HL Deb 17 May 1866 vol 183 cc1036-48

Amendments reported (according to Order).


said, he rose to appeal to the noble and learned Lord who had introduced this Bill (Lord Chelmsford) whether the most convenient course to pursue would not he to withdraw it, The noble and learned Lord must have observed that though no division had been taken on the main principle of the Bill, that it was not because noble Lords on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were in favour of the measure, but because they wished that every opportunity might be given for full and fair discussion. At the conclusion of the debate the other night a noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), who of all men was the best entitled to command attention on a question affecting the social condition of the people, declared that part of the Bill might be injurious, and that the whole of it would be useless. He believed that if the noble Earl's speech had been made at the beginning instead of at the end of the discussion, the effect of it would have been, very great. The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees intended to propose an Amendment, the effect of which would be to alter almost entirely the whole Bill. Considering how little probability there was that the Bill, even if it should pass their Lordships' House, would receive the assent of the other House of Parliament, he would ask his noble and learned Friend whether it was worth his while to proceed with it? He would ask his noble and learned Friend to remember the fate of his Bill of 1860, which was a much less obnoxious measure, and which, though it passed their Lordships' House, did not receive the assent of the other House of Parliament. He appealed to the noble and learned Lord whether he would press his Bill in the face of the Amendments of which notice had been given. He would remind him of the unhappy disturbances and confusion which occurred in London on the Sabbath some years ago, and he was sure the noble and learned Lord was one of the last who would like to see those disturbances revived. In withdrawing his Bill he would be conferring a favour on the House, and preventing the probability of much ill-will and unpleasant feeling arising. He did not suppose for a moment that his noble and learned Friend had more respect for his windows than for his public duty; but he hoped he would find it to be not inconsistent with that duty to adopt the suggestion which he threw out for his consideration, and thus prevent their sending down to the lower House a measure which there would not be the slightest chance of passing.


said, he felt indebted to the noble Lord for pointing to his windows as an object of public attention. As to the Bill which his noble Friend wished him to withdraw, he should like to draw his noble Friend's attention with respect to some circumstances of its progress until it had arrived at its present stage. The second reading was opposed by a noble Lord opposite (Lord Teynham). in a very long speech, who moved that it be read a second time that day six months; but the noble Lord did not divide the House on that occasion, his own voice being the only one raised against the measure. The noble Lord gave notice of a similar Motion when the Bill was about to go into Committee, and made a speech in opposition to it; but upon a division he was in a minority, and the Bill was committed. In Committee a discussion took place principally with regard to the exceptions proposed, but they were all agreed to after two or three divisions. That being so, he did not look upon the present stage of the Bill, after the Bill had been agreed to in its principle and all its details, and their Lordships were asked to receive the Report, as a fitting occasion to be invited to withdraw it altogether. It was true that certain Amendments, of which notice had been given, would, if introduced, be fatal to the Bill; but he had a decided objection to abandon his measure. His noble Friend (Lord Houghton) indeed said, that if it passed their Lordships' House, it would not pass the other House of Parliament; but he did not know where his noble Friend obtained that information. [Lord HOUGHTON: From induction. I judge by the fate of the former Bill.] It seemed to him to be very bad logic to contend that what had occurred on a former occasion must necessarily take place on the present. Unquestionably those who undertook to introduce such a Bill as the present must be prepared to encounter very great difficulties, and he could assure their Lordships he had not very willingly undertaken the task. He had, however, been pressed so strongly on the subject, the appeals of thousands and tens of thousands of persons who were anxious to have a weekly day of rest which they might appropriate in accordance with the dictates of their own consciences, that he felt he could not withhold any assistance which he could lend in the promotion of the object which they had in view. There were in this metropolis no less than 60,000 tradesmen, who, with their workmen and servants, amounting to perhaps double that number, were anxious that the Bill should be passed, in order to relieve them from the necessity of trading on the Sabbath. He was informed, he might add, that 60,000 persons interested in its passing had presented a memorial to Her Majesty, praying that they might be, in some way or the other, relieved from that necessity. His action in the matter had been the subject of a great deal of, he would not say misrepresentation, but misconstruction. But the measure which he proposed was—as he thought experience justified him in saying—the only one by which the desirable object of putting an end to Sunday trading could be accomplished. The Committee appointed by the House of Commons in 1835 were clearly of opinion that the existing law on the subject ought to be amended, and held, that in giving that opinion, they were not only advocating the best interests of the labouring classes, but giving due weight to the complaints of a large body of tradesmen who felt that their pecuniary interests would suffer, if, acting in accordance with their conscientious desires, they were to refrain from selling on the Sunday. Again, the Committee which sat in 1847, stated that the majority of the traders by whom Sunday trading was carried on were anxious that it should be put a stop to, but that all voluntary attempts with that view had proved to be unavailing in consequence of the refusal of the minority to cease from selling. The Bill which he had submitted to the House was based entirely upon the principles recommended by those Committees, and after what had already taken place he did not think he ought, on the mere invitation of his noble Friend, to withdraw it. He had, he might say, from the first been of opinion that the Bill ought to have been introduced in the House of Commons, and had strongly recommended that that course should be adopted. A Member of that House, however, who represented a large metropolitan constituency, gave it, he was informed, as his opinion that if the Bill were to go down with the authority of their Lordships' sanction it would have a better chance of passing. He had undertaken, under those circumstances, to bring it in, and he trusted their Lordships would allow the Report to be received.


