§ "(1) Subject to the charges and incumbrances and interests saved by this Act, the Welsh Commissioners shall, save as otherwise provided by this Act, by order vest the property transferred to them by this Act, as follows:—
- (a) They shall, on the request of the representative body, vest in that body all
1396 churches, not being cathedral churches, and all parsonage houses;
- (b) They shall vest the burial ground and glebe of any ecclesiastical parish—
- (i.) in the case of a rural parish, in the parish council of the parish, or, if there is no parish council, in the chairman and overseers of the parish; and—
- (ii.) in any other case, in the council of any county borough or urban district comprising the parish;
§ Provided that where the ecclesiastical parish comprises parts of more than one parish for civil purposes the property shall be vested, as the Welsh Commissioners may direct, in some one or more of the said councils or bodies, or in trustees on behalf of those councils and bodies jointly;
§ (c) They shall vest any tithe rent-charge in the county council of the county in which the land out of which the tithe rent-charge issues is situate.
§ (2) Every church, parsonage house, burial ground, and glebe vested under this section shall be held subject to all existing public and private rights with respect thereto."
§ *MR. DAVID THOMAS (Merthyr Tydfil) moved an Amendment providing that, subject to the charges and incumbrances and interests saved by the Act, the Welsh Commissioners shall, save as otherwise provided by this Act, by order vest the property transferred to them by the Act, "whether such property is attached to a parochial benefice or not, in the Welsh Council hereafter mentioned." By this Amendment he proposed that all the temporalities of the Church, whether now attached to benefices or going to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, should be vested in this national council. He did not propose that churches and burial grounds should be vested in the council, which, in his judgment, should be a council or committee selected or appointed by the Welsh County Councils now existing. He trusted that the Home Secretary would tell the Committee on what principle he proposed that certain funds should go back to the particular parishes from which they were derived and other portions of the Church temporalities should go to form a separate fund.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
said, it was obvious that the point raised by the Amendment was a totally different one 1397 from the one they were discussing the other night, and it was whether the central body in which property was to be vested should be a Welsh Council or the proposed Commissioners. The hon. Member proposed, with a certain amount of vagueness, that a certain indefinite amount of property, which was to be the subject of Disendowment, was to be vested in this General Council. The proposal of the Bill was that, leaving out of consideration that particular property which was handed over to the representative body, the glebes and the churchyards should be vested in the Parish Councils, and that the tithe rent-charge should be vested in the County Councils. The hon. Member asked what was the principle upon which the Government had gone. The answer was, that the property should as far as possible be applied and enjoyed in the localities from which it was derived. Glebes and burial grounds were vested in Parish Councils. Tithe rent-charge stood on a somewhat different footing; it arose parochially, and it ought, subject to certain limitations and to certain elasticity of treatment, to be applied locally; but it would be extremely inconvenient to vest tithe rent-charge in the various Parish Councils. The body in which tithe rent-charge was vested would have to collect it, and to see that effectual means were employed for collecting it; and it would add enormously to the cumbrousness and expense of that process if the tithe rent-charge in each parish were to be vested in the Parish Council. It would be far better, as far as the work of collection was concerned, that it should be in the hands of a body like the County Council. When they came to the application of it, dealt with by Section 9, other considerations arose, and it might be necessary to safeguard the interests of particular parishes. This was the principle on which the Bill was framed. He did not see any advantage in the proposal of the Amendment that the tithe rent-charge should be vested in, and the collection intrusted to, a Committee representative of the County Council. Were the funds to be applied for the benefit of Wales at large? The view of the Government was, that the application of the money should be as far as possible local; but whatever view was taken of the limitation or extension of the enjoyment 1398 of the funds, the hon. Member would see that he gained no advantage of administration by vesting them in a separate Committee instead of leaving them in the hands of councils with local knowledge and experience. There was not really any great difference of principle between them at that stage of the Bill, though it might arise hereafter. It was simply a question of collection and administration, and from that point of view he preferred, for the reasons he had given, the arrangement proposed by the Bill. He therefore trusted the hon. Member would withdraw, and raise the point at a later stage of the Bill.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, the question raised by the hon. Member was one of considerable importance, on which he had already addressed the Committee. If the Amendment were adopted, the first part of the clause would read as follows:—Subject to the charges and incumbrances and interests saved by this Act, the Welsh Commissioners shall, save as otherwise provided by this Act, by order vest the property transferred to them by this Act, whether such property is attached to a parochial benefice or not, in the Welsh Council hereafter mentioned.He understood the hon. Member had stated that it was his intention that the clause so amended should not vest the churches, parsonages, or burial grounds in the Welsh Council he proposed to institute. [Mr. ASQUITH: "Or the glebe land, so he said."] So far as churches and parsonages, glebes and burial grounds were concerned, they would be left to be dealt with in the saving sub-section of the clause; and the Opposition would do their best to secure that these portions of the property of the Church should be vested in the Church Representative Body. The Amendment referred, as he understood, to tithe rent-charge. There were, of course, very wide differences of opinion in the House upon this subject. On the Paper there were notices of Amendments which proposed to vest, not only glebes as proposed by the Government, but also tithe rent-charge in the Parish Councils; and these Amendments were put down by hon. Members who supported Her Majesty's Government. He did not know that he quite agreed with one objection the Home Secretary had made to vesting tithe rent-charge in the Parish Councils. If they had it they 1399 would be far more particular about the collection than the County Councils or the General Council of Wales could possibly be. But he sympathised with the general objection of the right hon Gentleman to vesting the tithe rent-charge in the Parish Councils, because no more wasteful system could be devised with regard to the future application of the tithe rent-charge than applying it to purely local purposes affecting parishes. A return presented last Session, on the Motion of the hon. Member himself, showed that some parishes were poor and others rich in tithe by no means in proportion to their population or necessities. He was not now dealing with any question as between the Church and what was called the nation. He was assuming that, for the purpose of this discussion, the principle of Her Majesty's Government was accepted, and that the Church was to be unjustly deprived of glebe and tithe rent-charge. If that was to be so he preferred, so far as tithe rent-charge was concerned, the plan of the hon. Member to the scheme of the Bill. With regard to glebes, in some cases there might be very little glebe, or a small portion of glebe which might not be considered at all too much to endow a parish with for such purpose as were mentioned in the schedule. There were other cases where the glebe was the main source of revenue of the incumbent of the parish. It would be found in many cases with regard to glebe as with regard to tithe rent-charge, that those parishes were best off which contained the smallest population, and that those with lesser needs were better endowed. The Bill, proposed, as he understood, in all cases to devote glebes to parishes and to vest them in the Parish Councils; and this applied to the few cases in which parishes had glebes situated in other parishes, so that a glebe belonging to a Welsh living but situated in England would be handed over to a Welsh Parish Council. This would be thought very hard by the English parish. The hon. Member sought to hand over, not only the tithe rent-charge, but also the glebes to the central Council that they might be devoted to a central fund applicable to the general benefit, of all Wales. That, as already stated, was the scheme of the Irish Church Act; and he had ventured to assert over and 1400 over again that it was a wiser and better scheme in every way than that of local appropriation embodied in the Bill. The central fund thus established for Wales would be a fund of considerable importance as compared with the wealth, or perhaps even the needs, of the principality. It was obvious that, if glebes and tithe rent-charge could be put into a central fund, a much better use could be made of the money than would be made of it by having it frittered away in the manner proposed by the Bill. The Home Secretary properly drew a distinction between this Amendment and those on the Paper with regard to the 9th clause, for although they ran on parallel lines, they did not touch the same point. Whether this Amendment was carried or not, the Amendments to the 9th clause would be discussed when they were reached. They were asked what was the use of vesting glebes and tithe rent charge in a central body which would find collection and management much more difficult than local bodies. What he was afraid of was that if these funds were not vested in a central body it would not be able to deal with them at all; certainly, so far as glebes were concerned, it would not be able to get hold of them. Tithe rent-charge was to be applied to certain purposes named in the schedule of the Bill, under schemes to be approved by the County Councils and the Welsh Commissioners, in which primary consideration was to be given to the interests of the parishes from which the tithe rent-charge arises. He had ventured to point out before that it would be impossible in these circumstances for the County Councils to deal with the tithe rent-charge in any general way, by any provisions applicable to a whole county, or even to more than a single parish. The life interests of incumbents were respected, and tithe rent-charge in each parish could be diverted from this purpose only when those life interests expired. The tithe rent-charge of one parish might fall in immediately after the passing of the Bill, of another in 20 years and another in 50 years; the County Council could deal with each only as it fell in; and therefore it could only make schemes applicable to single parishes. He wished the Home Secretary had looked at the 1401 matter from the point of view of the Irish Church Act, and had vested the funds in the Commissioners, to be retained by them permanently until devoted to the purposes to which they were to be applied. Thus the surplus, whatever it might be, would be applied more usefully to the permanent good of Wales than it could be under the provisions of the Bill. It would be impossible to do justice to the incumbents and curates of the Welsh Church except by some such system as was embodied in the Irish Church Act. He had himself proposed an Amendment with this object which, unfortunately, was not discussed at any great length and was negatived on a Division. He was quite aware that the proposal before the Committee did not go as far as he could wish; but it went in the right direction; and if the hon. Member took the sense of the Committee on this Amendment he should support it,
§ MR. GEORGE WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, there was a profound difference between the Mover of the Amendment and the Government. The Amendment would hand over property of the Church to a central body for national objects; but the Bill provided a most ingenious and diversified scheme for dissipating the property of the Church. Under four sets of provisions it was to be handed over to four bodies—cathedrals to one, churches to another, tithe rent-charge to county councils unfettered by any control or advice, and burial grounds and glebes to parish and borough councils. The plea of the Government was, that by these different methods of appropriation they were avoiding waste. It was difficult to know what the Home Secretary considered a question of principle, because his argument had just been that as far as possible the property should be enjoyed in the place from which it was derived, and yesterday he opposed that doctrine when the property was derived from places in England—while both positions were inconsistent with the attitude he took up on the Second Reading. He then argued that the property of the Church was national property which he had a right to divert because it was no longer applied to objects dear to the heart of the Welsh people. The Church was 1402 once a national object. The Government propounded the doctrine of embryonic descent within the womb of the Church, and they said, because the descendants of certain Churchmen centuries ago turned out to belong to other denominations, therefore the property of the Church could no longer belong to it. If it were fair to divert property from the Church because descendants of Churchmen left the Anglican Communion, it was not reasonable to suppose that their ancestors, if they could have foreseen the needs of modern civilisation, would have favoured the appropriation of it to the objects mentioned in the schedule. The Government laid great stress upon inequality in the distribution of the property of the Church; but in diverting it to secular purposes they took no pains to avoid inequalities, for their scheme would leave inequalities that were glaring and indefensible, for counties with large populations and needs would receive little, and counties with sparse populations would retain a disproportionate share of the wealth of the Church.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, that the Committee had not yet been told how the Council was to be composed, and until they knew that, they could not usefully discuss the proposal contained in the Amendment. Were they, by a stroke of the pen, to vest all this property in an unknown body?
