HC Deb 05 July 1876 vol 230 cc1020-7

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [16th February], that the Question then proposed, "That this Bill be now read a second time," be now put.—(Sir Walter Barttelot.)

Previous Question again proposed, "That that Question be now put:"—Debate resumed.


Sir, I trust the House will allow me very briefly to recall the circumstances under which it is resuming a debate which was adjourned on the 16th of February. On that, the earliest Wednesday in the present Session, I moved the second reading of this Bill, of which I had been in charge during the preceding Session, after it had gone through every stage in "another place" without a single division. I took charge of it under circumstances which have since assumed a very melancholy interest, for I received it from one as to whom however in past times there may have been differences of opinion as to his policy on some specific questions, now that he is gone, no Englishman, no Member of Parliament in either House, no gentleman can look back to without feelings of admiration and regret—the late Lord Lyttelton. He was a very old and intimate Friend of mine. He was one for whose loss my regrets are personal as much as public. For many years Lord Lyttelton had devoted his great intellect and unparalleled power of work, among other questions, to this of the increase of the Episcopate. He had laboured at it through good and through evil report, and last year he had the satisfaction of seeing the principle for which he had laboured receive a special recognition in the triumphant and unchecked progress of his Bill through "another place." That Bill in its details was a compromise, and the result of much deliberation. In fulfilment of a promise made to him I have again brought it in in the same shape this year. Its scope is permissive, as I explained at the time. I have no prejudice for the permissive principle; but the question of the increase of the Episcopate, when an onward move was first ventilated, was not in so advantageous a position as it has become since. The matter was not ripe before the country, and the necessity of meeting the needs of the population by a more efficient machinery had not come home to the public mind. Any attempt, therefore, at that time, to bring in a definite measure, declaring that it was expedient to create a new See in this or that place, would in the hands of a private Member have seemed to be, I will not say impertinent, but exceedingly chimerical. It was necessary, however, to put the demand plainly before Parliament, and that was done in the shape of a permissive Bill; while if there is to be a permissive Bill, I must say I think that this Bill is about as safe a one as could possibly be passed. Indeed, the day after the debate, in one of those publications which claim the liberty of telling the truth to Members about themselves, I found myself handled in a way that I could not help being amused at. I was told that I had, first, argued in favour of the Bill, because it was likely to be so efficient, and next because it was so well guarded against any extensive application; and I must say that, trying to look impartially at the matter, that was at least a plausible picture of what the debate might have seemed to a not very enthusiastic backer. The Bill bristled with safeguards. The endowment comes first of all, and then the scheme, backed by the promise of money, has, to begin with, the Ecclesiastical Commission, and I am sure that no man in this House would dare to say that the Ecclesiastical Commission is a very yielding, facile, or sleepy body of men. Then, after a scheme for the erection of a new Bishopric has been submitted to the Commission, it has to go before Her Majesty in Council, and would come, of course, under the purview of the Attorney and the Solicitor General and the Home Secretary, and then it would have to lie upon the Tables of the two Houses of Parliament. Still, the cry was raised that, because it was permissive, it was a vague Bill. Another objection, which, I must say, stands upon stronger ground, is that upon which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) moved the Previous Question, which is immediately before the House, and upon which at this moment I am technically speaking. This is, the assertion that a measure of this sort, involving a considerable change in the Episcopate, including some modification of the system on which Bishops sit in the other House of Parliament, ought to be in the hands of the responsible advisers of the Crown, and not of any private Member. Now, that is a principle which I should be the last to contend against; only I must plead in reply that I took it up in this House, and that Lord Lyttelton before me took it up "elsewhere," because the Ministers of the day would not undertake it. Neither he nor I, nor any of our supporters, would have thought of putting ourselves in that position, if we had not felt that, unless private Members of the two Houses of Parliament stepped into the breach, public opinion and Ministerial action would not have been adequately roused upon the matter. Thus I contend that the work which we did then was eminently successful. Our Bill was, in truth, a pilot balloon. It was sent up, and I hope it has led the way to something more substantial. In the previous debate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, while urging arguments against the details of this Bill, which, however, I am not now concerned to controvert, I will not say made a promise—I do not hold him to that—but certainly held out a very strong expectation that Her Majesty's Government might see their way to propose a moderate and a specific addition to the Episcopate. I understood those words then, as I stated in the few remarks which I offered on the Motion for Adjournment, made by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Hall), to imply not that we should have a series of single Bills, however admirable or useful as stop-gaps, such, for example, as the Bill which many years ago established the See of Manchester, and the Bill of last year—which established under certain conditions, unhappily not yet fulfilled, the See of St. Albans; but a measure that should take in the whole country, and place a few more Bishops on spots where they were really needed. Since that time, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has apparently deviated from what he said then; but I will do him the justice to say that his