HL Deb 18 May 1866 vol 183 cc1134-43

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


said, that in consequence of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Chelmsford) having withdrawn from the charge of this Bill, he (Lord Redesdale) felt it his duty to continue the progress of the measure, with a view of seeing whether it could not be rendered beneficial. He thought the Bill might be made of great utility for the purpose for which it was brought forward, and that by closing shops after ten o'clock in the morning, and not allowing them to open until one o'clock, a great check would be put upon Sunday trading. One great cause of Sunday trading was that people rose late on that day, instead of at their usual hours, and thus drove off their purchases to a late hour of the morning. All public-houses were at present closed during that period of three hours, and it was only reasonable that other shops should be closed also. Thus a great advance would be made in obtaining a proper and more pious observance of the Lord's Day in that respect. He trusted their Lordships would see that this Bill could not do any harm, that it was in accordance with the principle on which similar legislation had proceeded, and was calculated to produce good results. He therefore moved the third reading of the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Chairman of Committees.)


said, he was ready to admit that the Bill as it now stood was a considerable improvement on its original form, yet at the same time he thought it was still open to grave objections; he therefore moved an Amendment that it be read a third time that day six months. The noble Lord the Chairman of Committees proposed by this Bill to prohibit Sunday trading between the hours of ten o'clock and one o'clock, and to allow the sale of any articles during the rest of the day. [Lord REBESDALE: No, no!] Of course the old obsolete law of Charles II. would continue in force, but it would be wholly inoperative in practice, and as had been said by a right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Carlisle) in the course of the discussion on this Bill, whatever was not forbidden by the law would be considered as permitted and encouraged. The Bill, it should be remembered, applied not to the metropolis alone, but to the whole of England, and it would be difficult; to make unsophisticated people in the country understand that the Legislature objected to trading at other hours of the day than those during which it was expressly prohibited. It might be desirable in some way to prevent during morning service the scandalous exhibition of goods for sale which took place in some parts of London; but the Bill was introduced not with that view, but for the purpose of securing to the trading classes a day of rest. As the Bill stood traders were to be allowed to keep their shops open until ten o'clock in the morning, and their liberty commenced again at one o'clock in the afternoon; and he feared that such a law could only lead to difficulty and confusion. He did not underrate the evil which existed, but it was not by legislation such as this that that evil could be remedied. A noble Friend of his had stated that he was willing to support the Bill as an experiment. There were subjects, no doubt, on which experiments might be safely and usefully made; but matters touching the religious views of the country or the habits of the poor were not safe subjects for experiment. Such cases involved considerations with which it was not well lightly to tam- per. People must know what they were about. They must not constantly interfere with the habits of the people, telling them the Legislature considered this wrong one Session and that right another. If they could find the means of legislating safely and soundly upon these questions let them do so, and he hoped that in any measure with that object the repeal of the Act of Charles II. would be included. He did not like obsolete laws upon the statute book. If they were able to devise any law which, without unduly interfering with the habits of the people, should insure a better observance of the Sunday they would be doing a great service to the country, but if they did not see their way clearly to that result they had better leave the question untouched. One noble Lord did not like sending the Bill to the House of Commons, because he did not think it would meet with a favourable reception there; and as he left the House on the previous evening he met a distinguished Member of the other House, who was not more remarkable for the deep religious feeling which he evinced in the attention which he paid to religious subjects as a Member of the Legislature than for the surer test afforded by a blameless life, and that Gentleman said to him, "I hope the Bill will never come into the House of Commons. It will never pass, but we shall have disagreeable and mischievous discussions upon it." Unless they believed the measure would pass the Legislature, he entreated their Lordships at once to stop its progress. They were not attempting to stem a torrent of irreligion or lax practice in the observance of the Sabbath through the length and breadth of the land, for it was notorious that the moral and religious feeling and good sense of the country—stronger in these matters than the Legislature—had been securing gradually but surely a greater degree of respect for the Sabbath in all parts of the country. They might depend upon it that the efforts of good men, and the progress of public opinion, would reach even those parts of the social system which were most impervious to such influence; but, at any rate, they might rest assured that they would do no good in tampering with the subject in the manner proposed by this Bill. Under all these circumstances, then, he felt it to be his duty to invite their Lordships to reject the measure by moving that it be read a third time that day six months.

An Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") And insert ("this day six months.")—(Lord Taunton.)


thought the supporters of the measure had scarcely been fairly treated in the course which had been taken with regard to it. The opposition to the second reading and the Committee was carried on by one noble Lord, who was unable even to find a teller, and now they found suddenly a great number of noble Lords entertaining an opinion which they might as well have expressed at an earlier stage.


said, the objection to the Bill which was founded on the argument that it would give to some extent a legislative sanction to Sunday trading, seemed to him to be rather strengthened than weakened by the alteration which it had undergone, inasmuch as under the provisions as it stood, any sort of traffic, however little called for it might be, would be rendered legal during the greater portion of the Sabbath. But he was so conscious of the evil which resulted from Sunday trading in some districts of the metropolis, that he should be willing to support some alteration in the hopes of finding, if not a remedy, at least an abatement of the evil. Under these circumstances, if the Motion for the third reading should be agreed to, he should move the insertion of words in the last clause confining its operation to London and the metropolitan districts.


thought the suggestion that the Bill should be confined at present to the metropolis was a wise one. They must all feel the extreme difficulty of legislation respecting the Sabbath—he himself was so strongly impressed with it that he should not have supported the Bill as it originally stood—but he would venture in all humility to throw out for their Lordships' consideration a suggestion on that subject. He asked whether it might not be possible to frame a Bill giving considerably extended powers to local authorities, for the purpose of mitigating, if not entirely stopping, the evils connected with the desecration of the Lord's Day. One of the results of that would be that local meetings would be held, and discussions take place, in which the grievances now suffered by many persons in that matter would be brought to light, and some satisfactory means of remedying them perhaps discovered and agreed upon. In that way the public mind in different parts of the country might be much better prepared for interference in that matter by the local bodies than it could be for the direct action of Parliament in the manner proposed by the present Bill.


said, the periodical cry for legislation to repress Sunday trading by legal penalties was a kind of intermittent fever which attacked the public mind from time to time. When those who were afflicted with that fever found that persons who were free from it would not comply with their wishes on that subject, the malady subsided for a while, but only to break out again at some future time. The noble and learned Lord who introduced the Bill (Lord Chelmsford) brought in a similar measure a few years ago, which fell through, and he had hoped that that result would have cured him of the malady for ever He need not remind their Lordships how it broke out in Southampton, and in the City of London, when Mr. Pearson was City solicitor; and it was no new thing, for it had raged at the beginning of the last century, 1703, when Bull was the Bishop of St. David's, at which time it extended into Carmarthenshire, and many thousands of poor persons suffered from it. If they allowed this Bill to pass, the number of persons brought to punishment would be greater than it was in those days. The penalties of the present Bill not being levelled against a thing that was naturally evil, but against a thing which one man might think very wrong, another only moderately wrong, and a third not wrong at all, they must expect that they would be enforced with varying degrees of severity or lenity, according to what might happen to be the personal opinions of individual magistrates in regard to the observance of the Sabbath. For a single offence a magistrate might fine, if he pleased, to the amount of 20s. If that offence were repeated he might fine to the extent of 40s., and might repeat that penalty of 40 s. for every act of selling done by the person brought up as a criminal to his bar. Particular magistrates, with strong Sabbatarian views, might inflict the full amount of these cumulative penalties; and it must be remembered that the sales being most numerous in articles of the smallest value, a poor person who dealt in articles whose price might be represented by the smallest coin of the realm, might be subject to penalties a hundred times greater than a person who sold a single article of larger value. He earnestly hoped that their Lordships would reject a Bill so harsh, so oppressive, and so grossly unjust.


said, he had listened with attention to the discussions upon that subject, and the impression they had left on his mind was that it was impossible to legislate with effect upon it. If this Bill were carried to a third reading, it might run the risk of defeat in another place, and might also lead to debates of a very delicate and embarrassing character, and that more harm than good would thus be done. With these convictions, he thought it would be better that they should stop where they were, and not agree to the Motion for the third reading.


said, that taking everything into consideration, and more especially the opposition the Bill was likely to encounter in the other House, it appeared to him that it would be better they should not proceed with it any further. He admitted that an evil existed, but he saw no practical mode of providing for its remedy.


said, he did not believe there was one of their Lordships who would not say it was desirable that shops should be closed on Sundays. The provisions of the Bill were very simple, and he saw no difficulty in carrying out the Bill with his Amendment. The provisions against Sunday trading were already carried out in the case of public-houses, and as the inhabitants of the metropolis had submitted to legislation on that subject, why should it be supposed they would not equally submit to the closing of shops for the same hours under this Bill? He did not believe there would be a great amount of trading in the afternoon under his Amendment. If the shops were closed at ten a.m., he believed they would not reopen after one o'clock, and there would not be the same amount of trading in the afternoon that there was now in the morning during the hours between ten and one. He was willing to accept the proposal of the noble Earl on the cross-benches (the Earl of Harrowby) that the Bill should be confined to the metropolis. It might be fairly tried there, for that was the chief seat of the evil, and if it worked well in the metropolis might be extended to other towns.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents 50; Not Contents 49: Majority 1.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Bill read 3a accordingly.

