HC Deb 20 February 1872 vol 209 cc795-816

Order for Committee read.


said, he wished to explain that it was his intention, if the Bill were allowed to go into Committee, to accept an Amendment proposed to be made in the 4th clause by the hon. Member for West Kent (Mr. J. G. Talbot), who had given Notice of a Motion to postpone their going into Committee for a fortnight. The Amendment in question took the shape of the following addition to the clause:— Provided also, That any service, if not according to a published ritual, shall consist only of prayer, hymns, or extracts from Holy Scripture. He hoped such a course would disarm the hostility of hon. Gentlemen opposite; at all events, the Amendment would entirely obviate the only objection taken to the Bill. In these circumstances, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Osborne Morgan.)


, in rising to move, "That this House will, upon this day fortnight, resolve itself into the said Committee," said, that was no doubt rather an unusual Motion, and one involving some delay on that important subject, but his reason for asking for such delay was this—It was, he knew, not quite regular to allude to what was happening in "another place"; but there could be no doubt that before long another measure on this same subject would come down to the House; and his hope was that hon. Gentlemen opposite would see the inadvisability of taking hasty action on that matter, when it was likely that another Bill would soon be before them dealing with the question, as far as he could judge, in a liberal and reasonable manner. He was glad the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had adopted a conciliatory course on this occasion; but it was to be regretted that he had not done so sooner, as it would perhaps have led to more satisfactory results than could be attained at the present moment. The hon. and learned Member now, however, said he was ready to accept the Amendment standing on the Paper in his (Mr. Talbot's) name with regard to the service to be performed in the burial-grounds of the Church of England by others than the clergy of that Church. The reason why he had given Notice of that Amendment in the 4th clause was that if Churchmen were driven to that point, they would make the best bargain they could. The hon. and learned Gentleman knew that Churchmen and Dissenters were fighting on opposite sides of that question; that the promoters of that Bill were taking the first step to disestablish the Church—["No!"], while Churchmen were resisting that attack. It was all very well to say "No," but the Bill was supported last "Wednesday with all the eloquence of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), who, proposing to disestablish the Church, declared that he looked on this Bill as a step in that direction. Therefore, Churchmen intended to defend their outposts until they were driven into their fortifications, and he trusted their defence of their position would not be in vain. He would tell the House what the compromise was which they were ready to make. Hitherto, in the churchyards of the Church, every person buried had been buried with the service of the Church performed by her ordained minister. That did not seem an unreasonable state of things to remain until the hon. Member for Bradford had succeeded in disestablishing the Church, especially considering that the Dissenters had the right to their own burial-grounds and their own services, and could do as they pleased except in burial-grounds which did not belong to them. He was quite prepared to meet the Nonconformists half-way, and to say that if they liked to have their burial service elsewhere, as was the case in Scotland and in other countries in Europe, they could bury their dead in the Church of England burying-grounds. In his opinion, the members of the Church of England, in dealing with this and similar matters, had taken too timid a view of late, having regard to the position which they held. It was clear that they had a decided majority in the country, because hon. Members opposite belonging to the Nonconformist Body had refused to be counted, which was a proof that they, at all events, believed themselves to be in the minority. It was a curious fact that although the Dissenters were in a minority in the country, their Representatives were in a majority in that House; but in his belief a change in that state of affairs was impending, as had been foreshadowed by the recent return of a Conservative Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, which had been looked upon as one of the greatest strongholds of Dissent. He believed that in that and other recent elections Conservative Members had been returned not so much because of their political views, as because they were staunch supporters of the Church of England, as against the secular party, in matters of education. As long as the Church of England was the religion of the majority in this country, its members ought to take a bolder and more vigorous line than they had done of late years. Sitting in that House in a minority of 100 in the earlier Sessions of the present Parliament, the members of the Church of England had been compelled to take a humble position; but the time had now arrived when they could stand forward boldly and resist the proposed encroachments upon their rights. He spoke plainly and fearlessly upon the subject, and he trusted that hon. Members opposite were not offended at his doing so. The Motion he had to propose was not merely a dilatory one, but was intended to give time for a fair consideration of the rival schemes to this measure, which had been or were about to be brought before the House, so that some compromise might eventually be arrived at. