§ *MR. ROBERT CAMERON (Durham, Houghton-le-Spring)
moved "That this Bill be now Read a Second time." He felt that, in this matter, there was a grievance in the country that ought to be remedied, and this Bill proposed a remedy. In this Bill Dissenters were simply seeking to share what he considered the equal rights of free citizens in a free country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes thought it was the dissatisfied and discontented Nonconformist who was always fighting for imaginary wrongs. In his opinion the root of the controversy was very different from that. It was simply, not because they were Nonconformists in the main, but because they were Englishmen, and Englishmen would not submit to unjust extortions and be always kept in unequal positions, and would not always submit to unfair treatment in any department of the activities of citizenship. He considered, therefore, that the Nonconformist or anyone else, seeking redress in this matter, was only discharging a duty of citizenship. This question had been repeatedly brought before the House with varying results; but in the last Session but one, a Bill dealing with the subject was carried by a majority of 110. Behind it all lay the desire, not of Non-conformists only, but of those who conducted and managed their Burial Boards, and who found themselves always at a loss to which of the two or three Acts of Parliament dealing 1046 with the subject they should apply. In 1880 there was a great step taken in advance on this question. Then Nonconformists got conceded to them a great privilege—the right to be buried in consecrated ground. For his own part, he always regretted that these concessions had to be wrung from the clergy. They ought to be generously given as simple matters of justice. Since that date a more liberal spirit had arisen. Five or six Bishops, some gone, some living, had expressed themselves in favour of abolishing consecration now that they had got cemeteries, and were not restricted to burials in churchyards. But the clergy thought, and perhaps not unnaturally, that in consecrated ground they ought to possess all their old privileges. This Bill proposed that the rite of consecration should confer no privilege or disability or obligation, but that it should be purely and simply a religious rite. He trusted hon. Gentlemen opposite would see that that demand was not an unreasonable one, seeing that so many Bishops themselves felt it was just, and that many of them refused to consecrate and dedicated instead. Clause 2 provided that a cemetery or part of a cemetery might be consecrated by the Church of England, or by any other church or denomination. Clause 3 gave power to the burial authority to provide buildings for the performance of burial services, and, whether consecrated or not, they could be available to all the people. This question of the consecration of chapels had led to a great deal of bitter contention in different parts of the country. He thought no one could see these two chapels in a burial ground, frowning at each other, without feeling that our religion was not represented by them, but dishonoured by them. This Bill would obviate that, for it would allow one chapel, and that chapel to be used by all parties. He thought it was little short of a scandal that they could not co-operate in the solemn services over the dead. It was not only the clergy that suffered from this exclusive spirit, but Christianity itself largely suffered in the eyes of the people. Clause 4 provided that the Bishop's authority should not be required for the plan of any building or as to the fitness of any tomb, monument, or monumental inscription. He thought that was a very just and necessary provision. The plans of buildings, tombs, 1047 and so forth, should surely be in the hands of a responsible secular authority—the authority the people had elected to carry the work out. Clause 5 dealt with the burial of paupers or lunatics in consecrated ground; and Clause 6 reserved existing rights to perform duties and receive fees. Subject to this, however, the right of any minister, incumbent, parish clerk, sexton, or other person holding a parochial office to perform any duties or to receive any fees in respect of any burial or any purpose in connection with the use of a public burial ground should absolutely cease after the commencement of the Act. This provision, in his opinion, would remove one of the chief sources of annoyance and objection, and one of the chief reasons why funerals were made so expensive. There was also a provision enabling the burial authority to make arrangements for the payment of fees by agreement with those entitled to receive them. There were further Amendments of the old Act, which he considered of great importance. These proposed to lengthen the time during the day in which a, funeral might take place; that shorter notice might be given that a funeral was to take place; and that, when notice was given of a change in the time at which a burial was to take place, it might take place on Sunday, Good Friday, or Christmas Day. He thought this would be a great convenience to the working classes, for on such days they did not lose a day's labour, and would be able to have around them their friends to administer the comfort and consolation customary on such occasions. There were also Amendments abolishing those small distinctions which belonged to other times and not to their day. The Bill left the fees as they were at present, though this was a very sore question in the country. Burial Boards felt it as well as other people. The Select Committee had reported very summarily and drastically on the necessity of abolishing those fees. He might mention that the Vicar of Hampstead had received £700 a year for the last ten years from fees, while the Vicar of Weston-super-Mare had received over £11,000 for interments. When he read this Return for the first time he was not surprised