§ Any county or county borough in England or Wales may opt out of the provisions of this Act.—[Mr. Hugh Jenkins.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
The object of the new Clause is to treat Englishmen and Welshmen 673 equally. As I am half Welsh and half English, this seems to me an eminently reasonable proposition, and I hope that, for the reasons which I put forward in Standing Committee and which I will briefly repeat, the House will be minded to accept it.
The position provided for in the Bill is as follows. If one is in Wales, one has to go through a complex polling procedure to acquire any freedom at all on Sundays. The situation is highly restrictive. If one lives in a community in England which wants to have a free Sunday, one cannot get it. Under the Bill, there is no provision for an Englishman to opt out of the freedom conceded in the Bill. The Clause seeks to provide over the whole of England and Wales the possibility of any local authority to say, "Our community does not require the freedoms conceded in the Bill".
There is a lot to be said for this proposal. I think that it would be generally agreed that in many urban areas of Wales advantage will be taken of the polling procedures laid down in the Schedule, which are complex and difficult. Surely it would be better simply to provide the electorate with the opportunity to elect people who declare in an election address that they are in favour of or against a proposal rather than go through the complex polling procedure laid down in the Bill. Equally, if there is a community with elected representatives on a county or country borough basis—I do not think that one would to go below that, and that is the level which we suggest in the new Clause—which by a majority wishes not to enjoy the freedoms provided for in the Bill, should not we allow that community to opt out?
I understand that Members who move new Clauses have the opportunity to reply to the debate on them. Therefore, I propose to limit my remarks at this moment to a simple statement of the proposal and to reserve my right to reply to any points which may be raised.
§ Mr. Doughty
I understand that we are discussing new Clause 1 and new Clause 2 together. These are separate Clauses and, therefore, my speech will be divided into two separate parts. New Clause 1 allows an option to be exercised 674 by the councillors of a county borough. In some ways, that is rather like the Amendments to the Bill in connection with Wales.
I was a member of the Crathorne Committee. This very point was considered by that Committee, and considerable representations were made to it. I feel that, not only out of loyalty to that Committee, but also because the decisions bear my signature and since they were, I think, the right decisions, I should remind the House of what it said about local option. Paragraph 121 of the Crathorne Report deals with that matter, but I wish particularly to read paragraph 122:The evidence we received"—that is, the evidence dealing with local option—was, however, almost uniformly against the local electorate deciding what recreations should be permitted on Sunday in a particular area. We were told that in practice the local option procedure for cinemas was exploited by vociferous minorities, was expensive in time and money and aroused little interest among the general public. We examined an alternative proposal put forward by the Association of Municipal Corporations, namely, that if any local option was considered necessary, it should be exercised by the local borough or district council who could assess local opinion simply and reliably. This was proposed in the unsuccessful Bills that preceded the 1932 Act. The objection at that time was partly against the principle of local option on the grounds that it was a matter that should be decided nationally, and partly because it was feared that the controversial battles that had raged in Parliament"—I do not know whether today's debate can be described as coming under that heading—Would be transferred to local government elections. We consider that these objections to decisions by local councils are still valid. We do not believe that our proposals would, in practice, change the character of Sunday in those areas where Sabbartarian views are strongest; they are often rural areas and small towns where there are unlikely to be any theatres or variety halls.…If new Clause 1 were inserted in the Bill, it would undoubtedly result in local councillors, when standing for election or meeting their constituents, having to argue or propose or object to the Sunday opening of various forms of entertainment. On the whole, the Committee did not think, as I do not think, that that is a fair burden to put on a local councillor when standing for election. He 675 may offend some of his most ardent supporters who agree with him politically and personally but object to his views on that subject. It would undoubtedly be a great and unnecessary embarrassment to him. But I agree with the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) and perhaps others who may support him, that there should be some form of local control over these matters and I suggest to the House that this will be found better in new clause 2.
It would be wrong and out of order for me to go into detail of how new Clause 2 is relevant to the Bill as drafted. There are many Amendments on the Order Paper which would alter much of the wording in relation to payment by spectators, and so forth. Of course, if the provisions relating to payment by spectators were amended in a certain way, new Clause 2 would be unnecessary, but I suggest that we should consider it and adopt it on the theory that the Bill will go through, and go through unamended.
Where there has to be permission for the use of land with spectators making payment for the privilege, then who know local conditions better than the local justices? They are not affected by political consideration or by pressure. They would be influenced only by the evidence, properly given in a court by those who wish to oppose or object, and they would give their decisions judicially, subject to such appeal as new Clause 2 would provide. They would give a fair and impartial decision.
As we saw in the Crathorne Report, emotional pressures are brought to bear on these issues from one side or the other. The local justices would have to consider the very important aspect of nuisance or noise which might be caused to local inhabitants by these entertainments. One of the objections to the Bill is not Sabbatarian, but on grounds of nuisance and annoyance caused to those who wish to have a quiet Sunday. Therefore, if the local justices, who would have the power to grant permission for a spectacle—perhaps a big one—on Sundays concluded that it would cause excessive nuisance and annoyance it would lie in their power to refuse permission.
676 At present, I see no power in the Bill for anyone, whether the Home Secretary, the local council or anyone else, to say, "We object strongly to the noise and nuisance of the type of function being proposed." New Clause 2 would deal with that position in the best way by having the matter discussed, decided and adjudicated locally.
Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
I support new Clause 2. I have no objection in principle to the Bill. Indeed, in the last Parliament, when we debated the Crathorne Report, I gave general support to the proposals. But I also raised then the question of nuisance and noise which could affect residents in a locality, particularly from football matches.
I can give an illustration from my constituency. No doubt many hon. Members saw the excellent piece of film—in a sense, documentary—about Everton Football Club. I assure the House that this reflected a genuine situation. There is great enthusiasm for Everton. Its ground is right in the middle of my constituency, in a built-up working-class residential area. Most of those living near the ground go to Everton matches. They are great Evertonians.
But they have a split interest. They are Evertonians in one sense, but bombard me with letters and petitions—they did so when I was also a councillor for the area—complaining about noise and nuisance as a result of the matches. They naturally want some peace. They say, "We support the club. On Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, we have a terrible time, but we know we have to put up with it." To suggest to these people that they should not only have the problem on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but also on Sundays as well, is quite impossible. Local residents should not be placed in a position where thousands of motor cars and people descend upon their district, destroying their peace on a Sunday.