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman opposite, which he had been good enough to accept, was no doubt an improvement upon the Bill as it stood, and would doubtless receive full attention in Committee. The House, however, would see the propriety of the members of the Church of England, desiring as they did that the whole subject should be fully discussed, refusing to strike their colours at once. The main point in dispute was, whether the Church of England had made a sufficient concession in offering to allow Nonconformists to be buried in her churchyards. Not only had those who belonged to the Established Church no objection to Nonconformists being buried in their churchyards, provided no service was used other than that of the Church of England; but they were perfectly ready to accept any scheme that could be devised for providing Dissenters with burial-grounds of their own. Nonconformists, of course, had a perfect right to stand up and to endeavour to obtain the best terms they could exact; but he must confess his surprise that hon. Members opposite, who professed to belong to the Established Church, should propose such hard terms to their own Church. He supposed that it was political necessity that had induced the hon. and learned Member, himself a professing member of the Church of England, to introduce this Bill. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, that the Bill referred peculiarly to the rural districts, because in all towns and in some large villages there were cemeteries, and therefore the number of persons who would be affected by it would be but small. In the cemeteries attached to the large towns the burial-grounds were divided, and as the hon. and learned author of the Bill termed "ticketed," a practice that had answered very well. It was, however, a singular fact that where there were two burial-grounds—one for the Nonconformists and the other for the members of the Church of England—a great number of the former preferred to be buried in the burial-grounds appropriated for the latter rather than in their own, although they were compelled to submit to the Church of England service being read over them. A short time ago the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley) had told the House that when the University Tests Bill and the present measure were passed, the Dissenters would not have a grievance left; but it was curious how, the moment one alleged grievance was removed, others were invented in its place. Thus, the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) had now discovered that the great grievance of the Dissenters was the existence of the Established Church—he trusted that that was a grievance which would long remain unremoved—and it had further been found out that the Education Act was another cause for complaint. He feared that Nonconformists were never happy, except when they were miserable; and never contented, except when they had a grievance. He thought that if the suggestions contained in the Reports of the Ritual Commission, to the effect that only certain portions of the Burial Service should be read when the whole service was objected to, the grievance which this Bill proposed to remedy would disappear. Before church rates were abolished the Dissenters might have had some cause to complain that they had not an equal footing in the churchyards, to the maintenance of which they contributed with the members of the Church of England; but at the present moment they were not entitled to make such a complaint. He was quite ready to admit that Nonconformists had a right to attend the church and to be buried in the churchyard; but if they chose to exercise that right they should be content to listen to the form of service which was used in those places. He believed he had a right to be in that House, and to join in the prayers, but he was bound to accept the prayers, which were read by the chaplain; for if he were to attempt an extempore prayer or venture to sing a hymn—however successful his efforts might be—he felt sure he would be ordered into the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms. The Bill being avowedly "the beginning of the end" with regard to the Established Church, he was surprised that no Member of the Government had spoken upon it. He cordially supported the Amendment, desiring that by some fair compromise "this last rag of a grievance" of the Nonconformists should be removed, which he thought might be accomplished when the Bill from "another place" was before them.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day fortnight, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. John Talbot,)—instead thereof.


said, he wished the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan) to consider whether by forcing the Bill quickly through the House, he would be likely to attain the end which he desired. Another Bill on the same subject, in "another place," had passed a third reading, and it would be well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether if his Bill went there, it would not receive the same consideration which other Bills had received in that place, and whether he might not fail in attaining his object. He would recommend him to consider whether some fair compromise might not be arrived at by which this vexed question might be fairly and equitably settled. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would meet those who opposed the Bill on fair and proper grounds he might succeed in passing a Bill which would satisfy the Dissenting community; but if he insisted upon having the whole Bill, those who objected to it would be be prepared to fight it to the bitter end.


said, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan) would persevere with the Bill. He had already acceded to a fair compromise—namely, that any service not according to any published ritual should consist only of prayers, hymns, or extracts from the Scriptures. The Nonconformists concerned thought they had an absolute right to bury their dead in the churchyards of the parishes in which they lived, and that their own clergymen had a right to perform the service.


said, he thought that when the proposed Amendment was discussed in Committee it would be found very defective. He should not object to prayers, hymns, and portions of Scripture; but a "published ritual" might excite the reprobation not only of Churchmen but Nonconformists. A quotation had been made in a high quarter from a book which was undoubtedly questionable, and which he believed contained a ritual. He wished for a compromise acceptable to both parties, and thought the Bill should be deferred till another measure came before the House.


said, he was surprised that champions of the Church of England should object to churchyards being the common burial grounds of the people of this country. He, as a Churchman, desired to maintain the Church, and surely the best way of doing this was to meet the wishes of Nonconformists, by allowing them to inter their dead with due solemnity and decency. He feared that a so-called compromise would really be an abandonment of the Bill, and he hoped, therefore, that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Osborne Morgan) would resolutely persevere with it.


said, the principle of this Bill was the levelling up of Dissent to the Church, and not the levelling down of the Church to Dissent, and therefore he was surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite gave their assent to it. It was a Bill, pro tanto, for concurrent endowment, and violated the principles on which the Liberal party came into power. The orthodox plan of proceeding would be to secularize the Church graveyards for the sake of deceased lunatics, or, better still, suicides, who were not entitled to Christian burial. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) looked upon the Established Church as an abomination—as an unclean thing—and how he could accept the offer of consecrated ground in which to bury his dead it was difficult to conceive. There were some clauses in the Bill which he could not see how any Nonconformist could accept—for instance, the provision with respect to payment of fees. The hon. Member for Bradford said the graveyard belonged to him as much as to the clergyman. Then how could he consent to pay fees and acknowledge the freehold of the clergyman? Then, there was no sanction attached to the Bill. What penalty were they going to impose on the clergyman for not obeying their Act of Parliament? He would not vote for a Bill which violated the principle of an Establishment, and the principles which hon. Gentlemen opposite had themselves laid down.


said, he thought it was very desirable that they should go into Committee on this Bill. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, instead of objecting to the Bill going into Committee, ought to show some liberality, and a little kindness. Hon. Gentlemen who held Church opinions talked of the rights and privileges which they had got. They had no more rights and privileges than any other man. A Nonconformist could walk in the streets of London and into that House—he could go into the Courts of Law as well as any other man. Instead of talking about the rights and privileges of Churchmen, it would be better to try to do justice to all. This question of burials was a very solemn one. Churchmen ought not to assume that if a Nonconformist had to bury a relative he would deliver a political harangue at the grave of that relative. He would recommend the House to go into Committee and try to make the Bill satisfactory to all parties.


