§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
It will be necessary for me to take a little time to expound the Bill, because I want to be as fair as I can in stating both sides of the case on what I fully recognise to be certain of its controversial aspects. The Bill before the House has a specific and limited purpose. It is not concerned with the wide and controversial issues of the reform of the Sunday Observance laws, nor is it concerned with the wider, and, I hope, uncontroversial aspects of the Festival of Britain, 1951, for which preparations are now going forward vigourously all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Bill seeks solely to legalise, or remove doubts concerning the legality of, opening after 12.30 p.m. on Sundays the four main Festival Exhibitions in the County of London and the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park, which is also in the County of London. There is no question at issue about Sunday opening in Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, nor in any part of the English provinces. The issue is confined to the County of London and that is so either in respect of the fixed exhibitions or of the travelling exhibitions by land and sea.
There is no question at issue within the County of London of opening any exhibitions or the pleasure gardens until after the end of Sunday morning church services. Nor, again, does the Bill in any way alter the present restrictions on Sunday performances, boxing or wrestling matches, or public dancing, which are specifically excluded from the protection proposed in the Bill. Nor is there any question of changing the law in regard to alcoholic beverages. The proposals in the Bill affect solely the Exhibitions of Science and Books in South Kensington, or Architecture at Poplar and the main South Bank Exhibition between Waterloo and the River and also the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park.
The issues before the House, as I see them, are, first, whether legal protection should be given for the opening after 531 12.30 p.m. on Sunday of the four named Exhibitions and of the Festival Pleasure Gardens, apart from the amusements to which protection the churches, who have been officially consulted, have no objection and which the Government supports, and, second, whether legal protection should also be given to the Sunday afternoon opening of amusements of a fairground character in the Festival Pleasure Gardens, on which the Government have collectively no view and which is strongly opposed by the churches, but as strongly desired by the Board of Festival Gardens Limited.
On the first of these issues, the wider issue, the Government have made up their mind in favour of the course recommended by the Festival authorities with the concurrence of the churches and for these purposes the Bill must be regarded as a normal Government Bill to which I invite the House to give a Second Reading. But, as I have previously explained to the House, a free vote will be taken in Committee to determine whether the words "with or" should be deleted from Clause 1 (1, b) in which case the operation of the amusements on Sunday would be ruled out.
I do not propose to discuss at any length the arguments for permitting the Sunday opening of the Exhibitions under the Sunday Observance Act, 1932. Closely analogous activities, such as museums and botanical and zoological gardens, have for years been legalised throughout the country and are regularly open without protest or comment so far as I know. We could not justify inviting visitors to come long distances, both within Britain and from overseas, to see educational, artistic and architectural displays and then keep them closed on Sundays. The Government and the churches are agreed on this, and, so far as I know, the opposition to it comes only from the strict Sabbatarian groups typified by the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Methodist paper, "Joyful News," who have organised a petition against this, although it is fair that I should add that the Methodist Church has associated with the Advisory Committee of Christian Churches who recommended that the Festival should proceed on Sundays, with the exception of the amusements park and I have no complaint.
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope no one is getting cross at this early hour. I thought we had worked all that off earlier.
I need not dwell at length on the equally strong arguments for letting visitors admire, on Sundays, displays of flowers and other fixed amenities of the Festival Gardens. On these matters the mind of the Government is made up and I am confident that the vast majority of citizens of all shades of opinion and belief are content. The outstanding difference, cutting across party lines, is confined to the question of whether it is or is not right to permit of the Sunday opening of the amusements in the Festival Gardens. On this the Council of the Festival of Britain, 1951, as well as His Majesty's Government, have no collective view. The Advisory Committee of Christian Churches are resolutely opposed to it, although it is fair to add that the Vicar of Battersea and a number of clergy and ministers of other denominations in Battersea are prepared to accept Sunday opening of the amusements, with the proviso—about which there will be no difficulty—that they should all be given facilities for holding open air services in the Gardens.
I will try, first, to outline what the Festival Pleasure Gardens are and then the arguments against Sunday opening of the amusements there provided. If I fail in any way to interpret these arguments rightly, no doubt hon. Members will be able to correct me during the debate. I will then outline the arguments in favour of opening the amusements on Sunday afternoons and evenings and, finally, deal with certain general considerations. I shall seek, I hope, to be scrupulously fair in stating both points of view.
The Festival Pleasure Gardens would, in the normal way, have been given part of the site of the main Festival Exhibition, but, as hon. Members will recall, acute shortage of space on the South Bank site has made this impossible and it was necessary, under the Festival of Britain (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1949—which, I am glad to say, was passed by the House without a Division—to take for the purpose a separate area in Battersea Park linked by 'bus and water 'bus services directly with the South Bank.
533 The Festival Pleasure Gardens consist of about 37 acres on the river front of Battersea Park and are laid out in a number of main areas. There will be a main vista with a large ornamental lake with fountains and other water displays and a firework stage, a main promenade, concerts and orchestras and all sorts of refreshment facilities, a children's section, including a pet's corner, Punch and Judy, and a riverside strip which will be planned with formal flowerbeds and fountains and including a covered theatre.
Finally, at the south-west corner of the Pleasure Gardens, in the middle of Battersea Park, more than 300 yards from the nearest house, there will be an amusement park which will not be physically separate in any way and will contain two scenic railways, a miniature railway and a number of features such as "Dodgem" cars, swings, and roundabouts and "all the fun of the fair" with the usual stalls, booths, stands and pitches. Noisy music or loud announcements through amplifiers will be strictly forbidden. There will also be a boating lake.
The whole gardens will be illuminated at night and some features which might well be regarded as fairground amusements will be found scattered about and not confined to the so-called "amusement section." There will be one admission charge of 2s. to the Festival Pleasure Gardens and, once admitted, visitors will be able to go freely wherever they like, subject to paying for actual rides on swings, roundabouts, and so forth, and, in certain cases, subject to paying chair charges or other admission to special performances.
In attempting to outline the arguments against the Sunday opening of the amusements I am very conscious that no enumeration of the practical objections advanced from this standpoint can do justice to the underlying convictions so strongly held and which are essentially matters of conscience on which each must act for himself. The Government have not thought it right to adopt any collective view on this issue and have decided to provide full opportunity for the entirely free expression of the House on the Sunday opening of the amusements after the facts and arguments on both sides have been weighed.
534 This decision is itself impressive evidence of the importance rightly attached in our country to these non-material considerations. So, also, is the fact that the churches have been so fully consulted—and I would like here to pay special tribute to the Dean of Westminster, who has been so helpful over the religious aspects of the Festival. Sunday observance in the full strictness that some of our forefathers knew has gone, although something of it remains in the Western Highlands of Scotland and parts of Wales.
I am sure there are other claimants, but there remains with many people in all parts of the country a desire that Sunday should be different from other days, a day when we get away from the rush and bustle and endless distractions of the ordinary weekday and have at least an opportunity to apply our minds to more fundamental things. Quite apart from the religious basis of this, there is much to be said for a break in the week, for a rhythm in life, in which one day in seven is different from the rest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I am trying to be as fair as I can, and I am stating the case of the opponents of the Bill. I hope there will be no undue amusement or "chivvying" as we go along. I do not think that those who support the view of the Advisory Committee of Christian Churches would claim that their attitude was wholly coherent or logical. They would not be Englishmen if their views were all cut and dried. And the English Sunday, even in its heyday, lacked the strictness and vigour of the Scottish or the Welsh Sabbath.
According to this view, shared by many people, it is permissible that the Exhibitions and Gardens should be open on Sundays for quiet enjoyment, but the fun fair, which includes an element of commercial profit, comes on the other side of the line and should be prohibited. They would admit that the Sunday observance laws are archaic and in a sad mess, but they would say that the Government should set an example of observing the spirit of them. A commercial caterer might take the risk of an action by a common informer, but a public undertaking cannot do so and should not seek thereby special exemption from the law. According to this view the State should observe a high standard in these matters and 535 endeavour to interpret the modern Christian standpoint.
There is a line of a kind between Sundays and other days in the minds of most of us. It is just a question of where we draw that line. It ought not to be assumed that this is simply a London question, to be settled by Londoners. It is notorious that Sunday observance grows stronger as one goes north, but this is a national Festival, people from all parts of the country will come to London in addition to seeing the Festival in their own areas, and Scotland, the North of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are fully entitled to express their view on what happens in Battersea Park. Being a capital city involves obligations as well as privileges, and from my own experience I can assure the House that there are many disadvantages to being a capital city.
The point is also made from the church standpoint that the Festival is being promoted to call attention to the British way of life, and that a distinctive and formative feature of our way of life has been the observance of Sunday as a day of worship and of rest. This is a feature on which great stress is laid by many of our churches, which have themselves played a prominent part in the development of our social life. Overseas visitors, it is argued, will not want to see an exception to British habits, but our British ways themselves, and the British Sunday, is unquestionably a custom which the majority wish to see preserved, if not in its greatest strictness, at least in its characteristic compromise. I have sought to state as adequately as I can the case of those who take the view that the amusement section should not be opened on Sundays and I have also sought to state it as respectfully as I could. No doubt this case will be supplemented by other hon. Members.
Now I turn to the arguments which are advanced in favour of Sunday opening. They are advanced by the Board of Festival Gardens Limited and were outlined in a letter in "The Times" of Monday by their chairman, Sir Henry French. If authorised, they would propose to open at 12.30 p.m. on Sunday, that is to say, two hours later than on weekdays, and they would propose to close at 10 p.m., that is to say, one and a half hours earlier than on weekdays, so as to avoid clashing with morning service or with 536 Sunday night's rest. They would provide band music, possibly concerts, and the use of refreshment and amusement facilities. They would not perform, nor will the Bill give any powers to provide, any type of entertainment different from what is already available in various parts of England and Wales on Sundays under the existing law.
Thus runs their argument. Some of their main weekly attractions, such as theatres, would accordingly be shut down throughout Sundays. Their reason for asking for the protection of this Bill is not to obtain powers to do what others cannot do; it is to ensure, as a national enterprise of this kind must, that they are not exposed to difficulties on account of the entire uncertainty of the application of the existing 17th and 18th century legislation to their manifold activities. In particular, it is to free them of the peculiar embarrassment resulting from the fact that they, unlike nearly all others operating amusements on Sundays, will be doing so inside an area to which an admission charge is made, and may thus be brought under the provisions of the 1780 Act which applies specifically to "places to which persons shall be admitted by the payment of money or by tickets sold for money."
It is a peculiar legal point, which, unfortunately, was not recognised in the planning of the Festival Gardens, that by taking the natural and inevitable course of including a charge of admission to the entire area this unusual piece of legislation became applicable to them. It would probably not have been applicable if exactly the same amusements had been made available on Sundays in exactly the same position without visitors having to go through turnstiles and buy tickets before getting access to them. The Board, therefore, do not differ in substance from those who argue that the Festival of Britain ought not to be allowed to do on Sundays things which every citizen cannot in practice do on Sundays. None of the powers contained in the Bill will enable them, so they argue, to provide any amusements which are not already habitually provided on Sundays by others.
The Bill will, if it becomes law, merely eliminate three accidental handicaps. First, that the 1780 Act happens to hinge on the admission ticket system which the 537 Festival, for other reasons, has to adopt, but which the normal amusements caterer does not adopt. Second, that the 1932 Act which exempted museums, botanical gardens and other permanent activities of this kind, was not drafted to cover temporary activities of the same sort, such as the Festival. Third, that whatever may be said in favour of a common informer system operating against private persons, it would be intolerable and absurd for a national public activity of this kind to have to run the gauntlet of the common informer on a law, of the meaning of which nobody in this House can be sure.
The Board are also extremely troubled about the financial implications of closing the amusements on Sundays. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] After all, the House has not been uninterested in the finance of the Festival. It is competent for the House to say, as it may say, that notwithstanding these financial considerations we will stick to certain principles, but I have a duty to tell the House the considerations which arise. While recognising that this aspect of the matter cannot be expected to influence the judgment of persons who, for conscientious reasons are opposed to the opening of the amusement area, the dilemma of the Board is that if they are not allowed to run the amusements they will, in effect, be driven back to the position of asking people to pay for admission to the Pleasure Gardens which will not be able to offer anything much different in kind from the displays of flowers with refreshment facilities and music that are available free in many of the Royal and the London County Council parks, and in other cities.
They might be at a competitive disadvantage with the Royal Parks, such as Hampton Court, where one can pay to go into the Maze on Sundays, or with Battersea Park itself, where one can play tennis and hire boats on the lake. In these circumstances, they fear that Sunday opening would not attract enough visitors to pay for the cost and might compel some of the concessionaires to curtail the capital outlay which they are prepared to put into the enterprise at their own risk; while if the worst came to the worst—which we hope it will not—the gardens might have to be closed entirely on Sundays for financial reasons.
538 Finally, the Board draw attention to the difficulties in which the closing of the amusements on Sundays will place the authorities concerned in the Festival, in that many provincial visitors, especially those working in the mines or in industry, will find it impossible to get to London on days other than Sunday without being absent from their work, and will tend, in the circumstances, to fall back on the rail or coach trips to many seaside places where the pleasures of the fairground can be obtained throughout the season as easily on Sundays as on weekdays.
That is the case of Festival Gardens Limited, which I have summarised, because the House would wish to know the views of this public-spirited body of men on whom this burdensome duty of establishing and operating the Festival Pleasure Gardens has been laid. As the House knows, they include men of considerable public eminence, including their chairman, Sir Henry French, a great public servant, and both the present and previous Leader of the London County Council. This, I think, covers the main arguments in favour as put by the Board of Festival Gardens Limited and supported, broadly, by the National Amusements Council, who make one further broad point: That as Parliament already permits numerous forms of entertainment on Sundays, including, in many places, cinemas and golf, there can be no case arising for discriminating between these and other kinds of entertainments such as swings and roundabouts.
To sum up, many citizens, whether they are a majority or a minority, sincerely feel that, whatever may go on under other auspices, the operation of fairground amusements at any time on Sundays as part of a national Festival would be inconsistent with their conception of a Christian Britain. There are others—again, I do not know whether they are a majority or a minority—who would say that every man should be permitted to judge for himself how he will spend the day of rest. Others would feel strongly against any amusements being permitted during the hours of Sunday morning service, but would argue that after those hours there should be no restriction on reputable types of recreation. Others, again, would take a more empirical view, and ask whether, if amusements and possibly the Festival Pleasure Gardens as a whole were closed 539 on Sundays, those who would have attended them on Sundays are likely to employ the time better or worse in other directions.
This is not a matter upon which there are one or two views. There may perhaps be dozens or hundreds of different views, and it is right that there should be. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will, later in the debate, deal with the legal aspects. I would only say now that the whole law relating to Sunday observance is, as I think we would all agree, incredibly obsolete and obscure. I am advised that it is highly doubtful whether any one of us managed to get through last Sunday without committing one or more offences against it. By common consent, some provisions which still appear on the Statute Book have long been unenforced and forgotten, while the wording of the law and the fact that it dates from so long before modern amusements were developed, make it impossible, with the best will in the world, to know what the courts would hold in many particular cases which have not been decided.
The fact that the main instrument of enforcement of the law is the common informer is a further embarrassment. It might be argued that none of the things which the Festival authorities wish to do on Sundays is, in fact, illegal. That, however, is not the point. The Government feel that in a national affair of this character the House should be given a clear opportunity to decide what ought and what ought not to happen on Sundays in the Festival of Britain. The Government, also, would not think it right that the Festival of Britain Council or the Board of Festival Gardens Limited, or any of their officers or servants, or the amusement caterers, should be exposed to a writ by a common informer in the course of such national festivities, even though they might win their case in the courts.
As the Festival activities with which the Bill is concerned are under the control of His Majesty's Government the main object of introducing the Bill is to provide an occasion for the House to decide these matters. It is, of course, important that the Bill should not, either expressly or by implication, add to the confusion and doubt which surrounds the general law on the subject; and I trust that hon. 540 Members who may wish to move Amendments will bear that aspect in mind and will take the best legal guidance on the effect which any words introduced into the Bill may have. It will be difficult, without introducing vast numbers of legally unsatisfactory expressions about particular items, to cover precisely in the Bill itself everything which it might be desired to regulate. I will, therefore, give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that should the House, by its vote in Committee, decide against the operation of the amusements on Sundays, I will, by administrative methods, ensure that that undertaking is carried out in the spirit as well as the letter.
I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, and I repeat that by so doing the House is not in any way committed at this stage to the principle of Sunday opening of the amusements, because that issue will arise in Committee and will be decided on a free vote. Perhaps it is not inappropriate that the Festival of Britain should provide us with this touchstone of our willingness to agree to differ in a perfectly friendly and reasonable way where matters of conscience are involved, on which we all feel strongly, and on which no one in the House or in our country would feel it right for the Government to ignore the scruples of individuals.
That is the case for the Second Reading. The acute issue of the opening of the amusement park on Sundays will be raised in Committee on the Bill. I submit to the House—and not only for myself, but on behalf of His Majesty's Government—when we get to the point in Committee it will be another matter—that by and large the case for the Bill is made on the understanding that this controversial point will be argued out in Committee, and Parliament will decide. This broad case for the Bill, apart from that point, is in conformity with the advice we have received from the Committee on the Christian Churches advising the Festival of Britain—to whom I am very grateful for their co-operation—subject to that reservation which will come up in Committee. In all those circumstances I hope the House will be so good as to give the Bill a Second Reading and allow that specific point to come up again and be decided when we get to the Bill in Committee next week.
§ Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The right hon. Gentleman used the word "advice," and he qualified it by saying that it was in accordance with the advice that they had that certain things should be done. Am I misunderstanding the position if I ask whether it would create a more accurate picture to say there was no objection? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not mean to suggest that the advice was given by the Inter-denominational Committee that these things should happen. It was an expression of a view when the question had been asked.
§ Mr. Morrison
That is a fair point, and I am obliged to the hon. Member for raising it. Of course, the initiators of the action in this matter were the Festival of Britain Office, and it would perhaps be a little more accurate to say that there was either acquiesence or concurrence about something which had been initiated through somebody else. If I ran the risk of misleading the House in any way I am obliged to the hon. Member for putting that right.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
This Bill does not, or should not, raise any question of whether we support or oppose the Festival itself. I sit as a member of the National Council and presumably my title for so sitting, together with another right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House, is to represent the point of view of the Opposition, and we have certainly done our best to help the Council to make the Festival of Britain a success.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has already re-affirmed in the debate on the Address our support for the Festival as a whole; and before I proceed to the terms of this Bill, I would just remind hon. Members of his words, which were as followsLWe are going to have a Festival of Britain next year. It is a matter in which both parties will take part and we shall do our best to help the Government to make the Festival a success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 16.]It is against that background that we now turn to consider this Bill. The Lord President has made it clear that the passage of this Bill is important for the success of the Festival. I agree with him in general, but I shall have certain 542 observations to make about the Bill in its present form, and my own personal attitude to the particular question of the fun fair or amusement part of the gardens.
On our side of the House we intend that our Members shall vote as they are prompted, and they have that right, not only on the Second Reading but also, according to the undertaking given by the Government, when we come to the Committee stage and consider the amendment about the fun fair or amusement park. I hope, therefore, that if I state that hon. Members on this side of the House will cast their vote on Second Reading as they wish and like, that will be accepted by my hon. and right hon. Friends in the right spirit; and if I put forward any point of view it will be taken as expressing my own view, and they can attach just as much importance to it as they attach to any observations I ever make on any occasion.
I hope this will be a good House of Commons day. Some of our best debates took place in this sort of atmosphere. For example, the Home Secretary will agree—whether he agreed with the contents of the debate or not—that the nature of the debate on the liberty of the subject the other day, and its quality, was high and good. I am taking up the right hon. Gentleman from his own published remarks. Some of us remember the famous debate on the Prayer Book, one of the best debates which took place in the old Chamber. These good debates usually take place when an hon. Member can state his individual and personal views with conviction and sincerity.
I trust, therefore, that all votes, at any rate in so far as I can influence them on this side of the House, will be given according to the prickings of conscience, and not under pressure of postcards. Some of us who have been in this House a certain time have got inoculated to the postcard scare, and if we still have tremors when we receive large numbers we do remain on a more or less even keel. But even we are affects I by the barrage when it comes. Nevertheless, I hope that all of us, whatever our experience of these barrages, will treat them according to our own personal convictions.
I wish to refer first to the Title of the Bill. It says that the Bill is introduced to:Legalise, or remove doubts about the legality of, the opening on Sunday of certain places of public resort. …543 I argue that we do not believe that those words, "remove doubts about" are really necessary. We ourselves are in very little doubt as to the illegality of opening the Exhibition and the amusement park on Sunday under the present mass of intricacies of the Sunday observance laws. I do not myself feel that the Exhibition part, for example, can be covered by the terms of the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, which states thatany museum, picture gallery, zoological gardens or aquarium may be open to the public on Sundays."Museum" there is rather narrowly defined, and means any place permanently used for the exhibition of sculpture, casts, models or other similar objects. We feel that this definition will be too narrow to cover the nature of the four types of exhibition which are to be opened.
Taking the first question of opening the Exhibition as a whole, and leaving aside the contentious question of the amusements garden, I feel that while this is not covered by the Act of 1932, in allowing people to walk through the gardens and the grounds and to see the exhibits at these four places on Sunday we are not going, in fact, any further than was agreed to be legitimate under the Act of 1932, although the terms of the Act are so strictly drawn that at first sight it seems that this is a different problem. In fact, it is not a different problem from that which faced the framers of the 1932 Act, because the Exhibition is broadly of the same type as those which are about to be opened under that Act. Therefore, I think there is a legitimate, legal case for introducing this Bill for the Exhibition part.
