HL Deb 04 July 1932 vol 85 cc510-32

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill which I invite your Lordships on behalf of the Government to read a second time this afternoon is in the nature of a compromise, and, in order to make the Bill intelligible, it is, I am afraid, necessary to explain in a few words the history which leads up to the controversy, and which makes some solution essential. The story begins with Section 1 of the Sunday Observance Act, which was passed as long ago as the year 1780, and that section enacted that: Any house, room or other place which shall be opened or used for public entertainment or amusement, or for publicly debating on any subject whatsoever, upon any part of the Lord's Day called Sunday, and to which persons shall be admitted by payment of money or by tickets sold for money, shall be deemed a disorderly house or place, And there was a penalty of £200 payable to any informer in respect of any breach.

Although that Act is still the law, there has been, I think, a considerable change in the habits of our people since the day when it was passed. In the latter part of the last century a practice grew up of carrying on Sunday concerts, generally of quite a high class, to which the public was admitted free, but in which a charge was made for certain reserved seats, and in the year 1897, in the case of Williams versus Wright, the High Court decided that that was not an infringement of the Act of Parliament. I am not concerned to discuss whether that decision was right or wrong, but the Court of Appeal has since said that it rested on a somewhat slender foundation. At any rate, after that decision the practice of holding concerts became general in London, and not uncommon in other parts of England, especially in the seaside towns.

Cinemas are, of course, a more recent development, but in the early part of the present century some cinemas began to give performances on Sunday in aid of charity. That began about 1909, and in the year 1916 the London County Council, who were the licensing authority under the Cinematograph Act, decided to exercise control over those Sunday performances. The arrangement which the London County Council then began to put into practice was that they made agreements with the cinemas that they, the London County Council, would take no steps to enforce the provisions of the Sunday Observance Act if the cinemas on their part complied with conditions—first of all, that the entertainment should be of a healthy character; secondly, that no performance should begin before six o'clock or continue after eleven o'clock in the evening; thirdly, that none of the employees should work for more than six days in the week; and finally, that an amount determined by the Council as representing the profits from the performances should be paid to an approved charity. There were special concessions for private film societies and for some special occasions when a particular performance was organised purely for charity in the afternoon.

That practice continued for some fourteen years, but in the year 1930 some other purveyors of entertainment did not see why the cinemas should enjoy this privileged position. By way of registering their protest they initiated proceedings against the London County Council for granting licences containing these conditions, and it was held, first in the Court of First Instance and afterwards in the Court of Appeal, that the London County Council had no right to exercise a dispensing power and to excuse people who break the law. The result of that was that all the Sunday performances were declared to be illegal, and anyone who had carried on one of them became liable to the penalty prescribed by the Act of 1780.

That was obviously a position which called for some legislative interference. The Socialist Government of that day brought in legislation which they left to a free vote of the House of Commons. The Bill which was then introduced received a Second Reading by a comparatively small majority, and in the Committee stage there was a good deal of difficulty in making progress. There was an Amendment to include theatres, and that was defeated by a large majority. Before any further stage could be reached the Socialist Government resigned and the National Government came into office in September of last year. They were able only at that time to deal with emergency legislation and matters which were non-controversial. Accordingly, since this obviously was controversial, it was announced that the Government could not proceed with the Bill, but, instead, there was a short Bill passed which regularised the position for twelve months—that is to say, until October 7, 1932.

I think it is manifest that something must be done before October 7, 1932, when the temporary regularisation will come to an end, and when, unless some legislation is passed, all these Sunday performances, certainly all cinemas, probably all concerts, and very likely all the opening of museums and the like, will become illegal. In those circumstances the Home Office in March of this year introduced a Bill on the lines of the Socialist Government Bill of the previous year, but, like their predecessors, the Government of the day made it clear that it was not a Bill which was to be treated as a Government measure, and was one which could be dealt with by the free vote of the House of Commons. The Bill was carried by a very small majority on Second Reading, and in Committee an Amendment was carried on the second day which limited the application of the Bill to London, and which made it quite clear that it was hopeless to proceed with that measure with any chance of success. Since compromise by agreement had failed, and since some legislation was essential, it then became incumbent upon the Government to find a solution which should be fair to both sides. I do not suggest that the solution which we found will satisfy either side completely. Compromises, if they are fair, hardly ever do. On the one side one has the extreme Sunday observance point of view, which would desire to prevent any sort of Sunday performances and would insist on the rigour of the old law, and on the other side you have, at the other extreme, the point of view which would wish that every kind of performance should be allowed to take place on Sunday as freely as any day of the week.

