructive and educational. I have been to the cinema, and I have seen travel films such as he described, showing the manners and customs of the world, which I could never hope to realise otherwise, but the cinema also shows sensational sex films and crime films, and I cannot believe that this House is going to grant to the cinema the right to sell that form of entertainment and deny to the theatre the right to show Shakespeare, the plays of Sir James Barrie, and such plays as are performed at the Old Vic. There is no reason whatsoever why the theatre cannot put on an entirely different performance on the Sunday and ensure that all the other employés who are engaged in the week have a complete rest.
Finally, the hon. Member for West Toxteth (Mr. C. T. Wilson) urged the gain to the hospitals, but I very much regret that he should have introduced that into our Debates here. Either it is right or it is wrong. It is only fair, however, to the theatres to say that they are quite as anxious to pay for the right to be open on a Sunday night as are the cinemas, and it is hypocrisy to suggest that either the theatres or the cinemas want to be open on the Sunday night without profit. I will draw my hon. Friend's attention to the Clause in the Bill which says that the profits on a Sunday night shall be given to charity. I can assure him that if he could so tighten that Clause that the real profits were given to charity, there would be no need for those who are apprehensive of the passing of this Measure to be at all anxious that either a theatre or a cinema would be open on a Sunday in six months' time. I hope, therefore, that we shall not hear any more about the appeal of charity. The theatres are quite prepared to do their share with the cinemas, and I hope, if this Measure is to have a Second Reading to-night, that it will be with the express wish of the Members of this House that a British institution like the theatre should have fair play alongside the cinema, which is largely controlled and dominated by America.
§ Mr. W. G. HUTCHISON
In rising for the first time in this House, I am aware of the possible bitterness that can enter the Debate owing to its religious nature and its high moral tone. We know that in the past the greatest cruelties of mankind have been conducted owing to religious intolerance and political oppression. Therefore, if I overstep the mark, I trust that I may be forgiven on the score of my inexperience. We have heard about the base line and about public opinion, but surely if the base line is where it is and public opinion is where it is, we in this House must bow to that public opinion. We are sent here by the public and to express their views. We must also, before considering the question of Sunday opening, consider whom it affects. We are a Protestant nation, but at the same time we allow people of other creeds and faiths to carry on their religion in this country. We allow not only the Protestant Church, the Established Church, but we allow the Roman Catholics, we allow the Christian Scientists, and we allow the Jews and the Mohammedans. It is quite obvious that all these people do not keep their sabbath on the same day. The Mohammedan, I believe, keeps it on Friday, and the Jew on Saturday, and we keep ours on Sunday. It seems obvious that if we are going to carry this argument out logically, we must stand still on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In fact, the whole week-end is going to be a close season.
In supporting the Second Reading of the Bill, I wish to make my position clear not only as regards the entertainment which is to be found under the four headings, but as regards the theatre as well. The four headings, as we have heard, are "musical entertainments," "cinematograph entertainments," "exhibitions of animals or of inanimate objects," and "debate." Under the title of "musical entertainments," or concerts, we can have put on the stage on a Sunday afternoon and evening an almost identical performance to what we have produced on a Saturday night at a vaudeville theatre. We can also, I should imagine, have an operatic performance put on the stage, because that is a musical entertainment. The heading "cinematograph entertainments" makes no provision as to the type of film to be shown. We can have a play being shown 892 in a cinema theatre and on the talkies on a Sunday, and the theatre next door, which might be showing exactly the same play, is not allowed to open, because living performers would have to produce it and show it to the public. We shall have exhibitions of animals, which I presume means the zoo and also menageries, but the question is, "Do circuses come under this heading or not?" Again, we shall have debates. Any political meeting, as long as it is called a debate, will be allowed to be held on a Sunday night, and under this heading they will be able to charge admission for entrance, and thus defray expenses. Do we want wholesale political meetings on Sunday night? Again, do they rank as amusements?
The hon. Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt) has said that the theatres and music halls are mostly British undertakings, but the cinemas are mostly financed from abroad and also for the most part show foreign films. We have already heard to-night that America takes £12,000,000 a year out of this country from its profits in the cinema industry. The theatres will not only suffer under this preferential treatment as far as Sunday is concerned, but they will suffer as far as the rest of the week is concerned, because the public have only a certain amount of money to spend on entertainment. Sunday being the first day of the week, they will spend their money on Sunday, and, as is very often the case, it is the only money that they have to spend. If there is no choice between the cinema and the theatre, they will have to go to a cinema.
It is obvious that a large section of the public have no objection to Sunday performances as long as they are assured that the people who produce those performances do not work for more than six days a week. No contention ever put forward by the theatre ever suggested seven days' work. All that is required is freedom to open on any day. Those who know anything about the theatre realise that Saturday is the day on which the best business is done and that Monday is the worst day. It looks as though Sunday would be a very profitable day for the theatre. We know that in the summer months many of the West End theatres close down on a Monday night, which proves that it is not the week-end habit that is detrimental to the theatres.
893 7.0 p.m.
The Attorney-General referred to a gentleman who worked in a cinema and who was unable to attend divine service with his family because of his work. It seems obvious that workers in cinemas should have some form of union to protect them, just as people in the theatrical profession have a union to protect them. We have a British Actors' Equity Association. This is a very live body in the theatrical world, and last year they supported this Bill for several reasons. They were thatstage plays necessitate the employment of the human element in an industry suffering from an acute unemployment problem, and therefore worthy of consideration equally with cinemas in the matter of Sunday entertainments. The theatre managers have agreed to adequate safeguards for a six-day week. The inclusion of stage plays within the provisions of this Bill will in no way interfere with the intentions of the Government in regularising Sunday entertainment. On the contrary, it will increase employment in an industry which is purely British.There we have the case of the actor represented by the actors' trade union. Certain Actors and actresses are against Sunday presentations. They are against them because they are sure of their public on any day of the week, but they do not constitute the majority of the profession. If this Bill is left to the people of the theatrical profession to decide whether they will open their theatres, it follows that those who do not want to open on Sundays need not do so. To the majority of people connected with the theatre, the theatre is absolutely the breath of life. They think of nothing else but the theatre and their successes in the theatre. They do not mind working on Sundays at all. A few people connected with the profession are afraid that their art will suffer by having to perform on Sundays. I see no reason why their art should suffer on this account, because I have had the good fortune to see many of the Continental players in both Germany and France, and usually the art of the foreign actor is immeasurably better than that of the British actor. To start with, the German actor is not allowed on the stage until he has had six months' elocution and vocal training. I would extend that not only to actors in this country, but to the majority of politicians.
894 Nobody wishes to force Sunday entertainments on the public. By this Bill local opinion is to be expressed. If the local authorities are allowed to let the cinemas open on Sunday, why should not the local authorities be allowed to let the theatres open as well? It is obvious that, if the public do not want to go to the theatre, they will not go. If the public do not attend the theatre, there will be no programme. The question of public-houses, as well as cinemas, opening on Sundays is, again, a matter for local authorities. Those who oppose this Bill obviously do so because they believe that the Sabbath is a day of rest. We have heard about commercialising the Sunday, but if, as we have already heard, people object to the Sabbath being used as a day of work, then they must abstain from opening their Monday morning newspapers, from eating Sunday meals unless prepared the previous day, and from listening to the wireless, because the wireless employs people. If the Government are going to prevent the British Broadcasting Corporation from performing on Sundays, perhaps a wireless detector van will go round to see if people are listening in to stations abroad. Obviously, the whole thing is completely ludicrous. If those people wish to carry out their principles logically, they must abstain from taking more than a Sabbath-day's journey, and must have regard to the provisions of the Act of 1625 under which they are prohibited from attendingany meeting, assemblies or concourses of people out of their own parishes on the Lord's Day within this realm of England or any of the dominions thereof for any sports or pastimes whatsoever.This Bill is full of anomalies. We have this question of giving profits to certain charities. I have the returns from some of the leading West End cinemas, and I find that one of the leading West End cinemas shows its Sunday profit to be £25, while one by Leicester Square puts it at £15, and another near Marble Arch at £15. These assessments are made by the London County Council. Surely it is not the regular thing for each of these cinemas to produce exactly the same amount of money every Sunday night. If this money is to be levied, let it be properly levied. I, personally, object to it being levied at all. Both the cinemas and the theatres are business undertakings and should be allowed to carry on as 895 business undertakings. The theatres not only give thousands of pounds to charities, but the actors themselves are most generous in giving their services to charity performances. Yet under this Bill one form of actor is penalised and another is not. An actor can work in the West End every night of the week but not on Sundays, while another can appear in a film every night, including Sundays. Obviously, it is most unfair on the actor who is what is known as the "straight actor."
If Sunday performances are prohibited, you are going to have a growth of the Sunday societies and clubs which produce plays for the members who join them. Already we have sometimes on one Sunday evening six theatres opening and giving performances of this kind to a club or society. The managers, finding it very easy to produce plays on Sunday nights, while still keeping within the law, will not only put on plays on Sunday nights, but the more unscrupulous managers will put on plays that the censor would not pass, and therefore you will have on Sunday nights a far more immoral play being produced. It is quite easy to join these societies by paying a small subscription, and one is then able to buy as many tickets as one wants for the performances. This thing is going to grow. We shall have the same position in this country as in the United States of America to-day of people evading the law and holding it in contempt. That has come about by Prohibition. If any Member has been to the United States recently he will realise how all the laws, and not only the Prohibition Jaws, are held in contempt. We have had it in this country with sweepstakes. Sweepstakes are against the law, but thousands of people have tickets in them. If they find it easy to break the law on this subject, they will break it on more important occasions. I urge hon. Members to take a very broad view of this question of Sunday entertainments. There is nothing whatever to prevent the appropriate observance of Sunday, as places of entertainment need not open until the churches have finished their services. Again, if cinema performances are not allowed on Sundays, you may penalise some of the more advanced clergy who wish to show cinema plays in their churches. There is 896 no reason why they should not do so. In England the origin of the theatre was in the morality play performed in the church.
Sunday opening is not for the few who are able to go any other time in the week, but for those people employed during the week who probably do not get much time off except on Sunday night. They may get home earlier on other nights but they are much too tired to attend a place of entertainment. I am thinking particularly of domestic servants. Almost all Members of the House have some staff of domestic servants and know that they get off two afternoons or evenings a week, and one of them is usually a Sunday. Why should those domestic servants not be allowed to go to a place of entertainment on a Sunday night when a Member is able to go to any place of entertainment on any night he is free Surely it is most unfair not to grant this to the masses of the people. Not only will you be able to let the people enjoy themselves on Sunday night as you yourself are able to enjoy yourselves on Fridays and Saturdays, but with the opening of theatres you will be able to give a much more intellectual type of entertainment to the people.
We have already heard from several hon. Members, references to the sex-mad films that are being shown. When it was suggested that Shakespeare should be shown, I noticed several hon. Members giggled, but surely Shakespeare and opera, such as are produced at the Old Vic and at Sadlers Wells theatres, are very much better for the people than these sex and sensational films. This is a question not only of morals, but of employment in the theatrical profession. We know that at the present moment there are a greater number of cinemas than theatres throughout the country. Many of the theatres are being turned into cinemas and, if you are not going to allow these theatres to open on Sunday nights, you will find more theatres being turned into cinemas, and you will have mechanisation instead of real work for the actors. Actors are prepared and delighted to give their services on Sundays, as has been shown by these clubs and societies. They are not only glad to give these performances because they believe that the play may possibly be bought by a manager and afterwards 897 given a run in the West End, but also because they believe that they may be seen to advantage in a particular part, which to them is a very good advertisement.
Thus the question of the Sunday opening of theatres is going to be a boon to the vast majority of the people in the theatres, and there are a tremendous number of them at the present day who are out of work and who are needing work badly. Sunday entertainments are bound to come whether this Bill is rejected or not. They will get round the law by a club or society. It will be easy to pay a shilling and belong to a cinema for the rest of your life. This question is not for the few: it is for the masses. It is going to give a great help to an industry, and is going to increase employment. You are going to be able to give a higher type of entertainment and to afford to everybody concerned a full and equal measure of justice.
§ Mr. BLINDELL
May I take the opportunity of offering, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, very hearty congratulations to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on his first speech. I know the ordeal that he must have experienced during the last 20 minutes; he had my sympathy, and I have pleasure in offering him congratulations. In approaching this subject, I am very gratified that the Government in such a controversial matter have decided to give every Member an opportunity to vote according to his conscience. We have free speech and a free vote, and to some of us it is a real privilege to be able to express our opinions. I am certain that the House agrees with the hon. Lady who spoke earlier when she said that Members ought to have the courage of their convictions and speak as they actually feel. That is my intention to-night. The Under-Secretary of State introduced this Measure in a very fair and impartial way. He said that there were arguments in favour of and against the Bill, and I agree with him that they must be weighed one against the other before some of us can make up our minds in which Lobby we shall vote. He also said that the motive that lay behind the Bill and the actions of those who were supporting it were all important. I believe that that is the case, and I want 898 to inquire into the motive behind this Bill and why those who support it are so persistent in pressing it upon the country.
The Bill has been described as an attempt to legalise an illegality. That is quite true. It has also been described as an answer to the demand of a large part of the population in their desire for amusement on Sunday. I do not believe that to have so much substance and truth in it. This is not a Bill to satisfy the demands of the public, but a Bill to satisfy the demand that has come from an entirely different quarter. This is very much more than a Bill to legalise an illegality. The House should remember that Parliament has not given the country its Sunday or its one day's rest in seven, but Parliament has from time to time passed laws which have safeguarded the privilege of the people to their one day's rest every seven days. The questions which the House has to decide are: whetter we are, as custodians of the privileges attached to the English Sunday, to maintain those privileges, or whether we are to capitulate to interests which demand a withdrawal of every safeguard with which we have held up this institution; are we to give full liberty to that section of the nation that would commercialise Sunday, and is Parliament to vote for their particular point of view?
The controversy centres largely round the cinema, but before this Bill becomes law, the controversy will shift from the cinema and will be exactly where the hon. Member for Balham (Sir A. Butt) told us it would be. The controversy in Committee will centre, not round the cinema, but the theatre and the performance of stage plays on Sunday. Immediately the Bill becomes law, the controversy will shift again to other things, such as horse racing and dirt track racing. There is no reason why the controversy should not be shifted to the trading interests. We have 300,000 retail shops open on Sunday, and the controversy is bound to shift in that direction, because, if we capitulate to one interest, we must capitulate to all interests, for we must accept the Sunday as it will be made by this Bill, which will mean that there will be no difference between Sunday and any other day.