explanation shows that the deviation is merely apparent. He has since brought in a Bill for the erection of a single Bishopric at Truro; but the reason which he gave was the practical and satisfactory one that a large portion of the contingent endowment of the new See was dependent upon the chances of a single life, so that any delay might lose it. This appeal to us who, in February, had trusted to his bringing in a plurality Bill, was clear and straightforward, and therefore irresistible. We shall give our hearty support to his Bill for erecting the See of Truro; and now, in return for that, we hope that he will give us an assurance which will be equally satisfactory to those who desire to see something like a step taken to meet the increase of the population, the increase of commerce, the increase of activity in the people of this land, by providing for a corresponding increase of spiritual supervision. I am not arguing for a measure to create anything in the shape of "gig Bishops." A gig Bishopric may be a very excellent thing in itself; but it would be an altogether new idea in England, and I am not suggesting or proposing new ideas. All I contend for is that, taking into account both the area and the population of the existing Sees, a few more Bishoprics should be created which, so far from being gig Bishoprics or Bishoprics of a different class from those which now exist, would be Bishoprics with sometimes a larger area and always a larger population than some of the smaller existing Sees—Chichester, for instance, Hereford, Bangor, and St. Asaph's. The creation of only two or three more Bishoprics would be a great relief to the Church, though I believe that as many as six are needed. Still, I will not press Her Majesty's Government to go so far as that. I merely mention that as what is not only my own feeling, but that of many other Churchmen who are equally interested in the matter, who have since, and in consequence of, the debate in February, thought over and investigated the question, and to whom it seems that six new Bishops would not overload the Episcopate with Bishops waiting for their turns to come into the House of Lords; that it would not create a senile class of Bishops in the House of Lords; for no one of those Bishops could not have been made a Bishop unless the See had first existed, and therefore the average age of a Bishop on becoming a Member of the Upper House would not be very much raised. On the contrary, it might lead to rather younger men being admitted into the Episcopate. It would not alter the status of the Bishop, but only equalize the number of Sees to the population. Those who can look back 20 or 30 years must remember how an earnest and energetic citizen of Newcastle-on-Tyne, the late Sir John Fife, brought much public attention to bear upon the necessity of separating the growing and huge country of Northumberland, with its area of 1,200,000 acres, its vast mineral wealth and great population, from the See of Durham; and every year which has since elapsed has witnessed an increase of the population and added force to the demand. Lancashire, with its enormous See of Manchester, and the important portion of the county including Liverpool, which still attaches to Chester, is a crying evil. Steps, active steps, have been taken in Liverpool to meet this want. The separation of Nottinghamshire from the See of Lincoln may be called a foregone conclusion. A Bishopric for Warwickshire, taking in Birminghan and Coventry, is a question about the necessity for which there could be no dispute. Steps were also taken last year, though they unhappily failed, for the creation of another Bishopric in the West Riding of Yorkshire; and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would have thought his St. Alban's Bill a better and more complete measure if—whilst leaving the admirably constituted See of St. Alban's for the ecclesiastical supervision of Herts and Essex —he could have seen his way to the creation of a Bishopric of Southwark for the county of Surrey, with its more than 1,000,000 of inhabitants. He could then have assigned all West Kent, of which so much is suburban ground, to the See of Rochester, and thus relieved the Archbishop of Canterbury from a large portion of his diocesan duty, and in proportion left him free for the "care of all the Churches" which specially appertain to the metropolitical See. I do not ask my right hon. Friend whether he would accept such a scheme. I merely throw it out as a moderate suggestion; but if less were proposed by the Government, it would be thankfully accepted by the Church, though that which I have glanced at would be still more acceptable. But, with the quasi-promise of my right hon. Friend before us, with the strong expression of opinion on the part of the House in favour of the principle of an increase of the Episcopate, as shown by the large majority which it gave my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford on the Adjournment, what is the course which has been taken by the hon. Member for Swansea? My hon. Friend is never tired of telling us that he is a Churchman, and asseverating that he is not a Nonconformist, while he shows his zeal for the Episcopacy, like fanciful invalids who refuse to send for the doctor, by objecting to every proposal for its extension. His Churchmanship seems to be of a homœopathic character, for in looking upon Bishops as the regular practitioners he is anxious to see as little of them as possible. When, on the 16th of February, my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford moved the Adjournment of the Debate, the House generally was prepared to grant the Adjournment, which I should have accepted heartily. That would have been a very satisfactory conclusion of the matter; but the hon. Member for Swansea would not let well alone, nor keep himself quiet without forcing a division. Thereby he showed how enormous was the majority in favour of an increase of the Episcopate. Some advocate it in one shape, and some, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex, in another, but the favourable feeling is overwhelming. After what has taken place, however; after that expression of opinion by the House, I shall not feel it to be my duty to press the Bill to a division; but I trust that we may have some further and more definite declaration from the Home Secretary on the subject. At the proper time I will move that the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill be discharged.


