§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
This Bill, which it is now my duty to introduce, will not, I hope, be the subject of prolonged controversy, still less of Party controversy, in this House. But though it may not excite Party feeling, it is one which must have effects of far-reaching importance for the good of the community; and may, perhaps, be productive of more advantages than some measures apparently framed on more ambitious lines. This is a Bill to enable the Church of England, without the present difficulties and complications which embarrass legal procedure in such cases, to remove from the cure of souls clergymen who have shown themselves unfit for their position. The Bill does not deal with any question of doctrine. It does not create any new offences, nor does it create any new punishment. It is a Procedure Bill, and a Procedure Bill alone intended to facilitate the carrying out of the law, the justice of which everybody will admit; and for these reasons I cannot doubt that even those who do not belong to the Communion of the Church of England will be glad to see the Bill carried into law. It may be in the recollection of those Members of the House who have taken an interest in ecclesiastical legislation that in 1870 a Bill was passed by which any clergyman guilty of felony ipso facto vacated his living. We propose by this Bill to extend that provision beyond the mere limit of felony, and to include within it indictable offences of a grave kind on which a jury have pronounced, and on which the guilty clergyman has been sentenced to hard labour. We also propose to include cases of bastardy and cases of adultery, so that this Bill would, without any further procedure, broadly speaking, 1586 vacate a living exactly as a felony does under the existing law. One distinction between the procedure with regard to a case in which hard labour has been imposed and the cases of felony to which the present Act extends exists which should be adverted to. Under the Act of 1870, the living is vacated without any further action on the part of the Bishop; under this Act we propose, in so far as these offences are concerned, that the Bishop shall be the instrument to declare the benefice vacant. The distinction is not one of very great importance. A more important part of the Bill, perhaps, deals with the less serious class of offences, which can now only be touched under the Ecclesiastical Law, and here we propose a new and greatly simplified procedure, which I will very shortly explain. In cases where a clergyman has been convicted by a jury, but has not been sentenced to hard labour, and in case he has been guilty of immoral acts or habits, the case will be tried before the Bishop's Court. The procedure before the Bishop's Court will be of the following character. If both parties to the suit are agreed, the Bishop may pronounce a summary sentence. If, on the other hand, the parties are not agreed, but there is no question of fact other than the previous conviction before a jury or before magistrates, the Bishop's Court may pronounce sentence. No question of fact can be discussed by the Bishop's Court; but if a question of fact can be brought forward the Bill provides for the alteration of the Court, and what I may almost describe as a jury of five Assessors is added to the Court. Two of these Assessors are to be laymen and three clergymen, and they may pronounce their judgment on the question of fact, and on the question of fact alone, and their opinion in deciding the question of fact must be unanimous, and if not unanimous it must be by a majority, and with the assent of the Chancellor who constitutes the Court. It will be observed that these five Assessors are only to be called in when questions of fact come before the Court. They will be called in if the incriminated clergyman has been tried by a jury or by any Court from which there is an appeal of which he 1587 has not taken advantage. But if he has been tried for drunkenness and summarily convicted, and if, therefore, he has been convicted under circumstances where he had no appeal, then the facts of the case must be re-heard, and he may in that way be saved from any possible error of justice arising out of the first hearing. Again, the question of fact will arise necessarily in those cases where a trial has not taken place either before a jury or before the Magistrates, and where the clergyman is accused of having been guilty of some immoral practice or habit. These are the cases, and the only cases, in which questions of fact will come to be dealt with by the Bishop's Court, and in these cases, as I have already explained to the House, the Court will be assisted by the presence of the five Assessors, who will be called upon to express their opinion on the questions of fact submitted to them. It will be seen that the clergyman has an appeal on the question of fact to the Bishop's Court only when he has been summarily convicted, or when he has had no opportunity of appealing to the ordinary law; let me now state the cases in which he will have an appeal from the Bishop's Court to a higher tribunal. There may be an appeal either to the Provincial Court or to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on questions of law by either party. That is to say, that either side may carry a question of law to the Provincial Court which is practically Lord Penzance's Court, or to the Judicial Committee, as they may desire. But if the question is taken to the Provincial Court there will be no further appeal to the Judicial Committee. The parties may appeal to either one of the two Courts, but there can only be one appeal. On questions of fact the prosecutors have no right of appeal at all, but the defendant has a right of appeal again, either to the Provincial Court or to the Judicial Committee if permission is given by those Courts, and they must give permission if the incriminated clergyman can show a primâ facie case. So that, again, the incriminated clergyman has his interests amply safeguarded, and not only on the point of law, but also on a question of fact, can have an appeal to a Superior Court if 1588 he can show any cause why his appeal should be heard. So much for the procedure under this Bill. With regard to the sentences, they are practically—I do not say technically, but substantially—identical with those existing at present. They consist of deprivation, suspension, and admonition. But if there are no new sentences created by this Bill any more than any new offences, there is a new principle introduced into it by which the sentence is to be awarded. At present the Courts are bound by precedent, and they can only give a sentence in accordance with a long series of precedents in similar cases. Bat these precedents were not fixed on any principle which would commend itself to this House or to public opinion. The old theory of the Ecclesiastical Law was that the sentence was passed on a clergyman not so much for the benefit of the parishioners as for the benefit of his own soul; and therefore it was very often thought that suspension for a brief period might be sufficient for the spiritual welfare of the clergyman, although he was brought back again after such suspension to attend to the spiritual welfare of the people, and naturally, in too many cases, with disastrous results. I believe the Archbishop, in another place, gave an example of what might happen under these circumstances. A clergyman was brought before an Ecclesiastical Court on a charge of drunkenness and was suspended for six months. The six months elapsed, and on his return to the parish he preached a sermon to his congregation explaining what an agreeable holiday he had enjoyed. That, everybody will admit, would be a gross scandal, which is not at all diminished by the fact that in order that this six months' suspension could be inflicted—if that is the proper word—upon the clergyman, a very costly process had to be gone through by the Bishop of the diocese. It only remains to add to this brief outline of the Bill to say that the rules for carrying it into effect will be framed by a Committee of the Privy Council, consisting of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Coleridge (the Lord Chief Justice of England), Lord Penzance, and those Archbishops and Bishops who are members 1589 of the Privy Council, and in any decision with regard to the framing of these rules two of the great legal luminaries I have mentioned must be included. I think it will be admitted that a Committee so constituted will very competently perform the duties which will be entrusted to them. We may safely believe that they will frame rules which will safeguard the interests of all parties in cases which may come up for decision before these Courts. I do not think anyone who has heard this brief account of the Bill will think it is one that can by any possibility inflict inequality or injustice upon any clergyman who may be dealt with under it. But full advantage and the full necessity for a Bill of this kind cannot be really understood by anyone who has not mastered, at least in outline, the cumbersome character of the machinery by which these offences have to be tried. I understand that if an incriminated clergyman desire it there must, under the present system, be three distinct trials, in which all the questions of fact may be re-heard and re-determined, and these three trials may, under certain circumstances, be extended to four. I need not say to any Gentleman who is even moderately acquainted with legal practice that a procedure which involves three distinct trials, three distinct re-hearings of a question of fact, is a system that is extremely cumbersome, extremely expensive, and extremely unjust to those who are the prosecutors, and in some cases even more unjust possibly to the defendant. This procedure is not only inordinately long and inordinately expensive, but it also belongs to so ancient a period that points of difficulty are constantly arising and technicalities are constantly being started which render the progress of justice necessarily slow, halting, and hazardous. We propose to substitute for this technical, this cumbersome and inordinately costly process, a process which we believe will be cheap, rapid, and just; and we cannot doubt that the result of this enormous improvement in the administrative machinery of the law will be to enable the Church to purge herself of an element—a very small element, I believe, but not the less a very deleterious and injurious 1590 element—which now hinders her work, hampers her efforts, and disgraces her character. I hope that this Bill, on which I do not think it necessary to spend any more words, but which I hope I have made clear, at all events in its main lines, will commend itself to the House. The clergy, who in some respects are the parties most immediately affected by it, have expressed by every means in their power, through the action of the Archbishops and Bishops, through the action of individual clergymen, and through the Convocations of both Provinces, their approval of its main principles. Where they approve I think the laity need not withhold their approval, for, after all, the laity are not less interested than the clergy in seeing that unworthy clergymen shall be prevented from taking any further part in the cure of souls. I notice on the Paper three Amendments to the Second Reading. Two of them appear to give reasons why the Bill should be rejected. One of these stands in the name of the Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Philipps), and he proposes to move: "That while the Government fails to provide opportunities for the consideration of many important measures affecting great masses of the community, this House declines to devote its time to the discussion of Clerical Discipline." The hon. Gentleman appears to think that this Bill does not affect great masses of the community. I cannot agree with him. It is perfectly true that the persons primarily affected by the measure are the clergymen of the Church of England, but the Church of England as a whole is vitally concerned in the process of purifying her ranks, and with the successful prosecution of that process is also bound up the spiritual welfare of a large mass of the population. It is no small and tentative measure for dealing with the interests of a small portion of the population; its effects are as widespread as are the efforts of the Church with which it deals; they are as far - reaching in their consequences as any measure that has ever been brought forward in this House—I care not by what Government or in what interest—and it does not lend itself to the criticism which the hon. Gentleman appears to desire to pass 1591 on it, that it is concerned with a small and insignificant fraction of the population. It is a National Bill, and as a National Bill I venture to recommend it to the House. Another Amendment stands in the name of thehon. Member for Carnarvon Districts (Mr. Lloyd-George); he desires to move—That this House, whilst deploring the circumstances which have occasioned the introduction of this Bill, considers that it is no part of the functions of the State to attend to matters of Spiritual Discipline.Now, Sir, I do not know whether the argument of the hon. Gentleman will rest on the question of the propriety of the Establishment of the Church or not; he and I differ on that point; but because we differ on that point I fail to see that there need be any difference between us as to the propriety, and even the necessity, of passing this measure. The Church, whether it ought or ought not to be established, as a matter of fact is established; and the hon. Gentleman—whatever may be his forecast of the future—can hardly think it probable that in any brief period he will see the connection between Church and State severed throughout the whole of England and Wales. He cannot expect, in the present temper of the public mind, whatever may be his view as to what is desirable, to effect that severance of the Church and State which is part of his political—I had almost said of his