The Government have not thought it right to accept either of those positions. What we have done in the Bill which we are asking your Lordships to read a second time to-day is, in effect, first of all to exempt such displays as museums, zoological gardens and debates from the operation of the Sunday Observance Act of 1708; secondly, to give power to the licensing authorities who have authority to grant music licences to give licences for Sunday concerts and with express power to attach conditions as to the suitability of the entertainment given on the Sunday; thirdly, with regard to cinemas, to allow Sunday performances to go on in those areas in which they are at present going on, which is in effect London and, I think, some ninety-seven other areas in the country, on conditions which will secure that there is no mole than a six-day working week and that a portion at any rate of the profits, and, if the licensing authority sees fit, the whole of the profits, should go to charity; and, finally, to give power for authorities in those areas which have not at present allowed Sunday cinemas to apply to Parliament for such powers by a less cumbersome and a less costly procedure than the ordinary Private Bill procedure, with sufficient safeguards, as we hope and believe, to ensure that, due regard shall be had to the opinion of the people living in the district.

That is an outline of the general character of the Bill. If your Lordships will be good enough to look at the Bill you will find that Clause 1 authorises the grant of licences for Sunday cinematograph entertainment on conditions. The first condition is that no person shall be employed more than six days in the week, and secondly—I am of course stating the matter broadly—that there shall be set aside such proportion of the estimated profits as the local authority sees fit to be devoted to charity. There is an excuse for employing a person on Sunday although he has worked on the previous six days, if the employment is due to an emergency, to meet a sudden mechanical breakdown or some unexpected and unforeseen contingency, provided that the person so employed gets another day's holiday later on.

In Clause 2 there is provision for the establishment of a fund called the Cinematograph Fund. Perhaps I ought to give your Lordships a short outline of the circumstances in which that clause came into existence. It was not in the Bill as originally introduced, but on the Committee stage Mr. Buchan introduced an Amendment which provided that a percentage of the profits should be devoted to a fund for a particular institute recommended to be set up by a Committee which was then on the eve of reporting. The Government did not think that the Amendment in the form in which Mr. Buchan moved it was one which could be accepted, but they undertook to consider the object in view and to introduce a clause on Report. That is now Clause 2. It was left to a free vote of the House of Commons and was carried. The effect of Clause 2 is that there shall be established under the direction and control of the Privy Council a Fund into which there shall be paid a certain per- centage, not exceeding five per cent. at the most, of the amount payable out of the profits to charities, and the money so paid is to be applied as the Privy Council may direct for the purpose of encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction.


What part of the Privy Council is to be called upon to make these directions?


The Fund will be handed over to the Privy Council as a whole, and the Lord President will act as my noble friend knows he acts in various other matters in connection with the Committee over which he presides. Clause 3 makes provision with regard to musical entertainments. Power is given to the licensing authority in any area to allow musical entertainments on Sundays and to attach special conditions in respect of such Sunday entertainments. Clause 4 provides that those who open places of entertainment in accordance with the provisions of Clauses 1 and 3 shall not be infringing the Sunday Observance Acts, and Clause 5 is a definition clause which makes clear what meaning exactly is to be attached to the phrases used in the Bill.

In the Schedule are the powers which I indicated to your Lordships regarding areas in which at present there are no cinemas open. Provision is made in the Schedule, that in the case of an urban district council there shall be a town meeting and a poll taken if necessary. In the case of rural areas, where obviously that procedure would be inapplicable, due advertisement and notice is to be given and power is given to any body of electors, either numbering one hundred or one-twentieth of the total number of electors, whichever is the smaller number, to raise an objection. If an objection is raised then an inquiry is to be held and the inspector holding the inquiry is to make a report as to which way public opinion goes in that particular locality. If the report is in favour of the grant of the power, and the Secretary of State thinks it right to make an order, that order has to be approved by an affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. In that way it is hoped that we shall retain in Parliament the power to supervise and control the extension of these Sunday entertainments and see that they are only introduced in new areas after due consideration of the wishes of the inhabitants and if Parliament sees fit.

I do not suggest than any compromise is going to prove completely satisfactory, but we believe that in this Bill we have reached a solution which is fair to both sides, and which having regard to the previous history of this thorny question, and especially having regard to the deep feelings—religious feelings and feelings of conviction—which it necessarily stirs up, is one which ought to commend itself to the great body of reasonable people on each side and which is worthy of the sanction of Parliament. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Hailsham.)


