§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Law on Sunday Observance, presented on 9th December, 1964.The subject matter of the Report is obviously one on which hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House hold the strongest feelings. One of the objects of this debate is to elicit and invite the fullest expression of opinion from both sides on a matter which cuts right across party lines and deeply affects people's feelings on subjects of this type.
At the outset of the debate, it might be useful if I reminded the House of some of the events which led to the setting up of the Departmental Committee in 1961. The law on this subject is to be found in a variety of Statutes, including some of considerable antiquity, such as the Sunday Fairs Act, 1448, and the Sunday Observance Acts of 1625, 1627 and 1677. Their language is, by modern standards, largely archaic, and I think that it will be generally agreed that, as Acts of Parliament, they have little practical application today. It is to later Statutes, and, in particular, the Sunday Observance Act, 1780, and the modern Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, that we should look in considering how far the existing law needs to be changed and modified.
I should have thought that it was generally accepted for some considerable time that the Sunday observance laws were not easy to fit into the conditions of the twentieth century. This is evidenced by the fact that a whole series of Bills have been brought forward on the limited aspect of Sunday trading. They began in the years which followed the turn of the century. It was not until the 1930s that Parliament had the opportunity to express its considered opinion on the subject of Sunday observance as a whole. This led to a limited relaxation of the principal Act, the 1780 Act, and this was done by the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932.
The 1932 Act was based on such measure of agreement as had emerged from earlier Parliamentary discussion of three similar Bills which had come before Parliament. The discussions had 859 been highly controversial, and the controversy persisted. It continued when later Measures designed to secure modification of the law were successively debated. In 1941, 1951 and 1953 proposals for relaxation of the law on Sunday entertainments were defeated on free votes of the House. In 1958, to carry the story further, there was an inconclusive debate in the House which arose on a Motion by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science, which called for an inquiry into the whole subject.
The continued interest of the House was evidenced by further Motions and Questions, and ultimately, in 1961, the then Home Secretary, Mr. R. A. Butler, decided that the time had come for the appointment of a Committee to look into the whole matter. Hon. Members interested in the history of the matter will find that it is admirably surveyed in the second chapter of the Committee's Report.
The Committee, by its terms of reference, was invitedto review the law (other than the Licensing Acts) relating to Sunday entertainments, sports, pastimes and trading in England and Wales, and to make recommendations.As the House knows, the Chairman of the Committee was Lord Crathorne and its members included a wide representation from the major political parties, a trade union official, a woman barrister and magistrate, and a representative from Wales, who is the Director of the National Institute for Social Training.
The Committee received evidence—written and oral—from a very large number of representative bodies and other organisations and produced a Report which, I think, all hon. Members will agree, will prove a most useful and valuable foundation for our discussion today. I am sure that the House would wish to take this opportunity of joining me in thanking Lord Crathorne and the other members of the Committee for their painstaking work and their success in reaching such a considerable measure of unanimity in their recommendations on this most controversial topic.
It may be of help to the House if, next, I summarise briefly the effect of the present law and then go on to mention 860 the major recommendations of the Committee. It will probably be convenient if I divide the subject into two broad divisions—the first, Sunday entertainment and sport, and the second, Sunday trading and employment.
The Sunday Observance Act, 1625, prohibited meetings, assemblies or concourses of people out of their parishes on the Lord's Day for any sport or pastime whatsoever. Hon. Members may remember that the House considered this Statute last June in a debate on a Bill for its repeal which was introduced by the hon. Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow).
There is no question that the 1625 Act is now completely obsolete and unenforceable in modern conditions. It provides for a penalty of 3s. 4d. to be used for the relief of the poor of the parish. As an alternative, it provides that the offender was to be placed in the stocks for three hours. Although I have seen some stocks up and down the country, whether a power still remains to put people in them I do not know.
To continue with the history, the Sunday Observance Acts, 1627 and 1677, which prohibit certain forms of travelling and working, are also now virtually dead letters. The effective statutes which regulate Sunday entertainment and sport are the Sunday Observance Act, 1780, as amended by the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932.
The 1780 Act appears to have been aimed at certain public discussions and other activities which were thought to be in themselves undesirable and improper. It prohibits the opening on Sunday of any house, room or other place for entertainment or amusement to which the public is admitted on payment. It is this Statute of 1780 which forbids to this day the opening of public theatres, music and dance halls and the holding of sports events when charges are made for admission. As the Committee has pointed out in its Report, only a few of the entertainments which we know today were, in any event, in existence when the Act was passed in 1780.
In the changing conditions at the end of the nineteenth century and the earlier years of this century, new opportunities arose for secular activities of different kinds on Sunday and, notwithstanding the 1780 Act, in some areas cinemas began 861 to open on Sundays. The next stage was that the practice of opening cinemas on Sundays was declared illegal as a result of litigation which took place in the courts in 1931. There followed parliamentary discussion which led ultimately to the passing of the Act to which I have referred, the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932.
That Act modified the 1780 Act by allowing Sunday cinema opening in areas where public opinion had expressed itself in favour of that course. It also permitted musical entertainment, though not musical entertainment of the variety type. It permitted lectures and debates and the opening of museums, picture galleries, zoos and botanical gardens on Sundays. Attempts were made to secure further relaxations by abolishing the restrictions on stage plays and dancing, but all those attempts were unsuccessful.
In its Report, the Committee recommends a considerable relaxation of the restrictions imposed by the 1780 Act which still remain in spite of the 1932 Act. The Committee proposes that the public performance of stage plays, cinematographic exhibitions, circuses and public dancing should be allowed after 12.30 p.m. on Sunday without there being any provision for local option such as is at present requisite under the 1932 Act in the case of cinematograph shows.
The Committee makes the same recommendation with regard to sports meetings, but in relation to sports meetings the Committee introduces a major exception to its recommendation which it defines as relating to contests where the players or participants are remunerated for taking part. These recommendations were unanimously reached save for limited dissent by Sir John Arbuthnot from the recommendation that theatres, ballet, variety shows, circuses, and so on, should no longer be forbidden on Sunday.
One important effect of the test suggested by the Committee in distinguishing between amateur and professional sport, namely, whether the participants are paid—and not, as previously, whether the public are charged for admission—is that it will no longer rule out the promotion of Sunday entertainment for charitable purposes. Generally speaking, the Committee thought that the adoption of its test would not encourage activities likely to attract large crowds of spectators on a 862 scale such as might interfere with the character of Sunday. Similarly, in proposing a restriction on the opening of theatres, cinemas and dance halls until after 12.30, the Committee was seeking not specifically to encourage church attendance, but to preserve the special character of Sunday as a day that preserves some measure of freedom from compulsory work.
The Committee has not proposed any change in the law relating to betting and gaming under which betting either with bookmakers on the course or with the totalisator at racecourses on Sunday is prohibited. I should, perhaps, point out that, quite apart from this restriction, the holding of horse racing on Sunday would be prohibited under the Committee's proposal that sports in which the participants receive payment should not be allowed on Sunday.
That is the first group of topics with which the Committee's Report deals and I come now to the second main subject, which is the law governing Sunday trading and employment. These two, trading and employment, may perhaps be conveniently taken together since the conditions of employment that the Committee chiefly had to consider are those of shop workers. These really are two aspects of the same problem.
Here again, there is very old legislation. It includes the Sunday Fairs Act, 1448, and the Sunday Observance Acts of 1627 and 1677, which contain provisions restricting certain forms of Sunday work and trade. This legislation is now obsolete and no longer enforced. The modern law relating to trading is contained mainly in the Shops Act, 1950, a Measure which consolidated the Act of 1936 and earlier Acts which had been promoted by private Members relating to shop hours both on weekdays and on Sundays.
The Committee had had conflicting evidence about the justification for statutory restrictions on Sunday trading and came to the conclusion that it would be better to make no radical alteration in the present position. The present position is that there is a general requirement that shops should be closed on Sundays, but provision is made for a considerable number of exempted transactions, for example, meals, liquor, fruit, vegetables, and newspapers, and some others. The 863 Report examines each one of these in some detail.
Likewise, the Committee recommends no major change in the law governing Sunday employment of shop workers, though it does propose some clarification and simplification. It favours extension of the present statutory provision for time off in lieu of Sunday working, at present restricted to cinema employees, to other employees in licensed places of entertainment, though not, for obvious practical reasons, to performers themselves.
I do not think that it would assist the House if I were to make too meticulous an examination of this branch of the law, but it may, perhaps, be helpful if I mention some of the more important and far-reaching of the Committee's recommendations.
First, it has proposed that mobile shops, at present uncontrolled, should be subject to the same restrictions of the 1950 Act as are other shops. It has recommended that launderettes should be allowed to open on Sunday, and that the sale of coal and other domestic fuel should also be allowed on Sunday. The arrangements for the sale of goods by chemists on Sunday mornings, at present restricted to medicines and medical appliances, should, the Committee thinks, be relaxed so as to permit the sale during a two-hour period of any goods.
One of the problems to which the Committee turned its attention was the need in holiday resorts to provide adequate facilities for visitors on Sundays. It proposes that local authorities should be given wider powers than exist at present to allow certain shops to open in their areas irrespective of any artificial definition of what is a holiday resort or a tourist centre, but the limitation on the kinds of goods which might be sold under those arrangements, for example, bathing, fishing, and photographic requisites, would mean the concession would have value only in areas which in fact attract visitors.
Hon. Members may remember that a proposal to exempt shops at international airports from the Sunday trading restrictions was rejected during the discussion on the Bill which ultimately became the Shops (Airports) Act, 1962, on the ground that this was a matter which should await the recommendations of the Sunday Ob864 Servance Committee. The Committee is firmly of the view that shops of this kind should be exempted from the ordinary restrictions.
I hope that I have said enough to illustrate the range of the problems involved in any consideration of the revision of the Sunday observance law and I do not think that there are any other detailed recommendations in the Committee's Report to which I need draw the House's attention at the present time. It might, however, be helpful to hon. Members if I were to remind them of the reception the Report has received in the Press and among the public.
Press reaction to the Committee's recommendations has been generally favourable. There has been general recognition of the way in which the Committee has attempted to reconcile conflicting views in a field in which logical treatment of all the aspects is difficult to achieve, although some of the papers consider that the Committee has been a little hard on professional sport. My own Department has had little response from the general public. Only a few letters have been received, which mainly criticise the proposed relaxations from the standpoint of Sabbatarian principle.
I understand that the Church of England's Board of Social Responsibility has not completed its consideration of the Committee's recommendations, and it may, therefore, be a little time before we know the considered views of the Church of England, and possibly other representative bodies. Hon. Members may, however, have read in the Press that the Archbishop of York, writing in his diocesan leaflet, has, in a comment on the Report, urged the importance of the principle of one day of rest in every week and the right of every man to attend a place of worship on Sunday if he so desires.
The object of this debate, as I said at the outset, is to afford an opportunity to hon. Members to express their views on the issues involved. I should like to draw the attention of hon. Members in this context particularly to Chapter 3 of the Committee's Report which discusses the purpose of Sunday observance legislation.
It is there stated that the present law is still largely based on principles laid 865 down in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, namely, to encourage church attendance and religous conformity by the prohibition on that day of secular activities and the restriction of employment coupled with a ban on all profane entertainment. The Committee is clearly of the opinion that in modern conditions the teaching of Christian doctrine and religious observance cannot be secured by law. It seems, indeed, that the Church itself does not desire any such direct assistance, and, moreover, activities once regarded as profane are no longer so regarded except by a small minority.
On this view we are left with a situation in which what people can do in their leisure hours on Sunday is governed by statutes which were enacted to achieve purposes no longer regarded as within the proper function of Government. Certainly, recent modifications of those statutes to meets particular needs were not framed against a background of any revised principles basic to the law on Sunday observance.
As, however, hon. Members will have read in Chapter 3 of the Report, there is a considerable body of opinion which believes that Sunday should be in some way different from the rest of the week. While there may be no objection in principle to participation in recreation and entertainment on that day proper regard should be had to the need for people to have adequate opportunity for leisure and worship. It may well be that this can be done only by the substitution for the present restrictions of some modified scheme of regulation such as is proposed in the recommendations of the Committee. Just what amendment of the law should be made and in which areas of activity and on what conditions are questions on which the Government are especially anxious to have the views of hon. Members
Clearly, in this field it is unlikely that it will be possible to secure agreement from everybody, since the answers to the questions which have to be posed are bound to be influenced considerably by personal. deep-felt convictions and habits of mind. I would repeat that the subject cuts right across party, social, educational and other frontiers. It would, nevertheless, be the hope of the Government that the central principles governing any 866 amending legislation should be able to command wide support in Parliament.
§ 4.30 p.m.
Mr. Richard Sharpies (Sutton and Cheam)
I am sure that the House is grateful to the Home Secretary for the manner in which he has presented this Report to Parliament, and I should like to join him in thanking Lord Crathorne and the Committee for the work which they did in preparing it.
I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman recalled that it was the then Home Secretary, Mr. R. A. Butler, who set up this Departmental inquiry. Even in 1961 it was not a very easy decision to take. The right hon. and learned Gentleman recalled the successive attempts which were made even after the last war to set up an inquiry of this kind, and he reminded us, too, that the last time this was attempted was in 1958, by one of his hon. Friends.
I think that I am right in saying that this is the first time that all the laws affecting Sunday observance have been examined in detail. What strikes me—and this is borne out by what the Home Secretary said about the amount of correspondence that he had received—is the small amount of controversy which has been aroused by the publication of the Report, especially when one thinks back to and looks up the debates which took place in this House in the 1930s.
The Committee itself refers to the change which there has been in our way of living, and paragraph 35 of the Report points to the effect which television has had on the demand by the general public for changes in the law. I believe that this is a true assessment of the position. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out, much of our Sunday law verges on the ridiculous. Even the Lord's Day Observance Society, though it rejects the Committee's recommendations, says in the concluding paragraph of a memorandum which I think has been received by all hon. Members thatthe existing law is unsatisfactory.It is, of course, very easy to point to anomalies in the present law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the famous 3s. 4d. fine and the stocks, and we have been given other examples on different occasions—the fish and chips which one can buy anywhere on a Sunday except, apparently, at a fish and chip 867 shop; the tripe but not the cowheels, which can be sold on a Sunday; and then, of course, the often-quoted example of the songs of Sir Harry Lauder which no one can sing in public while dressed as Sir Harry Lauder unless, as a bona fide Scotsman—whatever that is—he is entitled to wear a kilt.
Those are the obvious examples which make the law appear ridiculous. To use the words of Mr. Justice Humphreys, which are quoted by the Committee in paragraph 153:… there is almost no nonsensical proposition which may not be seriously put forward as a result of looking at these innumerable exceptions.Much more important than these, however, is the effect of the restriction of live entertainment. Millions of people today can watch a play acted live on television. They can even form part of an invited live audience for a television programme, but it is an offence to go to the theatre on a Sunday if one has to pay for a ticket.
For those who look back with nostalgia to the Victorian Sunday—and I think that there was a good deal to be said for it at the time—I think that the pass was sold by the 1932 Act, which made a wide breach in the principles of the 1780 Act. Without Sunday cinemas coming first and being legalised, I think that Sunday television would have been a very much more controversial issue that it was when it came in. I do not think that the 1932 Act made the law any better than it was. It attempted to deal with a particular situation in a limited way, but in doing so it made the law even more complicated and more difficult to administer than it was before.
Lord Crathorne and his Committee had to conduct their inquiry against the background created by the 1780 and 1932 Acts. I do not believe that it was possible for a committee of this kind, examining this subject, to please all shades of opinion, but what is surprising, and it is a measure of the success of the Committee's deliberations, is how close it appears to have come to meeting the majority of opinion.
The Times put it rather well in its leading article of 10th December last, when it said:Between the rigorists, for whom any relaxation of an already crumbling code is a descent into ungodliness, and the clean- 868 sweepers, who resent any legal restriction special to Sunday, is the mass of middle opinion which likes to keep Sunday off as a day off with a difference. With this opinion the Crathorne Committee allies itself.I think that the key to the success of the Crathorne Report is in paragraph 52, where it says:In framing our recommendations we have endeavoured to make proposals which, if adopted, would produce a law that would be respected and could be enforced. To achieve this, the law must be clear, certain, and acceptable to a majority of the public.I think that we can say that that has been achieved in the Committee's recommendations. Certainly, this is not the position as it stands under the law today.
Sunday with a difference is the theme of the conclusions of the Report, but I think that it would be idle to pretend that this theme of Sunday as a different day does not of itself create its own anomalies. Without a fundamental change in our whole concept of Sunday, which I do not believe this nation would face, certainly not at present, it is difficult to see any other conclusion which would have a chance of being acceptable to the nation.
It is much more difficult to say why Sunday should be different. The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to this in his opening remarks, and to Chapter 3 of the Report. Until the end of the First World War, or perhaps a little earlier, the issue was probably comparatively clear in most people's minds. Sunday was a day set aside for worship. It was one of the functions of the State to encourage people to go to church and to remove temptations which might deter them from doing so. This was the basis of all the earlier legislation to which the Home Secretary referred.
As the Report says, however, today the rôle of the State in compelling people to go to church against their will no longer applies; nor would such a rôle on the part of the State be acceptable to the majority of opinion in this country. None the less, in the minds of a great proportion of the people the concept of Sunday as a day of worship of one kind or another remains. But there are other considerations which now make for Sunday to be considered as a day which is different from other days. There are considerations of employment—the 869 idea that on one day of the week, at least, employment should be kept to a minimum, and that as many as possible should have one day which they have the right to look upon as a day of rest.
But, even here, we have to face the fact that in a modern society Sunday work of one kind or another becomes more and more a necessity for a larger number of people. The problem facing the Crathorne Committee was to try to balance these different considerations, and the general conclusion—certainly borne out by the Press reports—is that the Committee has managed to do this very well..
In some quarters the Report is criticised for going too far. The Lord's Day Observance Society criticised it very strongly in the memorandum to which I have referred. By others—and I shall mention only one example; Mr. Henry Fairlie, in the Sunday Telegraph of 13th December—it is criticised for not going far enough. It is criticised for not tackling the whole question of the puritan tradition and its impact on our lives.
In logic. there appears to be something to be said for the views of Mr. Henry Fairlie, but in a matter of this kind logic is not always the best force to guide us. Certainly, if the Committee hoped to see its Report ever acted upon it was wise to confine itself to the somewhat more limited objectives with which it dealt.
I now turn for a few moments to the recommendations. There is no need for me to go into these in great detail; they were summarised very clearly by the Home Secretary. The recommendations on Sunday trading will probably have fairly general support, although there is bound to be some controversy about the recommendation concerning shops which sell food—Recommendation No. (15)(e), which refers tothe sale of any article at a shop registered with the local authority as a shop the business of which is wholly or mainly the sale of food and drink for human consumption and ingredients for the preparation of food and drink.In my opinion, this is right, but we must face the fact that there is bound to be some discussion and controversy about it.
870 On the whole, the recommendations concerning Sunday trading can probably be regarded as a satisfactory compromise, although any legislation brought forward to implement these recommendations would require very careful examination. Certainly, this set of recommendations would have the effect of removing the majority of anomalies in the present law on Sunday trading and go a long way towards meeting the objectives set out in Paragraph 52 of the Report.
The set of recommendations relating to conditions of Sunday employment are also fairly unexceptionable. As the Committee says, it was faced with the alternative of sweeping away the restrictions on Sunday employment, and it concluded, in Paragraph 221, that it would be best to follow a course that called for a less radical solution. I do not blame the Committee for this. I very much doubt whether any other conclusion would have been acceptable either to employers or to labour.
Much more difficult is the other question to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, namely, entertainment and sport, especially spectator sport. These difficulties are reflected in the Report. We must recognise that there is a growing demand for something to do during hours of leisure, no matter what day of the week. This is especially so amongst young people. The Home Office will recall what has happened on some summer Sunday afternoons during the past two years. We all know the possible effect of a large number of young people descending on a seaside resort on a wet Sunday afternoon. Against the proposal for the relaxation of restrictions affecting entertainment and sport is the fact that relaxation in this direction will probably have the most direct effect upon the traditional Sunday.
There is no doubt that the present law concerning Sunday entertainment and sport is in a complete mess. Cinemas are allowed, but the live theatre is not. Concerts are allowed, but people are not allowed to dance. In my opinion, dancing is one thing which might provide more of an outlet for young people than any other type of relaxation. People may go to the theatre, and they may dance and do almost what they like, however, if they 871 happen to belong to a club. The recommendations of the Report go a long way towards making the law at least sensible, even if it will not be acceptable to all shades of opinion.