religious—creed. But, Sir, so long as the Church and State are connected, surely the very first duty of the State is to see that the Church has power to enforce among her own ranks that morality which is not the property of the Church of England alone, or, indeed, of religious bodies alone, but is the common property of the whole civilised community. I shall appeal, Sir, in support of this Bill, not merely to those who are members of the Church of England, but to every man who desires to see the interests of morality and the interests of religion supported throughout the country. It has been suggested—I hope it is nothing more than a suggestion—that there are some politicians so anxious to see their views on Church polity carried into practical effect that they would prefer seeing the Church of England weighted by this 1592 small handful of immoral clergy; they would rather see her lose in public estimation by being compelled to avail herself of the services of these unfit instruments, than lose what they regard as a card in their hands which they might play to secure some political or ecclesiastical triumph. They are prepared, in other words, to purchase what they conceive to be an advantage to some other religious community by seeing what, after all, even they must admit is the largest, one of the most useful, and one of the greatest religious instruments in the country, rendered less efficient for its purpose, because they refuse to do what the Church asks for, and to allow these unworthy clergymen to be deprived of spiritual functions in her midst. I am willing to believe that this suggestion has no foundation in fact. I am not willing to believe that this Bill, which nobody can doubt is an advantage to the Church of England, will be resisted by those who desire rather the advantage of some other religious denomination. I am sure, Sir, that the Members of those other denominations would be the first to express their loathing and abhorrence of the policy which even secular moralists would reject with scorn and disgust; and I hope, therefore, if it be admitted, as I think it must be admitted, that this Bill is one which is required for the amendment of the existing ecclesiastical law, and is one which is urgently needed in order that those few ministers of religion, found here and there in different parts of the country, who are a disgrace to their cloth and that of the religion of which they are ministers, may be deprived of their functions, and which can by no means injure any other religious community in the country—I hope that all of us, to whatever denomination we belong, will heartily join in passing it rapidly through its stages, and in freeing the Church of England from an unmerited reproach for which we shall make ourselves responsible if we do not aid her to get rid of it by using the powers entrusted to us. I appeal to all present, whether they desire the Establishment to be maintained or to be dissolved, whether they think the present constitution of Church and State be right or wrong, at 1593 all events to aid in promoting that which we are all agreed is right, and in preventing that which we must all admit is most unquestionably wrong. I beg to move, Sir, that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ (6.37.) MR. LLOYD - GEORGE (, &c.) Carnarvon
I beg, Sir, to move the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper. The First Lord of the Treasury stated that there was a suggestion abroad that opposition was promoted by endeavouring to perpetuate certain scandals in the Church in order to enforce Disestablishment. To those ready to believe any sinister motives which are attributed to Liberationists it would be idle for me to say anything; but to those willing to be convinced may I point out that never in my recollection has there been a single speech by a prominent Liberationist in Wales which has endeavoured to make political capital out of these cases of scandal? I do not recollect a single instance alluded to in any of these speeches. Every Nonconformist deplores the existence of immoral clergymen, if there be such, and no Liberationist would endeavour to perpetuate those deplorable circumstances. We oppose this Bill on totally different grounds. If it were merely a question of Disestablishment we could do nothing better than support the Bill, for nothing would do so much to widen the agitation in favour of Disestablishment. At a Church meeting the other day an eminent clergyman said—I was talking the other day to a dignitary of the Church and a member of Convocation, and he said to me, 'I have come to the conclusion most slowly and reluctantly that the only way out of our troubles is a sweeping measure of Disestablishment and Disendowment.'The passing of the Bill would facilitate Disestablishment. Another ground for opposing the Bill is that it will not get rid of the immoral clergymen. The difficulty of the Bishops at present is not altogether one of procedure; it is mainly the difficulty of securing evidence. Witnesses who will give evidence at a private Church meeting object to being taken from Court to Court, badgered, 1594 cross-examined, and treated as perjurers. That difficulty this Bill does not touch in the slightest degree. We suggest that the remedy is the emancipation of the Church from the State, which would leave to the Church itself the duty of getting rid of the immoral clergymen, and the Courts would not be Civil Courts, but ordinary Church meetings or meetings of Church dignitaries. Another ground of objection is that the First Lord of the Treasury has not made out a case to justify the setting aside of important legislation for the purpose of passing this Bill. He has made out no case of urgency for it; while there is other legislation of the foremost importance to the mass of the community waiting to come on. There is the question of temperance, affecting the comfort and health of the great mass of the people, and who would for a moment compare the injury done to the security of religion by occasional criminous clerks to that done by the existing temptations to drink? Yet the Government can find time to deal with the ecclesiastical question, but not to deal with the other and more important one. Then there is the question of District Councils, which are necessary to solve the great social problems affecting the rural districts; but the Government cannot find time to deal with that. Is there any urgency for this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman objected yesterday to the Bill for remedying the grievance of Nonconformists as to sites for places of worship on the ground that no case had been instanced where Nonconformists had suffered a grievance in that matter. What instances has the right hon. Gentleman given in support of this Bill; he is very exacting with regard to a Nonconformist grievance, but is very lax with regard to a Church grievance. He instanced one case which has been trotted out over and over again in these discussions; but I maintain that no case has been made out to justify the setting aside of more important legislation to allow of the passing of this Bill. I think the right hon. Gentleman rather made out a case in opposition to the Bill, for he stated that the cases were very few. That was also the view of the Archbishop who introduced the Bill last Session, 1595 and who said that the cases were becoming fewer every year. So we see that the Government can bring in a Bill to deal with a grievance which is constantly diminishing, but it cannot deal with a grievance which is becoming worse year by year. If this were a question of getting rid of criminous clerks, perhaps hon. Members would be prepared to support it; but it is not, and there are other means of getting rid of them. The present law is sufficient for the purpose. The reason given for the introduction of the Bill is the liability of the proceedings to be upset by technicalities, and the cost to the Bishops of appeals. These liabilities the Bishops suffer in common with every other suitor in the country. It was said that one Bishop was delayed five months in getting rid of a criminous clerk, but in the Court of Chancery a man may be delayed five or even ten years, and to meet the cost would have to spend all his available means—and not merely a part of a year's income—and might then by the merest technicality absolutely fail to get the relief which he ought to have succeeded in obtaining. If we are going to improve the procedure, let us improve it altogether, and not so that it will only benefit one or two persons in eight or ten years. This is not a measure to get rid of criminous clerks; it is a Bishops' Relief Bill and nothing else. It is time to get rid of these Clergy Relief Bills. Some time ago the clergy in Wales found their bailiffs' bills getting too heavy, and important measures were stopped to discuss and pass the Tithes Bill, and now we have a Bill to save the patience and purses of the Bishops. It is not right, when such measures as the Irish Local Government Bill are waiting, to bring forward such a measure as this. The Irish Bill was to be the crowning glory of the legislative achievements of the Government, and I submit that no ground of urgency has been shown for putting that Bill aside to pass a measure to cheapen the process for getting rid of criminous clerks. I object to this Bill also on the ground that I do not regard it as part of the functions of Parliament to attend to spiritual matters. I am not concerned now to controvert the right hon. Gentleman's 1596 statement that the Establishment will probably continue for some years in England; but I am perfectly within my right in discussing whether it is right of the House of Commons to interfere in matters of this character unless it is in a case of the most crying urgency which it would be utterly impossible to dispose of without a Bill. Parliament is not fitted to deal with these matters. It is elected by people two-thirds of whom are not adherents of the Church of England, and it is elected for secular purposes—for dealing with questions of finance, of peace and war, and for solving great social problems—and not in any sense for dealing with spiritual discipline and questions of that kind. It may be said that the success of the Reformation Parliament proves the fitness of Parliament to deal with such matters; but reform of the Church was the great question in the public mind at that time, and that Parliament was elected specially for dealing with it. This Parliament was specially elected to repudiate a financial transaction relating to land purchase, and the fact that it has carried a worse proposal in spite of its pledges does not fit it to deal with spiritual matters. For that reason I strongly object to the Bill. An eminent ecclesiastical lawyer said that he was quite as anxious as any supporters of the Bill to relieve the Church; but, at the same time, he considered that this relief would be obtained at too great a sacrifice of an important and valuable principle, as it was by supporting a Bill acknowledging the right of interference of the State. We take exactly the same position so far as that is concerned. Sir Walter Phillimore holds that there is a principle that the State ought not to interfere in matters of spiritual discipline, and we cannot on that ground see our way to support the Bill. Assuming even the case of urgency, and the right of Parliament to interfere, I maintain that this is not a fit and proper Bill to pass in relation to such a subject. Looking at the Bill clause by clause, it seems to me to be a most extraordinary one. The first clause provides that—If a clergyman is convicted of treason or felony, or is convicted on indictment of a 1597 misdemeanour, and on any such conviction is sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour or any greater punishment, or an order under the Acts relating to bastardy is made on a clergyman, or a clergyman is found in a divorce or matrimonial cause to have committed adultery,then the Bishop shall declare the living vacant. If he receives a free pardon, then the Bishop shall re-instate him without making any inquiry at all; he is merely a puppet in the hands of the magistrates, and, moreover, if he refuses after 21 days to carry out that order, then the Archbishop is compelled to declare the living vacant. If I were a member of the Church of England, I would never dream of supporting such a measure as inflicts such an indignity and humiliation upon the Bishops of my Church. What did the late Archbishop of York say about it? He said—I may think that a man ought not to be deprived. Am I to come in, thinking all that, and as a mere machine, a mere crier of the Court, to declare him deprived—what I think he ought not to be?Certainly, that is a most sensible comment upon it. The second clause is quite as bad—If a clergyman is charged with immorality, he may be prosecuted by the Bishop's Court.The First Lord of the Treasury stated that by consent a clergyman might refer the whole matter to the Bishop's Court. I do not see anything about consent here. But what is the procedure? The complaint is to be investigated by the Bishop; but he is simply to decide whether there is a primâ facie case. He is not allowed to decide a question which involves immorality and the spiritual conduct of one of his own clergy. He simply decides whether there is a primâ facie case to present, and then he puts it into the hands of a number of laymen.If the defendant so desires it, he may call upon five Assessors to decide the matter; two of them to be Justices of the Peace or holders of a judicial appointment.The right hon. Gentleman made another mistake there. He stated that three of the Assessors should be clergymen and two laymen. There is nothing about that here. There is a provision that the minimum of laymen should be two, but it says nothing 1598 about the maximum; and, of course, they may be all laymen. Coming to the third clause, from the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury we were told that this is a Bill to get rid of appeals. What is proposed? That "either Party