§ "On the date of Disestablishment there shall, save as by this Act provided, be transferred to the Welsh Commissioners hereinafter mention:—(a)All property vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or Queen Anne's Bounty which is ascertained as hereinafter mentioned to be Welsh ecclesiastical property; and (b) all property not so vested which, at the passing of this Act, belongs to or is appropriated to the use of any ecclesiastical office or cathedral corporation in or connected with the Church in Wales or the holder of any such office; subject, in the case of all such property, to all charges and incumbrances affecting the property, and, in the case of all such property, except tithe rent-charge, to the existing interests of all persons who at the passing of this Act hold such offices as aforesaid, and in the case of tithe rent-charge to the obligation to make such provision as is hereinafter mentioned in lieu of their existing interests."
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs) moved in line 6, to leave out the words, "Welsh Commissioners" and insert "Council." He appealed to the Home Secretary to assent to this Amendment. The Church Fund, he explained, was divided into two parts, the national and parochial funds; the national fund would be administered absolutely by the Commissioners, and the parochial fund by the County Councils, in accordance with schemes which they made, with the approval of the the Commissioners. Over both these funds, therefore, the Commissioners 1633 would have the most absolute power. As far as the national fund was concerned they could initiate schemes, and there would be no appeal except to the Privy Council and the House of Lords; and as far as the parochial fund was concerned, the Commissioners would have a veto upon the schemes of the elected representatives of the people. He would not venture to make any criticism on the Commissioners, though it was rather remarkable that there was only one who was a Welshman, and not one who was a Nonconformist; but the Committee should bear in mind that they were appointed for all time. If the County Councils prepared any schemes for the expenditure of money which the Commissioners did not approve of, they had the most absolute power to reject, modify, or amend in every possible way, such schemes. Supposing that these Commissioners were gentlemen in whom the Welsh people had the utmost confidence, if a vacancy occurred, the next appointment might not meet with their approval. Assuming for a moment that this was a Liberal Commission, if vacancies occurred when the Tory Government was in power, it might be converted into a Tory Commission; or if, as hon. Members on the other side anticipated, the Welsh people in future would be converted to Conservative principles, the Commissioners might be Liberal while the Welsh people were Conservative. He wished the Committee to realise that the Commissioners would be appointed to administer funds which, according to the main principle of the Bill, belonged to the Welsh people. He did not think that it was a desirable state of things that a purely local fund should be administered by a number of gentlemen who might be utterly out of sympathy with the people to whom the property belonged. These Commissioners would not be subject to the control of Parliament, and their action could not be called in question, as they would be in the position of a judicial body. He thought the fund should be administered in accordance with the views of the majority of the people; he did not, however, propose by this Amendment to dispense with the existence of Commissioners altogether. Wherever the functions of the Commissioners were judicial in their character, 1634 there he did not propose to eliminate the word "Commissioners" from the Bill. But so far as the administration of the liberated fund was concerned, he held that it should be in the hands of an elected body responsible to the Welsh County Councils. It was not the case that the Amendment would involve a fundamental alteration of the machinery of the Bill. The Home Secretary himself proposed, by the 9th Clause, that the administration of two-thirds of the National Fund should be entrusted to a joint committee of County Councils in Wales and Monmouthshire. The Commissioners might, if they thought fit, call that body into existence. All he proposed was that instead of leaving it to the discretion of the Commissioners, Parliament should at the outset call such a body into existence, and intrust to it the management of the whole of these funds. The 81st Section of the Local Government Act provided that County Councils might from time to time join in appointing a joint committee for any purpose in respect of which they were jointly interested. What he suggested was, that that clause, with the machinery provided in it, should be brought into operation for the purpose of exercising supreme control over the management of this fund.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he regretted that it was not possible for the Government to accept the Amendment. The hon. Member had not stated what was the council to which he referred.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, he proposed that the council should be the joint committee provided for in the 81st Section of the Local Government Act.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, there was nothing in this or any subsequent Amendment which would indicate that. Nor had the hon. Member explained, to his satisfaction at any rate, how much of the functions of the Commissioners should be transferred to this body; and how much retained by them. But, after all, that did not go to the root of the matter. The view of the Government was, that it was absolutely essential to the carrying out of their scheme that they should have a body—he was not speaking now of the names of the particular member's or even of the precise composition of the Commission—with the 1635 general attributes and functions of the Commissioners proposed by the Bill to carry out this great operation of Disestablishment and Disendowment. He did not hesitate to say that nine-tenths of the functions were either administrative or judicial, and for both purposes it was essential that they should have a body who were, it was true, responsible to Parliament, but who were removed beyond the point at which there could be any suspicion of their being moved by sectional or party interests or considerations in the matters with which they had to deal. If they were to carry out this work, arousing as it did the keenest susceptibilities, and doing a certain amount of necessary violence which they all respected, involving the arrangement of the most complicated questions of detail, both in finance and in administration; if that work was to be carried with a chance of success—if, in other words, it was to be carried out so that those who carried it on might believe that they had the confidence, not of one section of the community, but of the whole community, in their sense of justice and their desire to maintain an absolutely even balance between the different interests, it was, in his judgment, absolutely necessary to have a body who were not dependent upon election and did not hold their office by popular choice. The Government had created such a body. If any of the gentlemen now nominated by Parliament disappeared it was quite true that the choice of his successor would lie with the Ministry of the day. But like every other act of Ministerial discretion, that choice would be subject to the review of the House of Commons; and if a Minister were ill-advised enough to exercise that function in the interests of Party, and not in the interests of impartial administration, the House of Commons and the Representatives of Wales might be trusted to call him to task. The Government had provided, as far as they could, such security as the circumstances of the case allowed, that this great semi-judicial, semi-administrative work would be carried on in a serene atmosphere by competent and impartial persons. What were the functions which these men had to perform? The hon. Member had already referred to the difficult task of 1636 discriminating between private benefactions and public endowments. They had the burden of repairing and maintaining the cathedrals. Under Clause 9 they had to approve schemes made by County Councils themselves. Did the hon. Member really think he could get an adequate safeguard against possible abuses on the part of individual County Councils, by having as the only tribunal to which to appeal a body composed of County Councils themselves. He must point out that Parliament had not parted with its control in this matter, for all the schemes had to be laid on the Tables of both Houses; and it would be a proper Parliamentary proceeding to discuss them, and, if necessary, to express disapproval of them. Under Clause 16 they had vested the tithe rent-charge in the Commissioners; and they would be intrusted with the duty of collecting it. They had purposely interposed the Commissioners between the County Council and the recipients of the tithe rentcharge, in order that there might be no possibility of collision or friction between them, in order that the clergyman might get his money directly from the Commissioners without having to resort to the County Council for payment; and in order, on the other hand, that the County Council might know that if they did not collect punctually and exact to the full they would have to make up the deficiency out of their own funds. In a matter of that kind the body proposed by the hon. Member would be a wholly inadequate safeguard. This had been a matter of very serious and grave consideration to the Government, and they had come to the conclusion that it was absolutely essential for all purposes named in this Bill that there should be these Commissioners, and he should regard the acceptance of this Amendment—the omission of the word "Commissioners" from the clause—as fatal to the further progress of the Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had put it as if what was proposed under the 9th Clause were an appeal from the County Council to itself. But he would point out that the whole of the County Councils of Wales would join in appoint in the joint Committee. The appeal would therefore be practically to the whole nation. 1637 Then, with regard to the control of Parliament, he pointed out that if the Commissioners rejected one of the schemes submitted to them by the County Council, that scheme would not be submitted to Parliament at all, and Parliament could exercise no jurisdiction. Unless the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to suggest some kind of remedy for that state of things he must say that, whatever the consequences, he was prepared to support his Amendment by vote in the Lobby. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman, whom he understood to be a Home Ruler all round, went to the very root of Home Rule. If he were not prepared to entrust an authority elected from the whole of the County Councils in Wales with the administration of a fund of £200,000, how could he entrust bigger questions to a Welsh Parliament?
