HC Deb 06 April 1843 vol 68 cc483-4
Mr. H. Johnstone

would ask his right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the question of which he had given notice. Her Majesty's Government had declared their opinion that the Church Courts in Scotland had the power, in considering the qualifications of presentees, to judge of their suitableness for the particular parishes to which they were presented; and unquestionably this had very generally, throughout Scotland, been understood to be the law. Within the last few days, however, an opinion of a different nature had been expressed by the highest legal authorities in England, who held that the Church Courts had no power to inquire into anything that does not relate to the literature, morals, and doctrine of a presentee. This was calculated to occasion the utmost doubt and anxiety in the minds of many conscientious members of the Church of Scotland, and greatly to aggravate all the difficulties and dangers which beset that Church at the present moment. He would, therefore, ask whether her Majesty's Government had it in contemplation to introduce any bill to do away with these doubts, and to secure to the Church of Scotland these powers, so essential to her peace and constitution?

Sir J. Graham

was anxious to give a distinct answer to the question, the importance of which he fully felt and fully admitted. He would state that he adhered to the exposition of the law relating to the settlement of ministers in Scotland as it was contained in the letter written by him to the Moderator of the General Assembly. That letter had the general assent of all his Colleagues whom he bad consulted upon the subject; and he had likewise taken the opinion of the Lord Advocate of Scotland with respect to the law. To the principles contained in that letter he still adhered; and he did not see anything since that letter was written, or since the debate which had lately taken place upon the subject, which could in any material way alter the circumstances. He was inclined to attend with great respect to the opinions expressed, even though in debate, by the noble and learned Lords in the other House, and he was still more disposed to admit the weight of the judgment which had been pronounced in the Auchterarder case. The obiter dicta in the other House were in accordance with the obiter dicta of the judgment. He considered, then, that the questions respecting the law were set at rest, and as to the judgment in the Auchterarder case, nothing was determined in the last resort except that the Veto Act was illegal. He repeated, therefore, that he and his Col leagues adhered to the opinions expressed in the letter respecting the induction of ministers into benefices, and as no alteration of circumstances had since taken place, there was no intention on the part of the Government to propose any legislative measure upon the subject at present, and he would assure the House that any legislative measure which her Majesty's Government might propose would be framed upon the principles set down in the letter. The Government would reserve to itself the right of judging as to the time and the opportunity of proposing any measure in the event of their thinking fit to do so; but he would again repeat, that any measure so brought forward, would be in strict conformity with the principles contained in the letter, and the obiter dicta of the Auchterarder case.

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