HL Deb 21 November 1966 vol 278 cc29-77

3.45 p.m.

Second Reading debate resumed.


My Lords, if I may bring your Lordships back to earth and to the Sunday Entertainments Bill, I would begin by joining the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in expressing grateful thanks to my noble friend. Lord Willis for creating this opportunity for Parliament to take a decision on the weighty question of whether, and if so how, the law on Sunday observance can be rationalised and liberalised. I would also express my thanks to my noble friend for the lucid and cogent, if at times forceful, way in which he explained his Bill. The long, vexed subject of statutory intervention in the observance of Sunday is a question which closely affects the individual consciences of all of us. It is a matter on which widely differing views are sincerely and sometimes tenaciously held.

In such circumstances it is proper that Parliament should make the necessary changes through the medium of a Private Member's Bill and that all decisions should be left to a free vote. That is certainly the view of Her Majesty's Government. Our attitude throughout the passage of the Bill will therefore be one of neutrality; and Government supporters, whether Ministers or Back Benchers, will be perfectly free to vote as they wish. In our view it would be improper in a matter of conscience such as this for the Government to try to impose a view. I shall therefore do my utmost to refrain from commenting on the principles involved in the Bill but reserve the right, if your Lordships give it a Second Reading, to comment on the practicability of any particular proposals which may be put to the House during the later stages.

The Government thought it right to afford my noble friend Lord Willis drafting facilities to enable him to clothe his proposals in appropriate legislative form, and the services of the Parliamentary draftsmen will be available to my noble friend for the Committee and Report stages so that any decision which your Lordships may reach will not be frustrated for lack of technical assistance. Although, as my noble friend explained, the proposals in his Bill differ in some respects from those of the Crathorne Committee, its obvious purpose is broadly to give effect to the spirit of Crathorne, namely, the sweeping away of the existing clutter of obscure and often illogical statutory restrictions upon Sunday entertainment—my noble friend called them, in a very graphic phrase, "a mish-mash of hoary Statutes"—and to replace them with a simpler and more liberal system which, although representing a significant relaxation of the present law, will nevertheless preserve the special character of Sunday.

My noble friend reminded us—and I found it somewhat surprising—that it is eighteen months since we debated the Crathorne Report; but I recall clearly, as he said, that the Report was warmly supported by all thirteen speakers who took part in the debate, initiated by the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, to which I had the honour of replying. I note that to-day we are to have contributions from three noble and reverend Lords. When we debated the Report of the Crathorne Committee in March, 1965, a feature of that debate was the three very valuable contributions from the Bench of Bishops. In particular the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York made it clear that he would welcome anomalies which bring Sunday observance into ridicule, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield—


My Lords, I should not like it to appear that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had been misreported. He said that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York would welcome anomalies. I think he meant that the most reverend Primate would welcome their being done away with.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. What I should have said was that the most reverend Primate would welcome the removal of the anomalies.

I was saying that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield had some adverse comments to make on a point of detail, but he too, welcomed the prospect of the removal of anomalies; and, as my noble friend Lord Willis has said, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester 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. In the whole debate on that occasion your Lordships expressed the unanimous view that society would be better for the removal of unjustifiable restrictions and anomalies so that everyone in his own way could enjoy Sunday as a day off with a difference.

Your Lordships believed that there was a majority public view in favour of a wise and moderate relaxation of the present law, provided that Sunday retained a special character as a day primarily devoted to relaxation and family pursuits. You felt that people overwhelmingly treasure Sunday as a break in the rhythm of work, but also overwhelmingly they want, within reasonable limits, a freedom of choice about the way in which they spend their day. It is for your Lordships to decide if that be the objective we have in mind, and whether this Bill achieves it.

The present restrictions on Sunday pleasuring cannot be reduced to a simple formula, and if my noble friend Lord Willis made anything clear he certainly made that clear in the early part of his speech. Indeed, the complexity and piecemeal nature of the present law constitutes the major part of the case for reforming it.

But broadly speaking, as things stand at present, if an admission charge is made all forms of public Sunday sport and entertainment are prohibited, except cinemas, museums, lectures, debates and concerts; and the prohibition covers the whole twenty-four hours. That is the present position. But that is "broadly speaking." In practice the interpretation of the principal Acts is so obscure that there is an unlimited field for anomalies. For example, if a singer has a natural beard, his public song recital would be a permitted musical entertainment. But if the beard were false it would not. Similarly, the wearing of the kilt would make a performance illegal unless, of course, the artist were a Scot.

We could go on for a long time repeating anomalies of that kind. The remedy proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is simple. It is that there should be no restrictions whatever on any Sunday sport or entertainment, except that during the twelve hours from 2 a.m. on Sunday morning—3 a.m. in London—until 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon we should prohibit any sport or entertainment which the spectators have to pay to watch. If your Lordships decide that that is what you want this certainly would be perfectly clear, and in the view of my Department it would be workable.

My Lords, for the removal of any doubt which may exist, may I now deal with some of the points raised in public discussion on the Bill, and to which my noble friend Lord Willis and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred. First, Sunday morning football. It would not merely be Sunday morning football because it would include other spectator entertainments started during the morning. Clause 2 would not debar amateur football on a Sunday morning unless the events were spectacles "designed for the entertainment of members of the public" and the public were charged for watching. There would be no bar if the promoters were content as, for instance, is the case with county cricket clubs, to confine their profits during the morning to the sale of programmes and refreshments, the imposition of parking charges, voluntary collections and so on. But the kind of amateur sport—I was going to say mainly amateur, but I think it is entirely—which you see in the parks with almost no spectators would find no kind of prohibition in this Bill. It would go on with no let or hindrance, and if spectators did come, an offence would not be created.

In this matter the Bill has taken as its criterion the payment of admission charges, rather than whether the sport is amateur or professional. I know the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, objected to this, but I am dealing with the position under the Bill. I understand that this criterion has been adopted for two main reasons. First, because the chief object is to prevent the disturbances liable to be caused by large gatherings of spectators on Sunday mornings. Here admission charges provide a good empirical test. With due respect to county cricket at which, unfortunately, the attendances are relatively small, it seems unlikely that an event could be promoted commercially on any considerable scale purely on the basis of voluntary collections and side charges.

The second main reason for the adoption of admission charges as the criterion is that in these days (and here the view expressed is at variance with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent) the distinction between amateur and professional sport has become somewhat blurred. Certain amateur sports, for instance, athletics, and Rugby Union in Wales, have as much drawing power as many professional sports, and could cause considerable disturbance if staged on Sunday mornings. Whether amateur football comes within this class or not, a concession could scarcely be made for it alone. Eventually, and quite soon, it would have to be generally extended, and it might then be very difficult to hold the line at amateur sport.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, asked how far we had got in our consideration of the Sunday trading laws. As my noble friend Lord Willis explained, his Bill is not concerned in any way with the position regarding Sunday trading. The recommendations of the Crathorne Committee regarding Sunday trading are being considered as an integral part of the exhaustive—and I would underline that word—and comprehensive review still being undertaken by the Home Office of the whole law relating to retail trading hours generally, that is, weekdays and Sundays. This review arises from the recommendations put forward, not only in Part III of the Report of the Crathorne Committee, but in the Home Office White Paper on Retail Trading Hours which was published in 1965 and which, among other things, contains tentative suggestions for amending the Shops Act 1950. It has, and is, entailing a very large number of consultations and the unearthing of an almost equal number of opposed and varying views. But when the review is completed, the Government will have to come to a decision and announce their proposals, which we shall do, but the time for that is not yet.

My noble friend Lord Willis asked me if I would deal with the point of Sunday racing. As he made it clear, his Bill does not prohibit horse-racing, or, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent pointed out, dog-racing, for that matter, on a Sunday. But neither does it amend the provisions of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1953, which prohibit on-course betting and the opening of licensed betting shops on Sundays. Since, as I understand it, race meetings could not take place without betting, the practical effect is to prohibit Sunday racing. It might be useful if I explained to the House what would be entailed if at a later stage it were proposed to extend the scope of this Bill so as to permit Sunday betting.

Section 5(1)(b) of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1953, restricts betting on any track to 104 days in the year and it may not take place on Sunday. Under the Act, "track" means premises on which races of any description, athletic sports or other sporting events take place. The prohibition is therefore comprehensive. The Act further provides, in paragraph 1 of Schedule 4, that all licensed betting offices must be closed on every Sunday. The practical effect of these prohibitions is thus to preclude Sunday racing.

Any proposal for modification of prohibitions on Sunday betting would seem certain to attract to the Bill some very controversial issues. In the first place it is probable that it would encounter stronger opposition from those who favour keeping Sunday different from weekdays—for whatever reasons—than proposals for relaxing restrictions on Sunday sport. Nor, very probably, would it be only a matter of allowing betting on the horses and greyhound tracks. Undoubtedly there would be demand for the Sunday opening of licensed betting offices, a matter which of itself would excite controversy. On the one hand, it would probably be argued that it would be unfair to allow on-course but not off-course betting. Moreover, if the betting offices were not open there would be widespread illegal betting; and experience before the passing of the Betting and Gaming Act, 1960, suggests that this would be a real risk. On the other hand, a proposal to open the betting offices on Sunday could certainly be expected to attract strong opposition. Indeed, it seems only too likely that the issue of Sunday betting would in fact be so controversial that my noble friend Lord Willis might feel that the inclusion in his Bill of a provision to permit it might well endanger the whole Bill.

