HC Deb 23 May 1887 vol 315 cc892-3
MR. HOARE (Norwich)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been called to the Resolutions unanimously passed by both Houses of the Convocation of Canterbury, and also by the House of Laymen, regarding— the in appropriateness of imprisonments as a penalty ensuing on a prosecution concerning Ritual; and, whether, taking into consideration that a clergyman, the Rev. J. Bell Cox, is at present undergoing such imprisonment, Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider such alteration of the Law as may be necessary to abolish the penalty of imprisonment in the case of "prosecutions concerning Ritual?" The hon. Member, in putting his Question, expressed his pleasure at the altered circumstances brought about by the release of the Rev. J. Bell Cox.

MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

also asked, Whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been called to the imprisonment for contumacy of the Rev. James Bell Cox, Vicar of St. Margaret's Church, Prince's Road, Liverpool; whether he is aware that the Ritual adopted by Mr. Cox in the services of his church was approved by the large majority of the congregation; and, whether, under the circumstances, Her Majesty's Government will consider the advisability of introducing in this House, or in "another place," a measure to amend "The Public Worship Act, 1874," and other Acts on the same subject, with a view to restrict the opportunities now existing of instituting prosecutions not supported by a majority of the parishioners or congregations directly affected?

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

I rejoice, Sir, in common, I think, with everyone, that the circumstances under which this Question is put have been changed by the release of Mr. Bell Cox from prison. The facts, I believe, are generally correctly stated, although I have no official information as to the Resolutions passed either by the Houses of Convocation or the House of Laymen. I regret very much that imprisonment should be inflicted as a penalty under circumstances of this character; but the hon. Gentle- man must be aware that legislation affecting the Church is always attended with, great difficulties in this House. Therefore, I am not at liberty to enter into any engagements of the kind suggested in the Question.