HL Deb 17 March 1965 vol 264 cc344-68

2.44 p.m.

LORD ST. OSWALD rose to call attention to the Crathorne Report [Cmnd. 2528]; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of the distinguished list of speakers who will be following me this afternoon, I cannot feel called upon for a very lengthy or comprehensive speech, and still less any pretence of a policy speech. Indeed, since it is almost un thinkable that Party Whips would ever he applied to such a theme, in whatever form it might be debated, I feel there is nothing incongruous in saying, even from this Dispatch Box, that I am speaking for myself, and should not expect any of my noble friends to be tied or inhibited by any views I may put forward. I am, in fact, as so often has been the case before, providing an innocuous and uncomplaining target. It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who will be winding up this debate with his usual ability, will take less advantage of this target than some others.

When this matter of Sunday observance was debated only nine months ago in another place, on the Motion for the Second Reading of a Private Member's Bill, my honourable friend, then speaking as Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Office, took a properly cautious line. He said that action on the Bill was a matter of conscience and private judgment in which it was for each Member to decide for himself, and that, in the view of the then Government, it would he both discourteous and improper for them, in advance of publication of the Crathorne Committee's Report, to take up a definitive attitude towards Sunday observance generally.

The Crathorne Committee's Report has now been published, and no doubt has been read by all those noble Lords who are taking part to-day, and is likelyto be extensively quoted. I am in the happy position of being the first in this debate to pay verbal tribute to my noble friend Lord Crathorne, who with this Report has added yet another page to his long chronicle of public service. No doubt many compliments will be paid this afternoon to him and to the other members of his Committee. We know what a controversial subject this can be, provoking views ardently held and expressed, by thoughtful people, deeply concerned in one direction or another.

In this climate, the Committee were not content to produce a purely anodyne Report. Their recommendations are positive and even bold, yet tactfully andunderstandingly stated, and commanding respect even among those who may disagree. Plainly, anyone taking an interest in the social wellbeing and the dignity of his countrymen is bound to have views of some kind on this subject. These views are likely to be as varied and as well expressed within your Lordships' House as anywhere in the country. It therefore seems quite proper, and not surprising, that we are having a Lords' day on The Lord's Day. This, of course, is only one form of title, in the terminology of the Christian Church, for describing a need of which all communities, including the most primitive, are conscious.

What has become very clear over the centuries is that to the individual, thinking Christian, the interpretation of the purpose of this day and what it requires of himself or herself has differed greatly, as it differs now. It is certainly not for me to be didactic, and in the presence of my own most reverend Primate in the North, and of so many right reverend Prelates, it would indeed become me iller than ever. It seems to me that if individual observance of the Lord's Day is to have true meaning, it must be compounded of instinct and common sense, as well as a personal sense of fitness, sincerely held.

None of these inner directives can be imposed from outside on the mind of the individual. Two of them can be put into his or her mind for consideration, but the willingness with which, in the event, certain things are done and others are left undone must be the consequence of personal judgments, not of rigid discipline. I have not submitted this point of view, as such, even to my own Bishop, for whom I have the greatest fondness and respect, and it may be that I shall be reproved by one or two of his brother Bishops during the course of this afternoon's debate. Polarising these three inducements through my unimportant self, I find that when I go to church on Sunday I feel the better for it. When I fail to go, without an adequate reason, I feel something is lacking, without being told so by somebody else. This, I concede, makes my attendance sound almost like a self-indulgence or self-protection, but I hope that it is not an especially wicked or corrupting form of self-indulgence.

Both teaching and temperament go into each personal attitude. I am fortunate that my temperament and teaching received are able to harmonise in my own attitude. I was warned long ago, for instance, not to confuse the Jewish Sabbath with the Christian Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is consciously rooted in the Fourth Commandment: Six days shalt thou labour. and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: This allows in practice very little latitude to a devout orthodox Jew. He cannot, for example, travel more than a Sabbath Day's journey; and a Sabbath Day's journey was the distance between the ark and the extreme end of the camp, amounting to 2,000 cubits, or a little short of an English mile.

The Christian Sunday, according to my instructors over the years, has a completely different and contrasting origin. Whereas the Jews, according to the Commandment, took the seventh day of the week for their purpose, rest and meditation, the Christian Churches have taken Sunday, the first day of the week, as the day of weekly remembrance of our Lord's Resurrection. This implies to most Christians, I believe, a day of gratitude and rejoicing rather than of discipline or repentance and abnegation. This interpretation I have always taken to be reflected in the present period of Lent. The period lasts not 40 days and 40 nights, but 46, because on the Sundays during Lent, the days of gratitude and rejoicing, fasting is not required.

Most of us, I believe, feel that throughout the year this gratitude should be expressed in some formal and intimate way, by going to Church, and to such of us this brings the satisfaction that I have tried to describe. Naturally, at this point I am watching the Bishops' Bench, with some apprehension, for any sign of clerical remonstrance. I certainly may appear to be taking a great deal on myself, and as a layman I am prepared to be told so. For that reason I should be grateful to hear later in the debate, if I am out of step regarding the purpose of the Christian Sunday as a day of recreation, in the sense of re-creation. On that day, we re-create our energies for the week ahead.

