HL Deb 03 May 1860 vol 158 cc541-58

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

LORD CHELMSFORD moved that the House do now go into Committee on the Selling and Hawking Goods on Sunday Bill, and reminded their Lordships that on the second reading of the Bill it had been understood, at the suggestion of a noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) that the full discussion of the whole subject should be taken on this Motion. So far from there being any desire to avoid a full and fair discussion it appeared to him that the present was a kind of measure extremely liable to misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Before explaining, however, what this Bill actually was, he would state what it was not. This Bill was not one of those which had from time to time been proposed for the purpose of enforcing a stricter observance of the Lord's Day. Their Lordships were not asked to cope with all the difficulties which must beset such a delicate task of legislation; the experiments that had been made in this matter went to show that it was not possible to legislate so as to compel persons to observe the Lord's Day religiously, or as they ought. All that legislation could effect was to remove out of the way all impediments and obstructions that existed to the proper observance of that day, leaving it then to the conscience of each individual to employ the day as he ought, and leaving it to the influence of ministers of religion and of those good men who helped in such a holy work. The utter futility of any attempt to make men religious by legislation was exemplified in the provisions of that very Act which was the governing Act with regard to Sunday trading. In the preamble of that Act, the 29th Charles II., the Legislature declared, in an authoritative way, that "all and every person and persons shall, on every Lord's Day, apply himself or themselves to the observation of the same, by exercising themselves thereon in the duties of piety and true religion publicly and privately." That solemn invitation to piety had now existed on the Statute book for two hundred years, and with what effect he need not say. Now the Bill which he had brought before their Lordships was not a Sunday-trading prevention Bill. He knew what prejudices would have been excited upon this subject if he had attempted to give the Bill a title which had served on former occasions as a rallying cry for the adversaries of such a measure; he had therefore chosen for his Bill a title exactly adapted to describe its nature and object. The Bill did not introduce any prohibitions against Sunday trading which did not at present exist by law; it imposed no restraint which the law at present did not impose; but the law being weak and inefficient, in consequence of the defect of the penalties which had been imposed, it was now proposed to strengthen the arm of the law, and make that effective which was now inefficient and powerless. Their Lordships would therefore, he hoped, be willing to consider it not as a Bill of restraint, but of relaxation. Even if its object had been restraint, it was remarkable that this was restraint implored by the great majority of those who would be affected by it, and who had prayed their Lordships by petition to pass a law to repress trading of this description, and leave them at liberty to employ their Sunday in a way which corresponded with the conscientious obligation of some of them, and the inclination of others. This subject of Sunday trading had engaged the public attention for twenty-eight years past. It had been investigated by three Committees—two Committees of the House of Commons, in 1832 and 1847, and one Committee of their Lordships' House in 1850. The evidence collected on the subject was contained in three blue-books, and so of course had been consigned to neglect and oblivion; but in a pamphlet which had been published on the extent, the evils, and the needlessness of Sunday trading, the whole of that evidence was analysed and classified under distinct heads. Their Lordships would be astonished to learn the enormous extent to which Sunday trading was carried on in the metropolis and in its populous suburbs. The witnesses described the appearance of their own neighbourhoods on a Sunday as like a fair. Traffic in every sort of article was busily carried on, and not confined to articles of immediate want or of a perishable kind, but including everything which might be as easily and much more properly procured on other days of the week. The witnesses spoke of the congregation of thousands of people at certain spots, the whole place stirring with mountebanks exhibiting their articles and pickpockets plying their vocation, the whole presenting a scene that would defy description. This evidence applied to a distant period; but there was no reason to suppose that any diminution had taken place in this Sunday traffic since 1850. On the contrary, the other evening a petition was presented by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of the diocese from the Sunday Rest Asso- ciation, stating that in certain parts of the Metropolis not less than half the shops were open on Sunday. This estimate might at first sight seem exaggerated; but when they considered that in the most populous districts all or nearly all the shops were open on that day it would not appear to be far from the truth. The existing law was quite powerless to repress this traffic, because the statute imposed a penalty which was utterly ridiculous—namely a fine of 5s. which could only be inflicted once in a day, and which, moreover, could not be enforced without proof being produced not merely of the exposure of articles for sale, but of an actual sale having taken place on each particular day, and it was consequently very difficult to procure the necessary evidence. There was one peculiar circumstance which spoke strongly in favour of the Bill. The great majority of persons engaged in these trades carried them on reluctantly on Sunday, and it was their earnest desire that some law might be introduced which would place them all upon the same level and enable them to follow the dictates of their own consciences. Every movement in that direction and every attempt at legislation on the subject had been instigated by these very parties. This was proved by the Reports of the Select Committees, and by the numerous petitions he had himself presented, signed by upwards of 60,000 tradesmen, earnestly imploring their Lordships, for their sakes, to pass a measure of this description. He was not insensible to the difficulties which beset the task he had undertaken. He saw about him the wrecks of former failures, and he was thereby warned not to expect smooth sailing in waters which had been so easily troubled. Nor did he desire to conceal from their Lordships the unsuccessful attempts which had previously been made. Bills for the same object as that of the Bill he now proposed, had been introduced to Parliament at various times from 1832 downwards; namely, in that year, in 