§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
THE EARL OF MORLEY,
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, observed that the law upon the subject was certainly not in a very satisfactory state. The object of the Bill was to prevent vexatious prosecutions of individuals who really did not come within the spirit of the Act of Charles II. Prosecutions under this Bill were not to be instituted except by or with the consent in writing of the chief officer of police of the police district in which the offence is committed, or with the consent in writing of two justices of the peace or a stipendiary magistrate having jurisdiction in the place where such offence is committed.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Morley.)
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, the object of the Bill was to disable the Statute of Charles II., which was in itself almost a dead letter, by preventing persons being prosecuted for Sunday trading without the sanction of the chief police officer of the district, or two justices of the peace, or a stipendiary magistrate. He hoped the whole subject would be taken into consideration by the Government during the Recess, with the view of introducing some measure next Session. If that was so, it would be necessary to bear in mind that the Act of Charles II. was literally almost a dead letter. It contained two classes of prohibitions. The first was against any person carrying on his lawful calling on Sunday, which made him liable to a penalty of 5s. The other was 952 against exposing for sale any goods on Sunday, which rendered the goods liable to forfeiture; but in both cases the difficulty of prosecuting or bringing evidence to support the prosecution was so great as almost to prevent any person being brought to account for infringement of the statute. The pecuniary penalty was in itself so small that any Sunday trader would be willing to give 5s. for the privilege of trading on Sunday; and the penalty was only incurred by one transaction, so that a man might carry on trading for the whole Sunday and be liable to only one penalty. The penalty did not attach to exposing goods for sale and inviting customers; some article must be sold before the penalty was incurred. Then, with regard to the forfeiture of the goods, there was no power to seize them. The only way in which they could be seized was by an application on the following day to the magistrate, and then a constable could only seize the goods which had been exposed for sale on the Sunday, which nobody could identify. Under these circumstances, he hoped Government would introduce a measure to prevent Sunday trading. He had no feeling on the religious view of the question; but he really was most anxious that the thousands and tens of thousands of traders should have the blessing of the day of rest secured to them by the Legislature, but who were now deprived of it.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.