§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD EGREMONT
My Lords, it seems a considerable time ago that we were listening to a most charmingly delivered speech by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester. So nice, if I may say so, was his speech that I have remembered it in the limbo through which we have since passed. I should like to take up the debate from what the right reverend Prelate was saying—and in case any of your Lordships has forgotten, we are now talking about Sunday observance.
This subject has become a ridiculously complicated one. Before the Reformation, Church attendance was formally observed, but there was considerable freedom in the way everybody spent the rest of Sunday. I will not add to the tedium of your Lordships by recounting, step by step, and century by century, how that freedom was eroded; but that the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his Committee have managed to cover this vexed question in 81 pages, including Appendices, does them immense credit. Their Report is a model of terseness and lucidity.
I venture to say to your Lordships that there should be two approaches to this question, one religious, the other social. As Lord Crathorne's Report points out, the Industrial Revolution, the social reformers, the religious revivalists connected with John Wesley and others, and the foundation of Sunday Schools, all contributed to the profession of moral earnestness and voluntary religious observance during the Victorian era. These changes came about through the force of public opinion, without any alteration in the law relating to Sunday entertainments and amusements.
On the other hand, the long hours of work common during the Industrial Revolution increased the demand for Sunday trading. Many workers did not receive their wages until late on Saturday. Many, for lack of domestic storage facilities, were forced to buy perishable goods on Sundays. So here we have a social problem which has lasted a long time. But what we also have is the certainty that laws which have been passed since the Reformation no longer secure 380 the purpose of encouraging church attendance, and any attempt to do so now by legislation would be considered contrary to the freedom of the individual. Indeed, the Churches themselves no longer claim such a privilege in law.
As regards the religious aspect. different people approach religion in different ways. I do not want to be unkind to anybody, but I do not believe that you can necessarily obtain grace by not going to the cinema; by not going to a concert; by not going to the ballet; or, for that matter, to public dancing, circuses, funfairs, sports, or even to a gaming table. on a Sunday. I do not believe you can obtain grace by not doing those things, any more than you can obtain grace by taking a walk in the country on a bright Sunday afternoon with sinful thoughts in your mind about your neighbour.
I do not want to get "soppy" about this, but a thought was put into my mind as I left my home in the country this morning. I saw a kingfisher, in all its beauty, moving about over the rivers and marshes and lakes by my home. It dipped, and it skimmed the water with its wings and set up ripples. So, my Lords, I believe that the outstretched wing of Providence can touch pools in some people's minds. But what I think is arrogant and sinful is that we miserable creatures should be so puffed up with pride that we should really suppose that we ourselves can legislate for such a Divine happening.
As I have said, different people approach religion in different ways. There was once a captain in Joan of Arc's army. His prayer before battle was the not very humble one:Oh God, please do for me what I would do for you if you were Captain and I were God.Then there was a character in Disraeli's novel, Endymion, who said:Sensible men are all of the same religion.On which the Prince inquired:And pray what is that?The answer came:Sensible men never tell.But there was also King David and his Psalms. I am now thinking of the words in the fourth Psalm:commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.381 I think that your Lordships could do that and still support the recommendations of the Crathorne Report.
What about the social side? The pattern of spending the day in relaxation and family pursuits has a special value to national and family life, quite apart from its religious basis. I entirely agree that, apart from religious reasons, it is 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 have to work on Sundays. But it is also obvious that a large section of the general public regards the law on Sunday entertainments as obsolete. I think that we all recognise. This subject, down the years, has become ridiculously complicated and controversial, and the energies which have been devoted to it would have been better employed if devoted to something more constructive. I hope that one result of this able Report will be that that will happen.
My Lords, in a humane reaction against 19th century Laissez-faire Liberalism, and in an age in which the Government, whether Tory or represented by noble Lords opposite, play an ever greater part in our lives, those of us who cherish liberty, as we all do, must be increasingly watchful for opportunities to promote liberty for fear that there might one day be a divorce between liberty and paternalism. Day by day, week by week, year by year, we should strive to polish up the terms of the marriage settlement between liberty and the Welfare State, to ensure that the marriage remains constant. I, for one, believe that the Crathorne Report is a helpful contribution to that end.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I am indeed grateful for the presence of the Lords Spiritual, because, but for them, in order to address most of my audience I should have to cross the Floor of the Chamber. I wish to make only one small point on Chapter 8 of this Report which is headed "Sports", and to mention briefly noisy sports which, I think, are exemplified best by those events known as motor-cycle scrambles, and, indeed, events which involve the use of the unsilenced internal combustion engine. I should like to raise the question of whether these sporting activities should be allowed to take place on Sunday afternoons, 382 particularly in the summer time, within earshot of people's private homes.
We cannot, I think, in this crowded island, hope to protect from noisy sporting activities all the lovers of peace and quiet at all times, but I should hope that we could protect them at least on Sunday afternoons. Saturday afternoon seems to be the time usually appointed for these activities, and I suppose that the lovers of peace and quiet, most of them being elderly people, can probably, in any event, contrive to find a good deal of peace and quiet during the remainder of the week when the rest of the population is either out at work or at school. Even on Saturday afternoons, there are so many activities of all kinds going on that I suppose many people whose homes would otherwise be shattered by some sporting activity which is going on next door and making a great noise would be able to find something interesting to do. But it is surely upon Sunday afternoon, particularly in the summer time, that everybody really has some right to peace and quiet, whether he prefers to go and spend it in a hammock in the garden or whether he prefers to sit indoors with all the windows open.
The motoring and motor-cycling organisations gave evidence before the Crathorne Committee, and they are quoted in paragraph 111 as saying:It was explained that Sunday was the only practicable day for these meetings because many motoring enthusiasts were not free to compete on any other day of the week.I do not think the Committee make it altogether clear to what extent they accepted that piece of evidence. I am bound to say that I read it myself with some cynicism. I should have thought that probably the truth was that on Saturday afternoons the people who like this kind of sporting activity can find plenty of it, and that Sunday afternoons tend to be the times which people of this sort find dull. So that is the reason why, although they may not wish to destroy other people's peace and quiet, they are prepared to do so in order themselves to enjoy a noisy Sunday afternoon as well as a noisy Saturday afternoon.
Then, in the next sentence of the Report, we are told:A considerable amount of organisation by members was involved, which often had to be done on Saturday.383 A good deal of organisation no doubt has to be done in order to put on a point-to-point race meeting, for instance, but those meetings are able to be held on Saturdays. So this piece of evidence, too, I should not myself have thought was very convincing. So my only plea in this debate is this. If these noisy sports with un-silenced engines are going to be allowed on Sunday afternoons at all, can they not be allowed only in places where they are completely out of earshot of people's private homes?
§ 4.40 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LICHFIELD
My Lords, in a large provincial town some years ago now there was a proposal that the cinemas should be opened on Sunday, and the representatives of the Church of England and the Free Churches consulted together as to whether this proposal should be resisted. It was at that point that the representatives of the union to which the cinema operatives belonged came along to these Church representatives and begged them to oppose the proposal by every means in their power because, they said, "We work late six nights in the week already; we do not want to work late on Sunday as well; and a day in lieu will not be the same." It was very largely on the basis of that advice given by those union representatives that the Church representatives decided in the end to oppose the proposal.
The result was a town meeting, at which it was confidently expected that a representative of the union would be one of the speakers. When it came to the meeting no representative of the union was there. That gave much food for thought because, in view of the sincerity with which those men had spoken in the first instance, there was no doubt, and it is a conjecture as to what happened in between their visit to the Church representatives and the meeting they did not attend.