1848, in 1850, in 1851, in 1852, and finally in 1855. The Bill of 1850, which in many respects resembled his own, was referred by their Lordships to a Select Committee, who reported upon it; and the Bill, having passed through all its stages, was sent down to the other House; but, in consequence of the lateness of the Session, did not pass. In 1855 the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ebury) proposed another Bill, which, in principle, was also similar to the present one. It was affirmed by the House of Commons, having passed a second reading without any division; but when it got into Committee, certain persons interested in its failure contrived to get up an excitement upon the question, and collected Sunday after Sunday large assemblies of persons in Hyde Park. The Government of the day became alarmed, and at their solicitation his noble Friend was induced to abandon the Bill. He thought that the Government taught a fatal lesson to the people, by yielding to a combination such as he had described. If the measure was a proper one, as appeared to be the case from its second reading having been assented to by the House of Commons, it ought to have received the sanction of the Legislature. He was not disheartened, though to a certain extent discouraged, by these former failures; but feeling most deeply the necessity of the measure, and disregarding his own case and comfort, he engaged in this undertaking, in the earnest hope that he might ultimately prove successful. In this enterprise he found himself assailed from opposite quarters and by totally different descriptions of adversaries. In the first place, a number of pious and excellent persons objected to any Bill which should permit any relaxation of the law as to Sunday trading, regarding it as a legislative connivance at the desecration of the Lord's Day. He would ask these excellent persons were they satisfied with the existing state of things? If not, and if they thought his measure would at least afford to thousands and tens of thousands of tradesmen the opportunity of better employing their Sundays than they now did, he asked whether it was wise to refuse their assent to a Bill, which, as far as it went, proceeded in the right direction, simply because it might not effect all that they desired? The relaxation proposed was forced on by circumstances. Unfortunately the practice of paying workmen their wages late on Saturday nights, still prevailed to a considerable extent. This obliged many poor persons to spend a portion of the Sunday in making their little purchases. He rejoiced, however, that a better state of things was arising. Through the exertions of the Sunday Rest Association, and the Early Closing Society, a general disposition was gaining ground to imitate the practice now adopted in the Government departments, and in many private establishments; namely, to pay wages on Fridays, or, at all events, early on Sa- turdays. He did not despair of seeing, before long, this custom generally adopted, and then they might remove this objection, by making the prohibition of Sunday trading general. The other class of objectors, he believed, had the support of the noble Lord opposite (the Earl of St. Germans). They objected to any interference with, or attempt to regulate Sunday trading, as an invasion of private right. His answer was easy and obvious. The present law prohibited parties from doing that which his Bill prevented them from doing: it happened, however, that the law imposed so insignificant a penalty, that they could afford to despise or defy it, and carry on their trade with impunity. They could not urge that he imposed any new restraint; the law was rather relaxed in their favour; but the amount of their objection was, that the law was so weak, that it could not enforce its prohibition; and that he was endeavouring to add strength and vigour to the law, so as to make it effective. Then, it was said, this should be a matter of voluntary arrangement among tradesmen. That experiment had, according to the evidence, been frequently tried, but had entirely failed. Why? Because, unless all agreed to close their shops—if four or five out of a multitude of tradesmen chose to keep open theirs—those recusant tradesmen would attract to themselves the whole trade. It was also said that every man should decide this matter for himself, and there was no need of the assistance of the Legislature. This, he was satisfied, would be putting a yoke upon these men which they were unable to bear. There might be some who, from conscientious convictions of the propriety of it, might incur the loss involved by closing their shops on the Lord's Day; but in the great majority of them the claims of family, the eagerness of competition, the certainty of loss if their shops were closed, combined to render the temptation too strong for them to resist; and if their Lordships were to legislate on the subject, they must deal with men as men, making allowance for those worldly influences by which men were ordinarily actuated. They might condemn them for not making the requisite sacrifice; but the appeal was made to their Lordships not to judge of the morality or propriety of the acts which had been done, but by their legislation to open the way by which these men might pursue a different course. Could they conceive anything more prejudicial than the state of things he had described? It not only affected the trades- men themselves, but thousands and thousands of their servants and assistants. Nor could he help pointing out to their Lordships the evil example of this habitual disregard of the Lord's Day, as an additional incentive to pass a law of this description. Let it not he said that he was legislating against the poor, and leaving the rich alone. If they looked attentively at this Bill, they would find that the relaxation proposed was in favour of the trading which affected the poor, and the liberty it repressed was that affecting the rich. There was no invidious distinction drawn between the rich and the poor. The Bill did not interfere with the Act of Charles II.; it left cookshops, victualling houses, bakeries, and public-houses, as it found them. By means of this Bill he might not directly accomplish what, indeed, was impracticable—making men properly respect and observe the Lord's Day; but he felt confident he would indirectly produce great benefit to the community by releasing thousands of tradesmen from the pressure of worldly interests inconsistent with the enjoyment of the Sabbath. He would extend that blessed rest to thousands and thousands of their dependents and their families; while he took away the evil example of the habitual desecration of the Lord's Day in those neighbourhoods where this traffic was carried on; and he might hope ultimately to produce a healthy state of moral and religious feeling, which would render the Sunday what he desired to see it—a day of cheerful rest, of religious exercise, of innocent and thankful enjoyment.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill.


