§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.2 a.m.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time".
It may be asked why I have the honour of moving the Second Reading of this Bill. The Lord's Day Observance Association of Scotland asked me if I would introduce the Bill if I was successful in the ballot, and I said that I should be very pleased to do so. I was successful in the ballot and I am now carrying out that promise. It is rather interesting to note that one of the honorary presidents of that Association was the late Marquis of Aberdeen and Temair, and it may be appropriate that on this occasion I should offer a tribute on behalf of many Scotsmen, and I hope many Englishmen, at the passing of that noted servant of the Empire, Lord Aberdeen. It may be well said of him, as was said by Lord Salisbury of Mr. Gladstone, that he was a great man and a great Christian. We offer to his gracious lady our sympathy in her great loss.
When I was successful in the ballot my friends asked me what would be the subject of my Bill and suggested that it would be something connected with finance or the gold standard, but I replied that those subjects, however important they may be, are, to my mind, as dust in the balance compared with the question of Sabbath observance. This question goes to the very root of Scottish character, and I hope of British character also. The Bill is very simple. Its object is to preserve the sanctity of Sunday as a day of rest. It reduces trading to a minimum, but there are certain exceptions. Shops are to be closed on Sunday, with such exceptions as are provided for in the Schedule, such asThe business of supplying refreshments (except ice-cream) for consumption on the premises, including the business carried on at a railway station refreshment room, during a period not exceeding in the aggregate eight hours on any Sunday.The business of selling intoxicating liquors at times or under conditions allowed by the Licensing (Scotland) Acts, 1903 to 1923.2174The business of dispensing or selling medicines and medical or surgical appliances, to the exclusion of toilet or fancy goods.The business of dairyman, for the supply of milk only.The business of supplying petrol or other fuel for motor vehicles.On the Order Paper there are two Amendments. The first Amendment, which stands in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) and other hon. Members is in these terms:That this House, while agreeing with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest, declines to assert to the Second Reading of a Bill which creates anomalies, does little to secure leisure for the workers, and inflicts hardship on certain sections of the community.The second Amendment says:That it is necessary that a departmental committee should be appointed to consider and report on the question of Sunday trading before a Second Reading is given to this Bill.I find myself in partial agreement with both Amendments. With regard to the first part of the first Amendmentwhile agreeing with the principle of Sunday being a day of restI am in entire agreement there, and I think that is the universal opinion of the House. That is the principle involved in the Second Reading of the Bill. I admit that, like so many Bills, this Measure is not perfect. I would not presume to say that it is perfect. It is susceptible to amendment. There are anomalies. There is the question of the single-man and the single-woman shopkeeper, with whom we have profound sympathy. Anyone who has investigated, as I have, the position of Scottish shops knows the hardship that is involved upon these poor people who are trying to eke out an existence. However, they represent only two per cent. of the total number of shops that are open in Scotland on Sunday.
There is also the question of newspapers. I do not take much exception to newspapers; in fact, I read a newspaper myself on Sunday evening. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Well, I try to confine my newspaper reading to the evening, and perhaps I ought to give it up. The tendency is to divert one's mind from what I think is the real joy and comfort on the Sunday of being able to turn to other things. That is the supreme advantage of Sunday, and that 2175 is a joy missed by many people. They think that we are missing a great deal of life because we do not rush about the country in motor cars and play golf, and, as they say, enjoy ourselves. We, on the other hand, believe that if we have days of labour during the week, attending Sessions of this House, or attending to business in all directions, it is a comfort, a relaxation and a reinvigoration of the spirit of mankind to rest on Sunday and turn to more serious and religious matters. We believe that the people who go rushing about on the Sabbath are missing a great joy, and we are anxious that they should participate in it. Therefore, we desire to preserve this day for those who, possibly, may not know that joy. Unless a day of rest is provided for them, how can they enjoy it?
The second Amendment deals with the question of an inquiry. We who are promoting the Bill do not think that any further inquiry is necessary, but we are prepared to admit that there are many people who have not made themselves acquainted with this question, owing to the rush of life, and may not be aware of the extent and the growth of Sunday trading. There is a great deal to be said for an inquiry. We had a meeting yesterday upstairs which was attended by a most important deputation from Scotland, representing I believe every known church of all denominations throughout Scotland. It was also representative of shopkeepers; in fact, it was thoroughly representative of Scotland, North, South, East and West. These distinguished gentleman came and asked to meet the Scottish Members of Parliament in order to submit the views of Scotland on these questions. Those who were present will agree that they put their case moderately and temperately, but when we came to discuss the question, there was, I admit, some difference of opinion, but, there was unanimity on the advantages of an inquiry.
I propose to address myself to the Lord Advocate, who I understand is to reply, on the importance of an inquiry. There is undoubtedly unanimity of opinion on the advantages of an inquiry. This question of Sunday observance has stirred Scotland from north to south, and whether a Second Reading is given to 2176 this Bill or not is a mere incident, because this agitation, this feeling, which has been aroused in Scotland will continue. I go further and I say, that if the Government show no appreciation of this Bill it will only tend still further to increase this feeling rather than allay it. I do not think hon. Members have any conception of the interest which has been aroused in Scotland on this subject. We had a meeting of over 2,000 in Edinburgh the other day; it was not advertised; it was a spontaneous gathering in support of this Bill. I can assure the Lord Advocate that we feel strongly upon this matter, and if the Government indicate that they are prepared to have an inquiry then it may be possible to avoid a Division. There are many hon. Members I know who do not like the Bill but at the same time do not wish to vote against it. That feeling was expressed at the meeting yesterday, and it indicates the feeling of Scottish Members towards the Bill. While there was criticism of the Measure there was at the same time an indisposition to vote against the principle. The first Amendment says clearly:while agreeing with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest ….Why are we bringing the Bill forward? It is to assure the Scottish community in particular that Sunday shall be a day of rest. It may be that in this House opinion is more or less divided, although some of our critics say that they are in a majority. I cannot say, but I do say that in my humble judgment the overwhelming public opinion in Scotland is in favour of something being done to regularise Sunday trading. Why do we bring forward a Bill of this character. First and foremost, we do so because in our view we think we are carrying out the Divine command. It is not necessary for me to quote the fourth Commandment, to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. This is a Christian country. Our laws have a moral foundation. Where do we obtain that moral foundation? We find it in the Bible; it is concentrated in the Commandments and in the Beatitudes. We commence our proceedings in this House with Prayer, and I have not observed that the Chaplain of this House, who asks the blessing of Almighty God on our deliberations and legislation goes out of his way to say that one Commandment, the fourth Command- 2177 ment, has been abolished. On the contrary, I find, day after day, that in a beauty of language which cannot be equalled or surpassed our Prayers are so drawn as to cover all forms of religious belief, because we are still a Christian country. That is the first and foremost reason for bringing in this Bill. We base it on that Divine command.
Then there is a second reason, the wisdom of Parliament. Those who give a little attention to history will agree that the boon of a day's rest on Sunday, a freedom from labour, has only been won for this country through hundreds of years of struggle, and can only be preserved by a strenuous vigilance on the part of the people. It is commonly believed that the idea of a strict Sunday, as some people describe it, is a Calvanistic, Presbyterian or Puritan idea. It is not so. If hon. Members will refresh their memories they will find that the Cavalier Parliament in 1661, after the Restoration, was engaged for the next six or seven years in trying to pass measures through this House for the protection of Sunday, and to do away with Sunday labour. There are differences of opinion as to how one should conduct himself on Sunday. I do not judge my fellow men as to whether they obtain any joy or refreshment in engaging in sport and golf on Sundays, but I have often found my friends who play golf all day on Saturdays and Sundays come back to work very jaded and tired. I do not force my opinions upon them, I enjoy their friendship. I live and let live, but I think they would come back to their work more vigorous if they rested on Sundays and turned to other things. I want to emphasise the fact that the Cavalier Parliament in 1661 tried to bring in a Bill dealing with Sunday observance and that it was eventually brought in in another place in 1677. It was then introduced into this House and after three days' debate was passed and received the Royal Assent.
That surely indicates that, while there may be differences of opinion about recreation, there is a universal belief that as much as possible we should reduce Sunday labour. It is not possible, of course, in the world as we find it, to abolish Sunday labour altogether. There are certain duties and certain anomalies, I admit, but if we in our 2178 time and generation do not throw away the opportunity to reduce it to a minimum we shall have done our part. To prove how Sunday trading has increased of late years I will trouble the House with a few figures. The following statistics of shops which are kept open on Sundays has been ascertained by the Church and Nation Committee of the General Assembly: Glasgow, 5,600; Edinburgh, 2,000; Dundee, 884; Aberdeen, 738; Grennock, 180; other districts where the population exceeds 5,000, 1,033. That is a total of something like 10,000 shops open for trade on Sunday. That figure has been reached by nearly doubling the number in the last two years.
Did I understand the hon. Member to say that the number had doubled in the last two years?
§ Mr. MASON
I am informed that the total of 10,000 is nearly double that of two years ago. The numbers have been increasing all the time. It is very difficult, of course, to obtain these statistics. That is why, if an inquiry is granted, it would be most valuable. A great deal has been said about the small shops, but that hardship, which I readily admit, might be provided for in Committee by the local authority having the right to issue permits or licences. On the strength of that hardship a great agitation has been built up against the Bill. Let me quote from a circular which may have reached many other hon. Members. It is really the crux and the root of the real opposition to the Bill. The circular is most elaborately prepared and must have cost a considerable sum of money. It is a representation on behalf of the Scottish Federation of Aerated Water Manufacturers, the Scottish Milk Trade Federation, the Scottish Sunday Traders' Protection Association, the Scottish Temperance Refreshment Trade Federation of Scotland, and the Scottish Federation of Wholesale Confectioners' Associations. It says:The most important outlet for our members' goods will be cut off.That is the real opposition to the Bill. All these very important bodies are deriving a large income from trading on Sunday. There is no mention in the cir- 2179 cular of any idea of preserving the sanctity of rest on Sunday. They have no regard, apparently, for the principles which I have endeavoured in a humble way to express to the House. They base their opposition entirely on the advantage of their profits and income. If we were to apply that all round, if one opened a circus on Sunday, for instance, one might derive from it a very large income. There are many things by which we could increase our profits if we disregarded what is the main reason for the introduction of this Bill. Let me read a little further:The Scottish Federation of Wholesale Confectioners' Associations embraces the following Associations: Aberdeen and District Wholesale Confectioners' Association, Edinburgh and District Wholesale Confectioners' Association, Fifeshire and West of Scotland Wholesale Confectioners' Association,These are not one-man or one-woman shops; they are large traders drawing a large income from this trade—Inverness and Moray Wholesale Confectioners' Association, Forfarshire and Perthshire Wholesale Confectioners' Association, Falkirk and Stirling Wholesale Confectioners' Association.They go on to say in the circular that:As has been indicated, the closing of these shops will mean a considerable reduction in the volume of trade done by the members of the Aerated Water Trade … The terms of the Bill have been considered by the Scottish Milk Trade Federation, which embraces Associations of milk distributors throughout the country. The Federation views with alarm the situation the Bill intends to create, and is apprehensive of the disastrous effect it will have for many milk dealers and the damage it will inflict on the whole milk industry. … The essential policy of the Milk Marketing Scheme is to find profitable outlet for surplus milk in the interests of all engaged in the dairy industry, including both producers and distributors. One very large outlet is the supply of that milk for the manufacture of ice cream. In terms of the Bill the sale of ice cream will be prohibited on Sunday. This Federation has been informed that about 5,000,000 gallons of milk per annum are used in the manufacture of ice cream in Scotland. It is common knowledge that the principal day for the sale of ice cream is Sunday. It is also common knowledge that the purchase of ice cream is made to supply an immediate want and that sales lost on Sunday will not be made up on week-days. The spirit of the Bill, therefore, is directly contrary to the spirit of the Agricultural Marketing Act.That is the main object of the opposition to the Bill; let it interfere with the 2180 Marketing Act and it will cut down the profits of these great trades. What a farce to try thus to express the wishes of the people of Scotland. They show in this circular where the real opposition to the Bill lies. If I know my countrymen, whatever their views are, whatever their religious beliefs, whether they live in England or in Scotland, they do desire to set apart one day in seven. The principle is there, and I believe there are many Jewish supporters of this Bill. They recognise as we do that man is not a machine and that we ought to have one day in seven for rest. In fact, as we know, Moses was the originator of the Fourth Commandment, under which the seventh day was the appointed day on which the Creator rested after the creation of the universe. Then, after the Passion and resurrection of our Lord, with the Christian religion came the change over to the first day of the week, because of His resting after the experiences through which our Lord passed.
I hope I have said sufficient to recommend the Bill to the House. There are two characteristics of the Scottish people. One is a love of their native land and a respect for the religious beliefs of themselves and of their fellowmen. That characteristic is to be found among Scotsmen all over the world wherever you go. If the House will pardon me for introducing a personal reference, I would say that in my younger days when I was seeking my fortune in Australia I was struck down by fever. When I was recovering consciousness, in my dreams I thought I was fishing in the Island of Mull. Whether in South Africa or in Canada, the Scotsman never forgets his native land. We know the lines:From the lone shieling of the misty island,Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas—Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.There is one other characteristic of the Scotsman and I would like to close my speech on this note. Wherever Scotsmen go, whatever their beliefs may be, however much they may have strayed from the path, no Scotsman who has been brought up in a strict atmosphere and in a home where piety has prevailed can ever forget it. We see that characteristic described 2181 by the Scottish bard Robert Burns in "The Cotters Saturday Night". If we are courageous and manly enough to admit it, we must recognise that the teachings of our early boyhood have often kept us on the right course during our journey through life. That reverence for early teachings is the other Scottish characteristic to which I refer and it is because we have that reverence that we are determined to do what we can to maintain this high tradition of Sunday observance.
§ 11.40 a.m.
§ Sir JOHN HASLAM
I beg to second the Motion.
I little thought that I should be called upon to second this Motion. I do so with the greatest pleasure although I represent an English constituency and cannot claim any relationship to Scotland except that of a periodical visitor to and a constant admirer of that beautiful country. But this is the British House of Commons and English Members have a right to speak and vote upon a Measure of this description. I shall try to emulate the conciliatory speech of the Mover. I think the keenest opponents of the Bill will acknowledge that he has been very moderate in his request. All we ask of the Lord Advocate and the Government is that they should approve of the principle of the Measure and set up a committee to see if something cannot be done to maintain the traditional character of the Scottish sabbath.
Many of us admire that trait in the Scottish character of remembering to keep holy the Sabbath Day, although the Sabbath is not observed now as it was years ago. Yet I think that one of the main causes of Scotland's greatness and the success of Scottish people wherever they go has been that regard for the Sabbath and all it represents. It would be a sad day for Scotland and for Britain if the Scottish people lost that traditional attitude. I can claim some right to support this Measure, as for nearly 20 years I have been endeavouring on behalf of English traders to bring forward a Measure to deal with the opening of shops on the Sabbath Day in England. Unfortunately we have not been successful. Organisations have spent thousands of pounds trying to get various trades together in order to ob- 2182 tain a concensus of opinion on the proposition that such a proposal would mean the least amount of damage to anyone, and would at the same time maintain the traditional British attitude in regard to the Sabbath Day. If any hon. Member is prepared to argue that this Bill or any proposal to curtail the hours of opening of shops on the Sabbath Day is going to injure a single shopkeeper I can claim to know more about the position of the individual shopkeeper than many in this House.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
May I ask the hon. Member if his knowledge of the individual shopkeeper extends to Scotland, or is it confined to England?
§ Sir J. HASLAM
I can speak as an individual shopkeeper and as one understanding the position of the individual shopkeeper, and I say that his position is becoming intolerable because of the encouragement given to people who desire seven days' income, although in a good many cases they only work six days themselves. These people want to employ others in their businesses on the seventh day. The individual shopkeeper is the worst sufferer because he is compelled eventually either to close up or to open on the Sabbath Day in order to compete with others. Therefore I hope we shall not hear much in this discussion about the poor widow and the others who will be penalised by a restriction of hours on Sunday.