at the strong objection of clergymen and others to Disestablishment and Disendowment. During the five years 1048 ending 30th September 1892, the inhabitants of the City of London paid £2,632; of Islington, £2,038; of Lambeth, £1,496; of Paddington, £2,889. Brompton Cemetery yielded to the clergy the large sum of £8,092; and for only 717 interments in the Metropolitan cemeteries the clergy received no less than about £27,000, or about £5,400 a year. And what services were rendered in return? None! None at all! One sect, and one sect only had this advantage, simply because the law allowed it, and he denounced this as a wrong against fairness and freedom. Dissenting ministers had been tempted with the same fees for interments in unconsecrated ground. When funerals on unconsecrated ground increased because the fees were less, Burial Boards had illegally offered equal fees on the unconsecrated to those on the consecrated side, but for his part he would be ashamed of any Nonconformist minister who would take them. What he would like in a matter of this kind, and he really thought it would be the proper and Christian method under the circumstances would be that the friends of the deceased should make a voluntary or freewill offering to mark their respect for the minister who conducted the service, to show their belief in him as guide and friend. To exact a fee by law was one thing, to receive a free gift of love and respect from the community was quite another thing. The fundamental mistake the Church made was to exact these fees as a legal charge. Not by such compulsory powers did the Church gain credit and influence, the Church lost more than it gained in the moral and Christian respect of the community at large. He thought he need not go further into this question, and would only remind the House of what Bishops of the Church of England had said in relation to the subject; and, in citing these authorities, he might be allowed to say he held them in high personal respect, he had read some of their writings, and perhaps knew as much of them as did many of those who were opposing the Bill. First he quoted the late Archbishop Tait, a name respected all over the Christian world, and especially respected in the schools of this country and among its schoolmasters. Speaking in Debate in 1880, the late Archbishop Tait, referring 1049 to a cemetery with two chapels, said it wasA proclamation to the whole world of the differences between the Church and Dissenters, and he should not regret if the instances of that proclamation were not multiplied.Then the present Archbishop of Canterbury—and, surely, here again was a man who was held in respect by hon. Gentlemen opposite—had pronounced on this subject in very definite language. In referring to probable alterations in the Burial Laws, Archbishop Temple said:—It would be necessary in providing for the future to do away with the distinction between consecrated and unconsecrated ground. It would not be possible in future to compel the erection in cemeteries of separate chapels for the services of the Church of England. Nor could he say it would be desirable. The very existence of the two chapels in a cemetery was a scandal and a reproach.The late Bishop of Manchester, Dr. Fraser, whom he had had the honour of meeting more than once on platforms and elsewhere, a man of sterling character, and an honour to the Church, when consecrating a cemetery at Accrington, said:—There is only one thing that gives me pain, and that is when I look round this cemetery and see three chapels standing there, which are so many witnesses that Christian people are not all of one mind; that the distinctions which part them in life are, unhappily, continued after death.On another occasion Bishop Fraser said:—I do hope the day will come when Churchmen, Nonconformists, and Roman Catholics may at last agree to use the same building set apart for the holy purpose of reading a service over the dead.The late Bishop of Ely expressed views to the same effect, and he performed the ceremony of dedication, instead of consecrating cemeteries. The same might be said of others he could name. He thought he need say no more. He commended the Bill as a Measure for allaying the contention on this subject between the Church and Dissent, and as a clear guide to burial authorities throughout the country. It would save ratepayers a large amount of money, and he did not know how it would in any way injure anybody, except that it would destroy a monopoly that never should have been allowed to exist, a monopoly that was discreditable to any church 1050 or chapel participating in it. He moved that the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ *MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts,) Mansfield
hoped the House would not be led to draw an erroneous inference from the two facts that he happened to be one of the promoters of the Bill, and that the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division (Mr. Griffith-Boscawen) had given notice to move the rejection of the Bill. He differed fundamentally from the hon. Member on the question of Disestablishment; but this Bill raised no such issue as that, and was strictly limited in its object. It might be discussed, and ought to be discussed, quite outside the wider question of Disestablishment. In the Debate which took place two years ago the hon. Member for the Hyde Division (Mr. J. W. Sidebotham), in a speech of remarkable frankness, made an important admission. He said, and truly said,that it was the greatest mistake in the world to suppose that Churchmen were not as much interested as Nonconformists in the settlement of this question.The hon. Member went even further than that, for he contended that the privileges granted to the clergy under the existing lawwere not wanted, nor even valued by those who possessed them, and there was no reason why they should not be removed by law.He could state