HC Deb 22 February 1893 vol 9 cc89-134

Order for Second Reading read.

MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)

moved the Second Reading of this Bill, which, he said, though new to this Parliament was not new to the House of Commons. The Bill was substantially the Bill brought in by his hon. Friend the Member for Mid Glamorganshire (Mr. S. T. Evans)— who was, in fact, the author of the measure—in the last Parliament. The reception it had met with in that Parliament was extremely satisfactory, for its Second Reading had been carried by a majority of two to one, though it did not reach the stage of Third Reading. In another Session the Bill was again brought in by his hon. Friend the Member for the Eifion Division of Carnarvon (Mr. G. Bryn Roberts), who had amended it so as to bring it into accordance with the general feeling of the House as shown in the discussions of the previous year. The Bill originally was founded on the distinct recommendation of the Town Holdings Select Committee, which in the Report it made to the House in 1889 stated— That it is most desirable on public grounds that Religious Bodies should have the power to acquire the freehold of their places of worship. The House would remember that the Town Holdings Committee consisted of 25 Members representing all Parties of the House, appointed by the Conservative Government, and therefore having a majority of Conservatives; and it was important to note that the recommendation which he had quoted had received the unanimous assent of that Committee. It was very satisfactory to hon. Members from Wales to find that there was nothing like Party opposition to this measure, which, though applicable to England as well, was specially required by Wales, but that, on the contrary, it received a very considerable amount of support from both sides of the House. The recommendation of the Town Holdings Select Committee was largely due to the evidence it had heard from Wales. That evidence referred to two very interesting communities very characteristic of Wales. When Welsh artizans and labourers congregated together in any part of the world their first desire was to establish Sunday schools, which were intended for adults as well as for children, and their next step was to provide a chapel. In the cases of the great slate quarries at Penrhyn, and of another large enterprise at Festiniog, these courses had been taken by the Welsh workmen; but it happened, as it almost invariably happened in Wales, that the land was in possession of landlords who deemed it more convenient, to themselves not to surrender the freehold of the land required for the chapels. One would have thought that an equal indulgence would have been shown to these workmen who desired places for religious worship as was so often shown to persons who wanted to open public-houses. But that was not so; and the object of the Bill was to provide that land thus acquired on lease for places of public worship should have a freehold tenure. In both the districts he had mentioned, the places of worship were all built on leasehold tenures. The tenures were not of very great duration. In one district it was for 30 years, and in the other for 75 years. Not only had the workmen at Festiniog built their chapels, but they had also built 1,500 houses for themselves, and in that way they had given the most interesting evidence of their thriftiness and independence, and of their desire to establish a community that would be of value to the local industry and a credit to the country. These great bodies of workmen in Wales were, happily, possessed of a strong public spirit, and of a deep interest in politics. In fact, their politics were dearest to them next to their religion. Unfortunately, however, the circumstance that their chapels were built upon leasehold property had supplied an undesirable conflict between their political and their religious interests. Unfortunately, the landlord was almost invariably diametrically opposed to them in politics and religion. [Cries of "No, no!"] It might be a matter of opinion; but he asserted that the views of the Welsh landowners, as a rule, were strongly opposed to the political, social, and religious opinions professed by the workmen, and, under these circumstances, the one desire of the landlord was to assert absolute and complete control over the chapels. Thus, when the leases of these chapels were about to drop, there was an anxiety felt on the part of these men not to give any offence to the landlord or to the Political Party of the landlord so as not to endanger the renewal of the lease—a state of things which, he believed the House would agree, was most undesirable. He wished to call attention to the fact that the Church of England had laid down excellent rules for guidance in this matter. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had long ago laid down the rule that churches should not be built on leasehold sites; and that being so, he asked hon. Members of the Church of England to act in regard to this Bill on the excellent and very ancient rule of "doing to others as they would wish others to do unto them." The Church of England had the power to purchase sites for churches compulsorily, but this Bill asked power simply to acquire existing sites of chapels and meeting-houses. The Bill was, in short, an extremely simple and limited measure. Powers were given to Trustees to compulsorily purchase sites occupied by chapels under leases of not less than 30 years, and the consideration was to be—unless otherwise agreed to—a perpetual rent-charge, so that small transactions should not be overloaded by the cost of proving title. The amount of compensation in the case of the parties not coming to an agreement was to be fixed by arbitration, the arbitrators to be appointed failing the consent of both parties by the County Court; and there was also a provision under which, in the event of free sale, the right of re-entry and pre-emption should be given to the original owner. He hoped the Bill would recommend itself to the acceptance of the House.

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

MR. J. A. RENTOUL (Down, E.)

said, he moved the rejection of the Bill because there was no definition whatever attempted of the phrase "Religious Body," and that went to the whole essence and substance of the Bill. With the object of the promoters of the Bill he was entirely in accord. He had been a supporter of the Bill in the past, but he had supported it on the assurance that some attempt would be made to define the phrase "Religious Body," and he thought that this was the proper stage in the progress of the Bill to bring up this point. He would not, perhaps, have taken the step of moving the rejection of the Bill had he not been himself a Nonconformist, and therefore in strong sympathy with the promoters of the Bill. He observed that the Bill proposed to confer compulsory powers. He thought compulsory powers should not in operations of this kind be used unless there was a great necessity for such use, and no case of a strong and pressing necessity had been made in the present instance. It was admitted that compulsory powers were sought for, and the Bill also involved breach of contract. He did not for a moment say there might not be necessity for breaking contracts, that there might not be reasons why they should be permitted to be broken, but he thought it would be admitted by all that a strong case should be made before legislative action was taken. Then, again, the Bill was entirely without precedent; that was to say, it was unprecedented that legislation of this sort should be adopted without any definition as to what class of property the Bill applied. It was also perfectly evident that those landlords who had been most generous in the past were the men most hit by the Bill. Take, for instance, two estates. On one the landlord had been most generous and open-handed in the matter of giving sites on lease; but on the other estate the landlord had acted in an entirely contrary direction, yet it would be the generous man who would be hit most through his generosity. Then, again, this Bill was clearly a species of endowment of Religious Bodies. He had no objection to endowment of Religious Bodies; he should be glad to see it extended to Bodies that had not this privilege; but hon. Gentlemen who ob- jected to religious endowments must have a difficulty when they recollected this was—and no one could attempt to show that it was not—an endowment of Religious Bodies, a compulsory endowment out of the pockets of people who very often did not belong to the Religious Body they were compelled to endow. A measure of that sort was a very strong measure indeed. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading spoke of the chapels in Wales, and of those out of sympathy with the views of those chapels, but by this Bill the man out of sympathy with the views of those chapels was to be compelled to endow those chapels. ["No, no!"] Surely it was impossible to argue contrary to that proposition. The landlord, they were told, was bitterly hostile to these chapels, and that was the man who was to be compelled, to a certain extent, to endow these chapels. He did not say there was not strong reason for compelling him in that direction, but he mentioned this to show that this Bill was a strong measure, and being a strong measure there must be a strong case made out with regard to its necessity. But he would next notice that this Bill tended, in so far as its small power lay, to increase religious sects, and he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite from Wales would admit that the increase of religious sects was bad. It had been said by a celebrated Bishop of the Church of England that the weakness of Nonconformity lay in its power of breaking itself up into small sections. That was admitted as a great truth, and there was certainly more hostility between Nonconformist Churches amongst themselves than between the Church of England and Nonconformity. This Bill, so far as its power went, did decidedly tend to increase the number of different little sects and Bodies, and it tended to foster sects which, though called religious, he maintained were absolutely irreligious. There were a great many sects in this country, mentioned in official lists of Religious Bodies, which the bulk of the Nonconformists of the country would pronounce to be a burlesque. If the Bill, through its looseness of definition, tended to endow certain so-called Religious Bodies which the Methodists, Baptists, Independents, Presbyterians, and the great Noncon- formist denominations of this country pronounced a burlesque, it appeared to him the Bill needed a clear Definition Clause in that direction. He had mentioned these objections and difficulties which lay in the way of the passage of the Bill, but he did so remarking that it was possible the necessity for the Bill might be so great that all those difficulties ought to be swept away. He also mentioned these difficulties to show there was a strong case against the Bill, and consequently there should be a stronger case made in its favour before it passed. It would be idle to say there was not a case for the Bill, and that there could not be strong reasons and arguments produced why the Bill should not pass. That was so; but he mentioned these various matters to point out to the Non conformist Bodies there were great difficulties in the way of the Bill. There was one particular difficulty of very great strength, and one which he did not think could be met at all; and that was the application of the Bill to under leases. Suppose a landlord let a house to a tenant and that tenant chose to let the house to what he might call a Religious Body, the landlord's interest was gone; that was to say, the Bill at once applied, and he could conceive a method used by a tenant to rob a landlord of his property. Suppose a tenant had rented a large house in which there was a large room, or having a wing built on to it; suppose the tenant sub-let the whole house to a Religious Body on the understanding that the Religious Body should use the large room or wing, and re-let the house back to him after acquiring a property in the house. Such a case as that was possible. ["No, no!"] He would like any hon. Member to take up the case and show how it would be impossible, or how it would be possible to meet such a case and prevent the Religious Body using the compulsory powers of the Bill. But then, again, sup pose the case of a Religious Body changing its creed altogether. A Body starting with the name "Independent," from its very name would be allowed to adopt any sort of creed it wished; and if that Body chose to turn itself into an Atheistical Body, there was nothing to prevent them. He mentioned this because he was convinced the promoters of the Bill promoted it on religious grounds; and if that was their object, he was sure they would be only too glad to have pointed out to them an extreme difficulty that might arise. With regard to so-called Religious Bodies, there was a list given in Whitaker's Almanack describing 250 cases. There were amongst them a large number of names that could be read out if one's purpose was to amuse the House; but as that was not his purpose, he should only mention some that struck him as rather peculiar. For example, they knew there was a well-known Body called "The Independents;" but we found in Whitaker's list a body called "The Dependents," and they, surely, would be in direct contradistinction to "The Independents," and this Bill would tend to endow two sects that were diametrically opposite to each other. Again, in the list they found there were many names given of Bodies between which, so far as one could guess, the difference must be infinitesimal. Again, they had amongst the so-called religious sects names that had nothing to do with religion. For example, they found in the list "Seamen," with no qualifying word. Then there were "The Secularists," "The Young Men's Christian Association," and "The Young Women's Christian Association," and they were all given as Religious Bodies in the list. Under this Bill, it seemed to him, they might all clearly be brought in, and an excellent case made for taking over compulsorily all hydropathic establishments in the country, because they knew perfectly well that in a large number of them a weekly religious service was conducted with a special service on the Sabbath. That being so, the Bill clearly wanted a Definition Clause, and his objection to the Bill was entirely owing to the absence of that Definition Clause. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would meet him in this matter, he should be most happy to give to the Bill a support instead of an opposition. He certainly thought the Bill ought not to be passed without naming the Religious Bodies to which it was supposed to refer. Some one asked how that could be done? He had spoken to some supporters of the Bill, and they admitted the difficulty; but would it not be possible to name four or five leading Nonconformist Bodies and make the Bill apply to them, and them alone? ["No, no!"] Someone said "No "; but before a privilege was conferred, ought not a sect to have made a place for itself; should it not have done something to prove a right to the privilege conferred upon it? Clearly, under the Bill, any two or three men could meet together and call themselves a Religious Body to entitle them to the benefits conferred by the Bill, and surely those interested in Nonconformity did not want such a thing as that to happen. It was asked if he was in favour of crushing and placing difficulties in the way of small denominations. He would not be in favour of crushing them in the sense of being oppressive, but he would be in favour of putting barriers in their way at the start. It seemed to be the glory of most Religious Bodies to point to the difficulties they had had at their start; then why should not difficulties be put in the way of men who tried to make a new Nonconformist Body? Let them earn their place, and then let privileges be conferred upon them. If the Bill applied to the Baptists, the Independents, the Presbyterians, and two or three others, then, when some other Religious Body could say it had gathered a large number of adherents about it and was strongly supported, it could come to the House and ask for a small Act to be passed including them within the scope of the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite. It might be said that such a thing was without precedent; but, as an illustration, he supposed he might refer to that country in which education was found at its best—namely, Germany. What did they find in the German University? Any graduate of any German University could, he thought, get appointed professor under the title of "private teacher," and was allowed to have a class in the University, but without any endowment at first. After a time, if he succeeded in gathering about him a sufficient number of pupils and students, and was successful in his teaching, he became at once endowed as a State Professor; he had earned his right to a position and recognition by the State; therefore, he held there were certain Nonconformist Religious Bodies that had earned their right to consideration by this House, and the other sects should be put upon the same terms. If his hon. Friends could meet him in this matter, he, for one, would offer no opposition to their Bill; but he had felt it his duty to point out to them as plainly as he could that they were doing the very worst thing they could do for Nonconformity when they were encouraging the increase of sects that already had reached the number of 250, the differences between the bulk of them being almost imperceptible. It was on the ground alone of the entire absence of any definition of the sects that were to be endowed that he moved that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.

