HL Deb 24 April 1967 vol 282 cc359-78

2.52 p.m.

Report of Amendments received (according to Order).

Clause 2: Prevention of payments' being made by public for watching competitive sports, &c., taking place between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m.

2.—(1) This section applies to a spectacle— (c) taking place in such circumstances that any part of the time occupied by it falls on Sunday between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m.

(2) If the occupier of any land permits it to be used on any occasion for enabling members of the public to enter on it for the purpose of watching thereon or therefrom a spectacle to which this section applies, he shall, if those persons or any of them make payment for the privilege of doing so (whether for the benefit of himself or another), be guilty of an offence.

EARL HOWE moved, in subsection (1)(c), to leave out "2 p.m." and to insert "12.30 p.m." The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving the first Amendment which stands in my name, I would say at the commencement that all my Amendments bear some relation to each other. I myself have laid emphasis on motor sport, which includes of course sport connected with motor-cycles, because of my family connections with and our knowledge of this particular sport, but I am sure that this matter also relates to various other types of sporting event, to which I daresay other noble Lords will be prepared to refer. The object of this Amendment is to alter the time of starting. It is designed to alter the requirement in the Bill that spectacles on Sunday at which charges are made for the admission of spectators should not commence before 2 p.m.

The proposed prohibition of the commencement of events before 2 p.m. would seriously prejudice the interests of many motor sporting clubs affiliated both to the R.A.C. and to the subsidiary organisation, the A.C.U., which controls motorcycle sports. Events connected with motor sport normally start at a very much earlier time. The sport now has a huge following, and I can only emphasise the fact that from what I have seen of motor sport in this country it has a following as great as, if not far greater than, any other sport one can name. It holds numerous events, far more than before the war, and is extremely popular both with competitors and spectators. It must be obvious to your Lordships that in winter it will get dark at a very early hour, and there is bound to be a serious restriction of the time available for motor sporting events on Sunday if this requirement of 2 o'clock starting time is not altered. Therefore, I move in Clause 2 that in place of "2 p.m." there should be inserted "12.30 p.m.". This, incidentally, would accord with the recommendations of the Crathorne Committee, in Chapter 9, paragraph 120, and as mentioned later in their Report.

I am fully aware of the fact that my noble friend Lord Chesham moved a similar Amendment during the Committee stage of this Bill, and that it received some opposition from certain noble Lords, on the ground that it would discourage more people from going to church on Sunday mornings and would interfere with the Sunday dinner, which quite naturally is considered to be an important family occasion. Notwithstanding this argument, it would seem desirable for this proposal to receive further consideration. Frankly, I personally feel that it is doubtful whether acceptance of this Amendment would have any major effect upon attendances at church on Sunday mornings or upon the occasion of Sunday dinner. Although I hope that the sponsors of the Bill will accept 12.30 p.m. as the starting time for permitted events, I am not so wedded to this particular time that I would not accept a compromise in order to satisfy conflicting interests, and would consider a time between 1 p.m. and 1.30 p.m. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 7, leave out ("2 p.m.") and insert ("12.30 p.m.")—(Earl Howe.)


My Lords, I should like to say a word or two in support of the noble Earl's Amendment. I belong to a motor club which for years has held its meetings on Sundays. It is a very well known hill climb, and no great objections have been made by the local residents. So far as I can see from the Bill as it stands, these hill climbs in the mornings will have to cease, and I cannot think that this is what my noble friend Lord Willis wants.


My Lords, I should like to intervene, quite briefly. While it is true that, on (the whole, the Churches regard this Bill with a certain amount of tolerance, and in some cases almost an enthusiasm, this is a very serious Amendment. In my judgment, if the Sunday morning service were imperilled by the Amendment, it would destroy that good will on the part of many Christian believers. I notice that the noble Earl, in moving his Amendment, used the words "notwithstanding the objections", but I was hopeful that he might then have gone on to say what he meant by "notwithstanding". However, he did not amplify this point, except to say that he did not feel it would make much difference.