In view of what I said when I commenced my speech, I hope that the House will feel that I have been as helpful as I can be and that I have given as much information as I can. Finally, I would assure your Lordships, if such assurance is needed, that Her Majesty's Government wholeheartedly support the principle which animated the Crathorne Report that there should be one day of rest per week. We support also the right of every man to attend a place of worship on his own equivalent of the Sabbath Day. It is our earnest hope that, as the result of your deliberations, Parliament will produce a law on Sunday observance which is clear, certain and acceptable to the great majority of the public and which will thus be respected and can be enforced.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I confess that after a busy Sunday in four different parts of Sussex, I find a Monday afternoon discussion on Sunday entertainment a little unrealistic. At least in my contribution this afternoon I am at a disadvantage with most of your Lordships, who have been enjoying a day of rest unhindered by other activities.

I want to say how grateful I am for the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in bringing forward this Bill, and though I am not in full agreement with all that he said, I am in sympathy with much of it. It is perfectly true, as he said at the beginning, that the climate of opinion in the world has changed a great deal in the course of the last ten years, and not only generally; the climate of Christian opinion has changed also. There remain a strong minority, to whom the noble Lord referred, who would continue to resist any alteration in the existing laws. They would say that the restriction on Sunday activities which these laws seek to enshrine is based on Divine law and any departure from it would be a departure from Divine law. Personally I do not wholly agree with that view, nor would a great deal of other Christian opinion; but we respect it. I thought that the noble Lord was perhaps a little unkind, I am sure not intentionally, in his remarks about those people. In any democracy, the existence and perseverance of minorities is very important, whether we agree with them or not. They keep alive attitudes and points of view which may be very necessary for the general pattern of society, and I would honour them in many ways without agreeing with the stand they take.

The far larger body of Christian opinion has in many ways, through spokesmen in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, already acknowledged much of what has been said in the Crathorne Report, the spirit of which has been enshrined in this Bill. We should like to remove anomalies and illogicalities from the present law. It would be unrealistic to suggest that new laws will not create new anomalies, and already, from what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has said, it is clear that this Bill creates several new ones which would have to be dealt with in one way or another if it came into action. None the less, we should like to have a realistic reappraisal of these matters.

We recognise that those old laws were framed for a different form of society from our own. There is far greater leisure in our society and a greater number of better ways of employing that leisure in a healthy way. There is a great deal of divergence of views in a modern society and respect ought to be had to all these different views. We should not like it to be supposed that we wish in any way to use these old laws, even if we could do so, to impose upon other people certain views or customs which they could not in their hearts accept. We should not hope by making other things illegal to make people more religious, any more than we should suppose that by making cricket legal we should make better cricketers. We should say that we want more cricketers, and not more spectators, to get better cricket. No doubt the same would apply in religious activity. None the less, we welcome the spirit of the Crathorne Report, which seeks to rationalise and to liberalise the situation. This is an attitude which perhaps would not have obtained in your Lordships' House, certainly it would not within the Churches, a generation ago.

Even at the risk of some repetition, I would reiterate what I regard as three important considerations which ought to be brought to bear on any legislation which affects Sunday. I would first make clear that, much as we would welcome changes, these should never embody any departure from our own conviction that the whole institution of Sunday has a religious foundation. In other societies there may be other ways of using leisure and change and of giving it its place, but the establishment of a special corporate day of the week for the community as a right and, indeed, as a duty from Almighty God came first from the Jewish faith and was taken up, transformed and transmitted by the Christian faith, and it has been enshrined in different ways in all communities that have sought to be in any degree Christian communities. The observance of this Sunday has certainly changed, and it is different in different parts of the world to-day. Yet we must go on asserting this central fact with what is its corollary. The corollary is not only that all who profess themselves to be Christians have the duty of worshipping on Sundays in one way or another, but that the State itself, which at any rate professes a sympathy for the Christian faith, has a duty to keep open the opportunity of that faith in full measure.

When the Crathorne Report was debated in the Church Assembly, shortly after the debate in this House, while there was a great deal of sympathetic reception for it, the Assembly was anxious to assert to the Christian community as a whole that we could not think of the recreation of Sunday without the worship of Sunday, and that neither one nor the other should stand by itself. In this particular respect we have a concern for the young, or, as we say, the community of the next generation, as they grow up. What we should be doing here would be something that affects them even more, it may be, than it affects us. It would be useless later on to deplore the decline of religion in this country, with all the attendant consequences that there might be—and many of those consequences most of us would deplore—if the Church were being unduly hampered or handicapped in its opportunities of gathering them together and teaching them the Christian faith in their early years. Moreover, young people are very sensitive to the values of society around them. They know what kinds of things that society respects, and they know what kinds of things it ignores. And this will shape their own lives. In all this we could not support anything that seemed to depart from our own obligations to maintain this Christian essence in our own Sunday.

Secondly, we must go on to endorse an opinion to which the Crathorne Report gives a good deal of space and which has already been referred to by the promoter of the Bill and others: that it is important that Sunday should in some way or other be preserved as a different kind of day from other days, and that this is important for the community as a whole, and not merely for believing individual members of that community. This was expressed to the Committee in the evidence given by many people who are not themselves particularly Christian bodies.

It is difficult to define what makes it a different day. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, has reminded us, quite rightly, that it is a different kind of day on the Continent without necessarily being a less religious day than it is here. None the less, we have grown up with a certain kind of pattern, and we cannot necessarily transfer ourselves to another kind of pattern without losing a great deal in the process. It is not just a matter of what we do or do not do. It means a certain ethos about the day; something that comes from the attitudes of society and is expressed ultimately in the laws that they observe. It is, indeed, difficult to define what we mean by a different day, but it should always make us watch critically any legislation that is going to affect that day.

One thing more or less in the day might seem to make no difference to it, though I suppose that if a Chancellor of the Exchequer said that one tax more or less would not make all that difference he would not carry his audience with him. One thing more or less may, in the end, upset the whole balance and destroy the spirit, the quiet or the freedom of it. This is what we have to watch. In particular, if the changes that ensued in Sunday were seen to be based not on the genuine human considerations which are in the mind of and were expressed by the noble Lord, but were in fact derived from commercial considerations, from the interests of private groups, then I think this would produce a kind of cynicism in the community. It would be, in T. S. Eliot's phrase: …the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason. This is what might happen.

What is the essence? It is respect for our own national tradition and our Christian tradition; it is respect for personal convictions; it is respect for individual freedom in the face of the pressures around it; it is responsibility one for another. If all these were being subordinated to the promoter, the sales-man or the box office in the end, then I think we should have a travesty on this day which is called a different day, and people would come to despise it.

The third consideration to which I would refer is the preservation of leisure; the chance for as many people as possible to stand aside from the economic pressures of ordinary life, to sit back, or to go out and recreate themselves in such ways as will really bring them a change. I wish, as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has said, that this Bill could have extended wider to cover something of the trading or the industrial problems that beset Sunday, because I think the interference with the rightful leisure of the individual is probably more menaced there than it is by our concentration on sport and entertainment. This Bill deals only with the latter.

The question before us is to what degree in our provision of entertainment for certain sections of the community shall we be taking away freedom from other sections of the community? How far will their private, personal rights be sacrificed? We should all agree that some work is necessary, and that a changing and more complex society must involve more necessary work. But how much is necessary? There is always a tendency to regard the luxuries of one stage as the necessities of the next; and there is always the salesman attitude which would suggest that, "We cannot do without this if we are to live a life at all".

There must come points when we must resist encroachments, because they would lead to steadily advancing areas in which private freedom was interefered with. It might be, for instance, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has already stressed, that if you are presented with the anomaly of legal racing on Sundays, but the illegality of betting on Sundays, you then open up a whole new question whether there is another small section of the community whose Sunday must be taken away for the purposes of providing for the great public at the race meeting on a Sunday afternoon. This may go on. It is in this respect that, like the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, I have some hesitation about the Bill as it stands, and can only give it modified approval.

It is a great regret that our criticism of such a Bill seems to centre on public sport. We all want more sport and more opportunities for recreation for the community; we all want to get away from the charge of bored youth in our cities. But what we really mean is more opportunities for them to enjoy actively their sports themselves; more facilities for them, rather than providing them with a subject of spectator hood, which is not the best way of serving youth. This may be a kind of escape from the more important obligation to the younger generation to provide them with activities of their own. Partly for that reason, I would endorse again the distinction which the Crathorne Report seeks to draw between the player sport and the spectator sport. It may be difficult to draw this up in legal terms, but none the less it is a very real distinction. Is it not a question of what will happen ultimately, when the full resources of modern organisation are let loose on Sundays? If, sooner or later, they develop the full potential for sport and entertainment I think we shall cease to have a day, at least after 2 p.m., and possibly before that time, that is any different from Saturday, and we shall have taken away an increasing amount of liberty or Sunday rest from a great number of people.

When this question arises it will not be sufficient to say that the individual can refuse to work on Sundays. This entirely underrates the amount of pressure which can be put on an individual, either deliberately or unconsciously, from the organisation to which he belongs. The pressure of private interests can be exerted with a great deal of resource and know-how. To the normal publicity they can add the prestige of the event and things build up so that a person cannot, in a sense, contract out of his own part in them.

The organisation of sport to-day is a complicated network of events, meetings, leagues and the like, and it would be difficult for one individual to pull out of his share in them. I could not but notice that when the Crathorne Committee took the evidence of a number of sporting associations they found many against Sunday sport, and they also made this comment: The National Greyhound Racing Society said that they had always been against Sunday racing and in their view all forms of entertainments, sports and games that involve betting or gaming should be prohibited on Sunday. If, however, the law were to be amended they asked that greyhound racing should be granted equality of treatment with other betting sports. There it goes. As soon as it starts happening somewhere, inevitably it will happen somewhere else, until we reach the stage where we cannot retrace our steps. We shall have taken away this very important institution, Sunday, and the result will be seen not in ten years but possibly in fifteen to twenty years' time. Therefore I give some warmth of approval, but with certain strong reservations, to the terms of the Bill.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I had hoped that by now the Government would have the courage to bring forward a Bill to implement the Crathorne Committee's recommendations as a whole. That Committee's Report was published nearly two years ago, and considering the explosive character of the subject it has, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, himself said earlier, come in for gratifyingly little criticism. But now, instead, we have this Bill, introduced in lively, colourful and straight-forward language by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, which deals with only half the field covered by the Crathorne Report, and in that half it departs considerably from the very sensible Crathorne recommendations.