said, he was prepared to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Talbot); but he would not altogether agree with him that the growing majority upon Church questions entitled Churchmen to take a stiffer position in that House than before. It was the duty now as ever to do what was right and best in the interests of the Church, of the country, and of religion. Members on those (the Opposition) benches were misunderstood in their views relative to the Dissenting body. There were Nonconformists and Nonconformists. A great many were excellent men; but there were others with whom the great body of the Nonconformists themselves were "wide as the poles asunder." The churches of the Church of England were Christian churches, and all the services in the church and churchyard ought to be Christian services. One view of the action taken by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Osborne Morgan) was that he was leading an insidious attack upon the Church of England for some ulterior purpose. Another was that he was trying to remedy an acknowledged grievance which both parties admitted and endeavoured to remove by legislation. He was disposed to take the latter view, and to ask himself how near he had come to the hon. and learned Gentleman? The progress of this measure during the last two or three years had more than any other shown the wisdom of Parliamentary procedure. Every year the hon. and learned Member had made renewed and greater progress. Men of different views had gradually come nearer and nearer to an agreement, and the two or three years, so far from being lost, had been time well occupied, since it had been productive of practical results. The grievances in regard to burial grounds were very small, and the fair solution seemed to be that the Nonconformists should, as in Scotland, perform the burial service in their own houses, and bury in the churchyards without a service. The hon. and learned Member said, however, that this was not enough. The grievance was not only one of fact but one of sentiment, and the latter was often the greater real grievance of the two. It happened, however, that sentiment existed in this matter on both sides, and if the Churchmen gave way to the sentiment of Nonconformists, they ought to be met in a corresponding spirit. He did not insist on any particular words or phrases, but only that the services should be of a decent, orderly, and Christian character. This was quite as much in the interest of the Nonconformists as of Churchmen. Their ancestors were buried side by side with those of Churchmen, and the sentiment that bound them together in regard to their place of common burial was much greater than the peculiar differences of the day which might separate them. His hon. Friend seemed disposed to be satisfied with the use of a published Ritual; but a Ritual might be open to grave objection, even though published. A work lately quoted by a great authority was little less than blasphemous. Whatever words were used, let them be carefully and thoughtfully considered, so that they might satisfy the modest and reasonable yearnings of Churchmen. The solution of the question had grown out of the long discussions of which the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) complained, and he trusted he would accept the Amendment to postpone the Committee for a fortnight. The Bill could then go pari passu with the measure which had that night passed the House of Lords, and there would be time during the interval to consider what words were best adapted to carry out the views of both sides, or which would best represent the opinion of the majority of that House.


said, that the measure had been fully discussed already, and delay meant defeat. The Notice Book of the House was so heavily mortgaged that if he were to adjourn the Motion for a fortnight, he should not be able to get into Committee for a couple of months. The Bill which had to come down from "another place" was before the House last Session, and had most probably been read by every Member interested in it. He was urged to make some further concession; but the moment he did so the language he adopted was objected to. His answer to all the suggestions that had been made from the other side was, that this was not the time for discussing them.


urged that it was high time for hon. Members to become men of business; and, in order to do so, they ought not to wander from the subject before them. The other day they had a very long discussion on the principle of this Burial Bill, and every hon. Gentleman then got an opportunity of expressing his sentiments. The time was come when hon. Members should attend to the business before the House instead of giving room for having constant complaints made that the House did no business at all.


urged that, as an alternative proposal had been made, it was only reasonable that there should be some delay in order that both matters might be duly considered. The House was a very small one, and an inadequate representation of Parliament for the discussion of this grave matter. He did not wish to strangle the question; but thought the Government might help them to find a day on which to discuss the subject with minds better made up than they were at present. Meanwhile, he must support the Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 73; Noes 52: Majority 21.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

On Question, "That the Preamble be postponed,"


said, a step had been made in advance; but it was clear that the Committee were not in a happy frame of mind for coming to any arrangement to-night. The hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley), who spoke the other day in a spirit of compromise which they all appreciated, had put down no Amendment; and, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), who said he was prepared to make considerable concessions, had put down no Amendments, and was told he must make no concessions. Again, no opinion had been expressed by any Member of the Government, and he would, therefore, suggest that as there was very little hope of making much progress to-night, the Chairman should now report Progress, and the Bill be postponed for a week or a fortnight.


said, the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman was merely a repetition of the Motion which had just failed, and he could not accede to it.