I beg him to reconsider that position, because it would make all the difference. The time of 2 o'clock permits people to go to church, come home and have something to eat, and then, if they want to, set about their pleasures and pursuits in the afternoon. But if a time of 12.30, or even 1 o'clock, were substituted, I feel that it would effectively prevent a great many people from doing both; that is to say, going to church on Sunday morning and then watching some motor racing in the afternoon. If the noble Earl makes a particular plea for motor racing, I would make an even stronger plea for the thousands of people who look with some favour on this Bill, as I do, and as the Methodist Church has done; but we should be determined to resist the whole purpose of this Bill if it did in fact imperil Sunday morning, as I am sure the hour of 12.30 would most effectively do.


My Lords, I hope that this Amendment will not be accepted. I agree with the last speaker on the point that by moving to 12.30 we should be getting into the morning of Sunday. I thought that it was a wonderful thing that there could be any agreement in this country about entertainments on Sunday and that we should get new legislation to improve our present law. But if we begin in the Bill by saying that the time should be 2 p.m. and then we give way and say that it should be 12.30, I am quite certain that there will be a great deal of opposition in this country; and I am one who will oppose such a change. I thought that we made it quite clear at the start, as did the sponsor of the Bill, that we are dealing with entertainments on a Sunday afternoon. One may well say that 12.30 is the afternoon; and I agree that logically it is. But I also feel that this Amendment is cutting into that time.

Further, let us remember that it means that those who have to make preparations for their particular sport will be working practically from the middle of Sunday morning. People may say that, after all, they need not do it; people will probably say that it makes very little difference whether it is 12.30 or 2 o'clock. But I think it does, because, as I say, I felt that it was a wonderful thing that we could get as much agreement as we have done so far on this Bill. If we lose this opportunity, we shall all regret it.


My Lords, I wish to resist this Amendment, and I should like the House to resist it. As the noble Earl, Lord Howe, knows, I have a great deal of sympathy with the sport which he represents, and a great deal of interest in it; but one cannot please everybody, and to create a Bill on Sunday entertainment which would please everybody would be really to create a great hotchpotch and a mess. There is no magic about the time of 2 p.m., but it neatly divides off the morning from the afternoon and allows time for the Sunday lunch.

I cannot imagine, from what I have seen of motor sport and, particularly, of motor-cycle and motor scrambling, that anybody who had eaten a Sunday lunch would take part in it immediately afterwards. But that is as may be. I believe it would be quite wrong to cut back further the time of 2 p.m. The Bill has now been published and debated both publicly and in this House, as well as in the Commons and in the Press. The time of 2 p.m. has received general assent and agreement, and I think it would be a mistake to go back on it.

I would emphasise, for the benefit of my noble friend Lord Raglan, that nothing in this Bill will cut across amateur activities on Sunday. If hill climbing of the sort he mentioned is done by amateurs, even if a charge is made for them to be watched, it does not matter when it takes place; it can take place on a Sunday morning or a Sunday afternoon, just as it does now. But if it is entirely professional—and the Bill's criteria is that the participants must be paid as professionals and the people who watch them must pay for that privilege—then the Bill strictly lays it down that the event cannot start until 2 p.m. If there are circumstances which mean that the present practice may be altered as a result of the Bill, then I regret it; but it is the case that one cannot please everybody.


My Lords, may I say one word in support of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, on this point? Many of us do not like all of the Bill, as I shall say on the next Amendment, but we want to see it go through. It is perfectly true that the Crathorne Committee recommended the hour of 12.30 p.m., but what I think is important is that when the Report of the Crathorne Committee was debated both Houses of Parliament wanted 2 o'clock. It would be very unwise to alter the time of 2 o'clock because the Bill has still to go through another House and many of us do not like 12.30, a point that was obviously agreed upon in both debates.