observed, that under the operation of the Bill tobacconists' shops would be shut up on the Sabbath, while cigars and tobacco might be sold in public-houses. The result would be, he contended, that the tobacconists, who maintained their families by their trade, and whose profit was principally on Sundays, would apply for a beer-house licence in order to enable them to continue their business. There were a number of temperance societies, and among them one large society called the Alliance, whose object was to prevent drunkenness, and who proceeded on the principle that that vice increased in the country in proportion to the multiplication of houses devoted to the sale of spirituous liquors, and they would find their efforts thwarted by the action of the Bill professing to prevent Sunday trading, but by which such a multiplication would be largely effected. On these grounds he joined with the noble Lord (Lord Houghton) in again urging upon the consideration of the noble and learned Lord the propriety of withdrawing the Bill.


said, that certain objections had undoubtedly been taken during the progress of the measure both to its principle and its details. The many exceptions it contained had been animadverted upon, and it had been urged that, without directly abrogating the existing law, the Bill would give an indirect legislative sanction and licence to Sunday trading. It was thought that it might be better to maintain the existing law, although inefficient, on account of the principle embodied in it. But the principle of closing shops during the hours of morning service on Sunday was no new one, because it was already applied to public-houses. It might be extended to shops generally by enacting a prohibition against their being opened between the hours of ten a.m. and one p.m. on Sunday, and still leaving the old law to remain in force during every other part of the day. The noble Lord then moved an Amendment for the purpose of prohibiting the sale between the hours of ten in the morning and one in the afternoon of any articles except medicines.

An Amendment moved, to leave out ("except as hereinafter excepted") and insert ("between the hours of ten o'clock in the morning and one o'clock in the afternoon.")—(The Chairman of Committees.)