When we come to the amusement park or the fun fair, is it true to say that we remain within the same sort of ambit of the settlement reached in this matter under the Act of 1932? In fact, we seem to go far beyond it. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council referred to the playing of golf on Sunday. Stephen Leacock, speaking of Sunday golf said it is not a sin; it is a moral effort. If we are to go through each one of our Sunday activities and consider them in that light, we shall find it extremely difficult, to use the words of the Lord President of the Council, to find any line to draw in the matter.
544 I read the stirring leading article in last night's "Evening Standard," which said that the amusement gardens were on all fours with the cinemas. I do not believe that to be the case, because the Act of 1932 deliberately laid it down that the opening of cinemas should be settled by local option, and that is the reason why many people decided to support the framework of the Act of 1932. It left the decision on this question to their own localities, and they faced the issue when they returned to their own locality. At any rate, it supported the matter of local consideration.
If we go so far as to concede the opening of the amusement park in a Bill which passes through Parliament, we shall be extending this question of Sunday opening to a degree which I regard as most undesirable. When I tried to find what line to draw, I, too, took refuge in the very definite opinion expressed by the Advisory Committee of the Christian Churches, as expressed in their letter of 15th November. It has always been my principle not to be more royalist than the king, and it has never been part of my ability to be more religious than the combined Christian churches. I have, therefore, found it extremely convenient that these reverend gentlemen of great distinction have taken a very definite line.
Hon. Members who are in doubt and difficulty on this matter, if they proceed through the Lobbies today and support the Second Reading of the Bill and in Committee oppose the opening of the fun fair or the amusement garden, will find themselves in the company of singularly distinguished men. There is the Dean of Westminster, a man to whom I should like to pay tribute, having met him and worked with him on the Council; the Moderator-designate of the Free Church Council, the Archdeacon of London, the chairman of that executive, and an associate, who has been keeping Cardinal Griffin informed, and is, therefore, in touch with the Roman Catholic authorities. I do not wish to quote these reverend persons, but I believe that the advice that they have given us is valuable and certainly is that which I propose to follow.
I come next to my own reasons for supporting this course as advocated by the Churches. As I have already explained, in opening the main body of the Exhibition, the Government are not going in 545 spirit beyond the Act of 1932. The present Lord Samuel, then the Home Secretary, in introducing this Act, said:It is, I think, the almost unanimous opinion that there ought to be no interference with the free access on Sundays to museums, including places where models are exhibited, picture galleries, zoological and botanical gardens and aquariums.. we propose in this Bill that they should be completely exempt from its operation. It will then be lawful, without let or hindrance, for the public on Sunday, if they so wish, to go and see caged lions at the Zoo, or Cabinet Ministers at Madame Tussauds."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1932; Vol. 266, c. 715–16.]These seem to be greater attractions than the Government will be able to offer in this Exhibition itself. If I may refer to the officialese language of the material offered to the Lord President for his most judgelike and ponderous speech today on this subject, I noticed he said that the public will be able to look at "fixed amenities" on going through the exhibition or through Madame Tussauds. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not regard himself or the Members of the Government in any sense as other than most fluid amenities. It is clear that in 1932 the controversy centred round the cinema and not the museum provision. This Bill, therefore, carries us along what is a safe and sensible route.
The decision as I see it in regard to the amusement gardens is quite different. Here I take up the point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman that the Festival Gardens Limited, which all are agreed is a most honourable, painstaking, and hard-working body, does not feel that it is transgressing in any way by seeking immunity for itself in opening the amusement park, while other private or municipal bodies acting similarly in other parts of the country are left unprotected. I feel most strongly that the Government, by singling out this amusement park in London and not dealing with the 57 others which exist in the country are seeking an immunity for Festival Gardens Limited and are not handling the matter on a broad basis.
I read the letter by Sir Henry French in "The Times" of 20th November. While I thought it was couched in language which did take account of the undoubted questions of conscience, I could not help feeling that certain sentences in it had laid open to the activity of the common informer, by the publicity resulting from our discussions, many 546 of those amusement activities which are operating up and down the provinces. I feel, therefore, that there may well be a case either for a statement during the passage of this Bill that the Government are giving this matter consideration or for a further examination, under which this whole question of the present position of amusement parks in the country should be considered. One thing I feel is certain—it is wrong to allow a Government body, which should set an example, to have the privilege of doing what is objectionable on general principle. Therefore, I do not agree with the perfectly sincere and conscientious submissions put forward by Festival Gardens Limited or by Sir Henry French in his letter.
A certain new significance has been brought into this question of the fun fair by a move which is said to be made by an inter-denominational committee representing the churches of Battersea—that opportunity should be taken for popular evangelism through the opening of the Pleasure Gardens. What has not been made clear in Sir Henry French's letter or anywhere else up to date, is whether such evangelism could not take place in the Pleasure Gardens without the accompanying noise and blare of the fun fair. I would myself rather indulge in popular evangelism without the competing noise and blast, and I do not believe that if we have a fun fair it is right to entice people into it because of that fair, and then submit them to the treatment of popular evangelism.
In fact, if, as a most sincere church goer and a church warden of my own church, where I may well get into trouble if I transgress in the wrong way, I might make a single comment on the churches as a whole, I think the mistake of the churches today is that they forget that religion is a personal matter and that popular evangelism, however important it may be—and I have seen it practised in the neighbourhood of Butlin's camp On the East Coast near my home with great success—should not depend on the bait and lure of commercial activity.
I do not, therefore, believe that this perfectly sincere and excellent initiative of the churches in Battersea should be in any way prejudiced by the fact that we are not going to have the fun fair park if the House of Commons decides to vote 547 it out of the Bill. To get a crowd in that way and then preach to them high morality would be a greater offence to a large number of people than would be a breach of the Sabbath itself. The "New Statesman," to which I always turn every week-end—and often turn away—on 18th November had a very striking leading article called "Festival of Cant." I should regard it as far worse cant to entice crowds by Mammon and then try to instil religion into them.
The "New Statesman" goes further and makes another point beyond that which I have just made. It said:With the fun fair closed on Sunday most provincials"—that is rather an offensive word—will choose a mid-week day for their visit—no great assistance to the production drive.But surely this pre-supposes that what the "New Statesmen" describes as provincials are coming to London simply to see the fun fair. There are 57 fun fairs all over the country which they can visit in their own quarter. Are we going to say that the provincial—to use this word again—of, say, Manchester will regard this part of the Festival Gardens as the sole reason for travelling to London, when there are the Belle Vue gardens at Manchester to visit? To put forward that the fun fair is the one vital lure for the workers of this country is insulting the intelligence of those who love the great cities of the provinces. The position as I see it is that London will stand on its own feet without a fun fair, and it can well be maintained as the greatest city in the world without this extra addition to entice people.
There are one or two other aspects of this question which may or may not have to come up on the Committee stage but which should be aired on the Second Reading of the Bill. Some hon. Members are anxious lest the main motive of the Government or of the promoters of the Bill in opening the grounds on Sunday is to make money so that the Exhibition will pay. In fact, the Lord President is perfectly honest in saying that one of the motives of Festival Gardens Limited was governed by the financial implications of the plan.
First, let me consider this question about the payment of money on Sundays 548 at all. It is clear that there are very considerable differences of practice on this subject up and down the country. With help, I have now collected a list of all the places which charge for entrance, all the places which do not charge for entrance, and those places which make up by charging for seats inside or charging for rides on roundabouts, but which do not actually make a charge for entrance. It is clear that there is a great difference of opinion and practice in this matter.
Under the Act of 1780, it appears possible to charge for a reserved seat, but, at the same time, to keep admission free. At the same time, it is possible for these institutions to remain fair and legal under the Sunday Observance Act if they make charges for rides on a switchback but allow people into the grounds without any payment at all. I am glad to have that view confirmed by a nod from the learned Attorney-General. The present Viscount Samuel, then Sir Herbert Samuel, said in 1932 that the law was not certain here, and I think the version that I am attempting to give is correct.
I shall not go into the immense detail of the technicalities of the various Acts, but I want to make one specific point in regard to the fun fair. I feel, and I think that most of my hon. Friends will also feel, that if the choice has to be made—and we are by no means convinced that it has to be made—between making a profit on the one hand and making further inroads into the Sabbath on the other, the profit motive should be sacrificed. In fact, no one who sneers at this profit motive, when it is legitimately in operation during the week, should bring it forward on Sunday as an argument to support legislative proposals, when it must be weighed in the balance with the moral conscience of the nation. So, I think we may at last in this Parliament get some general agreement on the profit motive as such.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? He referred to the moral conscience of the nation. Is it his view that the moral conscience of the nation is for or against the opening of the amusement park on Sundays?
§ Mr. Butler
I am having sufficient conceit in trying to interpret the moral conscience of the nation, and I hope that 549 the hon. Gentleman may have the opportunity of interpreting it as he sees it at a later stage.
I do not want to detain the House very much longer, but I think it my duty, speaking from this Box, to make one or two observations on that same point. I have been amazed at the confusion and complexity of this subject when one goes into any detail. In fact, if one goes into the dialectical diversions, it is remarkable how every argument causes confusion; it is very difficult to keep a firm hold in debating this question. From this point of view, if from no other, the law is in a very unsatisfactory state.
Secondly, I feel it is very wrong that the activities of the common informer should still be encouraged by some of the archaic legislation which is still on the Statute Book. Far too much has been said during this Parliament about the activities of the common informer. Indeed, it appears that the deadlock between the political parties makes us fall back, owing to a variety of circumstances, on the discussion of a series of motheaten and dangerous statutes. A few weeks ago, we had to obtain a legal opinion from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council about an 1801 Act under which the common informer procedure could take place. Now we are going back a further 21 years to another such Act of 1780. Sir Allan Herbert called the last Parliament "The Rude Parliament." This one could be called, if not "The Common Parliament," then "The Parliament of the Common Informer."
I hope that, before the debate ends, there may be a further statement from the Government in addition to what the Lord President has said—and perhaps it might come from the learned Attorney-General—as to whether they intend undertaking, at any near date, a general review and perhaps inquiry into the law on Sunday observance, and, secondly, whether our statute law should be so revised as to eliminate the activities of the common informer, always regarded as odious since the days of the professional sycophant in ancient Greece. There is a Bill coming before us later in Private Members' time.
To sum up, in general, my hope is, that the visitors to Britain in this Festival year will be able to get a true and proper 550 conception of what the British Sunday means. De Tocqueville, describing the old régime in France, tells us that the aim of the revolutionaries was to make the face of France quite unrecognisable, but he describes, in that greatest of all his books, how, in fact, after a few years, many of the old features were retained and became constant features of the new France. I trust that no one wants to go vastly beyond the Act of 1932, which was, I think, a reasonable arrangement.
I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, because I believe that it should, and I myself wish to go further than the Lord President and say that I shall certainly vote for it, in the event of there being a Division. I hope the House will give it a Second Reading, because in doing so it will retain that tradition which has grown up concerning Sunday, which we can recognise and which we are proud to show our friends from abroad. To extend our conception of Sunday opening and to legalise a fun fair in London, would, in my view, be repugnant and unwise. It is not enough to say that those who do not like these things can stop away. In matters such as these, the need to maintain a certain distinctive, social and ethical climate depends on the community acting as a whole. Most of this Bill does seem to preserve that distinctive climate, and I shall therefore support it at this stage. One feature emphatically does not, and it must be removed if we are not to rob the British Sunday of its character. Browning expressed this opinion movingly in these lines:Thou art my single day, God lends to leavenWhat were all earth else, with a feel of Heaven.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker (Dagenham)
I should like to declare my interest in this matter because I am, in an honorary capacity, an adviser to the Sunday Freedom Association, an organisation which exists to put forward the view that there should be full and complete repeal of all the Sunday Observance Acts. There is a growing support for this movement, which is a much larger section of the community than hon. Members may be led to believe from the postcards which they have recently received.
551 We take the view, not only that the common informer should be abolished, but that the many other anomalies and uncertainties which exist under the present Sunday Observance Acts should be ended. We take the view that it is high time that this change were made. The present arrangements may be described as a form of hypocrisy in our national life. I happen to be a member of the Arts Theatre, and I can go to that theatre and see any performance I like on Sundays because I happen to pay 5s. a year subscription. Other theatres are not allowed to open on Sundays. Why should we have anomalies like that existing? I think the Government have missed a very big chance in not taking this opportunity of repealing the whole of this out-of-date Act.
The argument on the other side is put forward as a matter of principle. People take the view that it is wrong that we should have the Sabbath broken, that it is contrary to the law of God and will offend those who hold particular religious ideas. These views are also opposed on principle by those who hold the views which I hold—that it is wrong that any section of the people should tell other people how to spend their Sundays. We object very much indeed to any section of the community, whether it is a majority or a minority, telling us what we should do or should not do on Sundays. I am not particularly keen on going to an amusement park on a Sunday, but I do very strongly object to being told that I should not go if I want to do so. It seems to me that it is a totalitarian attitude to tell people that they have to do certain things whether they want to or not, and we strongly object to that attitude being taken on this issue and on the whole question of Sunday observance.
I would like, particularly, to appeal to people who are either themselves Nonconformists or of Nonconformist origin. On my mother's side, I come from a line of Nonconformity, four generations of Methodists and before that Quakers. Right the way through the past we have been strong fighters against the idea of conformity and of forcing people to accept a set way of behaving on Sundays. One of my Quaker ancestors was very militant and was sent to gaol for throwing stones at the vicar in church. The 552 reason was that in that particular parish the parson had combined with the lord of the manor to prevent any piece of property being sold to allow a Quaker meeting house to be erected. My ancestor took what seemed to be the only way of ventilating his grievance and did so in a forceful way.
I am not saying that it is right and proper that we in this country should deal with our opponents in that particular way, but when one is considering this whole question of Nonconformity, one has to remember that the Nonconformist group grew up in this country as a protest against conformity. It fought for the right of people to do what they wished on Sunday in the way they thought right, and I would ask Nonconformists or those of Nonconformist origin to remember to give to other people the same rights and freedoms which their ancestors won for them in the past, and which they, quite rightly, insist on exercising at the present time.
This attempt to interfere with people's private lives is an act of tyranny, and tyranny is still tyranny whether it is done in the name of God and Calvin or in the name of Atheism and Marx. There is no difference between this kind of tyranny and Communist tyranny. If we are to be logical, we should allow people to lead their own private lives in their own way in this free country, and we should apply this doctrine to this question of Sunday observance.
I wish to argue against all the assumptions so far made in this debate. It has been said that it is part of the British way of life for people to go to church on Sundays. That is not true. At the present time the great majority do not go to church on Sundays, and it is high time that we in this House faced that fact. I have been at some pains to look into the actual figures of membership of the Christian Churches in this country. The figures given by the Churches themselves at the present time show that only 22 per cent. of the population of this country call themselves adherents of any particular religious denomination. In other words, that is about one-fifth of the population, and if we take the adult population over 18 years of age the figures are considerably less. That means, in effect, that apart from weddings and funerals the great majority of our fellow countrymen 553 are not churchgoers. Even those who call themselves adherents of the Christian Churches do not necessarily go to church every Sunday. In fact, only a minority do so.
In May, 1932, an inquiry was held in the Becontree estate, most of which is in my constituency, to find out what proportion of the adult population went to church on Sundays. It was found that, on the assumption that no one went to church more than once on Sundays—some undoubtedly did go more often—only 9 per cent. of the population over 18 years of age went to church. Seebohm Rowntree some time ago made a similar inquiry in York and found that 14 per cent. of the population normally went to church, apart from weddings and funerals.
I am quite certain that my hon. Friends who represent Welsh and Scottish constituencies will tell me that the position in those countries is different. But these are national figures for the whole of Great Britain, with the exception of Northern Ireland. It means that in the large cities like London and Birmingham attendance is very much lower. No doubt my hon. Friends will say, rightly, that it is higher in Welsh and other constituencies, but if we are taking the national figures, it is no explanation to say that in the West of England or in rural Wales the percentage is higher.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Is my hon. Friend making the point that only those who attend a church hold the point of view that Sunday should be regarded as a different day?
§ Mr. Parker
I have not got to that point yet. I am saying that it is quite wrong to assume that the great mass of people in this country are churchgoers. That is not the case. In fact, the adherents of Christian churches are one-fifth of the population, and churchgoers considerably less, although I agree that in some parts the percentage may be higher than the national figure, which means that in other parts it is lower. Of the adherents of Christian churches two-thirds are Anglicans and Roman Catholics, very few of whom are doctrinaire Sabbatarians. The majority of Freechurchmen are not now doctrinaire on this subject. The fact is that Sabbatarians are a very small minority of the nation. A very small minority of the actual adherents of Christian churches 554 —probably not more than 2 per cent. of the whole nation—share their view of wanting to see not only that they themselves go to church on Sunday, but that their kind of Sabbath is imposed on the rest of the nation.
This small minority has a very great influence. Mr. "Misery" Martin, the Secretary of the Lord's Day Observance Society, can claim a great deal of credit for mobilising this small minority and in seeing that successful pressure is placed on Parliament. It is worth pointing out that this organisation, which is very influential, has been built up quite recently from a two-room show by this very able man who is a very fine organiser. He has a great flair for publicity; at the present time this organisation has assets valued at £142,000, and in 1948 it had an income of £30,000. Whenever a case is brought up in the Press, a lot of old ladies who lead unhappy lives in this world and hope for something better in the life to come subscribe to this organisation. But they are not the only ones who subscribe to it.
We have to remember that there are vested interests in the forms of Sunday entertainment already allowed by law who are interested in preventing other forms of entertainment taking place on Sundays. In particular, I would mention the brewers and their families. They are some of the biggest subscribers to the Lord's Day Observance Society. That organisation has never published its list of subscribers. As far as the pubs are concerned, Sunday is one of the best days in the week, and therefore they have strong interests in preventing anything which might draw the people away from the pubs.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
If, as the hon. Member says, the Lord's Day Observance Society does not publish a list of subscribers, how comes it that he knows that the largest subscribers are brewers?
§ Mr. Parker
I said, "Some of the largest subscribers." I had that on very good authority from persons connected with that organisation, and I challenge them to publish the full list of their subscribers.
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor (Bradford, North)
is the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) prepared to give the names of 555 those people who gave him this information?
§ Mr. Parker
No, I am not. This information is confidential. The whole tactics of this association are undesirable. What they do is to practise blackmail. They say to local authorities, "If you do this, that and the other, a common informer will come into action and try and get you into court." They very rarely act as common informer themselves, or get anyone to do it, but they use the continual threat of common informer machinery. They have been extraordinarily successful in banning all sorts of things. They have stopped motor-cycling competitions—
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton) rose—
§ Mr. Parker
No, I shall not give way. They stopped the Air Ministry from allowing aerodromes to be used for motorcycling competitions on Sunday. They stopped the Sea Cadets making a landing at Worthing recently, because some part of their activities was illegal. It is high time we dealt with this body and put it where it ought to be.
Some hon. Members may say, "But what about the need for a day of rest for the great mass of people?" I fully agree that 100 years ago, in the middle of the 19th century, in the heyday of capitalism, Sunday, as a full day of rest, was a very necessary institution, but we now have a five-day working week in general, and the same need for that day of rest is gone. Undoubtedly, it would be wise, when we make a change in the law, to rule out the possibility of people working seven days a week, but, in general, I think we now have a five-day week, and any variation from it should be settled by negotiation between the unions and the employers concerned.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) has touched a problem that bothers a great number of us in the trade union movement. Will he answer this question? The people who will be employed in this fun fair will not come within the five-day week and, in the main, they are unorganised; how is he going to deal with that?
§ Mr. Parker
I shall be quite prepared to support any Amendment to the Bill for 556 that particular purpose. But that is a special issue, and I am arguing that in these days of a five-day week in general, excess working should be a matter for negotiation between unions and employers.
§ Mr. Parker
I appeal to the House to ignore this pressure group. They had a very big success in 1941. At that time about 130 hon. Members of the House petitioned the Lord President to authorise the opening of theatres on Sundays, by local option in different localities. Those 130 Members signed a petition to the Lord President asking him to bring in such a war-time regulation. It was brought in, and when it came to the vote in this House 30 hon. Members who had signed the original petition voted against it—due to very successful pressure by this organisation—and Sunday theatre opening was thrown out by a majority of eight. That was very scandalous behaviour. Hon. Members who are not prepared to stand up when such pressure is put upon them do not deserve to have a seat in this House.
§ Mr. Parker
They had their reward, for they nearly all lost their seats at the next election, although they did not lose their seats on this issue. Other issues came up in the election of 1945, and I am quite certain that, however hon. Members vote on this Bill or on an Amendment, when the election comes the electorate will vote on other issues, in the main, and not this. It should be remembered that the Sabbatarian population is not more than about two per cent. of the whole electorate.
I ask hon. Members opposite to follow, in this instance, the lead given by the Leader of the Opposition. Here is an opportunity to "set the people free," and I ask them to vote to set the people free. I ask hon. Members on this side of the House to remember the revolt our ancestors and forefathers put up against authority, to give people the right to do what they thought was right themselves. That is what this issue is about today, and I ask them to remember that. I ask the House, as a whole, to remember that 557 we are a democratic country. The essential thing about democracy, that separates it from all kinds of totalitarian régimes, is the practice of toleration. I ask hon. Members to be tolerant with people with whom they disagree.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Henderson (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I think I shall be the first hon. Member in this debate to indicate I am not in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill at all, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) will bear with me if I do not follow his line of argument. The Lord President, in his opening statement, said that this Bill was a normal Bill. To me, it is anything but a normal Bill. I have been a Member of this House for about four and a half years. During that time a great many Bills have been presented. They have dealt with industrial undertakings, finance, criminal law, education, health and housing, but at no time during my membership, has there been a Bill anything like the one now before the House.