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount has given such a lucid explanation of the Bill that I hope he will not find it difficult to answer one or two points which appear difficult to some of us. The first is concerning Clause 1, from which it appears that the licensing authorities are granted power to specify the amounts of money which, when collected, will come into their hands—a certain percentage of the Cinematograph Fund and the rest of the money—and which they will then have to distribute among such charities as they think fit. A very great power is thereby put into their hands. The point on which I should like to have information is whether, supposing it was proposed that the amount that goes to the Cinematograph Fund should be altered or taken away altogether, that would be such an Amendment as would not be within the powers of this House and would be a privileged Amendment, making this Bill as far as the Cinematograph Fund goes almost watertight.

My second question is with regard to Clause 2. This Cinematograph Fund is to be handed over to the control and direction of the Privy Council. The Privy Council, of course, have a Committee for Research. Are they entitled under this Bill to spend part of that money on payments to experts or others? It is not likely that members of the Privy Council themselves will care to examine into this question of the development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction. Can they establish a board such as the B.B.C. appears to be and pay it out of this Fund, and under what control, for the purpose laid down in the Bill? There will also arise the question as to what kind of a board. Is it to be outside the industry or composed of members of the industry—experts, producers and exhibitors, and possibly artistes—to consider the question of what entertainment and instruction can be derived? Those are two points on which I should be glad of a little light. I am not saying anything about the great importance of this Bill from the point of view of the use of Sunday and how far it opens the door to a number of entertainments which it may be difficult to control.


My Lords, any question affecting Sunday in English life affects the physical, moral and spiritual welfare of the people so closely that I am bound to make some remarks upon the Bill now before your Lordships' House. Moreover, I think the great attention given to this matter in another place, and the very great interest which it has aroused throughout the country, rather demands that your Lordships should give the general principles which underlie the Bill some real consideration and that we should not at once proceed, like the noble Lord who has just spoken, to matters of detail which had better be treated when we reach the Committee stage. One thing is clear, and I think beyond controversy—that the Sunday Observance Act of 1780 can no longer be enforced, depending as it does on the obsolete procedure of the common informer. Indeed it is perhaps worth mentioning that an attempt to propose that the Act of 1780 should be retained, when brought before the National Assembly of the Church of England, found only four to support it out of a company, I suppose, of five or six hundred. The truth is that the mere fact that in many places that law has been completely ignored without challenge for many years proves the futility of keeping on the Statute Book laws which have in the process of time become obsolete and inefficient.

I am only going to speak about the Bill as it affects cinema entertainments. No doubt in this matter there is, as the noble and learned Viscount has admitted, a logical defect in the Bill. It seems very strange that more privilege should be given to places where the law has been ignored than to places where the law has been observed, and it is not my concern either to defend or to attack that obvious logical defect. It is enough that this Bill comes before your Lordships' House as a compromise, perhaps a characteristically English compromise, accepted both by those opposed to allowing any form of Sunday entertainment and those who not only would approve but welcome it.

I am well aware—how can I be otherwise?—that this proposed legalising of Sunday cinema entertainments, and the extension of the permission under certain conditions to places where these entertainments have not yet been given, arouses the very strongest misgivings and fears among those who care most for the religious character of our English Sunday. Your Lordships will not suppose that I am otherwise than full of sympathy with the motives of those who are thus deeply concerned. No one is more convinced than I am of the increasing value to the community of a quiet Sunday. It is perhaps necessary here to remark that there is no question of bringing in the restrictions of the Jewish Sabbath. I am not going to inflict on your Lordships a treatise as to the difference between the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday. There is no identity between them. They differ in many respects. They differ in the day observed, the seventh in the one case and the first in the other. They differ in respect of what they commemorate, the creation of the world in the one case and the resurrection of Our Lord in the other. They differ in the purpose for which they were instituted, the strict cessation of work in the one and the duty of the Christian body assembling for worship in the other. They differ as to the sanctions, as to the degree of authority behind them—in the one case a Divine commandment, in the other the institution of the Christian Church. It is no good confusing, as people often do, the Sabbath and the Sunday, but they have this great principle behind each of them: the principle, which we believe has a Divine sanction, that it is necessary for the good of mankind that there should be one day in seven kept as a day of rest, refreshment and recollection.

Never was there a time when there was more need of that principle being observed in our social life. The increasing haste and rush and hurry of modern life make it more and more essential that people should have one day at least when they can be quiet and have an opportunity of recovering their souls, for I need hardly remind your Lordships that a great poet has said: By the soul only is a nation great and free. If our Sunday is going to become, as it is, not merely not a day of rest, but a day of increasing rush and entertainment, I do not see how this nation is to possess its soul, and if it loses its soul it loses, apart from higher considerations, its capacity to meet the demands and sacrifices of this most anxious time.