may appeal upon a point of law." Of course, it is on a point of law that most of these cases have been fought—upon little legal technical questions. Therefore, you do not get rid of the greatest grievance which is the main factor in the introduction of this Bill. The incriminated clerk goes on appealing from Court to Court at the same expense to the Bishop as is already complained of as in existence. If a defendant desires to appeal all he has to do is this—simply to go to an Appellate Court and make out a primâ facie case upon an ex parte statement; no one to contradict or oppose him. How very easy a matter it is to make out a primâ facie case upon an ex parte statement. If you want to get rid of appeals you must get rid of this clause altogether. Then I wish to call the attention of the House to the fifth subsection of that clause. We have heard complaints about the delay in getting rid of incriminated clerks. This fifth sub-section says—If there is an appeal, the sentence shall be suspended until the appeal is determined or abandoned, and for the purpose of any inhibition be deemed not to have been given.All the incriminated clerk has to do is this—if he wants to occasion delay, if he wants to retain office, and to create all that scandal which we have heard so much complaint and denunciation about—all he has to do is simply to appeal upon some point of law, and, of course, that takes a very long time before it is decided at all in an Ecclesiastical Court. He gets up some sort of primâ facie case, and while the appeal is pending, the decision of the Primary Court suspending him is done away with, and absolutely he carries on his functions and duties exactly as before. Now, there is another clause, the fifth clause of this Bill, which is also a most astounding one. Clause C in that sub-section proposes that, notwithstanding the order for suspending a clerk from his duties, the Secular Court may give him leave to discharge his 1599 duties. That is a most extraordinary provision. There is a second sub-section, sub-section B of that clause, which is also a most extraordinary provision—The incapacity of a clergyman shall not extend to any preferment which the Bishop of the diocese and the Archbishop of the Province in which it is situated shall allow him to hold.That is, a Secular Court can deprive a criminous clerk of the power of exercising his duties in his parish, and the Bishop has no right to interfere at all, whatever his opinion may be, whatever new facts may be discovered, whatever new idea he may have of the innocence of the incriminated clerk—that particular Bishop is not allowed to interfere in that particular parish; but he can give the incriminated clerk power to exercise his functions in another parish. The best thing the Government could do would be to adopt the suggestion made from time to time by Convocation and other Ecclesiastical Bodies to submit the Bill to Convocation, and let them submit their Report upon it to the Government. Then comes the sixth clause, and here, again, I really cannot understand how a Church is to tolerate a section of that character. The matter of expelling a member, a clerk of their own Church, the question of framing rules, is to be handed over to the Rule Committee, which is to consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, a Judge of the Provincial Court, and such Archbishop or Bishop as may happen to be members of the Privy Council. At the present moment I believe there is only one Bishop who is a Member of the Privy Council, so that the lay element upon this Committee will predominate. In the Definition Clause I find it stated that the Assessors may consist of police magistrates. What does the proposal all come to? It comes to this: that the Church of England, as the most powerful Spiritual Court in the country, is to be deprived of powers which are inherent in every other Society in the Kingdom, that of expelling its own officers and members; that it is not to enjoy the rights which are exercised by every clerk in Piccadilly—not only that, but the decisions of her own Bishops on 1600 spiritual matters are, merely at the requirement of an immoral clergyman, to be subjected to revision by a couple of police magistrates. She is not to be allowed to frame a few simple rules to govern her conduct in matters of discipline, and the Archbishops and high dignitaries in the Church are to be converted into mere "Court criers," in the words of the late Archbishop of York, to announce the decrees of the Divorce Court, and also bastardy orders against their own clergymen. A more astounding Bill never was heard of. As a Nonconformist it passes my conception to understand the frame of mind which would enable any clergyman, any member of the Church, to tolerate a Bill of this character for a moment. The policy of this Bill seems to be a policy of suspicion at every corner—a constant, incessant, unintermittent suspicion of every act of the Bishops, Archbishops, or spiritual leaders in the Church. It is simply astonishing to me. It simply proves how very demoralising an effect the connection of the State must have upon any Church, that two of her Archbishops should introduce and press forward a measure which inflicts such unmitigated humiliation upon their own order and upon their own clerks. I observe on the Paper that a notice has been placed by the First Lord of the Treasury that this Bill is to be relegated to the Standing Committee on Law. The House will remember that there was a Bill introduced a short time ago on behalf of the Nonconformists with regard to the enfranchisement of places of worship. We knew that there was not the remotest chance of that Bill passing this year unless facilities were given for the purpose; but the right hon. Gentleman not only refused to give any facilities whatever, but actually refused to send it to the Standing Committee on Law. But he not only presses this Bill forward when there is other important legislation waiting for submission — he goes beyond that, and actually proposes to submit the whole of this Bill to the Committee on Law. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will gain very little by it. 1601 It will be our duty, when it returns to the House of Commons, to discuss every Amendment which we might have proposed and considered if the Bill had passed through the Committee of the House, especially having regard to the fact that he absolutely refused to extend the same courtesy and measure of justice to the Nonconformists as he is now willing to extend to the Church. There is an agitation in the Church for Disestablishment. Even that is preferable to a Bill of this character. When the Church was more the master of the State, instead of being its slave, she did more for the progress of human liberty than she is doing at the present moment. She emancipated the slave, and started the agitation which induced King John to give Magna Charta; and she protected the poor and weak when they were sorely in need of protection. But since she has absolutely surrendered her liberty, there is not a single instance in which the Church has led any emancipating agitation at all. On the contrary, the whole weight of her influence has been cast on the other side. If it were only for that reason, I should give my most strenuous opposition to this Bill. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, whilst deploring the circumstances which have occasioned the introduction of this Bill, considers that it is no part of the functions of the State to attend to matters of Spiritual Discipline,"—(Mr. Lloyd-George,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (7.23.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I have listened with great care to the elaborate speech of my hon. Friend, and with anxiety to take the just measure, so far as I could, of the arguments he has used against the Bill, with regard to which it must be generally admitted that it presents on the face of it very considerable primâ facie evidence in favour of its adoption. I confess I was disappointed in my examination of his arguments. I do not 1602 think my hon. Friend has failed in his task—that is, I have no reason to believe that any other hon. Member of the House could have made a better case than he has made; but when I look at the arguments themselves by which it must be decided, what do I find? I find, so determined is he to enlist in his service all and every description of plea that it is possible to attach in any manner to the question, that he actually presents it to the House as a reason why we should refuse the Second Reading of this particular Bill that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has, in his judgment, behaved badly in respect to another Bill which was intended to relieve Nonconformists in regard to a particular grievance. Can the misconduct of the right hon. Gentleman—which, of course, I am bound to believe in for the purpose of argument—can the misconduct of the right hon. Gentleman in another case be a reason for one feather's weight why we should do less than justice on this particular occasion? If that be so, what connection is there between the proceedings of the right hon. Gentleman on another Bill and the course which my hon. Friend recommends with respect to this Bill? Now, my hon. Friend said—I think this was the first objection he took—that this Bill would tend to promote Disestablishment. I confess to a certain amount of suspicion that if that were a conviction strongly felt by my hon. Friend there would not have been such a fund of hostility available against this Bill as he has spent so liberally upon the present occasion. After all, most of this argument of my hon. Friend has been put forward because he did not wish broadly to rest his case upon the proposition that being a friend of Disestablishment he wishes to make Establishment so uncomfortable that he will bring those who support Establishment to his way of thinking, and allow him to disestablish the Church. My hon. Friend says—he makes no secret of that in certain parts of his speech—he says that the regulation of spiritual discipline is no proper portion of the duty of Parliament; that we were elected for other pur 1603 poses. Well, whether we ought to be elected for other purposes exclusively is a very broad question upon which it is not necessary for me to give an opinion upon the present occasion. As regards a certain portion of the country, I myself, 20 years ago, held a pretty strong opinion to that effect, and I did what I could to give effect to it. As regards a portion of this country, I agree with my hon. Friend, and should be prepared to give effect to that opinion; but, broadly, I must join issue with my hon. Friend upon the question whether, because we approve of Disestablishment—I take it in the case of Wales—whether because I approve of Disestablishment I am, therefore, to be justified in saying I will absolutely refuse to cure any defect or to remove any scandal in a Church which I think ought to be disestablished. It appears to me there is no escape from this dilemma. You have got an Established Church in Wales—I am taking the argument upon the broad case most favourable to my hon. Friend's view—we have got an Established Church in Wales. He thinks, and I think, that it would be just to the people of that country that that state of things should be brought to an end; but it is not in my power, or in his power, to bring it to an end at the present time. He knows that the House has refused to do it this year. He does not know when it can be done; but what I affirm most seriously, without the slightest hesitation, is, that when there is a certain legal state of things of which you disapprove, but which entails certain necessary consequences right in themselves, you are bound, when you cannot alter that state of things, to accept the consequences of it, and give effect to what is just, what is politic, and what is prudent under that state of things of which you disapprove. Until my hon. Friend is disposed frankly to admit that proposition, I really hardly know how to get on an equal and fair level ground of argument with him in respect to this case. My hon. Friend finds, as I have said, any argument his ingenuity can suggest good enough to use against this Bill. He takes up very warmly in one portion of his speech the case of the Bishops, and 1604 says it is most hard upon them that they should be reduced to the position of mere passive instruments of a Court with which they have nothing to do. Surely, Sir, it is an answer to say that this is a case of volenti non fit injuria. The Bishops have had the opportunity of giving their opinions and their votes in the other House of Parliament. My hon. Friend has said that it would be much better to refer the matter to Convocation. I hesitate very much about adopting that principle. We are dealing not with spiritual matters only, but with the regulating of their civil consequences. The right of a clergyman to his living is a civil right, and the deprivation of the living for an offence which falls within the cognisance of the ordinary laws of the country ought to depend upon the action and the judgment of a civil tribunal. My hon. Friend, I am sure, would not like consciously to make a reactionary speech; but when I heard him deliver his opinion upon that portion of the case, my mind reverted to the period when every crime of a spiritual person—that is to say, of a clergyman—was tried exclusively in a Spiritual Court. It was considered a great advance in the principle of Government when at length clergymen were made amenable to the ordinary law of the land with respect to all offences that are properly the subject of cognisance of the ordinary law. My hon. Friend is not always so kind to the Bishops as he was when he complained of their being made the passive instruments of the Courts of Justice. He has said that the Bishop has no hardship whatever with respect to the costliness of these proceedings. As far as I have heard, the cost was from £1,000 to £2,000 a year to get rid of a delinquent clergyman. Now, many of the Bishops have