This is a reasonable Clause. It does not say that the principle of the Bill is wrong. It does not say that there should not be Sunday entertainment. What it says is that the local justices should have the power to consider whether, in a particular locality, there was the possibility of nuisance and noise being created by a Sunday football match or other type of 677 entertainment. They would take these factors into consideration.
I ask the hon. Members who, courageously, and with my full support, are putting the Bill through the House, to accept new Clause 2. If they do not, I must tell them that I will not only vote for the Clause, but against the Bill, and I do not want to do that. I am not being influenced by a number of letters from constituents, some of whom are members of the Sunday Observance Society. What influences me is the fact that thousands of people may be badly affected by nuisance. They have always had a case and it has not changed.
I ask hon. Members who are sponsoring the Bill to accept the new Clause. If they do, I think most of us can be content that the Bill is reasonable and one that we should support. But if they do not accept it, the Bill is not likely to go through and that would be very regrettable.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
For different reasons I find myself in agreement with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) will pay careful attention to the arguments being directed at him from both sides. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science will show a slightly more detached view about this than he seems to have showed when he was advising the Committee—I was not a member, but I have read the proceedings.
It seems that the hon. Gentleman, in considering these new Clauses, and the Bill, has allowed himself to become too greatly enmeshed in the financial advantages of really substantial sporting presentations. I hope that he will take a rather broader view of his responsibilities to the House as a member of the Government, and an adviser.
My attitude to these Clauses and to the Bill is that I genuinely believe, looking at it from my point of view, that the law relating to Sunday badly needs revision. In principle, therefore, I am in favour of the Bill. I am very sorry that at no time in Committee did the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill seem disposed 678 to accept any kind of restriction along various lines, or along the lines set out in the new Clauses that we are now discussing.
After Reading the Committee's Report I must say, and I know that I diverge from some people here, that the old divisions between amateur and professional cannot really be sustained. I regret that in many respects. I should have liked to have seen a restriction along these lines rather than along the lines suggested.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I had no intention of transgressing, but I sought to set the background.
I am quite satisfied that there is a substantial opinion in my constituency in favour of the principle of the Bill but which would welcome a restriction along one or other of the lines set out in the new Clauses. I favour new Clause 2, so persuasively moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey. East (Mr. Doughty). I follow what the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) was seeking to put to the House in new Clause 1, and in a moment this will be a matter for the House to decide.
It seems that the principle of licence by local justices is well understood, that by and large we have a detached tribunal before whom these matters can be considered. By adding this Clause, which my hon. and learned Friend reminded the House must, at this stage, merely be considered as it stands, we can give some kind of protection to those outside this House who are deeply concerned about totally unfettered, substantial professional promotions on a Sunday.
It has been made quite clear that new Clause 2 makes no reference to, and by virtue of the tribunal with which it deals, can make no reference to, the very substantial number of people of whose interests we are fully entitled to take note, and for whom Sunday is a very special day. It would not be possible for a tribunal of that nature to have regard to matters of that sort. At least what we have secured is that those who know the locality, those who, in other respects, 679 are well used to considering the effect of certain public matters upon the general public, will adjudicate upon an application.
For my own part if new Clause 2 is not accepted it seems that new Clause 9 is the next best step. We are all supporters of English and Welsh local government—as we are talking only of England and Wales today—and I find some attraction in the regulation-making power placed in the hands of councils, set out in new Clause 9. I still do not think it is such a good solution as that in new Clause 2. If the House should turn down new Clause 2 we shall go for regulations to be made by the council or county borough, and other councils set out.
I hope that the promoter of the Bill and those associated with him may feel that they have gone a very long way indeed and, may I say respectfully, done a great service to the country by raising this subject, and producing a Bill which in many respects has much to commend it. I hope, particularly on private Members' business, that those associated with it, and Ministers advising the House will also remember their duty to the feelings of the House or a very sensitive matter. It is already clear that totally uninhibited, public professional presentations on a Sunday is more than, at any rate a number of Members, feel it right to provide.
In those circumstances, and in that spirit, I very much hope that we will later hear that the hon. Gentleman will accept at least one of these new Clauses, preferably new Clause 2.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
My task in relation to new Clause 2 has been greatly facilitated and shortened by the persuasive case made out by other hon. Members. As I understand, the group of Amendments that we are discussing can be resolved into three proposals all designed, alternatively or cumulatively, to deal with one problem. It is a problem which arises in this way. The purposes of the Bill are twofold. First, it is meant to sweep away the historical anomalies for which no one can have any great affection, and to replace them with a single clear principle to which we can all refer and which can be applied.
680 Secondly, it is to confer upon people the freedom to decide for themselves what activity they should pursue on Sunday. I do not quarrel with that—I believe that people should make their own provision for eternity. These very admirable principles give rise to a serious problem of how far the freedom of some people to pursue their leisure time obtrusively can be allowed to impinge on corresponding freedom the other way.
That question arises here at two points. There is, first, the question of how far people who want to enjoy Sunday as a day of rest may be compelled to follow their normal occupation as bus drivers, policemen or candy-floss vendors rather than be able to decide for themselves. It would be a tragic irony if the Bill produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), of all people, were to deprive some of his constituents of a very real freedom.
There is, secondly, the problem of how far people who wish to enjoy Sundays as an opportunity to recover from the noise and confusion of a six-day week are to be deprived of this by the activities of what may turn out to be no more than a minority. Even if it were an overwhelming majority, these people still have their rights. This is aggravated today by three characteristics. First, we live on an overcrowded island and it is very difficult to arrange an event in complete isolation from its effect upon other people who do not choose to be concerned.
Secondly, the facilities we now enjoy for travelling long distances at great speed enable any of us to assemble a large crowd without difficulty.
Thirdly, we have increased technical facilities for making noise and we cannot resist availing ourselves of them. Loudspeakers, Tannoys, transistor radios—I seem to spend half my time dealing with complaints from my constituents about noise and the other half listening to my own family demonstrate improved techniques for making it.