dozens of facts showing that dissatisfaction with the existing law was not confined to Nonconformists, but was shared by a large number of Churchmen; but he would mention only two. Before the late Home Secretary went out of office he was waited upon by a deputation from various Burial Boards throughout the country, to complain of the excessive fees paid to clergymen and others for burials in the consecrated parts of cemeteries; which fees the deputation declared were unjust, because no service was rendered in return. He had nothing whatever to do with that deputation, and was not previously aware of the arrangement. It was introduced by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and that fact sufficiently indicated its non-party and non-denominational character. The second fact was yet more striking. Such was the antipathy in some parts of the country to the present law in regard to 1051 consecration, that Burial Boards, or Parish Councils, had actually entered into agreement with local Churchmen, clergy, and the Bishop of the diocese to contract themselves out of the Burial Acts, and by legal agreement the clergy waived their claim to rights and fees under those Acts. The only objection he had to this contracting out was that it was merely a makeshift arrangement, and it did not bind the successors to the present incumbents and others, so that troubles might arise hereafter. But such arrangements served to show how great was the dislike to the existing system, and how it was regarded even by those who might be supposed to be among its defenders. The promoters of the Bill had approached this subject, this in some respects painful subject, in a strictly practical spirit, and with a sincere desire to put an end, so far as the law could do it, to all contention in connection with the sacred duty of the interment of the dead. It would be a mistake on the part of opponents of the Bill to suppose that any provisions they found in it were dictated by a desire to wound the feelings of Churchmen, or to do injury to the Church of England. There was not a single provision in the Bill that could not be justified by the experience of several years past, as being necessary to remedy some existing and admitted grievance, or remove some defect in the existing law. It was only because the authors of the Bill had wished to be comprehensive and to do their work thoroughly that some of the objections were taken. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think he could give a better proof of the bona fides of the authors of the Bill than by calling attention to the alterations which had been made since the Bill was introduced in 1895. This was not precisely the same Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] It differed from the Bill of 1895, because the authors had taken into careful consideration the objections urged against certain provisions in that Bill. For instance, it was strongly objected to the Bill of 1895 that it gave compulsory powers to burial authorities for the purchase of land for cemeteries. Such powers they believed were greatly needed, but they belonged really to a much larger question, the land question, and were not necessary to the burials question, and so it had not been deemed 1052 desirable to press that provision on the present occasion. Another objection was raised to the prohibition of all distinguishing marks between the consecrated and unconsecrated parts of cemeteries. That was a matter which might be safely left to local feeling, and therefore that provision had disappeared from the present Bill. Then strong objection was taken to the proposal that the expenses of consecration should not be defrayed out of public funds. It had been thought not worth while to urge that point against objection, and so that provision had been omitted. He referred to these facts to make good his statement that the authors of the Bill had tried to display that "sweet reasonableness" of which the late Matthew Arnold was a distinguished apostle. He did not know whether it was too much to hope that the opposition to the Bill would not be based on the same extraordinary misconceptions, and the same forgetfulness of existing facts, as characterised the Debate of 1895. The greatest offender in that respect was a right hon. and learned Gentleman no longer a Member of the House; he had been promoted to another place—the then Mr. Matthews, at one time Home Secretary. He actually spoke of the Bill as depriving the members of the Church of England of the possibility of having funeral rites in new cemeteries in accordance with their convictions; while there was not a line in the Bill to justify such a statement. He also spoke of consecrated chapels being open for Mahommedan and Pagan services, and the noble Lord the Member for Rochester added "infidel or atheistic;" both of them forgetting that the Burials Act, 1880, expressly provided that all services in consecrated ground and chapels should be "orderly and Christian;" so that infidel services were altogether prohibited. Then another hon. and learned Gentleman, of whose services the House had not yet been deprived, the present Attorney General, asked how clergymen could regard with equanimity burial services wholly unconnected with their Church; he also forgetting that that was the principle on which the Burials Act of 1880 was based, and was not one of the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) objected to burial services while services were proceeding in church; not knowing appa 1053 rently that that was prohibited by the Act of 1880. He also imagined that the regulation of burial fees was one of the duties of the Home Office; whereas the Home Secretary had no more power to interfere with the clerical fees than anybody else; and finally, Mr. Matthews made the egregious double mistake of saying that the consecrated chapels in cemeteries were built out of the funds of the Church, which