My Lords, I am naturally very sorry that that view has been taken, and a large number of people are going to be most disappointed. I suppose one might say that we shall have to wait until we get into the Common Market. If we do go in, we might then follow the Continental method of holding motor races only on Sundays. That seems to be the one chance. Bearing in mind all that has been said, I do not want to upset the apple-cart completely, but I stress the fact that I think it is a mistake not to permit an earlier starting time for these sporting events. Tremendous disappointment will be caused to a very large number of people—promoters, spectators and competitors. I shall have to consult my advisers on this matter, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.4 p.m.

EARL HOWE moved, in subsection (2), after "them" to insert "are required to". The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to ensure that the proposed amendment of the law to permit charges to be made for ad- mission to spectacles on Sundays will not make the legal requirements in some respects more restrictive than at present. As I understand it, under the existing law it is not an offence to accept voluntary contributions from spectators, to make charges for programmes, to pass the hat round at a meeting of this kind, or to accept voluntary contributions in respect of the use of car parks, if such arrangements do not impose conditions relating to entry on to the land to watch the spectacle.

It would seem possible, however, that some arrangements might be illegal in respect of events which would not comply with the requirements of the Bill, if it should be passed in its present form. The proposed Amendment will ensure that this would not be so, and that it will be an offence only if the occupier of the land requires—and I use the word "requires" with emphasis—spectators to make payments for the privilege of entering to watch the spectacle. I feel that the courts might have a different interpretation from the sponsors of the Bill and, therefore, the insertion of "are required to" after "them" would make the position abundantly clear. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 12, after ("them") insert ("are required to").—(Earl Howe.)


My Lords, this Amendment is similar to one which was considered in Committee on the Bill, when assurances were given by my noble friend Lord Willis and by my noble friend the Leader of the House, but perhaps the noble Earl would like to have those assurances repeated. The effect of the Amendment, as the noble Earl explained, would be to expand the formula for, as it were, identifying an offence under Clause 2 relating to admission charges. Therefore, if the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted, the decision would turn upon whether any persons were required to make payment for the privilege of watching, instead of on whether they simply made payment.

The noble Earl made it clear that what he was concerned about was the present position. But where a match is, perhaps for charity, and where a charge is made for programmes or something of that kind, or even for a chair inside, it would not be affected by the provisions of the Bill. I can give him that firm assurance. The reason is that it is implicit in the concept of paying for a privilege that the privilege could not be enjoyed unless a payment was made. In the kind of cases with which the noble Earl is concerned, someone can come in and can stay and watch the event without paying. It is up to him whether he voluntarily pays for a programme, or something of that kind. I can assure the noble Earl that the form of words now in the Bill makes it clear that Clause 2 applies only to those payments which the spectator has to make in order to watch the event. I have to tell him, therefore, that the words he proposes to add are quite unnecessary, and that the purpose which he wishes to achieve by the Amendment is already achieved in the Bill.


My Lords, I have nothing to add to what my noble friend Lord Stonham has said in his very clear explanation. I should just like to say something which I ought to have said before; that is, how much I welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Stonham is now back with us on this Bill after his illness. I hope that the explanation my noble friend has given will satisfy the noble Earl.


My Lords, I am most grateful for the noble Lord's courtesy. To quote what my noble friend Lord Chesham said, I now feel doubly assured. I should like to have it in writing but, nevertheless, I have the noble Lord's assurance. I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.10 p.m.

EARL HOWE moved to add to the clause: Provided that no occupier of any land shall be guilty of such an offence if he permits it to be used for enabling members of the public to enter on it on Sunday between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. for the purpose of watching thereon or therefrom a spectacle to which this section does not apply, whether or not those persons or any of them make payment for the privilege of doing so.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it appears to me that, with this Amendment, it would be made clear that before 2 p.m. —again this time arises—members of the public may be permitted to enter on to land on which an event commencing after 2 p.m. will take place on a Sunday, whether practising is then in operation or not, and may be charged for admission at such a time, even though they may be able to watch practising in operation. It is desirable, especially where necessary in order to avoid serious traffic congestion on public highways, that spectators attending a motor sporting event should not all arrive shortly before the event commences. Motor sport, as I have already mentioned in connection with a previous Amendment, has great spectator appeal, and thousands flock to the Sunday events. Surely we do not want to take up the valuable time of our police officers and increase the already heavy Sunday traffic jams, especially since many of these events take place adjacent to our principal roads. With those brief remarks, I beg to move the Amendment to insert this proviso.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 13, at end insert the said proviso.—(Earl Howe).