said, he desired to make a few remarks on this subject, to which he had devoted a good deal of attention. After the very temperate, candid, and able speech of the noble and learned Lord, they must all do full justice to the motives by which he was actuated in bringing forward this Bill. No one was more deeply impressed with the importance of a due observance of the Lord's Day than he (the Earl of St. Germans) was; he also knew that Sunday trading was carried on to a considerable extent in some parts of the Metropolis, and was felt to be a grievance and an evil by many of the inhabitants; But he could not support any Bill for the enforcement of a better observance of the Lord's Day unless he thought it was not likely to introduce greater evils than those it was intended to remedy. If the Bill of the noble and learned Lord were passed into a law it would introduce several anomalies. We should have on the statute book, one statute prohibiting and another legalizing Sunday trading, inasmuch as by an Act which had come into operation in the reign of Charles II., and which remained still in force, it was provided that all persons whatever who should on the Sabbath "publicly cry, show forth, or expose to sale any wares, merchandises, fruit, herbs, goods, or chattles whatsoever," should be held liable to a penalty. That, however, would not be the only anomaly to which the enactment of the measure would give rise; for in case it should become law, that could be legally done in London and fifteen miles round it, which it would be illegal to do in Manchester, Liverpool, or any other town in the kingdom. This he did not think would he a very rational or very satisfactory state of things. Many of those who most earnestly desired that Sunday trading should cease, disapproved of the Bill and had actually petitioned against it. He had letters from several clergymen on the subject, all of which signified their disapproval of the Bill. One of them was written by the Rev. L. Tugwell, incumbent of St. Andrew's, Lambeth, in whose district the New Cut was situate, where Sunday trading to a great extent was carried on. He said:— If Lord Chelmsford will boldly shut the shops and put down the abominable street traffic and cries, he will do a wonderful amount of good; whereas, if he takes the other course, of legalizing trading on Sunday morning, it will be a dreadful evil, and things will be far worse than they are now. He adds:— I am quite convinced that the Bill in its present form will within a year or two greatly increase the evil that it seeks to remove. He would also refer to the evidence which had been given before the Select Committee of their Lordships' House in the year 1850, in giving evidence before which the Rev. W. Champneys, the well known and respected rector of Whitechapel, said, in answer to the question,— Do you believe the tradesmen generally would prefer an Act prohibiting the practice of Sunday trading altogether, or one which would limit and restrict it, which would permit it up to a certain hour on the Sunday morning and prohibit it afterwards?—Those with whom I have conversed have been of opinion if you once open the door it will he open altogether; if you leave a single inch open, the door will very soon be as wide open as it is now practically. Why so?—Simply because there would be a difficulty in closing; the same thing which now operates on a Saturday night, in driving purchasing and selling from Saturday night into the Sunday morning, will operate then. The same stream of poor will be directed to the shop at the hour when it is about to close; the same desire on the part of the poor to make the best bargain, and thereby put off to the last moment on Saturday night, will make them put off to the last moment on Sunday morning the purchases which they would otherwise make on the Saturday night; and it would become next to impossible for the shop to close in the face of thirty or forty customers who may be standing outside. It will be more painful, as it appears to me, and more difficult; the police would have more difficulty in enforcing such a measure as that than in closing the shops altogether, those exceptions being allowed which I believe the Bill contemplates. I speak my own conviction of the evil of the case as I believe it would be. Such was the opinion of Mr. Champneys on the subject, and he might add that since the Bill had been read a second time he had taken occasion to ascertain the views entertained with respect to its probable operation by Sir Richard Mayne, who had informed him that he did not think its provisions could be enforced. Owing to the fact that many of the labouring class worked hard during the week, they would experience considerable difficulty in rising sufficiently early on Sunday morning to make their necessary purchases before 9 o'clock; they would at all events defer making them until the last moment, so that the shopkeepers would find it almost impossible to shut their doors at the prescribed moment against the crowds by which they would be besieged. It had, moreover, been proved that many of the rooms occupied by the working men in the metropolis were so crowded and impure that it was almost impossible for them to keep perishable articles fresh there; they were therefore necessarily obliged to purchase what articles they required for food at the last