I do not intend to make a long speech. I have prepared no speech, but I want to emphasise the importance of the principle of the Measure. I think it is good for the nation, good for the shopkeepers, good for everybody that there should be a recognised difference between one day of the week and the other six days. Apart from being the desire of hon. Members of this House and of the shopkeeping community, it is not to be forgotten, as the Mover said, that this is a Divine command and it ill becomes any nation to ignore a command such as we have received in the Fourth Commandment. It is the easiest thing in the world to criticise legislative proposals like this Bill and to show that they are illogical in their effects. Any Member of this House could do so very well, but I ask them to consider that what the proposers of this Measure are out for is not that 2183 every Clause of the Bill should be accepted, but that the principle should be accepted.
We are prepared to meet our opponents and critics in every possible way if we can have the principle put upon the Statute Book. I would not even go as far as that. I would say that if the Scottish Office and the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Government, will accept the idea that a committee should be set up to inquire into the question, we shall be content. We do not fear inquiry. On the contrary, we welcome inquiry, and we are confident that the result of an inquiry would be that something would be done and done quickly to cope with what we regard as an evil before it gets to such gigantic proportions as it has reached in this country. It is very unfortunate that the matter was not tackled in this country 20, 30, or 40 years ago, when there was a hope that it could have been dealt with as the Scottish people hope to deal with it now. But systems such as this must inevitably grow, because I do not believe that any large proportion of the shopkeepers who are open on Sundays are open because they are desirous of working seven days a week. They have to open in self-defence, and a man who has a wife and dependants to maintain and sees his business disappearing through competition of this sort cannot be condemned—at least, I could not condemn him—for resorting to opening on the Sabbath day. It is in defence of those people that we advocate this proposal, and I have the greatest possible pleasure in seconding the Motion for its Second Reading.
§ 11.46 a.m.
Lieut.-Colonel C. G. MacANDREW
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while agreeing with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest, declines to assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which creates anomalies, does little to secure leisure for the workers, and inflicts hardship on certain sections of the community.We who are supporting this Amendment agree with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest, and I should like it to be clearly understood that our opposition to the Bill is because we believe the Bill is thoroughly bad. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. 2184 Mason) talked about how Scotsmen love their country. They love their country so much that not one Scottish Member of this House would second the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I would have seconded it, but it was modesty that prevented me. I thought a Seconder would have been arranged for, and I did not want to jump in.
§ Mr. MASON
There were many Scotsmen anxious to second the Motion, but I had to regard this as a British Parliament, an Imperial Parliament. If we had had Home Rule, it would have been another matter, but as we had to come to the Imperial Parliament, it seemed a good thing to ask an English Member to second the Motion.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
Can the hon. Member say why there was that inconvenient lull between when he sat down and a Seconder rose? The Bill was very nearly killed.
I, of course, withdraw, and I quite appreciate the modesty of our race which prevented any of them getting up to second the Motion. But although those of us who are opposed to it are staunch and firm believers in the Fourth Commandment, nevertheless I think the Bill is one which has so many anomalies that it should not have a Second Reading. I agree that if Sunday were to be Continentalised in this country, it would be the greatest possible tragedy, and no one feels more strongly than I do on that aspect of the problem, but at the same time we have to consider the Bill which has been put before us. There was a great meeting in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh last month, when this matter was brought to the notice of many people, and I feel sure, on reading the newspaper reports of it, that a great many of those who were there and who spoke in support of the proposal were attracted by the name of the Bill, which, I agree, is most attractive. If all of it was as good as its name, I would have very little to say against it. I remember very well a few years ago a Bill being introduced in this House with the name "Prevention of Unemployment Bill." What a splendid idea. But it was a bad Bill, and the 2185 House rightly threw it out by a very large majority. Suppose this Bill passed in its present form, would it do an enormous amount of good? I interrupted my hon. Friend during his speech when he quoted some figures showing that Glasgow shops open on Sundays numbered 5,608 in 1932. If he had gone a little further and looked back over the previous 10 years, he would have found that his statement that the numbers had almost doubled in the last two years was completely wrong. The figures in 1923 were 5,058, and in those 10 years they only rose 550, so that his fear on that ground is really unjustified. In addition to that, if he had looked over the Glasgow figures, he would have found that a great many of those 5,000 shops would not be shut under his Bill. On page 274 of the report of the Select Committee on Shop Assistants there is a list, which I have in my hand, and it includes shops trading in fruits and confectionery 1,500, milk 1,300, eating-houses 300, druggists and chemists 299, ice cream and aerated waters 380, cycle shops 16, because they would be open for the sale of petrol, and garages 59. Therefore, if the Bill were given a Second Reading, it would not do very much more in the way of closing shops on Sunday than is the practice at the present time.
I know the argument has been put up repeatedly that if we agree with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest, we should give the Bill a Second Reading and have it put right in the Scottish Standing Committee. It is very easy to talk vaguely like that. The Scottish Standing Committee, as we all know, although perhaps it is not generally known, has more than 80 Members. It cannot send for witnesses to examine the various interests affected, and to put a bad Bill of this sort right in the Scottish Standing Committee is, I think, asking that Committee to do what is impossible.
I think it is bad, and if my hon. Friend will do me the honour of allowing me to continue my speech, I shall, I hope, be able to show some very good reasons for thinking so. I was a member of a Committee, which reported in 1927, set up with a view to dealing with anomalies which had arisen under what was called D.O.R.A., 2186 the Defence of the Realm Act, because this House tried to diminish the number of anomalies that existed. I very well remember, on the Second Reading of a Bill which was founded on the findings of that Shop Hours Committee, that the late Sir William Bull speaking in this House, exactly six years ago to-day, the 9th March, 1928, pointed out how he had been waiting for a train at a railway station and had gone to buy a cigar to pass away the time. He went to the bar, but was told that he could not have it. Then he asked for a glass of beer, and he was told that he could not have that either; then he asked for a sandwich, and having bought the sandwich, the young lady behind the bar said to him, "Now you can have your glass of beer and your cigar too". There is no doubt about it, and we do not want to start anomalies of that sort again. If anyone likes to look at the late Sir William Bull's speech on that occasion, he will see that the facts as I have given them are there set forth.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
They ought to have been challenged at the time. Some of us, at any rate, are not inclined to accept such a statement, which obviously is not based upon facts at all.
I have here the reference. It will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 1407, Vol. 214, and the hon. Member will see that that was the speech that the late Sir William Bull made on the 9th March, 1928, and I was in the House at the time. That Shop Hours Committee had 21 meetings, 14 of which were in public, and we examined over 100 witnesses before we were able to bring forward any findings, which were not unanimous. Neither the English nor the Scottish like irksome restrictions which are unnecessary, but this is obviously a difficult problem, and there is no doubt that this Bill was not based on sufficient inquiry. The Schedule of exemptions is, of course, the crux of the whole problem. Newspapers are not included. The Sunday newspapers are printed on Saturday, and we all appreciate that. Those of us who live in Scotland know that many of the Sunday newspapers are sold in very small shops where the shopkeeper lives at the back, and it is common to see on the door of such shops on Sunday "The shop is open". It does not therefore give the shopkeeper a great deal of trouble to 2187 sell newspapers on Sunday. I saw that my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Guy) were lately entertained to a luncheon at Edinburgh out of compliment to them for sponsoring this Bill, and I was rather amused to read that the gentleman who presided, speaking of Sunday trading, said that it was well worth noticing that the shops that were most open on Sundays were those that provided not necessities but indulgencies. He went on to cite confectionery, tobacco and newspapers, and then he asked what was to hinder all such purchases being made on the previous day. I do not see in the report of the luncheon whether the hon. Members explained why you cannot buy tomorrow's newspaper to-day. The Shop Hours Committee, in dealing with the problem of newspapers, found that the free circulation of news should not be interfered with.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Why is it necessary to have newspapers on Sunday? I never get news from any Sunday newspaper?
§ Sir J. HASLAM
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that on any Saturday in Manchester you can buy all the Sunday papers? They are all published on Saturday night for the man who wants to buy them on Saturday, and they contain practically the same news as the papers published on Sunday.
I am not dealing with England, but with a Scottish Bill. The sale of newspapers, the Committee found, should be subject to the general early closing provisions, but their sale in any place not being a shop should be exempted. In Clause 8 of this Bill a shop is so defined that a fellow with a barrow or a cart or a stand in the street is a shop. The newspaper problem is a difficult one. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyleshire (Mr. Macquisten) does not seem to think very much of Sunday newspapers, but I always read them.
The First Schedule exempts ice-cream shops as we understand them in Scotland. The extraordinary thing is that under the Burgh Police Acts in Scotland any shop opening to sell confectionery, fruit, ice-cream or aerated 2188 water has to be licensed as a place registered for public refreshment. Once it is registered as such the town council have power to make by-laws with regard to the opening and the council has sufficient power to prevent any of these shops opening on Sunday at all. These provisions are in addition to the ordinary Shop Acts which, of course, must be observed. So far as the ice-cream shops are concerned, therefore, there is in Scotland plenty of authority to deal with them in any way that the town council desires. We had this problem before the Shop Hours Committee, and we came to the conclusion that if further regulation of ice-cream shops was required, it would come more appropriately under the Burgh Police Acts than under legislation dealing with the closing of shops.
Why ice-cream itself, above all other things, should be cited particularly as an exception in the Schedule, I do not know. The hon. Member made a joke about surplus milk, but I have no doubt that many hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk must be used in making ice-cream. The First Schedule dealing with refreshment houses exempts meals being consumed on the premises. It means that if poor people take a train down to the coast and want to buy a bun and a bottle of lemonade to consume outside they are prevented from doing it, but, if they can afford to have a meal inside, they are entitled to have it. That is one of the anomalies to which we object. Poor people cannot replenish their larders on Sundays under this Bill, and people who go hiking, which is becoming fashionable now, will be prevented from buying their food when they go out.
Medicines are exempted, but Clause 7 makes it essential that any man working in a shop on Sunday has to get a whole day's holiday during the previous six days. Chemists' shops in Scotland open for an hour and a half on Sunday generally, although there are exceptions, and I have a letter from a friend of mine who points out that his assistants go to the shop for two openings on Sunday in order to dispense medicines, and that arrangement is included in their ordinary salaries. He points out that it would be a very severe strain on his business if he had to arrange to give these men, in return for their short time on Sunday, a whole day off in addition to the statutory half-holiday. The effect 2189 of this Clause will be that, instead of the chemists' shops opening on Sunday for a short time they will be so much penalised that, instead of people being able to buy on Sunday medicine which may be urgently required, the shops will not open at all. That would be most unfortunate. We must realise that people do not go to chemists' shops on Sundays to buy things like scent on which the larger profits are made; they merely go for medicine which is urgently required and on which the chemist does not make a great profit.
Then we come to the dairies. You can buy milk only from the dairy, but no butter, cream or eggs. Why there should be that restriction if the shop is open and someone wants to buy something and the assistant is there anyway, seems to me an anomaly and an unnecessary hardship. Lastly, we come to the problem of petrol. We are to be allowed to buy petrol, but, if you go to a garage, you cannot buy oil. A poor man riding a push bicycle cannot buy oil for his lamp, and, if your car breaks down, you cannot buy any accessories. Why petrol is included and other things which go automatically to keep the car going are prohibited, I cannot understand. This Bill has been drafted in a very careless way and does not merit a Second Reading. If we give the Scottish people the idea that we pass Bills like this we are not doing ourselves justice. Let not anyone say that we are not supporting the sanctity of the Sabbath in opposing this Bill. We are opposing the Bill because it is bad.
§ 12.4 p.m.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I beg to second the Amendment.
I will follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) in emphasising at once that what we are debating is not the principle of Sunday labour, but the Bill before the House. So far as preserving the sanctity of the Sabbath and limiting the amount of work done on Sunday is concerned, I find myself in large measure in agreement with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), who so sincerely introduced this Bill. But since the days when oxen first fell into pits it has been recognised that work of some sort on the Sabbath was a necessity, and our goal since then has not been 2190 to abolish Sunday work but to reduce it to a minimum, and it is over what that minimum should be that we are likely to find ourselves in, perhaps, some measure of disagreement. In my view, and I believe it to be in consonance with democratic principles, it is the minimum which is consistent with the welfare of the community at large, and I am prepared to contend that the present state of Sunday trade in Scotland falls very fairly within that description.
Every shop that opens, every newspaper that is sold, every train, omnibus or tram that runs is an answer to the demand, and, as I see it, the innocent demand of the public in general, and before I could be prepared to support a change in the law I should have to be convinced that there really was a genuinely-felt desire throughout Scotland for a change. Furthermore, I should have to be convinced that the change proposed would be an improvement, and that is what I do not see in the Bill as we have it to-day. Apart from Clause 7, in which I agree to some extent with the provision that if a man works on the Sunday he must be given a whole day or part of a day's extra holiday during the week, this Bill, to my mind, promises nothing but tiresome interference with, and in some cases definite hardship for, certain sections of the community, and I am afraid it is for the most part those sections of the community who are least able to sacrifice either pleasure or income, because, unhappily, they have not too much of either. That, I think, is the most lamentable fault of the whole Bill.
Unwittingly, no doubt, the promoters have succeeded in evolving a piece of legislation which, if it should be passed, would cut deep into the lives of the working classes, but would hardly touch the lives of more prosperous people at any point. It is to be illegal to buy a Sunday paper. It seems to be very hard that a working man, on the one day when he has more leisure to read a paper than any other, should not be allowed to have one. It is common knowledge that most of the work on Sunday papers is done during the week, and if we really want to restrict the Sunday work of printers and publishers the newspaper we ought to suppress is the Monday paper. I should resent being forbidden or prevented from buying a paper on Sunday, but I understand that there is nothing in this Bill to 2191 prevent people ordering a Sunday paper from some English bookstall and having it put on a train and delivered to their station, and employing a boy to fetch it. In that way one might, still be able to enjoy reading Mr. Garvin's article in the "Observer" or "Scrutator" in the "Sunday Times," which cannot be regarded as a very wicked way of spending one's Sunday evening; but if we wished to buy the "Sunday Post" or the "Sunday Mail," two newspapers which are published in Scotland, and give employment to Scottish people, we would not be allowed to do so. I understand that the circulation of Sunday papers throughout the British Isles is somewhere about 17,000,000 copies, of which we in Scotland take our share, and that is the measure of the number of people whom the promoters of this Bill seek to deprive of a pastime which, for the last 50 years, they have been accustomed to regard as their right.
It is to be illegal under the Bill to buy food, sweets, lemonade, chocolate or fruit unless they are to be consumed on the premises. There is nothing to prevent a person who can afford it from going to a restaurant and having a sit-down meal of anything he likes to eat and to drink, but a poorer person, who cannot afford that, is to be denied his freedom to buy, from somebody who wants to sell, a bag of buns, or a couple of oranges, or a bar of chocolate. That is in spite of the fact that restaurants employ waiters, waitresses and other attendants, whereas the buying of a few sweets in a small shop would in many cases probably necessitate only the labour of the actual shop owner. In his case the labour is entirely self-imposed, and, indeed, he is only too ready to sell the things, because it is doing him good. Regulation and restriction do not stop there. You may go into a shop and assure the proprietor that what you are going to buy you are also going to consume on the premises, but if, as would probably be the case with a young man taking out his best girl in the summer, you ask for the first thing that comes into your mind, an ice cream, you are told "No, you cannot have it." You could have a lemonade, but no ice cream. That is an example of the illogical type of legislation which the hon. Member for East Edinburgh seeks to thrust upon us. 2192 May be that is a Committee point, but, we are debating more than principles, we are debating the Bill, and in almost every line of the Bill I find a Committee point; and if all those points were to be dealt with in Committee the Bill when it emerged from Committee would not be the same Measure as is now before the House.
What about the position of the producer? I also received the circular from the Scottish Milk Trade Federation. It stated that every year 5,000,000 gallons of milk were employed in the manufacture of ice cream, a large proportion of which was for Sunday consumption. We are endeavouring in this House to do something to help agriculture and to help milk production, and I am not one who can scoff at the interests of Scottish agriculture. It is to be legal for a dairyman to distribute milk on a Sunday, but not butter or eggs at the same time. It seems to me that if a man is working he may as well provide the public with everything they want to buy, and when we remember that he has to be given a whole day's rest during the week in return for the few hours he may work on a[...] Sunday it is evident that he must do all that is possible to justify his employment.
