HC Deb 28 May 1895 vol 34 cc485-514 "(1) Any property transferred by this Act to the Welsh Commissioners which consists of, or is the produce of, or is or has been derived from, property given by any private person out of his own resources since the year One thousand seven hundred and three, and does not come within the description of a church or ecclesiastical residence for which provision is otherwise made by this Act, shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be a private benefaction. (2) The Welsh Commissioners shall ascertain and by Order declare what part of the property transferred to them by this Act constitutes private benefactions within the meaning of this Act, and shall on the request of the representative body hereinafter mentioned, vest the same in that body, subject to the charges and incum-brances and interests saved by this Act."
MR. C. E. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)

proposed an Amendment applying the clause to any property which "has been given to the Church by any person or persons whatsoever." He said there was a great contrast between the words he proposed to leave out and those he proposed to insert. The words he proposed to omit seemed to be framed to give as little as possible to the Church, and the words he proposed to put in were framed to give as much as possible to the Church. The words he proposed to leave out narrowed down private benefactions to the lowest possible limit, and those he proposed to insert widened out the definition of private benefactions as much as possible. Whatever doubt might exist as to whether property given before 1703 was given to the Protestant Reformed Church as she existed now, there could be no doubt whatever that everything given to since 1703 was given to the Church as she was now, and should be treated as belonging to the Church, whether it came from individuals or was the result of public or private subscriptions. The corresponding clause of the Irish Church Act went further than this. Why should private subscriptions be omitted from the clause, and the Church in Wales be treated more meanly than the Irish Church was a quarter of a century ago, when friend and foe alike acknowledged that she was showing marvellous activity? The Home Secretary had apparently noticed the omission of private voluntary subscriptions from the clause, and he believed he was right in saying he would propose a resolution to include them. In moving this Amendment he desired to secure for the Church the proceeds of every subscription, public and private, given to any Endowment fund; the proceeds of every "grant in aid" of any Endowment Fund set up by any Church building, extension, or Endowment society, such as the Llandaff Diocesan Church Extension Society, which had contributed large sums to this purpose. He also desired to secure to the Church, as far as could be traced, all offertories at any time given in the House of God for the purpose of the Endowment of any Church in the the future. In that way they would save to the Church the offerings, not only of the rich, but the poor. He also desired by the Amendment to secure to the Church the proceeds of any sum given by any public companies to endow churches. He believed that in Wales many large manufacturing concerns had built and Endowed churches for the benefit of the employés who resided round their works. In short, he desired to secure for the Church every single gift since 1703, believing they were intended for the Church as she now was, and that Parliament ought to respect such gifts, and not interfere with them. He did this in no sectarian spirit whatever. He should be as ready to preserve the Endowments of any other religious bodies and prevent them from being handed over for uses for which they were never originally intended. They all admitted the courteous manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had conducted this Bill, and he gave the right hon. Gentleman the fullest credit for sincerity in what he had said of his desire that the measure should be marked by justice and equity. By moving this Amendment he was giving the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of acting in the spirit he had indicated, and of proving the sincerity of his statement.


said, that it was with some diffidence that he rose in response to the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman, who had just sat down, had made to him, because he was most anxious to do nothing that would qualify or would remove the favourable impression which the right hon. Gentleman had formed with regard to his motives and intentions in connection with this measure. As far as he understood the right hon. Gentleman, there appeared to be really no difference of principle between them. The words in the clause for which the hon. Member proposed to substitute words of his own were those which were embodied in the language of the Irish Church Act of 1869, with the exception that the words which related to private subscriptions in that Act were omitted in the clause. Those words had been omitted as a matter of drafting, and not because there was any intention on the part of the Government to exclude money so subscribed from exemption from the operation of the Bill. However, in order that there should be no possibility of doubt on the subject, he had put down an Amendment, which it was his intention to propose later, to add words to the clause of a similar tenour to those used in the Irish Church Act. He was quite ready to admit, therefore, that the language of the clause had not been copied literally from the Irish Church Act. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Act of 1703, but he had not given them a single case relating to private benefactions that were not amply covered by the language of the clause as it stood in the Bill. He wished to preserve to the Disestablished Church of Wales everything that could fairly be described as private benefactions, which had been given to it since 1703, and he believed that the words of the clause amply secured such property to the Church. It was, however, in his opinion, better that they should adhere to the words of the Irish Church Act which had stood the test of time. As far as he knew, those words had been found sufficient. But, at any rate, the words which the hon. Gentleman proposed to insert in the clause were too wide even for the hon. Gentleman's purpose, and would include more than the Government could consent to regard as private benefactions. The words which the hon. Gentleman proposed to insert were— has been given to the Church by any person or persons whatsover. and they would include some things which the Government did not regard as private benefactions, although he did not mean to say that they would include Parliamentary grants. But, apart irom that it might be doubtful whether it was quite clear that they would include, or not, moneys contributed by ecclesiastical corporations, such as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Queen Anne's Bounty. Under the Interpretation Act of 1889, which governed the construction of Acts of Parliament, it was enacted that in every Act passed after the passing of that Act the word "person" should include any body of persons corporate or incorporate. Therefore the language of the hon. Member's Amendment would include the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, although the endowments were granted to the Church long before 1703. In these circumstances he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. He, however, fully sympathised with the hon. Member and his friends in their endeavour to secure to the Disestablished Church of Wales as much as they possibly could.

MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)

thought that the cases referred to by the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment would not be covered by the words of the clause even as it was proposed to be amended by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman proposed to insert words that should include all voluntary subscriptions to the Church; and he should like to know whether any legal meaning was attached to these words. They might mean contributions among a number of people for the purpose of giving money to the Church, and in that case it might be held that such subscriptions must be contributed by more than one, and that the words "or money raised by voluntary subscriptions" did not apply to the case where the benefaction was that of one person only. He also doubted whether they would meet the case of benefaction given by a corporation under the Limited Liability Act.


said, that he would deal with the point which had just been raised by the hon. Member at once. His intention was that the words of his Amendment should cover all private benefactions. Now that the word "person," by the interpretation of the Act, included Corporation, it appeared to him that this description would exactly apply to the class of persons to which the hon. Member had referred, but he would take advice on the matter.


asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would in the meantime have any objection to add after "person" "or corporation."


said, he would rather not do so in the interests of the drafting.


said, the right hon. Gentleman in any event, as he understood, excluded the possibility of anything coming from a body like the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Supposing the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were the owners of land in a poor parish, would it be fair that contributions fairly made by them as landowners should be confiscated?

MR. A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

said, he wished to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the class of companies alluded to by his hon. Friend in order to make it perfectly clear whether these words would include a Company. In 1827 the Tredegar Company built an endowed church, and another church was built by the Rhymney Company. Could the words "private person" be applied to a company like that? He felt sure that a case of that sort, the Home Secretary would admit, ought to be included as a private benefaction? Would these words include such societies as the Llandaff Diocesan Church Society, or the Bishop of Llandaff's Fund?


Are they incorporated?


said, he thought not, but they were instrumental in raising and distributing large sums, and a large amount went in building and endowing new churches. He did not think the words of his hon. Friend were too wide; they wanted to raise the whole question of what right they had to take away from the Church any money given to the Church since 1703. Whoever gave the money since then, whether the State, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or Queen Anne's Bounty, knew perfectly well to whom they were giving aid. In the case of the Irish Church, the year 1660 was taken, and the right hon. Member for Midlothian justified that by a similar argument. He thought they ought certainly to take a Division on this point.

* SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)

said this Amendment did not raise the question of date, it proposed that the Church should retain the endowments given by any persons to the Church without any reference to the date. The right hon. Gentleman, in replying to his hon. Friend, suggested that the matter had been settled by the words of the Irish Church Act, which were practically identical with the words as they stood in this Bill, but that was by no means a conclusive argument. The words of the Irish Church Act, were entirely governed by the fact that Parliament in that Act gave a lump sum of £500,000 to the Irish Church in satisfaction of all these private endowments, and therefore it never became necessary for the courts to construe what Parliament had intended when it indicated that a private endowment should be moneys or lands given by private persons out of their own resources. There were very long Debates in Parliament on that question, because not only could no one foretell how those words would be interpreted by the courts, but it was perfectly obvious that in the attempt to secure an interpretation very considerable trouble and expense might be incurred which would be most unfair on individuals or on the Church body, and for that reason all difficulties were avoided by Parliament inserting a lump sum into the Act in satisfaction of these private endowments. He should very much like to know what was the meaning of these words—"any private person." He saw, not very long ago, that Her Majesty the Queen gave a considerable sum in aid of the erection of a parish church at Balmoral, Scotland, and for all that he knew, Her Majesty might have given to the endowment of the living; would Her Majesty be considered a private person or not? Was a Bishop of the Church a private person? He was in receipt of money paid to him for the duties of his office, and out of that money he might give an endowment to the Church, and some Bishops had certainly done so. They might also take the case of a clergyman, or of the Home Secretary himself, who was in receipt of an official salary, and might make an endowment. These were questions which were at least open to doubt, and it was, therefore, essential, in order to guide the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Welsh Commissioners, in the event of this Bill becoming law, that Parliament should put some definite interpretation upon these words. Last year a return was presented to Parliament distinguishing between the old endowments of benefices, and other ecclesiastical corporations in Wales, and those which were considered of the nature of private endowments. In the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill he called attention to what was essentially a private endowment in a parish in Pembrokeshire by a private person out of his own resources. But this endowment was not included in the Return in the private endowment belonging to that living, which proved how essential it was there should be a distinct interpretation of the words of this clause. The words proposed by his hon. Friend in his Amendment might be too wide. But, even taking the narrow view of the right hon. Gentleman himself, something ought to be added to show clearly what he meant by the words "private persons"—whether he meant to include or exclude persons holding public offices; whether the official incomes those persons received were, or were not, their own resources; and, generally, that there should be a complete and thorough interpretation of what was proposed by the clause. He did not know whether his hon. Friend proposed to divide the Committee, but he was glad he had called attention to the matter at the earliest possible moment, because it was one which could not be left to stand as at present.