On the question of keeping Sunday as a day of rest there is really no controversy and this Bill makes adequate provision to see that, if passed, no employee in a cinema house will be deprived of at least one day in seven of complete rest. That is, however, only cessation from work and Sunday loses its main value if it is not observed also as a day of remembrance and worship, that men may so pass through things temporal that they finally lose not the things eternal. I would with all my heart that all our people would attend some place of worship on Sunday, but the desire that our people should go to church is one thing and it is a very different thing to seek the achievement of that desire by preventing them from going elsewhere. I cannot approve of such a method. I do not think it serves the highest interests of religion. In my judgment those interests are best served by teaching the duty of assembling together for the public remembrance and witness to God by Christian people, and by making the services of religion so attractive and so full of the true spirit of fellowship and worship that men will be freely moved to attend them. In point of fact, I wonder whether there is any proof that the opening of these cinema houses does prevent people, if they so desire, assembling for public worship. It would be very interesting to know whether attendance in church or chapel is worse in London, where these entertainments have been customary for many years, than it is in other parts of the country. In any case let us look at the plain truth, which is this. People go to church because they want to go. They do not go because they do not want to go. If there be any who come because there is no other comfortable place that they can go to, I doubt whether their presence is an acceptable act of worship or of much use to themselves. As to others who do not want to go to church, in their case the alternative is not between the cinema and church, it is between the cinema and the public house or the street.

I know it is sometimes said: Why not let people enjoy a quiet evening at home? No doubt it is possible for us in this House to enjoy a quiet evening at home, if we are wise enough still to make use of it, but that is quite an irrelevant observation as regards the great majority of our people. How can those who are cribbed, cabined and confined in a single room, shared by the whole family, find rest or recreation there? Therefore it is that the older of them naturally find their way to the public house, and the younger of them to the street. In the street, if the weather is bad, they become wet and cold and miserable. I see no moral advantage to the community in that. If it is fine, they roam about and betake themselves to aimless loafing. Among the many sources of evil I believe a very high place must be given to Sunday loafing. There is hardly any form of healthy recreation that is not preferable to that. Therefore I find it very difficult, even in the interests of religion, to oppose the proposals which are legalised in this Bill. It seems to me that the real policy is to endeavour to secure that on Sundays, in these places of entertainment, the films produced are refined, educative, or at the very least whole-some.

I know it is said that it is very illogical to make these special requirements about performances on Sunday; that what is good on weekdays should be good on Sundays. I am not very much impressed by that argument. Sunday has, and I hope will continue to have, in this country, special traditions and associations of its own, and it seems to me most reasonable that the community, which under the Bill will have the right of determining whether and under what conditions licences for the opening of these houses shall be given, should use their opportunity to see that on Sundays at any rate the films produced are refining and not vulgarising, that they have some intrinsic merits of their own. I believe that in this matter the film producers have made a great mistake in estimating the taste of our people. We all know by experience that when our people can have it they prefer the best music to the most trivial. I believe that if our film producers had more courage they would find that our people preferred good films to the rotten ones, if they could only have them, and I believe that the provisions of this Bill, especially in regard to new districts which will desire to come under its operations, will give a very great opportunity to test and educate the public taste, and to stimulate the production of just that sort of film that we feel to be best, whether on Sundays or weekdays.

Under the Bill it is open to the proper authority to impose any conditions which it pleases, in addition to those specified in the Bill, and here is a great opportunity, for those who care that in this respect the special character of Sunday shall in some measure be retained, to influence public opinion, so that the local authorities may impose and require conditions securing that the cinema entertainment shall be of the most healthy and wholesome kind. I may mention, as an illustration within my own knowledge, that in the borough of Croydon special arrangements have been made for the establishment of a committee representing the religious communities, the members of the Borough Council, and the proprietors and managers of the cinema houses, and it has been agreed that no film shall be produced on Sunday which is not approved by that representative committee. There is every prospect of it working well. No doubt it might receive further assistance from any institute established by the Cinematograph Fund, as to the advantage of which I reserve any opinion until we reach the Committee stage.

