HL Deb 05 June 1860 vol 158 cc2040-9

Order of the day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.


said, that as their Lordships knew, there were different opinions in this country respecting the manner in which the Sunday should be observed. From the earliest times, however, the law of England had forbidden Sunday trading. Blackstone stated that even so early as the reign of Athelstane "merchandising" on that day was strictly forbidden. In the reigns of Henry VI., Charles I., and Charles II., Acts were passed to the same effect, all providing that no secular business should be transacted on the Sabbath, save works of necessity. The enactment now in force was the statute of Charles II.: but that was one of those enactments which were never practically enforced, and in point of fact, the present measure was not introduced with a view to the attainment of any such object, for it permitted various kinds of trading up to 10 o'clock. Was it expedient to call upon Parliament now to violate a principle which had been so long respected? If it were wrong to sell goods at 11 or 12 in the morning of that day it was equally wrong to sell goods at 9 or 10; and if it were right to sell at the latter hour, it could not be wrong to sell at other times. The existing law was said to be inoperative. No doubt it was to a certain extent. But having regard to the enormous extent of the Metropolis and the denseness of the population, it was impossible to enforce a rigorous obedience to such a law, and he thought that upon the whole, considering the numerous wants of the Metropolis, the Sabbath was not ill-observed within its limits. He would rather trust to the growth of public opinion, the force of moral suasion, the influence of the clergy and of our public instructors to extinguish the system, rather than to suppress it by legal coercion. It had been stated that at one of the great centres of the north, Sunday trading largely prevailed ten years ago, but had of late years much decreased. That seemed to be an argument against legislation; for the same causes wore at work here, and would lead, they might hope, to the same re- I suits. There were doubtless many tradesmen throughout London who regarded the practice of Sunday trading which they were compelled by others to practice as a burden and a yoke, and who looked for relief to some measure of this kind. But he believed that no ruinous consequences would result to these persons if they boldly closed their shops on Sunday morning, and trusted for support to the legitimate custom which came to them on week-days. But, be that as it may, his opinion was that the Bill would disappoint the expectations of its advocates. Practically, he believed that after the measure passed, shops would be open just as late as they were at present, because if they were kept open to 10 o'clock, the tradesmen would find it impossible to refuse customers who were crowding their shops at that hour. Moreover, the omission of the clause, which provided that the police should enforce the provisions of the Bill, would take away the machinery by which it was to be enforced; and its enforcement by private individuals or by means of voluntary associations would give rise to much ill blood. The measure violated an old-established principle; it would enable a man to do that in London which, under the existing law, he would be unable to do elsewhere; and believing that it would also be ineffectual for its purpose, he could not give his voice in its favour.


