§ On the Order to go into Committee on this Bill,
§ THE HOME SECRETARY (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I have it in command from the Queen to signify to 538 the House that Her Majesty has been pleased to place at the disposal of Parliament for the Established Church (Wales) Bill Her Majesty's interest in the bishoprics and other ecclesiastical dignities and benefices in Wales and Monmouthshire.
§ The following instructions stood on the Notice Paper:—
- 1. MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWKN.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, the one dealing with the termination of the Establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire, and the other with the provisions in respect of the temporalities thereof, and that the first Bill be reported to the House before the other is proceeded with.
- 2. MR. DAVID THOMAS.—As an Amendment to Mr. Griffith-Boscawen's Instruction on Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill, leave out from "and," in line 5, to "and," in line 6, and insert "with the transfer of the temporalities thereof to Commissioners or other public body, and the other with the allocation and disposition of such property."
- 3. VISCOUNT WOLMER.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make such provision in the Bill as may enable the holder of an ecclesiastical office entitled to an existing interest to be transferred to another office in the Church in Wales without forfeiting such existing interest.
- 4. MR. VICARY GIBBS.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision in the Bill for the application of the property hitherto enjoyed by the Church in Wales and Monmouthshire to purposes directly connected with the religious welfare of the people of Wales and Monmouthshire.
- 5. MR. R. G. WEBSTER.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert a Clause to provide for the taking of a quinquennial religious Census in Wales.
- 6. MR. JEFFREYS.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for facilitating the redemption on an equitable basis of the tithe rent-charge in Wales and Monmouthshire dealt with by the Bill.
- 7. MR. DAVID THOMAS.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision for the establishment of a general Committee, chosen by the respective County Councils
539 of Wales and Monmouthshire, to which shall be transferred the property of the Church attached to parochial benefices, and for the appropriation by such Committee, after making due compensation for existing-life interests, of the income arising from such property to purposes of general advantage to the people of Wales and Monmouthshire.
- 8. MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions with respect to the application of the endowments of all chapels in Wales and Monmouthshire which are exempted from rates as places of public religious worship and are registered according to Act of Parliament.
- 9. MR. TOMLINSON.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make, provision in the Bill for the constitution of parish rolls of the persons who after disestablishment elect to be members of the Church in Wales and Monmouthshire.
- 10. SIR RICHARD WEBSTER.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision in the Bill that, in the event of its being shown that the moneys expended by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty for the purposes of the Church in Wales since the year 1703 are in excess of the moneys received by them from Welsh ecclesiastical property during that period, no property shall be transferred by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty to the Welsh Commissioners.
- 11. SIR FREDERICK MILNER.—On Order for Committee on Established Church (Wales) Bill being read, to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to ascertain, either by a religious census or otherwise, the relative proportions of the adherents of the Church and of the Nonconforming bodies, specifying the numbers adhering to each sect.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The first Instruction and the Amendment thereto are in order, but, before I call upon the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division to move his Instruction, it will be convenient to the House that I should deal with the others which stand upon the paper. The Instruction which stands in the name of the noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh is not in order, because it is unnecessary to deal by Instruction with a question which may be made the subject matter of an Amendment in Committee. The same ruling applies to the Instruction standing in the name of the hon. Member for St. Albans, which proposes to make provision for the application of 540 the property of the Church to purposes directly connected with the religious welfare of the people of Wales and Monmouthshire. That is an alteration of the destination to which the proceeds should be devoted, which may be proposed as an Amendment to the Bill. Then the Instruction of the hon. Member for East St. Pancras, to provide for the taking of a quinquennial religious census in Wales, is out of order as altogether outside the subject-matter of the Bill. The Instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Basingstoke, that there should be power to make provision for facilitating the redemption on an equitable basis of tithe rent-charge, is in order, as, though the question of tithes is touched on in the Bill, there is some doubt whether the redemption of tithe can be dealt with by Amendment. So I think the Instruction is in order. As regards the Instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil, that is not in order. It proposes that the property of the Church should be transferred to different bodies and diverted to purposes different from those proposed by the Bill, and that can be dealt with by Amendment. The Instruction standing in the name of the hon. Member for Shropshire is out of order, as dealing with a matter which is altogether outside the scope of the Bill. The Bill deals with a perfectly definite and well-defined matter—the Established Church in Wales and Monmouthshire—and it would not merely be extending the object of the Bill, but travelling into another field altogether if an Instruction were allowed authorizing the Committee to deal with places of religious worship which do not belong to the Established Church. The Instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Preston is out of order. It really proposes another form of religious census. The Instruction in the name of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight is unnecessary; the object it has in view may be secured by an Amendment. The Instruction in the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Basset-law is out of order, upon the same grounds on which the Instructions of the hon. Members for St. Pancras and Preston are out of order.
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
Would it be possible for me to 541 say a word with reference to——[Ministerial cries of "Order !" and "Chair !"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member must not argue upon my ruling. I call upon Mr. Griffith-Boscawen.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
then moved—That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to divide the Bill into two Bills, the one dealing with the termination of the Establishment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire, and the other with the provisions in respect of the temporalities thereof; and that the first Bill he reported to the House before the other is proceeded with.The hon. Member said the object of the Instruction could be very briefly stated. On the question of Disestablishment there was a very clear and simple point between the two sides of the House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite thought Established Churches were wrong, and that the connection of the State with religion was unscriptural and a sin. On the Conservative side of the House they did not take that view. Hon. Members opposite thought next that the existence of an Established Church was contrary to what they were pleased to term "religious equality." For his own part he did not understand the phrase. Even if they gained some theoretical equality by Disestablishing the Church, he submitted that the nation would lose more in practice than the Church would gain in theory. Then, thirdly, hon. Members opposite held that the question of Disestablishment must be pressed forward, because they said the large majority of the Welsh people were in favour of it. On the Conservative side of the House they questioned that. The question had never been put by itself clearly to the Welsh people. But even if it had he utterly denied the right of any section of the House to make a local question of what was really the concern of the whole nation. There being a clear and simple issue between the opposite sides of the House, why did the Government wish to encumber it by introducing the question of Disendowrnent along with that of Disestablishment? As religious men on both sides of the House they could discuss Disestablishment perfectly calmly and clearly, but the Government were introducing a vast amount of heated controversy and most unnecessary 542 matter in asking the House not merely to Disestablish but Disendow the Church. For the calm discussion of the question it would be infinitely better to keep out of consideration such vulgar controversial matters as pounds, shillings, and pence. Instead of discussing the matter calmly, what would be the state of affairs? Hon. Members opposite charged the supporters of the Establishment with being merely concerned to defend the loaves and fishes. The defenders of the Church were equally ready to charge hon. Members opposite with robbery and sacrilege, and all sorts of other things. Look at the result in the Welsh National Party. They might be unanimous about Disestablishment, but were they about Disendowment? They had neither yet, but they were already at sixes and sevens as to the share North and South Wales were respectively to receive. He was told that some of the Welsh Members were barely on speaking terms. In the interests of the quietude of the House, and the progress of business it would be better if the questions of Disestablishment and Disendowment were separated, and the House decided on the higher grounds whether there should be Disestablishment or not. It seemed to be an axiom with many Members that Disestablishment and Disendowment must go together, that the two terms were convertible, and that they could not have one without the other. Were the arguments in favour of Disestablishment also arguments for Disendowment? If hon. embers thought Established Churches unseriptural, did they contend that Endowments were unscriptural Why, at the present moment the Nonconformists—and it was a great credit to them—were trying to build up endowments for themselves. Mr. Nye's recent book proved the existence of hundreds of Nonconformist endowments. The Independents of Caerphilly, in South Wales, had an endowment of £16 4s. a year derived from a fully-licensed public house. If Nonconformists built up endowments of that sort, why should not the Church have endowments. If they thought endowments were wrong, all they would have to do when the Local Veto Bill passed was to get a two-thirds majority, and they could secure Prohibition and Disendowment by the same vote. A short time ago he 543 asked the Home Secretary for a return of Dissenting endowments in Wales and Monmouthshire. What did the Home Secretary say?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said the hon. Member was not entitled to discuss the propriety of endowments either of the Church or other denominations. The question before the House was the separation of the Bill into two parts.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, he would bow to that ruling. He merely wished to show that the argument on the other side of the House that Disestablishment was a sin did not apply in the case of endowments. Hon. Members opposite said that by Disestablishment they would create religious equality. He admitted that a certain kind of religious equality would be created by Disestablishment. But would it be so by Disendowment? It was proposed to take away from the Church every penny she possessed, but not a single penny from the Nonconformist bodies. This, instead of creating religious equality, would create a new religious inequality of a monstrous kind. It was said that the vast majority of the Welsh people demanded the Disestablishment of the Church. But he doubted whether they demanded the secularisation of the funds of the Church proposed in the Bill. He could have well understood a contention being put forward on behalf of the Welsh Nonconformists that funds which were given to the Welsh Church when it was the only religious body in the country ought to be divided among all the religious denominations that now existed in that part of the United Kingdom, but he could not understand how the supporters of Disendowment could propose that funds that were admittedly given for religious objects should be taken from the Church in order that they might be appropriated to secular purposes. None of the great arguments that applied to Disestablishment applied to Disendowment. He did not believe that those Welshmen who had voted for Disestablishment had any intention of voting at the same time for Disendowment. The precedent of the Disendowment of the Irish Church had been frequently referred to, but the fact was that the Irish Church was one of those lucky bodies which had always had more money than it required. Parliament 544 had dealt with the Irish Church surplus on several occasions, and notably in the case of the Maynooth Grant. There was a great distinction between the cases of the Irish Church and the Welsh Church in the amount of their Endowments. When the Irish Church was Disestablished and Disendowed the capitalised value of her revenue was £16,000,000, and the capitalsum left her to begin again on amounted to £8,000,000. The total capitalised value of the Welsh Endowments, however, only amounted to £3,600,000.
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS rose to a point of order. Was the hon. Member in order in going into the general question of Disendowment?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the merits of the method of procedure proposed by his instruction.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said that he merely desired to point out that there was a great difference between the cases of the Irish and the Welsh Churches in connection with their Disendowment. After it was Disendowed, the Irish Church started with £4,000,000 more than the Welsh Church now possessed in the way of Endowment. In these circumstances, therefore, it was absurd to contend that because in the case of the Irish Church Disestablishment was coupled with Disendowment that that should be done in the case of the Welsh Church. What had happened in the case of Canada? When the Canadian Church was Disestablished there was a certain amount of Disendowment, but only in the case of certain funds which had always been regarded as the property of the various Protestant sects of that country, while all funds appropriated to particular rectories were left to the Church. In the case of the United States there had been no Disestablishment, because no Established Church had existed in that country; but after the Revolution the Episcopal Church of New York was permitted to retain Endowments which amounted to £400,000 a year. Lord Selborne, a great lawyer, and a greater Churchman, who had just passed away, and whose death at the present, moment was an irreparable loss to the Church, declared in the debate on the second reading of the Irish Church Bill that— 545''The questions of Disestablishment and Disendowment are not inseparable, and ought not to be so treated. Whatever other reason can be given for so treating them, it is not a case of necessity.He ventured to say, therefore, that there was no necessity for so treating them now, and it was in the belief that it would be convenient to the House that the two things should be kept separate that he begged to move the Instruction that stood upon the paper in his name.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester),
in seconding the Motion, said that he did not know whether the Government were prepared to accept the Motion or not. During the period that the present Government had been in office they had hurled a number of vast Bills at the House of Commons, and had then alleged that the Measures were so great that there was no time to consider and discuss them in detail. Hon. Members opposite appeared to think that because Bills dealt with interests of enormous magnitude they should be discussed in much less detail than if they were Measures involving questions of mere parochial importance. This Bill was intended to affect the Established Church as a whole, and therefore it ought to be discussed in the fullest detail. The Measure proposed to effect a complete transfer of an enormous mass of property, it involved a total reconstruction of one of the most ancient institutions of the country, and it dealt with vested interests upon a vast scale. Moreover, it constituted an attack upon the religious convictions of the great mass of our fellow-countrymen, and therefore that House was bound to consider its details with the utmost care. He had heard already a rumour that the Government did not intend that the Measure should be fully discussed, and that what was known as "the gag" was to be applied, subject, of course, to the discretion of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair. [Cries of "Order."]
