HC Deb 28 May 1875 vol 224 cc1071-84

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: Mr. Speaker, I feel that I may save the House a good deal of trouble by assuring it that this Bill is, in fact, supplementary to one which it passed a short time ago by a majority of more than 200. It carries out the principle which was so emphatically affirmed not only in the votes, but also in the speeches made upon the St. Albans Bishopric Bill; and among the hon. Members on whom I shall call to support the principle of the Bill—if he has any consistency in him—is my hon. and learned Friend opposite the Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt). Now, the principle which the House has affirmed in the St. Albans Bishopric Bill is that, where the increase of the population manifestly shows that the governing power of the Church is weak, and that there is not sufficient Episcopal superintendence consistently with area and numbers, and where proper means are forthcoming from any dependable quarter, then the State, acting in concert with the Church, may divide an existing diocese and found a new Bishopric; and, further, although a complete organization of the diocese, with a Dean and Chapter, and other arrangements are very desirable, yet that the first step which should be taken is the appointment, pure and simple, of a Bishop. That is the principle which is laid down in the St. Albans Bishopric Bill, and that is the principle carried out in this Bill, which—as all know—was passed by the House of Lords without a single division, with the support of both parties, of persons of highest position in the State, and of the heads of the Church, This Bill of mine, which I now hold in my hand, carries out that principle; but it is only an enabling measure, and it only contemplates Sees being founded where everything is ready, and, in particular, where the Government and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are satisfied that they are wanted, and that the means are forthcoming to set them up on a proper footing. Let me repeat—the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are the operative body in the introductory stage; and who are those Commissioners? The leading personages in Church and State; men of the highest rank and position in both; members of the Peerage, members of the Episcopate and other exalted Churchmen. This body was the creation of Parliament; it was deliberately accepted by the people and the Church; and during the lifetime of many in this House they have been the body to whom we have had to look for administrative functions in regard to the great constitution over which they watch. I cannot, therefore, conceive a stronger or better safeguard than the approbation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. By the 3rd clause of this Bill, it is provided that the Commissioners may— Prepare schemes for the erection of new bishoprics in England and Wales, by the division of any diocese then existing, such division or union to take effect upon the consent of the Bishop or Bishops of the diocese or dioceses affected by the scheme being given, or otherwise upon the avoidance of the diocese or dioceses affected by all such Bishops as do not consent to such scheme. By that it is clear that the Commissioners must be satisfied that the scheme is a feasible one. Then the 5th clause relates to schemes for the creation of capitular bodies, and the 10th enacts— That nothing in this Act shall authorize the Commissioners to apply any portion of their common fund towards the endowment or maintenance of any Bishop, dean and chapter, chapter, or other office erected or created under the provisions of this Act. We know that in former debates on the Increase of the Episcopate, and notably in the debates which preceded the foundation of the Bishopric of Manchester, the question very materially turned on whether the Episcopal fund in the hands of the Commissioners was or was not applicable to the development of the Episcopate. I did not, then, and cannot now, see any great objection to that; but other persons did, and do see an objection, and in the Bill which I hold in my hand the utmost regard is paid to that opinion, and it is specially enacted that that fund shall not be drawn upon for the purpose. The 12th clause is one of the most important clauses of all. It relates to the material guarantees which are to be provided as the necessary conditions antecedent to the approbation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Its short title is this— No scheme to be submitted for confirmation until sufficient moneys transferred to the Commissioners for securing Bishop's income, nor take effect till laid before Parliament.