§ Mr. Archer
I am not impressed by the arguments which have previously been put forward that at least there is a respite on Sunday mornings. Many of my constituents are engaged during Sunday mornings in cooking Sunday meals and getting the children ready. For them it is Sunday afternoons that they most look forward to as a period of restraint and quiet. I am not impressed, either, by the point made that many people in any event are prepared to spend their Sundays working.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is drifting into a debate on the Bill itself. He must deal with the new Clause.
§ Mr. Archer
I was hoping to demonstrate very briefly that both these principles may be entailed in the kind of position that may arise if new Clause 2 were accepted. I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, and will not take the matter further.
Other hon. Members have demonstrated more clearly than I can that it is important to consider how far people are entitled to some kind of freedom from noise on the seventh day. It is not enough merely to point out that noise is inevitable for the other six days. Noise is very often tolerable simply because there is a prospect of looking forward to some kind of remission from it. Again and again we hear reports of the effect of incessant noise upon our nerves, health and expectation of life. I am told that a scientist is at present engaged in experiments to discover the possibility of turning noise into an even more frightening weapon of war.
There are three proposals which we are now discussing for deciding what can be done about this matter. The first is the proposal for a decision by local electors themselves, in the form of a local poll. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will have a great deal to say about that proposal.
For some of the reasons indicated by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), I would be less persuaded by that than by the principle of new Clause 2, for one additional reason to which I do not believe the hon. and learned Gentleman referred but which is very important, namely, that a local poll 682 would merely enable people to say that in respect of certain local events they want all or nothing. They might not want all or nothing; they might want some. There might be one form of activity which would be quite innocuous and another which would be quite intolerable. A method of distinguishing between these is, in my submission, the one that we should be seeking.
The second method is to decide this matter through local councillors. That proposal commends itself to me rather less than the one that it should be the magistrates who decide. I do not imagine that our local councillors would thank us if we imposed upon them a liability to be perpetually lobbied by one side or the other, and a change in the composition of a local council at a May election might result in a new policy, which my hon. Friend the "Minister for Sport" would not welcome because all the fixture cards would have to be torn up. On balance, if there were no other choice, I think that I would decide in favour of a decision by local councillors, but I believe there is another possibility which would shock my hon. Friend much less. He knows that I am no enemy of amateur sport.
The other possibility is that the question might be decided by people a little more remote from the pressures of local politics. Some people might think that perhaps they were too remote. I refer to people who will consider the matter on its merits and decide on the evidence that is provided, and who have fulfilled their function in relation to licensing with a great deal of satisfaction in the past. I am delighted to see that the Government have already accepted precisely this principle in the new Gaming Bill.
For that reason I recommend the principle laid down in new Clause 2. There is another reason. There will be inconsistencies. People will have to make applications and there is the disadvantage—and it may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West will regard this as unnecessary—that lawyers will get a little more work out of it and perhaps a slight increase in their incomes. I should be prepared even to face that consequence, because it appears that this is an effective method of keeping the balance between the interests of those whom my hon. Friend had in mind when, 683 quite properly, he introduced the Bill, and those many others who depend upon us to look after their interests.
§ 11.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I shall not detain the House for very long. When I first read new Clause 1, I liked it very much. I thought that it provided for a devolution of power and allowed for local decisions. Whatever may have been the strength of other arguments, I felt that the argument put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), to the effect that the power of local decision would be unfair to locally elected representatives, was not a very strong one. My hon. and learned Friend said that a locally elected representative might offend his electors. That is true, but that is nothing strange to any elected representative of any of our elected assemblies.
On the other hand, new Clause 2 provides for a different and, in my opinion, better solution to this problem. I have one reservation about it. I regret that I did not notice it earlier. It refers tonuisance or annoyance to any member of the public.The word "member" in the singular restricts too much the discretion of the justices. If the word were "members" the Clause would be very much improved.
If an Amendment were made along these lines it would remove the likelihood of one awkward customer preventing the enjoyment of a large number of others who might be local or who might have come in from further afield. If such an Amendment were made power would be retained for the justices to have regard to a slightly more general degree of local public opinion.
§ Mr. George H. Perry (Nottingham, South)
I want to take up a point made about new Clause 2. The situation in my constituency is unique. There are, within close proximity of each other, two first-class football grounds and one first-class cricket ground, on which test match cricket is played. There is also horse racing, in a mild way. Not all hon. Members have such activities going on in their constituencies.
I do not approach this matter from the police angle, or from the angle of a 684 killjoy. Rather have I been in my youth and even after that an ardent and rabid follower of, and participant in, all forms of sport—even the dissolute game of billiards, and even on a Sunday when it was surreptitiously possible. But I have responsibilities to my constituents and local councils, who are already concerned about the present amount of noise, quite apart from what there will be on Sunday if the Bill goes through.
I have received a note from the West Bridgford Urban District Council, which has two major stadiums in its area—Trent Bridge and the County Cricket ground. It is greatly concerned about what will happen to its ratepayers within half-a-mile radius of the football ground if the Bill goes through as it stands.
What we are concerned about is that there is a new kind of football follower these days. Over the past nine or 10 years the young generation seems to have tried to emulate the American cheer-leading system when attending football matches. When I followed soccer one went to watch the skills of the great, like Alex James, Alec Jackson and Horatio Carter. We applauded and cheered their skills. But today it seems that when the Forest are playing at home—not the County, for they are in the Fourth Division, with due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Mr. Dunnett), who is a director of the club—there is an infiltration towards the ground along all roads leading to it from about 11 a.m. for a match starting at 3 p.m.
There is usually still plenty of room at the ground when the game begins, so these people do not go there early to get a position. They go to take part in the mass chanting that occurs before the game starts. The nuisance will occur before 2 p.m. on a Sunday, because the crowds will congregate to indulge in this form of mass hysteria which is now prevalent. It is an outlet for those concerned after doing factory work that is perhaps monotonous.
This is the sort of thing residents in the vicinity will have to suffer. I shall never know what relevance "Never Walk Alone" or "Mammy" have to a football match. They are not sung merely when goals are scored. In addition, toilet rolls are thrown on to the pitch 685 and a lot of rubbish has to be swept away after the games.
