HC Deb 23 February 1843 vol 66 cc1157-8
Mr. Campbell,

seeing the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, begged to ask the question, of which he had given notice, respecting the Church of Scotland. Considering the extreme necessity of the case, and the anxiety felt on the subject, both within the House and out of it, be hoped that he should have as explicit an answer as possible. He wished to know whether her Majesty's Government intended to bring forward any measure regarding the Church of Scotland, and if so, whether the right hon. Baronet would submit the measure to the House in the course of the next week?

Sir J, Graham

felt very much obliged to his hon. Friend for having given him such explicit notice of the terms of the question he meant to put, and it was his earnest desire to give as explicit an answer to his hon. Friend as his sense of duty permitted. Since this question was last brought under the notice of the House, a most important decision had been pronounced by the Court of Session affecting the Church of Scotland, relative to the power of that church to subdivide parishes without the intervention of the civil power. That decision had been carried to the House of Lords, before which the question was now pending, and if affirmed by the Lords, it would interfere with the right claimed by the church to erect parishes quoad sacra. In such circumstances, it would not be becoming to contemplate the various contingencies which might arise, but there was a contingency which he thought he might contemplate that that judgment might be affirmed. Without presuming in the slightest degree to question that judgment, it was alleged that the execution of it would operate as a serious impediment to the means which the Church of Scotland possessed for extending itself to meet the growing wants of the people of Scotland, and also as an obstruction to Presbyterian spiritual discipline. If it should be found that judgment should be affirmed, and her Majesty's Government should think that such was likely to be the effect of the I judgment so affirmed, Government would not be indisposed to propose to Parliament legislation on the subject. Another branch of this subject which had been before under the notice of the House, was, what was called the question of non-intrusion. Since this subject was last mentioned in Parliament, the deliberate opinion of her Majesty's Government had been placed on record in a letter addressed by himself, on the part of the Government, to the moderator of the General Assembly. To the principles and opinions contained in that letter her Majesty's Government strictly adhered. Beyond the limits of those principles and those opinions, it was impossible for her Majesty's Government to propose any legislative measure; but his hon. Friend asked whether, in the course of next week, it was the intention of Ministers to bring forward any measure on the subject. He conceived that his hon. Friend distinctly limited his question to the motion about to be made by the right hon. Member for Perth, who proposed to refer the petition of the General Assembly, and their claim of right, to a committee of the whole House. The debate which would then arise would afford to her Majesty's Ministers the best opportunity of stating to the House the opinions they entertained on this most important question, respecting the limits of the civil and ecclesiastical authority in Scotland. For that opportunity he should reserve anything he might have to say on the subject, but he would state most explicitly that it was not his intention to ask leave of the House to bring in any measure on the subject.