no longer would have the use of them. He recalled those blunders by way of warning to those Gentlemen opposite who apparently continued to offer implacable opposition to the Bill. For this was one of the statements which, according to The Times, was to be found in a paper containing objections to the Bill. The Bill, they were told, proposed, among other things, "to throw open all existing consecrated burial grounds and mortuary chapels (besides those consecrated after the passing of the Bill) to all persons alike, including non-Christians." If all that was meant by that was, that all persons would have the right of burial in parochial burial places, and in consecrated ground, that was no more than existed under the present law, and in churchyards as well as cemeteries. If, however, it meant that the Bill would authorise non-Christian services, the statement could only be described as absolutely untrue. One of the objections which would be taken to the Bill was, that it made consecration dependent on the will of Burial Boards, instead of being compulsory, as it now was. But had those who took that objection forgotten that that was the principle on which what was known as "Marten's Act" was based? Under that Act sanitary authorities were left absolutely at liberty to have consecration or no consecration, to have what chapels they liked, or no chapels at all. That Act also completely ignored the parochial clergy, and gave them no claim whatever to fees. If the opponents of the Church Establishment had drafted that Act it could hardly have been more drastic. Well, but who brought in, and who passed, that Act? Not those who sat on that side of the House. Mr. Marten was a Conservative Member and a Churchman. It was supported by all his Party. It passed the House of Lords, and was assented to by the Bishops. In this Bill they were 1054 adopting the very principle which the Church Party of 1879 deliberately adopted, and if that principle now excited indignation, the indignation should be directed to the right quarter, and not be used to excite prejudice against this Bill. Those who wished to pass it wanted to give the same powers to all burial authorities as Marten's Act gave to sanitary authorities. The Local Government Act unfortunately did not include the Act among the Acts which might be adopted by Parish Councils; and the members of those now, and often very vigorous, bodies strongly objected to be bound by the rigorous provisions of the Burial Acts. They were living under two sets of contradictory burial laws, administered by two different Government Departments. One system was, to a large extent, based on principles of liberty and justice; while the other system violated both; and he challenged the party which carried Marten's Act to give good and sufficient reasons why the principles which they maintained in 1879 should not be reaffirmed 18 years later. If asked what were the cardinal principles of the Measure, he replied that they were two. The first was the principle of local option. That, as he had shown, was a principle already adopted by the Legislature. Several members of the Episcopal Bench, instead of being shocked at the fact, had cheerfully acquiesced in both Marten's Act and the Act of 1880. It was not for him to say whether the Bishops were right or wrong in not attaching the same supreme degree of importance to consecration as some other Churchill en did. He wished to call attention to the mode in which the question was dealt with in this Bill. Instead of denying to Churchmen the right to have cemeteries consecrated, it facilitated consecration by removing existing objections to consecration. How did it do that? Why, simply by stripping consecration of its present legal and financial accidents, and placing it on the footing of a religious rite only. It was a mistake to suppose that the supporters of this Bill wished to deprive members of the Church of England of any comfort or satisfaction which they might derive from consecration. They objected only to the exclusive rights, the legal privileges, and the claim to unjust exactions which now attach to consecration. Take 1055 those away, and there was no reason why every cemetery should not be consecrated, aye, every yard of it; because the fact of consecration would not injure a single inhabitant. The Attorney General, when this Measure was last before the House, made a very significant reference to the question of fees. He said that there was very little about fees in the Bill, and very little had been said about them in the Debate. Then he made the admission that, as to the mode of levying fees, perhaps some Churchmen might desire to see a change as much as any Dissenters. He would like to know what the grievance was, and see if a remedy could be proposed on broad and general lines. He (the speaker) was very glad to find that that was a point on which the hon. and learned Gentleman had an. open mind; and he would explain what was the grievance complained of by the promoters of this Bill. The Established clergy were entitled to receive, by ancient custom, fees of various kinds in connection with parochial churchyards. It was not proposed to deal with them by the Bill, much as they needed dealing with. But when a churchyard was closed, and a cemetery provided at the expense of the ratepayers, then the same fees which were payable in the churchyard were made payable in the consecrated part of the cemetery—fees to the incumbent, fees to the clerk, fees to the sexton—for all time. In some cases these fees were so high as to be very burdensome to bereaved relatives. In some places the aggregate of these fees was so large as to practically involve a loss to the parish which had provided the cemetery. The Vicar of Hampstead had received no less than £10,500 from a cemetery on which there had been a loss to the inhabitants of £15,000. He asked the House to pass the Measure without further delay, because, as