HL Deb 01 June 1866 vol 183 cc1672-82

Order for resuming the further debate on the Amendment moved on Third Reading—namely, to leave out Clause 4,—(Lord Portman,)—read.


gave notice that on the Motion that the Bill do pass he would take the sense of the House against it.

Debate resumed.


stated that since the Bill was last under discussion a deputation of tradesmen, who were most anxiously promoting this Bill, had waited upon him, and in the strongest manner urged that it should be passed for their protection, and they stated that rather than jeopardize the measure they wished the clause relat- ing to the police to be omitted. Under these circumstances, and with the view of securing as general an assent to the Bill as possible, he would move that the clause referred to be struck out of the Bill.


said, he was very glad to hear what had just fallen from his noble Friend. Since the matter was before the House on the previous occasion he had felt it his duty to communicate with Sir Richard Mayne on the subject, who informed him that from the manner in which the clauses had been drawn it was objectionable; and that there was no precedent for requiring the police to interfere in the manner proposed. Under the Smoke Nuisance Act the regulations for the interference of the police were to be drawn up under the direction of the Secretary of State and the Commissioners of Police. Under the Metropolitan Police Act in case of a fair in the neighbourhood of London protracted beyond the lawful time a constable might interfere; but in no other case were the police ever to interfere except under special directions. He had suggested when this subject was last under discussion that regulations should be made by the Commissioners of Police; but he found no authority for that except in cases relating to the regulation of processions or large parties in London, or the entrance of the police into gaming houses, or doing that which would be a trespass ordinarily but might be done under the direction of the Commissioners. He thought it right to mention so much, but he was very glad it was proposed to omit the clause relating to the action of the police altogether.


also expressed his approval of striking out the clause.


said, he had given notice of an Amendment— That the Police shall not assist or interfere in any manner whatsoever in carrying out the Provisions of this Act. If they were allowed to interfere there would be petty vexations and interference with small tradesmen. He had seen from the police reports that the keeper of the refreshment department at the Great Western Station had been summoned by the police because he had given refreshment to a person who was not a passenger, within the prohibited hours. He could state as a fact, having inquired into the circumstances of the case, that a very large excursion train being about to start the police got into the refreshment room where they had no right to be; that they saw a person take some refreshment; they tracked him about the station till the train started; finding he did not go by the train, having come to see a friend off, they summoned the refreshment room keeper, who told him that he had been three times summoned under similar circumstances, and the magistrate decided in each instance in his favour; that he had been put to considerable expense each time; that this vexatious interference on the part of the police continued at all the railway stations, till an appeal against a conviction took place, and the matter was settled against the police by an appeal to a higher court. If the police were not restricted from interfering the result would be that the Sunday League would have their emissaries to look out for hawkers who would be taken up by the police on the pretext that they were obliged to take persons up when given into their charge. This had been done over and over again, and they would be safe from actions for false imprisonment the parties being too poor to bring them. He well remembered the breaking of windows when a Bill of a similar nature was before their Lordships, and seeing in Grosvenor Square the police assembled to protect the houses of persons who had rendered themselves obnoxious. What was his surprise when, a year or two afterwards, on taking an excursion to Windsor one Sunday afternoon, he saw one of those persons who had been mainly instrumental in putting down the bands in the parks on Sunday on the terrace listening to the band playing. He should find a similar inconsistency if he went into the house of any of their Lordships between ten and one on Sunday morning. He should probably see them enjoying a comfortable breakfast, while they would refuse to the poor man the same opportunity of enjoying that meal. He should, no doubt, also find them with a newspaper, unless, indeed, they thought it a profanity to read a newspaper on Sunday. He should, perhaps, see The Observer or The Sunday Times on their Lordships' table, while they denied to the poor man the privilege of buying a newspaper at that hour; and while their Lordships had their servants employed in preparing breakfast, boiling eggs, and cooking fish and cutlets, a poor hawker would, for selling some article, be summoned before the police court. They had heard a good deal lately about the dangers of an extension of the franchise to their Lordships' House, but he thought there was much more danger in class legislation of this arbitrary nature. He remembered, upwards of thirty years ago, a right rev. Prelate who, now from advanced years, was unable to take part in their debates, had told them "that if this House falls it will fall not from without but from within," and there never was a truer Saying. It Was presumed, he supposed, that the present measure would have the effect of coercing or encouraging people to go to church; but a better plan would be instead of closing shops, to open the churches from seven to ten o'clock; and, fallowing the example of the Royal chapels, to curtail the service, so that the poor people might be enabled to enjoy themselves afterwards. He thought it would have been much better, instead of introducing the present measure, to have brought in a Bill to repeal the obnoxious acts on tills subject which were a disgrace to' the statute book of a free country. On a Sunday morning the police, who ought to be employed in looking after the security of property, were engaged in a system of espionage in looking after publicans, whilst robberies were taking place throughout the country. During the week days people Wondered that they could not find the police; but the fact was that they Were loitering about the police courts with the persons whom they had summoned for offences committed on Sunday. He had heard it said on some occasions, "Thank God, there is a House of Lords;" but if this Bill, interfering, as it did, with the privileges of the labouring classes, should be passed by their Lordships, he should alter the phrase and exclaim, "Thank God, there is a House of Commons." He had intended to propose an Amendment to the effect that the police should not assist Or interfere in any manner whatsoever in Carrying out the provisions of the Bill, but, as the noble Lord had intimated that the clause would be withdrawn, he would not Under the circumstances, move the Amendment.