Cranworth, L. (L. Chan-cellor.) Clancarty, V. (E. Clan-carty.)
De Vesci, V.
Armagh, Archp.
Richmond, D. Ely, Bp.
Rutland, D. Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Abercorn, M. Lincoln, Bp.
Bristol, M. Oxford, Bp.
Lansdowne, M. Peterborough, Bp.
Ripon, Bp.
Bandon, E. St. Asaph, Bp.
Belmore, E.
Cadogan, E. Berners, L.
Donoaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queens-berry.) Blantyre, L.
Bolton, L.
Castlemaine, L,
Ducie, E. Feversham, L.
Fortescue, E. Heytesbury, L,
Graham, E. (D. Mont-rose.) Kilmaine, L.
Portman, L.
Grey, E. Ravenswortb, L.
Harrowby, E. [Teller.] Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Huntingdon, E. Sherborne, L.
Lucan, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Manvers, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Morton, E.
Nelson, E. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Russell, E.
Stradbroke, E. Stratheden, L.
Strange, E. (D. Athol.) Tredegar, L.
Verulam, E.
Cleveland, D, Powerscourt, V.
Stratford de Redcliffe.V.
Normanby, M. Sydney, V.
Abingdon, E. Abercromby, L.
Albemarle, E. Aveland, L.
Camperdown, E, Belper, L.
Carnarvon, E. Camoys, L.
Cathcart, E. Carew, L.
Chichester, E, Congleton, L.
Cowper, E. Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne.)
De Grey, E.
Devon, E. Digby, L.
Effingham, E. Foley, L.
Granville, E. Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)
Leven and Melville, E,
Minto, E. Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Morley, E.
Romney, E. Mont Eagle, L, (M. Sligo.)
Shaftesbury, E.
Spencer, E. Overstone, L.
Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)
Bolingbroke and St, John, V. Panmure, L. (E. Dal-housie.)
Eversley, V, Skene, L. (E.Fife.)
Halifax, V. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Hardinge, V, Taunton, L. [Teller.]
Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.) Teynham,L. [Teller.]
Wodehouse, L.
Lifford, V. Wrottesley, L.

rose to move the omission of the fourth clause, which re- quired the police to see that the provisions of the Bill were carried out. He could conceive nothing more mischievous to the interests of that great force than to require them to perform such a duty. It had been said by Lord Grey that the smoke nuisance would never have been put down if the police had not been actively engaged in carrying the law into effect. But their Lordships might search through the whole of the Acts of Parliament on the subject and they would not find a single clause which required that the police should take any steps whatever. On the contrary, great care was taken that the police should not interfere except by order of the Secretary of State when the local authorities neglected the performance of their duty. In his opinion, nothing could be more unwise than to enact that every policeman who saw a poor woman selling an orange after ten o'clock on Sunday morning, should take her for that offence before a magistrate.

An Amendment moved, to leave out Clause 4.—(Lord Portman.)


said, he was prepared to strike out of the clause the words which absolutely required the police to enforce the provisions of the Bill, and to accept in place of them words which would merely empower the police to interfere in that case under the instructions of their Chief Commissioner. That Amendment would perhaps meet the objection made by the noble Lord opposite to the clause as it stood.


inquired whether the noble Lord meant to preclude the police from acting at all? If the words were struck out, would it be the duty of the police to put the Act in force like any other Act?


said, it would.


said, the effect of retaining the clause amended in the way he had suggested would be that the police would act on the instruction of the authorities.


asked, whether there was in any other Bill a provision which specially directed the police to act.


said, he would be satisfied, provided the police were to carry the regulations into effect in the same manner as the regulations which affected public-houses.


said, his wish would he to postpone parting with the Bill for a fortnight that they might have an opportunity of considering that point. But his position was this—that there was no more need of requiring the police to carry out the law in this respect than in any other. Nothing could be wiser than the provisions under the Smoke Act, which said that the Secretary of State should have the power to require certain things to be done if he saw it necessary.


objected to the police, who usually acted under instructions, being specially required to take cognizance of breaches of the Act.


suggested the re-committal of the Bill.


said, that whatever the law was, it ought to be enforced, and the best persons to enforce it were the police. He certainly believed, until he was contradicted, that a change had been made in the Smoke Act by which the police were compelled to see it carried out. Was his noble Friend (Lord Portman) sure that there was not a clause in the Police Act which made it the business of the police to lay informations in all cases where the law was contravened? He believed the best course would be to adjourn the debate.


said, he had looked with care through the Police Act, and remembering past debates, could venture to say that the law was put in force by the order of the Secretary of State to the local authorities. The Commissioners of Police wished to prevent pressure on the individual policeman.


asked if there would be any objection to empower the Chief Commissioner of Police in any district to take steps for enforcing the Act?


said, that the objection was to the individual policeman being required to interfere. What seemed to him to be desirable was that the Commissioners of Police should give orders to their subordinates, and that the Secretary of State should give similar orders to the Commissioners of Police, so that the whole thing could be done regularly.

THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE moved the adjournment of the debate.


I have not taken any part in the discussion, but I must own I do think an adjournment absolutely necessary. It will not be consistent with the dignity and the respecta- bility of your Lordships' House to pass a clause the terms of which no Member of the House will know exactly. Therefore, I think the proposal to adjourn the debate to this day fortnight is one your Lordships cannot object to.

Debate adjourned to Friday the 1st of June next.