The major football clubs cannot have it both ways. This kind of nuisance occurs at all the major clubs in the major cities—Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sunderland, Leeds, Nottingham and London—where the Arsenal play, as well as Millwall. When the clubs visit other towns they take thousands of sup-supporters with them and they commit many nuisances, including breaking shop windows, on Saturdays or even Wednesday nights. Already, football can be played six days a week with the use of floodligits.
§ Mr. Perry
Even before I received the note from West Bridgford Urban District Council I had heard about the problems of traffic, law and order, nuisance and disturbance arising from football matches, which I thought were relevant. I shall not read all the note. It speaks about the problem of residents who cannot back their cars out of their own drives—as I myself cannot—and continues:There have been many complaints of nuisance and disturbance to residential areas in the District as a result of behaviour of persons attending football matches,…, and one can well imagine that inhabitants of the residential area would take a serious view if the disturbances and nuisances which now arise on Saturdays were transferred to Sundays.The only letters I have had in favour of the Bill are from the Notts County Football Club, Nottingham Forest Football Club and the Nottinghamshire Football Association. Every letter from individuals has been against the Bill, not necessarily on religious grounds. Therefore, I hope that we shall support having no Clause 2.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are not discussing the Bill at this stage, but a set of checks and balances.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I am glad to say that Bournemouth does not yet have the peculiarities of Liverpool in the way in which it cheers on its side. I hope that they never come to my delightful constituency.
686 When the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) sat down I merely wanted to crystallize exactly what he was saying in so persuasively describing the support of new Clause 2. Only this morning I received a letter from Bournemouth saying:It seems hardly fair that those who, like myself, live en route to or near the football ground should now be faced with matches on Sundays as well as Saturdays. To be faced with inaccessibility to one's garage and noisy bedlam on one of the two weekend afternoons is bad enough, but with the prospect of the proposed Bill becoming law, the one remaining peaceful afternoon will become the same as Saturday.Instead of the Clause so well put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), it is far better to leave the decisions in the hands of the more mature and experienced members of the community. That is better than having the matter as an issue at elections, when all and sundry, together with councillors, are considerably bothered and thereby given additional work.
Mr. Idwal Jones
I am in rather an invidious position on new Clause 1, because I am a firm supporter of local option and shall support it all the way. But my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) wanted to bring England into line with Wales, and that is exactly what he is not doing.
I am sure that I am not far wrong. I copied down my hon. Friend's words.
We already have in the Bill a Clause concerning local option in Wales which is a case of opting into the Bill and I think that is better than opting out. I should like to see the same provision applied to England so that areas will be able to opt in rather than out.
§ Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)
I oppose new Clause 1, first, because I do not think that local option is the way to treat Wales in this matter concerning a great, age-old national institution, which is what the Welsh Sunday is. I find it hard to hear that the Clause is proposed by two hon. Members representing English constituencies who seek in this way to change something of infinite value to Wales.
687 It is noticeable that Welsh hon. Members have not put down a Clause like this. The Clause in the name of Welsh Members would except Wales altogether from the effects of the Bill.
As the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) has just pointed out, new Clause 1 would place on all Welsh districts the onerous task of opting out of the proposed new legislation. It would put the onus on those who want to keep what has existed in Wales for so many centuries to take the initiative in doing so. They would be assumed guilty of wanting the new Sunday which is now proposed until they proved themselves innocent.
Therefore, I find the Clause even more unacceptable than Clause 5, which at least requires those who want to get rid of the present Sunday or change its character to take the initiative and opt in. As I understand, it is claimed by those who wish to see this method of local option used that it is a highly democratic method. Of course it is, but it is the wrong method in this kind of instance. One cannot use this kind of method for all institutions or for all great problems.
For instance, we have seen fairly recently a great controversy on the question of hanging. Would one put a matter like that to people locally to decide? Obviously not. There is another great controversy raging on the question of race relations. Would one put that kind of matter to people locally to vote on? I suggest not; of course, we would not. I think Sunday, as a national institution, comes into that kind of category; it is not the kind of thing to put to people locally to vote upon.
We here have to accept our own responsibilities in this House as the Legislature in a matter like this, particularly because those who are so strongly behind the movement to change the character of Sunday have so strong a lobby, so wealthy a lobby, so powerful a lobby, and they have so many means at their disposal for manipulating democracy both locally and nationally. They have at their disposal such vast wealth which they do, of course, deploy, as we know, in advertising campaigns, to change the character of some at least of our life. Parliament 688 has a duty itself to protect this institution and this is my central point on this Clause, that it is the duty which Parliament should not abdicate from.
We have to accept the responsibility to decide for ourselves in the House, in this legislature, what the nature of this institution is to be, and certainly we would not be protecting this institution by creating a situation of vast crowds congregating for noisy spectacles, certainly not by allowing a situation in which it would be commercialised, or by allowing a situation in which many people are compelled to work, work forced upon many thousands of people who otherwise would not work on Sunday. These are circumstances in which the Legislature has a duty to protect an institution like this. We all, I think, agree that not all shops should be open on this day, not all banks should be open, not all offices should be open.
If we have these spectacles and noisy congregations, if these are allowed, I fear that there will then be a further step. Part of the day will have lost its character, and then we shall have pressure groups arguing that shops should be open, banks should be open, and so on. We have to draw the line somewhere, and we should decide where the line should be drawn. It is our duty to draw the line somewhere and draw it, I would say, so as to preserve the character of Sunday as a day of rest and a day of worship.
Most hon. Members will appreciate the importance of the value of this day particularly to those who in our society are most vulnerable, and therefore I plead that we should accept our responsibility in the matter as a House, our responsibility for the whole community, and not devolve it upon people locally. In particular I do not want to see in Wales a hotchpotch of different situations all over the country on a Sunday. We lack a Government of our own and so we are more disunited than we ought to be. We are disunited enough, without adding this element of disintegration. If this matter is to be put to the people by any form of referendum it should be not locally but nationally, so that we have one solution for the whole of Wales, and not different local solutions.
I am quite sure that what is right and proper for Wales is that we should have our separate legislation on this issue, 689 because Wales is a separate country and a separate nation which has its own separate life.