That is an experiment in being, and I suggest that those who really care about our English Sunday would do well, especially in cases where public opinion is necessary before the Act can come into operation, to do everything possible to secure that a similar arrangement is made, or at least to see that the local authority makes it its business to see that a standard is set for films which will be useful to the whole community. Certainly it seems to me, in the circumstances of modern life, that the best way to keep what we can keep of the special character of our English Sunday is, so far as worship is concerned, to rely upon teaching, persuasion and example and not upon any direct or indirect compulsion; and so far as entertainment is concerned, to see that what is offered is as wholesome and helpful to body, mind and spirit as it can be. No doubt the Bill is capable of amendment. No doubt useful Amendments will be brought forward on the Committee stage. I have only been speaking of the principle which it seems to me ought to be in our minds when we consider this Bill on the Second Reading. I have great reluctance—how can it be otherwise?—to see any further inroads upon the quietness and sanctity of our English Sunday. When I look back upon my early days I am conscious of having received nothing but the greatest benefit from the old English Sunday, with its provision for the worship of the family, for quietude, friendship and reflection, and I naturally cannot view with enthusiasm anything which tends still further to draw the community away from these old and honourable traditions; but, accepting life as it is, and I believe in the truest interest of religion, as one who cares more than I am able to express for keeping all that is best in the traditions of our English Sunday, I am prepared to accept this Bill.


My Lords, there is one point of procedure on this Bill to which I think I should draw your attention as Chairman of Committees. If you turn to the Schedule on page 8 of the Bill you will see in paragraph 9 that there is a provision that orders under the Schedule shall not be deemed to be Special Orders for the purpose of the Standing Orders of either House of Parliament… I understand that this provision was included in the Schedule for the purpose of ensuring that draft orders under the Bill should not be subjected to the complicated procedure of the Special Orders Committee. I think that your Lordships would not wish to upset that arrangement, but it is also undesirable that a provision should be introduced into a Bill to regulate the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House, especially as there is a procedure which is quite well known to the House, whereby the same result can be obtained and which I think would be preferable to the one which is proposed in the Bill.

If you would look at Standing Order No. 212 you would see that Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act and Rules under the Government of India Act are exempted by the Standing Order itself from special Order procedure. I think it would be desirable that orders under this Bill should be dealt with in the same way. I believe that the Government are quite ready to accept this proposal, and if they would be good enough to bring forward an Amendment in Committee to delete from the Bill paragraph 9 of the Schedule I would, with your Lordships approval of course, undertake to move an Amendment to Standing Order No. 212 excluding from its operation draft orders under this Bill in the same way as Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act and Rules under the Government of India Act are exempted. If your Lordships would agree to that course I think it would be the best plan. It would follow precedent, and would not create a new precedent.


My Lords, it is necessary for me to say, first of all, that, as the noble and learned Viscount has explained, this is a non-Party measure, and that what I have to say represents my own opinions and not necessarily the opinions of those with whom I sit in your Lordships' House. I wish to say how greatly gratified I was at the speech of the most rev. Primate, and especially because he said many things which I should have wished personally to say, I need not therefore on those lines trouble your Lordships at any great length. We may, however, first of all acknowledge that this question does arouse the very greatest feeling in the minds of sincere and well-meaning people, and the first thing we have to do is to learn to respect the opinions of those from whom we may differ. I personally do not share what one may call Sabbatarian views, but I think I understand how sincerely they are held by those who feel bound by them. As I have thought about Sunday and the use of it, it has seemed to me that the Sabbath was made for man and was meant to serve a human purpose: it is our business in every generation to see that it serves the highest human purpose to which we can devote it. If we are to keep the Sabbath day holy we have to realise, as the most rev. Primate points out, the conditions under which we live, and none of us, whether he is a Sabbatarian or whatever he may be, can feel that the loafing around an East End public house, and the crowding into the noisy slums on a Sunday, contributes to keep that day holy as our fathers understood it.

I would wish to say one word on this point because I was for some years a member of the London County Council, and I sat on the Theatres and Music Halls Committee when this great question came up and important matters of administration had to be faced. We have in the County of London 117 square miles of streets, a wilderness of mean dwellings, where people are dreadfully overcrowded, and the result of that is that there is no privacy, distance cannot be maintained between human beings which permits of human dignity, and youths and maidens are thrust out of these small tenements into crowded streets under conditions which can bring them neither physical nor moral good. Therefore, in considering the use that is to be made of the Sabbath we have to consider the conditions under which these young people live. Let me say that those who take another view of this question from that which I take have done their very best to provide some alternative. The amount of devotion that has been put into the organisation of Sunday schools and churches and chapels, where wholesome conditions obtain and a warm welcome is given to young people, is beyond all praise. But to offer to young people a hospitality that they will not accept does not solve the problem, and therefore we have really before us just the alternative of allowing these young people to drift about the streets on Sunday nights, with the temptation of the public house always before them, or of meeting the conditions of our city life by agreeing that cinemas should be opened.