moment. The noble and learned Lord, however, proposed that the provisions of the Bill should not apply to the sale "of any fruit or pastry, or of any beverage which may by law be ordinarily sold without licence, before the hour of 10 o'clock in the morning and after the hour of 1 o'clock in the afternoon, but without public cry;" but from that category many innocent and popular refreshments were excluded; he should like also to know what was the difference between a public and a private cry. But be that as it might, the endeavour to enforce the provisions of the Bill would be attended with great trouble and annoyance to the police. Let him suppose, for instance, the case of an old woman with a basket of oranges or apples, who happened to be found by a policeman in the streets at half-past 10 o'clock on Sunday morning. Under the provisions of the Bill she would be liable to have her fruit seized and taken off to the police-station. But she might say in her own defence that she lived at so great a distance from the spot at which she was found that she could not go to her home and return before 1 o'clock, when she might expose her fruit for sale again. She was therefore only sitting there waiting for 1 o'clock. The policeman might be satisfied with that explanation and pass on; and the old woman would immediately begin to sell to any one that would buy. Suppose, however, the policeman returned and detected her in the fact; she might then say, "Well you must carry off the fruit if you will; but let the basket alone—there is nothing about that in the Act." So the policeman would have to fill his pockets with her apples and oranges, and take them off to the next station, the whole proceeding taking place in the midst of a crowd who would have probably gathered around her, who would very probably take the part of the old woman, mob the policeman, and create more confusion and scandal than could arise from selling any quantity of oranges between 10 and 1 o'clock. Well, the fruit having been taken to the station, unless the number of apples and oranges were counted by the Superintendent, the old woman would very naturally say that she had been robbed of half the quantity which her basket contained. Next morning she would be brought before the magistrate, to whom she would make a mournful appeal, vowing that she could not possibly pay a fine of half-a-crown; the upshot of the whole affair not improbably being that her loss would be refunded out of the poor-box. The noble and learned Lord stated in the course of his speech that the Bill was intended merely to remove obstructions in the way of persons who were desirous of keeping the Sabbath properly, and was not to be considered a penal enactment. The penalties under it were certainly not very severe; still they were penalties; and the measure could be considered in no other light than a penal statute. The cases of the tradesmen had been much exaggerated. No tradesman need keep his shop open on Sunday. Then working people will deal on week days at the best and cheapest shop, whether it be open or shut on Sunday—experience has shown this. It is in evidence that many tradesmen have closed their shops on Sunday, and have not lost their week-day custom by doing so. The noble and learned Lord had also referred to the case of the rich. Now, he recollected that in his younger days the Sunday was spent by the richer classes in London in a very different manner from what it was at the present time. It was a common practice to give grand dinner parties on the Sunday; this was no longer the case; but still the working man, in his Sunday walk, might see many carriages driving through the parks and streets, conveying some parties to Richmond and Greenwich; and they would never be able to convince him that there was any difference between his own case and that of the wealthy. The working classes would always view with jealousy any attempt to abridge by legislation what they regarded as their innocent enjoyments, or throw any difficulties in the way of obtaining them. A very strong case indeed ought to be made out for the enactment of a penal statute on this question. Sir Richard Mayne had told him that from the reports he had received from the Inspectors in all parts of the Metropolis, that Sunday trading, if it had not decreased within the last ten years, had not increased; and when they considered the immense growth of the City and the population in this period, the admitted non-increase of the practice was equivalent to a comparative decrease. The noble and learned Lord had referred to the partial success that had attended the labours of societies and of benevolent men who had endeavoured to check Sunday trading. Would it not be better to trust to the growing influence of public opinion, to the improvement in the feeling of the people, and the effect of quiet persuasion, rather than endeavour to suppress the practice at once by a penal enactment, which he must describe the Bill to be? In expressing his views upon this subject he had spoken only for himself, and not for the Government with which he was connected. He trusted no noble Lord would consider this a party question. On the grounds he had stated he had come to the conclusion that it would not be expedient to pass the present Bill, and therefore he now moved that it be committed that day six months.