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

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

MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House had not informed the House of one fact in connection with the Bill—namely, that two years ago, when he (Mr. Evans) had the honour of moving the Second Reading of this Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman was one of its staunchest supporters.


I did mention that fact, and said that I supported the Bill in the past on the understanding that a definition of "Religious Bodies" would be adopted. I have not changed my opinions in the slightest degree.


said, that a reference to the speech of the hon. Member on that occasion would show that he did not ask for any definition of the term "Religious Bodies" at all; and if it were necessary to take the hon. Member's arguments one by one, and to refute them, nothing would be easier than to take the hon. Member's speech which was delivered in the House two years ago. He wished to say at the commencement that, although his hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of the Bill referred chiefly to Wales, the Bill was not applicable to Wales alone; it applied to the whole country; and because they brought forward instances from Wales, with which they were more closely acquainted, the House must not understand there were not equally strong cases in England also. He would refer to one case to show there was a necessity for compulsory legislation of the kind pro- posed by this Bill. A chapel at Woolwich was built 30 years ago. The people could not get a site except at a rent of £13 a year for land only worth £1 a year, and a stipulation that at the end of 90 years it was to be handed over to the landlord in a complete state of repair. The people had to lay out £2,000 in obtaining a foundation, and then they built their church at a cost of £8,000; they had since spent a large amount of money upon it. and at the end of 60 years the landlord must be handed over his land, so that he would have received for 90 years a rent much in excess of that anyone else would have paid and at the end of the period obtain a property worth £10,000. That case was brought to the notice of the House two years ago by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rentoul), who said he brought that particular case forward because it was the only church of which he had been a member in this country, and he thought the facts would have some weight with the House. Now, he might be allowed to point out that the House had passed the Second Reading of this Bill on two or three occasions. The hon. and learned Member objected to the absence of any definition of the words "Religious Bodies." His hon. and learned Friend had not defined or submitted any definition of those words. He (Mr. Evans) thought they would be easy to define; but there was a great objection to defining a Religious Body in a Bill, because it had been the policy of Parliament not to attempt any definition of Religious Bodies. He might refer to two or three Acts to show what the policy of Parliament had been in dealing with affairs of this kind. The policy of Parliament had been not to attempt any definition lest they might shut out some Body which ought to have the benefit of the Act. William IV., c. 30, entitled "An Act to Exempt from the Payment of Poor Rates Churches and other Places of Worship" was passed, but there was no definition in that Act. Another Act was the 13th & 14th Vic, c. 28, and the only other Act he would refer to was the 18th & 19th Vic, c. 81, and in none of these Acts was there any definition of Religious Bodies. Therefore, so far as they were concerned, they thought it would he a blot upon the Bill if they attempted a definition of Religious Bodies. On the other hand, if the hon. and learned Gentleman could show it would be better to attempt a definition, he thought he was right in saying they would be prepared to consider the question; but that was a matter for Committee, and not for Second Reading, and was not a ground for moving the rejection of the Bill. In the second place, the hon. and learned Gentleman objected because the Bill gave compulsory powers, but in his speech two years ago he disposed of that objection. The hon. and learned Member was converted to the worship of the sacredness of contract, but two years ago he answered that by saying that a similar objection would apply to three-fourths of the Bills brought before the House. The third objection of the hon. and learned Member was that there was no precedent; but surely he could not argue that when there was now before the Statute Book an Act of Parliament enabling the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or those who build churches to acquire compulsorily— which this Bill did not attempt to do— land for the purpose of erecting a church upon it—[An hon. MEMBER: It is never used.] The Act was never used, that was true; but the argument of the hon. and learned Member was that there was no precedent. He could give the House very cogent reasons why that Act was never used, the chief one of which was that there was no difficulty in the Church of England to obtain grants of land from landlords as sites for places of worship. The fourth objection of his hon. and learned Friend was that they were by this Bill attempting to endow Religious Bodies. Again, he could answer the hon. Member from his own mouth, but he would not go into the details any further.


May I inform my hon. Friend that I answered that to-day —that I am in favour of endowment of Religious Bodies, but it is an argument that may be properly used against the Bill.


could not understand his hon. and learned Friend putting up a bogey in order to knock it down again. He, for his part, disagreed entirely with the principle of endowing Religious Bodies; he was not in favour of that, and this Bill did not contain any proposal for the endowment of Religious Bodies at all. What was the meaning of religious endowment? It meant funds given to the support of some Religious Body, and this Bill did nothing of the kind; they only asked for powers compulsorily to acquire land upon payment of the full value of the land. He wished to put before the House the case of one of the leading denominations in Wales—the Calvinistic Methodists. Their report for the year 1883 stated that 347 of their chapels had been built on leases, and that their total value at that time was £355,946. By the year 19007 per cent. of the leases would expire, the value of the chapels built under them being over £15,000. The leases expiring in 1925 represented 17 per cent. of the whole, the value of the chapels built on these leases being £45,000. The leases expiring in 1950 represented 29 percent. of the whole, the value of the chapels being £94,000, thus the value of the chapels built in leases which must expire in the next 57 years was £154,618. The House, he considered, ought to provide some means to enable the Trustees of these places of worship to make it impossible for any landlord to forfeit these buildings at the end of a term. He had no hesitation in saying that the value of Nonconformist places of worship in Wales erected upon leases was over £1,000,000 —he should think nearly £1,500,000. The hon. Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul) in asking that Religious Bodies should be defined was asking the House to grant benefits to strong sects who were able to take care of themselves, and to leave out of the protection of Parliament and the privileges of this Bill the weaker Bodies that were not so well able to take care of themselves. The promoters of the Bill, however, sought to give the benefits to the weak as well as to the strong, and would not attempt to exclude any Religious Body from the privileges of the Bill. It might be said that although chapels were built on leasehold property, landlords did not, as a rule, take chapels into their own hands. If, however, hon. Members would refer to the columns of the newspapers they would find a case in Montgomeryshire where a lease was taken in 1859 for 99 years. Last year the Body worshipping in that chapel desired to extend and improve their place of worship, and in doing this they were prepared to spend £900. They had actually collected a sum of £700 to pay for the improvements, and what hap- pened? A six months' notice to quit the premises was given by the landlady, Mrs. Seymour Davis, on the ground that it was a breach of the covenant in the lease to extend and improve the chapel. That notice to quit was still hanging over the heads of the congregation. This case showed that the powers of the landlords were used, if not to the fullest extent, at any rate to a fuller extent than they ought to be allowed to have the power of using. He hoped the Member for East Down would not put the House to the trouble of a Division, and that the House would by a unanimous voice pass the Second Reading of this Bill, which "was brought forward as a measure of justice which ought to be granted.