That leads me to say that in all these proposals I do not think we should forget that it is a possibility that there are some people who want a considerable extension of Sunday amusements, and so on, in order, frankly, that they may make a good deal of money. I am not myself, I hope, a puritan in these matters, and I would agree with a great deal of what my right reverend friend the Lord 384 Bishop of Leicester was saying, in that I do not think it is very wise to start prohibiting people from doing what they want to do. But if to-day Sunday has become, as in one sense I fear it has, not so much a day of rest as a day of greed, there is another sense in which that is not true because there are some people who, if they have the choice between a day of rest on Sunday or extra pay, will definitely choose the day of rest because they want to have a bit of peace and quiet and to be at home with their families. It is my endeavour this afternoon to plead that people like these should not be thrown to the wolves.
I am fully prepared to agree that the laws about Sunday are in need of reform. The law must surely have the solid backing of public opinion if it is really to be effective. Laws become useless, or perhaps even worse than useless, if they are virtually unenforceable. I agree that parts of the law about Sunday may now well be in that category, and parts, it may be said, are even absurd. But I would plead that, if changes are made in the law concerning Sunday, those changes should be of a conservative nature, because I think that radical changes in these matters might well inflict a good deal of hardship on many people.
In this Report there is much that undoubtedly is wanted by many people. Whether it is needed by such people is another matter, but let that pass. As to the services that are suggested, the facilities to be provided and so on, there are now many people who are very ready to render them. My Lords, why? Is it always out of an altruistic desire to serve their fellow men? I am bound to say myself that I think sometimes there are people who are pressing for changes because they realise that changes might well be lucrative for them and offer good profits. I agree that many people would avail themselves of the services rendered. But if as the result of changes in the law some people are able to make a good deal more money, let us remember that there are other people who will be forced to work, quite likely against their will. I am thinking of the employees of some shops, of the owners of some small shops and of employees in places of amusement. I do not believe that it would be possible for owners 385 of small shops to remain closed on conscientious grounds if they found that their large and booming neighbours round about were open. I think it would eventually drive them out of business. I believe I am right in saying that certain trade journals, such as the meat traders' journal and the hardware trade journal, have pointed this out in no uncertain terms. I would repeat, let us think well before such people as these are thrown to the wolves.
It cannot be overstressed that drastic reform in regard to the laws about Sunday would undoubtedly lead to a great increase in Sunday work. This would surely be the case in regard to Sunday sport. As I remarked just now, I hope I am no puritan in these matters. I, for one, see no harm in people playing a quiet game on a Sunday if, as I hope is the case, they have observed their religious obligations; I see no harm in that kind of game at all. But big sporting events greatly increase work for many people. Apparently, from this Report, paragraph 117, the criterion by which the Report is guided in this matter is whether the participants in these sports receive any remuneration in money or kind. If they receive such a remuneration, then the sport should not be allowed to take place on Sunday; if they receive no such remuneration, then, according to the Report, it might be possible to have it. I would suggest that this might well lead to evasions of a flagrant kind, and I think it should be watched. I would also say that I think it is slightly illogical that, if this idea went through, a vast crowd at Twickenham would be in order, but not at White Hart Lane.
If I may go back to my own (I fear now rather distant) past, in my last year at the university the university boat club was reduced to "scraping the bottom of the barrel" and, to my intense surprise, I found myself one day slogging on behalf of my university from Putney to Mortlake. I can assure your Lordships that I was not paid for that activity, but there were about one million people who, for one reason or another, were lining the banks watching us. In order that the Boat Race might take place, the Port of London Authority had very kindly closed the river. I can well imagine that, if such proposals as this 386 went through, the Port of London Authority might well say, "Now we cannot close the river on a weekday, you know; you will have to have it on a Sunday". Do we want to have great sporting events such as this on a Sunday? I realise that I am taking as an illustration an event which occurs only once a year, but I think the point which has already been made by one or two other speakers to-day should be remembered: that it is pretty hard if we get to a situation where some people, if they do not believe in taking part in such sports on Sunday, are forced to choose—either they are not allowed to participate or else they are regarded as being thoroughly awkward and unobliging. Let us also remember that, if you have an enormous sporting event such as this, you will have very large numbers of people working in connection with it.
I hope that I am not being unduly critical. I realise that the Crathorne Committee were faced with a most difficult situation, and I join in the tributes paid to their conscientiousness and to the careful way in which they have gone about their working. But there is another side to all this which I think deserves mention. What effect are considerable changes in the law going to have on children? In regard to adults, I am not for a moment pleading that we should make Sunday so boring that people go to church simply because they cannot think of anything better to do. One of the great strengths of the religious life of this country to-day is that the people who go to church go out of a deep conviction, often having made a choice between that and many other activities. But when it comes to the children it is rather a different matter. They have no previous experience on which they may base a wise choice; and I am afraid that in this matter of their religious upbringing we do not always get from their parents the kind of support we should like. What would happen in respect of day schools if they did not have school attendance officers behind them? The absenteeism in some areas, I am quite sure, would be very great.
In the light of the current situation to-day, I am sometimes amazed that we do as well in our Sunday schools as we do, and I welcome this opportunity to 387 pay a warm tribute to those ladies and gentleman who give up their time to teach in Sunday schools. But let us remember that the more amusements we provide on Sundays, the more counter-attractions, the more difficult it will be to get hold of children to give them religious instruction.
What is the situation in this country to-day? We are bound to be concerned about the fact that the crime rate continues to rise, that juvenile delinquency figures have been very disturbing. If we feel that religious instruction in youth is of real value in trying to bring up the children in the way in which they should go, then I hope that it will not be made unduly difficult for those people who try to give that instruction. Again, whilst I do not think it is any good proceeding on the lines of trying to stop people from doing what they want to do, at the same time let us balance against that the fact that any real increase in Sunday amusements and trading must necessarily involve a great deal of extra work for many people. Let us also remember that any changes may have a very real effect on the Upbringing that is given to the children of our land.
So, while in many ways I welcome the Report, and am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his colleagues for what they have done, I felt that I should like to take part in this debate in order to plead that, if changes in the law are made, they should not be radical but careful and conservative, so that we may not find, having tried to take away some anomolies, that we have let in certain evils which we should not like to entertain.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the House will be very grateful to my noble friend Lord St. Oswald for having initiated this debate, and especially so to my noble friend Lord Crathorne and his Committee for the patience and conscientiousness with which they compiled this excellent Report. There are portions of it which have been subjected to criticism in the Press and elsewhere; but much of that criticism is quite unreasonable, because this is one of the most difficult subjects to tackle that can be imagined. I believe that within its limits the 388 Report before us is a model of brevity and common sense.
It is perhaps a happy coincidence that both my noble friends come from Yorkshire, for on one of the few Sundays which I have spent in that very lovely county, I was asked (my hostess being a friend of the local vicar) to preach the sermon in the parish church at Hors-forth. This I regarded as a great honour and I hope I acquitted myself properly. It was an evening sermon and during the day I had indulged in a ramble over the neighbouring moors, and had spent a really pleasant fresh-air Sunday. I think the important point to remember here is that just because a person is a regular churchgoer it does not necessarily mean to say that he or she is a saint. On the other hand, because a person is not a regular churchgoer he or she is not necessarily a sinner.