Amendment moved, To leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six months.")


said, he should oppose the Bill because he thought it totally impracticable. It was directed entirely against the sellers; but many circumstances connected with the buyers must also be considered. Whatever changes had taken place, such as paying wages on Friday nights or making Saturday a half-holyday, it was acknowledged on all hands that there were still great numbers of people who if they could not buy their food on the Sunday morning could not buy it at all. This Bill would also throw insuperable difficulties in the way of all who arrived in London on Sundays by railroads or steamers obtaining the refreshment they needed. The Act of Charles II. was by no means a dead letter, for, by a Return presented to the House of Commons, it appeared that in Southampton, at the latter end of 1858, four cases occurred in which parties were fined, visited with costs, and two of them were charged with the further expenses of a distress warrant, one person being punished for having sold a pennyworth of apples and two farthing candles. That Act, however, was merciful compared with the measure of the noble and learned Lord. By the Act of Charles a tradesman could only be fined once for trading on one day, but by the noble and learned Lord's Bill he could be fined over and over again. The Bill would entail utter ruin on a tradesman who kept his shop open beyond the specified time, or for the sale of articles other than those specified by the Bill. It was provided that the offender should be liable to a penalty not exceeding 40s. and not less than 10s. for every separate act of selling, or offering for sale, or exposing for sale and delivery, which might take place on one and the same day; and these penalties were to be adjusted by the justices who tried the case. The Bill was not alone cruel, but unfair; for on what principle of justice could it be proposed to close all the tobacconists' shops on Sunday, while publicans are freely allowed to vend cigars? The sale of meat and fruit would be allowed, but not of potatoes and other vegetables—the noble and learned Lord sanctioned the vending of pommes, but forbade that of pommes de terre. The operation of the Bill was restricted to the Metropolitan district, so that on one side of the way meat only might be purchased, while on the other vegetables could be obtained. If the noble and learned Lord had such a fancy for returning to obsolete legislation, let him put the Act of Charles II. into the hands of Sir Richard Mayne, and if that functionary did not prefer resigning his office to enforcing the law, it would be found amply sufficient to put an end to Sunday trading. Irrespective of the discredit brought on God's Fourth Commandment by such trifling, the result must be to injure the traders of the Metropolitan district and to transfer their business to others outside the magic circle. The offensive nature of the measure to the poor and working classes would be productive of much trouble to the Government if it were passed into law, and collisions would inevitably take place with the police if it were sought to enforce its provisions.


