HC Deb 21 June 1865 vol 180 cc608-16

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, that he had introduced the measure at a much earlier period of the Session, but this was the first opportunity that had presented itself of moving the second reading. The measure dealt expressly with institutions connected with the Church of England, and Nonconformists were not intended in any way to be affected by its provisions. If it could be shown that their interests were touched in any way by the Bill, he would most willingly consent to any alteration of the measure that would remove all doubts on that point. A Bill was introduced last Session to afford facilities for Divine service in collegiate schools; but the measure now proposed was much larger in its scope, and much more satisfactory. Under the parochial system, as at present existing, it was impossible for any clergyman to perform Divine service in any part of a parish without the consent of the incumbent; and hence it followed that the incumbent had the option of prohibiting the performance of Divine service in any insti- tution within that parish. The possible mischiefs which the Bill was intended to remedy-had not occurred in many places, though in some quarters they had arisen; and it was most desirable that Parliament should interfere before they became at all serious. Nobody who was at all conversant with the discipline and management of such schools as Harrow, Rugby, or of the proprietary colleges formed in different parts of England, could deny that it was desirable for them to have chaplains of their own, unfettered by the responsibilities resting on those charged with the spiritual superintendence of the parish. The experience of the late Dr. Arnold abundantly established how valuable an adjunct the private chapel was to the beneficial influences of the school; and his view bad been confirmed by that of almost every other head master. There were institutions also, besides schools, such as almshouses, penitentiaries, and others of a charitable nature, to which similar considerations applied; and of those, therefore, cognizance was taken by the present Bill, which proposed, instead of leaving the chaplain subject to the authority or caprice of the incumbent of the parish, to place him directly under the | jurisdiction of the bishop of the diocese, to whom, and to whom alone, he would then be responsible. For the parochial system he entertained the deepest respect, and he never would do anything to weaken the practical working of the system; but the Bill, so far from interfering with the system, only legitimately extended it. All this Bill contemplated, as the House would see, was that institutions of the nature indicated, when a chapel connected with them was licensed, should be withdrawn from the parochial authority, and made, as it were, an ecclesiastical district under the immediate jurisdiction of the bishop. The Church Building Acts contained a provision authorizing, under certain circumstances, a district to be formed even without the consent of the incumbent. That, however, was an extreme course, which he did not propose to adopt. His proposal was that when the trustees of an existing institution applied to the bishop, stating the nature of the institution and the circumstances under which the chaplain was to he appointed, the bishop, if he thought fit, and not otherwise, might issue his licence, whereupon for all the purposes mentioned in Clause 3; namely, the cure of souls within the institution, the sole right of preaching, performing Divine ser- vice, and administering the Holy Communion—the institution would become an ecclesiastical district. He had received many communications from heads of Colleges and others in positions of authority in favour of this Bill; and the advantages of putting an end to the uncertainty entailed by changes of incumbents must he obvious, bearing in mind that though one incumbent might consent to the performance of Divine service in an institution within the parish, his opinions were in no way binding on his successor.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Lygon.)