§ *MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, that he supported the Amendment, but on different grounds from those put forward by its hon. Mover. He cared very little what was the ultimate destination of the plunder, but he did care very much about the condition of things during the intermediate period. He thought that if the Amendment were adopted, it would save much friction during the period in which existing interests would be falling in.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for East Denbighshire (Sir G. Osborne Morgan), had said that he did not understand the Amendment, but it was quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman did not understand the Bill, because he had said that if funds arose out of property in certain localities they ought to be appropriated to those localities, whereas the provisions 1403 of the Bill were of a totally different character. Under those provisions, such funds were to be vested—not in the parish council in which the property out of which they arose was situated, but in the council of the parish to which the property was now attached. For his own part, he did not care very much where the funds went to. He was in the position of a man who was being robbed, and who did not care much how the plunder was distributed. He therefore did not think it of much importance whether the funds were handed over to the local bodies or to a central body, but it appeared to him, looking at the matter from an independent point of view, that it was better that the scheme of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil should be adopted rather than that put forward in the Bill. After the Bill became law, the church bodies would have to deal with the persons who collected the tithe, and it appeared to him that it would be better for the church bodies to have to deal with a central body rather than with a great number of local bodies, which they would have to do if the Bill passed in its present form. If Disestablishment and Disendowment were to be carried out, they ought to stand upon their own merits, and he objected strongly to any proposal that was intended to make them more palatable by means of a local bribe. Why were the local population to have the wicked inducement held out to them that if they could only get rid of the Church and of the clergyman they would have so much more money which they could apply to local expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had said the Committee could deal with this question far better when they came to discuss Clause 9. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be necessary to discuss this subject when they came to deal with the question of the allocation of the property, but what was the use of vesting the property in the local bodies if they were not to have the control of it? If the central body were to have the control of it why vest the property in the parish councils. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had departed from the principle which had been adopted in the case of the Irish Church Act, and instead of vesting the property in the 1404 central body had proposed to vest it in the various local bodies. The right hon. Gentleman said that he preferred local to central control, because under the latter the property of the Irish Church had been squandered and frittered away. But did the Committee believe that the parish councils, or the parish meetings, or the county councils, would be less likely to squander or fritter the property of the Welsh Church away than a central body would be? The property of the Irish Church had been expended in establishing a large University in Dublin, in relieving the congested districts, which were a great national sore, and for various other purposes of a good, useful, and national character. But what would happen under the provisions of this Bill. He submitted that under those provisions a very large amount of the corpus of that property would disappear altogether. Let them take the case of the tithe, for instance. They were told that henceforth the County Council were to become the tithe collectors, but he was afraid that the county councils would neglect their duty in that matter. Those who objected to the tithe did not do so because they objected to the present application of the tithe, but because they did not want to pay it at all. The County Councils, under the provisions of this Bill, would have for some years to collect tithe, which would be applicable— not to secular purposes, but to its present purpose, and in all probability a large portion of the tithe would remain uncollected, and would be lost. The same thing would happen with regard to the glebe. There was another point which had been already alluded to by the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition on the Second Reading of the Bill. The contention of hon. Members below the Gangway, he understood, was that this money was national property, and should be devoted to national purposes. But if the plan proposed by the Government were adopted the largest and most populous counties would not get the fair share which their importance warranted. The county of Glamorgan had a population of 700,000, and would have tithes of the value of £16,000 a year vested in the Glamorgan County Council; whereas Anglesey had a population of 35,000, and would have 1405 £12,000 a year vested in its County Council. Was it for a moment supposed that these County Councils would take the trouble to collect the tithes if they were not going to use them? The town of Swansea had a population of 43,000, and would get £142 a year, while a little village in Carnarvonshire with a small population would get £250 a year. All these glaring inequalities would be removed by the Amendment, which he should vote for if his hon. Friend divided the Committee upon it.
§ *MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
thought there was some confusion in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, from the fact that they devoted their arguments exclusively to the distribution of the fund, and not to the contribution of the fund. The hon. Member who had just sat down spoke as if tithes fell down like manna from above in Wales, and that everyone had scram bled for them and hence the inequalities. The tithes of each parish were paid by the parish, and from time immemorial they had belonged to the parish, and if the Amendment were accepted it would have the effect not only of disendowing the Church, but the parish also. The tithes were granted to the Church when it was as wide as the parish. It was because the Church had now become narrower than the parish that it had lost its claim to the property which belonged to the parish. No parish would get anything beyond what it had now. With regard to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bristol, the very object the Government had in view was to avoid the scheme of the Irish Bill; no more dreadful blow had been struck at Ireland than the unfortunate treatment that country received in the Disestablishment Bill of 1869. A property of no less than £800,000 a year before that date had belonged to the localities in Ireland from time immemorial; the unfortunate localities still paid the tithe, but they had not the slightest control over it and received little or no benefit from them at all. He deplored the fact that there had never been an inquiry into the effect of the Church Act 1406 in Ireland, In the diocese in which he lived when he was in Ireland the tithe used to amount to no less than £42,000 a year, and it was always spent locally, and great benefits were conferred on the locality by the expenditure of this money. But all this had now been swept away; they had got to pay, but they got no value. He was speaking of Cavan, Fermanagh, and Monaghan, three southern comities of Ulster, a wide district, which would be rich and flourishing in any other country but Ireland. And yet, from 1881 to 1891 these counties had decreased in population by 14 per cant., while the whole of Ireland had only decreased by about 9 per cent. In Ireland since 1869 pauperism had doubled, the rural districts were sinking into decay, lunacy and other forms of affliction were increasing beyond parallel. He attributed these evils in no small degree to the way in which the funds were torn from the localities in the Irish Church Act, taken in connection with similar steps to destroy the public property in rural districts. The needs which such property satisfied had to be met out of taxes and other contributions, and so life became impossible in these poor places. He was very glad that the property was only to fall in bit by bit. This would give time to deal with it, and prevent waste. He hoped that tin; Government would accept an Amendment which he had upon the Paper so as to rivet the property more closely still in the parishes, but that they would steadily resist the suggestion now before them.
*ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said, he had not taken part in the discussion so far, because he looked upon the controversy on the Bill as a sham fight, and he hated sham fights.
said, he objected to Parish Councils dealing with the funds at all. He specially desired to support this Amendment, because he looked upon the Welsh as an eminently religious people, and therefore he hoped a national 1407 body, as the Central Council would be, would be animated by serious views, and would devote the money allocated to them to Christian purposes. He could not understand how hon. Members opposite could support the passing to secular uses of property which had been consecrated for centuries to Christian work alone. The views put forward by the Government were in direct opposition to those of their old and revered Leader the right hon. Member for Midlothian. In connection with the Irish Church Act he laid it down that the money was to be held for national purposes for the good of everybody. He had no sympathy with the idea of allocating the funds of the Church to allotments, small holdings, village libraries, or any other secular purpose. If the views of the present Government were to prevail—God forbid they should!—they ought to follow the precedent set them by their old and venerated Leader and set the liberated funds aside for great national objects, and not for the petty narrow sectarian desires which would prevail in every small parish in Wales. Such desires were less likely to prevail in the large Council which the hon. Member had had the courage to propose. He objected to the Bill in every clause of it, but he felt bound to support the hon. Member's Amendment as the least of the evils which were forced upon them.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
said, it was a remarkable fact, in view of the message of peace which they were told the Irish Church Act was to bring to Ireland, they should have the evidence of a supporter of Her Majesty's Government, who, with special knowledge of Ireland, informed the Committee of the disadvantage which had come to that country owing to the passing of that Act.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
presumed, then, the House was to understand that the allocation of the funds under that Act had "produced lunacy in Ireland beyond human bounds." The hon. Member was quite wrong in his history when he spoke of tithes having been given to parishes. That never occurred on any single occasion in the history either 1408 of Ireland or Wales, and he challenged the hon. Member to cite a case in which tithes were given to parishes. They were given to the church, and not the parish, for the spiritual use of the parish. He agreed with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil—if the money was to be taken away from the Church—that it should belong to the nation as a whole, and not be applied locally. In that way an element of bribery would be removed from local bodies. On all the grounds he felt thoroughly justified in supporting the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, it seemed almost hopeless to expect the Government really to deal seriously with any Amendment, even one coming from their own side. That might be very good tactics in the House, but whether it was good tactics for out-of-doors he very much doubted. This Amendment raised a point of enormous importance, and yet the right hon. Gentleman had really given no answer at all. He would ask the Government and their supporters whether they did not think that the interests of the Church itself ought to be considered. It was perfectly well known that the one mitigation of Disendowment under the Irish Church Act was the vesting of the money in a central body instead of in local bodies, and he hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite who professed so loudly their real love of the Church, would use their influence with the Government to accept this Amendment, coining from their own Benches, and not in an obstructive spirit from the Opposition, and which would at once conciliate a large amount of support in Wales, and give the disestablished and disendowed Church—which they must surely at least pity—an opportunity of starting afresh in the world. The hon. Member for Islington spoke in almost awe-struck tones of the iniquity of disturbing property which had been assigned to localities in the past. This particularity about the sanctity of property was new coming from the Radical Benches, but surely it was extraordinary that this particularity should extend to the locality, and that it should not apply to the object for which the money was consecrated. They heard last night from the President of the Board of Trade that the 1409 sacredness of all property must be determined by a consideration of what were the tendencies of the people to whom the property was assigned at the time of such assignment. If, for instance, they could discover that the persons to whom the property was assigned had at that date already tendencies which were going to develop into Nonconformity it showed, according to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, that the property ought not really to continue to be vested in the Church. But there might have been a Conservative gentleman who, when he had left property in a certain way and among certain people, might not know that such people were tending towards, and would gradually adopt, Liberal opinions. Yet, according to the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, such a tendency would vitiate the gift, and enable it to be taken away and devoted to other purposes. A great deal had been said about the probability of the money being wasted, and such waste appeared to be inevitable. He wondered if hon. Gentlemen had thought of the way that money was being wasted under the Technical Education Act at the present moment? Although that was an Act passed by a Government of which he was an humble supporter, he did not think there ever was a greater waste of public money than the millions which were spent on technical education. He did not object to technical education, but it appeared that when the County Councils were applying the money to this purpose they did not know what to do with it, and in such circumstances waste was inevitable. There was one particular object which he always understood was dear to the heart of the true Radical, and that was the establishment of a great national scheme of sectarian secondary education. But did hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine that money which was going to be subject to schemes by the County Council would ever be available for a great scheme of national secondary education? It would be impossible to have such a great scheme by county; it would have to be arranged nationally. But did the hon. Member for Islington really suppose that County Councils would be sufficiently disinterested and unselfish as to combine with other County Councils to effect this?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, that was a very proper Conservative observation. He was not, however, for the moment discussing the rights of property, but showing the improbability of such a scheme as that of national secondary education being carried out if this money were to be entrusted to County Councils. The hon. Member for Islington said, he did not propose that County Councils should have a finger in the pie, but if County Councils could not agree upon a satisfactory scheme Parish Councils were even less likely to do so, and any scheme of that kind or of any national importance under the hon. Gentleman's proposal would be quite impossible. Disestablishes and Churchmen, who, upon almost every other point, were diametrically opposed to each other, were agreed in the opinion that the most economical use of the money would be secured by vesting it in a central instead of in a local body, and that being the case he could not understand why the Government would not give way.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan) rose in order that he might have an opportunity of expressing in the House his great preference for a central as compared with a number of local funds. He was perfectly certain that the principle of dividing the money into different small sums was unsound. He did not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite who said that the Irish Church Fund had been wasted. To his mind the distribution of the money under the Act of 1869 was the only consoling feature of that enactment. As a friend of education, he rejoiced to see the millions which had been spent in the Royal University of Ireland and in the promotion of national education of an elementary character. There were other modes in which the Irish Church Fund had been distributed which, he believed, had been of benefit and advantage to Ireland. The system adopted by the present Bill would not lead to the same beneficial result, but would, he believed, inevitably lead to waste. The method was one which would cause great delay, which would be attended with 1411 great complexity in the working out of the different schemes, be unequal in its operation, and would, therefore, be likely to lead to great heartburning. There was another difference between the scheme in the Bill as it now stood, and that in the Irish Act. In this Bill the funds were to be distributed locally under local management with a final appeal to Parliament in certain cases, but in the case of the Irish Church Act the whole of the money was placed under the control of Parliament. He believed the mode of distribution provided by the Irish Church Act was far wiser than that proposed by this Bill, and was one which would much better serve the interests of the Principality at large, and prevent that waste of money which they all desired to avoid.
§ *MR. DAVID THOMAS (Merthyr Tydfil)
observed, that he had particularly avoided going into the merits of the question of the allocation of the fund, which would come up more appropriately at a later stage. The right hon. Gentleman had taunted him with standing alone in this matter, but whether that was the case remained to be seen. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that, however many he took with him into the Division Lobby when the 9th Clause came on, he did not stand alone in Wales or in this House on the question of a central fund. He should, he thought, later on, be able to show that the right hon. Member for Midlothian took the same view now on that subject as he did in 1869, arid it would be found that that view was shared by a good many Liberal members if they were allowed to exercise their independent judgment. He should also be able to quote a speech made in Wales only six years ago by the present Leader of the House, in which he most distinctly expressed himself in favour of a central fund. One hon. Member had said it was absolutely necessary that this Amendment should be carried, and the funds vested in a National Council in order that their distribution should be effected without national loss. He did not think this absolutely necessary, but he thought such a thing was desirable; and that was why he moved his Amendment. He thought it was hardly fair for some hon. Members who spoke on 1412 the Opposition side to suggest that the system of allocation adopted by the Government was in the nature of bribery of localities. If those hon. Members would examine the effect which the plan of the Government would have on different Welsh constituencies, they would find that the Divisions which came off the worst were those in which the Liberal majorities were narrowest at the present time. The Home Secretary seemed to have misunderstood the question he had asked as to the principle on which the Government based their scheme of allocation. What he wished to know was why, in some cases, the right hon. Gentleman proposed that the tithe should go back to the particular parish from which it was derived; and why, in the cases of other parishes, he proposed it should go to the central fund. There might be two parishes side by side, in one of which the tithe would go to the central fund, because it was paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and in the other it would go back to that particular parish. The right hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that the tithe was in all cases derived from the particular locality, and it was not the fault of the inhabitants in some parishes that it had been alienated in times past without the consent of the people.
