HC Deb 26 April 1968 vol 763 cc706-48

If the occupier of any land or premises adjacent or in proximity to any church or place of meeting for religious worship permits the land or premises to be used on a Sunday by members of the public in such a manner as to disturb religious worship or to cause annoyance to persons attending the church or place of meeting he shall be guilty of an offence.—[Sir C. Black.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir C. Black

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

This new Clause brings us to what might be called a limited and restricted type of nuisance. While some protection against nuisance and annoyance is given by new Clause 2, that Clause relates only to nuisances and annoyances which would arise under Clause 2, whereas new Clause 7 would relate to nuisances and annoyances arising under the Bill as a whole. It cannot, therefore, be argued that my new Clause is no longer necessary because the House has adopted new Clause 2. New Clause 7 extends to a much wider area of possible nuisances and annoyances.

Whatever view hon. Members may take of religion and religious observances and the work of churches and chapels, even those who do not themselves belong to any of the historic faiths which are represented in the House, they will all recognise that it is right for the community, in the interests of decency, order, proper behaviour and religious freedom, to safeguard the opportunities of worship in the place of worship to which resort members of different branches of the Christian church, members of the Jewish faith and members of any proper religious order or movement. That must be right and, even though it may be argued that the religious people, if I may so classify them, are in a minority in the country today—perhaps it would be better to say that the conventionally religious are in a minority—it is none the less true that the majority would wish that the rights and opportunities of worship of these people should be preserved.

It is clear that the Bill would create acute problems for various churches and places of worship. We have been used to there being fairly severe restrictions on what is permitted on Sundays, and the Bill represents a substantial relaxation of the present position. The House has shown a real desire to avoid nuisance, annoyance and offence to minorities, and to safeguard their rights while according what some would regard as freedom to other people who do not agree with them.

1.0 p.m.

In my constituency there is a Nonconformist chapel. It has a large congregation, and it holds services in the morning and in the evening. The services are well attended, and in addition it runs a Sunday school in the afternoon. The building is occupied from perhaps 10 a.m. until about 7.30 p.m. by adults and children attending various kinds of services. During that time it is used for the religious exercises which are usual in a Christian place of worship on the first day of the week.

That chapel is immediately next door to a large public hall which, for many days of the week, is used for dancing. It is separated from the hall by a passage which is only a few feet wide. If a dance is held during the week in the public hall, usually a steel band is in attendance. One knows that because of modern tastes dance bands are more noisy than they were 20 or 25 years ago. I do not complain about that. I recognise the right of people at the right time to listen to noisy dance bands if they want them, even though they may not appeal to me.

In as much as the hall is used in that way during the week, and is something of a nuisance to the activities carried on in the evening during the week in the Nonconformist chapel next door, it seems reasonable that those who attend the chapel on Sunday should be specifically and clearly protected from having their services of worship rendered impossible.

Nobody wants to be unreasonable about this. If the owners of the public hall and the promoters of the dancing have a free rein six days a week, it is surely not unreasonable to say that the Nonconformist chapel should have an undisturbed day on which to conduct its services of worship. It may be argued—I hope that it will not be—that the situation is covered by the general law, or will be to some extent by new Clause 2, but I believe that it is necessary to write a provision into the Bill for the kind of case that I have mentioned.

I have mentioned only one case. I know of many others, but I do not want to burden the House with them because I have no desire to make a long speech. I attach considerable importance to this Clause, as I am sure other hon. Members do, and I commend it to the House. I hope that it will be received in the spirit of reasonableness with which new Clause 2 was accepted.

Mr. Tudor Watkins

I am glad to join a fellow Baptist in recommending the Clause to the House.

I commend to those who read HANSARD the title of the Clause: Saving for places of worship. That is the important aspect of it, and I am glad to support what was said by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). I wish that it would go further and deal with noise from low-flying aircraft, but that is outside the terms of the debate.

We must ensure that services held in places of worship are not interrupted by noise and nuisance. I know that we in Wales will have a double chance to deal with the matter because if we cannot deal with it by a referendum, we can insert some provisions to safeguard these places.

I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) will accept the Clause. So far I have been very kind, but I must declare my interest. I hope that we shall talk and talk and that the Bill will not receive its Third Reading.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I, too, support the Clause. In fact, I am one of its sponsors.

Perhaps I might state my position clearly. I do not wish to hide the fact that I believe that Sunday is a different day. I believe that it is a day of rest and of worship. I accept that not everybody is prepared to agree with what I believe, but I do not intend to beat about the bush. That is what I believe, and what I desire to see accepted in the country. I shall not be pig-headed about this, but it is an issue about which I feel very strongly.

If we neglect this day of worship and rest, in the long run this country will suffer. There are many pressures on us today, and Sunday, as a day of rest, is something which we ought to try to preserve. I support the new Clause because religious worship is being disturbed in present-day conditions by certain people, and because, on property adjoining churches and chapels, things go on which disturb that day of rest. If the new Clause is not accepted, serious problems will arise.

I hope that a church will never become a place in which there is a service at 8.30 a.m., or 11.0 a.m., and the idea is, "Get it over boys and we can have the rest of the day free." A church is a house of God where worship should be going on during the whole of Sunday. It is, therefore, only right and proper that we should seek to preserve quietness around the house of God.

Sunday schools are held in churches on this day of rest, and as an Anglican I know that on certain days services are held throughout the day. Good Friday is now a popular day for sport, but some churches hold a three-hour service on that day, usually from mid-day into the afternoon. Surely that time should be preserved as a period of quietness so that those who want to can worship in peace.

Perhaps I might now consider the position in some of the country churches with which I am more concerned than the town churches. They are faced with the problem of noise from motor-cycle scrambling, autocross, and other events being held in fields nearby. These create a lot of annoyance to those who want to worship. I am not saying that these events should not take place, but I do not see why they should be allowed to destroy the peace and quietness of those who look on Sunday as a day of rest and worship. Such events should be held away from parish churches and chapels.

For those reasons, and many others with which I do not wish to bore the House, I commend the Clause to hon. Members. It is an important Clause, and I hope that it will be accepted.

Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)

I support the new Clause, which was moderately and ably moved by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). This is not the first time, during our association over many years, that we have agreed across the Floor of the House, and I am happy to agree with him today. I am convinced that what he proposes in the Clause is right. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) was quite right in pointing out that 8.30 or 11 o'clock in the morning are not the only times on which religious services are held.

There is a great deal of misrepresentation in high and important places about sport and the city and environment of which I represent part. These days, Merseyside seems to be a popular subject for television. Recently, the conflict between religion and sport was portrayed in a high-sounding play by, I presume, the B.B.C. called "The Golden Vision", which dealt with the conflict which can arise between religion and sport. I have been in the Army and to many parts of the world and I have never heard the sort of language which came into the homes of people of this country on that occasion.

This is the sort of misrepresentation which takes place, and, to my mind, maliciously and deliberately takes place Therefore, it is important that those of us who have an interest in the Bill and the welfare of our people should be bold enough to say precisely what we feel, whether it is popular or unpopular. I condemn the sort of misrepresentation to which I just referred because it goes into the hearts and minds of our young people. It is so easy to give people a wrong impression of the position of religion and church life in our society.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. I understand the need of the hon. Member to make some preliminary remarks, but he must come to, the new Clause.

Mr. Mahon

I expected that correction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I am grateful to you for it. Nevertheless, what I have in mind has some bearing on this subject.

I represent a constituency which, I suppose, is unique in the House. I can fairly say that 50 per cent. of the people whom I represent belong to the Anglican and Nonconformist Churches and that about 50 per cent certainly of the children are Roman Catholics. Therefore, if there is interference with the freedom of worship, it does not affect the minority of people, as some would say.