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
thought that on principle there was a great deal to be said for his hon. Friend's Amendment. But he was not going to wreck the Bill for the sake of that Amendment. The Home Secretary had told the Committee that he regarded the clause as it stood as essential to the Bill, and the carrying of the Amendment as fatal. And he could understand that the effect of accepting the Amendment would be to turn the measure inside out. The Commissioners had, no doubt, been approached and had accepted office, arid to make the change proposed now would be fatal to the Bill. He did not care whether hon. Gentlemen opposite jeered at him or not; he repeated that he was not going to wreck the Bill for the sake of this Amendment. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] He was very much obliged to hon. Gentleman opposite for showing their hands. "'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the spider to the fly." [Laughter] Hon. Gentlemen had openly stated that they were going to fasten on the Amendment so far as it proposed to leave out the word "Commissioners." But when once they got that word out of the Bill his hon. Friend would look in vain for any further support from them. He did not know what his hon. Friend was going to do. He hoped he might be satisfied with making his protest. But if the Amendment were pressed to a Division, he hoped his 1638 fellow-country men below the Gangway would join with him in voting against it, not on the ground that they disapproved of its principle, but because it would destroy what he had always declared to be a wise, just, and statesmanlike measure.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, he read in a certain newspaper a short time ago, one of those unauthorised accounts of meetings of the Welsh Party which sometimes appeared in that journal. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was in the chair, and it was stated that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs was considered, and that the meeting was unanimous in deciding to support it.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN
The right hon. Baronet knows more of what occurred at the meeting referred to than I do. I stated at that meeting what I stated to-day—that I would not wreck the Bill for the sake of this Amendment.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
But the right hon. Gentleman does not deny the fact of that meeting having come to that unanimous conclusion. This was a Bill introduced on account of the views of the 31 Welsh Members, who, he supposed, attended that meeting. Now here was an amendment which had been discussed by those hon. Gentleman and unanimously approved by them. No sooner was it proposed, after very inadequate discussion, than the Home Secretary put his foot down, and said: "The Bill will be wrecked if it is carried." For himself, and he was speaking on behalf of a good many others, he should view the wrecking of this Bill with no alarm, and, so far from considering that this property ought to be transferred to the Commissioners proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he thought it should be left in the hands of the Church body. Therefore, on that ground, if there were no others, he should certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, to leave out the word "Commissioners." There was, however, another reason for this Amendment, which he did not think the right hon. Gentleman himself had sufficiently considered from the point of view of those who accepted the principle of Disendowment and wished to make 1639 over the surplus funds of the Church to some public body or other. It seemed to him that the right lion. Gentleman had been far too slavish in following the precedent of the Irish Church Act. There is nothing in the Irish Church Act imposing upon the Commissioners appointed under that Act any duty whatever with regard to application of the surplus funds, and that was the point with which the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carnarvon specially dealt. What were the functions of the Commissioners under this Act? They were of three kinds. In the first place, they were judicial. Everybody would agree that judicial functions could not be carried out properly by any such body as a Committee of the County Councils of Wales. But what were the judicial functions of the Commissioners under this Bill? He could only find out three. In the first place, the Commissioners were to consider and decide what were private Endowments. In the second place, they were to settle the claims of individuals as to the payments to be made to them, which he thought would principally occur in the clause dealing with advowsons. There would hardly be any claims of any other kind, as each incumbent was left in exactly the same position as at present in respect of his life interest. And, thirdly, the Commissioners were to decide upon the circumstances of a few border parishes, partly English and partly Welsh. Now, with regard to each and every one of the judicial functions proposed to be exercised by the Commissioners under this Bill, there might be an appeal from the decision of the Commissioners to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It would be perfectly possible to leave the whole matter to the Courts of Justice, either by allowing the Judicial Committee in the first instance to decide upon all these points, or by allowing some existing Court to decide them in the first instance, with an appeal to the Judicial Committee as now. Then there were the administrative functions of the Commissioners. These were precisely laid down in so many words in the Bill, and they might equally well be carried out by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, from whom the right hon Gentleman had obtained the information on which this Bill was 1640 based, and who were thoroughly conversant with the whole matter. He ventured to say that, as there were certain administrative functions imposed upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners by this Bill, so it would be perfectly possible that every other administrative function within the Bill should also be carried out by that body. What he was anxious to place before the Committee on this important point was that there was absolutely no necessity whatever, under the circumstances of this Bill, for the creation of this new and expensive machinery of a Commission which could not cost less than £7,000 a year, whereas the net Church funds were no more than £157,000 a year. It was, he contended, sheer waste of money to create any Commission of the kind proposed for either the judicial or administrative work to be performed. Proceeding to the main contention of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs as to who was to decide how the surplus funds of the Church, after Disestablishment, were to be applied, the proposed Commission would not, in his opinion, be so good a tribunal to decide that as a Committee representing all the county councils of Wales. This was not a matter dealing with the Disendowment of the Church; the Church would have been already disendowed before the question could arise. What would then have to be decided would be simply how the funds were best to be devoted to the purposes of Wales. Surely a body representing Welshmen should know best what their constituents required, and how these funds might be devoted to the best advantage of their countrymen. Did not the right hon. Gentleman think so himself? Was it not an entirely new proposal that public funds of this kind should be allocated according to the will of a permanent Commission, and not according to the will of the representatives of the people? But there was a further matter. As the Committee were aware, he and his Friends had frequently urged that the mode in which the Bill proposed to use these funds was the most wasteful thing that could possibly be devised. The glebes were to be frittered away among the parishes; the tithe rent-charges were to be given to the county councils; and it 1641 would be absolutely impossible, under the machinery now existing in the Bill, for the Commissioners whom the right hon. Gentleman proposed to appoint to devote any sensible portion of those parochial funds to the needs of higher or technical education to which the right hon. Gentleman proposed that at least two-thirds of the central fund should be devoted. Therefore, whether they looked at the constitutional way of dealing with what the right hon. Gentleman called public funds, or whether they looked at the way in which these funds, if they were to be taken away from the Church, might best be utilised, he considered the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs, infinitely better than the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, and in that view he would support the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had travelled over ground oil which he would not now endeavour to follow him. Of course, the object of the right hon. Gentlemen was not the same as that of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would not, in his opinion, be a satisfactory tribunal to appeal to in the first instance; neither did he think that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be regarded by public opinion in Wales as a satisfactory body for the present purpose. The question of asking the county councils in Wales to determine how these funds should be allocated involved a number of subsidiary questions, and, while he agreed that if they were dealing with a county fund, which was to be devoted to the purposes of the county at large, there could be no better tribunal than the County Council, still, when they were dealing with the interests of different parishes he thought it desirable that they should have an outside and impartial authority to determine whether a particular scheme was in accordance with the interests of the particular locality. This was the reason why he interposed the Commissioners. He did not think it was at all probable that schemes would be rejected en bloc by the Commissioners, but he would be quite prepared, on Clause 9, to consider that point, and to see whether it would not be possible to provide machinery which would prevent such a contingency. He 1642 thought this would meet the objection of his hon. Friend. He thought that his hon. Friend would see that it would be an unwise course to press an Amendment on this point now, seeing that he would have an opportunity of raising the question when they came to consider the subsequent clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, that all he wanted was that there should be a central authority for the purposes of Clause 9, and he understood from the Home Secretary that he was prepared to consider the matter favourably upon that clause. If, however, his right hon. Friend meant to indicate that he would on no account accept anything in the nature of an elective committee of the County Council, even when they came to deal with these schemes, then he must persist in his Amendment.
MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint District)
said, he would venture to make a further earnest appeal to the Home Secretary. A council such as suggested might be easily formed in Wales, and he asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the request before the Committee came to the ninth clause, and whether he would give some hope that Welsh schemes, when sent up to the House of Commons, would not, as heretofore, be rejected by the House of Lords. He earnestly asked the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the whole question.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he hoped he had made his meaning clear. The Government could not accept this Amendment on any terms. It would absolutely turn the Bill upside down and inside out, and in his opinion would be fatal to the Bill. When they came to Clause 9 the question might then be discussed, and, so far as the Government were concerned, they would be perfectly open to any argument brought forward, although it was to be clearly understood that so far as his own opinion went—subject to anything that might then be said—the arrangement proposed by the Bill was the best under the circumstances. He believed it would be found to be the only arrangement that would give satisfaction. Therefore he hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
After the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not propose at this stage to press my Amendment.
§ On the CHAIRMAN putting the question that the Amendment be withdrawn, there were loud Opposition cries of "No," and a division was challenged.
§ The Committee divided:—Noes,188; Ayes, 198.—(Division List, No. 87.)
§ *MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston) Moved, in lines 8 and 9, to leave out "or Queen Anne's Bounty." He desired to raise the question whether funds derived from Queen Anne's Bounty ought to be included in the property to be taken from the Church. He did not know whether all Members of the Committee were well acquainted with the history of Queen Anne's Bounty, the methods by which it was constituted, and the mode of its application. The funds which formed the original substance of Queen Anne's Bounty were derived from firstfruits and tenths. Before the time of Henry VIII. these firstfruits and tenths were to a large extent handed over to the Pope of Rome. But in one diocese, that of Norwich, they were appropriated to the maintenance of the See, and in the archdeaconry of Richmond, in Yorkshire, they were applied to the purposes of the archdeaconry. By the 26th of Henry "VIII., c. 3, firstfruits and tenths were appropriated to the personal use of the Sovereign, so that they then assumed the character of a special tax levied upon Church property for the support of the Crown. There being considerable doubt as to the amounts which it would be fair to levy in different parishes, a commission was constituted which framed what was called the liber regis, with a view to the settlement of the amounts to be paid by parishes and the assessments of livings fairly according to income. This showed that Henry VIII. treated these funds as in the nature of a tax on the livings in the Church. He excluded all benefices under eight marks a year from any payment. It was also part of the arrangement that a certain taxation then granted by the Convocations of Canterbury and York should be released. It 1644 was clear, therefore, that these first-fruits and tenths were treated by Henry VIII. first as a tax on the incomes of the clergy, and secondly as a quid pro quo in respect of the abandonment of the taxation derived from the Convocations of Canterbury and York. By 2 and 3 Phil, and Mary, c. 4, the distinction of firstfruits and tenths was altered, and Cardinal Pole was made the recipient for certain purposes; but under Elizabeth the Act of Henry VIII. was revived, exemption from payment being, however, granted in the case of benefices under 10 marks. This showed that the payments were regarded as the personal revenue of the Sovereign. In the early days of Queen Anne's reign this source of revenue was treated as a special tax, and together with certain duties on beer and other articles was granted to the Queen for her life only for the support of her household and the dignity of the Crown. Up to this time moneys derived from this source had been used by the sovereigns of this country as a sort of pension fund. But in 1703, by a further Statute, Queen Anne's Bounty was formed. The Queen seemed to have come to the conclusion that it was an unfair thing to levy a specia ltax upon the incomes of the clergy, and wrong to appropriate part of those incomes to the purposes of the Sovereign. So Queen Anne's Bounty was formed, and the firstfruits and tenths were vested in the governors. Power was given to the governors not only to receive the firstfruits and tenths, but to apply them to the augmentation of poor livings. Permission was also given to private individuals to grant funds to the governors for the same purpose, a power which from the first had been exercised from time to time. So that Queen Anne's Bounty fund consisted of the firstfruits and tenths and certain private donations. Surely the Church ought not to be dispossessed of funds like these in order that they might I be applied to such uses as baths and washhouses. The original fund, let it be remembered, was formed by contributions from the income of benefices, and the payments were allocated by Queen Anne to the augmentation of poor livings. Since that time the fund has been increased in another way. Parliament, recognising the duty and 1645 desirability of providing for the increasing religious needs of an expanding population, had made various grants from time to time to the Church and to various Nonconforming bodies. In one year £100,000 was given in this way to Queen Anne's Bounty for the benefit of the Church, and £200,000 for other religious denominations. By the year 1825 considerable sums, in the form of Parliamentary grants, had been voted for application in the same manner as the other funds of the Bounty were to be applied. Now, how had all these funds actually been applied? Generally speaking, grants from Queen Anne's Bounty had been made to meet grants from private benefactions. If, for example, it was desired to augment the income of a poor living and a private benefactor was willing to give, say, £200 for the purpose, a similar sum was supplied from the joint funds of the Bounty. Enormous benefits had accrued to the Church from the careful and consistent application of these funds. The value of poor livings, both in remote country districts and in populous places, had been added to, and clergymen had been put into positions of greater independence and their power to do good work had been increased. The funds of Queen Anne's Bounty had been distributed with exclusive reference to the needs of localities. The result had been that Wales, being ecclesiastically-speaking poor, had benefited very considerably from the fund. Whatever arguments might be used with regard to the old endowments of the Church, not one of them could apply to Queen Anne's Bounty. It consisted first of all of the savings of the clergy from what was practically a remission of a special and unequal taxation; secondly, of gifts from private individuals; and, thirdly, of Parliamentary grants made from year to year. He asserted that there was no instance in which, when Parliament had given a sum to be applied to a particular purpose, and that sum had been so applied, a subsequent Parliament had endeavoured to revoke the gift. But that was what it was to do by this Bill. Parliament was asked to go back on what a previous Parliament had done, and to appropriate the gift it had made for one purpose to another. Without saying that the whole 1646 case of Queen Anne's Bounty could be exhausted in this Amendment, he thought it was proper to make an initial protest against the appropriation of these funds, and that was what he was doing. Whatever else was taken away from the Church, these funds ought to be left to her, inasmuch as they had been given to her expressly since the date fixed upon in the Bill.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had opened up a somewhat alarming prospect when he told the House that this was only the initial stage in a series of Amendments he was going to introduce on the question of Queen Anne's Bounty. He hoped, at least, that the historical part of his argument might be regarded as exhausted. He did not deny that in some respects the position of Queen Anne's Bounty was a peculiar one, and he thought the matter was well worth consideration when they came to the next clause, whether some re-construction of the language was not necessary. All that was provided in this clause was that there should be transferred to the Commissioners all property vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or in Queen Anne's Bounty, which was ascertained "as hereinafter mentioned to be Welsh ecclesiastical property." If there was no property vested in Queen Anne's Bounty which ought to be treated as Welsh ecclesiastical property, then, when they came to discuss Clause 4, the hon. Gentleman would be in a position to make good his contention. All that was provided in this clause was that such property vested in Queen Anne's Bounty, if there were any, should pass to the Commissioners. He did not think anybody would quarrel with that position. After the pledges which the hon. Gentleman had given as to the future, he would not go into the details with which he had dealt. When, the time came he would be able to show that there were in the hands of Queen Anne's Bounty some funds which ought to be described as Welsh ecclesiastical property. It was quite true that much that Queen Anne's Bounty had received was now represented by churches; but the Church would keep the whole benefit of that, because the churches were to be handed over to the Church under the Bill. To whatever extent there might be in the 1647 hands of Queen Anne's Bounty funds not derived from modern benefactions, but from ancient or National Endowments—to whatever extent there might be in their hands funds appropriated by them to Welsh purposes alone, they ought to come within the scope of this Bill. He did not approach the question whether there were any such funds or not; but if there were they would constitute Welsh ecclesiastical property, and ought to pass to the Commissioners.
