* MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has seen in The Congregationalist Visitor for June a statement that a parishioner of the parish of Downall Green, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, having lost his wife, applied to the rector for a grave in the parish churchyard. 1658Before entertaining the application, the rector wanted to know whether it was intended to use the Church of England Burial Service. On being told that the Burial Service would take place with Nonconformist rites, he declared that he would only let the applicant have a common grave; protest and remonstrance being useless, the interment accordingly took place in a common grave.And whether he will inquire into the facts of the case; and, if the statement is found to be correct, take steps to prevent the parishioners of Downall Green being deterred from availing themselves of the right secured to them by the Burial Act of 1880?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I have applied to the rector of the parish in question for an explanation of the circumstances referred to. He informs me that in all cases the rights and privileges secured to Nonconformists by the Burial Act of 1880 are willingly granted. That, with regard to the particular interment referred to, he was properly served with notice under the Act of the intended funeral, to which he assented. That there are no common graves in the churchyard, as meaning inferior, either in position, quality, or costs, but that all are alike. He further states that the Act of 1880 reserved all the existing rights of incumbents, and, amongst others, his right to select the part of the churchyard in which any corpse is to be interred. This is the statement made to me by the incumbent, and assented to by the churchwardens. I have no means of ascertaining authoritatively which view of the facts is correct; and the question of law between the complainant and the incumbent is one which I have no jurisdiction to determine.
* MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the rector has publicly announced that he has a right to refuse private graves to all but members of his own congregation; and, if so, is he acting in accordance with the law?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I am not aware of the fact; and it is a question over which I have no jurisdiction; but anyone aggrieved by the conduct of the rector may take legal proceedings and have the question decided.