HC Deb 11 March 1896 vol 38 cc673-713

*VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester) rose to move the Second Reading of this Bill. He said that, although the Bill in its entirety was new to the House, it had previously been submitted to the House in parts. Part I. was laid before the last Parliament some years ago, and the latter part last year. All parts of the Bill had been approved by a Second Reading, had passed through Grand Committee, and had reached Report stage. The promoters of the Bill contemplated patronage as a trust; that it was one had been laid down by a Royal Commission; but it was a trust that was associated with certain freehold rights. There were the rights of the patron and the rights of the incumbent; they were freehold rights, but they were associated with a spiritual trust. The promoters did not ignore the rights of the patron or of the incumbent, but they were anxious to vindicate the spiritual trust involved. It was a trust for the Church as a whole, but especially for the parishioners. Hitherto the rights of the patron and of the incumbent had been heard of, but it had not been recognised that the parishioners were concerned in the spiritual provision which the piety of ancestors had left for them. It was to vindicate the spiritual rights of the parishioners that the Bill was introduced. In the great majority of cases the spiritual trust was recognised and admirably performed, but in a small minority of instances the state of things was highly unsatisfactory. The following description of it was given by an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer, Mr. Chancellor Dibdin. He had copied the following advertisement from a newspaper as one of the ordinary type:— Advowson.—Net income about £440, besides an excellent family residence, with good grounds. Charming locality. Convenient to railway stations and good towns. Half the purchase-money could remain on mortgage. Immediate legal possession. On this advertisement Chancellor Dibdin remarked:— ''You will observe the parishioners and their needs are not deemed worth mention. The clergymen closes with this desirable bargain, and, having bought the patronage, presents himself. 'Immediate possession' follows. The Bishop may know the circumstances; he may deem the clergyman most unfit for the place; but, unless he be immoral or very illiterate, the Bishop has no choice but to commit the cure of souls to him, and this is done with a solemn invocation of the Holy Trinity. The parishioners probably hear rumours of the sale, but whether they do or not is of small consequence, for they are not consulted and are utterly powerless. Thus the reverend purchaser obtains exclusive charge, so far as the Established Church is concerned, of immortal souls, be they many or few. We will not inquire how this tremendous responsibility is discharged. But once in his freehold he is safe for the rest of his life. He may be bedridden for years; he may be lunatic, or paralysed and unable to articulate; he may be fraudulently bankrupt or at hopeless enmity with his parishioners—yet, so long as he inhabits the 'excellent family residence' and procures the statutory duties to be performed somehow, there is no power in any one to require his resignation. The parish may be as important and as populous as any in England; the spiritual destitution of the people may be appalling, but the cure of souls remains in his hands. He has his freehold. It was with the view of remedying this evil that the Bill was submitted; and it first dealt with patronage. The subject had been fully considered by a Select Committee of the House of Lords and also by a Royal Commission; but he would quote only the Royal Commission, which, in its Report, said:— We regret to say that many flagrant cases of abuse connected with the sales of advowsons and next presentations, as well as with exchanges of livings, have been brought before us. The proposals of this part of the Bill were largely drawn from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. First it was said that the patron, being a trustee, must not abdicate the exercise of his judgment—he must not have a power to deal with the patronage inconsistent with the duty of selection which was called for by the trust committed to him; therefore he must not put up an advowson for auction. Then he must not exercise his rights for the pecuniary benefit of himself; and that was in accordance with the spirit of the existing law, which said that a man must not exercise his right of patronage for money; if he did the presentation was void. The purchase of the right of patronage was legal; but to purchase the right to an incumbency was illegal; and in that spirit it was desired to extend the law. The Bill would forbid the sale of a next presentation—a prohibition which was recommended by the Royal Commission. The right of patronage was not to be exercised within a year of the sale of an advowson; and this provision would test the bona fides of the seller and of the purchaser; but there might be cases in which this would involve hardship, and therefore there was inserted an equitable clause providing that where it was clear that the patron did not desire to sell the incumbency, but desired to sell only the right of patronage, then there should be power to relieve him from the disability of exercising the patronage within the year. The existing law prohibited a Clerk who bought a next presentation from presenting himself. The Bill extended the prohibition to a Clerk who bought the whole advowson. The promoters did their best to provide that a patron, as a trustee, did not violate the conditions of his trust. A man might make a mistake. He knew many cases in which a patron who had been most anxious to discharge his duty had yet appointed a person who was utterly unfit for the office, and the Bill provided that, after the presentation by a patron, there should be some means of preventing the assumption of the position by a clergyman of whom it could be shown that he was utterly unfit for it. Before a Bishop conferred spiritual jurisdiction upon an incumbent no vested interest had accrued so far as this incumbent was concerned; he could therefore be dealt with in perfect freedom; and, if it could be shown that he was unfit, it would be proper to give power to prevent his institution. The theory of the law was that a patron merely presents or offers the clerk to the Bishop for admission, and that the Bishop admits, though no doubt a great change had taken place in actual practice. The Bishop should be able to exercise the right in the interest of the parishioners. But could the Bishop under the present law refuse institution? He could in certain extreme cases; but not for every fault which rendered a clerk incapable of properly discharging his cure. The Bishop, for instance, could not refuse for gross neglect of duty in a previous benefice, for bankruptcy under shady circumstances, or for physical or mental incapacity. Surely that state of things called for a remedy. ["Hear, hear!"] But he was sorry to say the condition of things was even worse than that; for though a Bishop could refuse institution for a grave scandal, it was, as a matter of fact, extremely difficult for him to do so in consequence of the enormous expense which would fall upon him in case the clerk appealed against his decision. ["Hear, hear!"] The Royal Commission declared that the present process of appeal was too elaborate and expensive, and should be abolished. But in addition to the difficulty of a costly appeal there was the difficulty of ignorance on the part of the Bishop as to the previous career of the clerk. It was true that under the present practice the Bishop generally obtained letters testimonial, but under the law he had no right to demand them; and, besides, those certificates of character were not always reliable. ["Hear, hear!"] This Bill, therefore, proposed that before a Bishop granted institution he should consider any representations made to him in regard to the clerk by the parishioners, who were the persons chiefly concerned. They were to be subject to the ministrations of the clerk about to be appointed, and they might know things which would render it absolutely impossible for him to properly discharge his duties, and surely they ought to have the right to make representations on the subject to the Bishop before institution. The Bill enumerated the various causes for which a Bishop might refuse institution, and it amended the procedure in regard to appeal. Many of his hon. Friends expressed the greatest want of confidence in the ecclesiastical Courts. The only appeal a clerk had under the present law was to an ecclesiastical Court, with, it was true, the right to carry the case further to the Privy Council; but, as a matter of fact, causes of the kind never came before the Privy Council. The Royal Commission recommended for certain causes a trial in an ecclesiastical Court, without an appeal to the Privy Council; but for refusal on account of physical infirmity they proposed that the appeal should lie to the Archbishop alone, and that he should sit in camera. That was a much stronger proposal than was made in the Bill. The promoters of the Bill held that the trial should take place in open Court, and that the ecclesiastical Court was not altogether a satisfactory tribunal. On the one hand there was a very large section of opinion opposed to an absolute trial by a lay Judge, and, on the other hand, there were many people who had no confidence in a spiritual Judge. The promoters of the Bill had therefore adopted the only course open to them. They associated a lay Judge and a spiritual Judge together, and put them into one Court. The Archbishop, of course, was properly the supreme authority; and the Bill associated with him, as Assessor, a Judge of the High Court, who would practically try the case and see that justice was done. Some hon. Gentlemen thought it was not strong enough to have an Assessor. Could hon. Gentlemen who took such a view contemplate a case in which the Judge said to the Archbishop that he had no right to refuse institution to the clerk, and that the Archbishop replied: "That is all very well; but I will turn him out, all the same?" He did not believe any Archbishop would decide on the side of stringency in the teeth of strong trained legal opinion. ["Hear, hear!"] The promoters of the Bill thought the Archbishop might override the Judge on the side of mercy, but not on the side of stringency; but, nevertheless, they would, if necessary, be glad by some slight modification to strengthen the safeguards surrounding the opinion of the lay Judge. It would also be admitted that some alteration was required in the law to deal with a case in which a clergyman already appointed had absolutely deteriorated. The promoters of the Bill had not entered into the consideration of this branch of the subject in any light or frivolous spirit. The matter, indeed, had been under the consideration of Churchmen for very many years; and a Committee appointed a few years ago by the House of Laymen of the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury had collected a mass of evidence on the subject. The Committee discovered a state of things that was very serious—not serious compared with the vast bulk of clergy and parishioners—but there was a certain portion of cases in which a remedy was called for. He should like to give one instance of the way in which a clergyman could behave under the present law, and could not be turned out. The clergyman had quarrelled with every one; he refused the Sacrament publicly to his own wife, as a means of extorting money; he had a grudge against the local undertaker; if the man were employed he would not allow the body to be brought into the church for the first part of the Burial Service. That clergyman could not be dealt with under the present law. Was it tolerable that the great Church of England, setting up to be a pattern of morality and religion in every parish, should be subject to such disgrace? ["Hear, hear!"] Such a clergyman, once appointed, might remain for 30 or 40 years, and drive the parishioners into Dissent or into infidelity altogether. Such a state of things was absolutely indefensible, and Parliament was bound to find some remedy for it. A difference as to details was nothing; and the promoters of the Bill would approach its consideration in Committee with a desire not to insist on every small point, but to find a remedy for the evil. [Cheers.] The proposal in connection with this part of the Bill was to provide an impartial Commission of Inquiry where a Bishop had a reason to suppose that it was necessary. It was absolutely untrue that the Commissioners were appointed by the Bishop himself, who thus would become both accuser and judge. The only discretion which the Bishop had in the appointment of the Commissioners was in choosing as one of them either the Archdeacon or the Rural Dean of the Archdeaconry or Rural Deanery concerned. The second Commissioner was a Canon appointed by the Chapter; the third was an incumbent appointed by the other incumbents of the Archdeaconry concerned; the fourth was a magistrate, or barrister or solicitor of seven years' standing, selected by the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions; and the fifth, who was to be appointed by the incumbent himself, might be either a magistrate or an incumbent. These Commissioners were simply to determine whether the clergyman in question could competently discharge his cure of souls. If they found that he could, the case fell to the ground; if they found that he could not, then they could say that the incapacity was due either to neglect or to infirmity; and in either case the Bishop was given inhibitory power. Of course, for gross immorality the incumbent could be dealt with under the Clergy Discipline Act; and so this Bill, instead of depriving him of his benefice, simply gave power to inhibit, and provided that a pension should accompany inhibition. But a broad distinction existed between incompetency from neglect and incompetency from infirmity; and the Bill, unlike that of last year, provided that while the pension of the negligent incumbent should not be more than one-third of the value of the living, and might be less at the discretion of the Bishop, the pension of the infirm incumbent should not be less than one-third, and might be as much more as the Bishop decided. The Bankruptcy Clause was inherited from the last Bill. Where an incumbent was absolutely bankrupt, so that the whole of the profits of the benefice went to satisfy creditors, he ceased to be able to perform his duties at all; and the Bill provided that in such a case the benefice should be voided altogether. These were very moderate proposals, and he hoped there would be no difference of opinion on one side or the other. Whether hon. Members opposite were Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, or members of the Church of England, they could not believe that there was any advantage to the public in preserving a state of things in which such enormities could exist. [Cheers.] As to his hon. Friends, he would remind them of the battle they had recently fought on behalf of the Church of England. Through all the struggles of last year they had told the House what a great spiritual work their Church was doing, and how they trusted to Parliament to remedy the blemishes which might still exist in the Church. If they had urged those views, they must agree that, whatever differences there might be on details, a Second Reading ought to be given to the Bill. It was with the confidence that they were fighting for a great spiritual end that he commended this Bill to the House. [Cheers.]

COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle),

in moving the rejection of this Bill, said, that, as a member of the Church of England and of the Church Committee of which the noble Lord was Chairman, he felt his position in moving the rejection of this Measure to be one of some difficulty. Moreover, to anyone who possessed merely a general observer's knowledge of ecclesiastical law, the task of dealing with such a Bill was not easy. But there were certain broad principles involved in the Measure from which he disagreed; and as he had been asked by others deeply interested in the matter to move the rejection of the Bill, he had undertaken the duty. The first part of the Bill dealt almost exclusively with Church patronage. Those whom he represented—a portion of the Evangelical Section of the Church of England—did not object to the principle of the first part of the Bill; but they thought that Clause 9 (declaration against simony), which was placed now in the second part of the Bill, ought to be transferred to the end of Part I. These clauses in Part I. ought to have been embodied in a separate Measure, and the objections to them could easily have been met by Amendments in Committee. But as to Parts II. and III. of the Bill, he believed that there was a faulty principle underlying them, which would appear on examination. These parts dealt more especially with cures and with the powers of the Bishop in regard to incumbents. He and his friends did not desire to see a man who was unworthy occupying the office of the cure of souls. On the contrary, they desired to see him removed from such a duty; but the point they were anxious about was that such a man should not be treated too harshly, and they thought that the whole machinery of the Church should not be strained for the purpose of crushing a few defaulters. The points to which they took special objection were to be found in Clauses 7 and 8 in the second part of the Bill, and to some Clauses in Part III. Clause 7 was as follows:— The Bishop shall not institute any person to a benefice until the expiration of one clear month after notice in the prescribed form that the Bishop proposes to institute him has been sent by the Bishop to the churchwardens of the parish, which notice shall he published by the churchwardens in the prescribed manner; and any parishioner may send to the Bishop a representation in writing objecting to the institution on any ground which by virtue of the provisions of this Act entitles the Bishop to refuse to institute; and the Bishop shall consider such representation, and give his decision thereon in writing, in the prescribed manner, before proceeding to institute the presentee. Any parishioner might, therefore, send to the Bishop a representation in writing. That was, of course, perfectly correct; but he did not see that, if the Bishop entertained the objection, he was to be compelled to furnish a copy of the accusation to the clergyman against whom the representation was made, or to inform him who his accuser was, nor did the Bishop give him any sufficient opportunity of rebutting the accusation. ["Hear, hear!"] That was one of his principal objections to the Bill. It was a primary principle of justice that an accused person should have furnished to him the evidence on which the charge was made. He contended that these details had been somewhat lost sight of in the Bill. Then Clause 8 provided that:— If the Bishop is satisfied, either (a) that at the date of the presentation the presentee has not been more than two years in priest's orders; or (b) that the presentee is unfitted for the discharge of the cure of the souls of the benefice to which he has been presented, the Bishop should refuse to institute the presentee. If the person accused was dissatisfied with the Bishop's ruling he could appeal to the Archbishop, whose decision would be final. That finality of the Archbishop in person was a very serious thing indeed. Every other accused person had the right of appeal to one of the Courts of the realm except the accused Clerk in Holy Orders, and he alone was by this Bill to be allowed to be ruined for life without an appeal to a Court of Justice. ["Hear, hear!"] There was no principle in the British Constitution which had been more carefully safeguarded by the State than the right of an accused person to an appeal, against what he considered an unfair decision, to one of the Courts of Law. Taking all these points into consideration, he thought the House would do wisely to refuse a Second Reading to the Bill this year. In the interval they, the Evangelical section of the Church of England, would have an opportunity of conferring with the noble Lord, so that, he hoped, next year the House might have one or two Bills laid before them on this important subject, which would meet with the approval of all sides in the Church of England. He moved that the Bill be read a Second time that day six months.

MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft),

in seconding the Amendment, desired in the first place to say that, although he was seconding a hostile Amendment, he recognised to the full that those who were responsible for bringing forward the Bill were actuated by a sincere desire to purge the Church of England of abuse, scandal and reproach. Further than that, he fully admitted that, like all human institutions, the Church of England had plenty of room for reform, and that there was particularly need for reform in connection with patronage and the removal from their cures of all those incumbents who were unfit for the discharge of their duties. His hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment and himself were equally desirous with the noble Lord and his supporters to do what they could to remedy the evils of which complaint was made, and it was in that spirit that be invited the House to consider the Bill. The Bill consisted of three parts. The first part proposed to effect a reform in connection with the transfer and exercise of patronage, and he would call the attention of the House in that connection to the fact that the Bill introduced various restrictions which, however desirable they might be, must inevitably diminish the actual value of that which had hitherto been recognised, and particularly in the Debates on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, as being property with which the State had no right to interfere without some recognition of the interests of the owners. However desirable the changes might be from the point of view of usefulness to the Church of England and her ministers, he submitted—and it was strange that he should have to submit it to his side of the House—that they had no right, even upon the ground of public utility or the public good, to pass a Measure which would interfere with property lawfully enjoyed and protected by the law down to this moment, without making proper provision for the compensation of those whose rights and property were interfered with; and the effect of the Bill would undoubtedly be to diminish the market value of advowsons. In the first place, the Bill proposed that if an advowson was dealt with at all, the whole right must be transferred. In the second place, that when a transfer had taken place and a right had been acquired, that right should not be exercised by the owner for one year after the transfer. In the third place, that the owner of an advowson, though he might have given valuable money consideration for it, must not charge or incumber it. In the fourth place, that an advowson must not be offered for sale by auction. He did not say that these changes ought not to be made. On the contrary, he thought they were most desirable, but if, in the interest of the public, the House wanted to take away people's rights, the very least thing they could do was to offer to pay for the luxury. In the fifth place the Bill proposed a further restriction, namely, that the owner on presentation, or his wife, or a trustee, on behalf of the owner, must not present the owner. In other words the owner must not be benefited by his ownership. Those were all alterations in the law dealing with what had been and was now regarded as real property, and there was no provision whatever in the Bill for compensating those owners whose rights were to be infringed upon. Hon. Members would remember, during the Debate in Committee on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, with what indignation the proposal of the late Government to deal with the question of private patronage and advowsons was received by hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative side of the House. It was one thing to reform abuses, but it was another thing to infringe the principles on which the Party prided itself. They had got accustomed to hear of schemes for taking away the rights of individuals for the good of the public, but, happily, up to the present they had only been advanced from the other side of the House. Now, they had a Bill put forward by the noble Lord and other responsible persons on that side of the House, which not only proposed to remedy evils, but to remedy them by interfering with the rights of private patrons without compensating them for the injury they were called upon to suffer in the interest of the public and the Church of England, and he was sure that the Radical Party would not forget in the future to quote this Bill in support of their own proposals. Even when the House dealt with such an anti-human institution as slavery, and determined to abolish it, as the law had recognised it as an institution, Parliament provided that the slaveowners should be compensated for the loss they suffered. With regard to Part I. of the Bill he would observe that while he and his Friends objected to the absence of any provision for compensating the owners of advowsons and other forms of patronage, they were in favour of its provisions, provided that such compensation was given. But when he came to Part II., he was almost inclined to wonder whether they had gone back to the Dark Ages. He thought the House would be amazed that in the nineteenth century, and after the experience the world had had of putting great sacerdotal power in the hands of men, however upright and excellent they might be, any Members of the House should make themselves responsible for the extraordinary provisions to which he referred. If Part I. of the Bill sought to purify the Church at the expense of private individuals, it was harmless as compared with the remainder of the Bill, which would effect changes of so startling a character, that he was not surprised he should have been overwhelmed during the last few days by letters of protest from beneficed clergymen and laymen from all parts of the kingdom. Parts II. and III. of the Bill would effect a drastic change of a most unconstitutional character. It was proposed that in future questions raised on applications for admission to a benefice, and also questions affecting beneficed clergymen, should be decided in the first instance by the Bishop of the diocese. What was proposed to be done was very much like a reintroduction of the old Star Chamber, for it was desired to establish a secret tribunal, in which the Bishop was to be prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. A person brought before this tribunal, at the instigation, perhaps, of persons who were not Churchmen, or even Christians was apparently not to have the right of insisting upon knowing who his accusers were, or what the offence charged against him was. No power was given him to have the witnesses examined upon oath, so that they could be prosecuted for perjury if they swore falsely. He would simply be in the hands of the Bishop, and if the latter should decide against him, his only right of appeal was to be the right of appealing to the Archbishop, in other words, from Cæsar to Cæsar. [Cries of "No!"] If he had misread the Bill, he should be glad to be put right. When a person presented himself for induction to a benefice, it would be open to any parishioner to make representations to the Bishop accusing the presentee of any of the following offences. The presentee might be accused of physical or mental infirmity or incapacity, and of pecuniary embarrassments, whatever that might mean. Where the line was to be drawn he did not know. It was the unfortunate fate of a very large number of clergymen to be in a constant state of pecuniary embarrassment, and it was often greatly to their credit, as showing that their hearts were larger than their purses. Again, a person might be accused of misconduct, a very elastic term—and of neglect of duty—another most elastic expression—in a previous benefice, or office, or employment, so that if a clergyman before presenting himself should have failed to give satisfaction as the secretary of some religious society, a position for which he was not suited perhaps, the circumstance might be alleged against him. He might be accused of evil life, or of gross scandal, or evil report concerning his moral conduct. If, therefore, a clergyman should have been unfortunate enough, by the adoption of too downright an attitude on some question of ritual, to cause animosity and the circulation of evil reports against him, there would be sufficient ground under this Bill for the judicial action of the Bishop, and if the Bishop should be of opinion that it would be injurious to the interests of the parish to institute this unhappy clergyman, and should decide against him, the only course left to him would be to appeal to the Archbishop "sitting in open court," whatever that might mean. A properly constituted Ecclesiastical Court was not contemplated. The clergyman must appeal to the Archbishop, and for the first time witnesses might then be examined on oath. It was almost an insult to the intelligence of the House to ask them at the end of the nineteenth century to pass a Measure for the purpose of depriving one class of Her Majesty's subjects—and that the only class not directly represented in that House—of the right of appeal to the Queen's Courts, which was the inalienable privilege of every Englishman. This enormous power ought not to be given to the Episcopate. He had the greatest reverence for the Bishops of his Church, and believed that they were, without exception, honest and God-fearing men, but he could not regard even a Bishop as an Archangel. In connection with matters calling specially for judicial inquiry, it would be most improper to cast upon the Bishops the responsibility which the Bill would impose upon them if it passed. Very startling was the proposed mode of establishing this new Spiritual Court, from which there was to be no appeal to Her Majesty's Privy Council. He could understand that many members of the Church might desire to claim for the Bishops exclusive jurisdiction over matters spiritual, but this Bill declared on its face that the proposed court was not to deal with matters of doctrine or ritual. The questions which it was to deal with were questions of property and character, and it was an extraordinary thing to attempt to take from any subjects of the Queen their right of recourse to the Courts in respect of matters which were essentially temporal. The Queen was Defender of the Faith and Head of the Church in all matters civil and ecclesiastical, and it was the right of every man in respect of matters ecclesiastical, as well as matters temporal, to approach the person of Her Majesty, through the Privy Council, and to appeal against any injustice. In the 25th year of Henry VIII. a statute was passed which gave expressly a right of appeal from the Archbishops' Courts to the King in Chancery. In subsequent statutes that right had been confirmed, and the Privy Council had been constituted the appellate Court in all matters ecclesiastical. There was no probability of the Bill passing in anything like its present shape, but if it were to pass in that shape, the effect would be to repeal all those statutes, with the result that the Clergy would be denied the right, now universally enjoyed, of access to the Queen through her Courts. It was easy to conceive what might happen in such circumstances. What had happened recently, even under the present law? Last year, under the Church Discipline Act, the vicar of Silvertown was maliciously accused by some of his parishioners, and found guilty by the Consistory Court of intoxication, and sentence of depriviaton was passed upon him by the Bishop of his diocese. Being satisfied that he was innocent, the rev. gentleman sought to appeal to the Privy Council. He had no funds, and he approached the Corporation of the City of London. To their honour they granted him £200, and he prosecuted his appeal. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth appeared as his counsel. The Privy Council allowed the appeal, and Lord Herschell said that a more ridiculous and unfounded charge he had hever heard, and that words failed him to express his astonishment at the finding of the Court below. Under this Bill the rev. gentleman would have an appeal only from the Bishop to the Archbishop. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sitting with a Judge."] The Bill said that might be, if the Lord Chancellor ordered it, and if the Judge thought fit; but he was to sit as an assessor; and the Report of the Royal Commission laid it down that an assessor advised the presiding Judge but had no voice in the decision. In the Lincoln case the Archbishop sat with five assessors, and he believed it was the fact that the opinion of the assessors upon one of the points of the case was in one direction, and the judgment in another. At any rate, it was clear that the power of an assessor was restricted to the giving of advice; there was nothing to bind the Archbishop to agree with the assessors, and they had no right to declare their opinion either of assent or of dissent. Part III. of the Bill dealt with the inadequate discharge of their duties by incumbents; and the changes proposed were of a sweeping character. He yielded to no one in the desire to see the powers of securing an adequate fulfilment of duty enlarged, with due regard to the liberties of the subject; but a person accused ought to have a full and ample opportunity of being heard. The Bill gave a Bishop power to grant an inhibition in certain cases—those in which an incumbent was unwilling or unable to discharge the cure of souls competently by reason of any circumstance not involving ritual or doctrine, and the matter was to be heard by Commissioners who were to be, for all practical purposes, nominees of the Bishop.