salaries amounting to £3,000 a year, subject to heavy expenses on the assumption of their office, and to incessant calls of every description. They take part in every benevolent work. Not to speak of social efforts, they have especially to support every movement connected with the spiritual and ecclesiastical welfare of their dioceses. It would be supposed that a man with £3,000 a year, who is generally a married man— 1605 and whom the country generally wishes to be a married man—might be in some difficulty if, out of his £3,000 a year, with a diocese of five or six hundred clergymen, he would in a particular year have to deal with a couple of criminous clerks, and having paid £3,000 or £4,000 to dispose of those clerks, he had next to consider in what manner he was to pay his butcher and his baker. In this instance I think the speech of my hon. Friend has not exhibited that acuteness which, I admit, characterised what he said on almost every point he has taken, for he said that the case of a Bishop is simply analagous to that of any other suitor. For my part, I think the case of a Bishop is altogether different. The suitors whom my hon. Friend referred to as suffering great hardships are men prosecuting their own interests; but the case of the Bishops is, I believe, the sole case that you can name in the country of a public officer, who, out of his own funds, given for his own subsistence, is called upon to spend large sums of money in going to law for the purpose of getting rid of a delinquent clergyman. I do not deny that there are difficulties requiring to be seriously pondered in the details of the Bill. My hon. Friend said that a few simple rules could easily be framed by Convocation; but the manner and conditions of depriving men of their property—and they ought to be deprived, I admit—are by no means very simple. On the contrary, these conditions are very serious, and it is for these very reasons that it is desired to go into Committee. It is in Committee on the Bill, and not on the Second Reading, that the objections of my hon. Friend can be considered with care and with advantage. The hon. Member says that this measure will not get rid of criminous clerks. Is that a reason for rejecting it? Do Courts of Justice get rid of criminals in other matters? Would you, if you had no Courts of Justice, reject a Bill for establishing one, because you were told by an opponent of the Bill that it would not get rid of criminals? Then my hon. Friend says that criminous clerks have reached the vanishing point. I am not certain that they have reached 1606 the vanishing point. My impression certainly is that they are too numerous for that to be said with accuracy. The clergy of the Church of England number twenty thousand, but happily they are a body mainly devoted to their religious duties, and as much detached from worldly interests, and certainly from actions—in the sense of anything like criminal action—as we can reasonably hope to see. Exceptional cases there will certainly be, and it is perfectly plain that if we have an Established Church in the country, and these cases of exceptions are to be submitted to Parliament in order that they may be appreciably dealt with, and Parliament refuses to deal with them, Parliament becomes responsible for the evil complained of. There is no escape from that. Here are certain evils which are gross evils, within a circle, and if but one case comes up in the Courts in a year, there is ample reason why we should get rid of that case. If we refuse to do so, unless on broad grounds, and intelligible to the people, we become responsible for the mischiefs of those whom that mischief most grievously affects. My hon. Friend says that the Church of England includes only one-third of the population of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I said that the Representatives of Great Britain and Ireland would take part in the discussion of a Bill which does not affect one-third of the population.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is precisely what I supposed my hon. Friend said. I entirely differ from him in his estimate of the numbers, but I regard this as a secondary matter. If it were true that the Established Church of England included a minority of the people instead of a majority, that would not constitute, in itself, a valid reason for the rejection of the Bill. Then my hon. Friend says the question is not urgent, but he is not responsible in that point. It is the Government who are invested with the direction, to a certain extent, of the time of the House. The Government say—"There are abuses and scandalous mischiefs which do great evil, offend the country, and disgrace the Church; will 1607 you remove them? Say 'aye' or no.'" I must answer "aye" or "no." I cannot give a "no," because I cannot for a moment think that it is improper for this matter to be discussed. I will not go into details, but we are called upon to look at certain broad facts, and there is one fact which it appears to me is incapable of denial, and which it is our duty to look in the face. We are dealing with a case that is somwhat peculiar. This is a Bill against a class; it is a Bill to make the law more stringent and severe, I admit, by a change of procedure which is essential, because it makes a difference between the immunity of offenders and the enforcement of an effective discipline. Offences which society condones or looks upon with a certain degree of, perhaps, misapplied leniency, are brought into the Bill, and entail very severe and sweeping consequences; well, this severe and highly penal measure is presented to us by whom? Not by those who are moved by the outcry of the community, but by the very class against whom these severe provisions are directed, and who ask you to make the law strong, and to make it penal in order that they may be preserved from the impurity which offending members import among them. Anti-professional legislation, laws imposing restraint and penalty on particular classes of men are not generally promoted by those classes. Laws of this character only derive their forward impulse from extraneous opinion, and a general movement of the public mind; but here we have a case in which the particular class which is to be subjected to these stringent and severe provisions, are those men who are almost the only petitioners for the passing of this Bill. I must put it even to my hon. Friend that such a state of things as that, such a position as that, does give these parties a very strong claim upon our favourable consideration. The question is asked—who are interested in this legislation? No doubt the whole body of the clergy; no doubt the Bishops, who, so long as they continue to be public officers entrusted with the discharge of their ghostly duties, we must regard as interested parties. But by 1608 far the most interested of all are the local communities to whom these guilty clergymen are bound to minister. I set aside all question of Establishment or Disestablishment. As affecting the present measure. I affirm, as a matter of fact—as a matter of social fact—that in the present circumstances of this country, the clergyman, being upon the ground in our parishes, especially in all the rural parishes, is personally so important, not merely from his directly spiritual duties, but from his position in the parish that the entire parish, Churchmen and Nonconformists, are all interested in his character and reputation. I set aside the question of the proportion of Churchmen, whether it is two-thirds or one-third—I do not care what the proportion is—I affirm that the whole local and parochial community has a deep interest in being purged of these plague spots. I ask my hon. Friend not to interpose unnecessarily, not to search with something of feverish heat for arguments of all kinds, in order to put this Bill away. Look stringently if you like at the details of the Bill; take what objection you like to them; state fairly your objection to be called upon to deal with the subject at all. It is quite fair that in considering it you should do it only under protest; but do not attempt to stop the progress of the measure by opposition pushed to lengths which might be undue. When you bear in mind that the main purpose which has been in view is, and must be, not the mere infliction of penalties upon a number of persons, who deserve it—a number which is admitted on all hands to be an extremely small one—not a mere desire to give greater efficiency to the Bishop's office by relieving him of costly charges which are really intolerable—it is your duty, your sacred duty to the parishes of the country, to enable them to have a reasonable hope of seeing the important office—for such it must ever be—of their clergyman, filled by one who does not degrade it by constant misconduct.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
There are many supporters of the hon. Member for Carnarvon who, believing 1609 in the promises of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, look forward to the speedy Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and, therefore, do not wish to see the time of the House wasted in patching up an institution which is likely to be abolished in a few months or in a year. The attitude of my hon. Friends below the Gangway is this—they refuse to take upon themselves any responsibility for legislating for a State Church. They do not believe in a State Church; they want to see it abolished. They also consider that this House is not a tribunal for the discussion of ecclesiastical matters. It will be remembered that when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was recently appealed to to give further time for the discussion of the Eight Hours Bill for miners, he said that it was absolutely impossible to do so. Since then, however, he has been taking up the rights of private Members, and proposes to do so again immediately. When he gets the time he devotes it to the consideration of questions which affect a few score of people. On looking through the Order Book I find that over 230 Bills have been put down for this Session, and I see nothing in this Bill to account for its being singled out from among the others as a Government measure. The Government have even taken away the day that had been set apart for the discussion of the Scotch Crofters' Bill. This Government is not going forward with the interests for which it was elected. It did not come here on a Church programme, but to maintain the unity and the integrity of the British Empire. In that direction there has been a Bill for strengthening the Criminal Law in Ireland, another Bill for the Land Law, and the Local Government Bill; and here, in the last Session of Parliament, we have not even reached the Second Reading of a measure which is to redress grievances in Ireland. Is there any pressing need for this Bill? Do hon. Members on the opposite side consider that there is a pressing need for this Bill? ("Yes.") Then the need has been going on for some time, and they must believe, too, that there are clergymen who have 1610 been convicted of treason-felony, or have received orders relative to bastardy, or have been convicted of misdemeanour. I say it is an argument against the Established Church that men continue to countenance that Institution, when they believe that wrongs of such nature are in pressing need. I do not believe that Parliament is likely to be successful in legislation of this kind. The Public Worship Regulation Act, passed by Lord Beaconsfield's Government, was supposed to heal the wounds of the Church; but I venture to say that it caused the Church of England more trouble than any Act passed for many years before. And I doubt greatly whether this Bill will do very much for the Church. A fair argument against this Bill is that it is drawn in a most extraordinary and incomplete way. In evidence of its incompleteness, I may remind the House that, some few months ago, a Carmarthenshire minister—a vicar, I believe—was fined for grossly ill-treating—kicking, I think—a little servant girl in his employ. Such an offence is not touched by this measure; it is only when a clergyman is sentenced to hard labour or any greater punishment, or is guilty of an offence of an indecent nature, that he will be deprived of his living. I have often thought it regrettable that the clergy could not be represented on the Treasury Bench, because many questions arise in Parliament regarding clerical scandals—the use of certain catechisms, for instance, the uneven sentences passed by clerical magistrates, or the refusal of clergymen to lend their schools for political meetings. All these matters ought to be brought within the scope of the measure. Let us make the Bill complete by inserting provisions for a Clerical Department. The Minister for Agriculture would make a suitable head, and he seems to have plenty of time at his disposal. It appears to me that this is an attempt on the part of the Government to establish order in the Church. I approve of order, but I have always thought that the State Church was never in such good order as in the time of Queen Elizabeth, its founder. Why, 1611 I should like to know, is not this Bill made applicable to all ministers of the Church, whether their rank be high or low? It defines a clergyman as one "not being the Bishop of a diocese." To me it seems ridiculous that you should exclude from the scope of this Bill the highest dignitaries of the Church. Slander, too, I consider worthy of inclusion, as well as want of charity, and the boycotting of Political Parties. If, in addition, the measure is not limited in its application to clergymen as now defined, then you will have some primâ facie case for the Bill. In closing, I still venture to press upon the Government the wisdom of dropping the Bill and devoting their attention to the measures mentioned by the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George), to the redress of the more urgent public grievances, and so paving the way for the legislation which will be required to carry into effect the recommendations of the Labour Commission.