This clause, as I need hardly point out, assumes the approbation of Her Majesty in Council, or, in other words, of the Ministry, which is in itself a most sufficient safeguard. Then, the happy expedient of laying the scheme upon the Table of this House and of the other House of Parliament for six weeks—during which my hon. and learned Friend opposite would have ample opportunity of bestowing his acute criticisms upon it—following as it does upon the regulation which makes compulsory the provision of sufficient money and means, creates a moral impossibility that any scheme for founding a new Bishopric could, as I have heard it insinuated, be of a Quixotic or ambiguous character. Of course, Her Majesty's consent comes in as the final constitutional conclusion of the procedure. The 15th clause carries out the provision contained in the Manchester Act, and in the St. Albans Bill, which is also embodied, that the number of Bishops having seats in Parliament is not to be increased. At present, as we all know, there is one junior Bishop out of Parliament, and in a few weeks there will be a second junior also out of Parliament; and when the Bill, of which I am now moving the second reading, becomes law, the number of junior Bishops out of Parliament will be increased by the number of Bishops created under this measure. That is a principle which, I think, has been very emphatically affirmed by the House. It was so affirmed in the case of the Manchester Act in 1847; and again, this Session, when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Charley) called attention to the subject, and with great gallantry advocated the admission of all the Bishops to seats in the House of Lords, but I think he will agree with me he very conspicuously failed to carry the opinion of this House with him. The only objection which it seems to me can be made to this Bill is, that it simply represents an idea, and that it will not be operative. Let us see how much this is worth. In a country like this, which has produced such splendid specimens of munificence; whether as amongst Church people, we recall such names as Akroyd or Burdett Coutts, associated with the foundation of several Bishoprics in the Colonies; or among Dissenters, such as a Josiah Mason, or a Titus Salt, I say that any such sordid idea ought not to be harboured, no, not for an instant; for the heart will be open when the law has opened a way for the heart to carry out its good intentions; and I believe if the work is a great and a good work, that we shall have good and great men coming forward to bring it on to a successful issue. In the autumn of last year, did we not see the great town of Liverpool, the second town in England, meeting together and determining that it would have its own Bishop; and do you not think that, having the will, Liverpool will find the way to give practical effect to this Bill when once it has become law? Have we not also heard that this very day a numerous and influential deputation from the great counties of Devon and Cornwall has made an application to a high authority, and asked that Her Majesty's Government would give their support to this measure in its passage through this House, so that the immense diocese of Exeter may be divided and the people of Cornwall have a Bishop of their own? And I understand that several sums have already been offered and given for the purpose of helping on the work in the event of the Bill passing into law. It may be said that the small number of Petitions presented to the House in favour of the Bill indicates that the Church is apathetic in the matter. But that I deny, and refer the objector to the Petition which I just now presented to the House, and which is signed by sixteen Deans—Hereford, Rochester, Chichester, Norwich, Lincoln, Canterbury, Winchester, St. Paul's, York, St. Asaph, Manchester, Exeter, Salisbury, Ely, Lichfield, Llandaff—two-thirds of the whole of the Deans of England, men whose names represent all parties in the Church, distinguished High Churchmen, distinguished Low Churchmen, distinguished Broad Churchmen; as representative a body as you could possibly produce of the most eminent, learned and devoted clergy in the Church. I do not refer to my swarm of Archdeacons. I suppose that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford will oppose this Bill, as I see he has put a Notice down upon the Paper for its rejection. Why he has done so I do not know. He said something the other day about its not being an Erastian Bill; while he gave his support to the St. Albans Bishopric Bill because it was Erastian. My unfortunate Bill is not Erastian in his eyes, and therefore it has fallen under his displeasure. In meeting this objection I am conscious that I stand at a great disadvantage to my hon. and learned Friend; he is so awfully constitutional, so profoundly historical, and so terribly international; and besides, I have never yet learned to ambuscade behind some big swelling word of which I can give one interpretation one day, and if necessary another on another day; while always ready to repudiate anybody else's interpretation, when he tries to nail the man to any definite meaning for that big word. I suppose the idea which was hazily floating before his mind when he broke out with Erastian was, that it meant something or other that preserved the connection between Church and State; but if that is what he meant, his words were ill-selected, though the thing that he meant is a thing which I feel quite as strongly as he can profess to do. I am as little desirous as he of weakening the connection between Church and State; only I think that that connection is better kept up and maintained by easing the collar where it galls, by giving a little more elasticity, and by meeting laudable tastes and earnest feelings, than by getting up and shaking the old rusty fetters of Tudor despotism before people's eyes. Now, as to this word "Erastian;" what is it that my hon. and learned Friend wants? Is not the Ecclesiastical Commission Erastian enough for him? Whom could he have better to sit in judgment on these schemes for the erection of new Bishoprics than the Ecclesiastical Commissioners? Again, the Queen's leave is to be obtained. Then every scheme has to lie six weeks on the Table of each House of Parliament, and surely the most rigid Erastian would be hard to please if six weeks here and in the House of Lords would not be sufficient time to secure the purification of any scheme from sacerdotal taint. This objection, therefore, I do not think will hold good for one moment. The Bill is an important one. It is looked to with great interest by many people in the country whose feelings and views are entitled to our highest respect, and in justice to them I could not get up tonight and perfunctorily move the second reading. We all of us know, and feel pride and satisfaction in the fact, that the National and Established Church of England has rooted itself in the confidence and affections of the people of our generation, as it had never done in former times. We feel and acknowledge that this National Church is, under Divine Providence, an engine of infinite good to the people of the country in which it is established; and the people of England feel that, in order to develop and confirm that good, the governing and regulating power of the Church of England should be strengthened and increased. They also feel that there are certain spiritual ministrations which, according to the principles and doctrines of that Church, can only be performed by the highest order of the clergy. Looking, then, at the administrative and spiritual functions of the Episcopacy, we find that, whilst the population of England has doubled in a few years, only one Bishop has been added to the number, while a Bill has just passed this House adding a second recruit to the Episcopate, the increase of which ought, undoubtedly, to bear a little more relation to the increase of the population than it has yet done. The Church of England has come before Parliament on this occasion with only an enabling Bill, with nothing to lean on but the spontaneous good will of its devout and more munificent members. That Bill has passed through the other House without a single division, and I ask the House of Commons now to read it a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)