I cannot believe it would be right to legalise all forms of professional sport on Sundays. For one thing, it means collecting huge crowds together, with all the extra transport services they require, not to speak of the extra police needed; and this seems to me to cut right across the principle that so far as possible we ought not to alter the law in ways that would necessitate great numbers of extra people having to work on Sundays. I can see no objection to allowing cinemas to be open anywhere on Sunday afternoons and evenings, freeing them from the rather niggling restrictions in the 1932 Act, and simply allowing the local authority to enforce any special conditions that seem desirable locally. As to theatres, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, pointed out, I know it will be a break with tradition when we have them open generally on Sundays, but for television plays to be permitted on Sundays and for live performances in theatres to be prohibited seems to me to be absurd.

The borderline anomalies under the present law are absurd, too. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, referred to some of them in his speech. I can put on Welsh national dress to sing "Men of Harlech" on a Sunday if I can claim that it is normal dress for me because I am Welsh. But if the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, did that she would be committing a criminal offence because she is from Scotland. I cannot be sure what the law would say if the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, sang on Sunday as Lady Godiva.

As a small girl I grew up in the ordered life of a busy vicarage. Sunday was a very different day from the rest of the week: clean clothes; breakfast at nine instead of at eight; church morning and evening, with afternoon Sunday school thrown in for good measure. This was the pattern of the day. The only games we were allowed to play were games which were supposed to have a religious flavour, though I doubt whether right reverend Prelates would recommend them for religious instruction nowadays. We were expected to learn by heart one of the collects, or a few verses from the Bible, or part of the Catechism, and we were never allowed to knit or to sew. And it is not so very long ago that this was a fairly common pattern all over the country. Although it was natural to gird against some of this parentally imposed discipline, I look back on those days more with pleasure than with anger. But they will never come back again, and it is all wrong to imagine that by retaining restrictive legislation that prohibits all kind of entertainment one can just put the clock back.

Years ago, when I was earning my living in London, before I got engaged to my noble relative on the Front Bench, I often found Sunday a lonely day because there was so little to do in the afternoons and evenings, unless I had been invited out with friends. Sometimes Sundays seemed very long. So I hope I have some right to speak as one who has seen both sides of the case. People nowadays have still more free time on Sundays, and if they are denied by law to do things which seem to them to be reasonable the law is not likely to make them any more Christian. But I do draw the line at professional sport, and I think that most people would do so, too, if they thought out all that it implied. I believe nearly everyone feels that as many people as possible, themselves included, should have their Sundays different from ordinary working days. But we fall foul of this principle at once if we allow big matches and sporting events to take place; and in practice this means professional sport.

So, my Lords, I do not like this Bill, in that it opens wide the gates to large-scale professional sport on Sundays. I like much better the Crathorne Committee's idea of legalising all forms of unpaid amateur sport and games on Sundays, whether or not the public are charged for admission. The sooner the funny old antiquated Acts of Parliament are swept away, the better. I hate to know that my sons are committing a criminal offence every time they play village cricket on the opponents' ground on a Sunday afternoon.

But, above everything, I would plead that we get right away from cant. I remember just before the war visiting a Ministry of Labour rehabilitation centre for young men who had been long unemployed. There was an excellent football field, but the men were not allowed to use it on Sundays because of the strong local feeling against playing games on the Sabbath. You see, my Lords, this took place in Wales and when I asked what the men did instead on Sundays I was told that they stayed indoors and played cards all day. I am a loyal Welsh woman, but I cannot believe that leaving those young men to play cards indoors on Sunday, instead of football out of doors, did much good for the cause of either religion or Welsh culture. Perhaps we all have to drop a few scales from our eyes if we are to get the laws about Sundays right, but I do not believe there is necessarily a conflict between religion and common sense, and I submit to your Lordships that the Crathorne Report got much nearer to reconciling the two than this Bill does.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, if I may I should like to express my appreciation of the clarity, the courtesy and the temper in which my noble friend introduced this discussion this afternoon. In his penultimate remarks as a humanist, I think he spoke for every Christian or would-be Christian, and with the customary ability of the humanist, to misquote the Scriptures for his own use, he somewhat mutilated the reference from Micah, which I think distinguishes a little his position from mine. I believe it is right that we should seek to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly according to the light that is in us. That is very good, but it is not the Scripture. The Scripture says and walk humbly "with thy God", and that slightly distinguishes the approach I would make to this.

As a matter of Christian importance, I believe that this Bill goes some way to satisfy what I believe to be our legitimate needs and to clear away some of the abuses which have in the past dogged, and still continue to dog, our path. I declare my own interest, that I want to see the preservation of those truly Christian elements in Sunday which have been of immeasurable importance in the instilling in this people the virtues which we still possess, and I think it would be a grave injury to our national life if those essential qualities were in any way impaired. Therefore I do not regard this Bill as some kind of Pisgah height from which we can see a promised land and can more quickly come to it. On the other hand, I do not regard it as part of the wide gate that leads to destruction. I have a great deal of sympathy with what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, and in one particular measure I would think it probably better that we should adhere to the principles of the Crathorne Report. I involve my judgment upon that and should like to hear more about it in Committee. On the other hand, I believe my noble friend is entirely right in his insistence on preferring 2 o'clock rather than 12.30.

There are two clauses in the Bill which, surely, should delay no one. The first clause seeks to get rid of the mish-mash, the rag-bag of hoary and obsolete laws, and if there should be needed any evidence in support of that proposition it comes from none other than the Lord's Day Observance Society themselves, who, in the voluminous propaganda they have sent me (in the hope, no doubt, of a deathbed repentance) say that they themselves believe the application of these laws is now well nigh impossible—and I think the "well nigh" is a concession to sentiment rather than facts. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, I would say that we should devote very little time to what are obsolete laws which need to be revised, so that we ourselves, as Christian people, and the community as a whole, may not be brought into contempt for our stupidity and our adhesion to propositions which are ridiculous, as noble Lords have already declared them to be in this House.

No reference has been made as yet to Clause 7, that sordid piece of legislation, the Cinematograph Fund which was practically as ineffective as it was morally dubious and, I think, a great matter of embarrassment to those who expected to receive it, but so far as I am concerned as a charitable organisation received very little of it. The burial of this indecent corpse is a very good thing. It is, if I may say so, between Clause 1 and Clause 7 that we are involved in controversy, and it is a controversy or, at any rate, a discussion, held within a House the proceedings of which this afternoon were begun with prayer and so committed to the prosecution of the Christian faith. Therefore, it is no impertinence on my part that I should seek to speak of that Christian faith. In fact the impudence, if there is any, is from those who would seek to exclude it from your Lordships' deliberations.

It is a pity, I think, that much of the objection that will be directed to this Bill comes from a particular organization to which reference has been made. I should like to delay your Lordships a little by saying something about the Lord's Day Observance Society's propositions, because I think they need refutation; they are articulate if ill-informed and they are widely dispersed if, I think, they are intelligently almost negligible. I have nothing but respect and admiration for their enthusiasm, and if I may pass a comment on my own pastoral experience, it is very often those who have the weirdest theological notions who dedicate themselves the more thoroughly and consistently to the prosecution of gooddeeds. But in this regard of the Lord's Day Observance Society and its propaganda thereto, they are, as I see it, theologically completely wrong, and historically they are without any sense of the truth as I believe that truth has to be maintained. Theologically it is for a Christian absurd to seek to equate the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, with the first day of the week; to assert that because our friends, the ancient Hebrews, were prohibited from working on the seventh day of the week, therefore modern Christians should be prohibited from playing games on the first day of the week is a complete non sequitur.

In fact it is true to say that the propositions of Sabbatarianism have in essence nothing to do with Christianity at all. They are an unwarrantable intrusion which can only be maintained by those who, irrespective of any normal and customary arguments of theology or history, mingle ancient laws with modern laws and assume that they both, because they appear within one cover, have the same final authority. Sabbatarianism is not a Christian command, it does not belong to the Christian faith. The Lord's Day, which is the first day of the week, is a commemoration of the Resurrection of Our Lord. It is a day of worship and of gladness; it is not a day of mere legal prohibition and abstention from work. In the second place, the Sabbatarians, in the persons of the Lord's Day Observance Society, make the equally fallacious assumption that inertia is the same thing as piety. This has, if I may say so, a provenance which is not altogether disreputable. The emergence of the Sabbatarian habits within Protestantism in general and Nonconformity, in particular, are to be found in the very century in which these particular legislative Acts are also to be found, and they took place at a time when the average six-day working habits of the general populace were out-of-doors and were largely muscular, and therefore it was no privation to spend the Lord's Day largely indoors resting from the labours of the week.