One church which I have in mind is in close proximity to the Anfield and Goodison Park football grounds. About 60,000 or 70,000 people can attend important games at the first-class football matches which take place at those grounds. That is a great thing in its place, and I do not decry it, but these people have six days out of seven on which to pursue their lawful and wonderful activities.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the new Clause, which is concerned with the proximity of these activities to places of worship and the disturbance resulting therefrom.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. Mahon

With great respect, I pointed out the proximity of places at which these activities take place to churches, and I was about to point out that one of the churches to which I go is within a matter of hundreds of yards of both the football grounds to which I have referred. We were reminded a long time ago, at the highest level of spiritual advice, that we should keep the Sabbath Day holy. This Clause attempts in a modest way to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

The services which I am talking about would be affected by any activity which took place adjacent or in proximity to them. It would not be for one hour or two hours in the day, because these services go on from 7 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock in the evening in hourly sessions of Holy Mass and nearby there are Anglican churches conducting their services at different time. The Clause seeks to safeguard the practice and freedom, not of minorities—although that would be important if it were so—but of many people who wish to go to church and practise their faith, whether it be the Jewish, Christian or any other faith. People come to this country who have other faiths, and they are entitled to follow them in trying to save their souls.

I ask that the Clause be given the careful consideration which it deserves. It is a moderate and reasonable proposal, and I am sure that all the people who read it would agree. It should be supported by those of us who have responsibility in these matters.

Mr. Cordle

I share the views of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) on this important Clause, which I trust will be accepted. I associate myself with the well-expressed remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) about his personal position.

I have received numerous letters from my constituency on this matter. Many people of all denominations attend church services in Bournemouth. It has been said that my constituency has the largest number of people who are concerned with the life of the Church in all its denominations. I should like to quote a letter which I have received from a group of young people: We believe that if the Sunday Entertainments Bill is passed, it will contribute to the disintegration of the Spiritual, Moral and Social life of the nation, and cause division and disruption among us at a time when Her Majesty's Government is appealing for unity and positive action. We sincerely hope you will respect our convictions and vote against the Bill". I was discussing the subject matter of the Clause with a member of the Church of England, to which I belong. He was confronted with a problem very recently in South London when a band started up in a park adjacent to his church. This was to be a recognised Sunday entertainment. It involved a number of people attending the band and attending his church. He made representations to the local authority that the band and the bandstand should be moved. I am glad to say that his representations were accepted and the disturbance and nuisance was removed.

If the Clause is accepted, that sort of thing will not be part of the activities of the nation and, therefore, will not be looked upon as a right. I should like to see the Clause incorporated in the Bill, and I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about it.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

I am a member of the British Council of Churches and of the Christian Citizenship Committee of the Methodist Church and a regular local preacher. I am against the new Clause, almost instinctively, because I am not sure that it is wise for the Christian churches to seek to have special privileges which are not available to other members of the community. I think that, in the very worst sense, this can be divisive and cart often be a source of rebuke for the Christian Churches. Therefore, instinctively I feel some concern about the new Clause, although I sympathise with the motives of the sponsors.

Apart from that, I think the Clause would be unworkable as legislation. It would create a criminal offence, and one must be careful when creating a criminal offence, that one is no doing so in language so uncertain that it could perhaps catch conduct which was not intended to be caught, or might not catch conduct which was intended to be caught. This Clause although drafted quite reasonably in terms of expression of sentiment as to what is desirable in the community, is far too uncertain as a piece of criminal legislation.

It is, for instance, almost impossible to say whether a person has caused annoyance to people in a church or place of meeting. How is a magistrates' court intended to deal with that type of conduct? Is it annoyance if a young boy outside a church is whistling on a Sunday when someone who has very strict Sabbatarian views goes into church? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I hear hon. Members say "No", and I agree that that is not the intention of the sponsors of the Clause. But it might be called annoyance by a zealous prosecutor and magistrates if they were prepared to accept that view, as they could under the wording of the Clause.

It is also a little difficult to express, in terms of the words of a criminal Clause, the idea of nuisance in the law. The law has a very clear and strict idea of what is a nuisance for the purposes of a civil action in tort. But it is difficult to express it in terms of what the ordinary man in the street means by the word "nuisance", and what is included in the Clause is really the idea of what the ordinary man in the street means by a nuisance—something which causes him annoyance, temporary or perpetual—and the idea of the law about nuisance is much more strict, relating more to his rights of property than to the dignity of his privacy.

Mr. Peter Mills

But surely the hon. Gentleman must agree that magistrates have a certain amount of common sense. To talk about a boy whistling outside a church as a nuisance is ridiculous. But if there were a tremendous crowd and a brass band outside the church, that would be judged a nuisance. Surely he must concede that magistrates have some common sense, even if we do not always have.

Mr. Lyon

What is being suggested is a new criminal offence. I am showing, by what I accept quite obviously to be a ludicrous extension, the furthest point of the argument.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South) rose

Mr. Lyon

Perhaps I can first express my views about the intervention by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills).

Sir Knox Cunningham

My intervention is also on that point. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I understood him to say that, if the boy was whistling, it could be an offence and he could be prosecuted. But surely the whole point of this is that it is the occupier of the land who is responsible and he is the person who would be prosecuted, not the boy.

Mr. Lyon

It is the occupier of the land who is responsible for conduct which takes place on the land. I was coming to that point in a moment. There is the question of the public highway, which is a point really covered by the Clause, although it does not seem to have come within the purview of the sponsors.

I return now to the intervention by the hon. Member for Torrington. I clearly took an extreme example. One could take an extreme example on the other side—that of a church alongside Wembley Stadium, when an English international was being played. There would be extreme noise and, clearly, nuisance. But between these two extremes there are all kinds of different ways in which private people can annoy the members of a church in their place of worship and one would, under this Clause, have to decide in each case whether there had been a criminal offence.

How would a bench of magistrates decide that? It would lead to grave uncertainty. It would cause offence to people who were using their land in what they considered to be a perfectly reasonable way if the magistrates, perhaps because of a somewhat restricted view of what should be done on Sundays, decided that a criminal offence had been committed.

Although I sympathise with the underlying reasons behind the new Clause, I hope that the sponsors will not press it to a Division. I take the point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) about who is likely to be the offender when noise has been committed on land adjacent to a church. But land, of course, can be adjacent to a church and be part of the public highway. I have had occasion not infrequently to be preaching inside a place of worship when a band, of the Forces or of the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides or of the Salvation Army, has passed by. I have found that a great distraction in the course of my sermon, and there have been times when I have wished that the band had been re-routed.

But who is responsible for causing annoyance to me on those occasions? Clearly, it is not the Salvation Army band. Is it the owner or occupier of the land or premises? Who is the owner or occupier of the public highway? Is it the public highway authority? Is it the local authority as representing the inhabitants of the locality? Or is it the world at large?

I hope that I have indicated that there occur in everyday life and which would arise as a result of this Clause. I recognise that some of the examples I have given are perhaps extreme, but it is not difficult to think of others which are perfectly rational and reasonable, which occur in everyday life and which would cause difficulty if the Clause were implemented. For these two reasons—first, an instinctive reluctance to have a special position for the Christian churches, and, secondly, because of the very difficult application of the Clause—I hope that it will be withdrawn.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) on the new Clause. I am in some difficulty about it, although I accept it in principle. Those hon. Members who have spoken have been frank about their personal beliefs. I believe that, in a case of this sort, one must represent all sections of one's constituency. I hold the view that, much as one may deplore their absence, one will not encourage people to go to church because there are no counter-attractions. The situation is different from what it was in the Victorian age.

Each of our constituents is entitled to the protection we can give him in carrying on his life as he wishes, and those who have the privilege and benefit of higher religious feelings have the right to practise them in a way which fits the occasion.

1.30 p.m.