As we are a highly individualistic people, our methods of recreation are very varied, and to me it would appear logical that any attempt to limit this means to a kind of approved table of activities would be contradictory to the Christian purpose. There are clearly distasteful and even evil practices which cannot be classed, within this meaning, as recreation. The boldest thing I am going to say this afternoon is that to my mind if an activity is wrong on Sundays, it is wrong on other days as well; if it is right on a weekday then it is right on Sundays as well. In a sense at least, in the context of entertainment, this attitude appears in paragraph 38 of the Report which we are discussing. The thing that none of us would wish to encourage, by greater freedom of activity, is any abuse of the Lord's Day or any abuse of religious practice.

The noble Earl the Leader of the House has been the centre of recent controversy, stemming from certain words he uttered in your Lordships' House not long ago. My eye was caught by two letters in the Daily Telegraph last week, one from an Anglican Minister and the other from an Anglican layman, taking completely opposite attitudes to the complaint of the noble Earl concerning a B.B.C. sketch which gave him offence. The clergyman in this case among the letter writers supported the noble Earl in his indignation, while the other writer was, in his own words, "astounded by the outery" of those who had supported the noble Earl. I do not know whether anything I can say could increase his astonishment, but I thought the noble Earl's words, which I did not hear but which I afterwards read, were pertinent and well deserved.

The counter-argument contained in the letter was that it was all right to "poke fun" at Christianity in general, or at certain Churches in particular, and that it was a sign of weakness for any Church or institution to mind being made fun of. My Lords, poking fun is one thing; crude and offensive misrepresentation is another. The further argument appeared to he that, because the Anglican Church and other denominations had been repeatedly lampooned in this programme and its predecessor, the Roman Catholic Church should not have remonstrated through the mouth of the noble Earl, or in any other way. The noble Earl was speaking personally at that moment. I am very ready to join him personally on this particular point to-day. I cannot recognise any obligation to silence under this form of abuse.

This spotlights the whole question of Sunday broadcasting, which was excluded from the Committee's terms of reference, but which inevitably impinges upon most of the matters described in Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9, creating anomalies which we, I think, in this debate cannot leave entirely out of account. Here, I also think, honesty demands that I should speak on a sharper note of criticism. There is no doubt that certain Sunday broadcast programmes give offence to a great number of people—I should think the great majority of people. One of the purposes of the B.B.C. monopoly was the maintenance of high standards, including high standards of taste. In preparation for a most rumbustious and satisfying debate on broadcasting some years ago, which some noble Lords present may remember, I had a long discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and there was no doubt in his mind that standards of taste had been among his most important responsibilities as the founder of the B.B.C.

It would be very hard to claim to-day that those standards applied, and, indeed, Sunday all too often seems to be made an opportunity for vulgarity in some instances. I therefore say, didactically as it may be, that whatever the freedom of activity or manifestation that may flow from this Report, there should be nothing "sick" about Sunday. "Sick" humour and "sick" so-called satire should have no place in this essentially different day. In fact, among the many misnomers of the day, the claim of the purveyors of modern satire seems to me to be about the furthest fetched. In the Oxford Dictionary satire is described as: a poem or prose composition in which prevailing vices or follies are held up to ridicule". So defined, I should have thought it was the very contradiction of true satire to have to invent evils and follies which do not exist. I have not dragged in this contention simply for the sake of airing a one-sided point of view. In so far as it has force, it suggests to me that the best way of avoiding true satire is to offer no target in the form of evil or folly or anomaly. The Crathorne Report depicts the present legislation regarding Lord's Day observance as anomalous and anachronistic in several respects. I suggest that it will be to the advantage of Christianity as a force, and to the country as a whole, to correct this state of affairs.

In all that I have said so far, I have spoken consciously as if only the Christian attitude to the Lord's Day, and only my own interpretation of it, need prevail. My purpose is not so arrogant; if it were, it would provoke justified attack from a good many quarters. All the same, I find it quite beyond my own legislative imagination to visualise any form of law-making which could soothe the susceptibilities and satisfy the conscience of every religion without bringing the life of the country almost to a halt. To consider only some of the religions numerically most significant in this country to-day, Christians have been assigned Sunday as their day of rest and devotion; the Orthodox Jews have Friday night to Saturday night; and the Moslems have Friday. The religious obligations of both these latter religions are ignored by our present legislation, and I doubt very much whether any complete answer of their problem can be found.