Next we come to the case of the little shopkeeper. As far as I know, it is a very hard struggle in Glasgow for many of these little shopkeepers to make both ends meet. I have been told of a shop which sells newspapers, sweets and tobacco which has an average weekly turnover of £20, £8 of which is generally due to Sunday trade; and there are many other cases in which at least 25 per cent. of the income of a shop is derived from Sunday trade. I can hardly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) that the small shops would not mind this legislation, because, so far as I know, it would mean one thing and one thing only, and that is bankruptcy. I am not anxious to put their claim too high, because if they had to be protected at the expense of the public welfare then I should not be on their side. But, the contrary is the case. Many a small housewife living in a crowded house with, perhaps, several people in a room, finds it most inconvenient, almost unhealthy and insanitary, to keep over night, food which they are to eat the following day. A great many 2193 of these people can just afford to live from hand to mouth and from day to day; they cannot afford to lay in stocks of food. Turning to a lighter side of the subject—smoking—I am not a smoker, but those who smoke tell me it would be very inconvenient to them if they were unable to buy cigarettes and tobacco on a Sunday except in slot machines, and I do not think shop assistants as a whole would be in favour of any encouragement being given to automatic slot machines, because if they once get the hold in this country they have got in Scandinavia, it might very well prove a menace to the employment of shop assistants.
I must make it clear that I am not seconding this Amendment because I am in favour of promoting unnecessary Sunday trading. I am not in favour of tailors, drapers or ironmongers working on a Sunday. I am only in favour where it is necessary, and the public demand shows itself. I am not in favour of other traders working because I do not believe that there is a public demand for their trades, and, therefore, the opening of their shops would not be justified. It is purely a question of what is best for the common weal. Nor am I in favour of big multiple stores opening on a Sabbath, and if there were evidence of a move in that direction, I agree that legislation of some sort would be necessary; but I do not believe we have that evidence, and I was much relieved to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Partick contradicting the Proposer of this Bill when he suggested that the number of shops which opened on Sunday had doubled during the last two years, because that is not the case.
I am concerned with preserving for our people the right to enjoy the pleasures to which they have become accustomed, and also allowing to those traders who wish to minister to their needs, the freedom to do so. I think that this is a cowardly Bill. It does not attempt to deal with the real problems of Sunday labour—trains, trams, buses, steamers, waiters or waitresses, attendants and domestic servants, or with any of the hundred and one different cases of Sunday employment. I repeat that I think it is a cowardly Bill. It attacks the little shops opening on Sundays, and allows the monster of excursion buses to pass unchallenged. Not that I am opposed to excursion buses, for while 2194 one would deplore any wanton desecration of the Sabbath, I am sure that we must remember that to many town-dwellers they provide perhaps the only opportunity they have of fresh air or of enjoying the beauty of the countryside.
I would like to point out to the hon. Member that the points he is now making are definitely outside the scope of the Bill, and that it is open to him to use his chance in the Ballot, if successful another year, to introduce a Bill dealing with all these points.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
The proposers of this Bill have been at such pains to impress upon us that what they really want us to discuss is the principle of Sunday labour rather than the somewhat unfortunate wording of the Bill, that perhaps I strayed a little. To return to Sunday travel, here, more than anywhere else, am I opposed to this Bill. It interferes with Sunday travel. Motorists can buy oil and fuel, but not a tyre or a new lamp, although there should be a garage attendant on duty only too willing to provide these things. The cyclist is going to be worse off. He cannot buy oil for a lamp. Railway passengers may only buy refreshments during eight hours instead of 12, although they require to be refreshed equally in the remaining four hours. Hikers are to be deprived of the opportunity to obtain the wherewithal for picnics. Travel is not a sin. For many people it is the only means they have of reuniting the family, or renewing friendship. If a working man wants to seize his one chance of visiting relatives, I am not the one to stand in his way and make his journey more uncomfortable. Moreover, a change of air is the best and most refreshing of all holidays, and surely our Sabbath day should be looked forward to, not only as a day of worship, but also as a day of rest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, as a day of rest, but, unfortunately, it cannot be that for all of us. Let us see to it that it is a day of rest for the greatest possible number.
That is what I am speaking for in seconding this Amendment. No man to-day can say that life in the industrial districts of this country is so happy that the people working there do not need something brighter to look forward to. Life is dull enough already; do not let us pass legislation to make it duller still. 2195 Let us try to preserve the Sabbath as a bright spot for people to anticipate during the toil of the week. I believe that it is by guarding our Sabbath day as something which the mass of the people can love and enjoy, and look forward to, that we shall best maintain the Lord's Day as it is now, the most treasured institution in the lives of the Scottish people.
§ 12.24 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
This is a private Member's Bill and every hon. Member is consequently entitled to speak for himself. In speaking for myself in support of this Measure I think I may speak also, unless I am greatly mistaken, on behalf of the 200,000 organised shop assistants of this country. I was very pleased indeed that the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam), who is I believe about the only hon. Member who has kept a shop of any kind, spoke in favour of the Measure, because he probably knows more about the matter than most of us who are here to-day. I hope that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment will not mind my saying that I have never heard since I have been in this House such a flimsy case against a Measure as the one that they put forward to-day. I hope that they will not be offended if I say that their speeches smacked a little of hypocrisy.
§ Mr. DAVIES
What did they say? That they agreed with the principle of the Measure, but the details were wrong. I should think that if the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) brings forward another Bill of this kind he will ask those two hon. Members to draft the Bill for him. They will then support him if it is only the wording of the Measure that is wrong and the principle is good. I am, however, of the opinion that both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment disagree with the principle of the Bill, because if they agreed with the principle of the Bill they would support it and let it go to the Scottish Grand Committee for examination. They are in fact opposed to it, and they ought to be honest enough to say so.
We are certainly opposed to this Bill. It is thoroughly bad. The principle we agree with.
§ Mr. DAVIES
My point, without offence, is, that however the principle with which they agree were clothed in words, it would still be wrong. The Bill would be bad whatever its principles.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I have never heard such a flimsy argument in my life as that put forward by the Mover of the Amendment. The main argument he put forward against the Bill was that a Member of Parliament once upon a time could not buy a cigar. Was there ever—if he does not mind my using a slang word—such bunkum heard in this House? He could not buy a cigar. Some of these hon. Gentlemen expect a woman to stand behind a counter waiting for them to come and buy cigars; they expect a man at the end of the purchase to cut the top off and another man to light it with a match afterwards so that they can smoke it in peace.
The point that I was making was that we want to abolish anomalies such as the one which I quoted from a speech made in this House by Sir William Bull. This position has now been rectified by the careful work of the Shop Hours Committee, and the Bill which followed their findings.
§ Mr. DAVIES
If this Bill is to be destroyed because a Member of Parliament could not buy a cigar on Sunday, then the Lord help this Parliament.
§ Sir P. FORD
I know that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) wants to argue fairly so I would like to point out that the argument, as I understand it from what I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) say, is that the girl had to be behind that bar and sell something, and that until she had sold a certain thing she could not sell the others; but she was still there on her feet.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Really, if I want to engage a lawyer I will not employ either of the hon. Gentlemen who have interrupted.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The Mover of the Amendment put another argument forward. He was a member of some Committee on Shops Act legislation. I was a member of a Select Committee later than that which dealt with Shop Assistants. It may interest the House to know what that Committee unanimously decided. It was a Select Committee made up of Liberals, Conservatives and Labour men, and the unanimous recommendation of that Committee in 1930 was:Your Committee support the movement for the enforced Sunday closing of shops.Nothing could be more definite than that. The day must come in these islands when a Government of some political colour will have to take serious note of the growth of Sunday trading. If the hon. Gentleman who moved the Bill does not mind my saying so, I do not approach this subject as a Sabbatarian. After being a trade union official for nearly 30 years, I am thoroughly of the opinion that the idea of one day's rest in seven which is behind the Christian religion has been of greater value to the working-class of this country than any trade union action on their part.
Let me come to the points that matter. We are dealing with Scotland, and, if the Bill makes any headway, the English and the Welsh people will have to follow suit. I like the products of Scotland in many respects. The most doubtful product that has come from Scotland in the last few years is the Prime Minister. We will leave it at that. I doubt if there is any man or woman living in Scotland, England or Wales, keeping a little shop and selling toffee, ice-cream or fish and chips, who ever wants to work 365 days a year for a livelihood. The hon. Gentleman who knows something about shop-keeping was perfectly right; the idea of Sunday and late shopping is a bad habit. That is all it is. Why should a man not buy his cigars on a Saturday?
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. and gallant Gentleman forgets that his arguments destroy his own case. The seconder of the Amendment asked why should we not have shops open because there is so much 2198 travel on Sunday. I will tell him why. Every railway man is organised in a trade union, and he only works five and a half or six days a week. The trade unions are powerful to see to it that he does not work 365 days a year. The transport industry is likewise strongly organised. What about shopkeepers and shop assistants? Hon. Gentlemen must bear in mind that we are dealing to-day with the biggest industry in the land, and it is largely unorganised at that. There are 2,000,000 shop assistants in this country employed for wages, and at least 500,000 shopkeepers working for themselves besides those who are working for wages. At a rough guess I should say that there must be at least 2,750,000 people living upon the distributive trades of this country. I warn this Parliament that the growth of Sunday trading in the distributive trades is an indication that the people in this country are getting away from that splendid institution of one day's rest in seven and that is a bad thing for us all.
Let me say another word. Hon. Gentlemen have talked about the poor districts and have asked what would happen there if this Bill became law. Let me tell them this: My trade union has 130,000 members, nearly all of whom are employed in co-operative services. They serve the poorest customers in the land, and they do it all within 48 hours per week. When hon. Gentlemen talk about the rights of the community, let me remind them that the shop-keepers and the assistants behind the counters have rights as well as the community. If the demands of the so-called community were agreed to, all the big emporia would be open night and day, and on Sundays as well. If the shops in the cities of London and Glasgow, including the large emporia, were open every day and on Sundays as well, there would always be some people coming in to do shopping. I worked in a shop myself once upon a time, when we closed the door at 11 o'clock at night, and there were always a few women coming in at three minutes to eleven. If we had closed at one o'clock in the morning they would have come in likewise. I say, therefore, that Parliament ought to stand up against what is nothing but a bad habit among the people. For the sake of the poor people themselves, they should not be encouraged to do shopping in small quantities. The 2199 larger the number of purchases in small quantities that you make, the more you have to pay for them; and there is nothing more wasteful and costly than to encourage people to buy in small quantities every day and every hour of the day. Consequently, on the grounds of family economy we ought to stand up against Sunday trading.
This is, after all, a city and a town problem. My Parliamentary Division is composed of five urban districts, and I do not thing that this problim arises there at all. I imagine that hon. Gentlemen who represent county Divisions would say the same. Moreover, this is not only a city and a town problem, but is a problem which emerges in some cities and some towns only. Therefore, we should do all we can to maintain a standard of common decency among the community by once and for all declaring that not only is it good socially, but that it is a physical necessity that all men should have one day's rest in seven. I hesitate to think what might happen in this country, especially after we started on the slippery slope by opening cinemas on Sundays. One thing that dawned upon my mind long ago is that to pass a piece of legislation in the House of Commons, and then think that the law will apply, is wrong. You can pass any piece of law you like, but, unless there is an organisation somewhere to see that the law is enforced, the law is of no avail.
There is something else that is happening. I do not like the encouragement which is being given to people to turn shops into pantries. When hon. Gentlemen argue that families are living in one or two rooms, and that therefore shop hours ought to be extended in order to permit of the shop being used as a pantry for the small house, I would prefer to reverse the order. I should prefer to see better and larger houses built with pantries attached so that people should not need to go round to the shop at every hour of the day and, as I have said, to turn the shop into a pantry. I do not want the large emporia to open on Sundays; but, once the arguments which have been put forward are admitted, there is nothing to stop them. What is happening all over the world, and especially in the distributive trade, is that, when you give way to the demands of one small section 2200 of the shop-keeping class, there is no reason why you should not give way to the next section too. I contend that, if this Sunday trading movement is allowed to grow any further in these Islands, there is not the slightest argument left against opening Selfridge's and Whiteley's and all the other great emporia on Sundays. As a matter of fact, if hon. Gentlemen want the poor to get away from their poverty by going to do some shopping, it would be far preferable that Selfridges should be open rather than the small shop. At any rate there is something to look at in Selfridge's which is not to be found in small shops. There is also the question of the shop assistant to remember, too. I am sure I am right in saying that, if those assistants were called upon to work seven days a week, they would get only six days' pay for it. That has been the case throughout the whole a industrial history.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I think I am right in saying that the shop assistants' union are not in favour of the Bill we are now discussing. Is that correct?
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am in as close touch with them as most people and I have never heard that point of view put forward.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I took the pains to ring up the secretary of the shop assistants' union, and the answer I got was that they were not in favour of this Bill, which they regarded as unworkable, but that there was another Bill that they would like to see put on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. DAVIES
To-day we are discussing this Bill, whatever the words in it may be. They probably want a better Bill. We are discussing the problem of controlling Sunday trading in the distributive trade; that is the simple issue; and, if hon. Gentlemen find some word or Clauses in the Bill that they do not like, surely they can hammer all that out in Committee upstairs. There are some things in this Bill that I dislike myself, and I should be quite willing to join the Scottish Grand Committee if I could; but, of course, I cannot—they will not have ordinary intelligent people like myself.
§ Sir P. FORD
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but we have 2201 heard that, although we are discussing a Bill, it is really a principle that we are discussing, and that consequently, if we are in favour of the principle, we ought to give a Second Reading to the Bill which is supposed to embody it. I would like to point out what the hon. Gentleman himself said on the 8th May, 1931—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member had better wait until he makes his speech. There has been rather too much interruption.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I do not want to delay the House very much longer, except to say that we are entering upon a very serious problem in discussing this Measure. Let me recall to the House one or two points in connection with shop life. The first point to be remembered is that Parliament, ever since the time of Sir Charles Dilke when he was at the Home Office, has taken a very keen interest in the problems of shop life, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen that, whatever they may say about the liberty of the subject, the majority of the shopkeepers in this country have always argued in favour of limitation of the number of hours of trading in spite of the fact that there has always been a strong minority against it. You can never hope, however, to find everybody in every trade in favour of your point of view; you have to take the majority opinion. I repeat that I am very apprehensive of these modern tendencies, not only in connection with the distributive trade but in connection with the opening of cinemas; and I would also repeat that I do not approach this subject as a Sabbatarian. I am sure, however, that, unless Parliament is careful, we shall soon get to the stage of being a nation that works seven days a week, and I confess that I do not like that idea at all. Indeed, the other day I saw that, consequent upon the fact that cinemas were opening on Sundays, some factory owners were wanting to start working their employés on Sundays. Really, we cannot stand that sort of thing. I support this Bill, therefore, not because I agree with every word in it, not because I believe in every Clause that it contains, but because the prin- 2202 ciple is sound, namely, that this country should deal definitely with the problems of Sunday trading, and, as far as possible, prevent it from spreading any further.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Sir IAN MACPHERSON
I am sure the House is grateful to my hon. Friend who has just spoken, because he has brought us back to the realities of the case. I think everyone must be impressed with what he said. He has spoken for shop assistants with an authority which no other Member possesses. I would rather take his view in a matter of this kind than that of anyone else, and I think it should be listened to very carefully. He has told us that in 1930 a Commission was appointed which gave a definite, clear and succinct finding that no Sunday labour should be allowed; in other words, that there should be a restriction on the opening of Sunday shops. That is exactly what the Bill is doing. Scotland is once again leading the way. I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Mr. Anstruther-Gray) say that this was a cowardly Bill. I never heard anything more contradictory in my life. He proceeded to tell us that it was cowardly because it did not go far enough. He asked: "Why are you content with this miserable small Measure? Why do you not go on to labour? Why do you not go on to amusements?" This is really a first stage—a regulation Bill, a restriction Bill. These others are gigantic problems, and any wise Member of Parliament knows that there could be nothing more foolish than to attempt to settle them on a Friday afternoon.
The day of further control of Sunday labour and of Sunday amusements may be coming. Even the national hero, Jack Hobbs, when touring in India made it plain that he would not play cricket on Sunday, and he enjoined his son to carry on the old tradition. We are to-day dealing with a comparatively small measure. I was astonished at the speeches of the hon. Members for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) and Lanarkshire in another respect. They made it perfectly plain that they were out and out supporters of the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
Not out and out supporters of the principle of the Bill. The Amendment reads:while agreeing with the principle of Sunday being a day of rest.That is a very different thing from agreeing with the principle of the Bill.