greatly doubted whether by attempting to legislate on this subject they would not be likely to do more harm than good. The more he examined the Bill the more strong was his doubt as to the policy of it. The people of this country were, happily, accustomed to respect the law, believing it to be framed for their benefit as well as for that of the upper classes, and he should be sorry to see anything done in the way of petty and vexatious legislation which might have the effect of raising a different feeling. What was the machinery by which it was sought to carry out the provisions of the Bill, and without [which it was admitted by the noble and learned Lord that such a law could not be executed? At one time, there was a prejudice against the police, but now the police were regarded as the guardians of peace and order by the population generally, and no class looked upon them as their enemies, save those who were themselves the enemies of law and order. But a very bad feeling towards the police might be engendered among the humbler classes if the police were to be constantly employed in enforcing against them a severe and vexatious law of that kind, which would fine a poor man or woman heavily for selling a few radishes or red-herrings a quarter of an hour too late. He thought it would be found impossible to carry out strictly such a law; and, giving the noble and learned Lord every credit for the excellence of his intentions, he must say he greatly questioned the propriety of any further legislation upon that subject. The Act of Charles II. might have become obsolete; but was it a fact that the due observance of the Sabbath in this country had suffered in consequence? There might be some exceptions to the general rule in particular places; but, taking the whole country round, was it not the fact that within the recollection of most of their Lordships a marked improvement had been witnessed in the respect paid to the Sabbath? It was said that in some thoroughfares booths were set up on Sundays, fairs held, and scenes of disorder enacted in the presence of crowds of people. But if that were so, surely all these were matters of police, and the civil authorities could easily maintain decency and order in such cases with the concurrence and sanction of all the well-disposed inhabitants, and without the necessity of Parliament passing an Act for that purpose. He feared that in making an attempt to secure the better observance of the Sunday in which they did not carry along with them the general feeling of those with respect to whom they were legislating, they would not only fail in their object, but bring about a serious recoil against their legislation. For these reasons he should be better pleased to see the Bill dropped altogether. As to the proposal to substitute for the restrictions contained in the Bill a prohibition of Sunday trading during the hours of Morning Service—namely, from ten a.m. to one p.m.—that might be the time when most of their Lordships attended Divine worship, but he doubted whether it was the time during which the poor people affected by that Bill did so. He thought that legislation of that kind was likely to do a great deal more harm than good, and by no means to realize the benevolent intentions of the noble and learned Lord.


I am glad my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees has moved his Amendment, because it will tend to mitigate the severity of this Bill, while it will preserve its most useful clauses. My noble Friend who has just sat down says there has been a great improvement during the last thirty or forty years in the conduct of the trading and lower classes as well as the higher classes in this metropolis. I suspect that my noble Friend is entirely mistaken in regard to buying and selling on Sunday, and that he will find that in some parts of this metropolis the practice, so far from being diminished, has very much increased during the last thirty or forty years. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Chelmsford) says that, generally, with respect to Sunday trading, the law of Charles II. is practically obsolete, and is never put in force; and that there has, consequently, been an increase of Sunday trading. There is some reason to fear that this will go on until the question of buying and selling on Sunday is looked upon as a matter beyond legislative interposition, and it will be supposed that the law allows both buying and selling on Sunday just as on any other day. If that should be the opinion of Parliament and the country, who would be the loser by the change? Not the higher classes, who can make their arrangements and purchases on Saturday; but those who would be the losers are the middle and working classes—they would have reason to lament that Parliament had been entirely indifferent on this subject, and that they had thereby lost that day of rest which is of more value to them than to any other class. I trust that the Amendment of my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees will be carried. At the same time, although your Lordships cannot prescribe to the other House of Parliament what they should do, you will have the satisfaction of knowing, by passing this Bill, you will have done your duty to the country, and will have shown yourselves not insensible to the value of Sunday to the people.


said, that when he undertook the difficult task of steering this Bill through their Lordships' House he knew he must encounter many obstacles; but he had congratulated himself on having passed through the stormy seas of the second reading and the Committee, and he could not help expressing his surprise that now that he had reached, as he had thought, the safe harbour of the Report, he should suddenly find the wind raised against him. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Taunton) had made a speech which would justify a total rejection of the measure, and which would more appropriately have been delivered on the second reading than at the present stage of their deliberations. As his noble Friend had not previously given their Lordships the benefit of his opinion on this Bill, he might assume that he had not been present on the earlier stages of the measure. He could not understand what was meant by complaining of the petty and vexatious legislation proposed by the Bill. Here was a gigantic evil, admitted by every one—that the Sunday was employed by thousands and thousands for the purposes of traffic. The object of this Bill was to put down such trading. The noble Lord (Lord Taunton) objected to the police being employed to put the law in force. But the noble Lord was probably aware of the decisions of the Courts of Law, and the difficulty of establishing proof of Sunday trading. The mere exposure of goods for sale was not enough, and it was necessary to prove an actual sale to establish the offence. The police were on the spot, but it was a mistake to suppose that they would be called upon personally to interfere. It would only be necessary for them to summon before the magistrate the parties engaged in violating the law. He regretted that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had expressed himself in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. He did not doubt that the noble Earl wished to advance the object of the Bill, and not to destroy its effect; but the scheme of the Bill was completely different from that of the Amendment, and his noble Friend's Amendment, in fact, went to destroy the Bill and to substitute his own. The Bill before their Lordships was one to prohibit Sunday trading, with certain exceptions. The Amendment prohibited trading for two or three hours on Sunday, and the rest of the day was left to the operation of the present law, which it was admitted was obsolete, not enforceable, and a dead letter. Could anything be more different than the two proposals? Under his noble Friend's Bill the shops would be shut and trade would cease for three hours; but when the hand of the clock arrived at the hour of one every shop would be opened for' trading purposes, and that day of rest which their Lordships desired to secure to the tradesman who might wish to comply with the law would be destroyed not only by opening the shops at one o'clock, but by compelling him to be on the spot, and to prepare for competition with his rivals. Such a Bill would do nothing to prevent the great evil of Sunday trading. He had only to add that he considered the Amendment to be so much at variance with the principle of the Bill, and likely to lead to so many evils and inconveniences that if it were adopted he should respectfully bow to their Lordships' decision, but at the same time he should think it his duty to withdraw from the measure.