§ Mr. Speaker
Having listened carefully to the debate, I have decided now that I will allow at the end of the debate a Division not only on new Clause 1, but also on new Clause 2, and, when we reach it at its appropriate place, a Division, but without debate, on new Clause 9.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I shall not detain the House long or intervene too long before my hon. Friend indicates his point of view, but this is perhaps the most important decision of all on all these local options. I would commend the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) and Nottingham, South (Mr. George H. Perry).
As a trade unionist, I have fought for many years to reduce Sunday working to the minimum, and to seek to attain that by, amongst other measures, compelling employers to pay double pay for Sundays. I want to say this to my trade union friends—to my young trade union friends who face the trade union problems of the future—that if we allow Sunday to become just another day the case for double pay for which we have fought will go by the board.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
On a point of order. With all due respect to my right hon. Friend, is this line of argument in order?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) is on a good point, but he must leave control of the debate to Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Griffiths
My own view is that in this modern, permissive, materialistic society, if we had not inherited Sunday as a day of rest, we should have had to invent it. With all the speed and noise of modern life, it has become even more absolutely essential to have one day on which people can get quiet and rest.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I will come to it, Mr. Speaker.
On new Clause 1, the question arises whether any county or county borough shall opt out of the provisions of the Bill. The decision is to be left to councils. That would apply in both England and Wales. I would be the last to deny to England any privileges which we claim for ourselves in Wales. I would be the last to deny freedom, but, quite frankly, I do not regard the provisions of the Bill as conferring freedom but rather a new kind of slavery. That is my view.
I do not think that, if we are to have local option at all, this is the best way to do it, to leave it to councils. I would not like this matter to be brought into party politics at the local level. I am very glad that my own party has sustained the tradition that this is the sort of matter which is not a party matter but one in which we can take our own points of view.
The second proposition, in new Clause 2, is that the decision should be left to magistrates. I am not happy about leaving it to magistrates to decide this matter. If there is to be a local option, I feel that it should be by referendum.
Now I should like to ask a question. Let us assume that either new Clause 1 or new Clause 2 is carried, or that both are carried. Then what happens to the Clause about a referendum in Wales? It falls, I presume. I might vote for new Clause 1 or for new Clause 2, but if either is carried, it must mean that Clause 5 falls.
I took a leading part some years ago in consideration both in the House and in Committee on the then Licensing Bill. Eventually we arrived at a decision to include in it exactly the provisions which are contained in Clause 5 of the Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order now to discuss Clause 5, and the Amendment to delete it is not selected.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Special provision is made in Clause 5 for Wales and I was afraid that it might fall if either of these new Clauses were agreed to.
Let us assume new Clause 1 is carried. It will affect local options in the whole 691 of England and Wales. If the new Clause is carried, will Clause 5, which provides separately for Wales, go out of the Bill? If the Clause is carried, England and Wales will be on the same footing, in which event it seems to me that Clause 5 will fall out. I prefer the method of local options by referendum of the electorate to a national poll for Wales. I feel sure that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) prefers that method, too. If there is a national poll for Wales, Glamorgan and Monmouth together will decide the fate of Wales. There is sound reason to ensure that the people of the locality, whose lives are affected by this, should have the right to decide. Let us leave it to a free vote by our people to decide whether they want it or not.
I would like my hon. Friend's new Clause, which contains provision for a referendum, to be adopted. I prefer that to new Clause 2. I know that a good many old laws need to be changed, but I say to my friends who are trade unionists and Socialists, that, as we approach this new age of technological revolution, we will do well to ensure that there is one day of the week which is different from the other days, in order to protect our health and well-being.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Ennals)
It might be for the convenience of the House if I intervened briefly at this stage. I must point out, as I did in Committee and in Second Reading, that the Government's position on the Bill and on the Amendments is one of neutrality. I am therefore simply giving some advice which I hope may be helpful to the House.
If new Clause 1 were to be passed, it would create conflict and confusion in relation to Clause 5, and there are a number of interpretations as to whether it would mean that Clause 5 would fall or not. Certainly it would create substantial confusion, because the two principles at stake are in conflict.
The principal objection to new Clause 1 is that there does not seem to be any evidence, so far as I can assess it, that in England attitudes to Sunday entertainment vary on a geographical basis. This is a view that hon. Gentlemen may hold, but it is not the impression which has been brought to my attention.
692 I want particularly to concentrate on some matters that lie behind the concern expressed by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House about new Clause 2 and new Clause 9. The concern in the minds of all of them is the situation that would exist in particular areas as a result of particular events on a Sunday afternoon. Some hon. Members have spoken very sharply and with deep feeling about the effect which would be created by a Sunday afternoon football match in a stadium situated in a built-up area. This is a highly sensitive subject, and my hon. Friend ought to be aware of the concern that is felt in the House.
In Committee, I promised that I would look at it with my hon. Friend to see if there were methods which could be used to limit the size of a sporting event that might create offence to those who live in the area. There are difficulties about any proposal that could be made.
It would not be proper for me to go into detail on some of the other proposals, such as the limitation of capacity of the stadium, and to say that a small stadium would be permitted but a large stadium would not. There are difficulties in this which could easily be illuminated at the right time.
Another proposal is limitation of the number of spectators attending an event. Again, this is highly unsatisfactory, because a large number of spectators in one situation is not disturbing whereas a slightly smaller number of spectators in another situation is. What we and hon. Gentlemen are concerned with is particular events in a particular place.
New Clause 2 and new Clause 9 are concerned with alternative ways of giving local people the opportunity of registering their own objections and, therefore, influencing whether or not specific events occur in their localities. Two alternatives are before us. One is that the judgment should lie with the local authority, and the other is that it should lie with the local justices.
There are difficulties about both. If the decision were to be taken by a local authority, there would be the problem, as was emphasised in Committee, that it would become a party political hot potato. There would be those who would say, "We are in favour of sport here", and others who would say, "We 693 are against it." This is not the sort of issue which should be left to party politics at local government level. Nevertheless, there is a means by which it would be possible for local authorities to do it.
The other proposal, in new Clause 2, is that it should be done by licensing authorities. There are difficulties in both these proposals, but it would mean establishing a complicated administrative setup. There would need to be procedures for application, objection, hearing, decision and appeal, and the procedures would have to be worked out.