What certain noble Lords will doubtless and properly emphasise is the physical and mental requirement, without reference to religious instruction, of a periodic break in the working effort. The Greek geographer Strabo, writing at about the time of Christ, declared: The Greeks and the Barbarians have this in common, that they accompany their sacred rites by a festal remission of labour. In fact, as a much later writer has observed, in the advance of civilisation, most festivals are celebrated as holidays. when men give up secular occupations and devote themselves to religious exercises and relaxation. Festivals, in consequence, assume with advancing culture a great significance from the economic and sociological standpoint. For the peasant and the artisan they provide welcome relief from physical exertion, and for all ranks of society their pageants and processions, their games, feasts and merry-makings give an outlet to the play instincts of mankind. We must not conclude, however, that the remission of labour accompanying a festival has always been dictated by practical and non-superstitious considerations. In some fairly rude communities abstinence from work is a part of the regular procedure for facing a crisis and the spiritual dangers supposed to characterise such an occasion. The rest is a measure of protection and propitiation, quite as much as the fasts, the sacrifices, and the prayers by which it may be attended. Where ideas of this nature prevail, all labour becomes tabu.

In the light of this ancient and continuing evidence, the concept of work or expense of energy being forbidden on particular days may be seen as a throwback to pagan and even primitive law and not of either Jewish or Christian invention. Indeed, much later, the Christian missionaries in various parts of the world discovered that the Lord's Day regulations they introduced among the converted presented no sharp contrast to the rigours of the old discipline. In Hawaii, for instance, the natives even called Sunday la Tabu, "the tabooed day". No food was cooked on that day, the meals being all prepared on the previous Saturday; no fires were kindled, and no canoes paddled. The people neither fished nor tilled the soil; and, if on a journey, they halted until the sacred day was over. In Tahiti, also, the Sunday rest was rigidly maintained. On that day no canoes were launched and no person was seen abroad except on the road to church or when returning from Divine Service. The success of the missionaries in introducing this strict observance of Sunday was, according to one of them, owed in great degree to its analogy to the taboo days of heathen times.

Other religions to-day try to coordinate this need with the natural, seasonal phenomena of their region. The rainy season has always been the traditional time for teaching and meditation in Buddhist lands. As it is not possible to work in the rice-fields then, many laymen, especially in Burma and Thailand, retire to the monastries for a period, where they live abstemiously and meditate. Plays, in which the Burmese delight, are not allowed at this season. At the end of the rains, when gifts are brought to the monks, the pagodas are full of flowers and incense by day and of light by night.

Self-evidently, as humanity tends to work under greater pressure and against increasing competition, the requirement for physical rest, so long recognised, becomes of even greater importance. This importance has been recognised in a great deal of our recent legislation, and it is recognised throughout the Crathorne Report—in Part IV, in particular. In fact, paragraphs 57 to 60, read in conjunction with paragraphs 37 and 38, tie together the ancient and the up-to-date conceptions. The central message of the whole Report, as I read it, could be described as the conviction that a day of change from normal working activities is essential for the normal citizen: it must be provided, but it cannot be forced upon him against his will; and above all its precise form cannot be dictated either by Church or Government.

I find myself, for what it is worth, in complete harmony with this view. But in saying this I think I ought to make it very plain that I should deeply regret and energetically oppose any future legislation which might obscure or restrict the value which religion can contribute to this day of rest, however the day may be named. My theme is, in fact: the more voluntary the more valuable. To anchor Christian religious observance rigidly to those tablets of stone delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai (as related in the Book of Exodus) is unproductive and misconceived. The origin can be found, separately and contrastingly, in verse 19 of the Twentieth Chapter of St. John's Gospel: The the same day at evening, being the first day of the week. when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them. Peace be unto you. This is the message of hope and uplift which echoes in every Christian Church on the first day of the week, from which those gathered together go out, replenished and full of joy, to their own pursuits and further re-creation, preparing themselves for the coming week.

My Lords, none of this is to decry or belittle the value which other religions obtain from their own respective, and respected, versions of what we call the Lord's Day. But they have the same problems as are discussed in the Crathorne Report. They are living in the same world in the same century. A lot is said about the decay of Christian faith in our day, and it is gloomily pointed out as either a cause or a symptom of our decline as a nation. Since I do not believe in that decline, I reject the cause and the symptom. It is an interesting reflection, for instance, that in 1825 those attending Communion at St. Paul's Cathedral on Easter Morning numbered no more than two or three dozen. I do not know what they will number in 32 days' time, on Easter Sunday, 1965, but the total will be more impressive than that.

My Lords, whatever problems the Christian Churches may have to-day, they are not in isolation. As part of my researches for this afternoon, I was interested to know how the Jewish Church in Israel coped, in the latter half of the twentieth century, in the matter, for instance, of entertainment on the Sabbath. I inquired of a close friend of mine, who is also a world-famous musician, whether he had any evidence that might assist me. He told me without hesitation that in Jerusalem it is not permitted to play a harmonica on Friday night, when the Sabbath begins; in Tel Aviv it is permitted to play a harmonica but not for a fee; in Haifa the performer may perform and receive a fee only for the entertainment of the armed forces; whereas in Beer Sheba he can play and receive a fee before any kind of audience. So it seems likely that any Israeli Crathorne Committee would have found at least as many anomalies as were found by the Committee of my noble friend in this country, and perhaps as might be found in Christendom as a whole.