hoped that the emphatic denunciation of the Bill which they had just heard would not prevent their Lordships from giving a calm consideration to the measure. It was one of very considerable importance to a considerable body of their fellow-citizens, who desired to abstain from Sunday trading. As the Bill was now freed from the clause in reference to the police he entreated their Lordships to look at it as necessary to cure a particular grievance. He should propose an Amendment restricting the operation of the Bill to the metropolis, on the ground that legislation against Sunday trading was specially required in the metropolis; and, in deference to the petitions of many thousands of tradesmen, who asked that the Bill might pass as a protection to themselves, he entreated their Lordships to consider whether, if confined to the metropolis, this measure would not be free from objection, and also prove a great practical remedy for a great practical grievance, checking a growing evil in certain parts of the metropolis. So far from apprehending that it would be treated with disrespect in the House of Commons he believed that the Metropolitan Members would be requested by their constituents to support it.


said, that the Bill was becoming "small by degrees and beautifully less," and he really did not know that there was any practical objection to the Bill as it now stood. The only question was whether it was worth while to enter into a new course of legislation for so small an object as the matter was now reduced to. He was inclined to regard the proposition to close shops during the hours of Divine service in the morning as very reasonable; but it had been brought to his notice by persons familiar with the habits of the class of society among whom the abuses against which the Bill Was directed existed, that the time of Divine service with them was not the same as in that part of the town where their Lordships resided. In such localities the people attended Divine service more in the afternoon and evening than in the morning; and, therefore, though this measure might ensure external accord between different parts of the town, it Would by no means give additional solemnity to the Sabbath, and impress that solemnity Upon the minds of the people. Their Lordships, in legislating upon such a matter, had to do with habits and feelings different to their own, and it would not do to import their own habits into different localities, but rather to some extent to take things as they found them.


said, he had always been of opinion that all attempts at legislation on this subject would be useless; and he believed that the object desired Could only be attained by the diligent labours of zealous persons, and by bringing public opinion to bear on the subject. When he looked at the Bill he thought that the effect of it would be to proclaim to all people that, except between the hours of ten and one o'clock, Sunday trading was legal, and that consequent upon its passing into a law a great deal of Sunday trading would spring up where it did not now exist. The way to put down Sunday trading was for all employers to pay wages on Friday and give a half-holiday on Saturday. Then the poor man would make his market on the Saturday evening, and there would be no occasion for any law to put down Sunday trading, for it would put down itself. He was opposed to the Bill, because he thought it would operate in a direction contrary to that in which its supporters desired it should act. He was sure there was not one of their Lordships who was not anxious that the poor man should be secured in the fullest enjoyment of the Sunday, but that object could not, he believed, be best attained by the proposed legislation.