899 I believe that the sense of the House is definitely against the proposal contained in the Bill. I am very jealous about retaining our Sunday. It is a great national heritage, and it is the duty of every Member to see that that heritage is maintained for us and for those who will follow. The decision to which the House will come will affect the lives and the habits of our people to-day, but it will affect the lives and habits of those who follow us even more intensely. It is not my intention to argue against the Bill merely on these grounds. I want to meet the arguments of those who support it. There is no logic in the arguments that have been put forward. Twelve months ago when a similar Bill was introduced the then Home Secretary said that it wasthe duty of the House of Commons to harmonise the law with the general mass opinion on this subject as we know it.I entirely agree with his point of view. He went on to say that the Billproposes to give Members of the House of Commons the opportunity … of reconciling their constituency duties with their own personal views."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th April, 1931; cols. 634–5, Vol. 251.]Whatever we may feel personally about this matter, surely we represent here a large volume of opinion, and I definitely assert that public opinion in the country is opposed to the Bill and its principles. The mass of public opinion is dead against it, and the Bill is right ahead of public opinion. More than that, it does something to which the Government ought not to ask the House to consent. It takes the responsibility that should rest upon the shoulders of the Government and of Parliament, and shifts that responsibility to the local authorities. That is a step in the wrong direction. In all other matters Parliament always insists that local authorities shall administer the law as they find it. This is the first time that a Government will have asked local opinion to take a difficult matter out of the hands of Parliament, and to come to decisions which must be different in different parts of the country. Either the institution of the English Sunday is something worth retaining or it is not. If it is not worth retaining, let the House of Commons say so and abolish it. Our duty is to maintain it on behalf of those who 900 believe in it—that is, if we believe that that is the opinion of the country—and to see that the bulwarks that are maintaining that institution are not taken away. We should not delegate our duty in this respect to the local authorities.
In order to gauge my attitude towards this Bill, I have been looking at its genesis. I say very definitely that it is based upon the illegal administration of a local authority. But for that, we should never have had the Bill. In the past, the London County Council have been weak in their administration of this matter. They gave way to the cinema industry, and to-day they are afraid of their own actions. They dare not capitulate to the interests connected with the theatre and the stage play, and we Kaye this Bill because the theatres made a just demand for the same privileges that were given to the cinema, and the County Council were afraid to grant to the theatre something which they knew public opinion was against. Although I oppose this Bill strongly, I accept the argument that if the cinema industry is to have special treatment there is no logic in refusing to give to the theatres the same treatment. Why should we complain that the theatrical industry forced the hands of the London County Council, and why should we complain that they ask for equal treatment with their rivals? The real answer is not that there is a public demand for either cinemas or theatres, but that business men see good business in it and large profits. That is the real answer, and, if we take the element of profit out of the discussion and base our argument upon the demand of democracy in this matter, there is no reason in the world why both the cinema industry and other industries should not give all the amusement that the public are asking for but which they cannot give under the existing law.
The demand has not come from the public for a further extension of pleasure or amusement on Sunday; the demand has really come from those who want to tempt the people to more pleasure and amusement. If the House should decide that it is wise to legalise this illegal action, and that they must come to the assistance of the London County Council, I want to ask if that is sufficient justification for Parliament to outrage the consciences of 901 millions of citizens in all parts of the country by forcing this controversy, which we have to counter in the House to-day, into every town and village. To-morrow this controversy will be shifted to every town in the country, and members of every local authority will have to put up with what hon. Members are having to encounter in connection with this Bill. There will be an instant demand from interests whose main object is to obtain profit and obtain equal treatment with London. Bearing these facts in mind, I want to ask what comes of this further demand for Sunday amusement? Really there is no demand for it. If we analyse the demand as contained in this Bill, and carefully study the correspondence that has been directed to us and the representations that have been made, the House must come to the conclusion, as I have, that it is not a demand for more amusement, but a demand for opportunities to create and establish facilities that will tempt a response for more amusement. In this matter the facilities precede the demand for amusement, but the facilities, if we are to be logical, ought to follow the demand. Where does this demand come from? Is it from the general public? Certainly not. Why did the London County Council capitulate Not because a body of the ratepayers approached the Council, but because the cinema interests approached them. The demand comes from syndicates and companies responsible for the management of cinemas, and desirous of tempting the young people of this country. I do not say it offensively, but when I look to see exactly where this demand comes from I am amazed to find that it emanates very largely from men who religiously uphold their own Sabbath day but refuse to give us our Sabbath day, who would commercialise our English Sunday while jealously safeguarding their own Sabbath day. We have heard a lot of loose talk about taking young folk off the streets on a Sunday night, but I suggest that that object is not behind the demand put forward. If the House would take out of the Bill every opportunity for cinemas to make profits, every demand that has been made for the Measure would disappear.
I am alarmed to see the young life of this country used by the cinema interests to tempt this House into granting them the facilities they desire. I believe the 902 youth of England resent such action. Are we to say those young people are not capable of taking care of themselves? Is it suggested that every Sunday night is wet, and that they must go in somewhere? The young folk resent those suggestions. They are not so irresponsible that they must always be amused, and the demand for this Measure does not come from them. It is true that our economic position has forced our young people into an idleness which they abhor, but it is not true to say that it has forced them into a condition of irresponsibility, and what they ask from this House and from the National Government is not that more pleasure should be provided for them on a Sunday but that they should be given greater opportunities of rendering service to the State and to the country. They are responsible enough to look after themselves, and it is degrading and despicable that those behind the Bill should suggest that they are acting in the interests of our young people when the real impelling motive is the hope of deriving profit. Their plea is an insincere plea.
The question of charities has been mentioned, just as it was introduced into the arguments about the Sweepstakes Bill. I have been looking up the discussions of last year. The hon. Baronet the Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt) said in the Debate last year that the theatrical profession, without any compulsion, had contributed at least £100,000 to the charities of this country during the previous year, and he gave definite instances of how the cinemas could take £900 from the people of London on a Sunday night and contribute no more than £56 to charity. Then people come here to say the profits are needed for clarity I believe our charities, and especially our hospitals, will never thrive if we have to compel any industry to support them out of the profits which we afford them special facilities to secure on a Sunday.
Here is a point which I will put to hon. Members of the Labour party. When I first went into public life I used to think the trade unions were rendering yeoman service to the working man. In past years the trade unions were absolutely against Sunday labour. What have they to say about it to-day? Do they accept the position that if this Bill passes at least 30,000 men and women will 903 be compelled to work on the Sabbath day? Will they tolerate that position? Will they allow people whose main object is to secure profits to cast their trade unions aside and compel the members of them to work on the Sabbath day? Not only will 30,000 more people be working, but there will be £7,000,000 of extra profit for those who employ those people. That is the propelling force behind the demand for this Bill.
I will sum up what I have to say in this way. The Bill ought to be rejected, but whatever can be said in favour of it ought to be carefully weighed against what can be said against it. The only points that can be made in favour of this Bill, so far, as I can see, are, First, that it will clarify the law and legalise an illegal action; but at what cost to the country will that be done if we do it by this particular method? Second, we are told the Bill will establish a measure of control over the nature of the films to be shown on the Sabbath. My answer is that we want no control over films on the Sabbath, because we do not want the films until there is a definite demand for them from the people. Third, it is said that it will assist charities. I say that with the compulsion there is the charities would be better without such assistance. Lastly, it is said that the Bill will safeguard the interests of the workers—safeguard their interests by putting 30,000 more workers to work on the Sabbath day!
I am going to oppose this Bill, and I ask the House to reject it, because I believe very definitely that it is an outrage on the conscience of the nation to attempt to put it on the Statute Book. I am certain that it will create controversy in every part of the country, a thing which this House ought to avoid doing. I am certain that the aim of those who are pressing forward this I3ill is to commercialise the Sabbath day. It is a demand not on behalf of the people but on behalf of financial interests. Lastly, I am going into the Lobby against the Bill because the Government and the House have no mandate for it, and ought not to tackle the problem without a mandate from the people. In my judgment the nation is determined, and demands from every representative who will put his constituency before his own 904 point of view and will attempt to give expression to the views of his constituency that this Bill shall be rejected, and I shall have great pleasure in assisting to defeat it.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I rise to support the Bill, or to say that I intend to vote for the Second Reading. I may say, in passing, as showing what a wedge this Bill has driven into parties, that even the small group of which I am a member has been split in two. We number four, and I think I am correct when I say there are two of us for the Bill and two against. The last speaker closed his speech by saying that if hon. Members would consider their constituencies and not their own personal interests they would vote in a certain way. I think I know my division, which is more easily known than almost any other division. It can be covered in a 10 minutes' walk. I was born in it, and I know everybody there intimately, and I have always, even though it has sometimes meant going against my colleagues, represented my division against anybody and everybody at any time. I resent the superior tone of the hon. Member in saying that only those who vote against the Bill are capable of representing their constituencies. He asks where the public demand comes from, and makes a claim to know public opinion, saying the public are against the Bill. I should be foolish and arrogant if I were to say the public were for the Bill, and he is equally so in saying that they are against it. The view of the public is unknown.
I recall that when I was not much more than a boy Glasgow was faced with the question whether the art galleries should be open on Sunday or not. A great mass of people said: "There is no public demand for it; nobody wants it." The city decided that a plebiscite should be taken, that everybody should be provided with a voting card: and the citizens, by an overwhelming majority, decided that the art galleries should be open. We do not know what the public think about this Bill. All that a Member of Parliament can do is to apply his experience and knowledge as best he can, and act in his own honest way. What is the argument against the Bill? There can be no claim to have logic on their 905 side either among the supporters of the Bill or those who are against it. The hon. Member who said that logic was against the Bill ought to introduce another Bill to-morrow to prohibit the use of tramcars on Sunday, if he would be logical; introduce a Bill to abolish Sunday travelling; introduce a Bill to stop the hundred and one other things that go on on Sundays. There is no logic on either side.
An hon. Member said he would rather see good houses provided for our people than Sunday entertainments. I agree, and if I could see our people provided with good homes, with wireless sets, with gramophones, with good airy apartments where the family could mix and have a good song, I would not care about your Sunday cinemas. The people could then make their own entertainment. All that many people have nowadays, however, are single rooms or a room and kitchen, with no gramophone, no wireless—nothing but shockingly drab surroundings. That is what drives the people to the cinema. on Sundays and drives them to cards, to banker and other gambling games which are played by the people who come out of the slums—and no law can prohibit it. I say that that is a good thing and anything is good that brings the poor people out of the slums into the open air where they can mix with their fellows. They all like their enjoyment, and bear in mind that to some of them the church is an enjoyment because they like good music. The poor people in many cases have no church connection, and they are not even in the communion of those who claim to be Sabbatarians. These poor people have no church fellowship, but they like to go where good music is played, and where there is anything of a cultural value.
Are you going to tell these people that there is something wrong in young men, who have nothing to do on Sunday, going to the cinema? I know that in Glasgow they could pack a big hall for a lecture, and. I do not know that there is anything wrong in that. We are being told, in effect, that it is wrong that poor people should be shown a picture of Deadwood Dick or Dick Turpin on the Sabbath. I never heard anything so fantastic. I was born of Sabbatarian parents, and I was turned out to go to the Sunday school in the morning, and to the mission, and I 906 had to be lectured. Very often I felt it hypocritical that a man who was drunk on a Saturday should lecture me for not going to church on Sunday. I thought it was very much better for me to be sober on Saturday and sober on Sunday. I know that I had wonderful parents and I had some sense of home life and decency, and we lived in some kind of a room, but I want hon. Members to picture a Glasgow slum. Do hon. Members contend that these poor people are not much happier sitting in a comfortable seat at a cinema than remaining in their homes in the slum with no fire and bare walls around them, and quite miserable surroundings. If these poor people leave those miserable surroundings and go to a cinema, are they to be told that they are going to hell? I ask Members to see these things as they see them in their private lives. What is wrong with the cinema? In my city we have opened cinemas on Sunday for the last 10 years.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Some of them. The hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston may know something about potatoes, but evidently he knows nothing about Glasgow. The newsagents and the small type of shops to be found in the Jewish quarter are open, and I represent them all. May I plead with the House to try and give some sort of social life to our fellows. Take the case of the shop assistants. They are working until six or seven o'clock every night, and they have Tuesday afternoon off. If they want to go to the cinema on Sunday, I do not see why they should not be allowed to do so. Who is there in this House who talks about Sunday labour who does not impose worse duties than the cinema imposes upon people? Is there any man in this House who keeps servants who does not work them on Sunday? There is less need for hon. Members to work servants on Sunday. Surely we ought not to prevent these poor people leaving their hovels on a Sunday and going to a cinema.
I speak of things as I know them, and I know the conditions under which the poor people live, and if this Bill can add a little joy to their lives, then it will be a good thing. Anything that makes these poor people move from their shock- 907 ing conditions, and gives to them happiness and joy at a, picture show and some sort of insight into life is a good thing. These entertainments make the poor people fancy for two or three hours that they are living in another kingdom, and that is a good thing. Anything that can give them pleasure for the few hours, so far from being an attack upon religion, is just the opposite. This question should be judged by the standard of how much joy it can import into life, and nothing can be wrong that imports joy into life. I welcome this Bill, because I think that on a Sabbath evening thousands of poor people enjoy these entertainments which bring joy where otherwise there is no joy.
§ Sir JOHN HASLAM
I never anticipated that my maiden speech would be upon this topic. It is an extremely difficult subject for a new Member to address the House upon, but it has one advantage, and it is that we can speak with perfect freedom, and we can endeavour faithfully, without party bias, to represent the views of those who sent us here. It is for this reason that I welcome this opportunity of addressing the House in a maiden speech against the Bill, and I hope my fellow Members will bear with me during the few minutes that I shall occupy the time of the House in giving my reasons why I strenuously oppose this Bill.
First of all, I object to the local option Clause. The effect of this Clause has already been pointed out. It is said that you have no other means of finding out whether there is a demand for this Measure or not, and that it is only to be granted if there is a demand for it. How are you to find that out unless you do it at the election for the council? Instead of councillors being elected for their business experience or their personal popularity, they will be elected because they are in favour of or against the opening of some pettifogging cinema perhaps in some back street. I think that is a very objectionable thing to introduce in our local administration and for that reason I am against the Bill. Local option on this subject is a very dangerous precedent. In future I suppose the Government will hand over anything upon which they cannot agree to the local authorities, and let them decide. After all, I claim 908 that we have no right to delegate matters of principle, matters of right and wrong. If it is right to grant these powers to the cinema, let us decide the question and grant them once and for all. Who has given us the power to allow councils to decide whether they will or will not permit their residents to break laws formulated not by man but by the great Architect of the universe? Will you stop at local option on this question? Practically every member supporting this Bill and belonging to my party has supported local option, but I would like to ask: are they in favour of local option on the temperance question? I have been against local option on that subject, and, if I have been consistent in objecting to local option in regard to temperance, I claim that I am equally consistent in opposing it in regard to this Bill.