It is notable that in the country where the Christian Church is politically most powerful—that is, in Spain—the bans on gaiety and entertainment of one kind and another are virtually indiscernible, though it is assumed that those enjoying themselves will have been to Church first. Perhaps I might at this late moment inject a little continental colour into what has been a fairly colourless speech, and tell your Lordships about Los Seises. The Seises are groups of six young choristers, in the magnificent Cathedral of Seville, who perform, I am told, the only dancing permitted anywhere before a Christian altar. Nobody is quite certain how far this tradition goes back, but they perform on four set days of the year—the only one I can remember being Corpus Christi—and their performance includes the playing of castanets and flamenco singing.

At some time at the end of the seventeenth century this performance was prohibited by the reigning Pope—a ban which so appalled the entire population of Seville that a huge delegation went to plead with the Pope in Rome, taking the Seises with them so that the Pontiff himself might appreciate the charm and importance of this tradition. The Pope was moved to the extent of seeking and finding a compromise. He ordered that the tradition could continue until the existing costumes wore out. Since then, the costumes which he saw and approved have been patched and restored an unrecorded number of times but never completely replaced, so that the Seises still continue to play their picturesque part in the religious life of Seville.

My Lords, in drawing attention to the Crathorne Report I appear to have wandered pretty far and mentioned the Report itself relatively seldom; but so lucidly and confidently does it speak for itself, that a detailed commentary in opening might well have seemed impertinent. My noble friend Lord Derwent will deal with more of the detail. The Report's recommendations are, in my submission, bold and contemporary. I have seen it attacked in some ways which I consider out of date and misconceived. Yesterday I deleted from my speech the counter-attacks I might have made had I been somewhat lower down the speakers' list.

I am firmly persuaded that the findings have far more supporters than detractors. I have in the past week or two made a point of asking young people about their attitude to the problem reviewed. In fact, I discussed it during most of an aircraft journey last week with a young, attractive and, at 33,000 feet, helplessly captive neighbour, whose attitude, after some initial surprise, was considered and clear and responsible. My noble friend would have found her a useful, lively and like-minded member of his Committee, had she served upon it. I hope that he has himself found that his recommendations coincide closely with the feelings of the rising and thoughtful generation. As I have indicated, they do not conflict in any way with mine.

While sitting in church last Sunday I read this cheerful verse in Hymns Ancient and Modern: Around the Throne of God a band Of glorious Angels ever stand; Bright things they see, sweet harps they hold, And on their heads are crowns of gold". This describes pleasingly to me a typical Sunday in Heaven. My own feeling is that, with such wits and materials as we possess here below, we should get as close to that as we can. I believe that the Report before us to-day will be a help. Those of us who reach there may then receive less of a blinding shock upon arrival. No doubt every noble Lord present has a better chance than I. None the less, I beg to move for Papers.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I would add my tribute of gratitude to that which has already been paid by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, who has spoken in introducing the debate, for the whole spirit which pervades this Report. I am sure that the right reverend Prelates who sit behind me would award the noble Lord an alpha-plus for his theological and classical insight, arguments and allusions. I welcome the case for the whole man which has obviously motivated the drawing up of this Report, and I welcome, as indeed the vast majority of Churchmen would, the desire to eliminate from the Statute Book anomalies and anachronisms in legislation which only bring the matter of Sunday observance into ridicule. It is clear to my mind that those who served on this Departmental Committee had in mind that we must work for such conditions as will allow men and women to have not a Sunday which is drab and boring but one which provides for recreation—and I note, in passing, Lord St. Oswald's correct hyphen in that word—of body, mind and spirit for refreshment and renewal of the whole person. Such a day once a week is a very important factor—I would say it is a vital factor—in the growth of men and women. Everyone has a right to avail himself of this and work must be so organised as to make this possible of achievement.

The terms of reference before the Departmental Committee were so framed as to exclude any allusions to those who do shift work in factories. That exclusion seems to me to be a great pity, for a vast number of our people are engaged in this kind of work, as I well know from visits to factories in my own diocese. In such centres as Hull and Middlesbrough there are factories, as noble Lords are well aware, which, by the very nature of the work they have to do, can never close, whose machines must never stop except for repair. This, with its burden of human labour, is part of the cost of our highly developed civilisation. But this means that the right of the worker for a day of rest and, in particular, the right of the worker for the opportunity to worship if he wishes to do so, must be zealously guarded. If work is so planned that, say, once in four Sundays a factory worker is entirely free, and on the other three Sundays it is a matter of much difficulty for him to go to church, there is something wrong with the planning. The Committee have omitted to deal with this matter (it was outside their terms of reference), but I am pointing to a matter of some urgency which is closely allied to the matters with which this Report deals.

To preserve Sunday as a day of comparative quiet in an age becoming increasingly noisy, to make Sunday observance easier rather than more difficult, to cut down those organised entertainments or recreations or unnecessary forms of work which make heavy demands on the labour of others—these things, it seems to me, are not to impose on a society only partially Christian an unwanted burden of Christian legislation; they are, on the other hand, to preserve the right of all men to the enjoyment of a day meant for the well-being of all whether they call themselves Christian or no.