§ MR. J. CALDWELL rose to a point of order. He wished to ask Mr. Speaker whether the noble Lord was in order in referring to rumours that were afloat outside of that House with regard to the business of the House, and to the application of the Closure, and to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair might exercise his discretion.546
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think that the noble Lord has made any reflection upon the Chair. He has merely referred to the great magnitude of the task before the House and suggested the desirability of its being divided into two parts.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that nothing had been further from his thoughts than to make any improper reflection on Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman who interrupted did not seem to be acquainted with contemporary history, or he would have known that on that very day a question was on the Paper asking that the gag should be applied. If the hon. Member who put that question was able to persuade the Government to accede to his request, the Committee would be asked to vote away the Endowments, of which the Church of England in Wales had been in possession for so many years, under the influence of the gag. That, he thought, was an appalling prospect for the House, for every time this particular method of procedure was adopted, the House sank lower down in popular opinion than it was before. The proper course to adopt was to cut the Bill in two, and allow the Committee to discuss Disestablishment and Disendowment separately, without the fear of the gag before their eyes. Another reason for taking that course was the remarkable ignorance which prevailed amongst hon. Members opposite as to what Disestablishment was and what Disendowment was. It was commonly said that private patronage belonged to Establishment. So far from that being the case, the representatives of the Irish Church Government took steps, immediately after the Disestablishment and Disendowment of that Church, to re-establish private patronage under the Voluntary system which followed on the Act of 1869. All Disestablishment did was to take away the so-called privileges of the Church, which, apart from the possession of property, were of the very smallest character. He only knew of two definite privileges which the Church, as distinct from other denominations, possessed. Those were, the existence of the Bishops in the House of Lords, and the right of the clergymen to celebrate marriage without the presence of a Registrar. Disendowment, therefore, differed entirely from Disestablishment. He denied the possession 547 of property was the special privilege of the Church. The possession of Church property by the Church was a similar thing to the possession of Nonconformist property by Nonconformist denominations; and by striking at this possession the Disendowment proposals of the Bill struck at the rights of property, to which the Church was as much entitled as any of Her Majesty's subjects. The difference between the two subjects was very wide indeed, and from the point of view of the interests of the House, as well as from the point of view of the interests of the Church and of the country, they ought to be separated. There were a large number of gentlemen who, though very strongly in favour of abolishing what they called the privileges of the Church, were not in favour of taking away her property; and it was passible that other gentlemen might take a precisely converse view. Therefore, it was clear that it would be most unfair to submit the double issue to the House. By cutting the Bill into two they would be able to obtain, on the Third Reading of the Bills, distinct and definite expressions of opinion from the House on the separate subjects of Disestablishment and Disendowment. Whatever way it was looked at, he thought nothing could be clearer than that the two subjects should be considered separately. It was obvious, from the point of view of Parliamentary procedure, that the course suggested in the Motion was the proper course; and if the Government refused to adopt it, it could only mean that they had no expectation of passing the Bill into law, and that one of their principal objects was to curry favour with a particular class of their supporters below the Gangway, who hated the Church to such an extent that there was no limit to the attacks they were prepared to make upon it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I rise at once to remove from the mind of the noble Lord the doubt which he says he entertains as to the attitude of the Government in regard to this Instruction. We cannot assent to this Instruction under any circumstances or under any conditions. I listened with attention and respect to both the speeches of the hon. Members opposite. With respect to most of the speech of the hon. Member who moved this Instruction, it seemed to 548 me that it might have been very properly made on the Second Reading; and as to the speech of the noble Lord who seconded the Instruction, he will, I hope, forgive me for saying that it might have been properly deferred until that Motion—which he is sanguine enough to anticipate, and which, he supposes, will bring to a prompt conclusion the consideration of this Bill—comes actually before the House. But both speeches ignored the fact that the House, by a very decided majority on the Second Heading of the Bill, has affirmed its assent, as well to the Disendowment as to the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. If the object of this Motion were simply to promote the convenience of discussion, and were not, as I venture to think it is, to secure, if possible, that the House shall pass a Disestablishment Bill without Disendowment, it would have been quite competent for the hon. Member to move an Amendment to the Second Reading in the nature of this Instruction, and to have the whole question threshed out. Now, what are the arguments as to convenience? I am not going to deal with the arguments as to principle, as I consider them to be outside the scope of this discussion. The hon. Member who moved the Instruction tells us that we can discuss the question of Disestablishment calmly and dispassionately; but when we come to the subject of Disendowment, he appears to think that all our baser passions will assert themselves, and he has warned us that he, for his part, will be prepared to accuse us of sacrilege and plunder, and, as he went on to comprehensively say, "various other things." I think the hon. Gentleman does injustice to his own powers of self-restraint. I believe that when we come to discuss the Disendowment Clauses we will be able to do so with the judicious and dispassionate temper that characterises all our proceedings. The only other argument is, that there are persons in favour of Disestablishment who may not be in favour of Disendowment, or, to put it in another way, that arguments which may persuade to Disestablishment are totally distinct from, and have no dependence upon, arguments in favour of Disendowment. I do not take that view. I regard the Establishment of the Church as consistent not only with the possession of special privileges, and 549 disabilities; but also with the title by which she enjoys and uses property which, in my judgment, and in the judgment of the House pronounced upon the Second Reading, is to be regarded as national property. You cannot, in my view, satisfactorily dispose of the question of Disestablishment justly, or discuss it adequately, without taking into view at the same time the fact of the possession by the Church of that property and the alternative proposals for its disposal for other objects. The hon. Gentleman quoted the authority of a great man, whose loss I am certain we, on this side of the Hsuse, deplore as sincerely as hon. Gentlemen opposite, and lament at this particular moment—I mean Lord Selborne, who, at the time of the Irish Church Bill, appears to have expressed the opinion that Disestablishment could be effected without Disendowment. That may be so or not, hut if it be so, then Lord Selborne must have subsequently changed his views. In a pamphlet written by him on the defence of the Church of England, published in 1886, I find a passage which I will ven-to read to the House, as it seems to me most pertinent to the subject now under discussion:—Disestablishment without Disendowment," said Lord Selborne, "a renunciation by the State of such powers of control as are involved in Establishment, without total or large secularisation of the Endowments of the Church, is a measure which nobody now proposes, and which, therefore, I need not now consider.That is a sufficient answer to the argument of the hon. Member.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
In ordinary circumstances there might be some reason for the slighting tone towards this proposal, which I think I detected in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. [Mr. ASQUITH: "No, no."] At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman treated the proposal which is now before the House as if it had no grounds whatever in reason and justice, and was merely a proposal made to stand in the way of the progress of the Bill. But we are not in ordinary circumstances, and I think the Government should have been absolutely grateful to my hon. Friend for the suggestion he has thrown out in the Instruction now before the House. What is the position? We have before us the leading Bill of the Government of the 550 present Session, and we are asked to-day to commence the work of Committee on that Bill. Let any hon. Member look at the aspect of the House. Is it not perfectly clear there never was a greater game of make-believe than that in which we are engaged at the present moment? I think the right hon. Gentleman should have been grateful for a proposal which would have shortened the duration of that game. Every Government that has ever attempted to transact business in the House has always discovered that the only way to make real progress with measures of importance in Committee is to conduct them de die in diem. We are asked to go into Committee on this Bill to-day and to-morrow, hut on Thursday and Friday other business is to be transacted. Does that look like a real desire to carry legislation on this subject? The Programme of the Government, forced upon them by their supporters, is of such a length that it is absolutely impossible for them to carry it altogether into effect, and they are putting forward one Bill at one moment and another at another in the hope that for the time they may pacify the advocates of all these separate measures, and that is the sole object with which we are engaged at the present time. My hon. Friend attempts to facilitate that unpleasant task by suggesting that the two objects of Disestablishment and Disendowment, which are combined in the Bill, should be separated. By adopting this suggestion, the Government would be able to pacify their own supporters and fulfil, perhaps, their own sense; of justice by proceeding with Disestablishment in the first place, and relegating Disendowment to some future occasion. What is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? He says that the House has accepted, on the Second Reading of this Bill, the principle of both Disestablishment and Disendowment. I admit it, but that is on reason why we should attempt to proceed with both of them at the same time. I entirely demur to the contention of the right hon. Gentleman that these two subjects are necessarily connected in any legislation of this kind. When Disestablishment was passed in Canada, the Church was left in possession of her Endowments and holds them now. In the same way, when the Church was Disestablished in Australia 551 she was left in possession of her Endowments and holds them now. As a matter of fact, in these cases Disestablishment and disendowment have not gone together, and why should they? A few years ago, I will venture to say, there were many Members of the Liberal Party in "Wales, like the late Lord Swansea, then Sir Hussey Vivian, who were distinctly in favour of Disestablishment without Diseudowment. The hon. Member for the Neath Division of Glamorganshire stated in the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill that certain candidates of the Unionist Party were supporters of the policy of Disestablishment in Wales It is the fact that such of those gentlemen as were sudporters of the policy of Disestablishment declined to be supporters also of Disendowment, and there are individuals in Wales, and I suspect a good many persons in the United Kingdom, who, although in favour of the policy of Disestablishment, yet do shrink from the policy of Disendowment and the injustice and wrong it would cause. I think I detected in the able speech of the Under Secretary for the Home Department on the Second Heading of this Bill some feeling of this sort. He expressed a very strong opinion in favour of the policy of Disestablishment on the grounds of his desire to free the Church from what the Home Secretary called the chains and fetters of Establishment, but he passed very lightly over the question of Disendowment, and expressed his belief that the Church ought to be allowed to retain possession of all the Endowments which had been given to her since she had been theologically and spiritually what she is at the present moment, whilst the hon. Member for Fife took very much the same line. Therefore, Sir, I contend that neither in the past history of this matter in other countries, nor in the wishes, at any rate, of some of those who have supported or are supporting the policy of Disestablishment in Wales has Disendowment been inseparably connected with it. Even from the point of view of policy, it might be argued that it would be well if the Government paused before they insisted upon coupling these two matters in the Bill. Their desire—and I have no doubt it is a sincere desire—is to promote unity 552 and concord in Wales among persons belonging to different religious communities. By their policy of Disestablishment, they think they will remove what is considered to be a badge of social inferiority by the members of the Nonconformist sects in Wales. I will venture to say that whatever objection may be urged by Churchmen in Wales and in England to the policy of Disestablishment, yet that policy is not viewed with the same sense of injustice and personal wrong as the policy of Disendowment. I am strongly opposed to both, and I should not become a supporter of this Bill, or anything else than a persistent opponent of it, even if the right hon. Gentleman accepted the advice I give him; but you have to consider what will be the feeling of the people in Wales after this Bill has become law. You have to think, surely, what will be the feelings of Churchmen as well as Nonconformists. Would it not be well if you can, to try your Disestablishment without Disendowment, and so avoid that rankling sense of injustice and wrong which you will certainly cause in the minds of Churchmen if you Disendow the Church. What are these Endowments which the right hon. Gentleman considers it of such vital importance to take away? Their total net annual value in all the twelve counties of Wales will not be above £150,000 a year. I could understand the views of those who would decline to allow a Disestablished Church to retain possession of a very large property such as she possessed in the Middle Ages, when monasteries and other institutions of the kind held large tracts of land, so that, at one time, under the Tudors, a great part of England appeared to be passing under the dominion of the Church. I could understand the objections of those who might hold that a very wealthy Church of that kind in a State ought to be to some extent under the control of that State as an Established Church. That is the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would have made an admirable First Minister of King Henry VIII. That I rather take to be the view of the right hon. Gentleman himself. But can you say that a Church which possesses a net income of £157,000 a year is in a position of that kind? It is the merest 553 pittance with which, if not largely supplemented by voluntary offerings of members, it would be impossible for the Church to do half the work she does. I would venture to contend that neither is it a necessary part of your policy to combine these two separate matters in the Bill, nor is it for the real promotion" of the object with which you have introduced this Measure. I hope that even now the Government may consider this matter in rather a more serious frame of mind than that in which the proposal seems to have been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman, and that they may give a more favourable reception to the proposal of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
hoped this Instruction would receive some support from the other side of the House. He based this expectation of support upon the fact that one of the hon. Members opposite, the hon. Member for Essex, had suggested that, with a view to their proper and adequate discussion, the subjects dealt with by the Bill should be taken and dealt with separately. That was all that was asked by this Amendment. It was exactly for that reason, and for the sake of expediting business, that he appealed to hon. Members opposite to join in the demand that the Bill should be divided. The Bill, as it stood, was, to a certain extent, divided, there being certain compartments which dealt with Establishment and others which dealt with Endowments. That being so, surely it was for the convenience of the House to divide the Bill altogether. The Home Secretary founded his objection to the proposal of his hon. Friend on the old argument of national property; but the whole question was raised of whether the property of the Church was national property or not. The right hon. Gentleman produced a volume and read a considerable extract from it. In answer, he would ask him to refer to Seldon on Tithe, to Professor Freeman on National Property, to the Bishop of Oxford on National Property, and to all the Lord Chancellors, except perhaps the Lord Chancellor who at present filled the Woolsack, who had not, he thought, delivered himself of anything on the subject. He apologised to the noble and learned Lord for saying he "filled" 554 the Woolsack, he meant sat on it. The reason which made him feel most strongly that the Bill ought to be divided was this—that no one had ever been able to tell him what he meant by Establishment. All knew what Endowment was, but no one, not even the Home Secretary, had ever given a definition of what he meant by Establishment. That was the whole point of the discussion. Surely it was for the benefit of discussion, and the advantage of the House, that two such totally different questions should be dealt with separately. One thing at a time. Let them endeavour to get through the Bill as well and fast and efficiently as they could, and in order that they might do that he was perfectly satisfied they ought to carry out the Instruction his hon. Friend had proposed.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
contended that the two main portions of the Bill ought to be divided if the discussion was to proceed on a broad and proper basis. The Disestablishment of the Church was something within the right and power of Parliament, and they could discuss that as a question by itself, and on its merits, and without the complications which the Home Secretary had introduced, and which might lead to a good deal of heat—namely, Disendowment. Although he did not consider Disendowment so serious for the welfare of the country, still it was a question which might be raised, not on the religious basis but on the moral basis, of whether this Parliament had the right, although it had the power, to disendow—which meant taking from one person and giving to another. The right hon. Gentleman quoted the late Lord Selborne, whose death they all deeply regretted, to show that in his later days he referred to the impossibility of separating Disestablishment from Disendowment. If, however, the whole context were taken a different conclusion would be drawn. At any rate he doubted whether the taking of one sentence from the work in question justified the Home Secretary in so representing Lord Selborne's views. For the purposes of his argument there was a stronger authority in favour of the line proposed in the Instruction, and that was the Liberation Society, which, in their pamphlet on "The Case for Disestablishment," 555 distinctly laid it down that the two questions of Disestablishment and Disendowment should be altogether separately treated. This Bill really raised the whole question of the Disestablishment of the Church of England; and surely they ought, first of all, to; settle whether they should disestablish or not before they considered the financial question, which was a secondary affair altogether. This was really the beginning of the great question of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England, and he believed the more this was threshed out, the less likely they should be to adopt it. But that strengthened the argument for not confusing the issues. When they came to consider the financial matters of the Bill, they lost sight of the far more important question, the moral and spiritual aspect of the Disestablishment. He went so far as to doubt whether Parliament had the moral right to take away the Endowments which had belonged to the Church for the last 1200 or 1300 years; but apart from that, he thought in the interests of all concerned it would be far better that the Government gave way and allowed the Bill to be divided into two. He fully agreed that it was probable the Opposition would oppose the Bill whatever happened, but they should be able to put the issue before the country clearly. He believed there were many persons absolutely opposed to Disendowment, which he considered robbery, although they might be in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church. The Government would be well advised to consent to the division of the Bill. The first week in May was nearly over, and they had not yet got into Committee. Yet the Government were apparently still determined to complicate the question of Disestablishment with the question of Disendowment. If the Bill were not divided it would be impossible to get it through Committee in the remaining portion of the Session. By giving way the Government would be serving their own interests.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, N.)
regretted the premature refusal of the Home Secretary to consider this instruction favourably. It was a bad arrangement that a Minister in charge of a Bill should make his reply 556 before hearing the arguments on the other side, be they good or be they bad. It was an ill-arrangement that they should be met with a stereotyped and premature refusal. Did the right hon. Gentleman consider that the business arrangements of that House ought to be made solely in the interests of Party? Did he think that those who were opposed to him, but who represented vast masses of the people of this country, had no right to consideration? He asserted that a majority of the people of the kingdom, amounting almost to millions, desired that the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment should be separated, and not merged. There were thousands of people who did not take the same view on each of these two issues, and therefore they ought to be separated. If the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should persist in refusing to accept this Instruction they would show themselves in this as in all other matters to be out of touch with the feelings of the majority of the people of this country.