It is only in respect of spectator sport that the Committee lays itself open to the charge of illogicality. It was much the most difficult problem before the Committee, and I am doubtful about the dividing line which it has sought to draw—the line which provides that if the players themselves are not paid it is all right, but that if the players are paid the sport should still be banned. I can think of forms of amateur sport which would be allowed under this rule but which would mean the employment of large numbers of people on Sundays. In any case, the dividing line between the amateur and the professional in sport is becoming more and more difficult to hold. I am very doubtful whether the line which the Crathorne Committee has drawn could be maintained for any time.
The Home Secretary said that this debate cuts right across party lines, as, indeed, it does, but the Report is addressed to the Home Secretary. I think that without any shadow of doubt it shows the mess in which the law is at present. I do not think that it would be possible for the law as it stands now to be properly enforced. I cannot believe it right that the law should be left in its present state. After hearing the views which I have no doubt that the Home Secretary will collect from hon. Members and from other quarters, I believe that the onus will be on the Government to bring forward their own proposals. The House and the country will expect the Government to do so.
After all this consideration, and the production of the Report, and the work done in bringing it to fruition, it would be a tragedy if the Report were allowed to gather cobwebs on the dusty shelves of the Home Office.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
Most hon. Members, including those from both sides of the House who are so noticeably absent today, would, I believe, agree with the general sense of the balanced and thoughtful speech to which we have just listened, and therefore, broadly, with 872 the recommendations of the Crathorne Committee. We would all wish to join in congratulating the Committee on the work it has done. Some of us may feel that its recommendations go a little too far. Others, including myself, wish that it could have found it possible to go a little further. It would be fascinating if the Committee had been able to deal with the whole historical question of the impact of the puritan tradition on our lives, but if it had done so it would have taken the Committee even longer to produce this report that it did; and I do not think that we can accuse the Committee of not being logical in staying within the terms of reference laid down by the previous Home Secretary.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, in introducing this debate, was, I think for all of his speech, scrupuously careful not to indicate his own views, if any. I am sure that he has some—he is, after all, an enlightened and thoughtful man. He could hardly not have views on this subject. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is, I understand, to wind up the debate, will exercise a similar self-restraint. My hon. Friend is very much liked and respected by hon. Members on both sides of the House. We all know what his personal views are, and it may be that he is in some slight difficulty, or even a crisis of conscience, on this subject. But I am sure that he will make a worthy and comprehensive reply to the debate.
The Home Secretary did say that the Government would note the views expressed by hon. Members in the debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to go a little further than that and tell us what action the Government propose to take when they have digested these various views. There is, of course, some slight difficulty in this procedure: it is partly, I think, a difficulty for the Chair, because even in these debates which cut across party lines it is the practice of the Chair to call hon. Members alternately from each side of the House, as if we were debating on party lines; and the Chair cannot possibly know the personal views of every hon. Member who is called. It may therefore be—I do not think, looking round, that it is very likely—but it may be that the Chair would, more or less by accident, call 873 half-a-dozen hon. Members to speak in succession, all of whom took either the extreme Sabbatarian or the extreme anti-Sabbatarian view of this matter. So I hope that when the Government are considering the views of hon. Members, they will give due weight to this point.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) quoted from The Times and I should like to refer to the very sensible editorial in today's Sun. It says that the restrictionshave now become an embarrasment to the churches and an insult to adult society.This editorial also disagrees with the attempt by the Crathorne Committee to draw the line between amateur and professional sport. Here, I must say, I agree also with what has been said already about that. It is quite illogical, and does not seem to me to fit in with the Committee's declared intention of proposing recommendations which can be enforced. I do not see how we can for very long enforce that one. Finally the editorial says thatthe Government should state clearly today how far they intend to go.I hope that my hon. Friend can do so, though I suppose it may be possible that the Government will take a little time to consider the views expressed.
I am reminded of the debates we had in the past on this subject and in particular a debate—I think it was about 10 years ago—which was preceded by a report from the British Council of Churches. That report proposed the setting up of a Royal Commission or committee of the kind which has been set up and has now reported. This report of the British Council of Churches, issued in 1955, stressed a point which I think most of us would agree with, that the Jewish Sabbath is not identical with the Christian Sunday. It also gave one opinion which I thought at the time extremely valuable. The report said:It is a clear Christian judgment that the churches should not desire even useful provisions to rest upon laws that are archaic and in bad repair.Of course, the rights of minorities must be respected but it is not the right of a very small minority to impose its views on the rest of the community. I say "a very small minority" quite deliberately. The Crathorne Committee prints towards the end of its Report, in appendix B, the Gallup poll, taken in 1958, which 874 assumed then that churchgoers were less than 12 per cent. of the population. I have always understood that 15 per cent. is the percentage usually quoted of persons actively attached to any place of worship of any denomination. That is quite a small minority of the population, but within that minority there is an even smaller, indeed an infinitestimal, minority who are what is described as rigid Sabbatarians. Those churchpeople who take the strict Sabbatarian view are not at all representative of churchpeople as a whole, certainly not of the Church of England as a whole, nor of the Roman Catholic Church.
The most vocal of the pressure groups on this subject is, of course, the Lord's Day Observance Society, to which reference has been made. Without being unduly harsh or unfair to this Society—its members are perfectly sincere and I have from time to time crossed swords with its very likeable and energetic General Secretary, Mr. Legerton—I must say that the Government should not pay too much attention to its views. It is quite the most vocal of the pressure groups, but the noise which it makes is out of all proportion to its real weight, on church opinion or anywhere else. According to the Crathorne Committee, the Society has 35,000 individual subscribers and receives subscriptions from about 2,000 churches "drawn from most Protestant denominations". I am sure that those figures must be correct, but even if they are, the minority represented by this Sabbatarian pressure group is quite a small one.
I also dislike very much the note of almost arrogant infallibility which is heard in some of the Society's pronouncements. "The law", it says, "should be based on Christian principles" —even though, in other contexts, it says that this is not any longer a Christian country. Not only is this Society quite insignificant. It also propounds views which would be repudiated with disgust by the overwhelming majority of Christian people in this country or any other. In order to justify such a strong statement, I must give some short quotations, in order to get them on record, to indicate the nature of some of the views propounded by the Lord's Day Observance Society. I take them from a pamphlet, "The Lord's Day in Modern Times", which is published by the 875 Society. This pamphlet commends, presumably for imitation,the Bible example of a man who enforces God's standards on the wayward. Nehemiah, as governor of the returned exiles, enforced the Sabbath on people who had grown careless and indifferent to the claims of God.Are we, in 1965, in a position, even if we wished to do so, to "enforce" Sabbath observance on the British people? In case it may be thought that this "Bible example" is not meant to be taken literally, the pamphlet goes on to say:The problem of enforcing a Christian Sabbath on a non-Christian democracy is in fact a larger problem than first imagined.It is, indeed! Then, the same pamphlet perpetrates what seems to me to be an appallingly blasphemous thought. After saying that Sunday is much too free as it is, it says:One wonders at the longsuffering of God. As in the days of Methuselah, He is waiting for His people to turn again. Signs have been given to awaken the nation out of lethargy, floods like those of Lynmouth and Canvey Island; train disasters; air and motor racing accidents. God is still chastening us as children, and let it be our prayer that he will continue, not giving us up to our own wickedness in judgment.In other words, the Society wants more road accidents, more men, women and children killed in road accidents and air crashes, and they believe that it is the will of God that human fallibility should lead to these accidents. Could anything be more blasphemous than that?
I have two more quotations from this pamphlet. One is a rather naive reference to British Railways and its disgraceful habit of selling cheap-day and excursion tickets at the weekend:One cannot help thinking that if all cheap travel was dispensed with on Sundays, and train services cut down to a minimum, even if only for a year as a trial, God would honour the stand and there would be no deficit.My final quotation from this egregious pamphlet is this:Some political parties have conferences and party meetings on Sunday; how can God bless their consultations? However, one of the main parties still keeps Sunday free. Emergency consultations in war-time may come under a different category, for Queen Athaliah was deposed on the Sabbath.In case anyone should say that that cannot seriously be the views of any society still operating in 1965, I may say that the 876 booklet was published in 1956, and that it was specially commended by the Society; for the article from which I have been reading was one of the prizewinning theses in a competition in connection with the 125th anniversary of the Lord's Day Observance Society. When I once challenged Mr. Legerton on these appalling quotations, he was somewhat flummoxed—but he did not repudiate them.
It is also said in the Crathorne Report that some of the churches claim that the campaign for, for instance, Sunday sport and Sunday entertainment comes only or primarily from what is called "a profit-seeking minority". I do not believe that this is true. I have no doubt that people engaged in these activities will make their profits out of them and will seek to do so. This country is not yet completely dedicated to the abolition of the profit motive. It might be better if it were, perhaps, but it is not. I cannot see that a sport or entertainment which is not considered wrong and sinful on Friday and Saturday ought to be considered wrong or sinful on Sunday.
I think that the pressure for reform—not always very articulate, as, indeed, one would expect in the nature of the case—comes chiefly from young people of all sorts and classes and, to some extent, from foreign visitors, who are appalled to find themselves in the gloom of a typical English Sunday, even in a big city. It has been said in previous debates on this subject that we should not allow foreign tourists to dictate our habits and pattern of life. Of course they should not dictate them, but there are a great many of them coming here now and we are very glad that they do. I think that there is no reason why they should not be considered, among other factors, when we are considering reform. It is part of our sense of hospitality that we should pay some consideration to the needs of visitors. We, after all, have homes in which to spend our Sundays quietly, if we wish. We belong to golf clubs or to other organisations in which we can enjoy our leisure on Sunday; many hon. Members do. We have our own parish or other churches at which we can worship. These foreign visitors, unless they have many English friends, to some extent are stranded in a strange land: we ought to make it a bit easier 877 for them, and for our own young people, to spend their leisure hours at the weekend creatively and refreshingly, even if they do not happen to be churchgoers.
This does not mean that I believe—to quote another phrase constantly used in this context—that Sunday should be "just like any other day". I certainly believe that there is an immense social and therapeutic value in a pause in the routine of daily work, a break in the rhythm. It is good for everyone. But the popular identification of the churches, or some of them, with the present largely oppressive Sunday is extremely damaging, among other things, to the cause of Christianity itself.
There is obviously in practice, however, a considerable difference between country and town. In small country villages—peaceful, quiet places—not much more activity than already occurs on a Sunday is wanted. In big towns, particularly in a great metropolis, a capital such as London, there is a real need of a good deal more activity and entertainment.
Perhaps here I may deal with what I call the myth of the so-called Continental Sunday. Two things can be said about the Continental Sunday. One is that it is a good deal less godless than the dreary English Sunday, if godliness is to be interpreted as going to church. Secondly, it is par excellence a family day in countries such as France and Italy and other Latin countries, of which I suppose we are largely thinking when people talk about a Continental Sunday.
As a matter of fact, when the Crathorne Committee was sitting, a year or two ago, I happened to be in Venice for a few weeks. In view of this then forthcoming Report, I took particular note of the character of Sunday in Venice in September—which, after all, is still the height of the tourist season in one of the most popular tourist resorts in Europe. It is an absolute myth to say that, on the Continent, "everything is open on Sunday." Some people seem to think that all the shops are open and all the factories working. Nothing could be further from the truth. I carefully walked round the piazza of St. Mark in Venice on two or three successive Sunday mornings before midday—because shops might be shay: at midday. Of all the many 878 shops around that piazza, only a very small minority were open and they were mostly the sort of shops which, under the existing law, would be open anyway in Blackpool or Brighton—shops selling postcards, souvenirs, photographic film, that kind of thing.
I hope that the Government will not be frightened by any talk of a Continental Sunday and its dangers and evils. If hon. Members or members of the Government take a look at Sunday, as it is practised in some countries in Europe, they will find that it is very much a family day: the family goes to church together—to Mass, if they are Roman Catholic, as most of them are. After that, in their best clothes, they go to a café, or for a walk together in the park or along a boulevard. It is a delightful occasion and it is a real break in the routine of daily work. But it is not dull and gloomy as our Sabbatarian Sundays are.
I have spoken for long enough and I apologise for detaining the House. The last point I must stress is in connection with Sunday work and entertainment. I agree with those who say that everybody must have the right to attend Sunday worship if he or she wishes to do so. This should not be too difficult, even if some hours of work have to be done on a Sunday. It is probably easier for Anglicans and Roman Catholics, who have more services in the early morning and fairly late in the evening, than it may be for Nonconformists, but this is certainly a principle which must be respected. I remember very clearly that when our friend the late Aneurin Bevan introduced the National Health Service, I had to take up with him the case of some Roman Catholic nurses who were having difficulty about attending Sunday Mass. He gave the most strict instructions that rotas of work were to be arranged so that any nurse who wanted to go to church, whatever her denomination, should be enabled to do so. It ought to be possible to arrange this in any form of employment, work or trade.
Obviously, there would have to be consultation with the various trade unions concerned. I am very glad to see that the actors are no longer, as they were once said to be, absolutely opposed to the Sunday opening of theatres. I do not see any reason why—again, as in some other countries—theatres should not 879 be open on a Sunday and, perhaps, closed on a Monday. Certainly the workers who work on a Sunday, if they wish to, must have compensatory time off on some other day.
This Report is not a drastic one: I do not see how any reasonable man could resist most of its recommendations. Even from my strongly anti-Sabbatarian point of view, I commend it as a distinct advance: I hope that the Government will have the courage to carry out at least these recommendations.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. A. G. F. Hall-Davis (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I feel that I should preface my remarks by mentioning to the House that I am a director of companies which in the normal conduct of their business engage in Sunday trading.
It is a firmly established tradition of the House to show indulgence to an hon. Member who rises to address it for the first time and to encourage him wherever possible. I am sure that this characteristically generous attitude of the House has a lasting influence on the hon. Member's own conduct in the Chamber. In recognition of this reception, he is expected not to plunge too deeply into the stimulating streams of invigorating controversy. This is not as easy as it might appear, for what may seem to one hon. Member to be a strictly straightforward assertion might be viewed very differently by others, particularly by hon. Members opposite.
I am sure of an uncontroversial reception of my first remarks when I say that the constituency of Morecambe and Lonsdale, which I have the honour to represent, is one where those whose spirits are nourished by beauty can truly feast themselves. The ever-changing patterns of light and shade over the sands and shores of Morecambe Bay and the glowing tranquillity of the vales and lakes of north Lancashire and the kindness of the climate all combine to attract people, in their thousands, who are in search of rest and recreation and who make the holiday industry one of the main sources of employment and reward for my constituents.
The holiday industry makes a major contribution to the economic strength of this country. We are used to debating in the House ways of encouraging and stimu- 880 Lating our export industries. I believe that our holiday industry should be looked upon as a major saver of foreign currencies as well as an industry which earns foreign currencies from tourists visiting these shores from overseas.
European Governments cosset and encourage their holiday industries in a way which has no parallel in this country. The holiday industry of this country perhaps feels that its rôle in the economy of the country is not sufficiently appreciated. I notice that there are no little "Neddys" proposed for our holiday industry. However, should it fail to continue to attract in their millions the people who now choose to take their holidays here, the adverse effect on our balance of payments would be substantial, mounting and permanent.
I hope, therefore, that the Government will look favourably on the recommendations dealing with holiday resorts. In saying that, I should also like to make it clear that I respect the attitude of those to whom repeated reference is made in the Report; people who feel that the individual character of Sunday should be preserved as a day set apart from the other working days, a day for corporate worship and for rest, recreation and family pursuits.
One of the most gratifying aspects of the increase in living standards and the growth of leisure which has taken place in recent years is that it has opened the door to a whole new range of activities which families can undertake together. Today it is becoming much rarer for all the members of a family to work in one place of employment. They often work at different hours of the day and it is natural, therefore, that they should wish to take their rest and recreation together at the weekend in surroundings removed from the stress and strain of their daily work.
I hope that the Government will bear this in mind when they consider those recommendations which affect the possibility of catering for the needs of families away from home at the weekend. I particularly wish to refer, in this connection, to one aspect of the present situation which, in my view, should be altered.
The House will probably be aware that it is possible for local authorities in holiday resorts to make an order as a result 881 of which shops can sell a wider range of goods than those which are normally able to be sold on Sunday, but that this is restricted to a maximum of 18 Sundays in any one year. This legislation was enacted in the immediate post-war period when the holiday season was shorter, when the ownership of private transport was restricted to a much narrower range of the community and when the economic benefits of a staggered holiday season had not become so apparent.
Encouraged, or, perhaps I should say, misled by the growth of the holiday season and by the prolonged good weather, certain traders in my constituency were moved to disregard this maximum, arid the general reluctance of the local authority to institute a prosecution was exceeded only by the reluctance of the traders to pay the fines subsequently imposed on them. The continuation of this situation cannot be in anyone's interest and, if it is not possible to introduce legislation before this summer, I ask the Home Secretary if some guidance could be given pending the introduction of legislation to the effect that this type of prosecution should not be instituted.
There is a much wider and more fundamental reason why I hope that in considering the Report the Government will take the opportunity to restrict as far as possible any of those restraints which are not enjoying general public support. We live in an increasingly complex and interdependent society. It is necessary for us to impose restraints on individual freedom of choice by way of public authorities. We in this House are particularly familiar with these: planning controls, traffic regulations, holiday Acts, smoke abatement, the discharge of parental responsibility towards families are but a few. In all these spheres official edicts impinge on the free choice of the individual.
It is extremely important, if we are not to diminish or destroy the respect of the public for those servants of the public who are called upon to enforce these regulations, that we should keep in operation only those restraints which have general public support. This is particularly important now to our police forces, which need the full support of public opinion. Any reaction against these regu882 lations, even when it stems from spheres for which they are not themselves directly responsible, always reacts on our police forces.
I hope, therefore, that the Government, when they consider the recommendations, will bear in mind the desirability of limiting the restraints on individual choice if our well-ordered society is to continue to have the general support of the public. I do not believe that the recommendations in the Report are revolutionary or even evolutionary. They attempt to rationalise the existing situation in a framework of legislation which is logical and easily understood and which will be widely accepted.
The Committee has put forward its recommendations in a reasoned manner and, I believe, has paid due regard to the views of all of those who submitted evidence. I do not think that the recommendations, if implemented, would in any way have undesired effects on the general attitude to Sunday observance. I hope, therefore, that when the Government have heard and considered the views of the House they will not hesitate to introduce legislation.
I thank hon. Members for the indulgence they have shown to me on this the first occasion I have addressed the House.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
It falls to me, a newcomer to the House, to be sufficiently presumptuous to congratulate the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) on his maiden speech. My task is made easier because I know that, in expressing my congratulations, I carry the whole House with me. The hon. Member expressed himself with a lucidity which many of us would be glad to enjoy. He seemed to be entirely free from those butterflies which lurk sometimes in the stomach and which, I am sure, hon. Members with far greater experience of the House than I suffer. We look forward to hearing from him a great deal in future and even those to whom memories of the word Morecambe have a somewhat controversial overtone will be able to feel that on this occasion the hon. Member who represents that constituency acquitted himself well and that the name of Morecambe will at least start off in an uncontroversial manner.
883 As Marcellus, in "Hamlet", says:Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore taskDoes not divide the Sunday from the week:This suggests that Sunday work has never been popular, and he who performs it is regarded by most as having a sore task. The question is whether society is now of a mind very considerably to increase the number of people with such a sore task. The Departmental Committee thinks that we should; the Lord's Day Observance Society thinks that we should not.
Those who replied "No" to the question, "Are you opposed to Sunday opening on any conditions?" in a poll conducted by Actors' Equity outnumbered the opposers by two to one, but as only one-tenth of the membership of that body voted in that poll I am not sure that it is right to assume that the other nine-tenths were either for or against, or did not care. Postal polls are, perhaps, no more certain to be reliable as opinion tests than are sample polls.
The Lord's Day Observance Society points out that of the actors concerned:… 9,756 members expressed no view and thus indicated no real desire for Sunday opening.The association itself says that one may assume that they are not opposed to it in principle. I think that one can make that assumption for the analysis of comment that accompanied the poll showed that opposition generally was not based on religious grounds but came from a desire to have the same day off as family and friends—a very natural human desire.