It is for this reason that I question the wisdom of the third recommendation of the Committee and agree with the limited dissent of one member. To retain a prohibition on public performances, stage plays, variety and dancing, where a charge of admission is made and where the performers are professionals, would be to relieve many from the pressures of work on Sunday. To remove that prohibition, as the recommendation suggests, would be to involve an unnecessarily large number in Sunday work and would, I think, be a retrograde step. The witnesses, so the Report tells us, regarded it as undesirable as a matter of social policy to make changes that would result in or encourage a substantial increase in the number of people who had to work on Sunday. And I underline, as the Report did not, "as a matter of social policy." Here is enunciated a principle of great importance, and I suspect that Recommendation 3 would contravene that wise judgment and should therefore be resisted.

There is one other small point which may have a greater significance than would at first appear. The recommendation that places of entertainment should open at 12.30 rather than at 2 p.m. or thereabouts on Sundays would do something to break up still further that strong family life which is at the heart of our national life. Sunday mid-day dinner is still for many tens of thousands a family bond of great sociological signifiance, and I should regret to see that bond in any way loosened. I believe that the putting forward of that hour of opening would go a certain way towards breaking down this sociologically significant meal and family gathering. I will not labour the point, but I would ask that another look might be given to the matter of opening hours in the middle of our English Sunday.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord St. Oswald for introducing this Motion, although there was what I thought to be a moment of pride in his speech which I should like to deflate. I thought he claimed—and was proud of the fact, naturally—that he was the one person here whose Bishop was the most reverend Primate. May I say that that is not the case. He is also my Bishop. I should like also to express my admiration to my noble friend Lord Crathorne and his Committee for their Report. It seems to me that, of all the various reports of committees that we read, it is the most pleasingly down to earth; there does not appear to be any humbug about it. There have been certain criticisms outside this House that it was perhaps a little unadventurous, that it does not go far enough; but in my view, if it were much more adventurous or went much further it would create considerable resistance; whereas in its present form it gives an outline of the sort of thing that I think we ought to do. I hope to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, when he comes to reply, that Her Majesty's Government are preparing, or perhaps have prepared, some appropriate legislation to bring some of these recommendations into force.

It seems to me that the Committee, before they wrote their Report—whatever they may have thought before they started to sit—came to four main conclusions about Sunday: first of all, that it was a day of religious worship, and that so far as possible nothing must be done to interfere with that religious worship. In that connection, may I say that I personally agree with the most reverend Primate that it is probably rather early to allow these extraneous matters to start at 12.30. Not only would it interrupt the Sunday dinner, but it might well interfere with certain Church services. Speaking for myself, I should like to see the time laid down 1.30 or 2 p.m., instead of 12.30.

The second matter that the Committee appeared to have in mind is that Sunday is a day of rest. First of all, it is a day on which a minimum number of people should be employed, and, secondly, a day on which there should be adequate quiet for those resting. I think the Committee have met both these points very satisfactorily in their recommendations. The third matter they appeared to have had in mind is that Sunday is, by tradition and custom, a family day. It may well be the only day of the week on which the family can be together, and we should not do too much or go too far in making it difficult for families to be together on that day. It should be a day on which families should be able to take their recreation together. Lastly, the Committee clearly had in mind that Sunday is a day when people who like playing organised games of any kind should be able to do so, because it is not always possible, owing to work, to play organised games on other days of the week, even on Saturdays. I suggest that these are the four considerations the Committee had in mind when writing their Report.

I should like to deal with a number of details, rather as if this were a Committee stage. This is somewhat unusual in a debate of this sort, but as the Government, I hope, are preparing legislation I think that points of this kind should be brought forward now, even if they are small ones. The recommendations of the Committee, which your Lordships will find on pages 64 to 66 of the Report, are under three general headings. Recommendations 1 to 9 are under "Entertainments and Sports". With the exception of paragraph 3, with which I will deal later, I agree entirely with these recommendations and will not go further into them. And I am not going into Recommendations 27 to 29, which come under the heading of "Conditions of Sunday Employment", because other noble Lords will be dealing with that matter.

But I should like to say a word or two about Sunday trading. I think that the Committee have taken a commonsense view of these matters, but I would mention one or two specifically. The first one is Recommendation No. 12, which deals with vending machines. In times past, we have had a good deal of discussion about vending machines. These machines, both in nature and number, are spreading very rapidly, and consideration will have to be given to this aspect in framing new regulations. I mention this point because it is something of which we must not lose sight.

In Recommendation No. 14 the Committee say, in my view rightly, that launderettes should remain open on Sunday. They serve a great social need and they do not involve much employment—indeed, I believe that they can be run without anyone present. But in this regard I would bring to the attention of the Government a recent legal case, that of Ilford Corporation v.Betterclean (Seven Kings) Limited. I am not a lawyer, but I am advised that the decision of the Court in this case raised much wider implications. The effect of the judgment was that launderettes could open on Sundays because they were a service. This raises the question of whether other services should be open on Sundays—for instance, theatre ticket agencies or travel agencies—and I would bring this matter to the attention of the Government as something which ought to be watched.