said, he could assure his hon. Friend that he had no desire to enter into any personal controversy with him. Although they arrived at it by different paths, they had a common object—to maintain and enlarge the efficiency of the Church of England; and, though the word Erastian grated on the ears of his hon. Friend, still in seeking to attain their object his hon. Friend ought not to refuse the support even of an humble Erastain. His hon. Friend had referred to the Tudors, but did he remember that it was the House of Tudor that established the Reformed Church of England, that the Stuarts almost destroyed it, and that the House of Hanover had happily succeeded in re-establishing that Church upon principles which were rooted in the affections of the nation? His hon. Friend would, therefore, allow him to prefer the principles of the Tudors and Hanoverians to those of the Caroline divines, of which he was so great an admirer. He would proceed to give some reasons why he did not think that this was a wise and prudent Bill in the interests of the Church. The Bill was founded upon the supposed spiritual destitution of the country in regard to Bishops; but his hon. Friend had not shown that the supply of Bishops was smaller than the demand. In London this deficiency of Bishops was not so observable, because if you went by the Athenæum Club, every other Gentleman you met were a shovel hat and an apron. If hon. Members, however, resided in their dioceses they might be more struck by the absence of Bishops. Assuming, however, that more Bishops were wanted, they should provide a certain and effectual remedy for that spiritual deficiency. But the Bill provided no definite scheme for increasing the Bishops. The Church had large funds, and why could not the new Bishoprics be supplied by the agency of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as in 1847? If the Bill passed, those who wanted more Bishops would be as far as ever from having them, because, although they would have got a Bill, they would have got no funds. It was as if Parliament were asked to pass a Railway Bill which proposed to sanction a line from anywhere to anywhere, and where there was no capital, no subscribers, and no directors. It was, in fact, a kind of Episcopal Provisional Order Bill, by which an unlimited number of Bishops were to be created, no one knew where, and supported no one knew how. That was a sort of ecclesiastical kiteflying which ought not to be encouraged by the House. His hon. Friend had referred to various splendid instances of munificence displayed by members of the Church, but there was one other name he might have mentioned, and that was his own, for the Church had no more munificent benefactor than the hon. Member for Cambridge University, and others like him might be found to give their money for this object. But when they had done so, and could come before the House with a measure to create a definite Bishop for definite objects there would be no difficulty in passing the necessary measure. But to issue a Bill in order to raise money upon it was a sort of "accommodation Bill" which Churchmen ought not to attempt to negotiate. Moreover, he was one of those who thought that the creation of a Bishop was an act of State which ought to originate with the Crown and be exercised on the initiative of the Prime Minister of the Crown. He ought to be produced by the direct action of Parliament like the St. Albans Bishop, and not be a private-adventure Bishop such as was proposed to be created by this Bill. The new Bishopric to be created by this Bill, on the other hand, was not to come before Parliament at all. His hon. Friend proposed, he might add, to give the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the power of dealing with the whole of the transactions under the Bill, which was practically to hand them over to a solicitor residing in Whitehall Place. The Commissioners were to be at liberty to cut up the whole of the dioceses in England at their pleasure. Now, a diocese was rather an important division of the country, and he thought that to delegate to them so extraordinary an authority would be a very injudicious course to pursue. But when they had cut up a diocese, what were they to do? They were to declare the amount of the endowments of the new Bishops, and to recommend the apportionment of patronage among them. Such a recommendation was, in his opinion, a very delicate affair. Did his hon. Friend mean that the new Bishops were to have the same endowments as the old? If he did, whoever