I find that a new Clause of this sort is necessary. I have not had the privilege of hearing the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) preach a sermon, and I do not know what effects a band would have upon it. I know that in certain churches adjacent to village greens this can be a distraction. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), because his is a constituency I know very well, as my family originally came from there. I know the feeling there. While I was in favour of this new Clause when I entered the Chamber, having listened to the argument develop I feel that there is a certain lack of precision which might result in us failing to achieve our object, particularly …on land or premises adjacent or in proximity to any church". As the hon. Member for Bootle mentioned the football ground, well known in the constituency, I began to wonder what was meant by "proximity". What area was affected? What would be the position if someone built a new church alongside premises which were in use? Planning authorities could quite readily agree to a church being built and it would not be impossible for someone who had very strong feelings to build a church adjoining such a building. If we accepted the new Clause as it stands there would be dangers. I firmly believe that those who wish to worship are entitled to do so in appropriate conditions. We must give protection to those people.

I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will appreciate that it is our fervent desire to give the privilege of worship. If they are prepared to accept this principle, although this new Clause may not cover the point for technical reasons, can we have some assurance that the wishes of all Members who have spoken on this matter will be met? If they are not to be met by the new Clause, what do the sponsors intend to do to meet the position? If I cannot have an assurance on this I will have to vote for it.

Mr. Ron Lewis

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) because, while I do not know whether he is still a member of the Methodist Church, he has Methodist connections in many ways, and the Methodist Church is very grateful for that. I am not in the same position as he is, a "doubting Thomas" over this new Clause. Neither can I follow my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) in his legal jargon. The cases that he mentioned are very hypothetical.

As I understand it, the sponsors of this new Clause are seeking to ensure that the minority of men and women who still wish to enjoy Sunday as a day of rest and worship shall be free to do so without any outside interference. My hon. Friend said that when he was preaching there was a brass band passing by. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), who so ably moved this new Clause, has no doubt been subjected to that, as have many of us. Often when a band is passing by we are glad to hear it, provided that it does pass by.

It is when the band continues to make the noise throughout the service that the trouble arises. This new Clause seeks to ensure that those who wish to worship shall be free to do so in peace and quietness.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Would my hon. Friend refer to any part of the new Clause which mentions the words "habitual, permanent, total" or any of the other words which might cover a long period of noise rather than a short period?

Mr. Lewis

This is a typical cross-examination. It is surely not in the minds of those of us supporting the new Clause that this should be the case. All we wanted to do is make sure that those who worship can do so in peace and quietness. There are a number of churches in my constituency and I am delighted at the way in which worship is conducted there. I want to ensure that those who worship there shall not be distracted by outside interferences. This is a safeguard and I hope that all my hon. Friends will support it.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Denis Howell)

Like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department I will try to be objective and impartial in my intervention, but I must ask the House to turn down this new Clause on the ground that it is impracticable. I am sure that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) will not mind my saying that this was discussed in Committee and that the objections put forward by the Government were on the grounds of practicality. The Amendment was defeated, and presumably he and his colleagues have been looking at the situation since. It is significant that they have not been able to produce any other form of words to deal with the very real objections made by the Government, which have been adequately and modestly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon).

I am getting rather worried that, in our attempt to deal with this matter, we become inclined to over-exaggerate some of the situations. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) talked about the great difficulties in the South-West. I could not help reflecting that there are probably more people causing a disturbance in Plymouth in the summer, trying to get to the seaside resorts of that region than are ever likely to go to see Plymouth Argyle play on a Sunday afternoon in winter. Other Members too, in dealing with other provisions of the Bill, have completely ignored the fact that there is a great deal of Sunday sport going on already.

Mr. Ron Lewis

Too much.

Mr. Howell

My hon. Friend is entitled to say "too much", but I would remind him of a precept laid down by Archbishop Temple. Some of us who modestly claim to be Christians believe that we are entitled to the free expression of our views. Archbishop Temple once said on this subject, that God's most precious gift for any of us is individual free will. The exercise of our individual free will, or the exercise by other people of their free will, is of tremendous importance, and minorities ought not to try to stop majorities exercising their free will on occasions.

I am trying to strike a reasonable balance. The picture is not all black or all white, and one has to try to form a judgment. My point is that a great deal of Sunday sport is going on without doing much harm to very many people, and we ought to be extremely careful when legislating, not to interfere with the rights of majorities while trying to protect the rights of minorities.

Mr. Simon Mahon

No one would object to the sort of people about whom my hon. Friend was speaking, who participate in a quiet game of golf or tennis. I have supported that all my life. What most of us have in mind is this highly commercial and sometimes very ugly commercialisation of the sport. Commercialisation is the point.

Mr. Howell

I suspect that I should be out of order if I tried to deal with that point. I shall try to deal with it on Third Reading. It is a complete distortion of the facts to suggest that anybody is commercially exploiting sportsmen by organising sports contests. At present little profit is made from any professional sport in this country. That is why, in order that their sport shall survive, the people who organise it are moving towards Sunday cricket.

People are entitled to object to this movement, but we have to pay some attention to the views of the M.C.C. and the county cricket organisations who say, "We are performing a public service by organising the county cricket championship and this sport can survive only if it takes account of the changing sociological pattern of the nation"—and the change in the sociological pattern of the nation, whether the House likes it or not, is that more and more people want to watch their spectator sports not on Saturdays but on other days of the week. It was conclusively proved last year that twice as many people wished to watch cricket on Sundays as on Saturdays.

I do not believe that it was the experience of any county cricket club which organised Sunday cricket last year that their operations affected any of the churches with whom we are dealing, or created a considerable degree of disquiet in their neighbourhoods. I understand the point made by some of my hon. Friends that this may not be the case with certain football matches but I advise the House to rest upon the provisions contained in new Clause 2, which the House has passed on the advice of my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend the Member for York was absolutely right when he said that the Clause with which we are dealing is completely unworkable. It goes far wider than dealing with sport or entertainment; it creates a new class of nuisance in the vicinity of any church or place of worship. My hon. Friend was right in saying that it would be possible to demonstrate that many ordinary activities which are now permitted, and which have been going on in this country for many years—innocent entertainments and recreation—would be illegal if the Clause were accepted.

For instance, bathing on the foreshore of any beaches in this country which were in the vicinity of a church would be illegal. I should imagine that the whole House, including the sponsors of the Clause, would be horrified if it were suddenly found to be illegal for the owner of any beach to allow children to bathe in the vicinity of a church. Even the holding of a Christian service on such a beach or foreshore, as we are advised, could mean that the owner of the land who had allowed such a service to be held was guilty of committing a criminal offence. In all these circumstances it is quite clear that this Clause ought not to be supported.

This is not to say to the hon. Member for Wimbledon, my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) and others that people who want quiet in their places of worship ought not to have the opportunity of expressing their view. The Government's view is that new Clause 2—which we had not got when this proposed new Clause was put down—gives them that opportunity. If a place of worship thinks that some organised piece of sport or recreation is likely profoundly to affect their worship, new Clause No. 2 provides them with the opportunity of expressing their view. They would also have the opportunity of expressing their view when the matter was heard before the court.

Not the least of the vices of this new Clause is that it will not even provide far argument before the magistrates in cases where new Clause 2 does. This is an entirely prohibitive provision which will not even allow for counter arguments to be put forward. For all these reasons—although I am prepared to give way before I sit down—I hope that the House will negative the new Clause.

1.45 p.m.

Sir C. Black

I am obliged to the hon. Member for saying that he will give way before sitting down. I want to make one short point because his speech, in part, was based on a delusion. He said that in his opinion the situation is adequately dealt with by new Clause 2. I am not sure whether he was in the Chamber when I moved my new Clause. I pointed out that new Clause 2 has reference only to nuisances and annoyances which arise under Clause 2 of the Bill. Nuisances and annoyances, as I indicated, can arise under other Clauses. Therefore places of worship cannot possibly be protected in references to nuisances and annoyances covered by other Clauses by reference to a new Clause that is confined to Clause 2 of the Bill.