My Lords, here again, I am able to reassure the noble Earl on the point that he has raised. The spectacles to which his Amendment relates are those which take place after 2 p.m.—that is, those to which this clause does not apply, as he has made clear by the words in his Amendment. He wishes to authorise any person who has planned to watch an afternoon sporting event—an event beginning at 2 p.m. or later—to be able to pay his money and enter the grounds before 2 o'clock, before the time when the event is allowed to begin. I am happy to tell him that his Amendment is superfluous, because there is nothing in the Bill to prevent what he is asking for. What is prohibited is for the charge to relate to a spectacle that itself starts before 2 p.m. That, of course, would be one to which this clause would apply.

The noble Earl referred to practising, and he is concerned, quite rightly, that the occupier of land should be able to allow people who have paid their entrance money for an afternoon event—and I agree with him that if it is going to start at 2 o'clock one can expect the spectators to be coming along before that time; some of them well before that time—to enter the ground in the morning and watch competitors go round the course; for instance, in his own field, the practice laps which are run at Brands Hatch on Sunday mornings. This might be held to constitute an offence under subsection (2), but I have to tell him that that no such risk would arise unless the practising by the competitors was of such a character and was so organised as to constitute a spectacle designed for the entertainment of members of the public. Certainly young men warming up their machines in practice laps round the course, cricketers practising at the nets or happenings of that kind would not cause any trouble.

The mere fact that an admission fee has been paid to watch the afternoon spectacle, though the spectators came in earlier, would not invalidate the position. It would only be if there were, as it were, spectator trials run as a separate event in the morning for the attraction of spectators that any difficulty would arise; but, as the noble Earl has made clear, that is not his concern. Again I have to tell him that the Bill already fulfils what he wants to be fulfilled and that his Amendment is therefore not necessary.


My Lords, once again I should like to thank the noble Lord. I am sorry; does the sponsor of the Bill wish to speak?


No, my Lords.


So far as I am concerned, that, again, gives me some assurance. I suppose the noble Lord realises that practising for a motor event or for a motor-cycle event might involve the competitors in putting up times sufficiently fast to achieve a good place on the starting grid. It is not a race; it is purely practising, as the noble Lord suggested in the case of cricketers at the nets. Bearing that in mind, and after what the noble Lord has said, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.


My Lords, may I just reply to that point? We are here concerned with a spectacle designed for the public and not with whether men are warming up their machines, or whether a mechanic is working on them, or something of that kind.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

EARL HOWE moved, after subsection (2), to add as a new subsection: ( ) Nothing in this section shall make it illegal for the occupier of any land to permit it to be used on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. for practising in preparation for a spectacle—

  1. (a) designed for the entertainment of members of the public
  2. (b) consisting in a competition in a sport or game or a demonstration of prowess in a sport or game; and
  3. (c) taking place in such circumstances that no part of the time occupied by it falls on Sunday between 2 a.m. and 2 p.m."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I feel rather like a jack-in-the-box, springing to my feet every now and again, but it is rather important to get assurance on some of these points, as there are many people and organisations involved. I shall be brief. This Amendment is designed to make it clear that the proposals in the Bill will not make it illegal for practising to take place before 2 p.m. on Sunday in preparation for an event which will commence after 2 p.m. It is essential that clubs affiliated to the R.A.C. and the A.C.U., the Auto Cycle Union, when arranging motor sporting events should be able to permit practising before the events commence. Without this essential practising, competitors and spectators would be put into a position of unnecessary danger. In fact, it would be quite impossible to stage the event at 2 o'clock. Throughout these Amendments I have laid emphasis, as I have said, on one sport, but it obviously involves other sports. I should be grateful for an answer, and if it is satisfactory I will again, of course, withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 13, at end insert the said new subsection.—(Earl Howe.)