§ MR. ASQUITH
Wherever tithes are at present attached to a particular parochial benefice, our intention is that, so far as possible, they are to continue to be enjoyed by the locality. But tithes in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, a great part of which are at present devoted to purposes that are not parochial, are to go to the central fund.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The question of the hon. Member, and the answer which has been given to it by the Home Secretary, bring out very clearly the anomalies and inconsistencies of the Government position. The answer shows that the Government, in dealing with tithes, have abandoned the principle they have declared over and over again, the principle which has just been proposed by the hon. Member for West Islington, the principle that the parish from which 1413 the money is derived is the parish which is entitled to use the money. I should like to know what the hon. Member for Islington thinks of the answer of the Home Secretary. The hon. Member has come forward as the champion of the Government scheme, and has congratulated the Government on resisting the Amendment of his hon. Friend below him. But the Government do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's plan; they do not hold as he holds, that the parish which produces the money ought to enjoy the money. The Government have an entirely different principle. They now hold, not that tithe is national property, or the property of those who pay them, but they are the property of the parish that now enjoys them; and these, different principles of distribution are brought forward by the Government according to the necessity of their argument. I think the Government ought to lay down some principle to which they adhere. They ought to clear up the doubts which exist not only in our minds, but in the minds of their own followers, as to what has moved them to make this particular distribution of what they sometimes call national property, and sometimes parochial property. I have to admit that there is a certain inconvenience, for which no one is responsible, in raising the question of the central fund on an Amendment which, however decided, cannot bring the question of the central fund to a final issue. As the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment pointed out, whether the Amendment be accepted or whether it be rejected, the real and final decision of the question must of necessity be deferred until the 9th clause. But it is impossible for us altogether to avoid declaring, on this early part of the Bill, that, both as Churchmen and as the trustees of public money devoted to great public objects, which we desire to preserve from being wasted, we are strongly in favour of a central fund. As Churchmen we feel strongly that the position of a clergyman in the possession of those local funds for which his parishioners may be hungrily waiting is intolerable. It is not just either to a parish or to the minister of the parish that he should be put into the invidious position of keeping his parishioners, by the length of time that 1414 they retain life and office, out of the enjoyment of those funds. The hon. Member for Islington told us that those parishes were extremely poor, and that their poverty would probably be largely relieved by the use of this property. If the only thing that stands between these poor parishioners and a state of prosperity is the length of life of the vicar or rector, I ask is that a proper position in which to put that unhappy man? I say it is not just, or fair, or equitable. Certainly it is a melancholy thing to reflect that funds originally bestowed for Christian purposes should, by the use the Government propose to make of them, be provocative of the ill-feeling, bad blood, and want of charity which must inevitably follow on the proposals of the Government. The hon. Member for Islington drew a lurid picture of the evil consequences that followed in Ireland from the system proposed in this Amendment. He said that lunacy, pauperism, and depopulation followed from the establishment in Ireland of a central fund.
§ MR. BALFOUR
But I wish to point out, if the employment of tithe outside the locality which produces it tends to lunacy, pauperisation, and depopulation, that that system is not done away with by the plan of the Government—because, there is a large amount of tithe that will still go to the central body; and Welsh property situated in England is to go to Wales, as I understand the Government plan, even though, I suppose, the English parish from which it goes suffers all the evils of lunacy, pauperism, and depopulation. I expect the hon. Member for Islington will move an Amendment to secure the object he has in view—namely, that the parish shall enjoy all the money it produces.
§ MR. BALFOUR
But if the hon. Member carries his plan, or even if the plan of the Government which he eulogises should come into operation, you will inevitably have side by side parishes, one of which will come into the possession of its funds at once and the other of which will have to wait 10, 1415 20, or 40 years for its property. Can you conceive a greater inequality or anomaly than will be perpetrated by this Bill? And if the hon. Gentleman be right, and the possession of these ecclesiastical funds makes the difference to the parishes between prosperity and pauperism, between lunacy and sanity, between population and depopulation, I ask: What can be the result in a parish which gets nothing at present, will not get anything for 50 years, and when it does will get little? Will there not be discord between the parishes very little conducive to local harmony? Has it not been the settled policy of this House to diminish rather than to increase the anomalies and the inequalities which probably always existed, and have certainly been augmented in the progress of time between one parish and one part of the country and other parishes and other parts of the country, in the matter of ecclesiastical endowments? The equalisation of religious property in England for religious purposes has not been carried as far as it might have been, but a great deal has been done in the right direction. Now that you are deliberately secularising this property you have an opportunity of equalising the benefits derived from it. Is it not folly to throw that opportunity away? Is it not absurd to stereotype for all time a condition of things under which, while Parish A will be able to obtain its public library, its natural history museum, its public baths, and all the other benefits of this Bill, Parish B, next door, similarly situated, with similar wants, and with similar necessities, gets nothing at all at present, and gets hardly anything, it may be, for a couple of generations? Putting aside the religious aspect, I ask hon. Gentlemen from Wales whether they think their own local interests will really be served by a condition of things so obviously unjust and inequitable, and which will be only tolerable to the parishes unprovided for if they see, what I think they will very likely see, that the money does the parishes which are provided for very little good. The parishes which have none of this money to use for secular purposes must feel they are grossly ill-treated by the Government. I see no way out of the dilemma 1416 except a remedy which is even worse than the disease—namely, that the money should not even benefit those parishes which under the Bill, are to be allowed to enjoy it. There is only one other point I wish to refer to. No scheme which involves more than one county, probably no scheme which involves more than one parish, will ever be carried into effect. I do not think there is an absolute legal bar, but there are practical obstacles. There are local jealousies which will stand in the way of any scheme being carried into effect which affects more than a small area from which the tithe rent-charge is drawn. It appears to me that if your object be not to despoil the Church, but to benefit the community, you are bound to give as much elasticity, as much scope to the body you intrust with the responsibility of spending this money as you possibly can. Thus, and thus only, will you spare this House the shame of having taken away from purposes which everybody admits to be useful and important funds enjoyed nominally by the Church, and, having taken them away, squandered them upon purposes absolutely useless to the community.
§ MR. ALFRED ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
regretted the change which the Government had adopted as contrasted with the scheme of the Irish Church Act. He had always been in active hostility to the Church Establishment, but he thought there was great force in what the Leader of the Opposition had said. The moment Disestablishment took place he should be sorry to see the slightest obstacle put in the way of the Episcopal Church in Wales having a fair chance. [Opposition cheers.] He could not deny that, by the way in which this provision had been introduced in the Bill, there were serious obstacles placed both in the future government and discipline of the Episcopal Church in Wales. He believed he spoke for every Liberationist in the House, and for most of those in the country, when he said their hostility would cease the moment Disestablishment and Disendowment took place, and their good wishes would be manifest for the future prosperity of the Episcopal Church in Wales. It was impossible there could be anything like harmony and completeness in the 1417 government and discipline of the Episcopal Church when they had this chessboard of black and white parishes. He was satisfied that by introducing this new method they were getting into future difficulties and complications. ["Hear, hear!"] There was such inequality in the amount of tithe arising in each parish that there would be no general sense of justice in such a settlement as was proposed. Further than that, there was a still greater inequality in the population of the different parishes. They had the anomaly of a large amount of money going to a very few people, and a miserable amount of money going to a large population. What advantage had the Government secured by the departure from the scheme of the Irish Church Act? He had neither seen nor heard anything which convinced him that there was any compensation whatever for the change. There was an overwhelming weight of evidence in favour of the Amendment and of the consequential changes. He thought there would be greater good to the community by having a central fund; and, therefore, he felt under the absolute necessity of separating himself from the Government on this question; his consistency compelled him to do so.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The discussion has, perhaps, not unnaturally travelled considerably beyond the ground actually covered by the Amendment, and it has been directed mainly to the question as to how the funds of the disendowed Church are ultimately to be applied. The only question now before us is whether or not this property should be vested in a central body or vested in various local bodies, as proposed by the Bill. There are two extreme views which may be held. In the first place, you may take the view that the property of the disendowed Church ought to be regarded without any reference whatsoever to the source from which it arises or to the locality which has hitherto enjoyed the benefit of it, that it should be thrown into a hotch-potch, treated as a national fund, and distributed from one centre. On the other hand, there is the view that you should have regard to nothing but the locality either from which the property has been provided or in which it has hitherto been enjoyed. If we adopt the first view we should, 1418 of course, have to provide a central authority, and leave the whole distribution of the property to that body. If we adopt the other view we ought to go to the other extreme, and place the funds in the hands of the different parish councils and leave to them, and to them exclusively and entirely, the management of them. The Government have adopted neither the one view nor the other. They have not adopted the central fund; and why? Because in their opinion, I will not say the sentiment of the Welsh people, but the vastly predominating opinion of the Welsh people, and, I believe, of the English people too, is in favour of looking upon these ecclesiastical charitable funds as funds to which the locality which has hitherto enjoyed them has a prior claim. Public opinion in this matter is not at the same point as it was in 1869. No one can study our legislation since that day—particularly in respect of charities and educational endowments—without seeing that opinion in this country has come to regard these matters as questions in which the localities have a primary claim to be heard. Of course, there is no question here of generosity to the Church. But if it can be shown that any person now in possession of a vested interest in the Church in Wales has suffered pecuniary loss from the Bill, I am prepared to make such Amendment in the Bill as will meet the case. Since the Act of 1869 we have established in this country what did not exist then in England, and does not exist even now in Ireland—a complete system of elective and representative local government. In the county, district, and parish councils, you have the organs and instruments provided by Parliament for the administration of local funds, and we cannot ignore the existence of that machinery or fail to find in it an appropriate instrument for the work of this local administration. But, on the other hand, I am bound to say that I cannot subscribe to the hard and fast rule suggested by the hon. Member for Islington. There is great force in the argument expressed by the hon. Member for Bradford, who spoke of Wales being divided like a chess-board if every parochial endowment were tied down to the parish which now enjoys it. There would be much jealousy and heart-burning between 1419 parish and parish. I am not insensible to those considerations, and it is for those reasons that in this Bill we say that due regard is to be paid to the wants and circumstances of the parishes. But it is a complete mistake to suppose that the machinery of the ninth clause will not be, either in intention or effect, elastic enough to group parishes together or even counties together, for the purpose of administration. If the clause require further Amendment for that purpose it shall receive it. We wish to provide, as far as possible, an elastic system of legislation which, while recognising the primary claim of the locality to the funds which it has hitherto enjoyed, will still prevent the inequitable stereotyping of existing arrangements, and will therefore secure the maximum benefit from the funds let loose by Disendowment. I earnestly hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bradford, who has been all his life one of the strongest supporters of the principle of religious equality, will at any rate believe that if we have departed from the principle of the Act of 1869 it has not been through wantonness or through any desire to injure the Church. In respect of the disestablished and disendowed Church, we all, I hope, can sincerely adopt the attitude which he has expressed to-day. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, that he had hoped the Home Secretary would indicate some slight abatement of his position; but the right hon. Gentleman had declined to do so, and had simply re-asserted the clause. The right hon. Gentleman backed himself up with what he called "the opinion of Wales." But had he heard the grave statement made by the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. David Thomas) that he should not be standing alone if others were allowed to vote with him. Had any undue pressure been put on the Welsh Members? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "Certainly not."] He was prepared to accept the statement of the hon. Member below the Gangway. The Home Secretary seemed to think that there was wisdom in a multitude of counsellors; for he had provided no less than seven local authorities and others to deal with this matter, instead of the central authority proposed. He was 1420 perfectly sure that in all matters connected with large sums of money, one great central authority was better than many local authorities.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 179; Noes 192.—(Division List No. 131.)