§ Sir I. MACPHERSON
I cannot see any distinction. But the matter is too serious for quibbling about words. The intention of the Bill is clear, and I am certain that the impression created by both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment is that they were entirely in favour of the principle of the Bill. The history of Second Reading Debates in this House is that you hear discussion of the principle from all quarters of the House and you hear points suggested for Committee discussion, but Members vote for the Second Reading because they approve of the principle. We are asking for a Second Reading for the principle of the Bill. We are not averse from having these points considered in Committee. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire drew particular attention to Sunday newspapers and ice-cream. What difficulty is there in putting down an Amendment to leave those words out? I am certain that any of these Amendments, simple as they are, will be considered with great care and with a general sense of justice. To say that, because two things of that kind are included in a Bill where the principle is accepted, a Second Reading should be refused is entirely contrary to the whole tradition of Parliament.
Let me come back to a more important aspect of this matter as it affects Scotland. I am glad to see the whole congregation of the Scottish Office on the Front Bench. I hope that is a sign that they are taking an interest in the Bill. I am satisfied in my own mind that individually they are, and that Scottish feeling is entirely in favour of the principle enunciated in it. The whole difficulty arises from the state in which the old laws of Scotland appear to be. There are laws going back for centuries against Sunday trading. Many of them are in desuetude. There are laws on the Statute Book still which are never enforced. There are a great many people in my constituency who strongly object to shops being open on Sunday, but they cannot do anything. There is no method by which they can enforce the law, so I have been informed on the 2204 highest authority—that of a late Lord Advocate. We want the whole of that situation to be clarified. We want to see by what law Sunday shops can be opened. To say that Sunday trading cannot be amenable to legislation is nonsense, because for the other six days of the week we have Factory Acts applying to all sorts of trading, and we are asking now that there should be the same sort of restriction under this Bill. It is a permissive Bill. We realise that, as thing are, no trading of any sort or kind can exist on Sunday in Scotland. That is the law as traditionally handed down to us, but that has not been the practice.
My hon. Friend who introduced the Bill says that 10,000 shops are open on Sundays. By law they have no right to be open. We say there should be regulation, though there are many people who with passionate sincerity would like to see all shops closed. We say it should be recognised that certain shops only may be open. Is there anything criminal in suggesting that? I do not think there is. I think it is sound common sense. We are aiming at the regulation of such work as there may be on Sunday. That is the entire principle of the Bill. Does the hon. Member for Lanarkshire object to that? I think none of his constituents would object to it. It would be a great mistake for any Scottish Member to ride off on what is not really the issue and not vote in favour of the Bill. We have heard to-day of the great meeting at Edinburgh. It is not only in Edinburgh, but all over the country that public opinion has expressed itself. For the first time since I became a Member of Parliament, I hear of a feeling of unanimity in Scotland not only among all the Churches of whatever denomination, but among all people, rich and poor, in favour of a halt being called to Sunday trading. There is this drift, drift, drift, and gradually you will find, as the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said, the big emporia opening.
The traditional policy not only of Scotland, but of England is to stop that sort of thing, and it is Scotland's privilege to-day to take steps to check and to resist that policy of drift. It is laid down that this policy of drift is a menace to the social and religious life of the country, and it is because of this menace that we are standing here to-day to cry 2205 out, "Halt," and to resist any further policy of drift. Why? Even in the five northern counties tentacles are being put out. I understand that, in the five northern counties which I more directly represent, there are 47 shops open on Sundays. There are 25 Italian shops, a very high percentage of exotic plants among the native heather. I do not object to them as Italians, but I say that the principle which is contrary to the spirit of Scotland is gradually putting out tentacles by one means or another and destroying the whole calm, reverential Sunday and intruding into the life of the hard worker. Everybody in the country realises that you must have your one day of rest in seven, and we in this country are clear about which day we want. There is a ringing clarity about the desire of a peaceful and restful Sunday which this Measure openly and avowedly seeks to express.
As I have said, the Bill is permissive. It is an attempt in a small way to regulate Sunday trading. Sunday trading has to be regulated, and it would be a great feather in the cap of the Scottish Office if they courageously gave a blessing to a Bill of this kind. I admit that I am one of the sponsors of the Bill and that it has a great many small difficulties attaching to it. There are a great many blemishes, but I do not see one blemish which could not be entirely obliterated by careful judgment and adjudication upstairs. It is in the belief that we are asserting a clear definite, traditional, and historical principle that I support the Bill with confidence, and I shall go into the Lobby to-day to vote for its Second Reading, believing that I am interpreting the spirit of Scotland and that I am doing the right thing. I feel sure that whatever may have been said by those who have spoken against the Bill they too will go into the Lobby in assertion of the principle which they know to be that of Scotland.
§ 1 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
I think that the time has arrived for a short speech, and the House will get it from me. My hon. Friend on the other side in his interesting speech said that the real opposition came from that powerful body who issued the circular to us all. It may come from that body. They are vocal, but I know a body who are not 2206 vocal, namely, those poor people who live in my constituency—and I speak of my constituency because I know it—whose voice cannot be heard except through the Member whom they return to this House. I represent the best housed constituency in Scotland. It is a wonderfully built constituency, with fine houses and great gardens.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
It is a garden city as my hon. Friend knows so well, but it has black spots in it. I know those black spots as well as I know the bright ones, and in one of those black spots there live the poorest of the poor. The Corporation of the City of Edinburgh have been doing, and are still doing, all they can to root out those slums, but it takes time. Who live in the slums in my constituency? Two friends of mine visited between 50 and 60 houses during this last week, to find out exactly at first hand the conditions in which some of my constituents live. I have the record in my hand, but I will only give a summary of it. Many of them live in one-roomed houses which have to accommodate a man and his wife and from one to five children, and in those houses, which I know quite well, there is no, what we call in Scotland, press accommodation. That is to say, there are no cupboards in which to put any food of any kind. What happens? Children are always hungry, and, if food lies about, they are always asking their mothers, "Cannot we have a bite." I have heard them ask, "Isn't it time for a bite?" Not only are those rooms hot through being used as living rooms, but it is impossible to keep food in proper condition. Very often those people receive their wages on a Saturday night and have not time to go and do the shopping. There may be powerful traders who do not want to see the law altered, but they would not be there at all to do any business unless they had some customers. These customers on whose behalf I speak—the poor in my constituency—would be put to great inconvenience, and I for one cannot consent to this Bill in its present form. What do these people want? I am talking ofThe short and simple annals of the pooras one of our poets puts it. They go across the street and buy—and this is exactly what my friend saw on their tables—home-made potted meat, boiled ham, 2207 corned beef, roast mutton, sliced beef, and ham and bacon for frying. My hon. Friend opposite talked about the fourth Commandment. We all know the fourth Commandment, at least we could repeat it, but has my hon. Friend ever noticed that, although he is told that he must observe the Sabbath, and also his son and his daughter, he is not told that his wife must not do any work. I am speaking on behalf of the wives of the poor. It is a Divine thought that the wives should be exempt, and if hon. Members have not noticed that fact in the fourth commandment, they have missed one of the greatest instances of Divine sanction. In my constituency these poor wives go across the street half-an-hour before they take their meals, and buy this humble food from humble shops for their children. As the Bill is constituted at present I am not going to run any risk by voting for a Measure which will place additional burdens upon the poorest of the poor. How could I stand up in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, where that great meeting was held, remembering my constituents, and say "Yes, people can come in from Peebles, from Stirling and elsewhere and go to the North British Hotel or the Caledonian Railway Hotel, they can replenish their motor cars with petrol and replenish their stomachs with all they want, but a slice of cooked beef or a slice of cooked bacon is not allowed to be bought by the wives of the poor in my constituency."
My hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill reminded the House of the great interest he takes in the gold standard. We all recognise his great authority on that matter, but that is a material gold standard. There is also an ethical gold standard, which is generally called "the golden rule." That is what I want to think about. I want to think of those who are in a less fortunate position than myself. Should I be doing the right thing if I voted for a Bill which would place additional burdens upon the poorest of the poor in my constituency? This question is of such gigantic importance that it cannot be settled in a Bill of this kind. So far as I can judge public opinion in Scotland, what is required is a reasonable inquiry into the whole question. There is a growing volume of opinion, and it has been growing in the last week, in favour of the 2208 Amendments which I have put on the Order Paper. To-day there appears in the Scottish Press a letter from the Scottish Federation of Grocers and Provision Merchants to the following effect:A good deal of controversy has arisen over this Bill and in view of the diversity of opinion expressed my Federation is definitely of the opinion that, in fairness to all, the Government should provide facilities for the setting up of a special inquiry, before which the views of not only the public but of the traders concerned might be ascertained.That is the conclusion which I have reached, after consideration and after consultation with many interests, including the poor. We want the whole question to be considered by an impartial committee, and I appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate to give us this inquiry. We do not want to rush this question. We want to stop the growth of trading on Sunday. We do not want to make Scotland like the East End of London. Within ten minutes of the Bank of England there is trading going on every Sunday equal to any of the trading that goes on in the West End any day of the week. We want to stop that sort of thing. Certainly we want to stop the increase of Sunday trading, but let us do it quickly and in a reasonable way. This Bill will not get us far, even if it goes to the Scottish Standing Committee. What would get us nearer the point which we all desire, namely, to stop the increase of trading on Sunday, would be an inquiry. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to think the matter over quietly and to give us an inquiry. Then the united opinion of Scotland will, sooner or later, rally round and we shall have the reform which we all desire brought into force.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
This Bill follows up the history of Scotland in regard to this question, which goes back to remote centuries. I think it was 1086 that Queen Margaret, commonly called Saint Margaret of Scotland, prohibited Sunday toil except for what absolutely needed to be done. She felt that the Scotch people seemed only to desire to make the best of this world and did not pay sufficient attention to the other world. Therefore she enacted laws putting down labour in Scotland on the Sabbath. The Scotch are an industrious race and 2209 they were busy working seven days in the week. For generation after generation Statute after Statute was passed endeavouring to restrict Sunday labour. I think Saint Margaret allowed the feeding and tending of cattle on the Sabbath. The Sunday labour that might be allowed was defined in the Confession of Faith as "works of necessity and mercy." That is a wide and useful definition which can be applied from generation to generation under changing circumstances. What may be a work of necessity and mercy in one generation may not be a work of necessity and mercy in another generation. For instance, the feeding and milking of cattle was allowed. It is acknowledged in this Bill that there are dairies and shops where milk can be purchased.
Scores of Statutes affecting Sunday labour were passed between the beginning of the 15th Century and down to the 17th Century. I regret to say that one of the first acts of the Liberal Government in 1906 was to repeal a great many of those Acts. I do not understand in many cases why they did that. It was said that some of them had fallen into desuetude. Under the remaining Acts trading in Scotland on Sunday is still illegal. There have been interesting repercussions from such Acts. I think it was in 1837 that a barber's assistant refused to lather customers on the Lord's day, because he said that that was not a work of necessity and mercy. The Court of Session held that the barber's assistant was right and that he was not compelled to lather a customer, because it was not a work of necessity and mercy. When the case went to the House of Lords the House of Lords reversed the decision. They held that it was a work of necessity and mercy, because people were entitled to be in a cleanly condition when they attended divine service. Therefore, the barber's assistant was held bound to lather his employers' customers. One might draw the conclusion from that decision that the judges in the House of Lords went to church more frequently than the judges of the Court of Session, who decided that it was not a work of necessity and mercy to lather and shave a customer on Sunday.
The demand for rest on the Sabbath goes back to the days of Moses, who was the greatest medical officer of health and 2210 sanitary inspector that ever lived. He realised that mankind could not work continuously seven days a week. I agree with that, and that is why I have always been afraid of any serious derogation from the observation of the Lord's Day. I know as well as any Labour Member of Parliament that once you get a serious breach in this respect we may all have to work seven days a week. I certainly do not believe in that doctrine. I would like to have a whole day of recreation also on the day previous to the Lord's Day. I think that would be highly beneficial, and I believe it could be done. A friend of mine asked his men if they would work a little longer during the week so that they might have a full day's holiday on the Saturday. They said that they would like Saturday as a holiday and they offered to work an extra hour and a half on the other days of the week so that he was two hours better off by letting them have the full day on Saturday. Unless this period of rest is guaranteed by Statute it will undoubtedly be filched away, and the moral, religious and phycical well-being of the whole community damaged.
The question of Sunday newspapers has been mentioned. I am not sure whether Sunday newspapers are really a necessity. I have said before that the one good point about the General Strike was that we had no newspapers for 10 days, it was a very restful period indeed, and am not at all sure that we could not do without Sunday newspapers. Some of them are not delectable productions. One I read is the "Observer," and when I read Mr. Garvin's articles, they always give me the nearest idea, judging by their length, of what eternity must be. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) spoke about the single shops. There he and I are again on the old issue. I think that some exception might be made in favour of the man who stands behind his own counter. I have always wanted that man relieved from the provisions of the Shops Act, because he is a free agent. The man who is employed is not a free agent, and I think that an exception might be made in favour of the small shopkeeper and that he should be allowed facilities, because what he is doing is a work of necessity and mercy. If we keep in view that definition I think we ought to be able to make this a workable Measure.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I desire to say a few words on this Scottish Measure because the Scottish Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners and the Scottish Master Bakers and Confectioners Association have asked me to speak on it with special reference to the grave apprehensions they feel that the growth of Sunday trading in Scotland is spreading to the baking and confectionery industry. Both employers and men are united in asking that something should be done to check what is a very serious and growing evil. It is agreed that in these days, with the growth of Sunday travelling by road and the desire to open cinemas on Sundays, there is a great demand for food and refreshments, with the result that in Scotland there is a body of shopkeepers, chiefly Italian, who open refreshment houses, and employ men to make confectionery. They are single shopkeepers.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Has the hon. Member any evidence to support his statement that they are chiefly Italians?
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I am not producing statistics, I am supplying information given to me by the Master Bakers and Confectioners Association of Scotland, who point out that the growth of Italian refreshment houses in the large towns and cities is resulting in Scotsmen having to open their small shops, they are obliged to do so, for the supply of refreshments because of this competition of the Italian refreshment house keepers. I have taken part in many international conferences and conventions respecting the baking industry and other industries, and it is a significant fact that on every occasion the Continental representatives of the workers, and many of the representatives of employers on the Continent, have expressed their envy of the British Sabbath day. They envy us our position in regard to the Sabbath. It is sometimes argued that if you give a man one day's rest in seven, if you give him a day off on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, that it is sufficient compensation. I say that there is no other day in the week as a day of rest that has an equal value to the Sabbath day.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Sir S. Chapman) put forward a very peculiar case. He said that because the housing conditions are so bad in the large cities of Scotland it is necessary for 2212 shops to be open to supply the needs of the people, they have no accommodation in their houses. That is an argument not in favour of opening shops but of better housing conditions for the people of Scotland. To say that you must open shops simply because housing conditions are bad is tackling the thing from the wrong end. An argument against the Bill is the position of the small shopkeeper, the individual who has a small shop and opens on Sunday to do a little trade. I have some personal experience of this matter and I am sure that the vast majority of small shopkeepers would welcome the chance of shutting their shop on Sunday and have a day's rest with other people. They open simply because other people open, not because there is any increase in the volume of trade, but because the little shop round the corner opens. Those who defend this type of shopkeeper and profess sympathy for him, as we all do, must remember that this man works long hours on six days of the week, he is always on his feet, and if something could be done to give him a day of rest it would be a fine service to the individual and an advantage to the community as well.
The hon. Member for North Lanarkshire (Mr. Anstruther-Cray) said that we must look at this subject from the point of view of the welfare of the community at large. I entirely agree; and I say that the welfare of the community at large is not going to be benefited by allowing this encroachment on the Sabbath to continue. The anxieties and fears we have are not unwarranted. Here in London, Sunday after Sunday, shops are open for the supply of new bread because it is argued that it gets stale between the Saturday and the Monday. Surely it is not to the interest of the community that men should be compelled to work and that girls should stand behind counters to sell new bread which is injurious to the people. The Scottish Master Bakers' Association and the operatives in Scotland are fearful that the bad example of this great city of London will spread to Scotland.