*(8.20.) MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)
I regret to find myself compelled to vote in a different Lobby to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). His speech marks the distinction which exists between him and many of us. The right hon. Gentleman himself objects to an Established religion, not as an Establishment, but owing to the circumstances which surround it; while we think that an Establishment is bad, not only under the conditions in Wales, but that under no circumstances can it be justified. We do not wish to perpetuate the state of things which this Bill aims at. In common with the right hon. Member for Midlothian, we desire to eliminate these evils, but we believe that a much broader view of the question should be taken. I am sorry to find that the condition of affairs in the Church is such as to draw from the Government a Bill of this kind, and I regret also that that Church should, in this century, be in such a state of bondage as to be unable to remedy for itself those defects which are so apparent to everybody. This question is a wide one, and it opens very serious issues; for if the House passes this Bill to- 1612 night, the whole question of Church reform will be opened. One is rather alarmed at the prospect of such a long and tedious journey, alarmed that questions of this nature are to take precedence over those great social questions which the people of this country are demanding. Then I understand that the various sections in the Church are not agreed as to Church reform; and thus it strikes me that if the House of Commons is going to commence that work, it is beginning what will prove a hopeless and impossible task. I agree with the objection taken that this House is not the proper Body to deal with this question. Some of its Members hold religious opinions, but there may be others who are not only out of sympathy with the doctrines taught by the Church, but believe that its faith is nothing more than a vain superstition. A House so constituted is not fitted to regulate the affairs of a religious institution. This is an objection which would occur to a believer in the Christian religion; but there are others not in harmony with religion who are quite entitled to be heard in this House. Their attitude is that the time of this House should not be taken up in dealing with questions which should be dealt with by the Church itself, and which would so be dealt with if the Church were disestablished. And they say, very rightly, that it is unfair that the time of this House should be taken up with the affairs of a religious establishment, when there are so many great social questions pressing for reform. And though, perhaps, these questions do not trench so closely on morality as the progress of an institution in which religion is taught, yet there are measures introduced into this House, and opposed by hon. Members opposite Session after Session—particularly temperance questions—which have a great claim on all who are anxious to support measures for the amelioration of this country, and who desire to promote the cause of morality. I do not know that I should trouble the House much further; but I am bound to say one word in reference to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, that the 1613 great masses of the people are in favour of this Bill. As far as I have been able to gather from some extracts I have seen, I do not think the clergy themselves regard this measure with any very great satisfaction, and I entirely dissent from the statement that the masses of this country are in its favour. I dare say there may be a large section of the community who are; but I think if the great masses of the people were consulted they would say that, although anxious to promote morality, they do not believe this is a question that should take precedence of other questions which have for a long time been before the House. Whenever a great question is before the House—and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that he wished this to be regarded as one—a Member generally has some intimation from his constituents of their opinion in regard to the measure, or in reading the daily newspapers one reads of meetings being held in favour of it, or of some Petition being sent to the House of Commons. But in regard to this Bill I have never heard a single word outside the House, and I attribute it to the fact that people believe this is not the right place nor the right time to deal with the question. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this Bill to the House, seemed to suggest that the hon. Member for Carnarvon had some desire to advance the interests of other religious bodies in opposing this Bill. That is an opinion which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated before to-night as to the aim and motives of Nonconformists whenever they bring forward questions in this House. I remember him, when the Debate on the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was brought forward, saying that he believed the Nonconformists of Wales, and of England as well, would rather see the money now employed by the Church of England thrown into the sea than that the Church should have the use of it. That shows how impossible it is for the right hon. Gentleman, who is entirely out of sympathy with Nonconformists, to understand the motives and desires which animate their action in this House. It is nothing short of slander to say that it is our desire in opposing 1614 this Bill to advance the interests of some other religious bodies. Our objections have been stated to this Bill, and though, perhaps, little good may be done by our discussion in this House to-night, yet I think it will be clear to those outside the House that we are not animated by motives so base as the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. I will, in conclusion, say that I cannot consent, as far as I am concerned, to allow this House to spend its time in re-constructing a religious establishment, and I believe that the good of the Church must be developed within its own walls, and not by a secular body.
§ *(9.15.) MR. THOMAS ELLIS (Merionethshire)
Both the Member for Midlothian and the First Lord of the Treasury have suggested that we are opposing this Bill because it will retard Disestablishment.
Notice taken, that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ * MR. THOMAS ELLIS
resumed. Whatever may be my objections to this Bill, that is not one of them, for I believe that the passing of this Bill will enormously hasten and quicken the movement for Disestablishment, and it is a remarkable fact that since this Bill has been brought forward several clergymen of eminence have declared their intention, with a view of securing their freedom, of joining hands with those who approach the question of Disestablishment from a very different standpoint. The Member for Midlothian has come, as he does fairly often, to the rescue of Her Majesty's Government. Whenever the Government have to bring forward some inconclusive Resolution or Bill which they find some difficulty in commending to the House, the right hon. Gentleman comes down and makes a great speech in their favour, and very often takes them out of their difficulty. The speech of to-night was a great debating speech, but it did not make out any real case for this Bill. The First Lord of the Treasury did not bring one single argument or mention one single instance to show that this Bill was much needed. It is true he referred 1615 casually to a case to which the Archbishop of Canterbury in another place has referred to once or twice. The Member for Mid Glamorganshire (Mr. Samuel Evans) challenged the Government through the Home Secretary to give a Return for the purpose of the discussion on this Bill. That Return could easily have been prepared, and it would have made out the case for this Bill if a case could be made out. My hon. Friend asked for a Return of the number of clerks who by their conduct have brought themselves within the purview of this Bill. But the Home Secretary refused to grant that Return, and thus completely gave away the case of the Government for urgency. The fact is, there is no demand for this Bill; or, if there is a demand, it is very limited. There is certainly no demand for it from the mass of the electors. The Member for Midlothian had to admit that there are many pressing social questions for the solution of which great masses of the people are anxious, but he dare not stand up in his place and say there is any appreciable demand for this Bill. Is there any demand for it on the part of the clergy? The clergy as a body have not moved for legislation on these lines. It is true that they would like to see the powers of Convocation considerably enlarged, and they desire that the Church should have certain powers of dealing with spiritual discipline; but I venture to think that they have not agitated for such a Bill as this. I admit that the opinion of the Archbishops and Bishops in matters connected with the Church of England is of very great value, but what is suspicious about the action of the Bishops is that they have excluded themselves from the purview of this Bill. Members on both sides of this House, and gentlemen of all religious opinions, are asked at the bidding of the Bishops to examine a state of things in which clergymen are supposed to commit certain crimes; but if the Bishops desire to interrupt the Business of this House by proposals of this kind, they ought to include themselves. It has been proved conclusively by the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George) that there is already power in the Church to deal 1616 with these matters. It is true the process is expensive; but it is too much that the Business of this House should be interrupted, and pressing and urgent legislation delayed, merely in order that this work may be cheapened. It is quite right that all systems of law should be cheap; but I should like the House to remember that large sums of money are paid to the Bishops to meet the heavy charges which arise in the execution of their duties, and this work of getting rid of criminous clerks is incidental to the execution of their duty. I think the proposal would have come with far better grace from the clergy than from the Bishops, who have excluded themselves, and bring the Bill forward with a view of saving themselves expense. I venture to protest against this method of putting a pistol at the head of the House at the instance of the Bishops. We have an objection to the presence of the Bishops in the other House; but so long as they do not waste our time, we may be prepared to quietly acquiesce in their presence; but when the Archbishop comes down and, as an ordinary Member of the Government—the Minister of Agriculture for instance—introduces a measure which was named in the Queen's Speech, it at once demonstrates the anomalous, illogical, and indefensible position which the Church of England occupies in this country. But even if there were a demand for this Bill on the part of the parishioners of the country, on the part of the laity, or of the clergy who will be affected, I should still vote against it as a protest against the system by which we are called upon to deal with questions of spiritual discipline, which should not come before this House, but ought to be dealt with by the religious communities outside the House. Every other religious community has already decided this question for itself, and I protest against this Bill because it is paltry and delusive. The Member for Midlothian has constantly demanded with respect to measures brought before this House, and especially in the case of measures connected with Ireland, that there should be an element of finality, so that the House should no longer be troubled by similar and 1617 analogous questions. This Bill has no element of finality; it only touches the fringe of Church reform; and if we begin tinkering with this great question, there is a prospect of our time being wasted month after month and Session after Session in the consideration of Bills with which we are not properly qualified, to deal, and this to the exclusion of other matters of great social, industrial, and political importance, for the settlement of which we are the one Body that is most capable. I protest also on another ground, which the Member for Midlothian tried to clear away. The First Lord of the Treasury was charged, and as I think very rightly charged, by the Member for Carnarvon with his one-sided and unfair way of dealing with Bills brought before this House regarding the property and powers of various religious denominations. The way in which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with two or three Bills affecting the freedom and property of Nonconformists is in flagrant contradiction to the manner in which he has dealt with this question. There is, I say, no demand on the part of the mass of the community for this Bill. The First Lord of the Treasury stops the Business of the House and delays carrying out the Government programme at the bidding of the Bishops. What does he do with regard to measures affecting Nonconformists? Two such Bills have been introduced this Session; one he opposed, and brought about a well-merited defeat of the Government thereby, the Second Reading being carried, yet he declined to refer it to a Select Committee; and the other he allowed to be read a second time to prevent a similar defeat, and then referred to a Select Committee, which practically shelves it for the rest of the Session. Both these Bills would do away with a number of grievances affecting a large portion of the population, and yet the right hon. Gentleman makes this unfair and unjust distinction between one religious community and another. I cannot help thinking that when the speech of the right hon. Member for Midlothian is read in the morning, there will be keen and bitter regret 1618 and disappointment amongst thousands of Nonconformists, that the right hon. Gentleman should play the game of the Party which refuses from Session to Session to remedy the admitted grievances of the Nonconformist Bodies of this country while be eagerly and anxiously opposes such a proposal as this. The right hon. Gentleman said that we must consider the desires of the local communities, of the parishes; then why does he not ask this great Establishment to consider them, for at present the people have no voice in the selection of the clergymen, and if they make any protest no real or effective power is given them, and if the clergyman prove unsatisfactory in any way they have no power to secure his expulsion? The idea of respecting the local communities is, therefore, most unreal and shadowy. The clauses of the Bill have been so exposed by the hon. Member for Carnarvon that there is no need to repeat the criticisms on them, but the right hon. Member for Midlothian admitted that there are several sections and sub-sections which are hopelessly incomplete, some of which are ridiculous in the delays they set up, and the procedure they stereotype. The right hon. Gentleman said that these were matters for discussion in Committee, but the First Lord of the Treasury makes that to all intents impossible by referring the Bill practically to a Select Committee, where there can be no real discussion on the sections. My hon. Friend has shown that the Bill is calculated to make the present condition of things even worse than it is supposed or alleged to be at present. There are words in the Bill which condemn the whole legislation of this House in matters of spiritual discipline. It proposes to give power to a couple of local magistrates, who may be Nonconformists or stipendiaries, to deal with questions of spiritual discipline without further trial, and that is a degrading humiliation to the Church of England, and I am not surprised that clergymen should write to Nonconformist Members saying that they feel it a humiliation that Parliament should pass legislation which will make the Bishops criers of the Court, or under the 3rd clause, which gives them more 1619 power, a Grand Jury. I think the passage of such a Bill far from bringing about a final settlement of the question, or making it easier for the Church to do her spiritual work in her own way, and with freedom, will open up questions of wide and deep interest and of a controversial character, and questions which will be brought before this House piecemeal, and will take up much time, and which will never be settled and set at rest except by that measure which will set the Church really free from the control of the State, and give her that power and freedom in spiritual discipline, and in religious work which is now the most priceless heritage of nearly every other religious community in this country. And though charges may be brought against my hon. Friend, and those who protest against this method of legislation, and the interference with other important legislation, I am glad he has exposed the method of the introduction of this Bill, and the ludicrous character of some of its provisions, and has given us an opportunity of entering our protest against a useless and gratuitous waste of the time of Parliament.