§ MR. R. C. JEBB (Cambridge University) moved an Amendment, the object of which was to secure that not only the parish churches but also the four cathedrals in Wales should be vested in the representative Church body. He remarked that many as were the objections urged against this Bill he did not think there was any objection that appealed more keenly to the feelings of Churchmen than the treatment proposed to be applied to the Welsh cathedrals. ["Hear, hear!"] They had heard a great deal about the resemblances and the differences between this Bill and the Irish Church Act of 1869. Here, at all events, was an unmistakable contrast between the two measures. The Irish Act vested the Irish cathedrals in the representative body of the Irish Church; but the Welsh Bill proposed that the Welsh cathedrals should be vested in the Welsh Commissioners, who should be chargeable and responsible for their repair and maintenance, but should not transfer them to the Welsh representative body of the Church. On an application to the Welsh Commissioners from the representative body, the Commissioners were to grant the use of the cathedrals for the services of the Church of England. So far as he could find, in the course of those Debates only one clear attempt had been made to give a reason for this most singular provision—a provision obviously calculated to wound the feelings of Churchmen in a very peculiar degree. ["Hear, hear!" He referred to a remark which occurred in a speech made by the President of the Board of Trade last year. The right hon. Gentleman said that the four cathedrals were erected for public worship at a time when the Church of England included every class of the community; that they had come down to us from the earlier Middle Ages, and that it was our duty to safeguard in them now the interests of all those classes and denominations of Welshmen who were 1421 represented by the descendants from those Middle Ages. He would venture to state in a few words how the matter appeared to him. Either the Church had had a continuous life from the earliest times or it had not. For his part he held with those who believed that that life had been continuous. Even those who denied such continuity, and who would fix a breach of continuity at the period of the Reformation, would not maintain that the series of events known as the Reformation included any such action as the pulling down of one Church and the setting up of another. Since the Reformation there had not, of course, been any breach at all. For at least considerably more than three centuries the Church of England had been in possession of those cathedrals, and the worship of the Church of England, as they now knew it, had been the only worship celebrated in them. In every sense the cathedrals belonged to the Church of England and to the Church alone. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not conceive how it could be contended that the fact that other denominations had taken their origin since the period of the Reformation affected those rights of property which the Church of England possessed in its cathedrals. The fact that since the cathedrals were erected by Churchmen and dedicated to the worship of the Church of England other people had formed independent religious bodies could not affect the right of the Church to its own property. But not only had the Church this historical right in the Welsh cathedrals dating from ancient times, but that right had been confirmed since the Reformation by the manner in which the cathedrals had been restored and renewed with the money contributed by Churchmen. They might take one single instance. The Cathedral of St. Asaph suffered great injury under the Commonwealth. At the end of the 17th century a very distinguished man was the Bishop of St. Asaph—a man whose name was well-known to all Welshmen. He referred to Isaac Barrow, who about the year 1703 contributed out of his own purse considerable sums for the repair of the cathedral. Many other instances of that kind could be given in regard to the Welsh Bishops during the 18th century, and subsequently. Coining to the present 1422 century, he believed that in the course of it a sum amounting to no less than £450,000 had been expended on the repair and restoration of the three Welsh Cathedrals of Llandaff, St. David's, and St. Asaph. As to the Cathedral of Bangor, its restoration began in 1869, and he had been informed that the amount already spent on the work amounted to, £33,000, and a further sum would have to be expended before the restoration was completed. It might be suggested that this money—as in the case of the Cathedral of Llandaff—had not been wholly contributed by Churchmen, but partly by others. He would be the last person to desire to underestimate any such gifts as might have been made from such sources—gifts which were equally honourable to the giver and to the receiver—and he could not imagine anything more creditable to the Church in Wales than that she should be the recipient of such offerings. He could not imagine any gifts nobler on the part of Nonconformists. The amount contributed by donors other than Church people was not appreciable either in the case of Bangor, St. Asaph, or St. David's, and as to the cathedral at Llandaff he had reason to believe that the case was not very different. But in no event did the gifts affect the case, for, whoever were the donors, they were gifts to buildings clearly and definitely recognised as belonging to the Church of England alone. [Cheers.] There could be no possible doubt as to the identity of the Church to which the gifts were made. A very striking phrase had been used by the Home Secretary about the Welsh cathedrals, when he said that they were to be entrusted to the Welsh Commissioners to be maintained in their character of national monuments. That phrase reminded him of a well-known work published by the Liberation Society, and entitled, "The Case for Disestablishment." He did not suggest that it was that passage, but it was the same spirit which prompted the use of that phrase by his right hon. and learned Friend. In the Irish Act, s. 25, which provided that if the church were wholly disused as a place of public worship, and if it were not suitable for restoration as a place of public worship, still, if it were desirable to preserve it as a national 1423 monument, then it was to be handed over to the nation. But, in that Act, the idea of a national monument was opposed to the building being used as a place of worship. ["Hear, hear."] Was not that rather suggestive and ominous in the case of the Welsh Church? Did not that point to a time when these places should no longer be places of public worship? Surely, if the cathedrals were monuments of anything, they were monuments of the liberality of Churchmen throughout all ages; and they were national monuments only because the Church from which they derived their existence was national. He did not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite could propose to confiscate the Welsh Church on the ground that it was an alien Church, and, at the same time, claim to take over the cathedrals on the ground that they were national monuments. [Cheers.] A further objection to the proposals of the Government seemed to arise from the dual character of the cathedrals. Only one, that at St. Asaph, was a cathedral pure and simple; all the other three were parish churches as well as cathedrals; so that this Bill would affect not only the people of the different dioceses, in regard to their cathedrals, but it would also affect the parishioners of the three dioceses in respect of their parish churches. Difficulties might conceivably arise. At St. David's, for instance, there were four services on Sundays—two in the English language, conducted by the chapter, and two in the Welsh language, for which the vicar of the parish was responsible. Supposing that a difficulty were to arise after the services of the chapter were concluded, who was to settle the difficulty? They were all glad to read in the papers that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian was in good health, and that he had been making a speech about the English language, of which he was so unrivalled a master. ["Hear, hear."] The right hon. Gentleman had said of that language that it was not a mere collection of words. Surely, it might similarly be said any of our cathedrals that it is not a mere collection of stones. The traditions which clustered around our cathedrals were inexpressibly dear to Church people, not only in the present, but through links in the past. 1424 If he were in favour of the Bill as he was, in fact, opposed to it, he would ask his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Asquith) to consider whether the Government could not accept this Amendment, or, at all events, some Amendment involving the same principle—namely, that the four Welsh Cathedrals should be vested in the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. He was convinced that many people would feel that this was a terrible blot on the Bill, and this provision with regard to the cathedrals would be felt by millions of Churchmen as a sting, a bitter wound, a gratuitous humiliation. ["Hear, hear."] He therefore appealed to the Home Secretary to consider whether he could not remove this dark blot from a measure which was, in his opinion, most mischievous, but which contained nothing more calculated to wound the feelings of Churchmen than this. [Cheers.]
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he had listened with very great interest to the speech of his hon. Friend. He had spoken of the sentiment with which these buildings were invested in the minds of Churchmen, but he would venture to remind his hon. Friend that this sentiment was felt not only by Churchmen. He believed that the Nonconformists of this country and of Wales felt that there were deeds attaching to these cathedrals from associations of the past—from the fact that they had been the burial-places of our great men; that the disused flags of our regiments hang from their roofs—memories in which every Englishman and Welshman had a common share. [Cheers.] It had always been his feeling that the whole nation had an interest in all these buildings—in their preservation and proper maintenance, and in the decorous uses to which they were applied; and that feeling was as strong in those who had the task of framing the Bill as in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He quite agreed that, from another aspect, they might be regarded specially by Churchmen as places in which the Church of England had exclusively solemnized services for a long time past; but he would venture, in all good temper, to protest against the view that these cathedrals could be looked at merely from the point of view of one religious communion. They should 1425 rather be regarded in the larger and very true sense of national monuments. He had said this in order that he might explain the provisions in Clause 7 dealing with this matter. He confessed that he thought there could be no objection to the proposal that the property should be held in trust for the purpose, and only for the purpose, to which it had hitherto been applied.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he had repeatedly stated so in answer to questions. He honestly thought that the arrangement proposed was one which would not be injurious to the feelings of Churchmen; it would preserve these cathedrals for the purpose for which they had hitherto been applied, while it would cast the burden of their maintenance, not upon the Disestablished and Disendowed Church, but upon the Welsh Commissioners. He was bound to say that the difference between that arrangement and the exclusion of the cathedrals altogether from the property which was to pass to the Commissioners was in point of principle non-existent, and was in point of practical effect wholly unreal. It became really a question of sentiment rather than anything else, and he did not hesitate to say that, acting in accordance with the spirit which had characterised the discussions on the Bill, he was perfectly prepared to make the concession which the hon. Gentleman asked, and to say that the cathedrals also should pass to the representative body of the Church. He was aware that in making that statement he was running counter to a considerable body of opinion and sentiment, both in Wales and in England. But for his part he had felt throughout, and he had said so more than once, that it was impossible to ignore the peculiar position of the Welsh cathedrals, which distinguished them, in some respects at any rate, from the English cathedrals. In the first place, three out of four of them were used as parish churches, and, in the next place, two of them, and possibly three, had within the lifetime of living people, been restored and largely embellished, and in one case, if not in two, entirely reconstructed by private benefactors. He did not wish to inquire too curiously from what sources these benefactions proceeded. He agreed with the 1426 hon. Member who said if, and so far as, they had come from Nonconformists, they were creditable alike to those who gave and to those who received. But he thought, after having given careful consideration to the question, in consultation with his colleagues, that this was a matter in which the point of substance between the two sides was so slight, and in which the considerations of sentiment which the Government desired to respect were so strong, that they ought to give way upon it, and substitute for the arrangement proposed in the Bill some such arrangement as that which his hon. Friend contemplated.
§ MR. J. A. M. MACDONALD (Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley)
said, he had heard the Home Secretary's statement with considerable regret. He had hoped that the time might come when the different sections of the Christian Church in this country might, at stated periods of the year, have the joint use of the cathedrals for religious purposes. At any rate, he would suggest that the State should retain power to prevent the representative body from making structural alterations in the cathedrals, or changes in their present use, without the consent of Parliament.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, he was deeply grateful to the Home Secretary for the concession he had made. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there was a very great deal of difference between the original proposals of the Bill and the Amendment. The question of principle involved was whether they were going to admit that the cathedrals belonged to the Church to which they had always had belonged, or to say that they should be vested in a purely secular body. That was a great and substantial difference, and he felt sure that the concession which the Home Secretary had made would give a great feeling of relief to Churchmen throughout both Wales and England. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he did not think the Government and the supporters of the Bill had lost anything by making this concession, because if their wish were to make these cathedrals national monuments they were national monuments now in the only sense in which that phrase could be applied. He understood that the cathedrals would now be 1427 vested in the representative body; but they did not yet know whether the provisions laid down for their restoration by the Welsh Commissioners would still remain in the Bill. Did the right hon. Gentleman still retain the provision in Clause 7 under which the Welsh Commissioners would restore the cathedrals?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, there was no question of restoration. The Government in its wildest legislative nights never proposed to legislate for the restoration of the cathedrals; it was merely a question of maintenance and upkeep, and he thought they might get rid of Clause 7 altogether. The effect of that would be that the cathedrals would pass to the representative body in exactly the same way as the churches did.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon)
said, he shared the feeling that the cathedrals were national monuments, of which they were all proud; and as the nation had that interest in them he would ask whether some reasonable arrangement could not be made, by which a sum should be handed over by the State to the Church body to assist in keeping the cathedrals in repair.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, the Home Secretary had acknowledged the strong sentiment with which Churchmen regarded the cathedrals—a sentiment which made them very reluctant to see them put under the authority of officials other than the representatives of the Church—while at the same time he pointed out that there was a national aspect which was considered in making the arrangements in the Bill for the upkeep of the cathedrals, a national sentiment which would not be at all diminished by putting into another form the recognition which the Bill originally intended to convey of the special sentiment with which Churchmen regarded these buildings. He had no doubt that it would be possible to make some arrangement by which the double object would be carried out and the maintenance of these national monuments provided for. He desired to acknowledge the concession which the Government had made. When he addressed the House on the Second Reading he laid considerable stress on the question of cathedrals, for he had found in all quarters a sentiment, strong and keen, 1428 in antagonism to the proposals of the Bill. He was, therefore, grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the substantial and valuable concession he had made.
MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Mansfield, Nottingham)
said, that the friends of the Church could not have it both ways. If those were national buildings they should be open to the nation, but if Churchmen chose to consider them as property which belonged only to the use of the members of the Church, then he contended that those who had exclusive use of the buildings might reasonably be called upon to keep them in repair.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
said that, speaking for himself alone, he repudiated the idea that there should be a repair fund. It was proposed in the Irish Church Act that there should be a repair fund, but the proposal was withdrawn by the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone), with whose words on that occasion he concurred.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, it would be rather rash if the Committee came to a hasty conclusion on this point. He repudiated, however, the national monument doctrine. A national monument was a monument in the sense of belonging to the nation—erected or acquired by the nation. Had the cathedrals and churches been acquired by the nation? No one could point to a time which showed that they had been acquired by the nation. They were a result of the piety and munificence of our forefathers; and, therefore, they were not in any such sense national monuments. And especially the Welsh cathedrals had this distinguishing characteristic about them. The restoration of St. David's and Llandaff, two of the most remarkable and beautiful churches in Wales, was due to the piety and munificence of the present generation; and this piety and munificence had made those so-called national monuments worthy of the purpose for which they were built. On no account, therefore, could any of the cathedrals in England or Wales be described as belonging to the nation. Although it might be true that Churchmen laid no claim to any special share in what could truly be called national property, it was also true that the right hon. Gentleman had taken away property from 1429 the Church; and, if he took away property, he ought in fairness to relieve the Church of what was necessary to keep its edifices in repair.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, it was clear that the Church could not have it both ways. It was riot a very large concession to make, and it being a matter of sentiment on both sides of the House, there was no objection to the concession of the right hon. Gentleman. He pointed out that the two great cathedrals in South Wales were repaired without the aid of a repairing fund; they were repaired by the generosity of Churchmen. What had been done in the past would, he hoped, be done in the future. Church people ought to carry out the repairs of their own churches themselves.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH
pointed out that, after all had been said, these were Church funds. When it was said that these cathedrals had been restored by voluntary contributions he reminded hon. Members that this was done at a time when Churchmen were able to devote their private resources to this great object, and when the endowments possessed by the Church saved them from being compelled to contribute to the maintenance of their clergy. But the situation would be materially changed when the endowments were taken away from the Church by this Bill. He suggested that, after the announcement of the Home Secretary, the best thing for the Committee to do was to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cambridge University and deal with the maintenance of the cathedrals later on.
§ *MR. R. L. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said that this was a question appealing to the sentiment of both sides of the House. Hitherto it had been the proud feeling of the inhabitants of parishes in which cathedrals and churches stood that those edifices were the common property of the people— places in which their forefathers for many centuries had worshipped in an undivided Church. He had clung to the hope that, by means of the common use of parish churches in rural villages they might, by degrees, attain to a closer Christain union than was enjoyed at the present time. 1430 Speaking as one who lived in a village, and who had taken much interest in the religion of that village, he should see with no small measure of regret the ownership and control of the people over the parish churches pass away from them into the hands of a single sect. While not prepared to vote against this concession being granted, he did wish to express these few words of regret at the thought that the parish churches would cease to be the common possession of the people. He had hoped to see in some plan for restoration of their common use a door opened for a closer drawing together in Christian unity.
MR. J. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said, that whilst he regretted that the Government had come to this decision on the point, he was not personally inclined to go into the Lobby against them; but he hoped that, as this concession had been made, the Home Secretary would see his way, before the subject was dropped, to explain to the Committee his views as to the repairing fund. Nonconformists felt very strongly on that point. They felt that if they had no use of the cathedrals they ought not to be called upon to subscribe to the maintenance of the buildings.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that, after all, they were only dealing now with the mere transfer of the cathedrals. Although he had an opinion of his own on the point addressed to him, he thought it was only fair to promise to consider what had been said by one side and the other before coming to a decision.
§ MR. MACDONALD
asked in what way the cathedrals were to be distinguished from parish churches if they were to be handed over as absolute property to the Representative Body? It appeared to him that, by accepting the clause in the Bill as it stood, without in the slightest degree infringing their rights over the cathedrals, hon. Gentlemen opposite would have attained a condition of things under which the people of Wales would have recognised certain national rights in the cathedrals, and he would have thought that that was a sentiment worth nourishing. If the cathedrals were to be handed over as 1431 absolute property to the Representative Body, he for one should strongly oppose the establishment of a maintenance fund.
§ *MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion) moved on page 3, line 22, to leave out "all churches." He said his object was to place parish churches on exactly the same footing as the cathedral churches were on before the last Amendment was accepted. He did not very much grudge the concession the Home Secretary had made as to the cathedral churches; but with respect to the parish churches it was a different matter. The cathedral churches were not of any great use to the Welsh nation at large, but there was not a single parish in Wales that was not strongly interested in the parish church, and in most places all parties without distinction of religion had contributed to its repair. In a large number of parishes there were scarcely any of the inhabitants who went into the church at all, and in many parishes the Church services were only kept up as a matter of legal obligation. In such parishes the churches would be vested in the new Church Body, and they would be able to do what they liked with them, and even sell them. He thought that was altogether unreasonable. Nonconformists did not wish to have any greater use of the churches than they had hitherto had, except for the purposes of conducting funeral services; but having regard to the fact that they had an interest in the parish churches, that they had contributed to their repair and maintenance to a vastly greater extent than they had in the case of the cathedrals, he hoped that the Home Secretary would make this equivalent concession to them.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he was afraid he could not accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend, although he recognised the force of some of his arguments. In the case of the Irish Church, except where churches were in actual ruin, the Legislature enabled the Representative Body to hold the fabrics of the churches, and he thought the Government must follow that course. His hon. Friend imagined that the Representative Body would sell these churches, but no power of sale was given them by this clause. In fairness and equity the fabrics of these churches ought to be 1432 treated as the property of the Representative Body. Every argument in favour of such treatment for cathedrals applied more strongly to churches. If it were the fact that the vestry met in the church in some places in Wales, that right would be preserved under the second sub-section of this clause after Disestablishment. The Government thought that these churches ought to pass to the Representative Body, and did not know of any other arrangement that would be consistent with the justice of the case.
*MR. BRYN ROBERTS
said, that a right to sell attached to ownership unless expressly excluded, and urged his right hon. Friend to consider whether some special restrictions ought not to be placed upon the sale of these churches. It ought to be made quite clear that these churches must be kept for the use of parishioners.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
was glad that the Home Secretary had refused to accept this Amendment. He protested against the statement that there were churches in Wales where only nominal congregations attended. He would not object to an Amendment providing that all churches not in use should be sold, because he did not believe that there were any such churches.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN moved in Clause 6, page 3, line 22, to leave out "not being cathedral churches."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL moved to insert after the word "churches," in line 22, the words "and all burial grounds appendant to cathedrals or vested in incumbents." The Committee, by its acceptance of a previous Amendment, had paid respect to the sentiments of Churchmen, and he believed to the sentiments of many who were not Churchmen, in regard to the cathedrals. He hoped that that just appreciation of their feelings would not terminate with the physical boundaries of the buildings, but would extend to the burial grounds around the buildings in which the honoured dead of many generations lay in their peaceful slumbers. Happily, the tone of their Debates had been greatly moderated during the last few evenings; but he must regret 1433 the language which was used by some of the occupants of the Treasury Bench in regard to the conduct of some of the clergy. The clergy were accused of having broken the law in regard in the interment of Nonconformists in those burial grounds, and of having conducted themselves in a manner which merited every condemnation. He believed the cases in which the Act of 1888 had been violated were very few; and he believed the descriptions of those rare violations had been exaggerated. Many of these melancholy occurrences took place immediately after the passing of the Act, when the passions of men were heated. But the law was strong enough to suppress any violation of the law, and nothing could be more unfair, unreasonable, and unjust than to visit on the whole of the dioceses of the Principality the actions of a few clergymen in times which were now comparatively bygone. He must confess that he felt strongly on this subject. He moved his Amendment with deep feelings, because he was conscious of the great importance of the issue. He objected altogether to the transfer to any body but the Church representative body of the burial grounds surrounding the cathedrals and the churches. The burial grounds ought to be governed by the same authority as governed the churches. No doubt, by recent legislation, in accordance with public sentiment, services which were not the services of the Church of England were conducted in these burial grounds. As to that, he would say a few words in a moment. It was the desire of all that there should be solemnity in our burial places, and he felt the best security for having respect paid to that sentiment was by retaining the burial grounds in the hands of those who had for centuries proved themselves to be worthy custodians. He did not believe that any case could be made out that those who for centuries had been honoured with the trust of the burial grounds had been unfaithful to that trust. He need not point out how necessary it was to prevent anything occurring in the churchyards which would interfere with the Divine Services which were yearly, and almost daily, increasing in number. He did not bring any charge of profanity or irreverence against those who conducted services not 1434 in accordance with the Church of England and Wales in those burial grounds. He was quite sure that any such profanity or irreverence would be condemned by the great majority of the Nonconformist Bodies. But he ventured to say that the time at which those services were conducted might cause inconvenience to those assembled in the church. The Burials Act of 1880 gave the most rigid and the most carefully devised securities against any evils of the kind. It was insisted upon in that Act that, if there were to be a religious service in the burial grounds, it was to be Christian and orderly. There was a strict prohibition against any riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour; and there was a further provision, to which he attached considerable importance, that those who were conducting funeral services or attending them, were not to deliver any address not being part of, or incidental to, the services permitted by the Act. He was not sure that the Burials Act of 1880 would continue to have effect in regard to the burial grounds in Wales if the Bill were to pass in its present form. He believed it was quite necessary that the provisions of that Act should continue, and as he felt a doubt as to whether they would operate or cease to operate after the passing of the Bill, he hoped he would get some statement on the point from the Solicitor General. It appeared to him that this matter was of no secondary importance. They should have regard to those who lived, and those who worshipped, and they could not forget those who were dead, to whom every respect ought to be paid. The church was not a mere building erected in a cemetery, but a place where living parishioners worshipped, and the cemeteries were sacred places where those who had departed rested. Reverence was due to both, and he should be extremely distressed if the Bill passed without just regard for either. He believed the arguments which he had adduced proved his case.
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL, North Beds)
said, the hon. Baronet seemed to think that on cathedral and parish churchyards passing into the hands of secular authorities, scenes of irreverence if not of 1435 profanity might occur in connection with the burial of the dead. He believed that the law already provided that funeral services should not clash with Divine service in church.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL
said, the phrase was "ordinary services," and as these were happily multiplying that should be the limiting phrase.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
pointed out that the Bill would in no way supersede the Burials Act of 1880 in the regulations of the latter as to the conduct of funeral services. Only the property in the soil would be transferred from the Incumbent to the local authority. The rights of the Incumbent were not affected as long as he continued in his Incumbency. Only on a vacancy in the benefice occurring would the transfer to the local authority take place. The conditions under which funerals would take place would remain regulated by the Burials Act of 1880, and would not be affected by this Bill.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, the Under Secretary for the Home Department quite misapprehended the case of the opponents of the Bill on this point. They submitted that taking away the churchyards from the churches was a wanton interference with the rights of Church people. On the First Reading he pointed out that there had been no demand for the Burials Act in Wales. The Home Secretary said that he had always known that the Act would not be put in force or required in Wales, because Nonconformists had their own burial-grounds. If so, it made the present interference with Church burial-grounds all the more wanton. Since then he had received a large number of communications on the subject from Wales, and he was informed that, for once in his life, the Home Secretary was wholly mistaken, and that only a small percentage of the Nonconformist bodies had got separate burial-grounds, and that in Wales, as in Scotland, whatever might be a person's views about the Church, there was an unchangeable desire in the great majority of the people to be buried according to the rites of the Church. Therefore, the Bill proposed a wanton interference not demanded on any public grounds. But there was more than that. They wanted to know what would be the 1436 position of these burial-grounds from the point of view of their care and guardianship, and the purposes to which they were to be applied. Consecrated ground was already required by law to be kept with reverent care, and exempt from all secular and profane uses. Under the Bill it would pass into the hands of secular authorities. Why? It would not produce a large amount of money that might be applied to secular purposes. He did not believe those who advocated the change were actuated by motives of gain. The framers of the Bill had gone out of their way to inflict what must be regarded almost as an insult, certainly as an injury, to those attached to the Church. He could not conceive on what possible grounds it could be said that cathedral and parish churchyards were required by the local authorities. A lasting feeling of resentment would be created if control over them was transferred to those authorities. This was not an imaginary but a substantial grievance with Churchmen.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD
said, that he quite admitted that these burial grounds belonged to the parishes, and that every parishioner had a right to be buried there; and that Nonconformists ought not to be buried there on sufferance, as at a present, but of right. But if these grounds were vested in the Parish Councils, what provision was there in the Bill to secure that they should be maintained with proper care? He was not concerned with the rites and ceremonies of burial—they were sufficiently guarded by Acts of Parliament; but he feared that in out-of-the-way parishes the burial grounds might be allowed to fall into a state of neglect.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FRANK LOCKWOOD, York)
referred the hon. Member for the Maldon Division to an Amendment on the Paper standing in the name of the Home Secretary, which provided that the same rules and regulations should apply to the burial grounds handed over to the Parish Councils as applied to those provided by Burial Boards under the Acts of 1882 and 1885. In reply to the courteous appeal of the hon. Baronet opposite, he was glad to give the assurance that nothing in this Bill would repeal the operations of the Act of 1880. As to the point of the hon. and learned 1437 Member for the Isle of Wight, the principle on which the Government had proceeded was that of regarding the burial ground as the property of the parish. That principle would not be controverted by any lawyer. When the Church ceased to be the Established Church of the State, it was only right and fair that the burial ground, which was the property of the parish, should be handed over to the representatives of the parishioners. Lord Selborne, in the judgment to which allusion had been made, said—The surface of the churchyard alone belonged to the clergyman, and the interior part of the ground belonged to the parishioners for the purpose of burial.An hon. Member had raised the point of the cathedrals in their capacity as parish churches. Undoubtedly the burial grounds connected with the cathedrals in that capacity must be dealt with as the burial grounds of other parish churches. But in the case of burial grounds which had ceased to be used for the purposes of burial—which were no longer active burial grounds—he took it that this section would not apply. He was convinced that hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House shared the sentiments which had been expressed by the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight as to dealing with parish burial grounds in a proper spirit. The affections and sympathies of the people were closely associated with those burial grounds, and they should be respected. He would ask hon. Members to believe that in this proposal of the Government there was not the slightest intention to inflict any insult on those who had those feelings and sympathies.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, that the Solicitor General had made a startling distinction between active burial grounds and burial grounds which were not active. Did the Home Secretary bear out the Solicitor General's distinction? [Mr. ASQUITH assented.] Then into whose hands would pass those grounds in which burial had ceassed?