The only discretion given to the Bishop is in regard to one of the Commissioners, and he only has a choice between two persons, the rural dean and the archdeacon.


said, he would not discuss whether it was wise that such powers should be given to anyone. At all events, it would be admitted that such an inquiry ought to be conducted on judicial lines, and the person accused should have the fullest opportunity of knowing precisely the offence of which he was accused, and of rebutting it; and the procedure ought to be a judicial procedure. The Commission of 1882 said there were few dissentients from the view that in cases of doctrine and ritual Bishops and Archbishops should in future preside in person in their Courts and they also recommended that in the trial of clerks on other charges, the proceedings should follow as near as may be the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court of Judicature in civil cases. ["Hear, hear!"] Where was there any provision of that kind in the Bill? Among the clergy there was a strong feeling of alarm at the provisions of the Bill. They regarded it as an attempt to interfere in a revolutionary way with the rights of the Clergy and with their ordinary rights as Englishmen. They felt that they had a claim on the indulgence of the House which they could not have directly represented, while the Bishops were amply represented in the House of Lords. It would have been better if something could have been done in the way of providing a Sustenance Fund, out of which allowances could be made to beneficed clergy to enable them to retire when they were past their work before a Measure of this kind was passed. He asked the House not to give a Second Reading to the Bill, because, if it was to be adequately amended in Committee, its authors would not be able to recognise it when it came out; and if it were passed as it stood, it would prove a greater evil than it would remove. But whatever the fate of the Bill at this stage, he felt confident that with the publicity of this Debate, the Bill would never be submitted for the approval of Her Majesty in anything like its present form.

SIR JOHN KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

supported the Second Reading, and whilst differing from the conclusions of the hon. Member who had just spoken, agreed with him in thinking that a scheme for a sustentation fund for aged and infirm clergy was one that ought to command the support of all Churchmen. But he was afraid that Her Majesty's Government, even with a majority of 150, could not venture to bring forward such a Measure and hope to carry it into law. Therefore, that scheme must be left for work outside, and it could not be regarded as a substitute for the present Bill. He was glad to learn from the right hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Sandys), who, like himself, was a member of the Evangelical party, that he was in favour of Church reform, but it seemed a strange way of promoting such reform to support the rejection of a Bill, which certainly dealt with pressing questions affecting the Church. In view of the admittedly uneasy feeling outside about the Bill—a feeling which had been fostered and encouraged by wild statements made about it—and he must characterise some of the statements made by the hon. Member who had just sat down as wild, and showing little knowledge of the Bill—he hoped the present Debate would enlighten the country and satisfy friends of the Church that the Bill was worthy to be carried through Parliament. The first part of the Bill was directed, not against lay patronage—of which he was a hearty supporter, and to which the Church owed a great deal—but against the abuse of the rights of patronage. He denied that patronage ought to be spoken of as a question of property, like a house or a field; it should be defined rather as a trust, to be exercised for the spiritual benefit of the parishioners, to which certain rights of property attached. The Legislature had from time to time rightly interfered with some of the conditions of sale while permitting the sale itself, and it was a question now, not of doing away with patronage, but of reviewing the conditions of sale and seeing whether those conditions were sufficient in the present day to secure the due performance of that trust. He could quite understand patrons being anxious that their right should not be unduly interfered with, but the tendency of all recent legislation was that honest men must submit to a few inconvenient restrictions to prevent rogues having their own way. The second part of the Bill was intended to safeguard the rights of parishioners against the appointment of an unfit man. And here it would be seen that there was a statutory definition of the grounds on which proceedings must be initiated, so that no vague charge should be brought against a man except the clearly-defined causes set forth in the Bill. The third part of the Bill provided safeguards against the inadequate performance of the duties for which a man was placed in the parish. He was glad to think how high was the standard of efficiency among the clergy, and how earnestly they sought to perform their duties; but there were cases which, though they did not come home to the Legislature, were known to the parishioners, and which could not be dealt with under the present law, and the House was asked by the heads of the Church to strengthen that law. There was no doubt the Bill gave greater power to the Bishops, and he readily recognised that the House was bound to give the fullest hearing and every possible security for full judicial inquiry to a man who asked for it, and whose property and reputation was at stake. All would wish a generous and kindly treatment extended to the Clergy. The present condition of many of them in regard to their diminished incomes excited our liveliest compassion, but at the same time, it was their duty to safeguard the interests of the parishioners, and when it was shown that for three years the duties had not been performed, or a man refused to perform them, then it was time that a Commission, elected independently of the Bishop, should be asked to step in, and after full inquiry report to the Bishop, in order that he might take action accordingly. Now what was this so-called "Star Chamber"? Some hon. Members would be astonished to hear that the tribunal was in use at the present time for a curate who appeals against the revocation of his licence, and to the best of his knowledge the character of the Court had not been complained of. Moreover, the proceedings were to be conducted openly, and on oath, which was not the case at present, and the tribunal had the further advantage of being cheap and ready of access to both parties. There was also the alternative of the Court of Arches, as recommended by the Royal Commission, without appeal, but that was a Court to which many had objections, the procedure there, moreover, being extremely cumbrous and expensive. He believed the suit of "duplex querela" had only been used five times since the Reformation. He was of opinion that the proposed Court would answer all the purposes, and would be less objectionable. His hon. and gallant Friend complained that the Clergy were the only persons who were to be deprived of the right of appealing to the Queen's Courts, the fact being they had none at present, if refused institution. Had his hon. and gallant Friend ever heard of a soldier who had been court-martialled having a right of appeal to the Queen's Courts? This matter, as he had said, was a question of principle—a question of the adoption of a procedure somewhat novel, yet necessary; but if it could be shown that the Court proposed was not a fair and open one, and would not give satisfaction to those who resorted to it, he would say let them by all means adopt some other course that would command approval, and with which every one would be satisfied. A great deal had been said about the autocracy of the Bishops, but it must be borne in mind that the Bishops were the leaders of the Church, and as in the Army so in the Church, they must trust their generals. The Bishops might not be infallible, and might not give satisfaction to everybody in matters of patronage, but they were surrounded by many difficulties, and on the whole he believed the people of the Church were satisfied with their administration and had confidence in them. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time, the Bill would provide safeguards, in respect to responsibility for costs, against a Bishop's taking action in a case lightly or unfairly. But he for one did not believe there was any reason to distrust the Bishops in this matter. He believed they would act fairly and wisely, and that in the proposed Court of Appeal neither the Bishop nor Archbishop would venture to go against the expressed opinion of the legal assessor, a judge in the High Court. That gave a practical guarantee of fairness and justice, which the supporters of the Bill desired that the Clergy should have under its provisions. He hoped the Bill would become law, for he was confident that when it was looked into from all points of view it would be found worthy of the support of Churchmen generally. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