The Sabbatarian would of course wish that they should go to church, and the most rev. Primate has himself expressed a similar wish. May I also—whose orthodoxy is not above suspicion—say that I, too, believe that it would be an entirely good thing if everybody in the community could be persuaded to devote one hour at least per week to the consideration of the higher purposes of life? But the difficulty arises that, if people will not go, what are you to do? The Sabbatarian would say: "Do nothing." But doing nothing in this matter is really doing a very great deal. It is leaving these people exposed to moral, spiritual and physical dangers that I dare scarcely contemplate. I have only one further word to say on this aspect of the matter, though it is intensely interesting to me. It is this. I believe that we have reason to be proud of the growing sobriety of our young people in this country. It is one of the most hopeful things that we have to contemplate, and if you shut the cinema whilst you keep the public house open you are putting a temptation before these young people the magnitude of which I cannot sufficiently emphasise, and about which I am full of fear.

Passing to the details of the Bill, there is one matter of a semi-general nature first of all, that is in regard to Sunday labour. In my judgment the institution of one day's rest in seven would not necessarily be endangered by allowing recreation of this kind. One day s rest in seven is far too precious to mankind for that to happen, and if I may impart a Party note into this matter it is this. So far as its strength allows, organised labour in this country will see to it that one day's rest each week is provided for every worker in the country. I cannot enlarge upon that, but I feel it worth while to say that those of us who favour this Motion agree with preserving one day's rest in seven.

I wish to give this Bill my general support, with some reservations, because I think in some ways it is timid and it is inadequate. It is admitted we are an illogical people, but if Sunday recreation is right in London it ought to be right everywhere, in all its decent forms, and this Bill satisfies neither one side nor the other in that respect. I have the very greatest fear in regard to its provisions for new areas, believing that the result of them will be to stimulate local turmoil of a very unsatisfactory and dangerous character. I believe that at municipal elections civic issues will be submerged under this controversy, and we shall have exhibitions of the clash of temperaments which, for a moment, I will call mediæval on the one hand and modern on the other, but in any case between these opposite points of view, and that will be bad for the general tolerance of the community and it will be bad for the civic issues that are concerned.

There is another point, and that is in regard to theatres. It leaves the theatre problem entirely untouched. I would remind your Lordships that under present conditions what happens is that these cinemas are open, so that you are providing further good profits for Hollywood that it may continue to debase our language, and put before our people views of life which at least are not English, whilst another side of culture on Sunday is forbidden—that is to say, a young girl, or a young man, may go to the cinema and see a film "Her First Affair," but he or she may not go to a theatre to see Hamlet or the dignity and glory of Lear. Now the curse of piecemeal legislation of this kind is that we never get the subject off our hands. Therefore, at no distant time, there will be other claims, rightly made, for other departures, and over and over again this tiresome subject will be before us. One wishes that our love of compromise was really not so persistent as to make this always necessary.

A final word I would like to say in regard to the quality of films. The improvement of the film's tone is a crying necessity. As I pointed out to your Lordships a little time ago, at the time when I was Chairman of the Colonial Films Committee we had the very gravest apprehension as to the kind of film that was sent out into our Colonies and other places for people under the rule of the King in those places. But it is not less dangerous, or scarcely less dangerous, in London on a Sunday or any other night, and it seems to me—I believe the statement could be verified—that precisely because on Sunday there is no competition in the shape of higher forms of artistic presentation the cinema people put on the greatest rubbish they have on Sunday nights—that is, films of a lower quality than those they show on week-days. Therefore to that extent I am entirely favourable to increasing the quality of films that are to be shown.

Whether the five per cent. on the profits of this industry on a particular day is the right way to deal with the question must be reserved for discussion in Committee, but I do support that proposal in principle, because it represents a matter of very real significance. In the House of Commons a Tory Member of Parliament, supported by the National Government, advocated it. They feel it necessary to tell the Primrose League and the Mothers' Union about all the dangers of Socialism, but they here propose to take five per cent. of the profits of a particular industry for the higher needs of the nation. That is a most interesting proposal. I welcome it as a principle that has been too long delayed in legislation, and I shall wish to see it extended as quickly and as far as possible. But in spite of the limitations of this Bill and its obvious attempt at compromise, to the disadvantage I think of the subject in hand, I trust nevertheless the Bill will pass your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I am desirous as your Lordships are of proceeding as soon as possible to the important question of Indian affairs, and I will, therefore, confine what I have to say on the Second Reading of this Bill to a very few sentences. I rise solely for the purpose of expressing a view which is not generally held in this House but which is very strongly held in Wales. There is a strong opposition in Wales to the principle of this Bill. I know very well the circumstances under which some kind of legislation became necessary, and I also recognise that the Bill in its present form is a compromise, but the fact that it is a compromise in the form in which it is now presented to the House does not do away with the serious objection by the country which I particularly know and represent here, to the change which it will produce in regard to the conditions of Sunday in that country.