Where, added to this, there came the onrush of the industrial society, I think we ought to speak with even greater care and sympathy and charity of those who first promulgated the first Sabbatarian principles and who so earnestly and sedulously follow them. Those of your Lordships who know something, as many undoubtedly do, of the characteristics of work in industrialised areas, particularly among the early Methodists, will know how arduous, prolonged and intolerable were the conditions in which they had to work six days a week. I knew a miner, an old man, who told me that when he was a youngster he never saw daylight from September until May, except on Sunday, because for the rest of the week he went down the mine when it was still dark, and when he emerged it was dark again. The idea which is prominent, in fact is central, to the argument of the Sabbatarians, particularly the Lord's Day Observance Society, in this respect, is that Sunday should be a day of rest; and if we were living in the industrialised conditions of the early days of the 19th century their arguments would still be very sound. But that day has gone, and with it a large measure of the argument to which the Lord's Day Observance Society are committed. I do not subscribe to their attitudes, but I would, if I may delay your Lordships a little, try to say what to me is the Christian demand which we legitimately ought to make.

I believe, with my friends of the Church of England, that what we are concerned about is to make Sunday a different day, a day on which the vast majority of people will have the opportunity of changing the way of their living and thereby securing a rhythm in life which is not some fastidious appurtenance but belongs, as I see it, to that natural law which must always presuppose and pre-exist, spiritual law. It is that with the coming of the artificialities of our industrial society, we have destroyed the rhythm of day and night—electric light does that. We have destroyed the rhythm of heat and cold, our internal systems of heating will do that; and we are in danger of producing a continuum in which there is no rhythm and balance at all. This is not a peculiarly Christian claim. I believe that it is a natural claim, and anything which can support this rhythmic relationship between six or seven, or five days (it is not committed purely to six days), and anything which can maintain that rhythmic balance of life is to be cherished and is, I think, part of our proper inheritance.

I was delighted to hear the noble Baroness speaking of Sunday as she knew it as a child. It brought back to me my own memories of childhood, which were almost identical. We got up fairly late, and we went to morning Sunday school. Thereafter we went to church, and we came back home for a large lunch. We went back to Sunday school and after Sunday school we came home, had high tea; after high tea we repaired to the drawing room, and there my mother played the piano, and we sang hymns until it was time to go back to church. We went back to church; we came home and had supper, and then my father said "It is a good thing to go to bed early on Sunday"—a magnificent expression of the truth of making a virtue out of a necessity. We were done for! We had been singing and worshipping and praying all day, and if we had wished to stay up later we should have had to do more of it. If your Lordships will notice the correlation between the Sunday of nonconforming Sabbatarianism, which begins late and ends early, I believe you will appreciate one of the essential characteristics of this argument. The piety used to take a lot longer. We now have much more time either to kill or to use.

Therefore, those who claim that this Bill will be a measure of our emancipation are, I think, compelled to recognise, as we must all recognise, that we are in the process of elongating our leisure without at the same time filling it with the appropriate measures which can make it creative. This is not a Bill which will open the gates to a new world; it is a Bill which will clear away a great deal of the rubbish that belongs to an old world and will challenge us with a new kind of vitality in the world into which we have already moved, willy-nilly, and in which I hope we shall take our place constructively and effectively.

I do not claim for the Church that we should be mollycoddled as a hot-house plant. If we can profess our faith without fear or favour, our faith must be this: that we do not insist—how can we?—that those who do not accept our particular beliefs should come to church; but we should like to seek for them the same opportunities as we desire for ourselves, that once a week there should be created an opportunity whereby men and women, and children particularly, shall have a new opportunity of seeking those ways of life which are largely precluded from their acceptance and realisation for the rest of the week. This I believe to be a reasonable, a Christian and, above all, a natural law. It is in some sense to further it, that I believe that this Bill has its merits, and should certainly be given a Second Reading.

I should like to conclude by saying that I do not believe for one moment that it is necessarily true that if this Bill goes through we shall have started a slippery slope, and that we shall go further into depravity and dissipation. What I do believe is that this Bill can give us an opportunity to set our sights in a new direction, to clear away the rubble of a past generation; and then of recognising that we have much yet to do in securing the proper use of leisure in an affluent society, or, as I prefer to think of it, in the Kingdom of God.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think any speaker so far has referred to that one particular class of sport which in my experience shatters the peace of Sunday afternoon more than any other, namely, the class of sport which entails the use of the unsilenced internal combustion engine, of which I suppose the prime example for my case is the thing called a motor-cycle scramble. I am not at all againstmotor-cycle scrambles at any time, and if parties of young men wish to go on Sunday afternoons to the moors, or far into the Fens, and make a deafening noise with motor-cycles for the whole of Sunday afternoon and evening, for myself I should be delighted that they should do that, particularly if the alternative was going to be that they would lounge about in the streets of some towns. But I question whether the practice which obtains nowa- days, whereby these motor-cycle scrambles take place in a field on the outskirts of a village or town, and are allowed to shatter the peace of the people in the village or town who are trying to spend Sunday afternoon in their garden or house, with their windows open, should be permitted. I do not find anything in this Bill as at present drafted which deals with this particular problem. I hope that this problem will be dealt with at some time, and effectively, in the course of this Bill's progress through Parliament.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Willis on having brought forward this Bill, and also on that magnificent historical, sociological and moral survey which he gave in his opening remarks. He will no doubt obtain some satisfaction from the fact that every speaker has said that he believes in giving the Bill a Second Reading. But he may shudder when he thinks of the sledge-hammers that are going to be brought out on the Committee stage.

What kind of a day should Sunday be? Should it be a standardised kind of day, regulated so that everybody does the same thing and thinks the same thoughts? That might not be easy to achieve. Unfortunately, there are no such beings as standardised men. My noble friend introduced this Bill as a humanist. I would support it as a Christian, though not a very demonstrative one, or a church-going one, except on special occasions. This is probably due to the fact that I had an excess of compulsory church-going in my early days. In this, apparently, I share the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, and of my noble friend Lord Soper. When I was quite young I was a choir boy, and a good little choir boy. Other people thought so as well, because one Sunday night one anonymous member of the congregation put sixpence in an envelope and sent it round to me at the vestry door, saying it was in appreciation of the way I had sung the solo that night.

I was one of those boys who had to go to St. John's morning service, who had to go to Sunday school at St. Monica's in the afternoon, who had to sing in the choir at St. Monica's on Sunday evening. Every Wednesday evening there was the Church Lads' Brigade. On one evening a month there was the Band of Hope. Every Friday evening there was the choir practice. Then, when I was 16 and went in the Army, there came the customary round of compulsory church parades. I ought to add that in later life I bought an old rectory in a little Essex village and spent the twenty happiest years of my life there. But I bought it solely out of worldly considerations, although many of my letters used to come addressed to "The Reverend Charles Leatherland".

Against that background, what should be my approach to this Bill? Should I look upon it as something which is going to change the face of Sunday and our society in the process? I hardly think so. I think that this is merely a question of bringing Sunday observance law into line with changes which have already taken place in our society and in our conduct—changes which have already been accepted by the generality of people. It is a fact that church-going has diminished and is diminishing, and there are several reasons for this decine. One has to face the fact that many people have lost faith. I will not delve into the reasons for it—I am no theologian—but I think one can assume that many people have lost their faith because under a Divine Providence we have seen the two most terrible wars in history. Then there is the sociological aspect. There has during my lifetime been a growth of class consciousness, and I know that it is the view of many working men that the Church is no place for them—that it is mainly a middle-class institution. I would forestall anything that noble Lords of Roman Catholic persuasion might say by remarking that, so far as their Church is concerned, that certainly would not be a proper allegation to make. Then there is the influence which has been wrought upon some people by the state of open hostility that has prevailed between the various Churches for so many years, indeed for so many centuries. I welcome the fact that overtures have recently been made to heal that rift, but I am rather doubtful whether very much will come of them.

Whatever the reasons may be, we have to face the fact that there has been a diminution in church-going. The churches which were full in my boyhood days are now half-full, many have been closed, many parishes have had to be amalgamated. Whether this is for the better or for the worse I should not dare to say. It is an accepted fact that for many young people it has been for the worse, yet for many middle-aged people what has happened is that they have channelled their efforts into various forms of worthy human endeavour, charitable and otherwise. And it would surprise me to find that all the young men and women who are concerned with organisations like OXFAM are practising Christians.

What is this Bill going to do, or not going to do? It is not going to reduce the size of any one congregation in this country. Every person who wants to go to church will still have the opportunity and the freedom to go to church. What it is going to do is to say to those people who do not want to go to church in any case, but who want to have recreation and amusement, that they shall have opportunities afforded to them to indulge in recreation and relaxation. We are living in very strenuous days. Many branches of industry embody repetitive, monotonous processes on soul-destroying assembly lines, processes in which Man has become the servant of the vast machine. I believe this has bred certain neuroses which are probably at the base of much of our industrial trouble to-day.

It is a fact that working hours for the bulk of the population have been reduced, but much of the benefit of those shorter working hours has been neutralised by the long hours people have to spend in travelling in great discomfort to and from work. The result is that most work-people get home at night completely exhausted, far too tired to participate in any form of outdoor amusement, whether it be entertainment or sport. And with millions of women working it is also a fact that many women have to spend most of Saturday doing their shopping.

If those people want on Sunday to be allowed to indulge in recreation or sport, or wish to visit places of amusement, I think that it would be very healthy indeed to sweep away the bonds which at present prevent their having the opportunity to do so. That is the essence of the reasons for which I support this Bill. I am sure the Bill will be welcomed by large numbers of women who are so tightly tied to their homes by their domestic duties from one end of the week to the other that their homes have virtually become prisons. It may be said, "Well, they have their television for recreation and relaxation." But the television does not make a conspicuous contribution to the cause of piety and good morals, good behaviour, good thinking or good citizenship. Many of the programmes we see on television are nothing but decadent, violent, immoral slush, and although the television has proved a boon in many ways it is in other ways one of the great enemies of our age. I should like to see encouragement given to people to get away from their homes, their firesides, for this one day in the week, and to go out as a united family.