§ MR. GIBBS
asked if that was merely inferentially. Did burial grounds not mean burial grounds? How was it possible for any laymen or indeed for any lawyer to know what was not included 1438 by the words "burial grounds"? What objection could there be to add specific words which would place ancient burial grounds in the hands of the representative body? [Mr. ASQUITH nodded assent.] He was glad the right hon. Gentleman would add such words, for that would do much to satisfy hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House as to what would occur. He would now direct his remarks to burial grounds where burying was now going on. He was anxious to know whether under Sub-section 2 of Clause 6, churchwardens would retain the right they now possessed of removing from churchyards disturbers or rioters?
§ MR. V. GIBBS
said, that was very satisfactory. He now had to ask another question. [Opposition laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed, but this was a very important matter. He had to ask whether the words—Every burial ground will be held subject to existing public and private rightsincluded the right of the lay rector in the freehold of the churchyard.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, ample provision was made in that direction by a new clause he had put on the Paper. The rector would retain the exact right he at present had, but it was intended that in future burial grounds should be under the same authority and subject to the same rules as if they were burial grounds under the Burials Act.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
understood that the interests of the lay rector were preserved, and that after the lay rector's death the burial grounds would not be held subject to existing public and private rights.
§ MR. V. GIBBS
thought they were only disputing about words in that matter; the facts remained the same. Now, he was anxious to have some clearer answer to the question put by the hon. Member for the Maldon Division than had yet been given. The hon. Member's question was whether they would have any security that the churchyards would be as well maintained by the Parish Council as they now were by the Church Bodies. What power would the Law Courts have to compel 1439 Parish Councils to keep the churhyards in that condition of decency and propriety in which everybody, whether Nonconformist or Churchman, would desire to see them kept.
§ MR. BALFOUR
said, it might tend to shorten debate if the right hon. Gentleman would now say what words he meant to introduce with the view of excluding from the purview of the clause disused burial grounds. He understood the Government did not mean to hand over disused burial grounds to the Parish Council or to any other local authority, but to leave them exactly where they found them. The right hon. Gentleman had told them he was going to introduce words to carry out the intention of the Government in an unmistakable manner. The Opposition objected to the procedure with regard to burial-grounds in use, but before they came to that, which was the more substantial and important part of the question, let them clear out of the way the questions connected with burial-grounds which were no longer used.
§ MR. ASQUITH
admitted that he had not hitherto contemplated the case of disused burial-grounds. There was not the slightest doubt that such burial-grounds ought to pass to the representative body, and he would undertake to bring up words before they finished the clause which would make it clear that disused or closed burial-grounds attached to Parish Councils should pass to the representative body and be owned by them. The words should include cathedral burial-grounds.
MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
said, he was glad to have it acknowledged that the predictions so freely indulged in before the passing of the Act of 1880, with regard to abuses in parochial churchyards, in consequence of the passing of that Act, had not been realised, and that Nonconformists had been as reverential as Churchmen in connection with the use of them. The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight had spoken of the affection as well as reverence with which parochial burial-places were regarded by members of the Church of England. Surely he must be aware that parochial burial-places were regarded with equal reverence and affection by other parishioners than members of the Church of England, and that for two 1440 reasons. The first was, that they were the common burial-place of the parish, and all, therefore, had the same interest in them; and the next was, that the churchyard was the property of the parish as well as its burial-place. The fallacy which underlay the objection of hon. Members was, that they assumed the churchyard was the property of the Church, whereas it was the property of the parish, notwithstanding the fact that the incumbent was the trustee, but only the trustee on behalf of the parish. He could not help thinking that hon. Members who were urging the Committee to adopt this Amendment were giving themselves a great deal of needless alarm. The Act of 1880 would remain in force, and the safeguards would still exist, and if hon. Members would carefully study the clause placed on the Paper by the Home Secretary, they would see that many of the points to which they had called attention were carefully provided for in that clause. Some of the observations made on the other side seemed to indicate a disposition to hark back to the Act of 1840, and to treat that as non-operative in Wales. His opinion differed very much, and if it were desirable to enter into controversial matter, he could show that there were other causes why that Act had not been fully operative in Wales than those to which he had made reference. The question had been asked—Why should Parish Councils concern themselves with the custody and control of parochial burying-grounds? He answered—For the same reason that power was given to burial boards for the provision of cemeteries. His own view was, that burial was a matter of secular concern, and that it was far better placed in the hands of secular bodies representing the entire community than in those of ministers of any denomination whatever. He felt quite satisfied members of the Church of England would have no more cause to complain hereafter than they had had in the past with regard to the operation of the Act of 1880.
§ MR. ASQUITH
hoped they might come to an opinion about this without more discussion. He proposed to add at the end of the Amendment these words:Which had been closed under any Act of Parliament or any Order made thereunder.1441 That would vest in the representative body all the closed burial-grounds which were now in existence, whether attached to cathedrals or to parish churches, and it would leave open the question which would come up under Sub-section B, as to the general disposition of burial-grounds which were still active and in use.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
did not believe the concluding remark of the hon. Member for Mansfield represented the views of the people of this country. He would go further, and say that such a remark showed how thoroughly out of touch the hon. Member was with the religious sentiment of the great bulk of the English-speaking community. He had put a question some time ago to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to which he had received no definite reply, it was to the effect that he wished to know what specific powers the Courts would have to compel the Parish Councils to maintain the churchyards in the same decorous condition in which they were at present. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had not given him any reply to that question, and he therefore now again asked the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to give him a distinct answer to the question.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that when the proper time came he would take care that some provision was inserted in the Bill to secure the proper maintenance of the churchyards. At the present moment, however, he thought that they might agree to vest in the representative body all burial grounds that had been actually closed.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said that, after the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had given him, he would leave that point now, although in his view great practical inconvenience would result from putting the Church buildings under one body and the curtilages under another. Nothing could be more inconvenient than to place the burial grounds in the hands of the Parish Councils and the churches in those of the representative body. Thus, however much the population of a parish might increase, it would be impossible for the representative body to alter or enlarge the parish church. The 1442 Bill gave no power to the Parish Councils to sell or alienate, any portion of their land, which it made, over to them to the representative body and therefore, even if every human being in the parish were desirous that the Church should be enlarged, it would be impossible that it could be done unless the representative body had recourse to the cumbrous and expensive proceeding of a Private Bill. That was a monstrous position in which to place the Church of this country. Then, again, with regard to the necessary repairs to the outside of the Churches, it, might be very easy for a Parish Council who was opposed to the Church to wantonly refuse permission to the Church authority to effect the repairs, and in that case if the Church authorities were to erect scaffolding poles on the churchyard, for the purpose of effecting the necessary repairs, they would become trespassers. Therefore it would be impossible for the Church authorities to repair their churches without the goodwill of the Parish Councils. These things rendered the gift of the churches to the representative body an absolute nullity, because the churches were given to them on the condition that they performed Divine Service therein and executed the necessary repairs to the buildings. This appeared to him to be an entirely fresh point, which had not been taken by any hon. Member on either the First or Second Heading of the Bill, and the state of things that would be created by the Bill in relation to it appeared to be so unfair that he could not believe that it had presented itself to the mind of anybody in the House, or else such a condition of things would have been protested against earlier. The same point arose in relation to other matters; such, for instance, as the customary processions outside the Church, which were in vogue in many places. Such processions could not take place under the provisions of the Bill without the goodwill of the Parish Councils. This appeared to him to be an unnecessary interference with the ritual which prevailed in certain churches. It might be said that the Church authorities would have a right of way over the churchyards reserved to them, but that would not cover these processions, and it might be that the Parish Councils might think that the Church authorities ought not 1443 to have the right to carry out these processions. One very great and important question had been slightly touched upon by the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight, namely, that the Bill would destroy all ecclesiastical supervision over the churchyards. At present the ecclesiastical authorities had supervision over all the monuments that were put up in churchyards, but when the churchyards were placed under an entirely secular body, monuments and inscriptions might be put up which might be most offensive to the Churchmen of this country. He thought that the ecclesiastical authority ought to have the right of supervision over such monuments and inscriptions reserved to them so as to protect from insult the churchyards in which the fathers and forefathers of Churchmen were buried. He ventured to press these points very strongly upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
pointed out that the Committee were not in a position to consider the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down until it was clear what it was they were discussing. He did not think that the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was in proper form. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would so frame it that it should effectively carry out the desire of the whole House that disused burial grounds should be handed over to the representative body. They must discuss this question under Sub-section A.
§ MR. ASQUITH
quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman on the question of form. The issue between them was whether not only disused, but what had been called for want of a better name "active" burial grounds should also be vested in the Representative Body. The right hon. Baronet had moved the addition of some words to Sub-section A, and he would move to add to those words these:—"Which would be enclosed under any Act of Parliament, or any order made thereunder." They could then take a Division on the subject whether all burial grounds, or closed burial grounds should go to the Representative Body.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, this would put hon. Members on that side in the position of voting against words to which 1444 they agreed. If they voted against those words being used then they would vote against the thing they wanted to see done; if they voted in favour of those words they precluded themselves from bringing in words which would hand over to the Representative Body "active" burial grounds.
§ MR. ASQUITH
did not think the right hon. Gentleman was right, because he did not think the adoption of these words would in any way preclude the Committee from deciding under the subsection that all burial grounds of every kind should be included. He would suggest that all these Amendments should be withdrawn, that they should pass Sub-section A as it stood, and when they came to the initial words of Subsection B the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his Friends, should move to insert the words "in the Representative Body," and then he would move as an Amendment to that the words—"Which would be enclosed under any Act of Parliament, or any Order made thereunder."
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER)
thought the better plan would be that the Home Secretary should withdraw his Amendment to the Amendment, leaving a clear issue on the words proposed in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wigan. When that was disposed of it would still be in the power of the Home Secretary to bring forward the words he wished to propose.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. ASQUITH
May I appeal to the hon. Baronet opposite to substitute for the word "appendent" in his Amendment, which has a distinct legal meaning which is totally inappropriate, the word "belonging."