Recommendation No. 19 says: Any local authority should have power to make an order, in respect of the whole or part of its area, allowing shops to open on such number of Sundays as the authority specify for the sale of any or all of the following items … and it specifies, among other things, "souvenirs and fancy goods". This is a matter about which the inspectors under the Shops Act have had considerable difficulty, because it is possible to wrap up almost anything in a cellophane cover on which is written "Souvenir from Scarborough"—I may as well have a local advertisement!—and I gather that there is considerable doubt as to whether this is within the law. So, as I say, this matter ought to be watched very carefully.

The final thing I want to mention is about Sunday opening. Recommendation No. 26 says: … the hour of evening closing on Sunday should follow the same requirement as for weekdays other than the early closing or the late day". With that recommendation I entirely agree, but I am a little concerned about one matter, again on behalf of the inspectors under the Shops Act. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will be able to give me an answer on this point. Paragraph 204 of the Report says: The evening closing hours fixed by the Shops Act do not apply to Sunday; most shops that can legally open on Sunday may keep open in the evening without limit of time… In my submission, that has never been the case, although the Committee state so.

After the 1936 Act (the later Act was a consolidation measure), a memorandum of guidance was issued by the Home Office to local authorities and shops, which said exactly the opposite. The memorandum says: A shop which is already exempt from the provisions of the Act as to closing on Sunday, by virtue either of the provisions of the Act itself or of an order or certificate of the local authority, will be subject as regards the evening closing hour to the provisions of the Shops (Hours of Closing) Act, 1928, and to the provision of any closing order made by the local authority which fixes the closing hour for Sunday The memorandum added a footnote, as follows: Under the Shops (Hours of Closing) Act, 1928, the normal hour of closing on Sunday is 8 p.m. Doubtless any new Government legislation will not come into force for some months. Meanwhile, we have a Home Office circular which states the position to be one thing and the Report of a Committee which states exactly the opposite. I feel that it would be in everyone's interest if the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, could clear up this point when he replies at the end of the debate.

That is all I am going to say about the detail of the Act, except in relation to Recommendation 3 of the Report, which the most reverend Primate mentioned. In part, I am going to disagree with him. In Recommendation 3 the Committee say: We recommend, with limited dissent from one member, that theatres, variety, entertainment, ballet, public dancing, circuses, fun-fairs and similar entertainments which make a charge for admission should no longer be forbidden on Sunday. I do not think the whole of that proposal is wrong. I believe that, when it comes to public dances and fun-fairs, it will be quite possible, without much difficulty, to have different people on Sunday; or, if I may put it in this way, not the same people on every Sunday. But I am concerned about the reference to theatres, variety entertainment and ballet. In the matter of sport, and so on, the Committee have pointed out, again quite rightly, in my view, that professionals should not have to work on Sunday. They may have religious objections to working on Sunday; and it may well be—it frequently is—the only day on which they can see their families.

My Lords, I have no moral objection to Sunday theatres and music halls. Quite frankly, I think that something in the nature of Sunday repertory might be a good thing. But I would ask your Lordships to consider the case of a theatre company, a play which is on a West End run, or on a summer run at Scarborough or Blackpool, and is running continuously. Virtually the same actors and actresses are employed throughout the run. And they also may well have religious objections to working on Sunday; or they may object on the ground that they cannot see their families on any other day.

With a play on a long run, if one is Sir Laurence Olivier and one does not want to play on Sunday one says so; and the theatre company will see that it is not put on on Sunday, because the play would probably be no good without the star. But supposing it is a fairly big musical show, running for a long time with a large chorus, or with a large number of subsidiary actors and actresses, some of whom object to playing on Sunday, the fact remains that, unless they are prepared to perform on Sunday (if Sunday performances are proposed) they will not get a job. There is nothing that Equity can do about it; such people will not be employed.

In the matter of music halls and theatres, I wonder whether there should not be a regulation stating that any theatre company (I use the term in the theatrical and not the financial sense) playing during the week on either side of Sunday should not be allowed to play that piece in that theatre on the Sunday. As I have said, this might well lead to Sunday repertory: and there would be no objection to that, because if it is something like Sunday repertory, one need not act in the play, because it is not one's living. Far too many people want to be employed in the theatre for the number of places available, and I think this is one place where professionals should not be forced to work on Sunday. Voluntarily, yes; but if it was a long running play, they would be forced to perform on Sunday (if the play was performed on Sunday), and would be out of work if they would not do it. Those are the only points I want to raise. Apart from that, I think this is an excellent and common-sense Report.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, for giving us an opportunity to discuss this interesting and important Report, and also for the extremely edifying and uninhibited way in which he introduced it to us. We on these Benches have one motto that is passed on to us when we come on to these Benches: that the one thing we must never do in any circumstances is to preach. But the temporal Peers are not under this inhibition, and therefore we listen to them with great appreciation when they get on to such subjects. I was particularly glad to find that the noble Lord had derived such pleasure from reading through what some people nowadays would regard as a rather old-fashioned hymn. The only thought that crossed my mind of a critical nature was that I hoped it was not during one of the less interesting portions of the sermon that he found the hymnbook so entertaining. We Bishops seem to have taken rather a large slice of the time in this debate, but if we seem to have a kind of vested interest in the subject, that is what people always thought we had, so perhaps it is not very surprising.