I personally should regard as obnoxious either a turn to the full Continental Sunday or a complete recognition of the principles behind the Lord's Day Observance Society. I should like to speak on behalf of the young people in this country, for I still regard myself as being, to some extent, one of them. It is said that young people are bored because they cannot always go dancing or to cinemas or such like. This argument does not convince me one iota. We have in this country of ours mountains, dales, hills and commons which give ample opportunity for walking and rambling; and it always grieves me to see, particularly in the summer, that while the beaches in Eastbourne (a resort I know well) are crammed full, over the lovely Sussex Downs there are all too few people enjoying a really healthy Sunday afternoon, which I am certain our Lord himself would approve of their doing. It has been suggested in some centres that the reason for the altercations which take place in places like Clacton is that there is nothing to do in those places. I would disagree strongly with that point of view. There are some glorious walks in that part of the country which many of these young people could quite profitably indulge in, even if it were wet; because, to my mind, there is nothing more pleasing, provided one is properly clad for it, than walking in the rain.
The Report itself advocates, as does my noble friend Lord Derwent, that there 389 should be no opening of amusements before 12.30 p.m. on Sunday. I would agree with the view which the most reverend Primate expressed, that that is much too early. It seems to me that one of the main causes of accidents is the fact that our public houses are open at that hour. What happens is that people have a lunch-hour drink and then drive too fast, and often there is a fatal accident. I am the father of three young children and I regard Sunday very much as a family day. Like most people, I work for my living during the week, and Sunday is the only day I can really spend with my family. It grieves me to hear that often fathers turn up at home about half-past two, while the Sunday dinner has been spoiling in the oven or on the hotplate. There are some who would regard these as parochial and narrow views, but I believe that family happiness would be much enhanced if the male population, especially, spent rather less time in the public house and on other entertainments up to 2 o'clock in the afternoon.
So far as sporting events are concerned, I would certainly oppose the playing of any professional football, rugby or other sport on a Sunday, but I feel that Sunday club cricket is a good thing. It gives people something to do, especially old-age pensioners. At our local cricket ground many old-age pensioners and elderly people come to watch the matches. What disturbs me is that in some localities the Lord's Day Observance Society have threatened action against the taking of collections for charity at these matches. I think that that is wrong.
As regards Sunday cinemas, I have no deep-rooted objection to their being open. On a wet night, it is a good thing to see young people going to the cinemas rather than smashing up somebody's front yard. But I hope that some of the exhibitors will be more careful in their choice of films. Too often one sees a rather third-rate horror film being shown on a Sunday. I do not think that it is being too puritanical to ask that films of an educational, or even of a religious, nature should be shown on Sundays.
I think that the churches can, and in many cases do, give a lead on Sunday evenings. My own local church is nearly always full for Evensong and there is a 390 large number of young people. We have a thriving 17-plus club, and after the evening service they always have some form of activity, either a drama group rehearsal or a talk or discussion. This gives them something to look forward to and work for.
Shops present one of the greatest problems. Whilst the Report does not tackle this subject with perfect efficacy, nevertheless it has a very good try. One of the anomalies is the chemist's shop. One can buy aspirins and other medicines but cannot buy hair cream or a comb—at least, not legally. This is particularly difficult in coastal areas, which, as your Lordships know, rely very much on seasonal trade, and Sunday trading in coastal resorts is of great importance to the welfare of the local people. If the Government act on this Report quickly, as I hope they will do, I trust they will give close consideration to this problem and at the same time see that the rights and privileges of the shop workers are clearly safeguarded. This has been a good and serious debate on an excellent Report, and I hope the Government will act on it with speed.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT FURNESS
My Lords, I do not intend to follow my noble friend Lord Auckland in his admiration of a walk in the rain. As can be imagined from my girth, I do not walk too much anyway, and certainly not in the rain. I should like to thank the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester for his observations on the Lord's Day Observance Society and for putting the efforts of that well-meaning, but positively misguided, Society in their proper perspective.
I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to only two aspects of the admirable Crathorne Report. In the first of these, I suppose that I ought to declare an interest, in that I am a member of the Society of West End Theatre Managers. Regarding the proposal to open theatres on Sunday, I think it ought to be stated in your Lordships' House that the British Actors' Equity Association contacted the whole of the membership on this question. This is referred to in paragraph 81 of the Report, where it states that out of 11,000 questionnaires sent to actors all over the country, only 1,244 bothered to reply. Approximately one-third were opposed 391 to the opening of theatres on Sunday under any conditions, and two-thirds were not so opposed.
I think it is important to remind your Lordships of the opinion of the Equity Council on this matter, which the Crathorne Committee thought so important as to include in their Report. It is quoted in paragraph 81 as follows:The opinion of the Equity Council is that most of our members who are opposed to the Sunday opening of theatres under any conditions will have taken this opportunity of registering the fact, whereas many of those who are not opposed in principle, will not have troubled to reply. Accordingly, the Council believes that the figure of 401 is probably close to the total of those opposed in principle, and that it is certainly reasonable to assume that the overwhelming majority of members are not so opposed.When you have 401 out of 11,000, even allowing for a few errors and omissions, it is not a significant proportion of the total.
I should now like to turn to another facet of the Crathorne Committee's Report; and it is a minor point, coming in Chapter 16, under the heading "Miscellaneous Recommendations". It deals with shops for international airports. As your Lordships may remember, Commander Kerans, the former Member for Hartlepools in the last Parliament, introduced the Shops (Airports) Bill in 1962. It was a Private Member's Bill. It was successful in the ballot, and succeeded in passing through another place; and eventually I had the honour of piloting it through your Lordships' House. As the Bill was introduced in the other place it extended to Sunday trading restrictions. But this provision was deleted there because it was felt that it should await the recommendations of the Crathorne Committee. It is interesting to note that the Crathorne Committeecame to the conclusion that a complete exemption was justified and we recommend that shops provided at designated international airports for the use of travellers should be exempt from all Sunday trading restrictions.I do not know how far the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will be able to go when he comes to wind up the debate, but it would be of great interest if we could have from him some indication as to whether there will be legislation on some of these minor matters, apart from dealing with the major matters of sport and entertainment which form the main body of the Report.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ LORD REDESDALE
My Lords, it is difficult to follow the many excellent speeches that have been made this afternoon, but I must begin by saying what a really excellent Report, in my opinion, is the Report of the Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne. I have seldom read a Report, looking for something on which to comment, and found, to my surprise, that there was nothing upon which I could comment, because it was all so excellent and so absolutely in agreement with my own views. However, I am not entirely at a loss for words, and I would crave your Lordships' indulgence to take up a little of your time on one or two aspects of the Report.
The first thing I would say is a further piece of praise for the Report, in that I thought the historical survey was particularly clear, informative and concise. It also makes interesting reading, whether you are desperately concerned with the subject or whether you are not. I think it gives an interesting picture of English law and Parliament's attitude. I confess that I am a little disappointed that Parliament through the ages has tended to shy away from this subject, and I hope that now, at last, Parliament will be able to face up to it. The early laws, of course, were purely restrictive, on religious grounds. There is still, obviously, some need for restriction, so as to ensure that Sunday is, in the words of the Report, "a different day" or a special day. The present attitude of the Church is, I feel, most reasonable; and the speeches by the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester were particularly good; and they showed the informed attitude of the Church and its attempt to keep in touch with younger people.
Even if Sunday is kept as a special day, and a day for worship, that does not mean to say it should not be a brighter day. For instance, the particular church that I attend has a 9.15 a.m. family service, and the time was chosen carefully, to allow the rest of the day for other activities. This, I think, is a sensible and informed attitude, and certainly it has a very full following in our church. The excessive restrictions demanded by some bodies can do more 393 harm than good, and would certainly not increase the 12 per cent. of churchgoers referred to in the Report: in fact, further restrictions could reduce the number. I believe that some liberalisation of this law, showing the Church's attitude as being for a proper Sunday, but at the same time a special day, a family day, could increase churchgoing, because it would show that the Church still has its feet on the ground and is in touch with the masses.