Of course, the Bill is not perfect. Some of its imperfections have already been mentioned by other noble Lords. I am not particularly keen on that implication in the Bill which would permit striptease shows to go on until three in the morning on Sundays in the West End of London. I am not very happy about the lack of any stipulation on gambling early on Sunday morning. But these are perhaps points which can be dealt with better on the Committee stage than on this occasion. What is a very important point is the fact that a number of people who hitherto have had their Sundays free are going to find that they will have to work on Sundays. I do not know whether my noble friend, Lord Willis, underestimated the numbers, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, or whether he is in fact accurate; but, whatever the number may be at this particular moment, in five or six years' time it may grow considerably. I should not like to see any man compelled to work seven days a week against his will. I should not like to see him threatened with the sack for refusing to work seven days a week. It has been said that the trade unions can well look after their members in this respect. I think that something a little more watertight than an undertaking like that is desirable if the Bill is to be as perfect as we should like it to be.

As for the supposed inconvenience to any individual who has to work on Sundays, I think the effect of this can be exaggerated. For many years as a newspaper editorial executive I had to work nearly every Sunday in the year. It is true that I had a compensatory day off later in the week, and I feel that this point ought to be embodied in any Bill which attempts to deal with Sunday observance in the future. In actual fact, I used to get Tuesdays off, and Tuesday was the day when the local foxhounds hunted in my neighbourhood, so that a good time was had by all. Then on Wednesday morning, perhaps a little bruised, but sore and satisfied, I was able to go back to my desk and face with equanimity anything that happened to come along. I think the objection that this would create Sunday work can be overdone. But I should like to insist, as I said, that there should be a compensatory day off and, in any case, that no person should be sacked for refusing to work seven days a week.

I have been talking about horses. Let me look at another branch of equestrian endeavour. No, it is not Sunday polo—there are people who know more about that than I do; it is this question of Sunday horse-racing. There are millions of people in this country who are keen followers of horse-racing. I am not one of them. I would rather be on the back of a horse than back a horse. But those people get no opportunity whatsoever of going along with their families to a race meeting. I should like to see them given the opportunity to do that. I know that it would have been a complicated procedure for my noble friend to incorporate in this Bill something which would amount to an amendment of the 1963 Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, but I think we must face that. We must realise that horse-racing is a healthy, exciting, outdoor sport, specially suitable to spectators, and even if we have to amend the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act so that the Tote and the bookmakers on the course—and on the course only—can operate on that day, I should like to see some amendment of that kind made.

My noble friend Lord Soper referred to Clause 7 of this Bill. Clause 7 deals with the Cinematograph Fund, which permitted county boroughs and county councils to make a levy on cinemas which opened on Sunday, and to build up a fund out of which they would support worthy charities in their locality. Speaking as a former finance committee chairman of a county council, I know the very fine work that that fund has done in our county. At one time it was yielding £20,000 a year, which we divided between a multitude of charities ranging from cancer research, on the one hand, to disabled ex-servicemen's organisations, on the other; and even to homes for unmarried mothers. I am sorry to see that go, although my noble friend Lord Soper spoke of it with some concealed scorn, but the plight of the cinema industry in recent years has been such that it was in any case a rapidly diminishing revenue. I think that within a year or two it might have faded out altogether. Therefore, I accept that and regard it as something which inevitably had to come.

Finally, I think that it would be well of us to show some tolerance to allsorts of people, some tolerance even to their weaknesses. I know there are some people who say that there should be no work and no play on Sunday, yet they are only too willing to accept the results of the hard Sunday work of newspapermen and railwaymen, of doctors and nurses, of farmers and fishermen, of postmen and firemen and policemen; and what is virtuous in one case surely cannot be vicious in another.

There is just one more matter which has not been referred to in this debate, and that is the question of visitors to our shores. There are many American visitors who come here, people with a lot of money who are prepared to spend it here, but who frequently cut short their stay in Britain to go over to Paris earlier than they would otherwise do because of what they call our dismal Sunday. I am sure that our balance of payments could benefit if a stay in Britain were made more attractive to these people and while I would not for a moment dare to think of basing an argument in support of this Bill on a materialistic foundation such as that, I feel that it is one of the incidental matters which we might bear in mind. I prefer to base my support of this Bill on the fact that it is bringing into harmony with to-day's needs and to-day's views a whole set of legislation which is hopelessly out of date. I believe it is for the greatest good of the greatest number, and I beg leave to support the Bill.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am happy to join in welcoming this Bill, and I understand why the method enjoined upon the noble Lord, Lord Willis, was what might be called the negative-productive approach. Its terms are restrictive to be expansive, as it were. I hope it will also be effective as it deserves. I should myself have liked to see it go a little further in certain respects, but I shall not dwell on that as I hope it may become law unhindered by too much amendment, either well-intended or ill-intended.

Moreover. I would as soon see this very necessary piece of reforming legislation in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, as I would in the name of anyone else. He has already provided entertainment himself for seven days a week, and under this Bill he is enabling others to join him—others so far prohibited from doing so. In studying the text of the Bill, it strikes me that even with the noble Lord's name attached to it, it would be hard to sell as a television script. But then it has not been composed as a television script, and he is merely showing his versatility—with the Government draftsman "ghosting" certain passages for him, as we have been told.

Next Sunday is the first in the Church's New Year, and it seems very apposite and encouraging to me that the Year should begin with this new reform having earned the approval of your Lordships, as I hope it will, in this initial stage. To my mind, it will make the English Sunday a more Christian occasion, not less, as the Lord's Day Observance Society would have us believe in their expostulations.

Twenty months ago, in a debate on my own Motion on this subject, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, I drew particular attention to the difference between the Christian Sunday and the Jewish Sabbath which, it seems to me, society continually, even obstinately, confuse with one another. This has to be clarified because, according to my instruction, one is the weekly celebration of Our Lord's Resurrection, and therefore a day of gratitude and rejoicing rather than a day of abnegation and public repentance, which may be a perfectly respectable interpretation of the Jewish Sabbath. One is Sunday, the first day of the week; the other is Saturday, the last of the week, and never the twain need overlap; that is to say, so long as they are both honoured by those following the two religions. On that occasion, with a glow of complacent and doubtless sinful pride, I won support even from the right reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York for my theme that our Sunday is a day of re-creation for the week to come. Significant hyphens can be introduced, it seems, at both ends of this building, but I hope that this one will not be the subject of argument.

It seems worth repeating again my conviction that none of the supporters of the Bill would wish as a consequence to see any abuse of the Lord's Day or any abuse of religious practice. Indeed, the noble Lord promoting the Bill made that clear for his part. It seems to me that he has in fact been able to avoid this, as was his intention. The freedom that his Bill will give from 2 p.m. onward, allows those who wish to go to the morning service to do so without other temptations, and makes allowance also for the "Sunday dinner" which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester rightly considered to be important and valuable in the pattern of English life. The right reverend Prelate insisted that Sunday should be retained as a "different" day, and I do not believe that the Bill in any way destroys this. The term has been repeated frequently in this debate.

Together with other noble Lords, I have been circularised by the Lord's Day Observance Society with a letter asking us to vote against the Bill at this stage, and listing ten supposed reasons for so doing. The letter states that: This Bill is regarded with deep and anxious concern by a very considerable body of British opinion…". While ready to believe in the sincerity of the Society's members themselves in their concern—utterly misplaced, as I deem it—I see no basis for believing that any considerable body of opinion shares that concern.

The last of the ten points states: The most serious aspect of the Bill is that, if passed, it will result in a further departure of our nation from Almighty God, His Word and Commandments, with both ill-effects upon the spiritual and moral life of the nation and the certain removal of the Divine Blessing from us as a people. Phew! Personally, I am ready to consult the Bench of Bishops on this likelihood; and, unless there is an especially sinister ecclesiastical fifth column working for "Old Nick", they are not going to lead us into this peril. In this I was much fortified by the views of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, even though he was one who made some of the more friendly and kindly observations about the Society to-day.

There is hardly any piece of legislation, however beneficial, which does not create some new problem or difficulty. The noble Lord promoting this Bill has foreseen any that I could foresee. He did not say as much as I had expected about the theatre. One of the most successful actor-managers of our day, whose name is identified with long runs, was in my home the other day, and although he referred approvingly to the noble Lord's design, he was anxious about its possible effects on the theatre. Of course, the long-running play is the most vulnerable in this respect. My noble friend Lord Derwent made this very point on the earlier occasion. I was hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, would say that Equity could deal with this. He did, in fact, in rather general terms, when he referred to the confidence of the unions themselves in being able to deal with these problems; and my own impression (and I should be grateful if he would back it up) is that Equity, as one of the unions most concerned, would feel confident that it could sort it out amicably with management.

In closing, my Lords, I shall only quote, very briefly, from one verse of one hymn which I invoked on March 17 of last year. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester regarded it as a rather old-fashioned hymn, and hoped that I had not entertained myself with it during one of the less interesting parts of the sermon. While regretting that he should speak deprecatingly about old-fashioned hymns, I still have no doubt that he would have distinguished himself far better than I in the Catacombs, had we met in that epoch of Christianity. I can put his mind at rest on the matter of sermons in our Parish Church at Wragby. We are happy in having a Vicar who has never, in my experience, delivered a dull sermon. I cannot even recall a dull or dragging passage; so he provides no deterrent to a proper observance of the Lord's Day before 2 p.m. In case the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, on reading this debate, as I hope he will, may cast acquisitive eyes through the pages of Crockford's, I have concrete reason to believe that this clergyman is virtually irremovable.