My Lords, I can at once give the noble Earl the assurance for which he has asked. The provisions in the Bill dealing with the kind of sporting events which will be permitted under the Bill after 2 p.m. will also permit practice in the mornings without risk of attracting to the occupier of the land the penalties under subsection (2). There is absolutely nothing in the Bill which would make it illegal to do any of the things described in the noble Earl's Amendments. The Bill is not concerned with the status or intentions of the participants in spectator sport or demonstrations with prizes but with whether or not the public is charged to watch them; and the public will be charged to watch the events which would properly take place in the afternoon. We are not concerned at all with the practising in the morning.


In view of what has been said, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.18 p.m.

THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:

Application of section 2 to certain games etc. watched by the public taking place between 2 p.m. and midnight.

" .—(1) The provisions of section 2 of this Act shall apply to any spectacle as defined by the next following subsection which falls within subsection (1)(a) and (b) of the said section 2 and which takes place in such circumstances that any part of the time occupied by it falls on Sunday between 2 p.m. and midnight.

(2) In this section 'spectacle' means any game of Association Football or Rugby Foot ball played internationally or by professionals or any cricket Test Match or any additional spectacle specified by an order made under the next following subsection.

(3) The Secretary of State may by order specify additional spectacles or classes of spectacles to which this section shall apply.

(4) An order made under the last foregoing subsection shall not come into force until it has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(5) Power to make an order under this section includes power to vary or revoke any such order."

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I should like first to express my sincere gratitude to a number of people who have taken part in the process of its formulation although not necessarily agreeing with its purpose. First among those I would put the noble Lord, Lord Willis, who tried very hard to see whether common ground could be established between us. Then there are the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who gave a great deal of time to assisting us in the formulation of our Amendment; Her Majesty's Ministers at the Home Office; and, of course, my co-mover, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent.

That does not mean that I can give universal approval to everything that has happened in the course of these negotiations. I was disappointed that the Home Office, through the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, made it quite clear at an early stage that they were not willing to accept the responsibility of deciding what events could or could not be allowed after 2 p.m. The Home Office seemed to me to be excessively cautious, even to the extent of being pusillanimous, in this matter. I should have thought the Home Secretary had to decide many more important and serious matters than whether certain games could or could not be played. However, one can understand how a Minister's mind works. I know nothing about the mind of the present Secretary of State; but one can imagine that, in view of his interests (he had the picture of being a great libertarian Home Secretary; instead, he has had to give an enormous amount of time to trying to get prison doors safely barred, and drugs removed from those whom they would harm), he was determined that he was not going to have another unpleasant task thrust upon him; namely, the putting into force of any remaining vestigial Sabbatarian laws. And one can understand that attitude. However, what the Home Office could not face has now been left to us to face, and I am certain that your Lordships will not be affected by this spirit and will be willing to face up to any responsibilities that fall upon you.

Another aspect of the matter which surprised me—and puzzled me a little—was the fact that in the official notices circulated to your Lordships over the franking signature of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I found what was nothing less than a canvassing notice over the signature of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, asking, first of all, for support against the Amendment which I have it in mind to propose. It was addressed, "Dear Colleague". I do not quite know the meaning of that. I am glad to recognise myself as a colleague in the House of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I am willing even to be called "comrade", if necessary, but I was not so pleased to see in the letter a description of myself and the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, as "opponents of the Bill". Quite apart from the morality of sending out notices at Government expense, another question arises of whether we have been rightly described.