Those other Bills dealt with temporal matters and had to do with human life. This Bill goes beyond that. This Bill has not only to do with human life and that which concerns our life and happiness, but it has also a moral and spiritual significance of which hon. Members should not lose sight. Today, with many right hon. and hon. Members I participated in that priceless privilege of prayer before we commenced the day's business. When we came to the Lord's Prayer we said, "Thy will be done on earth." If the Lord President of the Council, or a Government spokesman, or those in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, can prove to me that what we repeated in the House of Commons today, with heads bowed and eyes closed—"Thy will be done on earth"—is implemented in this Bill, I will vote for it. On the other hand, if my conscience tells me that we are doing something which will be dishonouring His name then, in spite of the speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), I shall have to vote against the Second Reading.
To me, this is a most important decision, because the Lord President indicated to us that the Bill will only be applied to London, and that there was, 558 perhaps, a greater and stronger affection for the old Sabbath up North, and in Wales and in Scotland, than in London. But this is not a Bill presented by the London County Council. It is presented by the Parliament of the British Commonwealth and Empire, with all the import that that brings to bear upon a Bill. By our decision on the Second Reading we shall do one of two things—we shall either stifle our consciences and vote for the Bill or else, by our vote, refuse the Second Reading and do something which, I believe, will be upholding the Divine Command as far as Sundays are concerned.
As we look at the world today, our hearts are filled with a certain amount of dread and fear. Statesmen of the highest rank are groping for a solution to the many grave problems which confront the world today. I cannot make myself believe that there can be any solution which confines our line of thought to purely secular or temporal lines and I think the nation and this Parliament—and I say it in all humility—would be well advised if our leadership would go back to the foundation of our Christian faith.
I know that this question of religion is a very private and delicate matter. I am certain that those who do not share my views are just as sincere in their honesty of purpose as those who will vote for the rejection of the Motion that the Bill should be read a Second time. But our wonderful heritage and all our great institutions have been built on our Christian faith. I plead with all the sincerity and earnestness I possess that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will think twice before taking action, by voting for this Bill, which I believe is contrary to the will of God Almighty.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. Corbet (Camberwell, Peckham)
My concern today is strictly practical. I shall not go into the realms of religion and conscience at all. I represent a constituency of 63,000 electors living in and around the Old Kent Road, and they have a great zest for life and a great desire to enjoy themselves when the opportunity is presented. But opportunities do not so frequently present themselves to a working population of the kind I find dominating my constituency, and I believe I am voicing the sentiments of most of them—not all, but most of them—when I say 559 they would like an opportunity to visit all parts of the Exhibition on a Sunday—their one full day off work and their one opportunity to be together as a family.
I have no doubt that the Bill will be given a Second Reading today, and I feel, therefore, that I need not worry about the question of the opening of the Exhibition on the South Bank. I have more qualms as to how hon. Members will react to the proposition to open the amusement section of the Festival Gardens. A very great friend of mine now says that I ought to have qualms, but I wish I did not have to have them, but that people would look at this matter in the calm serenity of the facts.
What appears to the Festival Gardens Company to be the most important fact is that the delightful 30 acres of Battersea Park, which are being laid out on the most modern and, we believe, the most beautiful lines, will in all likelihood have to be closed on a Sunday if it becomes impossible to have the amusements section open. Much as I appreciate the delight of some people, and particularly many of my own constituents, to revel on swings and roundabouts, I do not personally share it. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) spoke of the moral effort needed to play golf. Let me assure him that it needs a very great moral effort for me to ride on a switchback. I need not elaborate the point that it might be good moral training for many people. But all I care to do is to stand and watch other people doing it, not only because of the moral effort involved but also because I do not consider that it is altogether the best way of employing one's time.
Nevertheless, contrary to the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, I would welcome the opportunity of opening the Festival Gardens for those people whose main idea of enjoyment is to patronise swings and roundabouts with a view to enticing them to appreciate the better ways of enjoying relaxation. I have no scruples whatsoever in that connection. But what, above all, I am anxious to do is to secure that the opportunity shall be available on Sundays to those who want to enjoy the admirable features of the gardens, apart from the amusement section.
560 I was dismayed to hear the right hon. Gentleman repeat the fantastic statement about the accompanying noise and blare. We are assured by all the people employed upon this project that there will not be any noise and blare. Perhaps I should repeat the assurance which was given in the London County Council by the leader of the London County Council when the proposition was first put forward. It is the concern of the company to see that there will not be noise and blare of the kind which we generally associate with these things. I remember that in the old days the roundabout used to be accompanied by a kind of organ placed in the centre. I am told by some of my hon. Friends that that is still so, but I can assure hon. Members that it will not be so at the Festival Gardens and that there will be no music apart from the strains of concert music penetrating from somewhere in the other 30 acres.
These six acres will be separate from the 30 acres; as we have heard already today, they will be 300 yards at least from the nearest house, and I believe that is across the river. I shall be surprised if anything will carry above the noise of the traffic proceeding across the bridge to the other side of the river. I am certain that the amusement section will not cause offence to the occupants of surrounding property or to other people in the Festival Gardens who go there to enjoy the fountains, the flowers and the other interesting and beautiful features which will be provided.
I think I ought to make a point which has nothing to do with religion and conscience on the subject of a quiet Sunday. It is a long time since I have seen it, except in my back garden. I see it there; I am compelled to be there if I want to see it. If I wish to go down to the River Thames on a pleasant Sunday afternoon I have to take the chance of not being able to get there or, at the very least, of not being able to get back. The number of people who visit the Thames side on Sundays is such that, even if we seriously consider trying to get there, we are forced to the conclusion that we shall not get a boat. There were days when these pleasures were easily available on a Sunday, but it is no longer so. Nor do people without their own means of transport find it at all easy to get about anywhere on a Sunday.
561 If anybody wants to see a sample of a quiet English Sunday, let him go to the London—Brighton road, and try to get down to the coast. I want to ask those people who are so keen about preserving the quietness of Sunday whether they do not at times transgress and are not themselves users of the London to Brighton or the London to Southend or the London to Eastbourne roads, or indeed of any of the roads leading from London to the coast; whether they can conscientiously lay their hands upon their hearts and say they are contributing their utmost to the quietness of the English Sunday.
Believe me, Sir, I love quietness. I do not like a wireless blaring around me all the time, and I rarely put it on. That is why I do not know about the sins of the B.B.C. I do not like to mingle in crowds. Nevertheless, I must face the facts of the situation, and I realise that if we give to the vast majority of the English people the chance of entertainment on a Sunday, then at some time or other most of them will avail themselves of that opportunity—not all of them all the time, but some of them part of the time. It may well be fair to allow people sometimes to do something on a Sunday which at present they are not able to do.
I have often wanted to play tennis on a Sunday in a London County Council park. That was in the days when my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council was leader of the County Council, and he would not let me do it. We have travelled a long way since then, and we can play tennis on a Sunday morning in a London County Council park. I have wanted to go to a theatre on a Sunday—not regularly, but just on occasions—because it often happens that it is very difficult to get to one during the week. That does not mean to say that I would concern myself unduly to make those things legal on a Sunday. I would not worry too much about it. But I am concerned about this Festival of Britain. I want it to be a success, and I want the Festival Gardens to be a success.
I think, therefore, that we ought to pay proper attention to the considered opinions of the Festival Gardens Company when they say that they feel they will not be able to open those gardens on a Sunday unless they are also able to open the amusement section. [HON. 562 MEMBERS: "It is profit making."] It may be profit making, but to open the gardens we have to have attendants; they have to be paid wages and it is doubtful whether, without the amusements section, enough people will go to make it a paying proposition. [Laughter.] I do not think anybody need sneer. Some of us know that Sunday is one of the best paying days in business. I have been in trade in a very minor capacity and, for my sins, I was compelled to keep our little shop open all day on a Sunday in order to pay the landlord's rent and the local authority's rates.
I repeat that, apart from Saturday, Sunday is the best trading day of the week. It is astonishing that hon. Members can stand up here and say that the people of Britain do not want these facilities and are not concerned to have them, when all the facts before us show that they will avail themselves of them more on a Sunday than on any other day of the week except Saturday.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
Perhaps the hon. Lady will tell me where I can find a tobacconist open in London on a Sunday. I have been looking for one.
§ Mrs. Corbet
Yes—if the hon. Gentleman comes to my husband's shop. [Laughter.] The hon. Member knows quite well what the situation is. Our shop is open, at any rate, in the morning. I would say that it is not necessary to keep open all day on Sunday in order to make a living nowadays as it was before the war; moreover, the hon. Member knows that supplies are not unlimited now, and that, therefore, it no longer pays to open on a Sunday. But hon. Members opposite and my hon. Friends on this side of the House ought to realise, and I want to impress it upon them, that the very fact that Sunday is normally the second best day in a week for trade does mean that the people of this country wish to have at least some of the facilities on Sundays that they have on other days.
I did begin to say that I would not ask for a general relaxation of the restrictions on Sunday activities—not at this stage—because I have not thought deeply about the general situation. However, I have thought very much about this particular situation and I do think it would be unfortunate if this House were not prepared to accord for 563 a temporary period, coincidentally only with the Exhibition, those facilities which will be welcomed by our working folk, and by provincial visitors. It is not, as has been suggested, only the fun of the fair that will attract them, but also they will wish to enjoy the whole of the gardens, which comprise so much more than roundabouts, switchbacks and "Dodgems"—which last, I must confess, I find quite fascinating myself.
I imagine, too, that our continental visitors who are used to having opportunities of this kind on Sundays may also wish to enjoy them here. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not all of them."] Not all of them, but a good many. When I paid a visit to Stockholm there were merry crowds about on a Sunday, and there was a delightful display of folk dancing. I am sorry we shall not be able to have folk dancing, but such is the respect the promoters of the Bill are according to the recognised religious opinions and convictions held by certain bodies of people in this country that they do not propose to go even that far. Every respect is being paid to these views.
This is no attempt to ride roughshod over the existing law. It is a petition to Parliament to allow the amusement park to be open without those responsible for it, a Government sponsored body, being subjected to the risk of action by common informers—which they would run but for this legislation. I do hope that this House will think very carefully before we allow to be closed on Sundays that section of the park on whose opening may depend that of the whole of the Festival Gardens.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hylton-Foster (York)
I thought at the beginning of this debate that Members were faced with a very difficult personal decision. I listened to the careful explanation of the arguments one way and another of the Lord President and of my right hon. Friend, and after that I thought that it was even more difficult. When it came to the observations of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), then I began to feel, with respect to him, that there was something quite wrong here. If there is one thing I certainly believe would vitiate our decisions in this House, it would be to arrive at decisions here, while looking over our shoulders at the next General Election. That is really nonsense, 564 with respect to him, and I am sure the House will not do it.
I hope the House will give a Second Reading to this Bill. I could not myself support the Second Reading unless I were assured, as I am assured, that we shall have an opportunity of considering the amusement park as a separate matter and a separate problem. No doubt, whatever anybody thinks about it, Sunday observance is a matter of personal conviction. No doubt about that. No man can be required to compromise on that, or would be. No doubt about it, either, that no hon. Member can take shelter behind the line of thought that, "Well, this is a Government line here, or the line the Churches have advised." It is, unfortunately, an individual responsibility this, which we cannot evade.
I do urge the House to take this view, that when the decision which we make is reached, it will govern not only our own Sunday observance but the Sunday observance of others as well. I, for my part, am not prepared to impose on others a degree of religious observance more austere than that the Churches think it right to ask for, and I would ask the House upon the religious aspect of this matter to take that view. Of course, on that, profit and loss has nothing to do with it.
There remains, I suppose, the question of what should be done in general about this amusement park. If any one or any argument could convince me it was right to keep it open on Sundays, it would be the charming speech of the hon. Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet). The considerations that she advanced are very much present in the minds of all of us—though I must say that, in my experience, a roundabout without music is rather like an éclair without cream in it. According to the hon. Lady we are to have noiseless roundabouts. She may be right. It might be true in this wonderful age.
We in this House are not, unless the Government are going to look at the Bill a little more carefully, going to have proper control of what those entertainments are to be, because by Clause 1 (4) a kind of limited discretion as to what are the appropriate entertainments for a Sunday are being given to a limited liability company. I do not think that that is right, and I do not think it is a reason for 565 encouraging the House, pursuant to this Bill, to allow the amusement park to be open on Sundays at all.
In one moment, I shall be exposing myself to the gibe, which no hon. Member can evade here, directly he starts to speak about what he believes to be the feelings of the British people. Unfortunately, each speaks from personal experience and his personal viewpoint, and there is no dodging that. Let me assure the House that my view of the matter is not formed as a result of any bombardment by postcards. I sometimes wonder whether the persons who adopt measures of that kind to draw the attention of their Member of Parliament to various points and arguments, think what kind of an effect such measures are likely to have, and whether they expect, as I hope, that hon. Members of this House are capable of sturdy independence of thought. When one receives missives of this kind, it is not until one rids one's mind of the effect of them, and the possible consequent tinge of falsity of thought, that one can come to think fairly about the question. I say that to show that that is my personal reaction to that kind of thing, and I hope that the House will believe what I say now, that my view is not the result of any bombardment of that kind.
I confess to the House that I am personally convinced from all the inquiries I have been able to make—and, no doubt, views vary from one part of the country to another—that if we allowed the amusement part of the Festival Gardens to be opened on Sundays, real, grave, lasting injury to the convictions of what I believe to be a substantial majority of the people, for whose care we are responsible, would result. If that is right—and one can only humbly submit a personal opinion—it does not matter whether that means profit or loss; it does not matter if the Festival Gardens will be able to open at all. None of these things matter.
On that basis our plain duty will be not to open this amusement park. And I hope that when the time comes the House will consider the arguments in favour of the hon. Lady's opinions, and those against them and remember that if we shut up the amusement part of the Festival Gardens we shall at least be opening a number of other Festival exhibitions to which people can go if they wish on Sunday afternoons, for people outside of 566 London who want to come to London instead of going elsewhere.
But if this House gives, as I hope it will give, a Second Reading to this Bill, it will, by making that decision, be asking a concession of a considerable body in this country who, for sound reasons, such as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart (Mr. J. Henderson) sitting behind me, prefer to have no part of the Exhibition open on Sundays. We shall be asking a considerable concession from them. I hope that, on the other hand, those who, like the hon. Lady opposite, desire to have even the entertainments part of the Exhibition open on Sundays, will, therefore, realise that, if they are being asked to accept with a good grace a decision that any part should be closed, they will be making their concession to that true balance of mutual understanding by which at our best we govern our affairs.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Hale (Rochdale)
It is not my intention to ramble over the whole field of the law or of private views on Sunday observance. I do not think that we are called upon in this Chamber to do so. We are considering a Bill dealing with a specific Festival. I support the Second Reading of the Bill, but I cannot pretend that I am happy about the way in which it has been presented to the House.
I believe—and I have a feeling that many other people think the same way—that the first object of the people responsible for the Festival should have been to have reached decisions commanding general approval. Indeed, there was a time when it seemed that that was their primary motive, because at a very early stage they encouraged the existence of the Advisory Committee of the Churches. From time immemorial Governments and other public bodies have appointed Royal Commissions and committees of various kinds to inquire and advise. From time immemorial, if those Royal Commissions or committees reported otherwise than according to the preconceived ideas of those who set them up, their recommendations were pigeon-holed.
When the churches formed their Advisory Committee that body was open to any church or denomination at all. Certain churches did not avail themselves 567 of the opportunity to join it. That, of course, is purely their concern, and the concern of no one else. However, representatives of the churches deliberated, and came to the conclusion, as we all know, that the cultural side of the Exhibition could be opened on Sundays and that the amusement side should remain closed.
§ Mr. I. L. Orr-Ewing
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me. I do not want to repeat the interjection that I made at the end of the Lord President's speech, but I think I am not misinterpreting the right hon. Gentleman when I remind the hon. Gentleman of what he said. It was that it is not a question of views being given by this body but of an answer being given to a question which was put. We are not, in fact, recommended—as was suggested—to do anything, but merely considering views they gave on a question which was submitted to them.
§ Mr. Hale
Be that as it may—and I am open to correction by the Lord President or the hon. Gentleman—the decision of the Advisory Committee of the Churches on this matter was unanimous. As this body of opinion, which is not an inconsiderable one, has seen fit to give such advice, one would have thought that the advice which they have been asked to give, would have found some expression in the Bill. The reverse is the case. The Festival authorities—and there is no one more anxious than I am that the Festival should be a success—chose to introduce a Bill into the House which included the opening of the fun fair, and left it to hon. Members to move Amendments in Committee to express the view of the Advisory Committee of the Churches.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
The Government have done that; it was not the Festival authorities' decision.
§ Mr. Hale
I do not discriminate quite so finely as the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland). The idea of the Festival was conceived by members of the Government. Let us face up to that responsibility. The Lord President saw fit to ignore the advice given by the Advisory Committee of the Churches. He must, at the same time, admit that members of that Committee should be at least free to express themselves through other channels than the Bill.
568 I have taken some pains to ascertain what is the real view of this Committee. The Committee thinks that the cultural side of the Exhibition stands in line with art galleries, museums and the like. I subscribe to that view. But we had this Bill presented in such a way that if we wish to comply with the wishes of the churches we have first to vote for the Bill in its entirety. I want to make it quite clear that while I am supporting the Bill on Second Reading, I shall support Amendments in Committee to cut out the amusement side of the Festival on a Sunday. Of course, if that view is not carried in Committee, we have a further chance on Third Reading of expressing our disapproval in a way which would not meet with the approval of the Lord President.
There are one or two very objectionable things about this business. Some of them have already been pointed out by other hon. Members, but they will stand repeating. There is the business of the common informer. The common informer is odious, I think, to most Englishmen. Without attempting to introduce party politics into the debate, I may say that many of us, like Members opposite, who quite justly, in my opinion, object to snoopers in the employ of the Government, object to snoopers going round in the interests of such a society as the Lord's Day Observance Society.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), who has just left his place, made a contribution to the debate. It takes considerable courage to express some of the views which he expressed. We should be very much mistaken if we in this Chamber allowed this matter to get down to how many votes it will mean at the next election. I think that any hon. Member would be very foolish to entertain any idea on that matter, because, whichever way he votes, he is sure to arouse the indignation of some people in his constituency, and he will find it difficult to weigh up numerically the best view to which to subscribe.
§ Mr. Thurtle (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I hope that the hon. Member is not implying, by that remark, that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) was inspired by a nice calculation as to where the balance of votes lay.
§ Mr. Hale
The hon. Member suggested that. At any rate, the hon. Mem- 569 ber for Dagenham went to considerable pains to find out how many people attended church, and he came to the conclusion that they were a minority of the total of the population. I do not wish to be unjust or unfair in this matter at all, but he gave me the impression that they could very well afford to be overlooked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] I do not wish to be unfair, but that was the impression which I obtained from his speech, and I must be left as free to interpret what people say as those who cry "Oh, no."
This Festival will have all the things, I think, that go to make a successful Festival. Fun fairs are not an essential part of a successful Festival. My own constituency is within 45 miles of Blackpool, and hon. Members will find better fun fairs there than ever they will get down here. If they do not wish to go so far, they can go to Belle Vue. I do not believe that even the views of the people of South Wales should be ignored. It becomes very fashionable—and here, I think, I must become rather partisan—for Members who sit for constituencies which happen to be in great conurbations like London, to assume that theirs is the only way of life. The Western Isles and the Highlands of Scotland, Lancashire and Wales are equally representative of the people of these Islands; in fact, populations such as we have in London become so cosmopolitan that they very often represent nothing.
It has been put to me by people who ought to know better that the only opportunity that the poor workman in Lancashire will have of going to the Exhibition will be spoilt because the hurdy-gurdies will not be there. For a start, they have underestimated what the people of Lancashire are like. If the workers of Lancashire cannot find time to come to London to enjoy the Exhibition when the fun fair is open, they have poor hopes of doing so, seeing that they have more leisure today than they ever had. It is no good hon. Members saying that Sunday is the only day that they can go. Far too many workers have a five day week, and those who work in shifts have Saturday or Sunday for recreation. It is quite easy to find people in Lancashire who hold strict Sabbatarian principles. I think it was unfair of the Lord President to refer to the young Methodists' paper "Joyful News" in the way he did.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The only reason that I referred to it was because they had promoted a petition and secured many signatures to it, and I thought that it was only fair, in referring to the Lord's Day Observance Society, that I should add the petition organised by "Joyful News."
§ Mr. Hale
The Young Methodists' organisation put forward objections. It so happens that they are rather militant. I think we might discriminate between the views held by the "Joyful News" and the Lord's Day Observance Society, which seems to me to be a purely negative body with no positive solutions for modern problems.
The Lord President has complained about the difficulties and complexities of the law. I would point out that the House is responsible for this. It is within the province of the House to remedy this situation. It is for us to find time to discuss a lot of these things. It may be of interest for the matter to be discussed through the usual channels, and for something to be brought before the House at an early stage. I am anxious that the Bill should have a Second Reading, and that the Exhibition should be open on a Sunday, apart from the amusement centre. No doubt an opportunity will he provided, during the Committee stage, to discuss and move an Amendment relating to the amusements.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Captain Waterhouse (Leicester, South-East)
I agree with what the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. J. Hale) said about the Government having failed to reach a decision which commends itself to the general approval of all schools of thought, both in the House and in the country I would add, however, that the Government ought to have reached a decision on this a good deal earlier. It seems quite ridiculous that an all-important matter such as this should have been left until a few months before the opening of the Festival. Hard things have been said about the common informer. We are all in agreement about that, but why have not the Government looked at this matter from a larger point of view, instead of particularising in this way?