My Lords, the hymn from which I quoted the last time is that which goes: 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. I said at that time that this occurred to me as describing a typical Sunday in Heaven. Without himself claiming that he is creating quite the same thing on earth by his Bill, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I believe, in fact, that the noble Lord is doing what he can to prepare us for it.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, on personal grounds I should like to be able to support the Bill sponsored by my noble friend Lord Willis, for we all recognise his great sincerity in his attempt to exclude certain acts from the scope of the Sunday Observance Act 1677. Indeed, personally, I am always wary of any Act passed during the Stuart period, excluding the Cromwellian period. As a Welshman. however, I feel bound to oppose the Bill, for we in Wales are so indebted to Sunday as an institution, as I shall endeavour to show. Clause 8 states explicitly: This Act shall not extend to Scotland or Northern Ireland". I should not have intervened in this debate had the words "and Wales "been added to this clause, but I believe the noble Lord would have been up against a constitutional difficulty to add those words, though presumably an Amendment can be moved if the Bill goes into Committee.

Wales, as I need hardly point out, is very different from England in many respects. We have our own traditions, our own way of life, our own literature, our own language. As one of our poets has said: A wado hyn aed a hi A gwadad i'r haul godi". I have been asked for a translation. It is: Whoever will deny what I have said now, Let him deny that the sun rose this morning. Let me point out, too, that Wales is the only Socialist country in the world. Out of 36 seats allotted to us in the other place, 32 are held by members of the Labour Party. There are only two Tories. So the question of finding a leader of the Tory Party in a Welsh Parliament would not arise. It could be mutually agreed that one acted as Leader and the other acted as Deputy Leader.


What about the Chief Whip?


They would have to be tellers, too; so there would be no one to vote.

I am going to claim that this extraordinary political situation is strongly connected with the Sunday as we now know it. I find that the early leaders of the Radical and Labour movements in Wales were closely connected with the churches, and were the product of our Sunday schools—men like Mabon and William John, in South Wales; and T. E. Ellis and David Lloyd George, in North Wales. Nurtured in the churches of those days, they tramped the country proclaiming the social gospel, and found a ready response in the hearts of the faithful churchgoers.

Wales is also 100 per cent. a Non-conformist country. There is no connection between Church and State in the Principality. Our Bishops no longer sit in your Lordships' House. But Wales is also nonconformist in the strict sense of that term, and nonconformity has always been jealous of its hold on Sunday. It would be hypocritical on my part this evening to claim that to-day, even in Wales, Sunday is what it used to be, or that the chapel-goers are so numerous. There has been a great decline in church attendances. But it is not without significance that as church attendance declines, many evil things are on the increase. There are to-day more betting shops in Wales, in proportion to the population, than in any other part of the United Kingdom. There are 758 of these in Glamorganshire alone, and 161 in our capital city of Cardiff. I am told that Sherman's company, in Cardiff, have at least 130 betting shops in South Wales. To the same extent that the churches and chapels are closing in Wales, betting shops are being opened; and I leave noble Lords to take their choice between the opening of churches or the opening of betting shops.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester warned your Lordships' House some months ago of the evil of gambling. The figures he gave are simply staggering. Britain, he said, spends £610 million on horse-racing, £125 million on dogs, £100 million on pools and £35 million on bingo. That would be enough to put Britain solidly on her feet to-day in the middle of this financial crisis. I am more than afraid that the passing of this Bill will greatly increase the desire for betting and also the facilities for betting. I know that in my noble friend's Bill provision is made for no betting to be done on Sundays; but then they will bet on Saturday on what is to take place on Sunday. I am not myself a betting man, but I believe that betting is done before the event, certainly not after it.

Personally I see great value in having one day of the week set apart from the others as a day of complete relaxation, not just from work but also from entertainment. I believe in our Sunday as we have it now, a day for complete relaxation from both work and entertainment. It has been referred to by one or two noble Lords as "the Sabbath". I do not believe in the Sabbath; that is a purely Jewish institution. I believe in the Lord's Day—that is, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was instituted in order to commemorate weekly the great event, if we believe in it, of the Resurrection of Our Lord on the third day.

My Lords, one of the first working-class Members of Parliament was John Burns and he had this to say about Sunday: To rest on Sunday is physically good, mentally restful, morally healthful and commercially advantageous for the British people. John Burns was a representative of the working class of this country. I am mindful of the experience of the late Ernest Bevin, when he was Minister of Labour in the darkest hour in our Island history. Following Dunkirk there was a great shortage of war materials, and Ernest Bevin decided to ask the workers to work seven days a week. They readily responded, and the gap was soon closed. But at the end of a few months Ernest Bevin found that production was declining constantly and consistently, and he was glad to reinstitute one day of rest in order to increase production. Indeed, we all know it is true that we in this country to-day produce more per man than in Japan, where they work seven days a week.

Again, speaking as a Welshman and in spite of what I have said regarding church attendance nowadays within the Principality, I would claim that we in Wales still respect and uphold the traditional Sunday. This was put to the test some five years ago. The then Home Secretary, now Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, decided to have a referendum on the question of the Sunday opening of public-houses. The people of England will be surprised to know that there are two opinions on a question like this—and this shows the difference between us and our friends across the Border. As a result of that referendum in 1961 (and there will he another vote in 1968), eight counties—Carmarthen, Cardingan, Pembroke, Denbigh, Merioneth, Caernarvon, Anglesey and Montgomery—voted against Sunday opening. This was in spite of the fact that within some of those counties, within at least six of them, are the most popular holiday resorts in the United Kingdom where thousands of people from other parts of the world spend their holidays every summer. Yet those eight counties voted against the Sunday opening of public-houses.

Sunday closure is one of our traditions—I am speaking a good deal about tradition this evening; but who are we in this House to mock tradition, for every action of ours (and this is true also of the other place) is steeped in tradition. As I have said, Wales is a Socialist country and it is also a very democratic country. It places great value on local government and the local councils in Wales are very jealous of the powers conferred upon them. Allowing every type of sport and entertainment after 2 p.m., as is proposed in this Bill, will take away from the local authorities a great deal of their powers in this matter. Surely they know more about the local conditions and circumstances, which vary so much from district to district, than anyone else. For example, we have the question of Sunday cinemas, where a local option exists. Some districts in Wales have voted against the opening of cinemas on Sunday; as, for example, have Neath and the Rhondda Valley. It is extraordinary to note this in regard to the Rhondda Valley, because there you have a decline in church membership more pronounced than in any other part of Wales; yet they voted against the opening of cinemas on the Lord's Day. Are the wishes of the electorate to be ignored by allowing the general opening of cinemas as proposed in this Bill? The private owners or companies are bound to open them simply to reap profit. After all, these places are run by private enterprise and the only motive in opening them is to make profit. They are not opened in the interests of the public, I am sure, but in their owners' interests.

It appears to me that the Bill allows the opening on Sundays of the theatres, public dance-halls, circuses, fun-fairs, soccer, rugby, boxing, wrestling and so on. One does not need a great deal of imagination to see what is going to happen. It will be a free-for-all among the profit seekers. We shall have the Sunday schools in Wales losing their membership because the young will be tempted to go to these entertainments. In this respect I would refer to what my noble friend Lord Leatherland said: that it would not reduce congregations. I am sure it will do so because the youngsters, and particularly the young of our Sunday schools—and the Sunday schools in Wales are still very popular—will be tempted to go to the fairs rather than to the Sunday schools, or to go to a football match rather than to the Sunday school.

It is true that the law does not make Christians; but in a so-called Christian country we expect the law of the land to make it easier, rather than more difficult, for the Church to carry on its work. The tendency will be for those of us who oppose this Bill to be dubbed "killjoys" and "kill sports". I cannot be placed in that category for I love sport; I am a faithful follower of the Wrexham Football Club and I am excited this evening at having seen that we are second in the League. I am not a kill-joy, I can assure you. But I am a Welshman, and as a Welshman and a professing Christian, and as one brought up in the atmosphere of the Sunday which has prevailed in Wales, I feel bound to oppose this Bill and, if it goes to a vote, to vote against it.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start by immediately declaring an interest, since I am actively involved in many sides of the entertainment industry and stand indirectly, and even possibly directly, to gain financially if this Bill is passed. I suppose therefore that I fall into what is referred to in the Crathorne Report as the "profit-making minority". For this reason, I should like briefly to cover this angle of the question: who, in fact, would make money out of Sunday entertainment as opposed to sport? The answer, briefly, is the small man in the entertainment business, the man who at present is feeling the pinch of the present Government's financial squeeze on the one side, and the never ceasing thrust of the giants of the entertainment industry on the other. It is also interesting to observe that the giants in the entertainment industry might even gain by the law remaining as it is, since most of them have a large interest in commercial television which, of course, is already free from all Sunday restrictions.

The fewer the people who go out to a public entertainment on Sunday the more who will stay at home, wilfully mentally inhaling the claims for some detergent or breakfast cereal—to the great financial gain of the giants of the entertainment industry. No, my Lords, it is, as usual, the small man who is getting the thin end of the bargain and he would gain financially by the passing of this Bill. I would even venture to suggest that the small-time actor and entertainer would profit also, because in a profession in which unemployment has always been familiar, and where the average unemployment figure is some 40 per cent. of the possible work force, the real basic considerations are only two: "Where is the next job coming from?" and, "Shall I get paid at the end of the week?"