§ (9.40.) MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
I cannot think that my hon. Friends are serious in pursuing their opposition to this Bill, and if they are I condole with them on the feebleness of their efforts, and I am glad that my abhorrence of the Establishment is not built upon the miserable materials and beggarly elements of a score or so of drunken and immoral clergymen. I am not ashamed to say that I listened to the words of the Leader of our Party with something amounting to absolute conviction. My hon. Friend the Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs has put on the Paper an Amendment to the effect that he deplores the conditions, but he is hypocritical in deploring them, for he does what he can to stereotype them, and considers that it is no part of the functions of the State to attend to matters of spiritual doctrine. If he had said "ought not to be part of the functions of the State" he should have had my vote. But when he asks me in 1892, without even a Bill for Disestablishment 1620 being on the Table of the House, to say that it is no part of the functions of the State to deal with such matters, I cannot accompany him. So long as the unhappy connection between the Church and State exists, it appears to be an act of cowardice for the House to refuse to do its duty and purge the Church under its control from scandals of this kind. Therefore, having regard to the actual facts, and not living in the clouds, I find it impossible to support the Amendment. The control of the discipline of the Church of England has always been subject matter for treatment in this House. From the earliest times the House has claimed the right of sole control over matters of discipline in the Church, and will rightly claim it so long as the connection continues, and I hope it will assert the right. It is amusing to hear Welsh Nonconformists becoming the mouthpieces of the "high flyers" of the Church; to hear them trying to excite the House to fury at the insults put upon the Bishops. I should have preferred to hear those statements proceeding from some Member for the University of Oxford, or of some place long associated with orthodoxy and port-wine, and with high views of the rights of the Church as opposed to the State. It is humorous to hear Nonconformists uttering sentiments one would expect to find in the Church Times. The Bishops have been the butt of their peculiar humour for some time, and I hope they will continue to be, so long as they are public officials and not members of a free Episcopal Church. I think my hon. Friends might have been somewhat better employed than they have been to-night, although they have added humour to the debate. We are told there is no call for this Bill, but I should think it would be difficult to get people to meet in their thousands to consider measures of this kind. If I were to advertise that I was going to speak on the Criminal Code, which affects the honour and dignity of the country more than this Bill does, I expect it would be difficult to fill a large hall. We are told that it is the Bishops who agitate in this matter; that it is because they are the persons in whose purview these cases arise, and who 1621 have to deal with the criminous clerks. If we were dealing with dishonest solicitors, reform would be advocated by the Incorporated Law Society, and not by mob meetings; and yet a dishonest solicitor does more injury than many anomalies in the Constitution which attract a great deal more public attention. Then we are told there are not many criminous clerks. I cannot help thinking that a cheap procedure or ready way of getting rid of criminous clerks for the irregularity of their lives, would lead to the discovery of many cases requiring immediate attention. Unfortunately, these persons at present escape because the Bishops cannot put the existing machinery in operation against them. Speaking as one anxious for the disestablishment of the Church, I can only hope that the speeches of hon. Members for Wales will be reported verbatim, so that the pious clergy and devoted laity of the Church of England may really become alive to what a state of degradation they are reduced, when, in order to be put in possession of simple, expeditious, and cheap machinery to purge the Church of the scandals occasioned by immoral and unfit persons, they have to come to this House and hear a travesty of their position from the lips of persons who do not belong to their community. I do not belong to it, and have no desire whatever to do so, but I can well believe that this discussion, however much it may have delayed a measure in itself admirable and worthy of all support, will not be thrown away if it induces the clergy and laity of the Church of England to ask themselves, "How long is this state of things to continue?" My hon. Friend agrees with me now; then, after all, it is Disestablishment he is looking forward to. But if I am asked to refuse to give to the Church of England that which the guardians of its order require—namely, a cheap and expeditious method of purging the Church of scandal and abuse, simply because it is considered a good thing to keep the Church in a scandalous condition in order that arguments for Disestablishment may be produced, I will say with Troilus in the play— 1622I cannot fight upon that argument,It is too mean a subject for my sword.
§ (9.50.) MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I think it right that I should state the view which I, as a Nonconformist, take upon this matter. I have no desire for the degradation of the Church of England, for I firmly believe that the purer you make the Church the purer will all Noconformist sects be, and that the action and reaction of the one on the other is most important and beneficial. Any measure for increasing the purity of one part of Christ's Church is a blessing to all. I believe that, although this is a very silly Bill, a very imperfect Bill, and about as clumsy a Bill in its drafting and in its conception as any ever brought before the House of Commons, I believe its effect, if it has any, will be in the right direction, and I shall feel it my duty to support it. It will serve to some extent, perhaps, to put off the evil day so much dreaded by our hon. Friends opposite, and may for a time divert public attention from the question of Disestablishment. I cannot forget what I have seen and heard of cases in which this Bill would have been of some use. This matter should, be approached seriously and properly, for it involves religion—it involves earnest and converted lives, and earnest and real faith, and we must deal with it from that point of view. I believe there is a great want in the Church of England of some such supervision as at this moment they have not got; and the fact that this Bill is at all necessary will, I hope, bring home to the minds of earnest and thinking men of different opinions to my own the conviction that the connection of the Church and State is bad and vicious in principle as in fact. What does it mean? I have known a case in which I appeared on behalf of a clergyman charged with revolting intoxication, public disorder in the open street, misconduct of the grossest and most disgraceful kind, and he, nevertheless, had the courage to say to me, "Well, you know, what is there in all this? I am sober now. I shall be sober next Sunday; I am quite fit to do duty," and without some such measure as this you are 1623 utterly unable to touch him, without adopting the ridiculously round about system now in existence. The fact that you have a provision which renders conviction by two magistrates sufficient for your purpose, without the details and dangers of an ecclesiastical prosecution, is of very great importance. The idea that a man, because he has been well-educated to begin with, has taken a degree at Oxford, Cambridge, or elsewhere, has then chosen to adopt Holy Orders as a profession or trade, has succeeded in getting nominated to the cure of souls, is then to be permitted to preach the Gospel in the Church of England or elsewhere, and commit the sacrilege of communicating the sacrament in the Church, without any means of touching him, is to my mind as revolting as anything can be. I shall be glad if any means can be found to deal with that. The Bill will require an enormous amount of alteration in its clauses before it is good for much, but accepting the design, which I believe to be serious, I cannot quite understand what it means. The second clause says—If a clergyman is alleged to have been guilty of any immoral act, immoral misconduct, or immoral habit,and the same words are repeated elsewhere. What is meant by immorality in the purview of this Act? Is it immoral for a man to be drunk? Opinions differ on that point. Is it an immoral thing for a man to be guilty of lewd conversation, though not of lewd acts? Opinions differ again upon that point. Is it an immoral thing for a clergyman to be the greatest gambler and the most reckless gambler in his parish? Opinions differ again, singularly enough, even upon that point. I venture to think that, as a matter of fact, such men as that would not be hit by this Bill. I see my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for England is there; I hope we are going to hear him. I am perfectly sincere when I say that I am very anxious indeed to hear what his explanation, what his exposition of the law is with regard to this matter. What is the difference between an "immoral act," "immoral misconduct," and an "immoral habit?" 1624 Then, I should like very much to know is it immoral in this sense for a clergyman to be a tale-bearer, a scandalmonger, and to be making mischief in his parish?
§ MR. WADDY
Probably not; although nothing more immoral can be conceived. Is it immoral for a man to be guilty of vagrancy from veracity? Surely we know that it is the most perfectly simple thing in the world to find flagrant instances of this kind, not in one Church, but in many—but we are obliged only to deal with this particular Church which it is proposed by this Bill to affect. I have seen myself—I do not want to prolong the matter—so many illustrations of the mischief arising from the inability of the authorities of the Church of England to cope with the evil which they desire to crush, that I, for one, should be prepared to assist them in obtaining anything almost that they themselves might reasonably ask. But this Bill will do them little or no good. It may be the beginning of something which will do them good. You have quite unfortunately a State Church. I would a great deal rather hand over the whole management and entire government of the Church of England to the authorities of the Church of England; I have perfect confidence in them. I do not belong to that Church myself, and I echo the observation of my hon. Friend who spoke last—I do not mean to, and do not want to—but lam quite prepared to say that I have perfect confidence, as I hope we all have, in the good intentions of those who are the chief authorities of that Church. There are a good many things which clergymen ought not to be allowed to do, and which anybody who has command or control over them ought to have knowledge of, and with regard to which they ought to be allowed to deal with their clergymen, and that are not matters to go before police magistrates. I hope my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General will endeavour to strengthen this Bill a great deal instead of weakening it; the stronger he can make it the better. Disestablishment will come very soon, and come over- 1625 whelmingly; but in the meantime, till it does come, let us make the Church as strong, and as pure, and as reliable as she can be made.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS
I think that of all the speeches which it has been my privilege to hear in favour of this Bill the speech which I have just listened to is the most peculiar. The hon. Member first described the Bill in language which I would hardly dare to use, "as bad as can be," "clumsy," and "silly;" and yet he concludes by saying that he intends to vote for its Second Reading. Stranger than that is the fact that in the last observation which he addressed to the House he showed very clearly that he agrees entirely with the Amendment of my hon. Friend; and yet, although he agrees with the Amendment, and although the Bill is "as bad as can be," and "can have no effect," and is "clumsy," and is "silly," the Government are going to have on this occasion the benefit of the vote of my hon. Friend. The support which they have had to-night is almost entirely from this side of the House. First of all, they were supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in a speech which everyone must characterise as excellent from a debating point of view. They have been supported by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Fife, who supports the Second Reading of the Bill on the ground that he is in favour of Disestablishment; and yet he taunts us with opposing the Bill because we want Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading said the Bill was required by the urgency of the case. He described it as simply a Procedure Bill; but I think that subsequent speeches have shown very clearly that it is not a Procedure Bill; and that it changes entirely the principle upon which members of the Church of England are to deal with the discipline of the criminous clerks. Let us see whether there is any urgency for the Bill, or demand at all. The right hon. Gentleman has not only failed to give any cases in point, but the Home Secretary has been asked to say whether there is any demand or necessity for a 1626 Bill of this description. But I am able to quote to the House the authority of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Chester, who only yesterday used these words in Convocation—With a somewhat sinister sympathy it has been supposed that the Church of England is under some peculiar stress which necessitates her passing or getting this Bill passed at the present time. I believe I am right in saying that there is no such stress, and no particular scandals before the Church at the present time; but we are anxious, and have always been anxious, to repair scandals when they do arise.Therefore the statements we hear about the mysterious scandals in the Church which it is in the interest of morality and good government to get rid of are in direct contradiction to what the Bishop of Chester said yesterday in the Convocation of York. After that I think it is perfectly clear that there is no urgency at all for dealing with this matter. Some speeches have been made which would lead anyone who listened to them to think that the Church of England did not possess any power already to deal with criminous clerks; but everybody who knows anything at all about Ecclesiastical Law knows the Church of England has already powers for dealing with them. Therefore, it is perfectly idle for the First Lord of the Treasury and those who support him to taunt us by saying that they are the friends of morality, and that those who oppose this Bill have shown that they are on the side of immorality and crime. The Church of England has powers already, and has possessed these powers—I was going to say for ages—for getting rid of these criminous clerks. A right hon. and learned Friend near me says these powers are not sufficient; but it has not been shown that they are not