Mr. Howell

I reiterate that in respect of new Clause 2 we have agreed the method by which objectors with legitimate objections can express themselves and we have almost agreed on the procedure by which these objections can be determined. Our objection to this new Clause is not only that it goes far beyond new Clause 2, or Clause 2 of the Bill, but beyond the whole Bill. It tries to create a new category of nuisance and to deal with a situation far beyond the range of the Bill. Therefore it will cause a considerable amount of confusion. In our view it is quite impracticable, and I must therefore advise my hon. Friend not to agree to it.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) I recognise that there are difficulties about the new Clause, but I support the achievement of the object that it seeks to bring about. If, as the Minister says, it is unworkable, I hope that some other way of achieving this important object will be put forward. I attach the greatest importance to what is desired by my hon. Friend and I feel that we must press this matter to a Division unless we receive an assurance that, perhaps in another place, something will be done to allay the anxieties which we feel.

We must accept what the hon. Member has said about the Clause being unworkable in its present form—although I thought that he strayed a little from the position of neutrality which he claimed to occupy, perhaps because he was provoked a little from some of the intervention in his speech. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) made somewhat heavy weather of his argument. I am not as learned in the law as he is, but when he was being so meticulous and legalistic about the subject I was surprised to hear him suggest on two occasions that the Clause was intended for the protection of Christian worship alone. It is not; it is intended for the protection of religious worship of all kinds.

I think that the hon. Gentleman spoke about it as if it were for the prevention of disturbance in the vicinity of a church but it is also for prevention of disturbance in the vicinity of a synagogue, a mosque or a gurdwara—if our Sikh fellow citizens have now erected gurdwaras in this land. It is intended for the protection of religious worship as a whole.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

The hon. Gentleman makes my point. A synagogue usually has its services on Saturday. The Clause would not protect a synagogue but would protect a Christian church. It is in that sense that I say that it would be devisive of opinion in the country.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and apologise to him for what I have said. I think that this is the best objection I have heard so far to the Clause. If, as is clearly necessary, something is to be done in another place, I hope that this point will be covered, and that there is no limitation to Christian places of worship and that all places of worship will be taken into account.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said that religious worship is already being disturbed. Clearly, if the Bill is enacted in its present form the amount and degree of disturbance to religious worship will probably increase. In my constituency I periodically worship at the lovely modern Roman Catholic Church of St. Edmund of Canterbury, Traps Hill. Immediately alongside the church is our new swimming pool, of which we are very proud in Chigwell. When it was built everything was done to ensure that the activities of those rightly enjoying it would not interfere with the worship and the life of the Catholic church next door. This was a manifestation of the mutual respect and co-operation between the local authority and religious bodies which is a great joy to me as the Member of Parliament. But this kind of spirit does not always obtain. In whatever form the object of the Clause is met, it must be met.

The hon. Gentleman, quoting Archbishop Temple, spoke of the paramount importance of the exercise of free will. Of course. Those of us who worship of our free will wish also to be able to exercise that free will. That is the whole point of the Clause. Unless something is done I fear that there will be a further encroachment on the fundamental human right of freedom of worship.

Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

Speaking on behalf of the sponsors of the Bill I advise the House not to accept the Clause, but to accept the advice of my hon. Friend the Minister. I believe the Clause to be quite unworkable as drafted, and quite unnecessary.

I remember that in my youth, in Liverpool, much of the interruption to Christian worship came from other Christians. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) mentioned the Salvation Army's interference with his Sundays, but in my youth, unfortunately, Orange bands went around Liverpool playing as loudly as they could outside Catholic churches at particular times in order to annoy. I hope that with the growth of ecumenical feeling that has now stopped.

I also witnessed the return of the Archbishop from a visit to Lourdes through a street in which all the lampposts had cardboard hams tied on them with orange ribbons on and "Cured at Lourdes" written on them, in order to annoy on the return of the Archbishop from that pilgrimage. Give and take on Christian lines between different users of property, whether hall or chapel, is the normal and natural way of settling these differences. If they cannot be settled in that way I suggest that no new Clause can adequately deal with the matter. Therefore, I hope that the House will reject the Clause.

Mr. G. B. H. Currie (Down, North)

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) on introducing the Clause. Like other hon. Members, I support it only in the event of the Bill's going through. I should very much prefer to see the Bill fall on Third Reading.

The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) referred to Orange bands. Because I was very interested in the speech of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) I was going to suggest to him that it was a pity he had not also had the opportunity of hearing an Orange band walking past the church in which he was preaching, because he might have found that additional inspiration to help him with his sermon. His observations on the churches were most interesting, and his is a point of view which anyone is entitled to hold.

I should greatly deplore the extension of professional sport in particular on a Sunday. Part of the trouble from which we are suffering today is that we have become too much a permissive society. We have forgotten too often the rights of minorities and of fellow citizens to attend worship without being disturbed in their devotions. I am a son of the manse and I agree with the proposition that it is not really too much to expect that one day, the Sabbath, should be preserved as a day of rest and, for those who have the spirit to take part in it, as a day of worship.

I am afraid that I was getting away from new Clause 7. One would have liked different wording in it. For example, I should have liked to see after Members of the public in such manner the words "as would be likely". That would be a much easier form of words for interpretation by a court if proceedings were taken under the Clause. It would indicate to a promoter that he had a duty to consider whether or not the sport or entertainment being promoted would be likely to disturb religious worship or cause annoyance to persons attending the church.

The Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland, but I do not believe that that excludes a Northern Ireland Member from having a right to take an interest in such a deeply religious matter. I welcome the fact that on both sides of the House Members for Scottish constituencies are present, although the Bill does not apply to Scotland.

Mr. Hamling rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Currie)—and I would wish to say this before the intervention—is getting away from the Clause. He should direct himself to it.

Mr. Currie

I acknowledge that, and am grateful for your intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wished just by way of personal explanation to make reference to that fact because it is a matter which must be examined.

May I say how much I appreciated the very interesting speech made by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), a very sincere, very interesting and far-reaching speech. With these few words I support this proposed new Clause.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)

There have indeed been one or two outlandish statements made in this morning's debate. I am exceedingly sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) has left the Chamber temporarily, for I wished to join issue with him because he said that in his boyhood services at Catholic churches were deliberately interrupted by Salvation Army bands. Naturally, as a Catholic, I have a very great regard for my own faith, but as an ex-Service man who in the very dire circumstances which existed during the war often received a bed at a shilling a time from the Salvation Army, I have a very, very high regard for the Salvation Army as well. I do not want to be too severe, but I would say that that statement represented almost a travesty of the truth.

The nearest to it that I remember was seeing a wonderful figure who always gave me great inspiration and joy, a Salvation Army member, Red-Hot John, who, to the tune of an old English concertina, sang the words Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm And dare to make it known. I am delighted that there are here on both sides of the House people who have a firm purpose and are willing to say what they feel they ought to say on this very important matter and on this very important Clause.

I was bitterly disappointed by the remarks of the Minister—bitterly disappointed. I thought he might have given us a little more inspiration and a little more joy and that he ought perhaps to have shown a little more impartiality. He said in the first place that the new Clause was impracticable. If that is so, it is a very great pity indeed. He went on to say that our case was exaggerated. He went on to say that the noise from the swimming pool interrupted services in the church. Well, the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) dealt very adequately with that point. He went on to talk of amateur sport. It is true that there is a great deal of amateur sport, and that, of course, is all to the good. In my opinion these people do not interfere with church services on Sundays.

Mr. Hamling

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware that Gaelic football is played in my constituency. If this new Clause were accepted it would be impossible for Gaelic football to be played on Sundays in my constituency because of the noise it would create.

Mr. Mahon

I would not accept this. I think that provision will have to be made in the Bill in some way or another whereby amateur sport and the pursuits of people in the ordinary way would be catered for. I do not think that that would be too much to ask and to expect.