I made a note of some of the things that the Lord President said. He spoke of the "entire uncertainty" of 17th and 18th century legislation; a law, the necessity of which no one can be sure, 571 and of its intricacies and ambiguities. I think the House will agree that these expressions ring a bell in our minds. We heard them all in connection with the case of Mr. MacManaway. What did the Government do in that instance? They did precisely the opposite to what they are now doing, because it suited them. They did not bring in an amending Bill to clear up that position, although there was no more ambiguity there than there is here. They asked for advice from their Law Officers, which did not suit them, so they decided to go to the Privy Council.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
The right hon. and gallant Member will recall what I said on that occasion. I said that, on the whole, I thought Mr. MacManaway was qualified, but that the argument was so nicely balanced that I thought the matter ought to go to the Privy Council in order to ascertain their views.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I accept that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman thought "on the whole" that Mr. MacManaway was qualified—there was not the slightest doubt about it. I am pointing out the difference in the attitude of the Government towards that matter and this question of the Festival of Britain.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
To make clear what the right hon. and gallant Member is arguing, will he tell us whether he is arguing that the Government should introduce a Bill to permit all fun fairs to be opened?
§ Captain Waterhouse
If the hon. and learned Member will wait, he will see how my argument develops. I am coming to that point in a moment or two. It is not the opening of any of these places which illegal. The Lord President of the Council will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am right in saying that all these places, the gardens and the science museum, can be opened under the present law without any fear of the common informer, provided no charge is made.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
This is really a legal question and one for my right hon. and learned Friend to answer. I want to ask the right hon. and gallant Member whether he is advocating that the Gov- 572 ernment should charge nothing, so that the loss on the Festival will be materially greater than it is? If that is so, I understand it; but let the right hon. and gallant Member face the fact—or is it any less evil if people do not pay?
§ Captain Waterhouse
I was merely saying that if no charge is made, the pleasure gardens can be opened. It is within my recollection that when a collection of masterpieces that were well worth going to see were being shown in the provinces some three or four years ago, and I wanted to see them on a Sunday, I was told that they could not be seen on Sunday because a charge was being made. If that is the case, it is very relevant to this issue. I am suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman should not have legislated only for the Festival of Britain, but should have framed a Bill to deal with the whole position, leaving all such exhibitions open if he thinks that is the right thing to do.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The right hon. and gallant Member has not answered my question. Is he arguing that the Government should introduce a Bill to open fun fairs on Sundays throughout the British Isles.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I am not discussing fun fairs, but the Second Reading of this Bill. The Bill is divided into five parts, four of which deal with museums, gardens and that sort of thing, and one with fun fairs. To get the hon. and learned Member out of ibis difficulty, I can tell him that I shall vote against the opening of fun fairs, and that my present reaction is to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill on the grounds that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have come to the House with a general Measure.
It is quite reasonable, generally speaking, that these exhibitions and scientific museums should be open on Sunday, but it is unreasonable, just because this is a national Exhibition which involves the taxpayers' money, that special facilities should be given that are denied to municipalities and private exhibitors. I am trying not to deal at this moment with the ethical position.
My second point is that we are desperately short at this moment of labour, and that if the Festival is to be opened on Sundays, two things will happen. It 573 will mean that there will have to be a large staff of direct labour. I do not know what is the figure. Perhaps we could be told how many people will be required if the general places are open on Sundays. Will it be 500, or will it be 2,000 or 5,000? No one can be expected to work for seven days a week, and if the Festival is open on Sundays, something like a 15 or 20 per cent. increase in the personnel directly employed will be required. In addition, people will have to be conveyed to London by train and by coach, and municipal bus services will have to be provided between the homes of the people and their stations. It will not be a few hundred people that will be involved, but, quite possibly, 10,000 throughout the country. That is a point which the Government must carefully consider. No reference has been made to this essentially economic problem.
§ Mr. Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
Does the right hon. and gallant Member realise that if he votes against the Bill and is succesful in his opposition, the working man will be faced with the alternative of absenting himself from his work, or not visiting the Festival at all? It means that the right hon. and gallant Member is encouraging people to go in for justifiable absenteeism.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I cannot do better than recommend the hon. Member to read the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, who referred to the fact that today we have a five-day week, and that there are plenty of opportunities for workers from different parts of the country to visit the Exhibition in their own time. I do not believe that from that point of view it will make any difference in man hours whether the Exhibition is open on Sunday or not, but I submit that opening will make a material call, direct and indirect, on the available labour of the country.
I believe in the advantages that we derived as a nation from the old English Sunday, but each one of us should be given the maximum latitude to do what he wants, provided we do not interfere with the lives of others. None of us has the right to make people work on Sundays merely for our pleasure. I ask the House not to press that argument to its illogical conclusion, for clearly, some people have to work for the benefit of the community, or we should have neither 574 light, transport or the ordinary amenities of life. My point is that we should minimise such work and not force thousands of people to open a fun fair on Sundays for our amusement.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lang (Stalybridge and Hyde)
The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse), will forgive me if I do not follow him in the interesting points which he has raised, although later in my remarks I may have something to say about his final point.
All of us who were bound to approach the Measure with anxiety and strong fears are gratified at the tone and temper of the debate. There has been nothing to provoke other people. There has been no suggestion that those who fundamentally differ from us are unfair or that they have any ulterior motive. I shall probably express a point of view that may not be altogether accepted, but it is easier to speak when we ourselves are able to recognise the complete sincerity of those who take another view. I have never doubted the sincerity of people who stand opposite to me in religious matters, politics, and other things, and I hope I never shall. If we can respect each other's integrity, we are going a very long way towards having a reasonable debate.
One thing upon which all of us are agreed is the part of the Bill which will abolish, in this connection at any rate, the common informer. Nothing is more detestable and reprehensible than the use of common informers for a reward to prosecute religious observances. I should imagine that that has done as much harm to the cause as anything else that I could think of.
A good deal has begin said about the advice of the Church. I am always glad when the advice of the Church is attended to, listened to, and accepted. Omissions in that respect are, perhaps, rather more numerous than commissions, but it is never too late to mend and tardy repentance is better than none. I should not always accept what the Church Advisory Council says as the last word in Christian doctrine or the final word in theology. Those who take a strictly Sabbatarian view are themselves in some difficulty, for the Divine command, which was referred to in a very moving speech 575 from the Opposition back benches, was to hallow the seventh day and not the first day, and all the judgments, promises and penalties which are bound up with the question of Sabbath observance or non-observance are bound up with the seventh day, so that the Christian Church has departed from that command.
I believe that the reasons for observing the first day of the week are overwhelming to those of us who are Christians but they are in entire contravention of the Mosaic Law, which was, clearly, to keep the seventh day. There are small bodies in this country, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, who keep their Sabbath on the original seventh day. The Church, rightly, I think, under her Divine guidance, has adopted the first day for reasons which are familar to every Christian, and other modifications may occur.
One thing in the Bill which makes me nervous is the assumption that Sabbath observance—that is, going to church—is now only a matter of once a Sunday. Those of us who have a vested interest in certain aspects of Sunday observance have observed for a long time that most people seem to be content with one service. I am a little anxious lest the impression may be given that as long as people have been to church by 12.30 everything is all right. If I were opposed to the Bill on grounds of Sunday observance, I might have something to say about that.
I propose to support the Second Reading of the Bill because I believe, in the first place, that people must be allowed freedom to choose for themselves. I choose for myself. Let me make it plain that in no circumstances should I dream of going to any kind of exhibition or riding on roundabouts on Sunday, not that I think it wrong, but because I have no desire to do it. There are other things which appeal to me which I can get elsewhere—things which strengthen me, cleanse me and inspire me. When I support the Second Reading of the Bill I am not asking for any privilege which I might enjoy. I shall continue to observe the Sunday as I have tried to do it. I am a very strict observer of it so far as I can be, but the fact that that is my view does not enable me to lay down that view for other people.
576 I believe that the churches have suffered too much and too long from a whole series of prohibitions and negatives. I shall be glad when the Church wakes up and tells us what we ought to do and not so much what we ought not to do. We have had a series of prohibitions and negatives from one church and another ever since I was old enough to take an active interest in these matters.
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Member has forgotten the great Founder who put on one side the 10 negatives and substituted the two positives. It is a great misfortune if that is overlooked. I do not believe that the course of true religion is served by these prohibitions and negatives. I remember years ago preaching at a town on the occasion of a Sunday school anniversary. That day a young lady in the Sunday school was allowed to play the organ in church, and, unfortunately, she made a very bad business of it, and I was sorry for her. After the service her mother came to me and said, "I am ashamed. I do not know what to say. You know, Mr. Lang, her father has stood over that girl with a strap many times to see that she did her practice." That was the explanation of that young lady's unfortunate performance. That sort of thing is what so often happens because of the Church's attitude. Instead of encouraging people to come into the Church and accept the Christian religion, which is, after all, wide, wise and tolerant, it drums fear and sullenness into people.
I have no desire to drive people into church. I have no fear of any competition with the Christian Church when the Christian Church is free and its ministers can preach to people. No sideshow can mean the same to a man and woman as the quiet peace that they can obtain at the morning service in the church which they attend. That is my practice, and I pray that I shall always be able to continue it. I shall do my best, by example as well as precept, to persuade other people to do it, but I will never force them to go. It is no use for us in this House to speak of freedom and then next week with whips try to drive people into our way—
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Member, who at the moment alone represents the Liberal Party, speaks feelingly and if it means that we shall have unanimous acceptance by the Liberal Party, well and good. The hon. Member knows quite well that I am the last person to be compelled, but on the question of the Whips I always do what I believe to be right and on this occasion I am less afraid of the party Whips than I am of the effect of the propaganda which we have had during the last month upon the churches.
I have said that I believe in the right of people to choose for themselves. Let us try to get rid of some of the humbug which there is about this business. The right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East, said that a certain amount of labour is indispensable. I have to use it; we all have to do so not only the labour which is positively done on Sunday but also that which is done on Sunday in order to keep us going on Monday. Years ago there was an outcry about the Sunday post. Never was there such a stupid compromise as that no letters should be delivered on Sunday, because postmen are as busy as can be on Sundays collecting from the letterboxes and sorting the letters so that they may drop them into our letterboxes the next morning. If the postmen knew as much as I do about some of these letters, they would not bother with half of them. Those men work as successfully on Sunday as they do on any other day in order to make sure that we have plenty to do on Monday.
I do not like to attempt to increase the amount of work to be done. Twice in our lifetime, no matter what we desired to do, we have been forced to see a maximum amount of work done on Sundays. Those occasions were in time of war when there were dangers and difficulties. Not only were people working in the factories, but men were being trained for the Forces and were fighting in the Forces, killing and being killed, on Sundays. If we had been truer at heart we might have been spared all that. However, that was the state of affairs and there was no opposition to it. In Colchester not many months ago there was a special sitting of a court martial on 578 Sunday to find the verdict and pronounce the sentence in a case which was discussed in this House because it concerned some secret regulation.
I have already said that I do not propose to enjoy the amenities of the Exhibition on Sunday. It may be thought that it is suggested that there is something wrong with people laughing heartily on the Sabbath. At one of the first places at which I went to preach as a young man, the gentleman who was my host, by chance saw a mark on my face and spoke of it. I said "I am afraid that is a nick through shaving hurriedly this morning." He said "Oh, did you shave this morning?" I replied "Yes," and he said "Then, Mr. Lang, I shall not come to worship with you," and went back into his house. If I went unwashed people would say that they did not know me and, I should not feel clean if I had washed but not shaved. We have progressed a little since those days, and I hope that we shall make even more progress.
I believe that there is more offence in Heaven over the hard-hearted, bitter resentment of other people's freedom than there is over laughter from children on the roundabouts. I do not want any noise. There is already enough noise on Sundays. I live in one of the loveliest towns in the country, Chepstow, at the mouth of the Wye Valley. Our Sundays are intolerable, not because of masses of people going to exhibitions but because of people with cars going through all day and returning in the evenings. What on earth is the good of pretending that there is quiet and peace on Sunday with which the Exhibition will interfere. It is absolute nonsense.
I believe in a quiet Sunday. I am frantically trying to find how I can preserve my quiet Sunday, and that is why I do not go to some places where I have been invited to preach. I would rather be in a quieter place to hear the sound of church bells summoning man to perform his duty to his Maker and would rather pray in peace for the people who do not know the secrets which some of us have in that way. I remember, with charity, those who have to work, and I reflect on the stupidity of those who believe that they can best find their rest in a few extra hours in bed instead of going to church.
579 Recently in Stalybridge I went to a church to give an address at the Festival of the Carpenter. The service was conducted by the minister with very great reverence. When it was over the congregation filed up to the front of the church to see the most glorious exhibits of carved work and other examples of craftsmanship that their people had done. That was an exhibition in church on a Sunday at the close of Divine service. I believe that people who saw that exhibition went away doubly thankful.
I remember some years ago a man coming to me who was noted for his regular church attendance, and for the regularity with which he sent his children to Sunday school. He came to ask my advice. He said: "There is an excursion on Sunday." He mentioned a south coast resort and said that the price of the excursion would enable him and his wife and children to go at a cheaper rate than the normal fare. Did I think that he ought to take the youngsters to see it? "What ought I to do?" he asked. "Will you give me advice?" I did not feel very competent to give advice but I told him what I thought. It was that if he took his children to the seaside it would be a good thing because they could thank God for the beauties of nature that otherwise they would not see, and for the ingenuity of man that enabled them to go so far to see them. He was doing his fair share of the world's work and I thought that nobody needed to be confined to any particular day of the week to get his pleasure. I believe that was a reasonable attitude.
Here I must declare my interest in this matter. For something like 20 years I have had the honour to be honorary chaplain to the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain. The Showmen's Guild and the amusement people generally are very interested in this Exhibition. The guild is a highly influential organisation. I would like hon. Members to know what happened. More than a week ago the president and the secretary of that guild came to me in the precincts of this House. They said: "We do not know what your views are about the Bill, or about the fun fair, but we know what your views are in many directions. We wish you to understand that, so far as we are concerned, you will have the same respect from us whatever you do. If you feel that you 580 must vote against the Bill or any part of the Bill, we shall understand." I wish that something of the same feeling had been shown by other people who profess a great deal more and who ought to know a little better.
It is not my connection with the Showmen's Guild that moves me tonight. The fun fair is very largely a question of the way it is conducted. The thought of a great deal of this music, and whirligigs, is not particularly attractive to me. I was a bit surprised during that most interesting and whimsical speech of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) to learn that he was shocked at the thought that when everybody else was going to fish in the pleasure gardens the churches wanted to fish too. I thought our first commission was to go out and catch men, and to catch them wherever they are likely to be found. If the Festival Gardens bring a larger number of people together, some of us ought to be there to try to catch them. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General may have something to say about further legal complications if, after the charge for admission to the fair, the churches were to use privilege of this kind in an offertory. We should get people in wherever we can, and sow the seed by the wayside.
I desire to say once again that nothing on earth would persuade me to take part in the facilities which now I support, because I do not want them and am thankful that I do not need them, but because there are many people who do need these things. The Sabbath is very nearly gone. How is it to be recovered? Not by harshness, or negativeness, or by making people suffer, but by showing them something better. If, one day, somebody stops me and asks: "Mr. Lang, will you tell me the secret of your peace of mind, of your contentment, and how it is you are tolerant?"—if they ever do say that—then for the first time I shall be sure that I have made some Christian progress. People have to be led and loved into doing right, and that is why I will not oppose the Bill. Surely, if this nation is to be a spiritual nation and if we are to preserve our spirit we must honour God with a free heart and a free mind. There is no compulsion in Christianity. If there had been, its Founder might not have died and we might not have been free.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Astor (Surrey, East)
I know that the whole House has heard with respect the speech that has just been made by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang). If any hon. Member will get up and say, "Not only am I not going to the Sunday amusements in Battersea Park, but I also believe that they are wrong; but I believe, at the same time, that the Bill should be passed," then I will believe more not only in the sincerity and conscience of the extreme Sabbatarians but also in their intellectual discrimination. That speech has yet to be made. One thing is clear to the whole House. There are sincere points of view for and against the Festival of Britain. I believe the law should be such as to embrace both points of view. The only way that it can do so is for us to pass this Bill in its entirety and thereby allow people complete freedom of choice. I can see no other way. Incidentally, I can see nothing in the Bill which indicates that attendance at the fun fair is in any way compulsory.
All hon. Members have received a number of circulars. May I say that I always throw such circulars into the wastepaper basket, more particularly at election time. On this occasion, however, as I hoped to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I read everything that was sent to me on this subject of Sunday opening. There was a great deal of complete misconception in those circulars about what the Lord President of the Council and the Government are trying to do. One misconception is that they are trying to introduce the Continental Sunday—whatever that may be. A constituent of mine came up to me and said, "If we start this sort of thing we shall have the same as they have on Sunday in France where, in Paris, the Folies Bergères is open on Sunday." I believe that the Folies Bergères is open on Sunday. It is open chiefly for the benefit of the foreigners and not natives of that city. The point is that this example simply does not apply to the Bill. So far as I can make it out, the Government are only trying to allow to happen in Batttersea Park that which already takes place on many open spaces and fairgrounds in various parts of the country on Sundays. These are legally marginal cases from the point of view of the common informer, and often they are allowed because the area in question is not enclosed. What 582 the Government are asking is nothing very radical or shocking, from that point of view.
There are three main considerations on which the House has to decide this issue. First: Is this matter morally right or wrong? Second: Is it financially necessary? In considering that point we must weigh it in conjunction with the moral consideration. The third point, on which I think the House should make some comment, concerns the Act of 1780, against which the Bill wishes protection and about which the Government have been delinquent so far, in not taking any positive or constructive action. On the moral aspect of the matter I shall support the Bill.
I am, however, the first to say that I believe there is a great need for a return to the churches, and I am glad to see people who have a faith, whether Catholic, Protestant or whatever church it may be, rather than people who have no faith. If the churches are empty today, the answer to that dilemma is not to close every possible counter-attraction—that is a completely illogical trend of thought. By and large, the matter is one for the choice of the individual, and I would rather see pleasure as opposed to gloom being the order of the day. I think that we will achieve that without any weakening of the moral fibre of the nation. In listening to part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) it occurred to me that it would indeed be a step forward if we could watch caged animals in Madame Tussaud's and Cabinet Ministers in the Zoo. That, however, is a very cautious advance and we can expect a little more liberality of entertainment than this.
The financial consideration is not a matter which arouses the passions, and must be taken into consideration with the moral point of view. Something which has not been sufficiently stressed so far, if we choose to weigh the financial balance in this matter, is the effect which it will have on absenteeism. I will give just one instance. I am not proposing, here and now, that we should have Sunday football matches. This is another issue besides football matches, but when there is a football match in an industrial town on a Wednesday or a Thursday, there is a good deal of absenteeism in that town. The reason is not that people do not want to 583 work on that particular day, but is purely and simply that they want to see the football match. This simile can be applied in some degree to the amenities at the Festival of Britain.
I should like to make a brief reference to the 1780 Act. It needs, of course, very considerable revision, and I am sure that the Lord President is now inclined to that way of thinking himself. That Act, incidentally, was started largely for the purpose of preventing free discussion about the matter of religion; it was aimed largely at people who did not hold orthodox religious views in getting together and discussing religious subjects. But no one in the House wishes the Act to operate in that way or to have that effect.
There is, however, another side to the picture. There is a gentleman—I will supply the Lord President with details, although I imagine he knows them already—who makes a living, I understand, to the tune of nearly £3,000 a year on the blackmail principle in respect of the common informer practice. I am not referring to the Lord's Day Observance Society. This is merely a person who is wise to all the opportunities of the common informer. He goes to a dance hall or to a fair ground and—he said this pretty well openly—says to the proprietor "I can turn you in and get £50 for my services, but rather than do so I will take £50 or £45 off you now and we will call the matter quits." That is his business or livelihood. That is the sort of thing which happens with a law which is antiquated and no longer applicable.
Let me add a word or two about what are generally called Sabbatarian pressure groups. Already we have heard in the House views expressed on conscientious grounds—from, for instance, one of my hon. Friends behind me who represents, I believe, a Glasgow constituency. I entirely respect his point of view, and so did the whole House. Hon. Members listened to his remarks in complete silence, in the same way as they listened to the hon. Lady the Member for Camberwell, Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), who gave the opposite view with equal sincerity. I respect these points of view, but, over and above that, I would say to the conscientious objector, "I respect your view, and now"—to use a phrase which is not intended to be rude—"I ask you to mind 584 your own business." We should allow legally, by the acceptance of the Bill and all its Clauses, the freedom of choice and decision to the people as their consciences dictate.
Some hon. Members have stated, with the general assent of the House, so far as I gauged it, the view that circulars which go around have very little effect on hon. Members and how they vote. I hope that is true. I have a majority of 20,000 in my constituency; therefore, I can afford to throw them all in the waste paper basket, but I doubt whether all hon. Members take that point of view. May I say, therefore, something which may help those hon. Members? These circulars create the impression that there is an upsurge of feeling—call it the Nonconformist conscience or what you like—coming from all parts of the country, demanding that action be taken in a certain way. May I say where all this starts, who puts the idea into people's heads, and the source from which it emanates? It emanates from an office in or just off Fleet Street. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I hope that those hon. Members who have other feelings may have an opportunity of speaking later in the debate.
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor
Has not the hon. Member received communications from societies and denominations within his own constituency, apart from those that emanate from the Lord's Day Observance Society, and so on?
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The hon. Member would not suggest that the Free Church of Scotland has an office in Fleet Street?