said, he did not know whether to congratulate the House or condole with it on the reappearance of their old friend, the ecclesiastical Wednesday; but he might congratulate the House at least on the tone and temper which had prevailed during this Debate. He might be allowed also to note the excellent tone and spirit of the speech in which the noble Lord the Member for Rochester moved the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] It was a little difficult for a man who held the views which he (Sir G. O. Morgan) did as to the relations between Church and State, especially when he was a Member of the Church of England, to escape a certain amount of suspicion that, in opposing a Bill of this kind, he was actuated by some occult or hidden design against the Church. He was too accustomed to this kind of taunt, however, to attend very much to it; and it certainly would not deter him from criticising the Bill in a free and, he hoped, not an unfair spirit. ["Hear, hear!"] He was not the least surprised that the noble Lord, who occupied a distinguished position in the House as a Leader of the Church Parliamentary Party, should have put this Bill in the forefront of his Programme. His Party received an enormous amount of support from the Clergy in the last Election, and it was perfectly natural that that support should be requited in some form of legislation in the interests of the Church. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: "The Bill was introduced last year."] ["Hear, hear!"] However that might be, he would far rather see the Church Party busy in setting their house in order than in playing ducks and drakes with Welsh Education Schemes. [Laughter.] The noble Lord, in common with many Churchmen, must feel some humiliation in the thought that, in the case of the Church of which he was so devoted a member, they could not alter one line of its ritual, one article of its creed, or one shred of its constitution, without coming to that assembly—an assembly composed of men of all religions and of no religion, of Irish Roman Catholics and English Nonconformists, of Jews and Agnostics—some hostile, and more indifferent. ["Hear, hear!"] He objected to the first part of the Bill—which dealt with what was somewhat euphemistically called the right of patronage—because it did not go far enough; and he objected to the second part—dealing with the adequate discharge of the duties of benefices—because it went a great deal too far. If they had not been accustomed to look at these things for a long series of years from a certain standpoint, there would be something shocking in the idea that the cure of immortal souls should be a matter of bargain and sale—that the duty of administering spiritual comfort to men and women should depend on the length of the purse of a man who wished to acquire the right to do so. ["Hear, hear!"] If they talked to a French Catholic or a German Lutheran about this right of patronage he would absolutely refuse to believe that such a state of things could exist in a civilised country at the end of the nineteenth century. It was said this right of patronage was a trust, but the very first lesson he learned when he studied equity was that a trust was absolutely incapable of being bought or sold. ["Hear, hear!''] But here the difficulties of the noble Lord began. Unfortunately he fell between two stools. Although perfectly true that this right of patronage was described as a trust, as a matter of fact it had always been dealt with as a property. To obtain proof of this it was only necessary for hon. Members to look at the advertisement columns of The Times, in which they might every day see announcements on the part of people who were anxious to sell or to buy these so-called trusts. And the moment this Bill was printed, there came down upon Members a perfect avalanche of letters and circulars from gentlemen who, having invested thousands of pounds in the purchase of advowsons, naturally complained that their property was being tampered with. The outcry raised by this Bill reminded him strangely of the outcry raised by the Disestablishment Bill. A clergyman named Macpherson, in a circular printed under the auspices of the Church Property Defence Association, had gone so far as to call the noble Lord the Member for Rochester a "footpad" for taking the course he had done in this matter. He himself had been called almost every name since he entered the House, but he had never been called a footpad. [Laughter.] This association had stated that if the Bill passed in its present form it would cause much distress, if not absolute ruin, to hundreds of private patrons and to those who had advanced money on advowsons. And yet all the Bill did was to subject the traffic in livings to four limitations. First of all it prohibited sale by public auction. When the Bill came before the Committee, he should certainly move to omit the words "sale by public auction." It would be said "Oh, but sales by auction have caused grave scandal." No doubt they had, but if they were to have scandal at all, it was far better that the scandal should be public rather than private. It seemed to him that exactly the same traffic which went on before would go on again, except that it would be shut out from public view. The second limitation was a very peculiar provision. This was that an incumbent must live for a year, or at least for three months after the sale. What would happen? Why of course, the purchaser would go to an insurance society, and would say "Will you insure me against the risk of my incumbent dying before the year is out," and he believed already that there were several insurance societies who were perfectly prepared to meet the purchaser on fair terms and insure the life of an incumbent. Would the Bill then put an end to the traffic? No; it would substitute one kind of traffic for another kind of traffic. The third restriction was that the clergyman must not buy with a view to his own presentation, but there was nothing to prevent the transfer to the father or mother, the brother, or the uncle or aunt, or the cousin, or the relations, or the wife's relations of the man who was to be presented. They did not kill the snake; they only scotched it. They were putting a plaister on an ulcer which required to be cut out with the lancet. Then they came to the fourth limitation. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Cranborne), quoted one or two advertisements from The Times. He would quote another which had appeared daily on the first page of The Times for the last week or more, and then ask whether the Bill, in the shape in which it was drawn, would put an end to such a scandal as this. The advertisement was as follows:— Church Patronage wanted. Patrons and their solicitors only. A large number of bonâ fide purchasers, with ample capital, desirous of treating privately for advowsons at once with prospect of speedy possession. No agents. Would the Bill stop that? Not a bit. Those gentlemen would know how to keep on the windy side of the law, and would drive a coach and four through the Bill. Another advertisement appeared last Saturday as follows:— Advowson. Suffolk. Commutation and glebe, £730. Population, 500. Large rectory. Trains, two. Life, 80. £3,000, of which £500 down and rest on mortgage. No interest until vacancy. So this poor old gentleman had only to live another year or three months; if he did not the purchaser would be insured. There again, they would have a scandal—a scandal which this Bill, apparently, was intended to put a stop to. An hon. Member opposite said the object of the Bill was to defend the right of the parishioners. When the hon. Member made that observation, he took up the Bill again because he thought he had failed to notice something in it—that there would be some sort of right of veto, some voice, given to the parishioners. But there was nothing of the kind. One parishioner, no doubt, was enabled to call the attention of the Bishop to the propriety of presenting such and such a man, but that being done the Bishop became prosecutor, jury, judge, and executioner. No doubt the Bishop was to consider the representations made to him, and, no doubt, as had been pointed out, there was an appeal to the Archbishop, but that was rather in the nature of an appeal from Cæsar to Cæsar. And no doubt the Archbishop might be assisted by an assessor, but the assessor was not a judge. He was nothing more than one who advised the judge, but had no voice in the decision. His objections to this part of the Bill applied in a still greater degree to the second part of the Bill, which dealt with the adequate discharge of duties. The Commissioners, he found, were to consist of four persons, and of these only one was to be a layman. He had not the slightest wish to say one word of disrespect to the clergy, but of all the professions he knew, the clergy were the least proper persons to be entrusted with judicial functions, from the very nature of their profession and their whole education. In fact, the better fitted the man was to be a clergyman the less fitted he was to be a Judge. He would not go so far as Gibbon, who said that the clergy had all the vices of women without their virtues; but they certainly had some of their faults, and these, he believed unfitted them to take an impartial and unprejudiced view of things—and, of course, the Bishop had the prejudices of his cloth. His objection to this part of this Bill, stated in a word, placed the clergy under the heel of the Bishop. It deprived a clergyman of the right of the meanest criminal at the bar—the right to be tried by a jury of his fellows. The hon. Member who spoke last said that in a court-martial a man had no right to a jury; but did the hon. Member really wish to put the clergy of the United Kingdom under military law? They all knew that there were bishops, and bishops. There were bishops such as the late Bishop Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham, a thoroughly Christian gentleman, and the late Bishop Fraser, of Manchester, one of the fairest-minded men that ever lived; but there were other bishops who might be ecclesiastical tyrants, and who, under the influence of some dominant passion, might not do that justice which they would all desire to see done. He did not think the case could be better put than it was in a pamphlet issued by the Church Association, in which it was said:— But the root vice of the Measure is still retained. Although the character, the professional hopes, and the 'freehold' (that is, the civil rights) of the accused are at stake, he has no means of getting a hearing in any of the Queen's Courts. Thus the clergy alone are to lose the protection of the Crown and of the general law of the land in matters which really belong to 'Cæsar.' That contained the gist of his objection to this second part of the Bill. He would like, for many reasons, to have supported the Bill, but, for the reasons he had laid before the House, he was unable to do so. It would be said that all the objections he had raised against the Bill were the necessary consequences of the present relations between Church and State. Of course they were. What then was the remedy? There was only one remedy, and that was Disestablishment, and he rejoiced to think that, day by day, that was becoming more apparent. A Bill like the present one helped to drive home the conviction to the more intelligent men that the Church of England, as at present established, was an anomaly and anachronism. He did not expect hon. Gentlemen opposite to agree with him, but there was an increasing number of Members of the Church of England who held that view. He did not suppose he should live to see the day when Disestablishment would be an accomplished fact. He did not suppose it would come immediately, but that it would come, and sooner than hon. Gentlemen opposite supposed, he felt as certain of as he did that he was now standing on the floor of this House.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)

said, this Bill would place the Church of England practically in the same position as the Church of Scotland occupied prior to the passing of the Act of 1874. The law in Scotland at that time gave the parishioners the right to have some voice in regard to the fitness of the presentee. They were allowed to object on the ground of physical or mental incapacity, or of the conduct of the person presented. What was the result in Scotland? They found parishioners, who disliked the presentee, coming forward with an objection as regarded his physical incapacity. Clergymen were objected to on the ground of in capacity and other reasons, matters of various kinds were raked up by parishioners when they were opposed to the presentees, and it became a perfect scandal in Scotland. Indeed, the evil became so bad that Parliament had to pass a law to abolish patronage altogether, and to give to those connected with the Church of Scotland the sole right to present ministers. He ventured to say in the presence of the right hon. Member for Manchester that nothing did more good in Scotland than the passing of the Abolition of Patronage Act in I874. The only cure for the evils arising from the sales of presentations was to do for England what had been done for Scotland, and abolish patronage on the same conditions. He declared that nothing had tended more to strengthen the Church in Scotland than the giving to the people the right to assist in the election of their minister.