reminded the hon. Gentleman that "the Previous Question" had been moved as an Amendment to his Motion "That the Bill be now read a second time." He could not, therefore, withdraw the Bill until the Amendment was withdrawn.


said, he hoped the Government would be able to see their way to passing some measure in the larger form in which the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had presented it. He was sure that the provision of facilities for the increase in the number of Bishops would stimulate private benevolence in providing the funds for their endowment. He could assure the Government that there was a great desire in favour of a general measure for the increase of the Episcopate.


said, he had never concealed his opinion that in a matter so nearly affecting the relations of Church and State any measure for the increase of the Episcopate ought to be brought forward by the responsible Ministers of the Crown; nor had he ever concealed his opinion that the time had certainly come when there ought to be a moderate increase of the Episcopate. He was not in favour of appointing too many Bishops; but no one who knew what an immense amount of work the Bishops were now called upon to perform could doubt that some moderate addition to their number was desirable. No scheme, however, ought to be brought forward by the Government without very careful inquiry and investigation—because any measure of this kind ought to be looked upon as a settlement of the question and one that ought not to be re-opened again for some time. The general feeling of the House on the former debate had certainly appeared to be in favour of an increase in the Episcopate:—he did not remember, indeed, to have seen for a long time a greater oneness of feeling than was exhibited when this Bill was under discussion in February last. His opinion was not only that any Bill for the increase of the Episcopate should be brought forward on the responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown, but also that it ought to be done by Act of Parliament. He had never concealed his dislike of the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University. The appointment of Bishops was not a matter that ought to be left to Orders in Council or machinery of that kind, because it was of importance as affecting the relations between the Church and the State. The reason why the Government had proceeded by a Bill in the individual case of the Bishopric of Truro had been already explained: the promised endowment was dependent on a single life; and the lady who had promised a large sum towards the endowment had set a good example to others, because she had not bequeathed the money after her death, but wished to see the Bishopric founded in her lifetime, and if Parliament passed the Bill it might induce others to give money for the same object. The reason why greater progress had not been made with the See of St. Albans was that Winchester House could not be sold for the sum required. Those who were so anxious for the increase of Bishops ought to put their hands in their pockets and give the money to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They need not wait until Winchester House was sold, and then the proceeds of the sale of the house would afterwards be added to the Endowment Fund. He was happy to state that an association had been formed to provide funds for these purposes, and he trusted that before Parliament again met the Bishopric of St. Albans would be in existence. The question of the general measure had been under the consideration of the Government. They were making inquiries as to where the new Sees could best be placed, and until their investigations were finally concluded, he was of course unable to state the views of the Government. He was glad to find that his hon. Friend was prepared to withdraw his Bill.


expressed his gratification that the Bill was to be withdrawn.


thought there could be no doubt that the general feeling of the House was in favour of a moderate increase of the Episcopate. He expressed his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross) for the statement he had just made.

Question put, and negatived.