said, he admitted that this was a difficult question—that there was much difficulty in framing language which was quite certain to cover all the cases it was desired to include, and all those which it was desired to exclude, from the scope of the Bill. Now, with regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for the Tun-bridge Division, who gave a number of instances of trading corporations which had built and endowed Churches in Wales, he would repeat the opinion he had before expressed—that all those cases were sufficiently covered by the words "private persons." If it should afterwards be found that the words did not sufficiently cover such cases, words should be introduced into the clause to meet the difficulty, but his impression was that the clause as drawn already did so. As to the societies to which the hon. Member had referred, he understood they desired, or recruited, their funds from subscriptions, that they had no endowments; that they were not incorporated bodies, and that their money was invested in trustees. Whatever funds were derived from this source and expended on the Church would be sufficiently covered by the Amendment of which he had given notice relating to money raised by "voluntary subscriptions." It was true, as the right hon. Member for Bristol had stated, that in the Irish Act of 1869 there was a clause drawn in a form corresponding to the clause under discussion—in fact, he believed the words were identical; but the clause was transformed in Committee, and in order to avoid the difficulty felt in the present case a lump sum was given to the Church. In framing the present Bill the Government considered the expediency of following that precedent, and it would have been a much simplier course to take if they could have adopted it. But there were two difficulties in the way. In the first place, they had no possibility at present of ascertaining what would be the fair capitalised value of the private endowments of the Church in Wales. He agreed that the return presented to the House did not contain an exhausted account of those endowments; and, therefore, the Government had not in their possession, the full materials on which to name any definite sum. But, further than that, his own belief was that the supporters of the Established Church in Wales would rather that the Church should keep its endowments than have them capitalised in value. However, the Government, recognising the difficulty to which he had referred, had come to the conclusion that it was advisable to take the course they had decided upon. The right hon. Member for West Bristol had put several cases of a hypothetical character to him, and asked whether they would come within the terms of the clause or not. Now, in regard to the first case, that of the Queen personally contributing towards the endowment of a Church, he had no hesitation in saying that such a contribution, or endowment, would clearly come within the words of the clause—"private persons." It would be a contribution given by the Queen, not in her character of monarch of the country, but in her character of a private individual or private landowner. The money would be given, not out of that which was voted to her by Parliament for public purposes, but out of her own resources, though those resources might be derived from her public income. The right hon. Baronet then put the case of himself or of anyone holding a similar public office making such a contribution to the Church. Clearly if he, or anyone similarly situated, did so, it would be the Act of an individual as a private person; it would not be an act done by him in his character of a Minister of State. Here again, then, the act would be done by the person in his private capacity, although the resources out of which he made the grant might be swollen by the money he received as salary for his public services. He admitted that there was more difficulty in dealing with a similar transaction in the case of a Bishop, or the holder of some ecclesiastical office—that there was more difficulty in saying precisely whether a contribution made by him to the Church was, or was not, made as a "private person," out of his own resources. Therefore, as at present advised, and subject to any criticism that might thereafter be developed, he might say—though he would not be bound by the precise words—that he was disposed to look with favour on an Amendment which the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight had placed on the Paper (page 17), referring to the money raised by subscription, and when they came to it he should propose the insertion of certain words.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

thought the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had certainly shown the Committee why the Government had not adopted the course which was taken in the case of the Irish Church Act. But the general upshot of this part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was to show that there was great ambiguity hanging over the, attempt of the Government to define what was the property to be secularised by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had himself admitted that the words in the clause were imperfect. He had said that the Queen was to be described for the purposes of the clause as a private person, and he could not help thinking that a clause which required, for its interpretation, that Her Majesty should be so described, required emendation. He recognised the difficulties of the case, and his object in rising was to suggest a possible solution. The object of the Government clause was to define accurately the money which was not to be taken. Would it not be simpler and easier to define the money which had to be taken. Practically speaking there were only five discriptions of property to be taken for the purposes of Disendowment, and he thought all difficulty might be removed if the Government would reverse their course of action and define the money or property which they would take rather than that which they desired not to take.

SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

suggested that the difficulty would be met by substituting for the words "by any private person out of his own resources," the words "by any person out of his private resources." These words would include gifts by the Queen or by Bishops.


asked whether the words of the clause would include gifts which might have been given by Christ Church, Oxford, which, as was well known, was a large owner of tithes in Wales.

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

asked whether they would also extend to gifts by Deans and Chapters, by the London Corporation, or by Municipal Corporations?


made a similar inquiry with reference to the case of Trustees.


said, he did not think the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition would meet the difficulty of the case. Definition by exclusion was just as difficult as definition by inclusion. Take the case of a glebe: there were many cases in which a glebe was ancient; there were others in which it was bought since 1703; and there were others in which part was bought before and part since that date. If they were to say that glebes were to go to the Commissioners, they would obviously be including something which ought not to go—and which, under the clause, would not go—to them. An exactly similar difficulty would arise in reference to the tithe rent—charge. He did not, therefore, think the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman would remove the difficulty. A catalogue of difficulties had been put to him by hon. Members. He must say he deprecated the re-summoning of Queen Anne from the grave into which she was interred in Clause 4, at any rate for the purposes of the present discussion. He would be glad to assume that, for the purposes of this argument, Queen Anne was dead. With regard to the cases that had been mentioned, they would be met by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight. He quite agreed that if an Oxford college, in the performance of one of its ordinary duties as a landowner in Wales, contributed towards the building or endowment of a church, that ought to be treated on the same footing as benefactions by trading companies or private persons. It ought to be protected and preserved to the Church. The hon. and learned Member's Amendment, however, met that case, because it would be money voluntarily given out of funds not liable to be so applied by that corporation.