The hon. Member who sponsored the Bill is a Liverpool person like myself, and very often in his sojourn in Liverpool he must have had to contend with Evertonians and Liverpudlians going round the town and shouting "Everton" and "Liverpool". I am a lover of sport myself. I have been all my life. I have been a follower of football all my life and in my youth I played football for many amateur teams. My son plays rugby for Waterloo, R.U.F.C. I would not take second place to anyone in this Chamber in love of sport. Sport is a great safeguard and a great outlet for the people of this country and when sport is going on every day of the week, and on the seventh day, on the Sabbath Day, and is going to involve a lot of working people, I do believe—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is not the purpose of the new Clause to deal with the activities of sport or other matters in the Bill, but with activities in proximity to places of worship. I hope the hon. Member will come to the new Clause.

Mr. Mahon

Indeed, yes, and this is a very important aspect and I am most sorry to have departed from it. It is an important Clause and I wish to give it the utmost support.

In view of the tremendous and soul-searing issues which are coming into the open day by day, apart from religious considerations, I believe that there must be a day of reflection without any interference at all. There must be one day of quietude. There must be one day free from the supporters of all professional sporting activities.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member is dealing with the principles of the Bill and not with the new Clause. The new Clause does not say whether these activities should take place on Sunday but whether they should be in the proximity of a church so as to cause nuisance.

Mr. Mahon

I am slowly coming to the point which I am most anxious to develop. I come to it very quickly, and I will eradicate from my speech some of the very important things I hoped to be able to say, for I abide by your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Everton football ground has a church close to it. The sponsor of the Bill knows this to be so. Everton Football Club—

Mr. Hamling

Have the prayerbooks got rattles on them?

Mr. Mahon

I may be particularly slow in uptake, but I fail to see the significance of that remark.

They have been trying to buy that church for many years to make room for another thousand or so spectators, but the little church has not given way over the last 50 years and I certainly hope it will not give way. It is a Nonconformist church but will not reform.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Member is in danger of being nonconformist in regard to the rules of order. He really must come to the new Clause.

Mr. Mahon

I think I have done very well. I think that is more or less what I wanted to say, and I will now close.

Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)

Hearing the musical tone and the words of the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) I think that if he were to speak on the pavement outside any church in which I was worshipping I would leave the church and go to listen to him on the pavement outside.

However, I do feel that there has been a failure to appreciate—and I refer particularly to the Minister and his intervention—that there is a genuine attempt to seek to find a balance in what is genuinely a problem. I was intrigued by the description by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) when he said he sometimes, when he was speaking in a Methodist chapel, found inspiration in some of the little noises off which came in from outside. I feel that in a real sense there is truth in that, that those who go to a place of worship on Sunday hear occasional sounds from without, reminding them that they are nevertheless in the world though they may be not of it for that brief period.

However, there is a distinction between that sort of little disturbance, the incidental noises of life continuing outside, of vehicles passing by, and so on, and the totally different problem of scale when there is set down next door to the church, or very close to it, a source of continuous disturbance—from an entertainment, whether of the musical or the sporting kind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) was obviously right in pointing out that this new Clause relates to the whole scope of liberalisation which the Bill introduces, and not only in the matter of sport, and the difficulties which would in many cases arise to make the use of and worship in church totally impossible. This cannot be within the wish or the remit of the sponsors of the Bill. Many hon. Members sympathise with the sponsor of the Bill in his effort to change archaic laws. We are impressed and delighted at his flexibility in attempting to meet some of our difficulties. and new Clause 2 is a good case in point. The Bill is a liberalising Measure, and it is difficult to anticipate precisely what changes will be unleased in the way people spend Sundays, particularly in entertainment, out of which much money can be made.

In the light of this uncertainty, it is reasonable to seek to write into the Bill a specific safeguard against the unique feature of Sunday occupations which is most likely to be threatened by the undesirable increase of noise from organised activity. I would support my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) in the new Clause. There may be imperfections in drafting, but these can be put right elsewhere.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

I fully support the purpose of the new Clause, if not the actual wording on the Order Paper, which is not the real test of the value or purpose of the Clause.

I would ask the Minister to consider again what is likely to happen in the minds of the church-going community, whether it be a minority or a majority, in the next few years if the Bill becomes law. There will be a danger of a vast extension of mass sporting and entertainment activities, and all the great commercial services associated with them. The sponsors of the Bill can no more control that situation, once the Bill has become law, than they can control great natural disasters.

The Minister must realise that a new situation is about to be created if the Bill becomes law. Activities which are at present illegal will become legal and will spread throughout the country on a wide scale. It is no use the Minister saying that there is no important com- mercial element involved. As these entertainments, dancing and other sporting activities extend, does the Minister think that the gambling element and increased transport and catering facilities can be excluded? These activities involve calls on the services of millions of working people who are not at present required to work on Sunday.

Does not the Minister therefore agree that people who value Sunday as a day of rest will be greatly disturbed in their desire to have peace and quiet in their very churches, which is the preferred form of Sunday enjoyment that they choose?

2.45 p.m.

Mr. Denis Howell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the advent of the motor car, with its sociological effect on the country, has already in large measure had an effect on the catering industry. To that extent, I do not agree with him that there would be a tremendous change in the pattern of the hundreds of families who travel around in cars looking for somewhere to go.

The short point that I want to intervene on is to say that my right hon. Friend would be quite wrong to say that there would be any change in the pattern affecting gambling. None of the sports involved, representatives of which have written to us or expressed interest in this matter, are sports which countenance gambling. The only sports which countenance gambling are horse-racing and greyhound racing, which would still be illegal.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

And football.

Mr. Howell

Football does not count as gambling in the sense that my hon. Friend was suggesting. It is not gambling where the sport takes place and at the time it takes place.

Mr. MacMillan

I thought for a moment that the Minister was on our side, and was trying to talk out the Bill. With respect, that would have been his most valuable contribution to the debate. His impartiality, or even the appearance of it, has not been enhanced by the remarks he has just made or the remarks he made earlier. If I had as many "independent" supporters as the sponsors of the Bill have on the Front Bench, I would not have to worry about victory for my cause.

The Minister cannot really give a guarantee against extending abuses. No one can guarantee that, once mass sport and the many forms of mass commercialism associated with it are legally extended, it will be possible to control the extension of gambling, even to sports which have never been seriously affected by it before. That is a point about which no doubt the Minister would wish to say much more, but it is not the main point of my argument.

On an earlier Amendment, one of my hon. Friends said that it was not a question of legality, but a question of intensity of feeling and conscientious views, deeply and honestly held by people who have been encouraged by the House to hold fast to them—convictions, buttressed by the legislative support of this House for centuries past. Whether those people are a minority or a majority does not matter. We can get very hot at times about minorities in the House, and last week's debate on race problems was an example of that. We have a right to express ourselves warmly, and indeed vehemently, about the rights of longer established minorities too.

The sophistry of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) will not satisfy the anxieties of millions of people who are disturbed by the Bill, and by the lack of provision in its Clauses for the protection of their rights, when so many of their valued rights are now being taken away from them. I hope that the Bill's supporters will not say too much about these arguments of mine representing only a minority feeling or view. After all, the Second Reading of this Bill went through with only 29 on the side of victory.

Mr. Spriggs

My hon. Friend is relating his speech to new Clause 7. Surely he knows, as an intelligent hon. Member, that any constituent who objects to a noise nuisance or any of the sports to which reference has been made can be dealt with under new Clause 2.

Mr. MacMillan

This was the Minister's argument, to some extent, but I am far from sure that it is correct. In the Bill, we are specifically creating new situations which will have to be looked at individually as they arise and extend, affecting the life of our communities more and more. It is the Bill itself which is creating these new situations out of which new offences may arise, but—

Mr. Parker

Does the Bill affect my hon. Friend's constituency?

