HC Deb 09 August 1884 vol 292 cc358-69

Order for Committee read.


In moving, Sir, that you do now leave the Chair, I may remark that we read this Bill last night at an hour when there did not appear to be in the House many of those who entertain any doubts on the subject of the measure. The second reading was, therefore, taken without any statement as to its object; but there are, as I know from a document I have received, some Gentlemen who take what I may call an adverse interest in this Bill, and as I see my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) in his place, and as it is quite possible that other Gentlemen may appear, I think this is a time when I ought to state briefly to the House the grounds for this Bill, which are of a very simple character. I will say now to the hon. Member for Carlisle, and to those other Gentlemen who were good enough to make known to me those hostile sentiments, that I feel a pretty strong confidence in the reasonableness of their minds; and, therefore, I am quite certain that when this case is laid before them as it really stands, they will see that our duty to endeavour to pass this Bill is of the plainest and most elementary kind; and there is nothing what- ever which ought to lead to opposition to the Bill. I will mention two things which are perfectly well known to the House. In the first place, this Bill makes no demand on any public funds so as to alter its appropriation. It will make, through the liberality of the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, a somewhat different allocation of the episcopal funds now existing, but no new demand either upon any public fund, properly so called, or upon any ecclesiastical fund now available for parochial or other purposes. The second point is that it introduces no new element whatever into the system by which the greater part of the Bishops now sit by rotation in the House of Lords. The number of Episcopal votes will remain precisely as it is now; but one will be added to the number of those Bishops who do not sit in the House of Lords, and, so far, I should think that fact will be in the nature of a recommendation to those hon. Gentlemen who are hostile to the Bill. There are two points of view in which this measure ought to be considered, and I am anxious to keep them distinct, because my appeal to the opponents of the Bill will really rely upon one of these, inasmuch as I know that I should find them lamentably deaf to any appeal that I might make on the other ground. The one point of view upon which I deem it least necessary to dwell is that this measure is a measure for increasing Episcopal superintendence in the Church of England, in conformity with principles which have had the recent and repeated acknowledgments of Parliament. Certainly I, individually and as a Liberal politician, do not estimate the authority of the late House of Commons as highly as some others may do; but, at the same time, it was the branch of the Legislature of the day, and that Legislature passed, I think, more than one Act for the purpose of increasing the Bishoprics of the country, without putting the country to any expense whatever. I was not very favourable to all the provisions of that Act; but I take it as I find it. It had been acted on in various places, and, I am bound to say, with very great benefit to the community. I have myself been concerned, and others who preceded me were concerned, in some appointments which have been extremely beneficial. The Newcastle and South- well Bishoprics have been of great advantage to the general spiritual interests of certain districts of the country. Nothing could be more gratifying to anyone, quite irrespective of what may be his religous communion, than the manner in which Dr. Ridding, the new Bishop of Southwell, has been received by all classes of town and country, aristocracy, gentry, and people in the district over which he is to preside. I cannot avoid saying this. We have recently had a certain number of religious Censuses in the large towns, and it is impossible to go through these Censuses without a sentiment of pain. Some of them disclose a state of things that is disgraceful to the country. The religious Census of Liverpool, I do not hesitate to say, is a disgrace to Liverpool and to the country generally; and, considering that the Established Church of the country is de facto under a very heavy charge of duty with respect to these populations, it is a very great responsibility, I think, to interfere to prevent voluntary action for the purpose of doing something to mitigate this grievous deficiency which now exists. That is all that I will say on the religious and ecclesiastical aspect of the question. But I now go back to what I would call the historical aspect of the question; and I put it with the utmost confidence to every Gentleman who hears me, that if he will follow the few historical facts I will put before him, he will agree it is hardly compatible even with the decencies of Parliament to refuse to Bristol that which undoubtedly it now seeks. Sir, I am obliged to go back—but the subject is not without interest, and I shall not long detain the House—I am obliged to go back to the time when the disseverance of the Sees of Gloucester and Bristol took place. That was effected, in the first place, by the recommendation of a Royal Commission, in 1835. The recommendation was embodied in the Act which followed in 1836, and which adopted in the lump, and in the gross, the recommendations of the Commission. At the time of the passing of the Act of Parliament, there was an idea which my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would call—and which I should join him in calling—a superstition that it was a matter of terrible omen to appoint a Bishop in this country who was not to be a Peer of Parliament. That was the foundation of all the proceedings of Church Reform at that time. It is interesting to look back upon that, as it shows that we have moved, and, as I think, moved onward. We have moved in a considerable degree since that time. The urgency of the case for the division of the most populous dioceses was then, in the case of Chester and York, extreme. In Chester it was absolutely overwhelming, including, as the diocese did, the two great towns of Manchester and Liverpool, besides other great towns, or what would be considered as great but for their neighbourhood to other gigantic towns, and reaching, as it did, far away to the North of Lancashire. The pressure was so great that it was deemed necessary to found two Sees—those of Manchester and Ripon. There is another thing which shows the distance we have travelled since those days. When these Sees were founded by Act of Parliament there was no consultation with the people of Manchester, or with the people of the diocese of Ripon. The people of Manchester were considerably surprised at the arrival of a Bishop, whom they had done nothing to invite or attract. At this time there was the idea that every Bishop should be a Peer of Parliament—it was the fashion to entertain that idea. So far was that notion carried out, that at one time when we had a Bishop who was not a Peer of Parliament—namely, the Bishop of Sodor and Man—even that little See was laid hold upon by the Royal Commission and Parliament of that day, 48 years ago, and it was enacted that it should be absorbed in the diocese of Carlisle. What happened? Why, a feeling of hostility to the Act sprang up among the people