made them, even supposing it to be his hon. Friend himself, must be prepared to invest £150,000 in Consols. It was, however, perhaps intended that they should be what Sydney Smith called "gig" Bishops; and if so, it was, in his opinion, very unwise of his hon. Friend to introduce a Bill which would set up a class of poor, living side by side with a class of rich, Bishops. If that course were adopted, it must lead to a considerable re-distribution of the incomes of Bishops, and he thought his hon. Friend would find that some of his ecclesiastical supporters in the other House would be rather cool in their approval of a measure upon which they were already reproached with having thrown cold water. His hon. Friend laid stress on the Petitions which had been presented from Deans in favour of the Bill; but he was not at all surprised that they should desire to multiply Bishops, seeing that the relations between them were so close. In the 5th clause the Bill proposed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should also manufacture Deans and Chapters at their discretion. He spoke of Deans and Chapters with all respect; they belonged to the superfluities and luxuries of the Church, and were justifiable because they existed. The next proceeding under the Bill was to enable the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, by a Provisional Order, to erect an unlimited number of Ecclesiastical Courts, of which he should have thought there was already a superabundant supply. How was the money to be found for the purposes of this Bill? The 10th clause declared that if the Church of England wanted new Bishops, the funds of the Church were not to contribute. Why? That was directly contrary to the principle of the St. Albans Bill. The 12th clause declared that the new Bishops which the Church required should be founded by voluntary effort. That was an attempt to graft the principle of a free Church on the Church of England, and a more dangerous and mischievous principle on the part of those who wished to support the Establishment it was impossible to conceive. The money was to be subscribed; the hat was to go round; the Provisional Order was to be made by the gentleman in Whitehall Place; but—and he must congratulate his hon. Friend on the prudence of his Bill in this respect—the 13th was a kind of winding-up clause for an insolvent speculation; if the money subscribed was not sufficient and the bubble burst, the subscribers were to get back their money with interest thereon. Then, as to the question of seats in the House of Lords, was Parliament going to refer to gentlemen in Whitehall the manufacture of an unlimited number of Bishops, with a paulo post futurum right to sit in the House of Lords? It was a matter which deserved consideration whether Parliament was to put the creation of Peers in commission in that way. He opposed this Bill because it was both unwise and unnecessary. It was unnecessary, because if his hon. Friend who desired to create these new Bishops would only provide the necessary funds, he would have no more difficulty about the matter than there was about the Bishopric of St. Albans. But, if people went begging about the country, many would ask why it was necessary for Bishops to have large country and town houses, kept up at an enormous expense. He believed that the policy adopted in 1836 gave the Church a new lease. Under that Act, power was given to constitute new Bishoprics under certain conditions, and the incomes of the Archbishops and Bishops were reduced to effect that object. If a Bill for the creation of new Bishops was needed, it must be a Bill for the reform of the Bishoprics of the Church of England. Let the Government, then, say that there was not a sufficient number of Bishops, and that the Church must not be dependent on voluntary subscriptions when the resources of the Church were sufficient to meet the pressing want. He believed the Church was firmly established; but he did not know how long it would remain so, if they began to tamper and tinker with her constitution. The Bill was neither more nor less than an attempt to combine the privileges of a Free Church with the privileges of an Established Church. These two things were incompatible, and the attempt to realize such an idea would simply end in failure. He thought such a Bill should have been introduced on the direct responsibility of the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the rejection of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Sir William Harcourt.)