Mr. MacMillan

Of course. My hon. Friend takes a narrow, English, nationalist view. I thought that he was supposed to be arguing for liberty and democracy and new freedoms. He is, in fact, in favour under this Bill of depriving millions of working people of their freedom, which this House has guaranteed for centuries. In his Second Reading speech, his main argument was based upon a very narrow personal experience of what he regarded as the repression of his own desire for greater licence in connection with a Sabbatarian matter which I will not go into now. Although I am here to represent the views of my constituents, he must remember that I am also an hon. Member of what is our national assembly. I am ashamed that in 1968 he or any hon. Member should talk in that way. Sometimes a Scotsman learns more quickly than a Londoner that London is not even England—let alone Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to come to the terms of the new Clause.

Mr. MacMillan

Mr. Deputy Speaker, having been interrupted by the highly irregular suggestion from my hon. Friend that my constituency had nothing to do with a matter of importance to the whole of the people of this country, I felt obliged to reply to him. Of course, it may be that he wishes to minimise the importance of the Bill and suggest that it does not matter to anyone living outside London. If it did not, that would be an excellent restriction. However, clearly it affects people all over the country.

In this Clause, however inadequately worded, we ask that the fullest protection should be given to people to worship in peace on Sundays in places set aside for their worship. I should have thought that that would commend itself to hon. Members on both sides of the House. Inevitably and dangerously, the requirement of some protection will grow with the new licence which is given under this Bill, if it ever becomes law, which I shall try to prevent. I should have thought that that was a simple argument which would be accepted by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling), for whom I have a great respect.

I ask my hon. Friend to keep carefully in mind the deep and sincerely held feelings of people and try to bring in some provision to safeguard their rights. That cannot, surely, be against his real intentions. If he is not satisfied with the wording of the Clause, I fail to see why he cannot suggest a form of words to meet its intentions, without necessarily adopting the exact wording of it.

Sir Knox Cunningham

I wish to support the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black). Going back to the example which he gave at the start of his speech, it seems to me that it would be utterly outrageous if that happened. Clearly, it can happen if the Bill is passed. It is equally clear that, if the Clause were accepted, it would be stopped.

As other hon. Members have said, I, too, feel that the "Minister for Sport" was not at his best in his speech. He talked about there being a quantity of Sunday sport in the country, and that is perfectly true. He talked about Sunday cricket, but that is utterly irrelevant to the Clause, which deals with the occupier of premises who permits those premises to be used on a Sunday by other people so as to disturb religious worship or cause annoyance to persons attending church.

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) took a very narrow and legalistic view. It is well within the competence of a magistrates' court to see the facts presented to it and decide whether they are such as to disturb religious worship or cause annoyance to persons attending church.

It may be that the wording of the Clause is not ideal. If that is so, the Minister should have given some help in redrafting it rather than brushing it aside as he did. I feel that it is a practical step. The courts are quite capable of deciding whether or not an offence has been committed. They will not take a narrow view and allow a prosecution to be brought forward on no basis at all. I support the Clause and I hope that my hon. Friend will take it to a Division, in which event I am confident that the House will agree to it.

Mr. Heffer

I wish to oppose the new Clause, because the points which have been argued are adequately covered by new Clause 2 which has been accepted by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hambling).

Those hon. Members who drafted the Clause must realise that it can operate in reverse. As a child, I was brought up as a member of the Church of England, in the High Church. On those occasions when my mother failed to get me out in sufficient time to go to Sung Eucharist, I can remember being somewhat annoyed at the lusty singing and the ringing of bells at the Congregational church close to my home. It may have been because I was not of that persuasion, but annoyance was certainly caused to me by the lusty singing—

Mr. Hooson

Might it have been not because the hon. Gentleman was not of the same persuasion, but because he was not of a musical nature?

Mr. Heffer

That may be true. However, it has to be recognised by all the Churches that their services may annoy people who do not attend church. They, too, have their rights. In built-up areas, many people go to church by car, and that also causes annoyance. However, one has to be tolerant, and it seems to me that the points which have been made about noise and annoyance are well covered by new Clause 2.

I would suggest to hon. Members who have argued so persuasively in support of this Clause that they are not arguing the case for the Churches. They are arguing against the whole concept of the Bill in principle. This is an entirely different matter. I said this morning that I thought there was a need to safeguard the interests of people in an area where there would be a nuisance as a result of Sunday games. Nevertheless, it should not be pushed as far as it has been pushed in the Amendment. Therefore, I hope that the House will reject the Amendment.

I am not quarrelling with my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan), who is always eloquent and persuasive. I think that he has as great an interest in English affairs as we have in Scottish affairs. However, I find it difficult to accept what has been said on this matter by some hon. Members from Northern Ireland when we are not entitled to raise questions dealing with Northern Ireland.

2.30 p.m.

Mr. Doughty

I have the greatest respect for the Northern Ireland Members. They are useful adjuncts to this House. They speak with clearness and clarity, and I hope that they will long continue to remain here giving us the benefit of their views.

I support the Clause. I will not go through the wording, which is open to a good deal of criticism purely from the legal point of view. I suggest the House should accept the new Clause, leaving it open to the Minister and the sponsors of the Bill in another place to vary the wording. If I were to give a lecture about certain criticisms which can be offered to the wording I should be giving a legal lecture and boring the House.

The principle of the Bill is to permit games, often noisy games, on Sundays. Many people—whether it be a majority or a minority does not matter—regard Sunday as a day of worship. They attend their respective places of worship, whether they be cathedrals or small places with tin roofs, to listen to their preachers, and they do not wish to be disturbed on that day. If these games and sports do not disturb them and the organisers have a certificate or the permission set out in new Clause 2, well and good. But for extra clarification or extra force for new Clause 2, new Clause 7 should be added, so that congregations and other people concerned can go to the magistrates' court and say: If you grant this certificate this game will take place right outside the main entrance to our church, cathedral or chapel"—or whatever it may be. This is, therefore, an additional reason why the certificate should be refused, because it is offending against the new Clause we are discussing.

This is not a wrecking Motion. A great many of these functions will take place a long way from any place of worship and the Bill will not apply. The Bill will only apply to those functions which take place near, and are a nuisance to, a place of worship during the hours of worship, and only upon a Sunday, which is the principal day of worship.

We have to marry up the various conflicting interests of the people who wish to do things that are a nuisance to others and of those others who object to what is done. The House, in considering these conflicting interests, should be able to say, "You must not on a Sunday go so near a place of worship that you disturb and are a nuisance to the people there. If you do you will be guilty of an offence"—whatever that may mean under the Clause. That is one of the wording criticisms, into which I will not go now. That no doubt can be done in another place. I hope that the Clause will be adopted subject to any drafting Amendment which might have to be made.

Mr. Hamling

We have been debating noise and disturbance since just turned 11 o'clock this morning. A great many of the speeches which I have heard on this new Clause were almost identical to those which were made on previous Amendments or new Clauses. I cannot understand why the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has not seen fit to accept the assurances already given. He spoke about the Clause as an extra assurance. What he fails to understand is the wording of new Clause 2, which the House has already accepted.

Mr. Doughty rose

Mr. Hamling

I will give way when I have finished my point.

New Clause 2 refers to a demand by any person about a complaint. Every point that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made is already covered by new Clause 2. In any case, under the existing law, anyone has the right to go to the courts to seek protection from a nuisance or disturbance.

Mr. William Edwards (Merioneth)

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that every church and chapel-goer should be put on guard that he will have to go to a magistrates' court before he has the right to worship in peace?

Mr. Hamling

A worshipper in a church is in the same position as anyone else. I do not see why he should be singled out and given this protection. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) spoke about enlarging freedoms. The new Clause would not enlarge freedoms. It would severely limit freedoms which we already possess.

