§ Order for Committee read.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. T. CHAMBERS
said, that the Amendments were of a verbal character, and tended to make the Bill rather less severe in its operation.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he thought that notice ought to have been given, and therefore should move that the Committee report Progress.
§ MR. T. CHAMBERS
said, he regretted the Amendments had not been printed; but the fact was that he had not anticipated that they would reach the Bill on the present occasion.
§ MR. COLLINS
trusted that the Motion for reporting Progress would not be insisted upon, as the Amendments were stated to be of a purely verbal character.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, he could, from his examination of the Bill, confirm the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone (Mr. T. Chambers); and, as this was the third year in which the Bill had come before Parliament, he trusted that the Committee would consent to proceed with the measure.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, he thought that his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) was perfectly justified in asking the Committee to report Progress, because time ought certainly to be given for the consideration of these Amendments.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
said, he would advise his hon. Friend the Member for Marylebone, who appeared to be very anxious to proceed with the Bill to-day, to withdraw the Amendments for the present, and to bring them up at a future stage.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 81; Noes 169: Majority 88.800
§ MR. T. CHAMBERS
said, the most important of them consisted of the insertion in line 11, after the word "whatsoever," of the words "or who shall keep open any shop for carrying on any trade or business." This did not, in fact, extend the operation of the Bill.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he was not at all sure upon that point. For instance, a man keeping a shop, and residing at the back of it, or above it, might have only one entrance, and during the hot summer months he might wish to sit in his shop to cool himself. If the man were summoned, a magistrate might decide that he had infringed the Act, according to the words which were now proposed to be inserted.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, he hoped that his hon. and learned Friend would not press the insertion of the words, as there appeared to be some objection to their adoption.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he trusted that the Committee did not forget the scenes which occurred in Hyde Park some years ago, when Lord Robert Grosvenor introduced a similar measure to the one now under discussion. He regarded the measure as unwise and unjust, and as one which was calculated to weigh with undue severity on the more helpless classes in the country. Hotels were open and public-houses were open on Sunday at certain hours. The rich man could, enjoy his cigar at any hour of the day; but the poor man would be prohibited from buying an ounce of tobacco after ten o'clock on Sunday morning, or an ounce of sugar or tea after twelve o'clock on Saturday night.
said, that the hon. Member was out of Order, inasmuch as there was no Motion before the Committee.
§ MR. BRADY
said, he was about to propose that the Chairman do leave the Chair. The views of the poor, who would be the parties affected by the Bill, had not been considered. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes) was instigated in the course which he had adopted by certain persons who had amassed money by Sunday 801 trading in the New Cut, and who, having become rich, had also become conscientious. A Bill of such vast importance, not only to the inhabitants of the New Cut, but to the whole community, ought to be introduced—if introduced at all—by the Government, and not by a private Member. He observed that the Bill did not include places with a population under 10,000. If legislation was necessary for London, why not for such places? He did not say that the hon. and learned Gentleman had any object in excepting such places, but it was rather singular that the population of Frome was 9,952. By this management the hon. and learned Gentleman offended none of his present constituents, and supported the views of a certain class of his old constituents in Lambeth. He begged to move that the Chairman do now leave the Chair.
§ MR. MUNTZ
, in seconding the Motion, said, he believed, from his experience as a magistrate, that the Bill would inflict great hardship upon the rural districts of the country. If an alteration of the law were required a Bill ought to be introduced by the Government. He was in favour of a well considered measure for regulating Sunday trading; but he was able to say, from having carefully examined the Bill, that it was a most wretched attempt at legislation. It was enacted by the Bill that any child sent out—it might be by some old hag—to sell lucifer matches, might, upon a second offence, be fined £20 by the magistrate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Brady.)
said, that as the action, or rather inaction, of the Government in regard to this subject had been alluded to, he desired to say a few words. The present Government could certainly not be charged with want of boldness in dealing with questions of great public importance; but he did not feel sure that they possessed a sufficient amount of that quality to induce them to undertake, in addition to their other measures, legislation on the difficult question of Sunday trading. It was impossible to deny that there was good reason for dissatisfaction with the laws which had been made to enforce the observance of the Sabbath, the Acts al- 802 ready passed for that purpose being notoriously violated. As regards the present measure, which, to a great extent, was one of detail, he had thought that the best course was to allow its passage through Committee, and to decide, on its coming out of Committee, whether the Government should give it further support at the next stages.