said, he should be sorry if the noble and learned Lord should decline to proceed with the Bill, for he thought his noble and learned Friend would do very much more wisely to adopt the Amendment of the Chairman of Committees as the first step towards checking the evil of Sunday trading. They had already the precedent afforded by the closing of the public-houses during the hours of divine service on Sunday; and it would, in his opinion, only be reasonable to extend the same principle to other branches of business. It was said that all the trading would recommence after one o'clock under the Amendment, but all the trading excepted under the Bill might be carried on after one o'clock, and so Sunday trading would go on under the Bill very much as it would if the Amendment were adopted. The difference would not be very great, although the Amendment would certainly, leave some few tradesmen at liberty to carry on trading who would not be permitted to open their shops under the Bill. He doubted the necessity of the clause which gave authority to and required the police to enforce the Bill. They would have the same authority to carry out the law without this clause. Surely those who governed the police might be trusted to do their duty in this matter. The insertion of this clause, therefore, was a waste of power, and would make the intervention of the police more obnoxious than otherwise would be the case. Anything that would secure to the servants of the poorer classes a greater rest on the Sunday would be most desirable; and, believing that the Amendment of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees would have that effect, he would support it; and, if carried, he hoped his noble and learned Friend would consider the matter, and not withdraw the Bill.


said, he feared that the Bill would be generally held to sanction whatever it did not prohibit, and if it were to make Sunday trading illegal only during the hours of Divine service it would operate as an encouragement to trading during all the remaining hours of the day. It would certainly leave the observance of the Sabbath during all those hours to be determined by the statute of Charles II., which had already been found practically ineffective. The Bill as it stood would be an improvement on the existing law, but the Amendment would afford no real cheek to the growing evil of Sunday traffic, and would on the contrary, as it seemed to him, give indirect sanction to that practice. He should therefore vote against the Amendment.


said, they were told not to be frightened upon that occasion; but he confessed that he was frightened, and that the more he looked at the Bill the more he felt alarmed. The object of this measure was no doubt to abate a real grievance, and he wished it could be abated; but he feared that after the passing of the Bill, or of any other of the same description, they would still have the grievance, and a riot in addition. If the police were to interfere for the purpose of enforcing such a law, he believed that a riot would ensue, and that there would arise that which they ought all to be anxious to prevent, a feud between the police and the people. It might seem a strange reason for opposing the Bill, hut he could not help thinking that it would be stopped by the House of Commons, but nevertheless he did desire to do so for that reason. A great observer of both Houses of Parliament once told him that he never knew an instance of any Bill proceeding from their Lordships being received with any favour by the other House. Now, if that were so, the measure of all others which would be least likely to meet with such favour would be one which was supposed to be directed against the special objects of the admiration and affection of the House of Commons at the present day—the working classes. He believed therefore that the measure was never likely to become law; but he did not wish to see it rejected in a manner which would be a sort of affront to their Lordships. He saw dangers ahead. He feared that the result of their legislation upon that subject would be a disturbance of the public peace; and being desirous of preventing that he would take the first opportunity of voting against the Bill altogether.


