HC Deb 02 May 1881 vol 260 cc1530-1

I rise, Mr. Speaker, to appeal to you upon a point of Order that may have some bearing upon the course it is understood Her Majesty's Government propose to adopt with regard to Mr. Bradlaugh. I wish to ask you, Whether the Parliamentary Affirmation, which has hitherto been incumbent upon those who conscientiously object to taking oaths, does not contain a solemn declaration of loyalty to the Queen and Constitution, such as cannot reasonably be made by one who proclaims himself to be an Atheist and a Republican; and whether, under these circumstances, the introduction of any measure which proposes to substitute a mere formality for what is now a binding obligation would not of itself be an abuse of the Privileges of this House such as ought not be permitted in an Assembly where every Member has either taken the Oath of Allegiance himself, or has made a solemn declaration to a like purport?


The hon. Member asks me a Question with reference to the construction of an Act of Parliament. The hon. Member—and, indeed, every other Member of this House—is equally competent with myself to construe such Acts; and I must leave it to the hon. Member to form his own opinion on the matter.


When the Motion of the Attorney General for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Parliamentary Oaths Act is made, I shall move the following Amendment:— That, inasmuch as the proposed alteration of the Parliamentary Oaths Act is brought forward for the express and immediate purpose of admitting to a seat in the Legislature a professed Atheist, this House declines to be in any way party to a proceeding which is, at the same time, obnoxious to the general religious feeling of the Country, opposed to the spirit of the Constitution and Common Law of this Land, and dishonouring to God.

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