§ Amendment amended, by leaving out the word "appendent," and inserting the word "belonging."1445
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said, that now they had got to a definite issue upon this matter he thought it was much easier for them to discuss the question. This Bill very largely differed from the Irish Church Act in regard to the treatment which burial grounds received. Under the Irish Church Act burial grounds which were adjacent to, or were used by private people, were attached to the churches, and were given over to the Church of Ireland. In the clause which dealt with the matter, very careful regulations were drawn up as to how those burial grounds which did not vest in the Irish Church were to be dealt with by the guardians. In the original Bill no consideration was given to this matter, but they had now a new clause brought in which did to some extent give regulations in regard to the matter. He thought it ought to be noticed that the authority which was to form the regulations for governing the burial grounds was the Parish Council itself. He did not think the clause as it stood at present justified them in believing that the Government had considered sufficiently how far they should protect the churchyards as regarded the comfort, convenience, and proper respect which should be shown to the church and to those frequenting it. Churchmen entertained a deep feeling with regard to the cathedrals and churches, but they entertained a far deeper feeling with regard to the parish churchyards, and he thought the same consideration which had been extended in the matter of the cathedrals should be applied to the burial-grounds of the Church. At all events, even if some of those grounds were taken from the Church, very great care should be exercised that the regulations which were to govern them in the future should be formed, not, by a body which might be in antagonism with the particular congregation affected, but on some general principle which would be acceptable to Church people. The matter was one on which he and a large number of other Churchmen felt very keenly, and he could not consent to give a silent vote on that occasion.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he, would state, the view which the Government had come to after great deliberation. He quite appreciated the sentiment which 1446 attached to the burial-grounds, and he hoped that anything he might say would not offend that sentiment. But in this matter they had to stand on an entirely different footing to that relating to the churches and cathedrals, for they had to consider here what was the law as it at present existed. By the law of this country, every inhabitant of a parish, or every person who died in a parish, had a common right to be interred in the parish churchyard. He started, therefore, with the proposition that not only as to every parishioner, but also as to every person who died in a parish, the relatives of that person had the right to have the body buried in the parish churchyard, no matter to what religious denomination the deceased person belonged. That was the common right guaranteed by the Jaw of the country, and it was subject only to the obligation that the ceremony in the graveyard was according to the rites of the Church of England. But the Legislature, in 1880, recognised the fact that in a large number of rural parishes the only burial ground open to the people was the parish churchyard, and they recognised also that a considerable number of those people belonged to other religious denominations. Consequently, the Legislature saw fit to provide that the common law right of burial in the churchyard should be supplemented and safeguarded by the right of such people being buried, with reasonable provision for orderly and Christian service, according to the rites of the denomination to which the relatives of the deceased person belonged. Since that date therefore it had been the law that every citizen was entitled to be buried in the churchyard according to the denomination to which he belonged. The result had been that in many of the rural parishes of this country Churchmen and Nonconformists alike were buried and had their family graves there. How, then, was it possible to contend that those churchyards could be treated as the patrimony of any religious sect? In these circumstances they had no right at present to confer upon the Church or upon her clergy the freehold of the property of those common burial grounds. As far as the Government were concerned, they looked upon this question, 1447 not as one of detail, but as one of principle, and they felt compelled to adhere to the general language of the Bill—that the burial grounds should be vested in the parish council and should be regarded as part of the property of the community in which they were situated. But he quite agreed that that position must be safeguarded by reasonable restrictions; first, as to existing interests, and next as to the future use of the grounds. With regard to existing interests, the Government had provided, or would do so in the clause which he had placed on the Paper, that, inasmuch as the incumbent was at present in law the freeholder of the churchyard and possessed there not merely the bare freehold but certain beneficial rights, the freehold should be continued to be vested in him so long as he lived. The incumbent had further, not by common law, but by local custom, the right to fees for burials that took place in the churchyard, and the Government proposed to reserve those fees to all existing incumbents. But when those existing interests had ceased the Government thought it would be a safe and proper thing to vest the regulation of those common burial- grounds in the Parish Council. He believed that even that vesting of the grounds in the Parish Council ought to be made subject to reasonable provisions for the rights, and even the convenience, of the worshippers of the church. For, after all, the churchyard was a precinct of the church itself, and there was no other means of access to the church except through it, and any inconvenient use of it which might disturb public worship ought to be prevented. With reference to an observation which had been made by the hon. Member for St. Albans, he might say that if it became necessary, through the influx of worshippers, to enlarge the structure of a church, he thought some provision ought to be made to enable it to be done, though he thought it was very unusual for churches to be enlarged by infringing on the surrounding burial grounds, for, as a rule, the largest number of graves were to be found in that part of the ground nearest the church. He quite agreed that, so far as the enlargement of the church could take place without encroachment upon the places of burial, that ought to be provided 1448 for. He also agreed that the churchyard ought to be vested in the Parish Councils, subject to a right of way for all reasonable purposes in favour of the persons using the church or worshiping in the church; and he furthermore agreed that if processions and ceremonies were usual some modifications ought to be introduced into the clause to provide for such cases. But, so long as they provided every safeguard that could reasonably be suggested, he thought the Committee were bound to provide that the churchyards should be vested in the Parish Councils, and should be treated as the common property of all the parishioners.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, that he did not understand in what the right of the parishioners to the churchyard differed from the right to the church itself, except that, by the Burials Act, certain rights were given to the parishioners to be buried with other services than those of the Church. He remembered that he and his Friends then urged that that Act would be made a reason for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England. They were ridiculed at the time, and were assured that if the grievances then complained of were removed, the Church would be all the stronger. Yet, that evening, that was the only argument produced by the right hon. Gentleman for placing the churchyards on a different footing to the churches themselves, and for depriving Churchmen in Wales of the churchyards, while leaving them their church buildings. [Cheers.] Why had the Government made a difference between this Bill and the provisions of the Irish Church Act? Why had they not adopted those wise and salutary arrangements provided by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in that Act, when he gave over to the representative Church body all churchyards adjacent to the churches? The rights of the people of Ireland to the churchyards were just as strong as those of the people of Wales. Nonconformists had been, buried in the churchyards in Ireland just as in Wales, and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian took the view he did, and Parliament acted upon it in 1869. He asked the Home Secretary and the 1449 Committee to approach this question from the view of common sense. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood that the main object of the Government in proposing this Bill, and in attempting to carry it into law, was to promote peace and goodwill amongst the inhabitants of Wales. But he could conceive no more fruitful source of discord than by leaving the churches in Wales in possession of Churchmen, while leaving every yard of the churchyards in the hands of the Parish Councils. [Cheers.] Hon. Members opposite had stated over and over again that the Welsh Church was out of harmony with the feelings of the people; and they had asserted that the majority of the people, by whom the Parish Councils were, of course, elected, were not in harmony with the Church. Then, according to those views, the Parish Councils would be in direct antagonism to the Church Body and the bodies to which the churches would belong. He thought that the Home Secretary himself had felt some of the difficulties, because he had now placed upon the Paper a clause copied from the provisions in the Irish Church Act, with regard to burial grounds handed over to local authorities, in which access to the church for services and for repairs was reserved to the members of the Church, and provisions were made for preserving order in the churchyards, for preventing the clashing of funeral services in the churchyard with ordinary services in the church, and for maintaining the fencing and gates of the churchyard; and now the right hon. Gentleman proposed to add some provision for enabling the church to be enlarged where necessary, thus obviously showing the difficulties which arose from the proposal of the Government. He earnestly entreated the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee to consider this question from the point of view of peace and harmony in Wales. ["Hear, hear!"] He was not asking that Nonconformists should be deprived of one single right they now possessed. All he asked was, that the churchyard should be vested in the same body as churches themselves—not merely because he maintained that they ought to belong to the same body, but because by allowing the Church to retain the churchyards the Government would be 1450 preserving peace and goodwill amongst all classes in a way that would be impossible by any other means. [Cheers.] He would like to hear why the Government were treating this matter in a manner different from that employed towards Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped it was not because the Nonconformists in Wales desired to have some power of interference with, and of control over, the Church body in the exercise of the right of that body to the churches themselves. He remembered perfectly that that spirit was displayed in the celebrated letter of Mr. Gee. In that letter Mr. Gee laid it down that the Church, after Disestablishment and Disendowment, should only be intrusted with the churches on condition that her services should be agreeable to the majority of the Parish Council or of the inhabitants of the parish. He was afraid that was the feeling which underlay this proposal, but he asked the Committee to remember what had been done for the churchyards of this country in the last 50 years by those who had been intrusted with their charge. In olden days churchyards were too often neglected A more reverent spirit had come in their time. The control of the churchyards had been in ecclesiastical hands, and persons had been taught to reverence churchyards. Churchyards had been preserved as "God's Acre'' in a way never dreamt of in former days; they might see this in Wales and all over the country. And yet this was the moment the Government asked Parliament to despoil the Church of the churchyards, and hand them over to secular bodies. He trusted the Committee would accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. E. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, the Home Secretary had admitted he was willing to put into the section a clause respecting disused churchyards. If he could also put into the sub-section a great part of his speech they, no doubt, would be satisfied. When the right hon. Gentleman referred them to the new clause ho had on the Paper, it was well he should remember that that clause and the exemptions in it only referred to the life of the existing incumbent. Personally, he was not very particular as to the rights of the incumbent, but he was particular that where 1451 a Church was in the middle of a churchyard, that churchyard should not belong to a body different from that to which the Church itself belonged. In making the few remarks he had made upon this Bill, he had always had in mind that this was a precedent for other Bills. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Sir G. O. Morgan) said there were few churchyards in Wales that were close to the churches. But in England the state of things was entirely different, and in the Irish Act a special reservation was made with regard to those churchyards which were close to the churches. Why was such a reservation not made in this Bill? This was the place in the Bill where they ought to deal with this subject. They ought not to confiscate the churchyards and pass this clause without a protest being made. He was glad it was made entirely apart from the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The churchyards were kept up entirely at the expense of the Church community. ["No!"] They were if they were adjacent to the churches. ["No!"] Well, prove the contrary. The churchyard was in the hands of the incumbent. Well, the incumbent was a clergyman of the Church of England, and whether the expense fell upon the incumbent, or the churchwardens, or the Protestant community, it fell upon those who belonged to the religion of the Church of England, and they had a right to have the churchyards in their control in the future if the churchyards were adjacent to the Churches themselves.
§ SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
reminded the Home Secretary of the system of keeping up churchyards in Scotland. There all the churchyards were kept up by the heritors—that was to say, by all the proprietors of the parish. But they were not bound to keep the churchyards in order, and the result was that in most of the churchyards there could be seen weeds and rubbish among the graves. In his opinion this resulted from the fact that there was no ecclesiastical authority to look after them and to keep the churchyards in proper order. The consequence was that all reverence for the churchyards was fast disappearing. This would be exactly the case if the provision in this Bill were adopted. If the parish councils had charge of the churchyards, 1452 the churchyards would present that slovenly appearance which was now seen in many Scottish parishes. He hoped therefore that the Committee would oppose this clause and would insist that the burial-grounds should be kept under the existing authority, or placed at least under a different set of officials from that which it was proposed to hand them over to.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
related his experience of the working of the Irish Church Act. Taking Ireland as a whole, the provisions had worked fairly well. Where, however, the incumbent had either been a crank or a bigot, there had been a great deal of trouble in Ireland on this question. In the County Down only last year a parishioner had to take the churchyard gate off the hinges and force his way in, and had ultimately to establish his rights as a parishioner in the Assize Court. He had been asked by the Presbyterians in that district to introduce a Bill to regulate what they considered to be a great grievance. He admitted that such cases had not been common; they had only cropped up where the incumbent had not, as he thought, acted wisely.
§ MR. C. B. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
asked, whether what the Home Secretary was fighting for was worth so much to him as what the promoters of this Amendment were fighting for was worth to them. After all, it was little more than a technical ownership which was in dispute here. If successful in pressing this Amendment, the supporters of it did not propose to make any curtailment of the parishioners' rights. The common-sense view of the question was—that the ownership of the churchyards should be in the same hands as the ownership of the church, for the reason that the control of the adjacent ground was of more importance, to those who had the management of the church and the services therein, than was the mere technical and very much restricted right of ownership to those in whom it was proposed to vest the churchyard. Of those two possible arrangements the right hon. Gentleman was promoting the vesting of the ownership in that authority which would be productive of the greatest amount of discord.