§ *MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, that he was not often in favour of dividing Bills, but he thought that those who had brought forward this Motion had a very strong case. Within the four corners of this Bill they were asked to deal with two different questions standing in totally different categories, and commanding very different degrees of support. Among his own acquaintances there were not a few Churchmen and Nonconformists who believed in the desirability of freeing the Church from State control, not in the interests of the State or of other denominations, but in the interest of the Church herself. But while holding that opinion they had a deep-rooted objection to the proposal for Disendowment, regarding it as an invasion of the rights of property. In short there were great numbers of people who, on this Church question, were in favour of freedom, but not of plunder. Considering that this Bill dealt with a limited portion of a single Church, and that the poorest portion, a vast number of people would hesitate a very long time before they consented to strip it of its very slender means. Moreover, if the Bill were divided, one of its parts would not obtain the support of a majority even in that House. The House would undoubtedly 557 pass the Disestablishment Bill, but would act very differently when it came to face the question of Disendowment in its bare, naked form. There was division on the subject of Disendowment even in the ranks of the Welsh Members. The arguments that could be adduced for Disestablishment could not be adduced for Disendowment, and therefore he should vote for the Instruction.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, that the supporters of the Home Secretary appeared to find much satisfaction in his argument that an opportunity might have been taken to raise this question by an Amendment on the Second Reading, and that the arguments adduced in support of this Instruction would have been more appropriate at the previous stage of their proceedings on the measure. But the contention that this was a question which could have been disposed of on the Second Reading was contrary to the most elementary Parliamentary experience. To say that when a Bill proposed two distinct objects it was possible to separate them on the Second Reading, and to have an effective decision of the House upon the question of the separation was to run counter to all their experience. On the Motion for Second Reading it was only possible to dispose of one Amendment, and the selection of what Amendment should be proposed was in many cases decided by the accident of priority. But if an argumentative Amendment had been proposed in this case those who might have voted in favour of division would certainly have been told afterwards that by their support of the Amendment they had accorded an expression of opinion in favour of the Bill. He held, therefore, that it was not practicable to raise the question of the division of the Bill upon the Second Reading, and that this was the first opportunity which the House had had for the discussion of the question.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
entered an emphatic protest against the way in which the Government had treated the arguments of the Opposition. It was obvious that orders had gone out that no speeches were to be made on the Ministerial side of the House. There could be no fair discussion of any matter under such conditions.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he must correct the hon. and learned Member at once. No such order as he supposed had gone forth.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that of course if the right hon. Gentleman stated that the silence of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite was not in consequence of an order he accepted that statement at once. The Home Secretary, when making his rather perfunctory speech, appeared to think that he might dismiss this proposal by saying that the subject had not been submitted for consideration on the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman was not treating the Opposition with justice. He understood now from the right hon. Gentleman that it was not his suggestion that silence should be maintained below the Gangway. In those circumstances he wanted to know how it was that no Welsh Member had ventured to speak. There was, his hon. Friends had pointed out, a large and growing body of opinion in Wales opposed to Disendowment, and the reason why the Welsh Members desired that these two questions should be kept together was that by that means they hoped to get the support of Members who desired Disestablishment, but who would not vote for Disendowment if it were put before them as a separate issue. If the Welsh Members below the Gangway were in a position to declare that there was a unanimous feeling in Wales in favour of keeping the two questions together let them say so. But they could not do so, because they knew that there was a large section of the Nonconformist body in Wales that did not approve of the proposal for Disendowment. But might he point out how extremely important it was that this Instruction should be adopted? Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that a simple clause, which said that the Church in Wales should be disestablished, would be a complete Bill, and that nothing more would be necessary. He did not hesitate to say that the clauses which were concerned with Disestablishment, and Disestablishment only, with their consequential Amendments must occupy many days to debate, and therefore it was idle to deny that in mixing up the two subjects the difficulties of Debate and of preparing Amendments would be 559 enormously increased. The position of the Bishops and Clergy of the Disestablished Church with regard to Convocation had not yet been referred to. The fact that they were no longer to be called to Convocation forced upon the House the necessity of making some other provision. What was that provision? That the Disestablished Church should have power to establish for itself a constitution, to make synods, and to re-establish its organisation. Did hon. Members think that was not a matter which must be made the subject of Amendment? Then, again, what was to be the position of the Clergy with regard to the ecclesiastical law? Then there was another important question, which had occupied the attention of the Welsh and English Members in years gone by, and that was the marriage law. This Bill proposed that there should be a complete cutting adrift of the Disestablished Church from all ecclesiastical law; but, as hon. Members on the other side probably knew, there was an exception in the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church with respect to the marriage law. The consequence was, that in the folk-wing Session a Bill had to be brought in, in order to regulate the marriage law for the Disestablished Church in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to make the House believe that all these were questions which could be solved and dealt with in a Bill which in one sentence said that the Church should be disestablished and that ecclesiastical law should no longer have any bearing on the Church; but all the questions he had mentioned would have to be dealt with when Disestablishment took place. He submitted, with great deference, that it was not just or right to deal with an Instruction of this character without some answer being given upon these important questions. He could of course carry this much further by calling attention to the position of the Clergy of the Church and many other matters; but, forsooth, they were told by the Home Secretary that all these questions were to be dealt with in. one Bill! He submitted that it was by Instruction, and Instruction alone, that these questions could be properly raised under the Standing Order of the House. The reason why Disendowment and Disestablishment were not to be treated in 560 the logical and proper way was, that from beginning to end there had been no Welsh case made out. Without almost a single exception, when the Second Reading of the Bill was under discussion, the case made was not a case with regard to the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, but in regard to Disestablishment as a principle. The consequence was, that the Government dared not fight the case on the lines which were really applicable to the Welsh Church; because they knew that, though they might possibly secure a small majority, due to the Welsh Members, in obedience to the pledge given that the Government should have their support so long as this Bill was carried forward, if they were to adopt the reasonable and proper course, the internal discords and dissensions which the House had heard of would immediately break out into open warfare. Those who had listened to this Debate and those who would read it would come to the conclusion that every argument urged that night was in favour of the Instruction; but, whether independent persons came to the conclusion that the arguments were well founded or not, at least they would say that they were entitled to some answer. Whether the Opposition were right or wrong, whether they were voted clown or not, the reasons and arguments used in support of this Instruction would go to the country absolutely unanswered.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he was greatly impressed by the answer given to him, some nights ago, by the Home Secretary, with regard to the law concerning marriage under this Bill. He confessed that he was somewhat surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman quite unprepared with a policy on the subject. He thought that clearly proved that Disestablishment in itself was so large a question that it was worthy of, and ought to have, a separate Bill. He ventured to say that the Government, as regarded the Welsh Church, had confused the issue. The question of Disestablishment was quite distinct from that of Disendowment, and when he looked into history, he found they had been dealt with in many countries as wholly separate and distinct. In Canada, what were the facts of the case when the war ceased? The Endowments 561 of the Roman Catholic Church were not destroyed, but were confirmed by treaty. They were dealt with wholly separately from Disestablishment. And when he came to the history of this country, he found the same separation between Disestablishment and Disendowment. Long before the Reformation was thought of alien monasteries were secularised, and when he came to a later period, to the time of Henry VIII., he believed that the great change carried out by that king was carried out when he was still a devoted son of the Church. He must make allusion to the great difference of opinion in the minds of many people on the subject of Disendowment. He had asked questions of acquaintances of his, not Members of the Church of England, and he found that many of them were in favour of Disestablishment, while they believed Disendowment to be, if not confiscation and robbery, at any rate; unfair and unjust. They thought that it was not justice, or equity, or even Christianity, that they should be allowed to retain their endowments when members of the Church in Wales were deprived of theirs. The action of Parliament had hitherto been to strengthen the position of Nonconformist endowments, and he did not see how the House could with equal justice weaken or confiscate the endowments of the Church. There were certain questions of discipline which had not yet been discussed. He did not know what the effect of the Bill would be on the Clergy with regard to pluralities and other matters. He was quite sure the action of the Government would prevent their discussion.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said that, from the attitude of the supporters of the Government, it might be supposed they were approaching the end of a long deliberation instead of this being the first occasion on which, after the lapse of several weeks since the Second Reading, they resumed the further consideration of the Bill. An Instruction, of fundamental importance, had been moved; it could not be called in any sense a dilatory motion, and yet it was met by a policy of silence. The distinction between Disestablishment and Disendowment was natural and was commended by common-sense and justice; and it was also supported by the high authority of the late Lord Selborne, 562 whose removal from them they all deplored. The Opposition were being treated with a great lack of courtesy. He asked the Home Secretary whether, in his heart, he believed Disestablishment would have been seriously proposed if it had not been linked with the alluring bait of Disendowment. Again, would bare Disendowment have been tolerated, if it had not been gilded over, as it were, by the specious pretence of Disestablishment? There might be many who would assent to Disestablishment if it were separated from Disendowment. The two things were quite distinct, and the measure which combined them ought to receive fundamental criticism. At any rate they were entitled to know what were the views of the Ministers, and of the promoters of the Bill; for it was not promoted so much by the Government as by Members from Wales, who apparently had nothing to say. He had heard more than one rumour that many of the Welsh people were in favour of Disestablishment who were not in favour of Disendowment; and not a single voice had been raised to say whether it was so or not. [Cries of "No, no ! "] Would hon. Members rise and tell them? If they would not it was a monstrous departure from the practice of the House.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, the only effect of passing the Instruction would be to give the Opposition two Bills to obstruct instead of one. In reply to a challenge which had been given, he would say he did not know of a single Nonconformist in Wales who was in favour of Disestablishment without Disendowment; he did not believe there were a dozen Nonconformists who favoured that view, or a hundred persons in all Wales who held it. Disendowment was the complement of Disestablishment; Disestablishment involved Disendowmeut. It was said by Edmund Burke 120 years ago:—The Establishment is a tax laid by the same sovereign authority (i.e. the State) for the payment of those who teach and practise a certain system of religious doctrines and practices fixed and ascertained by law. For no Legislature was ever so absurd as to tax its people to support men for teaching and practising what they pleased, but according to some prescribed rule.That sentence contained the key to the whole question. Obedience to the law of 563 the State was the price which the Clergy pay for the endowments they receive. There was one thing in the speech of the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells with which he cordially agreed, and that was in the tribute he paid to the late Lord Selborne. Having enjoyed his Lordship's friendship at the Bar and in the House, he could say that no man ever more thoroughly deserved the universal tribute of respect and admiration which his death had called forth; there never was a man who set before himself a higher standard of public conduct and who more conscientiously tried to attain to it.
§ MR. J. ADDISON (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said, if there were any difficulty about the Amendment it had been removed by the speech of the right hon. Baronet, who assumed that there were no Churches in possession of endowments except Churches which were State Churches. Why there was hardly a country in Europe in which there were not Churches richly endowed, and yet to some extent were independent of the State. In this country the Nonconformists had large endowments. Would the right hon. Member propose to take away the endowments because the Churches were not connected with the State? The Roman Catholics had large endowments; would he take them away? The Disestablished Church of Ireland now had large endowments. Were they to be told that because Churches had large endowments they ought to be State churches or they were State Churches? The truth was, as had been pointed out, the two questions were quite distinct; and if they were to be properly discussed they would have to be raised by separate Bills. It was said two Bills would take more time than one—well, why not? If the subjects were distinct they ought to be able to discuss them separately. A certain number of Members might be in favour of Disestablishment and yet against Disendowment. What was meant by Establishment? It did not mean what it did in the days of the Tudors or in Russia today. For the last hundred years we had been carrying out Disestablishment in this country by repealing such Acts as the Test and Corporation Acts and by removing disabilities with regard to universities and cemeteries; 564 and there was nothing left which made any difference between Nonconformists and Churchmen except in matters connected with theinternal constitution of the Church and the supremacy of the Crown. In every country in Europe Churches were endowed. In France there were four Churches endowed by the State, and yet none was a State Church. So one saw from this fact that Disestablishment was so distinct from Disendowment that they ought to be separately considered.