I know it is sometimes said that we need not speak about the religious side of this matter, but for one I am not afraid to say that the religious aspect of the Sabbath is one of which we have no need to be ashamed, and that the greatness, the backbone and the strength 2213 of this nation have been built on the due observations of religion and a belief in the sanctity of the Sabbath. We should not be afraid to face the sneers and jeers of those who say, "Oh, you are reintroducing D.O.R.A. You are going to stop someone buying something which he requires." I heard this morning of a speech by the late Sir William Bull. It was dragged in by the heels, as it were, for the purpose of this Debate. Apparently the late Sir William Bull was talking about shop hours restrictions and pointing out the difficulty of buying a cigar at a certain time and his inability to get a glass of beer unless he had a sandwich with it. That argument has nothing to do with this Bill or with the question of the Sunday closing of shops.
I welcome the Bill because it is the first time that the serious growth of Sunday trading has been brought definitely before this House. The thing gets worse and worse, day after day and year after year. It is bad in Scotland, it grows in Wales, it is assuming alarming proportions in England. If it were possible for the Scottish Office even to go so far as to say to-day that there is a case made out and that inquiry will be made, that would be of value. Someone has argued that we should not make the Sabbath duller than it is. Why should it be dull? This craze for pleasure, this idea that if you have cinemas open six days a week you must open them on the Sabbath, is all wrong. Surely in an age of hurry and scurry like the present it is nice to have one day of quietness and rest. Above everything else, from the trade union point of view I put it that it would be a very bad day indeed when people were compelled to work seven days a week. It is no argument to say that a worker can have time off in the remainder of the week. It is the worst type of employer who begins to work his people on the Sabbath. Decent employers who want to do the right thing are then dragged down by the sheer force of economic circumstances to follow the competition of the bad employer.
I am satisfied that if the House were wise it would not be afraid to take its courage in its hands in this matter. The position at present is full of anomalies. It would be far better to get the law definitely stated and to see that the law is observed instead of being ignored. 2214 The Scottish Office has a chance to-day of setting an example which is badly needed, and of showing to the people of Scotland, and through them to the rest of the people of these Islands, that we are going to make a definite stand against breaches of the Sabbath. We are not afraid to declare that observance of the Sabbath has been a great thing for our nation. We should do the best we can to preserve to ourselves what has become a great British tradition, the possession of which other nations of the world envy. I hope that the House will at least give a Second Reading to the Bill as an outward and visible sign that when we say we believe in observance of the Sabbath it is not mere lip service, not mere words, but something that we are prepared to defend.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Sir P. FORD
After the very eloquent speech we have just heard, I am glad to find that I am really in accord with the hon. Member who made it. My name is on the Paper in support of the very suggestion that the hon. Member has made, that we ought to have an inquiry into the whole matter of Sunday trading in Scotland. There has been a good deal of flogging of a willing horse by various speakers who have emphasised the necessity for regarding the sanctity of the Sabbath and the dangers in undue development of Sunday trading. We are practically agreed upon that point. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was not very consistent when he said that that was why we must all vote for the Bill. He tried to make out that if we agreed with the Bill in principle all the rest was just wording. I would point out that on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Shops (Sunday Trading Restriction) Bill, on 8th May, 1931, the hon. Member for Westhoughton said:I beg to move, to leave out the word 'now' and at the end of the Question, to add the words 'upon this day six months'.I am opposed to the passage of this Measure into law and I will give very shortly my reasons for opposing it. I confess that I cannot understand hon. Members on this side of the House pleading the cause of shopkeepers. I am taking up this matter from the workers' point of view. I have carefully analysed the provisions of this Bill, and I do not think I ever came across a more loosely-worded Measure dur- 2215 ing the time I have been a Member of this House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1931; col. 770, Vol. 252.]On those grounds the hon. Member moved what was virtually the rejection of the Bill. Yet he comes here to-day and says that if we agree with the principle underlying this Bill we ought to give it a Second Reading. That is a measure of inconsistency which surprises me, coming even from the hon. Member. We have also had appeals made to us about the sanctity of the Sabbath. I think that we all, even those who are sponsoring this Bill, agree that there must be some modification of that attitude. We all remember that when Christ walked in the field of corn on the Sabbath one of his followers reached out a hand and plucked an ear of corn. The stricter sect of Jewish observers of the Sabbath objected, but that brought down upon them the gentle rebuke that the Almighty made the Sabbath for man and not man for the Sabbath.
§ Sir P. FORD
Apparently our Lord did not see that it was a right thing to criticise a man for a technical breach of the Sabbath when he required sustenance. It is admitted that there must be some modification of strict Sabbatarianism. I objected to certain remarks made by the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam), and in part to statements made by another hon. Member with whom I agreed in principle. I objected to some remarks made as to the effect in Scotland, as to what was the position in Scotland with regard to Sunday trading, and by implication, what is the effect on the minds of those who are supporting the Bill on the one side and of those who are opposed to it on the other. Apparently in England there is a great deal of competition among shopkeepers, and according to some hon. Members the only reason why certain small shopkeepers keep their shops open on Sunday is because a lot of greedy competitors insist upon doing so. But the experience in my own constituency and I think it is pretty general in Scotland is that the large concerns, the multiple shops and the chain stores, co-operative and otherwise, take off such a large volume of trade, that it is only by the custom which 2216 the small shopkeeper can get on a Sunday that he is able to pay his rent, rates and taxes.
We must look facts in the face and that is one more reason for having an inquiry into this question instead of rushing into a Bill of this character. Undoubtedly, a considerable number of ex-service men are affected. They, in many cases, are not very experienced shopkeepers, and without the little extra custom which comes to them on a Sunday some of them would go bankrupt. Whether in prohibiting Sunday trading we should provide for compensation in cases of that kind is also a matter for inquiry. In parts of my constituency as well as in parts of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) it is unfortunately true that many families have neither the accommodation nor the time required for the provision of meals on a Sunday. Friends may come unexpectedly on a Sunday, and they have not the means of providing a meal. It seems a hardship and an added discomfort to the poor, if you make it impossible for them to supplement their larders when the necessity arises on Sunday. That is a further matter for inquiry.
Apart from the rights and wrongs of particular instances like that, there is another consideration. I always listen with interest and respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson) because of his knowledge of the law and his knowledge of Scotland and his devotion to Scottish interests. Both he and the hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who is also a lawyer and a Scotsman, have pointed out that the position of the law in general on this subject in Scotland is anomalous. There are laws which have fallen into desuetude. There are others in regard to which it is difficult to say whether they have become obsolete or whether they can be revived. The whole thing is very complicated. We have also to consider such kindred subjects as that of travel on Sunday. If we are interested in Sunday observance the important question surely is that of getting Sunday observance of a kind which is going to work reasonably and not cause hardship. Works of necessity and mercy were allowed by the old Jewish law and still more under the dispensation of the 2217 New Testament. To deal with these things properly according to the knowledge of mankind and the best human judgment, involves a very big task and we ought not to tinker with it in a Bill of this kind, the principal Clauses of which, however good their intention may be, are likely to hit first the people who can least defend themselves.
I understood the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill to say that he would be satisfied with the assurance that there would be an inquiry. I agree that there should be an inquiry but I propose to vote against the Bill because it is a bad Bill. It was said, perhaps in jest, that hon. Members in favour of the Bill should leave it to some others on this side to draft the Bill for them. I am not making the point in any controversial sense but that might not be a bad idea because we are not opposed to the principle of Sunday observance. We are only concerned to see that it shall be properly carried out and I would plead with the Scottish Office to set up a committee of inquiry so that this matter may be dealt with decently and in order, in the light of modern developments, in the light of modern needs, in the light of the justifiable pleasures to which people are accustomed, but also in the light of the danger to shop assistants and small traders of things being allowed to take their course as at present without any sort of regulation. Reference has been made to conscience. My conscience would not allow me to support this Bill. I could not support it either in the interests of my own constituents or on the wider principle of doing justice to all. In the interests of everybody concerned it would be desirable to appoint a commitee to go into this question thoroughly and seriously and I strongly urge the Scottish Office to adopt that course.
§ 1.40 p.m.
I am glad to have the opportunity of following my hon. friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford) on this occasion. Edinburgh has been well represented in this Debate. We have heard the voice of the Scottish metropolis raised both for and against this Measure.
The voice of the greatest is no doubt yet to be heard, but it is only fitting, despite what may be said by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) or the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), that the voice of Edinburgh should be prominent on this occasion having regard to the peculiar veneration in which the citizens of the Scottish capital have always held the Sabbath Day. This Debate has revealed a unanimity of opinion on the principle of Sunday observance in Scotland, and I welcome that fact most cordially. I may go so far as to say that it is a feature which has been too often lacking in discussions on Sunday observance. All too frequently those who are opposed to what, for want of a better name, I will call the Sabbatarian principle have gone on the assumption that they have an a priori case for their arguments and that our arguments are scarcely worth consideration. To-day it has been the other way about, and even those who have put down an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill, have declared themselves to be as anxious as we are to accept the principle that Sunday should hold a special position among the days of the week.
While we have agreed upon the principle there have been many matters of detail—more than in the case of the ordinary Bill—on which there has been a marked divergence of opinion. Many of us who support the Second Reading of the Bill differ considerably as to matters of detail. We have heard remarks about petitions for and against the Measure. I think it was the hon. Member for North Lanark (Mr. Anstruther-Gray) who spoke about the petition presented to the House to-day in support of the Measure. He said the figure of 60,000 signatories was not sufficient to warrant us in putting forward the strong case which we have endeavoured to make in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill. I think 137,000 names have been attached to the petition which was deposited this week by, I think, the hon. Member for North Edinburgh against the Bill, but I do not attach very great value to petitions of this kind. My memory goes back about 10 months to the time when we had a monster petition, and all the lobbying of Members of Parliament with regard to the taxation of co-operative societies, and very many people 2219 whose names appeared on that petition knew very little of the subject upon which they were asked to express an opinion. I believe there is very little substance of opinion behind the names of those who have presented a petition against this Bill on behalf especially of the small shopkeepers of Scotland.
What is the attitude of the public mind in Scotland with regard to Sunday or, as we familiarly term it in that country, the Sabbath day? Undoubtedly, there is an idea of sanctity surrounding Sunday in Scotland which is peculiar to that kingdom among the two kingdoms and principality that make up the one country of Great Britain. Let me quote one or two examples from the past in confirmation of my assertion on this subject. I will take as an illustration the saying of a famous historian in the middle of the last century, in an endeavour to illustrate my point of view. It is right that someone connected with Edinburgh should be cited in this connection, as Edinburgh has already been speaking so much this afternoon. Lord Macaulay, who for a considerable number of years, in I forget how many Parliaments, was connected with the representation of that city, contested Edinburgh at the General Election of 1852 in the month of October. A weekend intervened, and, of course, there was a complete cessation of political labour. We find in his diary an entry the exact words of which I forget, but this is the gist of it: "Edinburgh, Sunday, 25th October, 1852.—To-day is a Sunday, a Presbyterian Sunday, a Presbyterian Sacrament Sunday. I have just returned from Guthrie's Church. The streets are as still as though it were midnight. Not a soul has dared to walk abroad, save for attendance at the diets of public worship, since the beginning of the fast day on Thursday". I do not suggest for a moment that it is possible for us to return to an atmosphere such as prevailed in mid-Victorian Scotland, as outlined by the great historian whom I have just quoted, but I give that as an example of how people then thought and how, allowing for the difference of time and conditions, they still think with regard to the question of Sunday observance.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) spoke with 2220 great force and feeling from the opposition side. On a March evening last year he and I were walking round the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh, and we paused before the last resting place of a not illustrious but well known and highly respected predecessor of his in the representation of South Edinburgh, Sir Andrew Agnew, who for long was well known in this Assembly, and there, underneath the record of his public activities and his general high character, are inscribed these words:Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.I would ask my hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh, when he comes to cast his vote in the Division Lobby, to keep those words regarding the life and attitude of his predecessor carefully in mind.
I am afraid that is the common lot of all men. In Scotland we possess in this matter a great tradition, a great inheritance. It is part of the general religious system in Scotland that has been so carefully built up over the last 350 years. It has a special connection with all the civil and religious commotions of the 17th century, the memory of which is still bitter but yet fragrant in the minds of people throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. We have heard the voice of the Northern counties speaking here to-day, and we have heard the cities, but I am the first hon. Member who has had the privilege of speaking for Southern Scotland, which holds such a special brief on an occasion like this, where those memories of which I have spoken are more bitter and sacred than in any other part of that little northern country. Even to-day, year by year, commemorations are held—and my hon. Friend opposite has been at one of them with me—of the great principles for which our forefathers were not ashamed to suffer and to die. Between the green hills of the border line and the lonely uplands of Galloway and Carrick there are hallowed spots which the country people hold in the greatest reverence. That is all intimately bound up with this great heritage, which we in Scotland possess, of the Sabbath Day.
I think of one particular spot, not far from where, last summer, we were 2221 honoured with a visit from the Speaker of the House of Commons—Skeoch Hill—where 3,000 people on a July Sunday afternoon in 1679 celebrated the highest act of Christian worship. It is just because the consciousness of all these striking incidents in past Scottish history is such a living memory to-day, that people in all parts of that country are truly interested in the passage of this Bill on Second Reading. In Scotland still the practice of public worship is indulged in by all sections of the community in larger numbers, I think I am safe in saying, than in other parts of the United Kingdom, and the small shopkeepers, who are so much concerned with and interested in this Measure, are in the van with regard to this wholesome practice. Go into any little town in Scotland on Sunday morning, when the church bells are ringing—and my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton, who shakes his head, will have to agree—and you will see these people streaming down the main street, and all the by-streets too, on their way to church.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I have been in the hon. Member's constituency on the Sabbath on many occasions, and I have seen them streaming down to the golf course as well.
I have nothing to do with Turnberry. The hon. Member is out of his calculations. I have not the honour of representing Turnberry. The hon. Member will have to apply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Captain MacAndrew).
The hon. Member is now splitting straws and is trying to draw a red herring across the trail.
Most definitely. I am obliged to the Noble Lord for his interruption, but I only mentioned that as endeavouring to show the attitude of the small shopkeepers of Scotland in regard to Church ordinances and their belief in certain practises of worship so that they must of necessity accept the principle of 2222 rest on the Sabbath Day. My view of this Bill is very much that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson). I accept it on general principles, and I shall be glad if we have a Division to find myself in the same Lobby with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. Much of this Debate has centred on Committee points of detail. On the points of detail I find myself in agreement more with the hon. Gentleman for East Edinburgh than those made by an hon. Member above the Gangway opposite. I think there is more substance in the Bill than he indicated. The argument against the Bill put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) and the hon. Member who supported him are largely those with regard to the necessity for amending the Defence of the Realm Act. We are not discussing that Act now, but arguments with regard to the liberty of the individual and so forth have been produced to-day as they always are when we are discussing a subject such as this. I am very much in favour of maintaining the liberty of the subject—
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Where will this liberty begin and end under this Bill? Do I understand the hon. Member believes that a person should be allowed to get food on Sunday but not a newspaper?