§ Mr. Astor
I have taken a certain amount of trouble to look into all this, and I honestly believe that the guiding force is not so many representatives in Wales, Scotland, or all over England. No; it is the man who employs five or six secretaries, who has had a good deal of money left to him in legacies—Mr. "Misery" Martin, as he is more generally known in the trade. He is very well known. His name and pseudonym have been widely circulated in the Press. He may, for all I know, hold sincerely to the views which 585 he publishes; I do not question that he sincerely holds these views. There exists, however, this organisation, but for which there would not be created the impression, which, I maintain, is a false one, of a general upsurge of feeling against these Measures.
I think it is an old story that a minority faction, particularly in matters of religion, is always the most active and most noisy in putting forward its case. By and large, it is the person who may take a more tolerant and lenient view, and who feels himself to be in a majority, who does not express his point of view. I have, however, ascertained one thing, which, I hope, is correct: that the actual moneys taken in this office to which I have referred do not come mostly from Welsh sources.
§ Mr. Astor
I say this because I think that a good many Members have a general impression that the bogy which frightens them—they do not know exactly what it is: it may have more to do with Nonconformist conscience when talking of licensing laws than anything else—has more to do with Wales than with any other geographical area.
§ Mr. Astor
Be that as it may, this general impression is not an important point and I do not wish to pursue it. My main point is that unless we really take a stand, which is what I am trying to do, these societies may exert here, in the House, in terms of legislation, an influence out of all proportion to their representation in the country. Members, who are, unfortunately, becoming more and more professional in their approach to politics, are, I am afraid, of necessity, having to think very often of the next election and whether they can get back. I do not think I exaggerate that point of view. It may be taken as a slight to some hon. Members, but for what it is worth I put it forward. I believe it is the main consideration with many hon. Members. I also put forward the claim that it is not a majority opinion which is being expressed behind this pressure in the form of circulars.
May I say a word about one of the Amendments which is on the Order 586 Paper and which has, I think, the best point so far put up in opposition to the Government? Why should the Government give themselves special dispensation when other people are not covered against the Act of 1780? That is not a bad point, but, by and large, those supporting that Amendment would like to see an increase in Sunday entertainments. Their tactics, however, really should be to "have a go" at the Lord President for not having done anything before, about the 1780 Act, and to use what he is doing in this instance as a wedge, if they believe it to be right to allow Sunday entertainment to spread more generally over the country in order to increase the general trend of Sunday relaxation.
I do not think any Member will dispute that two distinctly conscientious points of view have been expressed in this debate. I believe that the law should respect both those views. I do not know in what proportion they are representational, and the only way I can see in which those views can be respected, is to allow the Bill to go through.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
The debate, which is caused by a very short and, apparently, innocuous Bill, raises serious fundamental questions. The question of Sunday observance in Britain is, by this time, one of the strands in the British character. I am sure we all agree that we should be very sorry indeed to do anything that would in any way detract from the strength of that character, particularly at the present time.
It is well to remember that the stress that has been laid upon Sunday observance is a part of the inheritance that we have received from the Protestant revolution; and the stress was particularly laid in those days, and has continued to be laid ever since, by the Puritan element in that great reformation. It seems to me that all parts of the country have not been equally faithful to this very great tradition. It varies very considerably, and I think that the tradition has gained more adherents in the Celtic parts of the island than it has in other parts. I refer particularly to Scotland and to Wales.
The Scotsman has a very close link with this excellent tradition because he loves to hear sound argument on questions of doctrine, and he has continued right up to date to be faithful to this very 587 interesting tradition. The Welshman, on the other hand, loves good oratory and has been attracted to the church on Sunday by the character of the oratory that he has enjoyed over a very long period. The House had an opportunity of hearing something of this wonderful oratory when Mr. Lloyd George was a Member of the House, and I know that he had paid particular attention to the quality of church oratory in Wales. It was his intention to publish a book dealing with the history of Welsh pulpit oratory. I should have been willing to forgo some of his memoirs in favour of a book of that kind, which would be particularly interesting as coming from one of the great orators of the day. He was one of those in Wales who turned his attention away from the Church to more mundane matters and, consequently, many people in Wales feel that what politics gained religion lost. I do not know how far the House will agree with that dictum, but there is a feeling that amongst his contemporaries, many were interested in theological questions when this young solicitor from Criccieth got interested in political questions.
Although we are on the whole in favour of not doing anything to disturb the position with regard to Sunday observance, I must admit that the attitude of certain societies in approaching hon. Members as they have done now for several weeks, is very unfortunate from the Christian point of view. All this attempt at the simplification and regimentation of Christianity, in my humble opinion, does it infinite harm. Consequently I feel it is important that we should recognise the great saying of the Master that the Sabbath, after all, was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and that He is the person who is really in control of the institution of the Sabbath, as He is in control of everything in this world.
If that is the right position, I agree entirely with some of the speeches we have heard tonight, that it is imperative for us from the moral point of view to allow people complete freedom to decide how they are to spend their Sundays as well as other days. Therefore, I think it would be tragic indeed if this House did not afford those people an opportunity over the whole of the seven days, 588 to see some of the treasures which will be housed over the other side of the river. I think there is nothing derogatory to the higher spirit of man in the thought that thousands of people, fortunately, will visit the Exhibition and have a good look at the pictures, hear some good music, possibly, and also stand and gaze and marvel at the tremendous progress that recently has been made in the scientific world.
I entirely agree with the Government in the attempt they are making to regularise this position and give an opportunity for the people to see, with great joy as I hope they will, the great things that will be produced in this Festival of Britain. We cannot feel ashamed in any respect if we extend to our fellow citizens and others who may come here a full opportunity of using their Sunday in any way that they like and at the same time gain for themselves a rich experience which only comes their way once in a hundred years.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
I beg to move, to leave out "now," and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months."
In other words, this is a Motion to reject the Bill on Second Reading. So far this debate has shown how very kindly and understanding practically everybody in this House is on such matters as are raised in the course of a debate of this nature. The Lord President of the Council himself has set the pace in trying to make it all sound so simple, so easy and so nice that it may be that some people would be carried away by his quietness and his unusual kindly approach to these matters. They have been almost compelled by this curious event to support him in the Lobby tonight. Of course, I am not talking about hon. Members opposite who, I understand, are to be compelled and, therefore, it did not matter as far as they were concerned what he said. That we must bear in mind when we consider the whole debate. The Lord President could only have been speaking to hon. Members on this side of the House; it did not matter what he said to hon. Members on the other side because he has the Whips on and it is only to this side of the House that he could possibly have been speaking.
589 Before getting down to the main points on which I urge the rejection of this Bill, I would like to clear one or two uncertainties out of the minds of hon. Members. First let me make it clear that I am not acting on behalf of any association, Sunday observance society, or anything else. I have never belonged to one, nor have I been influenced in a short life of 16 years in this House by any literature I get from anyone except in so far as that literature entices me and appetises me to try to get at the facts. Secondly, I would like to make quite clear that neither I nor anyone associated with me in this Amendment wishes to try to legislate people into church, but—and this is the point I wish to develop—equally we do not want to legislate people into Sunday work. That is the opposite facet of the matter which was almost completely ignored by the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang).
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
No, I cannot give way. Thirdly I would come to another point which is contained in a most aggressive leading article in "The Times" today and which, I believe, was gathered up and swallowed by an hon. Member who has addressed the House and who has violent views on the matter. It is not by any means the die-hard element of rigid puritanism which is opposing this Bill.
Having removed from the minds of hon. Members prejudices they might have about my hon. Friends and myself, I come to the next point, which has been raised more than twice in the debate. That is the attitude of the inter-denominational advisory council as regards what should be done in connection with Sunday opening. I do not think I am being unfair if I repeat what I said in my interruption of the Lord President when he opened the debate. Of course, the advisory council were faced with this question on which their advice and views were asked. But, equally, I would point out that they have to consider it more from the moral issue angle than from any more practical angle. They had to consider, for instance, whether there was something morally wrong of which no Christian would 590 approve, in opening either the Exhibition or the amusements park.
I am always a little disturbed about the value which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends put on the advice of the churches. I do not say this bitterly at all, but I was particularly anxious this afternoon when he took great kudos to himself for taking the advice of the Advisory Council of the churches on the opening of the Exhibition, but at the same time did not admit that he did not take the advice of the Advisory Council of the churches, on powers to open the amusements park on Sundays, which powers he has insisted on having in this Bill, at any rate at this stage. To me it does not quite seem that he really gives the value to the advice of the churches which he would like us to believe.
I would stress that it is not the duty of the churches—and I am certainly not attacking the churches or the Advisory Council in saying this—to advise on such matters as the employment of labour on Sunday in this, that or the other way; certainly not. Of course, on the moral issue it is their duty to express their views, air their feelings and give advice to their members. I am not attacking the churches or the Advisory Council in any way when I say that I do not think the question of additional labour to be employed on Sunday if the Bill became law, was given the consideration it really deserved. I believe it is essential that those of us who do not approve of this Bill should oppose the Bill at this stage, quite apart from any undertaking given by the Government as to what they will do in regard to the part of the Bill which affects the amusements park.
I find some great difficulty in being able to consider the question of opening the Exhibition without being forced to consider the question of the amusements park. I do not feel one can give fair and objective consideration to the problem of opening the Exhibition so long as that is vitiated by the proposal for opening the amusements park as well. After all, the principle of the Bill as a whole—and I do urge hon. Members who propose to support it on Second Reading to consider this—is to enlarge by law the numbers of types of places to which the public can go on Sundays, thereby extending the principle of Sunday opening to cover a new field and adding to the 591 amount of labour to be employed on Sundays.
I must make it quite clear that it is not only my view, but that it is set out in Erskine May that the main principle of the Bill should be considered at this stage. Anyone who supports the passage of this Bill through the House tonight must support those principles, which to my mind are the main principles—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not wish to be unfair about it, but that is a view I must express and a view I fairly and sincerely hold. Equally, I want to make it quite clear in a negative sense, in order to clear away any doubts, that I have no desire in any way to attack the Festival of Britain; very far from it. From the moment this House decided that the Festival of Britain in principle should be undertaken I and many of my hon. Friends have supported it—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but they should examine their own consciences.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I do not see any point of the hon. Member being in the House at all if he does not believe anything an hon. Member says. I think that by this Motion to reject the Bill we will be doing more to enable the Festival to live up to its title as being the Festival of Britain than anything which is in the Bill itself.
It has been mentioned already that this is not a London affair pure and simple. I cannot stress too strongly that this sets out to be the Festival of Britain to represent the British way of life. I will not waste the time of the House with many quotations, but I will give two short quotations from the most recent number of "Festival Information" issued by the information office of the Festival as recently as 10 days ago. Here is the first quotation:The people of Britain will be open to view demonstrating our achievements and our way of life.This is what the Archbishop of Canterbury has said about the Festival:The chief and governing purpose of the Festival is to declare our belief and trust in the British way of life, not with any boastful self-confidence nor with any aggressive self-advertisement, but with sober and humble trust that by holding fast to that which is good, and rejecting from our minds that which is evil, 592 we may continue to be a nation at unity in itself and of service to the world. It is good at a time like the present so to strengthen, and in part to recover, our hold on the abiding principles of all that is best in our national life.Those are the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking in support of the inauguration of the Festival of Britain and they cannot be lightly overlooked. In fact, I think they should serve as the background to our consideration of the problem which we are now debating.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
May I interrupt the hon. Member? Does he happen to know whether the Archbishop of Canterbury supports the Second Reading and the passage of this Bill, because I have certain information that that is the case?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I have not the least idea whether he supports it. As the Archbishop is not a Member of this House, I doubt very much whether his vote would be of much effect. As far as I know, he has not published any open statement about it. If he supports it, well and good—I will not quarrel with him—but I am certain that the Archbishop, whom I do not know but deeply respect, would be the last to say that I am wrong in putting forward my point of view on the interpretation of his words.
While I am on the question of the information sent out from the information office of the Festival of Britain, it is significant that in no issue at any time has there been any mention of Sunday opening. And here we have the last edition circulated to all hon. Members of this House only 10 days ago.
I want to ask one or two questions. The first is simply, where did the demand come from? Did it come from anywhere outside the Festival Office? Secondly, when did the demand arise? I ask that second question because I remember—and I refreshed my memory by looking up the OFFICIAL REPORT the other day—that on 29th November last year during the debate on the Supplementary Provisions Bill in connection with the Festival, the Lord President was asked about Sunday opening. At that time he said it was not being considered and no one had made up their mind on that issue. That is almost exactly one year ago. I want to know when this issue became acute so that we are faced with it, crystallised, in this Bill.
593 Then I would like to know, if the demand came from outside the Festival Office, from what part of Great Britain did it come? Was it from this City? Was it from the North, South, East or West? A great deal has been said about the Scottish and Welsh approach to Sunday, but not so much about the West of England approach to Sunday. Those of us who have the honour to represent West of England constituencies could say a good deal about—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
It is a very different thing to see in Weston-super-Mare, which I have the honour to represent, the visitors going to the fun fair on the pier and to talk to the residents. I would remind hon. Members that the majority of those who come to Weston-super-Mare for the day come either from South Wales or Birmingham.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
Would the hon. Member tell the House whether he has stated in his constituency that what he regards as objectionable practices in Weston-super-Mare should be closed down, and whether he has led a campaign there for that purpose?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am coming to the question of local views if the hon. Member will bear with me. It has been announced in the Press, though not through any direct activity of my own, that I have my name down to the Motion for the rejection of this Bill. I have never made any secret of the fact that I would do anything I could to stop an extension of the custom of employing labour on Sunday. I have no desire, nor have any of my hon. Friends, to impose a rigid code of Sunday behaviour on anybody else. Being a Scotsman, I have had too much experience of it. I was brought up in Scotland. I remember how one was almost driven away from any interest in Sunday or Christianity by the discipline to which one was subjected. Nobody who has been through that and still tries to be a Christian can look back on that experience with pleasure. Of course, it had its funny side, as one can see now, but it was not quite so funny at the time.
Quite apart from a rigid interpretation of the Sunday code, there are certain things we have to recognise about Sun- 594 day which have been touched on by only two speakers. One is that Sunday is recognised as being a different day far more fundamentally and deeply than has yet been acknowledged in this debate. To put it at its lowest, it is a custom which has now become deeply woven into the fabric of our life to recognise Sunday as something different, right the way down through the whole of the wage and industrial structure of this country. Just as I wondered why "The Times," after their leading article today, did not publish a Sunday edition, I wondered why the Lord President had not attempted to amend the Standing Orders of this House in order that we should debate this matter on Sunday. So do I wonder what would happen if a factory or a company or a trade union said, "We are going to wash out Sunday. As far as Sunday itself is concerned, we will work five days a week and no more and we shall take two days rest. We can work right through Sunday and take two other days."
§ Mr. Wyatt rose—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
Let me finish. I wonder what would be the reaction of hon. Gentlemen opposite to that? I think they would be just as worried, just as shocked and just as troubled in that matter as I am. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) took the line that Sunday did not matter any more than any other day in the week. He said, "Let us get ahead with the job." When the hon. Member and other hon. Members are considering my opposition to the Bill, I wonder whether they will ask themselves if they have not given some cause for fear to me as to what the true meaning of their support today for Sunday opening really is I take it that that is a serious aspect of the matter indeed, especially after a speech such as that made by the hon. Member for Dagenham.
§ Mr. G. Jeger
I am obliged. I would like to ask him, whether he knows that the Monday edition of "The Times" is in fact printed on Sunday: that all Monday papers are printed on Sunday and that his Monday morning letters are sorted for delivery and despatch on Sunday.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am consumed with admiration at the learning of the hon. Member, but my grandmother did teach me some things.
To put it at its lowest, I would say that Sunday is a day when we should do our utmost to employ as little labour as possible to maintain the difference of Sunday, and it is a day when we should give more study, even than on any other day, to the interests and welfare of our fellow human beings. Like everyone else, I recognise that it is quite impossible to abolish all Sunday work. But let us be careful in any legislation we have to consider in this House that we are not proposing to add to the amount of Sunday work. Obviously, now we have centralised the supply of these things, we cannot do away with the essential labour which has to be employed to fulfil the actual and vital needs of living in this country today. But to my mind that provides no excuse whatever for adding to the number who have to do what is in my opinion unessential forms of activity.
Now we come direct to the question raised by one of my hon. Friends as to what, in fact, this proposal in the Bill would really mean by way of employment of additional labour. I made some inquiries from the Festival office because I was fully aware that the Lord President would not think it right and proper to answer such inquiries in this House, and the numbers directly employed are quite considerable. It is estimated that the Sunday opening of the Exhibition on the South Bank would employ, directly, and indirectly through the concessionaires, something in the nature of 2,000 people. It is estimated that the minimum attendance of the public would be something in the nature of 75,000 people. So we have 2,000 people employed and 75,000 people who would have to be moved about who otherwise would not be moved about—from one end of the country to the other, maybe. They have at least to be taken by bus, boat or tram or somehow—[HON. MEMBERS: "They would not go to Weston-super-Mare.] I am talking about the situation of employment caused directly by legislating for the opening of this Festival on Sundays.
Added to that we have some thousand people who, it is estimated, would be employed in the Festival Gardens and in 596 the Amusement Park where the attendance is estimated to be probably roughly about the same. I would think myself that those numbers would be far exceeded. That gives some idea of the additional number of people who would be employed on Sundays, and that by permission of this House if the legislation in this present Bill is approved. We are proposing to add to the numbers employed on Sunday and, as I say, unnecessarily.
When my hon. Friend mentioned the question of the shortage of labour and so on, he was on a very important point. I will give only two examples. Everyone who travels in a bus or tram in London today will see notices asking for more conductors or more drivers or whatever it may happen to be. But we do not see quite so many notices about a force which is of very great value and a highly respected force in the country, and that is the police.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The police. I hope it is not an unpleasant word to the hon. Member. I assure him I will use it as lightly as possible.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. Member may be interested in greyhound racing tracks, or he may not. I am interested in the Festival of Britain, and I am talking about the police in connection with the Festival of Britain—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Sunday labour."]—and Sunday labour. Actually, as we know, it is impossible to open greyhound race tracks on Sunday, and the question of the police at greyhound tracks on Sunday, therefore, does not arise at all. I am talking about the police working in connection with the Festival of Britain. Not only will the Festival itself have to be policed but all the approaches will have to be policed, and there will be a much greater pressure on traffic control on the roads leading to the Festival on Sundays than there otherwise would have been. I suggest that the question of the considerable shortage of labour, coupled with the numbers who will be employed in additional labour on Sundays are matters which should carry some weight with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
597 I would like now to turn to the other side of the problem of the Exhibition opening. I think I am right in saying, and if I am wrong I hope that the learned Attorney-General will put me right, that one of the main reasons that power had to be sought—quite apart from the question of payment and so on—for the opening of the Exhibition is because the buildings in which the Exhibition will be shown are not permanent buildings, and that, in fact, if those buildings had been permanent they would have been largely covered.
All I want to know is this: Supposing we do let this Bill go through—though that will be over my Parliamentary body, I may say—and we pass it in all its stages, what will be the position of other parts of the country—that is to say, where Festival activities are taking place in other cities in this land, north, south, east or west? Will they enjoy the same immunities granted by this Bill, or, if they do not, will their position be even more dangerous by the very fact that this Bill has been introduced? That does strengthen the argument used already by one of my hon. Friends. If we are to grant immunity to Festival activities in London, the same immunity must be granted to Festival activities elsewhere, and that obviously and naturally greatly enlarges the field within which the effects of this Bill will be felt.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House for one moment longer than is absolutely necessary, but at the same time one cannot leave this Bill after referring only to the question of the Exhibition opening and the ancillary Exhibitions in the different towns and so on. I wish to turn now to the Amusements Park. It certainly is to my mind unfortunate that the promoters of the Amusements Park and the Festival Gardens have described their project in the words they themselves have used.The Amusements Park sited in the Festival gardens which will recapture some of the past charms of Cremorne Gardens, one of the features of London life.I am not quite sure if the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows the history of Cremorne Gardens. If he does I feel he will have to make quite certain that he is extremely careful of what features he does recapture.
§ The Attorney-General
As the hon. Member has asked me, I must say at once that I am not so familiar with the subject as the hon. Member would seem to be.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
May I reassure the right hon. and learned Gentleman? I had a feeling that Cremorne Gardens were mentioned in literature at some point, and my investigations carried me to delve into the lowest social depths of Victorian life; and therefore, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be extremely careful, whatever may be said in their brochure, that the promoters do not intend to recapture that which should not be recaptured.
This Exhibition will be in the shadow of Battersea Power Station, and it is a right and proper thing that we should tell the world that we have one power station. I agree that one excuse can be found for opening the Amusements Park on Sunday evening and that excuse is provided because on Sunday evenings power cuts are less likely to take place than at any other time. But then we get the reason for the claim to open this Amusements Park, as was set out in the letter by Sir Henry French, Chairman of the Festival Gardens in "The Times" the other day. I must say I was deeply and profoundly shocked. I did not think that Sir Henry French could ever shock me, because I worked with him for some time, and I respect enormously what he has done in the past for this country. Whoever persuaded him to write that letter has done him and the whole project a great deal of harm.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. Member is so quick off the mark that he gets there before anybody else has started. These are the main points made by Sir Henry French. He says that the Amusements Park is only a very small area. It is the awful argument that it is "only a small thing." Then he goes on to say that there would not be much noise in the Amusements Park. I agree with those hon. Members who say what an awful thing it would be to shy at something or another—at coconuts—in a whisper. It would be most disappointing and I hope that on weekdays in this Amusements Park there will be every loud noise and whistle and organ that can possibly be put into the park, because otherwise it would not be a fun fair at all.
