HC Deb 24 June 1890 vol 345 cc1762-72

Order for Second Reading read.

(3.5.) MR. MACLURE) (Lancashire, S. E., Stretford

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, it will be necessary that I should occupy the time of the House for a few moments in order to explain how the necessity for the Bill has arisen. By an Order in Council, dated the 28th of March, 1890, Burnley has been created into a Suffragan Bishopric. This Bill proposes to make provision for the maintenance of the Suffragan Bishopric, and it has received the approval of the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Manchester, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The present Rector of Burnley, Canon Townley Parker, is the owner of the advowson of the living, which is now worth £4,000 a year, with a population of 13,000, the rest of the spiritual wants of the town being provided for by other churches, which are not so well endowed. The proposal which Canon Parker makes is that, on the voidance of the living by him, he should surrender to his successor—the Bishop Suffragan of Burnley—the sum of about £2,000 a year, leaving the remaining £2,000 to be divided among the smaller churches of the town, and extended beyond the present parish of Burnley. A somewhat similar arrangement was made in the case of the Suffragan Bishopric of Stoke, which received the sanction of this House. In this case it is an absolute free gift on the part of Canon Parker, who surrenders this valuable property simply for the benefit of the town in which he has worked for something like 38 years. As the arrangement has received the approval of all the authorities I fail to see what possible objection can be made to such a noble gift. The Bill has already passed the House of Lords without opposition, and I now beg to move that it be read a second time.

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

(3.10.) MR. SPENCER BALFOUR (Burnley)

In moving the Amendment of which I have given notice, I wish to say that I entirely concur as to the merits of the gift which the Rector of Burnley proposes to make. I have no doubt that he is actuated by the highest motives of benevolence and generosity, and that he is desirous of taking the best course of dealing with the very large funds of this somewhat remarkable rectory. But the objections to the Bill are of a numerous and weighty character. In the first place, is it desirable that a question affecting the status, position, and organisation of the Church of England in East Lancashire should be decided by a private Bill in the same way as other questions are decided by a Railway or Canal Bill? My hon. Friend says that there was no opposition to the measure in the House of Lords, but the reason was that under the locus standi arrangements which govern the procedure of a Private Bill Committee it was not possible to formulate an opposition. My hon. Friend further states that the Bill has received the approval of the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Manchester, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. So far as the Archbishop and Bishop are concerned I can quite understand that they approve of the Bill which provides the parochial funds shall be applied to the maintenance of the episcopacy. But the people themselves, who ought to be consulted, have never been consulted. The measure has never even been submitted to the Vestry, and there is this remarkable fact, that it is a Bill to dispose of funds originally called into existence for parochial purposes without the consent of the parishioners being asked in any form or shape. I think before a measure of this sort is treated as a Private Bill there ought to have been some kind of Wharncliffe meeting of the parishioners, and it is unfair to say that the Bill has not been opposed, when the parishioners had no means of opposing it in the House of Lords. It is also objected that of this £4,000 per annum, which is the present revenue of the rectory, but which, it is calculated, will be considerably increased hereafter, no less than £2,000 is assigned for the purpose of creating a Suffragan Bishopric of Burnley. I submit that the churchmen of Lancashire are wealthy and influential enough to maintain a Suffragan Bishop without appropriating these funds, and if the revenue is to be diverted it ought to be diverted for local purposes. Upon these grounds, and these grounds only, I have been asked by my constituents at Burnley, who have not had an opportunity of being consulted in the matter, to oppose the Bill. Everybody appears to have been consulted except those who are most particularly interested. In the case of Stoke, which is the only analogous case, the Hybrid Committee to which the Bill was referred expressly introduced a provision that a future Suffragan Bishopric should not be erected in Stoke-upon-Trent. This Bill is directly opposed to the decision then arrived at, because it proposes that every Suffragan Bishop of Burnley shall be Rector of the parish. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time on this day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Spencer Balfour.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

(3.20.) SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH) (Lancashire, N. E., Clitheroe

