HC Deb 16 February 1893 vol 8 cc1578-9
MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)

I beg to ask the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent, as a Church Estates Commissioner, whether, at a meeting of the Estates Committee of the Ecclesiastical Commission on the 9th instant, he stated that he was authorised on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to deprecate, in view of contemplated legislation, the assignment of any new districts within the Welsh dioceses; and, if so, by whom, and in what form, the authority to make this statement was given to him?

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

I beg to ask the Comptroller of the Household, as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, whether it is true that he stated to the Ecclesiastical Commission that he was authorised, on behalf of the Government, to deprecate, in view of contemplated legislation, the assignment of any new districts within the Welsh dioceses; and whether he still adheres to that statement; and, if so, whether there is any precedent for the Government interfering. with the statutory powers of an independent Commission in reference to a Bill which has not been introduced into Parliament?


In reply to my hon. Friend, I beg to say that before taking the action which is referred to I consulted my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is the only other Member of the Government taking any part in the work of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and obtained his concurrence. Although I am free to admit that I may have been mistaken in supposing that concurrence to carry with it any further sanction than in so far as relates to my action as a Member of the Government who was also an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, I may perhaps take this opportunity of explaining, as some mis- understanding seems to have arisen upon the subject, that the Government has no power, and has no intention, to control or interfere in any way with the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and that in taking the action which I did upon the 9th inst. I was merely stating the course which, in our character of Ecclesiastical Commissioners, my right hon. Friend and I would hereafter follow.


My hon. Friend has not answered the question as to whether there is any precedent for Government interference with the statutory powers of an independent Commission?


As the Government have not interfered no question of precedent arises.

MR. S. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid.)

May I inquire whether it is not a fact that between the years 1883 and 1889 the Charity Commissioners entirely suspended their action in Welsh districts in view of the possible introduction of legislation?


I am not responsible for the action of the Charity Commissioners. The question had better be addressed to the Parliamentary Charity Commissioner.

MR. PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)

Is it not the duty of those Members of the Government who are also members of the Ecclesiastical Commission to act as a medium of communication between the Commissioners and the Government; and, if not, what are they there for?


It is; and that is the course we intend to pursue.


Were not the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under the impression that this was more or less a communication from the Government, and intended to be so?


If that be so, I desire to express my regret that any such misunderstanding should have arisen.