HC Deb 28 February 1843 vol 67 cc18-21
Mr. Campbell

wished to ask a question of the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) respecting the Church of Scotland. If he understood the right hon. Baronet, he stated upon a former occasion that it was not the intention of the Government to propose any measure for the reconciliation of those differences in the Church of Scotland which pressed upon the attention of every person connected with that country. The explanation of the right hon. Baronet, however, was not quite clear, and he (Mr. Campbell) now wished to ask what were the fixed intentions of the Government on the subject?

Sir James Graham

thought, that his former explanation upon the subject had been sufficiently clear. In replying to the present question, he hoped he might be permitted to recal to the memory of the House, the answer that he gave on a former occasion, when he was questioned as to what course Government intended to pursue with respect to this subject. Upon that occasion he stated, that with regard to what was called the non-intrusion question, her Majesty's Government had no present intention whatever of introducing a measure upon that subject. But the hon. Member, in putting his question on Thursday last, had asked whether, if it were the intention of the Government to introduce any measure upon the subject of the Church of Scotland, they would do so within the next week, previous to the introduction of the motion of which notice had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth. Before he (Sir J. Graham) replied to that part of the question, he thought it necessary to allude to a very important decision which had recently taken place in the Court of Session in Scotland with respect to what were called quoad sacra parishes. He stated that the decision of the Court had been appealed from, that the appeal had not yet been heard, and that, pending its hearing and decision, he could not state what course her Majesty's Government might be induced to take. The decision of the Court of Session might be reversed, or might be remitted to the Court below for further consideration. In this state of things he did not think it necessary or expedient to make any positive declaration on the subject. But he had stated, that if the decision of the Court of Session were affirmed, and her Majesty's Ministers should be of opinion, that it would interfere with the extension of the Church of Scotland in spiritual matters, in that case they might deem it advisable to ask Parliament to legislate upon the subject. Further than that he did not deem it expedient to go on Thursday last; further than that he did not deem it expedient to go on the present occasion. He thought the answer most explicit, and he could not consent to carry it further. Having answered one question, perhaps he might be allowed to ask another. Seeing the hon. Member for Leith in his place, and believing that it was in the power of that hon. Gentleman to answer him, he begged to ask him a question in reference to a motion upon the subject of the Church of Scotland, of which notice had been given for Tuesday next, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth. His attention had been called to the terms of that motion, which were as vague and general as possible, namely, that the matters in dispute connected with the Church of Scotland should be referred to a committee of the whole House. Now, without presuming to offer any opinion as to the expediency of assenting to such a motion, he did not think that in a matter of such very high importance, it was unreasonable that he should ask the hon. Member for Leith, in the absence of the right hon. Member for Perth, to let him know, if the House should as a matter of form consent to go into committee, what was the precise object contemplated? Would it be intended to move resolutions? In that case the House ought to be made acquainted with them. If it were not intended to move resolutions, what, he begged to ask, was the course that the right hon. Member for Perth proposed to pursue?

Mr. Rutherford

regretted that his right hon. Friend the Member for Perth was not in his place to answer for himself. For his own part, he confessed, that he felt very much inclined, according to the custom of his country, to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question by putting another, and asking whether there would be any objection on the part of the Government to go into a committee of the whole House upon this subject, which was one of the very highest importance as regarded the tranquillity and well-being of Scotland. Perhaps the answer of his right hon. Friend the Member for Perth to the question now put by the right hon. Baronet, would be considerably influenced by knowing what were the intentions of the Government. With respect to the rest of the question, he (Mr. Rutherford) could only state that his right hon. Friend the Member for Perth would move the House to go into committee on Tuesday next; and if that motion were agreed to, he would then be prepared to state fully and distinctly what course he proposed to recommend. He could give no further explanation; could make no further answer upon the matter except this, that whatever practical course his right hon. Friend might recommend, or whatever resolutions he might move, he (Mr. Rutherford) believed he was authorised to say, that they certainly would not be founded upon, and certainly would not be in accordance with, the principles of the letter of the right hon. Baronet, which was understood to be the ultimatum of the Government upon the subject.

Lord John Russell

wished to know, as this very important question was about to come before the House, whether the House were in possession of any official correspondence upon the subject between the Secretary of State and the General Assembly. If there were any such correspondence in existence, he thought it most desirable that the House should be in possession of it.

Sir James Graham

said, that he had himself moved for the production of some papers connected with this subject, in addition to those which had been moved for by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth. The noble Lord might be assured that the Government would place the House in possession of all the information they could command upon the matter.

Subject at an end.

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