MR. WILLOX (Liverpool, Everton)

said, he did not propose to enter into the details of this Bill, but desired to call the attention of the House to the fact that on two former occasions its principle had been affirmed, after careful investigation, by a Select Committee of the House. The objections which had been raised by the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Rentoul) had reference rather to the details of the measure than to its principle. These details would be more properly considered in Committee—and many of them, according to his judgment, were of comparatively slight significance. On the point of the hon. Member that the practical effect of the Bill would be to endow Religious Bodies, even if it were so, it would be endowment of these Bodies by themselves at their own expense—and no practical obligation was imposed—either upon the State or upon the community, for the 11th clause stipulated that the annual rent-charge should be based on the market value at the time of the purchase of the reversion. Therefore, whatever increase of value might have taken place between the granting of the original lease and the exercise of the compulsory powers of purchase would go to the benefit of the landlord, and would have to be incurred at the expense of the lessees who desired to obtain the freehold of the place. The landlord would be still further indemnified from loss, as the law costs would have to be paid by those who set the law in motion. With regard to the argument that the effect of the Bill would be to multiply religious denominations, that was a matter with which they had very little concern—and it was a matter which, whether good or not, could not be seriously affected by legislation. The third point to which the hon. and learned Member gave some prominence was that the powers were compulsory. But unless they were compulsory they would be practically inoperative. Without compulsion the powers that were now asked to be enforced were already in operation in principle. It was because the principle of voluntary agreement had not been effective that this legislation was rendered necessary; and while it had been suggested that the principle of that Bill had been affirmed, he would go further, and say that the whole policy of legislation during the last two generations had been in this direction, and also that that direction had been beneficent in the interests both of religion and of the community. The first point to be considered in reference to this Bill was as it affected the people, and next as it affected the landlords. As it affected the people they knew that all religious denominations were attached with very great sincerity and close affection to their places of worship, as regards the services in the church, the family associations that grew round it, and the denominational machinery that had its centre in it. That feeling had been held in great veneration by the members of the Church of England, and it seemed to him a most laudable and deserving sentiment that the Nonconformists should, if possible, be attached with equal permanence to their places of religious worship. As regarded the landlords, he had already shown that they would not be damnified by the passage of this measure. While prominence had been given to the matter as it affected agricultural districts, and chiefly the Principality of Wales, they must bear in mind that in many large towns, especially in the growing and populous parts of them, it was impossible to obtain freehold sites, from the fact that the whole of the estate that went into building use was leasehold. The Nonconformists in consequence were required to take what they could get and to accept the tenure that the chief landlord was willing to concede. That in many cases had involved, as he knew from his own experience, considerable hardship and the wrenching of old associations and great family and religious ties. They had heard on many occasions alleged as a reproach to the Nonconformists that they deserted poor and worn-out parts of a town, and followed the people to the better residential districts. It seemed to him that the practical effect of this measure would be this—that as they gave the Nonconformist Bodies a closer and more permanent tenure of their chapels they would be anchored to the districts in which they had been originally established, and thus some corrective would be given of the practice now described as the migration of Dissenting Bodies. It had been said that the Bill would give to religious Bodies a power of capricious interference with private property, but they might have sufficient confidence in the tribunal to which the arbitration of this matter was to be referred to believe that that danger would be greatly minimised if not altogether averted. He thought it would be possible to make more clear the definition of a place of religious worship, and suggested that it should be confined to those places which had certificates of registration under the Solemnisation of Marriage Act. Whether that would be sufficiently comprehensive he did not know, but it seemed desirable that there should be some attempt at definition. There was also considerable vagueness in the definition of the relations between the landlord and the lessee, and the method of valuation and the terms of payment were also open to objection, inasmuch as an option was allowed to the lessee and not to the landlord. These were matters which touched rather the details and the minutiae of the clauses than the principle of the Bill. The principle was as sound now as it was last year and the year before. If it was not as perfect in operation as it might be, all Parties were concerned in making it more effective and more equitable, so that no injustice should be done to the landlord, while, at the same time, a sense of injustice would be removed from the Dissenting Bodies of the country.

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

reminded the House that this Bill did not affect Wales merely, but it affected the whole country, and it must therefore be judged by broader principles than would apply if it only affected a portion of the country. He did not think the hon. Gentleman who had promoted this Bill had quite touched the true grounds upon which Dissenters might ask the House to give its assent to the Bill. They should not come there, as both the Mover and Seconder seemed to imply, in formâ pauperis, or with a plea ad miseri-cordiam. The Protestant Dissenting Bodies had for years and years been accorded privileges, and had been treated in a very friendly way by the House of Commons. For the last two hundred years the Protestant Dissenting Bodies had been established by law and endowed to a large extent out of the taxes, and this was not by any means the first time they had come to the House of Commons to ask for further privileges, in order to give them increased establishment and endowment. The Nonconformists had every right to claim that the precedents long ago established in their favour should be followed now. They (the Dissenters) were rich, numerous, privileged; they were established and endowed, and they were owners of a large amount of national property. As far back as 1767, it was decided by a Judgment of Lord Mansfield in the House of Lords "that the Dissenters' way of worship" was established as fully as that of the Church of England. There were innumerable Acts of Parliament in favour of their privileges; their chapels were certified and registered by Act of Parliament; by Act of Parliament marriages were solemnised in their chapels; their chapels were exempted from rates and taxes, as places of public worship, an endowment of £30,000 or £40,000 a year being given by that exemption at the present time; their ministers were relieved from serving civil offices; and they acquired sites for their chapels by Act of Parliament 45 and 46 Victoria. Again, by Act of Parliament their property had been especially exempted from the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission. The doctrine of the chapel was settled in cases of dispute by the State Courts, and by an Act passed at the beginning of this reign it was declared that the preaching for 25 years of any doctrine in a chapel established that doctrine, and thus a number of Presbyterian chapels were handed over to the Unitarians. Not only that, but they had been endowed out of the taxes. He found from a return of the grants of public money for all religious denominations, that from 1721 up to 1852 grants of money were paid as pensions to Dissenting ministers every year, out of the taxes. Thus these established and endowed communities now came, according to precedent, to ask for further establishment, and further endowment. He would introduce no element of theological bitterness into this discussion. He did not look upon the Nonconformists as some Members looked upon the Church of England, as a religious body which it was a duty to revile. With the object of the Bill he to a certain extent agreed, and to that extent he should support it. But there was a great distinction between the object of the Bill and the means of carrying out its intention. And here it became necessary that they should have a definition of what was meant by a "religious body." He should wish to know to whom this Bill was to apply? Was it to apply to the Blackburn Psychological Society, to the Chevrah Torah Society, to the Church of Islam, to the Eclectics, to the Ethical Society, to the Humanitarians, to the Progressionists, to the Positivists, to the Secularists, to the Spiritualists, the Latter-Day Saints, and the Polygamists? All these religionists had places of worship which were certified by the Registrar General. He found there were 267 Societies altogether. Did the Member for Montgomeryshire intend to include all these different bodies, or, if not, which did he intend to exclude? Did he intend to exclude the Church of Islam and the mild Hindoo? The House wanted a definition of the words "religious bodies." In the Precedent of Sites Act, 45 and 46 Victoria, and 36 and 37 Victoria, the definition was not religious worship, but "Chapel, or place of Divine worship." How difficult it was to settle what Divine worship really was. The denomination called the Jumpers, jumped; the Ranters, ranted; the Quakers sat around in a peculiar costume, and for hours together said nothing at all; the Dervishes pirouetted; and the Moslems threw themselves down on the ground, while their Mollah, riding on a white ass, passed over their bodies. Did the promoters of the Bill intend to include all these religionists? There was an absolute necessity for a definition. He was willing to admit that it might be for public utility that there should be further establishment and endowment of religious societies in this realm. It had been said that this was not a case of endowment. He knew it was, not a case of endowment out of public funds, but it was endowment out of other people's pockets. It was not fair that the House of Commons should be asked to take money out of the pockets of certain men, as a matter of public policy, in order to hand it over to a society which they thought it was for public utility they should establish and endow. That was not according to precedent at all. For his part, he should like to see all places of religious worship made freeholds; but that was exactly what this Bill did not do. It created perpetual leaseholds. It did not enfranchise these places by making them freehold, but it proposed to make them perpetual leaseholds. Next, he should like some hon. Gentleman opposite to explain what they called preemption? The right of pre-emption, which was to be given to a landlord when a chapel ceased to be used for religious purposes, was the vaguest of all protection for the rights of property, for what guarantee was there that an excessive price would not be demanded? Then he should like to know whether the chapel, conveyed to trustees in consideration of a small perpetual rent-charge, was to be used exclusively for public religious worship or not? The precedent for these words was to be found in the Act of Parliament, 3rd and 4th William IV., which exempted all chapels from rates and taxes, provided they were used exclusively for public religious worship, and were certified for such religious worship. He had been told that a great many chapels and their appurtenances were used for other purposes, and not infrequently for boisterous political meetings. If these chapels which were to be handed over by this Bill from the lessor to the lessee for religious purposes were to be used for other than religious purposes, he thought the question of public utility fell to the ground altogether, and he hoped, therefore, if they passed this Bill they would restrict the objects of their bounty to purposes of religion. For his part he preferred freehold to leasehold, and the title of the Bill commended itself very much to him on the ground that these leaseholds were to be turned into freeholds, for in that way they would get rid of all the difficulty of the unearned increment. The owners of the chapel. would then be the absolute owners; all the unearned increment would come to them, and there would be no confusion between the rights of the lessor and lessee, and they would be really and truly enfranchised. But the Bill contemplated the retention of the lease, and not the settlement of the matter by a money payment once for all. He did not like the idea of lessors holding their hands, as it were, over the chapel by having a rent-charge. The question of pre-emption was very important, and he should like to have some explanation of how they would prevent the speculator from using the Bill for purposes of his own? Persons might go in as a religious body, obtain a lease, then enfranchise under the Bill, and then make a profit out of the freehold. He was glad the promoters of the Bill had discovered the advantage of a preamble. They knew now from the Prime Minister that the preamble was the most important part of a Bill. He would suggest that the preamble of the present Bill should run thus: "Whereas it is expedient to provide by law for the more effectual establishment and endowment of certain ecclesiastical communities in Great Britain and Ireland, and to give increased facilities for public religious worship, be it enacted, &c." If hon. Gentlemen would agree to such preamble, and put to rights those points in the Bill which were defective, for his part he should be happy to give every possible support to the measure.