said, he had hoped that, after what had passed on a former night on the discussion, the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees would have deemed it desirable that it should be withdrawn; but as such was not the case, he trusted their Lordships would not assent to its passing. He feared it would give occasion to a great deal of vexation and discontent. He had, as well as other noble Lords, he supposed, received a circular signed by a rev. gentleman, who was Secretary to the Society for Promoting the Better Observance of the Lord's Day, who stated on behalf of that Society that he was convinced the present state of public opinion on the subject with which the Bill dealt was such that far more good would be effected by leaving the course of the due observance of the Sabbath to the efforts of the clergy and the persons associated with them in the cause than by means of any compulsory interference with it by legislative enactment. As to the Amendment, by which it was proposed to limit the operation of the Bill to the metropolis, he could only say that he did not think it was one which the House ought to adopt. If legislation could be had recourse to with advantage on the question at all it would be better to have a general measure, or one, at all events, extending to the large towns throughout the country, than one whose operation would be thus restricted; because legislation so partial would tend to produce no confidence in the public mind, and it would certainly interfere very much with the convenience of the public. He had within the last few weeks been in communication with several persons on the subject, and so far as he could learn there was a great improvement in the attendance of the very poor and necessitous class, whom the Bill would affect, at Divine worship on the Sunday. That attendance, however, was not from eleven to one o'clock, when the woman of the house was occupied in domestic arrangements, but in the evening; and it would, he thought, be a very erroneous course to take to deal with the habits of these poor people as if they resembled those in that respect of the wealthier classes, who could go to church without inconvenience in the morning.


said, that the Bill as it stood was quite a different measure from that which had been originally proposed, and that he had come down to the House with the impression that it was a piece of legislation too small to justify their Lordships in giving to it their assent. After the statement, however, which had been made by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, to the effect that those tradesmen who were from the first in favour of the Bill were still anxious that it should pass in its present shape, he could not help feeling that some practical grievance existed in the metropolis which it might tend to remedy. The chief arguments urged against the measure were based on the assumption that its object was to enforce theological opinions. He, for one, must disclaim having any such object in view. So far as he was concerned he wished to leave the observance of the Sunday to be guided by public opinion and the action of such religious bodies as those to which reference had been made. But he could not, nevertheless, concur in the view that all legislation with respect to the Sabbath was a thing to be avoided. Indeed, he was surprised to hear such a view propounded by his noble Friend below him, who was a strenuous supporter of the Forbes Mackenzie Act. He might also remind the House that the Act of Charles II. involved the principle of making exceptions introduced by the noble and learned Lord oppposite (Lord Chelmsford) into the Bill under discussion.


said, the noble Lord had mentioned that the secretary of one of the Societies for Pro- moting the Observance of the Lord's Day had stated that the Bill would probably have an injurious effect. But it should be remembered that there were several societies of the same kind, that they were not agreed upon this point, and therefore the opinion of one should not be taken as representing that of all the societies. Feeling the difficulty of the case, he had taken an opportunity which had been presented to-day of consulting a considerable number of clergy of the diocese who happened to be assembled at one of the rural deaneries. The general opinion was that though much was not to be expected from the Bill, yet some good might still be done; and one of the benefits to be expected was the defence of those poor persons who complained so much of the way in which their liberty was interfered with by those who set at nought the laws at present existing, and who insisted not only on keeping their shops open on the Sunday, but on hawking goods about the streets. It was necessary to turn from the great thoroughfares into the small streets to see how great the evil was, and what a large number of tradesmen were forced into Sunday trading, much against their will, by the competition of the hawkers. Moreover, the people dwelling in these neighbourhoods did not wish to be disturbed by the cries of those persons. His own opinion was that those best acquainted with the state of London were very anxious that this Bill, small as it was, should pass, and were of opinion that the poor especially would be very grateful for it.


asked their Lordships to vote against the passing of the Bill, and thus show their compassion for the poorest of the poor. The noble Duke and other noble Lords grounded their support of the Bill on the circumstance that petitions had been presented from tradesmen in favour of the measure; but he would read a few words from a letter which he had received on the subject— My Lord,—It is my pleasing duty to convey to your Lordship the thanks of the Traders' and Hawkers' Committee, who at their last meeting unanimously voted their hearty thanks for your Lordship's efforts in opposition to the Bill. There was one point in the Bill, which was wellnigh its most material element, but which had been passed over by almost every noble Lord, and that was the cumulative nature of the penalties which was most objectionable. No one could be satisfied at the Sunday trading carried on in the metropolis, but he did not believe that any public evil could be remedied by violent attacks on the pockets of the community. The best way to proceed was by gentleness and good example, and by these means they would prevail.