The insecurity of the profession is astounding to anyone unfamiliar with it. The present problems of redundancy in other industries are an everyday hazard in ours. The brunt of the burden falls mainly on the small theatre and clubs, managers, et cetera, who employ actors and entertainers. The more money they make the more likely it is that they will continue to supply work for the actors and entertainers, and the more sure those people will be that they will be satisfactorily employed. It is interesting to note from Appendix D of the Crathorne Report that 11,000 members of Equity, the actors' union, were asked whether they were opposed to the Sunday opening of theatres. Only 401 replied that they were. The fact that only 843 replied, "No" is of no significance at all, in my opinion, since it may be assumed that only those who were opposed would bother to reply. I maintain that in fact 10,599 said, "No", directly or indirectly. The position of unions in the entertainment industry is perhaps unique since performers have a choice of being members of Equity or of the V.A.F. and, to my knowledge, many members of the profession belong to neither.

I feel that it should also be mentioned that outside the London area, and especially in the north of England, 90 per cent. of all variety entertainment workers have a seven-day week now. Mostly they are employed in members' clubs which open for a full seven-day week. It has become so much the normal and regular practice for entertainers to work a seven-day week in the North that there is one variety theatre in Leeds where, because of the law, entertainers are contracted to work a seven-day week, but being unable to appear at the theatre on the seventh day, the entertainers are "sold" to local working men's clubs at a vast profit. I think this shows quite clearly that the entertainer already has a seven-day week, whether he wants it or not.

A very large percentage of variety entertainers work much of the year abroad, and except in some Moslem countries where establishments close on Fridays, they are used to a seven-day week already. They are paid by the day for seven days. This provides them on average with approximately one-seventh higher wages than they receive in this country. In recent years the change-over from theatres to clubs, especially in the north of England, has deprived entertainers of one-seventh of their salary, or an extra day's work, whichever way you care to look at it. The opening of Sunday theatres might have saved this situation—and at the same time might well have saved the theatres themselves.

For people engaged in a tour of the provinces in a play or a show Sunday does not provide much of a rest. Moving personnel, scenery and props from, say, Manchester to Brighton between 11 p.m. on Saturday night and Monday rehearsal is a dismal, difficult and hard job, as I can assure your Lordships. Anyone who has ever had a part of that way of life hardly looks on Sunday as a day of rest or family recreation. The only worship for which there is time is a hasty prayer that British Rail will not be late. However, the move must be made, and it might be very much more convenient in many ways if it were made on Monday.

I have been involved in the entertainment industry and entertainment projects in 56 different countries, and again, apart from the Moslem countries, Saturday night is universally the best night of the week for such enterprises. In all non-Moslem countries where theatres, clubs and places of entertainment open on Sundays, Sunday is the second best night of the week. In Moslem countries it is the third best night of the week. It can therefore be seen that by closing places of entertainment on Sundays one is depriving the industry of the second most financially important night, which is hardly a help to an ailing industry. The theatre, especially the provincial theatre in this country, is in desperate need of help. Would noble Lords not prefer to see it pay its own way rather than be provided with ever-increasing subsidies at both national and local level?

The theatre in this country has now become eminently respectable. Even the disqualification from voting at national Elections applies no longer to Peers, lunatics and strolling players. Now it is only Peers and lunatics who are not eligible to vote. The danger is that there may not be any players left, strolling or otherwise, if there are no theatres left, and many theatres could have been, and may still be, saved if this Bill becomes law. Any cinema or television producer or director will agree that acting talent develops best in the live theatre, and that the live theatre must be preserved. Why not give the live theatre a better chance to pay its own way and so reduce the national expenditure, even if only slightly? I am told that at one of the great revue theatres of Paris (known very well, I am sure, to many of your Lordships, especially those with a pastoral background) 25 per cent. of the income is derived from Sunday takings 35 per cent. on Saturdays, and 10 per cent. each on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The theatre closes on Mondays and one can easily understand why.

My Lords, I should like to turn briefly to the attitude of the general public. Paragraph 45 of the Crathorne Committee's Report states: Other churches and religious organisations argue that most people did not wish for a change. I believe that other churches and religious organisations here referred to are completely wrong. The public now have more spare time and leisure time than ever before and will, one presumes, have more and more over the coming years. It is in this connection that the entertainment industry becomes of deep significance. If the industry fails to keep pace by providing entertainment to fill that leisure time there will be a vacuum and we all know—I am sure that the occupants of the Bishops' Bench would not disagree—the old saying: Satan finds work for idle hands to do. How much better that the "Mods" and "Rockers" should go to "pop" concerts and shows than that they should overwhelm our seaside resorts with a "rumble" or a "punch-up"? Any member of the public in those towns will, I am sure, tell you that.

The supposed apathy of the public to the question stems, of course, from Sunday television. Why should they get dressed up and go out on Sunday when they can stay at home and watch the television? But take away the television on Sunday and see how fast the public would clamour for this Bill. Television is surely the Lord's Day Observance Society's best friend, for without it most aspects of Sunday observance would have disappeared long ago. The public would be in an uproar and possibly would even vote into power a Party with this Bill in their programme. It is my opinion that a far higher percentage of people in this country would be concerned about being deprived of their Sunday television than would be interested in Vietnam or the position of our gold reserves. This may be unfortunate, but I am sure it is true. The Government may well learn that I am correct when they attempt legislation against pirate radios, as did the Dutch. A great deal has been said about the anomalies of the law as it now stands, and although this may probably be slightly specialised I should like to point to what I feel would be the anomaly to end all anomalies, that is, pay television on Sundays.

I have stayed on the path of this Bill about which I know most, but before closing I should like to pass to a subject about which I am not speaking in any way as an expert or an authority, but as a normal member of the public, that is, professional cricket. Like many other noble Lords, I come from a part of England, Yorkshire, of which it has been said that cricket is our religion. I assure your Lordships that this is not the case, but at the same time we feel very deeply about the traditions of the sport. Winston Churchill said in 1948 that had we been intelligent enough to teach the Russians and the Americans how to play cricket, there would have been no cold war. I believe that professional cricket on Sundays would definitely save a large number of county cricket clubs from being extinguished altogether. I am sure that all noble Lords who feel as strongly as I do about this would wish to legalise this aspect of the sport.

Earlier this afternoon the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, referred to the possibility of the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, playing Lady Godiva. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would be the ultimate authority on this, but I believe that the law as it stands says that she could do so only if she stood completely still and under a blue light.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I think that the House is most grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for introducing this Bill. Certainly the present law is full of anomalies. From the opposing point of view I think it is possible to defend the one that says that there should be no Sunday entertainment of any kind and my noble friend Lord Maelor, who knows Wales so well, put up a strong case from this standpoint and from the point of view of certain parts of Wales. What I think is indefensible is the legislation which permits certain Sunday entertainment only provided that a special tax is levied on it. I should like to say a few words on the Sunday opening of cinemas and the so-called Sunday charities tax. I should state that I have an interest in the film industry, and I am also a member of the Labour Party film group; but I speak entirely for myself about a matter on which I feel strongly and on which I first ventured to address your Lordships some ten years ago.

Under the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932, as your Lordships are no doubt aware, the Sunday opening of cinemas is dependent on three factors. First, local opinion must be in favour of it. In parts of Wales, to which my noble friend Lord Maelor alluded, obviously there is no majority in favour of the opening of cinemas, and they are not opened. I have no quarrel with that at all. The second point is that Sunday opening must receive the subsequent approval of Parliament. And this, I understand, has never been withheld. The third condition is that the so-called Sunday charity tax should be levied. Section 1 of the 1932 Act requires local authorities to demand a payment from the cinema proprietor based on the estimated profits. These are estimated by the local authority and not by the cinema proprietor.

This levy, or tax, or conscience money, whatever we care to call it, is then given to a charity of the local authority's choice, not of the choice of the cinema proprietor or of his patrons. My noble friend Lord Leatherland said that this tax raises fairly substantial sums, but I would submit in reply that charity money should be raised spontaneously and voluntarily, not by Statute. Furthermore, the people giving money to charity should have some control over where the money goes, because even in charity payments there are people who do not wish to give money to certain charities. For example, certain animal lovers are not prepared—whether rightly or wrongly I do not know—to give money to help medical research.

The Crathorne Report said that in 1963–64 nearly £135,000 was paid to charity in this way. The Crathorne Com- mittee recommended the abolition of this charity tax—quite rightly, in my view. I think I can do no better than quote the scathing words in paragraph 72 of their Report: We found it difficult to discover that the 'tax' had any moral justification even when it was introduced; if there were ever grounds of expediency, they no longer exist. How can the levy possibly be defended any longer? As other speakers have said, we now have television films in the home on Sundays. Yet the patrons of a cinema, seing the same type of film, have to contribute directly to this levy.

There is also the attitude of some of the local authorities. Certain local authorities, notably the Greater London Council, have been most reasonable and have abolished this tax, or they levy only a nominal amount of about £1 a year. But I understand that about fifteen local authorities still require heavy payments. And all local authorities, whether reasonable or unreasonable, have the right to bring the tax back at any time. Sometimes the tax is as high as 10 per cent. of the estimated profits. If these fall below the estimated figure, there is no appeal. And, as I have said, neither the cinema proprietor nor his patrons have any control over the charities selected, which are designated by the local authority.

The cinema industry has itself, of its own free will, raised substantial sums over the years for chosen charities, through its première charity showings and so on. At present the industry is facing great difficulties, with declining audiences resulting in cinema closures; there are other rivals, notably television, for the people's leisure. Yet cinemas which are struggling to survive are still burdened in this way. I submit that it is high time this anomalous and indefensible, and indeed hypocritical, tax should be abolished altogether.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for the manner in which he introduced it. As your Lordships know, I am a Roman Catholic, but I do not speak on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church here today but on behalf of myself. I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and with most noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon, in saying that it is highly immoral that we all have to think of necessary subterfuges to circumvent the law as it stands, and the Bill introduced to-day will go far to meet this point.