The hon. Gentleman is endeavouring again to draw a red herring across the trail. My answer must be the same as that which I gave to another interruption. This is a Bill dealing with Sunday trading and the Hon. Member must use his chance in the ballot and endeavour to bring in a Bill to amend the licensing laws. The hon. Member for North Edinburgh and the hon. Member for South Edinburgh foresaw the danger to some people in this Bill. They both put forward a forcible argument with regard to the conditions in their own constituencies. On that account, perhaps I may be allowed to say what a friend of mine said to me yesterday, with regard to the position of aliens, particularly Italian vendors of ice-cream. He resented the suggestion made with regard to these Italian traders, and said that if they were good enough to fight on behalf of the Allied cause in the War, surely we were not going to put any slur on them in connection with this Bill. Of course, nothing of the kind is intended, 2223 but if you accept the hospitality of a country you must agree to bind yourself by the laws which that country has established. If I go to reside in Italy, France or any other country, I must be prepared to bind myself to keep the laws of that country.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman, if he receives a Second Reading of the Bill, will accept drastic and valuable Amendments on the Committee stage. He is a little in danger of fanaticism in regard to this Measure. There have always been two wings of thought in religious opinion in Scotland. We have had the extreme left and the sound body of stable and moderate opinion; and I think, if I may use an illustration once again from the past, that perhaps this Bill as it now stands rather presents the views of that extreme section of the Covenanting Army as illustrated by Sir Walter Scott in "Old Mortality" by the fictitious names of leaders such as Habbakuk Mucklewrath, Ephraim McBriar and Gabriel Kettledrummle. I prefer the more solid leadership which is typified by the Laird of Poundtext, and in a higher sense by Henry Morton, the hero of that work. The hon. Member has quoted the Scriptures, and he must bear the Apostolic injunction in mindLet your moderation be known to all men.Let there be acts of necessity and mercy, but we have to be very careful where we tread lest we make life more hard to bear for the people who will be affected. My hon. Friend, hearing what his colleagues have said, must remember the wordsWhich of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?AlsoIt is not the will of your Father … that one of these little ones should perish.My hon. Friend made an eloquent plea in concluding his speech with regard to Christian religion and the principles of the Sabbath. Of course they are intimately connected. Christianity does not destroy the older Judaism but it fulfils it. There is no abrogation; there is merely completion. Our Lord, who said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, gave us for all time, I think, if I may venture to put it in such words His views as to how we should approach this subject. He whom the most civilised nations of the 2224 world accept as Redeemer rested upon the Sabbath day in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and the Christian tradition has always taken that as for ever hallowing the interval between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection as rest in the Paradise of God. I hope that the Government will give us an assurance this afternoon that they will act upon the lines suggested in the Amendment. If such is not forthcoming, my hon. Friend will be entitled to take the Bill into the Division Lobby. I shall support it, and I hope the example of the hon. Gentleman who spoke for an English constituency will be followed by English and Welsh Members and by our friends from Ulster. If it is, we shall, in the words of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty, do what the people of Scotland would wish us to do.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I can assure the House that I shall not take as long as the hon. Member who has just sat down, because most of the Members who have spoken have invested this Bill with such an odour of sanctity that I am almost afraid to approach it at all. Still, as one Sassenach has already given his views in support of the Measure I think the Scottish Members will excuse another Sassenach for giving his views in opposition. I have been told that, although my name may be Scottish, as I was born in Lancashire I must claim to be English.
§ Mr. FLEMING
The hon. Member cannot blame me for that, because I did not choose the place of my birth. I look upon this Bill from a different point of view from those who have already addressed their minds to it. Most countries are to-day doing their best to attract tourists. I see advertisements seeking to attract people to spend their holidays in France, and I have seen advertisements of the beauties of Scotland and telling English people to bring their families to that bonnie land. I look at this matter from the point of view of the tourist. What would be the effect of this Bill if it ever became law? In my view, and from reports that I have received from friends who have visited Scotland, this Bill will not attract tourist traffic from this country across the Border. Leaving out all question of 2225 Sunday observance, which seems to obsess some of the Scottish Members to-day—one would think this was another Sunday Observance Bill—if they want to attract visitors to their country, even if only for a few days or a few weeks, they must make it as attractive to them as possible without, of course, oppressing those who have to look after the welfare of those guests. A great deal of talk has flown about the House on the subject of everybody being entitled to one day's rest a week. I should not object if everybody could get two days' rest a week, or three days, if that were practicable, but I must look at this matter from the practical point of view. From my own point of view as a tourist in Scotland, I can assure the House that the most appalling thing to the Sassenach visitor to Scotland is the Sunday in Scotland. I will be quite frank.
§ Sir I. MACPHERSON
I happen to know a great deal about Scotland, and I can assure the hon. Member that people who go there every year, and are honoured and respected as visitors, have a great respect for the traditional Scottish Sabbath.
§ Mr. FLEMING
I was saying how the Scottish Sabbath struck me. I do not pretend to be more religious than the average man from Lancashire. Some, like my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), are certainly more religious than I am, at least they are more narrow in their views. My religion is so broad that it includes the man who never goes inside a church at all.
§ Mr. R. DAVIES
Would the hon. Member regard me as being very narrow because I look after the interests of persons who would be employed on seven days a week?
§ Mr. FLEMING
If my hon. Friend had been listening to me he would have heard me say that I quite agreed with what he said as regards one day's rest in the week. I even went so far as to say I would like to see two days' rest, if that were practicable. When I used the expression "narrow" I was referring to the ideas about religion which have been expressed in this House. I said my idea of religion was so broad that it included the man who, in the eyes of some people, would have no religion at all. That is what I meant when I referred to the Scottish 2226 idea of the Sabbath not being very pleasant to me, for example. Nevertheless, I have visited Scotland, and I hope to go there again; but nothing in this Bill would encourage me to go there with any greater speed than if things were left as they are because this Bill, if it ever became law, would make the Scottish Sabbath worse than ever. I like to be able to buy a newspaper in Scotland on Sunday, and to buy some ice cream for my children, but if this Bill ever became law—and I doubt whether it will—I am afraid that would not be possible. From my view of religion I cannot for the life of me see what this Bill has to do with the idea of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) about keeping the Fourth Commandment. If he would permit the sale of such a dangerous substance as petrol, I do not see how he can rely on the support of the Divine command when seeking to exclude the sale of such an innocent thing as ice cream. Even if he really does mean what he says when he tells us that he is governed by the Divine command expressed in the Fourth Commandment, still I do not think he can suggest that this Bill was drawn up under Divine intuition, judging by the number of anomalies in it. If he seriously suggests that the basic idea in his mind was to carry out that Divine command, I say this Bill is merely tinkering with the question. I cannot see how he can pretend to be carrying out the Divine command by excluding the sale of one thing and allowing the sale of another.
§ Mr. FLEMING
No, that is for you. I am looking at things from a legal view. This is your Bill and not mine. It is for the hon. Member and his supporters to put sufficient arguments before the House to convert the House, so that we may support him. This Bill strikes me as being very favourable to one particular section of the citizens of Scotland. It is so full of anomalies and objections that that section of Scottish people who are engaged in the law will welcome it. It will be a great source of income to those whose incomes are not, perhaps, large enough at the present time.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not rising to make a speech on this matter, but neither my 2227 hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) nor myself would like to give a silent vote. Our opposition to the Bill is not that it is badly drafted; it is a direct frontal opposition to the Bill and the frame of mind which inspires it. I find it more and more difficult, although I come to the problem with the best will in the world, to understand what modern Liberalism stands for. I want to know how the old conceptions of freedom are preserved by the activities of the modern Liberal party as represented here. The hon. Member for Gorbals and I can speak for the working class end of Glasgow. We had hoped and expected that some hon. Members among the official Opposition whose names are appended to the Measure would have been here to-day to let us hear their reasons in support of the Bill. Probably their absence to-day is an evidence of their belief in three days' rest, starting on the Friday.
Our opposition to the Bill, as I am sure everyone in the House will agree, is not due to any desire to deprive people of a rest day, or at least a reasonable period of leisure in every week. If the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) brings forward a Bill to limit the hours of labour to 40 hours or less per week for workers of every description, he will have our wholehearted and enthusiastic support, but when he comes forward with a Bill to limit the trading of the smallest kind of traders, those who are nearest to the working class, usually serving that working-class and coming from the working class, while he leaves the great railway companies, the great hotel companies, the golf courses and the whole private motoring industry untouched, then we can find nothing in common with him. He says to me, "You, Maxton, Member of Parliament, with a certain social status which that confers on you, can go to Gleneagles, to Turnberry and all over Scotland; you can go to the best hotel; you can indulge in any game you like—golf, tennis, billiards, swimming, or anything else; you can get any kind of food or drink, you can buy all the confections you like, as well as cigarettes and cigars." But John Smith, in the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, cannot go to a wee shop round the corner to buy a bottle of lemonade for himself and his kids. It 2228 is simply a piece of bourgeois tyranny. I can be trusted with liberty. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh and I can spend our Sundays as we please.
My hon. Friend on the other side of the House did not know the resources of Scotland on the occasion he visited it. You can get anything you please in Scotland if you belong to the proper class; in other words, if you know the ropes. Next time let the hon. Member have a conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals and myself before he goes to Scotland. We will tell him that if he goes there and spends the Sabbath of the work-folk, he will have a bad day, but if he follows the hon. Member for East Edinburgh and his friends he will have no complaint to make. This Bill makes no attempt to crib, cabin or confine the opportunities of enjoyment for the wealthier and middle classes in the community. One hon. Member talked about the inspiration of the Scottish Sabbath having its historic origin in the Covenanters' fight. Another hon. Member found it in the time of Queen Margaret in 1086. I leave the two hon. Members to bridge the gap between the seven centuries. Whether it was in Covenanting times or Queen Margaret's times, it is away in the past.
My hon. Friend accuses me of being too modern in one sense and too old-fashioned in another. I attempted to show that we had a great tradition, and while we should be ever ready to open our minds to the best modern ideas, we have to preserve the best traditions of such a past.
§ Mr. MAXTON
But when we are discussing tradition we ought to come to a reasonable measure of common agreement as to what was the common origin, and there is a considerable margin of difference between the Covenanters and Queen Margaret. I am not wanting to raise any controversy about it; I am merely suggesting that in private conversation the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) can settle with the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) which of the two of them has the better historic sense, but it is this old characteristic of ours of living in the past instead of facing the living present. The Covenanting fight meant something when it took place. As a matter of fact, I think it meant the assertion of indi- 2229 vidual liberty, a protest against dictation as to how they were to live, and if it meant anything, it was a fight for liberty. What is there in common between this Bill and the Covenanting fight?
As the hon. Member has issued a challenge, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene. The hon. Member asks what there is in common between liberty which the Covenanters fought and died for, and this Bill. Of course, theirs was a protest against dictation of the worst possible kind, religious dictation, but the Covenanters accepted what they believed was the divine command, and, therefore, they would have accepted fully, as far as I dare say it in this twentieth century, the implications contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am afraid that my hon. Friend has not helped me. This Bill is an attempt to say to somebody, "You and your neighbours are incapable of deciding how to use your Sabbath day, but the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) is capable of doing it for you." If Scotland would not tolerate dictation from English Archbishops, it is not more likely, in these days, that Scotland will accept the spiritual direction of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh. There is this other fact. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) who spoke for the Labour party, used an argument which was dragged in by other hon. Members. I did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh and therefore I do not know whether he used it. It seems that there is also an anti-alien reason for this Bill. It seems that the people who are breaking the Scottish Sabbath are not Scottish people, but are people from Italy and Ireland. I was taught that God created the Italians as well as ourselves. While it is not so certain about the Irish, there is a very widespread belief that they also had the same origin as the rest of us. The noble Lord the Member for Perth (Lord Scone) who has better information than I have, shakes his head. I will not push the argument any further. The view that the same God created the whole lot of us, including the Italian and the Irish—[An HON. MEMBER: "And the Jews."]. I would not bring that in. It is a little bit cheap to use a religious 2230 argument to support a prejudice against human beings who happen to be of another race from ourselves.
In the town in which I live, and in my constituency, the wee shop that is open on Sunday and performs a social need in those communities is run by decent people who are struggling in a tremendous battle to maintain a decent livelihood, in difficult conditions which this House so far has not been able to overcome. Do not think that you are going to lead us into a better and more ethical future by imposing conceptions that had their origins, and perhaps their reasons, in a past, now that we are facing a future which all of us who are intelligent believe must be entirely different from that. It must be a future in which we are not going to put one day in seven into a special compartment, making everything that is done on that day good and holy, and everything that is done on the other six days worldly and mean. That ethical conception belongs to the past. The man who cannot go out on seven days of the week and lead an intelligent life of interest to himself and service to the community, is no use to the world of the future.
The religion of the future will not be something that stands as a terror to evil-doers, something gloomy, ugly and dull. The religion that will matter in the future is not one that will consist of "taboos" and "don'ts," but one that urges people to go out and do positively useful things, not on one day of the week but on seven. It is because the inspiration of this Bill relates to a bad dull, dark and, in many cases a cruel, past—
§ Mr. MAXTON
Yes. That is why we oppose the Bill. We oppose it, not because of the drafting which is undoubtedly bad—there are many omissions which there should not have been—or of the class prejudice which is breathed in every line of it, but because the inspiration is wrong, and my hon. Friends and myself will give it our most strenuous opposition.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I do not propose to follow every point made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), but he asked how modern Liberalism carried 2231 out the old conception of freedom, and he referred to the Bill as if it were an attack upon the liberty of the individual. I would ask the hon. Member to remember the Factory Acts. Though they limited the rights of the employers to keep their factories open for any number of hours in the day, they were an extension of freedom for a very large number of people who worked in those factories. Insofar as this Bill is an attempt to preserve Sunday as a day of rest and leisure, I submit that it is, in fact, an attempt to safeguard the work of a very large number of the citizens of Scotland. Apart from the speech made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, there has been a remarkable degree of unanimity among hon. Members who have taken part in the discussion. I think everyone with the exception of the hon. Member for Bridgeton has said that he accepts the general principle of Sunday as a day of rest and leisure, and the only objections that have been raised, by supporters and opponents of the Bill, are of the kind described as committee points.
It is always most difficult to decide what one's attitude should be upon a Bill where one supports the general principle but sees a number of objections in the manner in which the Bill is drafted. A distinction should be necessary. If the features of the Bill to which one objects go to the root of the matter, one ought to vote against the Bill on Second Reading, but if the objections are merely incidental and if to cut the objectionable parts out would not destroy the principle of the Bill, it is perfectly proper to vote for the Bill and to endeavour to insert amendments in Committee. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken has admitted that this is a serious question in Scotland, and one that is rapidly becoming more serious.
One ground has not been chosen in the discussion, and that is the question of inspection. I am not an authority on the law of Scotland, and still less upon the regulations which arise under Statutes which have been made with reference to Scotland. I think that there are regulations and provisions for the inspection of shops where food is sold. It is common, I understand, for samples to be taken from shops or stores and for tests to be made to see whether the articles sold come up to the standard that is required. 2232 Those regulations are made in the public interest. But, if I am right, the system of inspection does not apply on Sundays, for the simple reason that the inspectors themselves do not work on Sundays, and therefore it is possible for a shopkeeper on a Sunday to sell a particular class of article which would not be permitted on any other day of the week.
This is not merely a question of what the individual shopkeeper has to do, because we cannot omit from consideration the pressure on other shopkeepers. We are told that a large number of small shopkeepers open on Sundays, but are we certain that they all want to open on Sundays, and that it may not be that, because one shop in a street opens, the rival shop in the same street has to open also? It may be well that, unless some action is taken, there will be a spread of Sunday trading in Scotland, so that not only will the one-man shops and the small shops in back streets be open, but the larger stores may be compelled to open as well, and, if that were to arise, it would be impossible for the Government to avoid taking some action.
In common with a number of other Members who have spoken, I do not like the wording of the Bill, and I do not like a number of its provisions. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman) referred to a letter, which had appeared in the "Scotsman", from the Secretary of the Scottish Federation of Grocers. I was rather interested in the quotation that he gave, because the Scottish Federation of Grocers have produced an alternative Bill which, if I may say so without offence to my hon. Friend, is, I believe, a much better Bill on this subject. It differs in two respects from the Bill which is now before the House. In the first place, there is a much wider schedule of exemptions, and the absolute exemptions include newspapers, for example. Secondly, provision is made for further exemptions in the various municipalities, and that Bill empowers the local authority to make an exemption order with regard to a particular trade if it is satisfied that two-thirds of the shopkeepers in the district in that trade wish for Sunday opening. I submit that that would be a much more satisfactory and flexible way of dealing with this question, and I would rather have seen it dealt with on those lines, but I entirely agree 2233 with the hon. Members for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford) and for South Edinburgh that this is a matter on which we should like more information. Accordingly, I would add my voice to the request which has been made to the Government for an inquiry. If the Government can give us no assurance on that point, I, for one, shall vote for this Bill, in the hope that some of its objectionable features may be amended in Committee; but I hope that the Government will make it unnecessary for that course to be taken by assuring us that they are going to look into the question.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. SMITH
I was rather disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). He referred to Turnberry and Gleneagles, but, as far as I can see, there is nothing in this Bill to prevent my going to Turnberry or Gleneagles and finding a small shop where I can get a cup of tea and a bun, instead of going to a large hotel. Therefore, I do not think that the suggestion that there is a class distinction in the Bill is a fair one.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It has to be consumed on the premises. What my hon. Friend said was that in Bridgeton you could not go into a shop, buy a bottle of lemonade, and take it home and consume it there.