also was opposed to the Bill. The petitioners in favour of the Bill were those who supposed that they should lose by not opening their shops on Sunday. Some persons had no conscience for keeping the Sabbath, and therefore desired to have a conscience made for them by Act of Parliament; others had a particular mode of observing the Sabbath, and they wish to compel others by law to follow the same course. The passing of this Bill would lead to a more coercive and severe measure; and the result by reaction would be to aggravate the evil which it was meant to remedy. In the time of Charles I. the first attack on the liberties of the people was made under the guise of enforcing the observance of the Sabbath; and this was followed two years after by a more strin- gent Act. The only trade absolutely forbidden by it to be followed on a Sunday was that of a butcher. A reaction set in, and in the 9th year of the same reign the "Book of Sports" of James I. was re-issued, with the addition of keeping the wakes or feasts of the dedication of churches on Sunday, and commanded to be read in churches. Some clergymen read it without making any objection, others read the fourth commandment after it, but many refusing so to do were deprived of their livings, fined, or otherwise punished. The inevitable result of passing the Bill before the House, followed as it must be by more stringent measures, would be that the people would kick against it, and the Sabbath would not be so well kept as now. A great many religious men shrank from this legislation as tampering with the commandment of God. If the law of the Sabbath were a strictly moral law, they had no power to enact exceptions to its observance. If men choose to buy newspapers or periodicals on Sunday, let them do so on their responsibility to their Maker; but let not the House give its sanction to such Acts up to a certain hour. While permitting the sale of newspapers, the Bill did not authorize the sale of a single Bible or Prayer Book on the same day. Another objection to the Bill was its limited range—it was confined to the Metropolitan district—the very worst place for the restrictions it contained. If any difference were to be made, the restrictions ought to have been made in the country districts, and not in the Metropolis. He would not enlarge on the injustice of enforcing this law upon all who lived within what he might call a magic circle, and exempting all who lived outside it. He would proceed to consider the articles of consumption which would be affected by the Bill. Its provisions would tell as much upon the coal and fuel with which food was cooked, as upon food itself. A man might buy a beefsteak or a mutton-chop on Sunday; but he must not buy the coals for cooking it; and thus the poor would be dependent upon the bakers' shops for their cooking. The Bill restricted the sale of bread on Sunday to bakers, and to the law which governed their trade, whereby bread could not be sold on Sunday after a certain hour; but many of the poor of London were in the habit of buying their bread at the chandler's shop; and this Bill would prevent their getting bread at the shops where they had credit. It permitted the sale of pastry at hours during which it did not tolerate that of bread; and was evidently constructed in ignorance of the bakers' Act. So, in order to buy tobacco, the poor man would be forced to go to the public-house. This he thought was a great evil. He would further observe that the minimum penalty directed to be enforced by this measure was 5s. A poor woman convicted of selling a half-penny apple was to be punished by a fine of 5s. or imprisonment for one month. This was very severe upon poor ignorant people, who without certain means of knowing the hour of the day might very innocently be led into an infringement of the Act. He thought it would be found impossible in practice to enforce these fines. For these reasons he begged to move that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and insert "this Day Three Months."