Actors often work on Sundays—on rehearsals in television, and so on. What they have not done, up to now at any rate, is to perform on the stage on Sundays, and I think it important to provide that there shall be at least one day of non-performance. The day might well be left to the theatrical industry to determine, but I am satisfied that it is essential—and the Committee does not make this point—to provide by legislation that every theatre must be closed on at least one evening each week or, if that is not practicable, that every performer shall be entitled to at least one day of non-performance each week. If 884 we do not provide that, we shall have some actors performing on seven days a week and others performing seven days in the year. I would agree with the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale that legislation should be either observed or changed. This is an added argument for saying that we should not overlong delay the introduction of legislation following the Report.
The Report, in page 59, quotes from the present Act as follows:… no person will be employed by any employer on any Sunday in connection with a cinematograph entertainment or any other entertainment or exhibition given therewith who has been employed on each of the six previous days either by that employer in any occupation or by any other employer in connection with similar entertainments or exhibitions.That, in a nutshell, means that one may be employed only six days a week.
The Committee recommends that that provision shall be retained with the extension envisaged from cinemas to theatres, but from the general recommendation it would exclude performers and people connected with production. In other words, it suggests that such people do not need the protection of having a day off. My argument is that they do need that protection, that they are entitled to it, and that it should be provided for them in any legislation that comes forward. There is no real difficulty in ensuring that people connected with a performance receive by law a day off just as will any other people of the theatre. As the Committee says, no difficulty has been experienced in enforcing this law in regard to those employed in cinemas.
Page 23 of the Report states:Equity and the Variety Artistes' Federation told us that they could secure a measure of protection for such performers through collective agreements and by ensuring that contracts contain suitable safe-guards. We questioned the witnesses closely about this protection and they admitted that it could not be wholly effective. 'Live' entertainment could not be organised so that certain artistes regularly did not appear on a popular evening. Inevitably, therefore, employers would, in selecting performers for employment, be reluctant to consider those known to object to working on Sunday and thus indirect pressure would be brought to bear on them to agree to Sunday work.The Equity witnesses to the Committee, of whom I was one, did not admit the impossibility of protecting the dissenter; 885 they insisted upon it—and, in my view, legislative backing is absolutely necessary. It should be an offence to discriminate against an employee who objects to performing on Sundays; not—let us mark the distinction—to working on Sundays. That cannot be avoided. But the man who objects to giving a public performance in person on Sundays should have the protection of the law as well as that of his trade union.
I disagree with the Departmental Committee on one other major point only. Some element of local option should be retained. I agree with the Association of Municipal Corporations that the option should be exercised by the local authority, but I think that the local authority should have to act in order to get it; that is to say, that Sunday opening of theatres should operate generally and in all areas except those in which the local authority exercises its right of veto. The national Government should override only those local prejudices that are harmful—such as the outmoded superstitution that some special virtue lies in grammar school education—and not those harmless diversities that help to make our society more interesting than it otherwise would be.
I also disagree with the Committee on what is, perhaps, a small point, but one that would involve change in the existing law. The Committee recommends a number of exceptions to the shops that are to be closed on Sunday morning, and exception (16,c) in page 65 relates to shops selling flowers, tobacco and smokers' requisites. It is perfectly proper that people should be allowed to buy flowers on Sundays—for a number of reasons—but I fail to see why they should he encouraged to poison themselves on that day. The flowers may be necessary afterwards—let us have the flowers, but not the means of requiring them for wreaths.
In page 21, the Committee refers to the existing Cinematograph Fund, which is a sort of levy on cinematograph entertainments on Sundays. The Committee says, I think rightly, that this is illogical, that there was never any logic in it, and that if cinemas were open generally whatever little justification there may have been for the levy would be gone. This 886 is true. It is particularly true of that part of the levy which goes to charity—that is, 95 per cent. of it. It is not a large sum altogether, but 95 per cent. of the total sum goes to charity and 5 per cent. goes to the British Film Institute, from which sum the Institute is enabled to help the National Film Theatre.
I suggest that the charity element be abolished. By all means let us all give to charity, but let us not be forced to do so when we go to the cinema on Sunday. There is strong justification for retaining the deduction for the British Film Institute, enabling the Institute to support the National Film Theatre, because most people who go to the cinema to support it commercially would have no objection to making a small contribution—it is less than one farthing—to support the art of the film.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
As one who had a lot to do in the past with financing this body, is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the rest of this fund were to disappear, as the Report rather suggests, he thinks it would be worth keeping the fund in being in order to bring some £8,000 or £9,000 to the British Film Institute, because that seems to be a difficult proposition to defend?
§ Mr. Jenkins
No. I think that the sum should be larger than £8,000 or £9,000. I see no great difficulty about it. Although I know full well that the British Film Institute says that if it could get this money in some other way it would be just as happy, I think that a direct levy on filmgoers to support the organisation which cultivates the art of the film is logical, wise and perfectly practicable.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me what that has to do with Sunday observance?
§ Mr. Jenkins
It has to do with the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Law on Sunday Observance. It is part of the Report. We are discussing the Report. If the hon. and learned Gentleman doubts that, I will refer him to the page and paragraph. That is all I have to say. With those qualifications, I welcome the Report.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I rise with a certain amount of pleasure, having heard the nice things which hon. 887 Members on both sides of the House have said about the Report. I say "with pleasure", because I am the only Member of the House who sat on the Committee who is entitled to speak in the debate. There is one other Member—the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Pentland)—who sat on the Committee but, owing to the Government appointment which he now holds, which has nothing to do with this matter, I presume that he is precluded from intervening in any way. I hope that I, as a fellow member of the Committee, may speak for him as well.
First, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee, I want to express gratitude for the very pleasant things which hon. Members have said about the work which has been put into the Report. As a member of the Committee, I should like to say what a very great help the Chairman, Lord Crathorne, was in inquiring fully into these matters and presiding over the Committee, producing what is virtually a unanimous Report. Lord Crathorne is better known in this House as "Tommy" Dugdale.
As it is not permissible to mention civil servants by name in the House, I shall merely read a short passage from page 1 of the Report:We should like to place on record our gratitude to our Secretary, Miss M. Hornsby, for the services which she has rendered. She has throughout the three years of our deliberations ably and cheerfully assisted us in assembling the evidence and other information relevant to our inquiry, and in the later stages in the drafting of our Report. Our thanks are also due to the staff of the Home Office who have helped Miss Hornsby to carry out her secretarial duties.I thoroughly endorse every word in that paragraph.
I said that I was the only member of the Committee who is entitled to speak. I should make it clear that, though I signed the Report, I was appointed to take the place of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) in October, 1962. I therefore took part in the vast majority of the Committee's deliberations.
I remind the House that our terms of reference were very limited. We had to consider only entertainments, sports, pastimes and trading, with the exception 888 of broadcasting and television. We spent a long time considering the laws and we heard a great deal of evidence on this aspect. We found that today the law is out of date, uncertain and difficult to enforce. It has no public support and, indeed, it is little understood or respected by anybody. In these circumstances, there is no question but that it must be changed in the light of modern habits and facilities.
The Home Secretary mentioned a large number of the Acts which are law today, though some of the older ones are not in force. When those Acts were passed, certainly in the 1780 Act, the whole situation was different. People lived in their own parishes and hardly ever met the people of the adjoining parishes. Today there is much more leisure. There is much more money. This applies particularly to the young. Much more entertainment is available. There is a much greater demand for facilities for shopping, for entertainment and for being entertained on Sunday when people go out from their homes. If they do not get these facilities, they get into mischief. This applies particularly to the young. Is it better that young people should be standing on street corners or that they should go to a cinema or a dance hall where they can have some healthy enjoyment?
Therefore, the object of the Committee was to recommend changes in the law which could be respected by the vast majority of people and enforced by those whose duty it is to enforce the law, without giving offence to any large section of the community. All the religious bodies which gave evidence before us said that it is certain that people cannot be driven to church by depriving them of any other occupation. If that were attempted, it would cause only a feeling of antipathy against religious bodies rather than encourage support for the churches.
Several attempts to change the law have been made in the past, generally by means of Private Members' Bills. I shall not refer to all those Bills. Many of them are referred to in our Report. This is not a suitable subject for private Members' legislation. It is too complicated and too long. It is for the Government of the day to introduce legislation.
889 We heard evidence from many different individuals and bodies, coming from every extreme. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) read some of the remarks of the Lord's Day Observance Society, which represents a very small minority with strong views, which they certainly express strongly and freely. If this minority were to attempt to enforce those views, or if the Committee had recommended those views, I am sure that they would not have had the support of anything but a very tiny minority. I say at once that, if that had been the case, I for one would not have signed the Report.
The principle upon which the Committee acted was that, although such views were quite untenable, unenforceable and unwanted by the majority, nevertheless it would be wrong to suggest that Sunday should be like any other day. Sunday should be a different day from the other six days. We had to consider what the present up-to-date conditions of the people were and what their wishes about Sunday were.
They are the people who decide what they want. It is not for us to order what they should do. We already have live plays and entertainments on Sundays—by "live" I mean that they are not recorded—and they are given before large audiences. The only reason why they can be given is that the audiences are nonpaying. In view of that fact, in my opinion and, I believe, in the opinion of the Committee, it would be quite absurd if audiences were not allowed to witness pertormances on Sundays under exactly the same conditions.
Of course, Sunday should be a different day from the rest of the week. One of the principles on which the Committee acted was that there should be a minimum amount of extra employment on Sundays. That there is employment on Sundays already is obvious. A certain number of transport workers, entertainment workers and others are already employed on Sundays, and Sunday may be one of the busiest days in tourist resorts. That principle was borne in mind by members of the Committee when we were considering the question of work on Sunday, and it was very much in our minds when sport was considered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharpies) criticised the 890 distinctions we made between spectator and player sports, but I think that when hon. Members study this point a little more closely they will see that the Committee has done its best and has arrived at a correct decision.
If sport were allowed on Sundays to the extent that it is allowed on Saturdays, consider what would happen. There would be big football matches, attended by thousands of people. That in itself might be fairly harmless, but consider all the transport workers who would be required to get the crowds to these matches. Think of the catering workers who would have to provide food and drink, and the extra police who would have to control the crowds. This is a situation which it is desired to avoid.
The smaller sports events certainly should not be discouraged. I am thinking of the village bowling party which plays against a neighbouring village, the sort of thing which I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow) had in mind when he introduced, a little prematurely, his Private Member's Bill. As the Committee said, it is not an easy matter to decide; the difficulty is to find the dividing line. If we allow people to play golf, bowls, football and other sports, how can we stop these concourses of people with the attendant extra employment and noise created?
I think that the House will agree that we have come very near, if not completely, to the point of solving that difficult question. Of course, one can think of some player sports which attract fairly large crowds and of some spectator sports where there are small crowds, but if we take the extreme case we come very close to the borderline. Taking it as near as one can to find a correct definition, I think that the House will agree that the Committee has come to a very satisfactory conclusion on this matter.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I agree with the argument which my hon. and learned Friend has deployed, but I am sure that he has not overlooked the fact that a number of very large matches take place in this country on Saturdays, and under the recommendations of the Crathorne Report they could take place on Sundays because the participants are all amateurs.
§ Mr. Doughty
That is exactly the the point that I was making. Someone can always raise a borderline case and quote a large match such as a 'varsity match. But by and large, as a general principle, hon. Members will find that large conglomerations of people with all the attendant services that they require are excluded, as I believe hon. Members would desire, whereas amateur competitions, friendly games, and so forth, would be allowed more freedom on Sundays than they have had in the past.
The question of the Sunday opening of shops is extremely difficult. The law at present is quite chaotic. I will not refer to such things as mobile shops, but it is very difficult to explain to a customer who goes to buy an article from a chemist that he cannot also buy a tube of toothpaste. If a shop is open, it should be possible to buy at that shop all the goods that it stocks. We have suggested a relaxation within the law, and I think that the House will agree that we have brought it up to date and made it more practical so that not only the shopkeeper, but also the customer, may understand what is happening.
The question of tourist resorts—and here I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) on his excellent maiden speech—constitutes an ever-increasing problem because of increased leisure and facilities for travel. Large numbers of people go away not only for holidays, but for a day's outing on Sundays. They expect to be able to buy such things as swimming suits and films, and the law is not sufficiently wide; 18 Sundays are not enough. This is the only case in which local option should define what is a tourist resort.
The Committee has not sought to define a tourist resort, because it is very difficult. For example, London is one of the largest tourist resorts in the world, but should we have a special regulation by which shops are open on Sundays because it is a tourist resort? This is a matter which should be left to the local authorities to decide.
Having said that, may I add that I disagree with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) on the question of local option with regard to opening theatres and such places. This was considered by the Committee. If this matter 892 became the subject of local option, it would be bound to become the subject of local politics. One party or another, or an independent candidate, would soon be asked whether they were for or against the opening of local cinemas, and I think that would be undesirable. This is apart from the fact that if the law is to be changed it should be changed throughout the country, and if local feeling is against the opening of cinemas on Sundays the lack of patronage in itself would make it impracticable for theatres or cinemas to open on that day.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Would not the hon. and learned Gentleman say that there is nothing wrong in local opinion expressing itself? Does he not agree that there may be parts of Wales, for example, where there might be unanimity among political parties on this point? Will he not accept that here is one matter on which it might be reasonable and proper to allow local people to say whether or not they want this sort of thing?
§ Mr. Doughty
No, that is not so. It has been tried in the past. It has been tried in connection with the opening of cinemas. In fact, local people do not express their opinion, except for a very few who hold very strong views one way or the other. Unless we have a local election with everybody voting, the matter will be decided, as it has been in the past, by a very few people, since general opinion is not expressed strongly enough.
§ Mr. Doughty
I will certainly give way, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman that this Report is not confined to Scotland.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
That is not my point. The point is that we are talking about local opinion polls and local option. Would the hon. and learned Member abolish local government elections because in certain areas as few as 20 per cent. of the electors go out to vote?
§ Mr. Doughty
No, that does not follow from my remarks, but it follows that when this question simply and solely is put forward the record has been in the 893 past that one does not get a fair cross-section of local opinion. The House should make up its mind on this question of the opening of cinemas and theatres, always remembering that if local opinion is against it the cinema may be closed for the best reason of profit motive.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
The proposal which I was arguing was that of the Association of Municipal Corporations which is not that, as in the past, a special poll should be taken on the subject, but that option should be exercised by the local authority and that the local authority would be acting generally as part of its general policy. It would not be a special decision. There is a difference between us and I want to be sure what that difference it.
§ Mr. Doughty
That is not a good idea. A man may be elected because he is a good Socialist or a good Conservative and yet have totally different views on this subject from those held by his electors. The Committee had the opinion of the Association. It was carefully gone into and considered and for a variety of reasons, some of which I have given, it was not thought desirable to have local option on this subject. I hope that when legislation is drafted it will not attempt to introduce what I consider, and the Committee considered, undesirable local option.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) is so wrapped in a sabbatarian cocoon—
§ Mr. Doughty
I hope that my hon. Friend has come out of it and that he will support the Committee's Report. I know what some of my hon. Friend's views sometimes are on this question and, therefore, since I cannot speak twice in the debate, I take the opportunity now to refer to my hon. Friend. If he supports in any way the views of the Lord's Day Observance Society I would remind him that those are the views of a very small minority and that members of the Committee are themselves professing Christians and regularly go to church. There will be ample opportunity to continue to attend church if the Committee's recommendations are passed into law, I hope that in view of modern conditions we shall not have arguments 894 based on saying what existed in the first decades of anno Domini and that my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon will support the Committee's recommendations.
The law is still in this archaic, unenforceable and incomprehensible condition. The Committee has endeavoured to the best of its ability to make its recommendations up-to-date and easily understandable by the people. Nothing can be done about these recommendations until the Government of the day introduce the necessary legislation. I believe that if the legislation followed the principles of the Report it would go through the House on debate without a Division. The specific recommendations are another matter but I am sure that such legislation would have the support of an overwhelming majority of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
Until that happens there can be no change. Until that happens these will be merely Committee recommendations which will be soon forgotten in a pigeonhole of a Government Department and our work will be wasted. I do not mind for myself, but I look forward to hearing from the Government today what their intentions are about implementing the recommendations. I promise them that I will support them if the legislation follows the broad principles of the Report. I believe that my hon. and right hon. Friends will also support them. I look forward to that day when we shall be proud to have taken part in the deliberations of a Committee which made recommendations to alter the law of the country on Sunday observance.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I should like to join hon. Members who have spoken in complimenting the Committee, including the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), upon the readability and lucidity of the Report. While it is readable it is not, however, equally digestible to people like myself. Not so long ago it might not have appeared to be so digestible to the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East, because in the last debate on this or a related subject not many months ago he was taking a rather different approach.
§ Mr. Doughty
If the hon. Member is referring to the occasion when I spoke on a Private Member's Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir J. Barlow), what I said then was that my hon. Friend was jumping the gun. I said then, and I have repeated it today, that this is not a matter which can be tackled by private Members' legislation. Matters contained in my hon. Friend's Bill are incorporated in the Committee's recommendations, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will support us.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The hon. and learned Member was at that time addressing a reprimand to his hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich for jumping the gun; but the hon. and learned Member was also pointing a gun at him. If the hon. and learned Member reads that speech of his today—I well recollect it; though perhaps in his modesty he does not recollect it as well as I do—he will find that he went much further afield than merely raising the question of jumping the gun. The hon. and learned Member challenged my intervention a few minutes ago before he had heard it, though he was good enough to reply to it, on the ground that he did not see why a representative of Scotland or the Western Isles should be anxious about this debate. I am not only a delegate for the Western Isles or for Scotland but a representative Member of the House, and I hope that each one of us speaks with full right as a Member of this British House of Commons.
Against the wider historical background, the hon. and learned Member must remember that, in so far as Christianity is in every way relevant to the debate, it was an export from the Western Isles to the neighbouring island of Great Britain, and not the other way round. The name of the Island of Iona must shine for all time as the chief and brightest jewel in the crown of early Christianity. The hon. and learned Member owes the Western Isles quite a lot in that respect at least. My fear is that the hon. and learned Member and those like him might attempt to re-export Christianity back to the Western Isles in a rather battered form, including a mutilated version of the Christian Sunday as it has been observed, or rather as it has not been adequately observed, over these 2,000 years.
896 Part of the case against the British Sunday, if we may call it that, is the same so-called case that has been brought against Christianity itself—that it has failed, because so many people have failed to understand or to practise it. That is not necessarily the failure of the institution so much as the failure of people to appreciate its value. When I say "appreciate" and value it, I apply that remark in particular to the mass of the people who have so much to lose if they gave up or found themselves deprived of one of the most important protective institutions which has helped the working class to avoid complete exploitation seven days a week through the centuries.
This is an important aspect of this subject which we have not heard referred to yet, except obliquely, parenthetically or tangentially by hon. Members now and again. This, I should have thought, was one of the most important aspects of the question that the Committee had before it. The Committee debated the questions which would arise, for example, if Parliament decided to implement the Report's own recommendation on shop Sundays hours. The Committee insists that if a worker works over four hours on a Sunday he will have to be compensated by a day's holiday during weekdays. But that only shows that the Committee, in fairness, had some idea of how important it was not to deprive the workers of even that four hours on Sunday and how important it was to compensate them.
Many centuries ago, this was all understood and, as it were, legislated for through the Sabbath law. One of the great values of Sunday as a day of rest is that it gives such complete and universal protection. One wonders how many additional millions of years of work ordinary people would have had to put in if they had not had protection in that particular and specific form. It has been calculated that, in a lifetime of 70 years, the working of Sundays as an extra day would represent ten extra years of work in a person's life, which would be a tremendous additional exploitation of a person's toil and skill.
To breach the protection Sunday provides against such exploitation is a very serious matter, and I should not wish this Government to go down in history 897 as the Government chiefly responsible or in any way responsible for breaching that vital protective bastion against further exploitation of the working people. I hope that Ministers will keep this very much in mind. It is all very well for hon. Members on both sides to say about Sabbatarians that we are dealing only with minorities. There are minorities in every constituency in this country who feel strongly on the subject, not only on religious grounds, not only on grounds of conscience, principle and the rest, but also upon other very important practical, intimate, personal grounds. They are resentful of the idea that we should widen the field of exploitation against them. This is what it would come to. It is all very well to say that it would be permissive, but, eventually, it would certainly become general and, when it became general and competitive among tradesmen, shopkeepers and the like, Sunday work would become universal and obligatory.