Would that meet the case of Christ Church, because the funds of Christ Church are liable?


said, Christ Church was not liable for funds which it contributed in the character of a landowner. He believed all the cases that had been put would fall within the scope of the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, but if they did not he was quite prepared to enlarge it to such an extent as to include them.


wished to assure the right hon. Gentleman that Queen Anne was not dead, as the Amendments to the clause would show. He thought the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Denbighshire might afford some means of arriving at a reasonable solution of the difficulty. His own Amendment, to which reference had been made, would only meet particular cases, and he therefore hoped the Home Secretary would not exclude an Amendment on the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.


said, the intention of his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment was, to include all private endowments; but that point had been very much narrowed down in the academic discussion in which the lawyers had been engaged. It was quite true that most of the words appeared in the Irish Act, but the clause in the Irish Act finished up by providing for the payment of £500,000, whereas the clause now before the Committee would leave the matter to lawyers to deal with. He hoped that the Committee would divide, unless they had a more definite undertaking from the Home Secretary. In regard to Ireland, all the matters were determined by the Irish Church body, but he wanted to know who were those people in Wales who gave property out of other people's resources? It was because this matter was so involved and they did not know the moaning of the clause, and because the originator of this Amendment intended it to be on a broader basis, that he hoped the Committee would divide on the question of the principle involved.


desired to explain his position, seeing that they had left the original ground which the Mover of the Amendment had in view. If it were made clear as to what was meant by private endowments, he thought that the assurances of the Home Secretary would be considered sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he intended to accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight, and that any other ambiguity would be put right after consulting with the Law Officers. So far, therefore, as a mere question of draughting was concerned, the matter might be left. But his hon. Friend had now raised a question of principle and had asked the Committee to affirm that all property left to the Church since 1703 should be kept for Church uses, and upon that question of principle the Committee might well be asked to express an opinion.


inquired whether the benefactions of the corporations of the City of London were included in the clause or in the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight.


Yes; I have already said so.


asked whether the Home Secretary attached any importance to the words "out of his own resources."


That is coming back rather to the question of draughting, which I understood from the Leader of the Opposition to be settled.


thought that if a date were fixed, it ought to hold good for all purposes, and that if the Church had to abandon all gifts made before a certain date, whatever their origin, it would be fair that all subsequent gifts should be retained.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 188.—(Division List, No. 115.)

*MR. TOMLINSON moved to insert the words "or may be legally presumed to have been," so as to create a legal presumption that property which had been enjoyed by the Church since 1703—or whatever the date might be—was a private benefaction. There was a great deal of property which really had its origin in private benefactions, as to which it might be very difficult to prove such origin. He held in his hand a Return which showed that in certain parishes in Wales there was absolutely no endowment at all in 1703, and a considerable endowment now. The source of such endowments might be very difficult to trace, and he contended that unless legal presumption were allowed to operate in the case of the Church, as in that for every other body, the Church would certainly lose a quantity of endowments which, no doubt, had their origin in the benefactions of individuals. It was quite obvious that in the case of the Church there was less reason for carefully preserving the title to property, because no one would have anticipated such a project as this for depriving the Church of property which it had inherited for a long time. In 1703 no one would have supposed that the fact of having possessed property for a long time would be a reason for taking it away.


confessed that he could not attach any meaning to the proposed words, nor did he believe they had any meaning at all. So far as ho was aware, there was no legal presumption applicable to such a case. The question whether a particular endowment in Wales was given since 1703—or whatever the date might be—would depend upon the ordinary canons of evidence; and it would not require any stricter proof of origin than in the case of any other title. The fact that an endowment was not enjoyed before 1703, and had been enjoyed since, would in itself constitute very strong presumption, But there was no legal presumption, applicable to the case, and the Amendment would simply give trouble to the courts, and do nothing to secure the object which the hon. Member had in view.

MR. W. R. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)

said, that though the words of the Amendment might not be very felicitous, yet surely there was a sense of grievance underlying the Amendment, to which the Home Secretary ought seriously to address himself. It was quite obvious that when one found that in 1703 certain parishes had no Endowment at all, and now had considerable Endowments, the probability was that they had been furnished from private sources, because they knew perfectly well what were the public sources applying to the case. There should be a proviso providing that the onus of proof should lie on the other side—that was to say, unless it could be shown that an Endowment had come from public funds it should be treated as a private benefaction.


remarked that, whilst he agreed with what the right hon. Gentleman had said as to the words of the Amendment from a legal point of view, there was, he ventured to say, a little more in it than the Home Secretary seemed to imagine. The first judgment would not be given by a Court of Law, but by the Welsh Commissioners, and this was a direction to the Welsh Commissioners. He considered there ought to be some directions given to the Commissioners, and this might be effected by means of words which would carry out the intention, but which would require to be different to those used by the hon. Member for Preston. This might be done by means of a proviso.


pointed out that in a measure of this complexity he could only deal with the Amendments as they appeared on the Paper, and with the language in which they were expressed. He had stated that the words of this particular Amendment, as they stood, were meaningless, and he thought that was quite sufficient to dispose of it. However he would consider whether the object aimed at could be carried out by the addition of some proviso.


intimated that he was not wedded to the particular words of his Amendment, and urged that a grievous hardship had been pointed out and one which ought to be remedied. He would not press these words unduly, and if other suitable words could be suggested he should be quite willing to adopt them.