§ Mr. Doughty
The magistrates are already there. Magistrates' courts have their procedure and there is no need to alter that in any way.
§ Mr. Ennals
This is a new form of licensing, and it is for consideration whether, in this form of licensing, there ought to be a means of appeal by the organisation putting forward its application. It is a matter of opinion whether they should, or should not. All I am saying is that these are matters which would have to be considered.
If the House were to pass the Clauses, it would be doing so without consultation with the Magistrates' Association or the local authority associations. In relation to Clause 2, I doubt whether the Lord Chancellor would be the appropriate officer to be involved. It might be more appropriate for it to be my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Principles are at stake here, and I would advise my hon. Friend to accept the principle now that there should be, by one alternative or another, the opportunity for local decision and local objection, either through the decision being taken by the local council or by the local magistrates. If the principle were to be accepted, then in another place there could be written in whatever seemed to be the best way after those consultations had taken place. This would provide for consultations either with the Magistrates' Association or with the local authority associations, to enable the proposal to be a workmanlike one. It would be helpful to the House if my hon. Friend could accept the principle of new Clause 2 or new Clause 9.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
As an hon. Member representing a constituency in the Principality, I find myself in a dilemma in approaching the proposed Amendments. I consider, as do the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) and hon. Members on the benches opposite, that Wales should have been dealt with in this matter in a completely separate Bill. For that and other reasons, I shall vote against the Bill.
That apart, I then come to the problem of whether any of the proposed Amendments allowing for a degree of local option are so attractive to me that I could support them as being a lesser evil than passing the Bill as it is. Superficially, I was attracted by new Clause 1, but the more that I listen to the debate and consider the matter, the more I find myself against it. It has been argued that the opting-in under the provisions of Clause 5 is much preferable to the proposed new Clause 1. That is undoubtedly true. I also take the same view as the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. James Griffiths), who said that he would prefer a referendum in each locality in Wales rather than one for Wales as a whole, because, otherwise, the rural areas would be dominated by the industrial areas, and on such matters as Sunday entertainment, there is great scope for local options.
I do not share the view that it is imposing an unnecessary burden on local councillors to decide some of these matters. It is one that they should accept. They should not burke these issues, which are often unpleasant, difficult and may lose votes, but which nevertheless have to be faced. On the other hand, I agree with the hon. Member for Carmarthen, who said that the main lines of legislation must be laid down by Parliament and that it is for Parliament to ensure that minorities are properly protected. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I am against new Clause 1, because it is in conflict with Clause 5, and I much prefer Clause 5 from the point of view of Wales.
On the other hand, an overwhelming case has been made generally for new Clause 2. There must be protection for the minority against the majority. Frequently, we have to put forward a certain view about which we know, if 695 it went to a referendum of the country as a whole, popular opinion might be against this House. We took such a view about the abolition of capital punishment. At times, it is necessary for this House to take a certain view, especially on social matters, and create a framework, allowing certain options within that framework. Therefore, I am very much in favour of new Clause 2.
The hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) put forward an overwhelming case for it, but, as a lawyer, I would make a single contribution on the point raised by an hon. Member on this side of the House. Doubt was raised on the wording of new Clause 2, which says in line 7
…that it is reasonable to permit the spectacle at that time having regard to any likelihood that it will cause nuisance or annoyance to any member of the public.It has been argued that those words are too narrow and confining for a bench of justices I do not take that view. The test is reasonability. One of the facts which have to be borne in mind is possible nuisance to any member of the community, and it is right that it should remain in this form.
It might be, and generally would be, highly unreasonable to rule it out if it affected only a single member of the public. But there may be rare circumstances when the nuisance to a single member of the community is a matter of importance which the bench should bear in mind. There might be one invalid whose individual freedom would be infringed if a certain spectacle were allowed even though it affected only that one person. A bench is enjoined to have regard to whether it is reasonable or not, and that would cover the fear expressed by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Charles Morrison).
§ Mr. Charles Morrison
If my idea were adopted as an Amendment in another place and the word was changed to "members", the justices could still have regard to one member of the public. However, if the Bill is left as it is drafted, they will have to take account of only one member of the public and, in that case, an awkward customer could cause trouble.
§ Mr. Hooson
It would be a question of interpretation as to whether 696 "member" meant a single member or whether "members" could include a single member. The existing wording gives adequate discretion to the magistrates, whereas the introduction of the word "members" might confine magistrates in their interpretation.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
May I refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the Interpretation Act, where the plural includes the singular and the singular includes the plural? In each case, the court would be able to take into consideration the feelings of one person or those of a great many persons.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that lecture on the Interpretation Act.
Taking all these matters into account, I have reached the conclusion that I would commend new Clause 2, and I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) will accept it.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I rise to speak briefly to new Clause 2. Although I hope that the Bill will receive approval, unless the sentiments expressed in the new Clause are included, I shall be forced to vote against the Bill as a whole.
I am not in complete agreement with the wording of the new Clause, but it contains the seeds of what I have in mind. However, rather than have an assurance that the existing Clause will be amended, I would much prefer the House to vote on new Clause 2 than let an Amendment be put forward in another place, because then, if we do not like it, at least we have new Clause 2 in the Bill. I would be loath to see the Bill go forward without new Clause 2 being agreed by the House.
In what I say, I am not influenced by any outside considerations. I believe that everyone is entitled to make up his own mind about what he does on a Sunday. I was not here when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made his contribution, but, having passed through his constituency on many Saturdays, I am quite sure that he will have told the House something about what happens when professional football matches take place in Liverpool. How anyone could 697 tolerate on a Sunday some of the things which occur on a Saturday is beyond my comprehension. It is not only a matter of car parking. It is all the other behaviour which takes place when thousands of people come pouring out of a football ground, many of them full of beer, My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) used to live in Toxteth, and I am surprised that he does not appreciate the amount of feeling that there is on this matter, even by people who are quite open-minded about how one should use Sunday.
I support the sentiments in new Clause 2, and I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us that he is prepared to accept it. I, for one, am not prepared to accept an assurance that an Amendment will be moved in the other place. I want to see new Clause 2 approved today.