§ Mr. Doughty
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why people who hold these views, for which I have the greatest respect, should, out of all minorities, seek to enforce them on others who are the great majority?
§ Mr. MacMillan
The hon. and learned Gentleman is missing the point. Millions of people will be affected by this sort of proposed legislation. He will recall—he will probably remember it better than he remembered his own earlier speech to which I referred—that on page 15 of his own Committee's Report figures are given of the number of persons who would have to be employed in various ways through Sunday opening. In retail establishments, including working proprietors, there would be 2½ million; in cinemas, theatres, radio and so on there are 130,000; in sports and other recreations there are 54,000, and in all industries together there are 20¾ million people who would be affected in England and Wales alone if this Report were implemented. This is a considerable section of the entire working population, and to talk of a so-called reform which would inflict an obligatory day of employment on them on their present statutory day of rest—upon 20 million people—as though it were a minor reform is to talk a lot of nonsense. It is by no means a minor change 898 in the law. It is a sweeping change which would affect the majority, by a long way, of the working people of this country.
There have been some strange and not very accurate references by hon. Members on both sides, including the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) who opened for the Opposition, to earlier Acts, in which they suggested that those Acts were intended solely to drive people to church, that they merely made it compulsory to go to church, and so on. At one time, many years ago—more years than I care to remember—I had to study these Acts in connection with seventeenth century history. I think I still know what they contain. If the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam will look through them, he will find very few references to, or emphasis on, compulsion to go to church and matters of that kind. The emphasis in them was upon the principle of Sunday observance and the importance of protecting Sunday as a day of rest and associated matters. The question of compulsion to go to church is not their main point.
The other matter with which those Acts were chiefly concerned was the prevention—and punishment, if one likes—of certain abuses committed on Sundays. Until now, until 1964, our enlightened Parliament and nation have never seen fit greatly to change those Acts or to take a course other than that which was taken in previous centuries to protect Sunday rest and in trying to prevent certain abuses on Sunday.
One comment running through some speeches in support of the plea for legislation has been to the effect that, if entertainment was improper on Sunday, it was just as undesirable on weekdays. I do not think that anyone would dispute that; but it has long been unanimously accepted that many weekday activities, including certain entertainments which may be desirable and even deemed necessary on weekdays, are not desirable on Sundays for many reasons, among them the reason I gave earlier, that they involve employment of large numbers of people. Some hon. Gentlemen have tried to excuse the evasions of the Crathorne Committee—I am sorry to use that word about it—in drawing this strange and, at times, very blurred line of demarcation between amateur and paid participants, gentlemen and players, but with the spectators paying 899 all the time while someone makes enormous profits. When I hear that sort of evasion, it strikes me as far more a matter for a charge of hypocrisy than the so-called hypocrisy of those who believe in Sunday observance, sometimes for very sound and noncommercial reasons. Considerations of private profit and commercial exploitation do not enter into genuine Sunday observance itself; but they do very much enter into the demands for its abolition or even modification.
We now have the five-day week, and if we had not, we should be fighting for it very hard, at least on this side of the House. The trade unions fought very hard for the reduction of working hours, the reduction of the number of days in the week when workers have to work to earn their living. Indeed, the Labour movement should be the very first to defend the statutory day of rest for the working people. Of course it should, and I should have expected that it would by now be the enlightened and accepted responsibility of hon. Members in all parts of the House to safeguard the important principle involved.
We are moving, with automation, mechanisation and the application of science and technology to industry, towards the four-day week. Probably, we shall eventually reach the three-day week. But this does not strengthen the case for abolition of the British Sunday. It takes the argument the opposite way. There is less and less need to deprive the workers and the community generally of the day which ought, in fact, to be welcomed and cherished as a day of rest, a day of escape from the noise and turmoil of city life and the stresses of modern life generally. As leisure extends, the anti-Sunday case weakens, and the case for one day being set aside as a day of rest and recreation, in the best sense, becomes stronger rather than the reverse.
§ Mr. Doughty
If it were such a day in fact, I could follow the hon. Gentleman, but does he think that it is ill summer in Scotland? Does he think that it is on the Brighton road or the Southend road in England today? Cannot he come up to date?
§ Mr. MacMillan
The reason why, increasingly, tourists come up from 900 Brighton, from London and even from parts of Wales, if I may say so without offence to my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland is, clearly, that they want to escape from the noise, stress and bustle of the cities. They want space and peace and silence. The hon. and learned Gentleman will have heard the phrase, almost a cliché now, about "the creative power of silence." This is what people are seeking. They are seeking relaxation, release, trying to escape briefly from the endless noise and increasing tempo of industrial and urban life. This is why we have such a growing tourist drive to the Highlands and Islands, with people coming from the south of England itself. They are looking for something different, trying to get away from the familiar, characteristic turbulence of the city, the Liverpools and Brightons and the Londons of Britain. I cannot understand anyone going from one city to another for a holiday. That is exactly what people do. So many people go from Glasgow to the Scottish coast, or from London to Brighton, and must have waiting for them there all the familiar institutions of their own cities and towns—everything from fish and chips to night clubs.
On the other hand, there are many people—and their numbers are increasing—who seek places which are different, which have peace to offer and which give them a break from the furious tempo of city living.
What I am anxious about in this Report—
§ Sir John Barlow (Middleton and Prestwich)
Would the hon. Gentleman restrict the tourist trade in Scotland on Sundays?
§ Mr. MacMillan
I would restrict the tourist trade in Scotland no more than I would restrict the ordinary Scottish citizen. When the hon. Gentleman and I go abroad we do not expect to be welcome if we try to upset and destroy the laws and institutions of the country we are visiting. Part of the charm of a place that we do not know is the fact that we do not know it. We do not set out deliberately to destroy its characteristics or come home disgruntled and miserable because the place to which we have gone especially to enjoy a change is different from the place with which we are familiar every day. The tourist to this 901 country is treated in exactly the same way and is given the same consideration as the person living in any part of the country. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman's sense of justice.
The implementation of the recommendations of the Departmental Committee would mean that fewer and fewer people would have at least one assured day of rest. More and more people would be involved in additional unavoidable employment. To most of them it would be unwelcome but inescapable employment once the practice was extended on a highly competitive scale as far as is recommended by the Departmental Committee.
Hon. Members opposite talk disparagingly about the number of old Sunday Observance Acts of Parliament which there are on the Statute Book. They put forward their antiquity as a condemnation of those Acts of Parliament. That argument, if it is an argument, comes least convincingly of all from the lips of hon. Members opposite. To use that argument is to extend the field of criticism of our legislation very widely indeed. We need only mention Habeas Corpus or Magna Carta to have them leaping up to contradict their own condemnation of antiquity as such in Acts of Parliament.
I hope that this Report will not be implemented. We have far more important things to do that to start wrecking Acts of Parliament which, however obsolete many of them may be and however unenforceable many of their provisions may be, nevertheless have an important value and protection for many people. We have far more important things to do than to mess about our old but often still useful Acts of Parliament at a time when the Government have more than a plateful of legislation—enough to last them for at least the next 12 or 13 years of office.
May I ask, why has 12.30 on a Sunday in this Report become a holy time among the very people who say that the seventh day—the old usage—or the Sabbatical day, week or year is a "holy number" usage, associated with some age old superstitution. What is the special point of 12.30 in the day? Why has this become a "holy number"? This is a peculiar thing. Hon. Members opposite who were members of the Committee were 902 obviously, and rightly, extremely anxious to satisfy the requirements of certain minorities, which is very desirable, even if they do not happen to be strict Sabbatarians. But here again comes one of their inconsistencies. They are extremely anxious to make sure that our Jewish citizens are well looked after on Sunday opening matters. They are extremely anxious that the Moslems in our midst should be almost mollycoddled in the matter of Sunday opening and closing of their shops. They are, again rightly, extremely anxious not to offend the larger Roman Catholic minority by making sure that nothing happens before 12.30 on Sundays.
However, the poor old Protestant majority is completely forgotten. A tremendous number of Protestants go to Church in the afternoon and in the evening—or they ought to, or certainly used to. At all events, they still constitute the majority by many millions. Yet the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East who talked about the minorities with such contempt when they did not suit his argument is now prepared to abandon the majority when they are counted in millions. Therefore, 12.30 becomes a holy time of day before which nothing profane should happen on Sunday.
The Committee makes a very powerful recommendation that nobody should start up a circus between two o'clock in the morning and 12.30 in the afternoon on Sundays. I cannot imagine that many people are thinking of opening a circus at quarter past two on Sunday morning. I do not think that anybody is likely to open a funfair at three o'clock on a Sunday morning. It certainly would not be a commercial proposition, to say the least; and it would very much look like a madhouse. But even this so-called "concession" is to Sabbatarians again related to the 12.30 deadline. This all seems rather unreal and silly.
One of my hon. Friends condemned the Puritan tradition. There may be a case against the Puritan tradition, and certainly there is a case for it. I do not want to enter into that argument now because it extends not only to Britain but across the Atlantic and eastward into Europe. It was in many respects a very powerful and honourable tradition. Even 903 if they be only minorities who call themselves Calvinists and Puritans, I must honestly say that much of their way of life and practice of Christianity is evidence of their honesty and sincerity to me—far more than I find in the Departmental Committee's Report, which would allow "gentlemen" but not professionals to play rugby or cricket while the spectators pay, and would not be allowed to see the game if they did not pay.
There are many inconsistencies in the Report. While it is readable enough, it is not as to content digestible to me. To say that the Press generally welcomed it is to forget that many newspapers, from the Economist down to the Motor Cyclist, condemned the inconsistencies and evasiveness of the Report and what is called in one case the hypocritical drawing of lines between the professional and the amateur in the sports which it proposes to allow or ban according to whether they are played by amateurs or professionals. It is impossible to say that the Press generally supported the Report all the way. As the Report became digested there emerged other comments upon these recommendations less friendly and more critical than the early comments. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East will find that that is correct if he looks up his Press files on the subject.
I find it hard to believe that millions of people are chafing, frustrated and suffering, under the harsh and oppressive disciplines of Sunday observance laws which hon. Members say are not being enforced and cannot be enforced. I do not find any evidence for this, to me, astounding claim. I have not seen millions of people looking miserable, grim and grey hoping that the Report will be immediately put into operation by the Socialist Government, who were not given a mandate to do any such thing but were given a mandate to do far more urgent and creative things. That is not my experience of the British public. Hon. Members opposite must encounter more anti-Sunday gloom than I do.
I am in one of the most Sabbatarian communities, but its members actually enjoy being freed from exploitation and work on the one sure day when nobody 904 can compel them to go to work. Most of them like going to church. Some of the younger ones may not, but they still go. They go by virtue of an inner discipline which they exert on themselves. Nobody forces them to go, and nobody can force them to go. Certainly no Act of Parliament which the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East and his colleagues say is unenforceable could possibly drive them there if they did not want to go.
Many people will greatly resent the idea in this Report that they should be compelled to go back over the centuries, should scrap this protective Sunday bulwark against exploitation and have to be called out by the boss under the pressure of competition upon the one day which, through the centuries, has been assured to them as a day on which the whole family could come together, regardless of what their employment was, and meet and get away from the toil and worries of the week. That was why, when my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) spoke about the Continental Sunday, I largely agreed with him. It is quite true that some people overstate the irresponsible hilarity of the Continental Sunday, but the case made by my hon. Friend was as good a case for the British Sunday as I have ever heard made.
My hon. Friend made the case for Sunday as the family day when all the members of the family—the chap who drives the bus, the fellow who is a teacher and the daughter who may be working in an office—can all come together, meet as a family unit and get away from and forget their weekday troubles, knowing perfectly well that none of them will be called out at any moment to drive the bus, to do some teaching or to go in to the office on that day at least. To create all the uncertainty which the Committee's recommendations are likely to create is to undermine the confidence and security of that one assured day of family reunion.
That is extremely important. I have heard it argued so often by trade unionists in this House. An old colleague of ours, who is now dead—I refer to the late Mr. Joe Banfield—fought year after year to make sure that bakers did not have to bake on Sunday. Other hon. Members did the 905 same kind of thing. One fought for the barbers—to make sure that they did not have to turn out at their trade on Sundays. So it goes throughout the whole trade union movement as their members have all tried to make sure that on that one specific day their members were not called out and did not have to work. The effect of implementing the Report would be to put the clock back, to put that progressive old Sunday trend into reverse and to deny increasingly to more and more millions of people the right to their Sunday rest.
And so I accept all the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking when he said that the important thing in the Continental or any other Sunday was that it was a family day. That is an excellent argument for protecting family life against the Committee's recommendations and against legislation on the lines recommended by the Committee.
My hon. Friend also said that the Continentals do not particularly run riot on Sunday; they go, he said, and have a coffee and they have a walk in the park after church. There is nothing to stop anybody here having a coffee or a walk in the park under present Sunday law conditions, and without carrying out any of the recommendations of the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East or his Committee. If that is the characteristic Continental Sunday, particularly in Venice, which was the instance quoted, there is no special reason why we should run riot in legislation when all that we have to provide for is a walk in the park or a coffee in the afternoon on a Sunday. I do not see that we have to scrap all this existing body of legislation to get things which people can already get without any legislation at all. I see, therefore, no reason for all the enthusiasm with which my hon. Friend supports the Committee's recommendations.
The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East asked me a question about the Highlands and Islands, and I will finish on this point. I know that strictly advertising is banned in these debates, particularly when associated with a matter of such importance as this. The people whom I find coming increasingly to the Highlands and 906 Islands in particular, however, are those who want to see the Highlands and Islands as they are, not looking like Brighton, not looking like the heart of London and not looking like Glasgow, because the Londons, the Brightons, the Glasgows, the Liverpools and the rest are the places from which they want to get away.
The reason why people come up to the Highlands and Islands and return there is that in that area there still is a certain regard for the principles, governing the day of rest, which are embodied in the Acts of Parliament that some hon. Members and the Crathorne Committee want to scrap without putting anything in their place—at least, without putting anything comparable in their place. They want to please, they keep suggesting, the greatest number of people; and also make possible the greatest possible commercial gain. So does the average prostitute. To satisfy these two requirements would not in itself give any merit to the recommendations of the Committee. It would certainly give no virtue to any legislation spawning from those recommendations.
We should at all costs keep what we have and protect, as far as we can by the existing laws and every other means, the rights and safeguards which have been built around the conditions of work and the right to rest and leisure of our people. I hope that we shall see in our own time a future of expanding leisure, with better opportunities for the creative enjoyment of leisure. In the meantime, however, do not let us destroy the assured rest and the assured opportunity for family gathering, for tranquillity, peace and healing silence which the existing Acts of Parliament at least have safeguarded up to now.
§ Mr. Doughty
Will the hon. Member accept my assurance that I now fully understand why our terms of reference were confined to England and Wales?
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
An earlier speaker made a statement with which, at least, all of us can agree when he said that this is a subject that is controversial, on which there are many differences of opinion and which cuts right across ordinary party alignments. There is no doubt that that is true. I 907 find myself in the regrettable position on this occasion of differing quite materially from the views advanced to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples).
I hope that we will hear a forthright speech from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), who has always taken a prominent and distinguished part in past debates on this subject. It was a little unfortunate that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) endeavoured to impose a little mild intimidation upon the hon. Gentleman. I feel quite sure that he will in no way bow to that intimidation, but that we shall, in due course, listen to the sort of forthright speech which we have all enjoyed so much in the past.
It is clear from what has been said that the position of those of us who, on general grounds, oppose relaxations in the Sunday law is woefully misunderstood by some who have spoken in this debate. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty)—I am sure, unwittingly—attributed to me positions which I have never taken up and views which I do not hold and never have held. I am not a sabbatarian, extreme or otherwise. I do not myself keep the Sabbath, I never have kept the Sabbath, I have never advised other people to keep the Sabbath and I have never discussed in this House any law relating to Sabbath observance.
I do, however, happen to belong to the not inconsiderable body of people in this House and in the country who believe that there are certain sanctions that should be recognised and accepted in connection with the Christian Sunday and its observance. That is a completely different matter to observing and keeping the Sabbath and it rests on entirely different considerations and arguments.
In view of all the imputations that are made from time to time against those of us who take up this position, and the misunderstandings that obviously exist regarding our position and our reasons for it, it may, perhaps, be convenient if, at the outset, I say three or four things regarding my general position in this matter. I think that the principles which I shall enunciate would probably be 908 fairly generally held among people whose conclusions are similar to mine on this matter.
First, let me make it clear that we are not, and we do not consider ourselves as being, enemies of individual liberty, but that we regard ourselves as upholders of liberty in its true and in its best sense. As the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has pointed out, practically every recommendation for the relaxation of the Sunday laws involves employment on Sundays of people who do not at present work on Sundays.
We as a House have a duty to protect the right of those people, a right which we wish to preserve for ourselves, to observe Sunday in the way in which they wish to observe it. Our view is simply this, that other people should not selfishly require people to work on their behalf on Sundays for their convenience or entertainment, except, of course, in the case of works of necessity. Therefore. those who hold my general view on this matter are, in my submission, standing for the liberty of as many people as possible to spend Sunday in the way in which they desire to spend it.
To offer extra money or alternative time off is no adequate or acceptable compensation for the loss of the Sunday rest. It has already been pointed out that Sunday is and should be the great day of the family, when the family can worship together, and spend the day together. Of course, it is obvious that this becomes impossible if each member of the family has his day of rest on a different day in the week. It is for that reason that alternative time off on another day of the week is unacceptable to multitudes of people, if they are to be required to work on Sundays when they do not wish to do so.
Let me make it quite clear that we do not oppose the repeal of those Sunday laws which are centuries old, obsolete, and not, in any case, enforced or enforceable. I think that far too much has been made of those ancient laws, and far too much has been pinned upon them. They are laws which are not and cannot be enforced today, and, speaking for myself, I would welcome their early repeal and removal from the Statute Book. Not that that would in any way affect the question of administration of law today, but it 909 would remove the altogether false arguments which are based upon their presence on the Statute Book.
While we recognise that there are anomalies in the existing Sunday law—and the Sunday law is not peculiar in this respect: it would be difficult to find any branch of the law in which there are not anomalies—this is in our view inevitable because the law is a long-worked-out compromise between two extreme positions. We are willing to consider any reasonable proposals for the removal of those anomalies; but we believe the existence of the anomalies to be greatly exaggerated, and, furthermore, that the advocates of the curing of the anomalies nearly always wish to cure them by means of further relaxations in the Sunday law and never by means of tightening up in the existing law where obviously the intention of the existing law is being frustrated.
I come now, having tried to make my own position clear on the general principles, to the main proposals of the Departmental Committee and to the objections which, in common with a great many other people, I see to them. I want to deal with them under three main headings.
First, there are the proposals regarding Sunday entertainments. I do not understand the case which is endeavoured to be made by the Committee in favour of the abolition of the exercise of local option in regard to the Sunday opening of cinemas. All kinds of general suggestions have been made as to the unsatisfactory character and the unsuitability of those polls which are taken in certain instances. I believe that it would be a tremendous injustice by act of this House to enforce Sunday opening of cinemas in districts where, time and time again, the people in those localities have voted for the closing of those cinemas.
It seems strange that this general case is endeavoured to be made against a local poll when, only within the last year or two, the House has given its approval to the use of this very device of local polls in order to settle the question of which of the districts in Wales should have the right to keep public houses closed on Sundays. How could we have been right within the last two or three years in having set up for that purpose the system of local option when we are now 910 being asked to abolish that very system on the general ground of its unsuitability when applied to the question of the Sunday opening of cinemas? I believe it would be a great injustice to those places which have consistently voted for Sunday closing if the House were in that casual way to override their clearly expressed views down the years.
I come now to the question of the Sunday opening of theatres. I do not myself take the view that the opening of theatres on Sundays can be regarded as in all respects analogous to the opening of cinemas. The number of people employed at the theatres would necessarily be much greater, in relation to the numbers of people in the audience, than is the case with cinemas.
I find myself quite unimpressed by the argument of Equity, the trade union of those who appear in stage plays. The argument, as I understand it, is this. About 11,000 members of Equity were all circularised to ascertain their views on this matter and only about 1,200, or a little more than 10 per cent., of those returned the voting papers; out of that 1,200 about 800 were in favour of Sunday opening and about 400 were against; and very nearly 10,000 did not return the voting papers at all. Equity says that as they did not return the papers and vote against it may be reasonably assumed that they did not object to Sunday opening.