599 But the main point, and the most serious and most dangerous point, in the letter is where he uses the argument; "I am starting a new enterprise and I cannot make a success of that new enterprise without breaking the law. Therefore, I must have the law which I would break altered or removed so that I can make a success of my enterprise." I cannot think of anything more dangerous. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most shocking things we have ever read in support of this project.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Has there been a single private Act introduced in this House which does not start, "But for this Act I should be breaking the law if I did this enterprise? "
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is getting things out of balance. This is a new enterprise. It is starting up under the existing law, but the existing law is to be amended in order that the enterprise can achieve success, and there is no analogy in the examples he has attempted to give. I still remain profoundly shocked that such a doctrine should have been persuaded into the letter of Sir Henry French, and I am not sure where such an argument would lead us were it adopted by the country as a whole.
As some indication I wish to quote from the circular letter sent by the National Amusements Council to all Members in support of the opening of amusements on Sunday in Battersea Park:Since the general principle has been conceded"—that is to say, the principle of Sunday opening—there can he no good reason for discriminating between various kinds of Sunday entertainment. It is surely illogical to condemn the Sunday opening of one form of amusement while so many others are freely admitted.I wonder whether that, in fact, is the view of the Government and of all hon. Members opposite? Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that now he will press for greyhound racing on Sundays, horseracing on Sundays and other forms of entertainment? Does he agree with the statement that now that 600 the principle has been conceded there should be no discrimination whatsoever to any forms of Sunday amusement? We should have some statement from the Government on that subject.
One statement that has been made is that there are 57 other amusement parks at work on Sundays. That is an entirely different issue to the one raised in this Bill. It is perfectly true, I suppose, that they are running the risk of getting into trouble through the activities of that most unpleasant human construction, the common informer. It should be remembered, however, that if the feeling was so strong in any one locality steps would be taken to test the matter properly. We are getting closer to the time when some of the steps applied in the cinema industry and other forms of entertainment will be advanced for all forms of Sunday entertainment.
It is quite clear that we cannot possibly carry on with the present laws about Sunday amusements, but I would say that the difference between a local form of entertainment and the Amusements Park of the Festival of Britain is very great indeed, and a different set of circumstances is created. The Festival of Britain is meant to represent the spirit of the people of Britain, not of any one part. Merely to say that because 57 other fun fairs are being run then this one should also be run is arguing on a false premise altogether.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Weston-super-Mare one of the busiest days of the week is Sunday, and that there are 5,000 or 6,000 people involved in providing the labour? Will the hon. Gentleman be consistent and advocate the closing down of the fun fairs in his own constituency?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
What possible right have I to claim control over the fun fairs in my constituency? I do not want it to go out from this country that it is typical of British life today that amusements and all sorts of things should be open on Sunday, adding unnecessarily to the number of those who labour on today. I stick to that.
Rightly or wrongly, the proposals in this Bill offend a large number of Christian people. I am not for one moment saying that all those who are offended are churchgoers, nor am I saying 601 that all churchgoers are offended, but the fact remains that a very large number of people are worried about this. It is not just a matter of letters being circulated or of the activities of pressure groups. Quite apart from all the postcards and letters I have had on this issue, I had three serious letters from three churches, none of whom can certainly be affected by any pressure group. Let the House be fair. Do not imagine for one moment that the people who are offended at this matter are those so misrepresented by the pressure groups.
This matter is raised on deep, very sincere and real foundations. Not only that, but I believe that it is something which is causing grave misgivings regarding what is in the mind of His Majesty's Government. It is not my duty to predict what His Majesty's Government will do, but I would ask them whether it is a good thing for any Government to have it thought of them that they are lightly approaching any problem over sincere and religious scruples. I ask the Government to be big in this matter. It is not a small matter. I want to help the Government to represent all that is best in the spirit of Britain. I ask them to be big and do one of two things—withdraw this Bill and introduce another Measure omitting the Clauses about the Amusements Park; or give a very definite undertaking that they will delete those parts of the Bill which refer to the amusements.
The British people are far too great to be seriously damaged by anything that may happen by the passage of this Bill. They were great before there was any Sunday observance, and they were great long before they were led by politicians of any party. I believe that we are a great people, because we have worked on sound and great principles as well as high ideals. I hope to see nothing done which gives the impression that any of those things were being scrapped, and for the reasons which I have given I beg the Government even at this late hour to reconsider the issue.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)
I beg to second the Amendment.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) expressed completely my view on this issue when he 602 addressed the House earlier this afternoon. It may, therefore, be wondered why it is that I should be voting against the Bill when the right hon. Gentleman said he was voting for it. The reason is that it will be within the recollection of the House that the Lord President of the Council told us that he would teach us a lesson in opposition. He said that on the occasion when we did not vote against the principle in the Second Reading of a Bill, but when we took exception to certain Amendments. So far as I am concerned, I am not risking being taught any more lessons by the Lord President of the Council. I am taking his advice, and, therefore, I am opposing the Bill. The Bill contains the principle of the opening of fun fairs on Sundays. It is to that that I take exception. Like many other hon. Members I have had many letters asking me to oppose the opening of the fun fair Exhibition on Sunday.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of the opening of the Exhibition without the fair on Sundays?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I have only just started. I will elaborate my arguments and make my position perfectly clear to all hon. Members. I am in favour of the Exhibition but not of the fun fair. I will give my reasons for that very briefly in the next few minutes.
Like many other hon. Members I have had many letters objecting to the opening of the Festival of Britain on Sundays, but I have also had some letters which urge me to use my vote so that the Festival amusements park shall be open on Sunday. One letter which I had from a constituent says this:My reason is simple. People should not he dictated to on how they should spend their Sundays, and they should be free to spend the time as they like.I replied to that letter as follows:I am in complete agreement with you that people should he free to spend their Sundays as they like, and it is for that reason that I am opposing the opening of the amusement park and the Festival of Britain on a Sunday because it will prevent many people who will have to be there from spending their time on Sunday as they like.That crystallises my objection to the Bill.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I understand that it is a point with hon. Members opposite that there is now full employment.
§ Sir R. Acland
That is right, and if people do not want to do a job in the Festival of Britain and work on Sundays, they can take another job which does not compel them to work on Sundays.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
That is not the point. There is ample work for everybody to do at present. They can work during the week without being compelled to work on Sundays. I take the view that while essential services have to be kept going on Sundays and work has to be done by many people, as little work as possible ought to be done on that day. It is not right for us to compel others to work on that day, especially in connection with just pure amusement of this kind. Nobody can say that there is anything educational in a fun fair, as there is in other parts of the Exhibition, and it is quite wrong that people should be compelled to work in this way. It is a principle of trade unionism that people should not have to work unnecessarily on Sundays, and that is why double time has to be paid on Sundays. It makes it unprofitable for employers to work their workers on Sunday. If that principle appeals to hon. Members Opposite they ought to vote against the opening of this fun fair on Sunday.
Like other hon. Members, I have received a statement from the National Amusements Council. They set out a number of reasons why they think the Bill should be supported. One of the points that they make is that it is not harmful to play golf on Sunday. Of course it is not. So far as I am concerned I am quite prepared to do so and do play games on Sundays, because, in my view, that is not causing extra work to other people. If there is a large professional game of football or cricket or some other kind of exhibition, it means that many people are compelled to work at such a display. That is a different thing from a person taking exercise by hitting a tennis ball, a golf ball or something of that kind on Sundays. In that manner he gets physical recreation, and, no doubt, in the morning or evening he goes to church for spiritual reinforcement. There is a great difference in that kind of recreation and the opening of an amuse- 604 ment park or the staging of a large football or cricket exhibition.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that nobody is employed in his golf club on Sundays as a result of his being on the course?
§ Sir W. Wakefield
I do not belong to a golf club, and the number of people employed in a golf club on Sunday is very small if a player does not use a caddie. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the bar?"] Someone is required behind the bar, but that is only one person. Because a great many people take exercise on golf courses on Sunday afternoons it does not mean that large numbers of people are employed on that day. All the work on the course, such as attending to the greens and fairways, is done during the week. People are not required to work on Sundays to keep the course in order.
I come to another point raised by the National Amusements Council. They say that if the Festival of Britain closes on a Sunday it would deny many people the opportunity of going to the fun fair, because they would not be able to go at any other time. Surely that completely disregards the five-day week and holidays with pay. It completely disregards Whitsuntide and August Bank Holiday and other occasions when people will be able to go to this Exhibition without having to visit the amusement park on a Sunday. If it is seriously suggested that large numbers of people cannot go to the amusement park except on Sunday the answer could be given that, if they all wanted to go there on that one day, there would not be enough room for them anyway. So that argument is seen to be quite fallacious.
There is another point made in this document, which says:It must be borne in mind that the Festival is likely to attract a very large number of foreign visitors, who are not accustomed to restrictions on Sunday entertainments and would not appreciate any attempt to limit their activities.Is it seriously suggested that visitors from overseas are coming here only for a weekend? Of course not; they come here for a week or two weeks, or more, in which case there would be plenty of opportunities for them to go to the Festival.
I would also like to reinforce a point made by the Lord President and also by 605 my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. It is that the Festival is supposed to typify the British way of life. I do not think that foreign visitors to this country would necessarily wish to go to this fun fair at the Festival on a Sunday, because it is not typical of the British way of life. I suggest that any foreigners coming here who wished to go to the fun fair could do so on any day of the week, and that there are plenty of very fine things for foreigners to see on Sunday, such as Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, museums and other places, in the same way as hon. Members opposite, when they go to Paris, like to look at Notre Dame. I suggest that that argument is also without foundation.
Another point made by this Council is that one section should not impose its opinions arbitrarily on others and that we ought not to deny freedom to others. I have dealt with that point, I think satisfactorily, but it is not a question of denying anything to anybody. It is a question of not asking people to do unnecessary work on Sundays, when there is no necessary work to be done—indeed, it is not necessary for any work to be done—at this fun fair on a Sunday.
I regret that the Government have not left out of the Bill this objectionable proposal; it is a great pity. If they had left it out, and any hon. Member wished it to be included, he could have made that proposal by means of an Amendment during the Committee stage. I think that would have been the better course to take and more in accordance with the spirit of the country. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden who said that, just because in other parts of the country there might be fun fairs or amusement parks open on Sundays, there is no reason why this fun fair or amusement park in the heart of London in the Festival of Britain should be open. The Government ought to have given a lead in this direction, and I very much hope that hon. Members opposite, in spite of what their Whips say, will express their disapproval of the Bill, because it is contrary to the principles I have described.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Booth (Bolton, East)
I seek to resist the Amendment and to support the Second Reading of the Bill, but I find 606 myself in a very invidious position, because, on the next stage, I intend to vote against the fun fair. That is my position, and I want to say that I am going to stand by it.
I want to pay tribute to that great organiser the Lord President of the Council, who places us in positions of this kind. I thought that it would have been a possibility that a Bill like this could have been introduced earlier, and before the Exhibition was well under way, but that might well be my naïve simplicity. The reverend Gentleman who represents Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang) was gratified to say that the common informer had been dealt with, but he has not. The informers have been by-passed, and that is one of my complaints.
I want to be personal. In 1942, for my sins, I happened to be chief citizen of Bolton, and we had had a very bad time concerning the disasters in the Far East, which had entailed the wholesale capture of Bolton battalions. As an ex-prisoner of war myself, knowing the position these men would be in, I started to organise efforts of every description so that I might send the necessities of life to Bolton lads behind the wire in Singapore. I went to some trouble, and I did very well indeed—at least, I thought so—by getting the variety stars to do things for nothing for that great purpose.
About two hours before the show was due to commence, I was threatened by a common informer. That effort was for charity; it was to bring succour to prisoners of war, and I badly wanted to be given the opportunity to be proceeded against. I said, "This is the best wicket a man could have. Let the common informers get on with it. Let them put me in the dock. Let them bring all the counsel they like. They can do what they like with me. Let me, as an ex-prisoner, speak for these prisoners." But they said "No," and it went very much against the grain. I had to scrub them out and career round Bolton for two hours to get amateur replacements. But, glory be, we sold the house out.
When I come here and I find that the Government are immune from the common informer, and, anyhow, can make the rules for themselves, I say that it is the wrong way to go about it and I am very distressed. It is not very complimentary to the Lord President, who has been con- 607 gratulated on his masterful strategy. What a great strategist he is when he gets me into this position and then gets my reverend Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde on his side—the side of the Philistines.
I believe in the Festival, and I believe that Britain has something to be festive about, in spite of the sombre days in which we live and the shattered world. The spirit of man is still the most important thing, and we do well to celebrate the fact that the spirit of this race survived when all the odds, all the elements, all the calculations and all the assessments pointed to the extinction of our race. I have heard talk from these benches about people being able to do as they like, and that appeals to me. I am prepared to take a chance. When Sunday cinemas became an issue in Bolton, I said that the people of Bolton should decide whether they wanted them or not. The men and women decided and went to the polls to the extent of nearly 60,000 votes.
I do not want the cinemas; I do not go to them. I have other things to do, and other interests which have a prior consideration. But there is an old saying which is impressed upon us when we take the oath as a magistrate—that not only should justice be done but that it should appear to be done. It does not appear to be done—at least not to me—when we start to do things like this, when we claim exemption, when we ask for our own rules, and when we put our own referee in the ring.
It could have been done much better and properly; I have got to accept on trust. I have faith enough to believe that on the next occasion—some of us feel so strong that we have some outside understanding; I will not put it any higher than that—one should have the chance of saying, "You shall not have it." I want to say to those people who are always saying that we should let people have what they want—I am not the man to soy that a person shall not go on a roundabout on Sunday—that it is only a short step from letting a man do what he likes before one goes from amusement to the breaking of the law of the land.
What is the use of talking to me about keeping little children off these inoffensive 608 pleasant amusements? I have heard about the cost of these machines. If I had any children to bring to London I would keep them away from the fun fair because, if I am any judge, it will cost a guinea a minute to ride on those things. Bless my life, if they want a cornet they will have to change some paper currency for it. At the beginning I was really perplexed; I was bombarded with material. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. J. Hale), I believe that London Members are immune. They have gone to the Stone Age in London; they do not know about moral issues. They should come to Lancashire to know about them.
I was perplexed when working men came to me and said, "Mr. Booth, we are coming to London, and if you do not let us enjoy the Festival at week-ends it will be a wasted journey." But I know these men. They will not be unduly concerned about some of these marvellous exhibits; they will have their eye on the amber liquid, if I am any judge. Whatever they say of the Exhibition, if I know my boys aright, they will be true to form. My first reaction was, of course, "Well, these blessed Londoners—and I use the word in its best sense—they can go every day, and if these men come down from Bolton and I am sticking about the question of opening on Sundays, it will not be fair to them." Give them what they want. They will get what they want whatever I do.
I wish to support the Second Reading of the Bill because I want to see the Festival of Britain in being and people to get a better sense of values. Just because, for instance, I lived in the Old Kent Road, I should not necessarily want to go to the fun fair; I should want to go to the national Valhalla. We are wrong to think that because people are used to the mean, common and secondary things they do not respond to the better things. They do. We have something to show them on a Sunday that does not need fun fairs and that hardly needs the importation of American machines. If we lose any money on Sunday afternoon1 because of the action of my colleagues and myself, it will be money well done without. I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Carson (Isle of Thanet)
I have listened to most of this debate with great interest. It is a very difficult subject indeed for a Member of Parliament to make up his mind about. I listened with great attention to the Lord President when he introduced the Bill. I have heard the rumour that when the Labour Party came to my constituency for their annual conference—we were very glad to see them there—the Lord President visited Dreamland Amusement Park and was seen using the "dodgem" cars with a great deal of accuracy. Whether that was on a Sunday or not I do not know.
Quite clearly this is a problem on which every one of us has to make up his own mind, and, as many hon. Members have said, it would be quite wrong to try to make up our minds by the amount of letters we receive. I suppose I have received about 60 letters against the opening of any part of the Exhibition on a Sunday, and about six letters in favour of Sunday opening. I think that is a fair analysis. But one cannot go on that evidence because, as has been said, the most vociferous part of an electorate is not necessarily the larger part. Indeed, it is often the smaller part.
I personally hope—it is a personal view, because I believe we must give personal views on this particular matter—that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and that the whole of it will become an Act of Parliament. I do not want to see Clause 1 (b) knocked out of it. I hope it will remain in its entirety. It is invaluable to this country for many reasons, a few of which I will elaborate quite shortly. Firstly, I am interested, as my constituency must be, in the holiday and tourist trade. That gives me a wider interest in the Festival. The Festival is going to attract, I am sure, far more people than we realise at the present time. I believe that the Lord President of the Council, who, after all, is the sculptor of this Festival, is going to be proved right in this particular matter, which must be a new and novel experience for him.
I have a certain amount of knowledge of the bookings of people who are coming to this country in 1951. These bookings are going to be enormous, not only because of the Festival, although I believe that people are coming in the main because of the Festival. Foreign currency 610 will come in in large quantities, and I hope, as I am sure all hon. Members hope, that the Festival is going to be a success. Quite candidly I think it is.
Regarding Sunday opening, although I personally do not go to a cinema on a Sunday or to an amusement park—the reason being that I do not want to—I do not see why others should not do so if they wish. I do not want to legislate for what Mr. John Citizen wants to do, but that, I think, is what people who argue the other way are, in fact, trying to do. I want to be left alone to decide for myself what to do on Sunday. I go to church, but that does not mean that anybody else must go. I personally think they should, but I do not want to force them to do so. It is something that is entirely up to them.
We have heard a great deal of talk on how the Government in this matter, are being put in a special position. I do not think that they are. I have in my constituency two large amusement parks. One is called "Dreamland," which, I believe, the Lord President patronised, and the other is called "Merrie England," at Ramsgate. I am informed—and I have checked this—that both these amusement parks open on Sundays, with scenic railways and all complete, and not from 12.30 as the Bill proposes, but from 11. The reason for that, I believe—and the hon. and learned Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong—is that they do not charge any entrance fee. One goes in free and merely pays for what one does in the amusement park. I cannot see why the Government should be penalised simply because the amusement park of the Festival is in the middle of other things, which, I think, most of us agree should be open on a Sunday. They have to charge an entrance fee, and therefore, I do not see why they should be put in an invidious position.
We hear a great many arguments about special Government privilege. The Government, I think, very often, on many Bills which we have debated, claim far too many special privileges, but I do not think that this is one of them. I think that this is totally out of line with the legislation that has been proposed in the past, and I think that the acid test which we must apply to this, and which I personally apply to every other Government Bill which comes forward, is whether by 611 doing this we are going to harm any individual, except oneself. The answer is, it is not; I do not see how it can. If one does not want to go to the Festival on a Sunday, one need not go, and if one wants to, one can. If one is harming any one at all by going on a Sunday, I submit that one is only harming oneself, and I am rather doubtful if one is harming even oneself.
There is only one reasonable objection by which I was impressed. I should like an assurance from the Government about it. It was raised by the mover of the Amendment and the hon. Gentleman who seconded it. It is, that certain people are going to be forced to work on a Sunday when they might not want to do so, or possibly may have religious scruples against so doing. The only assurance which I ask for is this: Let us be quite certain that those people will not be penalised, if they do not want to work on that day. My experience in my constituency is that most people do not mind working on a Sunday; most people get double time or extra pay, and they are quite prepared to work. I am convinced, however, that it would be wrong if anybody was discharged from the job which he is doing during the week at the Festival, simply and solely because he did not want to work on a Sunday. Provided I get that assurance, I am perfectly happy about the matter.
§ Mr. G. Jeger
I appreciate that the rest of the Festival is going to be open very long hours during the week, but those who work in an amusement park usually work on the shift system and account is usually taken of those workers who do not want to do a Sunday shift and they are allowed to organise a day shift accordingly. I have not the slightest doubt that that is what will be done in this case.
§ Mr. Carson
Provided that is the case, I personally see no objection at all.
I must say this in conclusion. We had one suggestion—I think from an hon. Lady opposite—that the amusement park would be operated entirely without noise. Of course, there is going to be noise; there is bound to be. I cannot visualise a roundabout without music. We know how dull they are when the music breaks 612 down. We have had an assurance from the Lord President that there will be no loud speakers blaring, and for that I am glad. I would like to know: Is it going to annoy people living nearby? There are houses round about "Dreamland" in Margate. I have been a Member of Parliament for the Isle of Thanet for six ct seven years, and I have never had one complaint of any noise caused by the "Dreamland" amusement park, but if there was, I think that I should have heard of it by now.
I hope that the Government will go the "whole hog." I do not want to be coerced by any pressure group. It is perfectly reasonable that we should organise our Sundays each in our own way. I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill and pass it in the same form through Committee.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) represents a part of the country which has had much publicity. I well appreciate that if he were to leave Margate and go to other parts of Kent he would find the same attitude to Sunday as the Lord President of the Council referred to in the North of Scotland and Wales. I believe that the Lord President of the Council is a Londoner first, last and all the time, and that he has made the mistake of believing that London is Britain. London is certainly not Wales, although Wales makes a great contribution to its success.
If we are opposed to the opening of fun fairs on Sundays, we are considered to be humbugs, or fanatics, or faddists. That does not apply to the Attorney-General, but he should have sat with me in another place—not the House of Lords—where he would have heard a great deal about people who are opposed to the opening of fun fairs on the Sabbath. I believe that in recent years we have lost a great deal that is precious in our national heritage. Every war breaks down something that is intangible but is of real value to our country. The first war did it, the last war did it, and all wars do it, although the Minister of National Insurance may think it funny.
§ Mr. Thomas
The right hon. Lady is known for her attitude in regard to boxing and such things. Some of us consider her views on that as being equally faddist.
I believe that Sunday ought to be different from the other days of the week. I believe that the national Sunday has had its effect upon our national character, not only in the Principality and in Scotland, but over the greater part of our island. I believe that among people who do not go to chapel or church there is a desire to maintain the British Sunday.