as soon as it had been enacted. In the first instance, the indignation of the people of the Isle of Man required that the Bishopric should be restored; and in a short time an Act was passed—I think by a Liberal Government—for re-establishing the Bishopric of the Isle of Man. There were three of these absorptions or unions enacted in 1836—the Isle of Man with Carlisle, Bangor with St. Asaph, and Bristol with Gloucester. The first of these ill-omened and unhappy marriages, to be almost immediately dissolved by a sentence, for which I have more respect than I have for other sentences of dissolution, was the Union of Man with Carlisle. Then came the union of Bangor with St. Asaph. The people of Wales were then, as they are still, Nonconformist. The nation is a nation of Nonconformists; but in those days they were, if possible, more so, for you had then a cold, indifferent, neglectful Church, whereas it has now been admitted, both as to the Bishops and clergy in Wales, in the North, and in the South, the Church is now served by a hard-working set of men, who do all they can do under the circumstances which now exist. But even in those days, and not at all confined to the Churchmen in Wales, after the Act had been passed for the re-establishment of the Bishopric of the Isle of Man there arose a popular feeling for the re-establishment of the separate Bishoprics of Bangor and St. Asaph. I do not hesitate to say it was in conformity with the sentiments of the Nonconformists of Wales. ["No!"] I do not hesitate to assert it in the most positive manner. If there is any Welsh Member present—any Member representing any district of North Wales at the present moment in the House, I am quite confident that he will support my statement. My right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Osborne Morgan) will confirm what I say; he does not recollect the Act; but I am quite sure I am correct in saying that that Act for the severance of Bangor and St. Asaph was not what can be called a sectarian Act, and that the passing of it was a tribute to the feelings of the people of Wales. There were three of these unions. Two of them have been dissolved, and now all that is asked by the people of Bristol is that they should not be alone left under the burden, and in a certain sense the stigma, of the ill-omened union which was enacted in 1836. Is not that a reasonable demand? The case of Bristol is a peculiar one. How it came about I do not quite know. I have not the least desire to see imposed on either Gloucester or Bristol the discredit of being the secondary portion of the See; but it is a peculiarly hard case that, whereas Gloucester is a City of 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants, Bristol is a City not more ancient, but yet more renowned and more conspicuous in history, possessing, I believe, five times the population. I think it is a very great disparagement to Bristol that there should now be a Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, the sole relic of that most unfortunate and superstitious Act of Parliament of 1836, which united those Bishoprics clearly for the purpose of giving full effect to the slavish fears then entertained as to the danger of having a Bishop not a Peer of Parliament. The opponents of this Bill will, if they do oppose it, give a mark of their reverence for this superstitious feeling. They will make a struggle to keep alive the only relic of the proceedings that unhappily marked that date. I need not say Her Majesty's Government have had nothing to do with the origin of this movement—absolutely nothing; and I am bound to say it is impossible, with the facts of the case before us, on the grounds on which the Bishoprics of Ripon and Manchester were created, or the ground of the demand proceeding from Bristol—not only from the ecclesiastics of the City, but from its responsible municipal officers, from the Mayor, the head of the elected Municipality, with an assurance that he acted by no means in an individual but in a representative capacity, and a public meeting having given concurrence to the proposal—it is impossible on these grounds to reject this proposal. And on the ground that a large sum of money has been subscribed, that the two Members for Bristol, of whom one, at any rate, is among the most conspicuous and really splendid ornaments—speaking of him in his personal capacity—of the Nonconformists of the present day—seeing that both these Gentlemen, I do not how far as expressing their individual opinions, but as representing the feeling of Bristol, are in favour of the Bill, I ask, is it possible to resist this demand? It is no such easy matter the people of Bristol propose to undertake. They have to raise—what? Why, they have to raise a sum, I do not know exactly what, but it certainly cannot be less than £60,000. I believe I am giving a very limited estimate of the amount of capital they will be obliged to raise for the purpose of making the necessary endowment—not for the purpose of producing some vast, immediate, visible result that will appeal to the eyesight of men, and tell its own story, but for the purpose of sinking it in an endowment for the restoration of its ancient Bishopric. That, I imagine, is a tolerably severe task to apply to the sincerity of the people of Bristol. What have they done? They have applied for an Act of Parliament. Before any application was made to us we required that there should be a large element to which we could appeal for the purpose of showing that they were in earnest. We required that £20,000 should be subscribed before any application was made to Parliament. They said—"It is much to ask people to subscribe this large sum of money when they do not know, after all, whether Parliament will accede to their application or not." It was impossible for us to say to them—"You must go on, and on, and on, requiring every man you can get hold of to make a subscription and raise the full sum for the foundation before you come to Parliament." It was evident the proper course was—the course which has been followed on previous occasions—that we should require a large sum to be raised, that we might have ample proof of the sincerity and earnestness of those who led the movement. That being done, we could not possibly refuse to act in conformity with recent precedents established by the Legislature—in some cases almost without objection. I venture to say from recollection that if the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, or any other Gentleman, will have the goodness to refer to cases when the Bishopric of Man was detached from Carlisle, and the Bishopric of St. Asaph was detached from Bangor, he will find it was done without opposition from the Nonconformists of this House. There were plenty of Gentlemen then in the House who were then, as now, not friendly to the connection between Church and State; but that is a matter I do not intend to enter upon at all. I think that so long as two parties have got to live together, they had better live together on decent and civil terms. That is the maxim upon which I have always acted with regard to Church matters, and on which it seems to me to be rational to act. I do entreat the House not to refuse to Bristol—which, with its vast population, has a much stronger claim than had the others—that which has been granted almost without objection to the Isle of Man and the people of the North of England.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


