HL Deb 04 June 1850 vol 111 cc714-6

Order of the Day for receiving the Report of the Amendments read.

The EARL of HARROWBY moved that the report be now received.


wished to offer a few words cautioning their Lordships against proceeding too far with this kind of legislation. He was the more inclined to repeat the caution which he had before given, because, after this Bill had passed, no one of their Lordships, no one of the middle classes, certainly no one of the higher classes, would be in any way affected by its provisions. They might order their carriages and drive where they pleased; but the poor man would not be able to buy an ounce of tea or a pound of bread or meat for provision for his family on Sunday; so that if he were, by his own neglect, or by the lateness of the hour at which he received his wages on the Saturday night, too late to go to market on Saturday, he would be driven to the cookshop on the Sunday; and nothing he thought could be more injurious to the comfort of the working man than to be prevented from providing his dinner at home with his family on Sundays. He wished to call the attention of the noble Marquess, the representative of the Government, to one clause in the Bill, which tended seriously to affect the peace of the metropolis. He referred to that clause which gave the police power to seize articles that were exposed for sale—a provision which he thought could not be carried into effect, in the presence probably of crowds of people, without causing a riot; and he read the evidence of Mr. Commissioner May, taken before the Select Committee, to the same effect. He thought they should put an end as quietly as they could to Sunday trading; but it was better to permit a market on Sunday than to create a riot. One great means of checking Sunday trading would be to induce the employers of labour to pay their workmen on the Friday or the Monday, instead of as now on the Saturday night; but they ought not to take any step in this matter which they were not sure they would be able to retain, and with this view he thought they ought not to go further at present than to prohibit the sale of articles, except medicines, between the hours of ten and one o'clock on Sunday forenoon. He did not, however, propose any Amendment to carry out this suggestion, because to do that it would be necessary to remodel the whole Bill; but he would content himself with the caution he had now given.


defended the provisions of the Bill, and reminded their Lordships that it interfered with nothing but trade, and with the trade of the rich as well as of the poor. He thought the noble Earl's apprehensions as to the probability of a riot from the interference of the police were altogether overstrained, and quoted from the evidence of witnesses before the Committee to show that no danger need be apprehended. It was a mistake to suppose that this measure would operate injuriously to the working classes; it was intended to be, and he had no doubt it would be, a great boon to the poor.


stated, as a Member of the Committee, that the evidence taken before it showed that the measure originated with the shopkeepers and working classes, who complained of being overworked and not having a moment to themselves, and earnestly desired that this Bill might pass in order to secure to them the rest of one day in seven.


said, he also was a Member of the Select Committee, but he had come to a different conclusion from the noble Lord who spoke last. He could not admit that the Bill was a poor man's Bill, or one in favour of the labourer. It was one, on the contrary, which would deprive many a hardworking man of the few comforts and little luxuries he now enjoyed. It was a Bill to protect the larger shopkeeper against the competition of the smaller; to prevent the poor man from dining with his family in his lodgings on a Sunday, and to make him seek his food in the public-house, by depriving him of the opportunity of purchasing it in a shop, and taking it home the only day he is absent from his work. He considered it very ill drawn in its details, and he was utterly opposed to the mode of carrying them into effect, particularly as regarded the powers which it gave to the police, which he considered most dangerous in practice. The Bill appeared to have been got up by one individual, who had been a tradesman, but who had left his business to follow the more lucrative profession of an agitator for Sabbath observance. [The Earl of HARROWBY dissented.] He believed that professional agitation for any question was found to be a lucrative affair. That individual drew the Bill, summoned the witnesses, and suggested the line of examination which the noble Earl followed in Committee. He admitted that in exposing the evils which this Bill sought to remedy, the evidence showed a much stronger ground than he had previously supposed to exist. There were public fairs carried on in some parts of London on Sunday which were more frequented than any fair on a week day. These crowds were nuisances; but he certainly differed from the mode in which it was proposed to carry out the remedy, and he believed that he was not the only Member of the Committee who entertained the same idea.


suggested that this discussion would have been much more in order on the third reading of the Bill, and that their standing orders limited and defined the nature of the discussion proper to that stage.



On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill to be read a Third Time on Thursday next.

House adjourned to Thursday next.

Back to