§ [Mr. TOMLINSON rose to speak, but there were loud Ministerial cries of "Thomas !" and MR. SPEAKER called upon—]
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)
who moved, as an Amendment to Mr. Griffith-Boscawen's Instruction, to leave out from "and" in line 5, to "and" in line 6, and insert, "with the transfer of the temporalities thereof to commissioners or other public body, and the other with the allocation and disposition of such property." The hon. Member said, he should be brief in moving his Amendment, as he did not wish to assist the obvious tactics of hon. Members opposite. He had no sympathy whatever with the Instruction as it appeared on the Paper. As the right hon. Member for East Denbigh had already said, no Welsh Member would entertain for a moment the idea of getting Disestablishment without Disendowment. If his Amendment were accepted, Disestablishment and Disendowment would form one Bill, and the application and disposition of the funds of the Church would be dealt with in a second Bill. The hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight asked if they had read the Irish Church Act. He had done so, and while he found that in that Act Disestablishment and Disendowment were dealt with together, the disposal of the temporalities of the Irish Church were left to a subsequent Parliament. The 68th Clause provided:—With regard to the surplus funds they shall be applied accordingly in the manner Parliament shall hereinafter direct.The Home Secretary had appealed to the Irish Church Act as a precedent and as one of the greatest works of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and he therefore asked the Home Secretary to regard 565 the precedent set by the 68th Clause of that Act. That clause was one reason why he desired this Bill to be dealt with in the way indicated by his Amendment. Another reason was, that the country had never had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the mode of allocation proposed by the Bill. There had been a distinct change of policy on the part of the Liberal Party—as far as it was represented by the Home Secretary and his colleagues on the Treasury Bench—on this particular matter. The opponents of the Established Church in Wales had always fought this question on the ground that tithes and ancient endowments were national property and should be devoted to national purposes. Who could say the funds would be devoted to those purposes? Some parishes would get more than they needed; others would get practically nothing at all. The country had never yet had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this particular part of the Bill, and this was a sufficient reason why it should be dealt with separately. His third reason was one of expediency for the Government. They all knew—if he might use a mixed metaphor—that they were "ploughing the sands" in order to "fill up the cup." If the Government would only narrow the field for obstruction —[Opposistion cries "Oh ! "]—on the other side of the House, they would very much lighten their labours in the direction of "ploughing" and much more easily "fill up the cup," which was the main object of their policy at the present time. These were three reasons for asking the House to adopt his Amendment. He was aware that it would be useless for him to go to a Division if the Government objected to it. In Committee he would move Amendments to alter the provisions of the Bill, and then he would be prepared for a trial of strength if necessary. He hoped the Home Secretary would give some kind of answer to what he had said. Being on the Home Secretary's own side of the house, he was entitled to one. Ho begged to move his Amendment.
§ No one else rising,
§ MR. ASQUITH
said: Mr. Speaker, I readily respond to the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, and, in doing so, perhaps I may enter a good-tempered protest against some of the language which has been used in the course of the discussion, implying that I and the supporters of the Government have treated with scant courtesy the instruction of the hon. Member for Tunbridge. In strict accordance with Parliamentary usage I rose at once as soon as the instruction had been moved and seconded. If I had not done so I should have incurred a much more severe and merited censure from critics of the Opposition. With regard to the arguments as far as they were relevant—in favour of the instruction, I have listened to the whole debate, and, without disparaging the speeches of hon. Members opposite, I must say I have heard nothing from any subsequent speaker which was not a repetition of what was said by the mover, and I protest, at the commencement of these discussions, against the notion that it is the duty of the Government and their supporters to assist in this waste of the time of the House. Now I come to the Amendment of my hon. Friend, which I observe he has not found a seconder for among the representatives of Wales. But for the kindly interposition of the hon. Baronet the Member for Kingston, I should not now be in a position to attempt an answer. I need hardly say it is singular that my hon. Friend—representing, as he does, that there is a widespread division of opinion in Wales as to the manner in which the Bill should be dealt with—has been unable to find a seconder on his own side of the House. Surely, if what he represents is the case, amongst the 34 Members from Wales there would have been one who would have seconded his Amendment and associated himself with my hon. Friend's views.
§ MR. ASQUITH
If the people of Wales are dissatisfied they are less shrewd than I give them credit for, if, being aggrieved as to the allocation of the funds of the Church, they wish to risk this Bill or throw it over and hazard the chance of its being dealt with another Session or by another Parliament. My hon. Friend has referred to the precedent of the Irish Church Act. It is quite true, that while, in the 68th section of that Act, Parliament laid down general directions that the proceeds of the property of the Church should be appropriated mainly to meet inevitable calamity and suffering, it left the precise application of the property to the judgment of a future Parliament. I ventured to say, when speaking on the subject last year, that I did not think the experience of what happened in relation to that Act encouraged us to follow that Act as a precedent. What happened? The very large surplus of the Irish Church Fund has been, I will not say dissipated—because the hon. Baronet objected to that word—or exhausted, but, at any rate, has been appropriated from time to time in a series of disconnected attempts to deal with temporary emergencies; and I do not think, in view of that experience—without pronouncing any criticism on the particular occasions or purposes on or to which the surplus has been appropriated—that Parliament should come to another conclusion than that it is better to lay down once and for all, in plain, unmistakable terms, what our purposes are intended to be. That is the plan the Government adopt in this Bill, and on reflection I think my hon. Friend will see—inasmuch as it is open to him in Committee to move any Amendments he pleases as to the machinery by which funds are to be distributed, and the particular purposes to which they are to be applied—that he will be consulting his desire, which I know to be genuine, for the progress of this Bill by withdrawing his Amendment to this Instruction.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will only remark on the Home Secretary's answer to the hon. Member for Merthyr that he has imperfectly acquainted himself with the facts as to the use put by Parliament of the moneys belonging to the Irish Church. He described them collectively as funds used to meet occasional and 568 temporary objects. Among those "occasional and temporary objects" I find £1,000,000 for the Royal University, £1,000,000 for intermediate education, £1,000,000 for the Congested Districts Board, and a very large sum—the exact amount of which I do not know— for teachers' pensions. There are four great national objects permanently associated with the welfare of Ireland—objects, I venture to say, far more worthy, to which to apply national funds, if these are national funds, than baths and washhouses. That is a question which I have no doubt will be fully debated when we get into Committee upon the Bill, and therefore I shall not trouble the House with any further observations with reference to it at the present moment. The hon. Member for Merthyr, who has so quickly run away from the position which he took up, appears to have forgotten that it is one of the fundamental principles of our proceedings that nothing that is in order in an instruction can possibly be in order in an amendment moved in Committee, and that, therefore, he will be unable to move the amendment he suggested when the Bill gets into Committee. For my own part, I shall certainly do my best when the time comes to prevent the funds of the Welsh Church from being used as a bribe to small communities, and not for the general convenience of the country. With regard to the main instruction before the House I have but little to say. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has been assailed in rather severe language by hon. and right hon. Friends of mine for not saying more in defence of the course which the Government have taken in this matter. I, however, put a more charitable construction upon the conduct of the Government than my hon. and right hon. Friends have done, who, perhaps in a moment of pique, appear to think that Government intended to burke a discussion which they found inconvenient. I, on the other hand, am convinced that if the Government have said nothing it is because they have nothing to say. I think that if a right hon. Gentleman so fertile in the arts of controversy as the Home Secretary could do nothing better in defence of the course which the Government have taken than to quote an irrelevant sentence or two from one of 569 Lord Selborne's writings, there is not much to be said in favour of that course. One illusion appears to possess the right hon. Gentleman's mind. He seems to think that he has replied to every argument which has been advanced and has answered every question which has been put from this side of the House in favour of the instruction. Has he said one single word with regard to the economy of time, or rather as to the possibility of passing one Bill if that Bill was confined within moderate dimensions, as compared with the impossibility of passing a most drastic measure, a double Bill of the enormous magnitude of the Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill which we are asked to discuss? The right Hon. Gentleman has passed that argument by without, as far as I heard, uttering one single word in reference to it. The right hon. Gentleman has also passed by another argument of even more importance—I mean that which relates to the questions of disestablishment and disendowment being not only in theory, but also in practice, divided, and that it is possible, and actually happens, that men may take very strong views upon one of these questions and yet hold directly different views upon the other. My right hon. Friend the member for Bristol is right in saying that I should oppose disestablishment as much as I should oppose disendowment, for I look with favour upon neither of these proposals. There is a growing feeling in all parts of the country against disendowment [Cries of "No "], and, in spite of the disfavour with which hon. Members below the gangway may receive my statement, I can say that I have the best reasons for knowing the fact. There are men who believe in the necessity for religious organisation, and who would be of opinion that to set to work deliberately to rob that religious organisation is not a desirable employment in which to engage. I desire to use no hard language with regard to those, who hold the opposite view, but all I can say is that I believe the opinion I have given expression to to be a growing one, and that there is a large body of men who, while they are in favour of disestablishment look with increasing aversion upon disendowment. The Government have adhered to their original plan, although they have given no reason for doing so. What are their 570 motives as well as their reasons? The sentence quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary from Lord Selborne was to the effect that there was no large party that was in favour of disestablishment that was not also in favour of disendowment. I have no doubt that it is perfectly true that there are those who believe—I think wrongly—that the relations which exist between the Church and State are detrimental to the Church, and who believe sincerely that disestablishment would give freedom to a body which is at present hampered and trammelled by legal restrictions. No one has given greater and more admirable and more eloquent expression to that view than the right hon. Gentleman himself, in his speech on the second reading of this Bill. That opinion may be and is conscientiously held, but surely it is not fair to deprive those who conscientiously hold that opinion of all hope of ever seeing their view carried into effect unless they are also prepared to do that which I am sure many of them would do with reluctance—namely, deprive the Church of those material instruments by which her useful work is,so largely carried on. The Government are, no doubt, wisely advised, from a political point of view, in maintaining silence, but I hope that the country will understand both the causes of their policy and the motives for their silence.
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 198; Noes, 231.—(Division List No. 54.)
§ The House then went into Committee on the Bill,
§ Mr. MELLOR in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
*MR. GRIFTITH-BOSCAWEN (on behalf of Colonel LOCKWOOD)
moved In page 1, line 7, to leave out "Ninety-seven" and insert "Ninety- eight." The object of the Amendment was to allow more time than was proposed in the clause after the passing of the Bill and before it came into operation, for the general reconstitution of the Church which should follow Disestablishment 571 and Disendowment. There were many complicated questions to be settled—such as the winding-up of the funds of the Church, the election of a representative body, the discipline of the Clergy—before the Church could start afresh on its own basis, and it would be utterly impossible to do all these things in the time allowed by the clause as it stood. He, therefore, hoped the Home Secretary would accept the Amendment.
COLONEL LOCK WOOD (Essex, Epping)
, having apologised for not being in his place when his Amendment was called, said that, considering the gravity of the proposals of the Bill the time asked for in the Amendment to enable the Church to adapt itself to its new status was extremely short, and he felt sure the Home Secretary would grant it. The most sanguine of the Members of the Government could hardly hope that the Royal Assent would be given to the Bill before the end of August, and under the circumstances, it was no extravagant demand to ask a year's grace for the Church. In the Local Veto Bill three years' grace was allowed to the liquor trade, and surely the Church of England might ask for a year in which to make the various arrangements that would be necessary after her Disestablishment and Disendowment in Wales. The object of the maintenance of the Church undivided in England and in Wales was to secure identity of discipline, of worship, and of doctrine. The Government were now about to dissever the Church in Wales entirely from the body of which, up till now, it had always formed a part, from whom it had received assistance, and to whom it had always looked for advice and guidance. Surely the Church ought in justice to get time to make arrangements to meet that great and momentous change in her constitution? Funds would have to be raised to start her afresh on her career. He presumed that a large amount of those funds would naturally come from the landlords, who were most of them the strongest supporters of the Church in Wales. As the House was aware, the landlords at the present time were labouring under great disadvantages. One of the latest Acts of the Government was to diminish their income, and now there would be a further charge 572 placed upon them. The landlords would not shrink from that charge. They were willing to make the greatest possible sacrifices in order to maintain the Church in that dignified position which they thought she ought to occupy, but adequate time should be allowed to raise the necessary funds, as well as to institute general and parochial organisation for the management of the affairs of the Church. Every time they took up the Bill and examined it, the difficulties in it seemed to increase; and he contended that it was only just that the Church should be allowed sufficient time to settle her plan of organisation in order that she might not be made to suffer more than was necessary by Disestablishment and Disendowment.