As I said earlier, I believe that Sunday should be a day of worship; but it need not necessarily be depressing. I feel that the old attitude is summed up in the remark made by a French Canadian M.P. to Lord Thomson, when he said:I spent a fortnight in Toronto last Sunday".Another point raised earlier is that Sunday is a quiet day. This obviously has relation to the younger section of this country. One thing that I have seen—and I am sure many of your Lordships have also seen it—is that on a wet Sunday, whereas some people may like walking in the rain, a great many others are content to stand on the street corner. But standing on the corner will not be the end: some people want a little more excitement, and it can end up in vandalism and sometimes in crime.
The history of legislation on Sunday observance is a little disturbing, in that, as I have said, very little has so far been done. Apart from the restrictive laws, few additional laws have been added. Admittedly the 1932 laws, and one or two others, had a liberalising effect. I think it is slightly unfair that anyone keen on bowling should be still labouring under a law which says:…and—at all times, in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited—bowling.Admittedly this referred to nine-pin bowling, as opposed to the more sophisticated ten-pin bowling. The irrational situations that have been mentioned have produced a state where the law can be held in ridicule, which has been said by various noble Lords to be a very unsatisfactory situation. The Crathorne Committee, I feel, have done a wonderful job in trying to overcome this and to bring back a sensible set of laws which can be enforced.
394 Without using the well-known clichés to describe change, I feel it necessary that the twentieth century should not be labouring under laws made in the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. Society's needs are changing ever faster, and in fact every year they change a little faster still. The trend of automation has already been mentioned, and shorter hours and more shift work have become necessary. Now this is unfortunate for those people who have to work shifts on Sunday; but if, as has been mentioned, some factories work round the clock, unfortunately some people have to do their stint on Sunday. The trend towards shift work has resulted in a need for a wider spread of hours for entertainment and trading. The Committee's recommendations on sport and entertainment were, I considered, particularly well thought out, and can hardly give rise to much criticism. Perhaps there is something in 12.30 p.m. being rather an early hour, and I do not entirely agree with that.
I am not in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on the subject of motor sports, but I would say that if any laws are to be passed which allow activities of this type to take place on a Sunday it would be a pity if those people who win championships in that kind of club event or, as is mentioned in the Report, ping-pong championships, should not receive some prizes. As the law is at present, it would probably prevent anybody from receiving any prize at all.
At this stage I must declare an interest as one concerned with the washing of other people's dirty linen in public. I am concerned with launderettes, which are covered in paragraphs 149 to 151, and therefore I have a particular interest. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has already raised this subject, but I should like to elaborate it a little. The evidence submitted by the National Association of Launderette Owners, of which I am a member, was presented in 1961. Since then there has been a radical change in the launderette business. In 1961, most of the shops were of a certain type, and were for essentially attended operations. Since then, these shops have moved over to top loading machines, which can be left for 24-hour operation. The advantage of these is that they do not 395 require staff. Some are attended during the day, but are left totally unattended at night.
The membership of NALO has changed since their evidence was submitted to the Crathorne Committee. There was a rather restrictionist attitude in the original evidence, because it meant that staff had to be provided on Sunday, and this created problems; therefore, if everybody was shut, it was much easier for all concerned. Since then, there has been the introduction of the 24-hour shops and the shops with attended operations had to stay open in order to compete. This was unfortunate on the attended operations shops, but the point is that most of these old, attended, shops are moving over quite rapidly to machines which can be left unattended, because the old type of machine is now becoming obsolete and has to be replaced in any case.
There is the further aspect that launderettes are not yet defined within the law. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to the recent case of Ilford Corporation v. Betterclean (Seven Kings) Limited. As has been stated, Betterclean won their case on the ground that the launderette was not offering a personal service, but the Lord Chief Justice subsequently said that although this case had been won on those grounds, it was fortunate that he did not have to make a ruling on whether the 'launderette was a shop or not. But he stated that in his opinion the launderette was a shop. The relevant section of the Shops Act, 1950, is Section 74(4). This point, so far as launderettes are concerned, will have to be cleared up at some time, but it is not part of this debate, and I should prefer it if the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, could at some time afford me the opportunity of discussing under what section of the 1950 Act launderettes come.
The launderette business has expanded considerably over the years, and there are now about 2,500 of them, of which about 800 are unattended. As I have said, the proportion of unattended shops is increasing. Launderettes supply to the public a very real service. The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, mentioned that not all operators who provide a service do so entirely altruistically. I must confess that it is 396 true that when I provide a service on Sunday it is not entirely altruistic. Trying to view this matter as impersonally as possible—I hope your Lordships appreciate this—I have talked to a number of people who use these establishments on Sunday, and it is interesting to note their type. Most of them say that they have a very real need to use them on Sunday because they have no other time to do so.
That argument can be faulted, I agree, and I tried to fault it in discussing it with these people. The breakdown of people who use these places is not an economic class one at all; it is a category breakdown. Mainly, they use these launderettes on Sunday because more married women are working during the week and, therefore, their load of housework has to be spread across the family—or it certainly should be in a good family, as, for instance, with the washing up. The people who take their laundry to the launderette vary from the children to the husband. The husband usually carries it because it is too heavy for the wife. That is one class of people.
The other is the single, bachelor type of people, men and women, who find that they are working long hours during the week. One was a lady solicitor who found that Saturday was a day on which she had to do her shopping and a lot of things which she could not find time for on other days of the week. Sunday was the only day when she had a chance to catch up on personal administration. Talking to secretaries and people like that, I found that Saturday is the day on which they do their shopping, and Sunday is a personal day when they catch up. Saturday is an entertainment day. One said, "When else can I see my boy friend?" Therefore, I feel that it is not unreasonable to say that launderettes supply a very real need on Sunday for certain people who find it difficult to find time during the rest of the week.
I must ask your Lordships' forgiveness for taking up so much of your time on these three paragraphs of the Report. In concluding, I should like to come to the question of those people who have to be employed on Sundays. I have already said that there are very few people who have to be employed in launderettes. Another completely separate point was with regard to those 397 people who are part-time workers, or those who have one job and find that they have to make a bit of extra money, and therefore work on a Sunday. For instance, girls who are soon to get married, who are desperately trying to save up, take on a Sunday job which is quite separate from their own employment. The recommendations of the Crathorne Committee, I thought, were very reasonable on this point. They did not wish inflexible rules to be laid down that people had to have one Sunday off in three. If Sunday is a part-time work day and they chose to work on Sunday for special reasons, they should be allowed to do so. I am sorry I have taken up so much of your Lordships' time, but I sincerely hope that at long last, after 500 years, Her Majesty's Government will start pushing through some legislation, and will be able to feel proud that they have at last taken courage and done something about it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
LORD BELHAVEN AND STENTON
My Lords, first of all I would apologise for addressing your Lordships on the subject of this Motion as I live in the land of Sabbath calm, or (should we say?) Sabbath gloom, and Scotland is not specifically dealt with in this Report, although I rather wish it were. None the less, and perhaps even because of this, I feel impelled to say a few words on the subject of this excellent Report, and if my words sound a little extreme to some of your Lordships who come from South of the Border I hope that your Lordships will bear in mind that I am not very well acquainted with the English Sunday. I have not had much experience of it since I was a schoolboy. I am sure it is very nice—a thing you could hardly say of our Sunday.