said, he was anxious to bring both parties together in this matter. One aspect of the question was, that the Bill was meant to relieve Dissenters from some actual grievance which was pressing on their consciences. If that was the view which was to be taken of the measure, no one could be more anxious than he to meet their wishes; but there was another aspect of the Bill, and that was that it was simply an attack on the Church of England, and a step towards its disestablishment. That was a view which derived strength from the speech which had been made by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) the other evening. He should like, under these circumstances, to know in what shape the Bill was presented to the notice of the House. Taking into account the candour of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Osborne Morgan) who had charge of it, he was willing to suppose that it was intended merely to remove a grievance; but he would remind the Committee that the various Bills which had been brought by the Nonconformists before the House had all been based on religious scruples. They objected to the payment of church rates for the purpose of maintaining property which they said was exclusively the property of the Church of England, and they now introduced a measure to obtain a right to the property themselves. That placed them, he contended, to a certain extent in a false position If the Nonconformists were honestly asking merely for the removal of a conscientious grievance, then it was but right that they should have some regard to the religious scruples of the members of the Church, and that they should not inflict upon them a greater grievance than that which they sought to do away with in their own case. He was afraid the Government had given their assent to the measure because the matter had been pressed upon them as a political question. Now, he, for one, did not wish to regard it in that light. If there was a grievance, then it was the duty of the Government, in trying to remove it, to take care that they did so in such a way as not to interfere with the conscientious scruples of others. According to the Bill as it was framed, all towns which had cemeteries were exempt from its operation; while if a landowner chose to give ground, and the parish chose to accept it, for the purposes of a cemetery, that parish would be also excluded. In that way a grievance which was not very large to commence, would be reduced to a very small point indeed. He would, then, in all fairness, ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether he had taken into his consideration what would be the extent of the residue which the Bill would touch? He should like to know from him, also, whether he had made any calculation as to the life of the existing churchyards? The residue to which he referred would mainly consist of old parish churchyards, and it would be found that, as in the case of all the large towns, it would be for the benefit of the community that a great number of these old churchyards should be closed. If the population went on increasing as of late years, that would probably be done in the course of 20 years. Why, then, should a blow be inflicted on the conscientious scruples of a large number of our fellow-subjects for the purpose of passing a measure which would in 20 years be practically of no use? Nothing, for his own part, grieved him more than to see so many instances of men who were separated in life not being united in death, and if cemeteries were provided anywhere he should like to see them provided for men of all creeds. What he desired was that the Secretary of State for the Home Department should direct his attention to the points to which he had just referred.


said, that although he had not until the present Session taken any part in the discussions on the Bill, it was perfectly well known what views he entertained with regard to its general policy. In dealing with it, however, he wished to be understood as speaking merely his own individual opinions, for he denied the right of the House to call on the Government to support or oppose any particular measure which they themselves did not find it desirable, from one cause or another, to propose. It might be that there were portions of the present Bill in which certain Members of the Government could not concur; but, for his own part, he supported it entirely for the purpose of removing a grievance, and for no other reason. The existence of that grievance seemed to be universally admitted, for great efforts had been made on both sides of the House to come to a friendly solution of the question. The grievance might not be very widely spread; but it was nevertheless a real and deep grievance. His hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down asked him whether he had made any inquiries with respect to the duration of the churchyards, and he must admit that he had made no such inquiries. Practically, the House was now dealing with the question of the rural churchyards, and in the rural districts there was no such increase of population as that to which his hon. and learned Friend had alluded. The Census showed not only that it had remained stationary, but that it was in many instances decreasing. Some rural cemeteries had been for centuries, and would continue to be for a great length of time, adequate burial places for the population of the localities in which they were situated. That being the case, the duty of the Committee was, in his opinion, to apply itself in a spirit of conciliation and moderation to the solution of a difficult question. A proposal had been made by his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Mowbray) for a funeral service which might be accepted on all sides; but that was a proposition which would not meet the views of many Nonconformists. But, apart from the services, there were numerous forms of religious worship which were accepted equally by all parties, and his hon. and learned Friend who had charge of the Bill (Mr. Osborne Morgan) had, in his opinion, done much to meet the difficulty by consenting to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Kent (Mr. Talbot), which provided for the reading of prayers, hymns, and extracts from the Holy Scriptures.