*MR. BRYN ROBERTS
asked, on whose behalf was the churchyard held? 1453 If it were held exclusively for the members of the Church of England, then there was a sufficient reason why the management of it should be in the hands of the incumbent; but although the churchyard was adjacent to the church, inasmuch as it was for the benefit of the parish as a whole, it was only right and proper that the regulation of it should be in the hands of some authority representing the public. The churchyards ought to be in the hands of some body representing the parishioners. The rights over the churchyards in Wales had been used by the incumbents in such a way as to make the Burial Act almost nugatory. That was due to the irresponsible power of the incumbent. That had been proved before the Committee which had sat to consider the subject. Thus no parishioner had a common law right to face his grave with brickwork, and, rightly or wrongly, there was a strong feeling in Wales that that was the only respectful mode of burial of the dead. The incumbent always used his power of objecting to the grave being brick-faced to exact a fee to which he was not legally entitled. The incumbent said to the parishioner—I will not allow you to put any brickwork into the grave unless you pay me my fee;and the parishioner was obliged to submit to the illegal exaction rather than be disrespectful to the dead. Another point was that a man who removed from one parish to another had no longer a right to bury in the churchyard, and in such cases again the incumbent availed himself of his power to exact an illegal fee, and to compel the former parishioner to submit to have the burial service of the Church of England performed over the grave. This practice had given rise to an exceedingly bitter feeling in Wales. With regard to disused churchyards, he wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that there were a great number of churchyards in Wales which were partly disused, and in which no new graves could be opened, but in which existing graves in which there was still room for burials, might be built up. In such cases, therefore, the churchyard was still in use, and he asked that in these instances the parishioners might still have the right to visit and to decorate their graves, and he was afraid that unless some provision to that effect were introduced into the Bill that right might be lost. He hoped 1454 that the right hon. Gentleman would not concede one inch further because he believed that he had already gone too far in the direction of concession. Welsh Members had taken but little part in the discussion upon the details of this Bill, because they were anxious not to impede its progress, but the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must not assume that their silence was due to apathy or to a want of interest in those details.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that he did not pretend that all the clergymen of the Church of England were very wise or discreet, but he maintained that the cases in which they were guilty of acts like those to which the hon. and learned Gentleman who had last spoken, were of very rare occurrence.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman knew perfectly well that in the Debate on the burials question it had been shown that the number of clergymen who behaved indiscreetly was very small. He could only say that all hon. Members must deplore that such cases should occur. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to the grievance of those who, having left a parish, had lost their right of burial there, but the hon. and learned Solicitor General who had taken rather an extreme view of the rights of parishioners had stated that a parishioner who quitted a parish did lose his right of burial in the parish churchyard. A large part of the churchyard was, in the most rigid law, the property of the incumbent. No one had a right to be buried in any particular churchyard except a parishioner. The hon. Member opposite thought it a grievance that persons who were not parishioners and who did not die in the parish where their relatives resided, could not as of right be buried in the churchyard of that parish. That was an exaggerated complaint in his opinion. He wished to ask the Home Secretary whether he would undertake to introduce a provision into the Bill for the purpose of safeguarding the right of Church authorities to enlarge and extend a church into the churchyard, when occasion arose. The churchyards, it should be borne in mind, came generally up to the walls of the 1455 church. Would the right hon. Member give a pledge that he would introduce a provision for this purpose?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he could not do that, but if the noble Lord or any of his Friends should propose an Amendment for the purpose he undertook to consider it carefully.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that he also wished to ask whether in any Act of Parliament there was a provision which said that burial grounds which were not under the control of the Church must be properly managed. What were the regulations in respect of monuments erected therein? It might happen that a Parish Council, invading a churchyard for the first time, would make provisions very distasteful to the parishioners who had hitherto enjoyed certain privileges in connection with the churchyard under the authority of the Bishops. Would it be within the power of the Parish Council to direct that no cross should be erected and no apt text inscribed upon the monument? The right hon. Member might say "Why not trust the Parish Council as well as the Bishop"? He had great regard for Parish Councils, but there was nothing sacred about their character. There was, however, in his opinion something sacred attaching to the burial of the dead, and he was anxious to know what guarantee the church parishioners would have in the future that their religious susceptibilities would be respected by the now authority. Were there any Acts of Parliament providing for control over a Burial Authority which was not a Church Authority?
*MR. BRYN ROBERTS
observed that the noble Lord, in order to answer one of his statements, had taken the precaution of misrepresenting it. He had not said that clergymen in Wales refused to bury non-parishioners in their churchyards. What he did say was, that clergymen exacted an illegal fee for the burial of non-parishioners, and excluded the Nonconformist service under the Burials Act in such cases. The noble Lord appeared to think that this practice was extremely rare. That was not the case. In Anglesey and Carnarvonshire the practice was generally resorted to by the clergy. They did not allow any non-parishioner, any man who had resided out of the parish, to be buried 1456 within it unless the Church Service was read and a fee paid. The Church Service might not be insisted on always as a condition for permission to put brickwork in graves, but the clergy insisted on the illegal fee in these cases always.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, as regarded the consecrated portion of a cemetery the incumbent had the same rights that he had over the parish church. The non-consecrated portion was vested in the Burial Board. By the new Amendment to be proposed by the Home Secretary the Parish Councils would have all the rights of Burial Boards. In the view of law burial grounds were in a certain sense secular property, inasmuch as every parishioner, whatever was his religious creed, was entitled to be buried therein. The usufruct of the ground belonged to the parishioners, and it was only vested in the incumbent as trustee for them. But the non-parishioner had no common law right of burial, except by the permission of his incumbent. This discretionary power the clergy of Wales had constantly abused, by refusing to bury a non-parishioner except with the services of the Church. It was nothing more nor less than a fraud on the Burials Act of 1880. The present Bill proposed to restore to the parish what was really parish property.
§ MR. HANBURY
differed from the right hon. Baronet as to the right of the incumbent to prevent the burial of a non-parishioner in the parish graveyard. The churchwardens were the people whose consent was required.
§ MR. HANBURY
held that in refusing to bury non-parishioners in the parish churchyard, the incumbent respected the rights of his parishioners and the rights of laity. He submitted that the right hon. Gentleman was entirely wrong in his law.
*MR. BRYN ROBERTS
said that in Wales the Churchwardens had never refused burial in the parish churchyard to a non-parishioner. They had always been reasonable men, whereas the clergy had not.
§ MR. BALFOUR
remarked that the controversy, in the hands of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire and the 1457 right hon Member for Denbighshire, had wandered a little far from the Amendment before the Committee. The right hon. Baronet, with his natural desire to rehearse ancient trials and to fight old battles over again, had gone back to the old controversies. He had a high respect for the authority of the right hon. Baronet on this subject, and he would venture to quote it on the very point raised by himself. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend next him maintained that the reason why the Burial Bill of 1880 had not been employed more than it had been in Wales was owing to the stupidity of the clergy, which was not counteracted by the unfailing wisdom of the churchwardens. [Laughter.] But this was the view taken on the 28th of February of this year by the right hon. Baronet himself:—Sir G. Osborne Morgan said he explained, when he moved the Bill, that it would be of slight operation in Wales, because all the Dissenting chapels in Wales had their own burial grounds.[Laughter and Cheers.] He would leave this controversy, in which the right hon. Baronet seemed to have distinguished himself, and come to the Amendment before the Committee. Let him point out that, owing to the course taken by the Home Secretary—and of which, from many points of view he was far from complaining—they found themselves in an extraordinary difficulty. As the Bill was originally framed, every burial-ground in Wales was vested in the Parish Council without qualification. Then the right hon. Gentleman discovered that that would apply to disused burial grounds, and accordingly he had promised a modification, not yet on the Paper, by which burial grounds already disused were to be excluded from the operation of the clause; but he did not tell them whether he meant to introduce provisions by which burial grounds, which in the future might be regarded as no longer fit for human sepulture, would also be excluded. Having promised that qualification, though not yet having put on the Paper words to carry it out, the right hon. Gentleman called their attention to a long clause which he had put on the paper, and which certainly had escaped the attention of the members of the Committee, 1458 who had not had time to examine it. If that clause were carried without amendment, the burial grounds still in use would be handed over to the Parish Council, who would have to carry out the duties of a burial board. Then the hon. Member for St. Albans pointed out to the Home Secretary that the hardship upon the members of the Church of England might be very great if the whole of the burial ground was vested in the Parish Council, who had no power of alienation. His hon. Friend had pointed out that it would be impossible to extend any church situated entirely in a burial ground, that it would probably be impossible to do any exterior repairs to the church because it might not be possible to erect the necessary scaffolding, and that it might be impossible to have processions and other like ceremonies in the church because the legal right of way which would still remain in the clergyman might not be sufficient for the purpose. He further pointed out that there was no limitation with regard to the time of interment, which might prove a great hardship to members of the Church of England who were worshippers at the church. The Home Secretary had shown himself a ready recipient of the powerful arguments of his hon. Friend, and had promised, not to amend his own clause or to introduce words carrying out the suggestion of the hon. Member for St. Albans, but to give favourable consideration to any words which they might suggest with that object. Words which would give power to extend the church, to repair the church, to give free access to the church, were not words which were very easily produced; and he thought the Government were bound to aid in carrying out suggestions which they themselves had accepted. ("Hear, hear!") The Opposition plan was to leave things as they were, in which case none of those difficulties would arise. Every Welsh Nonconformist had the right to be buried in the churchyard of his own parish with the religious ceremony of the sect to which he belonged. Could more than that be asked? Ought more than that to be given? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire had pointed out that the burial board had absolute control over all inscriptions and over all monuments in the unconsecrated portion 1459 of the churchyard; and he went on to say that under the Bill as drafted these powers were extended to consecrated ground, and would extend to consecrated ground up to the very walls of the church. It was manifest, therefore, that in the case of either a stupid or hostile Parish Council there might be a great outrage to the feelings of Churchmen, deliberate or not deliberate. ("Hear, hear!") He should be loth to suppose that any deliberate injury would be done to those feelings. They had been told that the Church in Wales was not only an alien Church, but was regarded with bitter hostility by a large part of the Welsh people. But if that were so, and he did not believe it was, surely they must anticipate that powers which could be abused would be in certain, cases abused by those to whom they might be rashly given. ("Hear, Hear!") The Home Secretary had not suggested any plan by which the safeguards—the justice of which the right hon. Gentleman had admitted—could be carried out; and, under these circumstances, feeling, as he did, the extreme difficulty of protecting the interests of the Church merely by the words of the clause which the right hon. Gentleman had put upon the paper, and feeling also that the Government had not given to claims which they admitted to be just the consideration they deserved, he would certainly support the Amendment on a Division.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the Leader of the Opposition had frankly admitted that he had not previously had his attention called to the new clause, which had been on the Paper for several days; but the right hon. Gentleman had not even now taken the trouble to read that clause carefully. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the first place, that the clause did not provide for such a common operation as the repairing of the church, or the erection of scaffolding upon it. The clause clearly provides a "right of way" for the purpose of "repairing the church, or for any other lawful purpose." Again, the right hon. Gentleman had said that the clause did not provide for processions. The clause provided a right of way, not only to the Representative Body, but tothe clergy and congregation attending the church, and such other persons as may resort 1460 thereto for the purpose of divine worship, or of repairing the church, or for any other lawful purpose,which, he thought included the purpose to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred. Again, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the possible clashing of funerals. The words of the clause were:—The authority shall not allow any funeral to take place during the usual time of the ordinary services in the church, and shall make such other regulations as may be found necessary to prevent any interference by persons attending funerals with the clergy or congregation attending the church.Therefore, in the three particulars which the right hon. Gentleman had specified, most careful provisions had been made— [Opposition cries of "No!"]—and the only point in the right hon. Gentleman's indictment was that provision had not been made to meet the contingency of an enlargement of the church. As to the future of these churchyards they would be placed under the Parish Council just as burial grounds are now placed under the burial boards. The experience of 40 years had shown that the burial boards might be trusted in these matters not to offend the religious susceptibilities of any religious body. Parliament had provided—and the provisions would be applied under his clause, in order to guard against the possibility of abuse—that one of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State shall from time to time make such regulations in respect of these grounds as are necessary, not only for the protection of the public health, but for the maintenance of decency and good order. These regulations were constantly made by the Home Office, and were rigidly enforced by a system of inspection, and he could not think there was any ground for the suggestion that parish councils in Wales would show themselves any less fitted than the burial boards in this country had shown themselves to carry out this duty.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he had been told that he had not read the Amendments, but he wanted to know whether it was not the duty of Ministers of the Crown to bring in their Bill in the shape in which they intended to pass it, or whether they expected Members, with all the duties now imposed on them, to 1461 read through 27 pages of Amendments in order to find out what Amendments had been put down surreptitiously?
§ MR. ELLIOT LEES (Birkenhead)
said he was anxious to point out that there was a very great difference between a Burial Board appointed ad hoc and a Parish Council appointed for many purposes, and that the temptation of the Parish Council to act unfairly might be considerable. If the Parish Council applied to a landowner for an allotment and it was refused, would it be able to take vengeance on that man by refusing to allow him to put up a monument in the churchyard?
§ Question put, "That the words 'and all burial grounds belonging to cathedrals or vested in incumbents' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 149; Noes 169.—(Division List, No. 132.)
§ And, it being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.