said, the result of the Bill introduced by the noble and learned Lord was watched with great interest by a large portion of the trading classes. In support of this view he would read a letter which he had received from a tradesman with whom he was wholly unacquainted. It stated— I trust your Lordship will pardon the liberty I take in addressing you for the purpose of soliciting your Lordship's aid in support of the Bill in reference to Sunday trading. I have carried on the business of a butcher for the last ten years, and have a wife and five children entirely dependent on me for support. I am obliged to keep my shop open from palf-past ten till one o'clock on Sundays because others do; if I did not, I should lose many customers; and thus have little time to devote to my family, or to attend to my religious duties on that day. He had reason to know that the sentiments expressed in that letter, which was very ably written, were shared in by numbers of the trading classes; for at present it was utterly impossible for them to pay proper attention either to their families or to the duties of the Sabbath. The Bill, he thought, should be considered in Committee.


said, he had likewise been honoured by a letter from the same quarter as the noble Lord who had just sat down. He must confess that the arguments which it contained had made a deep impression on his mind. He strongly hoped that the House would not refuse to go into Committee, where endeavours could be made to frame such a measure as would meet an admitted evil, without incurring the odium of unpopularity.


thought that the difficulty would be found to consist not so much in answering the objections that had been raised as in the want of unanimity that would be found as to the mode of dealing with the subject. At any rate, the objections that had been raised were not, he thought, sufficiently strong to prevent the going into Committee. Most of the objections were such as could be removed in Committee; and if the Bill were once passed the public would become accustomed to the law just as they had he-come accustomed to the closing of public-houses. There was a general disposition in this country to how to the law. Stress had been laid on the statement of Commissioner Mayne, that it would cause great trouble to the police; but considering the large amount of police rates with which the Metropolis was saddled it ought in such a matter to have the benefit of their services. Some remedy was loudly called for to the evils that existed in connection with Sunday trading in the Metropolis, and he hoped, therefore, their Lordships would not refuse to make the attempt to frame a measure which attempted to deal with them.


said, he was willing to go into Committee on the understanding that very great modifications should be made in the Bill. He supported it solely because the law was at present in an unsatisfactory state: it was extravagant in both directions—it imposed little or no penalty—was calculated to sweep all classes of buyers and sellers into the same net. To one clause, the 7th, which made it the duty of the police to interfere, he must give his decided opposition. He was willing that the police might lodge an information on the following morning; but to permit of bodily interference by them would inevitably lead to riot and tumult, and should have his decided opposition.


