HC Deb 09 June 1874 vol 219 cc1269-71

asked the Lord Advocate, If, before inviting this House to legislate on the subject of patronage in the Church of Scotland, the Government mean to lay before it Returns showing the number in each parish of the male communicants or other body on whom it is proposed to confer the right of electing their minister?


The Government does not consider that the information now asked is of such importance as would have led them to move for it themselves. Even if the Returns be granted, there may be some delay in procuring the information, as the course of post and return to some of the more remote parishes in Scotland is very slow; and, allowing for absences of ministers and other causes of delay, complete Returns could not be expected within a short period. The Government will not delay the progress of the measure until such Returns can be procured. If, notwithstanding these circumstances, a Return of the present number of communicants in all the parishes of Scotland is still desired, the Government will grant it, and will use every means to procure the information expeditiously. If granted, it must apply to the whole of Scotland. The Return must also be of the present number of communicants. Owing to the manner in which the rolls are kept in many parishes, it would be difficult to give now reliable statements of the number who had communicated on each occasion in the last seven years.


gave Notice that he should move for the full Return.


said that, as the Lord Advocate would be aware, in the other Churches in Scotland—the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church—the ministers were elected by the communicants, as proposed in the Government Bill. He thought, therefore, it would be desirable, and he asked the Lord Advocate if he was willing, to put himself into communication with the Moderators or other authorities of those Churches, asking them, as a matter of courtesy, to give a similar return as regarded their Churches as was asked for in the case of the Established Church. He would ask these Churches to give a Return of the whole congregations, and what was the proportion of what was called hearers to the communicants.


said, in reference to the hearers, he regretted that the last Census, which was to have embraced "information on these points, did not do so in consequence of communications made by those representing the Nonconformists. The Government of the day did not therefore press for it; and he feared it was impossible to obtain reliable information at present. He felt he could not ask Returns from Churches which were not connected with the Establishment. Under these circumstances, he was not in a position to give any promise on the subject.


said, he presumed there was no objection to his Return, which he would move as follows— Address for Return, with regard to the Established Church of Scotland, giving, in separate columns, the number of male and the number of female Communicants on the Roll in each parish of the several counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross, Caithness, and Sutherland, in each year, from 1867 to 1873 inclusive.

Motion agreed to.