HC Deb 31 March 1870 vol 200 cc985-7

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Out of what funds it is intended that the salaries of the Suffragan Bishops now in course of appointment in various parts of the country shall be paid; and, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose to Parliament any alteration in the present law (passed in the reign of King Henry VIII.), whereby twenty-six Suffragan Bishops may at any time be appointed, the selection of such members of the episcopal body being practically vested altogether in the hands of the individual Archbishops and Bishops, and not in those of the Crown, whose right is limited to choosing one of any two names submitted to it?


Sir, I will take up and answer the points of the Question asked by my hon. Friend with all the clearness in my power. In the first place, he speaks of the suffragan Bishops now in the course of appointment. Two suffragan Bishops have been appointed —one in the see of Lincoln, which is a very considerable diocese, containing a large number of clergy; and the other in Canterbury, where the demands upon the thought and time of the Archbishop, quite independently of that grievous attack of illness which, to the grief of the whole country, lately overtook him —quite independently, I say, of that attack, the demands on the time and thought of the Archbishop of Canterbury are such as to constitute that diocese a special case; and it is right that it should be known that the application for the appointment of a suffragan was made before the illness of the Archbishop, As to the second part of the Question, which rather assumes that the number of suffragan Bishops is to be increased. I have to say that I have not heard of any probability of a multiplication of these applications. Every such application has to be considered on its own merits, and with reference to the special grounds which Her Majesty's Government would expect that any Bishop ap- plying for a suffragan should be asked to produce. As to the funds from which the suffragan Bishops are to be paid, our information is rather limited, because that is a matter entirely arranged by the Bishops with the suffragans, in cases where the appointment is made. No demand, in any case, would be made upon any public fund whatever, either on those under the control of this House or on the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. My hon. Friend asks if it is the intention of the Government to propose any alteration in the present law, whereby twenty-six suffragan Bishops may be appointed. It is not the intention of the Government to propose any such alteration. Indeed, the exceeding difficulty of proposing to Parliament any plan for the extension of the Episcopate, combined with the general acknowledgment which Parliament has repeatedly given of the need of increased episcopal assistance, is the reason that chiefly contributed to bring the Government to the conclusion that they could best fulfil their duty by availing themselves of the means which the present law already affords. Nor do we take that view of the law which the Question of my hon. Friend expresses, for he has parenthetically intimated that the selection of suffragan members of the episcopal body practically rests altogether in the hands of the individual Archbishop or Bishop applying for the appointment of a suffragan. Now, in the first place, I must say that it is only in a very qualified sense that suffragan Bishops can be said to be members of the episcopal body, inasmuch as they not only have no right to sit in Parliament, but also they have no statutable recognition beyond the power of acting for the Bishop. They have no jurisdiction whatever belonging to them, and, if we were to suppose the case of the sudden death of a diocesan Bishop, in that case, if he had appointed a suffragan, the functions of that suffragan would lapse altogether, and he would become incapable of legally performing any episcopal act in virtue of his commisson as suffragan. Now, my hon. Friend appears to think that the appointment of the suffragan is altogether in the hands of the individual Archbishop or Bishop. According to the view of the Government that is not quite correct. It is quite true that the Act stipulates that two names shall be furnished, whereof Her Majesty shall select one. This obligation admits of some modification, because the Acts of Parliament are not, generally speaking, compulsory on the Crown. It is, therefore, in the power of the Executive Government to inquire as to who are the persons intended to be proposed as suffragans in any given case before consenting to entertain the question at all. They, therefore, have a control much beyond that which would appear to be conveyed by the simple intimation in the Act, that of the two names to be supplied by the Archbishop or Bishop one shall be selected. I think I have now answered, as clearly and fully as possible, the various points raised by the Question of my hon. Friend. But I wish to make one further remark —namely, that though this is a very novel matter, yet the expedient on which we have thought it our duty to fall back, under the circumstances of the case, is one respecting which we have the strongest grounds for the course we have adopted. But as to the method of proceeding, that is a subject which requires a great deal of consideration. We have not been able at the moment to make any such attempt as that of laying down general rules, even for our own guidance; but we quite feel that it would be very desirable that general rules applicable to the proceedings under the Act should be, if possible, arranged in some official shape, so as to show that we are not guided only by random considerations, from time to time; and as soon as the pressure of Public Business will allow of it, we shall hope to apply ourselves to the consideration of the best means of embodying the views we entertain on the subject, and of bringing them within the cognizance of Parliament.


May I ask when the Returns which I have moved for on this subject will be laid before Parliament?


I really cannot inform my right hon. Friend; but I will make inquiries and communicate with him on the subject.