§ MR. DOWNING
said, he thought the Bill quite unnecessary. It was a piece of class legislation, and would, he believed, give rise to great dissatisfaction. he should support the Motion.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, he thought the operation of the Bill would be decidedly mischievous, for, as the evidence of Mr. Burcham, stipendiary magistrate, showed, Sunday trading was chiefly carried on in necessaries. The Bill would also require most serious changes in the police regulations; but this, of course, would have no weight with his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. T. Chambers), who had declared on a former occasion that he was prepared to see the police force doubled, if necessary, in order to carry out its provisions. If the object of the promoters of the Bill was to make the law more stringent, they had better fall back upon the Act of Charles II., and if their object was to make the law less stringent, they ought to move the repeal of that Act. One evidence of the unsettledness of conviction on this question was that the opposition to this Bill came from opposite quarters. Last year the Bill was rejected on the Motion of an hon. Gentleman classed with Sabbatarians, seconded by himself. This year he had received, in common with other Members, a communication from the Society for promoting the Due Observance of the Lord's Day, which called upon them to throw out the Bill on the ground that it would legalize Sunday trading, The Bill was a tissue of absurdities, and in no respect more so than in relation to the Act of Charles II.
§ MR. T. HUGHES
said, that the chief parties who opposed the Bill were the Sabbatarians and those represented by his hon. Friend below him (Mr. P. A. Taylor), who thought that every man ought to do as he pleased as to Sunday observance. He had already been called upon some half-dozen times to state why he did not propose to repeal the Act of Charles II. He did not like it, and thought it wrong in principle and bad 803 in detail; but the Act was much valued by a large section of the community, because it was regarded by them as an English recognition of the Levitical law, which they believed to be still binding upon us. He did not agree with these people, but if he were to attempt to repeal that Act, or to interfere with it, more than was done by this Bill, he knew he should find it utterly impossible to do so. As for other objections, it must be remembered that evidence which had been quoted by his hon. Friend (Mr. P. A. Taylor) was given before a Committee on the question of closing public-houses on the Sunday; that subject was not dealt with at all by this Bill, which did not apply to public-houses. If the Bill had been examined, it would have been found that it made no requisition on the police for the enforcement of its provisions. In the Bill he brought forward three years ago, it was proposed to rely on the police; but, on inquiry, he found that in those parts of London in which Sunday trading had become a nuisance, the parochial authorities said—" We do not want the police; we will carry this thing through ourselves; only give us an Act which will work, and we will undertake to carry it out." It might be that there was very little Sunday trading in the district of the worthy magistrate who had been cited; but, if hon. Members would visit for themselves three or four of the centres of Sunday trading within a mile of that House, they would be better able to judge whether something ought not to be done, and that speedily, and whether, if the thing went much further, it would not be too late to do anything at all. As Lord Russell said very truly four years ago, we ran a great risk of losing the Sunday altogether as a civil institution and as a day of rest. It was monstrous to say that under the Bill a child might be fined 20s. for selling lucifer matches; but, if that were the interpretation put upon the clause by hon. Members, let them make every reasonable relaxation in Committee. No doubt, it would be well if the Government could take up the matter; their doing so would relieve him of a heavy burden; but, as the Government could not undertake legislation, the House would be acting very beneficially for the metropolis if it passed the present Bill. Nobody could deny that the present state of things in London was 804 exceedingly bad; and it could not be said that this Bill proposed class legislation, because it dealt equally with rich and poor as far as it went. It was true rich men had their clubs; and he sincerely wished that poor men had theirs, and he had done all he could to provide clubs for working men. When he was Member for a district more populous than any other in the metropolis except one, and containing a larger number of poor, he was urged over and over again By a vast majority of his constituents to attempt legislation on this subject which should bring about a better state of things; and if that were class legislation it was demanded emphatically by the very class on whose behalf hon. Gentlemen who opposed him assumed to speak. Let them go forward with the Bill and see in what form it came out of Committee.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, he could not admit that the state of things as regarded Sunday trading was growing worse; on the contrary, he believed that during the last thirty years there had been a great improvement. The habits of the people were formed by imitation of the upper classes, and among these there was certainly less respect for the Sabbath thirty years ago than now. He would himself rather trust to the operation of moral agencies than to legal enactments. This Bill was not the result of aggression on the part of those who were called Sabbatarians; they had done nothing in the way of pressing for legislation; they were rather willing to leave the law as it stood, and to trust to moral means for securing the better observance of the day. He was assured by a resident in Lambeth that Sunday trading was diminishing, that many shopkeepers who formerly kept their shops open all day on Sunday now closed them, and that many who congregated in the New Cut did not go so much to make purchases as to inquire about work and to meet their friends. Of course, he should not object to see these people in the parks on Sunday instead of in the New Cut. But, remembering the bad feeling towards the upper classes occasioned by Lord Robert Grosvenor's Bill, and wishing to attain the desired result rather by moral causes than by force, he deprecated the proposed legislation. It might not be class legislation, but the people thought it was. He would recommend the hon. Member 805 (Mr. T. Hughes) to withdraw his Bill, and to leave it to the Government to take up the subject if they thought fit to do so.