The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, seemed to think that it was impossible to go to church and take advantage of other activities on Sunday. Surely we can go to one in the morning and to the other in the afternoon. I am not the successful producer connected with long runs to whom my noble friend Lord St. Oswald referred. I am a very unsuccessful producer, guilty of many of the shortest runs in the history of the West End. Both my noble friend Lord St. Oswald and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked what the position of Equity was. I am assured by Equity that they stand by their 1963 position, which is quoted in paragraph 81 and the relevant appendix of the Crathorne Report, and which I mentioned to your Lordships in our previous debate. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is much more knowledgeable than I about the entertainments industry. I am certainly not connected with it in 54 countries—the best I can do is four. I do not know what the position of the Variety Artists' Federation is, but from the Press I know that Equity is now trying to do a "takeover bid". But I should think that Equity members, the Esher Standing Contract, would insist on a free day if that day was not Sunday, and that that free day would certainly be a day not preceding a matinée day. The proposed take-over bid, as it were, by Equity of the V.A.F. is perhaps long overdue, if things are, as I am sure they are, as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, as I am not wearing my "dog collar", I suppose I ought to start by declaring an interest as a leader of Sunday worship; but I must say, for myself, at any rate, that I do not feel those interests in any degree threatened, hampered or injured, or likely to be, by anything that is in the Bill before us to-day. In fact, I would say that all those inside the Church are every bit as ambarrassed as those outside it are irritated by these old Sabbath-day laws, with their anachronisms, their anomalies and their openness to ridicule. All have been agreed that our laws are anachron- istic and open to ridicule and anomalous, but until recently few people could agree what should be done about it.

But recently things have changed. In 1961, thanks to the wisdom of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, the Departmental Committee was set up to review the whole law relating to entertainments, sports and pastimes and trading on Sundays; in December, 1964, thanks to the skill and diligence of the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne and his Committee their report, from which we have all derived so much benefit to-day, was laid before Parliament; and in March, 1965, thanks to the initiative of my noble friend Lord St. Oswald, who has spoken to us again today, we had a debate in this House, all of which together have given the noble Lord, Lord Willis, a good Tory background to the bold reforming Bill which he has produced for us to consider.

We find from all that has gone before—this, I think, is rather surprising, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, has drawn our attention to it—that the main views of most churchmen about Sunday harmonise quite readily with the main views of most nonchurchmen. We find a substantial majority of people able to share in common the view that Sunday should be kept as a day with a difference, for rest, for worship and for recreation. This is a strong base from which to start reform. This appears to be the kind of Sunday that most of us would like, and the next step has to be to determine the kind of reform needed to get it.

The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his Committee, and their Report, point the way past the various hazards that lie to either side: on the one side rigorist bodies like the Lord's Day Observance Society and on the other radicals, far more radical than the noble Lord, Lord Willis, who would introduce us to a free-for-all Sunday in which our freedom to do as we like would almost certainly be jeopardised. The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, has steered us away from these hazards, and has added the further valuable advice and guidance to us not to set too much store in this reforming legislation on balance, neatness and logic, but rather to strive for a law that is understandable, widely acceptable, clear, certain and enforceable.

This brings me to a slight diversion on the role of Her Majesty's Government in regard to all this. The Crathorne Report, as well as showing how absurd and unnecessary some of our earlier argument and discussion have been, also showed quite clearly that reforming legislation does not now involve deep theological principle, deeply held personal convictions or any further violent controversy. It has turned out to be a matter of straightforward social policy, and one would have expected, I think, a dynamic reforming Government to just get on with it. But, in fact, after two years in power, nearly two years in which to study the Report, and eighteen months after debates in both Houses of Parliament confirming a broad measure of agreement about what should be done, they seem to lack the conviction to do more than fly a kite and help the noble Lord to introduce a Private Member's Bill. However, that is by the way, and the greater our welcome to the Bill the noble Lord has brought to us, and even greater our desire to help him now to get on with it.

I now turn to the Bill in relation to the Report. As the noble Lord has already said, the Bill seeks to implement the whole of Part II, relating to entertainments, sports and pastimes. It is not, except incidentally, concerned with employment, and not at all concerned with Sunday trading. It deviates in three places. The noble Lord mentioned them all. I have nothing to say about the first. With regard to the second, I am sure that he was wise to accept the general view of the House, as expressed in the last debate, that 2 o'clock is a better time than 12.30 to mark the change in the day when certain things are not permitted before becoming permissible in the afternoon. It is when we get to his third deviation from the recommendations of the Crathorne Report that we get into what I think is going to be trouble for his Bill if it is not successfully amended at a later stage. This is the point at which he, but not the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, would permit or allow to develop large-scale professional sporting events on a Sunday afternoon or evening. This is a significant deviation with which we shall need to deal decisively one way or another at a later stage although perhaps not now. The Crathorne Committee themselves foresaw difficulty in giving legal effect to their own recommendations about this. In paragraph 116 of their Report they say: We should like to limit Sunday sports to those in which the participants receive no payment and which are likely to attract only a comparatively small number of spectators. We could find no simple way of drawing a line that is capable of legal enforcement to achieve this purpose; it is very much a question of degree and is more easily recognised than defined. I am sure this is a difficult problem, but I think it is one which we have to face squarely and to do what we believe is right and not what is easier for the drafting. This problem is not only difficult in the sense foreseen by the Crathorne Committee; it will also lead to controversy, because in the Gallup Poll at Appendix B of the Report the two sexes voted different ways on this issue, and this will generate heat if anything does!

I think the Crathorne Committee believe, and the Wolfenden Committee—the Committee set up to review the matter of sport in the community, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Wolfenden—believe, and I think most of us believe, that what is wanted on a Sunday afternoon and evening by the great majority of people is the maximum freedom to develop local events, amateur sport and participant games, and the minimum compulsory employment, noise, disturbance and intrusion into family life. There are no moral issues involved here. This is a matter of where we judge the public interest chiefly to lie. I do not share the belief of the Wolfenden Committee that this freedom can be secured by appeals to restraint. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who put this point to us earlier this afternoon, that this freedom needs the protection of the law, and I doubt whether that protection will be secured by the present drafting of this otherwise quite admirable Bill.

It is quite true, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has said, that none of the big sporting interests is so far campaigning about this, but there is surely a great deal of money waiting to be put into the organisation of large-scale Sunday sport; and if a few commercial organisations start to exploit Sunday others, like the Football Association and the Football League, who at present are not disposed to arrange any Sunday matches at all, may well be constrained and tempted to change their minds. If that happens then the present good intentions, as I would judge it, of the great majority of us, and the wishes of the great majority of people outside Parliament—which, after all, have been ascertained and analysed with fair certainty by the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his Committee and expressed in their Report—will be disdained and overridden.

This has happened before—has it not?—in the case of the Betting and Gaming Act? Good and admirable intentions have been frustrated by the failure of the law to grapple with problems which were not foreseen. We must try to anticipate them. This is no doubt a difficult point, and we shall have to look at it carefully when we come to deal with Amendments at the Committee stage. Nevertheless, for my part I would commend this Bill to your Lordships for a Second Reading. Meanwhile, I would invite Her Majesty's Government to weigh with great care this provision which, if it is left as it stands, would permit every sort of large-scale professional sport, indoors and outdoors, on Sunday afternoon and evening.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I have listened to his arguments with careful attention and much appreciation. I want to be quite clear on one point. Is the noble Lord saying, "My objection to this Bill is with regard to sport only, and professional sport at that. I am not objecting to paid entertainers in the entertainment business like the theatre"?


No. I am not objecting to that, for reasons which I did not deploy because they are so admirably deployed in the Report itself. I would fall into line with that, but I would take up the position about large-scale professional sport that I have been trying to expound. What I think we need is guidance at a later stage from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, or whoever is to speak for the Government, on this issue of what is practicable or impracticable in the way of Amendments to the Bill which will restrict and restrain, if not to keep completely out of Sunday, these large-scale professional sporting events which the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his Committee clearly feel should be kept out of an English Sunday. I hope we can do this and at the same time maintain, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has undoubtedly done so far, the essential idea of this Bill and transform it into a law which will be understandable, widely acceptable, clear, certain, and readily enforceable.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a wide ranging debate this afternoon and I should like to thank all those noble Lords from all parts of the House for their contributions and for the kind words they have had to say about the Bill. Naturally I have been delighted by the response it has received. I should like to emphasise once again, although I am sure he must be bored by the number of times his name has come up in the debate, that it has been inspired by the excellent Report by the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and his Committee. I am not at all worried that the Bill should have come out of a so-called Tory background, because as my noble friend Lord Stonham says, there was a Socialist on the Committee and we all know that out of the strong often comes forth sweetness.

There have been a number of criticisms of the Bill as it stands to-day, and I can assure the House that I will read the Report of the debate to-morrow, and again the day after, with great care, and I look forward to discussing these matters further at a later stage. I very much welcome the support given to the Second Reading. I think perhaps I have been made saddest by having to cross swords with my noble friend Lord Maelor, for whom I have the greatest respect, and I am just sorry that on this particular occasion we are facing each other, a Welshman and an Englishman, across the border and fighting out an issue on which I know we both feel very strongly and deeply.

I would apologise—I do not know whether it should be to the noble Lord. Lord Soper, or to the Bible—for misquoting Micah. As a matter of fact, I have a note that I was misquoting because I was quoting something written by a lady who used the words in a recent essay, but I was getting near the end of my speech and in order to save time I did not explain this because I thought that nobody in this House would recognise it. That will teach me in future! I will not delay the House any longer. I thank your Lordships very much indeed and hope you will co-operate in giving this Bill its Second Reading so that we may discuss the other important questions at a later stage.

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