I cordially acknowledge the manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. S. Balfour) has spoken of my friend and neighbour, the rector of Burnley, and the handsome recognition he has made of the extremely liberal spirit in which this gift is proposed to be conferred by Canon Parker. I live in the immediate neighbourhood, and know something of the circumstances of the town. I, therefore, wish to explain why I cannot agree with my hon. Friend, although I know that he represents the feeling of some of his own constituents, and of mine also, in opposing the Bill. In the first place, there has been an entire absence of opposition to the Bill in Parliament. No objection was raised to it in the House of Lords, and no Petition has been presented against it in the House of Commons. To-day is the last day for the presentation of Petitions, and up to this time no Petition has been deposited. I venture to say, therefore, that it would be a strong and extreme measure for the House to adopt the course now suggested of throwing out the Bill. My hon. Friend says that the parishioners have not been consulted, but, as far as I know, the Churchmen of Burnley unanimously approve of the measure. When it was first announced that the rector proposed to make this generous gift, there was a chorus of approval, not only from churchmen, but from the inhabitants generally, and although there has been some little opposition since, I believe that it has been based upon a misapprehension. In my opinion, this is a most liberal measure, and the kind of measure of reform which Liberals should desire to see carried out. There has long been a desire on the part of Burnley and the neighbourhood that this rich living should be re-distributed, so that other districts in the town should receive some benefit from it. Upon two occasions the rector has met that feeling. He has devoted out of the revenue of the living £150 a year, or £450 in all, to three of the poorer parishes in Burnley, and for another parish he has set aside an annual sum of £150, irrevocably as an endowment. By this Bill he proposes to devote about £2,000 a year to various districts within the ancient parish of Burnley. This Bill, therefore, simply re-distributes the resources of a large living, which is an object in itself most desirable, and one which, I think, will commend itself to the House. It abolishes the private patronage now connected with the living. At present the living is entirely in the hands of a private person—the Rector of Burnley, who can do what he likes with it. He can sell the advowson, with the consequent scandal of putting it up for sale in a newspaper advertisement. Such a scandal will be prevented for ever if this Bill is passed. Sooner or later the Rector proposes to retire, and his successor will not only be Rector of Burnley, bat will be' able to give a helping hand to the Bishop of Manchester as the Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, the Bishopric having already been constituted by an Order in Council, dated March 21, this year. My hon. Friend says that it is a serious thing to decide a matter of this kind by a private Bill. I quite agree with him. I very much dislike the system of private ownership in connection with these matters, but the present Bill destroys the very thing to which he objects, and if the measure passes, it will be impossible hereafter to deal with the living by a private Bill. At present, however, it is the only course open. My hon. Friend says that the revenue is likely to increase. I am not sure that it will be so, seeing that a large portion of it is derived from leases for 999 years, and, although there may be an increment when the leases fall in, I hardly think that my hon. Friend looks forward 999 years. There are two alternatives open to the House—either to pass the Bill, which will be a great reform and a benefit to the town of Burnley, or to reject it, and to continue the present order of things, which appropriates this revenue of" £4,000 for the benefit of a population of 13,000, instead of making it available for a population of something like 80,000. Moreover, the living will remain as a piece of private patronage, instead of being in the gift of the Bishop of Manchester, and available for wider and more general purposes.

(3.27.) MR. WOODALL (Hanley)

My right hon. Friend says that there are only two alternatives m dealing with this measure. I would venture to suggest a third, namely, the precedent which was set in the case of the rectory of Stoke-upon-Trent. There are many points of similarity between the two eases. Both are rich livings; in both cases the proposal was to make a wise and generous application of the funds for the better service of the Church, and in both it was proposed to place the patronage in the Bishop of the diocese. But such a proposal, which necessarily comes before the House in the form of a Private Bill, establishes a precedent of a novel and dangerous kind, and consequently requires very careful attention. I venture to submit that the House would do well to follow the precedent established in the ease of Stoke, and to refer the Bill, after having read it a second time, to a Hybrid Committee, which would inform the House of circumstances which would aid us in coming to a decision on the matter.