said, he was one of the few Radicals left in the House who had not been melted away by the hot weather. He would not have intervened, but that he was pointedly referred to by the Prime Minister; so he would say a few words in defence of his principles. This was, so far as he could understand, a "Local Option" Bishopric. He had no desire to interfere with the people most interested. Nobody was more anxious than he was that every sect and denomination should have the means of promoting their own interests. His objection, he was happy to say, was not on the superstitious ground, as the Prime Minister termed it, that the Bishop would not be a Member of the House of Lords; and he might add that he highly approved of the action the Bishops in the House of Lords took on a recent occasion. His objection was on the simple ground that he did not think that the House, which was a political and secular Assembly, was a fit Body to appoint ministers to discharge spiritual functions. If they made more Bishops, they were only increasing the difficulty of getting rid of them again when the time for Disestablishment came, as it soon would come.


said, he thought the country would be surprised to find that at the fag-end of a Session, on a Saturday, the House was occupied in discussing whether the Church of England should have another Bishop. There were other matters upon which the time would have been better employed; and he wished to enter his protest against the Bill being proceeded with. It was no use dividing the House or taking hostile action; but he thought Nonconformists should take some exception to the Bill being hurried through in the last moments of the Session, without a full discussion of whether it was desirable to add to the great number of Bishops now existing within the Church of England. The Prime Minister had urged as one reason for the Bill the spiritual condition of the country, which, as disclosed by a recent religious Census, was deplorable, or, as the Prime Minister said, a disgrace to the country, It would have been better to have said a disgrace to the Church—not meaning the Church of England, but the Church Universal. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Liverpool as a notable in- stance of spiritual destitution. Upon no other subject would he venture to contradict the Prime Minister; but he (Mr. Caine) was well acquainted with Liverpool, and he would venture to say there was no town or city in the country where the influence of the Church of England was so paramount as in Liverpool. That, then, taking the lowest view, was no strong argument in favour of creating another Bishop. But he would not take up the time of the House beyond lodging his protest against the measure, and the manner in which it was now being pushed forward on a Saturday afternoon, when measures like the Sunday Closing Bill and the Bill for the Protection of Young Women had been abandoned for want of time.


, as having been for 20 years Member for Gloucester, and for 30 years officially connected with the diocese, supported the Bill. He was yesterday asked by the junior Member for Bristol (Mr. Lewis Pry), who regretted that circumstances prevented his being present, to say for himself and his Colleague that this measure had their hearty concurrence. Also, on behalf of the Bishop of Gloucester, he was authorized to say his Lordship cordially supported the measure. It was not a new creation; it was merely the restoration of an ancient See. It was a question of bringing dry bones into the full vigour of ecclesiatical life. The people of Bristol had shown by the amount of their subscriptions their desire for the restoration, and they had very recently restored their beautiful Cathedral.