§ Mr. SMITH
As the hon. Member probably knows, I do not propose to support the Bill, but I want to deal with the question in a perfectly fair and open manner, and to be fair to both sides. This question is one of vital importance, not merely to Scotland, but to the whole country. The hon. Member talked about the freedom of the individual, but I would remind him that in many cases the freedom of the individual has to be limited for the benefit of the whole.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I hope the hon. Member will not misunderstand me. I 2234 recognise the necessity for organisation, but this is disorganisation. I was merely asking what was the meaning of modern Liberalism.
§ Mr. SMITH
I was referring to the liberty of the individual, and the liberty of the small shopkeeper to carry on his business when and where and at what times he likes. The hon. Member was thinking of the small shopkeeper, and referred to foreigners, but there are times when it is necessary to interfere with the liberty of the individual for the benefit of the nation as a whole. I would appeal to the Government to give us an assurance that there shall be an inquiry into the whole matter before we go any further. If the Government would say that they are ready to have an inquiry into the matter, we could go into the Division Lobby determined to do something. We could give the Bill a Second Reading and it could be altered in Committee, but my point is that in considering the Bill in Committee we shall be just as ignorant of the facts as we are now if we do not have an inquiry. If we have an inquiry, we can consider the Bill in Committee afterwards, knowing the facts of the case.
There are some very serious questions of detail in connection with the Bill. I will only go into two of them. I think the promoter of the Bill said that it was proposed to allow all chemists to open on Sundays. In many large towns, however, it is arranged that only so many chemists' shops shall be open on Sundays, the rest being closed, and I fail to see why the Bill does not provide that, in a town where there is more than one chemist, one or two should be open on Sundays and the others closed. Further, it seems to me to be ridiculous to say that they should be allowed to sell medicines and surgical appliances to the exclusion of toilet or fancy goods. There is one toilet requisite which it might be very necessary for a patient to buy, namely, soap. Another point which is extraordinary is that a person may buy goods from a chemist for himself or for a member of his household, but if an unfortunate person were ill and had no dependants and no one belonging to the household, anyone who went on his behalf would be liable to prosecution. We want to ensure that we do nothing unfair either to the consumer or the small tradesman and I 2235 do not think we ought to come to a conclusion until we know all the facts of the case.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Lord SCONE
I rise, like the great majority of those who have intervened, to ask the Government to give some sort of inquiry into the whole position. I will not try to analyse the many defects of the Bill. That has been pretty effectively done already, and in any case many of the points that have been brought forward have hardly been suitable for a Second Reading Debate. But there is one reason why the House would not be very well advised to give the Bill a Second Reading. We are touching upon a very large and important subject which could hardly be properly dealt with on a Friday by a private Member's Bill, especially when we have no real idea what is the opinion of Scotland upon it. All Scottish Members have a certain number of representations made to them on both sides. I have not had very many, certainly not enough to show what is the real opinion of my constituents. It is going to be very difficult, if legislation is necessary, to frame any Measure which will be considered suitable by the population of all Scotland, because undoubtedly various districts think somewhat differently on the subject. There is the Sabbatarian sentiment in the North, the more moderate sentiment in the South and the more secular feeling in the South and West, excluding the corner represented by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie). The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), as is sometimes the case, was rather muddled in his arguments. A very large proportion of shops, especially in the large towns, which are open on Sundays for the sale of refreshments, are owned by Italians, and those in the South West who least observe the conditions of the Scottish Sabbath are Irish, but people who go to another country are bound to obey the laws of that country, and one cannot regard them as being in a different position from the native inhabitants.
I am not going to follow up all the arguments for and against the ancient Scottish Sabbath. It was certainly a Sabbath which would not be regarded now as a very desirable one under which to live, and I do not think most of the 2236 population of Scotland would like it to reappear in its original form. At the same time, I do not think the arguments in favour of the Bill can be brushed aside in the very cavalier fashion in which the opposition have thought to do so. Altogether the problem is one that can only be settled satisfactorily after a prolonged investigation. I hope the Scottish Office will be willing to undertake the responsibility for it, and I hope the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) will be willing to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman), because that will be the best solution from every point of view, and it will prevent those of us who have considerable sympathy with the point of view of the hon. Member and his friends from voting against the Bill, which we shall otherwise be compelled to do because we realise that the Bill as it stands is introduced prematurely and is so badly drawn as to be unworkable.
§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have listened to the speeches of the two Members of the Labour party who have spoken with a good deal of mixed amusement. They are both English Members who wish to impose on Scotland much stricter conditions than are imposed in England. I will believe in their sincerity when they introduce a Bill to stop the sale of drink in England on Sundays before they start forbidding us to sell newspapers. Let those who talk about Sunday observance shut the public-houses and clubs in England before they talk about us selling chocolates. The thing is ridiculous. I will believe in their sincerity when they do that, but everyone in the Labour party knows that they will not do it. I should have deemed it a favour if Labour Members from Scotland had stated their case to-day. I do not know whether it is cowardice, but their absence is becoming notorious. On the Cunard Bill a Labour Member supported the Government but did not vote. It is a shocking dereliction of duty for a Member with strong convictions deliberately not to vote after supporting the Government. Tory Members were blamed for not voting on the question of childrens' allowances. I hope Labour Members will set a higher standard. Those who oppose the Bill fear criticism and take the easier course of being absent.
2237 I am opposed to the Measure on general principles. The Scottish Office may set up any inquiry they like, but, there are two things which you must consider. You have either to ban the whole of Scottish trading of any kind on Sunday, or have an illogical position. There is no logic in this matter. It is like betting. You can have all the betting laws in the world, but you get back to the illogical in the end, and Sunday trading is the same. The great growth of Sunday trading has taken place during recent years, and it is not so much in the city as elsewhere. The railways have caused more Sunday trading than anything else, but the railways are deliberately left out of the Bill. They cause Sunday trading. They take the people from the towns into the country where they have to buy things. If there were no railways to take them, there would be no such trading. Why are the railways left out? The motor omnibus companies are left out. A neutral commission or as neutral as the Government could make it—and it was appointed by the late Labour Government under the Transport Act—actually decided that in Inverness the omnibus companies should have greater running powers. Sunday omnibus traffic has extended considerably in the north. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I say "why not" myself. I cannot understand why a man should be stuck in a Glasgow slum instead of being able to breathe the air of the open country on a Sunday. What can be more finer and ennobling than breathing the fresh air on a Sunday? If you go rowing in a boat on a Sunday, it is much more manly and finer than the things which we used to do when we were boys.
There are references to refreshments. The Bill is silly. It will not work, and all your inquiries would not make it work. Take the position with regard to ice cream. A refreshment place can sell almost anything, but it must not sell ice cream. Good gracious! Do the people who drafted the Bill know anything about humanity? What would happen? The ice cream seller woud simply invent semolina ices, and you would need a policeman for every ice cream shop to find out whether it was ice cream or not. I should like to know what the Lord Advocate thinks of this? It would be the finest thing for his profession which I know. There will be a section of the community who will be annoyed if this Bill does not pass. Those 2238 who do slightly illegal forms of trading on Sunday will be annoyed, because if the Bill does not pass the time of the police will not be taken up in looking after the enforcement of the provisions of the Measure. The Bill would be no Godsend to them, as the police would be watching the shops and not the fellows who committed crime. A person would be able to sell a concoction which was not quite ice cream, but if he sold ice cream he would be committing a crime.
I was brought up in a strict Sunday school. I do not want to go back to some of the things from which I emerged. I had the idea of Sunday put into me in a way which leaves a certain amount of bitterness. Just imagine what I did. We got a penny for the plate, and a halfpenny of it was spent upon an ice cream cone. Just imagine the police watching all the boys who have ice cream cornets. We are going to have another crime committed in the name of religion and piety, the crime of buying ice cream on a Sunday. I know how the people will get round it. Along will come a fellow who will say, "I have no shop, but I will have a barrow instead." He will be able to sell ice cream, and he will not have to pay rates. Does anybody say it will be possible to have a detective hunting these ice cream barrows. The fellows who will do this, instead of being looked down upon, will be popular heroes. Instead of being regarded as a criminal, he will get into the town council.
Looked at from any angle, the Bill is laughable. A person who plays golf on Sunday can stop at a garage with his car and get people who are not sure of getting a day's rest in seven and who generally work longer hours than the shopkeeper to supply him with petrol. He goes down to a good golf course—because the professional people who are backing this Bill always choose a good place—and he can get anything he likes at the club house. No inquiry would ever stop that sort of thing. The Bill would add to the already long list of crimes in Scotland another long list of crimes none of which would be crimes in the eyes of the people. An hon. Member asks what I would do. It is a very reasonable question. I would leave things as they are. What is wrong with them? I have lived, if I may say so with respect to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), in 2239 Scotland longer than he has, although he is older than I. I live in a so-called alien place where there are Italians, Jews and Irish, and some of the shops are open on Sunday. What is wrong about it? There is little in it. It is true that there are a number of Catholics owning shops, but I hope that it is not a crime for Catholics to own shops. It was the one happiness I knew when I was young to go to the Italian shop and have a plate of hot peas on a Sunday. It was a Godsend to me as I only had a halfpenny to spend in the week. Do hon. Members want us to have any brightness for our children or for those who are suffering from unemployment or poverty? Do you know what it is to make a "slider" on a Sunday? Do you know what it is to give up something you like? Do you know that a glass of ice cream represents to these poor folk a great deal?
The finest test of Scotland is the treatment of the children. The action of a nation which I judge more than anything else is how it looks after its children. When I was a boy I well remember that my father, who was religious, attended church, read his Bible and in many respects was estimable, but I never saw him take out the children. It was not manly to do that. The children were for the wife to look after. To-day, watch the men on Sundays or watch them when they come from the Employment Exchange. See them leading the weans out. They are proud of their children. That is a greater thing than any regulation about Sunday trading. Watch these men with their children on Sundays. Have you ever stood, as I have stood a thousand times, watching them crowding on to trams and omnibuses, coming back on a Sunday night from a day's outing, their faces black, perhaps because they have been eating ice-cream. They are happy because they have been for a day's outing with their children. These men are greater than the men of the past.
The care and the love of children is greater to-day, and it is the finest test of Scotland. Leave them alone. Let them have their little joys. Give them their happiness. Far from the men of Scotland or the mothers of Scotland going back, I say that the care of the child to-day in Scotland is finer than I 2240 have ever known it. I have never been a good defender of Catholic, Protestant or Jew, but the test of a population whether it be Irish, Jewish or Scottish, is the test of the treatment of the children. I have in my Division a so-called Irish alien population. When I was a boy one saw children going to school there without boots and looking ill-cared for, but to-day I see children going to the same school and, although they may be poor as members of that so-called alien population, they have boots, they are clean and tidy and they are a credit to the parents who send them. I see them on the Sunday buying their wee bit things. Leave them alone. If you must attack somebody, if the forces of Parliament must be mobilised to attack something, attack the strong. Go to the railway companies and say to them, "Stop!" Go to the brewers and tell them to stop. Go to the Sunday newspapers and tell them to stop, but for God's sake leave the poor, these struggling people, with the little happiness that they still possess.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. GUY
The whole House must sympathise with the sentiments that underlie the speech to which we have just listened. I find myself very much in agreement with the philosophy expressed by the hon. Member as regards Sunday. The whole attitude of the people has greatly changed in regard to Sunday. Sunday should not necessarily be a day of gloom but should be used to the greatest advantage of the whole community, and in agreement with that point of view I give my support to the principle of the Bill, because the idea underlying it is not to curtail the liberty of the subject, not to force the individual to do work that he does not wish to do, but to guarantee him a greater measure of liberty to use Sunday as a day of rest. I would point out to the Lord Advocate that a case for some legislation for the regulation of Sunday trading has been clearly made out. It must be obvious to those who have followed the debate that there has been no suggestion that Sunday should be like any other day in the week.
The point as regards the position of the old Scottish laws against Sunday trading has not been challenged. You have on the Statute Book, still unrepealed, certain old Scottish Statutes passed before 2241 the Union, which declare all Sunday trading to be illegal. It is true that these laws are not enforced, there are difficulties in the way, but they remain on the Statute Book. There is no doubt that Sunday trading has considerably increased in recent years. There has been no challenge of the figures given, that about 12,000 shops open on Sunday out of a total of 120,000, or approximately 10 per cent. Opponents of this Measure pounce upon this fact and say that it indicates the extent of the demand in Scotland for Sunday opening. There is no doubt that there has been a considerable increase of Sunday trading, that is the problem which has to be dealt with. Surely, the attitude of some critics of the Bill, like the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) is like that of the ostrich. They say, there is a problem of Sunday trading which, on the face of it, is illegal and should be regularised, yet they ask us to ignore the problem. That would be failure on our part. Are we to watch this problem become more and more serious and still do nothing? A case for legislation has undoubtedly been made out.
Let me say a word on the religious argument. It has been suggested by some critics outside the House that the religious argument should not be introduced and Ministers have been criticised for taking any part in the discussions on this Bill. Ministers, and those who have strong religious views, are entitled to intervene and put forward their point of view, because the position of Sunday in the life of Scotland is involved. It has been suggested that it is not a correct attitude, or a true point of view, for religion to be confined to one day in the week and ignored throughout the rest of the week. I think that religion should be considered throughout the week, but that the amount of work to be done should be confined as far as possible to the six weekdays. It is on that point that the contribution of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) was so valuable. We must keep in mind not only the point of view of the general public but that of the shop assistants also. Although it has been suggested that the position might be met by another Bill, the 48 hours Bill, my contention is that if the two Bills are compared it will be found that this Bill 2242 would safeguard the position of the assistants better than the other Bill, because it would guarantee a Sunday entirely free from work, or if they do work on a Sunday they would have another day during the week in addition to the weekly half-holiday.
Most of the arguments that have been put forward have been answered already, but there remains one which has not been dealt with. An hon. Member said that this Bill would seriously affect tourist traffic to Scotland. If we are convinced that the principle of this Bill is right, should we surrender that principle merely to attract visitors to Scotland? I think the answer is in the negative. Even although that consideration be kept in mind, I doubt whether anything in the Bill would keep from Scotland a single visitor who wishes to go there. If one studies the Bill one finds that the visitor will be able to get all that he requires without any breach of the Bill.
Next there is the question of hardship for the shopkeeper. That is a point with which we can all readily sympathise. It would be most unfortunate if the Bill caused any hardship to any individual, but I doubt very much if there is as much in the argument regarding hardship as some hon. Members are inclined to think. In one or two cases, we have had certain kinds of Sunday trading declared illegal. There was the case of the barbers and shop assistants which was dealt with by the Labour Government in 1930. There has been no complaint of hardship on that score. There is the case of the pawnbrokers who, under an Act of 1872, are not allowed to carry on their trade on the Sunday. There has been no outcry for an alteration of the law in that respect. There has been no cry of hardship because a poor person who may be desperately in need of ready cash is not able to visit a pawnbroker on a Sunday. The line of criticism has also been taken that poor people in cities and towns, living in single room houses and under over-crowded conditions, are not able to keep a sufficient supply of food over the week-end. There is, I admit, a certain amount of force in that argument so long as conditions remain as they are in some parts of the country but those are conditions which the present Government wish to amend as soon as possible.
2243 That criticism might be met by a provision in the Bill to allow small shopkeepers to remain open during a limited number of hours in certain cases. It has also been suggested by several critics of the Bill that it savours of class legislation and penalises the poor while it does not affect the rich. From beginning to end of the Bill one will not find any attempt to differentiate between one class and another. It may be that if the Bill is passed into law its effect will be more striking in relation to one section of the community than another. But the underlying idea is to provide that for every section of the community, Sunday shall be as far as possible a day of rest. Surely the working classes who have toiled for six days of the week should account it as a more valuable privilege to have the seventh day a day of rest, than the wealthier classes who have greater opportunities of leisure.