I do not propose to say a great deal about the Report itself as it has already been fairly extensively dealt with by other noble Lords. I think it is a very good Report and, unlike many of these documents, is very readable. I have a feeling myself, perhaps because of my Northern origin, that some of the recommendations err a little on the side of relaxation, but I think it is generally a very fair and balanced Report. I must confess that I am not myself a Sabbatarian. I am a Protestant—other noble Lords have raised this point before, but I do not feel that 398 I should apologise to your Lordships for raising it again because it is rather more particularly referring to my own country, where the Fourth Commandment is still very much in evidence and is cited as a theological justification for making Sunday a perfect misery for everybody—but I have never been able to understand the insistence of certain Protestant churches on turning Sunday into a Jewish Sabbath. If the Ten Commandments are to be rigidly obeyed, then surely it is illogical to apply the Fourth Commandment to Sunday, which is the first day of the week, when the Commandment is quite specific that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week.
By custom, Christians have adopted Sunday as the day of rest and worship, but it remains even now, after I do not know how many thousand years, the first day of the week. It is one thing that has not changed at all and it is consequently, I should have thought necessarily, divested of the severe regulations which were laid down for the Jewish Sabbath. In view of what our Lord said about the Sabbath—and I think this has been borne out by certain right reverend Prelates and other people with much more experience of theology than I have—the early Fathers must have intended this and taken the first day of the week as the Holy Day in commemoration of our Lord's resurrection and in order to get away from the Jewish Sabbath.
I therefore welcome this Report as a step in the right direction and a move to relax the rigidity of the Sunday laws, the sternest of which had their origin in the 17th century, an age of violence, fanaticism and civil war, from which this nation fortunately emerged 250 years ago. Most people even nowadays have to work very hard and—I am now referring mainly to Scotland—I think it is perfectly fantastic that the one clear day off should be so hedged about by restrictive laws as to make half the usual forms of relaxation quite impossible. I do not think I am exaggerating. Anybody who has a son at a prep school in Edinburgh and has to take him out on a Sunday and entertain him will know exactly what I mean. Scotland—again, I cannot refer to England as I do not know enough about it is at present a perfectly miserable place on Sunday, and I am glad I live in the country, where nature observes no 399 Sabbath and one is not subjected to the unbearable pall of gloom which hangs over our towns.
I hope that the recommendations of this excellent and enlightened Report are carried out, with certain reservations. If England leads, I hope that Scotland—and, dare I say, Wales—will follow and that we shall get rid of some of this compulsory misery. I think life is too short for it.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD CRATHORNE
My Lords, I should like at the outset to give your Lordships the satisfaction of knowing that I have no intention of making a long speech about the detailed recommendations of the Report of the Committee of which I had the honour to be the Chairman. In fact, I considered very seriously whether it was right for me to take part in this debate at all; but then I thought that your Lordships would probably like a few points of elucidation towards the end of the debate, before we had the reply from the representative of Her Majesty's Government. So my speech will be limited to that sphere.
I should like in the first instance to thank my noble friend Lord St. Oswald, a fellow-Yorkshireman, for arranging this debate and putting down this Motion, which has been so well received. I should like also to offer my grateful thanks to Members of your Lordships' House for their speeches today, to some of which I shall refer in my few remarks. It is abundantly clear from the debate we have had this afternoon that there is a wide measure of support in this House, in general terms, for the Committee's recommendations. And I would say that, by and large, this is also true throughout the country as a whole, because when our Report was first published, though it concerned a subject of this sort, one that was open to controversy and to conflicting views, it aroused little public controversy. Curiously enough, when the Committee first set out on their voyage on this work we looked at this problem from this angle; because there is no doubt that in recent years there has been decreasing interest in the subject of Sunday observance law.
Two quite separate interpretations have been put upon this decline of interest. 400 One interpretation, is that the public, as a whole, show no demand for any change of law and the second interpretation is to the effect that the law has been so widely ignored or avoided that it has fallen into disrepute; that revision is long overdue, and the public have given up hope that any Government of any particular colour would take the trouble to go into these problems and revise the law as it should be revised. My Lords, your Committee took the second view. That is why, in all the years that we considered this problem, we gave particular attention to cases where this law was being avoided in what was actually taking place; and we were very much helped by the evidence which we received, both in written form and from verbal evidence given to the Committee.
My Lords, I should like to make just one or two general observations. The first is of thanks to the last speaker, who brought a breath of fresh air from North of the Border, because I would impress upon your Lordships that in many parts of the country it is not yet clearly understood that our terms of reference specifically excluded Scotland, although, on the other hand, they specifically included the Principality of Wales. And those of your Lordships who have studied social matters in the Principality will, I think, agree that it is very remarkable to see how far the distinguished representative from the Principality that we had on our Committee has gone in completely following the recommendations of the whole Committee.
We took as our first consideration: what should be the purpose of Sunday observance? And we set out our views, and how they were arrived at, in Chapter 3 of the Report. Our conclusions, and the principles on which we based our proposals, are summarised in paragraphs 48 and 52. I should like to quote one or two sentences of paragraph 48, where we use these words:There were some witnesses who. from religious convictions, looked upon Sunday recreation and work (apart from work of necessity) as contrary to Divine law. There were others who regarded all restrictions based on Sunday observance as an unjustifiable infringement of their freedom. Between these two extremes there was a considerable number of people who. for a variety of reasons, were in favour of keeping Sunday as a 'different' day.401 I have quoted these sentences to emphasise the words "a different day", because it was a great surprise to the Committee, if I may put it in this way, that people holding entirely different views on this problem all came together, in cross-questioning at the end of their examination, and all came to the conclusion that they wished Sunday to be a different day from any other.
For this desire there were a variety of reasons—all very good ones. Some were definitely religious—and, of course, really it all goes back traditionally to religion right through the ages. Some had this view for family reasons; others because of the advent of the motor car, and because Sunday is the only day when the family can get together and can be together. But, for one reason or another, they all thought this day should be different from any other day in the week. This gave the Committee very great satisfaction, and having that background from which to start our labours made our task very much easier.
Perhaps I might just touch upon one or two points in elucidation of the various sections. With regard to that on entertainments, there is no doubt that our task here was simplified owing to the effect on the attitude of the public mind of television. This is a new factor since this problem was previously considered, and it has had a definite impact, I think, on the public mind, on their ideas as to what should be done, so far as entertainment on Sunday is concerned. We considered most carefully the special position of live performers, actors, variety artists, before deciding on our recommendations. We had no reason to doubt, as the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, said in his speech, the opinion of the Equity Council who told us that they believed that 401 is probably close to the total of those opposed to Sunday theatres in principle, and that the overwhelming majority of their members were not opposed.
We accepted that view, and although I appreciate that in his very helpful speech this afternoon the most reverend Primate did not go quite so far as we do in this particular aspect, I believe that in general principle he welcomes the recommendations of the Report. I would only say to him that, so far as the reservation of one of our members is concerned, which was really the only reservation in the whole of the Report and recommendations, he went 402 out of his way to say that this was not a difference in principle but a question of where the line should be drawn. That appears in paragraph 84, and I accept that completely, as no doubt the most reverend Primate will, too.
As to his point about the time of 12.30 p.m., there is no law of the Medes and Persians about that. I think, without divulging secrets from the Committee, it is one of those things where, when we started our discussions, some members of the Committee did not want any time fixed at all; others wanted entertainments to start early in the morning; and we came down on 12.30 p.m., upon which we all agreed. There is no law of the Medes and Persians there, and I think, if I may say so in my personal capacity and very humbly, there is very much to be said for the view expressed by the most reverend Primate and also other who have spoken this afternoon.