On the whole, the Report comes down for preserving Sunday as what is called "a different day". It does not, in general—I think, not at all—use the phrase "the English Sunday", although that is clearly what is in mind. Scotland is excluded; Wales is included, though with some degree of special consideration. The English Sunday is a peculiar product of our religious and social history. Many streams of influence have flowed into it in order to give it the peculiar flavour and colour that it now has. I do not think we can judge rightly about how to legislate for it without having, at the back of our minds at least, these historical considerations.

The Report provides a lot of interesting historical material, and as one reads it one can see different phases of civilisation and of national history reflected in the different stages in the development of Sunday. There was the Jewish tradition —and although I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, that the motivation of the Christian Sunday is a different one from that of the Jewish Sabbath, I do not think we can shut our eyes to the fact that, to some extent, the two have been conflated in the minds of ordinary English people. They could not, for instance, hear that Fourth Commandment, which the noble Lord read out so well (I could have coveted him in my diocese as he did so), for generations without in some way thinking that these prohibitions or reservations had to be borne in mind in connection with the observance of the Christian Sunday, however illogical that may have been. It is to the Jewish tradition that we owe the very idea of a day marked out for rest and for the consideration of non-mundane matters. I think it is only fair to the Hebrew ancestors of our Christian religion that that should be mentioned.

There was the early Christian tradition, which has been described so well, of marking the first day of the week as specifically for Christian thanksgiving and fellowship; there was the medieval tradition, the immediate ancestor of 16th and 17th century practice. And it is in the 17th century that most of our present divergent views are anticipated. That early 17th century records the Jacobean and Caroline authorisation of Sunday games, and also the almost contemporary prohibition of trading and unnecessary travelling. In that 17th century tension, I think one can see anticipated the whole future development of thought about Sunday. It has to some extent been polarised. The Puritanical tradition, the Reformed tradition, which was on the whole sabbatarian, found perhaps its fullest expression in the Scottish Sunday. The non-Puritanical, perhaps the Catholic, interpretation, found its expression on the Continent; and it is interesting that on the Continent, even in Protestant countries and Protestant cantons in Switzerland, exactly the same general arrangements for Sunday obtain as in the Roman Catholic areas. England, as so often, has provided a mixture—something of the Puritanical restraint and reservation, something of a refusal to accept entirely that negative prohibiting side of Sunday legislation and life.

In the 18th century, Dr. Johnson laid down his dictum that "there may be relaxation but no levity."I think that perhaps was a rather characteristic phrase of the high Anglicanism of the 18th century. Here we come on to legislation which we are now thinking of amending. It was then, in that 18th century, that the Act of 1780 was passed, which was especially directed against debating on the evening of the Lord's Day by persons unlearned and incompetent to explain the Holy Scriptures, to the corruption of good morals and various other unfortunate effects. I could not help thinking that, if that Act had happened to apply to television, we might have been spared a few rather unseemly displays even by clergymen—not that they are unlearned, but perhaps they are not always competent to explain.

That 1780 Act was not really intended primarily to deal with theatres, but it took in theatres by accident, and ever since live performances have been forbidden by our laws. Your Lordships will be thankful to hear that I shall not take you through the whole of the Victorian story, but I think it is worth mentioning that the formation of the Lord's Day Observance Society in 1831 was a very natural reaction against the first effects of the Industrial Revolution, bringing about change in society even before the days of the railways. But the survival of this Society, and its propaganda, in the 20th century is, I think we may be allowed to feel, an anachronism, and it is necessary, I am afraid, in all kindness, to detach the churches in their official and public life from the point of view usually put out by the Lord's Day Observance Society. I have been very surprised when I have been approached on the telephone by journalists about my attitude to these matters, immediately to be confronted with the views of the Lord's Day Observance Society as if it were something strange that a Bishop should be allowed to differ from that Society. It must be realised that this is a view to which those who hold it have a perfect right, but it must not be taken as the general view of either the Church of England or, I think, indeed, of any of the Churches in their official capacities.

It is interesting to note, coming into this century, the ambivalent attitude, as I see it, of the Liberal Government of 1906, because then they were under a number of influences. From the point of their philosophy, they wished to give the greatest possible freedom to all persons and communities, so long as those freedoms did not in any way interfere with the freedom of others. But they were also under strong influence from the Free Churches, from which they derived a good deal of support, and they were beginning to take note of the demands of the workers for protection from exploitation. These different influences did not combine easily, and I think that is the reason why, as we read in this Report, there were several efforts towards the reform of Sunday legislation, but very few that came to anything in practice.