The hon. Member for Gorbals had something to say about the aliens question. I wish to make it clear that the promoters of the Bill have no animus against alien traders. We know that the great majority of aliens in Scotland are a very law-abiding class, but I think it will be conceded that they have one particular quality, namely that they do not like any kind of restriction on hours of trading. It must be made clear to aliens trading in our midst that, whatever our laws are, they must observe those laws. On that score it is worth while to remind the House of the terms of a resolution which was passed by the Temperance Refreshment Trades Federation, who represent the Italian ice-cream traders. They resolved that everything should be done to prevent this Bill reaching the Statute Book and their resolution concludedand that this meeting of representatives of the trade pledges itself to ignore it.That is a point of view which ought to be carefully reconsidered by those concerned. If those who have spoken in support of the Bill have made out a case for some legislation it follows either that this Bill should receive a Second Reading and go to a Committee or that there should be some other legislation. I should like to see the Bill get a Second Reading. I think most of the criticisms against it could be met fairly and reasonably in the Standing 2244 Committee, but as regards the alternative which has been pressed by a number of speakers, that there should be an inquiry, I should like to ask the Lord Advocate to give careful consideration to this point, that the inquiry is not necessary to ascertain most of the facts, because on the main fact of the volume of Sunday trading there is no dispute, but an inquiry might serve a useful purpose in another connection. We heard from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) that there was another draft Bill, by the Scottish Builders Federation, in existence, and we know that there are many people who have very earnest and sincere views about this question and that there is thoughout Scotland a desire to have the problem solved. There are many able and experienced people who have views which they would like to put forward as regards the best method. We also know that there are various conflicting interests, the wholesale traders, the shop assistants, the shopkeepers, and the general public; and an inquiry might serve a very useful purpose in reconciling the different points of view and providing a basis for a more agreed measure than this Bill is to-day.
I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) would agree that we do not wish to force legislation upon the people of Scotland, because that would largely defeat its own ends. We have penal laws at the present time which are in a state of doubtful validity and are not being enforced. That sort of thing brings the law into disrepute and we know the harm that was done in America by having a law on the Statute Book that could not be properly enforced. We wish to reconcile the different points of view if we can, and perchance the best way would be by means of Departmental inquiry, to get the best brains possible to bear on this question: and if we do not make progress with this Bill, it may be that there are other lines along which we might make more satisfactory progress in solving the problem.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Normand)
I think it was the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who congratulated the Mover upon his courage in introducing a Bill on a subject which is so thorny and controversial, and I join not only in congratulating him on his courage, but on having initiated a most 2245 interesting Debate in which a great many Scottish and other hon. Members have had an opportunity of listening to speeches which I am sure everybody who heard them will think remarkable both for their sincerity and for their relevance. If the subject of the Bill is controversial, it is important to see what the controversy is about, and I do not think we should be reading the Debate aright if we were to hold that it was a controversy about Sabbath observance in Scotland. We are not dealing with the general principle whether it is right and proper that Sunday should be observed. We are dealing with a Bill.
The second thing to which I wish to call attention is that we are not dealing with the question of Sunday trading in general. Indeed, one of the remarkable things about the Bill is that it is not dealing with that form of Sunday trading which has grown most remarkably in recent years, namely, the kind of Sunday trading which is to be found on our railway lines and upon our roads, where the motor omnibuses and motor cars travel. It is dealing with a selected aspect of Sunday trading, and with that alone, namely, with the question whether the shops should be open on Sunday and, if so, to what extent. I believe there is in this House in general, as I think there is in Scotland, a desire that the opening of shops on Sunday should be kept within the narrowest practicable and reasonable bounds. It is not only a very natural desire of all men that everybody should enjoy one day's rest in the week; in this House, and certainly in my own country, there is a definite will that that day of rest should be Sunday with all its ancient religious associations, associations which are not valued more highly in any country in the world than they are in Scotland. I do not think that that is the cause of any controversy.
We are dealing with a Bill the promoters of which table three propositions. The first is that there is a mischief which requires some control by the State, namely, the growth of the opening of shops on Sunday; the second is that this is an opportune moment for dealing with it; and the third is the particular method of dealing with it. It is that method especially that has brought about the controversy. There are many methods of dealing with such a question as that with 2246 which the Bill is put forward to deal. You may deal with it as the Burgh Police Act did by means of local regulations; you may deal with it by means of licensing; or you may look at it from the aspect with which the shop assistants are concerned, namely, the number of hours which they should be allowed to work and whether they should be allowed to work on Sunday. That is not the method of approach of this Bill, and it is important to know exactly what the controversy is about. The method of this Bill is to lay down a general prohibition accompanied by a series of exemptions which are to be found in the Schedule. I do not think we get any further by saying that everybody accepts the principle of the Bill because everybody believes in Sunday observance.
The principle of the Bill is a general closing combined with a narrow range of exemptions, and it is about that that the House of Commons will have to make up its mind. Obviously, it is easy to represent that as a mere question of degree or of draftsmanship. Not long ago a Bill was introduced of which a right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the first Clause closed all the shops and the other 14 Clauses showed how to open them. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) has not done that. He has set down a Clause closing all the shops and a Schedule which opens a very narrow door.
The real question of controversy between those who are in favour of the Bill and those who are against it is whether the door is too closely shut and whether the reasonable demands of the people do not require that the door should be more widely opened and the number of exemptions increased. Most people will agree that that is not a misrepresentation of the controversy with which we are faced. Upon that controversy, narrowed as it is, first, to the question of shutting shops generally on Sunday, and, second, to the question whether a certain number of exemptions should be increased, what is the position of the Government? The previous Government had to consider this question in January 1931, and Mr. Adamson, a man who is regarded with respect and I might almost say with affection by every Scotsman, said on that occasion that the closing of shops in Scot- 2247 land on Sunday was an appropriate subject for a private Member's Bill, in which the topic could be ventilated, and he declined to commit the Government. I think it would be wrong in this instance for the Government to throw its weight into the scales either on the side of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh or on the side of the hon. and gallant Member for Partick (Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew) who moved the rejection of the Bill. Nor do I think we can be reasonably asked to adopt the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman). To do that would be to take sides and to bring about the defeat of the Bill at this stage.
A request has been addressed to us from various quarters of the House to hold some sort of inquiry. I am not going to commit the Government to that course. What sort of inquiry? That would have to be considered. It is reasonable and proper that a private Member bringing a Bill before this House on a Friday afternoon should limit it to a small fraction of the whole field of Sunday trading. Could the Government when instituting an inquiry so limit that inquiry? I think it would be difficult. If we are to go into the whole question of Sunday trade, is the inquiry to be limited to Scotland, or is it not going to open up a vista of questions not confined to Scotland which it would be wholly inappropriate to put before a Scottish Departmental Committee? The position of the Government is, accordingly, that every Member in the House should be entirely free either to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill or, if he is opposed to it, to take one of the other methods open to him to bring about its defeat. The Government do not seek to influence that position.
It is true, however, that the House will expect some guidance from me about the technical side of the Bill, how it stands in relation to previous enactments. I daresay some Scottish Members are aware, although it may not be known to English Members, that the old Acts of our Scottish Parliament differ from the Acts passed by the British Parliament since the Act of Union in this respect. Old Scottish Acts can fall into desuetude through non-enforcement accompanied by the growth of a practice contrary to their 2248 intention. There were passed in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries a long series of enactments dealing with the desecration of the Sabbath. They are far too numerous to mention. A great many of them were struck out of the Statute Book by an Act passed in 1906, but there are at least three of those old enactments which escaped and are still on the Statute Book. I do not propose to refer to more than one of them, because it is the Act of 1661 upon which, in old days, any actions relating to Sunday trading of all kinds and particularly to the opening of shops were usually founded. That Act inhibited and discharged, among other things, all salmon fishing, going of salt pans, mimes or kills, all hireing of shearers, carrying of loads, keeping of mercats or using any sort of merchandise. It was under that last phrase. "the using of any sort of merchandise" that it was held that the opening of shops might be struck at by the Act.
How does the Act stand to-day? Is it or is it not in desuetude? What has been the attitude of the courts? There has been no successful prosecution since the year 1870. Although cases under the Act have been tried both in civil and criminal proceedings, since that date the judges have never decided affirmatively or negatively whether the Act was in desuetude or not. Lord Dunedin in 1908—and there has been no greater authority on the law of Scotland—held that it was matter of great doubt whether that Act was in desuetude, and I think in the year 1928 or 1929 my predecessor, speaking in this House, said that it was impossible to say with certainty whether that Act was in desuetude or not. One of my learned Friends said that that position of affairs gave rise to the same kind of contempt of the law which arose in another country through the enactment of a prohibition Act which was not observed. I do not agree. The real mischief which was taking place in America was that an Act which was certainly not in desuetude, but was in force, was not enforced. That cannot be said of the Scots Act of 1661.
I agree with the hon. Member to this extent, that it is unfortunate that the Bill should make no reference to that Scots legislation, and no effort to clear up the existing doubt. However, it would not be difficult to introduce into this Bill 2249 a Clause dealing with that ancient legislation and repealing or confirming it, as might be thought proper. The Bill, however, does make reference to the Shops Act, 1912. I am unable to understand that reference, for it incorporates Clauses which, so far as I have been able to ascertain, have no bearing on anything which this Bill purports to do. There, again, however, that is a matter of detail and I do not doubt that it would be possible in the Committee stage to make this Bill satisfactory both from the point of view of the ancient legislation and from the point of view of more modern legislation. I can, therefore, not advise the House that there is any insuperable technical difficulty which should exclude the Bill from being read a Second time.
I turn to review, very briefly, one or two of the other objections which have been stated by hon. Members. It has been pointed out that there are anomalies, for instance, in the way in which the Schedule has been drawn up. With my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) I cannot understand why a man should be allowed to go into a hotel and eat every kind of fish, meat and pudding except ice-cream. I gather from the Press that ice cream is supposed to have an alien taint. I wish to say, for my own part, that I cannot be a party to any legislation based ostensibly upon Sunday observance which takes advantage of the occasion to inflict some hardship upon people merely because they are aliens. There are other anomalies, such as being allowed to eat a full meal in a restaurant or one of the great hotels, but not being allowed to buy a sandwich to eat on the hill-side. I do not follow that. I do not understand why for the first time it is proposed to authorise the sale of petrol on Sunday for the free passage in all parts of Scotland of motor coaches and motor cars, but the sale of lubricating oil and spare parts is prohibited. These are points which may be amended at a later stage. I would throw out a word of warning. A Bill which starts by total prohibition and with a narrow range of exceptions, is in danger of becoming a Bill with a narrow prohibition and a wide range of exceptions. The promoters of the Bill may find their difficulty in that direction when the Bill reaches Committee. It is difficult to draw a line which is defensible.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
All the difficulties which the right hon. and learned Gentleman now mentions were attendant upon the original Shops Bills when they were before this House.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I was just about to say that the promoters of the Bill are not to be blamed because those difficulties are inherent in this kind of legislation. There is a difficulty which is more formidable, and that is the charge which is brought against the Bill that it is an attempt at class legislation. What are the facts about Sunday trading, so far as we have been able to ascertain them? I can only quote to the House figures which I believe to be reliable. They relate only to the City of Glasgow for the years from 1922 to 1931, and they show that the growth of Sunday trading has not been rapid or startling. For example, in 1923 the total number of shops open on the first Sunday in June was 5,058. In 1928, the number on the first Sunday in June was 5,509. It dropped in the next year, and in 1930 the number was 5,295. In 1931, the last year for which we have the figures, the number was 5,482.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
It may be said that there was some slight tendency to increase, probably accounted for by the greater mobility of the population brought about by the motor car, and partly by some slight change in the feeling of the people about it; perhaps partly also by the depression, and the consequent tendency of many people to purchase in small quantities only according to their immediate needs. I do not think that there is any doubt that the growth of population also was responsible. I do not say that you can apply the Glasgow figures by a simple sum in proportion to the rest of Scotland, but at the same time I do not think that it can be said that the growth has been startling. I am sure that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh told the House in good faith that the number of shops open upon Sunday in the last two years had doubled, but the statement was quite erroneous.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I should say that the explanation of that is that people in greater number are being carried from the cities to the country. It is that possibility which makes it difficult for me to isolate the problem of Sunday shop trade from other forms of trade. What is the character of these shops? They are all very small shops. We are told that it is unusual for shop assistants to be employed on Sundays. I do not say that it does not occur, but it is unusual. They are shops which sell provisions, cigarettes, tobacco, newspapers and so on. I think it is a fair generalisation to say that they belong to the poorer classes of shopkeepers, and that they cater for the poorer classes of the population. I do not think it is fair to say that this trading on Sundays, which is carried on among the poorer classes of the population, is wholly a matter of choice, or of bad habits; I think it is to some extent a matter of necessity.
It is for the House to make up its mind on the difficult problem which has been brought before it by those who have introduced the Bill, and to decide whether, balancing all the considerations which have been heard to-day, the Bill shall receive a Second Reading or not. I have considered it my duty not to throw the weight of the Government either on the side of the Bill by promising facilities or otherwise, or against it, or to undertake to support any Amendments. I have merely tried to summarise to the House some of the considerations which seem to me to be important, and I leave the matter to the free decision of private Members.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I think the House must be grateful to my right hon. Friend for having defined so clearly the real point of controversy this afternoon, and for having given us such a close analysis of the factors for and against the Bill. My personal regret in regard to his speech is that he did not give some encouragement to the idea of holding an inquiry into this question of Sunday trading in Scotland. My name is attached to 2252 an Amendment which suggests that that should be done, and I would like very briefly to examine one or two reasons why I think an inquiry is so necessary. I think it will be sufficient to refer to a single factor, namely, the figures for the number of shops which are opened on Sundays. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) says that the number is 10,000, and that it has doubled in the last two years.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I am sorry if I was not clear. I was attributing to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh the statement that the number of shops opened on Sundays throughout Scotland has doubled in the last two years. We have, on the other hand, the figures for Glasgow, showing an increase of only 550 in 10 years. I have no reason to suppose that either of these figures is substantially inaccurate, but clearly there must be some reason for the very large increase throughout Scotland while there has been no marked increase in Glasgow, where the majority of the shops are situated.
In this connection I would like to take a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Sir I. Macpherson). He said, if I understood him aright, that this was permissive legislation in effect—that it was going to allow some shops to open which under the existing law were not allowed to do so. I think the extent to which it is permissive must depend on the extent to which we regard the existing law as not having fallen into desuetude. I am not going to argue that question, but I assume it to be the desire of the promoters to pass a permissive Bill which will enable the type of shops which most of us in Scotland think should be open on Sundays to be so opened, and not to extend that advantage to other shops; and, clearly, we must try to relate that proposal to the terms of the Bill. I will take the same example, the question of the number of shops that are open on Sunday to-day and I will take a district near Glasgow where large numbers of people go on Saturday and Sunday to enjoy themselves—Balloch. I have no exact figures, but I have no reason to doubt that the number of shops open on Sunday in Balloch has increased.
2253 I think that is a very desirable thing, because the people of Scotland are getting out there and spending their time in the air rather than in the crowded streets of Glasgow. Not for the first time I find myself in agreement with a good deal that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said. I hope he has no objection. It is obviously a matter which must be examined. If this drifting of the people into the country at the week-end is desirable, we cannot take up the attitude that we will not encourage the trams, trains and omnibuses to carry the people there, but that when they arrive in the country we will make it impossible for them to obtain any reasonable refreshment. People do not go into districts where there are no facilities for refreshment. We are beginning to carry haversacks, but the ordinary person has not the necessary equipment to enable him to go for a week-end into a district where there are none of the ordinary facilities by which he can buy refreshment for himself. Therefore, it is very necessary that this aspect of the problem should be closely examined to see in what
§ direction we should alter the law in order to ensure that in present circumstances we are giving that measure of latitude for the opening of shops which we believe to be consonant with the desires of the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. D. MASON
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Commander COCHRANE
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) mentioned an alternative Bill. That is another reason why we should not proceed with this and why we should be prepared to have an examination of the whole question.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 61; Noes, 42.2253
|Division No. 152.]||AYES.||[3.59 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Groves, Thomas E.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Batey, Joseph||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Bernays, Robert||John, William||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Buchanan, George||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Leckie, J. A.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Cooke, Douglas||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Dagger, George||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Dickie, John P.||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Dobbie, William||McKie, John Hamilton||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Doran, Edward||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Edwards, Charles||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Maitland, Adam||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Maxton, James|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Morrison, William Shepherd||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Mr. D. M. Mason and Sir John|
|Gower, Sir Robert||North, Edward T.||Haslam.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Glossop, C. W. H.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Goff, Sir Park||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Hanley, Dennis A.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Scone, Lord|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, [...].)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Moreing, Adrian C.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Lieut.-Colonel MacAndrew and Mr.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Patrick, Colin M.||Anstruther Gray.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Petherick, M.|
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Question is not decided in the affirmative as there were not sufficient numbers according to Standing Order No. 27.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.