said, he had certainly thought that after the very full discussion which this measure had received on former occasions, and particularly after the details of it had been very carefully considered in Committee, and after the subsequent expression of the opinion of their Lordships in favour of the Bill, he should not have had to encounter further opposition at this stage. The noble Lord who had just sat down must not understand him as making any complaint of the course which he had adopted. He must, however, say that the opposition to the measure had taken a totally different shape to that which was presented during the former stages of the Bill; because if he understood the argument of his noble Friend who commenced this discussion (the Earl of St. Germans) the ground upon which he now based his objections was that permission was given to trade on Sunday up to a certain hour, thus, as he said, giving legislative sanction to the desecration of the Sabbath. That objection had never once been urged during the previous discussions; and what was a most remarkable thing was that when the Bill was in Committee, and a proposition was made to allow the selling of certain things up to ten o'clock instead of nine, it was agreed to without any division. His noble Friend had said that he was satisfied that Sunday trading did not prevail now in the Metropolis to the extent to which it did formerly. He (Lord Chelmsford) did not know from what source that information was do-rived, but he remembered that not long ago a petition was presented to their Lordships by the Bishop of the diocese, in which it was stated that the petitioners believed that one-half the shops in the Metropolis were open on Sundays. His noble Friend said he would prefer that improvement should be brought about by moral and religious means instead of by a law to repress the objectionable practices; but that course had been tried over and over again and had perfectly failed. It was stated by his noble Friend that in Liverpool Sunday trading was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, but that latterly such trade had decreased, if it had not been altogether abandoned, and therefore his noble Friend argued that this consequence was produced either by the application of the law or by moral influence, and that if by the power of the law then there was no requirement for this Bill. He (Lord Chelmsford) apprehended that the change in Liverpool had arisen from a better feeling having sprung up in the minds of the people. But supposing it was the power of the law which had produced this consequence, he should say there was no analogy between the case of Liverpool and that of the Metropolis, for the law had been tried in vain in the Metropolis, and Sunday trading continued in defiance of it. He believed that this was because the penalties were much too small to give efficiency to the law. Another objection was that this Bill was confined to the Metropolis, and that, therefore, there was one law for a particular part of the kingdom and another law for the remainder. His object, however, had been to remedy the evil where it was felt; and there was no anomaly in this, for there were numerous Acts which applied to certain districts only where certain offences existed. He was sorry to say that the Metropolis presented a very unfavourable contrast to the other parts of the country. As far as he could understand, there was no Sunday trading in other largo towns except Manchester; and he had been in communication with the stipendiary magistrates of that town, who assured him that, following out the principle contained in this Bill, and not suffering informations to be laid against parties for trading before ten o'clock, and that thereupon a much better feeling had grown up, the number of shops open on Sunday had very much diminished. The noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Teynham) might be considered to represent two classes; those who objected to Sunday trading and those who objected to any interference with Sunday trading as an infringement of the rights of the people. Many tradesmen complained that they were almost forced by the competition of their neighbours to open their shops, for otherwise their trade would be entirely lost; and his object had been to relieve those persons from the pressure on them, and to enable them to pursue a course consonant with their own feelings by a proper observance of the Lord's Day. He had had to encounter great difficulties in bringing this Bill forward. He was fully prepared to admit that no legislation would ever induce people strictly to observe the Lord's-day; for that matter must be left to their own consciences; but what he proposed would operate very much in that direction by enabling persons to close their shops on that day, who would otherwise from the fear of competition be compelled to keep them open; by so doing they would adopt a course which would afford a good example, and he trusted that before long there would be a general feeling that it was right to abstain altogether from Sunday trading. It had proved impossible to attempt to provide for the rigid observance of the law as it now stood. Any measure having that object would be denounced as oppressive to the poor, because, unfortunately, wages were still paid so late on Saturday night that working people were unable to procure articles which they required on Sunday until the morning of that day. He had endeavoured, as well as he could, to steer clear of the various difficulties which had beset him; and he trusted that the Bill was now in a shape in which the thousands of tradesmen who had come to their Lordships' House in favour of this Bill, and who earnestly prayed that the measure might be adopted, might have their wishes granted. He had striven as far as possible to remove all objections, and after being fully discussed on the second reading the Bill was carried by two to one. The sanction of their Lordships' House had thus been given to the principle of the Bill. All the petitions presented by the noble Lord (Lord Teynham) had been directed, not to the idea of this Bill being any legislative conservance of the Lord's-day, but to its being in opposition to the rights and privileges of the people. The noble Lord spoke of the hardships upon the poor and the penalties to be imposed; but he was at a loss to understand the noble Lord on that matter, more particularly when they remembered that the 29th Charles II. prohibited trading on Sunday and defined what it was. When he said that this Bill would be oppressive and tyrannical, he knew that it would be only directed against those who violated the law and that it would impose penalties on them. A Bill very similar to the one now proposed was introduced and passed in 1856, and it gave in the same manner the right to trade on Sunday within certain restrictions. In conclusion, he trusted that their Lordships would confirm the decision they had already come to on this Bill, and allow it to go down to the other House.


did not think the complaints of the noble and learned Lord, as to the opposition which his Bill had met with at its present stage, were justifiable; for the measure in its present shape was quite a different one from that to which their Lordships had given a second reading. He (Earl Granville) had a great objection to the employment of the police in enforcing the provisions of the Bill; but that portion of it having been struck out, he was informed by those who were most competent to give an opinion that the measure had no longer any chance of becoming operative at all. He saw no inconsistency in objecting to legislation for enforcing the observance of the Lord's-day, and at the same time in objecting to give any degree of legislative sanction to practices on that day which they must all deprecate. The noble and learned Lord admitted that an improved moral feeling had been found sufficient in Liverpool to put down Sunday trading; but what was there peculiar in the case of that city, which did not bear a particularly good reputation as regarded drinking? Why should not the Metropolis be equally amenable to moral influences? Indeed he was informed that though there was now more Sunday trading in London than formerly, it had not increased in an equal ratio with the population; and therefore it had in reality diminished. Seeing therefore that this Bill offended the religious feelings of a portion of the community; that it might inflict hardship upon another if it were ever carried out; and as he thought it highly objectionable to pass measures which there was no reasonable prospect of bringing into effective operation, if the noble Lord divided the House on his Amendment, he should support it.