The supporters of the Bill may well congratulate themselves on the character of the arguments which have been advanced against the Bill. I have followed with all possible care the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I confess myself entirely at a loss to appreciate the grounds upon which he is going to base his opposition—if, indeed, he is going to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has given us a new definition both of establishment and endowment. It appears, in his view, a religious sect is established when the law protects them in the enjoyment of their property, and when it extends to their places of worship the same immunity or qualified immunity from taxation and rating which is given to every charitable institution in the country. The hon. Gentleman appears to be of opinion that Parliament has endowed a religious body when it enables the trustees to hold property for religious purposes, and to pay out of their own pockets the value of the reversion of their lease. The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to admit this was not an endowment out of public funds. Out of whose funds is it an endowment? Out of the funds of the religious body which is required to make the payment. In other words, the House, when it passes this Bill—as I trust it will pass it— will be simply giving these religious bodies the power of acquiring for themselves that which every humane and reasonable landlord would give them without the necessity of the intervention of an Act of Parliament—namely, protection against confiscation and security of tenure—a privilege which, I may remind the hon. Gentleman, the Church of England already possesses. The only argument against the Bill is founded upon the absence of a definition in the interpretation clause of the term "religious body." The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill appears to have had in his mind some graduated scale of the religious bodies of the country, according to the degrees of the responsibility and authority which they possess. I should be very sorry to see Parliament classifying religious bodies, and my answer to him and to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is this: If the question should arise, the Courts of Law are perfectly capable of interpreting what is a "religious body" and what are "religious purposes," and fantastic cases of imaginary abuses, which he and the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill have been at so much pains and ingenuity to invent, are cases which, when they arise, the Courts of Law would be perfectly competent to deal with. There is not the slightest risk in the world of the powers given by this Bill being used for any other purpose, or by any other body, than for religious purposes and by a religious body.


How about political meetings?


The hon. Member is very much shocked that some of the chapels in the country, and in Wales I suppose more particularly, should from time to time be used for the purposes of political meetings. Well, Sir, I do not think there is anybody who is desirous that chapels should be habitually used for such purposes. But why are chapels used for political meetings? I will tell the hon. Gentleman why they are so used. Because the schoolroom of the parish, made and maintained out of public funds, is too often in the hands of an irresponsible body of managers who will only allow it to be used for the purposes of one political Party. If the hon. Gentleman will agree with the proposals which the Government are going to make, and which I trust the House will assent to, to secure that these places, whether they are built at the public expense, or whether they are only maintained or contributed to at the public expense, that these buildings shall be freely available for legitimate public meetings, then I can assure him that the chapels to which this Bill applies are not in future likely to be resorted to. There was one other argument which the hon. Gentleman alluded to, and to which it may be worth while to refer in one sentence. His argument was based on the clause which deals with pre-emption. I confess it appears to me the hon. Gentleman did not understand the meaning and effect of that. As I understand it it is this: If at any time after the reversion has been conveyed under this Act to the trustees, who now own the fee simple, they should wish to sell it or use it for other purposes than those defined by the Act, then both justice and equity require that the first offer should be made to the original vendor, and that he should have the right to re-acquire the property at a fair price—this price to be fixed in the same way as the original rent-charge. The same machinery that the Act provides for the assessment of the original rent-charge is brought into requisition for the pre-emption, therefore any hardship or injustice is removed. On behalf of the Government I have to say that we most heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill, and for my part I confess I am somewhat surprised at the moderation of the proposal. I think the facts brought forward in evidence before the Select Committee, and on which their recommendations are founded, might have justified the introduction of a much more drastic measure which would have enabled the religious communities of the country to acquire compulsorily in all cases, at a fair price, such sites as they needed for carrying on their places of worship. This measure is a good measure founded on the unanimous recommendation of the Committee. Twice, I think, it has received the assent of the House of Commons in which the Tory Party was in a majority, and I trust, after the ample discussion it has undergone in previous years and on the present occasion, that the House will speedily give it a Second Reading and send it to the Grand Committee on Law.

MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down was not of a character to promote speediness in the decision of the House. I rise as one of those who have long desired that some reasonable compromise should be come to on this question, but I am bound to say that if hon. Gentlemen wished this question to be settled at an early period they should entrust the advocacy of the measure to different hands. They should not make it the subject of the introduction of inflammatory matter, of highly-coloured descriptions of institutions, which are really addressed to hearers outside the House, and not to the pure reason which ought to guide the decisions of the House. I have said that I am anxious to see a fair settlement of this question, and I think that substantial evidence has been given that that desire is not confined to myself on this side of the House. It seems to me there are certain things which may be fairly claimed by those who promote the Bill. It seems to me that it you have a substantial body of persons bonâ fide devoted to the exercise of religious worship according to their own doctrines, public policy might in some cases require that they should obtain a reasonable security of tenure and a reasonable means of realising the value of such expenditure as they had put on the property. On the other hand, what is it fair that the owner of property should require? There are certain things which the landlord has an equitable right to secure. It is not necessary that a Religious Body should ask to take away from the landlord his fixed security for his rent upon the land; and I am glad to see that the Bill, by proposing the creation of rent charges, does not ask more than was reasonable in that respect. The landlord has a right to see that if there is a change of ownership, if there is a cessation in the permanency and vigour of a religious Body, his original rights to the property should revert either by right of pre-emption or otherwise. The landlord has a right to claim that the land compulsorily taken from him should be used for the sole and exclusive purposes of the religious Body, and that if these purposes ceased, his rights should revert. There should be another provision that the landlord should not have created in the midst of his property, what the hon. Gentleman promoting this Bill would call an oasis, and what the landlord would call an Alsatia, and that to prevent that, he should have the benefit— as against the newly enfranchised lessees or the persons subject to the new rent charge—the benefit of such restrictive covenants as originally bound them when they were under the terms of the lease. The question before the House is really whether this Bill, with a reasonable amount of security, effects these objects. Really, it is the Government who have the control of this question; and it is because they have control of it that I regret the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. We know that the relations between the Government and hon. Gentlemen representing Welsh constituencies, according to rumour, are in a somewhat delicate state. It may be that the Government have lost the power of controlling the action of the Welsh Members, but the loss of that power does not discharge them of responsibility, and if the Government will really lend its powerful aid towards a reasonable settlement of this question, I believe such a settlement will be promoted largely by hon. Gentlemen sitting on this (Opposition) side of the House. It has been said there ought to be a definition of religious Bodies, and what I have said goes to show that I think security ought to be taken that the Religious Body should be of a more or less permanent kind, and that if this permanence ceased, then the rights acquired under the Bill should revert to those from whom they were taken. I want somebody on the part of the Government to tell the House that some words will be inserted which, for the purpose of defining Religious Bodies, will supply effective guidance to the County Court Judge as to the way in which he is to construe the trust deeds, because it is on the construction of the trust deeds that the right to this extraordinary intervention of the law must in the long run depend. If the trust is either exhausted by the cessation of the existence of the Religious Body, or if the Religious Body seeks to direct its energies towards objects other than those contemplated by the original terms of the trust, we want to know do the Government really mean that in that case they should continue to exercise the extraordinary rights conferred upon them by the Bill now before the House? Although some highly-coloured descriptions of strongly controversial matters were imported into this Debate which need not have been imported, and although we are asked to base our assent to this Bill on the extremely imperfect security that somewhere in the recesses of their minds the Government have the sketch of some Bill to deal with certain voluntary institutions, of which the right hon. Gentleman imperfectly understood the status, yet I am bound to say that I do wish to see some reasonable settlement of this question; and if the Government can give us anything like an assurance upon some of the points I have raised— namely, that they will effectively aid and guide this Committee in arriving at a satisfactory settlement of all the questions to which I have referred, which shall practically give effect to the principles for which I have contended, I myself should not ask or advise that any gentleman on this side of the House should offer any uncompromising opposition to this Bill.

MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)

, said he entirely concurred with the hon. Gentleman in expressing the hope that in dealing with this question which so intimately concerned—

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present.


said, he concurred in the remarks made by the last speaker that in dealing with the question which so closely concerned, not merely Welsh Nonconformity, but English Nonconformity, they should endeavour to discuss the question and legislate upon it without asperity or harshness or too much ecclesiastical bias. This was not the first time, and perhaps it would not be the last, when the duty of clearing the way in favour of some religious or social reform would have been undertaken by his hon. Friends from Wales. But he would venture to point out to the House that while the question undoubtedly affected Wales most seriously—for two reasons; firstly, that the nation was as a whole Nonconformist; and, secondly, that the land was largely, if not chiefly, in the hands of Churchmen—yet the figures as to the relative strength of Nonconformity in England and Wales showed that the question affected already, and probably in the future would more thoroughly affect, English than Welsh Nonconformity. He had been entertained, as he supposed most Members of the House were entertained, by that specimen of agile change of opinion which the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill had manifested. He had wondered how it was that the hon. Member had seemed to have lost all faith in Nonconformity. Perhaps some explanation might arise in the fact that during the two last years he had made the acquaintance of Nonconformists in all parts of England, and did not trust them or their opinions as he did two years ago. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in the year 1882 obtained from Parliament some very important Returns. The hon. Member representing the Oswestry Division of Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) by the aid of Whitaker's Almanack amused himself and the House by reading out a number of very insignificant sects with peculiar titles whom he did not consider entitled to statutory recognition. But the Returns obtained by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board ten years ago showed that Nonconformity in this country was substantially divided up between six or seven powerful and effective sects. That Return showed that out of a total number of 21,000 places of worship registered in connection with Nonconformity, no less that 12,360 belonged to the various Methodist Bodies, 2,600 to the Independents, 2,600 to the Baptists, 824 to the Roman Catholics, 271 to the Presbyterians in England, and the residue of 2,132 was divided up, it was true, over a multitude of sects, some of them very small, and, from the hon. Member's point of view, apparently insignificant. But this residue included the powerful body of Jews, the Unitarians, and Friends. The Wesleyan body alone during 30 years had spent £9,000,000 on church property in this country; and this money had been subscribed, not in the way of endowment, though some people might call it so. To refer to cases where hardship had occurred, he would remind the House of the Park Chapel in Sheffield. Thousands of pounds had been spent on that chapel by the Wesleyan Methodists, who held it under an old lease from the Duke of Norfolk, at a ground-rent of £8 16s. a year. When the lease was about to expire a proposal was made by the Duke of Norfolk for renewal, but those interested in the chapel could not accept the terms, and one day they were surprised to see an advertisement in the papers offering the chapel for sale on the expiration of the lease. It became necessary to negotiate with His Grace, and ultimately the chapel authorities had to pay £2,800 for the purchase of the reversion of the premises, and the conversion of the leasehold into a freehold title. In the City of London there was a chapel held from one of the great City Companies. The ground-rent was £48 a-year. The Wesleyans took the site, in 1843, for 50 years, and, very probably, spent £6,000 in erecting a chapel on it. When the lease expired the chapel authorities found it impossible to pay the high rent, asked by the City Company, and the premises had to be vacated. That ground was now let for £650 a-year. The result had been the total extinction of the Wesleyan community in the City of Loudon. The inability to purchase reversionary interests, and to convert leaseholds into freeholds, had had this unfortunate effect on trust property held for religious purposes: when the term of a lease was very nearly expiring, trustees were unwilling to spend money in enlarging, repairing, or improving, and this was especially unfortunate in the matter of Sunday Schools. There were 2,000,000 of children in the Sunday schools of the Wesleyan Methodists, and it was very desirable that those schools should be well lighted and fitted with modern appliances, but it was impossible to do this when the premises were held under leasehold tenures, especially at the fag-end of the leases. The House, he supposed, would agree that it was desirable that places of worship and schools should be erected where it was most convenient for the community that they should be placed, but the Nonconformists frequently had to accept very inferior sites simply because they preferred freehold to leasehold. They also had to agree at times to most onerous conditions, which were laid down by land owners. In one case in the Midlands, at a place where people were in the habit of going to recruit their health, a Nonconformist chapel of a highly ornate description had been built and the service carried on in it closely approximate to that of the Church of England, this state of things being due to the conditions contained in the lease. Nonconformists did not wish to appropriate the property of lessors, but they asked that machinery might be provided by which they could convert leaseholds into freeholds. Under the present Bill it would be provided that where the parties did not agree a perpetual ground-rent should take the place of the present terminable ground-rent. Perhaps on this point the promoters of the Bill might be open to accept some improvement. He admitted that so far as the Wesleyan Body was concerned, it was desirable not that they should have these perpetual ground-rents, but that they should be able to convert their leaseholds into freeholds, untrammelled by any leasehold conditions whatever. He rested this case on the plea of public utility. The late Home Secretary had said that this measure was indefensible, except on two grounds— first, that the landlords would not part with their land except upon compulsion, and, secondly, public utility. His plea was the last named. Hon. Members might differ as to the theological principles which might be propounded in these places of worship. An hon. Member opposite objected to the doctrines of Islam. He (Mr. Perks) had no sympathy with those doctrines, but he held that if a sufficient number of Mahommedans had a place of worship in this country they were as much entitled to consideration in regard to the enfranchisement of their place of worship as the hon. Member and a number of his co-religionists would be if they built a church.


said he did not object to the claims of those professing Islamism being considered. He had only pointed out that this was a question to be borne in mind.


said he was glad to see that the hon. Member's views were broadening. They must not forget that in these Nonconformist sanctuaries, over 20,000 in number, principles of industry, sobriety, thrift, humanity, and toleration, were inculcated. Gentlemen who were members of the Church of England knew perfectly well that no ducal landlord could interfere with their churches, and the Nonconformists asked to have, through this Bill, the same incentives to devotion and self-sacrifice that hon. Gentlemen opposite possessed.