§ *MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON
said, he strongly supported the Amendment, because it was absolutely necessary that the Welsh Church should be able to constitute a representative body of both Clergy and Laity before she could receive over any money or property belonging to her. If there was to be such a body it was necessary to state by whom it was to be composed, but the Bill was silent on that point. Yet it would be a work of some time to form such a body, and which would satisfy the requirements of the law before receiving any of this Church property. The work of organising the Church and of settling matters in relation to the property that belonged to her would not be accomplished without difficulty, and unless ample time was given for the purpose very grave injustice would be done. The Welsh Church was already being treated with sufficient harshness and cruelty without doing the further injustice of refusing to give her time to constitute the bodies necessary for organ isation under the new conditions. For this attack on that Church could not be made on the ground that she failed in her work. For a long time past she had been doing work which was indispensable for the moral and spiritual welfare of the people of Wales; and this fact would make it all the more cruel and unjust if her opponents refused to give her sufficient time to properly organise before the date of Disestablishment.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, the proposal in the Bill as to time was the same as that adopted in the Irish Church Act, 573 and the Government thought they ought to proceed on the same lines as was followed in that case. Of course there were many questions which would occupy much attention, and would have to be settled on the part of the Welsh Church in consequence of its Disestablishment and Disendowment; but all those questions were equally incidental to the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. In fact the problems and difficulties to be dealt with were greater and larger in the case of the Irish than they could be in that of the Welsh Church. The area was larger, the funds were greater, and the scheme more complicated. Questions of commutation had to be dealt with to a far greater extent than would arise in this instance, and yet the time given in the case of the Irish Church was found to be sufficient. The Government, therefore, did not see any reason for granting longer time in the case of the Welsh Church than was given in that of the Irish Church.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, it would hardly be denied that the circumstances of the two cases were very different. The Irish Church was ecclesiastically an absolutely separate body, and there was no difficulty in disentangling her from ecclesiastical connection with any other Church. She framed her own organisation with comparative ease. But the Welsh Church consisted of four dioceses of the English Church, and had no separate organisation. Surely in these circumstances the Government did not desire that those four dioceses should not have sufficient time to be able to organise themselves for Church purposes before the date of Disestablishment arrived, and it would be far more difficult, and require more careful deliberation, for this to be done in the case of the Welsh Church than in that of the Irish. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there were no proposals for commutation in this Bill, and that therefore less time would be required for organisation. But the opponents of the Bill hoped that before it left Committee some such proposals would be inserted. This was not a matter of principle, for the Bill would not be more acceptable to him, or to those who thought with him, even if; the date were prolonged to any extent. But he contended that the Members of 574 the Church in Wales were entitled to a liberal allowance of time in order to make the necessary arrangements. The demand of his hon. Friend, therefore, was a very reasonable one, and he sincerely hoped the Government would yet be able to see their way to meet it.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, the case of the Irish Church was totally different to that of the Welsh Church. That had been practically admitted by the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and he would quote a few words from that right hon. Gentleman to show that he considered the disentangling of the Irish Church to be a very difficult one. The right hon. Gentleman said:—The operation of disestablishing the Church of Ireland will not be an easy one. It will be found that it is tied and netted and tangled in such a mass of legal bonds and meshes with the general body of the Church that it will lie a very formidable matter to accomplish the untying process.The disconnection of the Welsh with the English Church would be found an equally formidable matter. The request for further time ought therefore in common justice to be granted.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, it I was only fair that the Welsh Church should be given full time to make arrangements with regard to the property and endowments that justly belonged to her. The President of the Board of Trade seemed to think that the English Churchmen would come forward with large subscriptions to help the Welsh Church. That might be the case or not; at any rate it could not be relied on, and one of the difficulties that might arise, might be that money would have to be withdrawn from the works of education in Wales. There were two other points of difficulty, there was the extraordinary position of the Archbishop, who, after the passing of this Bill, would be in some sense the Supreme Court of Appeal, though nobody could understand how that was to be dovetailed into the new arrangement by which the discipline of the Church would be administered by the temporary Court. There was also the great difficulty of the allotment of the various parishes which were partly in Wales and partly in England. But the construction of the new constitution of the Welsh Church would 575 form a body of work which would require more than 12 months for its execution. There was the constitution of the dioceses, the parochial organisations, the method in which the register should be drawn, and the new Ecclesiastical Courts which would have to be made. In addition to this there was the administration of patronage; how the Bishops were to be appointed, and how the authorities who appointed the Bishops were to be constituted; how the Clergy were to be nominated, and how the authorities who nominated them were to be constituted. All these enormus questions had to be decided. It was not as if a vested interest would creep up between the passing of this Act and a postponed date of Disestablishment, because the vested interests ceased the day the Act received the Royal Assent. In the case of the Irish Church there was no difference of opinion between them and the Government of the day as to the particular constitution which a Disestablished and Disendowed Church should have, the two Parties managed to come to an agreement at once; but the Irish Church took special care to reserve their assent to the Charter until the matter was settled. The present Government were far more hostile to the Church and Church interests than were the Government over which the right hon. Member for Midlothian presided. There was now no such ardent Churchman in the ranks of the Government as the right hon. Member for Midlothian, and they had no reason to be certain that the proposed constitution of the representative body, and the various synods subject to that body, would be agreeable to Her Majesty's Government. That was an additional reason for the extension of the time.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the right hon. Baronet opposite had said very truly that this was not a question of principle but of detail, and he had listened with great attention to the observations of the noble Lord, in which, he supposed, he had stated all that could be stated in favour of a further postponement of date. In fixing the 1st January, 1897, they strictly followed the precedent adopted in the case of the Irish Church. In the case of the Irish Church when, in another place, attempts were made to obtain still more liberal and sympathetic terms 576 to the Church, the utmost extension given was from the 1st January to the 1st May in the same year, and he believed that Amendment was not insisted upon. Hon. Gentlemen now were asking for a great deal more in the case of the Welsh Church than was asked for, even in another place, in the case of the Irish Church. He ventured to think the present was a very much clearer case. It had already been stated that there were a smaller number of churches and persons whose interests were affected, and in point of money this was a very much less valuable and complicated property. He must point out, further, that they had now to discuss this question on the assumption of the Bill as it stood, and not of the Bill with an Amendment for commutation introduced into it. The plan which they proposed was one which would impose on the Church during the period of transition less arduous duties than were imposed on the Disestablished Church in Ireland. Every clergyman would remain in exactly the same position as he was in at the time the Act passed as long as he continued in his duties. He thought, therefore, the noble Lord had made a new emergency, which was entirely out of the question. He was not afraid of saying that any provision of this Bill was intended for the use or convenience of the Church, although he observed that statements of that kind were not treated as if they were made in sincerity. It was his deliberate conviction that the period of transition of the Church in its new status should not be unduly prolonged. The noble Lord himself had pointed out that no vested interest could be created, but on the other hand until the date of Disestablishment no newly vested body could be constituted, and it was most desirable that the Church as soon as possible should be able to come to arrangements for her future constitution. They must keep the date now in the Bill, following the precedent of the Irish Act, and they had not been able to discover any case of hardship which did not exist more strongly in the case of the Irish Church.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY
said, there were about 1,000 Vicars, and in the ordinary course there would be in the first year something like 75 livings dropped. It would mean that the 577 Church would have to provide the sum of £11,000 a year to make up the deficiencies which the dropping of these livings would cause, which would be a serious burden. Under these circumstances it would be reasonable for the Government to give a larger amount of time. He had no doubt that efforts would be made to raise the sum, but if the Government only wished for the principle of Disestablishment, and wished to do what they could to facilitate this great change, surely it would not be unreasonable to extend the time. Unless this concession were made it would look as if the whole of the Government procedure was to be on the lines of imposing the greatest hardship that could be imposed upon the Church.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
observed that it was now stated that the period of 18 months given by the Bill was not sufficient to enable the Church to make satisfactory financial arrangements. He would point out that the Church Defence party found a period of seven or eight months sufficiently long to enable them to collect money to pay the election expenses of all candidates who would oppose Disestablishment. If they collected a fund for that purpose in eight months, surely in 18 months they would be able to find enough money for the purposes indicated in the Bill?
§ SIR F. S. POWELL,
as Treasurer of the Church Defence Fund, was glad to have the opportunity of stating in the most public manner, that not one farthing of their money had been devoted to any election purpose whatever.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
I was not speaking of the Fund of which the hon. Baronet is Treasurer, but of what is known in Wales as the Grosvenor House Fund, and which was collected under the auspices of the Duke of Devonshire.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL
replied, that the right hon. Baronet knew much more about Grosvenor House than it was his privilege to know. He was not aware that the Duke of Devonshire had any authority in Grosvenor House.
§ SIR F. S. POWELL,
dealing with the Amendment, contended that the Church 578 in Wales was entitled to a longer time than was given in the case of the Irish Church, because its treatment was much more severe, and the arrangements made by the Bill were far more complex, than they were in the Irish case. Again, before those arrangements could be completed a vast amount of work had to be performed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He was quite sure that the time asked for by the Amendment was greatly required, and the refusal of their very moderate request was another illustration of the harshness of the step which was being taken by the Government.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT
observed, that he ventured to think the right hon. Gentleman, with all his varied experience, was not well versed in the constitution of Church assemblies, and there was, therefore, one point which, with all his good intentions, he had hardly appreciated. Anybody who knew the constitution of Church synods and assemblies, must know that they were not bodies which were easily formed. The Church synod, or body, which was to be formed under this Bill, was of a very peculiar character, because it was formed of elements which were entirely obscure. For instance, they did not know who were to compose the laity of the Church in Wales. He was quite sure that many of the supporters of the Government, if they liked to insist upon it, could be the laity in Wales; because the theory was, that the Church of England was open to every baptized parishioner. The constituent parts of this new body were an entirely indeterminate matter. It would, he contended, require a long time to arrange how they were to determine who had a right to vote and sit as laymen in this new Church body. Two years was not at all too much to give for such a purpose as this. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that what he was doing was in the interests of the Church. They did not deny the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman, but surely he must give them the credit of knowing a little more what the Church-people in Wales desired than he did. These proposals had been forced upon the Church in Wales, and had not been matured with any consultation with the Church authorities, who had pronounced vehemently against any 579 proposition of this kind. While he gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for the best intentions, he could not help saying that if he wished to make this Bill easy of operation, he would do more wisely if he accepted the suggestion of those who knew what were the desires of the Church-people instead of taking the line he had in this matter. This was one of the first, as it was one of the most reasonable, Amendments that had been suggested, and he hoped it would be accepted.
§ MR. THOMAS BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
pointed out that Sub-section 2 of Clause 4 provided that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should, before the day in question—that was, before the 1st of January 1897—perform all the matters referred to in the Sub-section which were a gigantic work in themselves. If they had not time to do that work, and did not, therefore, perform it, what was to be the consequence? He ventured to think that was a riddle, which was not altogether easy of solution, and, if the extension were made which was now asked for, it would at any rate give the Commissioners more time for the performance of their duties. Again, by Clause 21 of the Bill, the Commissioners had very important duties to discharge in connection with the property there specified. He should like to know—and he did not think it was an unimportant question—what was to be the legal effect of these things not being done by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who were told, not that they should do what was required of them within such time, or as soon after as they could, but that they should and must do it by the day in question—namely, the 1st of January 1897? Why should they not, as the Amendment asked, have another twelve months in which to do that work? The Irish precedent did not apply here, and they asked, therefore, that as the Commissioners had more work to do than had to be done under the Irish Act, that there should be further time in which to do it. He foresaw that a great deal of difficulty would arise hereafter if, in point of fact, the work required of the Commissioners was not performed in the time specified in the Bill as it stood. There was no penalty to be imposed upon them for not discharging those duties; they were under no legal obligation of 580 any description; and if the Commissioners said they had not done what was required of them and had not been able to do it, what consequences were to follow?
*MR, HENRY HOBHOUSE
said that, personally, he should not be disposd to object to the date named in the Bill if he got a definite assurance from the Government on a particular point—namely, that before the 1st of January 1897, they would consult the opinion of the country at a General Election. It was one of the absurdities of the present position that, though this House might be in favour of the Bill, a great many of them were certain that the country was not; and they knew that if a General Election took place between the present date and the date of the coming into operation of the Bill, the Bill would never come into operation at all. But, unfortunately, they were left in great uncertainty as to the moment at which the Government might think it right to consult the country on this and other questions; and, that being so, the opponents of the Bill were bound to insist on a proper date being inserted in the Bill which would give ample time for all the necessary arrangements to be made.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 100; Noes, 148.—(Division List No. 55.)
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON moved to leave out the explanatory words in the 1st Clause: "In this Act referred to as the date of Disestablishment." He said that when reference was made to any date or fact, the simplest way was to give the date or the fact, and not to introduce a synonym, and especially one which was not intelligible. The expression "the date of Disestablishment" conveyed to his mind no meaning at all, because Disestablishment was a vague term, which he did not understand and which no one present could define. He had never met any authority, either legal or ecclesiastical, who could explain what was meant by this vague word. The words which he desired to substitute were at all events plain English. There might be a precedent for the expression in the Bill in the Irish Church Act, but there was no reason that he knew why a bad precedent should be followed. The expression in the Bill would be likely to 581 confuse people. He begged to move his Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that it was from no morbid attachment to the word "Disestablishment" that it had been inserted so often. This was merely a question of draughtsmanship. It would be manifestly inconvenient to be constantly repeating the words "the 1st day of January 1897." The words in the Bill occupied less space—[Mr. LEIGHTON: "No! no!"]—and the phrase was neater and better adapted to the purposes of reference.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
was not at all satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. The words which he desired to leave out and those which he desired to insert occupied about the same space.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, that just before the dinner hour he rose to ask the Home Secretary what he meant by "Disestablishment." His hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire proposed to leave out the words: "In this Act referred to as the date of Disestablishment." The hon. Gentleman mentioned several inconveniences in this use of language. For instance, whenever the words were used in the many sections of the Bill or Act, if it ever became an Act, the lay reader would have to look back to see what was the date of Disestablishment. He understood it was meant to be the 1st of January 1897. That being so, why should it not be specified in the different sections? As a matter of facility for those who would hereafter have to deal with the Bill, who would have to administer it and to obey it, it was far better at once to specify the date. But that was perfectly a comparatively small point. He wanted to go further, and ask Her Majesty's Government where they got the word "Disestablishment" from and what it meant? Was it a scientific term, was it a legal term? There were great legal luminaries in the House. Would they inform him whether "Disestablishment" was a legal or scientific term? If he were to ask the Attorney General what the meaning of the word was he supposed the hon. and learned Gentleman would require three or four minutes in which to reply. Strange to say, the word "Disestablishment" did not occur in the Irish Act, 582 which began by saying it was expedient that the union created by Act of Parliament between the two Churches should be dissolved. The words here used were nothing more than a general and literary phrase, and he doubted whether they constituted a proper phrase to put in an Act of Parliament. He doubted whether the legal luminaries on either Front Bench could cite a precedent for the way in which the word "Disestablishment" was used. He had a general and indefinite idea of what was meant, but only in the sense of omne ignotum pro magnified. It was a word of the gravest and most portentous import, and ought not to be used in this light and airy manner at the beginning of this Bill. If this phrase were omitted, then the simple date could be used throughout the Bill.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 80; Noes, 144.—(Division List, No. 56.)
§ An Amendment on the Paper in the name of Viscount WOLMER proposed to omit the words "So far as it is by law established."