I desire to intervene only for a few moments to express shortly the views the Government entertain with reference to the Second Reading of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, who earnestly believes that the Disestablishment of the Church of England would really be the best means of meeting the admitted evils under which she suffers, has hardly ventured to propose that as an Amendment to the present Bill, and I do not feel certain whether he does or does not intend to support the Second Reading. But, judging from the conduct of himself and friends on the other side of the House, and of many of our friends who are not members of the Church of England, during the past two or three years, I have been very happy to see there is a growing tendency on the part of those Gentlemen who do not agree with the Establishment of the Church of England to see that while the Church is now obliged to come to the House of Commons for reforms, it will not be, at all events, without their assistance. ["Hear, hear!"] I remember in previous years, when Bills of this kind were under discussion and were supported by the Government of our political opponents, that expressions fell from Nonconformist as well as Church of England Liberal Members, showing that they were not indisposed, so long as the Church had to come to this House to seek reforms, to give that assistance which the circumstances of the case absolutely required. ["Hear, hear!"] I remember a Gentleman on the other side of the House on a previous occasion pointing out in eloquent language how, because of the important position which clergymen of the Church of England occupied in many of the rural parishes, it was a matter of supreme concern not only to Churchmen parishioners, but to every parishioner, that means should be taken other than those which now exist to secure that the clergyman put in charge of a parish should be a person of good repute and altogether fit to take charge of a cure of souls. ["Hear, hear!"] As has been said by the noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, this is not a new Measure. It is mainly based upon the Report of the Commission of 1878, and it is a conglomeration, so to speak, of two or three Bills presented in this or the other House during the last three or four years, and which, in this House at any rate, have passed the Second Reading and gone through the Grand Committees. I myself, having been Chairman of one of these Committees last year, was a witness of the care with which the particular Bill before it was debated, and how fairly our opponents endeavoured to meet the questions brought forward. I have listened with great care to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who Moved the rejection of the Bill, and the hon. Gentleman who Seconded, and I entirely fail to see in those speeches any adequate reasons for asking the House to reject the Second Reading. Their arguments were mere objections to detail, or a protest against the invasion of private and semi-public rights, and criticisms of provisions which, from their own statement of the case, can evidently, be adequately dealt with in Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] I think it will be admitted that there are certain abuses, not as I hope, widely prevalent, in the Church of England, and it is reasonable and right that Parliament should be asked to give the Church the power to reform those abuses. ["Hear, hear!"] I shall say very little about the details of the Bill. It is admitted that the scandal of the sale of presentations ought to be removed, and when I hear language like that used by the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment, about the invasion of private rights, I would refer the House to the words of the Commission of 1878 when dealing with this particular point. The Commissioners say that the prohibition of the sale of the next presentation— Does not seem to us to involve any interference with the right of patronage in its legitimate use. ["Hear, hear!"] Whether a trust can be bought or not is a delicate question to argue, and whether, if we were starting with a tabula rasa for a constitution of a new Established Church, we should tolerate such a thing as the sale of patronage or not is another question. What, as practical men, we have to deal with is an acknowledged evil which is sought to be remedied in a reasonable method in accordance with the reports of the Commissions of 1878 and subsequent Commissions and inquiries. So again, on the question concerned with the institution of men who are not fit to take charge of cures of souls, I say the Bill has carefully safeguarded the rights of the parishioner—hitherto too little protected—on the one hand, and the rights of the clergy on the other. If this Measure becomes an Act of Parliament, the parishioners will be able to protest effectually against the imposition upon them of a person to whom they have a real valid objection. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not think there is any feeling, or at all events any strong feeling, in the Church of England in favour of exercising the right of patronage by the congregation; but there is a strong and growing feeling that, in the institution on presentation of a clergyman to take charge of a cure of souls, the parishioners ought to have more voice than they hitherto have had. That is one of the objects of the Bill, and if its provisions are not adequate to secure that end they can be improved in Committee. So, again, with regard to the right of a clergyman who has been presented to a benefice, the Bill makes ample provision. It has been said that clergymen are denied access to a free Court and deprived of the right of trial by Jury, which is the privilege of every Englishman. I am ready to have very considerable sympathy with that feeling, and I have yet to learn that the supporters of the Bill are not willing to see further precautions taken in that direction and to secure that there shall be a strengthening of the lay and judicial element. I am confident that it is the intention of the promoters of the Bill, whether you call the lay person an associate or an assessor, that he is still to be a person of high rank in the Supreme Court, and that he should be a real and material element in the judicial decision on an appeal which comes from the aggrieved clergyman to the Archbishops' Court. I think that the objections to those parts of the Bill to which I have referred do not constitute an opposition to it which can adequately be described as a Second Reading opposition. Another important part of the Bill deals with the inhibition of clergymen who, whether from their own fault or from causes beyond their control, become absolutely incompetent to discharge their duties. I am very glad the Bill draws a distinction between the two classes of cases—a distinction which the Committee to whom the Bill, if passed, will be referred, will realise and appreciate. I believe that is another evil for which the Church of England has a right to seek for a remedy. There is hardly a Member in this House who is not aware, either personally or indirectly, of clergymen being in possession of benefices who, sometimes from their own fault and more often, I hope, from causes beyond their control, have become absolutely inefficient to discharge the offices in which they are placed and for which they are paid. If you can vindicate the rights of parishioners and secure proper judicial and legal assistance, it is a reasonable and proper thing that the House should give a Second Reading to that portion of the Bill which attempts to deal with that difficult subject. I must say that as far as I have been able to understand this Bill, it is one which should commend itself to the favourable judgment of the House. On the part of the Government, I intend to support it, and I heartily hope it may be referred to a Committee which will consider it in the same practical spirit as the Bill of last year, the result being that a standing grievance of the Church of England may be removed by the common consent of all parties; and that that bone of contention, a "Church Wednesday," may henceforth be unknown in this House. [Cheers.]

MR. R. W. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)

said this was a grievance which did not only affect the Church of England. There were 8,000 parishes where the only ordained Minister was a clergyman of the Established Church. In these parishes the clergyman had ecclesiastical duties to discharge, not only to members of the Church of England, but Nonconformist parishioners. Therefore, it was of the utmost importance that the clergy in the country parishes should not only be men of high character, but of ability and some liberality of view. In the so-called National and Voluntary schools of the country there were an enormous number of Nonconformist children. On this ground alone Nonconformists were interested in seeing that the clergy of the Established Church were mentally as well as morally capable and efficient. In the great agricultural division which he represented there were strange instances of the inefficient discharge of clerical duties. In one parish the clergyman was not in a condition of mind fit to discharge his duties, and the only knowledge the parishioners had of their spiritual head was seeing him led about the Rectory grounds by an attendant. In another parish the clergyman was so badly advised as to buy the living, and to borrow the money to do so. The revenues dropped, the poor man could not pay the interest on the mortgage, the mortgagees stepped in, the Bishop inhibited the clergyman, put in a curate, gave him a portion of the stipend, and sent the other away. To put such large powers as were proposed into the hands of Bishops was a step towards sacerdotalism. The whole tendency of the age was against clerical and episcopal authority, and was to put the power in the hands of local authorities. He had invited on this Bill the opinions of 76 clergymen in his division. Forty-one of the 76 were in favour of the Bill, 22 or 23 were against it, and the rest were neutral. Those against it expressed their views in language which would almost rival in emphasis the language used by the Mover of the Amendment. One said:— I am not enamoured of the Bill. It would set up a kind of Pope in every parish. Nonconformists do not treat their ministers as the clergy are treated in this Bill. Another said:— I think the Bill would give the Bishops great power over us small fry. I doubt whether I am in my right place. It is a pity I ever took holy orders." [Laughter.] Another said:— I am not a believer in an Established Church, but while the State and the Church are connected by bonds of Establishment, it gives the Prime Minister of the day, who may be an Atheist, the power of nominating a spiritual Father in God. It is improper to increase the powers of Bishops. When our Bishops rise to the true Apostolical level, financially and otherwise, and are no longer great Barons and Princes we shall trust them more. This gentleman had a reasonable and proper complaint. The income of the living was £450 a year, but £200 of that was appropriated to swell the revenues of a gentleman in a neighbouring parish. He himself only got £150. Well might he refer to the financial grandeur in which the Bishops lived. The hon. Member, in conclusion, said he should support this Bill. His attitude as a Nonconformist had always been that they ought to assist the Church of England to effect her own internal reforms. In country parishes they wanted men of high character and mental capacity, in whom, as Nonconformists, they would have greater confidence than they had in some of the clergy of the rural parishes in this country.