The House has no mandate for this Measure. I think I can speak as well as most Members on behalf of my native county of Lancashire, and I shall be surprised to hear any hon. Member claiming that Lancashire wants the Measure. The constituencies in Lancashire have never been consulted. The House was elected to balance the Budget and not to unbalance the traditional position of our Sunday. This Parliament was elected to stop the importation of foreign goods and not to have the Continental Sabbath dumped upon us. This Parliament was elected to provide work for the people on Mondays and not to pass a Measure which will cause them to work on Sundays. Is there any man who would be prepared to give up his Sabbath and have it replaced by a day in the middle of the week? If you believe that any other day in the week is as good as the Sabbath ask the railway men, the police, or the postmen who are compelled to work on the Sabbath, and they will tell you that they prefer the day we know as Sunday to any other day of the week.
The Bill will cause acute distress to millions of people at home and abroad, and people will say that England is departing from her moorings. This country more than any other country has been anchored to God's Word. Sunday as a day of rest has been attacked for generations. Do not let it be said that a House composed so largely of National Members, elected for another purpose entirely, has given in to the attack and 909 surrendered the traditional sanctity of the Sabbath. I have no wish to stress the religious aspect of the question, but the Fourth Commandment, which is the longest, is only one of 10. What about the others? Does anyone propose to grant to the local authorities power to break the other nine? I will not deal with the more serious offences against the Commandments, but with two only. Does anyone propose that stealing should be left to local option, or bearing false witness, or anything of that description? All the 10 are of equal importance. I would point out that one of the Apostles said:For whosoever shall offend in one point of the law and keep the rest is guilty of breaking the whole.Parliament, no more than individuals, can pick and choose. After all, when we receive the Divine Command, what right have we to disobey? I looked up yesterday the words, which impressed me very forcibly at the time, used on the occasion of the Coronation of our beloved King. Part of the law of the land is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, before he places the Crown on the head of the King, presents him with a Bible—which, I would point out, contains these Ten Commandments—and says:We present you with this Book. It is the most valuable thing that this world offers. Here is wisdom. This is the Royal law. These are the living oracles of God.I, for one, should be sorry to see any part of the rules and regulations of that Book broken by this House. This is supposed to be a Christian country; it is designated as such; and, after all, reverence for and recognition of the Sabbath is not a matter of opinion, but of principle. It is deeply entrenched in the English character; it is interwoven with our lives, and is part of us. If you strike at it, you wound a great proportion of the best people of this country very severely. We who want to stand by the traditional position of the English Sabbath are not killjoys. It would be the first time in my life that I have been accused of being a morose, sad individual. We are anything but that, but we have a reverence for the traditional position of the Sabbath Day. I think we know where the hest and truest joys are to be found, and where true pleasure is.
I have noticed that in the previous speeches in this Debate there have been 910 attempts to place a certain amount of ridicule upon Church workers and those who support the Sunday as we know it. In my experience, Church workers and Sunday school officers are the salt of the earth, and I am always prepared to raise my hat to people like that. They live self-sacrificing lives, they are bringing up future citizens, and training them to lead decent and honourable lives, and Sunday is almost the only day on which they can carry on this beneficent work. I want the House not to make it more difficult for them. The last speaker said a lot about people being driven into the cinemas to get a certain amount of pleasure on the Sabbath evening, but who are people who are doing most for the uplift of those people? Are they the cinema people who provide this entertainment, or are they these hard-working people who day in and day out, but mainly on the Sabbath day, are working to improve the lives and conditions of those people? I, for one, repudiate the idea that these people are killjoys. They are anxious to improve the lot of the people, and are doing it every day. After all, cinemas are not a necessity of life; we have managed in England in the past without them; and if this Bill goes through, we cannot, as has been pointed out, stop at cinemas. The legitimate theatre, the music hall, the circus, dog racing, football matches, race-courses, dancing and many other things will automatically follow; it is impossible to avoid it.
I would like to emphasise a point which has been already made, because a good proportion of my life has been mixed up with it. If this Measure goes through, then, automatically, the opening of a vast proportion of the shops of this country on Sunday will follow. It will be the worst thing that can possibly happen for the working men of this country, the employés, if this Bill goes through and follows its natural development. I want the younger Members of this House, especially, to resist the temptation to think that they are supporting the liberty of the subject when they are supporting this Measure. The Sabbath Day's rest is a very ancient institution. We all chafe at times at apparent restrictions on our liberties, especially when we are-young, but when we get older we appreciate the wisdom of some of those ordinances. We realise that rules and 911 regulations, wisely applied, result in true liberty, and that so-called freedom for all more frequently degenerates into licence and tyranny. You will never make a C3 nation into an Al nation by the extension of cinemas.
May I now examine a few points in the Bill itself? Clause 1 permits these places to open on Sundays. They are open already. All that this Bill does is to make illegalities legal. It whitewashes offenders against the law, and exonerates law-breakers from their offences. Subsection (3, a) of Clause 1 allows an area to supersede a county council. One irresponsible and self-assertive district can upset the peace and tranquillity of a whole countryside, and the county council have no power to veto the decision of that particular council. The county council is the ruling power in almost all else, but it has no authority in this matter. The Bill says that these places can be opened on Sundays for public entertainment or amusement, but, after all, amusement and entertainment are not the be-all and end-all of life; they are not the alpha and omega of our existence. They may be in London, but they are not in the Provinces, and I speak on behalf of the Provinces.
I hope that the House to-night will refuse its consent to this Bill. I should like to quote what was said by one of the most eminent dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church, speaking in Manchester on Sunday last particularly in reference to London, where his Church is. Father Woodlock said last Sunday:This is a generation without a God. There is reason to feel grave apprehension as to the future of England. Youth to-day is for the most part quite detached from all religious influences and restraints. Never before in human history has it been possible to say that a generation of men and women have grown up in which the vast majority have no religion whatever. Yet there was one hopeful sign. There were indications that the best types of young people were beginning to react strongly against the philosophy which regarded life as merely the opportunity for selfish pleasure-seeking.I do not want the House to retard that tendency, and, therefore, I ask the House to reject this Measure. By Sub-section (2) of Clause 4, according to my reading, musical entertainments held apart from cinema shows will be exempt from giving the proceeds to charity, and there are no 912 conditions attached to paragraphs (a), (c) and (d). As a matter of fact, the cinemas, as we know, are already objecting to having to pay part of their takings, and the plea on behalf of charities will shortly go by the board if this Bill goes through. Another point that I want to make is that not only is it impossible for a county council, as the parent body, to control the actions of a comparatively small district council, but, by Sub-section (6) of Clause 2, county borough councils have no control over sub-committees, however obnoxious the actions of such sub-committees may be. That may be a point that can be rectified in Committee, but, as one who has had some experience of local government, I should object to the delegation of powers to a small committee over whose actions the whole council would have no control.
Again, the Bill finishes by saying that it shall not apply to Ulster or to Scotland. I can understand why it should not apply to Ulster, because Ulster has its own Parliament. Scotland, however, is not blessed with its own Parliament, and I do not know why it should be left out. If this Bill is to be such a blessing and privilege to us, why should not Scotland have the same privilege? What is good for the goose cannot be very bad for the gander. We are accused of inconsistency in regard to this Measure, but the very people who support the Measure are the most inconsistent. They are prepared to grant this privilege to cinemas, but not to theatres, and others are prepared to grant it to theatres but not to music halls and so on. They are the people who are inconsistent. We stand by the traditional position in this country, and we say that the fact that the law has been broken before does not confer the right to condone these illegalities. Therefore, we oppose the Measure.
I am sorry that the sponsor of the Bill has left the House, but I would like to say, even in his absence, that we Lancashire Members, in particular, have an intense admiration for Mr. Stanley. We admire the way in which he introduced the Measure. He told us that it had been imposed upon him, and, therefore, to some extent he has our sympathy, although he introduced it in such eloquent terms and with so much ability. We are not surprised at that ability. We have 913 watched him at the Home Office, and, above all, we know the stock from which he springs. His father, apart from the Royal Family, is, I think, the most popular man in England; he is certainly the most popular man in Lancashire; and I am always proud of the fact that, as a quite young man, I worked enthusiastically to get him, when he was the Hon. Edward Villiers Stanley, into this House, and I never regretted it. We have admired the way in which Mr. Stanley conducts affairs at the Home Office, and in the Committee upstairs we admire the way in which he conducts the Children Bill, and we wish him God-speed in protecting child-life. Had he been here, I should have liked to ask him—I hope he will read my remarks, even though he has not heard them—has he ever thought that he might be doing more harm to child-life by this Bill than he will ever do good by the Children Bill?
A remarkable thing occurred yesterday He himself upstairs moved a Clause in the Children Bill, which we passed, and which read as follows:No licence shall be granted in respect of any entertainment which is to take place on a Sunday.On the Tuesday he moves that no licence shall be granted in respect of any entertainment which is to take place on a Sunday, and on the Wednesday he moves a Measure to enact that entertainments shall be made legal on the Sabbath. Of course, in the one case he was dealing with children, but I do not find any Clause in this Bill that exempts children from attending a cinema or taking part in a cinema. I do not want to question his right to introduce this Bill, but I am certain that he does not represent Westmorland in a matter of this sort and that he does not represent, above all places, a place that is revered by a vast number of people in this country and abroad. I refer to Keswick. Keswick has associations for thousands of people in this country which they will remember as long as they live, and I am sorry that Mr. Stanley has introduced this Measure, seeing that he represents Keswick in the House of Commons. After all, who are responsible for this Bill? Not the Government. Not the Home Office, according to the evidence that we have. The Home Secretary himself is going to vote against it. I am proud to believe 914 that. I think I am the only person in the House who voted for the Home Secretary at the last election. I was asked to do it by my leader and, as a loyal follower, I voted for him, and I shall be delighted if I am in the same Lobby with him to-night. I am certain he will never represent the feelings of the electors of Darwen better in his life than he will if he goes into the Lobby against the Bill. I do not want to deal too much with the position of Mr. Stanley.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman but I must remind him of a rule that he has broken several times. He must not refer to a Member of the House by name.
§ Sir J. HASLAM
I beg pardon. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department stands alone in his advocacy of the Bill so far as the printed Bill is concerned. I do not want to make comparisons, but I cannot help thinking:The boy stood on the burning deckWhence all but he had fled.and if this Measure is going to benefit the country so much, why cannot the Government be responsible for it? It is a private Member's Measure and I hope the House will reject it. Who wants this Bill? We are told that London will be the principal supporter of it. I should like to see it supported by London Members alone if it is in that position. The London County Council, by their illegal action, have caused the trouble, and it is up to them to clear up the mess. This is nothing more or less than a private Member's Bill, and I hope it will have the usual fate of private Members' Bills. I hope we may defeat it and get a Select Committee, or other device of perplexed politicians, to deal with the problem later on. We who come from Lancashire have an immense veneration for the family to which the Under-Secretary belongs. We always wish it success and we say, in the words of the motto, "On, Stanley, on." In this case, however, I hope the result of the Debate and the Division will not be, "On, Stanley, on," but "Stop, Stanley, stop."
§ Mr. McENTEE
I should like heartily to congratulate the hon. Member on a, very able maiden speech. I am sure I am expressing the hope of all Members of the House when I say we wish to hear 915 him again on many occasions and on many subjects. With regard to the Bill, apart from the speech of the Under-Secretary, I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston (Mr. Blindell). It was more in the nature of a, lecture than a speech and, for sheer assumption, it has probably been unequalled to-day and will probably be unequalled for a long time in our Debates. The hon. Member assumed that everything he said must essentially be right, that all of us who did not agree with him must essentially be working entirely against the interests not only of our constituents but of the whole of the people of the country, that he alone was apparently able to express Christian faith, although he expressed very little Christian charity, and that he alone was the guardian of what he called our English Sunday. I suppose all of us, whatever our political views may be, regard Sunday, because it is a day of rest, as something that we ought to honour and preserve. When anyone tells me he wants to preserve our English Sunday, I reply immediately, "And so do I," but I think I have a right to ask, "If you want to preserve our English Sunday, and I want to preserve our English Sunday, what is the difference between us?"
I should say without hesitation to the hon. Member and to those who appear to agree with him, judging by some of the speeches we have heard, that he wants to preserve not only a day of rest and a day on which he can enjoy himself in the way he believes to be best fitted for him, but he wants to impose on me a set of conditions that he believes in so that all of us must conform to the conditions that he desires to impose on us. I have nothing to say against the Church people. I do not want to prevent them going to church. I sometimes go there myself, although there are certainly more regular attenders in the House than I am. I do not in any sense desire to prevent anyone from going to church as often as he likes, but I want to know why he wants to prevent me from going where I like and what right he has to impose on me a set of conditions which will prevent me and those who think with me from going to a place to which I desire to go. I will make a confession. There are probably few Members in the House 916 who go to cinemas less than I do. It was only about two or three weeks ago that I heard my first talkie. So I am not speaking as one who is a frequenter of cinemas, but as one who desires liberty and desires to prevent the imposition of other people's interpretations of liberty on me or on those who think with me, or, for that matter, on those who may think entirely differently from me.
I was particularly struck by the hon. Member for Holland telling us what used to occur in the trade unions. I shall be very surprised to know that he has ever been a member of a trade union in his life. If he has, he certainly does not appear to know very much about them. I can claim to know something about them, because I have been for nearly 40 years a member of a trade union. If I understand the trade union point of view in regard to the Bill, it is this. A trade unionist organises with his fellows for the purpose of getting, by collective bargaining, as good conditions of life as it is possible to get. The whole underlying principle of trade unionism is collective bargaining. What on earth is there in the Bill that any trade unionist could reasonably object to? If anyone asked me whether I would rather work on a Sunday or on any other day if I had the choice, I should most certainly say: "I will work on a week-day and have the Sunday off." But, if the choice was with me, as it is with many people to-day, whether I would work on a Sunday or remain idle for the whole seven days of the week, I should most unhesitatingly say: "I will work on the Sunday and be jolly glad to do it." When I heard the hon. Member for Holland use the argument that 30,000 people would be compelled to work on Sunday, my mind turned to the interjections that we get from time to time from hon. Members opposite who say "Russia," "Compulsory labour." There are many in this country who would be glad to be compulsorily employed, and they would certainly be glad of the opportunity to work on Sunday if they only got one day's work in the week.
I was amazed at the Attorney-General, the chief legal luminary in the country, arguing about the Clause that stipulates that only six days shall be worked by any employé of a cinema and telling us that the law would be evaded and that 917 it would be impossible to carry it out. What on earth is the use of putting a Clause into any Bill if the Attorney-General tells us that it can easily be evaded and that it will really not be carried out at all? There are to-day scores of Acts upon the Statute Book in which a time limit is fixed, and if I were to suggest to the Attorney-General that those laws were not being carried out, he would ridicule the idea, but, for his own purpose, in arguing against the Bill, he tells us that it is impossible to carry out the conditions of a particular Clause in the Bill. I am prepared to admit that there will be certain evasions when the Bill becomes an Act. There are very few Acts which are not evaded by certain people at certain times, but it is amazing to hear the argument of the Attorney-General that because certain Clauses in certain Bills may or can be evaded, therefore the whole law should be scrapped.
