HC Deb 13 February 1865 vol 177 cc210-2

Order for Second Reading read.


said, this Bill having been repeatedly discussed, he introduced it—acting upon the recommendation which had been made to him by one or two Gentlemen for whose opinions he had the highest respect—with a view to its being referred to a Select Committee, and on the understanding that that course was to be adopted, he moved that the Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Mr. Hadfield.)


said, he did not propose to interfere with the understanding referred to by the hon. Member for Sheffield, as existing in the House; but he thought it necessary, having six times opposed the passing of this Bill, and it passed the House by a majority of only two last Session, to beg the House to allow him to state distinctly that his objection to the principle of the Bill remained totally unabated. The hon. Member was a very skilled and successful blockade-runner up to a certain point. He had six times, by dexterous management, induced that House to allow the Bill to go to the House of Lords, and six times it had been rejected by that House. Perhaps the House would allow him to refer to the substance of this Bill. In 1828, when the Test and Corporation Acts were repealed, it was enacted that members of the municipal corporations, and the high officers of State, as well as other officials, should make a declaration that they would use no power accruing to them, and no influence accruing to them by virtue of their office, for the purpose of attacking the Church of England, or dispossessing the bishops or clergy, or the Church as a corporation, of the property or rights to which they were entitled by law. Nothing could be more reasonable than that declaration, because so long as the Church continued united to the State, it was but reasonable that the powers of the State should not be used to the detriment of the Church, or of the property or rights guaranteed to her by the State; but to this declaration the hon. Member for Sheffield, and those who went with him, objected, on the part of certain persons who professed that they did not desire to attack the Church in any way. It never seemed reasonable to the other House to relieve Gentlemen of the necessity of making a declaration that they would not do that which they professed they had no intention of doing. He was aware that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) had pointed out that although the great officers of State, and many of the officials of the Government, were compelled by law to make this declaration, they did not make it, but he omitted the fact that the lapses in this respect are not unreasonably covered by the Indemnity Act. For what was the truth? The oaths taken by them on entering office were to the same purport as the declaration; and, therefore, if those officials did not make the declaration, the oaths which they had taken were sufficient, effecting the same purpose, and the omission of the declaration was covered by the Indemnity Act. But in the case of the members and officers of corporations no such oaths were taken to prevent a collision between the powers of the State and the rights of the Church; the two cases were not parallel, and, therefore, Lord John Russell in 1828, with the concurrence of the late Sir Robert Peel, retained this declaration, the substance of which was recognised by the Act of 1829 for the removal of the Roman Catholic disabilities; again in the act touching Moravians and Quakers; and again in the act by which Jewish Members assumed their seats in that House. This, therefore, was a fundamental compact, renewed up to a period within six years of the present time. He jointed out these facts to show that the House was about to delegate to a Select Committee the consideration of one of the gravest principles which could be brought under the cognizance of the House, or to which its attention could be drawn. Having pointed these circumstances out as a reason for guarding himself from being supposed in any way to have relaxed his objections or his opposition to the principle of the Bill, he thanked the House for allowing him to make this statement.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2° and committed to a Select Committee.

And on March 1, Select Committee no-minated, as follows:— Mr. HADFIELD, Mr. PEEL, Mr. L. KING, Sir JOHN TRELAWNY, Mr. W. E. FORSTER, Mr. BRIGHT, Mr. REMINGTON MILLS, Mr. BAINES, Lord ROBERT MONTAGU, Sir BROOK BRIDGES, Mr. EDWARD EGERTON, Mr. SCLATER-BOOTH, Mr. MOWBRAY, Mr. R. LONG, and Mr. F. S. POWELL:—Five to be the quorum.

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