Mr. R. PURVIS (Peterborough)

said that as a member of the Church of England he had determined to Vote for the Amendment. The Bill proposed a spiritual tribunal unknown to the institutions of this country since the Court of High Commissioners was abolished in the reign of Charles I. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill thought bad cases of bad clergymen were really very few. There was an old saying amongst lawyers that a bad case made bad law, which meant that a law such as this would be was like a net, with such fine meshes that a hundred respectable clergymen might be annoyed, while the hundred and first, who might be a really bad case, would escape. The noble Lord admitted that the Bishops could refuse to institute in extreme cases By this Bill respectable clergymen might be annoyed by all the title-tattle and "profane and old wives' fables," which might be spread about in a parish where he had been. By Clause 7 of the Bill the accused might be condemned unheard, and ruined, without appeal to the ordinary courts of law of the land. Under the circumstances he suggested that it was better "to bear the ills they had than fly to others that they knew not of." ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. G. HARWOOD (Bolton)

asked the promoters of the Bill whether they were prepared to introduce into the Bill a guarantee that the clergy should have an ultimate right of appeal to the courts of law in this country. It was of the most vital importance to the National Church that the clergy should not be deprived of this right of appeal, which belonged to every subject of the Queen. In doing away with this right they would strike at the keystone of the arch which supported the national character of the Church. They had not only to consider the rights of the owners of livings and of the clergy, but also the rights of the people. If the Church of England was a National Church it was therefore a People's Church. The rights of the people were exercised and vindicated in the courts of law and in that House, and he could not vote for the Second Reading of the Bill unless he received some assurance that the right of ultimate appeal by the clergy to the ordinary courts of the land would be provided for.

MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts,) Mansfield

said that he had seen a statement that this Bill was the seventeenth attempt which had been made to amend the laws which regulated the admission of clergymen to benefices. He did not know whether that was strictly accurate; but he did know that seventeen years had passed since a Royal Commission had brought to light the shameful facts which had led to all these abortive efforts. The long delay which had occurred was due to several causes, one of them being the indifference of Churchmen in past times. It must have been owing to that cause that seven years were allowed to elapse after the Report of the Commission appeared before any legislative remedy was proposed for what were now described as intolerable evils. Then five more years passed after the failure of the Primate's measure; so evidently the consciences of Churchmen were not then awakened, nor their fears excited, as they were today. The circumstances under which the present Bill was brought forward were both new and interesting. As a result of the late General Election, the friends of the Establishment believed that that institution was safe for the next five or six years—he observed that the sense of security did not extend beyond that time—and they had now resolved to pass, if possible, a whole list of measures for reforming the Church. They had further resolved to concentrate all their energies during this Session on a Bill dealing with this particular question. That being the case, they might with advantage have produced a large and a thoroughly-effective measure; but, instead of that, they had brought in what he regarded as an altogether inadequate, feeble, and inconsistent Bill. It was a mistake to suppose that its object was to put an end to the traffic in livings. If it had been he would have supported it with all his heart; but it was a measure to perpetuate the traffic, though on a somewhat diminished scale. If this Bill passed it would give a fresh legislative sanction to the sale of what the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne) had described as a spiritual trust, and it was because he was as much interested in religion as the noble Lord himself, that he protested against the maintenance of a system which was opposed to the principles of Christianity, and that he regarded the Bill with strong feelings of dissatisfaction. He would not at that hour state the reasons on which that conviction was based, as he might have done at an earlier part of the Debate; but he wished to call attention to some serious omissions and exemptions in the Bill. A large number of patronage rights were, by the 21st Clause, excluded from its operations; for it was provided that nothing in the Act should affect any advowson appendent to any manor or hereditament, any advowson belonging to an owner of not less than 100 acres of land, or any advowson belonging to the owner of 50 houses in a parish, and not transferred or transmitted separate from such property. That is, all the existing scandals connected with the sale of advowsons—including, he supposed, sales by auction—might continue when the advowsons were held by large landowners or house owners; while the unfortunate owners of advowsons who did not happen to be either would have their patronage rights diminished in value by the restrictions of the Bill. That provision had, he believed, been struck out of a previous Bill. On what principle had it been restored in this Bill? Were landowners and houseowners a specially virtuous class of the community, or were they endowed with special fitness for the choice of suitable ministers of religion? Why should a man who bought a whole village be able to buy with it the right of deciding who should be the spiritual guide of its inhabitants? It was an invidious distinction in favour of wealth, and seemed to be intended to buy off opposition to the Bill. There was another exemption which made an already weak Bill still weaker. Section 1—which was vital to the Bill—was not to apply to sales effected under the Act of 1863, which enabled the Lord Chancellor to sell the small livings in his gift. They had not proved to be a very marketable commodity, and this exemption was probably intended to prevent their occupying a worse place in the market. Another exemption required both explanation and justification. Sub-Section d, of Clause 1 required the approval by the Bishop of the proposed transfer of a living; but this was not to apply to what were termed "public patrons." If the Definition Clause—Clause 22—were turned to, it would be seen what a large number of patrons that would include. Not only were Her. Majesty and the Duke of Cornwall to be exempt, but the Lord Chancellor, all the Bishops, the Cathedral Chapters, the Universities and Colleges, the trustees of various public bodies, and finally, every person or body of persons entitled to acquire and hold in a corporate capacity rights of patronage. Why was this invidious distinction made between different classes of patrons?


Surely the hon. Member does not mean to suggest that Her Majesty, or the Duke of Cornwall, and public bodies, would be guilty of simoniacal practices?