A good deal of cant and humbug is being talked by certain Members of the House about our English Sunday. I doubt whether there are many Members in the House who mean what they say—[Interruption.] Let me finish the sentence. I do not say that they never mean what they say. I should be sorry to say that, but I have very grave doubts whether they are serious and mean what they say when they tell us that they do not want to see any Sunday work. There are few of you who do not yourselves employ labour every Sunday in the year. It is apparently all right to employ labour as long as it is used for the purposes of your comfort, but, if there is some poor unfortunate devil who has practically been down and out all his life, with a few odd pence to spend at the week-end, and it is suggested that anybody has to work on Sunday for the purpose of giving him some pleasure in life, you talk cant and humbug about the increase of Sunday labour. If you wish to decrease Sunday labour give your servants a full day's rest on Sundays. Give all your gardeners, chauffeurs, cooks, and all your caddies on the golf course a holiday on Sunday and pay them for it, and then we shall have some belief in your sincerity when you talk about Sunday labour. In face of your actions, I cannot describe it by any other words than sheer cant and humbug when you talk about the spread of Sunday labour under the 918 provisions of the Bill which we are now considering.
It has been stated that London is the only place which is concerned in the Bill. That is far from being the truth. I go away like other people who have the sense and an opportunity of doing so for a holiday whenever I get a chance. I have not been to any place among English seaside resorts for a long time past where if I desired to do so I could not go to concerts and cinemas on Sunday night. Are you going to close down all those places and say that such concerts and entertainments must not be given at those seaside resorts and other places on Sunday nights. An hon. Member spoke about a letter which he had received from a good lady in Bath, and I have received such a letter telling me that if I vote in favour of the Bill the Almighty's hand will wipe me out. I will risk it. I hope that the majority of the Members of the House will risk it also. The time is passing, and I hope it will pass entirely soon, when we can be interfered with by busybodies in determining how we shall spend our own time and money. I could not help asking myself, when the Attorney-General was speaking, what on earth there is in him—taking him merely as an example and not because he is the Attorney-General—what influence, virtue or knowledge does he possess to determine what I am to do with my Sunday and my money on Sunday? I would not presume to dictate to anybody in my constituency as to whether they should go to church, cinema or anywhere else. If they asked for my advice I might be prepared to give it, but I should not think of dictating what they should do with their Sunday. It is not soy business, and r certainly do not assume the qualification, which, apparently, certain hon. Members in this House assume, to determine what other people shall do with their Sundays and their money to. I hope that the Bill will be carried.
I heard the extraordinary argument used to-day that the hospitals ought to keep out of this matter. Why ought they to do so? I received some literature, as other hon. Members did. I am not influenced very much by it except that it must be said that there is an argument in it. In the literature one has received from the side in opposition to the Bill 919 there is no argument, certainly not in that to which I refer. I have in my pocket a statement which says that the representatives of between 100 and 200 hospitals and charitable associations met together to consider the Bill and that they came to the conclusion they would ask Members of Parliament to support it. The Attorney-General comes along and says: "It is altogether wrong for the hospitals to do that, because they opposed the other Bill introduced by an hon. Gentleman a few weeks ago with regard to sweepstakes." Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows the material difference between sweepstakes and the opening of cinemas or other places of amusement as provided for in the Bill. One is gambling and the other is not. If I were asked to determine the position, I might say that in regard to the one I may have conscientious qualms about setting up gambling institutions, but, with regard to the other, that it is quite another matter when it is a question of providing recreation and amusement.
I cannot imagine why people should say to me: "You must not go to this place and you must not help the hospitals through that source because by so doing you are inconsistent, having voted against, or refused to support, the Measure which was introduced a couple of weeks ago to deal with sweepstakes and other things of that character." It is said that a sum of at least £150,000 is involved so far as the hospitals are concerned. I desire the hospitals to retain the £150,000, and I want the sums to be increased if possible. I desire every opportunity to be given to the hospitals to bring healing to the people who need healing. I am amazed to hear that it is wrong to be concerned about the £150,000, which, I believe, might easily be increased to £300,000 or £400,000 and given to the hospitals through the recreations and amusements in which the people indulge. I am concerned about the matter, and I would give every possible opportunity for an increase in the revenue of the hospitals through the means of cinemas or any other thing. Cinemas are not the only places that are concerned. The hon. and gallant Member for Carnarvonshire (Major Owen) stated, when I interjected the word "concerts" during his speech, 920 that in Wales no charge was made to the public for concerts on Sundays. I have had some experience in Wales and I remember that I went to a concert on one occasion there, and a charge was made. Other hon. Members tell me the same thing. Whatever the experience of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire may be, I know something of the Welsh people and I cannot imagine that they get everything free in the way of amusements on Sundays.
It is not only cinemas that are concerned in this Bill, but music and lectures. One hon. Member, who made his maiden speech, suggested that the promoters of certain Labour meetings might make a charge. He seemed to think that people went to Labour meetings for amusement. They certainly get amusement there. I encourage amusement. If anyone comes to hear me I slhall certainly tell them some of the finest stories that were ever told. That is one of the ways to introduce variety into a political meeting when one desires to make it a success. Hon. Members opposite cannot throw any stones in this direction on that account. I left their party, in spite of the amusement they provided for me. They did provide amusement for me, very often free, but not always free. On some occasions I had to pay fairly heavily. If is a fact that concerts are provided at political meetings, but no charge will be able to be made on Sundays unless opportunity is given by this Bill. I hope that we shall not restrict concerts, cinema performances and other means whereby people obtain entertainment. I want good music to be given.
I do not profess to be a judge of good music, but I know what I like. Some people might say that certain things that I like are not good music. It may be that my tastes are not sufficiently developed to enable me to appreciate what the hon. Member for Holland-with-Boston would call good music, but it is good music to me because I like it. If I am not able to distinguish between modern jazz or the music of Bach, it is not my fault but the fault of my education. If a person can obtain pleasure from a thing and can enjoy it, whether on Sunday or on any other day, why on earth should anyone desire to prevent them from such enjoyment and say that they shall stay, perhaps, in a miserable, 921 little back room, where they are living perhaps with a bad tempered wife, or a bad tempered husband, or bad tempered children—bad tempered not because they are essentially bad but because conditions compel them to live in a little slum. If we can take them out of these conditions into a place with bright lights, a warm atmosphere and comfort we shall be doing them good and not harm. I am not prepared to allow anyone to say to me that because I profess Christianity in a stronger way than perhaps they do, and I mouthe it in a stronger way, that therefore the Lord has given to me some special privilege to impose my will on those who are weak and not able to determine for themselves what should be done with their time on Sunday. I want the right for myself to determine all my actions on the Sunday and because I want that liberty for myself I have no right to say that I am going to prevent other citizens, either in my constituency or elsewhere, from having that right.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
When my constituents sent me here to represent them I resolved that I would not speak in this House unless I must do so, and it is only because I feel the constraint that I must, in order to look myself straight in the eyes again, speak in no uncertain manner on this question that I have dared to rise to address this honourable House. I object to the Bill, in the first place, because it is a Bill for the legalisation of wrongdoing. Precisely for the same reason I opposed the Sweepstakes Bill. The argument in regard to the Sweepstakes Bill was: "Everybody is doing it, and in order to keep some respect for the law we must put this matter in order." On the present occasion because the London County Council have winked at the law and have agreed to the law being disregarded, we in this House, if you please, the custodians of the liberties of this country, are to pass a law to put their irregularities into order. I object to that way of coming to this House. Let them come here and ask that they may convince the Members of this House before they do wrong, rather than do wrong and then ask us to put the wrong right. The real question before the House to-night is in regard to cinema entertainments. Subsection 1, paragraphs (a), (c) and (d), which refer to "musical entertainments, exhibitions of animals or of inanimate 922 objects and debate," are put into the Bill to hoodwink the House and to make them think that the cinema is not the main object of the Bill.
I was sent here to do very serious things. I said over and over again during the election that this country was in a very serious condition. I got people of all parties to vote for me, 35,000 of them in Gateshead, because they were convinced that I was right when I said that this country was in a grave financial condition. I suggest, with all the vehemence of which I am capable, that we have no mandate for these piffling things, that we were not sent here to do them or to have any contact with them. There is no demand for cinemas on Sunday night in the provinces, to my knowledge. Six days, with the ample leisure now enjoyed by the working people, is time enough to enable them to get all the enjoyment that they require at cinema exhibitions. London in this respect is no criterion of the rest of the country; it is totally different in every respect. The Under-Secretary spoke very graciously about the working classes; but what does he know about them? One would think from some of the remarks which he and other hon. Members have made that happiness can only be secured if you live in a house of many apartments. That is nothing but clotted nonsense. The happiest people I have ever met have lived in two rooms; the greatest saints I have ever known have lived in two rooms, and to talk as though happiness can only be measured by the extent of the apartments of a house is; as I have already said, just clotted nonsense. I am a working-man's son. I was born and bred in two rooms—I was only born in one roam as far as I know and speaking from second hand knowledge—and I know what the conditions are like. Those were happy days, those days of long ago. My parents were the best God ever made. Happiness was fragrant there, and to imagine that you can only have happiness if you have large rooms is to say that it is only the well-to-do who are happy. That is just nonsense.
I suggest that for body and soul and mind a day of rest is essential. As the son of a working-man I knew it was Sunday morning because something happened which did not usually happen. At half- 923 past five my father went out to his work on week-days, andWith a whistle, shut the door he ne'er might ope again"—but I knew it was Sunday morning when I heard him humming his hymn tunes to the crackling of the fire. There was physical relaxation and mental relaxation on Sundays, an opportunity for the growth of the soul. A day of rest is good for the body. Father is not going out into the darkness on Sunday morning. It is a time for the singing of the birds. It is good for the soul. A man is himself again. He no longer belongs to his job. He is the master of his destiny, the captain of his soul, for once. And as to family life, it is possible on this day of rest to enjoy the benefit of communal life, to meet those of like mind in those places where they are wont to meet. Many of us thank God that we were born into those happy conditions.
I once went from the mainland to Holy Island, and I saw stakes in the sand. I asked: "What are these stakes for," and I was told that they were to keep you on the right path. If you did not keep within those stakes you were in danger of the tide and the drifting and sinking sand. Those who do not heed the warning, suffer over and over again. The Commandments of God are not out of date. They are the stakes which show the King's Highway to the Holy Island, the way by which we can go in safety. They are warnings. Let us heed their warnings and take their advice. I have always said that Moses was the greatest statesman that the world would ever see. During those 40 years in the wilderness he drilled a rabble of slaves into a Nation, and he did so because of the Ten Commandments, which he had from God. Why should we as a House of Commons flout the considered opinion of the churches of our land? I can visualise the time when a cinema will be a part of the equipment of each church in the future, in the same way as the old magic lantern used to be, and with carefully selected pictures, teaching the people by the eye-gate as well as by the ear-gate, they could do good work.
Why did not the cinemas go to the constituted authorities of religion in this land, to the Catholic priest, and say, 924 "What will you do to help us to help your people who walk the streets at night? We are quite prepared to work in unison with you, and give you one of our theatres"? Why do they not go to the Free Churches and to the Church of England? I guarantee that in Gateshead they could have got the efficient workers who were needed. No, they are deliberately trying to get this Bill through this House because they have done wrong. This is only a part of the great offensive undertaken by all the satanic powers against this country. It is part of the dreadful aftermath of the War and the consequent slackening of the moral of our people. In the so-called "literature," God save the mark, of these clays, Arnold Bennett, who ought to have known better; that unworthy son of a worthy sire, Aldous Huxley; the half-demented Lawrence, Joyce and Aldington; these men have deliberately flouted the churches and all the conventions, while jazz has volplaned down the chromatic scale with a noise which is an offence to all who love good music. As to the American films, we know what they stand for and what they would do for England. We must support the churches and all those powers and influences which make for righteousness in order to stop this evil.
Sunday is the poor man's birthright as well as his balm, and only a profane person would sell it for a mess of rich, red, savoury pottage from Hollywood. The profane person is the man who stands before the temple but who has never entered within the holy shrine. He would secularise everything. We must take our stand against this movement and all its implications. The inevitable consequence would be the commercialisation of the Lord's Day. I have a letter from the Variety Artists Federation, who say that we should either open or close all places of entertainment on Sundays. This is a slippery path, and our good old Sunday, which has done so much for our nation, is in danger of being commercialised. That will be the inevitable consequence if we do not reject this Bill. This is a national question, and it must be settled nationally in this House of Commons. We are the trustees for all the things which this nation enjoys, and trustees cannot allow assets to waste. It is required that trustees should be 925 faithful, and I suggest that hon. Members will think once and twice and thrice before they give away this heritage.
§ Major GLYN
I am sure that the House has listened with great interest and attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Magnay). I should like to congratulate him on the frankness of his address and the sincerity and conscientiousness which he has shown. The opposition to the Bill appears to be more vocal than was at first imagined, but I am quite sure that those who support the Bill recognise that those who oppose it do so on grounds of conscience and are, therefore, entitled to express their views. On the other hand I hope that they will give us our due, that we in supporting this Bill should not necessarily be condemned as the agents of Satan or as being due to be swept off the earth by the hand of Providence. When I look at the Bill it seems to me that this is a matter of legislation which requires to be enacted by a modern Parliament to meet modern conditions. I ask the House to get back to the real position. The law as administered to-day is an Act of 1780. As I understand it, that Act when passed in the days of Charles was passed for the purpose of suppressing houses of ill fame, which we would all wish to suppress to-day; and a second purpose was to suppress meetings of Nonconformists. That part of the law of 1780, at any rate, has been moderated.
The House must realise that, if we are to do our duty, we are not here as delegates of a constituency, and that we should not be influenced by ten thousand postcards, but that we have to vote according to our consciences. That may be one method of modern propaganda with Members of Parliament, but it would be a bad thing indeed, as the learned Attorney-General said, if it required that enormous number of postcards to deflect a single vote given tonight on a matter of the gravest importance. On the last occasion I recorded my vote for a similar Bill, and I was a member of the Standing Committee that considered that Bill. A great many of the Amendments which were passed by the Standing Committee have been embodied in this Bill. I know that there are objections to the local option Clause. 926 When that was discussed last year, it was clearly pointed out that the local authorities are the authorities which have control of the cinema theatres, not for reasons of morality but for reasons of safety. The great local authorities are very jealous of their position. I do not at all agree that we are trying to burke our own responsibility here by thrusting some decision upon the local authority. It is for us here as Members of Parliament to make the law and it is for the local authority to carry out that law.
Nothing is so bad in any State as allowing a Statute to remain when it is not properly carried out. We know the great evils that have resulted in the United States by the passage of certain Acts which are now on the Statute Book 'but are not respected. Illegitimate business grows up which leads to crime and vice of every description. As I see it, the honesty of British law requires that no Act of Parliament should remain on the Statute Book unless it has the full authority of Parliament. Then if that law is broken action can be taken, but if the law is out of date it is our duty to amend the law and bring it more into accord with modern conditions. I ask hon. Members to realise that it is almost impossible for the Home Office or the Government to insist upon the law being carried out if it is against the trend of public opinion. If we give a Second Reading to this Bill the particular things specified in Clause 1 will be permitted, and nothing else will he permitted. Therefore the fears of some hon. Members that dirt-track racing or greyhound racing or even stage plays will be allowed, are groundless. Those things will be illegal and there will be power for the Home Office to say to the local authorities, "You are to carry out not only the Statute of 1780, but the amended Statute of 1932, and we shall see that the law is carried out and does not become a dead letter."
