HC Deb 09 May 1882 vol 269 cc375-8

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the Bill proposed that any person now in prison, or who should in future be imprisoned for disobedience of Ecclesiastical Law, should be released at the end of six months. It contained provi- sions amending the Church Discipline Act and the Public Worship Regulation Act, 1874, and making them more effectual. It proposed to give the Judge power to deprive a clerk of his benefice or other preferment, for contumacy instead of awarding imprisonment, and thus to avoid the scandal of keeping a man in prison for an offence against the Ecclesiastical Law. Every clergyman was bound to obey the law of the Church as declared by the authorized tribunals; and if he persisted in his disobedience, however conscientious his motives might be, he could not be allowed to hold his preferment and continue to set the law at defiance. Imprisonment was not the proper remedy, and was not in accordance with modern ideas. If he could not conform to the law of the Church, he was not fit to hold office in it; and if, under such circumstances, he be deprived of his preferment, after a fair trial, public opinion would approve of the sentence.

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

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, he hoped that, inasmuch as the whole subject was being dealt with by the Royal Commission which was appointed last year, the House would not proceed with the Bill before the Commission had made their Report.


said, he hoped the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) would feel the force of the right hon. Gentleman's observations, and not force a discussion on the House. He would, therefore, move his Amendment, that until the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Courts had reported, it was inexpedient to proceed with any Bill on the subject.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "till the Royal Commission now sitting on Ecclesiastical Courts shall have reported, it is inexpedient to proceed with any Bill dealing with the discipline of the Clergy."—(Colonel Makins.)

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


thought the Amendment went a little too far in declaring that it was inexpedient to proceed with any Bill dealing with the discipline of the clergy. It would be a question for the House to consider what should be done with contumacious clerks who did not conform to the law; but he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would assent to the adjournment of the Bill. To simplify matters, he would move that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Attorney General.)


observed, that the Church Discipline and Regulation Act was a most mischievous measure, and the present Bill was intended to enlarge its operation. He hoped that the debate would be adjourned, as it could not possibly come on again during the present Session.


said, he was very anxious to proceed with the Bill, but saw no alternative, under the circumstances, but to agree to the Motion for Adjournment. He hoped, at the same time, that some of the Amendments would be withdrawn.


Sir, I have, along with many other hon. Members, I suppose, received numerous applications to forward a measure which will have the effect of liberating a clergyman who is now in prison in Lancaster Castle. This Bill, I believe, is intended to have that effect. The hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins) thinks this Bill will never come on again; but if my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) were to shorten the Bill, if he were to get rid of all those matters which do not affect the question which is the origin of the Bill, I think it might become law very soon. I am not a Member of the Church of England; but if I were a Member of that Church I think I should have started this question much earlier. It seems to me a very painful scandal that a minister of the Church, of very good character, who has only been, as most people think, too zealous in the performance of his duties, should be now in one of the public prisons of the country, and that he should have been there over 12 months. I have seen a paragraph in a newspaper which states that Mr. Green is shut up in the very room in which the founder of the religious sect to which I belong was shut up two centuries ago. Whatever want of sympathy there was in those days of George Fox, at any rate, I have no want of sympathy for Mr. Green. I am only astonished that, knowing there is in this House a majority, an overwhelming majority, in favour of the Established Church, some means have not been taken before this to liberate Mr. Green and remove the scandal which attaches to our Church system. I hope my hon. and learned Friend will be able to propose, at some not distant day, a Bill, one or two clauses of which will be considered, and by which that gentleman—honest as I believe he is, mistaken as I think he is—may be liberated, and the Church may be delivered from what I think a discredit, and which every member of it must feel to be a very painful one.


said, he was quite sure that no member of the Church of England could regret more than he did the fact that an earnest minister, though a mistaken one in opinion, should be detained in prison, whether for a long period or at all. He believed that if Mr. Green had only given the slightest promise that he would obey the ruling of his Bishop and the order of the Court, or even, he believed, if he had said he would only obey his Bishop, he might have beeen released, He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) thought it a very grave mistake that for acts of that kind a minister should be imprisoned at all. He did not think it was a right way of dealing with him; and he should be glad to support a Bill abolishing imprisonment for offences like those for which Mr. Green was suffering. He quite agreed with the penalty of deprivation or suspension; but he had never been able to see why a clergyman should be imprisoned as Mr. Green and others had been.


said, he admired the liberality of sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and only wished the same liberality had been shared by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who, at the end of last Session, counted out the House when a Bill was brought in which might have liberated Mr. Green.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Tuesday next.