Why should anyone assume that? It would be equally sensible to assume that the 25 per cent. of the electors who did not vote at the last General Election, if they had gone to the polls, would all have voted Socialist or all have voted Tory. To try to exercise that gift of prophecy regarding what the voting intentions of people would have been who were not interested enough to fill in the papers had they been sufficiently interested to do so seems to me to be a kind of argument to which we ought to attach no importance at all.
I would draw the conclusion from those voting figures that there were only 800 people out of 11,000 who were sufficiently interested in this matter, and, in particular, were sufficiently desirous of having to work on Sundays, and that all the rest obviously had no enthusiasm for any such thing.
911 I come secondly to the question of spectator sports. I do not want to say more than a word or two about that, because I think that it is quite clear from what has been said that even those organs of the Press, which are generally in favour of the recommendations of the Committee, regard this as the most controversial and the least desirable and the least practicable of the recommendations. Everybody who has anything to do with sports knows that the line between the unpaid or amateur players and the paid or professional players is a line which, to all intents and purposes, has very largely ceased to exist today, in the case of people who are playing before spectators who pay to see them.
If the real facts were known about a great many people who are classified as unpaid, as amateurs, but who receive expenses which are probably in excess of the wages paid to other players who are professionals, it would be realised just how artificial a line this is.
§ Sir C. Black
I am not quite sure to which of the sporting activities that take place in my constituency the hon. Gentleman is referring. The general statement that I have made is not based on any inside knowledge about the nefarious working of the amateur system. It is based on general information which I suggest is within the knowledge of every Member of the House, and nearly every member of the public.
To destroy the present test of Sunday legality, the present test being that it is illegal if the audience pays, but legal if it does not, and to substitute the test that it should be legal for the audience to pay if the players are not paid, but illegal if the players are paid, is to put up a test which anyone who knows anything about the conditions of sport today must recognise could be overriden, and would be overriden and evaded, and would bring the law into a serious state of contempt. This proposal has been almost universally condemned.
The third matter is the question of Sunday trading, or, more particularly, the 912 opening of shops. However one likes to put it, what is being proposed—
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I accept that the hon. Gentleman is expressing what to me is the official view of the Nonconformist Church. Will he tell the House whether his argument is purely and simply designed to prevent the enlargement of employment as a result of the contemplated changes? If so, how does he propose to deal with the situation today in respect of television, every aspect of which has to be paid for?
§ Sir C. Black
To deal with the main point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I do not claim to speak in this matter for anyone other than myself. I am, and have been for many years, a member of a Nonconformist Church. I think that I can fairly claim that the views I am trying to express would receive considerable support among the members of the Nonconformist Churches. Nonconformists are, however, independently-minded people, accustomed to forming their own conclusions, and it would be a bold man who would claim to be an official spokesman for nonconformity at large. Certainly, I make no such claim.
On the question whether I am basing my case solely on people being compelled to work on Sundays, the answer is "No", and if the hon. Gentleman will bear with me for two or three minutes I shall come to the climax of my speech, when I shall deal with what to me is the overriding consideration in this matter.
On the question of the opening of shops and Sunday trading, we cannot get away from the fact that what is being recommended is a considerable, indeed I would say widespread, enlargement of Sunday opening. I believe this to be absolutely unnecessary. If we exclude chemists' shops and catering establishments—and I think that there is a case for the exclusion of these two types of trade—it is my view that the public can do all its shopping without undue inconvenience on the six weekdays.
I should like to bring to the notice of the House, because a trade union official in my constituency, a friend of mine, has asked me to do so, the official view of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. This is a trade union 913 view which I think ought to be brought before the House and ought to be borne in mind. In a public statement the union said:The proposal of the Crathorne Committee that food shops should be allowed to trade all day on Sundays has been noted with dismay and indignation by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers.In its written evidence to the Committee, the Union I stressed that there was no real demand for Sunday trading in the grocery trade. This was proved by the fact that very few local authorities had made orders allowing the sale of groceries on Sunday mornings and that where such orders had been made, few traders had taken advantage of them. In short, the practice in the grocery trade was to close all day Sunday. The butchery trade, by law, also had to close. In these circumstances, the proposal to allow Sunday trading runs counter to experience and public need.The union went on to say that it was no substitute for the loss of Sunday, in addition to Saturday, which is, of course, worked by the great majority of shop workers, and is the busiest day of the week, to offer another extra day, or to offer extra money, and that argument, cogently and reasonably advanced by the union, applies over a much wider field than merely to those who work in retail shops.
§ Mr. Doughty
My hon. Friend referred to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. If he reads paragraph 219 of the Report, he will see that the unionregarded the continuance of statutory conditions as absolutely essential.
§ Mr. Doughty
If my hon. Friend says that that is not the case, perhaps he will he good enough to read paragraph 219 of the Report, part of which I have just quoted. It says:They"—that is, the union—said that these conditions were the minimum which were required and were fundamental to any arrangement which involved the opening of shops and the employment of labour on Sunday.The union went on to say that it did not regard the negotiating machinery as sufficient to deal with the problem.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I hope that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) will realise that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has read one passage, in one 914 pamphlet, which does not include many of the pronouncements made by the union with regard to Sunday closing.
§ Sir C. Black
I was trying to summarise this document, but as I have been challenged, I shall read the concluding paragraph and then ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey. East to examine it. This is a letter dated 14th December, 1964—much later than the date on which evidence was tendered to the Committee. The last paragraph says:In its written evidence U.S.D.A.W. emphasised that shop workers already suffer a social disadvantage by working on Saturdays. Those who work in most other occupations have both Saturday and Sunday for family and social activities. Because they have to work all day on Saturday, shop workers regard Sunday at home as being particularly precious. The social disadvantages of losing both Saturday and Sunday far outweigh any compensatory arrangements that may be offered. The proposal that shop workers should have a weekday off in lieu of Sunday is no compensation for the loss of both Saturday and Sunday.I will give that to my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. Doughty
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. He has been reading from a document signed by somebody who had nothing to do with the Committee. Page 69 of the Report shows that the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers was represented by Mr. W. E. Padley, M.P., Mr. J. D. Hiscock and Mr. J. Phillips. Who is this Alfred W. Allen, who signed the letter?
§ Mr. J. T. Price
He is the general secretary of the union, and speaks with the greatest possible authority on the matters which are now disputed.
§ Sir C. Black
If my hon. and learned Friend does not agree with me he must have this matter out with the general secretary of the union. It is no use his trying to pursue the matter with me.
I have purposely left till last what seems to me and to those who share my view of this matter the supreme argument, which is based upon the teaching of the Christian religion. One provincial newspaper, commenting upon the Report, said:Britons are supposed to excel in the art of compromise. Lord Crathorne's Committee has certainly stretched it to the limit in its Sunday observance recommendations. The 915 idea that Sunday should be set aside as a day of worship, as well as a day of rest, seems to be ignored. If religion does not enter into Sunday observance why make any distinction at all?Sir Winston Churchill, with that great facility he had for expressing views in a very clear and telling way, once said that the Lord's Day was a divine and priceless institution—the birthright of every British subject. All that I would venture to add is that we shall sell that birthright at our peril.
§ Mr. Driberg
That quotation is used by the Lord's Day Observance Society. Does the hon. Gentleman really consider it entirely honest to suggest that that great man was a strict Sabbatarian?
§ Sir C. Black
If the hon. Member had been in the Chamber during the greater part of my speech he would have known that I specifically disavowed being a Sabbatarian, strict or otherwise. He would know that I had taken considerable time and trouble in explaining my approach to the matter. I do not know whether this has been quoted by the Lord's Day Observance Society, but, if it has, that society has no more nor less right to quote from Sir Winston Churchill than I have, or than any other hon. Member has. I regard the quotation as being quite relevant in the context of the debate.
The Christian Sunday, as a day of rest and worship, has played a great and glorious part in our history. It runs like a golden strand through our long national story. It has made a priceless contribution to the character of our people. Many of those outside the House who seek to destroy the legal safeguards of the Lord's Day do so on the pretext of wishing to cater for public needs, but they would be more frank if they admitted that the real objective, and motive power of their efforts, is the desire for gain—the desire to make profits on seven days a week instead of six.
The profits thus earned cannot bring advantage to those who gain them, for it is writtenFor what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?Opposed to the removal of the remaining legal safeguards are those who, if the safeguards go, will lose the opportunity of spending the first day of the week in 916 their homes and with their families. They ask for, and ought to have, our protection.
Finally, there is in the country a great company of men and women who still value and wish to maintain our Christian heritage and tradition, and who look to this House to safeguard the things for which they stand.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
It was a fairly considerable American lawyer who spoke of legislature and courts moving on in proud and silent isolation from each other. The anomalies in our law on Sunday observance are a superb example of Anglo-American unity in the matter of statute and decisional law. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have discussed the broad principles and philosophy of the Departmental Committee's Report, and have examined in some detail the parts dealing with entertainments, sports and pastimes, and conditions of Sunday employment.
I want to refer specifically to Chapter 3 of the Report, concerning the law dealing with Sunday trading. Nowhere is the need for some rapport between statute and decisional law more pronounced than on the subject of Sunday trading. In 1950, it was widely felt that the Shops Act of that year subjected mobile shops to the same restrictions as other shops, but as a result of a decision in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court in the case of Stone v. Boreham it must be taken as definitely decided that mobile shops are not shops within the meaning of the Act.
Nor are vans brought within the Act by the various Sections which apply to premises where any retail trade or business is carried on. Even more curious is the fact that the spot where such a van stops is not a place where any retail trade is carried on. It therefore follows that mobile shops are free to trade on Sunday without restriction as to hours or to the commodity sold, at least under the terms of shops legislation.
Paragraph 134 of the Report states that in the matter of Sunday trading facilities the Committeereceived little evidence from individual members of the public or from bodies representing consumers".917 With respect, I would recall that the Co-operative Congress, which is the central authority of the Co-operative movement, passed a resolution in 1960 which noted with deep concern the chaotic situation which existed in the administration of shops legislation, especially in relation to Sunday trading, and called upon the Government of the day to introduce amending legislation forthwith not only to prevent the law from falling further into disrepute, but also to avoid the need for local authorities to introduce Private Bills dealing with particular aspects of the problem and to remove the present anomalies created by conflicting court decisions in England and Scotland.
The Co-operative Congress paid particular attention to the situation of mobile shops. There was general agreement that these should be brought into line with fixed shops from the point of view of Sunday trading. I should like here to emphasise that the movement operates the largest fleet of mobile shops in the country and that it has evinced no desire to use the fleet for Sunday trading. Moreover, there are about 13 million consumer members of retail co-operative societies and it may thus reasonably be claimed that the Co-operative movement is closely in touch with the needs of the shopping public.
So far as I am aware, no demands have been made by co-operative members that their shops should be open on Sundays. The absence of such demand was no doubt emphasised in the views of the Co-operative movement submitted to Lord Crathorne's Committee. It seems odd, therefore, that paragraph 134 of the Committee's Report speaks of little evidence having been received "from bodies representing consumers." As I have said, the Departmental Committee received evidence from the greatest democratic consumers' movement in the world, representing about 13 million members.
I wish now to refer to what is certainly the most far-reaching of the recommendations relating to Sunday trading. That is… the existing general requirements that shops should be closed on Sunday should not extend to … the sale of any article at a shop registered with the local authority as a shop the business of which is wholly or mainly the sale of food and drink for human consumption and ingredients for the preparation of food and drink.918 Lord Crathorne's Committee recognises that the present state of the law is unsatisfactory in the sense that its enforcement is difficult. In making this recommendation for a restatement of the law the Committee does not appear to consider that the practical effect would be to bring about any appreciable extension of Sunday trading. This view is not one which would be shared by people experienced in the realities of retail trading at the present time.
The larger food shops are deterred from opening on Sunday by the fact that the goods which they would be legally entitled to sell represent only a small part of their assortment and that any substantial breach of the law would be more obvious than in the case of a corner shop, thus inviting stricter enforcement. If the present legal barrier were removed, certainly all the major supermarket chains in Great Britain, and many other traders as well would give serious consideration to Sunday opening because of the possible volume of trade which could be attracted if an organisation were the only one in its area which was trading on Sunday.
Every trader would be compelled to give the most serious consideration to the economic advantages to be derived from Sunday trading. It is unlikely that trade sentiment would be unanimously in favour of remaining closed on Sunday. Once an important unit in an area remained open, all other traders would feel obliged, in self-defence, to give the most serious consideration to Sunday opening, which would then become more or less imposed upon a substantial proportion of traders.
Furthermore, since it is unlikely that the total volume of food trade would be more than marginally increased by facilities for shopping on Sunday—in my view consumers would merely be buying over seven days what they are now buying over six—the overall effect must be to add to the total cost of food distribution and thus tend towards an upward pressure on prices. It would be most illuminating to have the comments of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary on this aspect of Lord Crathorne's Committee's statement of intent.
In Chapter 3 of the Report the Departmental Committee concluded that there was no demand for radical changes in the 919 law and then proceeded to make recommendations which can only lead to changes of the most radical and socially undesirable kind. From my point of view, it would be preferable to tolerate present illogicalities of the law rather than accept a proposal which, while apparently designed to clarify the law, would probably lead to a very considerable extension of Sunday trading for which, as of now, there is scant evidence of any serious public demand.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)
I think that most people would feel that there has been general agreement—perhaps with the notable exception of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan)—first, with the raison d'etre of Lord Crathorne's Committee's Report, namely, that the Sunday observance laws need to be overhauled or at least refurbished and, secondly, on the broad principles which it suggested should be observed in the recommendations it makes, though not necessarily would agreement be felt on the details of the way the Committee proposed to implement these principles.
I think it worth reminding ourselves at the outset what are the broad principles that the Crathorne Committee's Report advocates. These are set out on page 14, in the section entitled, "Introduction", where it is suggested that Sunday should be "different". That is the first principle, and the second is that it may be… a day of leisure in which a person is not required to pursue his weekday work.…I emphasise again that it should be a different day and one on which people should not be compelled to pursue their everyday work.
Speaking from a Christian viewpoint on this approach I find it quite unexceptionable in principle. It comes very near indeed, at least negatively, to the approach to Sunday observance which the Bible has recommended from earliest days, except in so far as it does not positively advocate worship when advocating Sunday observance. I do not feel, as a Christian, that we should expect the State to legislate for that. Negatively at least, in principle the Report makes a correct approach. It 920 is when we come to consider the suggestions for implementing the principles that I experience a good deal of unease at the inconsistent way in which the principles are worked out in practical recommendations.
It seems to me that if Sunday is to be different—this is one of the basic themes of the Committee's Report—it must be different not only in that leisure is to be substituted for work as a characteristic of the day, but must also be different and more far-reaching in more radical and practical ways. For example, surely it should be different in making a change in the typical characteristics of a twentieth century working day.
I suggest that inherent in the Crathorne Committee's recommendation that Sunday should be different is a consequence that we should find Sunday different—to give just three typical ingredients—from the ordinary six-day week in which we live in the twentieth century. Crowds should not be encouraged, noise should be absent so far as possible, and traffic should be reduced and discouraged. If Sunday is to be different it seems to me not only should we find leisure substituted for work, but we should find a relatively static family situation substituted for crowds, peace and quiet substituted for noise, and a relative decline in traffic conditions both in respect of public and private transport.
I would suggest that it is our duty, in the light of the principles which the Crathorne Committee recommends, to scrutinise the actual recommendations which it makes with these criteria, namely, will the recommendations which it makes not only not generate more work, but will they also not generate crowds, not generate noise and not generate traffic? If we apply these criteria to the specific recommendations, we find that in certain particulars, at any rate, they are inconsistent with the principles which the Report advocates.
Now, this is not the case in the proposal that there should be a general relaxation about the opening of cinemas on Sunday; this would not tend to override these practical criteria which I suggest. For example, cinemas are mainly localised. There are plenty of them and there are perfectly good substitutes on Sundays for them in the films which are shown on 921 television. To allow cinemas to open on Sunday in general throughout the country would involve very little extra work, would not generate more traffic, more noise or greater crowds. I should, for that reason, certainly allow cinemas to be let off, as it were, in accordance with the Committee's recommendations.
However, when one considers the other forms of entertainment which are scrutinised, I should not feel so happy. They are the theatre, variety shows, the ballet and circuses. I would suggest that the effect in these cases would be completely different from the effect of relaxing the law about the opening of Sunday cinemas in that they do generate not only more work, but indirectly more noise, more traffic and greater crowds. The fact is that all these four categories of entertainment, the theatre, variety—whatever form it may take—ballet and the circus, have this special characteristic, first, that they tend to be centralised, and, secondly, that in an era where most entertainment is piped or prefabricated on television or the cinema screen, their success and saleability depends entirely on a special quality in the actors, acting live, or the way in which the entertainment is presented. These things have that quality of making people go some distance to see them.
To permit this sort of production on a Sunday would, in its very nature, produce crowds travelling distances to them, more especially since, again in their nature, they tend to be centralised. One finds theatreland in the centre of the great metropoli and if Sunday theatres are to be available in the centre of London it will be no time at all before one gets large crowds of people organised in coach parties and train parties descending on the metropoli on Sunday. We will have that characteristic typical of the six-day week, namely, huge crowds with road and rail services having to be provided for them, and a consequent transformation of the metropolis from the comparatively dead place which it is on Sunday into being once again a place of huge crowds, with all the ancillary services of transport, and so forth, being provided for them.
These features are, in the very nature of the case, likely to arise from the centralised and specialised forms of entertainment which depend on live presenta- 922 tion, eminent actors, unique personalities, to which one has to travel and which it is worth travelling some distance to see. In the case of theatre, variety and ballet there is the real danger of discrimination, directly or indirectly, against these performers who decline to play or perform on Sundays, I find little logic in the argument that the live theatre, for example, should be allowed to perform on a Sunday in order to compete with the other prefabricated sources of entertainment, the cinema and television. Because of their natural physical limitations the actors are bound to have one day off. They are just as likely to suffer the force of competition on the weekday on which they do not perform.
In relation to musical performances, again I feel that it is necessary to retain some of the limitations which are imposed by the existing legislation. The permission which we now have for musical performances of a concert character is specifically given because they do not generate great crowds, or a great deal of extra work from ancillary services and if we lessen this we shall find that all the principal concert halls in London are staging great concerts of pop music, and so on, which are entirely permissible and desirable in themselves, but which will on Sunday generate precisely the characteristics which the Committee wants to avoid—crowds, noise and traffic, as well as extra work. We must surely keep musical performances definitely restricted in scope on Sunday, if we want to keep Sunday as a day which is different and on which it is not necessary for people to work as they normally do.
I feel, on the other hand, that dancing resembles the cinema—a form of recreation in which the facilities are localised and dispersed and plentiful, and which do not, therefore, generate crowds, traffic or noise. It may perfectly well be liberalised, as the Crathorne Committee suggests. A local dance hall will not cause large numbers of people to move across country or across the town. They represent a relatively local incidence of entertainment and would continue to do so.
§ Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)
I would just like to ask the hon. Member whether he does not feel that we already get on Sundays precisely 923 the things of which he is complaining. Certainly, in some parts of the country we get more traffic than on any other day.
§ Mr. Alison
This is certainly true, though I would still adhere to my general view that the centres of great metropoli die a natural death on a Sunday and that this is a good thing. The practice of people taking their cars out purely for leisure or pleasure purposes may or may not last as a form of entertainment which people find attractive as a practical form of leisure and enjoyment. I believe that, in practice, it is self-strangulating. Even so, there is no reason for extending the opportunities for and the desirability of this sort of activity to an extent more than already exists.
It is in sport, above all, that the Crathorne Committee has failed to adhere to the particular principles which it laid down. It is here that it is inconsistent and untrue to its general view. I think that it would be quite right to say that players' sports should be encouraged and allowed to go on, to the maximum extent possible, because they generate neither noise, traffic nor crowds beyond the level which is found generally tolerable for most people. I think that the Committee is right, also, to prohibit spectator sports where money is earned by those who participate. But I would refer hon. Members to the general view which the Committee expresses on page 31, paragraph 115 and 116, of its Report, where it states:From the evidence we received, it appeared that a substantial relaxation of the restrictions on spectators' sports would do more to alter the character of Sunday than a relaxation in relation to entertainments.Here, then, are two important generalisations, that the Committee wishes Sunday to be a different day, and, at the same time, admits that Sunday sports—which is one form of entertainment—would, if permitted and encouraged, do more to equalise and equate Monday to Saturday with Sunday than any other sort of entertainment. It openly admits that spectator sports, if substantially relaxed as to permission, would generate more similarity to an ordinary weekday than any other form of relaxation.