It is of the greatest importance that we should be quite clear on this point. Many hon. Members seem to think that this Bill is opening the door to a great many things which none of us who vote for the Bill wish to see done. On the other hand I am convinced that the law cannot be enforced unless it is brought up to date and properly carried out. 927 Hon. Members have blamed the London County Council for breaking the law. Do they realise that when the law was first broken the film had not been invented? The London County Council first broke this Statute 43 years ago, in order to allow Sunday concerts to be held within their jurisdiction. It was 36 years ago that museums were opened on Sundays. Everyone admits that museums and concerts do not harm. The film was not in existence and theatrical performances were not authorised except through the trickery of a theatrical club. If hon. Members do not recognise the trend of public opinion they will drive these things underground and will intensify the trickery which could be and is carried out in London. At the Albert Hall today you can give a concert to thousands of people, and by having, in some remote part of the hall, a few free seats, you are with the law because a late Lord Chancellor in a judgment said that, by the provision of free seats, the performance was not necessarily a performance under the Act. Therefore the clever people said at once, "We will put banks of seats aside as free, although they may be an infinitesimal proportion of the seating capacity of the hall." Does anyone suggest that that is the right way to carry out the law? It is trickery and folly. It is our business to make the law watertight, to bring it up to date and to face criticism.
Then there is the question of Sunday labour. That question was debated on the Bill of last year. We must not humbug ourselves or our constituents in this matter. If we are sincere about Sunday labour, and I think all of us are, how many of us are prepared to stop all motor coaches proceeding on the roads on Sunday? What is the difference between allowing motor coaches to take people from Manchester to Southport on a Sunday, and other forms of Sunday labour? Why all this sympathy for the man who works a cinematograph machine? Why no sympathy for the motor coach driver on whose fitness and rest many lives depend? Let us be honest about Sunday labour. In this Bill we say that a man shall have one day off in seven: That is providing him with a day of rest. It may not be a 928 Sunday, and no other day is as good as Sunday. But if we are to be consistent in this matter let us carry out the principle in every other industry. Let us shut the cafes, the A.B.C. shops, the bars, all the places of refreshment; let us stop all motor coaches, let us stop the clubs and let us realise that what is law for the working man in one industry must be made the law in every other. No hon. Member here is going to say that the public would tolerate for a single instant the cessation of movement from great centres of population to rural districts on Sundays. The thing is ridiculous. As for allowing people to attend their places of worship I should be opposed to this Bill were it not that it provides that the performances shall not start until 5 o'clock in the evening, which, I believe, means that every person who is responsible for these performances will be able to attend Divine service at some other time of the day.
Lastly there is a matter which I regard as of tremendous importance, not from the point of view of detail, but from the point of view of the general trend of policy in this country. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill in such a very able speech—and whatever the views of hon. Members may be on this question they must recognise that that was a speech of great clarity of thought—admitted that this was one of those House of Commons questions in connection with which, sometimes, one sees the lid taken off, as it were, and people expose their souls as they did in the case of the Prayer Book Debate. I was brought up to respect the Sabbath, and I think I still do so, but I was never taught, and I hope no man in this land was ever taught, that God wished the Sabbath to be a day of unhappiness. My idea of the Sabbath is not connected with either Mrs. Grundy or with D.O.R.A. My conception of the Sabbath is that it should be a day of joy, a day when people can have decent amusement.
I do not defend filthy films being shown on Sunday, or any other day, but I fail to understand the argument that people ought not to go to the cinema on Sunday for fear of seeing some sexual film. What humbug! If you are sincere in that view, then tackle the question of the censorship, and tackle the question of 929 your film industry—the Cinderella among the industries of this country, and the third greatest industry in the United States. If we are honest in this, I would not mind seeing a special licence given to films for exhibition on Sunday but that pre-supposes that we are not canting humbugs about the film industry, and that we are going to get down to it and see that the British film industry is something to be proud of and that we are not showing, under the cloak of the law, the castoff films of Hollywood.
What we are faced with here is a matter of conscience, and I respect all those hon. Members who are against the Bill on conscientious grounds. I have my own point of view, but I believe that what we are confronted with to-night is the necessity to be honest with ourselves, to make our laws in accord with modern ideas, to reform our Statute Book, and to wipe out old statutes that mean nothing. There was one great film made in America, a film called "Intolerance" which some hon. Members may have seen. If they have seen that film it will have helped them to realise that you can do no good to religion or anything else by acting in any other way than by trusting the people to do what they believe to be right in their consciences and before God. We are doing nothing in this Bill which forces any man to act against his conscience, but we are allowing that liberty and freedom of action which to my mind is the touchstone of modern polity.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Like the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Major Glyn) I spent a great deal of time in Committee upstairs dealing with the last Bill on this subject. The hon. and gallant Member has been true to tradition to-night because this is not the first time that he has supported Bills with which I, at any rate, have not been in agreement. I remember the Racecourse Betting Control Board Bill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman supported that Bill up to the hilt, and the promises which were given upstairs in connection with that Measure do not help me in the least to agree with him to-night as to any promises that may be given in connection with this Measure. I respect the very high tone which has prevailed in this Debate, and I will do nothing willingly to lower it. I must say, however, that I regard this Bill as 930 the first real challenge not only to the British Sunday, but to the institution of a general one day's rest in seven in this country. It has been astonishing to me when I have met social reformers on the Continent, trade union leaders, in France, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere to find them say as they all do, that one of their chief objects for the last quarter of a century has been to establish abroad what we regard as the English week-end—that is to say to finish work at one o'clock on Saturday and not to resume until Monday morning. Yet here we are in this Parliament discussing ways and means of establishing in this country the Continental Sunday, because that is what it really means.
I do not approach this question as a Sabbatarian. I do not propose to deal with it as a religious matter. My opposition rests chiefly on the certain knowledge that the Sunday as we know it now in this country is the best safeguard which unorganised workpeople have of at least 52 days holidays in the year. I have spent a great deal of my life in connection with organising those employed in the distributive and allied trades—the largest industry in the land by the way. There are 1,500,000 people employed in the shops, offices and warehouses of this country, and I want to do all I can to safeguard their interests. I am perfectly satisfied, if this Bill is carried, and the cinemas are allowed to open, as to what the next stage will be. One hon. Member supporting this Bill has already indicated that he is opposed to D.O.R.A., and parts of D.O.R.A. are the only safeguards which 1,500,000 shop assistants and others have against working very long hours. I do not look upon Sunday in the same light as some hon. Members. They view it purely as a religious institution. I do not dispute that view for a moment, but unless I am mistaken, at the very beginning of time, Sunday was a day of rest not for religious purposes only but for the culture and edification of the people. It was later on clothed by the Church with its present sanctity. I think it is wrong, however, to say that it is the duty of the Church only to uphold it. In my opinion it is one of the best safeguards which the Labour movement in this country ever had against inroads into their hours of labour by unscrupulous employers.
931 It is argued that the Bill provides for one day of rest in seven for the 150,000 people employed in the entertainment industry. The House by the way ought to note that there are no fewer than 150,000 persons employed in the amusement industry of this country. It will perhaps astonish some hon. Members as it surprised me to learn, that as many as 70 persons may be employed in one modern cinema in London. That is to say, that the cinema is practically a small factory or workshop as far as employment is concerned. The important factor then arises that 75 per cent. of these 150,000 are young women and girls. When hon. Members tell me that the law will provide those workers with one day's rest in seven, let me ask the cinema proprietors, if they are so anxious to make and carry out that promise under this Bill, why do they not give a universal one day's rest in seven to their employés now in the provinces where the cinemas are already open on the Sunday? But they do not. The London County Council provide in their by-laws when they give licences that the operatives employed in the cinemas shall have one day's rest in seven, and they get it, but in the provinces there is no such provision, and I am assured that where there is no such provision they work seven days a week and practically every day of the year. As a matter of fact, I have a letter here from an employé of one of these cinema companies, and he assures me that that is the case in some of the provincial towns.
Hon. Members seem to take it, if this provision is carried for providing one day's rest in seven, that automatically everybody will have that one day's rest in seven, but I am sure I am right—and Members who have experience of these problems will, I am sure, agree with me—when I say that it is never sufficient in itself to lay down in a legal enactment that a certain thing shall happen in industry. You must have two factors in addition to that. Unless you have an adequate inspectorate and a strong trade union organisation, the law as such is of no avail at all, and I want to say to the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill that I feel satisfied that those two conditions will probably never eventuate in connection with this Measure. I can 932 hardly see the Home Office or the county councils at any time taking so much interest in the welfare of these workpeople that they will appoint a sufficient inspectorate to see that they all get one day's rest in seven; and I am positive of this—I say it to my regret—that I know of no person, however clever or however mighty he is, who can organise a strong trade union covering the whole of these young women and young girls, because they look on their employment merely as a passing phase; they naturally look forward to something else. Therefore, merely to say that there is a provision in the law to allow of one day's rest in seven does not satisfy me in the least, unless the corollary of an adequate inspectorate and a strong trade union organisation will follow the passing of the law.
There is another point to remember, and it has been put very eloquently by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General. Hon. Members say that there is a strong demand for the opening of cinemas on Sunday. The only demand that I have ever heard of has been from the proprietors, not from anybody else, and I have very sad recollections of what happened in Committee upstairs on the last Bill. Hon. Members talk about postcards being sent from the Churches! Members of that Committee had something to contend with that was a deal worse than postcards. I mean the lobbying and the canvassing that was done by people in connection with promoting the Measure, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite knows that too well. The learned Attorney-General touched upon the main point that appeals to me in relation to this matter. When hon. Members say there is a demand from the community for the opening of cinemas, I am not so sure that I arm not right in stating, that if a plebiscite were taken of the young women of London as to whether those great emporiums, like Selfridge's and Barker's, should be allowed to open on Sunday, there would be a greater demand for the opening of those places than for the opening of the cinemas. I am almost sure of it.
I am as certain as that I stand here that the biggest blow that could be given against the present conditions of employment of the 1,500,000 people who are employed in the shops of this country would 933 be the passage of this Bill. What happens now in connection with the big cinemas? A little toffee shop, a tobacco shop, a little fruit shop, an ice-cream shop and such like, spring up all around. If this Bill passes every kind of shop will be surrounding the great cinemas, and shop assistants will be employed in them on seven days a week. That is what will happen, and it is no use arguing that trade unions ought to look after this business, because to my great regret, as I say, I do not think that these people in shops and cinemas are very easy to organise. I should like to see anybody undertaking the task, to see what they can do with it.
Let me pass to another consideration. I was astonished at the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, when he said that tramcars, omnibuses and railway trains run on Sundays. Of course they do, but surely, because work of necessity is performed on Sunday, we are not called upon to add to the numbers of those employed on Sunday for the sake of amusement.
§ Mr. DAVIES
In that case, where the men are organised powerfully enough to see to their wages, hours and conditions of labour, a part of my argument falls to the ground, but my contention is that the 150,000 employed in these places are badly unorganised, and consequently the case differs fundamentally from that of the organised railwaymen and the omnibus drivers. I have made inquiries as to the attitude of the people who own the cinemas to the trade unions, and I find that at this moment the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association, apart from one or two branches in the provinces, decline absolutely to have anything to do with the trade unions in negotiating conditions for Sunday employment. Hon. Members talk as if the employers in this industry are exceedingly generous and all the rest of it, but the wages paid to an adult woman in the best West End cinema tonight, I am given to understand, are about 30s. a week for 12 hours a day.
When hon. Members talk about charity, I am informed—I cannot vouch for this figure—that the total amount collected for charity by the cinemas of this country last year was £180,000. I do not know the 934 figure spent on all the hospitals, but I should not be surprised if it was £10,000,000 at least. [An HON. MEMBER: "£13,000,000!"] I understand it is £13,000,000, and these people come forward in the name of charity and say they want the cinemas opening in order to help the hospitals. £180,000 out of £13,000,000, if you please! I do not like this idea of bringing in the argument of charity, because I can see what might very well happen. I come in contact occasionally with hospital work, and I am satisfied that once the hospitals are found to secure a definite income from this source, or from sweepstakes, their voluntary contributions will decline proportionately.
This is a very serious issue, so far as those of us are concerned who are trying to organise the workpeople in the distributive trades; and the whole of my argument rests on this point, that once you open cinemas on Sunday, there is no argument whatsoever left against opening Selfridge's, Barker's, Lewis's, and all the rest of them. So far as I can see, I confess right away that the work of half a century of people like Sir Charles Dilke, Mary MacArthur, and W. C. Anderson will go by the board in about five or 10 years hence. As stated, I am not a sabbatarian nor am I connecting my decision to-night with the Churches in any way. My view is that the Churches ought to provide an alternative to the pictures; I think that is their duty. I feel that I shall be following not only my conscience but the experience that I have had of trying to organise these thousands of young people who will not have a chance to argue with their employers about one day's rest in seven, when I go into the Lobby to-night against the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. DUGGAN
I should like to discuss one or two points which seem to me of importance on this Bill. First of all, I would suggest it would be well for all those who are opposing the Bill to bear in mind that it is one particular Bill that we are discussing to-day, and that we are not proposing any terrific downhill run in the direction of general demoralisation from the religious point of view. After all, this Bill sets out clearly one or two definite conditions under which, for instance, labour can be employed on Sunday. We have heard it said that it 935 is impossible to see that those conditions are enforced. If hon. Members feel that there are certain loopholes I should have thought it was not beyond the bounds of possibility, to see, perhaps in the Committee stage that safeguards with regard to labour on Sundays should be enforced.
We have heard since the beginning of the Debate many hard things said about cinemas in general, and many hon. Members have suggested that any industry with so pernicious an influence should not be allowed to invade the sanctity of the Sabbath. That may be so, but I should have thought that the two questions ought to be taken quite separately. If, indeed, the cinema as an institution has an evil influence on the lives of the people in general, it should surely be dealt with on any day of the week. If we definitely come to the conclusion that it can be tolerated on any other day of the week, then the only moral argument against having cinemas on Sunday is purely the Sunday observance and the Sabbatarian argument, and to confuse the two is really only rolling two perfectly logical arguments together and making one rather illogical whole.
If it is assumed that the argument in favour of closing cinemas on Sunday is based, not on the fact that the cinema is a pernicious influence in itself, but purely on Sabbatarian grounds, then it seems to me that we are approaching very closely to a breach of that principle of religious tolerance to which a good many Members of this House would cheerfully give their adherence in their own constituencies. If we are forbidding cinemas purely on this ground, and from the standpoint of the principle of Sunday observance in the sense of the restriction of the freedom of others, then surely we are in a sense jettisoning that religious tolerance which has existed in the past in this country, and which has, indeed, on many occasions been considered to animate this House?