churchyards were in many places rapidly filling up, the necessity for new burial places was constantly increasing. The creation of new District Councils and of Parish Councils had placed power, in regard to burial matters, in new hands, and the new bodies were much more hostile to the existing law than were the old Burial Boards. Several Burial Boards had refused to apply to the Bishops to consecrate any part of their cemeteries, and it had been necessary to apply to the Courts 1056 for a mandamus to compel them to do so; so that consecration and litigation had been associated in the most incongruous fashion. That fact led him to make an appeal to the present Home Secretary and to the Government. He was sure that this process of mandamasing Burial Boards must be as disagreeable to him as it was to his predecessor. Both could plead that they were simply carrying out the law; but, if the law were objectionable, would it not be better to amend than to enforce it? This Government had professed great anxiety to promote social reforms. Well, here was a question which surely could be treated on social and non-political grounds. In 1877 Mr. Disraeli's Administration made a courageous effort to consolidate the Burial Laws; but when the House of Lords adopted an Amendment embodying the principle afterwards adopted in the Act of 1880, the courage of the Government failed them and they abandoned the Measure. If this Government would undertake the task of first amending, and then consolidating, the Burial Acts he could promise them a large measure of support from outside. He also ventured to make an appeal in another quarter. The hon. Member who was going to move the rejection of the Bill and those associated with him sincerely desired to promote the reform of the Church to which they were attached. He asked them if they were likely to promote their object by resisting other changes, which were in harmony with the spirit of the times, and which were desired by multitudes of Churchmen no less than by Nonconformists? The Church of England had in past times lost much of natural sympathy and support by maintaining unjust privileges, and no less unjust exactions. Now, if ever, was the time when it should display a broader and more equitable spirit; that it might secure the respect, if not the adhesion, of all classes of the community.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
moved to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the question to add the words "upon this day six months." He said he would not approach this subject in, any sectarian or party spirit. He entirely agreed that on that side of the House they ought, as far as they could, to try and remove the legitimate grievances in religious matters of hon. Members opposite just as they looked 1057 to them to help them in the reforms in the Church which they desired. He opposed this Bill because really only a small part of it was devoted to the removal of any grievances, the greater part being devoted to a sort of guerilla warfare against the Church of England. The hon. Member who had just spoken said no question of Disestablishment was raised. He admitted that the question of Disestablishment was not raised directly, but the greater part of the Bill was devoted to a series of most unwarrantable, unjustifiable, and petty attacks on the rights of the Church of England. ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that parishioners and ratepayers in general had a grievance with regard to mortuary fees in cemeteries. If the Bill had confined itself to remedying this grievance he should not have opposed it. But that, grievance was greatly over-rated. It was all very well to say "Why" should the incumbent receive these fees when no services are rendered. But these fees took the place of the fees for interments in churchyards which were compulsorily closed, and were, therefore, part of the endowment of the parish, and to take this away without compensation would be practically a measure of disendowment. Nonconformists were allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, but they need not be, and if they were so buried it was only reasonable that they should pay the fees. Now he would examine some of the attacks which the Bill made on the Church of England. In the first place it proposed that consecration should not take place in any burial ground in future without the consent of the Burial Board.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said he was aware of that in the case of Marten's Act, but the principle was a bad one, and he did not see why that bad principle in a Sanitary Act should be extended to the case of all Burial Boards. Let the House think what the result would be. Churchmen had a feeling that they would like to be buried in consecrated ground, and why should they not be? ["Hear, hear!"] Was it to be left to Burial Boards to decide whether they should be buried in consecrated ground or not? If Churchmen happened to be in a minority on the Burial Board the result would be that funerals of Church people could not take place in consecrated 1058 ground. Let the House consider the inequality. By the Burials Act of 1880 Nonconformists could be buried in the parish churchyards with Nonconformist rites. Why, in the name of religious equality, put disabilities on the Churchmen which it was sought to remove in the case of Nonconformists? Then the Bill would make consecrated grounds open to everybody, and cemetery chapels, which had been built at the expense of the Church of England. Clause 3 of the Bill practically abrogated the provision that there should be "a Christian and orderly service." So Jews, Turks, and infidels could use the consecrated ground of the Church of England.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Certainly not. But they would be thrown absolutely open in the future, and how Christian and orderly services could be guaranteed he did not know.