Mr. Doughty rose

Mr. Hamling

When my hon. Friend was making his speech I made a point about Gaelic football. This was relevant to the new Clause. I have had complaints from constituents about the activities of Gaelic footballers on Sunday mornings.

If the Clause were put into operation any church would have the right to prevent any undertaking or occupation or entertainment such as I have mentioned. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] I suggest that Members who put down and support new Clauses should read the words that they have put down. They must accept responsibility for their wording. It is no good hon. Gentlemen saying that if I do not like it I can amend it. They must accept responsibility for something that they support. I will not accept the responsibility for it. I am merely bound to explain the way I see it operating.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hamling

No, I will not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shocking."] This debate has now been going on for an hour and fifty minutes. Interventions like that merely prolong it. I did not interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman when he was speaking.

The existing law gives churches every protection and, in addition, new Clause 2 gives people the protection that they want under the Bill. I have already accepted new Clause 2, and I hope that the House will recognise that in accepting it I am paying some attention to the feelings of those who might otherwise object to the Bill.

Mr. Parker rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

Sir C. Black

I think I have a right of reply to this debate as the mover of the new Clause. I do not want to prolong the matter for more than a few minutes, but I certainly want to respond as far as I am able to what has been said on the other side.

There are only two points with which I want to deal. They have been repeated time and time again. I believe that they are based upon a misunderstanding. What was said by the sponsor and others—it was repeated several times—was that the situation which my new Clause seeks to deal with is fully, adequately and completely covered by new Clause 2 which the House accepted earlier. I have already made the point that this is not the case. If new Clause 2 were the only Clause which creates new opportunities for sport and other activities on Sunday, that argument would be a very strong one and I should certainly be prepared to accept it. But there are many other activities which are at present illegal but which, if the Bill passes into law in its present form, will become legal under Clauses other than new Clause 2.

Therefore, what I am seeking is not protection for the churches in respect of activities under new Clause 2 because I accept that they may to some extent be provided for. I am seeking protection for places of worship with regard to activities which will be legalised under other Clauses of the Bill. For that reason I cannot accept the argument that we should rest upon new Clause 2 and that I should withdraw new Clause 7.

The only other point I want to make is that there has been a good deal of criticism of drafting points. I am not a lawyer. I am a layman in these matters, and I certainly do not attempt to draft new Clauses of this kind, not regarding myself as competent to do so. I employed for the purpose an experienced lawyer and Parliamentary draftsman who specialises in this field. That is the best that an ordinary Member of the House can do in the circumstances. This is the best new Clause that could be produced by the eminent lawyer whom I consulted and retained in this matter.

I am not going to argue the points of drafting that have been raised. What I say is that the same kind of points—not to the same extent, but the same kind—have been made in regard to the drafting of new Clause 2, which the House accepted. The Home Office spokesman pointed out clearly that it might well prove to be unsatisfactory, that the Government wanted to consult the magistrates and the local authorities and that as a result of those consultations other alterations might become necesstary in another place, and the House accepted that. What I am suggesting is that the House should agree to pass my new

Division No. 125.] AYES [2.44p.m.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Harper, Joseph Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Heffer, Eric S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Binns, John Hilton, W. S. Parker, John (Dagenham)
Boyden, James Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Pavitt, Laurence
Crawshaw, Richard Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Dalyell, Tam Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Dickens, James Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Driberg, Tom Kenyon, Clifford Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Dunnett, Jack Kerby, Capt. Henry Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)
Ellis, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Spriggs, Leslie
English, Michael Lipton, Marcus Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Ennals, David Lubbock, Eric Vickers, Dame Joan
Faulds, Andrew Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McCann, John Wallace, George
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Whitaker, Ben
Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Marks, Kenneth Wilkins, W. A.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mendelson, J. J. Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Freeson, Reginald Mikardo, Ian
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hall, John (Wycombe) Moyle, Roland Mr. William Wilson and
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Murray, Albert Mr. Hugh Jenkins.
Hamling, William Newens, Stan
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Batsford, Brian Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Murton, Oscar
Bell, Ronald Higgins, Terence L. Ogden, Eric
Biggs-Davison, John Hordern, Peter Onslow, Cranley
Bishop, E. S. Hutchison, Michael Clark Peel, John
Black, Sir Cyril Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Percival, Ian
Body, Richard Lane, David Roebuck, Roy
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Russell, Sir Ronald
Brewis, John Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Bullus, Sir Eric Longden, Gilbert Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Cordle, John Macdonald, A. H. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Costain, A. P. Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'tY) Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Cunningham, Sir Knox MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Currie, G. B. H. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Worsley, Marcus
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Doughty, Charles Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Drayson, G. B. Mills, Peter (Torrington) Capt. L. P. S. Orr and
Mr. Emlyn Hooson.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the Affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 32 (Majority for Closure).

Clause, it being recognised that it may be necessary for its drafting and phraseology to be amended in another place.

But we are concerned here with a principle. It is principle and not drafting with which I am concerned. Therefore, for the reasons that I have given I cannot see my way to withdraw the new Clause, and I hope that hon. Members will agree to accept it.

Mr. Parker rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 68, Noes 54.

Question again proposed, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. James Griffiths

I voted for the Closure, because I do not believe in using delay to destroy Private Members' Bills, but I shall vote for the Clause if it goes to a Division. As the Closure has been lost and the debate continues, I have a suggestion to make to my hon. Friends who have sponsored the Bill. I do not share their views, but I respect them. I fail to see why they cannot give a definite assurance that they will accept the principle of the new Clause. I am sure that I speak for the people in my constituency and in all constituencies when I say that in this country we all respect our religious traditions and our religious freedom.

As a Nonconformist, I believe that one of the best things done by Nonconformists in the last Parliament and in the Parliament before last was to keep religious education in schools out of party strife. That represented a great change in our Nonconformist views. I ask hon. Members who belong to the same party as I do to remember that our party owes a great deal to the Nonconformist tradition. Unless the new Clause is accepted, if it becomes known that it has been turned down, they will offend many of the best citizens of the country. I do not want to delay the debate, but I hope that they will reconsider and accept the spirit and intent of the new Clause, whatever words are used, so that those who worship in churches and chapels can be allowed to worship in quiet and peace, which is all that the Clause would provide.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

I had not intended to speak on this new Clause until the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) who, I regret to say, has now left the Chamber, challenged my right to do so. He suggested that as I came from Northern Ireland and represented a Northern Ireland constituency, there was something improper in my speaking, as the Bill did not refer to Northern Ireland. I completely agree with the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) that any hon. Member is a Member of Parliament, not a delegate from his constituency, and has a right to speak on any subject which properly comes before the House of Commons. It is simply in defence of that right that I have decided to speak on this Clause, because my views on the whole subject of Sunday observance are well known. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Currie) put my point of view remarkably well, and I did not want to add to what they had said.

I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) said about the old days in Liverpool. In an interesting speech he said that the nuisance in those days tended to be among Christians themselves rather than between Christians and secular disturbances from outside. I hope that he will have noted the extent of the ecumenical movement when his hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) and I can go into the Lobby against the hon. Gentleman.

Many people feel deeply that in defence of Christian worship something more than is already done by the Bill should be done to extend privacy and the right to the undisturbed exercise of Christian worship on Sunday. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and others have referred us to new Clause 2, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) pointed out, that does not deal with many of the disturbances which might be created as a result of the Bill. It applies only to those under Clause 2. I know that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West wishes to be fair—although he got a little heated earlier. If he is fair, he must realise that only disturbances created under Clause 2 can be dealt with under new Clause 2.

Mr. Hamling

The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) talked about sports, which are not covered by the Clause. None of those who have spoken in support of the new Clause has been very specific about what sports might cause annoyance and are not covered by new Clause 2. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman be specific?

Captain Orr

I shall be specific on one thing—dancing.

Mr. Hamling

The hon. Member for Wimbledon referred to sports.