, while stating that the simple object of the Bill was to remove a real grievance under which Dissenters laboured, declined to be held responsible for any opinion which the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall), or anybody else who supported it, might express with respect to it. It was, of course, open to any hon. Gentleman to vote for it on any ground he pleased.


said, he could not allow the statement of the Secretary of State for the Home Department with regard to the rural districts to pass without comment. Every one who lived in the country knew that the churchyards in his districts had been largely increased within a comparatively recent period.


confirmed the statement just made by the hon. Baronet. He agreed with the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. Cross) that this Bill should be discussed on its merits. If there were a grievance it should be met; but he hoped the House in diminishing the minimum grievance of one class would not impose a maximum grievance upon another, and that they would endeavour to forget entirely the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall).


said, a good deal of capital seemed to have been made out of the few words which had fallen from him on a recent occasion. Those words appeared to him to have been greatly misunderstood; but he did not retract them. He had no interest in this Bill, except as it branched out of another question in which he did take an interest. Hon. Members seemed to think that he wished to obtain the end he had in view through the means of this Bill; but so far from that being the case, he could wish this grievance to continue, as it would give him far more strength for agitation than if Parliament chose to close up this smaller question. This was a Bill for remedying the practical grievances of Dissenters, and, so far, it was a Bill for disestablishing the Church. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, the passing of the Emancipation Bill, the adoption of new laws for the registration of births and deaths, and the abolition of church rates were all the severance of ties which formerly bound the Church to the State. The House had gone so far, and if it took the step which the Bill proposed, it would, undoubtedly, contribute practically towards the result which he was anxious to bring about; but it would do so far more practically by opposing this Bill; and, consequently, he took but little interest in the success of this or any particular scheme. The grievances were handles for him which he could use to some purpose. Undoubtedly, if hon. Members wished to consult the interests of the Church which was the object of their supreme affections, they would endeavour, as far as possible, to reconcile its ministrations with the feelings and sympathies of the great bulk of the population.


said, he heard with regret the speech which the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall) made a few days ago, and that regret was not relieved by what the Committee had just heard. When the hon. Member claimed an absolute right, not only to the churchyards but to the churches themselves, and when he avowed that the passing of this Bill was but another step towards disestablishment, how could hon. Members accept such declarations as reconciling them to a measure of this description? He (Mr. Gregory) was anxious, however, that the question should be settled on an amicable basis, and from conversations he had had with clergymen of the Established Church he believed arrangements might be made with the recognized ministers of other denominations who wished to perform burial services in the churchyards under proper regulations. He would suggest to the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Osborne Morgan) that he should state how far he was prepared to go in meeting the Amendments upon the Paper.

Question, "That the Preamble be postponed," put, and agreed, to.

Clause 1 (After passing of Act, notice may be given to incumbent of intention that burial shall take place in churchyard without the rights of Established Church, and either with or without any other religious service).

MR. CAWLEY moved, in line 16, to leave out after "England" to "and," in line 17. The hon. Gentleman said, that this and other Amendments he had put on the Paper were designed to carry out the compromise suggested by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Morley). He was most anxious that if the Bill passed, it should pass in a form to remove real grievances, and not in a form to open the door to abuses which were so much deprecated on both sides. The words he now proposed to omit were unnecessary; it was enough to say in the notice that the service was not to be according to the rites of the Church of England.

Amendment agreed to.