, whilst entirely agreeing with the Home Secretary that, in accordance with the principle of this clause, the onus probandi must be thrown on the persons desiring to prove that these endowments were private, said that this requirement might prove a hardship in cases where the obtaining of such proof was difficult and expensive. He believed that in introducing the Irish Church Bill the right hon. Member for Midlothian undertook that there should be some proviso inserted to the effect that legitimate expenses incurred in the attempt to prove title should be imposed upon the Church fund. He was not sure whether any such proviso was inserted in the Irish Church Act; but, if not, it was doubtless because a lump sum was settled in satisfaction of all claims for private endowments; and he suggested that in the present Bill, where the Welsh or the Ecclesiastical Commissioners decided that such expenses had been legitimately and justly incurred, they should not be thrown upon the persons who were called upon to prove title.


said, it was quite true that at some stage of the Irish Church Bill there was such a provision in one of the clauses as the right hon. Gentleman had indicated. He thought that would also be a better way of dealing with the matter here, and, without binding himself to the exact form, he would endeavour to see if some proviso could not be inserted to the effect that, where, in the opinion of the body who had to decide the question, there had been reasonable ground for raising the point, they should empower payments to be made out of the funds to the persons so raising it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.) moved, "page 3, line 5, after 'given by,' insert 'grants from Parliament and by.'" The Amendment, the hon. Member observed, raised the great question of whether grants that had been given by Parliament to the Church should now be required to be practically paid back by the Church. It seemed to him that although Parliament had the power to do many things, it had no moral power to absolutely take away money given for a special purpose when that purpose was being fulfilled, and when the money was being applied in the way that Parliament designed it to be. The money had been voted by Parliament pretty well 100 years ago for a certain object, and it might have been absolutely got rid of without any breach of trust. If it had been thought proper to do so by Queen Anne's Bounty and by the Church, there could have been no impropriety in expending the whole of this money. It could have been used in any way that was thought desirable within the terms of the gift, and could have been expended and absolutely used. But in the wisdom of the time it was never for a moment conceived that such an Act of spoliation could be contemplated as was proposed now. It was quite wisely thought that instead of the money being absolutely expended it would he better to put the capital by and allow the interest only to be used. In this way without doubt an immense deal more had been accomplished by the grants than would have been possible if they had been absolutely expended at the time. It was simply and solely because the Church had wisely and properly made the best conceivable use of the money voted by Parliament that it was possible for the Government of the day to seize the money, and according to the Home Secretary it was taken simply because it was there. This was certainly a most astounding doctrine to propose. If the Church had dissipated it or had spent the money in an improper manner he could have conceived that something might be said for the proposal of the Government. But if that had been the case, the present clause would have been impossible and the Government of the day could not in any Disestablishment or Disendowment of the Church have then laid their hands on the money. At the commencement of the present century Parliament thought it wise to vote certain money for the promotion of religion, and it made grants to the Church of England as well as to other bodies. He thought that was an extremely wise action. But they had now arrived at a stage when they were asked by a Government which professed to wish to mete out equal justice to all, to surrender this money which had been used in a highly proper manner and to devote it to some totally different purpose. It was said they could not bind posterity and certainly this proposal of the Government went far to prove that contention. He was quite certain that if their predecessors who made these grants had ever contemplated the possibility of a Government calling itself Liberal, coining down and proposing that this money should be seized and diverted into other channels, they would never have voted it as they did. The Government were now asking that the money which had been voted to one of the Christian Churches should be taken away whilst the money voted hy Parliament to the other churches was not to be interfered with. It was very often said that the Church of England had many advantages. But surely they had not come to this: that, because in the past, and possibly at the present time, the Church of England had some advantages they were going to cripple her and act towards her in a way they should not do to the Nonconformists! He had said before, and he again asserted most emphatically that the great bulk of the Nonconformists did not approve of this. He asserted emphatically that when the Nonconformists throughout the country got to know that it was absolutely proposed by this clause——


I think the hon. Gentleman is now going beyond the Amendment.


with all respect to the ruling of the Chair, thought he was entitled to take this line of argument. He was proposing they should exempt from the scope of the Bill those grants which were made to the Church of England at the same time as those which were made to the Nonconformist body, and he was wishing to compare the treatment of the two classes of grant. This seemed to him to be very pertinent considering the fact that the Home Secretary had stated that the main object of the Bill was to see that the Church of England and all other bodies were to be placed in exactly the same position.


Order, order! The hon. Gentleman's remarks are not relevant to his Amendment.


said, he would not press that matter further. The Amendment he proposed was a simple one. It was that the money voted by Parliament and the country to the Church since the date fixed in the Bill, should be left to the Church, as the grants voted to other religious dominations were left to those denominations. Parliament had no moral right—he could not, of course, question its legal right, as Parliament made the laws—to touch those funds again. He could not conceive why the Government or the Welsh Members could object to the Amendment. There could be no doubt that Parliament intended this money for the Church; and it seemed a strange thing that because a number of Welsh Members had changed their nationality and wished to disestablish the Welsh Church, that the Church should be deprived of the property granted to it by Parliament. He was sure that the public at large would support the Government if they treated this question differently. If the Church was to be disestablished, he was sure that people would wish that it should be done in a spirit of liberality towards the Church, and that, if anything, Parliament should err on the side of generosity towards the Church. But he claimed this not as an act of generosity, but as a moral right, and felt sure that the Government, though they might not now concede it, must in their calmer moments feel that it was right and just. He begged to move his Amendment.