§ *MR A. S. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
observed that the right hon. Gentleman had said that, granting the principles of the Bill, they ought to admit that the funds in the hands of Queen Anne's Bounty were a class of endowments which ought to be handed over to the Commissioners. He contended that the position and character of the funds which Queen Anne's Bounty held, differed very much from the position and character of the endowments of the Church. First the Bill only proposed to deal with the corpus of the Church's property. But Queen Anne's Bounty was not corpus, but income saved. Then the principle held by the right hon. Gentleman was that all ancient gifts made before 1703 were national property, on the ground that previous to that date there was a doubt as to whether the gifts made to the Church were intended for the Church as it was now known If that principle was applied in this case, it must be observed that the donors of gifts, since 1703, at all events, whether private individuals or Parliaments, knew the character of the Church to which they were giving their money. It was precisely the same Church as they knew it! at the present time. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston raised the question whether there really was in the hands of Queen Anne's Bounty any Welsh ecclesiastical property or not, and whether so much money had not already been spent in Wales as to exceed all that had been received from Wales, so far, that there was, in fact, a large debt from Wales to Queen Anne's Bounty. The right Gentleman said he would deal with that question on Clause 4, but if they could prove now that Queen Anne's, Bounty at the present moment held no funds that could be shown to be Welsh ecclesiastical property, what was the 1648 good of inserting the words at all in this Clause? The Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty had received from Wales a total of £145,655, and they had spent in Wales £223,518, so that they had spent in Wales £78,000 more than they had received. These figures were taken from an official return which had been carefully prepared in the Queen Anne's Bounty Office. The figures clearly showed that there was no natural property belonging to Wales vested in the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. Therefore, this was a good Amendment, and he could not understand why the Government should not accept it.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman involved a matter of much importance, seeing that the funds included in Queen Anne's Bounty were of considerable magnitude, and that they had been devoted in the most solemn manner to the use of the Church. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would give it his careful consideration. The funds in question having been exacted by the Church of Rome, had been seized by the Crown in the reign of Henry VIII; but they had been re-devoted to the Church, doubtless by reason of conscientious scruples, by Queen Anne, in 1703. That, most likely, was the reason why the right hon. Gentleman had fixed upon that date as the limit from which private benefactions were to be retained by the Church. Why should the gift of a private individual be respected more than the action of the Crown? He thought if anything could be more sacred than the gift of a private individual, it would be a definite act of sovereignty buttressed and supported by Act of Parliament. That had been reckoned the most secure of all title to property, namely a Parliamentary guarantee. In what respect would the action of the Crown at the time of the Reformation differ from the action of the Crown at the time of the introduction of Queen Anne's Bounty? In both cases the guarantee was the same; it was Church property in both cases; in both cases it was a grant made to continue for the religious use of the Church—but the Government laid their hands on the property, which had continued to be devoted to the original use 1649 for which it was granted, whilst they forebore to lay their hands upon that which had been diverted from its original purpose and put to private use. If the Government insisted on taking the Queen Anne's Bounty, they ought to go further and see into the titles by which a great number of estates had descended to various families in this country, and where they could be proved to have been Church property, they ought to take them away for the purpose of academies of Art and other secular objects. He thought it would have a very bad effect on public bodies like the Commissioners of Queen Anne's Bounty if money were taken away from them in the manner it was proposed by the Government that this should be. Queen Anne's Bounty was originally established in order to assist in maintaining poor livings, and if the Government were now to lay hands upon it, he did not think the ecclesiastical authorities would be inclined to enter upon such good and pious undertakings in the future. Queen Anne's Bounty ought, he contended, to be treated separately from other Church property dealt with by this Bill, and ought to be reserved to the Church. It appeared, as a matter of fact, that the grants to Queen Anne's Bounty had been larger to it than from it. That was to say, the funds from which the money came were raised in England, so that, had the money been spent in the part of the kingdom in which it was raised, it ought to have been spent in England. If the whole value of the Queen Anne's Bounty now raised in Wales were capitalised, those sums of money would not be equal to the sums of money due to England as against Wales, because of the method in which Queen Anne's Bounty had hitherto been dealt with. If the right hon. Gentleman had said that the Welsh Church was not entitled to this property at all, and had proposed to readjust it and to pay back to England what had been spent in Wales, although derived more from English sources than from Welsh, there would have been something in his contention. But from the Queen Anne's Bounty there had always been devoted to Wales a much larger sum that was raised in Wales; and would this have been done except on the condition that it was to be devoted to religious purposes? It was done on the 1650 assumption that this very great gift of England to Wales would be devoted to religious purposes. But now the Government stepped in and seized the money which had been so devoted, and taken from England, and said that it was not to be used for religious but for secular purposes. That was breaking faith with England and the Queen Anne's Bounty; for, on the faith of the existing state of things, this large sum of money had been devoted to purely religious purposes in Wales. Under these circumstances, he thought his hon. Friend had done good service in raising this Amendment. He hoped the Government would be content with the amount of funds they had laid their hands on in other respects, and which now belonged to the Church of England in Wales, and that they would consent to omit the Queen Anne's Bounty from the Bill, and leave it to the Representative Body.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
remarked, that the Home Secretary seemed to propose to deal with this as with the last Amendment which proved dangerously embarrassing to the Government—that was, he wished to put off the evil day. But they preferred to argue the question here, feeling sure that if they allowed it to remain to be discussed on a subsequent clause, they would be placed at a great disadvantage. Various reasons might be adduced for omitting these words, which group themselves under three main heads. The first argument was that the Queen Anne's Bounty was the private property of the Church. His hon. Friend had clearly shown that the Bounty fell on the Church's side of the line, and that it was as much a benefaction and donation to the Church since 1703, as any other of the donations which were to be respected and held sacred. The very name showed that it was a bounty from the Sovereign; it was a bounty given with the consent and under the sanction, authority, and confirmation of Parliament. It was historically certain this was the property of the Crown, which the Crown graciously placed at the disposal of Parliament for the benefit of the Church. Could there be a better form of donation than that? It was as sacred as the private property or any other donations which were to be saved. His hon. friend the member for Preston 1651 had shown that considerable additions had been made to the Bounty from other sources, thus strengthening the claim for it to be treated as private property. These words ought to be omitted, because Queen Anne's Bounty was a royal private benefaction which belonged to the Church and which ought to be placed in the same category as private donations. A second argument was, that perhaps there was no present property in the Queen Anne's Bounty fund now disposable for Wales. It had been shown, that whatever property had accrued up to date and was now accruing, had been more than spent, and really belonged to England. That was to say, whatever had accrued or was accruing of the Queen Anne's Bounty at the disposal of the English authority, had been spent by that authority on various religious purposes in Wales. There was a third argument supposing there was no property now, that all that had accrued and was accruing had been spent or more than spent and did not properly exist in the hands of any authority that disposed of the Queen's Anne's Bounty. What about the future? It had been argued by the Government that it was portion of the tithe. It was not, but at all events it was a source of incoming income in the future. There would thus be funds at the disposal of the Church or the Welsh Commissioners, therefore there was a real corpus to be disposed of by this Clause 3, under the words of Queen Anne's Bounty. Though it could not be much in the present, it would exist and accrue in the future. There was, therefore, a disposable property available, that property did devolve to the Church, and under his argument it ought to be held sacred. If property accrued in future, it belonged to the Church in England as well as to the Church in Wales, and it was hypothecated for a debt in England. If that was the case, what a serious responsibility the Government would take upon themselves by appropriating this fund. According to the proposal which was made, that debt would be entirely swept away; the assets available for its payment were to be appropriated to a secular purpose, and not only was the Church in Wales to be robbed, but it was to be left without any means of repaying her obligation. There was therefore a duplex spoliation. There 1652 had been many motions for omitting particular words, but no motion he ventured to say had been supported by such powerful arguments as this, and he submitted that the Government were bound to answer them. The three arguments he had adduced were sledgehammer arguments which ought to be answered, because, in the elegant phraseology of the Home Secretary himself, they turned this portion of the clause inside out and upside down.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