§ Mr. Hamling
When we discussed the principle behind these Amendments in Committee, I made several sympathetic noises. I promised that we would look at the problem before Report and see if we could produce a reasonable Amendment which would meet some of the objections which have been raised. However, I have not done so, because I felt that I could not produce a reasonable Amendment.
Having listened to the arguments this morning and having studied the Amendments on the Order Paper, I am prepared to recommend to the House that new Clause 2 should be accepted as it stands and that new Clause 1 and new Clause 9 should be rejected.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) said that I used to live in Toxteth. I still do. The difficulty is that I cannot vote twice. I am still a Liverpudlian. I was born in Walton. Perhaps that will encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the hon. Member for Toxteth to believe that I am sympathetic to the points which they have made.
There are difficulties. The nuisance to which they refer goes on at all times. It might be worth drawing the attention of people who organise spectacles of this sort to the great nuisance that is some- 698 times created not only on a Sunday, but at other times.
I do not go so far as my hon. Friend the Member for Walton in saying that Goodison Park might see a first-class football match on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday all in the same week. One should not exaggerate too far. There are normally 21 home league games during the season.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is my hon. Friend aware that teams like Everton that do very well in the League, the Cup and international games, have so many games that they could play almost every night of the week?
§ Mr. Hamling
I was about to come on to the fact that Everton is not a bad team. Liverpool, of course, is a better one. Certainly we should not exaggerate this too far.
§ Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)
Surely it is not only Everton at times that plays on that ground. The Football Association takes some of its games there, so it is quite feasible that it could happen.
§ Mr. Hamling
All I am saying is that we ought not to exaggerate. I do not anticipate Everton regularly playing three first-class games at Goodison Park every week, but there is a point here.
There are certain defects in new Clause 2. I hope that if the Bill goes to the other place certain Amendments will be made to improve it. As the Under Secretary of State said, we have not consulted the local authorities and the Magistrates' Association. I am cognisant of the fact that one ought not lightly to dismiss local authorities in this context. I was a little disturbed when I heard one hon. Gentleman opposite seeming to imply that local justices of the peace were more susceptible to local needs than local authorities. I speak as a justice of the peace. I would not be so undemocratic as to think that my own bench is more susceptible to the needs of my borough than the members of the borough council. This is to take aristocratic ideas a little too far. Although I prefer new Clause 2 to new Clause 9, one ought not lightly to disregard local authorities.
I hope that what I have said will encourage hon. Members on both sides to accept the view that the sponsors of 699 the Bill want to be reasonable. I indicated upstairs that we want to be reasonable. We want to provide for objections to the Bill to be listened to courteously and carefully. At the same time we want the main principles of the Bill to be maintained and retained. On the assurance that I have given, the sponsors of the various Amendments will perhaps understand what might best suit the will of the House.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Having heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has said, I wish to withdraw new Clause 1. I prefer new Clause 9 to new Clause 2 because of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West. It would be wrong to dismiss altogether local authority influence in what, from some points of view, might be regarded as a local authority matter.
§ Mr. Spriggs
On new Clause 9, may I draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) to the fact that most justices' benches have a fair representation from the local authorities.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I take my hon. Friend's point. I am seeking leave to withdraw new Clause 1 without reservation, if the House agrees. I am expressing agreement with the view put forward from my Front Bench that the House should take away new Clause 2 and new Clause 9 and come back with an Amendment from another place expressing the sense of these new Clauses taking into consideration both the magistrates and the local authorities.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Sir C. Black
I think that my point of order has fallen as a result of the decision that has been taken. I was proposing to submit that, inasmuch as 700 the debate is based mainly upon new Clause 1, with which you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that other new Clauses and Amendments may be considered, if there be any question of the sponsor withdrawing new Clause 1, he should postpone putting such a matter to the House until the debate on this group of new Clauses and Amendments has ended.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is open to the hon. Member to seek to withdraw his new Clause at any stage, but he has to have the unanimous consent of the House. That consent has not been given.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)
I rise not because I wish to oppose the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) in withdrawing his new Clause 1, but because I understand that if he were allowed to withdraw it at this stage it would not be possible to say anything about the other new Clauses and Amendments which we are discussing with it.
I wish to make one or two comments in response to the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling). It would be churlish not to welcome what he said. The Committee stage upstairs was a good example of a constructive Committee stage, because we thought through these problems. Many hon. Members started from the Crathorne recommendation. We argued this out. The majority, including myself, felt that it was unworkable and we worked towards a solution of the kind we are now putting into the Bill—at least for the moment. I hope that the House will accept the advice of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West to put this in the Bill and let it go through.
The only one of these new Clauses to which I have put my name is new Clause 9. I urge, therefore, that when these necessary consultations take place, the points in new Clause 9 will be borne in mind. Like the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, I am not convinced that justices are necessarily better than councillors.
There is another difference between new Clause 2 and new Clause 9. Under new Clause 2 it is necessary for a specific licence to be issued in each case. This is a relatively cumbrous piece of machinery for what may be a very small event. Under new Clause 9, on the other hand, it is only necessary for action to be taken 701 concerning a major event which it is desired to stop.
I think there is something to be said for the point of view that, rather than try to have a complete licensing system over the whole field to deal with every Sunday event, there should simply be this local power—I am not worried whether it is the council or the bench—of control. If the point can be borne in mind during the discussions, I shall be glad to support the hon. Gentleman in what he has advised.
§ Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)
My hon Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has probably spared a number of us from expressing rather strong feelings about the Bill by his undertaking to accept the new Clause. It would be churlish if someone on this side of the House, though perhaps motivated very strongly by emotions, did not express our gratitude that he has recognised the, force and strength of the feeling of hon. Members on all sides with regard to the Clause and the Bill.
Although we are grateful to him, and although we like to feel that he accepts this, he must understand that the new Clause does not say all the things that some of us would like it to say and is merely a compromise between my hon. Friend and those of us who feel so deeply and strongly about what the application of the Bill will mean in its incursions into the sanctity of the Sabbath.
What concerns me even more is the quietude that one gets on Sunday, to which we all look forward. Many people are not activated by considerations of sport in resisting something of this kind. It is merely that they want Sunday to remain a day of quietude and rest. So I thank my hon. Friend and hope that when he looks at it again it may be possible to strengthen this even further when it goes to another place.
§ Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
We are all grateful to the sponsor, the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), for accepting the new Clause. I congratulate him on retaining authority for the Bill and not accepting the advice from the Government Front Bench that it might be altered in another place. It is far more satisfactory to the House that the hon. Gentleman accepts the new 702 Clause, even if an Amendment comes back for further consideration.
I was a little surprised to hear the Under-Secretary say that one of the reasons why we should not accept the Clause was that consultations had not taken place with the Magistrates' Association. I always understood that Parliament was to legislate and the judges were to carry out the laws that we enact. It will be a sorry day if we have always to consult the judges and the magistrates before we pass any laws.
I support the Clause because I am opposed to the Bill. There are many people in my constituency, a large and scattered one where there are many very famous churches and also a very large element of nonconformity, who still like the peace of the Sabbath. I am influenced towards the new Clause for other reasons. Unlicensed organisation of sport imposes a burden in that certain people have to go to work although they do not want to. This goes for special police and persons belonging to the St. John Ambulance Brigade and other voluntary organisations who may be called upon to attend. Although not everyone goes to a place of worship on Sunday, it is a day of rest and peace that ought to be preserved. It is also a family day, and because of these events a father may be prevented from spending the day with his family.
I am glad that the new Clause has been accepted. I am sure that it will improve the Bill.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Spriggs
Mr. Speaker, I shall be glad if you are able to help me here. I am supporting new Clause 2, and I find that two different principles are involved as between new Clause 2 and new Clause 9. Is it a fact that in the event of new Clause 2 being carried new Clause 9 will fall? May I have your guidance on that?
§ Mr. Speaker
At first sight, I do not think so. I think it will be possible to carry both of them. They tackle the problem in different ways but I do not think that they are mutually exclusive.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)
I welcome new Clause 2 and the attitude of the sponsor of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling). Many of us are extremely disquieted about certain elements in the 703 Bill. Finding the sponsor so generous in his attitude and flexible in his response makes it much easier for those of us who feel strongly about certain parts of the Bill.
An important principle is at issue here. During the Committee stage hon. Members were constantly invoking the use of Gallup Polls and referendums. I believe that this would be the wrong way to approach this sensitive issue. We are concerned not so much with the quantity of feeling as with the intensity of feeling. Though it may be a small minority who feel very strongly against the Bill, the House must take into account that small minority with intense feeling.
The Under-Secretary said that there was no evidence of any difference of views in England on a geographical basis. I take strong exception to that remark. There is considerable geographical difference of view. If it cannot be proved in quantity, it can be proved in intensity, as anyone who represents a constituency in South-West England will know. We have received many letters from people whom we respect very greatly, people who often lead opinion, and we should be failing in our duty if we did not take account of them. So we are trying to produce machinery by means of which the feeling can somehow be mobilised on a local basis.
I have heard nothing in the debate which satisfies me that we have the wording right or that the wording that will come back from another place is likely to prove satisfactory. This is an extremely unsatisfactory situation on the key Clause in the Bill. We have not got adequate wording and shall have to accept new Clause 2 as it stands, which I think is inadequate. We have had an inadequate debate about how it will take effect and whether it is workable. We gather that no consultations have been taking place about it. We do not yet know whether local government can take a more active rôle. I am a strong believer in local options. However, none of these very important areas seems to have been examined enough. Though I accept this situation with reluctance, I think it would be wrong to allow it to go without some protest.
I am slightly unhappy about vesting these powers in justices of the peace. In 704 many ways this is an imperfect mechanism, but it has, as was said, the benefit of giving a flexible approach. I hope that it may be possible to have in the Bill a provision whereby the local authority of the area can at least debate the matter, lead public discussion and give a view on the broad aspects of the Bill. If it is also possible for the local magistrates to take account of the feeling, it may get round some of our very real difficulties. In saying this, I should also like to thank the sponsor for his extremely co-operative attitude.
§ Sir C. Black
I should like to associate myself with nearly everything said by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), because I have the same feeling of disappointment and frustration about this matter as he has expressed. That is not to say that I do not appreciate the gesture of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), because I realise that, holding the views which he sincerely holds, it represents a concession on his part that he is willing to accept new Clause 2 in principle.
§ Sir C. Black
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I understood that the consensus of the House was in favour of passing new Clause 2 so that, if the Bill were given its Third Reading, between then and the consideration of the Bill in another place there could be consultations with the Magistrates' Association and the local authority organisations and that that consultation might well lead to Amendments in another place giving effect to the views of either of those important bodies of opinion.
I should have thought that it was a good thing for those consultations to take place and for due regard to be paid to their result and possibly for the Clause to be improved in some particulars in another place to give effect to the views expressed in those consultations. However, on this matter I do not want to take issue with the hon. Member for Woolwich, West, because I appreciate that, with his views, he has made a concession to the views of many hon. Members and certainly very many people in the country.
705 I regret that new Clause 1 is to be withdrawn. My view of the matter is that if new Clause 2 stands, the best procedure is to have new Clause 1 in the Bill so that those local authorities which wish to do so can opt out of the Bill, when the procedure of Clause 2 can be put into effect to deal as far as possible with nuisance and annoyance for those local authorities which allowed the general provisions of the Bill to stand. If that procedure had been adopted, it would have enabled local authorities to decide on the general principle whether they wanted to opt in or out, and it would have permitted those who opted in to apply the procedure of Clause 2.
That would seem a reasonable and sensible way in which to deal with the matter, because it would have enabled the application of Clause 2 to be considered by the local authorities in the first instance and then for questions of nuisance and annoyance in suitable cases to be dealt with by the powers which it is proposed to give to the justices. That would have been a preferable way to deal with it.
Having said that, I welcome the fact that new Clause 2 is to be incorporated in the Bill, but I am sure that the other place will not feel itself inhibited from considering whether new Clause 2 is capable of improvement by all that the sponsor of the Bill has said, because it could be improved.
As this is the only opportunity of doing so in view of the grouping of the new Clauses and Amendments, I want to refer briefly to the exclusion of Wales.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There is an Amendment which proposes to take out the special provisions for Wales and Monmouthshire, but that Amendment has not been selected.
§ Question put and negatived.