In view of the fact that the right reverend Prelate mentioned my name, I think I should explain the position. It has been the practice for some time—for as long as I can remember—that if a noble Lord wishes to seek support by letter for Private Members' legislation, the envelope of the Government Whip has been used to transmit such letter to Members of the House. But this certainly does not mean that I, or the Government, are in any way involved in the contents of such letters.


May I intervene? The noble Lord said that it has been the practice "for some time". I think this has occurred only since the present Government came into office.


If it has been the practice, it should be discontinued immediately.


I do not want to make unduly heavy weather of this point. All I would say is that if I had known that a similar privilege was open to me I would gladly have sent a note balancing that of the noble Lord.

Having got those few details out of the way, I must hurry to the substance of the Amendment, and I am afraid I must weary the Committee by reminding your Lordships once more of the way in which this whole matter has developed. When this was discussed under the terms of the Crathorne Report, it was discussed in terms of "professional sport" and "amateur sport". It was felt at that time that such a distinction would suffice. Now, I think, experience has shown us that in practice it will not. In fact, the matter has polarised to this: that practically nothing is allowed before 2 p.m. and everything is allowed after 2 p.m.

The question that has gradually clarified in the minds of some of us is that if one makes a distinction as simple and clear as that, one begins to imperil what was at one time agreed by almost everybody who considered this matter; namely, that Sunday should be, in some sense, a different day. And if one thinks for a little, one can see that it would not be so very different a day—in fact, hardly a different day at all—if, shall we say, the Cup Final were played on a Sunday afternoon; for it has never been played in the morning, so far as I know. It would simply mean that in this respect Sunday was exactly like every other day.

So we have been trying—and in this Amendment have expressed our views—to find a form of words which would still make a distinction between Sunday, even after 2 p.m., and the rest of the week. The reason for that I will not enlarge upon now; but I may say that in my mind going to church has nothing whatever to do with it. Personally, I do not want to get one single person into church by force of the law; that is the last thing in my mind. What we are concerned with is the social values that have gathered round the English Sunday. Nobody thinks these social values are entirely positive or that the present state of the law is satisfactory. We are in favour of a very widespread, far-reaching reform of the law. But, in our view, there is still something worth preserving, and what we have tried to preserve is the absence from Sunday of really large-scale national sporting events. That is really the substance of subsection (2) of my new clause.

It has not been easy to define, but we have endeavoured by this Amendment to rule out large-scale professional football—not because it is professional but simply because professional football has that kind of national status and kudos that we think is best kept out of the way on Sunday. We have not ruled out county cricket. If my eyes do not deceive me, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is wearing a Kent County Cricket Club tie—a tie that I myself am proud to wear at times. I have come to the conclusion—not with the agreement of all my friends and colleagues in the Church—that no great harm is done, and perhaps even some good, by some quiet games of county cricket on a Sunday. They are not ruled out.

I noticed that one newspaper, in defining our purpose, said that we were trying to rule out "Test and other cricket". The phrase "other cricket" was put in by the newspaper or by its informant, but not by me. I accept the fact that county cricket has come; and is likely to stay, at any rate in some counties, until county cricketers themselves tire of it. But I think that a great Test Match at the Oval, such as the climax of a series between ourselves and Australia, is something quite different from an ordinary county cricket match. So we have tried to describe the events which would not be allowed even after 2 p.m. We have allowed the Secretary of State to define other spectacles—if he is willing to do so, and provided that Parliament agrees—but whether or not he would ever wish to exercise that power is not for us to say.

I am not suggesting that this Amendment is entirely tidy and absolutely logical. It is empirical; it is an attempt to preserve something that we think is still worth preserving. I have just come back from a post-Easter cruise and holiday in comparatively distant parts of the world. I have been in countries where the customs governing Sunday observance are entirely different from our own, particularly in the land of Israel (where, of course, our Sunday is a perfectly ordinary working day) and in other countries where the so-called Continental Sunday fits the pattern. All these traditions can play their part in the historic circumstances of the nations where they prevail.