Leaving that for a moment, if I may, I will come to what was, I suppose, the most difficult and controversial question which we had to consider, and that was whether spectator sports should be permitted on Sundays. To start with, it is very difficult to divide sports between the sports which everybody takes part in and sports which people want to see and enjoy as a spectacle. We came down in the end on this particular provision, because we believed there was a good case for some relaxation of the law to help local clubs who organised games primarily for the recreation of the players but who need financial help and encouragement from spectators. At present some clubs organise Sunday matches and make a voluntary collection or charge for special facilities. We were told this was not satisfactory to the organisers and those responsible for controlling traffic and spectators. Your Lordships will realise what was behind all that—people trying to avoid paying for car parks whose motor cars block up the traffic, and altogether it is highly unsatisfactory. In the end, after a lot of consideration, the Committee came to the conclusion that the payment of the participants—and I use these words deliberately—would be a less unsatisfactory alternative. If Her Majesty's Government, when the time comes, can suggest a better way of achieving the Committee's aim, the Committee will welcome it wholeheartedly.
403 Of course, the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield mentioned Wimbledon. We gave a great deal of thought to that, and our thinking was that this gets through the net, but it happens only once a year and the advantage accrued to stop wholesale organised sport, such as professional football, racing and the like, where large crowds are gathered together incurring very large additional employment of people, justified us in taking this line—which, we agree, is completely illogical. We started with this consideration: whatever we do in this Report, let us make common sense, because we cannot be logical and if we try to make the position logical it will not be sensible.
I should like to refer to Her Majesty's Government, because I know that this matter is going to be extremely complicated. Although they were very complimentary to the Report, I know very well that when it comes to forming legislation all sorts of problems will arise. We said we would try to be as helpful as we could be to any Government; but when it comes to proposing legislation it is very difficult to define it in the Report. In these paragraphs on this aspect we based ourselves on the Wolfenden Report, so much so that we included the appropriate passages from the Wolfenden Report as an Appendix to our Report. That is again exactly the same thinking as that in our Report, and I believe it is nearly the same thinking as that of noble Lords who have spoken in this debate.
I do not want to take up too much time at the end of this discussion, but I should like to refer to some points which have been made, although I will not mention just those which are complimentary to the Committee. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said, quite correctly, that T.V. was excluded from our consideration. There was no secret about this. In the middle of our consideration we suddenly realised that, long though our deliberations had been, if we had had to deal with T.V. they could have gone on for much longer, and the whole matter would have been much more complicated. So we sought the guidance of Her Majesty's Government of the day, and we were told definitely that we had not to consider T.V. programmes and T.V. problems. Although we did not seek guidance on 404 this, the same applies to points of great validity raised by the most reverend Primate in regard to future legislation in connection with shift workers in factories. We did not consider them because they were in a different field. I have dealt with the 12.30 o'clock point. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, called attention to points which are really for Her Majesty's Government, and I hope that they will be answered by the Government.
From the Committee's point of view, in Recommendation 12 we included vending machines because they created no additional employment on Sunday, and we did not consider the point which was made. With regard to launderettes, we did not mean them to include other services. We looked upon them as a shop. But there is a question of law here. Question 19 posed rather an important point. We were here dealing with holiday resorts. This question has got out of balance and is all wrong. But when we first had holiday resorts it was quite easy to say that such-and-such a place was a holiday resort. With the advent of the small family motor car, people can go out into the country as a family, but they cannot obtain all sorts of things that they may require, perfectly reasonably, because the place is not a holiday resort. We have suggested that local authorities be given power to say that part of their area is a holiday resort and part is not, according to the wishes of the particular local authority at the time; and we think that they will be sensible. We hope that this suggestion will commend itself to Her Majesty's Government.
I cannot pass the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester without, on behalf of our Committee, thanking him most cordially. In his speech, in a short time, he entirely reflected our point of view. Speaking personally, I would say that he absolutely reflected our point of view towards the Lord's Day Observance Society. The point of view which he suggested to the House was exactly that which we took when we were assessing their evidence. We are most grateful to him for everything that he said.
Other noble Lords made speeches which were of great interest and most helpful. But I do not think there is any particular point that it would be right for me to answer; answers would come 405 more appropriately from Her Majesty's Government. In the course of my few remarks I have not mentioned trading. I have not mentioned trading because, by and large, the recommendation appears to have met with general support. In short, what we on the Committee tried to do was to simplify the complicated and ambiguous laws on exempted goods and transactions which were becoming, and are, quite fantastic. Without going into detail, the kind of thing of which your Lordships have heard so much is that, while one may buy a razor blade to cut a corn, one may not do so in order to shave. How can one enforce a law like that? There are any amount of laws like that. You can sing Harry Lauder's song, but you cannot wear a kilt unless, like some noble Lords, you come from North of the Border. These things do not make sense. The whole of this part of our Report on trading is an endeavour to bring the law dealing with trading matters into line, and to do away with all unnecessary restrictions, while keeping the principle that there should be no general trading on Sundays exactly the same as it is now. That should be remembered.
I turn now to the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who is going to reply to the debate. I have no doubt that we shall be much interested in what he is going to say. In another place, the Home Secretary was, I think, reasonably complimentary about the Report; but he said he was there to listen, to hear the views of Members in all parts of the House, and he gave no indication as to any Government action at all, or what he or Her Majesty's Government propose to do. The noble Lord will probably do the same to-day. That is what I expect. But I hope he will be able to go just a stage further, because although noble Lords will appreciate that the Government's legislative programme is quite full at the present time, that is no reason at all, in my view, why the preparation of legislation to deal with the many anomalies that exist in our laws concerning Sunday observance should not be commenced straight away. My noble friend Lord Derwent made this point, and I hope that the noble Lord opposite will be able to say that something is on the move, that something is happening, and 406 that our Report will not be pigeon-holed, not to emerge for many, many years.
I am not going to detain your Lordships any longer. I shall simply end my remarks where I began by saying that when the Committee began their deliberations in the autumn of 1961 we were told on all sides that when we had completed them there would be eight different Reports. In actual fact, our Report is virtually unanimous. This surely gives the Government of to-day, or any Government, a wonderful opportunity for taking the necessary action to deal with the present law. As we said, in our paragraph 52:In framing our recommendations we have endeavoured to make proposals which, if adopted, would produce a law that would be respected and could be enforced. To achieve this, the law must be clear, certain, and acceptable to a majority of the public.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, we have had an extremely valuable and, I think, high-level debate, of which I think the two main features are that Yorkshire have had a good innings, both in the middle and at both ends, while we have had also three invaluable speeches from the Bench of Bishops. I must confess that I have been delighted to hear the forthright—one might say brave—statements which have emanated from the Bishops' Bench.
The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York, I was glad to see, would welcome the removal of anomalies which bring Sunday observance into ridicule. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester, in what was I thought a most wise and witty speech, assured us that the survival of the Lord's Day Observance Society and its propaganda is an anachronism from which the Church of England must dissociate itself. And again, as a Bishop and a Christian, he assured us that he was reluctant to ask for any restriction at all for which the Church was not absolutely obliged to ask. I think they are very helpful statements. I would also mention that during at least two hours of the debate, throughout some six or seven speeches, we had the presence here of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, who was responsible in 1961 for appointing the Committee, whose Report we are now considering.
407 I am sure the House is extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, for giving us this opportunity to debate the Report, and also for a speech which, even by his standards, was remarkable. The noble Lord took us on a Sunday tour through Greece, Spain, Israel, Burma, Thailand, Hawaii, Tahiti—and those are only some of the places I noted. My trouble is that, although I am vastly well briefed by the Home Office on Sunday in Wales and Scotland, nobody thought to tell me about Sunday in Hawaii, so on that I shall not be able to comment. But I would at once thank the noble Lord very much for a speech that was forceful, devout, erudite and, at times, moving, yet which, nevertheless, was full of common sense. It was a fitting speech for a Christian gentlemen and the incumbent of Nostell Priory.