said, he had already on more than one occasion expressed his own opinion and the opinion of the Government in regard to this particular question. There were two ways of dealing with a measure of this kind. One way—which was the simplest way, and which had been adopted in the course of the Debate last night by the Leader of the Opposition—was to treat it as an act of highway robbery. If that were a true analogy, there were no ethical degrees of spoliation. It might make a difference to the person robbed, but from a moral point of view it made no difference whether they took a man's purse or his watch, whether they took his coat or his shirt, and it did not matter from the same point of view whether they took an old coat or a new coat. All those considerations were irrelevant if the argument was to proceed on the basis that the act was an act of robbery. Hon. Gentlemen opposite contended that all the endowments, public and private, were the property of the Church, and that it was equal robbery or spoliation for the Government to touch either the one or the other. But surely that argument absolved, to some extent at least, the Government from arguing seriously or in a laboured way the particular merits of particular ingredients of this large measure of spoliation. He would therefore deal with the argument of the hon. Gentleman in a few words. The House on the Second Reading had approved the principle of the Bill. What was that principle? It was that the property of the Church, in so far as it could be regarded as national or public property, and in so far as it was not the produce of private endowments, in the sense in which they had used the term throughout the Debates, was property which the State, for a just cause and on proper terms, in regard to existing rights, could deal with as its own property. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that was a wrong principle, that it struck at the very roots of property and at the very foundations of the social structure. But it was the principle that was embodied in this Bill which the House had read a second time, and, therefore, when he came to an Amendment like the one now before the Committee he had to ask himself the question—Could he accept it consistently with such principle? He could not say that the money now under consideration, which was admittedly derived from the taxation of the country, which had been given by Parliament to the Church, was in any greater degree private property and entitled to greater respect than other properties which the Committee had already dealt with. The hon. Gentleman said that the property might have been spent, and he mentioned, not for the first time, the case of the Protestant dissenters to whom, early in the century, money was voted by Parliament. The amount voted to the Church was, roughly, £3,000,000, and to the Protestant dissenters £140,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "More than that."] He took the figures from a Parliamentary Return made in 1842, and was not now dealing with Ireland or with Scotland. At least half of the £3,000,000 went to Church buildings. If any of those buildings were situated in Wales they would, of course, go to the representative body. A certain amount now remained in the hands of the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty. That was capital held by the Governors in trust for the Church, and of which a certain amount had been appropriated to the Church in Wales. As to the practice of the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, he took it that if a private person made a benefaction, say, of £100 for a particular church, the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty put another £100 on the table, and the £200 was handed over to, or more commonly invested for the benefit of the particular church or benefice. There was a certain sum—what sum he did not say—of unspent accumulations, and, therefore, given the principle of the Bill, he could not assent to the Amendment.


said, that if he gave the right hon. Gentleman the principle of the Bill he would still say the application was inequitable. For the first time Parliament was called upon to revoke a grant already given. Parliament had given a grant on a definite principle for the support of the Church; and now the right hon. Gentleman said, "You are wrong in giving those grants, and we call upon you to refund what you have given." There was no precedent to be found for such a proceeding.


believed that a considerable part of the revenue of the Irish Church had a similar origin.


remarked that that showed how dangerous the system of spoliation was. He did not wish to see any money taken away from any religious body, but if it was to be done at all it should be done in some sort of way which implied equity and equality.

* SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

wished to add a few observations respecting this Amendment. It seemed to him that there had been some confusion in the minds of the Government between a "loan" and a "grant." He would illustrate his meaning. Two partners gave £10,000 each to a son and a nephew respectively. The son received his money as a gift outright; the nephew received his money as a loan. The son would surely regard it as an injustice that his gift should be converted into a loan. His contention was that when a grant was given by the State that was a permanent gift, and was not revocable upon any notice whatever. Take, as another illustration, the training colleges, founded partly by public grants and partly by private benefactions, and supported year by year partly from fees and subscriptions, and partly by grants. It would be unworthy to claim back those buildings which had been granted for the cause of education. In the case of the Yorkshire College at Leeds, there was a large grant from Parliament. Some part of that was expended in buildings. It would be very hard if the Government were to claim any part of those buildings which had been erected by the aid of the Government grant. If the grant was worth anything at all, it was an absolute and permanent grant which could not be revoked at any moment when it suited the purposes of the grantor. In all these transactions they must have confidence. The policy of the Government was to make grants to any applicant or society when that applicant or society happened to be strong, and to take it away whenever the applicant or society happened to be weak. That action was absolutely fatal, for it was always in the power of the State to take away grants at any moment. He felt very strongly that great injury would be done to public confidence if the policy of the Government were supported by Parliament. Passing from the immediate discussion before the Committee to affairs of a wider range, he reminded the Committee that the great danger of the State at this moment was want of confidence, the absence of all knowledge of what was coming next, and the absolutely blank ignorance which existed as to the future. The difference between the Irish Church Act of 1869 and the present Bill was—that the former was a measure of confiscation tempered by compensation, while this was a Bill of confiscation without any such adulteration. He was somewhat surprised to hear it stated last night that the Nonconformist bodies had refused to receive any endowments; for their temper of resistance had altogether gone, and they were now glad to receive large contributions from the State in aid of their schools. Maynooth College not only received compensation, but also remission of debt under Section 41 of the Act of 1869. He thought the grounds stated sufficient to justify his hon. Friend in proposing his Amendment, and he should have much pleasure in supporting him in the Lobby.