sufficient, and it has been shown conclusively in debate that the sole object of bringing this measure forward is to relieve the pockets of the Bishops. It has been said that the procedure under the Bill would be very much simpler and cheaper than the present procedure; but I am able to quote a very great authority upon that point, the late Archbishop Thomson, who stated in the House of Lords that instead of being cheapened it would be more costly. The right 1627 hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, whom we delight to follow on most occasions, but whom, on ecclesiastical matters, we do not blindly follow, as did the hon. and learned Member for West Fife, came down here to support the Government, as he very often does upon ecclesiastical questions; and, without meaning any disrespect at all, I think whatever force there is in the arguments advanced in favour of the Bill is contained in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The right hon. Gentleman has said—"You have no right to complain, because the people who ask for this Bill are the people to be injured if anybody is to be injured at all," and he used the phrase volenti non fit injuria. But the Bill comes from the Bishops, and not from the clergy who are to be affected by it; and, whatever the conduct of Bishops or Archbishops may be, they cannot be touched under this Bill at all. I should again give the same authority for the proposition laid down that the Bill is disliked by the clergy and not asked for by them. Archbishop Thomson, in the same speech to which I have referred, in 1888, said that to the clergy in his diocese the measure was far from acceptable, the reason being that it provided, novel Courts; that there would be a difficulty in working these novel Courts, for which new Judges would have to be appointed, and for whom the country would have to pay; that every diocese would have one of these Courts; that there would be from 180 to two hundred of these new Judges; that the procedure would be more expensive than before, and that there would be great difficulty in getting all the Judges to work harmoniously together. What, then, becomes of the statement that the Bill is demanded by the clergy? There is no demand for this Bill on the part of the clergy. Those who require it are only the Archbishops and Bishops, who are not only Ecclesiastical Authorities, but State Authorities. I will read what the Church Times said upon the subject last month. It said—The Clergy Discipline Bill is not backed by any single Member of the Government. The Archbishop of Canterbury is alone responsible for it, notwithstanding that Mr. 1628 Balfour has declared it to be a Government measure. If his Grace should unfortunately succeed in his short-sighted policy, sober-minded Churchmen will be compelled seriously to ask themselves whether it is not necessary to proceed to some definite means of vindicating the spiritual character of the Church of Christ, and marking the clear distinction between the civil and spiritual authority. We believe, however, that this Erastian Bill has not the slightest chance of becoming law.I want to know why this Bill is to be forced upon the clergy? If the right hon. Gentleman had been here, I should like to have reminded him of what he said in this House on 9th July, 1874. He then said—I do not like to pass a Bill which by silence and implication gives protection to an illegality, provided the illegality be committed by a Bishop… … I have a reasonable respect for Bishops. … But if instead of Bishops they were saints or angels, I would not be a party to pass an Act of Parliament to enable them to break the law without the consequences which follow a breach of the law.On 17th July of the same year the right hon. Gentleman also said in this House—The right hon. and learned Recorder (who was in charge of the Bill) ought to take the initiative in proposing that the Bill should be made applicable to illegal conduct on the part of the Bishop, as well as to offences committed by incumbents. … It seemed to him highly inexpedient, especially in the case of a Bill framed under episcopal sanction, and which had for its object to establish loyalty in too bare and naked a form, that an immunity so unnecessary and so useless should be established on behalf of the Bishops themselves.I think the Government should tell us whether they mean to include in Committee the Bishops within the operation of this Bill. The Bishops themselves are assuming a very curious position in reference to this question. At the Diocesan Conference on 26th April, 1892, the Bishop of London said—The effect of the law of the State is this: that if this Clergy Discipline Bill passes into law the State will say, 'He is an officer of the State as well as of the Church, and we shall impose on him the duty of declaring the benefice vacant.' The Church will say in reply, 'He is one of my officers, and he holds a position under my jurisdiction, and we shall impose on him the duty of declaring the benefice vacant, so far as we are concerned.' Thus we should act concurrently, and what the Bishop said as an 1629 officer of the State would have its own effect on one side and likewise on the other as a Bishop of the Church, and there would be no collision between the two, and no possibility of disputing that the State deprived him of that which belonged to the Church, and of that which belonged strictly to the jurisdiction of the Church. That was the aim we had in view in preparing this Canon, and it requires some care and trouble to make such a Canon as this, for it, at the same time, raises all sorts of controversies.I would ask the Government what would happen if a Bishop, after a conviction by a temporal Court, were to refuse to declare the living vacant? I suppose he would be guilty of misdemeanour, but I would not pledge my reputation as a lawyer upon that point. Archbishop Magee's argument, as stated by Lord Grimthorpe in the House of Lords, was as follows:—I resent the idea of being ordered to come into Court as the executioner or crier of a Court, to proclaim a judgment which I may differ from. I shall have read the proceedings in whatever Court has ordered the man to be deprived. The Chancellor, who may have proceeded under the rules of procedure which are to be made, or the Civil Court may have decreed the deprivation; but I may think that the man ought not to be deprived. Am I to come in thinking all that, and as a mere machine—a mere crier of the Court—to declare him deprived when I think he ought not to be?There is a most astounding provision in the 5th section of the Bill. It is that part which confers upon a Bishop the power to re-appoint an incumbent who has been guilty of these contemptible crimes to a preferment. But how are you to get rid of immorality in the Church of England—if it does exist—if you give the Bishop the power to say what is to follow a conviction in a temporal Court—if you give the Bishop power to override the whole principle of this Act? Sub-head B, Section 2 of Section 5, enacts that—Where by virtue of anything in, or done Under this Act, a clergyman becomes incapable of holding preferment, his incapacity (a) shall cease if he receives a free pardon from the Crown; and (b) shall not extend to any preferment which the Bishop of the diocese and Archbishop of the province in which it is situate after such public notice, if any, as they think desirable, allow him to hold.If this House is going to exercise the power, which it undoubtedly has by Act of Parliament, to deprive certain persons 1630 of their living, is it reasonable in the same Act to give authority to the Bishop to replace in that preferment, or in any other, a man who may have been guilty of these charges? In that respect the Bill is as unreasonable as it can be. The question of delay has been fully dealt with by the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd-George). It is proposed in the Bill that there shall be power to institute these proceedings within five years of the date of the offence, so that a clergyman may, presumably, go on living an immoral life, or observing a course of conduct far from good, for a term of five years without any proceedings at all. Thus under this Bill there will be no speedier remedy for these matters than at present exists. Then the country has to decide the serious question whether it will go in for the expense of instituting these Courts. The right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. B. Gladstone) said it was not reasonable to expect the Bishops receiving the small salary of £3,000 to pay these heavy law expenses, but the Bishops take their fees and emoluments for the express purpose, among others, of carrying on these legal proceedings. At any rate, it cannot be doubted that a Bishop, accepting that salary, knows that he may be called upon to pay these legal expenses. What I think the country has a right to complain of is, that you are not going to use the funds of the Church of England at all, but that you are going to institute these Courts of Legal Assessors all over the country, instead of Chancellors of the Consistory Courts, and that the country is to have the privilege of paying for them instead of the Bishops as hitherto. I protest against this additional burden being placed on a country already too heavily burdened in support of ecclesiastical establishments. I see no reason why this Bill should be confined to cases where an incumbent has been sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour. Members who have not studied its provisions will be surprised to learn that a clergyman committed by a temporal Court and sentenced to imprisonment without hard labour, or, instead, very heavily fined, does not come within the purview 1631 of this Bill. It is an extraordinary proposal that the benefice of an incumbent, who has suffered hard labour is to be confiscated, while another incumbent, who has suffered any term of imprisonment without hard labour, is not to be displaced until proceedings are taken against him under a different part of the Bill. From this it appears to me that the Bill, so far as concerns offences, requires much amendment. The next clause of the Bill (6) is one that also should receive the serious attention of Parliament. Previously, difficulties have arisen, Session after Session, in dealing with the matter of clergy discipline. Last year's Bill consisted of some thirty-two or thirty-three clauses, but, towards the close of the Session, it was proposed to drop the last twenty-eight, and proceed only with the first four. That intention, however, was not persevered in, or, at any rate, was not successful. Now the promoters of the Bill, knowing that the procedure, as sketched out in last year's Bill, would be opposed by their supporters in this House, actually give the whole of the authority of Parliament, with the establishment, procedure, and government of these Courts, to a Rule Committee. I think I may say that never before, in any single Act of Parliament, were such powers delegated to a Rule Committee. And I would like to call the attention of the House to the fact that the Rule Committee is to be allowed to enact what I think consisted of fifteen clauses in the Bill of last year. Yet this year, for the sake of facilitating the passage of the Bill, the promoters have inserted this clause, deputing all the power to the Committee. Section 6 says:—The Rule Committee, that is to say the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Judge of the Provincial Court, and the Archbishops and Bishops who are members of the Privy Council, or any three of the said persons, two of them being the Lord Chancellor and one other of the aforesaid judicial persons, may make rules for carrying this Act into effect, and in particular for regulating all matters relating to procedure, practice, costs, expenses, and fees under this Act, including the appeals (so far as rules made by the Privy Council or the Judicial Committee do not extend) the appointment, as Deputy Chancellor, of a barrister of not less than seven years' standing or the holder of a 1632 judicial appointment, the obtaining and choosing of assessors, the place of sitting of the Court, the passing of sentences, the validity of proceedings notwithstanding defects of form or irregularity, the application of this Act to a clergyman who cannot be found, or holds no preferment, or several preferments, the liability to, and recovery of, costs and expenses, the forms to be used and all matters incidental to, or connected with, the administration of justice under this Act.These are powers which Parliament ought never to delegate to any authority, and particularly to such an authorty as is proposed in the Bill. Clergymen themselves think so. Now this Bill, as I have shown, is entirely incomplete, inadequate, and is bad in its character. It gives rise to demands for privileges of various kinds on behalf of the clergy. It would be idle for any class of persons in these days to come to this House and ask for special rights of appeal in cases where proofs might be taken against them, and yet this is one of the objects of this Bill. In the other House there was actually a proposal made—I do not know whether it was carried out or not—by the Bishop of Manchester that there should be for the clergy, and the clergy alone, an appeal from the Quarter Sessions in cases of affiliation orders, appeals which do not exist for any other persons at the present time. Well, if the Bill is disliked by the clergy, and is bad in its character, as I hope I have shown it to be, I think Parliament should not pass it through the Second Reading. In these days it is difficult to get Parliament to give attention to those matters in favour of which large bodies of the community have made up their minds. Several measures have been alluded to by my hon. Friend which should be dealt with by this Parliament. One, however, has been overlooked, and I will refer to it as an illustration, because it is a measure which has been promised in the Queen's Speech over and over again. When the Clergy Discipline Bill was in the humble position of being a private Member's Bill we were promised an Employers' Liability Bill. That Bill, we are told, the Home Secretary is dying to pass for the benefit of the working classes. The right hon. 1633 Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has said that Parliament is responsible unless it removes the grievances which exist in any particular quarter. It follows, then, that Parliament is responsible for the position in which workmen are placed—a position which oftentimes results in fatal or serious accidents; and I think it is nothing less than a scandal—and I use the word advisedly—that we are not allowed to discuss a measure of that kind, but are invited to waste the time of Parliament on ecclesiastical questions. We do not desire to see immorality continued in the Church of England. We are glad to hear it said over and over again that the cases are very few, and we believe them to be so. But we say those cases, if they exist, should be dealt with under the present powers; that although Parliament has technically a right while the connection exists between Church and State, yet it should not be called upon to deal with a question of this kind, and I hope we shall have strong support from hon. Members when we vote against the Second Reading, and oppose it in its subsequent stages if occasion requires.