said, in the year 1868 the question of the management and policy of the Queen Anne's Bounty was referred to a Select Committee on which he had the honour to serve. That Committee carefully considered the rules and regulations of the Bounty. From his experience on that Committee and in the provinces, he felt that to take away the money given to the Church through the Queen Anne's Bounty would be a lamentable and guilty breach of faith. Many distinguished witnesses gave evidence before the Committee, and amongst them Bishop Wilberforce, who stated that Queen Anne's Bounty was in the habit of granting benefactions with a view to drawing grants from donors, that the practice of making grants without benefactions had almost ceased, and that their policy had been very beneficial to the Church. The fact that the action of the Queen Anne's Bounty had been to draw out benefactions on a large and liberal scale, during many vears, was shown by this evidence. The proposal of the Government, if carried out, would be an act of gross injustice. He did not understand the action of the Government with reference to money as distinguished from land. Was the total amount to be taken away? So far as he could understand, the benefits granted to certain livings by the Queen Anne's Bounty would perish with the livings, a condition of affairs which would be the cause of acute suffering. The amount now sunk in buildings appeared to be small. He found, from the report of the Committee, that from 1804 to 1842 the amount contributed to buildings was less than £12,000. That was, therefore, a comparatively insignificant amount, and he wished to press for an answer on this point, as the Bill was most ambiguous. 1653 The last report of the Governors of the Queen Anne's Bounty showed that in 1894 the benefactions in money were £31,839; in houses and land, £3,412; and in tithe rent-charge, £178. He thought the Committee was entitled to know whether the whole of those amounts was to be confiscated. In Yorkshire, Lancashire, and other districts, the Church derived great advantages from these benefactions, and he certainly felt bound to tender his word of emphatic protest against the confiscatory action of the Government.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, he should like to know exactly how this money was gathered now for the individual clergy and brought into Queen's Anne's Bounty form; how far it was calculated upon the present value, and how far upon value in the time of Henry VIII. It was a matter full of interest and difficulty, and this discussion proved how inextricable was the financial position of the Church in England from the Church in Wales. They could not divide them. It had been asserted, and it was hardly denied by the Home Secretary, that there was no such thing as property belonging to Queen Anne's Bounty in Wales. There were no assets at all. The Home Secretary had asked them to postpone the matter till another clause was reached, but they must deal with a matter of principle when it first came before them. He understood that the year 1703, or thereabouts, was taken as the year from which all benefactions should be considered private, but why should they take the Queen Anne's Bounty as a private benefaction? The mere giving by the State of money to a religious society did not make that property public, but even if it did, the Queen Anne's Bounty was not derived from the State. That apparently was the ground upon which the Government proposed to take money which belonged to Queen Anne's Bounty. He did not admit that Queen Anne's Bounty was a State grant; but granting for the sake of argument that it was and that, therefore, the money which had gathered around it was public and not private property. Then what about the Bounty grants—the grants out of the taxes to Nonconformist bodies for 150 years? If the grant of money by the State to religious bodies made the 1654 property that had grown out of those rants public property, was the property of Nonconformist bodies who had received State grants to be regarded as public property? But Queen Anne's Bounty Board had been supported by the money paid by the Church, and not a single farthing of it had been obtained from the State. The Home Secretary argued that portion of the Bounty was a Welsh Ecclesiastical Endowment. He did not argue it on that ground. He contended that the Bounty was a private endowment, and that, therefore, it ought not to be included in the Bill. He did riot dispute that portion of the money connected with the Board was Welsh ecclesiastical property; but he did say decidedly that it was not public property. He could support that contention by a reference to the very proposals of the Government. The Government said in the Bill:—We give you every shilling of this Bounty that is invested in parsonages and in lands.Surely, if any part of the Bounty were public property, the lands and parsonages also must be public property, and yet the Government proposed to exclude them. If the argument of the Government was a good one, it was illogical of them to stop short at the point at which they proposed to stop. If the Bounty were public property, as the Government contended, the Government should take it all; but if it were private property, as he contended it was, they should not take one penny of it at all.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that as he had put down on the Paper a series of Amendments in respect to Queen Anne's Bounty he hoped the Committee would permit him at this stage to make a few observations on the subject. He quite agreed with the observation of the Home Secretary that in all probability this question must be discussed in greater detail when some later clauses of the Bill were reached; but at the same time it was absolutely necessary that the supporters of Queen Anne's Bounty should on that occasion state their case on broad grounds and ask the opinion of the House thereon. He confessed that the reasons which were advanced by the Home Secretary for the insertion of the words "Queen Anne's Bounty" at this place seemed to him, if he might 1655 say so without disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman to be very flimsy. He fully agreed with what had fallen from some of the previous speakers that any insertion of those words in the Bill ought to have been preceded by an inquiry in order to ascertain the real condition of the country. The only argument of the Home Secretary was, that the insertion of the words would do no harm, because only the Welsh ecclesiastical property of the Bounty would pass, and if it were found that it had no ecclesiastical property the Bounty would not come within the purview of the Bill. Surely that was not the way the question should be met by the Government? Before any funds were subjected to the control of this Bill the Government ought to be satisfied there was Welsh ecclesiastical property, properly so called, that ought to come within the purview of the Bill. Therefore the reason given for the insertion of the words by the Home Secretary was wholly insufficient. Then came the question of figures. He would state at once that their figures had been supplied to them by Mr. Aston, a gentleman who for 30 years at least had been intimately connected with Queen Anno's Bounty, and who would be admitted, by any hon. Gentleman opposite who knew him, to be a most honourable and trustworthy official. More than that, they had communicated the whole of the figures at their disposal to the Home Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman knew that if any further particulars in regard to the Bounty were asked for they would be forthcoming. There was a great deal of misunderstanding in regard to the origin of Queen Anne's Bounty. Hon. Members opposite seemed to suggest that because at one time or another first fruits and tenths belonged to the Pope and then belonged to the king, that that stamped them at once with the character of national property. But from what source did first fruits and tenths come? The scheme of the Bill was to treat, first, tithes as national property, and, secondly, glebes as national property. As for churches and parsonages, when they had discussed later Amendments it would be found that the money concerned in parsonages was a small amount, and so far as churches were concerned they might be put out 1656 of account at once. The first fruits and tenths were taken to be portion of the income derived from tithes and glebes. The Government took the whole of the corpus—the tithes and the glebe—and yet they said they were entitled to have something more—the accumulation in years gone by of the proceeds of the income out of that very corpus. The Government had no right to include Queen Anne's Bounty in this Bill. As had been pointed out, the glebes which had been purchased by the aid of Queen Anne's Bounty had not been purchased, by any means, by Queen Anne's Bounty alone. What had happened? Queen Anne's Bounty made a grant upon condition that a corresponding amount was given by a private benefactor. The position of Queen Anne's Bounty had attracted to the Church of England, and for this purpose he was drawing no distinction between England and Wales—benefactions that never would have existed otherwise; and they would insist, when they came to deal with the question—what is a private benefaction?