§ MR. LAURENCE HARDY
wished to move this Amendment on behalf of the noble Lord, whose absence they all deplored, because he had been a force in their Debates, and he had been identified with the discussion of this particular Bill. It seemed to him that these words were a matter of surplusage, and were hardly necessary in the Bill. He would not press that point, but he would rather raise the question what was the meaning of the phrase, in order that they might have it clearly defined by the Government before they went any further. When they got a definition it would make their Debates easier, and bring their discussion of some matters more to the front than they would otherwise be. In the case of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church there were two united but distinct Churches—the English Church and the Irish Church. But even in that case, when the Bill was in Committee, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Disraeli) raised a point as to whether it was not very undesirable to separate the two Churches of Ireland and England as far as they were established by law, because the great 583 object was to maintain identity of doctrine, worship, and discipline in them. So far from this having been achieved, the last few days had shown the main body of Church opinion in Ireland almost determined that the leading Churchmen of England should not be invited to take part in Diocesan Conferences in Ireland. Disestablishment, therefore, had taken the two Churches very far apart, and, practically, had created a new sect. The aim in religious matters to-day was for reunion, whether in drawing closer to the Roman Catholics, as had been suggested by Rome, or by adopting some basis of agreement with the Nonconformists, as was suggested last year at Grindelwald. The whole tendency was to union and not to severance; and, therefore, he wished it to be enacted that the Welsh Church, even after the passing of this Bill, should be identical with the English Church in doctrine, discipline, and Government. If the Government accepted the Amendment, they would meet the objections of many loyal Churchmen. He did not think that Welsh Churchmen at present desired to leave the English Church, but it was feared that in time they might become severed from it entirely in doctrine and discipline. That was the main object of the Amendment. If the words were omitted from the Bill, the other results aimed at would not be affected. Disendowment and the right of the Bishops to sit in the House of Lords would be left to be decided by the subsequent clauses.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that he fully joined with the hon. Member in deploring the absence of the noble Lord in whose name the Amendment stood, and he joined with what had been said earlier in the evening as to the regret which must be felt at the death of the very distinguished father of the noble Lord—the Earl of Selborne. In the absence of the noble Lord it was not easy to see what interpretation should be placed on the Amendment. He did not think that, if it were accepted, it would have the effect desired by the hon. Member of preventing the severance of the two Churches. The Welsh Church would be able to maintain its connection with the English Church if it preferred to do so apart from the retention or omission of the words proposed to be 584 left out. Those words were in substance the words of the Irish Church Act. The phrase "by law" referred to all statutes and common law dealing with the Established Church and putting on another footing from other religious bodies. It did not refer to anyone particular statute.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said that he should have been more satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's answer if he had explained the object of retaining the words objected to. The Bill enacted certain specific changes in the law, as, for instance, the abolition of the Bishops sitting in the House of Lords, and the right of members of the Church to attend Convocation. The meaning of the Amendment was, that the words proposed to be left out were not necessary for the general purpose of the Bill. This enactment "by law" had no meaning beyond that which would be attributed to it by the subsequent clauses of the Bill; and if the words were left in without any absolute enacting force, it would give ground for the contention that the new Disestablished Church was to be autonomous, would alter its doctrine as it pleased, and was to have a freer hand than it would have if these words were not in the Bill. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman could show any legal consequence, which it was necessary to bring about by the inclusion of these words, the case would be different. There should be in this Act an analogous provision to that in the Irish Church Act. No one desired to deprive Church-people in Wales of the privilege of being married according to the rites of the Church. The words, "shall cease to be established," might convey the idea that, by the express decision of Parliament, such a connection as the connection of the Church with the ecclesiastical marriage law—partly statute, partly canon law—would cease any longer to continue. Neither the Home Secretary nor any hon. Member opposite thought this point was raised in any spirit of obstruction. The words referred to would be construed by Liberationists as being the pronounced opinion of Parliament, and it might be almost argued that it would be illegal for the Disestablished Church to endeavour to put itself under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or other 585 inferences might be drawn from the words which would be detrimental to the interests of the Church. He would be glad to know whether there was any special reason apart from the Irish Church Act for adopting this particular form of words. There was a distinct reason for adopting the form of words used in the case of the Irish Church, which did not apply here. The Irish Church was a Statutory Church, and when the Act of Union was repealed, there was less need for using the words. It was not denied that the Church in Wales was an integral part of the Church of England, and that the four Welsh dioceses were part of the Province of Canterbury. Unless there was a specific object for retaining the words in the clause they should not be retained, because it would give rise to misapprehensions and embarrassments as to what the position of the Established Church was to be.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
said he was anxious there should be no controversy on non-essential points, therefore he would endeavour to explain why, as he understood the phraseology of the clause had been framed as it was. The Government might have followed the language of the Irish Act. Had they done so his hon. and learned Friend's objection would not have applied.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
said, the reason why they adopted the phraseology of the clause was simple—because they were dealing here, not with the Church as a whole, but the Church in a particular local area. Therefore, dealing with "Church of England," they limited the area affected as—The Church of England, as far as it is established by law in Wales and Monmouthshire, should cease to be established,in order to clearly show they were only dealing with the part of the Established Church in Wales. He thought the words used were preferable to any other form of expression.
§ MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (York, N. R., Thirsk)
observed that, when the Bill to disestablish the Irish Church was brought in, the Acts dealing with the Church in Ireland were read at the Table. No such course had been pursued with reference to this Bill. The House was placed in possession of measures 586 which established the Irish Church, but was not aware what the measures were which established the Church in Wales. This made a considerable difference. He contended that the same course should be pursued with regard to this Bill that was followed in reference to the Irish Act.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
asserted that the Irish Church was distinctly established by Act of Parliament and was a State Church. No doubt the Irish Church was established by the Act of Union. Nothing of the kind had happened here. He denied absolutely that any Act could be pointed to that had established the Church in England or Wales. He hoped the Home Secretary would not follow the Irish precedent when the cases were dissimilar.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said, he entirely sympathised with the arguments of the hon. Member for Tunbridge. The language of the clause was altogether vague, and the Committee should know what it had to deal with. The Irish Church was established by the Act of Union. The English Church was not established by any single Act, but by a series of Acts which tended to establish the supremacy of the State over the Church, and over the ministers of religion. There had always been a tendency on the part of those who had exercised control over the consciences of men in the character of spiritual advisers to bring that control to bear in relation to temporal matters. One of the first laws to be abolished by this clause would be the Constitutions of Clarendon. They were passed at a time when the Princes of Wales were struggling against the Archbishop of Canterbury, who claimed supremacy of the Church over the State. They were appealing from the Archbishop to the Pope, and Henry II. caused the Constitutions of Clarendon to be passed. They were to secure appeals in spiritual matters from the Archdeacon to the Archbishop, and from the Archbishop to the Pope. But it was provided that appeals should be from the Archbishop to the King, and not from the King to anyone else. The exemption of clerics from some of the civil laws was provided for; in fact, the connection of Church and State began with 587 the Constitutions of Clarendon, and continued by other Acts of Parliament too numerous to mention. There was not a single Act establishing the Church in England or Wales. It was done by a series of Acts. Where would the Nonconformists of the present day have been but for the protection of the State? Ever since the Constitutions of Clarendon a struggle had been going on between the Church on the one hand and the State on the other. There was no religious community entirely free from State control; and no community that was established by law; he did not care what community they referred to. Take the Wesleyans, they were established by law. With regard to Wesleyans, if a minister preached doctrines contrary to that Church he could be dealt with. He would be liable to an injunction, and prevented preaching in the chapel. The law protected the congregation, and it was exactly what the law did with regard to the Church of England. He was not dealing with tithes or anything of that kind. If they passed this clause they would abolish that entirely. He was not sure that some form of Disestablishment might not be practicable. Complaint was made that the Church was limited in its scope, but they had the same control exercised as to doctrine among the Wesleyans and other denominations. They might alter their doctrine, and he thought they did so, by their Conference and Church Courts. Why not have that so far as the Church of England was concerned? It was not what the clause provided; it was what it abolished entirely. He doubted very much whether, when they passed that clause, they would not put the Church outside the law, and where the Trades Unions were before the recent Act legalising them was passed. It was true that there was no Church in the present day which occupied the position which was occupied by the Church of Home in the early days of their English history, in the time of Henry II., and so 588 on. He meant to say that it was one of the greatest points in favour of the Church of England that the law kept the clergyman in his proper place, and prevented him from tyrannising over his congregation or those subject to his administration. Do not let them imagine that there was nothing like tyranny outside the Church of England. Might he mention one single instance? He was soliciting a vote. Another gentleman stood by, and he said—I am his minister. Will you have the goodness to address your remarks to me? I will answer them.He said, "Are you a minister?" and he mentioned some denomination. He said, "Do you claim to be the keeper of his conscience?" and the answer was—Understand that any observations you may wish to make to So-and-so you must make them to me, and I will give you you're answer.''He declined under these circumstances to make any observations at all to the minister. He made this statement to the Committee on his personal honour. Did they need to go farther than the case of Ireland to show the necessity of maintaining control of the connection of the Church with the State? He said that was necessary to maintain civil and religious liberty in its fullest sense. Where would that be but for the subordination of the Church to the State? Do not destroy the loyalty of the Church as a body; do not abolish the whole thing en bloc. He asked hon. Members whether they were aware that this clause would abolish the foundations of the Church? Well, he told them that was a fact, and he hoped the Committee would consider well before it passed this clause, and he should vote against it.
§ *MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON
said, if there were any statutes by which the Church of England was established in Wales and Monmouthshire, they applied to England as well. The clause described a thing which did not exist. It referred to a Church "as established by law in Wales and Monmouthshire." 589 This raised the historic question, and he could not help thinking that the Amendment of the noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer) did raise a very serious question as to the idea of the status of the Church in the minds of the framers of the Bill, and how they intended to affect it by this clause. When they first found the Church in existence it was not a Church established by law. The union of the Welsh Dioceses with the Province of Canterbury took place before Parliamentary authority extended over Wales. What did the Government mean by these words? Let them put their meaning in more definite terms. The right hon. Gentleman talked about leaving the Church free, but the Bill did not leave the Church free at all. Under the provisions of this Bill the Bishops and clergy would in future be prohibited from continuing to be represented in Convocation, as they had been for more than 1,000 years. This was really an attempt to start a new organisation not a free organisation. They were to be almost compelled to establish a separate corporate existence. Until they had a fuller explanation of these words he should feel bound to resist them.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, the words appeared to him to be too vague. If they passed that clause they would not alter the social status of the clergyman. He wished to point out that the clergy of the Church of England, being under an Act of Parliament, were bound by the law more strictly than Nonconformist ministers were.
§ MR. DAVID THOMAS
wished to know whether the hon. Member opposite was entitled to go into matters of this kind, which had nothing to do with the Amendment before the Committee.
I cannot say that the hon. Member is out of Order, but at the same time I think that his observations are rather irrelevant to the question before the Committee.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said that, in his opinion, words ought to be substituted 590 for those in the clause which would give it a more definite meaning.
§ *MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that instead of these words having been inserted in the enacting part of the Bill, they might have been better put in the Preamble. The words "so far as established by law" were mere surplusage. They repealed no existing law, they effected no change in the law, they enacted no new law, so they ought to be struck out of the clause.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that he understood that the hon. Gentleman had moved the omission of the words merely with the object of eliciting from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary what meaning the Government attached to them. In reply, the right hon. Gentleman had made some reference to the Irish Act, and had said that, so far as he could see, it did not matter whether the words "so far as established by law" were in the Bill or not. The words in the Bill were—"The Church of England, so far as it is established by law, shall cease to be established.''
§ MR. ASQUITH
"In Wales or Monmouthshire." Those are important words, as defining the area within which the Bill is to operate.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that he certainly understood that the right hon. Gentleman had said that it would have precisely the same effect if they enacted that "the Church in Wales and Monmouthshire shall cease to be established.'' In that case, what was the right hon. Gentleman fighting about?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I will tell you. I am not fighting at all as a matter of fact. The language of the Bill is quite clear, and defines the area in which Disestablishment is to take place.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that that was exactly what the words objected to did not do. The words which defined the area were the words "in Wales or Monmouthshire." and 591 these were not now objected to. The words "as established by law" had no reference to the limitation of the area within which the Bill was to operate. The matter might be dealt with by a slight alteration in the language of the clause. Did the right hon. Gentleman object to the words "the Church of England in Wales or Monmouthshire shall cease to be established by law?"
§ MR. ASQUITH
I do not object to those words, only they are very much worse language than that which appears in the Bill.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that he had made the suggestion because he hoped to make peace He defied the Government, however, to name the Statutes which established the Church in Wales. Let the Government copy the words of the Irish Act exactly, and say that the Church of England in Wales and Monmouth shall cease to be established by law. He did not care which course was adopted. The Government were the authors of the Bill, and the responsibility of its interpretation rested with them. But if they insisted on the present words, he did not think it was worth while to go to the trouble of dividing.
§ MR. AMBROSE
asked that a schedule of the statutes should be furnished which bound the Church of England, and which the Government now proposed to repeal.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 188; Noes, 147.—(Division List, No. 57.)
*MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN rose to move in Clause 1, page 1, line 8, after "law," to insert—
In any respects in which other religious bodies are not so established.
