HC Deb 13 June 1888 vol 327 cc72-5

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Affirmation may be Dade instead of oath).

MR. NORRIS (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)

said, in rising to move the Amendment in his name, he would not disguise from the Committee his intention to meet this Bill on all its stages with uncompromising opposition and hostility. He believed that if, unfortunately, the Bill should be carried through Committee, and through the House, there would be throughout the country a feeling of intense indignation and sorrow. On the present occasion he should endeavour to excise from what he had to say anything of a personal nature. He was obliged to remark that it was the function of the House of Commons to represent the interests of the nation at large, and not the interests of one individual, and it was surprising to him that so many days and hours should have been wasted on a matter, which, except in a religious sense, was one of inferior importance. He contended that, under Standing Order 63, the portals of the House of Commons were open to men of every persuasion.


said, he would point out to the hon. Gentleman that he must speak to the Amendment he proposed to move.


said, he was under the impression that he was speaking to his Amendment, which was to the effect that the Bill should not apply to those who stated that they had no religious belief, and he was about to adduce argument on which that Amendment was based. He had said that they had opened their portals very widely already, and would add that, for his part and on behalf of those who thought with him, he was not disposed to admit Gentlemen who were not prepared to take the Oath, or to make affirmation in the form in which it was now prescribed. He warned the House that irreligion was spreading, and, as was shown by a Paper by a Rev. Bishop, large meetings were held in Victoria Park on Sundays, at which the most sacred subjects were discussed with profanity and ribaldry. As he had said, they welcomed in their midst men of every religious persuasion; but they were asked in this Bill to allow men who had no religious belief whatever to make a solemn affirmation.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

rose to Order. The word "solemn" was the subject of a later Amendment.


said, he must impress on the hon. Gentleman the necessity of giving some point to his argument.


said, that no man had greater deference for the Chair than himself, and he, of course, bowed to that intimation. He held in his hand an extract from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who, in 1880, said that no new law was necessary to enable a Member to go to the Table and be sworn. They had, under the Rules of Procedure, the opportunity of taking the Oath and the opportunity of making affirmation; what more, then, was necessary? He and his hon. Friends were not prepared to ignore the religious feelings inherent in the people of this country, by whom, from the Sovereign to the peasant, the name of God was revered. For his own part, he would, in the matter of this Bill, accept no compromise, considering it, as he did, fraught with evil consequences and contrary to the first principle of religion. Therefore, in defence of political, moral, and religious principles, he begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 5, after the word "person," to insert the words "excepting those who state they have no religious convictions."—(Mr. Norris.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, it was perfectly impossible that the House could accept this Amendment, which went in the teeth of the principle of the Bill as affirmed by a majority of 100 in a full House. He did not condescend to discuss what the hon. Member called the reasons for his Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sitagain."—(Mr. Anderson.)


said, it was of course impossible to make effective progress with the Bill that day, and therefore, as the Amendment was of importance, he did not oppose the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Question put, and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday next.