said, he could assure the Government that of all political questions now before the country, there was not one in which his constituents took a greater interest than in this one. The Home Secretary had said that if the Opposition were to use the term "highway robbery" in connection with the proposals of the Government, it did not matter whether the term included only one matter or more than one. He, however, submitted that there were different degrees of guilt, and that this transactiom had a deeper dye than the main portion of the Bill. He did not at all agree with the Home Secretary that no distinction could be drawn. This money had been given to the Church of England as distinguished from all other Protestant communities. To take from the Church that which was specifically her property, by a title granted by the House of Commons, would be down-right robbery. Tithe, it might be contended, was in some sense national; but this property was not national in any sense. Tithe was ancient, while the grant of this money was modern, and he maintained that it was indefeasibly the money of the Church. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford had asked whether a precedent could be quoted for the resumption of a Parliamentary grant, whereupon the Home Secretary had said that the thing was done under the Irish Church Act. But under that Act was not a large lump sum assigned by Parliament in consideration of the resumption of benefactions? If so, the same right which the supporters of the Amendment claimed for the Church in Wales was recognised in the case of Ireland. The precedent was, therefore, on the side of the supporters of the Amendment. It had been said that the money had been invested by the Queen Anne's Bounty Commissioners, and it seemed to be implied that it had been lumped together with Queen Anne's Bounty, and that it should, therefore, be treated in the same way. But this fund stood upon quite a different footing. It was a distinct benefaction, and the fact that it was administered by the same Commissioners who administered Queen Anne's Bounty did not justify spoliation. The money was given together with grants made to other religious bodies, which were, therefore, partners in this Parliamentary bounty. These other bodies, however, were to be allowed to keep their grants. Why should the Church be despoiled of hers? The justice meted out to them should be meted out also to the Church. Was the Church to be stripped and spoliated merely because she was the Church, and was supposed to be comparatively weak? Whether she was weak or not would be seen at the General Election. Most of the money which it was purposed to take back might have been spent over and over again, had the Church so willed. According to the Government, the House of Commons was apparently the only body that could not make an irrevocable gift. The doctrine of the Government was, that because the money was granted by Parliament out of the taxes, it was not an irrevocable gift. They seemed to think that that which the meanest person in the country could do, that House could not do. That was not his view; he said that what Parliament gave to the Church, or to any other community or person, was irrevocable and sacred. He should offer the strongest resistance in his power to this portion of the Ministerial scheme.

MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (Yorkshire, N. R., Thirsk and Malton)

remarked that his hon. Friend the Member for the Kingston Division had spoken very strongly in favour of equal treatment for the Church and other Christian bodies. He wished to cite a powerful witness on the same side. That morning, in The Times, the following letter had appeared from the late Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Midlothian:— In the Irish Church Bill of 1869 we adhered carefully to the aim of preserving for the Disestablished Church all property analogous to that possessed by Nonconformists. To depart from that rule would be unjust; but I imagine the present Government would say that, in framing their Bill for Wales (with or without some Amendment, of which I have heard) they do adhere to it. That was the letter of the late Leader of the Party who were now opposing this Amendment. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Midlothian was referring to the Amendment now before them, because it was obvious that without that Amendment the members of the Church would not be placed in the same position as the members of the Nonconformist bodies. If they were to take back Parliamentary grants and apply them to new purposes, where was the line to be drawn? Could Parliament take, back Blenheim, Strathfieldsaye, and the grants and pensions awarded to various distinguished statesmen and soldiers? He was surprised a proposal was not made to convert the Blenheim property into allotments and market gardens for the benefit of the people of Woodstock. It was quite true that this property was granted in recognition of great victories; but a gift to God, who permitted such victories to be gained, was surely not less sacred. It had hitherto always been supposed that a certain amount of solemnity attached to gifts by Parliament. But this Bill, while it declared that private persons' gifts were to be respected, proposed to revoke Parliamentary grants. They would be taken back and might be diverted to other objects. But the Government had not been consistent in carrying out that nefarious principle, because lower down it was said that this property was not to be taken back if it came within the description of a church or ecclesiastical residence for which provision was otherwise made in the Bill. If the Government were prepared to leave to the Church the part of the Parliamentary grant expended on ecclesiastical residences, on what principle could they reclaim the other part? He was sure the Solicitor General would not be prepared to advise that there was any flaw in the title to Blenheim of its present possessors, and he should be glad to hear him state what was the legal flaw in the title of the Church to the property in question.


asked why should the fact that this money was given by a public authority make it less sacred than if it had been given by a private individual? It was quite clear that Parliament, which voted the money, knew exactly to what it was to be devoted; Parliament knew that there existed alongside the Church certain Nonconformist bodies, and it distinguished between the Nonconformists and the Church of England. Parliament voted certain sums to both, and it was now proposed to take away the money voted to the Church and to leave the other in the hands of the Nonconformists. That was an injustice so palpable and so gross that he could not understand how hon. Gentlemen opposite could defend it. How far was repudiation of the pledge of Parliament to be carried? The Government might, on the same principle, swoop down on the money granted by Parliament for elementary education in England, or for light railways in Ireland. He would invite the ingenuity of the Solicitor General to try to find some defence for the proposal of the Government. He knew it was the hon. and learned Gentleman's habit sometimes to defend very successfully people for whom there was very little to be said. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: "And sometimes to prosecute."] He wished to hear some plausible excuse for the extraordinary unequal treatment of the Church as against Nonconformists, and the absolute disregard of what had hitherto been deemed to be the most sacred of all titles, namely a Parliamentary title. He trusted the Solicitor General, who listened with the greatest care to the Debates, but who yet had not intervened as much as they should like, would favour them with some fuller light.