(3.30.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

I listened with attention to the speech of my right hon. Friend near me (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth), but I must say that I strongly object to deal with fragments of a huge national question in the form of a Private Bill. What would be thought if it were proposed to make similar arrangements in connection with the Army or Navy, or any other branch of the Public Service? I, for one, feel bound to protest against such a mode of procedure: and I do not think any hon. Member will be prepared to get up and say that the National Church is not, for all practical purposes, a branch of the National Service of the country. There is, therefore, to my mind, the gravest possible objection to my proposal for dealing with questions of this kind by a Private Bill. Without desiring to enter into the merits of the case, I think that we who look forward to a general measure for effecting a final settlement of all these questions will not be prepared to vote for the Bill. I, therefore, give my hearty support to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley for the rejection of the Bill. There are some features of the case which are open to serious objection. The present Rector of Burnley is the owner of the advowson. I presume that the Bill is not to take effect until he vacates the living; and, therefore, I think it is for the House to determine whether £2,000 a year is not too large a sum to leave for the incoming Rector. If we are to cut down the income of the living, I do not see why we should not lop off another £1,000, and make it available for the extension of the Established Church in other parts of Burnley. If a re-adjustment is required, I think it ought to cover a much wider ground. The time is not far distant, I believe, when we shall have the whole question of the endowment of the Church in Scotland and Wales before Parliament, and those who are looking forward to the increased usefulness of of the Established Church will then have an opportunity of discussing the whole question.

(3.4.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N. E., Darwen)

I do not see why the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) should endeavour to convey an imputation against Canon Townley Parker for what is really a very generous act on his part. He is the owner of an advowson worth £4,000 a year, but he proposes, if Parliament will allow him, to give up this important piece of patronage, and to devote the living for ever afterwards, not only to the benefit of Burnley, but to that of the diocese at large. I do not think that we on this side of the House can support the Bill from quite the same point of view as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir U. Kay-Shuttleworth). It is not because we dislike private patronage that we support the Bill, but because we have really at heart the interests of the Church at large. The diocese of Manchester is a growing diocese, with a large population urgently in need of increased facilities for following the worship they believe to be right, and it is proposed to place at the disposal of the Bishop this large and rich living. It is a very generous act on the part of the Rector of Burnley, and one which I think Parliament ought gratefully to accept. Precisely the same thing has been done in the borough of Blackburn, although in that case it was not necessary to apply for an Act of Parliament. A living has been given there to a clergyman who acts as a Suffragan Bishop to the Bishop of Manchester, and I have never heard any objection raised to the fact that that gentleman performs functions which are for the benefit of the country at large. I do not propose to enter into the question which has been raised he the hon. Member for Bradford, but I do not think, even from his own point of view, that the question of Disestablishment will be advanced or retarded in the slightest respect by the fact that either the rector or the Bishop has the use of these funds.


I presume that the noble Lord has no intention of misrepresenting or doing an injustice to me. My views are well known, and have been often explained both here and elsewhere. I have not the slightest wish to touch any national property at all, and I would remind him that there was no confiscation of the Irish Church Fund.


Does the hon. Gentleman wish to confer the Church property of Burnley upon Lunatic Asylums, which is what was mainly done in the case of the Irish Church Fund? Certainly I do not hold that view, but I do not think the question of Disestablishment will be in the slightest respect advanced or retarded by anything this Bill may do. In this case the patron himself, the Bishop, and the people of Burnley, are strongly in favour of the Bill, and, seeing that it will be of great advantage to the diocese at large, I would urge the House to read it a second time, although I do so upon very different grounds from those which have been adduced by the right hon. Member for Clitheroe.

(3.45.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I hope that the House will endeavour to approach the question without losing itself in that cloud of prejudice which the hon. Member for Bradford was the first to throw out, and which the noble Lord who has just addressed the House has certainly not clarified. I think we ought to look upon the matter as men of common sense. Here is a living of £4,000. The advowson is the property of the person who is now the Rector, and he has the uncontrolled disposition of that advowson. He proposes to vest it in the Bishop of Manchester, and it is further proposed so to re-distribute the value as that £2,000 shall be attached to the existing church, and the remaining £2,000 shall be apportioned in augmentation of the minor livings of Burnley. I cannot see that any possible case whatever has been made out for the rejection of the Bill. I, therefore, hope that the hon. Member for Burnley will not press his objection; and in regard to his second proposal that it should be referred to a Hybrid Committee, I confess that I do not see that it would do any great amount of harm, even if no gain is likely to result from the adoption of such a course.