Those persons, or bodies, who were above all suspicion had no reason to object to being placed under the same laws as others. Public patrons were not always beyond the reach of corrupt or illegitimate influences, and therefore should be put in the same position as other patrons. He had not yet exhausted the list of omissions in the Bill. It no doubt aimed at keeping immoral or incompetent clergymen out of benefices, and at ejecting them, if, unhappily, they obtained admission to them; but what about the patrons who appointed to the benefices? Archbishop Magee had once pungently said:— The very greatest scoundrel in England may be a patron, and his extreme immorality is no bar in law to his acting as a patron. That was said some years ago, and the Record had made a similar admission in 1893, when it said of a Church Patronage Bill that, after it had passed, It would still be possible for a notorious evil liver, a Mahommedan, a Pagan, or an Atheist, to purchase an advowson, and, after doing so, to present to the living. That might also be said of the present measure, which, nevertheless, The Record strongly supported. He knew that the reply to such objections as he had urged would be that the Bill provided various safeguards against the admission of improper persons to benefices. Yes, and among those safeguards were new solemn declarations, and new provisions for testimonials; but what reason was there to expect that the new declarations would be more effectual than the old ones, the inutility of which had been shown by the evidence taken by the Royal Commission? Here was an extract from the evidence of Mr. Emery Stark, the well-known clerical agent, who was cross-examined by the then Bishop of Peterborough, Dr. Magee:— Mr. Stark: Three-fourths of my transactions are with immediate possession, and, strictly speaking, they are nearly all illegal. Bishop: Knowing it to be illegal, these clerical patrons ask you to help them to break the law. Mr. Stark: Decidedly; and the matter is completed by solicitors of the highest standing in the country. Bishop: The clergyman knows what the meaning of Simony is in that declaration; he knows that it is a legal term which means contrary to the law of Simony. Mr. Stark: Yes. Bishop: Knowing that, these moral clergymen, who first of all ask you to break the law, then take an oath that they have not broken the law. Mr. Stark: Yes. Yet, in the face of those facts, they were now asked to pin their faith to new clerical declarations, and to new forms of testimonials. The moral to be drawn from these most painful facts was well stated by the late Mr. Childers, a former Home Secretary and a Churchman, when he said:— The conclusion to be drawn is, that the sale of livings ought to be done away with altogether. In the same Debate, another member of the Church, who was deservedly held in high esteem by Gentlemen opposite—he referred to Mr. Raikes—said:— Whatever provisions you may make against the sale of next presentations, the ingenuity of the lawyers will get round them. As long as one person has a commodity to sell, another wishes to buy, it is not in the power of an Act of Parliament absolutely to prohibit the sale. He (Mr. Williams) had confined his remarks to Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill; because the objections to the remaining part had been already stated with great force. He, however, thought it right to make some reference to the attitude of the Evangelical party in regard to this measure. The name of one well-known influential member of that party—the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir J. Kennaway) was among those at the back of the Bill; but he represented only a section of the party. That was clear from the statements of objections issued by both the Church Association and the National Protestant Church Union. He sympathised with many of those objections, and had done his best to maintain them in connection with the previous Bills; but he was greatly disappointed at finding that the first part of the Bill was accepted by Evangelicals; who thereby gave their sanction to the continuance of an iniquitous traffic. He would not presume to give advice to Church reformers, which would probably be disregarded coming from his lips; but he would commend to their notice a passage in Dr. Jessopp's article in the Nineteenth Century for January, entitled, "Church Defence or Church Reform":— Patronage by purchase has been altogether abolished in this country never to be tolerated again. Yet in the Church of England as established by law it flourishes in full vigour, all recent legislation notwithstanding. The thing is notorious and will go on merrily till we forbear from tinkering legislation which proceeds upon a basis of defending—i.e., making the best we can of things morally indefensible, instead of resolutely setting ourselves to face the problems of constitutional reform. The hon. Member concluded by saying that he regarded this measure as a piece of "tinkering legislation," which would fail to effect its professed object. That would be accomplished only when the Church became free from the fetters of the State; when the reproach from which it now suffered would be wiped away, and it would become thoroughly efficient for assisting to carry on the work of God throughout the land.

MR. GUY PYM (Bedford)

said, he intended to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. He agreed on principle with the objects of the Bill, but he was opposed, on principle, also, to the method by which those objects were to be carried out. He was opposed to a man being tried for an offence by an Ecclesiastical Court, without the power of appeal to a Civil Court. However, considering the important matters dealt with by the Bill, he would vote for the Second Reading; but would inform its promoters that, unless some modification was made in its provisions, he would feel it his duty to vote against it at subsequent stages.

MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)

thought that if the hon. Member for Bedford believed the Bill would be amended in Committee he would find himself mistaken, for when the noble Lord who introduced the Bill was asked whether he would allow an appeal to a Civil Court he absolutely declined to give any assurance of the kind. He had come down to the House with a perfectly open mind in regard to the Bill; indeed, he had been inclined to support it, but when he found that the severest criticism of the Bill had come, not from Nonconformist Members, but from Church Members, he felt bound to reconsider his attitude towards the Measure. Hitherto, it had always been said that the Church Party were most anxious to have the Church reformed; but that the Nonconformists in the House of Commons would not allow them to do it. That could be said no longer. Criticism of the Bill from the Opposition side of the House had been of the most moderate and reasonable character; while the strongest and bitterest opposition had been offered to it by hon. gentlemen like the hon. Member for Lowestoft, who occupied prominent positions in some branches of the Church of England. It had been said that the Bill did not go far enough on the question on the right of patronage. He found that Section 4 prevented a clergyman, or any person about to become a clergyman, or his wife, or trustee, from exercising the right of patronage in respect to a benefice which subsequently became invested in him or any one of those parties. But it did not deal with the question of lay patronage at all. It came, therefore, to this—that a clergyman, however good and useful he might be, was not to be allowed to have this right of patronage vested in him, whereas a layman, no matter how grossly immoral his life might be, was allowed to have it. That was a blot on the Bill which could not be cured; for, so far as he understood the rules of the House, Amendments of a character that would cure it would not be allowed. Again, it was proposed to enlarge the powers of a Bishop to decline to institute a man whose life in his opinion unfitted him for the discharge of sacred duties. The House was, therefore, bound to see that justice was done to the parties concerned. He failed to see how anyone could consider the tribunal created by the 8th Clause of the Bill a fair tribunal for the trial of questions in dispute between a Bishop on the one hand and a clergyman about to be instituted on the other. It was no part of his business to make attacks on the Bishops. The attacks had come from the other side of the House. But no one could doubt that a Bishop was not the right sort of person to try cases of this kind. There ought to be a fair and equitable tribunal outside the Church altogether for the trial of such cases. As he had said, he had come down to the House with a perfectly open mind in regard to the Bill. But he found one section of the Church—probably the High Church section—arguing for one thing, another section of the Church opposing it, and he had received circulars from Church Associations declaring that the Bill was unjust; he, therefore, had come to the conclusion that the objections to the Bill were so great and vital that they could not be cured in Committee, and he would vote against the Second Reading

The House divided:—Ayes 259; Noes 81.—(Division List, No. 40.)

Bill read 2a.

*VISCOUNT CRANBORNE moved that the Bill should be referred to the Standing Committee of Law. He said that it had always been the rule to so refer these ecclesiastical Bills which were of a highly technical character.

COLONEL SANDYS moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. He said that it was desirable the clergy should have an opportunity of appearing before the Committee to state the case.


agreed with his noble Friend as to the precedence in regard to such Bills as the present. As the House had declared in favour of the Bill by so large a majority, he hoped it would be referred to a Standing Committee, because, if that course were not adopted, the Bill would have no chance of passing into law in the present Session.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

said, he took no part in the last Division, and therefore might approach this question from a neutral standpoint. His right hon. Friend appeared to have omitted to note that the effect of referring the Bill to a Standing Committee would be to withdraw the details of the Measure altogether from the cognisance of the House. His noble Friend who made the Motion said the Bill was of a highly technical character. Under those circumstances a Select Committee would be the better instrument of the two. But his main reason for supporting the proposal to refer the Bill to a Select Committee was that he strongly objected to the principle of withdrawing a Measure from the immediate cognisance of the House of Commons. He hoped his hon. Friend would persevere with his Amendment.


hoped the Amendment would be withdrawn. As long as there were Standing Committees this was eminently a Bill to go to such a Committee. He was a member of the Standing Committee on Law when a Bill similar, if not identical to the present one, was considered in the last Session of the last Parliament, and it struck him it would be impossible to have a fairer tribunal to consider such a Bill.


pointed out that the Standing Committee on Law, or any other Standing Committee, had no power to take evidence. This was a Bill which seriously interfered with the rights and status of a large number of Her Majesty's subjects who would, if the Bill were referred to a Select Committee, have the opportunity of giving evidence. Failing a reference to a Select Committee he hoped the Committee stage would be taken in the House itself.


hoped the House would overrule this attempt to defeat by delay a Bill in regard to the principle of which it had already expressed a decisive opinion. No doubt there were many serious questions of detail in the Bill. He agreed, that with regard to many of the clauses, objections had been made which had to be considered and fairly weighed, and they would be considered fairly and weighed thoroughly by the Standing Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet objected to Standing Committees altogether. That was quite an intelligible attitude, but the House having established the Standing Committee system, and found from experience it was valuable, would not, he thought, object to send this Bill to such a tribunal.

SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

said, it was absolutely necessary to have legislation on this subject in the interest, not only of the Church of England, but of the whole community in rural parishes. It was necessary if this legislation was to go forward, that it should go forward without delay, and, he believed, that if ever there was a Bill which was exactly suited to be considered by a Standing Committee, this was the one.

Question put, "That the words 'the Standing Committee on Law, &c.,' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 203; Noes, 62.—(Division List, No. 41.)

Main Question proposed.

Debate arising; and it being half-past Five of the clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded to interrupt the Business:—

*Whereupon VISCOUNT CRANBORNE rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;"

Question, "That the Question be now put," put and agreed to.

Main Question put accordingly, and agreed to.

Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c.