believed that this was the very first Bill which ever legalized Sunday trading. True, the sale of fish and milk on the Lord's day had been to a certain degree sanctioned, but that might perhaps be justified on grounds of necessity or of charity. Better leave it to every man's conscience to determine how he would observe the Sunday than introduce a principle of this nature. It was asked why moral suasion had failed to produce in London the salutary effect which had been witnessed in Liverpool in this respect. Now, their Lordships last year appointed a Committee to inquire into the spiritual destitution of the country, and the result of that investigation was that in no part of the kingdom was there so lamentable an amount of destitution as prevailed in the Metropolis. In Liverpool, on the other hand, the influence of religion was much more felt, and the people were brought into closer contact with the ordinances of the Church. He opposed the Bill because it was the first attempt of the kind to legalize Sunday trading in the Metropolis, and if, instead of legalizing the matter, means were taken for supplying the people with religious instruction, there would be no occasion for legislation of the kind.


had voted for the second reading of the Bill, believing its tendency would be so far to check the desecration of the Sabbath; but there was one clause to which he could not conscientiously give his assent, and should it remain part of the Bill he would not support the third reading. He referred to that clause which legalized the selling of newspapers and periodical publications of every kind before the hour of 10 A.M., which he thought so objectionable and so little called for by necessity or charity that he would move it be struck out of the Bill. He thanked the noble and learned Lord (Lord Chelmsford) for his exertions to promote the better observance of the Sabbath, and hoped he would not resist the Motion to get rid of this clause, which would legalize the sale on the Lord's-day of an immense quantity of vile publications. He wished to know from the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack if it was competent to move the rejection of the clause in question.


said, it was quite consistent with the forms of the House to move the rejection of any clause after the third reading.


Then I cer- tainly will move the rejection of the clause to which I have referred.

On Question, That ("now") Stand Part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 40; Not-Contents, 29; Majority, 11. Resolved in the Affirmative. Bill read 3a accordingly.

Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor.) Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Calthorpe, L.
Marlborough, D. Castlemaine, L.
Chelmsford, L. [Teller.]
Exeter, M. Clonbrock, L.
Westminster, M. Colchester, L.
Colville of Culross, L.
Amherst, E, Congleton, L.
Belmore, E. Cranworth, L.
Desart, E. Crewe, L.
Haddington, E. Delamere, L.
Harrowby, E. Ebury, L.
Lucan, E. Lyttelton, L.
Romney, E. Polwarth, L.
Shrewsbury, E. [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Stanhope, E. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Sondes, L.
Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Doneraile, V,
Dungnnnon, V. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Lifford, V.
Wensleydale, L.
Cashel, &c, Bp. Wynford, L.
London, Bp.
Newcastle, D. Chaworth, L.(E. Meath)
Somerset, D. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin & Claneboye.)
Abingdon, E. Dartrey, L.(L. Cremorne.)
Airlie, E.
Caithness, E. Dunfermline, L.
De Grey, E. Foley, L. [Teller.]
Granville, E. Harris, L.
Harrington, E. Llanover, L.
Lonsdale, E. Lyveden, L.
Minto, E. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Shaftesbury, E.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Rayleigh, L.
Talbot de Malahide, L.
Teynham, L. [Teller.]
Llandaff, Bp. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Wodehouse, L.
Belper, L. Wrottesley, L.

moved the insertion of words in Clause 7 (Certain Cases to which this Act does not apply), "nor to the Sale of any Post Office Stamps, or Stamped Envelopes" on Sundays.


suggested that the sale of paper should also be allowed.


agreed to the noble and learned Lord's proposal, but did not see any reason for the further Amendment. In case it became necessary to write a letter on Sunday there could be no difficulty in obtaining a sheet of paper, and he should himself say that people ought to provide themselves with stamps.

Amendment agreed to; words inserted.

THE BISHOP OF CASHEL moved the omission from Clause 7 of the words permitting the sale of newspapers and other periodicals before the hour of 10 A.M. and after 1 P.M.


said, that by omitting these words they would break faith with those at whose request it was introduced, and who, but for its introduction, would have strongly opposed the Bill.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.