The opposition outside this House, of which we have heard to-day, and with which hon. Members in the last two or three days have become increasingly familiar, has really come only from one or two sections of one of the many beliefs or philosophies which are allowed to exist in this country. We have no religious discrimination, or only some very 936 formal vestiges of it, and if that be the case, it seems to me that if you are closing cinemas purely on the ground of Sunday observance, that is a breach of the principle of religious tolerance for which this House has stood in the past. We have heard a good deal in rather vague terms about the desecration of the Sabbath, and we have heard hon. Members painting very moving, genuine and sincere pictures of the beauty of the Sabbath unspoiled, as it is to-day, or as it was at one time, and can be still unspoiled by any commercialism. We are not trying in any way to interfere with that beautiful home life of which hon. Members have spoken with such deep and sincere feeling. Nobody is attempting in any way any compulsion upon anybody to attend a cinema. We are not interfering with the lives or practices of those people who consider it wicked to attend Sunday cinemas, and who prefer to pass their Sundays in the quiet of their own homes. What is more, surely it cannot be claimed that those people who attend Sunday cinemas in any way interfere with the convenience of others I Nothing is more docile and silent than a cinema crowd, whether it is waiting patiently outside a cinema or sitting contentedly within. It certainly is not the slightest trouble to anybody.
The arguments as to commercialism have been dealt with so very thoroughly that I shall not go over the ground again. There is one point which I should like to mention. So many hon. Members have questioned whether this Bill is really wanted by the people, and whether there is, indeed, sufficient demand for it. It seems to me that the principle embodied in the Bill, and about which we are arguing, is not whether Sunday cinemas shall in future be allowed to expand on a far larger scale than before. We are not really giving a freedom which they do not enjoy to-day. If the Bill be rejected, we shall simply destroy all opportunity in future for people to attend Sunday cinemas. We are really discussing whether or not these cinemas shall be prohibited. That being the case, I am sure hon. Members would find that the public outcry that would arise, if cinemas and other Sunday entertainments were brought to a sudden end, would be far greater and more spontaneous than the organised opposi- 937 tion that has been encountered during the last few weeks. The moment people realised exactly what had been done by this House, if the Bill were rejected, you would get a measure of opposition which would make the recent flood of postcards appear very small indeed.
It is possible for us in this House to over-estimate the extent to which our proceedings rivet the attention of the nation. Possibly many people who attended the cinema last Sunday, and have every intention of attending it next Sunday and for many Sundays to come, have not the remotest idea that we are at present settling their fate for them. The first thing they will learn about the matter, if the Bill be rejected, will be when they go to the cinema and find it bolted and barred against them. Then you will get a spontaneous outcry which will be far greater, and have to be dealt with in some manner probably more far reaching. To my mind, it is clearly a matter of liberty and of the principle whether we are to choose for ourselves how we are to spend our Sundays.
Some hon. Members have overstated the degree of freedom which this Bill is giving us. Those who are afraid that by this Bill we are stepping on to some region of unexampled licence should remember that all that this House is doing is to delegate the power to a local authority. The real matter which is of importance to-day and which is being discussed is, on the one hand, not whether it is or is not good for people to go to cinemas on Sunday, but whether we are to give power to the local authorities to choose whether the citizen himself shall have the power to choose whether he shall go to the cinema or not. I should have thought that hon. Members of this House who have upheld freedom in the past would not be averse, at any rate, to that degree of freedom. To be a Puritan by choice may be a high spiritual adventure, but to be a Puritan by Act of Parliament is a little less noble role. Because I think that this Bill embodies some measure of the freedom for which this House and the country have stood in the past, I ask the House to support it.
Although Scotland is not directly concerned with this Measure, I am not the first hon. Member from the northern kingdom who has addressed the 938 House this evening. We have had two powerful speeches from Scotland in favour of the Measure, and mine is the first voice from Scotland to be raised in opposition. Although Scotland has no direct concern, interest there is very keen, and there is a considerable amount of apprehension as to what may happen if the Bill passes the House of Commons. That apprehension will not be lessened by one or two remarks that were made in the course of the speeches with regard to the possibility of opening theatres on Sundays. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), if I understood him rightly, said that perhaps hon. Members might be swayed in what they do to-night by the fact that local option occupied a prominent place in the Bill. In Scotland that principle is held very dearly, but I know I am perfectly correct in saying that, so far as a Measure of this kind is concerned, local option is not necessary because local feeling is at one with national sentiment.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen went on to talk about the duty of a Member with regard to his constituents, and suggested that we ought not to be dictated to but should adopt a free and independent line of our own. I agree with him, but I rejoice to think—and I say this with all sincerity—that my opinions and the opinions of the vast majority of those who sent me here are absolutely at one on this point. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen and the Attorney-General alluded to the vast shoals of postcards that had descended upon hon. Members in the past few days. My constituents sent me only about a dozen, because they knew full well what my attitude would be.
I have a personal and a, local reason for intervening in the Debate. On the last occasion when the House discussed the Sunday cinema Bill, my predecessor made a speech in favour of it which aroused locally a great deal of resentment, because he suggested that it would be a good thing if in the Committee stage the Measure were extended to Scotland. I have a great regard from a personal point of view for my predecessor as a very old friend, but he never made a bigger mistake in his life or more under-estimated local or Scottish feeling than when he made that statement.
939 We have heard a good deal in the Debate about the killjoy spirit and the Sabbatarian point of view. I say definitely that we who adopt this point of view have no intention whatever of being killjoys. We adopt it because we are conscious of a great inheritance. The Sunday in England has been a great institution. It has done great things for the English people. It is an inheritance, certainly, of Puritanism, but why should anybody shrink from such a name as that? In Scotland the value set upon Sunday has been a far higher one than in England; it has moulded the destiny of the Scottish race, and that is why we do not wish lightly to barter it away. This Measure is similar in some respects to the Bill which was considered four years ago with regard to the alterations of the Prayer Book of the Church of England. It has the same object, namely, to regularise irregularities. This Measure will have even more far-reaching results than the Prayer Book Measure would have had if it had been passed. Both touch very intimately the religious life of the community, but whereas the Prayer Book Bill merely dealt with a few doctrinal points, which, however far-reaching in themselves, did not very vitally interest the majority of the common folk, this Measure will definitely alter the Sunday life of the community.
My sympathy, and that, I think, of all those who agree with me, is very much with the cinema world. I hope that they will have relief extended to them, if it be possible, in the forthcoming Budget. I know that they very much want it in the shape of the lowering of the Entertainments Duty, at all events on the cheaper seats. But, as has been pointed out several times in the Debate, we who are opposing this Measure have, in common with our opposition to it on the grounds of the infringement of Sunday, opposition to it because of the type of films which are offered far too often. There is a great danger and menace to the youth of the country of both sexes in the type of film that is far too often exhibited. May I respectfully suggest to those interested in the film world that they should show definite signs of setting their house in order in this direction, and reform what needs to be reformed, and then come forward with the demand for 940 permission to open their places of entertainment on Sunday, and see what result attends their efforts.
We who oppose this Bill oppose it because we wish to preserve what is best in what has come down to us from such a historic past. We believe that the necessity of maintaining one day in seven as a day of rest is as vital now as it has ever been. The Under-Secretary mentioned the fact that the Christian religion had nothing to fear from the passing of this Measure. It most certainly has. The Christian religion is in the course of this century going to develop and make progress such as it has not made in the 19 centuries of its existence, but that is no reason why we in this House should be content, without sufficient evidence before us, to consent as yet to the sanctity of Sunday being infringed. No, Sir. We have heard that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, but surely those who are so keen in their support of this Bill are rather in danger of stressing the former part of the sentence, and thinking that the Sabbath was made for man to exploit in whatever way he may deem fit. For these reasons I shall have no hesitation whatever, as a Scottish Member of Parliament, descended from Covenanting Scotland, in going into the Lobby against this Bill.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Duggan) on his very delightful speech. I can only repeat what is always said on these occasions, though I say it quite sincerely, that I am quite sure we shall all hear him again with very great pleasure. And while I am in this mood may I be allowed also to congratulate, quite genuinely, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department on the equally delightful and very illuminating speech with which he opened the Debate? I have seldom heard a speech—I refer in particular to the latter part of it—which moved me so much, and I publicly thank him for it. I have risen to speak because this Bill affects my constituency very much indeed. The hon. Member who represents Rotherhithe (Mrs. Runge) represents a division similar to- my own, and her experience is my experience, and I would like hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who look at this question from 941 the point of view of religion to understand that the people whom she represents and whom I represent have very little opportunity to think about religion as we in this House have the opportunity of thinking about it. Life to them is much too drab, much too miserable, much too hard to enable them to think that outside themselves there is a God, there is a Providence, overshadowing and taking care of them.
It has been said that Father Woodlock, speaking in Liverpool the other day, called attention to the lack of religion among young people. I do not know Father Woodlock's experience, but I do know that in the countries dominated by the Church which he represents such Sunday observance as has been advocated here to-night does not exist. If he wishes to carry on a campaign to restore the Sabbath to what it used to be in the Covenanting days, I suggest that he should cross to the Continent and convert his own co-religionists. But I do not think that Father Woodlock had anything of the kind in his mind. I say, in contradiction to Father Wood-lock, that though fewer people relatively go to church now than went when I was a boy, I am perfectly certain there is more true religion in men and women to-day than at any other period of my lifetime. I deny altogether that religion is a matter merely of going to church, or a matter merely of saying prayers—if it were, we in this House would feel much better towards one another than we do. I say that quite sincerely. One or two texts have been thrown across the Chamber to-night, as always happens on these occasions. There is one text which everybody here may take to himself, and it is "The kingdom of God is within you"—not outside. Unless men and women have that within them, going to church does not make any difference even saying prayers or singing hymns does not make any difference. It is what we are that determines what our creed really is.
I take no stock in the argument which has been put forward again and again to-night about the effect of church-going or Sunday school teaching—as if only the people who run a theological Sunday school are doing self-sacrificing work. [Interruption.] That was said here to-night. [Interruption.] The hon. Mem- 942 ber must allow me to say what I thought I heard. I have been present during most of the Debate. If I have done any hon. Member an injustice it was unintentional. I will put it this way. If there are any people who think that teaching in a Sunday school or teaching in church is the only form of self-sacrifice and true human service, I dissent from them entirely. I know many people who occupy their Sunday in helping children to amuse themselves in the parks and other open spaces. That brings me to this point.
The hon. Member who preceded me and other hon. Members have asked us in terror-stricken tones: "Where is this going to lead us?" They say this Bill will he the first step in what will be an entire revolution. I would advise them to read the Debates which took place in this House between 1879 and 1885 or 1886 on the question of opening art galleries and picture galleries on Sundays. Every single thing which has been said here to-night was said then. Even the arguments used by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) used to be put by, I think, Mr. Henry Broadhurst, a Labour Member of that day—a forecast of all the horrible things that would happen if people were allowed to look at the pictures in the National Gallery or allowed to go into the Museums. Who is there here who would wish to close those places now I Who would say that anyone is injured or harmed by looking at the pictures in the gallery in Trafalgar Square?
It is also said that the morality of the people has to be safeguarded because the films are so filthy. When I think about religion I say that a thing that is improper for me to do on a week-day is improper for me to do on a Sunday, and the thing that it is improper for me to see on a week-day is improper for me to see on a Sunday. People seem to argue as if children may be allowed to see something which is bad on a week-day and not bad on a Sunday, but that is a nonsensical argument. If the films are such that they ought not to be seen, they ought not to be allowed to be shown at all, and this House should see that that sort of thing is stopped.
With regard to local option, it is a great pity that London has been dragged in as the villain of the piece. Although 943 I was not born in London I am almost a Londoner, and I am proud of it. I would rather live in London than anywhere else. I have been in almost every capital in the world, and I have found none to compare with London. Therefore, I contend that 5,000,000 people have a right to be considered, and when you say that there is no demand for this Measure it is nonsense. The London County Council did this thing years ago, and we have never had any opposition to the opening of cinemas on Sunday at our elections. When it is said that this will be the one question that elections will be fought on I say that at no county council election in East London has this question ever been mentioned. It was so much a question of common sense that the people accepted it without question.
When an hon. Member says that he objects to the Bill because of local option, he should remember that there are scores, if not hundreds, of Acts of Parliament which give local authorities the right to do certain things. They have been given power to deal with wash-houses, libraries, and public health administration. Apparently, this House does not know the kind of legislation which it passes. People say that local option is a terrible thing, but I have been living under it for a long time. On such questions as these you cannot legislate in any way other than the one we are proposing to legislate now. I would like to say to the hon. Member opposite that I am one of the villains who voted for this Bill on the last occasion when it was before the House, and I survived the deluge. If there is any moral about this question, which I very much doubt, I want to repeat and emphasise what was said by the hon. Member for Rotherhithe, that there is not a social worker, a police inspector, or an officer in the East End of London, not a magistrate, who would vote in favour of closing cinemas on Sundays. I happen to live on a road right in the centre of East London. I live and sleep there. In days not long ago we used to be awakened by people who were drunk and going home shouting like I do not know what—like we do sometimes.
Look at what now happens! I will give a very simple instance. A man and his wife and three or four children live in two rooms. In the old days there was 944 no place for them to go to but the public-house, and the man went there, but now the man and his wife put the children to bed and go to the cinema. They go home and have a jolly nice couple of hours together. [Interruption.] This is true and can be demonstrated by statistics. I mean that the police statistics for East London will prove that drunkenness has decreased, and charges for drunkenness have decreased, since the coming of the cinema, and the restriction of the hours of opening of the public-houses. I want hon. Members to get rid of the notion that the opening of the cinemas has stopped people going to church or has made them immoral.
I will conclude with one personal matter. Two or three speakers have spoken about their personal religion and upbringing. I am not going to say anything about my own religion or faith. I was brought up with a very big family in a house with plenty of room, but there came a time when I had to leave because of economic circumstances. I had a wife and five children. We had to live in very tiny rooms, and the only thing that kept my wife and myself alive was the fact that we had some connection with people outside in the great labour and socialist movements. If we had not had the advantage of a tiny scrap of education, and some good friends, we should have been crushed to the earth because the conditions we had to live under were so difficult. There are multitudes of people who have been crushed in that way in the battle of life, and they get the terrible feeling that there is no room for them in the world. The coming of cheap amusements, concerts, and broadcasting, and all that kind of thing has brought something new into their lives, and to me, Mr. Speaker, that is religion.