He said that the Government seemed to have forgotten that the Nonconformists
were also established, though not in the same sense as the Church. They must bring the Church down to the same point of establishment as the Nonconformists at the present moment. He could prove in a great many ways that the Nonconformists were established by law. Speaker On slow had so stated. Ministrations in chapels were protected from disturbance. Chapels were protected from payment of rates, and this of itself almost amounted to endowment. The doors of chapels were kept open, so that all might have access to them; and they were registered and certified by Act of Parliament. It was, therefore, clear that chapels were established in precisely the same way, though not, perhaps, to exactly the same extent as the Church. It was objected that one of the objects of establishment and of regulation by the State, or subjection to the State, was the fact that the Church courts were, to a certain extent, State courts, and they were so to this extent, that all coercive authority was derived from the Crown. But if Dissenters had a dispute, if they thought that there had been any abuse of the way in which the services of the Church were conducted, they had to go to the State Court—to the ordinary Court of Law—and were subject to coercive authority which belonged to every Court of Law. They were, therefore, established in a very real sense. If the Government were going to disestablish the Church, and if they wished to place her on a footing of absolute equality with Dissenters, they ought to disestablish her only in the sense in which she was different Prom Dissenters. If this Amendment were not carried, were Churches to be rated? were they not to be protected from disturbance? were they not to be bound to keep their doors open to all comers? If not, it would be very unfair. He felt sure the Government could not lave taken fully into consideration the case of the Nonconformists when they inserted the clause in question in it
present form, and it would greatly facilitate the passing of the Bill if the Amendment lie moved was now accepted
§ *MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that with a view to prove that Dissent was as much established as churchmanship and to elaborate the point laid down by his lion. Friend lie would call the attention of the Committee to a quotation, from a well-known book showing how Nonconformity was regarded in the time of William and Mary. In "Calamy's Life and Times," edited by J. T. Rutt, was to be found the following statement—This gentleman (Sir Humphrey Edwin, Lord Mayor) not only worshipped God publicly with the Dissenters, according to his usual custom, hut carried the regalia with him to the meeting-house, which very much disgusted many of the Church of England. … a practice defended by one of his party by this argument—that by the Act of Parliament, by which the Dissenters had their liberty, their religion was as much established as that of the Church.The allowance of the law, it was contended, was a sufficient establishment. Now on this point of law he presumed no legal Gentleman opposite would dispute the legal ruling of Lord Mansfield. In 1767 that learned Judge, in the cause between the city of London and the Dissenters on the nomination of Sheriffs, laid down the law thus—The Toleration Act renders that which was illegal before now legal. The Dissenters' way of worship is permitted and allowed by this Act. It is not only exempted from punishment, but rendered innocent and lawful. It is established.Dr. Furneaux, in his letter to Blackstone, argued the point with great erudition, and put the point this way—Can," he said, "a religious society be considered not established which can go to the highest court of law and insist upon a mandamus for a licence to hold their worship?If a religious society was recognised and privileged by the State it was established by the law, that is, "legilus stabilita.'' The Establishment of Dissent was not of modern date. Philip Henry wrote in his diary on the 7th of April, 1672, "This day I received my licence unsought 594 and unexpected." Who was the licence signed by? By Secretary Arlington, and it was in those words—We hereby allow of a room or rooms in the house of Philip Henry, in Malpas parish, Flintshire, to be a place for the use of such as do not conform to the Church of England.How could such societies be called merely private organisations? They were controlled, privileged and licensed by the State, and this had been going on for a great length of time. Dissenting ministers sometimes imagined in. their ignorance that they were not in any way under the control, and never had been under the control, of the State. They were greatly mistaken. The State licensed them and looked after their doctrine. The hon. Member then read the form of licence granted to Richard Griffiths, Calvinist Dissenting Minister, Montgomeryshire, in 1809, as follows:—I, Charles Jones, Clerk of the Peace of the County of Montgomery, do hereby certify that Robert Griffiths, of Llanwyddan, in the County aforesaid, Dissenting Preacher or Teacher, did at a general quarter sessions of the peace holden and kept in the Guildhall at Montgomery in and for the said County, in the week after the translation of St. Thomas the Martyr, to wit, on Thursday the 13th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1809, in open Court take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy and make and subscribe the declaration against Popery, and also the declaration that he is a Christian and a Protestant, and as such that he believed the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and received the same as the rule of his doctrine and practice.This was the form of licence which was in force up to very late days. He had asked again and again in vain, and he still asked, for a definition of the words established by law." He now asked the Home Secretary to differentiate in principle between the position of Nonconformity and that of the Church as regarded its public recognition. He should be glad to get any one of authority to give such a definition. The best definition he had seen was to be found in "The Case for Disestablishment," a book which was published by the Liberation Society. It is this:—''The condition of a religious society, which has favours or privileges conferred upon it by 595 the authority of Parliament, that is by public law, which if it were not a religious society it could not have enjoyed; its organisation recognised, its procedure regulated, by the State.Every one of those characteristics of Establishment belonged to Nonconformists. He would venture to describe to the Home Secretary how a Nonconformist minister was privileged and established:—When a minister (who has been educated at Homerton under a scheme established by the Charitable Trusts Act, 1853 and 1891) goes into his chapel (which has been acquired under the 32 and 33 Vict., and which is exempted from rates by the 3 and 4 Will. IV. c. 30), his ministrations are protected from disturbance (by the 52 Geo. III.). The doors are kept open during the performance of public worship, in order that all who desire may have access to the services (under 52 Geo. III. c. 155). If he happens to preach a doctrine inconsistent with the trust-deed (which the State has enrolled in Chancery) the State removes him. The chapel itself is registered and certified for religious worship by Act of Parliament (18 and 19 Vict, c. 36). The minister himself is a privileged person by reason of his office, and is exempted from serving civil offices by statute (52 Geo. III. c. 153) as long as he serves the chapel. When he celebrates the marriage of any of his congregation he acts under the provisions of the 18 and 19 Vict. c. 81. When he is called upon to bury one of his congregation in a churchyard he acts under the provisions of the 43 and 44 Vict. c. 41. The registers of his chapel are kept under the State guardianship in the Non-parochial Register Office in Somerset House, according to the provisions of the 6 and 7 Will. IV. and the 3 and 4 Vict. c. 92. For the purpose of cheaply transferring from one set of trustees to another the chapel endowments, the services of the Charity Commissioners, &c., are at his disposal under the 13 and 14 Vict, c. 23.Let us go a step farther:—Perhaps he has been preaching doctrines other than those which were held by the founders of the chapel. If he or his predecessors have done so for 25 years, the State steps in and establishes those doctrines as correct, by the 7 and 8 Vict. c. 45. The reason for this exceptional legislation arose from the Court of Chancery having decided that it was illegal to preach Unitarian doctrine in Presbyterian chapels. It turned out, however, that in a great number of Presbyterian chapels this practice prevailed. Parliament was therefore appealed to, and gave a Parliamentary title to the possession of the religious Endowments of a chapel to any denomination which could prove that for 25 years it had been in possession; notwithstanding that the doctrines which it taught were wholly inconsistent with the doctrines held by its original founders.He hoped he had proved the Establishment of Nonconformists by Acts of 596 Parliament. But there was another indirect form of Establishment. From the year 1723 to 1850 an annual grant in the Appropriation Acts was made to the Dissenting community out of the public revenue, he would quote one example—similar words were to be found in each Appropriation Act—in 1805, in the Act 45 George III., c. 129, s. 17, they found:—For Protestant Dissenting ministers in England and Ireland and French refugees the sum of £10,471 1s.," and "for the Presbyterian ministers of the Synods of Ulster and Minister the sum of £8,73l 18s.This went on till 1850. At the present time Nonconformists received public assistance out of the public rates and taxes to the extent of something like £30,000 or £40,000 a year in exemption from rates as "places of public religious worship registered and certified as such." They obtained this pecuniary privilege by the 3 and 4 Will. IV. Thus it was shown that Nonconformist chapels and ministers were not only established but endowed by law, their constitutions were legalised, the observance of their deeds was enforced by law, and their chapels exempted from taxation. He would therefore ask the right lion. Gentleman to show whether there was any difference in principle between the Establishment by law which had been asserted by Lord Mansfield to exist in the case of Nonconformists and the Establishment by law of the Church. He contended that the principle was similar.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL,) Beds, N.
said, the hon. Member had made a speech of much erudition. His speech came to this, that the Dissenting communities enjoyed a certain amount of privilege, protection, and, in some sense of the word, Endowment, under the law; that he was not prepared to dispute, but it did not amount to what was commonly understood by Establishment. What the question came to was, what was the weight to be attached to the 597 word "Established"? What was the sense in which the word was generally applied? The word "Establishment" primarily conveyed three points the first was the maintenance of the Bishops in the House of Lords as the representatives of the interests of the Church in the Legislature; the second, the coercive jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts; and the third, the subjection of the Church in ecclesiastical matters to a secular body like Parliament. There was a fourth leading point, which was controversial and disputable. The noble Lord the Member for Rochester speaking earlier in the evening said that confusion existed in the minds of hon. Members who supported the Bill as to the right of private patronage. The noble Lord said it was quoted as an instance of Establishment when it should really be quoted as an instance of Endowment. But the right of private patronage really appertained as much to Establishment as to Endowment. It was difficult to conceive of a purely voluntary religious society, in which a private individual—a private and secular Member of the body—had the right to appoint a pastor to a parish.
*MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, if that were so, which he very much doubted, he would fall back upon his three points—the existence of the Bishops in the House of Lords, the coercive jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, and the subjection of the Church to Parliament. In those respects the word "Establishment" was, in their opinion, commonly understood; and, holding that view, they thought it would convey a false sense and meaning to say that the Church should remain established so far as the Nonconformist bodies were established, when those bodies were not, in regard to the points he had enumerated, established at all. The Government also held that, when persons voluntarily entered into the membership of a non-Established Church, they became bound 598 by contract to observe the laws and regulations of the Church, which could be enforced by reference to a secular legal tribunal. The privilege of the exemption of the Churches from rating was secured by the Act of William IV., which applied to all places set apart for the exclusive use of Divine worship. For those reasons the Government should decline to accept the Amendment.
§ *SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
thanked the Under Secretary for the Home Department for his speech which he was sorry had not been delivered earlier in the evening, for it brought out more clearly the justness of their complaint as to the vagueness of the words "Establishment" and "Disestablishment." The hon. Gentleman laid down four conditions which prevented him from accepting an Amendment which would extend to the Church of England in Wales some of the privileges enjoyed by Nonconformist bodies. Those were—that "Establishment" covered the existence of the Bishops in the House of Lords, the coercive jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, the subjection of the Church to Parliament; and the hon. Gentleman also thought the word involved the question of patronage. But it was an extraordinary comment on the speech of the hon. Member that the Bill, so far from relying on the word "Establishment," had special provisions dealing with those four points. The Bishops were dealt with by Clause 2, the coercive jurisdiction by Clause 4, the subjection of the Church by the same Clause, and patronage by Clause 1. Therefore the argument that some vagueness would be attached to the use of the word "Establishment," as proposed by the Amendment, fell to the ground. But he did not want to argue the question on that ground. He thought they were entitled to ask whether the Government intended that the same privileges should be given to the Church disestablished as were now given to Nonconformist bodies? Were they to distinctly understand that 599 churches were to be exempted from rating?
§ *SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said the matter should be made clear. But there were other matters, such as keeping open doors and protection from disturbance, which would have to be dealt with by legislation; and he thought it would be found absolutely necessary to restore to the Disestablished Church in Wales the marriage law in some shape or other. They had always protested against the suggestion that Establishment by law was a term that could only be applied to the Church of England. There were instances in which the status and position of Nonconformist chapels and churches and the privileges given to them by law were so akin to what were included in the words Establishment and Endowment that they might be properly treated as Establishment and Endowment. They thought that an Amendment of this kind was necessary to make it clear that to the Established Church and to the Disestablished Church the Government were going to extend the same privileges in rating and other matters as were extended to other denominations. What they desired was, that the Church should not be put in a worse condition either from the point of view of the protection of their endowments or the protection of their privileges than were the Churches of the Nonconformist bodies.