said, he should be very glad to go into Committee on the Bill if there were any hope of framing out of it a measure which it would be desirable to pass. He desired as strongly as any one to accomplish the object of the Bill, but his fear was that in attempting this they might create a greater mischief than that they were dealing with. He thought it would lead to riot and disturbance; and a noble Lord—always a great authority with their Lordships—had said on one occasion, "I am ready to put down a riot, but I will not provoke one;" and in that spirit he should vote against this Bill.


had had great difficulty in making up his mind with reference to this Bill; but, being charged as he was with the spiritual care of so large a portion of the Metropolis, he could not but beg their Lordships to allow the Bill to go into Committee. Those who had petitioned in favour of some such measure were so numerous, and felt themselves to be under such hardships, that he thought the House was not entitled to set aside their petitions. They considered they were debarred from the observance of the Lord's Day, and could see no prospect of being saved from this servitude except by the interference of the Legislature; and he thought under such circumstances Parliament could not refuse at least to make the attempt to provide a remedy. He felt as much as any one how difficult it was to compel a man to the observance of his religious duties by Act of Parliament, and he understood also the objections which might be raised against the Bill on the ground of a difference in the circumstances of the rich and the poor; but he could not help thinking that there were materials in the Bill out of which some satisfactory legislation might be devised, and in deference to those who had expressed their hopelessness of any other relief, he trusted the Bill would be allowed to go into Committee.


after congratulating the House on the tone in which the Bill had been discussed on both sides, expressed his opinion that it was undesirable to legislate on the subject in any way. Even if their Lordships were to pass this Bill there was very little chance of it passing through the other House. It had been very satisfactorily demonstrated in the debate that the police ought not to have the duty of carrying out the Bill imposed on them; and if the police did not carry it out it must be a dead letter.


thought that the Bill as it stood was so very doubtful in its interpretation and so imperfectly framed, that although he felt, with the right rev. Prelate who had just sat down, that they were bound to comply with the wishes of the petitioners, and if possible arrive at an improvement of the law, yet in order that Parliament should effectually interfere in the matter, he would suggest that instead of their Lordships going into a Committee of the Whole House, a better course would be to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. That would he a far more advisable course; and then possibly some plan might be discovered whereby the evils at present complained of might in future be prevented.


said, he had not been able discover in the observations of the noble Earl the President of the Council (Earl Granville) any reason why he should object to their Lordships going into Committee on the Bill. The noble Earl's objection seemed directed rather against the details of the Bill than its principle. He objected to the machinery by which it was proposed to carry out the provisions of the Bill; but that did not afford any good ground for refusing to go into Committee on those provisions. He (the Earl of Derby) admitted that there was some force in the argument that if the police were required to interfere summarily in the case of a violation of the Act there might be some risk of inconvenience and, perhaps, of collision; but it did not appear that the summary interference of the police was not an essential part of the measure, and in the Committee their Lordships could consider whether the object could not be obtained in some other way—as by summons or information. He had not understood his noble Friend (Earl Granville) to argue that the law as it at present stood was satisfactory. There was at present an absolute prohibition of Sunday trading; but the very strictness of the existing enactment, the difficulty of enforcing it, and the smallness of the penalty which it imposed, rendered it completely inoperative. The noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey) suggested that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee; but not only had there been several Select Committees on this subject of Sunday trading, but in 1850 a Bill which, though not indentical with this, contained similar provisions, was referred to a Select Committee of their Lordships' House, with a view to the consideration of the Amendments; so that to refer the Bill of his noble and learned Friend to a Select Committee would be to go over old ground. He was rather surprised to find the noble Earl who moved the Amendment quoting the Rev. Canon Champneys as against legislation on the subject; for in answer to a question put to that Rev. Gentleman by the Select Committee of 1850, as to whether there would be any opposition to carry out the proposed law on the part of small shopkeepers or buyers. Canon Champneys said there was a small minority, both among tradesmen and buyers, who would not understand the possibility of receiving the same profit in six days which they had formerly received in seven, but that the great majority of tradesmen would be most grateful for the day's rest, even without any reference to the religious grounds for an observance of the Sabbath. The Rev. Gentleman further stated to the same Committee that he believed no voluntary exertions would be sufficient to put down Sunday trading. He must also remind the noble Earl (the Earl of St. Germans), if he had forgotten it, or inform him of the fact if he was not already aware of it, that amongst the petitioners in favour of the Bill of his noble and learned Friend was the Rev. Canon Champneys. The Bill of his noble and learned Friend was an attempt to effect a most important though a most difficult object. It was not to compel a religious observance of the Sabbath, but it was a Bill to deliver a large number of tradesmen in this country from a species of slavery. The vast majority of the well-informed and intelligent of all classes were in favour of legislation on the subject, believing as they did that the present law was insufficient for the purpose of preventing Sunday trading. Though the Bill of his noble and learned Friend might be open to some objections and might be improved by some modifications or amendments, it was nevertheless founded on sound, rational, and temperate principles, and for this reason he hoped their Lordships would decide that it should go into Committee—not into a Select Committee, but into a Committee of the Whole House, by whom it may be improved in such manners as to their Lordships might seem desirable.