In one or two sentences let me summarise my case for the separate treatment of Wales in relation to this Bill. First of all there is a legislative precedent. This is not the first time that Wales has asked for separate treatment. Many noble Lords in this House will remember one or two cases in point. There is the Welsh Sunday Closing Act of 1881, which I cannot but take a special personal interest in. It is a long time ago, and it happens that. I heard a speech as a boy sitting under a gallery in the other place upon the Second Reading of that Bill, made by the late Mr. Gladstone, who was then Prime Minister. He put my case so well that I will quote just one sentence. Mr. Gladstone said: Wales is after all a country with a people of its own, with a language of its own, with a tradition of its own, and especially with religious feelings and associations of its own. Although that is a long time ago I can assure your Lordships' House that there has been no change in that respect. Then there is another precedent for separate legislation to be found in the Welsh Intermediate Education Act setting up a system of secondary education for Wales and Monmouthshire. In a variety of ways the claim of Wales for special treatment, having regard to its particular conditions and circumstances, has been recognised by Parliament. The point I wish to urge this afternoon is that the House should at all events give sympathetic and, I hope, favourable consideration to the claim which will be made on the Committee stage for the exemption of Wales from Clause 1 of the Bill.

The present state of feeling in regard to the Bill has been very forcibly expressed in another place by the Parliamentary representatives of Wales. When the Bill was introduced in its first form five Welsh members voted for it and twenty-five against. In a Division on the Welsh Amendment to the present Bill eighteen Welsh representatives voted for the Amendment and only two against. I, and everybody else connected with Wales, have received a great number of letters and resolutions on this subject, and I may say after a somewhat long experience of Welsh public life I have not the least difficulty in believing the genuineness of the feeling which has been expressed against this Bill. I know, as the most rev. Primate has already stated, that a great change has come over the attitude of the country generally in regard to Sunday observance. I am not going to criticise in any way the development which has taken place, but I venture to submit to your Lordships that when you have a portion of the country like Wales, where the people have very deep feelings and entertain strong convictions as to what is right in accordance with their conception of the claims of the Sabbath upon thought and conduct, it is only right that this House should favourably consider the request made that from this par- ticular legislation Wales should be exempted. For that reason when we reach the Committee stage I propose to move an Amendment exempting Wales and Monmouthshire from the operations of Clause 1.


My Lords, I was not in the House when my noble friend Lord Askwith spoke, but I understand that he expressed some doubt as to the value of the Cinematograph Fund that is being created by this Bill. I think it ought to be omitted altogether. It cannot be a vital part of the Bill, because after very lengthy proceedings in another place it was only thought of in the last stages of the Bill. One must imagine that owing to the many difficulties which the Government have had in connection with this Bill they have introduced this provision for setting up a Cinematograph Fund in order to make this Bill more palatable. I think it is a great mistake. It is very vague. No one knows how much money will be allotted to the Fund, and it is left to a very nebulous body. It seems to me to be a bad innovation to try to make a measure palatable—a measure which deals with illegalities—by taking away some of the profits of the industry concerned. I do not see why it should stop there. Why not have horse-racing on Sunday and say that a portion of the takings should be devoted to putting racing on a better footing? If it is necessary to have such a Fund as this then it ought to be provided in a proper way. It may be a good thing or not, but if it is good the Fund ought not to be dependent on Sunday takings. I trust the Government will see fit to drop the clause.


My Lords, I do not think the Government can possibly complain of the tone of the debate or of the way in which this measure has been received by your Lordships' House. I hope I shall not in any way seem to be derogating from the merits of the other contributions to the discussion if I venture to say how specially grateful we are to the most rev. Primate, not only for the general approval which he was able to give to the Bill, but more particularly for the high level to which he raised the debate. Most of the criticisms directed against the Bill by other speakers were, I think, on points of detail, and I will say only a few words on those points because we shall more appropriately discuss them in Committee.

