HC Deb 31 July 1874 vol 221 cc1095-103

Bill, as amended, considered.

Clause 3 (Repeal of Acts, 10 Anne, c. 12, and 6 & 7 Vict. c. 61. Appointment of ministers in future).


, in moving, as an Amendment, in page 2, line 2, to leave out "shall," and insert "is hereby declared to," said, that he had intended to move the Amendment without making any remark upon it; but he was in-formed that one or two hon. Gentlemen who had opposed the Bill on the second reading, intended to object to his proposal, and it therefore became necessary for him to make a few remarks. When he proposed the same Amendment in Committee, he was met by only one objection—namely, that the effect of its being carried would be to prevent other hon. Members from moving Amendments which, if carried, would have the effect of changing the constitution of the elective body. He therefore yielded to the request of his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate to withdraw his Amendment, and propose it on the Report. He believed that some hon. Members on the opposite side of the House had since then found out other objections to the Amendment. He did not know what they might be; but the object which he had in proposing the Amendment at the present stage of the Bill was to restore to the Church of Scotland a right which it possessed at the date of the Union between the two countries. He wished to make that part of the Bill declaratory and not enactive. At the union of Scotland to England, or, perhaps, more properly speaking of England to Scotland, the people of the Church of Scotland had the power of electing their own ministers. It was true that the initiative took place with the heritors and elders of the Church, who looked out for a clergyman qualified for the duties; but the ultimate result depended upon the congregation. It was in the interest not only of the Established Church, but of the Dissenters themselves, and more especially of the members of the Free Church, that he moved the Amendment, the object of which was to render the Bill in conformity with the law of 1690, and he was sure that all those possessing an acquaintance with the feelings of the people of Scotland would support it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 2, to leave out the word "shall," and insert the words "is hereby declared to,"—(Mr. Orr Ewing,)—instead thereof.

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


said, he objected to the Amendment on two several grounds. First, that it was historically untrue; and, second, that this was an enacting, and not a declaratory Bill. With regard to the first point, he would draw the attention of the hon. Member for Dumbarton to the fact that the Bill was not a Bill, as described by the hon. Member for Fife, to repeal merely the Act of Anne. It was a Bill with a double aspect. Its object was, no doubt, to repeal the Act of Anne, and also Lord Aberdeen's Act; but it was intended, besides, to substitute by positive enactment a new body for electing the ministers of the Church of Scotland for that which existed previously. His hon. Friend had boldly asserted that he meant to restore to the Church of Scotland its ancient right, and therefore he asked, in his Amendment, for a declaration by the House of that right. What did that mean? The Act of Union said nothing whatever about patronage; and therefore they fell back upon the Act of 1690, which was diametrically different from those clauses in the Bill, which were to vest the right of electing ministers in the congregation. What power did the Act of 1690 give? It gave power to the heritors and elders of the Church to propose a minister to the congregation, who then had the power of approving or disapproving. If they disapproved, they had to state their reasons for disapproving, and then the matter went to the Presbytery, who had absolute power of determining who should be the minister. They found in the Bill a new mode of election, and a new body of electors; and they were by the Bill vesting in the congregation that power which was before vested in the heritors and the elders. The House would remember the mode in which the question came from the General Assembly. They found that the General Assembly, in the first in-stance, recommended the heritors, the elders, and the communicants as the electing body; then, when the Bill was introduced into "another place," they found a noble Duke objecting that that was too narrow a suffrage; and now they found that communicants had boon dropped, and congregations substituted in the Bill. He must repeat that in the measure a new body was substituted for that which was expressly designated in the Act of 1690.


said, the hon. Member for Aberdeen had so clearly stated the difference between the law as it was, and the law as it was proposed to be declared to be by the proposed clause, that he would not occupy the time of the House by going over what had been so well said. In round numbers, the present proposal included about 1,000 parishes and 500,000 communicants who would become the electors, or about 500 electors to every congregation. By the Act of 1690, it was the heritors and elders who according to law proposed the minister to the people. That was the election by the heritors and elders, subject to a veto by the congregation, and an appeal to the Presbytery. An hon. Member had stated that the Bill was not more for one Church than another. That statement surprised him. The Free Church, as it seemed to him, had been sacrificed by the Bill, and had been insulted by it. ["Oh, oh!"] The Free Church ought to have been considered, and had not been considered; and his impression was that the effect of this revolutionary Bill—the most revolutionary Bill ever passed with regard to Scotland since the period of the Union—would be to unite the whole of the Free Church against the Establishment, and with them the United Presbyterians, and other denominations; and that a majority of hon. Members would be returned for Scotland on the principle of disestablishing the Church. In his opinion that would be the pivot on which future elections would turn.


said, the hon. Members for Aberdeen and Edinburgh had been very consistent in their opposition to the whole Bill, and had done everything they could to prevent its passing. Therefore, he was not discouraged by their trying to make the Amendment more palatable to those who did belong to the Church and to those who did not. Under the Act of 1690, the power of election was vested in the congregation; while the heritors and the elders had the right to propose to the congregation, the ultimate result depended upon the congregation them-selves. The views of contemporary writers wore, that effect was always given to any objection taken by the congregation, unless it was the result of improper proceeding on the part of the congregation. ["No, no!"] The hon. Member for Aberdeen might say "No;" but he (the Lord Advocate) was stating his views of the case, and he hoped the hon. Member would not interrupt him. He ventured to say that that was the proper construction of the Act of 1690, and they were now coming back, by throwing out the Act of Queen Anne, to the original Act.