said, that of course it was impossible for him to resist such an invitation so courteously conveyed by the noble Lord. He could assure him that the only reason which prevented his intervening more frequently in the Debates had been the consciousness that after the able statement of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary there was nothing really useful to be added, and, therefore, if he got up he would be only occupying time which he was sure would be better occupied by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. An appeal had been made to him as to what the title to Blenheim was. That really was a question of which he ought to have some notice, and, as at present he was entirely debarred from private practice, he feared it was hardly open to him to answer it. As to the question of the noble Lord, this House had already declared that the Church in Wales was to be disestablished, and consequently they had to deal with the national grants that were made to that which was in future to be the Disestablished Church. They were told last night that £208,000 had been granted to Dissenting bodies in the years between 1801 and 1840. [An HON. MEMBER: "1845."] The difference of date might explain a difference between the figures and those of a return dated 1842, which gave a total of £141,000. These grants had been dealt with by hon. Members opposite as if they had been made to Dissenting bodies in this country. The larger part of the grants to Nonconformists in this country were grants from the Civil list to Protestant Dissenting Ministers in England; and they amounted altogether to £60,000. All the other grants were grants not to English, Scotch, or Welsh Nonconformist bodies, but they were grants made to Protestant Dissenting Ministers in Ireland, to the clergy of French Protestant refugees, to the French Church at Wapping, and to Lutheran Ministers and churches, so that they were grants to the members of other nationalities who happened to be settled in this country. The analysis of grants amounting to £141,000 the Committee were not quite prepared for. It had been assumed or suggested that the grants had been made to Nonconformists in this country as the term was ordinarily understood.

MR. GERALD BALFOUR (Leeds. Central)

said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had illustrated the mathematical principle that if you add nothing to nothing the result is nothing. He had told them that these grants were made not to Nonconformists, ordinarily so called, but to various denominations representing foreign Churches; but that did not make any difference in the argument. It was not proposed to withdraw these sums from these bodies, whereas it was proposed to withdraw sums from the Church of England in Wales. The Government gave no adequate reason for making the difference. The discovery as to the character of these grants did not alter the facts or the arguments. Even if the grants had been made to the Dissenting bodies of this country, the Government would still have been prepared to maintain their attitude, for the discovery that they were not so granted had apparently only just been made, and was as much a surprise to the Solicitor General as he supposed it to be to the Committee. It was clear that grants made to Dissenters since 1703 were not to be taken away, and grants made to the National Church were to be taken away. The Church of England in Wales, when it ceased to be established, was to be treated differently from other Churches. If Parliament had given grants to it as a National Church, the Solicitor General said it was natural the grants should be taken away when it ceased to be a National Church. The question remained, Why should it be treated worse than the other Churches when it was put on the same footing as those Churches? There were three questions which had been asked and to which no satisfactory answer had been received. The first was: Why, seeing other denominations existed in and since 1703, Parliamentary grants to the Church should be treated differently from private benefactions? The second was: Why the Church should be treated worse than the Nonconformists to which Parliament had made grants? The third was: Why the Church was to be exceptionally treated because its grants had been spent in residences? The only logical course for the Government to adopt was to leave to the Welsh Church all that had been granted to it since 1703, or else to take from other bodies the corresponding grants which they had received in the same period.

MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

said, the hon. Member opposite had not done justice to himself in putting questions which had been answered over and over again. Whatever answer was given was said to be unsatisfactory. The answer to the hon. Member's questions was that the Church in Wales was not a denomination yet, and would only become one when it was disestablished. As soon as it became a sect among sects, then it would be treated the same as others. When a grant was made to private individuals in societies it passed away beyond recall; but it was quite different when grants were made to a national institution, as such, in terms and conditions which Parliament could impose. The contribution to the Debate made by the Solicitor General had been very valuable indeed, for it brought out clearly the distinction between grants to private individuals and to a public body controlled by Parliament.


said, he had never heard a more extraordinary speech than that of the hon. Member who had just spoken. It appeared that the Church was to be disestablished because she was a sect, and disendowed because she was a national Church. He had never heard anything more absurd or inconsistent. Its inequality and injustice were evident upon the face of it. The Solicitor General, he admitted, had attempted to deal fairly with the matter. But he said the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely wrong in his figures, because he said £208,000 represented the amount granted by Parliament to Nonconformist bodies. The Solicitor General seemed to forget that these endowments began in 1722, and a large amount of money was given before 1801. They were originated by Sir Robert Walpole, of whom the Liberation Society, in a paper called "The Case for Disestablishment," said that his maxim was well known, "Every man has his price." If the Church in Wales was to be disendowed because of her national character, that principle of Disendowment should be applied to all religious bodies.

Where there were grants of an absolutely similar character for whatever purpose in favour of other religious bodies than the Church, either they must not take away what had been given to the Church or they must take away what had been given to the Nonconformists. None of the supporters of the Church in Wales desired the Government to take a single penny away from Nonconformists. They respected their opinions and were thankful that they enjoyed endowments. But in the name of justice, Churchmen asked for equal treatment all round. The Government pretended that religious equality was its first principle. They wanted to take away the endowments of the Church when the endowments of Nonconformist bodies were ruled outside the scope of the Bill. Nothing more unjust or unequal than the proposals of the Government had ever been submitted to the House of Commons.


complained of the unwillingness of the Government to meet the arguments of the Opposition with regard to the clauses of this Bill. They proposed to disestablish the Church in Wales because it was a sect and did not represent the whole nation, and to disendow it because it was an Established Church. If the Solicitor General had said there were different reasons for giving endowments to Nonconformist bodies he could have understood it. Grants made by Parliament to the various religious bodies should be treated equally. The Opposition, he contended, were entitled to protest against a proposal which deprived the Church of money received by exactly the same title as that given to Nonconformist bodies who had either spent it or were left in possession of it at the present day.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 111 Noes, 146.—(Division List, No. 116.)

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday 13th June.