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said. there had been an improvement among the upper classes in regard to the observance of Sunday; but the example of the upper classes could not affect those who were not within its influence. Let hon. Members see for themselves that which had been described by the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), and then judge whether the weekly recurrence of such scenes was creditable to a civilized community. Believing they were not, and that Sunday trading was on the increase, he was in favour of going on with the Bill. He trusted that its effect would be what its author intended.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
said, he should support the Motion that the Chairman do leave the Chair, because he feared legislation would lead to serious disturbances. In regard to penalties, the Bill would inflict great injustice on the poor. It ought to be more carefully considered, and introduced, if at all, by Government, who are responsible for the peace of the country.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that the Motion, which was that the Chairman leave the Chair, would put an end to the Bill, but the House had already decided by a division that it wished to consider the Bill and the proposed Amendments in Committee. He would therefore suggest to the hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Brady) to allow his Motion to be negatived, in order that the Chairman might be ordered to report Progress.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he wished the House to understand that he did not object to a measure being passed to prevent the evils of Sunday trading, which undoubtedly existed in many districts. In that respect he differed from some of the hon. Gentlemen who had voted with him, and who were opposed to any legislation on the subject. He (Mr. Rylands) objected to the Bill of the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes), because, whilst it was unduly severe in its operation upon petty offenders, it left un-touched the worst and most extensive system of Sunday trading that existed in this country. The licensed victuallers and beer-houses were especially exempted from the operation of the Bill. He (Mr. 806 Rylands) had, during the past few days, looked over the evidence taken before the Sale of Liquor on Sunday Bill Committee last Session—a Committee of which his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) was a distinguished Member—and he must say, after reading that evidence, he had a great difficulty in understanding how a majority of the Gentlemen composing the Committee could arrive at the conclusion expressed in their Report, and could refuse the Report of the minority, which called upon the House to impose considerable restrictions upon the sale of drink on Sundays. He believed the evils arising from this Sunday trading were of enormous magnitude, and he should be happy to support the hon. Member for Frome, and still more the Government, in any general measure for putting down these evils. But the Bill of the hon. Member was a very ill-considered proposal. The penalties it imposed were extremely severe. The hon. Baronet (Sir John Trelawny) had doubted, and the hon. Member for Frome had disputed the assertion of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) in relation to these penalties, but his hon. Friend was strictly correct. It was impossible to dispute the provisions of the Bill, if they wore to accept the ordinary interpretation of the English language. In the first clause there was a provision that in the case of a first conviction there should be a penalty not exceeding 20s., or less than 5s., and the third clause provided in the case of a second conviction that—Such person shall for every such offence forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding 40s., nor less than 20s., for every separate act of selling, offering, or exposing for sale or delivery on one and the same day.It is therefore quite clear that under this Bill a poor orange girl might be brought up before the magistrates for the separate sale of twenty oranges, and might be fined £40, and the magistrates would be compelled to inflict a penalty of at least £20. And at the very moment that a poor miserable offender might thus be brought under the penalties of the law, there would be no interference with the trade of the flaring gin palace opening its doors and offering its inducements and temptations to vice and criminality. He (Mr. Rylands) was most anxious to see the Sabbath day 807 preserved for the benefit of the people, and he hoped there were many influences at work tending in that direction; and he should be glad to see proper measures passed to restrict the evils of Sunday trading, but he could not support the infliction of heavy penalties, or a system of Draconian legislation. If the House would take up this question boldly, and support the Government in dealing with a general measure on the subject, they might do much to mitigate evils which, now sorely afflicted our population; but he could not regard the Bill of the hon. Member for Frome as being worthy of support.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 110: Majority 53.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.