Captain Orr

He may have done so, but I am talking about dancing. I am talking about the various kinds of commercial disturbance which could be created as a result of the so-called liberalising of the law.

Mr. Costain

When my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) moved the new Clause he referred to dancing. He spoke about a dance hall next-door to a church in his constituency.

Captain Orr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon.

3.0 p.m.

As the hon. Member for the Western Isles argued, we cannot see the ultimate consequences of the Bill. We do not know what will become lawful that is not lawful now. The only people from whom I have received any representations for this so-called liberalising of the law are those who want to make money. All kinds of people want to make money, and we do not know what methods they will adopt to do so. It will be impossible to guard against them all unless we have some such Clause as this.

I thought that the Minister's dismissal of the argument was shallow in the extreme. He put himself forward as neutral, but he was not being fair. He dismissed the Clause on the ground that it would create a new criminal offence, that it would be unworkable. If he is sincere, and is not using his argument merely as an excuse for not accepting the Clause, he ought to say, "I shall try to meet your objections is so far as the Bill other than Clause 2 is concerned. I will see whether I can produce a draft. I am sure that, if the will is there, it is not beyond the wit of man to produce something to meet it".

Even if the Clause is imperfect, I hope that, to demonstrate our desire to see that Christian worship is defended from all the unknown consequences of passing the Bill, my hon. Friends will join me in dividing the House.

Mr. William Edwards

As a lawyer I dislike the kind of offence which the Clause envisages. There is great uncertainty about the kind of offence which will be committed if the Clause is incorporated in the Bill. As the representative of a Nonconformist constituency, and being aware of the views of my constituents and my church about the Bill, I am concerned to ensure that there is no disturbance to the holding of religious services in any part of the country.

I suggest to the sponsors of the Bill that the way to overcome the difficulty is to take the opportunity when the Bill is being considered in another place to write in a provision that when considering whether to grant a certificate the magistrates should have particular regard to the fact that there shall be no interference by the holding of this kind of Sunday entertainment with any church meeting or any person attending a church service. This kind of compromise is not unknown to the House. I think that it would meet the objections which I, as a lawyer, have to the new uncertain offence.

Mr. Hooson

I think that the Clause would be workable. Magistrates are often called on to arrive at a conclusion on the basis of fact. Whether annoyance is being caused in such a way as to disturb religious worship is an easy matter to interpret on the evidence. I should have thought that there would be no difficulty in making the Clause work. It may be improved, but that is not the point.

In this country we have a basic right, which is the freedom of worship. But added to that there has been freedom of worship in peace. That right has always existed within the social framework of this country. Now the sponsors of the Bill want to change the social framework. They want to introduce new rights. Therefore, they have a duty to safeguard the minority who may not take the same view as they do.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) is normally very tractable. However, today he has shown himself to be a little insensitive to the mood of the House. I am sorry that I missed the speech of the Minister who is responsible for sport, and I apologise for doing so, but it seems from the reports of it which I have heard that he, too, showed insensitivity. Had he conferred with the Secretary of State for Wales, who, in these matters, represents a very important section of the community, he might have shown a little more sensitivity. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West would have had more sympathy for his basic aims if he had been a little more sympathetic and tractable. I see no reason why he should not accept new Clause 7, which can be easily interpreted, and then change it by Amendment, if necesary, in another place.

Mr. Wilkins

I wish to voice the strongest possible objection to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) on the ground that the new Clause will create a loophole, an escape route, for those who wish to find reasons why sport should be allowed to take place near churches. I hope that the House will turn down this proposal, which is simply an escape route for the sponsors of the Bill.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. George Thomas)

His proposal?

Mr. Wilkins

Yes, that something, about which we do not know, should be written into the Bill in another place. I object to the new Clause, because it will create a powerful loophole for evading what we are trying to do.

Mr. Ennals rose

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has already spoken. He needs leave if he wishes to speak again.

Mr. Ennals

With respect, Mr. Speaker, I have not spoken on this Motion.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry. Mr. Ennals.

Mr. Ennals

It is important, particularly when we are debating Private Members' Bills, that we should always try to respond to the mood of the House. One can come in with one impression and go out with another. This is the purpose of debate.

I have some sympathy with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards). The Clause is unsatisfactory in many ways, and the Committee thought so when it analysed a proposal in exactly the same form. However, the argument of one or two hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, that new Clause 2 totally covers the point is valid. New Clause 2 is related to Clause 2 of the Bill, and this does not cover other forms of spectacle.

There is great merit in the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth, and it has two suggestions linked to it. One is that new Clause 2 should be redrafted, perhaps in another place, so that it does not tie itself only to Clause 2 but can concern itself with other forms of activity which would be permitted if the Bill were passed and does not limit itself to sport. The second suggestion is that special consideration should be given by those who will have to take a decision on licensing, whether it be the local authority or the magistrates, to the needs of those concerned with religious worship.

I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that he can respond to this and that equally hon. Members who are pressing a particular form of words, which I do not think is satisfactory, will feel that if my hon. Friend accepts this suggestion it would be unfortunate if we were to divide as if it were a question between Sabbatarians and others. I hope that those of us who feel that the Clause as originally drafted was very unsatisfactory and who are as deeply committed to our church worship as others believe that it would be a pity to divide on an issue like this.

Wing Commander Sir Eric Bullus (Wembley, North)

We are grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for his intervention and for his sympathy towards us, but I feel that my hon. Friends and I would want some categorical assurance that all forms of interference with church worship will be taboo and that nothing to be allowed under this Bill will be allowed near places of worship.

I have a vested interest in this. I go to church every Sunday and I recommend that habit to those who do not. In hot weather we have the doors open and if a motor cycle goes by it reverberates throughout the church. Children's voices carry right up to the nave when they are in church and interfere with the service. If we allow any form of sport or dancing or motor cycling or gathering on the green which hitherto has not been allowed, it will affect those who go to church on Sundays and it is important to realise that.

Mr. Hamling

I hope that I may have permission to speak again, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman need not have the leave of the House. He is in charge of the Bill.

Mr. Hamling

I am grateful.

I would like to respond to the mood of the House. In my original remarks, I made the point that, in my opinion, the activities to which objection was taken were covered by new Clause 2. All the discussions we had in Committee in relation to this point were concerned with sport. It is only today that hon. Members have referred to other matters. I would certainly be quite willing to see some Amendment which would give the protection of new Clause 2 to all the other activities mentioned in the Bill.

Sir C. Black

For the purposes of the record, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that his memory is incorrect. In Committee, I made a point connected with the nuisance which would be caused by sport under Clause 2, and gave a specific case of a very noisy dance band in a public hall immediately adjoining a place of worship in my constituency. My argument then, as today, has been based upon that.

Mr. Hamling

The record will display whose memory is at fault. Memories on both sides can be at fault, but I am within the recollection of the House in suggesting that the hon. Gentleman referred specifically to sport this afternoon. However, I am seeking to be cooperative and I hope that the House will accept the fact that I am trying to be.

All I am saying is that if we can, in some way, provide the protections of new Clause 2 to all the activities mentioned in the Bill—whether dancing or cinemas or theatres or sport—we will do so. I hope that the House will accept that assurance and that new Clause 7 will be withdrawn.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

Surely the right way to deal with this matter is in the same way we dealt with new Clause 2—that is for the House to accept new Clause 7 on the understanding that, in another place, it and new Clause 2 will be refashioned to make them more satisfactory to hon. Members who hold different views. Rather than divide on a matter which would appear to be a division between those who believe in strict observance of Sunday and those who do not, it would be better to reach an agreed solution.

I urge the sponsors of the Bill to adopt the advice of the Minister and accept new Clause 7.

Mr. Hamling

I will accept that.

Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)

In view of the acceptance of this new Clause I have nothing more to say at this stage.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time and added to the Bill.

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