I want on behalf of the Government to join with everybody in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his colleagues on the Committee most warmly for the thorough and painstaking review which they have made of this subject, and for the balanced and eminently readable nature of the Report. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that it was the only Report which he had ever read through. I would never make a confession of that kind; but this Report is very much easier to read to the end than others, and we are very grateful for it. This is a quite remarkable fact, because this is an area where differing views are sincerely, and sometimes tenaciously, held. I am sure the Committee are to be congratulated on having achieved such a large measure of unanimity in their recommendations. It is this unanimity which, in my view, is responsible for the Report's quiet reception, which I interpret not as apathy but as acceptance.
Proposals for relaxation of various aspects of Sunday observance have been made in another place at intervals during the last twenty years; and always they have met with a most fierce and skilful opposition, and almost always they have been defeated. I was thinking, as the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, was speaking, that if we followed logically the position of Sabbatarians who have fought, as they have every right to, so forcefully against any kind of change over the past half century, we should be in 408 precisely the position in which he finds himself when he tries to give his small boy, now at an Edinburgh prep school, some kind of recreation on a Sunday. I can speak feelingly on this matter, because at the age of 20 I went to Scotland for the first time in my life. It was a very wet Saturday night in Glasgow, in February. I was there alone all day on Sunday, and quite literally the only place that was open, apart, I suppose, from public lavatories, was the museum. There I shared the delights of the Battle of Langside with some young people.
The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, pointed out that his Committee were not asked to consider Scotland, but I understand that in that country, although there are still on the Statute Book some very restrictive Sabbath observance laws, only a judicial decision could decide whether they are obsolete. But they are not enforced; there is no question of prosecution under them, and general Sunday observance in Scotland, therefore, is maintained not by the criminal law but by the pressure of public opinion. No doubt if public opinion changes, conditions will change also.
I was speaking about opposition in another place to proposals for relaxation of Sunday observance. The Commons debate on this Report, on February 15, was the most poorly attended on this subject in memory, which I regard as proof of the fact that the Crathorne Report is accepted by the majority of Members in another place.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? If he is talking about poor attendance, is there no single supporter of Her Majesty's Government in this House who is interested enough to come to the House to hear what Her Majesty's Government's proposals are on the Crathorne Report? Look at the number of noble Lords opposite who are here and take an interest in what the Government have to say. Have none of their supporters in this House any interest in this matter?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I always believe that a good soldier never looks behind him. It is enough to face noble Lords in front of me without worrying who is or is not behind me. In any case, the noble Lord, Lord 409 Airedale, could not expect me to be armed with the knowledge to give an answer to his question, though I have no doubt that it will be noted.
I was speaking about the debate in another place and the attendance there being the poorest in memory, which I regard as acceptance of the Report. During the debate some Members urged adherence to the Sabbatarian principle. Indeed, my honourable friend and fellow Joint Under-Secretary of State—the underside of the joint, as it were!—Mr. George Thomas, who is a leading and beloved Methodist, praised some aspects of the Sunday Observance Act, 1625, which prohibits meetings and assemblies of people out of their parishes for any sport or pastime whatsoever. But with the freedom which attaches even to Ministers on this subject, I must say that I do not myself rejoice in the fact that this year that Act celebrates its 340th anniversary. In my view, there is no question that the 1625 Act is now completely obsolete and unenforceable in modern conditions. I believe this is true of most of the later Sunday Observance laws and that it is wrong to continue Statutes which are archaic, often incomprehensible and therefore unenforceable.
As a humble Anglican, I take the view that religious observance and the teaching of Christian doctrine cannot be secured by law, and that some, at least, of the present restrictions have become an embarrassment to the Church. I believe that the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York virtually said that, but he indicated by implication that, in his view, in a society only partially Christian it is impossible to have statutory observance of Christian principles. It would. I think, help make our society much healthier and even more moral if we removed stupid anomalies and unjustifiable restrictions, and created conditions in which people, each in his own way, were able to enjoy Sunday as a day off with a difference. That, I think, is the burden of the Crathorne Report. And it was also the main theme of the debate in another place, which proved that there is a considerable body of opinion which would welcome a wise and moderate relaxation of the present law, provided that Sunday retained a special character as a day 410 primarily devoted to relaxation and family pursuits.
I expect that when I was a small boy my experience was much the same as that of your Lordships who are in the same age group. We went to Church every Sunday morning, to Sunday School in the afternoon, to Church Gymnasium on Monday and to something else on one or two other days of the week. Church was a dominant factor in one's life. But the family Sunday, the Sunday, of family worship, no longer exists for the considerable majority of our people. Indeed, there is some substance in the argument that there is more true recreation of the family together, and, perhaps, even more religion, on the Continent, despite what is said about the Continental Sunday. In my view, there are few more appalling experiences than a journey to the seaside on a summer Sunday, yet millions of people take a sadistic pleasure in inflicting this punishment on themselves as frequently as possible. And why not, if they do not harm others?
But here we come to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, made about these motor-cycle and motor car rallies, which make a fiendish noise, cause people acute discomfort, and prevent other people from enjoying themselves. I heartily agree with the point that he made that this has to be looked into, but whether it would come within the scope of any legislation which might eventually be contemplated on this subject I could not say. But it would seem to me that these people are constituting a nuisance and the trouble could be dealt with under that heading.
There is no sound reason why those who belong to golf or cricket or tennis or polo or swimming or motoring or flying clubs, or even pot-holing clubs, should not enjoy their recreation without restriction or blame. We cannot compel them to go to church—although a great many do—but people should be at liberty to enjoy their day of leisure in the way they choose, even if they work harder at it than in their weekday jobs. And provided we do not inflict unfair conditions on those obliged to work, we should strive to remove the anomalies. Some have been mentioned. I understand it is the case that you can buy fish and chips on a Sunday, anywhere but in 411 a fish and chip shop. Tripe lovers can satisfy their addiction but must dispense with the cow heel. You can salve a hurt finger at the chemist's, but you cannot buy the perfume to soothe the hurt feelings of a lady. You can watch or take part in a live television show, but you cannot buy a ticket to see the same show in a theatre. You can buy almost nothing in Balham and almost everything in Brighton. These things just do not make sense, and they cause people to lose respect for the law. I believe that, overwhelmingly, people treasure Sunday as a break in the rhythm of work, but also, overwhelmingly, they want, within reasonable limits, freedom to choose the manner in which they spend their day.
There is further support for this view in the reception which public opinion and the Press have given to the Committee's proposals. In general, the Press have commented favourably on the Report as succeeding for the most part in reconciling conflicting views. Some newspapers have expressed the view that the recommendations might have gone further in particular they are doubtful about the proposal to forbid professional sport on Sundays. But the Home Office has received astonishingly few letters from the general public. Of these, some are favourable to the Report, but the majority expressing objection to it do so mainly on rigid Sabbatarian principles. Another pointer which noble Lords may have noticed was that on February 22 the Daily Telegraph published a Gallup Poll showing that 56 per cent. of those questioned favoured the Sunday opening of places of entertainment, 53 per cent. the holding of professional sport on Sundays, and 67 per cent. Sunday trading.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, dealt with some of the Committee's recommendations in detail, and I shall be talking about his points on Sunday trading and employment in a moment. But I do not want to go into all the recommendations in detail, because from all the information, views and opinions which the Government have been able to obtain, all the Committee's recommendations have met major acceptance, apart from reservations—not opposition—regarding recommendations Nos. 4, 6 and 7. I have, of course, noted the objection which the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop had to recommendation No. 3. 412 But although we must take note of that objection, nevertheless we are convinced that the great majority of people are in favour of recommendation No. 3. Therefore I propose to confine my remaining remarks to those three recommendations about which some doubts have been expressed.