said, the historical statements were either true or not true. If they were false, it was not worthy of the House to accept them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had said nothing to answer the allegation that the statements were historically false. He, however, had said the Act of 1690 was practically the same as this Act. He (Mr. Lyon Playfair) denied that altogether; that Act set forth that the heritors of the parish, together with the elders, were to name a person to be approven or disapproven by the congregation. Was that election? That settled the question, and there was no occasion to discuss it further. The Act of 1690 was a totally different Act. It was historically false to say it was the same Act as they were now passing. It was not worthy of the House to put in a declaration which was historically false.


said, if the Lord Advocate could restore the right of the heritors, elders, and congregations to elect the minister, he would deserve the support of the House; but it appeared to him that this Amendment went no further than one of his own, which had been declared to be wrong.


said, the right hon. and learned Lord said it was desirable to make the Bill as palatable as possible to the people of Scotland; but it ought not to be made palatable at the cost of historical truth or of constitutional principle. He maintained that if the Amendment were accepted, they would sacrifice both. Even if, as was alleged, but as was not the case, by the Act of 1690, the elections were left to the congregations, that was qualified in this Bill by the regulations to be laid down by the General Assembly. But he went rather on the question of constitutional principle. The Amendment was to make the Bill more palatable by substituting the words "is declared to be" instead of "shall be." Why should they be so squeamish about using the word "shall?" The reason was, that it was supposed to be distasteful to some people in Scotland that the House of Commons should appear to dictate to them as to how they should elect their minister. But he maintained that that was a right which Parliament possessed. Parliament could do as it liked with regard to the Established Church; it could say what she should believe and what she should do. Then, if that were the state of things, why should they take all this trouble in order to save the conscience of some people of the Free Church?


said, the question raised by his hon. Friend was of great importance. It was to declare that that was the law which never was the law. In taking that course, the Legislature would discredit itself. The right hon. and learned Lord said the opposition came from the enemies of the Bill, but he was not an enemy of the Bill. He had voted for it, but he must remind his right hon. and learned Friend that to declare a thing in Parliament did not alter history or law. In many in-stances, declarations had been made in Parliament which had only brought discredit on those who made them.


said, he had been much surprised at the observations of the hon. Member for Stirling. He hoped that though they had the right to disestablish and disendow the Established Church of Scotland, they would never think of altering her form of worship or creed. He also had to complain that the senior Member for Edinburgh had stated inaccurately the number of communicants in North and South Leith.


said, he pledged him self to his constituents that he would vote in favour of any measure to repeal the law of patronage. This was a popular Bill in Scotland, and he was sure that the relieving of the Established Church of this incubus would be a great good. He hoped that the House would agree to the Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 31; Noes 91: Majority 60.

Words inserted.


moved, as an Amendment, in page 2, line 4, to leave out "a" and insert "one or more candidates to fill the vacant office of." The hon. Member said that as the clause stood, there might be only one person presented to the congregation by a scheming committee, and he wished to give the congregation a choice. The proposition seemed so reasonable that he hoped the Lord Advocate would adopt it at once.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 4, to leave out the word "a," and insert the words "one or more candidates to fill the vacant office of,"—(Mr. W'Laren,)

—instead thereof.


said, he objected to the introduction of the word "candidates," and thought the clause had better stand as it was.


said, he was willing to substitute for the word "candidates," the word "persons."

Question, "That the word 'a' stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

On Motion of Mr. M'LAREN, Amendment made in page 2, line 5, after "committee," by inserting the words "chosen by the congregation."


, in moving as an Amendment, in page 2, line 19, after "thereof," to insert "as well as upon all other questions with which it is the province of the Church to deal," said, that the object of the Amendment was to protect the spiritual independence of the Church against the civil Courts.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 19, after the word "thereof," to insert the words "as well as upon all other questions with which it is the province of the Church to deal."—(Mr. Mackintosh.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, that having fully and anxiously considered the Amendment, and consulted with persons in authority on the subject, he was of opinion that it was not within the scope of the Bill, and also that it was not necessary for the object in view.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Clause 5 (Procedure before sheriff).


, in moving, as an Amendment, in page 3, line 5, to leave out "not exceed," and insert "be equal to," said, its effect would be that a patron would receive a compensation which would amount to one year's stipend certain.


said, he would agree to the Amendment, in sub-stance, but would suggest an alteration to make it applicable to more than one patron.

Amendment (Mr. M'Laren), by leave withdrawn.

Amendment (the Lord Advocate), agreed to.


, in moving as an Amendment in page 3, to leave out from the word "that" in line 7, to the word "parish "in line 8, said, he considered it was important in the interest of the Church that the Amendment should be inserted, and, moreover, it would clear away a serious blot in the Bill.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, to leave out from the word "that," in line 7, to the word "parish," in line 8.—(Sir Edward Colebrooke.)

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


supported the Amendment.


opposed the alteration.


regretted the course which the Lord Advocate had considered it his duty to take.


trusted the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment would divide the House upon it.


thought that the clause as it stood was the only method in which a guarantee for payment could be secured, and he therefore trusted that the Amendment would not be accepted.


said, he looked upon the Amendment as a great improvement, but considered that the time for collecting the money should be three years, instead of six months.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 28: Majority 37.

Clause 8 (Repeal of inconsistent statutes).


moved, as an Amendment in page 4, line 13, after "with "to insert "the appointment of the minister first appointed as the minister of any new parish quoad sacra or."


thought that the proposal was inconsistent with the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 9 (Interpretation clause).

Amendment proposed, In page 4, line 3,5, after the word "include," to insert the words "parishioners who are either."—(Mr. Campbell-Bannerman.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


moved, as an Amendment, in line 36, to change the phrase "such other adherents" to "any other adherents."

Amendment proposed, in page 4, line 36, to leave out the word "such," and insert the word "any,"—(Mr. Orr Ewing,)—instead thereof.

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


objected, on the ground that it might have the effect of enabling kirk sessions to exclude adherents.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Other Amendments made.

Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next. House adjourned at Two o'clock.