§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement which has reference to Questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) and others.
A Bill is being presented today to legalise, or remove doubts about the legality of, the opening on Sunday of certain places of public resort to be provided as part of the Festival of Britain, 1951. The Bill, which is a short Measure, provides that nothing in the Sunday Observance Acts, 1625–1780, shall apply in relation to opening on Sundays after 12.30 p.m. of the London Festival Exhibitions of Science, Books and Architecture and the main Exhibition on the South Bank, and of the Festival Pleasure Gardens.
The Bill will, however, expressly prohibit the performance on Sundays of any stage play, variety entertainment, circus turn, boxing or wrestling contests, or public dancing, and any other amusement not specifically authorised by the Festival authorities. The Bill is being introduced by the Government after consultation with the Advisory Committee of Christian Churches for the Festival of Britain, 1951, and the churches have signified that they 1123 would regard legislation for this purpose as non-controversial, except in so far as it extends to the opening of the amusement area of the Festival Pleasure Gardens to which the churches are resolutely opposed. The Board of Festival Gardens, Limited, have, on the other hand, represented to the Government that they attach the greatest importance to being permitted to open on Sunday the whole of the Festival Pleasure Gardens, including the amusement area.
As the question of opening the amusement area is one on which strong conscientious divergences of view exist, the Government have so drafted the Bill as to make possible on this issue a free vote—on Committee stage—of the House for all Members—whether Ministers or not. The Government as a whole take no collective view on this issue of the opening of the amusement area.
§ Mr. George Thomas
Could my right hon. Friend tell us when the Bill will be available in the Vote Office?
§ Mr. Churchill
It would be better for us to wait and see the Bill, but I must say that there is a great deal in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman which seems to show that the rights and feelings of the House will have full opportunity of expression when the time comes.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. What he has said is absolutely right; it will be for the House to decide.
§ Mrs. Middleton
In view of the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House have had considerable correspondence on the matter, could my right hon. Friend make copies of the statement he has just made, available in the Vote Office?
§ Mr. Morrison
It will of course be in HANSARD and in the hands of hon. Members tomorrow morning and, no doubt, it will be in the Press. Hon. Members are accustomed to these inquiries and. no doubt, will find a way of replying, consistent with their right of final judgment.