said, he agreed it was a matter of great risk to pass laws directed against the habits of some portion of the people. He had not the slightest sympathy with those who held that we as Christians were bound by Jewish restrictions on the Sabbath; but he held with his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury that the Sunday rest was an institution of the utmost value, especially to the middle and lower classes, and he felt that the practice of Sunday trading was virtually depriving a large portion of those classes of the rest which they required. Small traders had really no freedom of action in this matter. If they did not adopt the same system of trading as their neighbours, they lost their business not only on the Sunday, but during the week days. He approved generally the principle of the noble and learned Lord's Bill; but when they came to examine it, it was impossible to disguise from themselves that the exceptions were somewhat arbitrary and difficult to reconcile with each other. There were certain kinds of trades which on the Sunday were absolutely necessary, and to draw the line by Act of Parliament between what was and what was not necessary was extremely difficult. Wishing to maintain the Sunday as a day of rest, and yet feeling that the Bill, if carried with all its exceptions, was liable to objection, he thought the best course to adopt would be that which was recommended by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees—because by taking that course they would, at all events, check the system of Sunday trading. Once the shop3 were closed, he believed they would be very rarely opened again. He would like to see the effect of the Amendment of his noble Friend before going further; for he believed that if a trade were interrupted for three hours of a day, it would be rarely resumed at a later hour of the day. It was unwise to pass a law and not to adopt the most effectual means to enforce it. As to the employment of the police he was persuaded that far less irritation and animosity were created by the enforcement of a law by a public authority whose duty it was to enforce it than by the action of private persons and interested informers. If the Bill passed it ought not only to empower, but require the police to act. He was reminded that the Smoke Prevention Act was not carried out so long as the enforcement of its provisions was left to the action of private persons, but a great improvement was effected as soon as the police were required to act. Therefore, this Bill ought not only to give power to the police, but it ought to impose a duty upon them.

On Question, Whether the Words proposed to be left out shall stand Part of the Bill? their Lordships divided:—Contents 40; Not-Contents 54: Majority 14.

Richmond, D. Bangor, Bp.
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Westmeath, M.
Lincoln, Bp.
Amherst, E. Peterborough, Bp.
Bandon, E. Ripon, Bp.
Belmore, E. St. Asaph, Bp.
Cadogan, E.
Derby, E. Berners, L.
Fortescue, E. Blantyre, L.
Harrowby, E. [Teller.] Castlemaine, L.
Huntingdon, E. Chelmsford, L. [Teller.]
Lonsdale, E. Crewe, L.
Lucan, E. Denman, L.
Morton, E. Egerton, L.
Nelson, E. Kilmaine, L.
Powis, E. Overstone, L.
Romney, E. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Sommers, E.
Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
De Vesci, V.
Hardinge, V. Sherborne, L.
Hawarden, V. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Stratford de Redcliffe.V.
Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.) Powerscourt, V.
Sidney, V.
Manchester, D. St. David's, Bp.
Saint Albans, D.
Somerset, D. Abinger, L.
Bolton, L.
Lansdowne, M. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Normanby, M.
Camoys, L.
Albemarle, E. De Tabley, L.
Camperdown, E. Feversham, L.
Cathcart, E. Foley, L.
Chichester, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard.)
De Grey, E.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Houghton, L.
Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)
Ducie, E. Llanover, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Lurgan, L.
Granville, E. Lyveden, L.
Grey, E. Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Leven and Melville, E.
Manvers, E. Mostyn, L.
Minto, E. Panmure, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Morley, E.
Russell, E. Portman, L. [Teller.]
Spencer, E. Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Stradbroke, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Verulam, E. Stratheden, L.
Zetland, E. Taunton, L.
Teynham, L.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Wodehouse, L.
Eversley, V.

Bill to be read 3a To-morrow; and to be printed, as amended. (No. 121.)


said, that after the division, he was not personally disposed to proceed any further with the Bill; but as many of their Lordships were in favour of some of its provisions, it would not be respectful in him to move that the order be discharged. He would leave it to any noble Lord who chose to take up the Bill to do so.


gave notice that, on the Order for the third reading to-morrow (this day), he would move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.