in moving an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months, said, the speech of the hon. Gentleman had not satisfied him that the Bill ought to receive the sanction of the House. He admitted that the provisions of the present Bill were different from those of last year, but the object appeared to be the same—namely, that these schools should be under the control of bishops of the Church of England. The classical and mathematical education given in many of these schools was open to pupils of all persuasions; but if they were compelled to attend religious service on the Lord's Day the children of Dissenters would be deprived of the advantage of attending these schools. In many of these schools the boys were not sufficient to form a congregation, and it would be very hard to deprive the master of the opportunity he now enjoyed of assisting clergymen in the neighbourhood in the performance of Divine service. In the greater portion of these schools the pupils lived in the town with their parents, and it was the duty of the parents to take them to their own places of worship. Nor could he see the advantage of compelling the children to attend a chapel in or connected with the school, with all its associations of the rod and tasks, &c. The Bill placed these chapels under the superintendence of the bishops, yet they were told that the bishops were overworked, and that a dozen new bishops would not be too many. A Commission bad recently-been appointed to inquire into these endowed schools, and it would be quite time to consider this subject when Parliament was called upon to legislate in regard to these schools. No one had petitioned for the Bill, and he begged to move, that it be read a second time that day three months.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Remington Mills.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that as his name was on the back of the Bill he should like to state the views which had induced him to place it in so prominent a position. It appeared to him that his hon. Friend who had charge of this Bill, and the hon. Gentleman who opposed the second reading (Mr. Remington Mills), were acting on different grounds. So far as he was concerned, he had never contemplated the schools to which the hon. Member had just alluded. He considered this Bill as a prospective rather than a retrospective measure. He happened to know that a measure of this kind was required on principles of justice. It was well known that there was a great want at the present day of large public schools for the education of a class of persons who could not afford the expense of going to the large old educational establishments. Many benevolent persons had combined to establish schools of that character. Acting upon the denominational principle, which was the governing principle of education in England, they wished to connect their school with the religious denomination to which they belonged, and in the case contemplated by this Bill that denomination happened to be the Church of England. Take the case of persons wishing to found schools for 400 or 500 boys upon some site not within or near a town. They thought a country site best for the health of the boys; they bought the land cheap in a rural district and they founded a large institution. But the moment they began to build a chapel, or to provide for the religious services of the institution, the clergyman of the parish might step in, and control and upset their arrangements. He believed that the Wellington College was one of the most important institutions founded in modern times; yet the clergyman of the parish in which it was situated had the right to step in and interfere with the religious arrangements of the College. He, for one, did not desire to interfere with the status quo of the old endowed schools of the country, nor with the various interests which had grown up around them. But with respect to schools of the kind to which he had alluded, he thought that the circumstances of the case called for legislation; and, as his hon. Friend had justly pointed out, although it was possible that the particular incumbent of the parish might work harmoniously with the chaplain or master of these institutions, yet it was equally possible that his successor might hold different views and might raise formal objections to the religious services of the institution. It was essentially necessary that some provision for the religious services of such large schools should be made, for the parish church might not afford the requisite accommodation. A new church would be necessary, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. R. Mills) would not be in favour of building it by means of a church rate. Church accommodation, however, of some kind the pupils of such an institution must have, and how were they to get it except by machinery of this description? But did the hon. Gentleman think that every clergyman of a parish—that any haphazard incumbent, who might perhaps be seventy years of age—was a fit person to administer religious instruction to 500 boys? Clearly not, and the hon. Gentleman would be the last person to make such an assertion. He was sure that if a Dissenting College were to be established the hon. Gentleman would be the first person to demand that adequate means should be afforded, such as were provided by the Bill for the religious instruction of members of the Established Church. He asked for nothing more for the Church, than what the Dissenters would enjoy without question. The clergyman of the parish might be a very good man, but, on the other hand, he might be utterly unfit to have any control over an institution of this kind, and such institutions ought therefore to be looked upon as extra-parochial places and put under the charge of the Bishop of the diocese. With regard to the principle of the Bill, he could not see what objection could be raised to it. If the net included too many places within it, that was a matter open to objection and discussion. He should be sorry to disturb the status quo in respect to any school to which clergymen might now have access, or by which the claimants to the rights of a school would be interfered with. It was perhaps too late this Session to pass the measure, but he thought that the case of the institutions to which he had alluded required legislation upon the most ordinary principles of justice and common sense.


said, that the Bill would place the chaplains of schools in a position of rivalry with the incumbents of the parish. The founder of these schools contemplated the teaching of the child, and not the appointment of the master as chaplain. The measure would create an empire within an empire. Why did not the hon. Member bring in the Bill at an earlier period of the Session? Last year the Bill came on for discussion in a similar manner at the fag end of the Session. Believing that the measure would violate the foundation deeds of charities and unsettle the lights of Dissenters in these schools, ho supported the Amendment, and would cheerfully divide against the Bill.


said, it was generally admitted it would he impossible to proceed with the Bill this Session, and that the only object in discussing it was that its principle should be fully understood, and thus the way prepared for future legislation. It appeared that some grievance had led to the introduction of this Bill, and it was one suffered by members of the Church of England, because they belonged to a State Church. In fact, in some respects they were more fettered than the Dissenting bodies. There was nothing to prevent Roman Catholics, Independents, Quakers, or Mormonites from establishing a school according to the religious principles of their respective persuasions—the law did not interfere. But if Churchmen established a school, it was possible for some legally authorized person to interfere with the religious teaching which the parents might wish to be given. He did not think that members of the Church of England should, on some consideration of "Church and State" policy, lose the liberty enjoyed by other persuasions, and he was favourable to the principle of the Bill so far as it granted that liberty. There was, however, a danger to be guarded against, and care must be taken that the rights of Dissenters should not be interfered with. It was not unnatural that the measure should be regarded with suspicion by the Dissenters. There were several educational establishments which their children had the right to attend, and others as to which their rights were in doubt or dispute. It was necessary that nothing should be done to weaken the present rights or claims of Dissenters, and such a measure, if brought forward at all, should be introduced by the Go- vernment. If it were now withdrawn, and the Secretary of State should take it up in another Session, he ought to sec, on the one hand, that it was not advisable that parents of the Church of England should be deprived of the rights enjoyed by other sects, while, on the other hand, great care should be taken not to put the Nonconformists in a worse position than they now enjoyed.