MR. SALT moved, in page 1, line 20, to leave out from "Provided" to "England," both inclusive.


objected to the omission of the words, which were inserted by the Committee in the Bill in order to meet conscientious scruples on the part of members of the Church of England. It would not be fair and right to introduce by a side-wind an alteration in the service of the Church in an Act intended solely for the relief of the consciences of Nonconformists. If there was to be any alteration of the service of the Church, let it be done openly in a Bill dealing with the Prayer Book.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill,"


protested against the Amendment which had been made on the Motion of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Cawley), believing that the clause would have been more acceptable to many if, instead of reading "and either with or without," it read, "and without any other religious service." He wished to make it plain that if the service were not that of the Church of England, there was to be no service at all. He therefore moved the rejection of the clause.


said, he was under the impression that the opinion of the Committee would have been taken on the Amendment for which preference had just been expressed. If they had passed the clause with that Amendment, the grievance remaining would have been infinitesimal. Notwithstanding what the Secretary of State for the Home Department had said, he believed the number of places in England, omitting Wales, in which there was any grievance was very small indeed.


said, he thought his hon. Friends had rather misconstrued the effect of the clause. In fact, the clause was exactly in the form in which they wished it to be. It would be out of place to take a division on it, if the opinion was that burial without a service of the Church of England should be permitted.


said, he could not concur in that construction of the clause. There was a far greater grievance affecting the clergy of the Church than that which affected the body of Dissenters. The clergy were bound to read the service in many cases where, according to their consciences, they ought not to read it. That subject had been considered by the Ritual Commission, and a great part of the difficulty was got over by recommending an alternative service in lieu of the present burial service, and if that alternative service should be adopted, it would not only relieve the clergy of the great grievance which rested upon them, but it would relieve every Nonconformist, because there would be nothing in it requiring the clergyman to deny the service to any Nonconformist, or anything to which any Nonconformist could object.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Time proposed for burial to be stated in notice, and to be subject to variation by incumbent within limited time.)

MR. CAWLEY moved, in line 28, to leave out from "state" to "and," in line 30, and insert "that such burial is intended to be without the service according to the rites of the Church of England," his object being to require due notice to be given when a burial was to take place without any such service.


considered it was very material that the words should be retained in the clause.


said, the question could be better raised on Clause 4. As a matter of fact, the clergyman would always know the name of the person who was to perform the service.


said, he hoped that some notice would be given to the clergyman as to the certificate of death. A clergyman could not bury his own parishioners without a certificate of death; but there appeared to be no provision in this Bill with respect to a certificate of death where the Church service was not performed. It might be a very convenient arrangement for burkers to get rid of a body without service and without certificate. He must beg the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to this point.


said, that as the law stood at present a clergyman burying without a certificate of death was bound to give notice to the registrar, and, therefore, it was necessary, in reference to this matter, that some person should stand in the same place as the clergyman, and send notice to the registrar.


was of opinion that the words in the clause should be retained.


suggested that the clause should be postponed, for if any other religious service but that of the Church of England was to be performed, it would be desirable to know who was to perform it.


said, it was necessary that some provision should be made in the clause with reference to the certificate of burial. The person who would perform the service should be the person who should be authorised to send the certificate to the clergyman and registrar.


said, he would introduce words into the Bill at a future stage that would meet the difficulty.

Amendment negatived.

MR. GREGORY moved, in page 1, line 29, to leave out "or other person or persons," as he thought that the burial service should only be performed by a recognised minister of some religious congregation.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 29, to leave out the words "or other person or persons."—(Mr. Gregory.)


said, it would be necessary to retain the words, or else no other person than the clergyman would be able to officiate. It was impossible to particularise the person or persons who should officiate at the burial of those who were not members of the Church of England.


said, that in some bodies of Dissenters there were persons who were not strictly ministers, but recognised preachers, and he thought that the clause should be extended, so as to include such recognised preachers.


supported the Amendment.


said, he knew what a clergyman of the Church of England was, and he knew what a clergyman of the Church of Rome was; but he thought it very desirable that some explanation should be given of what was meant by the word "minister;" otherwise they would get into all sorts of quibbles and quirks. They were without any Law Officers of the Crown; but perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Osborne Morgan) would furnish an interpretation. Without some such statement, it was impossible to know whether the words "or other person or persons" ought to be retained in the clause or not.