So it is, at last, that we now have such a thing as the English Sunday. Its tradition has been much eroded by change, or, perhaps we should say, evolved, in order to make it compatible with modern needs. Shift work has all but obliterated it in certain parts of the country and certain realms of society. Motor travel to the sea has destroyed the peace, and even the safety, of the villages through which the traffic passes, although it has given pleasure and relaxation in measure to those who have travelled in the cars. But in spite of all this, Sunday is still a reality in our country. It has not yet been entirely changed. When I drive in my car, as many of us do early on Sunday morning, I notice an immediate difference as I go through the streets of Leicester. The first thing notice is that it is a day when the dogs are all allowed out alone; when it is safe for them to wander here and there. That is the first sign that it is Sunday. And there are many other signs as the day goes on.

I, too, had in my notes a reference to Sunday dinner. I noticed that the most reverend Primate estimated the numbers at tens of thousands. I was bolder than he—I should have said millions; and I think it is true that millions of our people look upon their Sunday dinner as the great family event of the week. I cannot say that I had thought of this point myself, but I think the most reverend Primate's point about the earlier opening of public intertainments is something that should be looked at in the light of this particular family festival.

Here we are with our English Sunday. Nobody could have invented it. It is something that has grown organically in the developing life of our nation. It somehow reminded me of the white cliffs of Dover—I expect because when this Motion was first announced we were thinking of those cliffs, in connection with the late Sir Winston Churchill. It occurred to me that if we had not had the white cliffs of Dover, we should not have thought we needed them, and we should not have constructed them. But as we have them, we treasure them. I think that the English Sunday has something of that character. It is something that has grown; we have it, and we have to think twice before we part with it.

I value this Report because I think it has struck a happy balance between change and continuity in this matter. If I venture on one point to diverge a little from the most reverend Primate, it is because I feel so strongly that the Churches must disabuse the people of this country of the idea that we are just watching to prevent their doing things they want to do. We must let them see that our contribution to this debate is a positive one, and I myself am very reluctant to ask for any restrictions at all, other than those that are absolutely necessary. So I feel that I have to accept the theatres—which perhaps is not very difficult; the circuses and the fun fairs take a little more "swallowing". However, as we see from reading the Report, fun fairs are for the most part now allowed, so it would be asking for new restrictive legislation if we asked for them to be forbidden.

We all have our illogical patches, and I am bound to say that I am very pleased to see in the Report that, so far, they do not wish to recommend professional sport, in the sense of great football and cricket matches. I know that the cricketers have sometimes looked with rather covetous eyes on the hours of Sunday, thinking that perhaps if they had Sundays at their disposal they might get the "gates" they do not always succeed in getting on Saturdays. I think that perhaps they are mistaken in that view. Whether they are or not, I just have to say that I cannot accept the idea of a great Test match or a Cup Tie on a Sunday. It may be illogical, but being what I am, made like everybody else by the traditions of the country in which I have been brought up, I just do not want it, and I hope that the country can manage without it.

With regard to trading, I do not claim to speak with any authority on the details and various lists of items that can or cannot be sold, such as mushrooms, prepared tripe and all the other things. But I am sorry to see one recommendation (and this is, I think, my only actual criticism of the Report), in connection with employees in shops, suggesting that it is too rigid to insist, as the present law does, that they should have free at least one Sunday in three. I think the Committee were perhaps being a little discreet in not mentioning in this Report precisely what the present law provides. But it does, I understand, provide that one free Sunday in three must be allowed to employees in shops. I think that is something we ought to stand by, because, as the Report rightly says, Sunday is not an interchangeable day. However willing you may be to give another day in the week—and there are good alternative provisions given—it is not the same thing, even apart from all religious considerations, to have a day free different from the day when most of the rest of your family or friends are free. At this point I do speak as a Bishop and as a Christian. I do not want to put any restrictions, or any but the absolute minimum restrictions, in the way of people doing what they want to do; but I do want to prevent those who wish to adhere to their religious customs and practices from being stopped from doing so if it is in any way possible to allow them the freedom to carry on.

I was once in Switzerland, and in the village where I was staying a film was being made by a large company of some 200 people from England and America. I did what I could to persuade some of them to go to the little English church I was looking after on Sunday, but all my efforts were in vain. At last they managed to get one to come. She was the director's secretary, who happened to be an English parson's daughter, so was considered fair game and had to represent the company. Why I tell the story is this. It came out afterwards that they had abandoned Sunday and were working a ten-day week. If that is going to spread, we shall be making it very difficult for those, particularly the young, who may wish to explore the possibilities of religious worship. Therefore, I hope that we shall be able to stand firm and insist that employees in such establishments shall have at least one Sunday free in three. We all know that there are many branches of life that have to be carried on, but we have managed fairly well so far without this particular accession of Sunday freedom, and I hope that we shall be able to retain this very limited form of self-discipline.