said, he could not concur in the grounds on which the objections of his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment were founded, but he agreed that it would not be desirable to proceed further with the measure at the close of the Session. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lygon) explained that he had brought it in at an early period of the Session, but that he had not had an opportunity of asking the House to agree to the principle until the present time. If there really was a practical grievance, as stated by the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter), he should be sorry to object to the application of any proper remedy. He understood it to be alleged that in public schools, such as Harrow, Rugby, and Wellington College, Divine service could not be performed by the master or any chaplain attached to the schools without the consent of the incumbent, and that this consent was not always given. His hon. Friend who spoke last (Mr. W. E. Forster), said that the Government ought to bring in a Bill next Session to remedy the grievance; hut all he (Sir George Grey) could say was that not one word had ever been addressed to him as to the existence of any grievance or inconvenience of this kind. He was not aware of any practical difficulty in the performance of Divine service in such institutions. At Harrow he was sure there was none. Dr. Arnold continually performed Divine service in the school chapel of Rugby, and several volumes of most valuable sermons preached by him at Rugby had been published. He was not aware that the slighest difficulty had occurred at Rugby which this Bill would remove. If, however, there was any case of this kind—and he gathered from the speech of his hon. Friend that there was one such case—if the incumbent of any parish exercised any right which he might possess of refusing his licence to a clergyman to officiate in a public school, that might be a reason for an alteration of the law. But the present measure went much beyond that. It included within its provisions every endowed school in England connected by its foundation with the Church of England. It would, therefore, include almost all the great grammar schools of the country. He had received a letter that day from a gentleman in one of the northern dioceses, stating, that the Bill would apply to 148 schools in that diocese, and would therefore virtually enable the Bishop to interfere with 148 parishes within his diocese. Why did the hon. Gentleman who proposed this Bill go so much beyond the object he had in view, and thus excite so much more opposition than a more limited measure would receive? It was stated that many of these endowed schools, although connected by their foundation with the Church of England, were attended very largely by Dissenters; and it must not be forgotten that the exercise of the powers conferred by this Bill would have the effect, or might have the effect, if attendance at Divine service should be enforced, of causing the children of Nonconformists to be withdrawn. He did not object to the principle of the Bill as it had been explained by his hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walters), but he could not help thinking that the measure deserved more consideration than could be given to it at the present period of the Session. He suggested last year, on a similar occasion, that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, and he stated that if the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill would consent to that course, he would support the second reading. He was ready to make the same offer on the present occasion. What the House wanted to know was the particular nature and extent of the grievance complained of, and then apply the remedy without going beyond the necessities of the case. Last year the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Collins), who had charge of the Bill, admitted the reasonableness of his proposal. If the hon. Member (Mr. Lygon) went to a division, he was ready to vote for the second reading, on the understanding that the measure was not to be proceeded with this Session, and that if it were again introduced next Session it should be referred to a Select Committee.


would recommend his hon. Friend to adopt the proposal of the Home Secretary, because, although there appeared to be an almost unanimous feeling that something ought to be done, yet it was impossible the Bill could be properly considered this Session. Wellington College was not the only instance in which a Bill of this kind was required. There was a school containing some 500 boys at Lancefield, and were they to be compelled to go to the parish church? In some cases the church only contained accommodation for 200 or 250 persons altogether; and were the parents to be at the mercy of the incumbent to say whether there should be a chapel attached to the school or not? Some legislation was wanted, hut as soon as any measure was brought in to benefit the Church of England the hon. Member for Sheffield appeared to consider it his duty to thwart it.


said, he was willing to accept the proposal of the Home Secretary. The reason why the measure had been deferred to so late a period of the Session was that he had been anxious to obtain the co-operation of the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter). His hon. Friend took some time to consider the matter, and that was the reason why he had not been able sooner to proceed with the Bill which he had laid on the table in February. He was glad to hear so general an admission of the necessity of some legislation on this subject.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 49; Noes 35: Majority 14.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for this day three months.