My noble friend Lord Askwith asked two questions. He asked first, as I understand, whether an Amendment dealing with Clause 1 (1) (b) as to the allocation of profits would come within the rules of Privilege. It is not because I wish to shirk answering the question, but because the subject of Privilege is such a very delicate one and one which it is undesirable to generalise about, that I reply that I would prefer to see the actual Amendment before expressing an opinion as to whether or not it infringes Privilege. Then he asked with regard to Clause 2 whether the Privy Council could set up a body analogous to the British Broadcasting Corporation and pay salaries out of the Fund. I speak without having had the specific point brought to my attention before my noble friend spoke, but I think the answer would be that they could not do anything of the kind. I do not think there is any power to set up a corporation of that kind or to delegate to a special body the powers entrusted to the Privy Council. I think the answer would be "No," but I will have the matter looked into. Then he asked what control there would be over the Fund set up in Clause 2. The answer to that is to be found in Clause 2 (3), which provides that there is to be an annual audit and that the report of the auditor is to be laid before Parliament. Therefore Parliament retains the right to see that the money is properly expended and to criticise the responsible Minister if that wish is disregarded.

My noble friend the Earl of Onslow raised a point about paragraph 9 of the Schedule. You will see from the wording of that paragraph that the Government were very anxious not even to seem to interfere with the right of either House of Parliament to regulate its own business in its own way, because whereas it is provided that no order laid before Parliament shall be deemed, for the purposes of the Standing Orders of either House of Parliament, to be a Special Order, it went on to say, unless that House, by Order made after the passing of this Act, directs that such orders shall be deemed to be Special Orders. Therefore we have been careful to leave it to each House of Parliament to decide how its own affairs should be conducted. But I think the wishes and authority of the noble Earl the Lord Chairman would have very great weight and if, as I gather, the noble Earl thinks that the method he suggests is the more satisfactory, I am sure we shall be able to find means of giving effect to his wishes.

The noble Lord, Lord Snell, and the noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, took two opposite views. One said that we do not go nearly far enough and the other that we are going much too far. One said "Put in theatres" and the other "Put out Wales." The fact that we have not completely satisfied both sides shows, I think, that at any rate our compromise is not one-sided. For myself, and I speak here for myself and not for the Government, I should have been very sorry to see the opening of theatres included, but it is sufficient to say, from the point of view of the compromise, that I think it would have raised very acute controversy. The suggestion was heavily defeated in the last Parliament in the Standing Committee. It would also be an innovation, whereas what we are trying to do is to preserve a practice which has grown up. I cannot agree with the suggestion that because there are no theatres open on Sunday, and people who like the high-class theatre entertainment are therefore driven to the cinema, the cinema would for that reason be induced to run a lower class of entertainment. I should have thought the exact opposite would be the logical result of the argument, because the cinemas would have to cater for the class of customer who was driven from the theatre and therefore would be likely to attempt to approximate as nearly as they could to the high level which the noble Lord thinks the theatres nearly always attain.

The noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, says that Wales ought to be excluded and he pointed out that there are precedents in legislation for such an exclusion. All the noble Lord asked me to do was to consider the matter on the Committee stage and of course I will consider any Amendment which may be brought forward very carefully, but I hope my noble friend will not think me unreasonable if I say that he will have to find a stronger argument or one which more persuades my mind, than the suggestion that Wales has sometimes been exempted from legis- lation in the past and therefore we ought to exempt her in the present. As to the suggestion that the people of Wales are going strongly to object to this legislation and object to the sort of Sunday which, I suppose, he fears that this legislation may legalise, I think there is no area so far as Wales is concerned which will be allowed to open cinemas at present because I do not think there is any area in which they are at present open; and it seems hard lines on the people of Wales, if in the future they should desire to make a change in the direction of opening a theatre in any district, that they should be compelled to proceed by the cumbersome procedure of a Private Bill instead of under the more simple procedure of this Bill, which is specially designed for ensuring that the people of the district shall have their way in the decision whether or not any such legislation shall take place or any such area be included. I will of course consider the matter in Committee, but there will be those points for my noble friend to consider when we come to the Amendment which he suggests.

With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, who reinforced what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Askwith, about the Privy Council Fund, it is true that it did not appear in the Bill in its original shape. It was not introduced as a sop to try to persuade the House of Commons, because the question was left to the free vote of the House of Commons, and it is not quite true to say that you are taxing the industry because the Fund is established out of the sum the local authority has already taken from the industry by setting it aside for charitable purposes and the like. It is a sum therefore which in no event would go into the pockets of the industry. I am glad to hear that the standard of cinema displays, on which the noble Lord is much more an authority than I can pretend to be, is so much higher now than it used to be, but perhaps it may be that there is still room for improvement and that such a Fund may serve a very useful purpose. However, these are matters we can debate later on in the week in Committee. For the moment I can only thank your Lordships for the reception you have given to the measure.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.