In the next paragraph the Committee says: 924We should like to limit Sunday sports to those in which the participants receive no payment and which are likely to attract only a comparatively small number of spectators.This is its broad reaction to the implications of Sunday spectator sports. The Committee wants to limit Sunday sports not only to those in which participants do not receive payment, but also to those which attract a comparatively small number of spectators. But the Committee cannot make that general assertion of what is desirable and then make recommendations which will have precisely the opposite effect—the encouragement, due to the narrow dividing line between professional and amateur sports, of huge concourses of people and huge flows of traffic.
I suggest that if the Committee wants to be true to its own aims and recommendations, it would not be beyond the wit of man to find a means whereby the general aim which they put forward of attracting only a comparatively small number of spectators could be provided by some form of law. One has only to state the general principles of the Crathorne Report and to give powers of interpretation to local authorities, particularly county councils and borough councils, with the possibility of an appeal to the Minister to make sure that the general aim is observed, namely, relatively small gatherings of people in which participants are not paid.
I conclude by saying that I cannot go the whole way with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) in laying stress on the positive aspect of Sunday, about which we as Christians feel strongly, because we know perfectly well that there are others who feel equally strongly in the other direction, and one cannot legislate for these differences. However, inherent in the Crathorne Committee's proposals for Sunday being a "different" day is the possibility of abolishing a characteristic feature of twentieth century life from Monday to Saturday—crowds, traffic and general noise.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) has made some interesting comments about noise and large crowds. On the other hand, we can go too far in that direction and ignore what already happens on Sundays. My hon. Friend the 925 Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) rightly pointed out that on Sundays there is a greater volume of traffic on certain roads than on any other day of the week.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash spoke of the possibility of theatres attracting large crowds on Sundays, but in most of our large cities we have large cinemas which attract tremendous numbers on Sundays. If theatres were also open, they would compete with the cinema.
§ Mr. Alison
The distinction is that the cinemas in the West End of London are providing merely a duplicate service which in many cases already exists locally, so that little would be gained by going to a West End cinema. There would be no point in going to a city centre to see what could be seen locally, or on television.
§ Mr. Heffer
The hon. Gentleman is a little out of date in his information about cinemas in the centres of large cities. I am not too well acquainted with London cinemas, but in Liverpool some films are shown only at cinemas in the centre of the city and never find their way to the outskirts, unfortunately. This means that if one wants to see a particular film of some importance one has to go to the centre of the city to do so. This may not he the case in London, but it is in the provinces.
I find the Report of the Crathorne Committee both interesting and important. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) said that it was stretching compromise a bit far, but I regard it as compromise at its best, for the Report's recommendations maintain the traditional Sunday in principle, while at the same time extending entertainment and sports facilities which are required in our modern setting.
I agree that it would be wrong to destroy the traditional British Sunday altogether. It would be wrong to accept the Continental Sunday in its entirety. There are a number of serious objections to the Continental Sunday and we have to guard against them, but the main recommendations of the Report are sensible and are acceptable to the majority of the population. It is essential to keep a balance between the Sunday which we owe to our Protestant tradition and the Continental Sunday, especially as it can 926 be seen in countries like Italy, where football and entertainment of all kinds and the opening of shops are allowed almost without hindrance.
§ Mr. Driberg
I put it rather rudely. My hon. Friend was not here when I was speaking, but if he will be good enough to look up HANSARD tomorrow he will see that I dealt with the myth of the Continental Sunday.
§ Mr. Heffer
I have travelled extensively on the Continent and there are certain things which happen there on Sunday to which I would object quite strongly. Perhaps it is a difference of emphasis and not principle.
I would strongly object to professional football on Sundays. I do not say that I would have that objection for all time, but I do now. My reason is that most of our football grounds are in densely populated areas. I am thinking particularly of the Everton ground in the centre of my constituency and the Liverpool ground which borders my constituency.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of parking facilities and the noise and disturbance which upset people living in the area. Local authorities and Members of Parliament are constantly subjected to pressures to do something about these disturbances. If professional football matches on Sundays were allowed, those people who now make objections about matches on Saturdays would have even greater objections. It is a danger to guard against.
It is in this respect that the Report has made a happy compromise by recommending an extension of sports facilities without going so far as to recommend professional football on Sundays. If our football stadiums were situated outside the densely populated areas, so that people could travel from where they lived into the surrounding countryside, it would obviously be a good thing to have these entertainments and sports facilities available on Sunday, but as things are it could be a very bad thing. The Report brings out this argument and I think that it is acceptable to anyone with any intelligence.
927 The Football Association says that there are 113 county associations and clubs in favour of the opening of football grounds on Sundays and 179 against. I am delighted that the Football Association and the clubs have taken this view.
Some arguments here today have been developed obviously in line with the views of a small group of people who want to restrict activity on Sundays to strict religious observance. It is obvious, from the Report and the views which have been expressed generally, that most religious denominations agree that there is no basic contradiction between people going to church on Sunday and their enjoying their day away from work. Why should not someone, after going to church, go to a football match in the afternoon or a theatre in the evening? By and large the churches accept this point of view and, to me, that denotes that we are beginning to grow up.
I have never thought very much of the basic ideologies of King Charles I. I suppose that had I been alive at the time I would have been very much on the side of the Cromwell régime. There can be no doubt that they were fighting for a great cause, for this House to have the importance in the land and in our constitution which it deserved, but I have always thought that they took it a bit too far.
Where I was born there is a lovely old church. When the Puritans came they blotted out some wonderful pictures. They painted over the lot, and only in recent years have the original paintings been uncovered. Fortunately, they have been restored. The Puritans took the view that anything colourful and beautiful must be done away with. Everything had to be grey. One might accept their political viewpoint but certainly not the way they implemented it.
Similarly, some people tend to go too far today in trying to equate acceptance of the Christian religion with it having to be dull and grey. Why cannot one be a Christian and enjoy being so? It is clear from the Report that the majority of churches see nothing wrong with, for example, the opening of theatres on Sundays and the provision of sports facilities.
Leaving aside any strongly held religious ideologies, it is obvious that there will have to be a change. I suggest that one way of making that change is to 928 increase local option in this matter. I consider that the Committee did not pay sufficient attention to the evidence given by the municipal associations. There is no need for there to be a vote among the entire population. Local authorities should exercise some control in the matter because conditions vary between one part of the country and another.
If a sports stadium is outside the centre of a city there cannot be any objection to mustering a crowd of people there, thus giving them [...]n enjoyable day away from work. If, However, it is in the centre of the city, meaning a tremendous upheaval, with traffic congestion, noise, disturbance and [...] on to the residents nearby, I suppose that it might be decided that it should lot be open on Sundays. These are matters for the locality to decide and local authorities should have the right to consider the situation in each area and decide accordingly whether or not Sunday opening would cause unhappiness to the people living in the locality.
I hope that legislation will be forthcoming and that the recommendations will receive full consideration by the Government. I hope that, in that legislation, a Clause will allow for a sensible local option to be taken in these matters.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
The really serious omission so far in the debate has been the matter which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) dealt with at the end of his speech; we have not so far heard from the Government the expression of any view whatever about the contents of the Report. We must tonight hear one of two things. Either the expression of some views which they have tentatively formed about the Report, or, at least, an assurance that they will form them and act upon them soon.
I do not tonight want to go into any personal opinions, psychological or otherwise, as to what I think or believe about Sunday observance, because on this matter what an individual hon. Member happens to think does not matter in the slightest. This is one aspect on which we are, in a sense, delegates of the country as a whole and individual consciences about the matter are not the most important.
929 We must try to interpret what is, generally speaking, the view of the country, particularly of young people. I agree that if hon. Members have strong personal feelings on the grounds of conscience they should, as they always must in debates in the House, express them, but the great majority of hon. Members probably have no very strong feelings one way or another. I believe that there are fewer than a dozen hon. Members left in the House today who have strong feelings of conscience in the matter, and two of those we have already heard. There are a number of others whose views we know personally.
What position should the Government state? There are two points to remember here. First, the present Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, my old college—and many hon. Members will wish him every success in his great and honoured position—would certainly have wished that we should act on the setting-up of the Committee. Secondly, the Committee, in its general deliberations, has undoubtedly introduced a Report which, in its general thesis, is acceptable to the large majority of people. There may be parts of the Report that may not be wholly acceptable, but I am certain that I speak not only for my constituents—who, perhaps, may have particular interests in the matter—but for most constituencies, certainly outside Wales, when I say that the Report receives the overwhelming support of the country in general.
It would be unfortunate, therefore, if we did not, within, say, the next 12 months, produce legislation consequent upon it. I appeal strongly for this legislation. Hon. Members who represent tourist constituencies—and I speak not only for my constituency but for many areas, having been an officer of the all party Committee of the House on tourism—will agree that I speak for the entire tourist industry and the associations dependent on it when I say that they collectively and individually want to see the existing law amended and the implementation of a new law relating to Sunday observance.
I go so far as to say that if the Government are in grave doubts about how far they should go in support of sport or other things, let them introduce 930 legislation that does not go the whole way and then leave it with this House to make it stronger, if the House feels that to be the right thing to do. It is no excuse to say that a few Members, exercising their own personal conscience and representing a very tiny majority of the country only, are entitled to continue to hold up such legislation. That is not fair or proper.
I will indicate one or two controversial matters that the Government might prefer not to include in such legislation, but might prefer to say ought to be debated and included in legislation later, if the whole House thought it right. I believe that those on this side of the House and those in another place are, on the whole, very careful to be completely fair to minority rights, to give every possible credence to the expression of views, and to listen carefully to them. That has been the tradition in the matter. Indeed, it is said that the House of Commons is far behind the times because we are frightened, and certainly have been frightened in the past, of abusing small sectional religious interests because Governments fear that they may lose those votes; and as that is an undoubted fact it has a much greater effect than it would have among other sections generally.
I want to criticise only one aspect of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). My hon. Friend said that those of us who proposed a considerable change in the laws did so from a desire to make profits. That should be denied. It is not true—it is completely untrue. The general feeling in the country is that change is needed. One reason is that the whole of the law has been brought into complete disrepute. It has been brought into such disrepute that it is no longer ever enforced. It is because the law is in such chaos that we have a rather empty House today—the people are carrying on as though the law had been changed; that is to say, they are no longer observing an old-fashioned Sunday.
In Margate, on a Sunday in August, we have enormous crowds, great traffic, and every entertainment that one could want. It was perhaps not appreciated by one of my hon. Friends that we have bigger dance parties on Sundays in Margate than on any other day of the week. We have 931 the very finest bands there—the "Beatles", the "Boys"—they have the most dreadful names these days. There is a bigger crowd dancing in "Dreamland" in Margate on Sunday than on any other day of the week, because the dancers are, in fact, attending a club, and it is, therefore, on Sunday when, as I believe the phrase is, one can "go boy, go".
I am informed by the police, and I know them to be right, that they would much rather have all the boys and girls of 17 and 18 going to the Sunday night dance club, where they can listen to the "Beatles", or whoever it may be, because if they did not have that entertainment on Sunday they would be on the streets, getting into trouble. That is the view of our magistrates, and no one can say that we have very namby-pamby magistrates there—we do not. No one can say that our police force is not good and active there—it is. No one can say that we do not have a very excellent ballroom—it takes a very big crowd. Yet those dancing there on Sunday are all members of the club.
What a farce it all is. The situation in Wales is that one can get a good deal of entertainment, if one really wants it, on a Sunday evening, by going to the local club. As the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas), knows, one can protect oneself by going properly to church by day yet still get one's pleasure by night—but only if one is a club member. If one is a club member, it is all right.
It is also true to say that the foreigners find this obtuse, because in certain parts of the country they are not necessarily entitled to be members of clubs immediately. That means that we are drawing a distinction between what we are prepared to do for our own citizens and for those coming from overseas. We should sweep away some of the things that are wholly artificial, bring the law into disrepute, and do not achieve their purpose.
Personally, I like the whole of this Report very much. There are only two aspects of it on which I want to try to assist. We should accept as the text, because I believe it to be right, paragraph 41 in page 12, which says: 932The Council said that, even if employment did not interfere with worship, Sunday should not just be another working day.It also says that neither the Council of Churches nor the Roman Catholic Church… condemned entertainments and recreations in themselves on Sunday provided that they did not interfere with worship and relaxation or make unreasonable demands "—I stress the words—on the labour of others.Those are basic principles, and we could use them in arriving at what should be the legislation to be promoted by Her Majesty's Government.
That leads me to say that over the last five years those on this side, certainly, have promoted, with the assistance of the Home Office and two Home Secretaries, a series of Bills designed to end what I always call Victoriana. They began with the Street Offences Act. Then there was the betting and licensing legislation, the licensing of drinking—the whole of that was revolutionised. There were a number of other Measures going right on to give compensation to victims of crimes of violence. We also had children and young persons legislation and changes in the law relating to adoption, and much else. Those of us who have been associated with that theme have tried to see in it the end of some old legislation.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), whose wind blew somewhat bitterly through the Chamber this afternoon as compared with the sweet winds of Margate, made the point that the employment situation was such that it was positively harmful to the trade unions, but it seems to me that the Victoriana must go, and one has the concept that he who chooses to do so should be able to change a Sunday evening for a Monday evening. That is the reality of the position on the entertainment side. As to the theatres and cinemas, we cannot draw a distinction between the television performance that is "live" or the not "live" theatre in the evening. If those who engage in the theatre from the labour angle prefer to perform on Sunday nights and to close on Monday night, quite clearly that would be satisfactory to the management of the theatre. There is no distinction.
The same applies to dancing. If young people do not want to go dancing 933 on Monday night and Tuesday night, and do not do so normally, and if the halls could be closed on those nights and open on Sunday night instead, who are we to say that it is wrong when, on the Sunday, there has been opportunity for worship earlier in the day, and opportunity to make arrangements so as not to interfere unduly with labour? Generally speaking, the Government will find complete support for an overwhelming section of the Report on entertainment.
The difficulty comes with regard to sport, but this is not as difficult as it seems at first. Nobody has mentioned betting. It is implicit in the Report that no sport should be permitted on Sunday which countenances betting and gaming. That would exclude greyhound racing, horse racing, point to point, anything where betting is in reality a part of the sport. The Government would have the support of the country if they excluded such sports.
The Government would also have the support of the country if they accepted, broadly speaking, that amateur sport, by which I mean genuine amateur sport and not semi-professional amateur sport, should be permitted. I have in mind village cricket matches and tennis tournaments where prizes, but not cash prizes, are being given and where there is no payment.
Therefore, I cannot accept the Report on this aspect. The Committee has got a little confused. If we retain the prevention of the right to enter by payment of money and the prevention of the right of professional players to participate, it will not be difficult to ensure that amateur sports of all kinds can continue on a Sunday. I believe that it will be not beyond us to have a proviso permitting the payment of certain moneys for entertainments of a purely charitable nature. I should not like to commit myself now, but I invite the Government—the Home Office has a number of very able people at this kind of thing—to consider whether they can get an exclusion for those types of sport which are conducted for charitable purposes.
Before the war when I was a broken-down athlete by background, and not a politician, I used to play in charity 934 county cricket matches in such places as Folkstone. They were all amateur, and the professionals who played played as amateurs on those occasions: they were not paid. There was, for example, a so-called England XI and a so-called Kent XI. As long as they are not paid for the occasion, there seems to me to be no reason why such people should not pay to enter for the cricket match, provided that all the moneys were devoted to charity, apart from those expenses incidental to the production of the entertainment.
Why do we want to avoid professional sport on Sundays? I am sorry to say that I agree with the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). I do not want to avoid it, but I know who will avoid it for us, and no one has mentioned them. I mean the married women. They are the ones who will not have professional sport on Sunday afternoons. It is bad enough having the "old man" away the whole of Saturday. They will not have him away all Sunday, too. The married woman will be the real objector. So far, a married woman has not spoken in this debate. The married woman will not tolerate the "old man" going off to professional football on Saturdays and on Sundays, too. One day is enough.
I agree with them. My father was P.P.S. to Sir William Harcourt. They had the greatest light, Gladstone, to rule by night and the lesser light to rule by day. The House wanted to sit on Friday night and into the Saturday. Sir William said on that occasion, "Hon. Gentlemen know quite well that there are other duties of an urgent nature which prompt us to be elsewhere on Saturday nights". Exactly the same consideration applies here—Sunday afternoons are not for professional sport.
Sundays evenings might be a compromise, and no doubt this point can be debated later. There is a difference between engaging in sport under are lights at seven o'clock at night and engaging in sport in the afternoon. There is a difference between something watched under are lights, which becomes more an entertainment in feeling, and something being watched in the early afternoon.
At any rate, whether we do that or not, I doubt whether the House would find it agreeable to have professional sport. If it will not, it certainly will not 935 have Wimbledon—that is, the House will not give Wimbledon the chance to run on a Sunday if professional football cannot. I do not see why Wimbledon should have that chance. Therefore, we must try to find a way by which amateur sport and charitable entertainments are permitted on Sundays where they are for that purpose and where the players are not to be paid.
I turn to general trading on Sundays. Again, I agree with the general recommendations and tone of the Report. As to U.S.D.A.W., whatever was the outcome of the battle between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), with his feelings about the union, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon, with hon. Members opposite chirping in to help, I take the view that the whole picture of the employment of shop workers is now changing very rapidly. Hours are now being staggered and some of the larger shops in London are making very attractive arrangements. Provided that the union has the statutory regulations it needs, it will have an abundant measure of control over its workers' hours, whether they work on a Sunday or during the week. I do not believe that this will be the real difficulty.
It has been said that the Committee could not determine what was a tourist resort. There was not a true tourist Member on the Committee. This matter is not very difficult to determine. Certain things are needed in the true seaside tourist resort which are not needed in London as a tourist resort. London as a tourist resort and an inland tourist resort differ in certain major respects from the seaside. Tourists at seaside resorts require more than mere beachwear. They need the very attractive trappings which now go round beachwear.
For example, if a shop is to be permitted to be open on Sundays to sell photographic requisites at the seaside and if one is able to have reproduction of works of art, which I suppose also means filthy postcards—dare I say it?—something in addition to beachwear will be needed. We shall also need a textile shop selling beach clothes which women wear. A shop will be needed which is able to sell the type of things women 936 buy when they go to Positano and the South of France. Therefore, it will be necessary to ensure—this will not be difficult—that our seaside resorts are able to compete with overseas seaside resorts in the summer in the type of things which they are able to sell to those who want them on Sundays. I do not mind if they have to do it after a given hour in the morning. They could do it in the afternoon and thus come more into line. Whichever it may be, there are one or two problems here about the type of things which are sold in seaside resorts, which need to be rather more extensive than those mentioned in the Report.
Can we have an assurance that the Government will prepare a Bill expressing their views and saying, perhaps, with some diffidence, that they would have no objections to the House shaping it? I seem to remember that Bills of a similar nature were promoted by the Tory Government which were not under a tight party Whip, but which were none the worse for that. If it came to the worst, and there were opposition, they could do a "Nelson and Colne" and introduce the Bill, using a private Member to pilot it with the assistance of the Government. That is another way in which it could be done.
I hope that, whichever they do, they will not follow the appalling precedent of the Home Office when we gave Wales a special right of local option. I believe that there will be those in Wales who will call for it, but it was a bad precedent and I hope that we do not follow it. If it must be followed, I hope that it will be done by county districts and not otherwise, and certainly nowhere other than Wales. I hope one way or another that we may get an assurance that next year we can get some legislation on this matter. As I say, I do not think that local option is a good principle at all.
I believe that local opinion is tepid—one might almost say torpid—in its general outlook in the country and in the House as a whole—for the House usually reflects the country—because there is such complete disregard for the existing laws. It is because people can watch their television sets and listen to the wireless from this and other countries, and because throughout Wales and the coastal 937 resorts there are clubs which provide music, dancing, entertainment and gaming on Sundays, that people do not feel so strongly as they would feel if none of those things existed. But that is no excuse for not putting the position right.
As the ball now lies firmly in the court of Her Majesty's Government, I hope that they will kick it, or direct it, in the right direction as soon as possible.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I am obliged to the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), for what he has said has given me enough material upon which to base my speech.