said, he was rejoiced to find there was no active opposition to the Bill, and he tendered the Prime Minister thanks for his support to the Bill. The hon. Member who had just spoken had referred to the restoration of their Cathedral by the people of Bristol. He might have added the restoration of St. Mary, Redcliffe; and the people of Bristol had now two of the finest ecclesiastical buildings in the Kingdom, restored at their own expense. He observed that the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) objected to that House, a temporal Body, appointing spiritual ministers; but as he did not point out any other machinery by which Bishops could be appointed, that, which was really the only objection that had been urged against the Bill, fell to the ground. He (Lord John Manners) tendered to Her Majesty's Government and the Prime Minister his hearty thanks for having brought in and persevered with this Bill.


said, he was one of the five Members who had blocked the Bill; and the reason why he had not been present last night to oppose the second reading was that he had understood the Prime Minister to say that it would be brought on to-day.


said, he had understood the Question put to him yesterday to be, whether a stage of the Bill would be taken to-day, and he had replied in the affirmative.


said, he did not mean to suggest that there had been any breach of faith on the part of the Government. It was probably entirely his own fault, and he merely wished to justify his speaking now. He would not go into the merits or demerits of the Bill; but he wished to enter his protest against the mode in which the Nonconformist section of the House had been treated in regard to the introduction of this and other ecclesiastical measures brought down from the Lords at the very close of the Session, when there was no time to consider them. They were now asked to sanction the passing of a Bill, to the principle of which many Members of this House were opposed. The House of Lords had very little claim upon their consideration; they rejected the Commons' Bills with very inadequate reason. Considering the loyal support the Nonconformist Party had always given the Prime Minister, he thought they had good cause for complaint. The Prime Minister said that the creation of this new Bishopric was earnestly desired in the locality, and his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle spoke of it as Local Option in Church matters; but he (Mr. Dick-Peddie) had good reason to doubt if many of those to be included in the new See were favourable to its creation. He had received communications from the churchwardens and others of throe parishes informing him that they had not been consulted as to the Bishopric in which they were to be included. The people concerned were not unanimous in desiring this measure; and, but for the fact that a considerable section knew nothing about it till it had passed the House of Lords, it would have met with the strongest opposition in this House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses agreed to.



said, he had an Amendment to move in page 2, line 10, sub-section 2, to omit the following:—"Eastou-in-Gordano, with Pill, Port-bury, and Portishead." His reason for moving this Amendment was because the parishioners themselves had not been consulted upon the matter; and, according to the representations made to him, they were strongly opposed to the Bill.

Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 10, sub-section 2, to omit the words, "the following parishes in the county of Somerset, heretofore in the diocese of Bath and Wells—that is to say, Easton-in-Gordano, with Pill, Portbury, and Portishead."—(Mr. Dick-Peddie.)

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


said, he was of opinion that the authority quoted against the inclusion of these parishes in the Bill, that of a churchwarden who had not summoned a meeting of the parishioners, could not be regarded as of very great weight. The meeting for the consideration of the whole question of the Bishopric was held in Bristol a few months ago.


On the 1st of January, 1884.


Yes, on the 1st January, 1884. It was advertised under the head of "The Restoration of the See to Bristol," and the question of the inclusion of these parishes was much discussed; and Mr. Weatherby, whose name happened to be known to him, was a man of great respectability. But the case was this—he would not say it was one of the details of the measure—the parish of Portishead being upon the Avon, at the mouth of the Avon, had been judged by local opinion generally to be much more naturally associated with Bristol, on which it so greatly depended, than with the diocese of Bath and Wells, to which it now belonged, and to which it had no natural connection. Under these circumstances, he hoped the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dick-Peddie) would not press his Motion.


asked how the opinion of the parishes was arrived at?


said, he was not aware. All he could say was that he was aware the thing was much considered, and it was quite evident there had been no general remonstrance on the part of the parishes, which had been perfectly cognizant of all the proceedings. There was no objection to it in the parishes, and there was a strong primâ facie case in favour of the Bill.


said, that though he sympathized with his hon. Friend (Mr. Dick-Peddie), he thought he was mistaken in his reasoning. He should recollect this was a State Church, whose proceedings were done by a State process, like the present Bill. They ought not to be very keen to inquire what particular parishes wanted. That was opposed to the idea of a State Church. His hon. Friend was proceeding on the notion that it was a Voluntary Church they were dealing with, insisting that those concerned should be consulted. He thought the best thing they could do in this instance was to allow the thing to go on its own way, and the result would be that the Bishops of the Church would be considerably watered down, so to speak, by a large number of Bishops who would not sit in the House of Lords, and who would not share that position of Peers of the Realm which had always hitherto been considered more or less essential to the status of a Bishop, and they must refrain from resisting this process under the idea that this was in no sense a Voluntary Church. For his own part, he should like to see it brought to the state of a Voluntary Church. He advised his hon. Friend, therefore, to withdraw his Amendment.


said, that as he had no wish to trouble the Committee he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.