HC Deb 25 February 1886 vol 302 cc1195-6

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is aware that His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury did, on the 16th instant, while the two Houses of Convocation were sitting, open a third House in the Broad Sanctuary, giving it the title of the "House of Laymen;" whether, in his opening address to that House, His Grace used the following words, as reported in The Times:The Convocation of Canterbury has now, after much careful discussion, requested the Bishops in each diocese of the Province to call upon the lay members of their several conferences, who are themselves all elected by the laity of the parishes, to elect a House of Laymen; and, whether the request, mentioned by the Archbishop as adopted after careful discussion, was recorded in the proceedings of Convocation and acted upon without licence from Her Majesty the Queen; and, if so, whether any authoritative legal opinion was previously obtained as to the consistency of any such resolution, or order or ordinance, with the 25th Henry VIII., c. 19, where it is enacted that the clergy shall not Enact, promulge, or execute any canons, constitutions, or ordinances provincial, by whatsoever name or names they may be called, in their convocations in time coming (which always shall be assembled by authority of the King's writ), unless the same clergy may have the King's Most Royal Assent and licence to make, promulge, and execute such canons, constitutions, and ordinances provincial or synodal, on pain of every one of the clergy doing contrary to this Act, and being thereof convict, to suffer imprisonment and make fine at the King's will?


I wish also to ask the right hon. Gentleman another Question—namely, whether, in the event of the Law Officers of the Crown advising Her Majesty's Government that the action of the Archbishop was illegal, the Government will be prepared to bring in a Bill to legalize such an alteration in the constitution of Convocation as the Archbishop sought to make, thereby facilitating in the Church of England that reform from within which constitutes the sole advantage derived by the Irish Church from the otherwise unmixed disaster of disestablishment and disendowment? ["Order!"]


As a Question of Order, I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Question of the hon. and gallant Member, like the former Notice given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, is not entirely irregular?


The last part of the Question of the hon. and gallant Member is entirely out of Order.


When I have answered the Question on the Paper, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not find it necessary to put his Question. In reply to my hon. Friend, I beg to say that I have ascertained that the Archbishop did, at the time and place named, open a meeting called the House of Laymen; but the Archbishop did not open a third House of Convocation. The House of Laymen is a voluntary body, and in no sense a third House. The Archbishop did use the words which my hon. Friend quotes; but the request was an informal one, and was not recorded in the proceedings of Convocation. It was not proposed to promulgate or execute any ordinances by any name whatsoever, so no question arose as to their legality.