said, the hon. Member for Boston (Mr. Collins) was impressed with the importance of Gretna Green weddings, and doubtless he wanted Gretna Green funerals as well. He hoped the Committee would prevent any scenes of this kind.


asked, if a prescribed form of service were adopted, what could it matter to hon. Gentlemen opposite by whom it was used, as, in their eyes, all who were not Church of England clergymen were equally unauthorised?


said, it was desirable to meet the scruples of religious sects, such as that of the Society of Friends, who, for the most part, buried in grounds of their own, and who would doubtless conduct their services in a creditable manner, if they desired to inter in consecrated ground.


said, he thought the remarks just made did not apply, since the Society of Friends invariably interred in their own ground.


said, he did not see how the grievance of the Dissenters was to be met if the words "other persons" were omitted. He had received several letters on this point. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would not be pressed.


said, he thought the very worst way to bring about an amicable settlement was to authorize any person or persons to go into a churchyard and offer up any service he or they thought fit. He appealed to the Secretary of State for the Home Department to state whether he thought it right that a person, not being a minister, who might have been preaching on a Common, or any other place on Sunday, should be allowed to enter a churchyard and offer up any prayer or service he might think proper. Such a thing, he ventured to say, would not be tolerated for a moment, and disturbances would certainly arise if it were attempted. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, he believed they would, and, holding that opinion, it was better to speak out. If these words were allowed to stand they would prevent the Bill from becoming law.


reminded the hon. and gallant Gentleman that part of the arrangement with respect to the Bill implied that the services were not to be left absolutely to the discretion of the person officiating. There were to be prayers and hymns, and portions of Scripture read; so that there would be some limitations on the inventions of persons who were not-authorized ministers. Living, as he did, in the midst of a large population of Dissenters, he was aware that sects for whom it was impossible not to entertain the highest respect were constantly without ministers; and, in the absence of ministers, most respectable and excellent persons, chosen for the purpose, officiated.


suggested that if, as was now agreed, there was to be an alternative form of service prescribed by the Bill, the duty of reading this ought to be cast on the clergymen of the Church of England. Not one clergyman in a hundred, he ventured to say, would refuse when once the service had been prescribed by law. He thought that a reasonable compromise.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 126; Noes 101: Majority 25.


said, that for the sake of smoothing matters and postponing a discussion which must sooner or later occur, they had omitted the words "either with or without a religious service," and yet they had by no means agreed that there should be any religious service at all. Now they were about to give a tacit assent to the same proposition by passing the words "the minister or other person or persons who is or are to officiate at such religious service, if any, be intended to be solemnized." He entirely objected on principle to any religious service being conducted in a churchyard belonging to the Church of England by anyone but an ordained minister of that Church, because he regarded the churchyard as quite as sacred as the Church itself. He therefore proposed, in page 1, line 29, to leave out the words "to officiate at such religious service, if any intended to be solemnized," in order to insert the words, "responsible for the burial."

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 99: Majority 19.

MR. GREGORY moved in page 2, line 17, to add "and that any such Burial shall not take place on a Sunday, Christmas Day, or Good Friday."


said, he hoped that the hon. and learned Member would withdraw his Amendment, because the incumbent had sufficient authority to deal with the matter by other parts of the Bill, and because it would be a great misfortune if a statute were to contain an enactment that would in any degree prevent the poor man from having a funeral on any particular day.


also objected to the Amendment, on the ground of the inconvenience that would be occasioned if no interment could be made on Sunday and Christmas Day when they came together.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. C. S. READ moved, at the end of the clause, to add the words— And every such burial shall conclude half an hour before the commencement, and shall not begin within half an hour of the conclusion of any such other service or burial.


remarked that the clergyman had no power to fix the hour of termination, which ought to be given.


said, he was desirous that there should be no collision in the churchyards.


said, that as practically the Bill would apply only to the rural districts the probability of any such collisions was not very serious.

Question put, "That those words be there added." The Committee divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 117: Majority 39.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday 17th April.