§ Mr. W. S. MORRISON
The House has listened with the deepest sympathy to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). It has been, if I may say so, a fitting contribution to a Debate which throughout has been characterised by good feeling on both sides. The only question with which I would deal in the right hon. Gentleman's speech is an assumption, which has been running through many of the speeches made on 945 that side, which is that in the marked improvement of morals, as regards drunkenness in particular, the cinema has played a part which lifts it altogether out of the sphere of a mere commercial amusement into that of a sovereign benefactor of the people. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he had had some difficulty with statistics, but I would ask him to consider whether it is not the fact that an equal improvement in morality and sobriety has occurred over the vast tract—by far the greater part—of England in which there have never been any cinemas opened on Sundays. It has also been claimed for the cinematograph theatre that it is a refuge for homeless people on wet Sundays, and it has been put to us with a great deal of eloquence that to deny people who live, perhaps, in squalid, drab and monotonous surroundings of the relaxation of the cinema is to condemn them to a life of comparative misery. I would respectfully suggest that the fallacy of regarding the cinematograph theatre in that light lies in the fact that a simple arithmetical calculation shows that, if all the cinemas in this country were crammed to the doors on a Sunday night, they would provide accommodation for only a very small fraction of the people. It cannot he said that all the people who go to cinemas on Sundays are poor people who live in drab conditions, and, if one makes anything like an estimate of the extent to which the cinematograph theatres open on Sundays alleviate that condition of drabness, one is forced to the conclusion, in all fairness, that it is a very small extent indeed.
I have known few subjects on which it has been more possible for men of the utmost good will to hold different opinions than on this one, and I think that the line of cleavage between hon. Members on this matter depends not so much on religious belief as on the way in which they regard the question. The case for the Bill is very clear. No one would deny the force of the arguments that have been advanced in its support, and I think it can safely be said that, if one is content to regard this question merely as a self-contained question, merely as a practical solution for a practical difficulty which does not spread outside the bounds of its own area, one would be forced to regard the case for opening cinemato- 946 graph theatres on Sundays as a very strong case indeed. The difficulty is that this question, however attractive it may be upon its merits, however attractive it may be if one shuts one's eyes to its possible repercussions, is yet a question which has a larger scope and must be considered in relation to larger matters, and I think that its consideration from that point of view forces one on to the side of the question for which I am speaking to-night.
The case for the Bill is, as I have said, a very strong one. It is true that the position in London and a few of its satellite towns is anomalous, but whether that is a good reason for altering the law as regards Sunday observance over the whole of the rest of England and Wales, where no such difficulty occurs, is a matter for argument. It is true that there is a number of people in London and its satellite towns—not in England as a whole—who have formed a habit of going on Sunday nights to the cinema and to concerts. My hon. Friend who introduced this Measure, in a speech of such surpassing merit, put the number of such people at half a million. It is an important thing if that half million who have formed this habit should be denied this recreation. Half a million is a large number. Whether it is worth while for the sake of half a million to offend the susceptibilities of the many millions of ordinary citizens in the other parts of England is again a question for argument. In the half-million mentioned by my hon. Friend, he included those who go to concerts; very adroitly he allied the concert which everyone supports with the cinematograph theatre as to which some of us have doubts. He knows, and the House must know, that if this were a, Bill to legalise the position of concerts only there would be no opposition to it at all. I, at any rate, and many of my hon. Friends for whom I speak, certainly would not vote against the legalisation of concerts of a proper character on Sundays. It is precisely because the cinematograph is a commercial undertaking run for profit in this country that it falls into a different category altogether from the concert.
If the question were no bigger than that of providing some shelter for people on wet Sunday afternoons, it would be an ungracious task to oppose this Bill, 947 but it is because some of us believe that it is a very much bigger question that we cannot allow the Bill to pass without opposing it. The difficulty is, as I see it, that Sunday is not only a day, but an institution, and it is because I believe that only by the preservation of the institutions of this country can our freedom and character as a nation be maintained that I view with suspicion any attempt to whittle away an institution so well founded in the past of our people. The Bill, for the sake of relieving London from its embarrassment, proposes to alter this institution over the whole country, and that is the reason why we must oppose it. This question is by no means as easy as it looks; everything in connection with it is not obvious at the first glance. It may be that, if we consent to this attack upon our Sunday, although it is only a small piece of ground, we shall be yielding a position of vital importance, and thereby rendering the whole position of Sunday untenable in the future.
It may be said, and it is said by the Bill, that this Bill does not give up the position as regards Sunday; it merely, very cleverly, refuses to decide in Parliament that thorny topic, and throws the onus of doing so on the local authority. It may be said, "What does it matter if we are deserting the front line? There are our comrades in the support trenches, the local authorities; let them see to it." I do not think that that is an argument that can appeal to the House. Our comrades in the support trenches may very well complain; they may ask us why we have run away and left them to deal with this matter. Surely, we must decide first of all whether or not this question of Sunday is a job for us or for the local authorities, before we can consent to the principle which is enshrined in this Bill. There is no mere matter of the baths and washhouses referred to by the right hon. Gentleman which local authorities can adequately deal with. It is a question of a national institution which must be faced by this national House of Commons.
We do not in this House represent only London. Can it be said that London cannot arrange her own matters without embroiling every local authority up and down England? If in London you 948 are determined to let this institution slide, for the sake of the convenience of adopting that course, why must you drag the rest of England and Wales at your heels? Do you suggest that there are not ways of dealing with the question which would get over the difficulty of London and would at the same time save the rest of England and Wales from this threat which they so much dislike? I was surprised to hear my hon. and gallant Friend say there was no other way of dealing with the question. Surely our statesmanship is not as bankrupt as that. You have your local Acts. Why do you not use them for a local difficulty? You have the procedure of inquiry.
I have never known an institution so deeply planted in the people's ideals as Sunday attacked in this House without either a mandate from the people at an election or without an inquiry by Royal Commission or some other such body. We have had an example recently in the question of sweepstakes which has been raised by a Member of the House. The Government, very wisely in my view, took the course of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into what is a very large question before they sanctioned legislation on the subject. Is the observance of Sunday of less importance than sweepstakes? If it is true that the betting law is anomalous and requires revision, is not the same true of the Sunday laws? Which is the more important question? Which affects most people? There are large numbers of people who do not bet. Those who wish to get rid of their money in that fashion can always find ways and means of doing it. But there is no man, woman or child who is not vitally affected by the question of Sunday observance and, if we are to legislate on this question, surely we ought to inquire into it before we attack something so venerable and so deeply loved.
It is difficult to regard this question objectively enough. One is apt to say: "I have my own view of Sunday, I will do this or that on Sunday. Why should not other people?" That is not the way in which we should go about it. We should not try to remake England after our own image. We ought to look at what England is, and what the structure of the nation consists of. We know that it is held together as a nation not so much by the laws that we pass in this House 949 as by a vast number of older laws and ideas which are held by the people—by the institutions of the people. That is what makes the nation. There are the pieties. Without the pieties no nation could survive. We have heard of old civilisations. The great Roman republic was made alive and vigorous by the Roman Pietus. The piety of the family relations, the piety of self-abnegation in the service of one's country, the piety of due reverence to the gods. There arose in that State clever, broadminded, kindly men who whittled away the pieties. The State fell, and the clever broadminded kindly men fell with it. They yielded place to barbarians of IA simpler sort who had their own pieties.
I am very dubious of the wisdom in these days, or in any others, of pulling out a strand like Sunday observance, which runs so closely through the texture of our people, without knowing what we are doing. It is an institution beloved by the people and regarded by them as their one safeguard against seven days' toil, and profoundly affecting the national character. It is no small thing that we are asked to touch, and it ought to give us pause.
It may be said that we are making a great deal of fuss about a very small matter. After all, there is only one industry which we propose to put in a privileged position of trading on Sunday, and that is the cinematograph industry. Why talk as if the whole institution were being attacked because we are giving the cinematograph industry this privilege? We ought to consider what the cinematograph industry is. We have seen positions as strongly entrenched and as firmly held as the day of Sunday in the lives of our people lost because of some sap-head about which nobody cared. It is because we feel that the Bill is producing a change and that it is yielding a sap-head which may make the whole position untenable that we oppose it. The point has been so elaborated to-night that I will not enter upon it again. You have the cinematograph, you have the talkies, you have, in fact, the mechanical competitor of the variety and the legitimate stage developed to a very great extent, and the cry goes up from our own variety artists and theatrical employés "Why do you allow our mechanical competitors the advantage and deny it to us? Why do 950 you deny British talent its opportunity and give it to foreign-owned films? Why do you give employment to those who manufacture American films and refuse it to your own citizens?"
I suggest that we in this House are more concerned, if it comes to the point, with seeing that our own kith and kin and our own fellow citizens get employment than we are with seeing that the fortunes which have already accrued to the American film magnates are augmented by their activities in this country. The cinematograph industry, if it once gets the position which the Bill proposes to give to it, will be in a very strong position to develop its attack and to lead the attack of others who would also like to work on Sundays. It has been said so often that it is impossible to draw the line that I am not going to make a point of that at all, but I leave it to the House to consider whether we are right in embarking upon a course which may have the most disastrous consequences to the nation and to the institution of Sunday. I am well aware that there is many an hon. Member sitting in the House at this moment who intends to support the Bill and whose views chime with my own as to the ultimate value of Sunday to our institutions. There is many an hon. Member who may vote for the Bill who would be horrified if Sunday as an institution were to disappear, and I ask such an hon. Member to consider whether he is not giving up the key position and making it a matter very difficult to hold on to 'n the future?
It has been asked what is the Change the Bill is introducing? It has been suggested indeed that the Bill is introducing no change at all. The change is that previously we have considered the institution of Sunday as a matter of national importance. We are, if we pass the Bill, saying that it is no longer a matter of national importance; it is a matter of local importance only. That is a very big Change because it is degrading what used to be an institution firmly held by the Parliament of this Kingdom, into the position of a matter to be squabbled over by local authorities.
The Bill embodies the principle of local option. I suggest to the House that that is not a principle which can he applied to this case. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) 951 made bold to say that in his experience local option had worked very well in Scotland, but there are hon. Members from that country who would deny that their experience is the same as his. I have seen, as a result of the working of local option in Scotland, the public-houses on one side of the street open and those on the other side of the street shut. That is what would happen if the local option in this Bill were applied to the question of Sunday cinemas. We should have one village or township with the cinemas closed and another, next door, with them open. Consider what the effect of that would be. It would mean the citizens of many of these townships, at present contented to let the situation remain as it is, egging on their authority by pointing out to them how their neighbour and rival was attracting visitors by having open cinemas. You would get the same vicious process going on as that which my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General described in regard to Sunday trading. He pointed out how difficult it is for one man, however strongly averse he may be to opening his shop on Sunday, if his neighbour next door is opening and taking his trade. He has to choose between being ruined by losing his trade or violating his conscience in the matter.
Local option applied in this case cannot but work disastrously and cannot prove a solution of this problem. Does any hon. Member imagine that by passing this Bill we are going to get a final solution of this very difficult question? Surely not. We have heard a great deal about war to end war. This is a Bill not to end a conflict but to disseminate it widely over the whole country. By refusing to face up to the issue ourselves, by throwing the onus upon the local authorities, we are creating in every centre of population in this country a strife and a battle from which we are running away in this House. I cannot say that that is a course which should appeal to us in this House, seeing that we are sent here as the guardians of the nation's life.
I should like to refer once more to the speech of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, where he spoke of freedom and bewailed how in recent years our freedom has been constricted and how this attempt to preserve the institu- 952 tion of Sunday was an attack upon the freedom of the people. How far does he want to go back to get a free England? He mentioned 25 years. The Sunday Observance Act has a much greater antiquity than that. Charles I and Charles II, at the time of Merry England, saw the Sunday Observance Act come into being. Why? Because it was realised then that unless you are to have slavery, instead of free men working in their own land, you must have an institution which prevents them, which saves them from working seven days a week. I think my hon. Friend who introduced the Bill in appealing to the House gave away the case for the Bill in his concluding remarks. He mentioned—and none is more entitled to refer to the subject than he—the question of adult education and the difficulty of getting men to be dependent upon their own resources for their own amusement instead of their having to pay for it.
What he told us was a message of despair. That the only outlook for the people of this country is that of a proletariat drugged on the day of rest by sensational films. I refuse to subscribe to such a vision of the people of England. That is not a British view. It is the view of a proletariat that has come to us from foreign sources. What has become of the British working man, who is as capable of amusing himself and of instructing himself and his family as many a man who is much better off? Is it to be said that the people of this country are of such a low grade that they have lost their hope and their spirit and that there is nothing for them but six days of toil and one day of bemusement and bedazzlement by means of foreign cinema films; that they must be either hard at work or, when they are not at work, you must make them pay to be amused? In that idea I smell slavery. The freedom of this country and the characteristics of this country are only maintained by maintaining our popular institutions. Sunday is one of the most popular and dearly loved of our institutions, and I shall appose any Bill which attempts to whittle it away.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The House can congratulate itself upon a Debate which has reached a very high level of sincerity. As to the speech of the hon. Member for 953 Tewkesbury (Mr. Morrison), although I disagree with him, no one could have put the case for the opponents of the Bill with more moderation and eloquence. It will be agreed by hon. Members on all sides of the House that we have had extremely able maiden speeches by new Members during the course of this discussion, and, therefore, my task in summing up the arguments in favour of the Measure is a responsible one. Normally, this task in the case of most Bills is performed by a Member of the Government. If I may just divagate from the Bill, may I say this? It is a wise thing not to have more than two speeches from the Front Government Bench on one day on one Bill. That used to be the old rule, but on the Second Reading of some Bills, as in the case of the Prayer Book Bill and on this Bill in the last Parliament, we had the spectacle of sometimes three and four speeches from Members of the Government Front Bench. I think it is advisable to stick to the old rule, and that is the reason why I have been called upon to sum up the Debate to-night. I shall endeavour to eschew rhetoric, emotion, satire and provocation.
I formerly sat on the Front Bench, and, although I no longer have my ticket, it is the case, when you are summing up for the Government, that it matters little what you say so long as you do not drive the House to complete boredom by dullness or do not irritate it by repetition, because every hon. Member has already made up his mind as to how he is going to vote. The situation to-night is somewhat different, and probably there are many hon. Members who have not finally decided how they will vote on the Bill. I wish to put the case for the Bill with the greatest moderation and sobriety, and I shall consider my task has been exceedingly badly performed if I offend anyone. It is obvious that it is better to be dull than dangerous.
One of the main arguments in favour of the Bill is not that it is the logical course to take—because obviously it is not the logical course—but that it is the wise course to take. What would be the logical course? If the House wishes to be logical, there are three alternatives. It could issue an instruction to the Government by its vote to-night to put into effective operation the various Sunday Observance Acts already on the 954 Statute Book, not merely the Act of 1780, but the earlier Acts as well; or, secondly, it could abolish all; or, thirdly, it could attempt to lay down in a comprehensive Act of Parliament all the trading and recreational facilities to be allowed and forbidden on Sundays. Let me examine the disadvantage of all three of those courses. In regard to the first course, that of putting into active operation the various Sunday Observance Acts, let the House realise that it would mean, not only that there would no longer be cinemas in London and in certain boroughs in the country, but it would mean that all museums would be closed on Sundays, all concerts would come to an end. It would go much further than that if one were to put into operation the earlier Sunday Observance Acts; no one can deny that public resentment at such a course would be so great that evil consequences would follow, that very likely there would be tumults and riots, and, most important of all, it would certainly be the case that many people in protest would withdraw their support from the various churches, and institutional religion would be weakened and not strengthened.