My Lords, I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate would inform us what happens in Israel on the Sabbath, on Saturday, and what happens in Mohammedan countries on a Friday, so that we may have a real comparison.


My Lords, I cannot say what happens in Mohammedan countries on Friday, except that I noticed that the children were all away from school. That is the only thing I can contribute on that particular question. On the first question, my reply is that the Sabbath in Israel is observed, although I cannot say in exactly what particulars. The shops are shut and there is no public transport—in fact it is very much like an old-fashioned Scottish Sunday, if I am not entirely unjust in so describing it. If I may I will leave that little oral examination and go on to the main conclusion.

We are trying to preserve something of what we believe has helped to make England what it is. The test is whether or not we are confident in ourselves, confident in what we have become, and confident in those causes that have contributed to our national character. It is simply to express that remaining part of faith in the English Sunday (if I may use the word "English" for a moment, because it is in common use) that I ask your Lordships favourably to consider the Amendment which I now move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(The Lord Bishop of Leicester.)


My Lords, I hope it may be helpful if I intervene at once to state the Government's viewpoint on the Amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. I was most grateful to him for his kind reference to the helpful work of the Home Office in this matter, although I thought it was somewhat of a fall from grace when, after that reference (and, indeed, after we had done our utmost to try to meet the position), the right reverend Prelate said that our attitude was "cautious to the point of pusillanimity." But we will pass that over.

I would remind your Lordships of what was said by my noble Leader on Second Reading about the Government's neutral attitude to this Bill on questions of Sunday entertainment. When it was a question of principle (as in the first Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, about whether prohibition should start at 12.30 or 2 p.m.), your Lordships may have noticed that I did not intervene. But it is my duty, on behalf of the Government and indeed I hope on behalf of your Lordships' House, to state clearly if in our view an Amendment is impracticable or unworkable, as we think is clearly the case with the present Amendment. Its effect is to prohibit certain sports which the public have to pay to watch from being played on Sunday afternoons: first, professional soccer and Rugby League matches and any soccer or Rugby international matches; secondly, Test cricket matches, and thirdly, any sporting event or classes of event falling within the framework of the proposed new clause that the Secretary of State may choose to specify.

May I take the specific prohibition first? It is entirely for your Lordships' House to decide on merits whether it agrees with the selection of cricket and football which has been made by the sponsors of the Amendment. The right reverend Prelate mentioned that this Amendment, in his view, was necessary in the interests of those things upon which the nation had been built. Obviously, in the view of the sponsors of the Amendment, and in the view of the right reverend Prelate, it would be damaging, as it were, to the national spirit if these football matches and cricket Test matches took place on a Sunday afternoon, but not, apparently, if an ordinary county cricket match was played.

My Lords, you also have to decide (and I think this is most important of all) whether it is satisfactory that these two exceptions to the general rule on Sunday afternoons should be arbitrarily listed, without any reference to any principle of selection; and also whether it is right that, in so far as a general criterion like professionalism has been applied, it should be applied to only one of the two prohibited sports; that it is all right for professionals to play Sunday cricket, but not all right for professionals to play Sunday football. These, my Lords, are matters for you to decide. So far as drafting is concerned, no particular administrative difficulties will arise, in our view, over the reference to specific sports. There is only one kind of Association football; Rugby football would apply to both Rugby Union and League. I have no doubt that this was intended, though I am not aware that there are any professionals in Rugby Union.


My Lords, there are, of course, international matches in Rugby Union.


That brings me to a point which I was proposing to come to later. The inference from the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is that the players might be mixed: some might be amateurs in international matches and some might be professionals. There is only one series of cricket matches that anyone describes as "Test matches" and there is no difficulty there. "Played internationally" means, presumably, where the teams represent different countries. Although, of course, it could be argued that Wales is not a separate country for this purpose, it seems unlikely that the courts would take that view in this context. But would a Rugby Union match played on Sunday between, say, a team from New Zealand or Australia and the Barbarians, a club side, be counted as an international match? It would certainly attract a large crowd. Is it proposed that that should be caught by the provisions in this clause or not?