explained that he had rested his allusion to the Rev. Canon Champneys upon the statement made by that Gentleman, that he believed if the door were left an inch open it would soon be opened altogether. The inference was that the Rev. Canon was against any measure which did not go the length of an entire suppression of Sunday trading.

On Question That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:— Contents 55; Not-Contents 25: Majority 30.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Canterbury, Archbp. Beauchamp, E.
Campbell, L. (L. Chancellor.) Belmore, E.
Carlisle, E.
Marlborough, D. Derby, E.
Effingham, E.
Bristol, M. Ellesmere, E.
Westmeath, M. Hardwicke, E.
Lanesborough, E.
Amherst, E. Lucan, E.
Malmesbury, E. Calthorpe, L.
Romney, E. Castlemaine, L.
Shrewsbury, E. [Teller.] Chelmsford, L. [Teller.}
Stradbroke, E. Colchester, L.
Winton, E. (E. Eglintoun.) Congleton, L.
Cranworth, L.
Crewe, L.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Egerton, L.
Overstone, L.
Dungannon, V. Plunket, L. (Bp. Tuam, &c.)
Hardinge, V. Polwarth, L.
Stratford de Redcliffe, V.
Ravensworth, L.
Redesdale, L.
Bath and Wells, Bp. Saltoun, L.
Carlisle, Bp. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Cashel, &c., Bp.
Chichester, Bp.
Hereford, Bp. Sondes, L.
Llandaff, Bp. Stewart of Stewart's Court, L. (M. Londonderry.)
London, Bp.
St. Asaph, Bp. Stratheden, L.
Abinger, L. Wensleydale, L.
Berners, L. Wynford, L.
Newcastle, D. Chesham, L.
Somerset, D. Dacre, L.
Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
De Grey, E.
Ellenborough, E. Foley, L.
Granville, E. Harris, L.
Grey, E. Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)
Harrington, E.
Saint Germans, E. [Teller.] Llanover, L.
Lyveden, L.
Spencer, E. Rivers, L.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Sydney, V. Teynham, L.
Camoys, L. [Teller.] Wodehouse, L.

said, it seemed to him that the machinery provided for carrying out the provisions of the Bill was so imperfect that he thought he was right in asking whether the noble and learned Lord intended to introduce any Amendments; and if so he would suggest that it would be better to postpone the Committee to a future day.


said, that although no doubt Amendments would be proposed yet he saw no reason against going on with the Committee at once.

House in Committee accordingly.

Clause 1.


was understood to object to it.


then said, he would adopt the suggestion offered by the noble Earl opposite, and agree to the postponement of the Committee, being anxious that all the clauses should undergo the fullest investigation.

House resumed, and to be again, in Committee on Monday next.

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