(3.50.) MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)

The right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees says that all the Bill does is to transfer this property from a private owner to a public servant. Perhaps the Bishop of Manchester is willing to accept that designation in a general sense, but I think in no other?


I meant nothing more than a general sense.


I think I am entitled to place my own interpretation, upon the right hon. Gentleman's words. Of course, I am unable to say what was in his mind, but I wish to point out that the loose use of terms by a right hon. Gentleman of such weight and position is calculated to render our discussion somewhat difficult. All I have to say is that the Bishop of Manchester is in no ordinary sense a public servant. He is neither appointed by the State nor paid by the State, and he cannot be dismissed by the State. He is, therefore, in no Parliamentary sense a public servant. I should like to point out to the hon. Member for West Bradford that this is a Private Bill. If the advowson of Burnley were a public endowment created by this House, it would be unnecessary to proceed by Private Bill. The very fact that the question is being dealt with by a Private Bill proves the reverse of the case the hon. Member for West Bradford would have the House believe, namely, that the endowment is national property. The Rector proposes to make an extremely liberal re-distribution of this property, and I cannot understand how such a provision can be objected to by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

(3.55.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

If anything is calculated to defeat this Bill it would be the speeches of the noble Lord opposite and the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Both of them have endeavoured in a very special manner to raise the question of Disestablishment.


I was very far from raising that question. It was raised, and, in my opinion, most unnecessarily, by the hon. Member for West Bradford.


I equally deprecate the raising of such a question. My remarks were only made in reply to the hon. Member for West Bradford and the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees.


Perhaps I may be allowed to explain. I did not raise the question of Disestablishment. What I urged was that this property ought not to form the subject of a Private Bill, but might fairly a wait the time when the whole question of the present condition of the Established Church will have to undergo review.


All I wished to say was that I desire to support the Bill, and that if anything would induce me to vote against it, it would be the speeches of the noble Lord opposite and the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed). I am under the impression that the Bishop of Manchester was appointed by the State. I always thought that he was appointed by the Crown, acting upon the advice of the Minister of the Crown; and I regard the Minister of the Crown as the representative of the State. But I do not think it is necessary to discuss the position of the Bishop of Manchester at this moment. The question is whether the proposed Bill is one which, under the circumstances, would be advantageous to the town and people of Burnley. I hope the House will bear that fact in mind, and will vote upon the Bill quite irrespective of the question of Establishment or Disestablishment, which really does not arise upon it.


I will not put the House to the trouble of a Division if it is understood that the suggestion of the Chairman of Ways and Means is carried out, and that the Bill is referred to a Hybrid Committeee.

(4.0.) The House divided: —Ayes 172; Noes 131.—(Div. List, No. 154.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of seven Members, four to be nominated by the House, and three by the Committee of Selection."—(Mr. Spencer Balfour.)


I must decline to accept the Motion.

(4.11.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

Then I trust that the hon. Member for Burnley will divide the House upon it.


I think the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Maclure) ought to agree to this proposal, especially after the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Chairman of Ways and Means. I understand that a precisely similar course was taken in the case of the Stoke Rectory Bill. It involves a question of divided interests, which ought to be considered by a Committee constituted as Committees generally are, to whom questions partaking more or less of a public character are referred.

(4.13.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)

I also voted for the Second Reading, although the speech of the hon. Member for East Bradford; made it somewhat difficult for Liberal Churchmen to do so. I must, however, join in the appeal that, having been read a second time, the Bill should be referred to a Hybrid Committee. The measure itself, carrying out, as it does, a useful Church reform, is a step in the right direction, and ought to be considered without in any respect prejudicing any larger question. The House ought to allow the people of Burnley to be heard, and every interest to be represented, as can only be done before a Select Committee.

(4.15.) MR. MACLURE

I beg to withdraw my opposition to the Motion.

Question put, and agreed to.