I agree with him on the need to face the issues of Sunday observance and to promote new law on the subject. I agree also that the evidence submitted by the Roman Catholic and the Church of England, which clearly shows their feeling in the matter, must be taken into consideration in arriving at our conclusions. The Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, would doubtless be satisfied if the Government were to bring in a Bill implementing the Committee's recommendations, but I wonder whether the Master of Trinity would not find it a little difficult to apply the findings to the students in his own college.
Reference has been made to the wind from the Outer Hebrides and the wind from America.The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.In trying to assess the Government's intention as a result of these recommendations, I think we must wait for the wind of change to give a clear indication of what is going to happen.
When I entered this Chamber I did not intend to speak. It was as a result of what has been said by other hon. Members that I felt impelled to contribute to the debate. I remember that when I first went to Sunday school a diligent teacher taught me that there were three things in life that mattered. One was His name, another was His Book and the other was His day. I intend to deal with His day.
In those days the conception of religion and Sunday observance was almost completely dominated by puritanical influ- 938 ences. Provided one remembered His name, His Book and His day on the Sabbath, it did not matter what one did during the rest of the week. One could go to the devil for as long as and as often as one wanted, provided one remembered His day. I often wonder how far this conception of the puritanical Sabbath narrowed down our conception of the Christian order of life to issues of sanctuary alone.
I suggest, looking at this matter objectively, that difficulties arise from the contradictions that have grown up in practice. It is true that today we can enjoy the live theatre, amateur and professional sport, and a variety show with all the costumes that are necessary to give full effect to that show; we can even have, as has been said, ballet brought into our homes by television. This new wonder has revolutionised Sunday observance so far as entertainment is concerned.
I asked a question of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), who has now left the Chamber. I asked him what he would do about entertainment which is brought to our homes by means of television. What would he do, for instance, about professional football matches brought from the Continent by means of television? What would he do in the case of amateur football played in this country and seen in our homes by means of this comparatively new medium? We have to face the fact that that which is suggested in the recommendations of this Committee is being applied Sunday after Sunday and is becoming part and parcel of our lives.
The Puritan Sabbath has been destroyed by television, which has created a revolution in thinking on Sunday observance. No longer will people be prepared to talk in terms of family life as envisaged by the hon. Member for Wimbledon, when the family today is completely separated, some going to a seaside resort by car, some watching television and the main topic at the Sunday afternoon teatable being what is coming on next on the television programme. These are facts of life which we must take into consideration in estimating what we should do with this Report.
There can be no half-way house about it. If we say that in matters of entertainment the Report must be rejected, we must face the question of what should be 939 done about entertainment which is nowadays presented within the home itselt. We cannot say that the Report must be rejected on considerations of entertainment unless we tackle the question of entertainment that is brought right into the home. This is too big a job for any Government to tackle. Television has become part and parcel of the make-up of life and has been one of the largest contributors to the revolution which has destroyed the Puritan Sabbath.
One or two things in the Report cause me concern. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet spoke about shop life. The problem of the Sunday opening of shops cannot be solved by switching from Sunday to some other day of the week work which would have to be done on a Sunday if a shop was open. In most shops, for instance, one man is responsible for the control of stock. This man is a manager who is responsible for everything which happens within the shop. If the hon. Member has no experience of shop life I must tell him that managers are very jealous of their responsibility. When they go on holiday one of their greatest worries is that they have to leave the shop in the charge of a deputy manager. If they had to do this, not only when on holiday but on 52 days of the year, their sense of responsibility to their employers would be completely destroyed.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Is not that happening today in many cases where a body of workers take over from others and managers are often away in mid-week?
§ Mr. Winterbottom
This is a problem that arises with a switch-over from a six-day to a five-day week. The problem has been met by having an extra closing day during the week so that the manager can be there the whole time. If one adds another opening day the manager's position becomes more complicated. A manager might well find himself away from the shop for two and a half days a week and in such a case his responsibility would be diminished. There are all these difficulties in shop life, and this is why it is found that in the main those who are in charge of shops are bitterly opposed to Sunday opening.
There are other reasons. I can illustrate one. A few weeks ago a new emporium was opened in my district. 940 It remained open until eight o'clock in the evening and the managements of some other shops decided to remain open until 8 o'clock because of the competition. Now it has been found that the extra hours of opening are uneconomic in terms of extra wages and other costs. It might well be that even in places like Margate where certain types of shops would take advantage of Sunday opening to sell beach garments it would be found to be an uneconomic proposition in the long run. I say all this from long experience of these things throughout the distributive trades.
There is a great deal of Sunday trading at the moment. There are few towns and cities where if one is short of groceries on a Sunday one cannot get them at the back door of some shop if one knows one's way around. Many so-called off-licence premises have a grocery establishment attached, and these are favoured places for the housewife to go shopping when she finds that she has forgotten something the previous day. But the amount of Sunday trading in this country in that way is infinitesimal. It does not matter a great deal and it does not present a great challenge.
It is when all shops are given the opportunity of opening on Sunday that competition compels the use of Sunday as an ordinary day of trade and brings with it all the attendant problems for those who work in the distributive trades. The only logical argument against the Committee's Report is the labour argument, the argument that the natural spread of Sunday trading, if it were accepted, would be injurious to the whole country. Let it be remembered that, if it once starts again in the world of distribution, it will spread even more rapidly into the world of production, and, if that were to happen, it would, with snowball effect, mean the complete destruction of the Sunday rest as we have known it. This is the real challenge which the Government or whoever will be responsible will have to face, the challenge of labour.
Putting aside for the moment the question of Sunday trading, even if we think in terms of entertainment alone, although I agree that the problem is limited, acceptance of Sunday entertainment would bring in its train a certain amount of Sunday work. In the places 941 where Sunday entertainment is principally concentrated, there would develop avenues of sale which themselves would create Sunday labour. Even though a good deal of the labour, for instance, in the box offices, might be casual, in course of time matters could so develop as to produce a very dangerous challenge to the whole of Sunday as a day of rest.
Therefore, although I accept the development envisaged in the Report as regards entertainment, my acceptance would be on the clear understanding that there was a distinct danger that labour itself would be involved and we should never know how far it might take us in course of time. Generally speaking, while I accept the Report, I have my doubts from the point of view of labour. I believe that we shall have to face something in the nature of the Continental Sunday as regards entertainment itself, but even though the development may be restricted for the time being to the amateur sector of sport, it must inevitably develop further to include the professional, with a tendency towards inter-league and international football and all that goes with that, county cricket, club cricket and the like. As the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet knows, there are few places in this country where, on a good warm summer day, it is not possible for someone to find a club cricket match to watch, especially in places like Yorkshire.
For these reasons, although I consider that the Government could accept the Report, they should be very chary from the point of view of the involvement of labour. They should be very careful of Sunday trading in particular, for, if they allow Sunday trading to come in this country, it will be the most retrograde step the nation has faced for many years.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Kilfedder (Belfast, West)
Like the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom), I had not originally intended to speak, and I do so only because of some of the remarks made in certain of the speeches from both sides of the House. I am surprised that so few hon. Members have been present, not more than a score at any one time, and their 942 absence seems very strange when we are discussing a subject of vital importance which affects the welfare and future of the nation.
I do not oppose the recommendations of the Committee merely because I wish Sunday to become an unpleasant day or a gloomy day, to use the words of one hon. Member. Certainly not. I feel that Sunday can be a very happy day without implementing these recommendations. Neither do I advocate legislation, even if it were possible, to force people to go to church. That is not the way to help Christianity or to bring people back into the fold of the Church. But I am opposed to legislation which widens trade, which makes available more places of entertainment and sporting functions, as suggested in the Report.
One hon. Member said that the great majority of the people in England and Wales are against the Sabbatarian Sunday. That may or may not be true. My own feeling is that it is not true. But, speaking for Ulster, a country which is not immediately concerned with this Report, may I say that the people there would strongly object to the extension of the commercialisation of Sunday. There are people there who feel very happy about going to church, and they go in great numbers. It is very sad that, according to the Report, only 12 per cent. of the people in this country attend church on Sunday. Perhaps that is borne out by the fact that there are so many broken homes in this country and that juvenile delinquency is on the increase. It seems to me that that supports our view that, rather than weaken Sunday as the Sabbath day, we should try to strengthen it and bring Christianity back into the lives of people.
§ Sir E. Boyle
My hon. Friend has just referred to the relationship between the decline in church attendance and broken homes. This is something on which research has been done. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has looked at the evidence presented by Baroness Wootton, in her book on social pathology, but this is one of many aspects on which too simple deductions have been disproved.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I am grateful for what my right hon. Friend says. I have not read the book to which he refers, but, 943 from my experience as a lawyer practising in divorce and crime, I feel that the people who go to court, whether in divorce cases or because they are involved in crime, do not have the necessary home life or the necessary and vital church life to keep them from going wrong.
One recommendation in this Report is that in this modern age it is necessary that only half of Sunday should be given over to God. The recommendation of the Departmental Committee is that shops should be open and people should be able to attend sporting functions from 12.30 on Sunday afternoons. But I agree with what the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) said—that this caters for only one minority, the Roman Catholic minority, who can go to church in the morning. I repeat what the hon. Gentleman asked: what about the Protestants? What about those who go to church in the afternoon or in the evening, or youths who attend Sunday schools or Bible classes? Are all sorts of things to be introduced which will tempt them from going to church or to church classes in the afternoon?
The hon. Member for the Western Isles also asked about the exploitation of people on Sundays. He said, forcefully and rightly, that in the past Sunday was the only day when working people were sure of a day of rest, and, therefore, they were very grateful for it. Nowadays, the five-day week, with the possibility of a four-day week, which I welcome, means that there is more leisure time for people and that they have greater opportunities for recreation, This seems to strengthen our case that Sundays should be kept separate and not made just another day in the week. With five-day week, people have time to enjoy sport and to do the shopping. But on Sundays, the day of worship, they should devote themselves completely to being Christians.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet said that people, having gone to church, have satisfied their Sunday duties. But, for Christians, going to church is not the end of the matter. Sunday is a special day which should be kept apart from the rest of the week and when people can rest and think of other things than business and the paid 944 pleasures of life and make it a day for the family.
I feel sincerely that if these recommendations are implemented by legislation by the House of Commons we shall be doing a great disservice to the people. Before I came to this House, I always expected the House of Commons to give a lead to the nation. I always thought that it would tell the people where to go on great issues. This is a great issue, on which this House should show the people that instead of going away from Christianity and weakening the Sunday as the Sabbath, they should strengthen it.
We in this House should show that Christianity is still essential for the nation. We should not simply pay lip service to it or merely have services on special occasions, but we should show the people that they should go back to Christianity and strengthen the Sunday and, by doing so, strengthen the nation.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)
I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members, on both sides, will have welcomed the opportunity today of discussing the Report of the Departmental Committee. I am in general agreement with the Report, and I do not believe that this is one of those occasions when religious argument should come into the discussion of the Report in general. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) had their feet on the ground when they were speaking this afternoon on the various religious aspects which arise from the Report.
Of course, we all agree that we want to be a Christian country and that we want Christian principles in our every-day life with every person in the community, but we cannot get Christian principles and we cannot get people to go back to church by passing Acts of Parliament. We never have done and we never will. The only result of passing religious statutes has been religious bigotry—the Spanish Inquisition, for example, and the appalling performances that took place on both sides, both Catholic and Protestant, after the Reformation many hundred years ago.
945 It would be a good thing if every hon. Member looked at the situation from the practical point of view of realising that how ever much we want people to go to church, however much we want to have the family Sunday, we no longer have it. Whatever hon. Members may say or think, the fact remains that the family Sunday, the family worship of 30 or 40 years ago, no longer exists.
One has only to go out of one's front door or to travel back on the roads from the north of England, as I did yesterday, to see thousands of cars on the roads going to the coast and to the resorts, whereas on passing through the villages one sees one or, perhaps, two cars standing outside the village church. We cannot make people go to church by legislation. We cannot keep family life together by legislation. The way to do it is by example, and that is what most of us, perhaps, would like to see.
Having travelled twice round the world and on the Continent of Europe more times and certainly for more years than I care to think about, I have never been aware that our friends and our allies on the Continent are any worse citizens of the world than we are, and yet they manage quite successfully to have a family life, to have a religious life and to adopt the principles which, I suggest, are contained in the Report of the Departmental Committee.
I do not agree with the suggestion by the hon. Member for Wimbledon that most people who want to change the Sunday are motivated by reasons of profit. I do not believe that. I do not believe there is the profit motive in everybody's mind, as the hon. Member for Wimbledon appeared to think. I am fortunate, perhaps, for once in my life in being in agreement with the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), because I believe that what he said had a great deal of common sense applied to this subject we have been discussing for some hours.
On the whole, I am entirely in agreement with this Report. On the whole, it is a great advance, because we are living in an era in which there is a great number of laws which are completely out of date, which nobody takes the slightest notice of, which a great many people regard with some contempt—when we are not 946 allowed to play a game of bowls on a Sunday afternoon because some society objects, and so on and so forth. We know that these laws have been in existence for two or three hundred years; we know they are out of date; we know they are laughed at by the great majority of the people of this country. And once the law is in disrepute—I speak as a lawyer now—once the law is being laughed at, then we are treading on very dangerous ground. I would in no circumstances ever denigrate the attitude of mind of the various religious societies—the Baptists, the Methodists, the Church of England—all these societies which have done great work over many years, but I would suggest, if I may say so with great respect, that they have not got their feet on the ground in 1965.
One thing I do want to draw to the attention of the House is this, that there is no doubt that at the present time we have this ghastly and appalling rise in juvenile delinquency. It is one of the terrifying aspects of life at the present time in this country. I have spent some considerable time investigating it throughout this country, and also throughout the Continent of Europe, and I believe that one of the things we ought to be able to do today is to provide some form of occupation, or entertainment, call it what you like, which will keep our youngsters on a Sunday out of trouble, which will do something to prevent our young people from getting into trouble. This is the sort of attitude which is taken on the Continent of Europe—that keeping the youngsters out of trouble is far more important than dealing with them after they have been in trouble.
Again I say, and I ask the House urgently to take notice of this, that I do not believe that we can cure the problem by making people by legislation go to church; we cannot make people go to church or make them stay at home; we cannot by legislation make children go to Sunday school in the afternoon, or make people go to evensong. We can do it, and may well do it, by example. We shall never do it by passing a Statute.
I would suggest with respect, as I hope, that this Report will give the Government an opportunity of bringing forward in due course legislation which will alter the whole state of Sunday and give us 947 an opportunity for living a better life by example, and not by Statute.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I should like to begin my speech by congratulating most sincerely my bon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) on his admirable maiden speech. My hon. Friend will realise that it gives me special pleasure to do so, because about 15 years ago he and I were what I might call expectant young Conservatives together. We saw a good deal of each other in those days, and I am glad that it now falls to me to say that I am sure the House hopes to hear him on a number of other occasions.
I am in full agreement with those who have congratulated the Crathorne Committee on its Report. In particular, I agree with those who have said in the Press that the temper of this Report is admirable. It is neither stuffy, nor nugatory. The Committee settled down to doing a job of work that was both practical and could serve as the basis of legislation, and I agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) when he specially commended paragraph 52 which says:In framing our recommendations we have endeavoured to make proposals which, if adopted, would produce a law that would be respected and could be enforced. To achieve this, the law must be clear, certain, and acceptable to a majority of the public.That is the spirit in which the Crathorne Committee carried out its work, and I think that on the whole, with one exception on which the House seemed to be agreed, it has lived up to its own principles.
I congratulate the Committee, also, on having produced a unanimous, or almost completely unanimous, Report which none the less manages to say something. If I may say so without offence, we had the example of the Radcliffe Report on Monetary Policy, a long, detailed, interesting, and unanimous Report, but one which contradicted as some point almost everything that was said at other points. It is valuable here to have a Report which is both unanimous and, at the same time, clear-cut in most of its recommendations.
I have two other preliminary comments to make. First, while I am sure that we 948 are all grateful, as always, for the lucid exposition of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary this afternoon, and while I realise that his speech was admirably directed to the Motion that we take note of the Report, none the less I hope that the House will not think me unreasonably captious if I express the hope that, when he replies, the Joint Under-Secretary of State will give us a rather more clear idea of how the Government themselves feel on some of the issues contained in the Report.
Again, I hope I shall not be thought captious if I draw the attention of the House, and of anyone who reads the debate, to the rather surprising fact that we have not heard from the Liberal benches at all throughout the day. Now that we have nine Liberal Members, who do not all sit for Scotland or Wales, I would have thought that it was not unreasonable to have had one contribution from them during the course of a full day's debate on this subject.
I think that the House has given a fairly clear idea of its views on this Report. Like many other hon. Members, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam, I stand somewhere between those who would like to make a clean sweep of all restrictive legislation, and those who are rigorists. Certainly, I believe that the opportunity for religious observance and the opportunity for what one might call secular enjoyment are in no sense incompatible. I think that most people want Sunday to be different to some extent from other days of the week, but not at the expense of inconvenience to nearly everyone. I also think that on this and other issues I incline myself to say that consumer choice and consumer preference are important matters to which we must always afford sufficient weight.
I have two or three more general points to make concerning my own views on the subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), as he always does, made an honest and courageous speech. He never shirks putting a view which may be unpopular. He said that in his view some sanctions should be accepted in connection with the Christian Sunday, though he would not claim that we could legislate people into religious observance. I think that I shall not be doing him an injustice if 949 I say that he inclined to the view that the structure of the law should remind people all the time of the great importance of the religious approach to life, and that there should be some sanction of this kind.
As against that, the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), in his very interesting speech, put forward the view very strongly that the cause of Christianity must itself be damaged by dreary Sundays. I would only say that, for my part, it has always seemed important to remember that religion and the religious attitude to life are, among other things, about self-discipline and obedience to rules. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House who do not hold orthodox religious opinions would none the less sympathise with Puritanism, in the sense that Professor Hoggart has defined the word—the view of life which says that we all of us have to decide what values we will adhere to and that we have the fullest measure of personal responsibility in that respect.
But religion is not just about obeying rules. There are also the aspects of giving thanks, of worship, and of feeling that this world is potentially a good and joyous place. Finally, there is much in the Scriptures about the importance of religious insights challenging our conventions and attitudes. It would be a most unfortunate thing if we were to allow our religious preferences to lead us to sanctify certain conventions or laws that may very well no longer meet the needs of the present-day world.
One of the most important aspects of Sunday is that it should be a day of leisure, and that people should be at liberty to enjoy that leisure. This is of great importance. Although I listened with admiration to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Kilfedder), I was not quite happy with one thing he said, namely, that after attending church one should not enjoy too much of one's own pleasures. Surely recreation—the pursuit of the quality of life—for the rest of Sunday is of great importance. I would hope that Sunday would be a day on which many people discovered for themselves worth-while interests for which they did not have time on the other days of the week.
950 I do not think that there is any inconsistency in the attitude of those who are members of a worshipping community, on the one hand, but who also believe in those eminently sane and right values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no inconsistency in such an approach.
Finally, to end my general comments, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam was quite right to lay stress on paragraph 35 of the Report, which says:Since the Second World War, the widespread popularity of television which is not 'public' entertainment and, therefore, not restricted by Sunday observance law, appears to have had the effect of reducing the demand from the general public for changes in the law but of increasing the pressure from certain sections of the entertainment trade who consider that they suffer from unfair competition from television in regard to Sunday entertainment.We have this source of entertainment on Sundays, and in our whole approach to the subject we must recognise the climate of entertainment which is provided today
I recall a striking passage in one of the books of that always interesting writer, Monsignor Ronald Knox, in which he says—and this is rather a theological remark—thatthe amenities of modern life"—and he quotes the motor car and the tennis court—have lessened man's relish for eternity.Whatever we may think of that remark, today, with television and all the aids to enjoyment which have arisen since he wrote that passage, the remark is infinitely truer. One must approach this question of Sunday observance with a full knowledge of the culture in which we live and the entertainment media which already legally exist in this country, even on Sunday.
Having made those general points I now return to the Report. I wish to say something about shops and then something on the subject of entertainment. So far as shops are concerned, I have felt that this part of the Report is, in principle, non-controversial among most hon. Members. None the less, employees in these categories should, of course, have time off as compensation during the rest of the week.
951 I greatly sympathise with hon. Members like the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) and the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who have emphasised what one might describe as the trade union aspect of the Crathorne Report. I think that the Committee took full account of the representations put to it, but I have no doubt at all that when, as I hope, we have legislation on this subject, and it passes through the House, there are quite important decisions to be taken and a good deal of further consultation will be needed. I hope that special interests will not be in any sense obstructive about this, but, equally, it will be quite wrong to ride roughshod over anxieties expressed here. This is eminently a matter for negotiation.