—that the devotion of the first fruits and tenths to the Church, upon every principle which had been shadowed forth by the Government as betokening a private benefaction, was in the same position as a private benefaction. He supposed the Government were not going to depart from their main argument, that all this property was Welsh property. But he was informed that saving and excepting certain instances in which money had been invested in Welsh Debenture Stock, Queen Anne's Bounty had no estates in Wales at all. He would, at a later stage, move Amendments with the view of ascertaining whether anything now existed in the hands of Queen Anne's Bounty which could be properly treated as money belonging to the Welsh Church, but if the figures which the supporters of the Amendment brought forward were even approximately true, the Government ought never have included Queen Anne's Bounty in the Bill. The total outside amount which could be said to be received from Wales from all sources, including glebe lands, which had been sold and repurchased, was £284,000, and there had been spent out of the General Funds of Queen Anne's Bounty £411,000. There was, therefore, in favour of the Church 1657 of England a balance of £127,000—moneys which had never come from Welsh first fruits or Welsh tenths, but which had been contributed by Queen Anne's Bounty out of the richness of some parts of the Church of England to the poverty of Wales—the poorest benefices being those which benefited by Queen Anne's Bounty. They were not bringing forward a small or unimportant question, but a matter of simple abstract justice. Was the property of Queen Anne's Bounty Welsh property? The money which the governors of that bounty held had not been derived from Wales, but represented a balance solely due to the first fruits and tenths from property outside Wales. Yet under the scheme of the Bill they were handing over the very corpus out of which, so far aw Wales was concerned, these first fruits and tenths had been derived. On what possible principle of justice could it be suggested that they were to take the glebe and at the same time to ask that there should be handed over the accumulation of the money in the hands of the Queen Anne's Bounty, when it could be shown that the Bounty had paid away much larger sums than they had received? He would ask the Government on what information or statistics they had included Queen Anne's Bounty in the clause? He maintained that its insertion was not justified by any facts which were before the Government, and they would press the Amendment, because they believed that whatever might be done hereafter in the way of redressing or remedying the grievance by subsequent Amendments, no case had been made out for including within the purview of that property which was to pass to the Welsh Commissioners property which, on no evidence worthy of the name, could be said to be derived from Wales or to belong to the Welsh Church.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL,) North Beds
said, every hon. Member opposite who had spoken had assumed that Queen Anne's Bounty, whether in reference to England or Wales, was not public property, but was in some sense or other the private property of the Church. The Government have regarded it as public property, inasmuch as it had had a public origin; 1658 and therefore, from their point of view, it was property that could properly be dealt with on general principles. The answer was primâ facie that they believed there was Welsh ecclesiastical property in Queen Anne's Bounty, and that it would be brought to light when there was a balancing of the accounts. They were, therefore, justified in dealing with it as if it existed. The officials of Queen Anne's Bounty had placed their figures at the disposal of the Government, but that had been done only recently, and in a very informal way; certainly not in such an authoritative way that they could be laid before Parliament. There had been a courteous readiness to supply the information required, but still the information was not yet complete. The striking of a balance still remained to a large extent the subject of consideration, possibly of dispute and disagreement in time to come; and the Government fell back upon the position taken up by his right hon. Friend—that if it should prove on examination of figures there was no Welsh ecclesiastical property within the meaning and scope of the Bill to be dealt with there would be no grievance because there would be no dealing. If, no the other hand, it should prove there was Welsh ecclesiastical property held in the name of Queen Anne's Bounty to be dealt with they would feel justified in dealing with it as with any other form of ecclesiastical property.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
pointed out that the bulk of the contributions from Queen Anne's Bounty to parsonages had been made by way of loan for the purpose of the erection of parsonages and was repayable by instalments.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
asked if they were to take what the Under Secretary for the Home Department had said as a pledge that the Government would accept in substance the Amendment if the result of the investigation of the figures should turn out to be as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight had represented it would be. They understood that only recently the Government had received figures which would represent the position of Queen Anne's Bounty with respect to Wales, but that they had not had time to verify them. He understood that carried with it the statement that 1659 if the figures were correct, and if the figures had been before the Government at the time of the drafting of the Bill the reference to Queen Anne's Bounty would have been left out altogether. Upon the Notice Paper of Amendments there were Amendments in the name of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight to Clause 4, which related to this specific matter. Were they to take it that the Government had, through the hon. Gentleman, given the definite promise that if they, say within a week, discovered that the statements of his hon. and learned Friend with regard to the figures were correct, they would at some future stage of the Bill strike the words out altogether, and so effect the double purpose of leaving out all references to Queen Anne's Bounty, and, at the same time clear the Notice Paper of Amendments which must be necessary if the words were left in the section. Possibly if they had a clear pledge from the Government that these words would be left out under the circumstances he had mentioned, they might be able more easily to deal with the present Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said he could give no such pledge, and it would be most embarrassing and very unadvisable if he gave a pledge with reference to a state of facts that had not been disclosed. The only pledge which his hon. Friend indicated the Government were prepared to give was that if it turned out, on examition of the figures, there was not in the hands of the officials of Queen Anne's Bounty any property which could be fairly described as Welsh Ecclesiastical property, then undoubtedly Queen Anne's Bounty passed out of the case. It must not be understood he assented in the least degree to the proposition which he saw was to be made on Clause 4 by the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight, that they were to take an account of what had happened from 1703 down to the present day, and that if they found that during that period a larger sum had been expended out of the fund of Queen Anne's Bounty in Wales than had been received by it from Wales, the conclusion followed there was no Welsh Ecclesiastical property in the hands of the officials of the Fund, A considerable part of the money had been expended in improving the parsonages 1660 and other property of the Church in Wales, even according to the figures supplied by the Governers of Queen Anne's Bounty. That property was going to be handed over to the Church for permanent and exclusive possession, and it was impossible, therefore, to credit Queen Anne's Bounty with the very same sum and take it into account in striking the balance.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think there had been some sinister arrangement in presenting the figures with respect to Queen Anne's Bounty. [Mr. ASQUITH dissented.] The management of Queen's Anne's Bounty was practically a public department, and the figures were perfectly accessible to the right hon. Gentleman. The amount spent on Parsonages was, practically speaking, a very small figure, and certainly would not disturb the very large balance which would be shown to exist as having been contributed to the Church in Wales out of English firstfruits and tenths. It was perfectly obvious that this question must be discussed again on subsequent Amendments, and, being satisfied with the protest which had been made, he should not advise his hon. friends to Divide, though he could uot quite understand their action if they did. The right hon. Gentleman had received fair notice, and if he liked to shorten the discussion he could do so by instructing his officials to test the accuracy of the case which had been stated.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said that, as this was not the most convenient point in the Bill on which to take a Division, he would ask leave to withdraw. [Ministerial cries of "No"]
§ MR. BARTLEY
said that the question went to the root of common honesty and morality. On no possible grounds could this money be called public property, and to take it from the Church was simple robbery and spoliation. Although the Church was to be disestablished, the ten Commandments had no yet been abolished, and therefore he should certainly Divide the House.
§ The Committee divided:—Noes, 165 Ayes, 183.—(Division List, No. 88.)