said that, so far as he was concerned, if the Second Reading were carried to a division he should give the Bill his support, though he agreed with the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton) in not altogether liking the manner in which it was sought to carry out its objects. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had said that the Bill would carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee. There he (Mr. Kuowles) would join issue with him. He did not think that the Bill would carry out the recommendations of the Select Committee, and if the House would refer to the paragraph of the Report of the Committee which dealt with this subject it would be seen that the view he took was the correct one. This paragraph said— There has been a considerable amount of evidence given from some parts of the country of the difficulty experienced by Nonconformist bodies in obtaining a secure tenure of their places of worship, and schools connected with them, and of this being frequently felt to be a great hardship. The Committee think that it is most desirable on public grounds that all religious bodies should be enabled to obtain a secure tenure of such places of. worship and schools, and they consider that the freeholder who has granted land for such a purpose has no good reason to object to its being 30 held in perpetuity, on his receiving the value of his interest. They, therefore, recommend that all religious bodies to whom land has been granted on lease by the freeholder for the erection of their places of worship and schools should be empowered to purchase the fee, subject to the payment of fair compensation. He differed from the Home Secretary when he said that the Bill carried out the recommendations of the Committee, and he would call his attention to the words "so" and also to the words "granted on lease by the freeholder." He wished to say a word in support of his hon. Friend below the Gangway, the Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul), who moved in opposition to the Bill. The hon. Gentleman was found fault with by the hon. Member for Glamorganshire because in the year before last he gave it his support, and this year he said he could no longer do so for the reason that the pledge given to the House on the former occasion had not, in his view, been carried out in the Bill. He (Mr. Knowles) felt himself somewhat in the same position as his hon. Friend, because he remembered that a pledge had been given to him (Mr. Knowles) across the floor of the House just before the division, which pledge, however, was not reported in Hansard, though he remembered it. The pledge was that a Reverter Clause should be introduced into the Bill in Committee. The Bill never was in Committee, and the clause never was introduced, but there was no such clause in the present Bill. If this Bill should get into Committee, he (Mr. Knowles) proposed to move—and he should give his support to the Second Reading on the assumption that such a clause would be inserted in Committee—a clause for reverter as follows:— Provided that, upon the said land so granted as aforesaid or any part thereof ceasing to be used for the purposes of the religious body, the trustees whereof are desirous of acquiring the fee simple in pursuance of this Act, the same shall thereupon immediately revert to and become a portion of the estate of the aforesaid lessor or owner as fully to all intents and purposes as if this Act had not been passed, anything herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding. There was a precedent for such a Reverter Clause in the School Sites Act, 1841—4th and 5th Vict., Chap. 38, Sec. 2. He was sorry that the speeches made from the other side of the House should have been, to some extent, polemical, because it made it necessary for gentlemen who had a knowledge of the facts stated to give their view of those facts and the rebutting evidence. Allusion had been made to the demolition of chapels in the Metropolis by the hon. Member for the Louth Division of Lincolnshire; but such demolition—which had taken place in the case of churches as well as chapels— proved only that buildings had been destroyed in districts where through the migration of the residential population they had become useless, and he felt that when landlords were being attacked—although he himself had no special interest in the subject—some one should stand up and defend them. He held in his hand a letter written by the solicitor to the Duke of Westminster relating to this Bill. He said— I think it will be as well if you inform some of our friends in the House of Commons (by way of illustration that ground-landlords are not unwilling to provide sites) that the Duke of Westminster has presented to the Trustees of the Congregational Union a very fine freehold site in Duke Street, Grosvenor Square, upon which they have built a Congregational Chapel. They had to vacate a very inferior site in Robert Street, close by, because the lease expired; which, of course, was held at a rent. The Marquis of Northampton also, a few years ago, sold the freehold of the Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, to the Congregationalists at a fair price, they having previously held a lease at a rent. So, at all events, there was some rebutting evidence with regard to the alleged harshness on the part of the landlords. And with regard to that Duke Street Chapel, to which he had alluded, he held in his hand a copy of a letter of thanks from the solicitors to the trustees of the chapel to this effect— The trustees at their meeting here to day" (14th July, 1892) "desired us to acknowledge your letter to us of the 8th inst., and beg that you will convey to His Grace the Duke of Westminster their unanimous thanks for the added proof of his generosity afforded by his offer [to present the freehold site], and their grateful acceptance of such offer. That was evidence on the part of the landlords. Now, he should like for a moment to refer to the Welsh cases to which allusion had been made. During the past week a letter had been circu- lated in the newspapers, signed by Mr. H. L. W. Lawson, Mr. O. V. Morgan, Mr. Howard Evans, and Mr. James Rowlands, whose names would be familiar to the House as Members or ex-Members of Parliament. In promoting the interests of this Bill these gentlemen had circulated a letter in which they had alluded to the Welsh cases. They referred to the Blaenau Festiniog case, the Sheffield case, and two other cases. As he was a Member of the Select Committee which inquired into those cases, the facts were fresh in his mind. What he objected to with regard to the statements in the letter and the statements made in the course of the debate was that they were one-sided and ex parte. Only the cases of the tenants were given, and that being so he thought it was the duty of some Member to say a word from the landlord's point of view. He proposed to refer briefly to the Blaenau Festiniog and the Sheffield cases. One of the witnesses before the Select Committee on Town Holdings was Colonel the Hon. W. Sackville-West, agent of Lord Penrhyn, whose evidence could be found in the Blue Book, and he would quote a digest of his evidence from the landlord's point of view. The digest was as follows:— There were 27 chapels on Lord Penrhyn's estates, mostly held on 30-years' leases; but of late 3 had been built on 60-years' terms. In three cases the 30-years' leases had expired. In two cases they had been renewed. In the other case the occupancy was continued at the same rent—namely. £1, and he had had no application for a lease. One chapel in Llandegai Parish was re-let for 30 years at a slightly increased ground rent. but Lord Penrhyn gave £300 to build a minister's house, and pays the rates on an annual value increased by his own expenditure. The other was the Jerusalem Chapel at Bethesda, the site of which—about an acre and a quarter, in the centre of Bethesda —had been held since 1842 at £1 ground-rent. The site was now the most valuable building land in Bethesda. and when the lease expired in 1872 could have been let for building at £50 a year. Still the lease was renewed in 1872 for 30 years, at the old ground rent of £1 a year. Then he quotes an instance of a minister's house in Llan-ilegai—a parish in which Lord Penrhyn pays all rates. The ground rent received from this house is £1; the rates paid by Lord Penrhyn are £1 5s. Again, while this evidence was being given, Lord Penrhyn was considering whether he could accede to an application by the Calvinistic Methodists for the purchase of the reversion on the lease of their chapel. He would he willing to sell for a small sum, but there would be no security that the site so sold might not be diverted to other purposes. 'The oldest chapel in Bangor,' he said, 'is now a stable.' He further explained that the real reason why landowners prefer to let chapel property on lease, instead of selling the freehold, is the guarantee which a lease affords against the conversion of such property to other uses and against detriment to their adjoining property. In the case of a church they know that the property can be used for only one purpose, and will be permanently used for that purpose and no other.

MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

May I ask who prepared that Digest?


said it had been prepared by two friends of his—Mr. Charles Henry Sargant, a distinguished barrister, of Lincoln's Inn, and Mr. James Gray, a distinguished solicitor, also practising in Lincoln's Inn, and it had been checked by himself. He could give the hon. Member the references to all the details of the evidence in the Report of the Committee. The Digest continued— With regard to the covenant in Lord Penrhyn's leases against using chapels for other than religious purposes, he stated that it had never, to his knowledge, been enforced, and he considered that the only reason why chapels were not sold in fee was that covenants in restraint of user would not apply to the freehold. It had also to be borne in mind that what Dissenters desired was freehold chapels for much less than their market value, with power to convert them to uses which might cause considerable detriment to the rest of an estate. His reason for granting 60, instead of 99, years' terms for chapels was that the reversion to a chapel was valueless, and he also contemplated the value of a reversion in fixing a ground-rent. Had the buildings been valuable for other purposes, he would not object to grant a longer term. On Mr. Assheton Smith's Vaynol estate, he added, there were about 15 chapels and several Nonconformist schools. The sites of a few had been presented, and a few sold; but most were held on 99-years' leases at Is. ground rent. Similarly, on Mr. Ellis Nanney's estate, near Criccieth, there were 4 chapel leases, three held at 5s., one at 10s. a year, Renewals for 00 years had just been offered there, more land being added free of charge, and the 10s. ground-rent reduced to 5s. His information did not extend to other estates. He thought these things were worthy of consideration as rebutting evidence against those who alleged harshness on the part of the landlords with regard to granting leases for chapels in Wales. A still stronger case was that respecting Sheffield, to which the hon. Member for the South Division (Mr. Perks) had alluded. The hon. Member had given the House an ex parte statement based on the evidence of the witnesses brought before the Committee by the Welsh Members or their friends, and he (Mr. Knowles) would like to produce the rebutting evidence presented to the Committee on behalf of the landlords, and particularly on behalf of the Duke of Norfolk. Three witnesses came before the Committee. There was a Mr. Simpson, a solicitor; Mr. Clegg, the Mayor; and Mr. Ellison, the agent of the Duke of Norfolk. From the evidence of these three gentlemen it appeared that three-fourths of the town of Sheffield was leasehold, let for terms of from 99 to 999 years, and one-fourth freehold, and that the Duke of Norfolk, the principal owner, and the Church Burgesses and Town Trustees, let for terms of 99 years, while other estates were let for terms of 200, 300, 500, and 800 years. The Sheffield case, put concisely from the landlord's point of view, was as follows. He again quoted from the Digest— The Wesleyan Chapel, Duke Street Park, said Mr. Simpson and Mr. Clegg, was held at a ground-rent of £8 16s. In 1880 the trustees applied for a renewal to the Duke of Norfolk, who asked £100 a year, and that the current lease, with 12 or 14 years to run, should be surrendered. 'That comes to this,' said Mr. Simpson, 'that they would have been paying £100 a year for 14 years, less the £8 16s. they had contracted to pay,' or £1,500 which, in his opinion, was more than the value of the chapel itself. The offer, added Mr. Clegg, was declined, and no other site for a chapel can be had on the Park estate. Mr. Ellison's version of the matter was simple:—'Besides the chapel itself there are two schools with two dwelling-houses under, a caretaker's house, and three old cottages, covering an area of 2,455 square yards, all comprised in the lease. Had this ground been in the Duke's control as vacant land when the lessees applied for an extended term, I believe I could have let it at 2s. 6d. per yard, or £306 17s. 6d. per annum, irrespective of any buildings thereon; whereas I offered a renewal lease of 2,100 square yards, with a right of road over adjoining land, for 50 years, at a rent of £100.' He thought that this evidence, at all events, gave a different complexion to the cases referred to in the House. With regard to the Bill itself, there were a good many objections to the different clauses. His hon. Friend the Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul) had called attention to the fact that there was no definition of a religious body. There was no definition of a place of worship. It was a very easy thing to obtain registration as a Religious Body, and all sorts of curious places were used by different sects as places of worship. According to a Registrar General's list, the certified places included a subscription reading-room, a loft, railway arches, a club room, a cottage, a "Noah's Ark," a Royal Amphitheatre, and a Gladstone Music Hall. As had already been pointed out, he believed, there ought to be some stipulation in the Bill with regard to the number of members which might be regarded as sufficient to constitute a religious body. It seemed to him ridiculous that half-a-dozen members should club together and so effect enfranchisement under the Bill. There ought also, he thought, to be a certain number of years in the lease to run. Mr. Lawson, in his Leasehold Enfranchisement Bill, proposed that a tenant who held a lease with 20 years to run should be at liberty to obtain enfranchisement. He could conceive a landlord making provision for the falling in a lease so that when it fell in the whole of the property might be dealt with in a large-handed manner. Supposing there had been a chapel standing at the corner of Charles Street, Berkeley Square, where a noble Duke had lately been making some great improvements, how could he have dealt with the property in a large-handed way? How could he have pulled down the old buildings in order to rebuild with all the modern improvements and widened streets? Objection had also been taken to the Bill with regard to its provisions on the subject of under-leases. The Bill would enable any lessee to expropriate the freeholder by subletting the property to the trustees of any Religious Body. The Town Holdings Committee never contemplated such a thing as that. In their Report they said that with regard to enfranchisement any such powers must "in fairness" be coupled with provisions— To secure the reversioner both the value of his property and compensation for injury he may sustain by its being taken from him, and the expenses which he may necessarily incur. The Committee's recommendation with regard to places of worship referred only to cases in which "land has been granted on lease by, the freeholder." He was afraid that when one of these estates was converted there would be some difficulty with regard to the convenants. This difficulty was suggested before the Town Holdings Committee. Mr. Parry, one of the Welsh witnesses, was questioned by Mr. Heath with regard to sanitary covenants (Questions 6299—6301). The witness said— I was asked whether certain improvements which had been carried out at Llandudno were carried out by the landlord or at the expense of the ratepayers, and I said at the expense of the ratepayers. Q. Mr. Lawson asked you a question as to the sanitary condition, and you said that under the new leases the sanitary covenants were carried out, but under the old leases there had been some difficulty?—A. I referred to Bethesda then. I referred to my own district, not to Llandudno. Q. Why were these sanitary covenants not carried out under the old leases?—A. Because the leases in a great number of cases then were drawn out by illiterate men—simply a rough paper with no proper conditions whatever that the landlord could take advantage of to compel them. Q. He could not enforce them?—A. That is so. It appeared to him that if these places were enfranchised at the present time, and the old covenants still held good— freehold being then subject to covenants —it would be found that some of the old conditions would not promote the well-being, and particularly the sanitary well-being, of certain districts. It seemed to him, also, that if the House were going to enable the trustees of Religious Bodies to go to the landlord and compel him to let them have a freehold, it would not be unreasonable to insert in the Bill a provision arranging, conversely, that the landlord should be able to go to a Religious Body and compel it to enfranchise the site of its chapel or meeting house. He did not think that what was sauce for the goose should not also be sauce for the gander. It had been said by several of the witnesses examined before the Town Holdings Committee that the payment of rent for these sites was a stigma upon religion. He could never understand it himself, and he used to say to the witnesses—" In churches we pay pew rents, and we don't consider it a stigma upon religion." He did not consider the payment of rents was a stigma upon religion any more than the payment of pew rents or payment to a collection. Then there was the question of mortgages, with regard to which he saw many difficulties that would arise under the Bill. A large sum of money was at the present time invested by Assurance Societies in the security of these buildings. According to the Report of the Star Life Assurance Society for 1892 the total sum then outstanding of the money advanced by that Society to different Religious Bodies—Wesleyau Methodist, Methodist, Congregational, and Baptist —was £205,000. Interest was paid by these Religious Bodies in respect to these mortgages, and he did not see how the payment of rent could be a stigma upon religion any more than the payment of that interest to the Assurance Societies or the payment of a lump sum. He was in favour of legislation for the enfranchisement of these places of worship, and he had always said so, and the only difference of opinion between him and the promoters of the Bill was as to the means for effecting the object proposed by the Bill. It seemed to him to be a sensible suggestion that the Bill should be made to form a part of the Welsh Suspensory Bill which would be before the House in a few days, or, as it dealt with a subsidiary question, it might very well be postponed until the big question of the Disestablishment of the Church in England and Wales was decided. Whatever happened, he hoped that the Bill would not be referred to a Standing Committee, because if it were referred to a Standing Committee, they would not be able to discuss the details of the Bill, as they would otherwise be—in fact, the Committee stage of the House would be avoided, and hon. Members would not have sufficient opportunity for enforcing their opinions on the Bill. He should say candidly that he considered the Bill was to some extent part of a larger scheme of legislation. The questions it raised were of a social and a socialistic character. It was the first step towards that absolute leasehold enfranchisement, which hon. Members who promoted the Bill had so keenly at heart. But he had the deepest sympathy with Dissenters; he had helped Dissenters in every possible way in his own constituency, and as a Member of the Select Committee on Town Holdings, which bad unanimously recommended the object contended for in the Bill, he gave his support to the Second Reading of the Bill, though he did not pledge himself to the action he would take when it passe into the Committee.

SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

pointed out that, with very few exceptions, every Member who had tried to pick holes in the Bill had ended his speech by declaring himself in its favour. He had only one objection to the Bill, and that was that it did not go far enough. Twenty-three years ago he had had the honour of bringing before the House, and carrying through Second Reading, a Bill much more elastic in character than the present Bill, for it proposed to give power to the trustees of Religious Bodies in every case to acquire land for their purposes. The present Bill merely dealt with land already devoted to religious purposes, and it came before the House backed by an amount of authority such as few Bills rarely possessed. It had not only got in its favour the unanimous finding of the Town Holdings Committee, but in the last Parliament, which was very much less Liberal than this, its Second Reading was carried by an overwhelming majority —a majority absolutely of two to one. The hon. Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul), who had moved the rejection of the Bill, had made for a Nonconformist a most extraordinary speech. The hon. Member had said that it was not desirable to encourage the creation of weak religious bodies. But all the strong religious bodies now in existence were weak once, and surely the weak religious bodies were the bodies they should endeavour to protect. Why, some 1850 years ago there was a weak religious body which numbered not much more than 12 persons, and he wondered what would have become of the world if that weak religious body had not been allowed to meet in that Upper Chamber in Jerusalem. The hon. Member seemed also to have forgotten the saying of Scripture, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." Another objection to the Bill was that it practically established and endowed the Nonconformist Bodies. But were they to be told that it was endowing the religious bodies to enable them to buy land with their own money. The use of such an argument was really trifling with the time of the House. The other objections which had been raised did not affect the principle of the Bill—they dealt merely with its details. It had been said that there was no definition of "religious bodies" in the Bill. Why should such a definition be inserted when it was not required? He believed they already had a judicial decision as to the meaning of a "religious body," and if they had not it was easy for the Judges to give such a decision. However, the phrases "religious body" and "religious worship" had been introduced over and over again into Acts of Parliament. They were contained in the Burials Act, which he had carried through the House. It had been said that no case had been made out for the Bill. Half a dozen cases had been made out. The House should remember that it was not easy for religious bodies so circumstanced to make out cases, and it was not always advisable to instance facts which might provoke retaliation on the part of those whose conduct was called into question. If the landlords were generous, if they recognised that property had its duties as well as its rights, they would not be touched by the Bill, but if on the other hand they were selfish or cantankerous a Bill of this kind was wanted to bring them to their senses.


said he desired to speak with the greatest respect of the Nonconformist Bodies of the country, and he wished as strongly as any Member of the House that they should have full opportunity of pursuing the worship of God according to their own consciences. But he ventured to remind the House that no argument worthy of mention had been brought forward in favour of the Bill. Even the Home Secretary had said nothing in favour of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that the Courts of Law would have no difficulty in interpreting the clauses of the Bill, and such an assertion, in face of the difficulties put forward by the hon. and learned Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul), was perfectly absurd. He did not feel he could trust the Home Secretary as one competent to discuss the questions, for the right hon. Gentle man had actually asserted that the voluntary schools were built and maintained out of the National funds. If the right hon. Gentleman did not know that nearly all the voluntary schools were built by private funds, he was not competent to discuss these questions in the House. What were the arguments put forth in support of the Bill? It had been said that the Church possessed the compulsory powers granted in the Bill. Would it be believed that these compulsory powers had never been put into operation in recent years—if they had ever been put into operation at all — and the attempts which had been made by his hon. Friends, time after time, to repeal these powers had been defeated by hon. Gentlemen from Wales. The hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan (Mr. S. Evans) had cited a case in which the trustees of a chapel had received notice to quit in the middle of the term of a 99 years' lease. Was that possible? Could the covenants of the lease have been broken in that fashion?


said that the lady who granted the lease found, afterwards, that she had not power to grant it.


asked was the time of the House to be taken up with such cases? Here was an illegal lease granted by a lady who had no power to grant it, and yet it was put forward by the hon. Member as a reason for passing the Bill. Another case cited was that of a chapel in the City of London. The land on which the chapel was built had become very valuable at the end of the lease; an increased rent was asked by the landlord, but the trustees found themselves unable to pay it. But that difficulty would arise under the Bill if passed, and under any other Bill. Another case put forward was that of a Wesleyan chapel which was built under certain covenants and were very restrictive. But why did the trustees agree to these covenants? The trustees must have known very well that by accepting the lease they were bound by the covenants, and having agreed to them did not see why the trustees should now come to Parliament for relief. How would the Bill meet the difficulty of under-leasing? —the difficulty in the case of land which had been originally leased by the landlord to a private person and under-let by that person to a religious body? Would it be fair in a case of that kind that the landlord should be deprived of the possession of this land altogether? Then there was the question of a change of denomination. A landlord might have let his land for the erection of a chapel of a certain denomination. But if that denomina- tion changed its views, or parted with its interest in the chapel, what power of restraint had the landlord under the Bill? Then there was the question of the difficulty of defining of what a Religious Body was. He had had something to do with the preparation of a Bill for the removal of the necessity for the presence of a registrar in Nonconformist chapels on the occasions of marriages, and the great difficulty experienced was the difficulty of defining what a religious body was.


, said that had not been the difficulty. The difficulty was found in confining the operation of the Act within certain well defined limits.


said that might have been so. However, on the general principle of the Bill, the objection he ventured to raise was an objection to the proposed meddling with contracts which had already been freely entered into by persons capable of knowing what they were doing. It was impossible to dissociate the Bill from other Bills for leasehold enfranchisement which had been submitted to the House. There was a well-defined purpose on the part of certain Members of the House to give power to leaseholders to enfranchise their leases. It appeared to him that that would be most demoralising in its effect, and he hoped the House would never give it its sanction. He recognised that there was a difficulty to be met, or that there might be a difficulty to be met. If hon. Gentlemen could prove that Nonconformists had great difficulty in acquiring places for their religious services a case would have been made out for relief, but he thought the relief should not take the shape of the present Bill. He would prefer to see what some people looked upon as a more stringent measure— namely, a Bill which would provide for the enforced sale of land under certain conditions to religious bodies. Such a Bill would, he thought, be more moral and more satisfactory than the Bill under discussion. He would not give power to any private body to go to a landlord, and say "give me your land at a certain figure?" But it was worth consideration whether it would not be possible for a Nonconformist Body which could prove to some public authorities that it was a bonâ fide religious body, and that it had a considerable number of adherents in the locality, to obtain absolute power to procure the land it wanted for the purposes of building. That seemed to him to be the only way out of the difficulty. But no public authority of any kind intervened under the present Bill, and it was the first time in Parliamentary legislation that it was proposed that a man's land should be taken from him simply by the wish of some private individual or private corporation.