§ MR. ASQUITH
remarked, that after the speech of the hon. and learned Member he began to doubt whether there was, such a thing as an Established Church at all. One thing that was clear was that one Party was in favour of a Disestablished Church and the other Party in favour of maintaining something they called Establishment; but if, as might be supposed from the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, there were only these fine and almost imperceptible gradations between one religious sect and another, why had so much passion and 600 controversial energy been imported into the discussion? He entirely associated himself with everything that had been said by the Under Secretary. They considered the Establishment of the Church of England, so far as it was dealt with by this Bill, to be that series or collection of incidents, some of privileges, some of disabilities, conferred and enforced by law which it possessed alone, and which was not common to any other religious sect, and the object of the Bill was to take away from the Church of England, so far as it was established in Wales and Monmouthshire, those incidents, one and all, but in all other respects to leave it on precisely the same footing, both as regarded privileges, and, if there were such cases, disabilities, as any other religious denomination. [Sir RICHARD WEBSTER: "Why not accept the Amendment?"] They could not accept the Amendment because it used wholly inappropriate language to describe the other religious denominations. That which distinguished the Church from other religious denominations was what they understood by the word Establishment, and to say that the Church was only to be Disestablished to the extent to which other denominations were Disestablished was to use words in a totally different sense to what was their real meaning. He was of opinion that the Bill as drawn would have the effect of leaving the Disestablished Church in Wales in possession of all the privileges and exemptions of any other religious community, and, if in the course of discussion it could be pointed out that privileges were possessed by other denominations which would not be effectively conferred on the Disestablished Church by this Bill, on the part of the Government he would undertake to see that provision was made for such cases, and that exact equality was established between the Disestablished Church and other religious bodies.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
observed that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that what was meant by Establishment 601 was the possession of privileges which the Church of England enjoyed alone. The question was, What was its legal interpretation? He had been accustomed to find what were the definitions of the various terms used in Acts of Parliament, either universally agreed upon or defined in the Acts themselves, but in the interpretation clause of this Bill, he saw no definition of what was meant by Establishment. The right hon. Gentleman had refused again and again to say what lie meant by Establishment. This was a matter of legal interpretation, and he submitted that it was absurd to expect the House of Commons to be satisfied with the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. The Acts of Parliament cited by his hon. Friend supported the contention. One of the most important was that which exempted chapels from rates. The Under Secretary said that the same Act of Parliament which exempted chapels from rates exempted churches. That was no doubt so according to the existing law; but when they declared that Establishment was to come to an end under the Act which the Committee were now engaged in passing—if it was not too extravagant a phrase—that would supersede the old Act of Parliament and would repeal it so far as the Church of England was concerned. What made it additionally necessary that they should have some clear idea of the meaning of their terms was that it appeared from the Debate there was a great difference of opinion on the part, of the Government as to what the Establishment consisted of. The Under Secretary, from his statement about private patronage, evidently did not know what Establishment meant. It was preposterous that when they were asking that the Church of England should be placed in no worse position than Nonconformist bodies, the Government should resist what was obviously just and fair. The Home Secretary said that if it appeared in the course of the discussion that the Church of England 602 would be worse off than the Nonconformist bodies, he would consider the point. But that had been pointed out in arguments which were left absolutely untouched; and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was called upon at once to fulfil that which he had declared his intention to be.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE,
repeating the substance of the statement of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that the object of the Bill was to place the disestablished Church in the same position in regard to temporalities as other religious bodies, said it constituted the strongest argument in favour of the Amendment, because it was merely carrying out the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman. If the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to equalise the position of the Churches, why not at once accept the Amendment instead of indulging in the vaguest possible language. The right hon. Gentleman threw on the Committee the responsibility of saying what were the Acts for regulating the Church, and he left altogether untouched the point at issue. The Home Secretary said, that he was not aware that, if the Bill passed as it stood, there would be any difference between the position of the Church and the position of any Dissenting community. But in this very clause it was provided that, after the passing of the Act, no person should be appointed by Her Majesty, or any person, by virtue of any existing right of patronage, to any ecclesiastical office in, or connected with, the Church in Wales. Would that, or a similar provision, apply to Dissenting bodies? Was it intended that after the massing of the Act the trustees of a Nonconformist Chapel, with whom the nomination of ministers rested, should cease to have the right to appoint ministers? If there was no such intention, there certainly would be a difference between, the treatment of the Church and the treatment of Nonconformist bodies. The effect of the measure would not be 603 equality, but inequality, as between the Church and other religious denominations. Let the Home Secretary put into the Schedule of the Bill the Acts of Parliament which he mentioned in the Second Reading. Then the judges would have something to guide them when interpreting the Act. But if the right hon. Gentleman would not consent to do that, an Amendment like that now under consideration was absolutely necessary to safeguard the rights of the Church.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that he did not rise to add any controversial matter to the interesting Debate which they had just heard, but rather to ask the Government to put a conclusion to it by agreeing to some words which would meet what they, together with the Opposition, thought to be the necessities of the case. The Home Secretary's objection to the Amendment was, that if they introduced the words proposed by his hon. Friend, the technical term "Establishment," would be used in two different meanings in the same place, and that this would lead to difficulties in the interpretation of the measure. But the right hon. Gentleman agreed absolutely with the substance of his hon. Friend's contention, and the contention of his noble Friend and others. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not desire to put the Disestablished Church in Wales, if it should be disestablished, in any worse position than that of any Nonconformist body at present existing, and that if any case should be pointed out in which the phraseology of the measure would produce any evil of that kind, he would be prepared to rectify it. He accepted that declaration from the right hon. Gentleman in the spirit in which he was sure it was offered; but there was this difficulty connected with it—that it threw upon the Opposition the burden of pointing out, seriatim and in detail, the points in respect of which the Church might suffer under this Bill as compared with Nonconformist bodies. What they desired was, that some general words 604 should be introduced, either in this or some subsequent clause, which would make it perfectly certain that the intention of the Government, which they had expressed that night, and for which he thanked them, would be fully carried out. It was hardly right to require of the Opposition that they should enumerate the particular Statutes of the last 150 years which they thought ought to apply to the Disestablished Church. What was wanted was, some general expression by which all danger of injustice would be absolutely precluded. If the right hon. Gentleman could give them a pledge that, with the help of the Government draughtsman, he would introduce words which would insure that the Disestablished Church in Wales would be in no worse position than other religious bodies in that part of the kingdom, the main object of his hon. Friends who supported this Amendment would be attained. If the Government, on the other hand, sought to throw on the Opposition the onus of finding out every loophole which might be left in the drafting of the Bill, and of remedying every casual injustice that accident might have produced, that was a position in which he thought they ought not to be placed. He hoped, however, the Government would give the assurance asked for, which would not in the least take them beyond anything they had avowed in the House.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he had no hesitation in responding to the right hon. Gentleman's appeal, and in repeating what he had said before, namely, that it was the intention of the Government that the Disestablished Church should be in precisely as good a position in all respects as regarded legal privilege or exception as every other religious community in the country. The right hon. Gentleman had quite correctly apprehended that he objected to the form of words suggested, and he might add that, if words were introduced for the purpose, they would come more appropriately at a later stage of the Bill, when some general 605 words providing that in all respects as regarded legal privilege and exception the Established Church should stand in the same position as all other religious communities. He hoped they would be able to agree to some general words sufficiently wide in their scope to meet the purpose which both the right hon. Gentleman and others had in view.
*MR. W. E. M. TOMLlNSON
said, it was a very valuable declaration on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that he did not intend the Church to be in an unfair position as compared with other religious bodies. The fact, however, would be brought before him that, in one important respect, the Bill did put the Church in an unfair position, because the Bishops and Clergy were expressly prohibited by the Bill from maintaining their ancient association with the province of Canterbury.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman intended to include the privilege granted to Dissenters by the Dissenting Chapels Act of 1844.
§ Amendment by leave withdrawn.
§ MR. PERCY THORNTON (Battersea, Clapham)
moved to insert after "Wales'' the words—Except that part of Pembrokeshire south of and including Haverford west.He said he wished to point out the fact that the Home Secretary had made his Bill depend chiefly upon the principle of nationality; and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to bring to his attention some words he used during the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said—The home of a people is not a mere geographical question. I know this is called Separatism. It is separatism to recognise that there are such things as separate nationalities the combination of which goes to form the United Kingdom, of which we all are a part. 606 We take a different view. We believe that the best way of recognising and consolidating the true union of the kingdom as a whole is to recognise, and within limits of imperial unity to defer to those separate national sentiments which have their root in the history of the past, and which form the salt of the life of our local communities. In that sense I assert that the Welsh people are a nation.Now he would undertake before he sat down to prove—firstly, that the portion of Wales he desired to eliminate from the scope of this Bill, was a different nationality from the other portions of the Principality. He was quite sure, judging from that eloquent speech the right hon. Gentleman delivered on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Home Secretary was very well informed as regarded South Pembrokeshire. The right hon. Gentleman knew well that when Henry I. found the efforts of his predecessors to conquer Wales had not been successful, he was led to plant a colony of the Flemish in Wales. But he did not desire to go further into the historical part of the subject, especially as there were so many in the House who were perfectly familiar with the details of the matter. He saw the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire in his place, and that hon. Gentleman would no doubt enlighten them on the point. He was prepared to admit he would not be justified in moving this Amendment if it was merely an historical legend or fact he had to recall, and if he were not able to prove by communication with the people who lived in the district at this moment that the inhabitants were averse to the measure of Her Majesty's Government. He had for years been familiar with that part of Pembrokeshire which stretched from Ten by to Milford Haven, some 19 miles, and he might add that the peninsula, which was marked in the Atlantic by St. David's Head, was a portion of Pembrokeshire to which no railway went, but which, nevertheless, was a very interesting district. [Cries of "Agreed."] He was not a person to undertake to perform a task and not bring it to a conclusion, whatever interruption he might 607 be subjected to. He had been in communication with various clergymen who inhabited this peninsula, and they had desired him to say, in answer to remarks made by the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire on the Second Reading of the Bill, that the signatures to the Petitions, which were sent to the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members, were gained by coercion and other unjust means. There was a Church Committee in every parish, and the result of that Committee's exertions was, that about one-half of the adult residents signed a Petition in favour of the Bill. He could speak with personal knowledge of one particular parish. There about 86 men signed out of a total of 168; but the general opinion in the parish was that, if the true view of the people could be ascertained, it would be found that the feeling in favour of keeping the Church established would be represented by the proportion of ten to one. He desired to draw attention to a most remarkable return of the burials in the churchyards in the Deanery of Castle Martin, which, roughly speaking, covered the very ground of which he was speaking. The result of the statistics was thus summed up:—From the foregoing figures it would appear that in seventeen districts which are purely rural the total number of burials taken by the clergy were 1,096 as against nine only taken by Nonconformist ministers. In many instances, however, there is evidence to prove that the burials, although taken by the clergy, were those of Nonconformists, the explanation being that, notwithstanding their dissent from the doctrines of the Established Church, they nevertheless prefer that they themselves and their friends should, when they depart this life, be laid to rest according to the rites of that Church. In Monkton, which adjoins and is indeed a suburb of Pembroke, the burials taken by Nonconformist ministers for the period above mentioned (1880 to 1894) numbered only 276 as against 19 taken by the Clergy, and it is safe to assume that some of these latter were also Nonconformists. In Pembroke proper the proportion is naturally somewhat larger.That was a most remarkable document. He was perfectly aware the right hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire (Sir G. O. Morgan) had said they must not expect to see any great result in 608 Wales from the Act; but he doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman had any idea that in any part of the Principality it was possible that the people themselves desired to be buried in the ancient graveyards of the Church. He knew, too, he should be met with the objection that Pembrokeshire returned a Liberal (Mr. Rees Davies). On that point he had only to say that though the hon. Member might have got valid and useful support from that part of Pembrokeshire he wished to see eliminated from the Bill, the hon. Member did not get his majority from it; he got his majority from Fish guard and other northern portions of the constituency. He was persuaded that the people in Pembrokeshire, south of and including Haverford west, were faithful to the ancient Church; and he imagined that the Home Secretary would find some difficulty in giving a reason why, if he allowed what he believed to be ecclesiastical betterment to the Celtic population in Wales, he should refuse worsement in the case of the Flemish portion of the community.
Amendment proposed in page 1, line 8, after the word "Wales" to insert the words:—
Except that part of Pembrokeshire south of and including Haverford west."—(Mr. Thornton.)
§ *MR. C. F. EGERTON ALLEN (Pembroke)
said, he was sorry to stand between the Committee and his hon. Friend the Member for Pembrokeshire, but he knew the Castlemartin district of Pembrokeshire very well. He was brought up in the district, and knew almost every field in it. It was, therefore, within his knowledge that, if in the rural parishes there Nonconformity was not as strong as it was in other parts of Pembrokeshire, it was because those parishes were in the hands of very large landowners. ["Oh, oh."] Yes, he formerly lived on the estate of the largest landowner. That gentleman owned six parishes in the Castlemartin rural 609 deanery, and he did not allow Nonconformist places of worship to be built on his estate; and that was how it came about that there were so many more burials in that part of Pembrokeshire in the grounds of the Church than in the lands adjoining Nonconformist places of worship. Wherever Nonconformity had a fair chance of establishing itself, it was as strong in Pembrokeshire as in any other part of Wales. It was true that in South Pembroke the people did not speak Welsh, and were not of Welsh descent, but their Nonconformity was just as strong. In some of the towns, such as Pembroke and Pembroke Dock, the Nonconformist chapels greatly outnumbered the churches. In the advertisements of a local paper at Pembroke Dock, he counted advertisements of 11 chapels against those of three churches, and of those three one was the Dockyard Church. He knew that Nonconformist preachers had endeavoured to institute services in farmhouses in the rural districts, but they had been discouraged by the squires to whom the established clergy complained. Where leases were extremely uncommon, the people had to pay attention to the agents' demands, and the squires did not care about Nonconformist services being held on their estates. In the Urban district of Ten by there were four large Nonconformist chapels on one hand, and on the other, the parish church and a room where services were held. The hon. Member said that the Castlemartin district was a solitary district. It was not more solitary than any other agricultural district; and there was a railway from Ten by to Pembroke. In Pembroke and Pembroke Dock the enthusiasm for Disestablishment was equal to that in Fish guard, Narberth and Haverford West, and the boroughs in the northern part of the county. He had no hesitation in telling the House, from a knowledge as long as his life, that although in the rural parts of the Castlemartin Hundred, where large landowners had their estates, there were few Nonconformist chapels, yet in the Urban part there were as many Nonconformists as in the northern part of the constituency.
§ *MR. REES DAVIES (Pembrokeshire)
said, that the House would prefer to accept the testimony of his hon. Friend and himself, who had lived 610 in Pembrokeshire all their lives, than that of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Thornton). He could support the statement made by his hon. Friend that the whole county of Pembroke was strongly in favour of this Bill. The Northern part of the county was indeed Welsh speaking, while the Southern was English-speaking; yet the whole county had returned him by a substantial majority, and the question of all others before the electors was Disestablishment. He was prepared to substantiate what he had said as to the way in which signatures to Petitions had been obtained. The county of Pembroke as a whole contained an overwhelming majority of Nonconformists, and he should be wanting in his duty to them if he did not protest against the highly ridiculous suggestions of the hon. Member—which savoured of separatism—to dissociate one portion of the county from the benefits of the Bill.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I will not enter into the question as to the exact state of opinion in the part of the county referred to. As far as the Government are concerned, we cannot in any case accept so erroneous a principle as that a small local majority—even if there be one—is an argument for excluding the district which that majority represents from the operations of the Bill. [Opposition cries of "Oh!"]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman seems quite incapable of dealing with the apportionment of public opinion on the question to which allusion has been made. But I thought the whole principle of the Government turned on local feeling. I thought it was to that that they pinned their colours, and that if there were a principle in the Bill, that was it. But the Home Secretary comes down, and, with an air of virtue, says the one thing that the Government cannot be expected to attach any weight to is the fact that there should be a local majority against the provisions of their Bill. If this Government is not a Government dependent on local majorities, what is it? A more cruel, cold-blooded cut from a parricidal hand than the speech of the Home Secretary has just made I never knew. 611 After that declaration I hope my hon. Friend will persist in his Amendment.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 161; Noes 193.—(Division List No. 58.)
§ Progress reported.