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN moved an Amendment providing that all property "situated in Wales and Monmouthshire" 1661 not vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or Queen Anne's Bounty, belonging to or appropriated to the use of any ecclesiastical office or cathedral corporation connected with the Church in Wales, shall be transferred to the Welsh Commissioners on the date of Disestablishment. The object of the Amendment was to deal with the case of the Welsh parishes which possessed some real property situated in England—glebe, tithe rent-charge, or a charge on land geographically in England. In dealing with this he would ask the Home Secretary to look at Clause 6. There were many cases in which one parish possessed an ecclesiastical endowment of land in another parish. By "parish council" was it meant the parish council to which the land now belonged, or the parish council of the parish in which the land was now situated? Supposing a Welsh parish possessed glebe or other real property situated in England, was the Welsh parish to have the glebe, or was the parish council of the English parish to have it? In other words, was the English parish council to profit by the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Wales? And, if so, why? He thought there was every reason for excluding from the operation of the Bill and of this clause, real property belonging to the Welsh Church which happened to be situated in England. For that reason he begged to move the Amendment in his name.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
thought that the hon. Member had been rather premature in moving this Amendment, which, if moved at all, would come under Clause 4. The answer to his question was that the parish council intended was the parish council which derived the benefit, and not the parish council of the parish in which the property was situated. The hon. Gentleman had not given the Committee any instance of a property locally situated in England which would come under the operation of the clause, and his allusion was to a purely hypothetical case. If, however, there were such cases, it was reasonable and right that property which now belonged to the Welsh Church should, when that Church was disestablished and disendowed, pass to the Welsh Commissioners. Did the hon. Member mean to contend that a particular piece 1662 of property, because locally situated outside Wales, should be excluded from this Bill? To whom, then, was it to go?
To remain in the Church. The effect of the Amendment would be that it would not go to the Church representative body. According to the contention of the hon. Member, a clergyman in Wales, notwithstanding the Disestablishment of the Church, might continue to be endowed—permanently endowed—so far as little bits of property situated in England were concerned. It was impossible thus to lop off portions of the property belonging to the Church of Wales simply because of their particular geographical position. The hon. Member had mentioned no ground of principle on which to distinguish between the two kinds of property of the Church except merely geographical position. The Bill proceeded upon a principle which was perfectly consistent—that whatever property was now vested in and enjoyed by the Church in Wales should pass, from the date of Disestablishment, to the Welsh Commissioners, to be applied by them according to the provisions laid down in the measure.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, it appeared to him that the whole principle of the Bill was the accident of geographical position. However, he thought the contention of the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division was fair and right. The Government were not content with despoiling the Church in Wales of property possessed by that Church which was locally situated in England, but also proposed, as he read the Bill, to despoil the Church in England of property belonging to her which happened to be situated in Wales.
§ *SR M. HICKS-BEACH
If the right hon. Gentleman turned to Clause 21 he would see that under that clause it was provided that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners wereto ascertain and by Order declare what property, not being vested in them at the passing of this Act, consists of … property situate in Wales or Monmouthshire, and is at the passing of this Act applied or applicable to an ecclesiastical purpose in England, but not in Wales or Monmouthshire, and all such property shall, as from the date of the Order, vest in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.''1663 That was to be done directly after the passing of the Act. If the right hon. Gentleman next turned to Clause 4 he would see that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were forthwith, after the passing of the Act, to ascertain and by Order declare what property vested in them under the provisions hereinafter contained, namely, under Clause 21, was Welsh ecclesiastical property; and then by Clause 3 they were to hand over all property vested in them to the new Welsh Commissioners. He maintained that under Clauses 3, 4, and 21, taken together, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were required, as the Bill now stood, to take Church property situated in Wales, but now applied to ecclesiastical purposes in England, and utilise it as part of the Church property in Wales. The Bill was not content with taking from the Church in Wales property locally situated in England, but also proposed to take from the Church in England property locally situated in Wales which belonged to English benefices.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the Bill had no such intention as had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. At the proper time, when he came to deal with Clauses 4 and 21, he should be prepared to maintain that even bearings between the Churches of the two countries would be preserved. If it could then be shown that this would not be carried into effect by the present drafting of the Bill, he should be prepared to accept an Amendment in that direction. So far as the clause then under consideration was concerned, all that the Government did was to lay down the principle that whatever property was now appropriated to or enjoyed by the Welsh Church should come within the scope of the Bill and be transferred to the Welsh Commissioners and dealt with by them.
§ MR. GEORGE WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, that no one during the course of the Debate had attempted to maintain that there was a Church of Wales. All had admitted that there was only one Church in the kingdom, and that the only basis for this measure at all was that the property drawn from Wales excited a good deal of sentimental disquiet in that country.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 186; Noes, 200.—(Division List No. 89.)1664
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON moved, in line 11, after "vested," to insert "except churchyards and consecrated burial grounds." He said, that the obvious argument for excepting churchyards was the argument that every benefaction, every endowment which had been made by private individuals, should be kept for the Church. Everyone knew that churchyards had not only a very special interest for Church people, but that they were contiguous to the Churches. There was a feeling among all parishioners that they ought to be kept separate and apart from any common uses. The argument which the Home Secretary had used was this: We have already encroached upon your churchyards to a certain extent; therefore now we will take them altogether. In other words—we have already done you wrong, and now we will take advantage of the wrong we have done. That might be a good argument before going into the Division Lobby, but would not be considered a fair argument by the people of this country. From immemorial times these churchyards had been in the possession of the Church, and yet the Government now proposed to take them from the Church, and to transfer them to the control of a secular body. This was an outrage upon the sentiments of the people. The churchyard was peculiarly part and parcel of the Church, and all the feelings which made them unwilling to place churches and cathedrals in the hands of a secular body extended to the churchyards. He thought he was right in saying that under the Irish Church Act, churchyards were exempted from the control of the Church Commissioners. The Government had founded their Bill to a great extent upon the Irish Act, and under that Act the churchyards remained under the Control of the Church body.
§ MR. ASQUITH
hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not think him wanting in respect if he did not enter into this question at this particular point. They were dealing in this clause merely with the formal vesting of the property of the Church in the Commissioners. There was very little of the property which would vest in them under the Bill, which they would not have to hand over to other authorities under subsequent clauses of the 1665 Bill. The most convenient point to raise this question would be when they came to Clause 6, which proposed to vest burial grounds in the Parish Councils.