§ (10.50.) MR. MACINNES (Northumberland, Hexham)
Mr. Speaker, I think it would be a strong thing to say that the clergy as a whole are opposed to this Bill. We know perfectly well that the High Church party are not satisfied with it, and we all understand their reasons for this dissatisfaction. Still, the opinions of the various Diocesan Conferences throughout the country have been, as a rule, entirely in favour of it. It is, of course, difficult to say what may be the attitude taken by the laity generally, but we may ask what is the view of those two elected and fairly representative bodies—the two Houses of Laymen. I believe I am right in saying that the House of Laymen of the Convocation of Canterbury were unanimous in this matter. And in the Northern Province one of the first things brought before the House of Laymen was the consideration of matters in connection with this Bill, 1634 and in a full assemblage of gentlemen representing very different sections of the Church of England there was a unanimous expression of approval. When, therefore, we find such bodies as the Houses of Laymen in both Provinces expressing distinct approval of the Bill, it seems to me that it is rather an exaggeration to say it is being forced on the Church of England and meets with dislike in that quarter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the House should now come to a decision upon the Second Reading of the Bill. As I think that everyone will feel that the question of the Second Reading and the question of referring the Bill to the Grand Committee should be disposed of before twelve, I earnestly press the House to decide upon the Second Reading at once
§ (10.55.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I think the right hon. Gentleman should make some allowance for the strong conviction of a considerable number of Members on this side of the House that this measure is exceedingly ill-devised and of ill-omen for the spiritual and moral welfare of this country. Our convictions are quite as strong as his own, and as he is a man of conscientious convictions, he may be expected to have sympathy with others although they differ from him. I cannot help remarking that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, was rather uncharitable towards those who might oppose the measure. In very strong language, and with a kind of elegant invective of which he is master, he condemned as worthy of scorn and contumely all those who should oppose it. He could not conceive how anyone could oppose it except in the interest of the Liberation Society. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman showed much charity. I can assure him that the members of that Society—although some of us are members of it—are incapable of any such uncharitable modes of considering ecclesiastical questions. The object of the Liberation Society is the freedom of religion, 1635 the purity of religion, the spirituality of religion, and anything that tends to lead to that the Liberation Society is always anxious to support. Therefore I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has any right to expect that those who entertain conscientious convictions on the subject should consider that a single evening is too much to devote to the discussion of the Bill on its Second Reading. No legislation of this kind is needed by the Kirk of Scotland. They manage to deal with their criminous clerks without such interference. Why, then, cannot the Established Church of England be made as free and able to deal with the conduct and discipline of its clergy as the Established Kirk of Scotland? The Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Episcopal Church in the Colonies are quite able to manage their own affairs; and I think they have managed their affairs quite as well without the aid of the law as the affairs of the Church have been managed in this country. We say that the Church of England should be made as free to deal with their criminous clerks as any other Churches. We have no wish to bring about the degradation of the Established Church. The right hon. Gentleman is, perhaps, not aware that we do not discern any difference between one Church and another. We believe there is a fair amount of truth and falsehood in them all; we wish that all Churches should be as pure as possible, and it is not fair that an attempt should be made to discredit us by saying that we desire to degrade the Church of England. Here we are in 1892—(laughter)—and that is a far more significant fact than some hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think. The lifetime of the Church has been, say, eleven hundred or twelve hundred years, and it has been in the power of the Legislature for three hundred and fifty years to provide for the discipline of the clergy, and in former years Parliament was far more free to deal with matters of this kind than we are who have Small Holdings Bills and Employers' Liability Bills to distract our attention. But we are told that all the Statutes which have been passed to secure the discipline of the clergy are so much 1636 waste paper, and that we must push aside Small Holdings and Employers' Liability in order that we may pass this Bill. This shows the utter impossibility of expecting Parliament to deal with matters of this kind, and it is because we regard measures of this kind as utterly ineffective and as only making confusion worse confounded, that we oppose any fresh attempts of this kind. We also protest against the fact that all recent Clergy Discipline Bills and Ecclesiastical Bills have involved certain slights upon those subjects of Her Majesty who do not profess themselves members of the Church of England. If it is a National Church it is equally a Church for all of us, and we are told that we are all responsible for the interests of the Established Church. In the Bill of last year it was specially stated that the two lay Assessors who are to assist the Bishops in dealing with criminous clerks were to be laymen professing the principles of the Church of England. I know there is no clause of that kind in this Bill; but, I ask, do the Government intend that any of these lay Assessors should be Nonconformists? Certainly they do not. There is a clause which deals with devising the rules for the choosing of these Assessors; and does anyone suppose that a Committee consisting largely of Bishops and Archbishops will not provide against the intrusion of Nonconformists into the Court of Assessors? Of course they will. In fact, all Bills of this kind that have been brought forward have treated the idea that Nonconformists are in any way responsible for matters of detail in connection with the Church of England as simply absurd and almost insolent. This House represents a United Kingdom, two-thirds of the population of which do not belong to the Church of England; and we who do not belong to the Church of England, and who may be heretics or infidels, are called upon to pass Acts concerning the Church; but when it comes to carrying out those Acts in detail—which certainly is of inferior importance to the Act in the first instance—and judging whether a parson has been drunk or has paid his 1637 debts, no man is allowed to be a member of the Court of Assessors unless he is a bonâ fide member of the Church of England. I think the thing is perfectly absurd, and ought to be laughed out of existence. I have a document which has emanated from the Council of the English Church Union, and I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite can consider that a very dangerous document. In a prefatory note to this document are these words—Clergy discipline is primarily a question concerning spiritual jurisdiction. The great question is, is this man fit any longer to have the cure of souls?How can Acts of Parliament devise means for dealing with a question like that which depends upon so many subtle spiritual characteristics, and cannot be dealt with by any stiff, hard system of law? Take the very first clause of this Bill. It provides that if a clergyman—and I trust the cases would be few—has been convicted of felony or misdemeanour, and sentenced to hard labour, or has had a bastardy order made against him, or has been proved guilty of adultery in a Divorce or Matrimonial Court, the Bishop as the mere mouthpiece, the mechanical speaking-trumpet of the Court, shall declare the living vacant. But if the convicted clergyman receives a free pardon his incapacity ceases. But free pardons are given for a variety of considerations; not only because a man may be innocent, but because there may have been some technical flaw in the evidence, or because, being a member of a crew of criminals, he turns Queen's evidence. This Bill would apply in any of those cases. We have known cases of clergymen who have been concerned in fraudulent cases, and if one of them were to turn Queen's evidence and receive his pardon he would instantly be re-instated. A Queen's pardon is a matter of secular jurisdiction altogether. It is a matter of policy, and has no relation to the fitness of a man for the cure of souls, and I have very great sympathy with the Council of the English Church Union in doubting very much whether a Bill like this is calculated to decide the fitness of a man for the cure of 1638 souls. It is because of this, and not from any desire to maintain the imperfections of the Established Church, that we believe this Bill is wholly unfit and insufficient for the purpose. It will not rid the Church of criminous clerks, and is entirely inadequate to decide whether a man is fit to have the cure of souls; and for these reasons we intend to vote against it, even if there are only five or six to go into the Lobby, and I believe we shall have the sympathy of a very large number of the people on our side. Where are the men who support this Bill? The hon. Member for Hexham talks about the lay members of Convocation? How are they elected? I do not know. I have never heard of a rush to the poll for the election or of the necessity for closing the public-houses on the occasion. Nobody knows how they are elected, and they certainly do not represent any considerable amount of public opinion. There is no public opinion asking for this Bill. There is Church public opinion protesting against it, and we only unite with that in saying that it is utterly unworthy of the dignity of this Parliament and of the Church, in the interests of which it is supposed to be promoted, and I shall therefore vote against it.
§ (11.17.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ (11.20.) Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 58.—(Div. List, No. 87.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (11.30.) The House divided:—Ayes 231; Noes 26.—(Div. List, No. 88.)
§ (11.42.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR claimed "That the Main Question be now put."
§ Main Question put accordingly.
§ (11.40.) The House divided:—Ayes 230; Noes 17.—(Div. List, No. 89.)
§ (11.55.) MR. SAMUEL EVANS
The right hon. Gentleman earlier in the evening asked that the discussion should be brought to a close in order that we might come to a decision upon the question whether this Bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Law. It is obvious that we have no time for the proper and adequate discussion of the question now whether this is a Bill which should be so referred, or whether it should be dealt with in Committee of the whole House? The character of Bills referred to the Standing Committee on Law is that they consist almost entirely of matters of procedure, and no matter of principle comes in. If that is the correct principle upon which Bills are referred to this Standing Committee, as I think it is, then I think it will be obvious that this is a Bill which should be discussed in Committee of the whole House. Indeed, I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian an anticipation that the Bill would come on for discussion in the ordinary way in Committee of the whole House. He referred to many points raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd-George), and said these were points to be determined after full discussion in Committee, and I think it was obvious from his remarks that he had in view Committee of the whole House. I hope the Leader of the House does not intend to force a decision on this Motion to-night. Subject to your ruling, Sir, it will be impossible for any Member to move an Instruction to the Committee, because it is necessary to give notice of such Instruction, and this we shall be precluded from doing if this Motion is now persisted in. But reverting again to my argument that questions of principle should not be relegated to this Standing Committee, let me point out that very early in the Committee discussion will arise a question upon the words "a Bishop may declare a living to be vacant." With an Amendment to omit the words "a Bishop may declare" there arises an important principle upon which controversy has long raged 1640 in the Church, Erastians and Anti-Erastians being diametrically opposed on point of principle. Questions of principle, and not merely of procedure, at once arise, and I maintain that precedent is against sending such a Bill to the Committee on Law. There was a Bill which affords a precedent for such a case as this, when the Government raised the objection. I now urge—
§ (11.59.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
NO doubt the time allowed for the discussion of this Motion has been very short; but in considering the rights of a minority it is essential to take into account the use which the minority have made of the time at their disposal. I shall put the Question.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (12.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 193; Noes 41.—(Div. List, No. 90.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c."
§ (12.10.) The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. Deputy Speaker stated he thought the Ayes had it, and on his decision being challenged, it appeared to him that the Division was frivolously claimed; and he directed the Noes to stand up in their places, and Fourteen Members having stood up, Mr. Deputy Speaker declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c.