held that the Amendment, as limiting the scope of the Bill, would also limit the evils which would be created by it, and he would therefore support it. But he hoped his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees, after the expression of opinion which he had heard, would consider whether it would not be the more advisable course not to proceed with the Bill at all. It was a piece of class legislation, and would inflict evil on one class exclusively. The noble Lord had called attention to the little benefit that would be conferred on the working classes by the Bill in the way of enabling them to attend Divine service, because they were in the habit of attending in the afternoon or evening instead of in the morning. But there was another point deserving of attention which had not been alluded to. The working man, especially after the labours of the week, was in the habit of making Sunday the day of rest, and of indulging himself and his family in a rather better dinner than usual. Very few working men had such appliances in their own houses as would enable them to cook their dinners at home, and therefore they took them to the cooks' or bakers' shops in the neighbourhood and brought them home soon after the hour of one. But by this Bill they would shut up the bakehouses during the very hours they were required for the comfort of the labouring classes. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of London) had mentioned that complaints were made by people in the back streets of the cries of the hawkers; but their Lordships should bear in mind that those hawkers would not go about the streets crying out their goods for amusement, and the fact of their going about showed that there was a want to be supplied. Though voting for the Amendment, he would vote against the Bill.


said, it appeared that this Bill had been brought forward at the request of a number of tradesmen who had not the courage to close their shops, and came to their Lordships to protect them. He did not approve legislating in such circumstances. In no country in the world was the Sabbath better kept than in England. We avoided at once the rigour of the Scotch and the laxity of the Conti- nental system. He could not help thinking that there was a great appearance of hypocrisy in a Bill which did not affect either their Lordships or the Members of the other House of Parliament, or the richer classes generally, but which was entirely directed against the poor providing for themselves on Sundays.


said, he must admit that there were reasons for confining this Bill to the metropolis. He believed that the necessity for this Bill arose from the fact that there were in many quarters of the metropolis a large number of persons of the Jewish persuasion who had no religious scruples against keeping open their shops on the Lord's Day. If this Bill effected the privileges of the lower class of persons, it would receive no support from him; but he believed, on the contrary, that it would be of very great advantage to them. They could buy what they wanted before ten in the morning; and then, if the shops were closed for the hours enacted by the Bill, they would not again be opened. By this means the traders who wished to observe the Sabbath would be relieved from a competition which wag a great burden to them. He had received a letter from the secretary of a society favourable to the measure, stating that the limitation of the hours was generally approved, and that there were not two opinions as to the merits of the Bill, the opinion of the tradesmen being that it would put down Sunday trading. From all he could hear, the passing of the Bill was regarded with the greatest possible anxiety by the tradesmen of the metropolis.

Amendment agreed to.

Moved, That the Bill do pass.

On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 40; Not-Contents 69: Majority 29:—Resolved in the Negative.

Canterbury, Archp. Fortescue, E.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)
Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.) Grey, E.
Harrowby, E. [Teller.]
Richmond, D. Nelson, E.
Powis, E.
Bristol, M. Russell, E.
Westmeath, M. Shrewsbury, E.
Stanhope, E.
Bandon, E. Stradbroke, E.
Belmore, E. Strange, E. (D. Athol.)
Verulam, E.
Camperdown, E.
Denbigh, E. Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)
Derby, E.
Bangor, Bp. Methuen, L.
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp. Redesdale, L.
Rossie, L. (L. Kinnaird) [Teller.]
London, Bp.
Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Blantyre, L.
Bolton, L. Scarsdale, L.
Colchester, L. Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
Crewe, L.
Egerton, L. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Heytesbury, L.
Lyttelton, L.
York, Archp. Castlemaine, L.
Chaworth, L. (E. Meath)
Devonshire, D. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)
Bath, M. Clermont, L.
Normanby, M. Congleton, L.
Abingdon, E. Dartrey, L. (L. Crernorne.)
Airlie, E.
Albemarle, E. De Tabley, L.
Amherst, E. Feversham, L.
Cardigan, E. Foley, L.
Cathcart, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
Chichester, E,
Clarendon, E. Harris, L.
De Grey, E. Hastings, L.
Ellenborough, E. Houghton, L.
Granville, E. Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)
Hardwicke, E.
Leven and Melville, E. Kilmaine, L.
Malmesbury, E. Lyveden, L.
Minto, E. Mostyn, L.
Pomfret, E. Northbrook, L.
Romney, E. Overstone, L.
Spencer, E. Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair)
Strafford, E. Panmure, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
De Vesci, V. Ponsonby, L. (E. Benborough.)
Eversley, V.
Halifax, V. Portman, L.
Hardinge, V. Romilly, L.
Lifford, V. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Sidney, V. Somerhill, L. (M. Clawriearde.)
Carlisle, Bp. Southampton, L.
Oxford, Bp. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Belper, L. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Taunton, L. [Teller.]
Teynham, L.
Camoys, L. [Teller.] Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Carew, L. Wrottesley, L.
Carrington, L.