§ MR. KENYON (Denbigh District)
pointed out that a very large proportion of the churchyards in Wales had been added to in recent years by the private benefaction of landowners, and he wished to know whether they would be exempt from the operation of the clause.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the hon. Gentleman's question illustrated very well what he had said a moment ago—namely, that it would be much more convenient to discuss this question when they came to Clause 6, which dealt with the vesting of churchyards. He would, however, refer the hon. Gentleman to Clause 5 which, he thought, answered the question. That clause provided that any property transferred to the Commissioners which consisted of property given by any private person out of his own resources, since 1703, should be deemed to be a private benefaction.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
was not surprised that his hon. Friend had raised this question at the first possible opportunity, for there was nothing more unfair than the way in which the Government proposed to deal with churchyards, especially those given in recent years by private donors. He quite agreed, however, that it would be more convenient to postpone the discussion of the question until Clause 6 was reached, and he was glad to hear not merely that the Government would survive so long, but that the Committee would be permitted to have a full discussion on that clause.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
desired to call attention to the contrast between the Bill as it now stood and the Irish Church Act. Under the latter Act, in certain cases, burial grounds were made over to the guardians, but it also provided for the maintenance of good order in them, the proper conduct of services, the preservation of rights of way, and other matters. He mentioned the point now, in order that when they came to Clause 6 1666 corresponding in sentiment to the words contained in the Irish Church Act.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. J. C. MACDONA moved in line 11, after "vested," to insert "which is ascertained to have been given to the Church by Parliamentary grant and." He said the Bill afforded an instance not of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but of robbing both Peter and Paul and St. David too. It did not say anything about how the Nonconformists were to be robbed. It did not take away any of their Endowments, because it was said they were given by pious persons for pious purposes. In like manner it appeared to him that the great bulk of the Church property, and particularly that in Wales, had been given by pious ancestors for pious work, and not by the State, and therefore the State had no right to take it away. It was absurd to say that the property of the Church was National, and ought to be diverted from its original purposes and appropriated by the Nation. Parliament had as much right to take away the property of other denominations or of individuals as to take away that of the Church. The only property Parliament ought to be able to take from the Church was that which was proved to have been given by Act of Parliament. Between 1809 and 1850, the whole Church of England had received from Parliament £1,100,000, and in addition to that it had received £500,000 for Church building grants, making a total of £1,600,000. The Welsh share of this total was about £100,000, or about £40 a year. This was all that Parliament had any right or title to touch; and much good might it do those who took part in such robbery. Of course, Parliament could legally do anything it wished; it could take away the emoluments of the Home Secretary. Although what was now proposed might be done legally, it could not be a moral transaction, and it would certainly be unkind and cruel.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, it was quite true that Parliament could, if it pleased, take away the emoluments of the Home Secretary, but he did not quite see the 1667 relevancy of the observation. The hon. Member well knew that the adoption of his Amendment would strike a blow at the very principle of the Bill. The contention of the Government was that, as the ancient revenues of the Church were National property, in the same sense was public property that had been given to it in modern times. There was no legal, and he believed no moral, distinction between the two sources of endowment.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, the Home Secretary talked of legal and moral distinctions, but they believed that the taking of any property from the Church was an immoral act, and as long as the Bill was in Committee they would protest against every part of it on that ground. They did not admit the morality of any part of the Bill. There was no more immoral part of the Bill than that taking away the funds derived from Queen Anne's Bounty. He did not see the morality of taking away that which had been granted by Parliament. His hon. Friend had raised the question in this form in order to put before the Committee the immorality of taking away that which was given by our ancestors long ago, on the absurd and ridiculous pretext that, if they had known that the Church would cease to embrace all the people, they would have preferred baths and washhouses as an object of their bounty, to the preaching of the Gospel of Christ.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, it must be within their knowledge that grants had been made by Parliament to certain denominations as well as to the Church. Clause 5 would not cover those grants, because it spoke of property given by a private person out of his own resources. They understood that money voted by Parliament to the Church would have to be refunded, whereas it would not be taken away from the Nonconformist bodies which had received similar grants. It was a convenient doctrine—they had it during the Home Rule Bill. He asked whether money voted by Parliament at the beginning of the century, not only to the Church of England, but other bodies, would be covered by Clause 5: and if the Church of England was to refund the money whether the Nonconformist bodies—
I have ruled, more than once, that that has nothing to do with the Bill. This is a Bill for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Wales.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I am quite aware of that, Sir. Money granted by Parliament was not a private benefaction, and he wanted to know whether it would be handed over. This clause transferred every kind of property of the Church, whether it resulted from public or private benefaction.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said it was difficult to know when they would be able to deal with this, as Clause 5 did not deal with Parliamentary grants.
§ MR. ASQUITH
It is open to the right hon. Gentleman to move an Amendment to Clause 5 to include Parliamentary grants among private benefactions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
hoped his hon. Friend would bear that in mind when the time came. He agreed with the Home Secretary that the Amendment, if carried, would strike at the whole root of the Bill. If they were not going to disestablish the Church in Wales except where money granted by Parliament was concerned, disestablishment would have little effect on the prosperity of the Church. But a large number of persons had been persuaded by Liberationist orators that the Church in Wales ought to be disendowed on the very ground that her money was derived from Parliamentary grants. The theory had been that the endowments of the Church in Wales and England were the result of Parliamentary liberality. Therefore his hon. Friend was perfectly justified in appealing to hon. Members opposite to go into the Lobby to show that these arguments, which they had not been ashamed to use on many occasions—on platforms and in the Press—had no foundation in fact.
§ MR. E. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
argued that Clause 5 was strictly limited to private benefactions. Therefore he did not see how Parliamentary grants could be dealt with upon that clause. If an Amendment could not be moved to Clause 5, he thought they were bound to deal with the question now.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 183; Noes, 192. (Division List, No. 90.)1669
SIR R. TEMPLE (on behalf of Mr. HANHURY) moved, in line 12 to leave out "or is appropriated to the use of" in the expression—
All property not so vested which at the passing of this Art belongs to or is appropriated to the use of.
It was not, he said, quite clear what was meant by the words, and they might be oaf able of consequences which would prove extremely inconvenient.
I must ask the hon. Baronet, is he moving the Amendment on behalf of the hon. Member for Preston?
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
Then, Sir, I beg to move it myself. The hon. Baronet explained that if the Amendment had been withdrawn, it still appeared in the printed papers, so that he had good reason for his action, and at any rate he thought he should be in order in moving the Amendment on his own behalf in order that some explanation might be elicited from the Home Secretary as to the meaning to be attached to the particular expression.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that that which "belongs to" meant that which is the property of, and that "which is appropriated to the use of" meant that which is held by someone else in trust for.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said he should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman could have given them an instance, because it appeared to him to be possible to put a much wider construction on words of this kind. He believed the words might even include the library of the Dean of Bangor, and he submitted that the expression was far too wide.
§ MR. T. GIBSON BOWLES
said he could give the right hon. Gentleman an instance of the difficulty which might arise. It was a very common practice when the colours of any regiment had 1670 passed out of use to hang them up in a cathedral church. This would not be the property of any ecclesiastical office or cathedral corporation, and were they to be told that under this Bill the glorious colours of the old regiments hung up in the Churches of Wales were to be used to form an Academy of Arts.
§ *MR. THOMAS BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
called the Home Secretary's attention to a speech he had delivered in 1894, when he said that the return of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for 1889 showed a net receipt by them for Wales of £28,700, and a total of payments by them to Wales of £67,600; in other words, there was a balance overpaid out of the English revenues of £40,000. It was quite clear from the language of this sub-section that this £40,000 was property which was appropriated as specified, and it would come under the sub-section.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
submitted that the Home Secretary's explanation was not satisfactory. He would ask him to be good enough to give them an instance which would really fit in with those words.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that his speech which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for the Epsom Division of Surrey, referred to grants made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners out of property vested in land. They were dealing now expressly with property not vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, therefore the surplus payments made by the Commissioners to Wales could not possibly be included in the sub-section. With regard to the point of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight, as to the words "is appropriated to the use of," he would point out that precisely similar words appeared in the Irish Church Act—in fact they had been appropriated by the draughtsman of the Bill—and they had never given rise to the slightest trouble or difficulty in the operation of that Act.
§ *MR. BUCKNILL
still thought the Home Secretary was wrong. The first section of the Bill referred to property which was ascertained to be Welsh ecclesiastical property. This £40,000 was not Welsh ecclesiastical property. It was English money from English revenues, which was paid by the Ecclesitical Commissioners to Wales over and above the amount that was paid by Wales to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I would point out that, so far as this money is not Welsh ecclesiastical property, Clause 4 prevents the possibility of its being brought within Clause 3.
§ SIR JOHN DORINGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)
also thought the words were so wide in meaning that they would in some instances cover the property of private individuals which was used for Church purposes. For instance, he knew of a room, now used for the purposes of a parish, in connection with the Vicarage of the parish, which was not the property of the parish, but the property of a private owner. It stood within the churchyard, and was used exclusively for Church purposes. Would not that room be covered by the words "appropriated to the use of" the Church, notwithstanding that it is the property of someone else? He therefore thought the words covered too large a space, so to speak, and at least needed some modification.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 182; Noes, 169.—(Division List, No. 91.)