In their recommendation No. 6, the Committee propose the abolition of the present prohibition on Sunday sports matches and meetings to which the public are admitted on payment, and the substitution of a prohibition on matches for spectators to watch where the players are paid. The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, told us why his Committee had come to their decision, and made it clear that the Committee were concerned to distinguish between those sports matches organised to attract large crowds—which they believed should be prohibited in order to help preserve the special character of Sunday—and the small, local events likely to attract only a few people, which they thought should be allowed. The noble Lord has said that they found difficulty in drawing this line of demarcation, but they felt they had drawn the right one.
The distinction between amateur and professional players in many sports has become increasingly blurred, and in some sports so-called amateurs are employed by firms because of their prowess and skill in a particular sport. Then there are organised amateur sports—Rugby Union matches, lawn tennis tournaments and athletic events—which attract large crowds and create a good deal of incidental employment. But whatever the present views of the controlling bodies of these sports, if the law were to be changed in the way proposed by the Committee it is possible that at some future date some, at least, of them might wish to promote amateur contests on Sundays which might well attract considerable numbers of people.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield mentioned the Boat Race. There is nothing to stop the Boat Race from being held on Sundays, now, because the crews are all amateurs—at least, I have always been led to believe they were—and, of course, the public does not pay for admission. So whatever might be done with the law, it would not affect that case. But it would seem very difficult 413 to defend the position if England were to play France at Twickenham before a capacity crowd and Wigan could not play Warrington at Wigan before a much smaller crowd. But, my Lords, if a distinction is to be maintained between sports liable to attract large numbers of spectators and other sports, then, as a purely practical matter, it seems that there is much to be said for the present criterion of payment for admission—and I gather that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester supports that view.
Now I recognise that this prohibition on the payment for admission is capable of evasion (as indeed the Committee pointed out), by devices such as charging for car parks, collections on the ground and so on; but it is very doubtful whether enough profit could be made through that kind of practice for any large-scale sporting events. An alternative course, therefore, would be to remove all restrictions on Sunday sports, whether professional or amateur. As I have already said, this proposal has received some support from the Press, and the Government are very grateful for the views which your Lordships have expressed in the present debate. But. I am bound to say that the rough poll which I have taken indicates that most people would, on the whole, be in favour of retaining the status quo. It seems that the choice lies not in the noble Lord's proposal but between leaving things as they are and removing altogether restrictions on Sunday games, whether the players are amateurs or professional.
My Lords, the other point at issue is the one in proposal 4 and proposal 7: that theatres, and so on, should open at 12.30, and that games should start at 12.30. Here, the overwhelming view of the House seems to me to indicate, from what I have heard, that 12.30 is not the right time, but that 2 o'clock should be the time at which either these sports or entertainments should be allowed to start.
With regard to Sunday trading, the Committee's recommendations are, of course, far less radical than those on entertainment and sport, although they do represent some liberalisation. The whole question of Sunday trading is at present being examined as part of a general review of shop hours, and the Government hope to be able to announce 414 their provisional conclusions within the next few months. Certainly, as the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Lichfield insisted, we must see that the position of employees is fully safeguarded.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, first of all raised a point about paragraph 204, where he was in disagreement with the Committee's Report—and as I am advised, the noble Lord was right. As this is a matter of some immediate importance, I should like to state precisely the position. Section 47 of the 1950 Act originates in the Shops (Sunday Trading Restriction) Act, 1936, and it was the Home Office view in 1937, when the circular to which the noble Lord referred was published, that the provisions in the 1912 Act relating to evening closing hours applied, notwithstanding the general exception for certain transactions set out in the Fifth Schedule to the 1950 Act. Now that the 1912 Act and the 1936 Act appear in one Statute—the 1950 Act—there could be some doubt as to whether the provisions of Section 2 override the exemption conferred by Section 47. If there is a doubt, it is for the courts to interpret the law. In the meantime, on behalf of the Home Office, I must express the view that exempted transactions on Sunday must not take place after 8 p.m. That is as we understand it on that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, also expressed views on automatic vending machines, on launderettes (as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale), on the Ilford case, on souvenirs and on the definition of "fancy goods". I will not attempt my own definition of "fancy goods" at the moment, but I will give an undertaking that all these points will be taken into account and thoroughly considered in the general review of retail trading legislation that is now being undertaken; and, similarly, the point which the noble Viscount, Lord Furness, raised on international airports. Furthermore, I shall of course be very pleased indeed to discuss with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, the relationship between launderettes and the 1950 Act. I am glad to have his assurance that Sunday opening, will not mean much increase in employment, and I do indeed agree that launderettes are of considerable value to quite a number of people.
415 The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, expressed the hope that I would be making some positive statements this evening; and, indeed, some ten to fourteen days ago I was delighted to read in the Daily Express that I was going to do so. I have not announced any definite conclusions which the Government have reached on this most valuable Report, but this certainly does not mean that the Government intend to shelve the Report, as the noble Lord feared and as indeed has been suggested in certain sections of the Press. That is emphatically not the case. The Government have already had the benefit of the views expressed in another place; but, with this debate following so soon afterwards, it would have been a grave discourtesy to your Lordships' House, and in particular to the Bench of Bishops, if I had come here to announce decisions instead of to listen to the opinions which your Lordships have so ably and eloquently expressed. Moreover, the Church Assembly has not expressed its considered opinion on the Report, and we wished to avail ourselves of the opportunity provided by this debate to hear the views of the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York and his colleagues.
Her Majesty's Government entirely support the principle which has animated this whole debate and the Crathorne Report, that there should be one day of rest per week; and we support also the right of every man to attend a place of worship on his own equivalent of the Sabbath day—it is not always the same day. The Home Secretary is determined to secure that any proposals for amendment of the law should be such as to command a wide measure of support in all sections of the community. It would be quite wrong to rush headlong into legislation without proper regard to the many different opinions sincerely held throughout the country: but, equally, my right honourable friend is anxious that the law on Sunday entertainments and sports, which is acknowledged to be full of anachronisms, should be rationalised and brought into keeping with modern thought and conditions as soon as that can reasonably be done. It will be my right honourable friend's objective (if I may paraphrase the words of the Committee) to produce a law which is clear, certain and 416 acceptable to the majority of the public, and which would thus be respected and could be enforced. My Lords, the debate this afternoon—and I thank everyone who has spoken—has made a most valuable contribution to that end, and your Lordships can confidently expect that definite legislative results will flow from it.
§ 6.30 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I thank them not formally, as I am expected to, but with great gratitude for the thought that went into their speeches and the lucidity with which those ideas were expressed. My noble friend Lord Crathorne was told when his Committee began their task that at the end he would have eight Reports, one for each member. We might have expected thirteen policies or attitudes from this debate. This has certainly not been the case. We have seen a remarkable solidarity of attitude in the whole House.
This must have given great encouragement to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who has just delivered the crowning speech of the debate. I know that it would have given great encouragement to me had I been at the Dispatch Box, but I am sure that I could not have dealt so ably with the winding-up of this debate. His remarks about me were so complimentary that I was waiting for the sting in the tail. I think there was no sting; or, if there was, I did not hear it. As so often, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. His words have undoubtedly heartened us by the assurance that something will be done —not merely that nothing will be shelved, but that something will be done. For so long and so far as action remains in his hands, we have every cause to be confident that the highest human qualities will be applied to this important endeavour. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.