If we were to take the second alternative, I frankly say that few of us, probably none of us who are supporting this Bill, would like to see Parliament abolish all the Sunday Observance Acts, absurd as they are, because that would be regarded, quite rightly to some extent, as a demonstration on the part of the State to signify its view that Sunday was no different from any other day. That would be in disharmony with the wishes of many besides churchgoers. In regard to the third alternative, an attempt to set down in black and white all the recreations and activities which should be permitted and should not be permitted on Sunday, one need only mention it to show how impracticable it would be. It would lead to the most prolonged and bitter controversies and would bring ridicule and contumely on Parliament. It is almost a commonplace to say that it is the tendency of our nation to prefer the wise to the logical course, and to put common sense before consistency in its scale of values. The main case for the Bill is that it is a common-sense solution of a most difficult problem.
955 I would like to deal seriatim with the objections which have been put forward in this House and outside to the Bill as it stands. The first, or one of the most important, is the charge that it is legalising an illegal arrangement which has been made in the past by the London County Council and by other councils. It is quite true to say that they ignored the old law of 1780, but it is equally true to say that so have successive Governments ignored old Sunday Observance Acts by omitting to take action under those earlier Acts, by failure to do many things, one of which is insistence on church attendance. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General mentioned that in one district alone, I think he said it was in London, there were no fewer than 150 shops open on Sundays.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am obliged for that correction, because it greatly strengthens my argument. My answer to my right hon. and learned Friend is that it only shows the absurdity of the situation which has arisen under the old Sunday Observance Acts because I am informed that in the Act of 1677 there is a provision saying that:no tradesman artificer, workman, labourer or other person whatever shall do or exercise any wordly labour, business or work of their ordinary calling, upon the Lord's Day.Yet here we have the spectacle of the Attorney-General, who is responsible for the law being put into operation, coming down to the House and telling us with sorrow that in one district of London alone no less than 1,160 people fail to carry out that Act. I am very sorry to hear it. I assure the Attorney-General that I am at one with him in the view that it is a very great pity that ordinary trade should be carried on in that way. But does not what he has said show the absurdity of attempting to put into operation the old Sunday Observance Acts. After all, one of the principal arguments of the opponents of the Bill is that in the Bill we are upsetting the former Sunday Observance Acts. Therefore, they are put in this position that they have to agree either to the abolition of all those Acts or to putting them all into operation.
956 It is quite true that the London County Council and other bodies throughout the country did ignore the Act of 1780 in permitting Sunday cinema performances, but what is the answer on that point? To my mind it is this. In so doing they clearly permitted an arrangement which met with the approval of the vast majority of the local government electors of the county of London and of many constituencies, my own included—because I believe there were 80 bodies outside London which had this arrangement. If that were not so, the electors would have voted against the council which for more than a decade allowed this arrangement to continue. But none of that conflict has arisen which we are told will arise if this Bill is passed. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said—and it is not only true of the East End but also of the West End—that there has been none of that undesirable Sabba tarian controversy which opponents of the Bill have indicated. To say to a majority of electors that you will have regard, not to their views but to the views of a minority—composed not of churchgoers, by any means, as I shall show—is to introduce a dangerous element into the relations of Church and State, and is contrary to every principle of toleration which has existed in this country for 100 years. The opponents of Catholic emancipation in Ireland used just the same argument as do the opponents of this Bill. They said, "It does not matter what the majority want. In matters of conscience the minority are the judges and arbiters." That is a most dangerous principle and a dangerous argument to use.
Then we come to another charge concerning the films themselves. Personally I think that too much has been made in this Debate of the films because, not merely the cinemas, but many other things are affected. But let us take the charge that the films have an immoral or an unmoral effect. I think that charge has been answered by the Leader of the Opposition. It is perfectly true that many films have either an immoral or unmoral effect. But the remedy is not to prohibit films on one day of the week; the remedy is either to tighten up the censorship, to have an improved censorship, or, better still, to have an enhancement of 957 public taste. If persons are encouraged to commit murder, arson, adultery, rape, fornication, or any of the other things alleged to be encouraged as a result of these films, is there anyone who is bold enough to say that it matters on what day they see those films? Their moral injury is as great when the films are shown on a week-day as when they are shown on a Sunday.
Let me come to the next point, the charge that is put forward—the opponents of the Bill have walked rather delicately in this matter, but it has been put forward strongly outside, and I suspect that it is at the back of a good deal of the opposition to this Bill—that Sunday performances of cinemas or Sunday concerts or activities of that kind cause people to neglect to go to church. That is a matter which requires rather close attention. In effect, that argument means that people who go to a cinema on Sunday might go to church if the cinema were closed. That is the meaning of the charge, otherwise the contention is valueless. I am a regular churchgoer, and an active supporter of two churches, in two parishes, in London and the country, and a subscriber to several others; and I want to say in all sincerity that I cannot imagine a weaker argument for institutional religion than to say that we can only get people to go to church by stopping them going anywhere else.
When will the clergy and those who talk like that realise that the spread of Christianity does not depend upon Acts of Parliament, but upon the state of men's and women's minds? It is a universal and historical fact that the churches of the world generally flourish most where they are least legally protected, and flourish least where they are most legally protected. As the "Times" pointed out, in a leading article, to which reference was made earlier in the Debate, if this Bill is rejected, is it believed for a moment that the crowds in London and certain provincial centres who turn into a cinema on Sunday evening, and who will in future, if the Bill is rejected, after the 7th October, find the doors closed against them, will thereupon fill the churches and chapels? Are they likely to be drawn to the Christian religion when, as they understand it, the Christian religion has suddenly deprived them of 958 what they regard as an innocent recreation? Will a single extra person go to church as a result of this Bill being defeated to-night?
Then I come to the next point, that if cinemas and concerts are allowed to open on Sunday, why should not theatres be allowed to open also? That was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Balham and Tooting (Sir A. Butt), who objected, as many of us do, to the sex appeal in films, and who said that if theatres were allowed to open on Sunday, it would be possible, as an antidote to those sex appeals, to produce Shakespearian plays. Personally, I think there is a considerable sex appeal in some of the plays. I was not aware that my hon. Friend, when he was in the theatrical profession, chose ladies of the chorus on the ground of their ugliness, though I recollect that, in the days when I was a patron of the old Empire Theatre, there were many Shakespearian revivals at that time. If I am prepared to take my hon. Friend's word and assume that, if theatres were given permission to open on Sundays, we should have nothing but Shakespeare, the answer would be to permit them. But the short answer is that this is really an enabling Bill to give an opportunity to local authorities legally to permit certain entertainments already given on Sundays. So far as I know, no local authority in the past has permitted, or wished to attempt to permit, theatrical performances.
The Attorney-General also drew a distinction between cinemas and concerts. He objects to cinemas, but he would be willing to allow concerts. There may be, like him, many who prefer concerts to photo-plays, but the reason for the Bill is that it proposes to continue what has hitherto been the practice in the centres of population to which reference has been made. What is the main justification for this Bill? It is that millions of respectable and responsible people have, in a decent and orderly fashion, availed themselves in years past of the facilities which are to be regularised by this Bill. No scandal has arisen thereby, and, as far as I know, no inconvenience has been caused. It is only when we propose to regularise the position that we hear all these speeches, such as the one by 959 my hon. Friend who fears every sort of disaster will happen to British character.
I do not question the moral right of the opponents of the Bill to tell people they have done wrong in this matter. I do not question it because I assume—and to assume anything else would be insulting—that they themselves are rigid observers of Sunday, and never go in for tennis, or golf, or motoring on Sundays, involving at any rate the services of a chauffeur, but that generally they set a very fine and consistent example. Therefore, they have undoubtedly the moral right to say to the rest of the country, "You should adopt as high a standard in this matter as we adopt ourselves." But whether they are wise to exercise it is entirely another matter. I say that for this reason, that there is overwhelming evidence that Sunday concerts and cinemas keep people off the streets and mitigate the hardships of single people living in lodgings. There is not a police constable or magistrate in any of the districts where Sunday cinemas and other entertainments have been allowed who wishes to see the situation altered.
We hear statements such as that made by the Minister of Mines, who said last year that it was our business to remedy evil social conditions, and not to make them tolerable by "dope" in Acts of Parliament. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said the same to-night. I venture to say that is a very dangerous argument. It is exactly the argument advanced by the opponent of religion in Russia. Improvements in housing and the conditions under which people live will not affect the fact that in a climate like ours, when on a Sunday it often pours all day, there is a very strong case to be made out for providing some places for people who do not want to stay in their own homes. I believe the rigid early Victorian interpretation of Sunday had both good and evil effects. It had good effects in so far as it implanted in some a great love and respect for the Sabbath. I have no hesitation in saying that it drove others to drink and dissipation.
The House is aware—it cannot, indeed, fail to note the fact—that a vast flood of literature has been sent to individual 960 Members on the subject of the Bill, mostly against it. I do not question the right of these people to use the methods which they do against the Bill. I will observe, in passing, that the propaganda is very much less active than it was last year. What I do question, and indeed deny, is the value of propaganda by printed postcards as an indication of public opinion. Only a very small proportion of the electorate uses it in any controversy, and the bundle of postcards which looks bulky enough on a Member's desk is, when compared with the number of electors, infinitesimally small. As a demonstration, the only effect is to frighten the more timorous Member. Churches and church goers are divided on this issue. We have had suggestions again and again to-night from opponents of the Bill that the whole of the churches are opposed to it. That is not true. A manifesto was issued last year signed by representatives of the Church of England, the Free Churches, the Methodist body, the Congregationalists, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Society of Friends asking the House to pass the Bill. It is also supported by men like the Bishop of Croydon and the Bishop of Chichester.
So far as I know, the great Roman Catholic Church with few exceptions is not opposed to the Bill I believe that the opponents of the Bill are completely sincere in believing that they must defeat the Bill in the cause of Christianity. I hope that they will give us who support the Bill and who are churchgoers equal credit for sincerity. It is merely a question of interpretation. We base ourselves, above all, on the text of the Saviour that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. If this Bill is rejected, absolute chaos will ensue. It has been suggested that it will be possible to bring in Private Bills to deal with it. In the first place, it will require no less than 80 Private Bills to deal with the matter; and, in the second place, the House of Commons is very jealous of any Private Bill being brought in which interferes with the statute law.
I would make this final appeal to the House, and I think that it is the most powerful argument for the Bill. We see a world torn by tumult, misery and dissension. Attacks more potent and dangerous than any that were made in the 961 18th century are being made on the whole basis of Christianity. I say that the upholders of Christianity in this country cannot afford to quarrel among themselves on what is a minor matter. We should unite against the greater menace instead of quarrelling among ourselves
§ about whether local authorities should have the option to open cinemas and to allow concerts for a few hours on Sunday.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 217.963
|Division No. 150.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Albery, Irving James||Eales, John Frederick||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Astor, MaJ. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrlan W. M.||Fox, Sir Gifford||Maxton, James|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fraser, Captain Ian||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Balniel, Lord||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Gledhill, Gilbert||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Barton, Capt. Basll Kelsey||Glossop, C. W. H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Bateman, A. L.||Glucksteln, Louis Halle||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Bernays, Robert||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Greene, William P. C.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Grimston, R. V.||Nicholson, O. W. (Westminster)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Groves, Thomas E.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Nunn, William|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Ormiston. Thomas|
|Briant, Frank||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Hanley, Dennis A.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Harbord, Arthur||Penny, Sir George|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Harris, Sir Percy||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Buchanan, George||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Petherick, M.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Potter, John|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Horobin, Ian M.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Howard, Tom Forrest||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Cassels, James Dale||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Price, Gabriel|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Purbrick, R.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Iveagh, Countess of||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)||Janner, Barnett||Remer, John R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Jennings, Roland||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Clayton Dr. George C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Cooke, Douglas||Knebworth, Viscount||Salt, Edward W.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Knight, Holford||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Crook shank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Levy, Thomas||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Somerville. D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Curry, A. C.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd. Gr'n)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Denville, Alfred||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Donner, P. W.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Doran, Edward||Logan, David Gilbert||Summeriby, Charles H.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah||Withers, Sir John James|
|Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)||Weymouth, Viscount||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Thorp, Linton Theodore||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Mr. Herbert Williams and Colonel|
|Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl||Ropner.|
|Wayland, Sir William A.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Graves, Marjorle||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Grithffis, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Alien|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Pearson, William G.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Peat, Charles U.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Apsley, Lord||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Hanbury, Cecil||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Hannon. Patrick Joseph Henry||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hartland, George A.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanct)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Rankin, Robert|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ratclifle, Arthur|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Blindell, James||Hirst, George Henry||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Staiybridge)||Roberts, Aied (Wrexham)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hornby, Frank||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclcsall)|
|Braithwaite, MaJ. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Robinson, John Roland|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Brown. Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Hurd, Percy A.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Jamieson, Douglas||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffleid, B'tside)|
|Burnett, John George||Jenkins, Sir William||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Cape, Thomas||Ker, J. Campbell||Scone, Lord|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Kirkwood, David||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Law, Sir Alfred||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Leckie, J. A.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Lees-Jones, John||Smlth-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chotzner, Alfred James||Liddall, Walter S.||Somerset, Thomas|
|Christie, James Archibald||Liewellin, Major John J.||Soper, Richard|
|Clarke, Frank||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E,|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lunn, William||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Copeland, Ida||Mabane, William||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cowan, D. M.||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Stewart, William J.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Stones, James|
|Daggar, George||McGovern, John||Storey, Samuel|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||McKeag, William||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||McKie, John Hamilton||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Maclay, Hon Joseph Paton||Templeton, William P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McLean, Major Alan||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Train, John|
|Drewe, Cedric||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Macqulsten, Frederick Alexander||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Magnay, Thomas||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Edge, Sir William||Maitland, Adam||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Edwards, Charles||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Eimley, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Meller, Richard James||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Weish Univ.)||Millar, Sir James Duncan||White, Henry Graham|
|Falle Sir Bertram G.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Morrison, William Shephard||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Munro, Patrick||Wragg, Herbert|
|Goff, Sir Park||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Mr. Luke Thompson and Sir Wilfrid Sugden.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Mr. R. J. Russell.]
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Mr. Luke Thompson and Sir Wilfrid Sugden were nominated Tellers for the Ayes, and Captain Sir George Bowyer and Lord Erskine were nominated Tellers for the Noes; and the Tellers having come to the Table, it was stated by Sir GEORGE BOWYER that one of the Tellers for the Ayes had failed to act as Teller.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER again put the Question, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."
§ Question negatived.