An hon. MEMBER: "Railways."


said the Railway Companies had to come to Parliament for powers to take laud, and if a Nonconformist Body came before Parliament and proved it required land for a chapel he was sure Parliament would give them relief. It appeared to him that it was necessary for the protection of the rights of private individuals that some public authority should intervene, and perhaps some scheme might be devised by which some public department could in bonâ fide cases of religious bodies requiring land give powers for the compulsory acquisition of the land without such bodies having to undergo the enormous expense of pushing a Bill through Parliament. He was sure that would be a far more complete and a far juster measure than the present Bill, which proposed the breaking of contracts voluntarily entered into merely for the benefit of one party in the contract.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put the Question.

MR. J. E. W. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)

said he was strongly in favour of the Bill in its present form. In taking up that position he had not been in the least influenced by the number of cases of hardship which had been cited by hon. Members who spoke in support of the Bill. These things might happen under any conditions. He went on a wider and a broader principle—namely, that it was desirable, in the interest of religious bodies and in the interest of the community, that churches and chapels should be freehold and not leasehold. They all knew, that not only in the Church of England, but in the various Protestant denominations the chapel was the centre of the social and religious life of every district; it was the place on which the members of the congregations liked to spend their money and to decorate and beautify it, but their interest in the building was not so keen if the site was leasehold, and subject to the restrictions to which all leasehold property was subject. It would be a great outrage on such religious communities if they were at the end of a lease compelled either to part with their chapel altogether or make fresh terms with the landlord. An objection had been raised to the Bill that it did not provide for the absolute freehold, but merely gave perpetuity leases. But that was a mistake. The Bill provided for a perpetual rent charge, which was the ordinary tenure on which land was held in Lancashire. They were free from all covenants, and so long as they paid the rent charge they had what was equal to the freehold of the land. That was the sort of tenure proposed by the Bill, and it was one there was no difficulty whatever in creating. Something had been said, too, about this Bill being confiscation. But surely if the full price of the day was paid to the landlord for his land, which he had already parted with, it would not be confiscation. There would be no difficulty in ascertaining in the County Court what the land was worth, and in fixing the price to be paid by way of a perpetual rent annuity. It was done every day, and he did not see where the injustice came in in taking the land from the landlord when he was paid the full price for it. Complaint had been made that the Bill contained no definition of a religious body. The promoters of the Bill would have been very unwise if they bad attempted any such definition. No definition of a religious body could be given without too much being included or too much being excluded. The Bill defined "a place of worship" as meaning "any church, chapel, or meeting-house belonging to, or held in trust for, a religious body, for the purpose of and used by such religious body for religious worship." That seemed to him to answer all the objections raised on that point, for any lawyer exercising common-sense would have no doubt whatever that that meant a building wholly devoted to religious worship by a religious body holding it according to trust. Then with regard to sub-tenants and sub-leases, everybody knew that no sub-lease could be made if the original lessor put a covenant in the agreement against it, and no landlord had a right to complain of the granting of such leases if he had not inserted in his original lease a proviso prohibiting them from being granted. There was one remark of the Home Secretary with which he did not agree. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to convey that this Bill did not confer a privilege on religious bodies and was not an endowment of religious bodies. Undoubtedly to allow these religious bodies to come into the possession of the sites of their chapels compulsorily was, so far, giving them a privilege. But it was a privilege the House gladly gave them. He had endeavoured to show that this Bill ought to pass in the interest of the religious bodies themselves. He might go on another ground, that it was the interest of the Church of England to which he belonged. The interest of the Church of England was founded upon doing away with all those inequalities which created irritation in the minds of Nonconformists. He had always thought it was the interest of the Church that every possible privilege should be granted to these religious bodies. He viewed the privilege contained in the Bill as one of them, and he gave that privilege very freely indeed, because it tended to promote good feeling between the different religious forces of the country and to promote that religious peace which more than anything else was the foundation of our prosperity.


said the Bill was backed by hon. Members from Wales, and one could not help feeling how refreshing it was to find among these hon. Gentlemen the spirit of establishing and endowing Churches, especially in these days of rumours of the disestablishment and the disendowment of the most powerful religious body in the country. He was a Churchman, but he was on terms of great friendship with many Nonconformists. He knew nothing about the landlords of Wales, but he did know something about the landlords of England, and in his part of England it was not an uncommon thing, if the Nonconformists wanted land for their chapels, for the landlords to give them that land without charging them anything for it. It struck him that if the sites of chapels were given in this way, the temptation not to pay rent—as the payment of rent was a slur on religion, so one hon. Member had said—would be avoided. That convenient article of faith—that no rent should be paid—which had come from Ireland, had not perhaps at the present time advanced further than Wales; but if, as in the case of a number of agricultural districts with which he was acquainted, sites for Nonconformist chapels were given for nothing, the temptation of not paying rent would be avoided. In connection with this question, there were two modes of letting; there was first the building lease. He was strongly in favour of Nonconformist religious bodies —he should like to add Christian religious bodies, so as to exclude Buddhists and Mohammedans—having the privilege of compulsorily enfranchising the sites of their chapels; but it was only right to claim for the landlord the same right of compelling religious bodies to enfranchise if he wished to do so. If there was to be coercion and compulsory powers let the coercion and compulsory powers apply to both sides. But there were other forms of letting; there were cases where a landlord leased a house or other building as a chapel. He knew a case in which the landowner granted a building lease, and a house was built in connection with a large and well-known school in the West of England. That house was built as a house for boarding scholars attending that school, but the lease was ultimately sold to another body—an alien and foreign body—which happened to be a Roman Catholic body. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He was not ashamed to call them so; therefore if they gave the right of enfranchisement they should give security, so as to prevent the introduction of bodies of that kind, against the wishes of the landlord and the wishes of the people, in a thoroughly Protestant district. That was one case he would not like to see coming under this Bill. He would like to suggest that there should be an appeal on the part of the landowner to some public body, as to whether the case for enfranchisement was a complete case or not. He thought the vast majority of landowners were perfectly ready to afford every facility they possibly could to people to carry on their Christian worship in the way they liked best. That being so he was not opposed to the Bill, and would not vote against it.


said he had supported the Bill two years ago, and he would support it now again for the reason that he believed it to be a conservative measure. The increase of freeholders would add to the stability of the State. In Ireland they had done away with dual ownership, and freeholders had been created there by public money; and surely they should encourage in England persons to become freeholders who desired to become freeholders out of funds contributed by themselves. He knew what harm could be done a Bill by hon. Members speaking even in its support, and delaying the Question being put; therefore for the purpose of setting a good example he would leave out all the rest of his remarks.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, E.)

expressed his entire sympathy with the Bill now before the House. He wished to dissociate himself altogether from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul), who represented the constituency in which he lived. He had voted for the hon. Member, but on this occasion they took different sides. He hoped the House would speedily pass this Bill into law, and he desired in the name of the Nonconformists of Ulster to express his sympathy with the Nonconformists of England and Wales, although be was a member of the Synod of the Church of Ireland, and not a Nonconformist. He hoped, in the name of civil and religious liberty, that this Bill would pass.

MR. J. CUMMING MACDONA (Rotherhithe, Southwark)

said, that as one of the few Members of the House who had for some years occupied the honoured position of a clergyman of the Church of England, and speaking for the first time in the House of Commons, he was glad to support the principle of this Bill. He believed it was one of justice to the Nonconformists, and as such it would have his earnest support.

MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

said, that in the discussions which took place on the Bill two years ago, he had pointed out that he would be happy to support it if it contained a reverter clause, and a promise was given that such a clause would be put into the Bill when it came again before the House. He now found, however, that no reverter clause was in the Bill. He was one of those who felt that sites required for religious purposes should be granted at the smallest possible rent. In fact, he had granted sites on such terms on a great many occasions, and only very recently he granted two-sites for religious purposes at the nominal rent of five shillings per annum. In one of these cases the congregation grew so large that an application was made for another site to build a chapel of much larger dimensions. He naturally thought that the old site would be handed over in consideration of the new site, but that was not so, for another application was made that the old site should be retained for the building of a row of cottages. In common fairness he hoped that the promoters of the Bill would insert in it a reverter clause, in order to safeguard the interests of property holders in cases such as that he had mentioned. Properties in Wales were honeycombed with places of worship — he knew one property which had hundreds of those chapels—and he thought the owners of these properties should be protected by a reverter clause, providing that the land should go back again to its owners when it ceased to be used for religious purposes. There was another matter that he wished to call attention to. In the East End of London it was a common practice to use Nonconformist chapels for political meetings. He thought there should be a clause in the Bill to prevent that. However, he did not intend to vote against the Bill, because he thought it was a proper Bill, but he hoped its promoters would give him some assurance that a reverter clause would be inserted in it.

An hon. MEMBER: It is in the Bill.

Main Question put, and agreed to.


moved that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Courts of Justice and Legal Procedure.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c.