It is wrong, in my opinion, to talk of the Continental Sunday, because not all parts of the Continent by any means like a carnival atmosphere. It is quite possible to find Sunday on the Continent being observed in the same way as in Wales or Scotland. The churches have shown an ebullient energy on this question of the opening of fun fairs on the Sabbath. They have shown a zeal that they have not shown for a long time upon social questions. I honestly hope that the campaign the churches have now embarked upon is an indication that they are going to do a little more in the future in seeking the application of Christian principles to the social order, and that we shall hear their voice a little more about "Thy will be done" in foreign affairs and in the treatment of working people.
It is a long time since we heard from the Christian churches, and I speak with the same sincerity in this connection with which other Members have spoken. Not since her good stand in the Principality on the means test, which led people to march through the streets in protest, has she waged a campaign on any great issue. To the man in the street, the chapel and the church is only concerned with "Thou shall not." The essence of the Christian way of life is that it is positive, that it is an effort to bring into the life of the community, as a whole, higher moral standards and recognition that our neighbours are our social concern.
I realise that every day is the Lord's Day, and that we ought to try to conduct ourselves as befits people who seek to practice the Christian faith. Bearing that in mind, I still feel that it is our proud privilege to depend as far as we can on the heritages which have been built up through the long and proud years 614 of our history. It is true that in South Wales we have a Coney Beach at Porthcawl. It is true that it is open on the Sabbath. But that is in the name of private enterprise, whereas this business is in the name of the House of Commons. I suggest that there is a great difference in the State embarking on this sort of enterprise, and that it will be hard to find any Member in the House who will say that he is very glad Coney Beach or a Dreamland is open on Sunday. Of course not. We tolerate it because, unfortunately, we can do nothing about it unless we seek to be common informers and that very title is objectionable and the system is one to which no decent citizen wants to resort.
There has been a great deal of questioning as to the proportions of people who want the opening or do not want the opening. That is not of significance to this House in taking its decision tonight. We are not delegates. We are not in a sense representatives, because there is no way of discovering majority opinion in our divisions unless we conduct a plebescite on every issue that arises. We have on occasions such as this, which are not political occasions but occasions which seem to touch the innermost heart of our national life, to decide for ourselves exactly where we stand.
I believe that for this House to tell Great Britain "Yes, we are going to have fun fairs on Sunday" would he damaging and harmful to the intangible values that we have and, therefore, in the Committee stage I shall certainly vote against the fun fairs being opened. But I hope that the House itself—I believe that it is willing to do so—at a time of falling values and a time when, owing to the uneasiness throughout the world, standards are changing, will send out a clear message that we still stand for high regard for the day which has been precious to our fathers and to ourselves.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Captain Orr (Down, South)
I find myself in almost entire agreement with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). The only thing I found difficult to discover was whether he would join me and my hon. Friends in the Lobby on Second Reading.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I shall join the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) in supporting the Second Reading and shall oppose in Committee.
§ Captain Orr
That is not consistent with the speech which the hon. Gentleman made. I believe that an hon. Member should come to the House prepared to listen to the debate and the arguments put forward on both sides before coming to a final decision. I confess that I came here with some preconceived ideas and, indeed, a determination to oppose the Second Reading. However, I was prepared to hear whether there was a valid argument on the other side. I have been disappointed.
I was disappointed with the speech of the Lord President of the Council. He very judicially and calmly weighed up the arguments on both sides. I did not think that he was a particularly good advocate for the Bill to be given a Second Reading. The Festival of Britain gives the Lord President a wonderful chance of changing the mind of posterity. If he plays his cards properly, he can ensure that the generations which come after us will remember the Lord President not as the great architect of the rise and fall of the Socialist Party but as the benign, kindly, Santa Claus-like figure of "Lord Festival." It is a pity that he does not strive to change posterity's mind in that way. If he succeeded in doing so, we should all be only too pleased, because we on this side of the House support the Festival of Britain and his efforts to make it a very great success, and we are sorry that he should have imperilled its success by the introduction of this Measure.
§ Captain Orr
I see that I have the West Country behind me. The Lord President's introduction of the Bill greatly imperils his chances of changing the nature of his immortality. On its merits the Bill is a bad one; it is bad in that it offends the consciences of so many people. Lest there be any misapprehension, we are not talking about cranks, the Lord's Day Observance Society, or pressure groups, but about ordinary, decent, sensible, quiet, evangelical, Christian people. They are the ones who are involved in this matter. I have had 616 some 200 letters on the subject and not half of them could be ascribed to the Lord's Day Observance Society. The majority were from ordinary independent constituents of mine, the evangelical people who are the remnants of the old Puritan tradition.
In find that even "The Times" today, that flighty dowager of British journalism, in her rather venturesome leading article had to acknowledge, as a sort of sop to Cerberus, in her first sentence, thatPuritan tradition is a precious element in the British heritage and is not lightly to be disregarded."The Times" article, of course, went on to disregard it, but that is neither here nor there. I sincerely believe that the Bill outrages the consciences of these people. For that reason it is a bad Bill, no matter how large or how small that minority is. It is a very important minority, and should not be offended.
The argument has been put forward that we should not seek to impose our will upon other people. That is not always a valid argument, because people who believe sincerely that Sunday opening is illegal oppose it in exactly the same way as other people oppose other matters. They think that it is wrong to put temptation before people. It is generally accepted that it is perfectly permissible for people to believe that the sale of indecent literature is a moral evil and for those people to impose their will upon others. Equally must it be permissible for people who believe that Sunday observance is a matter of public morality to ask that it shall be imposed. They believe not only that it is a question of public morality but a Divine ordinance. We can imagine how much the susceptibilities of these people are likely to be outraged if the Bill is passed.
The Bill is bad in another respect, I submit, in that it gives protection against the common informer to a Government-sponsored affair such as is not granted in similar organisations and to enterprises run by private people. Why should we legislate especially for the London area, for Battersea Park? If the Government think that the Sunday Observance Acts have something wrong with them and require amendment they could easily have brought in legislation applicable to the entire kingdom and to everybody, in order that this House could pronounce upon such legislation. In that case we 617 should not have had to complicate our deliberations with our earnest desire to see the Festival of Britain a success.
The question of pounds, shillings and pence has been mentioned, but I do not think the economic excuse holds water or that economic considerations should enter our minds at all in this matter. After all, the Festival Council and the Lord President of the Council when making plans for this Festival, should have taken into consideration that the Festival would be held under the existing law of England and not that the law, at some time in the future and at the very last moment, would have to be changed.
The Lord President of the Council and my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) have sought to draw a distinction in this debate between the Exhibitions, between what "The Times[...] calls—perhaps this is the fairest way of putting it—the comparatively instructive attractions of the South Bank and the frankly gay temptations of the amusement park in Battersea.I submit that to those people who hold this as a matter of conscience there is no distinction between those two things. Those who for conscience sake oppose the Bill are not concerned about what is actually done, whether it is educational or is a question of amusement. They do not hold that amusement is any less virtuous than education. Their objection to it is the extension of Sunday labour, because most of them base their conscientious objections on the grounds of the Mosaic law:Thou shalt do no labour.Most of them feel that Sunday is a Divine ordinance and, therefore the two issues cannot be separated. Consequently, we must vote against the entire Bill if we are to satisfy the objections of these people. The issue is not that people might instruct or amuse themselves; it is that the opening of the Festival will require the labour of so many people.
Either the Bill is a good one or it is a bad one, and I submit that it is a bad one. I hope that hon. Members opposite, particularly those from Wales and Scotland, may come with us into the Lobby to oppose the Bill. I know that the Lord President, like the old lady who lived in the shoe, has 618Whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.I hope that many of them will have the courage to get up again in the darkness of the night and come into the Lobby to support us. I say to the House, really truly and sincerely, do not let this Festival be the Festival of Coney Island. Do not let us import any Continental ideas. Let it be what it is supposed to be—the Festival of Britain. Let it be held under British law and in accordance with British tradition and usage.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I shall be very brief in dealing with the arguments which have been adduced, because I have only a few minutes in which to speak. I would, however, revert to one thing which was said by the Mover of the Amendment which, I thought was totally unfair. He suggested that Sir Henry French had been persuaded in some way or other by some curious people, whom he did not specify, to write the letter which was printed in "The Times" on Monday of this week. It is most insulting to suggest that Sir Henry French should have written the letter when he did not believe it was right. I have not time to go into some of the other arguments which were used in proposing the Amendment. The two speeches in which it was proposed were the weakest we have had in the whole of the debate.
The debate has, I think, done one good thing. It ought to put an end to all the sneers and jeers we have had against the Festival of Britain from many hon. Members opposite, despite their declarations today that they are not attacking the Festival. They have done so outside the House on many occasions and at Question Time in the House, and I hope that the result of the declarations they have made today will be that that does not occur in the future.
On the main issue of the debate I would say this. I was brought up in a Nonconformist family, with Nonconformist traditions. I honour some of those traditions in the sense that I think that many of the major liberties of this country were fought for and won by the Nonconformists and Dissenters. But I say also that I do not believe the Nonconformists have always been equally wise one some of the minor liberties of the individual. I am sure that if my father 619 were present in the House, as he was for some years, he would make a speech in the opposite sense to that in which I am speaking, and I believe that it would be the most eloquent speech of the debate; but I am sure that my father would take the view of the Nonconformists that it would be quite wrong for me or for any other hon. Member to cast his vote in this debate on account of any pressure which had been imposed. He would believe that it was the duty of everyone to cast his vote according to his conscience. [Interruption.] I cast my vote according to my conscience even when the Whips are on, but I do not know what happens with hon. Members opposite. Every time the Whips are on, they must leave their consciences in their seats. I shall vote tonight on a matter of conscience, as I vote at the end of all other debates in the House.
In my view, the simple issue at stake is between the State and the individual. I believe that those who vote against the Bill, and those who vote also for the Sunday closing of the fun fair, will be saying that they have the right to impose their view on other people as to how they should spend their Sundays. That is the issue; either the State must decide what a person must be allowed to do on a Sunday, or the individual shall decide it. If the Bill is defeated, or if the proposal to allow those who wish to do so, to go to a fun fair on a Sunday is defeated, I believe it would be an interference with the freedom of the
individual. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members need not accept that from me. They can take it from one who was a very much greater figure in the Labour Party than any Member on the Labour benches today. On 27th May, 1932, there was a debate on a Sunday Entertainments Bill. Three or four Bills had been discussed in the House before then and none of them had been able to deal satisfactorily with the subject. The one of which I speak dealt with the question of the Sunday opening of cinemas, or the local option that was to be provided for Sunday opening. This is what was said by that speaker on that occasion:I regret very much that the Government of which I was a Member"—he was referring to the Government of 1929–31— 620had not the power or the courage, call it what you please, to bring in a Bill to settle this question in the way in which it ought to be settled—by giving absolute freedom.At another point in this same speech, the same speaker said:I believe that the whole of the Sabbatarian argument, involving the imposition of rules and regulations about Sunday, only leads ultimately to a complete revolt against that kind of Sabbath observance.He concluded his speech by saying:Anyhow, I would appeal to the House to look at this question from the really common-sense point of view, and to understand that true religion is not what you profess, not how many times you go to church, but what you really are."—(OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1932; Vol. 266, c. 755–80.]The speaker who made that speech was the Leader of the Labour Party at that time—George Lansbury, one of the most honoured Members this party ever had.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)
I have listened to almost every speech in the debate and I have been very happy to find that the debate, so far as I have heard it, has been completely devoid of any party feeling. I hope that nothing I may say either against the Lord President or against the Bill will be regarded in any way as attempting to exploit the situation between the two sides of the House in relation to the Bill.
At Question Time, not long ago, I had occasion to defend what I regarded as a slur on the integrity of the Lord's Day Observance Society and on that account I think I should make it clear that I am not a member of that Society, nor do I share the views of most of its members. Any views I express tonight will be solely my own, uninfluenced by what may be the views of any Society concerned with Sunday observance.
I was surprised by one thing the Lord President of the Council said in his opening speech, namely, that the opposition to this Bill on Second Reading was confined to those who have a narrow, rigid, Sabbatarian approach to Sunday opening. The Lord President may not have been a member of Napoleon's Army, which was alleged to have marched on its stomach, but he generally has his ear close to the ground and I should have thought he would have made it his business to discover much more accurately 621 than he seems to have done what, in fact, hon. Members are thinking.
I wish to say a word about the use of the Whips on this occasion. As I understand the attitude of the Government, it is this: because the views of the Advisory Committee and the Government are at variance on the Amusements Park, the Whips are off when that aspect of the subject comes to be debated, but, when the views of the Committee and the Government are in accord, the Whips are on on Second Reading. I protest against the decision to put the Whips on or off according to whether or not the Government's views are in accord or at variance with any advisory committee.
There are many hon. Members, whose views ought to be respected, who consider their consciences just as much exercised in terms of a fun fair as they do in terms of the use of Sunday for other purposes. One is less willing to accept at its face value the attitude of the Lord President on this matter on account of his comments on an earlier occasion when the question of the use of Sunday was debated in this House.
Some hon. Members will recall the occasion in 1941 when he, then Home Secretary, sponsored the opening of theatres and music halls for the benefit of the troops and industrial workers. Three years later, a further attempt, the first having failed, was made to open those forms of entertainment on Sunday. On that occasion, on the Adjournment, the Home Secretary as he then was—the Lord President now—made some very revealing comments on how he judged the use of Whips on such occasions as this. He said:I advised the Government to take the Whips off, for this was eminently a matter in which the Whips should not coerce the consciences of Members.What a pity he did not confine himself just to that observation. He described his feelings at coming down to defend the Regulation. The Whips were off. He said:I came to the House feeling that I would get about 100 majority with the Whips off.He added later:In these matters of religious conscience I never like the Whips on if. I can do without it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1944; Vol. 396, c. 1524.]I have seen no evidence to suggest that the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman 622 expressed in 1944 has changed in 1950. It seems to me quite clear that he is not so much concerned with the exercise of hon. Members' consciences, but rather whether he can safely leave them to be exercised without damage to his policy. If I am doing him any injustice, I would invite him to prove me wrong by taking off the Whips, even at this late hour on the Second Reading of this Bill.
I now come to the Bill itself. We listened with great interest and with that admiration which some of us at any rate expect to accord to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang). As usual, he spoke with great sincerity. I think his point of view and the reasons he gave as to why he would vote for this Second Reading impressed many people by the manner of his plea and sincerity of his purpose. But I do not think it is an unreasonable comment to make on his speech when he argued for the complete freedom—as, indeed, others have done—for people to be allowed to do as they like, to say that if there had come a proposal for just those same Sunday facilities for what we term the "Continental Sunday" his speech would have been perfectly valid in support of the introduction of a Continental Sunday.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) said he wanted to be quite sure that people were allowed to do as they liked. Is he really telling the House that if people want to open shops on Sunday they may do so, in his judgment; that if they want to hold race meetings on Sunday they should do so? It is all very well for hon. Members to talk about freedom for people to do as they like, but it is essential that some attention should be paid to the effect upon other people of what one does on Sunday.
There was an exhibition 100 years ago. It was not open on Sundays. Wembley lasted for many months. That was not open on Sundays. The Lord President paid attention to the financial considerations. I cannot escape the conclusion that, not content with having the law on his side, he wants the profits as well.
There are two main aspects of this Bill: that which applies to Battersea Park and that which applies to the South Bank. I do not intend to make more than a passing reference to the activities in Battersea Park, on which many hon. 623 Members have expressed views. In the main, I share the views of those who are anxious that the amusement park should not be opened on Sunday but, should the Bill pass—I hope it will not—there may be an opportunity to say more on that point on another occasion.
Clause 4 prohibits what may be done in Battersea Park, but I ask hon. Members to realise that there is no protection in the Bill against what may or may not be done under the authority of Festival Gardens Limited. I think it was the Lord President who said we need have no fears on that account because there would be a categorical assurance from Festival Gardens Limited that they would not abuse the powers which they might have under the law. I do not regard that as satisfactory. I am not seeking to cast any aspersions on the fulfilment of any promises, but I say it is not sufficient to come to this House with promises from third parties in support of a Bill which ought to afford protection by the words contained in it.
There was a comment in the "Observer" last Sunday, which has been followed up in various ways in the speeches tonight, telling us that we ought not to take exception either to the amusements park in Battersea or to the South Bank, because comparable facilities on Sundays can be used by people in a variety of ways in different parts of the country, and on grounds of consistency it is argued that it would be quite unjustified to oppose this Bill. I do not accept the view that what may be done without challenge by a few people in one locality is necessarily something which ought, on that account, to be promoted by the Government of the day.
Let me quote the analogy of betting. I doubt if there is any hon. Member in the House who has not, at some time or another, taken a ticket in a sweepstake, and, in so doing, has never questioned the moral right of what he did. I think there will be few such hon. Members who would go so far as to say that they would support a State lottery to promote betting. Surely, therefore, it is one thing to refuse to try to suppress betting, and quite another deliberately to promote it. By the same token I regard it as quite different to ignore the fun fairs that exist in this country and quite another for the Gov- 624 ernment to ask us for powers to mobilise the resources of the State to promote a certain enterprise, and in so doing to amend the law in order to escape the penalties which will fall on others.
If this Bill is passed there can be no doubt that scores of people will have to work on Sunday, whether they like it or not.
§ Mr. Pannell
On that point, the people in the rolling mills of the hon. Member have worked on Sundays for years. We presume that rolling stamp mills are all right in the factory of the hon. Member and roller skates are all wrong.
§ Mr. Summers
It is not with our consent that the State should be responsible for Sunday work in steel mills. It is the hon. Gentleman and his party who are going to do that. I think it was the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) who objected to people being told what they should do. In a manner of speaking I object, and my objection is that on Sunday people will be told they will have to work. I shall have something to say about necessary work on Sundays, but that is quite a different thing. I do not wish to labour the point about trains and buses, because that is self-evident, but what I should have thought was accepted from both sides of the House, and from both the supporters and opponents of this Bill, was that it was a tradition of this country that unnecessary Sunday work should be avoided.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is in his place, but he had some comments to make on this very point on an earlier occasion when this subject was debated. He said:It is beyond my comprehension that any one belonging to the Labour Party should ever declare the principle that so long as the community requires people to work the community is entitled to ask them to work on Sundays. I protest against that idea, especially in relation to the provision of amusement.Much has been said about the advisory committee set up by the Council of the Churches. Their views are well known to us all, but they cannot be expected to take account of the distinction in terms between the promoters of the Festival and others carrying out similar functions in other parts of the country. If the Bill is passed, for five months of next year, as 625 I see it, there will be two laws in operation; not as there was once alleged to have been, one for the rich and one for the poor, but one for the right hon. Gentleman and the promoters of the Festival and another for the rest of the community.
I regard the precedent of according special privileges to the Executive as a bad precedent, which ought not to be tolerated. It is all very well to argue that this is only a temporary affair and that it applies only to a Festival which will last for a few months. Hon. Gentlemen are quite mistaken if they imagine that the effects of the Bill will end when the Festival ends. Surely those who are now running fun fairs on Sunday, and are liable to attack by the common informer, cannot be blamed if they come forward and ask to have the benefit of similar protection as the Government are now asking us to accord them in this Bill. If, through the grounds of expediency, that similar protection is not accorded what a wide scope and incentive will be provided for that sinister figure, the common informer, who, I hope, will soon be done away with once and for all.
I want to say a few words about Sunday observance as affected by the Bill. It is a very complex question and I do not propose to inflict my personal solution upon the House. While I agree with those who say that "Thou shalt not" is not in itself an adequate presentation of the Christian way of life, nevertheless I think there will be general agreement that we must at all costs ensure that Sunday remains different from any other day in the week. The point I wish to emphasise is that while each step, taken by itself, along the road to secularising Sunday might, without any great stretch of imagination, be regarded as reasonable and tolerable, the cumulative effect of each successive step from the wider standpoint will, if we are not careful. result in such a change in the public approach to Sunday as will make us regret the approval which each of us gave for each of the individual steps.
I have no wish to go back to 1780 and the conditions which then prevailed. But this tendency was not lost sight of by the Secretary of State for the Colonies who I hope has not forgotten his attitude in this matter on a former occasion when he said:It is not so much that this Order"—626 he was speaking of the opening of theatres and music halls on Sundays—in itself is so vital. It is the whole tendency. We are making Sunday just another ordinary day.It may be commonplace to say that there is little doubt that life is much faster and more difficult to wrestle with than it was in the days of our fathers and grandfathers. The more complicated life becomes the more necessary I suggest it is that we should preserve Sunday as an opportunity for rest and reflection.
The more we find ourselves trying to prevent science mastering man, the more necessary it is that we should make quite certain that we have those opportunities regularly on Sunday for rest and reflection. Lord Samuel has said:The individual can only rest fully if the nation rests at the same time.One day we may have to amend the present law in connection with Sunday observance. When that time comes bitter controversy will be aroused. I, for one, greatly regret that the controversy should have been aroused in the limited sphere associated with the Festival of Britain, which deserves the united support of all concerned. In my judgment this is a bad Bill, brought forward for bad reasons, which will have bad results. I hope the House will reject it.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), in that most distinguished speech, said that Parliament is always at its best when it is discussing matters like this, which, however controversial they may be, are not political in the strictly party sense. I have not been in Parliament very long, and I hope it is not presumptious for me to say that I was impressed by the truth of that observation in its general application to our discussion today. Although our debate has ranged over a pretty wide field, sometimes I think traversing matters which were a little outside the implications of this Bill, hon. Members have said what they had to say, sometimes with warmth, usually with good humour, and always with sincerity.