Regarding the merits of the proposals about shops and Sunday trading, I very much hope that hon. Members who feel inclined to criticise this part of the Report will read it carefully and realise very clearly exactly how far the present law goes and how much evasion there is already today. The main recommendation in paragraph 163 is argued very fully, and words are quoted from the Institute of Weights and Measures Administration, in paragraph 158:It will, we think, be impossible ever again successfully to prohibit the sale of food on Sundays. This should be recognised.Paragraph 159 states:We think that the only rational solution to the present state of affairs is to allow food shops to sell any article which is used as food or drink for human consumption, or as an ingredient in the preparation of food and drink.This part of the Report is, I think, very fully and cogently argued and I hope that anyone who wants to criticise it will look carefully at the arguments by which that recommendation is justified.
The view of the Committee on entertainment is that distinctions, except in the case of sport, ought to be abolished. Theatres should be given parity with concerts just as dancing should become as legal as bingo. There is much to be said for these views. I recognise all the anxieties about the theatre, as put by the hon. Member for Putney, but to say that we can have Sunday concerts and Sunday cinemas but that it is impossible to have dramatic performances on a Sunday, seems to me a very difficult distinction to justify.
952 I should like to stress the importance of the theatre. After all, generations of school children who have passed through school have had far more opportunity in recent years of experiencing dramatic performances than every before. One must accept that the development of our school system has led to a greater emphasis on drama, and a far larger number of drama advisers are now being employed by local authorities. So I think that this anomaly, as I felt it to be, is particularly unjustified at the present time. I am glad to think that we may see dancing legalised and no longer confined to members of clubs.
I do not know whether I am the only hon. Member who feels in this way, but I have long felt that this device of a Sunday club is an absurd subterfuge and something totally out of line with a modern up-to-date society. Those of us who are lucky enough to attend Glyndebourne Opera from time to time, and who wish to opt for a Sunday performance—as hon. Members of the House may have to do from time to time because of engagements on Fridays and Saturdays—have formally to become members of the Sunday club, and that seems to me the sort of anomaly which is impossible to justify.
Sport is, of course, difficult. I think that there is quite a lot of feeling in the House that the Crathorne recommendations, if followed as they have been set out, could well lead to the same sort of evasions and the same sort of confusion as are caused by our present provisions. First of all, the attempt has been made—and on this point I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon—to distinguish between player sports and spectator sports. Even this is difficult enough, but it becomes much harder still to sub-divide spectator sports logically between those in which entertainment is given by professionals and those in which purely amateur performers attract spectators.
Nothing has been said in the debate about the beginning of Chapter 8, which deals with player sports. There are some rather tiresome anomalies here. I think that this section, from paragraph 98 to paragraph 103, is quite important. It does not, oddly enough, figure in the recommendations at the end of the Report; there is no recommendation 953 specifically relating to these paragraphs. But paragraph 100 says:The evidence we received left us in no doubt that there was general support for healthy recreation being available on Sunday and we have no hesitation in recommending that any doubt as to the legality of Sunday sports and games organised for the benefit of participants should be removed.I hope that when the time comes for legislation we shall look at this point, at the position of player sports. There is nothing very important here; but there are a number of irritating anomalies which add up.
I come to the sub-division between professional entertainment and amateur entertainment. Here the only restrictions which the Committee recommends are on those spectator sports for which people earn money. I agree with the doubts which hon. Members have expressed about this section. I think that the distinction between amateur and professional sport is becoming increasingly hard to define. I am not an expert on any particular sport, but, clearly, this distinction has less and less relevance in the sphere of cricket and, I think, also in that of tennis.
A number of hon. Members—I am thinking particularly of the eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison)—have said that anyway the fixed point for them is their agreement with the Crathorne Committee that we do not want a lot of noise and disturbance and people using public transport on a Sunday. A number of hon. Members have seized here on the first sentence of paragraph 117:Generally speaking, we believe that sports in which the participants are not remunerated do not lend themselves to commercial organisation and do not regularly attract large crowds of spectators on a scale to interfere with the character of Sunday.As I have said, I feel that it is doubtful whether the distinction which the Crathorne Committee have drawn will prevent that from happening. An example was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole). On its own terms, I doubt whether the Report's distinction is satisfactory.
§ Mr. Doughty
I tried to explain that if one criticises one must suggest something better. The principle is that one wants to avoid the large gatherings—20,000 or 30,000, or even 10,000 or 15,000 954 —but to encourage the amateur games, the tennis tournaments and bowling matches, and so on. However, they sometimes attract a bigger crowd than the smallest game of professional sport. I believe that the dividing line between professional sport at any large gathering and the amateur sport is easily definable. Apart from any distinction between amateurs and professionals, that is the proper line to draw.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) will bear with me. This is the only point at which I am being a little critical of the Report and I am not being critical lightly, or without realisation of the difficulties.
I completely understand the objective of the Crathorne Committee. Personally, I doubt very much whether the distinction made in paragraph 111 would work out satisfactorily in practice. I accept that the Lawn Tennis Association, for example, told the Committee that it would like to exercise control over Sunday tennis. I accept that this might work more or less. None the less, for the reasons I have tried fairly to explain, there is much in the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon and others when they say that it would be difficult to work out this distinction in practice, particularly bearing in mind that there is not always an easy demarcation between professional and amateur sport in a number of respects.
My hon. and learned friend the Member for Surrey, East has said that if we do not like this suggestion, it is up to us to suggest something better. But the attempt to draw a sharp distinction between different kinds of spectator sport must inevitably prove exceedingly difficult. I frankly accept that, but, speaking entirely for myself, I would none the less not wish—and I apologise for using the double negative—to make no move on this front. That is to say, I should be sorry if the fact that the distinction was not easy to draw led us to be timid so that we made no move on this front.
If we found that some distinction was workable, no one would be more pleased than I, but if we find, as I fear we may, that the sort of distinction envisaged by the Crathorne Committee is not workable, none the less for myself I would still make a change in respect of sport. 955 That is where my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon and I part company.
I say this primarily not because I have any partiality for noise or great local disturbances on a Sunday, but because I feel that Sunday is a day on which it is extremely important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam said, that we find worth-while activity for younger people, and understand the disadvantages of the lack of present opportunities. Bearing in mind the needs of a number of sporting clubs and also the experience of other parts of the world, it is surely true that more Sunday sport—and I completely concede the point about not starting until after 12.30, for I am not making any issue of the starting point of the day—could be of great assistance to many organised groups. The fact is that in many parts of the world footballers play on Sunday and certainly athletes run on Sunday, and although I have no special knowledge, I think that more Sunday cricket could save a number of clubs.
That is absolutely the only point on which I wish to take issue with the Report. In general, I certainly believe that any illogicalities in the recommendations of the Crathorne Committee are considerably less than the present illogicalities of our Sunday laws. I should like to end as I began by commending very strongly the spirit in which the Crathorne Committee has approached its task; it has done work which will be of great value to the House and the country for a long time to come.
As a number of hon. Members have truly remarked, this has not been a debate which has fired the imagination of the House as a whole. I cannot help thinking of some earlier debates which we have had on the subject of Sunday sport and Sunday observance. Almost the first debate which I witnessed as a new Member of the House, just over 14 years ago, was on the issue of whether the Festival of Britain Exhibition should be open on a Sunday. Hon. Members may recall that at the time that debate excited as much attention in the Press and in the House as something which happened at 3.30 this afternoon, when the House was full.
I well remember Sir Hartley Shawcross, as he then was, winding up with a quotation from an eighteenth century verse: 956Each does the other's arguments deride, Each has the Church and Scripture on his sid.He added, "Trust the people." Whereupon Sir Waldron Smithers shouted from a back bench, "Then why put the Whips on?" That was one occasion when Sir Waldron had the whole House with him. I recall more recent debates of high excitement and the eloquence of the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) winding up on a Motion introduced by the Joint Under-Secretary to the Department of Education and Science.
Then, as a result, perhaps, of those debates, a Committee was appointed. We have received its recommendations. I hope that the joint Under-Secretary, having listened to the debate, will feel that there is enough agreement in the House to enable him to get on with the drafting of legislation on the subject. I hope, as do many of my hon. Friends, that following this debate we will not just put this subject into cold storage but that it will be possible, before too long, to have a Bill.
I do not say that we can as yet decide all the policy aspects. Of course, there will have to be a number of consultations. However, I am sure that we should, in the very near future, have legislation on this subject and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able, in that respect, to go a little further than his right hon. Friend went in opening the debate.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Thomas)
I join with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) in offering my sincere congratulations to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) who made his maiden speech. He chose a good subject and he represents a wonderful constituency. He dealt with his subject with a fluency and a pleasant manner which, I am sure, will earn for him a very special place in the House. Like other hon. Members, I look forward to hearing him again.
There have been many debates since the the war on the question of Sunday legislation. I think I may claim that in every one of them I have been in my place in the House. On odd occasions I caught your predecessor's eye, Mr. Speaker, and I think that I even caught 957 your eye when you were not looking. I have been honoured to take part in debates on this subject.
Today's debate has been different from every one that has gone before on this issue. It may be, because there is unlikely to be a Division tonight, that interest in the debate has been affected. Whatever its cause, it is noteworthy that this has been the poorest attended debate on Sunday affairs in my memory and, I believe, beyond that.
This may reflect a changed mood in the country. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) suggested that it was because people have now lost respect for the law about Sunday and that, therefore, people could not be bothered to take any interest in the debate. I do not wish to do the hon. Member an injustice, but, on the other hand, it might be thought that there is no great demand to alter Sunday legislation. If the House reflects opinion outside, one would have expected tonight that more hon. Members would have been here as on other occasions when we have dealt with Sunday legislation.
This debate has, however, been characterised by the same high sincerity that has always characterised our debates on Sunday legislation. In this House we learn to respect each other, though we differ from each other's point of view. On the present subject, no one is without bias of some sort. To have a bias is not a fault; it is a sign that one has done some thinking. We reach different conclusions, but the subject before us is not one that easily lends itself to agreed solutions, and I should like to join the right hon. Member for Handsworth in paying tribute to Lord Crathorne and all the members of the Departmental Committee for the care they took, and the time they gave—over three years' consideration—and the production of a Report that is clearly aimed at not stirring up passions about Sunday.
This is a subject on which successive Parliaments have found deep divisions. This very year we celebrate the 340th anniversary of the 1625 Act, which the Committee proposes should be repealed. This Act has not survived so long because it was overlooked. Since I have been here, I have heard it criticised and attacked, and recommended for repeal 958 year after year after year—but it has survived. It has survived frontal and oblique attacks. It has endured through the centuries—through years of absolute monarchy, through military dictatorship, through industrial revolution, through civil war and world war.
It is right and proper, therefore, that when such a Measure is recommended for repeal, Her Majesty's Government should say to this House, "We should like to have the views of hon. Members, so that we may consider them". I believe that both those who wish to change our Sunday legislation and those who resist change will surely agree that both the 1625 Measure and the 1780 Measure have had a profound effect on our national life, and their repeal, if it were decided upon, would be a truly radical reappraisal of Sunday legislation.
Caution is the essential prerequisite for the House as it examines the Measures. I believe that those who want to see changes and those who want to hold the old position would all agree that since these Acts have endured for so long—and the 1780 Act still has a direct bearing on our national life—we should at least move cautiously before deciding on repeal. This House is the custodian and the guardian of the heritage and traditions of the British people and, reflecting as it does a broad cross-section of opinion in the land, the Commons has always been anxious—and hon. Members on both sides in this dispute today have been anxious—to give due respect to the place of Sunday in our national life. I make no stronger claim than that for the moment.
In the history of the human race these islands have played a part out of all proportion to the size of the islands. I believe that this is not an accident, because I believe that in a man's beliefs one can find the measurement of his character. It is also my firm conviction that the notable rôle played in world affairs by our fathers in this island was due to the strength of their beliefs. I know that times change. The old order changeth, yielding place to new. Yet this also is balanced by the fact that there are some things permanent to every generation. Man's need to worship is a permanent need. It is felt in primitive societies and in sophisticated societies. It has been felt ever since man was able 959 to think for himself. He has been aware of the need to worship. For this country, it so happens that Sunday has been the day set apart for public worship.
As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said tonight, representing both schools of thought, Sunday is not now, and for many centuries has not been, just another day. The Committee recommended the judgment of the British Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic body in England and Wales that Sunday is a day apart. In paragraph 40 we are told that the British Council of Churches, which represents 98 per cent. of the Protestant Churches of the land, and the Roman Catholic body both considered that the traditional character of Sunday should be preserved for the Christian community and for the well-being of national and family life, they hoped thatany revision of the law would make it easier rather than more difficult for them to observe Sunday according to Christian practice.Sunday is not just a rest day, as we have been reminded. I think that we can accept without feeling that anyone is giving ground that Sunday has been for the British people a reminder of our Christian heritage. It has been a reminder that worship is a natural part of living.
We have been reminded tonight of the anomalies surrounding Sunday observance. Unhappily, it is painfully easy to find illustrations of wretched anomalies which irritate all sensible people. The House must realise that it would take the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the years of Methuselah to produce legislation about Sunday which was not in itself anomalous. There are many people on both sides of the House learned in the law—nobody, of course, more learned in the law than my right hon. and learned friend the Home Secretary. I had better get that on the record! [Laughter.] I have learned to cast my bread upon the waters. If we took all the right hon. and learned Gentlemen in the House and locked them in a room and kept them there a month—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—when we let them out they still would not have found a formula for avoiding anomalies in Sunday legislation.
Therefore, the question we have to resolve is whether the Report offers the right compromise, whether it offers a just 960 formula, whether the traditional character of Sunday is to be preserved or cast away. We must resolve whether the frankly compromise proposals—it is acknowledged that they are compromise—will establish a Sunday that will at once protect what is best in our national heritage and meet with public approval. Unless it does both of these things, there is no use in pursuing the matter any further.
This debate will be of great help to the Government in making up their mind upon the course to be followed. The Committee itself did not find it easy, and it would have been wrong for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to stand at the Box earlier this afternoon and tell the House the conclusions that we had reached before the House had had an opportunity to express its opinion. We believe that the House ought to be given this opportunity and we shall now give the weight that is deserved to every speech that has been made. [Laughter.] We shall decide the weight. [Interruption.] We are much more impartial at the Home Office than we are when we are sitting on the back benches. Sheer necessity is the mother of neutrality.
I turn to some of the other recommendations. The right hon. Member for Handsworth, who, I thought, brought our minds to some very important points, expressed the same concern that almost every speaker in the debate has expressed about the recommendations with regard to amateur or professional sport. These recommendations, are very interesting. Rugby union, which every Welshman ackowledges with respect, is amateur and is to be permitted at Cardiff Arms Park on a Sunday. Rugby league is to be denied in Wigan on a Sunday. Of course, the illogicality of it all would start our successors in this House arguing about the illogicality of Sunday law and demanding further changes, as surely as we have tonight been criticising legislation that was put on the Statute Book in earlier days.
Amateur tennis internationals at Wimbledon are given the green light on Sundays, but speedway is shown the red light. The lion tamer is given permission, or would be by these proposals, to operate on Sunday in his circus. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Daniel? "] Never mind Daniel. The jockey is denied his horse.
961 I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor), who like others made a speech which I much enjoyed, suggested that somehow we ought to keep religious arguments out of this question. I hope that I am not doing him an injustice in saying that, but it is a sheer impossibility to discuss Sunday and think that we can leave religion out of the question. There is a State Church in this land. I do not belong to it, unless the Methodist conversations succeed and then we take it over. Religion and Sunday belong together. The House may turn its back upon them if it will, but it cannot separate the two.
The fact that there are anomalies about Sunday legislation ought not to upset us. Cold logic rarely solves emotive issues such as this. There is nothing more illogical than the British Constitution. Even my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary could not define it, but he knows it, he respects it and he acknowledges it, and that is true for all of us in the House. We had a speech from Ulster—I congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Kilfedder) on it—and one from my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan). We did not hear anyone from the Principality of Wales—until now, but I am not speaking for Wales at the moment. There are special proposals for Wales in this Report, and since the Council of Churches for Wales makes such proposals, I should inform the House that I am a member of that body, although I had no finger in the evidence given.
The Council asked for local option for Wales. I would only remind the House that in the fierce debates that we had over the proposal for local option in Wales on Sunday opening, it was pushed—I nearly said down our throats—on us in Wales, and in eight counties, in spite of all the pressure of modern advertising, we wanted to keep the old, quiet Sunday. Now we have heard from Ulster and from the Western Isles of Scotland similar appeals and they must be balanced against other speeches which we have heard.
I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), who has spoken in debates on this subject ever since the war to my 962 knowledge. I thought that tonight he presented his case for change and for having the creative spirit of religion associated with Sunday in a way to which the most bitter person holding other views could not take exception.
I thought that my hon. Friend was rather hard on the Lord's Day Observance Society. I do not belong to it and never have belonged to it. Its members are a small minority. They believe that the Divine law requires Sunday to be based on entirely different ways from those of today. We must respect their views. I believe that they are a tiny minority. The Society has 35,000 members, but who in this country measures the importance of views by an arithmetical formula or how many people accept them? No one has spoken for the Lord's Day Observance Society, but we ought to realise that, although the Society stands for things which very few in the House stand for, its view is one which we cannot entirely set aside. There are, I believe, four hon. Members who are members of the Lord's Day Observance Society, but, by and large, they do not represent the views of the House itself.
What the Government have to consider is whether we can find a way of dealing, on a legislative basis, with the proposals which are acceptable. It has come out quite clearly today that some are unacceptable to either side of the House. A great deal of anxiety has been expressed on the part of those who represent workers in the shops and some who represent workers in the entertainment business. These are arguments which will have to be taken into account by the Government as any future action is being considered. But, because this issue touches upon religious rights, upon civil liberties, upon family life and social obligations, we have a right to say to the House tonight that we are not yet ready with proposals.
Hon. Members on both sides who hoped that I should be more forthcoming than my right hon. and learned Friend know that, if I were, it would be with his permission. But we can only say that this subject will not be put into cold storage. We shall bear in mind the views of the House. We shall bear in mind the Report of the Committee. We shall realise also that the question of 963 Sunday is not one on which any Government can act hurriedly or impetuously.
§ Sir E. Boyle
None of us wishes the Government to act impetuously in this matter, but do I gather from what the hon. Gentleman says that there is a good chance that the Government will now consider legislation on this subject, that is to say, that the processes of considering drafting will begin within a short time, in view of what has been said in the debate? Second, and no less important, may we take it that, quite apart from the issues on which the House is agreed, the Government will not, as it were, close their mind on those issues which are more controversial and difficult and that efforts will be made to see whether there can be a way round the difficulties, or, failing that, that the Government will not shirk the possibility of legislating on the more controversial aspects?
§ Mr. Thomas
The Government will not shirk their duty. I can only say at present that, obviously, we shall consider what has been said. I cannot make a promise that we shall call the draftsmen in next week and that there will be early legislation. I should be misleading the House, and the House would soon find out. This is as far as I am able to go. We shall look at the matter—we have not decided yet—to see whether any legislation or what legislation will be required.
§ Mr. Driberg
My hon. Friend says "whether any legislation will be required". This suggests inactivity, perhaps. I understood him to say in the earlier part of his speech that it was not 964 right to indicate the conclusions which had been arrived at by the Government until the House had had a chance of having its say. The House has had its say today. Will not my hon. Friend now at least outline the conclusions to which the Government have come?
§ Mr. Thomas
It would take me—and my right hon. and learned Friend—much longer to do justice to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members who have advanced their arguments tonight. If we were to give our conclusions now, the House would know that we had made up our minds before the debate began. Therefore, hon. Members need not be frightened; conclusions have not been reached. But I can assure the House that we shall not be inactive on this subject. It will have the consideration of the Government. I can go no further than that.
I have been in the House for 20 years, and I regard it as a great honour to belong to the Mother of Parliaments which has endured so long. As I said earlier, I regard this House as the trustee of our national heritage. We who are here today are transient trustees and we should therefore realise that it is our responsibility to move very slowly, bearing in mind the history of this matter, and to be sure that the steps which we propose for any alteration are such as will earn the approbation of the public as a whole and ensure the protection of all that is best in our national life.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Law on Sunday Observance, presented on 9th December, 1964.