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


said, the question raised by the measure was not one involving the connection between Church and State. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) had said that the Bill was one which tampered with the constitution of the Church of England, because it proposed that instead of the funds required for the new Bishoprics being provided out of those of the Church of England, they were to be obtained by means of voluntary contributions. The hon. and learned Member further maintained that such an attempt to unite a Free with a State Church must necessarily be a failure, inasmuch as they were incompatible with each other. But the Church of England had obtained her funds originally not from the State, but by means of voluntary endowments, and therefore he saw nothing incompatible with her present position in the new Bishoprics being endowed by voluntary contributions. It had been found necessary of late years to divide the old ecclesiastical parishes, and the result was that instead of our having 10,000 parishes, as was the case 40 years ago, we had now somewhere about 20,000 with their separate endowments, and all this had been done by voluntary efforts. The proposition, therefore, that voluntary efforts were incompatible with the existence of a State Church could not be maintained. Any one who had listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman would have supposed that the whole working of this Bill was intended to rest upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who would have power under it to create new dioceses and to appoint new Bishops. Such, however, was not the case, inasmuch as all schemes, after being prepared by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, must receive the sanction, first, of the Bishop whose diocese was to be divided, then that of the Government, then they must lie six weeks before both Houses of Parliament, and, finally, they must receive the Royal Assent before they could be carried into effect. All that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would have power to do would be to negotiate with the benefactors who wished to endow the new diocese, and to draw up a scheme. If, for example, the town of Liverpool wished to endow a Bishopric, this would be done through the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, subject to the approval of the First Minister of the Crown. He did not think the number of Bishops would be largely increased under the operation of the Bill, neither did he think any wholesale increase in their number was desirable; but it was much better that Bishops should be specially appointed for the government of a diocese rather than Suffragan Bishops should be appointed, as was the case at present. The fact was established that there was great need of Bishops in some parts of the country; while, on the other hand, there were many persons who if they saw a prospect of a new diocese being created would willingly contribute towards its endowment. Under these circumstances, he should support the Bill of his hon. Friend.


said, the great blot of the Bill was the 10th clause, which prohibited the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from using any part of their revenues for the endowment of new Bishops.


opposed the Bill, expressing the opinion that what the Church needed was not an increase in the number of its higher officers, but rather in the number of the curates.


moved the Adjournment of the Debate on account of the lateness of the hour.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Waddy.)

The House divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 101: Majority 59.

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he rose to move the Adjournment of the House.


ruled that, having addressed the House on the question before the House the hon. Member was not at liberty to make such a Motion.


then moved the Adjournment of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Herbert.)


thought such a Bill as this ought not to be in the hands of a private Member, and hoped that hon. Members on his own side of the House would consent to an Adjournment, in order that they might have a fair discussion of the measure.


deprecated these constant Motions for Adjournment, after the House had so unequivocally pronounced its opinion upon the principle of the measure, and trusted that they would not be persevered in.


would have preferred to see such a measure in the hands of the Government, and hoped that a fair opportunity of debating it would be afforded the House. He trusted that the debate would be adjourned, but would not recommend another division.


was unable to hold out any prospect of an early opportunity being found for such a discussion as the noble Lord wished for, and complained of the unreasonableness of hon. Gentlemen opposite in requiring the cream of the evening for everything. In old times this would not have been considered too late to consider a Bill of this kind, and he feared they were becoming effeminate in regard to dealing with Bills at, an advanced hour of the evening. It would be only gracious if Members were to allow the Bill to proceed.


hoped the discussion on the Bill would be allowed to be continued.


said, he had voted in the majority, because he believed the adjournment of the debate simply meant that the Bill should not be read a second time that year.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 37; Noes 92: Majority 55.

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


moved the Adjournment of the Debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." (Sir Charles Forster.)


trusted the hon. Baronet would not persevere in the Motion, seeing that ample opportunity of discussing the Bill would be afforded at future stages.


reminded the hon. Baronet that they would have an opportunity of raising a discussion on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair, and he must therefore insist on the Bill being then read a second time.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 36; Noes 86: Majority 50.

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, the Bill was a most important one, and should not have been brought on for a second reading at 2 o'clock in the morning. He should therefore move that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Waikin Williams.)


assented to the adjournment of the debate, trusting that he might not meet with any obstructive opposition on a future occasion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

Debate adjourned till Monday next.

House adjourned at Two o'clock, till Monday next.