There were, it is true, one or two unworthy jeers and sneers, as I am sure that on reflection the Members concerned will agree. They were made by the hon. 627 Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing) and the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield). I do not complain of that, because I have fallen from time to time a victim to the temptation of making a cheap, political jibe. I hope I will resist it on this occasion, but I am quite sure that nobody, including those two hon. Members, would want to prostitute the religious and moral issues which are involved in this serious matter simply in order to make a purely party point. If I refer to those two hon. Members in this matter in connection with the Festival of Britain, I ought to take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the most important work of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden has done on the Council of the Festival of Britain, as well as to the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), and the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George). We on this side of the House are most grateful to them for the help they have given and are giving for the organisation of the Festival.
For my part, whilst I have a very definite opinion about the extent to which it is proper to try to regulate religious and moral principles by the rules of the secular law, I personally would not be a party to anything which I believed was going in any real sense to desecrate the Sabbath, or undermine the attitude of the British people towards it. I am not one of the people who deride the Puritan legislation of times gone past, and I think that it is true to say that the observance of Sunday as a day of worship for those sharing in the institutional form of worship, as a day of private devotion, as a day of rest, recreation and refreshment for everybody has had an important effect upon the character of our people.
There was much in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), with which I agree, although I would not agree with him that this age is a less moral age than those which have gone before. But I would certainly agree with him in wishing to see a strengthening of the spiritual and moral basis of personal conduct, even though I do not take the pessimistic view that the greatest days of this country have passed, and that we have deteriorated in more recent generations.
628 I do not myself think that this Bill as a whole, whether or not we include in it the fun fair—that is a matter which we shall discuss next week—will militate against those principles to which I would myself adhere. I believe that those who are afraid of the possible effects of this Bill are under a genuine misapprehension as to the circumstances which have given rise to it and the effect that the Bill is likely to have. That misapprehension, it seems to me, is particularly reflected in the Amendments which are down on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers), who has just made that notable speech, and in the name of the hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling).
The hon. Member for Aylesbury, it is true, made some point on the analogy of betting. He said that, whilst we would all agree that it might be perfectly right for individuals to engage in betting or lotteries or sweepstakes, we should also all agree that it would not be right for the State to engage in such enterprises. But should we all agree? I cannot help thinking that he has forgotten that it was a Conservative Government, in the latter part of the 1930's, which passed the Bill setting up the totalisator system under a body which is not altogether dissimilar in its relationship to the State with Festival Gardens Limited. That was not, of course, the main point which the hon. Member was making, and I do not want to misrepresent him. He made the point, and I dealt with it, and I pass from it.
The real point of his Amendment and of that in the names of other hon. Members was that this Bill would confer on the Government an immunity denied to others, that it would confer upon the Festival of Britain special privileges which did not exist generally under our law. I appreciate the sincerity with which that view was put forward, but it seemed to me that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson), who spoke from the opposite benches, fully demolished it.
The truth is that, so far from this Bill according in practice special privileges to the Festival of Britain, the necessity for the Bill is very largely accidental. In part, it is true, it is the result of the shocking state of the law, and when I say shocking I mean not only from the legal point of view but from the religious point of view as well. In part, it is the result 629 of other considerations, to which I shall come. But it is also true to say that if the Bill is eventually passed into law, at least so far as its most controversial provisions are concerned—those relating to the fairground—it will only permit that to be done at the Festival of Britain which, in practice, is being constantly done all over the country, and in London as well, without any question at all arising as to its illegality. [Interruption.] I am going to explain what the legal position is and how this curious situation arises, if hon. Members will be kind enough to give me the opportunity.
I am not saying whether it is desirable that fairs should be held on Sundays. I am only saying that in London and all over the country, fairs are held on Sundays without any question being raised in regard to their legality; and, indeed, I have heard some people in this House say that the Government have been over-scrupulous in this matter, and that, by a little ingenuity, a little re-arrangement, it might have been possible to do that which this Bill would permit without having to come to the House for legislation at all. We have not taken that view. We have felt that it was not for the Government, sponsoring as it is a great national enterprise, to risk infringing the law or even to do things which, although they were in conformity with the letter of the law, either violated the spirit of the law or offended the susceptibilities of any large section of the population.
§ Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)
On the question of what this Bill allows Festival Gardens Limited to do, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether I am right in saying that, under the last words in subsection 4, any entertainment other than those particularly listed and authorised by Festival Gardens Limited, with their consent and approval, would, in fact, be legal, irrespective of the rest of the law?
§ The Attorney-General
Yes; I do not know of any others which would be illegal, but I am going to refer to the effect of that Clause. The intended effect of it—and I will readily consider any Amendments in Committee—was to restrict the doing by Festival Gardens Limited of various things which it might otherwise be perfectly legal to do, and to put the control of the whole matter in 630 Festival Gardens Limited, a company which is sponsored and under the influence of the Government. But I am going to say something about that matter in a moment.
I want to bring the House back, if I may, to the exact purpose and the real effect of this Bill, for I am quite sure that if the House appreciates the whole of the circumstances it will realise also that this Bill has not got the wide implications which some hon. Members fear. What is it we ask for the approval of Parliament to do; why do we ask it, and, if I may pick up the point now which the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers) has just raised, what is it we say will not in any event be done? The hon. Member referred to Clause 1 (4) of the Bill where it is provided that nothing in the Bill shall authorizethe use of any place on Sunday for a stage play, variety entertainment, circus turn or puppet or marionette show, for a contest or display of boxing or wrestling, for public dancing, or (in the case of the Festival Pleasure Gardens) for any other amusement or sporting event not authorised for Sundays by Festival Gardens Limited.I will tell the hon. Member exactly why we used that form of words. We thought that if we attempted a catalogue of all the things that might be thought offensive on a Sunday we should be certain to miss some out. Therefore, we thought it better not to attempt to have a complete catalogue of the excluded forms of entertainment, but to recite the more obviously offensive of them, and then to have the blanket Clause at the end that nothing should be used on a Sunday which had not been specifically approved by Festival Gardens Limited. We thought that would give this House indirectly a considerable measure of control over what, in fact, took place on the fairground on Sunday.
Even if the Bill remains unamended and this Clause about the fairground stays as it is, hon. Members can be quite sure that the fairground will be, if I may use the word, a very much "austerityfied" business because it will be subject to this special sanction and to these special prohibitions. But if any hon. Member thinks that that provision does not provide sufficient safety and protection against the use of things which might be thought offensive, unseemly or unfitting, then I will gladly consider any Amendments on the 631 Committee stage to enlarge the list of excluded things so that we are left with things like roundabouts and swings to which very few people take objection at all.
§ Mr. I. L. Orr-Ewing
I did mention this matter before, when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, but do I understand from what the right hon. and learned Attorney-General has said that in future. should any undesirable event occur in the amusement gardens, the Lord President would be willing to answer Questions in that respect in this House?
§ The Attorney-General
My right hon. Friend the Lord President has already given an undertaking—I think he did so in the course of his opening speech—that he would see that not only the letter, but the spirit of this thing is observed, and if it is found that anything offensive is being done, and it is brought to the notice of the Government, we will do our best to deal with it. But before anything at all can be used on a Sunday at this fairground, the approval of Festival Gardens Limited has got to be obtained for it.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recollect that only two days ago, I think it was, the Lord President declined to answer any questions about the activities of Festival Gardens Limited which he described as a commercial company?
§ The Attorney-General
I am assured that that statement is wholly inaccurate. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not really mind. I have given an undertaking on behalf of the Lord President, myself and the Government on this matter, and I repeat again, if hon. Members have not appreciated it, that nothing can be done at this fair ground, nothing can be used, no device or amusement, unless it has first received the approval as being seemly for a Sunday of Festival Gardens Limited.
May I pass from that and go back to the beginning, because I would have preferred, if the hon. Member for Aylesbury had not interrupted me, to deal with first things first. The first thing that this Bill does, and the Amendment opposes, is to permit the opening of the Festival Exhibitions set out in subsection (2) on the second page of the Bill. Does anyone 632 really suggest that that involves any violent departure from the existing law? I would certainly assert that it involves no departure from the spirit of the law and very little from the letter.
I do not want to give a lecture on the law of Sunday observance, although it is a very interesting social and legal study. It has varied from period to period. It began much earlier than some people think—immediately after the Saxon invasion. In the days of Merrie England, moral teachers were saying that it was quite a good thing to dance, to have plays, and to engage in things like archery after attending Divine Service. I do not know whether they were any the worse for it at that time or not. Later, manners changed. The pursuit of game was forbidden. That, I think, was why Dr. Johnson was able to say cynically: "Sunday must be different from other days. You may walk on Sunday, but you must not throw stones at birds."
In the 17th century, the law was made very much stricter. And today—I say quite frankly—the state of the law is deplorable; it is uncertain; it is full of obsolete matters and full of anachronisms. That is largely because when proposals have been made to introduce particular reforms in it, people have said, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury said: "We cannot do this. It is all right in itself, but this is the thin edge of the wedge." That over-worked cliché has been adopted over and over again in attempts to make the law in accordance with modern life.
§ The Attorney-General
I agree. It is still the law that one may not travel by boat on a Sunday. I do not know if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary knows that. He has the same affection for boating as I have, so I hasten to add that this does not apply to the River Thames. The locality called The Hundred is not liable for robbery on Sunday. That is a curious anachronism in our law. With regard to Sunday trading, there are all sorts of provisions which nowadays are not observed.
In a way the whole thing, I would have thought, is really a question of degree. There are obviously some things that one ought not to have on a Sunday. There are other things which are permissible. 633 The law is in a mess about it, and I do not disagree with the noble Lord that some day some Government will have to find the time and courage to codify the law, to get rid of the obsolete parts and to bring the whole body of the law into line with the spirit of a nation which is firm in the Christian belief, and sufficiently confident in that belief to give reasonable play to the Christian doctrine of toleration.
May I pass to the position of the law as to entertainments? In the expressed provisions of the existing law passed by Parliament on a Conservative Bill in 1932, cinematograph theatres subject to local option, may open all day on Sunday; so may concert halls, picture galleries and museums. Unfortunately, the definition of "museum" in the Act requires that it shall be permanently used for the exhibition of "sculptures, casts, models and similar objects." We had to consider how that applies to the series of Exhibitions listed in the Bill.
There may be a question, as to the South Bank Exhibition, whether it is permanently used. I am bound to say, as a lawyer, that I have not the faintest idea of the answer to that question. As to the Science Exhibition and the Books Exhibition, the places in which these are to take place are certainly permanently used as museums, but it may be a question whether the exhibits are in the categories of the things permitted in museums. Then there is the Architecture Exhibition at Poplar. It is an exhibition, but because it is a living reality and not dusty models in some stuffy museum, it is outside the protection accorded by the law.
Does anyone really suggest that any of these things are outside the spirit of the law as it exists at this time? I assert the contrary. I suggest that all these things are elevating and beneficial, and that no one can reasonably object to their opening on a Sunday. That view is shared by the body of Christian churches. The matter was very fully considered at a special conference, to which were invited all the members of the British Council of Churches. It was presided over by the Archbishop of York, and it is worth noting, in view of the fact that his name seemed to be mentioned by the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare, in an unfortunate 634 way, that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself reported the conclusions to the Church Assembly. The Scottish churches—the Baptist Church, the Church of Scotland, and Episcopal Church and the Congregational Union of Scotland—all agreed to that as well.
We might have taken a chance on this and risked legal proceedings by a common informer. How deplorable these proceedings are. In one case, an atheist brought an action in order to secure the better observance of the Christian Sunday, and in another case by someone whose religious faith did not recognise the Christian Sunday at all. I am glad to see that the hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald) is introducing a Bill to deal with the common informer. When I see it in draft, I shall look at it with very great interest, to see whether we can give it some assistance from this side of the House. In the meantime, we might have taken a risk on it, and held the Festival without legislation, but we thought the proper thing was to take the approval of the House.
I turn now to the Festival Gardens and to the more controversial matter of the fair ground. It is in regard to that, whilst it raises a real issue of conscience, that as far as the law is concerned the necessity for the Bill is largely accidental. What is prohibited under the Act of 1780 is the use of a "place" for public entertainment on payment of money on a Sunday. These Festival Gardens will include the fair ground, and payment is to be made for entrance to them. That involves the use of a "place." But all over the country, even in Wales, fair grounds are being operated on Sundays.
In London, the travelling fairs which go round the country during the summer come back and congregate in London. Several of them are open on Sundays, and they are open without objection. How is that? The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), explained it. It is by the simple subterfuge—that is all it is—of not charging for admission to the "place," but of charging for the use of the device—the swings, the roundabouts, or whatever it is. The law may be in a sorry state about this, and I admit it; but no one can really suggest that this Bill does much violence to the principles of the law. We thought it right in this National enterprise not to 635 adopt the subterfuge of charging for the use of the device and not for admission to the Gardens but of asking the House to express its free and unfettered view on this matter.
As far as the fair ground is concerned, that is a matter for the Committee stage, and I shall say nothing more about it. But I want to make one or two general observations, quite without prejudice to the discussion on the fair ground, about the Bill as a whole. Members will recall that voting for the Second Reading of the Bill does not commit them one way or another on how they are to vote on the fair ground in Committee. May I make a few observations about the general aspects of this matter, and the factors which I, at least, would take into account in deciding how to vote? Several Members made great play with the question that extra work would be involved. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare has used his great influence to stop the opening of the fun fair on Sunday in his constituency at Weston.
§ Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing
I did answer that point in the course of my speech when I was interrupted. May I point out that it is an existing establishment? It is not adding by legislation to the amount of labour employed on Sunday.
§ The Attorney-General
Members will judge the efficacy of that answer. As far as the fair is concerned, between 500 and 600 people will be employed, which is an insignificant number against the background of the mass of people employed on Sundays. When that argument was used, my mind went back to the time when I was a child and I used to see collected outside fashionable churches rows of carriages, and later on rows of cars, with all the owners inside and all the drivers waiting and taking charge of the vehicles outside.
§ The Attorney-General
Certainly. I do not take that view about people who work on Sundays. If I can yacht, I yacht. I travel on Sunday as other Members do: I may go to the golf club. I read "The 636 Times" and the "Daily Mail" on Monday morning, and open my letters. I do not take that view about Sundays. I wonder whether hon. Members who do take that view make sure that in their own personal pursuits they do nothing which involves somebody else working for them on a Sunday?
It seemed to me that there were really three factors in this that one would take into account. There is the religious one, there is the personal one and there is the general and more factual one. The first two are essentially matters of individual conscience. But if the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. John Henderson), says, as he did, "Are we sincere when we say the Lord's Prayer; in this Bill are we seeing that His Will is done?", I suggest that the theological answer is to be found in St. Mark, Chapter II, verse 27:The Sabbath was made for man.I hope that I am a Christian; I can do no more than hope, but in that hope I agree, and I assert, that it is right that we should be allowed to practise our religion and to engage in institutional worship or private devotion without disturbance or distraction. That is secured by the Bill for the whole of Sunday morning. But pushed too far, that doctrine and that protection which we claim for our own religion might become inimical to it, a boomerang leading to its gradual decline. All religious history shows how undue enforcement by the secular law of the views of a particular faith has in the end brought that faith down. Certainly I would suppose—I hope I may say this without sounding priggish or pompous—that the holiness of the Sabbath Day and the principles of the Christian religion are better promoted and advanced by the example of Christianity in practice in Christian lives than by the snooping activities of common informers, police court sentences or even the dictates of Parliament.
Then there is a personal aspect to this question. It is a matter of serene indifference to me whether these things are open on a Sunday afternoon or not, for I shall not go there. Like most hon. Members, I have other things I can do. If I want to have games or sport, I can go on my boat. If I want to rest, I have, like hon. Members opposite, a nice house and a quiet garden in which I can do it. 637 I have many facilities for occupying my time in an amusing way on Sunday. I only wish I had the time! But the test is not simply what we want for ourselves.
As the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) so well said, we here are fortunate. The great mass of the people do not enjoy our position. Their homes do not possess the amenities of ours. The housewife is working all through the week and working again on Sunday morning preparing the meal for her family. She likes to get out on a Sunday afternoon to get away from it and to break the drab monotony of her daily life. Sunday afternoon is the one time when she has an opportunity of getting out and having a little fun with her husband and children. Is that an evil thing?
Those are personal and religious matters each member must decide for himself. What is the general standard by which we should resolve them and judge the Bill? I suggest it is this: Would the facilities that the Bill provides, considered against the general background of life as it is and the facilities which already exist, do any harm to the people who would use them or cause any deterioration in the morale of the country as a whole? I assert the contrary. There are far more undesirable distractions available already. There are Sunday games, dirt track racing, the cinemas are open—I make no attack on them, but
§ they are not always beneficial in their influence on the young—the public houses are open; the amusement arcades—those murky places the atmosphere and association of which I believe to be wholly evil—all these are open all day on a Sunday; and all sorts of things even worse.
§ If I were asked—each hon. Member will have to answer this question according to his conscience—whether I would prefer to see someone in whose welfare I was interested cooped up in a cinema on a Sunday afternoon, crowded in a public house or attracted into an amusement arcade, or, on the other hand, at the Festival of Britain, even if it did mean a little healthy fun in the open air on a Sunday afternoon perhaps on a swing or a roundabout, I should not have any difficulty in providing the answer.
There are religious views on each side, sincere and strong. One could quote texts on each side. It was Pomfret who said:
How shall we e'er discover which is right
When both so eagerly maintain the fight?
Each does the other's arguments deride
Each has the Church and Scripture on its side.
The answer is: trust the people.
§ Question put, "That 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 364; Noes, 128.641
|Division No. 7.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Bottomley, A. G.||Collick, P.|
|Adams, Richard||Bowden, H. W.||Collindridge, F.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Bower, N.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Cooper, J. (Deptford)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Cove, W. G.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Brockway, A Fenner||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col. W.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Brook, D. (Halifax)||Crawley, A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E.|
|Bacon, Miss. A.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Cullen, Mrs. A.|
|Baird, J.||Brown, George (Belper)||Daines, P.|
|Baldock, J. M.||Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Darling G. (Hillsboro')|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)|
|Balfour, A.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)|
|Bartley, P.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Burke, W. A.||Deer, G.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Burton, Miss E.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Benson, G.||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Diamond, J.|
|Beswick, F.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Carmichael, James||Dodds, N. N.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Carson, Hon. E.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Donnelly, D.|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Drayson, G. B.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Clunie, J.||Drewe, C.|
|Boardman, H.||Cooks, F. S.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Booth, A.||Coldrick, W.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Peart, T. F.|
|Dye, S.||Keeling, E. H.||Poole, Cecil|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Keenan, W.||Porter, G.|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Kenyon, C.||Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||King, H. M.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr. E.||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Kinley, J.||Rankin, J.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Lang, Rev. G.||Rees, Mrs. D.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lee, F. (Newton)||Reeves, J.|
|Ewart, R.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Reid, W. (Camlachie)|
|Field, Capt. W. J||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Rhodes, H.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)||Richards, R.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)||Robens, A.|
|Follick, M.||Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Foot, M. M.||Lindgren, G. S.||Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)|
|Forman, J. C.||Lindsay, Martin||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Redgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Freeman, J. (Watford)||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Logan, D. G.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Longden, F. (Small Heath)||Russell, R. S.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Low, A. R. W.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)||Scott, Donald|
|Gibson, C. W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Gilzean, A.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||MacColl, J. E.||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)|
|Gooch, E. G.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Greenwood, Anthony W. J. (Rossendale)||McInnes, J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Mack, J. D.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Grey, C. F.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||McLeavy, F.||Slater, J.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Gunter, R. J.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Snow, J. W.|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hale, J. (Rochdale)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Manuel, A. C.||Stanley, Capt. Hon R. (N Flyde)|
|Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)||Marples, A. E.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne V'll'y)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hannan, W.||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hardman, D. R.||Mellish, R. J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J|
|Hardy, E. A.||Messer, F.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Mikardo, Ian||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Harrison, J.||Moeran E. W.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Monslow, W.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Moody, A. S.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Heath, E. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Morley, R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Mort, D. L.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Moyle, A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Holman, P.||Mulley, F. W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Murray, J. D.||Timmons, J.|
|Hope, Lord J.||Nally, W.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Houghton, Douglas||Neal, H.||Tomney, F.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)||Nicholson, G.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J||Usborne, Henry|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R. H. (Scotstoun)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Vane, W. M. F|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Nutting, Anthony||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oakshott, H. D.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||O'Brien, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oldfield, W. H.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Oliver, G. H.||Wallace, H. W|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Orbach, M.||Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Janner, B.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Paget, R. T.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Jeger, G. (Goole)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Watkinson, H.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Pannell, T. C.||Weitzman, D|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pargiter, G. A.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Parker, J.||Wells, W. T (Walsall)|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Paton, J.||West, D. G.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Pearson, A.||Wheatley. Major M. J. (Poole)|
|White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||Woods, Rev. G. S.|
|Wigg, George||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Wilkes, L.||Wills, C.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Sparks.|
|Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborne, C.|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Black, C. W.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Pickthorn, K.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bowen, R.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Braine, B.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Redmayne, M.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A.||Hyde, H. M.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)|
|Channon, H.||Joynson-Hicks, Htm. L. W.||Roper, Sir H.|
|Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Colegate, A.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Cooper, A. E. (Illord, S.)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)|
|Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S.W.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)||McAdden, S. J.||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.)||McKibbin, A.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Storey, S.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Maclean, F. H. R.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Donner, P. W.||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Taylor, W, J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Duthie W. S.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Fort, R.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydo[...] W.)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Gage, C. H.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Turton, R. H.|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Wade, D. W.|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Maudling, R.||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Grimond, J.||Mellor, Sir J.||White, J. Baker (Canterbury)|
|Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)|
|Harris, R. R. (Heston)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Harvey, Air-Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Nabarro, G.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Nicholls, H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Odey, G. W.||Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing and|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Mr. Summers.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bowden.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.