HC Deb 16 March 1866 vol 182 cc480-3

(Sir O. Grey, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

Order for Consideration read.

Bill, as amended, considered.


said, that he had understood when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department last night undertook to have this Bill reprinted, that he would have given time to hon. Members to read it, as it now appeared, so that if they disagreed with any portion of it they might have an opportunity of placing Notices of Amendment on the table. It appeared to him that the course adopted throughout with regard to this measure was to force it through the House with as little consideration as possible. No one, however, could pretend that this was an insignificant subject, for it related to the repeal of the greater part of the oath relating to the Supremacy of the Crown and of the law, as it had existed since the first of Elizabeth. It was a measure which ought not to have been decided upon at a private meeting of Members; when the question came before the House it was introduced with the least amount of explanation he had ever heard with respect to any Bill of equal importance. He did not wish to move an Amendment at almost twelve o'clock on such a subject as this; but he therefore gave notice that he would on the third reading (as he had intended on the Report) move that the Bill be re-committed with a view to inserting the following words at the end of the oath:— And I do declare that no foreign Prince, Prelate, State, or Potentate hath by law or ought to have any rightful jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority within this realm. In this it would be seen he had added the words "by law," which were suggested by Lord Russell when the subject was before the Upper House, and "rightful." a word suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I will only detain the House while I quote a few words from The Tablet (the most influential of the Roman Catholic organs) of Saturday last, which expressed in distinct language the sort of expectations to which the decision of the House on this subject gave rise-— In our opinion it would be a good thing if the provisions in the Emancipation Act were repealed, which convert into criminals, punishable by deportation, such of Her Majesty's native-born English or Irish subjects as choose to bind themselves by monastic or religious vows. It would also be very desirable that, as we Catholics are very poor and commit many crimes, we should have the full benefit of the zealous ministrations of our clergy in the workhouses and prisons into which our poverty and crimes introduce us in such large numbers. It would also—at least we think so—be desirable that Catholics in England should be allowed to claim exemption from the payment of church rates for the support of the English Protestant State Church, and that Catholic landowners in Ireland should be exempted from paying rent-charge for the support of Irish Protestant State Church …… In our opinion also it would be desirable that the State, instead of ignoring the sees and titles of the Catholic bishops of England and Ireland, and instead of proscribing those sees and titles, should repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill and recognize the existence and legality of the Catholic Church and of its administration within the realm. Nay, we go so far as to think that it would be a wise and a good thing to give recognized rank and precedence to the highest dignitaries of the Catholic Church within the realm, by making Peers of Parliament of the Catholic Archbishops of England and Ireland …… Moreover, we need scarcely say that, in our opinion, the restoration of regular diplomatic intercourse between the Crown and the Holy See would be most advantageous to all parties; and that it would be a good thing if the relations between the State on the one hand, and the Catholic Church in the British Empire and its dependencies on the other hand, were regulated by a convention between the supreme spiritual authority in the Catholic Church and the supreme temporal authority in the British Empire. In other words, we think that a concordat is advisable. Whether a State endowment for the Catholic Church, its hierarchy, clergy, universities, seminaries, colleges, and schools, would or would not be a desirable feature of the concordat, we do not assume to know, referring ourselves on that point to the wisdom of the Holy See. …. We need not lengthen this list of things thought desirable; we have said enough to indicate the leading features of a whole system and of a distinct policy. By its indifference to subjects such as these, the House then was raising expectations which by their disappointment would lead to great discontent. When he moved the re-commitment of the Bill on Monday night he hoped to find that hon. Members were not so closely bound by party ties as to be satisfied with the decision arrived at; and that at any rate they would think it necessary to have a distinct answer from Her Majesty's Government how far the expectations—which he had shown were raised by re-opening this matter of the Parliamentary oaths—would be gratified. He wished to observe, with respect to himself, that he had from the first thought the form of oath proposed by the right hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) to be insufficient, and had stated in his place that he would not be included amongst those who approved it. His Opinion that the terms of that form of the oath of supremacy suggested in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman were insufficient was confirmed by the opinion of the Attorney General and of other competent persons, and for that reason he felt justified in now giving notice of the Motion he had just read.


said, he wished to call attention to a provision introduced by the Duke of Wellington into a Bill for regulating our diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and to suggest that the principle of that clause might be introduced into the present Bill. It might remove any uncomfortable feeling in the minds of Roman Catholic Members.


said, he thought it would have been better if the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) had given notice of what he intended to move on Monday. With regard to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside), the House would not have forgotten that the right hon. Gentleman had voted yesterday in favour of the insertion of words which would have the effect of excluding every Roman Catholic from Parliament.


said, he had stated that Roman Catholics would not accept them so far as related to the spiritual authority of the Pope.


said, that if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) was of opinion that the clause he had referred to was applicable to the present Bill, he might put a Notice of an Amendment on the paper, and the House would then see whether the party which acted under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) were prepared to agree to the addition of such words.


said, he was of opinion that the oath now imposed upon Roman Catholic Members was not the cause of a substantial, but merely of a sentimental grievance. He submitted that this Bill would inflict a further grievance on the Roman Catholic laity, whose interests, it should be remembered, were by no means identical with those of the priesthood. Roman Catholicism, as far as regarded its public position, must be regarded not as a religion at all, but as a political combination fraught with danger to this country. He could see no substantial grievance in Roman Catholics taking the oath which had hitherto been sanctioned by their own dignitaries.

Amendments made: Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next.