Then difficulties could arise over the formula "played … by professionals" mentioned in the clause, even if it is here applied only to football, where the no-man's-land of "shamateurism" does not exist to anything like the extent that it does in some other fields of sport. For example, we heard recently, on what was presumably good authority, that some tennis amateurs get as much as £400 a week. They would attract large crowds on a Sunday, but presumably that is regarded as being all right. Each sport has its own code of practice regarding what makes a player count as a professional, and the codes are not by any means necessarily identical, even, for instance, as between Rugby Union and Rugby League, as every sport enforces its own code with equal strictness. In many sports, as we are all aware, many prominent amateurs have no visible means of support except that normally they are employed by business houses connected with sport. In the circumstances the courts might find some difficulty in deciding, on the basis of the conflicting criteria, what constitutes a professional, and the courts would have to decide for themselves. Fortunately, the results would no doubt demonstrate the robust common sense of the Bench in determining the point at which a man could be said to have taken up sport as his profession.

But the judgment of the courts would not necessarily match his amateur or professional status in the sport itself, which means that a spectacle billed as between amateurs could, on being tested in the courts, prove to have been between professionals. This would place the proprietor of the land on which the event was watched in a very invidious and difficult position. For it is on him that the penalties fall, and yet he may not be in a position to know whether an offence would be committed if he were to charge for admission. In the case of Association football there is an added difficulty, in that matches are on occasion played with mixed teams, including both amateurs and professionals. It is not clear whether or not that case would be caught.

I have so far dealt with the specified exclusions under subsections (1) and (2), and these are by no means small difficulties. In many cases, we could not be certain until they had been decided in the courts, which is not, I submit, a desirable position when we are framing legislation. But the greatest difficulties, from the Government's viewpoint, arise on subsection (3) of the proposed new clause. The effect of this provision is to give the Secretary of State unfettered discretion (subject only to the Affirmative Resolution procedure) to add whatever he likes to the list of prohibited sporting events set out in subsection (2). The only limitation on his power is that the events to be prohibited must fall within the general scope of the proposed new clause; that is, they must be spectator sports. But subsection (3), which we are now asked to accept, gives my right honourable friend the Home Secretary no sort of indication of the principles which should govern his choice. Nor is any such principle deducible from examination of the range of sport already prohibited under subsection (2).

The right reverend Prelate referred to the fact—and it is quite true—that my right honourable friend has to make very grave and difficult decisions almost every day. But those decisions are based on legislation and on principles laid down by Parliament, whereas in this proposed subsection no principles whatever are laid down for the guidance of my right honourable friend. There are many precedents for giving Ministers power to exercise their discretion in carrying out in detail the declared intentions of Parliament as set out in principles of general application incorporated in the Statute. But there is no precedent whatever for conferring powers of legislation upon a Minister without an indication of the purpose to which that legislation is to be directed. That is what we are asked to accept in subsection (3). In other words, we are seriously being asked to give a Minister carte blanche to interpret the unknown will of Parliament in subordinate legislation.

It will be argued—I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will argue this—that the new clause proposes that this subordinate legislation would be subject to Affirmative Resolution procedure in both Houses. But this does not mend matters at all. For if the Act does not indicate what subsection (3) is supposed to be aimed at, in considering an Affirmative Resolution the House will hardly be in a position to judge either, unless on every one we resume the debates which Parliament in the passage of the Bill is concerned to resolve. Moreover, the Home Secretary has no guidance on the spectacles that he should allow in, or those against which he should lay Orders.

To sum up—and this is, I think, unanswerable—if the House itself cannot decide on a principle of general application to be incorporated in the Bill to determine what kinds of events should, exceptionally, be forbidden on Sunday afternoons, your Lordships should not seek to place this responsibility on a Minister. This is not a responsibility that any Minister should be asked to accept, and I trust that your Lordships will agree that it would not be proper for him to do so.