§ *MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS
said that Section 6 of the Burials Act of 1880 said thatthe burial may be with such Christian and orderly religious service at the grave as such person shall think fit.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said he was not a lawyer, but he thought any Court of Law would say that the words in the Bill abrogated that clause. If they did not, Jews, Turks, or infidels could be buried in consecrated ground with the use of the Christian service. He could imagine nothing more illogical or incongruous. The Bill excluded the Bishops from having any control over plans, buildings, or inscriptions. It was not a matter of great importance, but it was one to which Church-people attached value, and he regarded the proposal in the Bill as a gratuitous attack on the Church of England, and not a remedy of any grievance. The object of the second part of the Bill was "to remove difficulties and doubts arising out of the operation of the Act of 1880." He was much surprised that it should be necessary to remove any doubts or difficulties, because when the right hon. Member for Denbighshire moved the Second Reading of the Bill of 1880, he said,I rise to move the Second Reading of a Bill which I trust will have closed one of the most painful and long controversies that have harassed this House.1059 Yet here was the right hon. Member again, 15 years after, with his name on the back of the present Bill to remove difficulties and doubts. But he himself contended that it did not remove doubts or difficulties, but created a great many. Lord Llandaff stated that during the six years he was at the Home Office he was only cognisant of three or four discreditable scenes such as had been referred to. When these scenes took place, it was because the clergy would not obey the law; but did the hon. Member and his Friends think they were going to get the clergy to obey the law by creating fresh illegalities? They proposed to reduce the time of the notice that must be given to the incumbent from 48 to 24 hours, but the 48 hours' limit was rightly put in by the Lord Chancellor of a Liberal Government in the House of Lords, and he had never heard a single complaint against it. The suggestion that the bell was to be tolled was a step to enable hon. Members to get from the churchyard to the church. One of the worst provisions in the Bill was that these funerals were as a matter of right to take place on Sundays, Christmas Days, and Good Fridays, although, with the consent of all parties, that was expressly prohibited in the Act of 1880. In cases where the incumbent signified that it would be inconvenient to have the funeral at the time suggested, it might take place on these days, and the bell might be tolled and a Nonconformist funeral might be going on in the churchyard at the same time that there was a service in the church. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members talked about disliking these scenes, and they all did, but he thought a quicker method for creating such objectionable scenes than this could not be devised. He submitted that it would raise every sort of passion, and create every sort of scene, and he therefore asked the House to reject the Bill. Then they proposed to take away from the clergyman his right of control of the churchyard, which was a most unreasonable interference with the rights of the incumbent. The real fact was that the Act of 1880 had proved almost a dead letter. ["Hear, hear!"] It was born of a manufactured grievance, and now they wanted to tinker it up. When the right hon. Baronet brought in his Bill he said there were no less than 600,000 Nonconformists in Wales alone affected by the 1060 grievance. But in 1889 in the Diocese of St. Asaph there were 3,618 funerals performed by the clergy, and only 251 under his Act. If they took the five years from 1885 to 1890 they would find that out of 208 parishes in that diocese, in, 18 only two of these funerals took place, in 30 only one, and in 94 none took place at all. The statistics showed therefore that the grievance was practically nonexistent. Perhaps the worst clause in the whole Bill was Clause 11, which, it seemed to him, meant that an incumbent holding Church property, such as glebe land in the parish, might not make an addition to the churchyard, or that if he did it would become a public burial ground—["hear, hear!"]—although the churchyard might be overcrowded. He thought that was a piece of the most intolerable tyranny ever proposed. ["Hear, hear!"] They were attempting to subject the Church of England to a disability that no man would dream of subjecting any other body to. They on that side of the House did not wish to stop the remedying of any real religious grievance. If hon. Members had a grievance about fees let them bring in a short Bill about fees, and they would not oppose it. But this Bill was a series of mean, petty, and unwarranted attacks on the Church of England, and he therefore asked the House to reject it. He begged to move his Amendment.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
seconded the Amendment. He did so on two grounds: first, that the Bill was a needless stirring up of strife; and, secondly, that it sprang from a failure to apprehend the religious position of other people. He had been engaged for a great many years in these burial controversies, and they were amongst the most melancholy of his recollections. He regretted that the right hon. Member for East Denbighshire was not able to be present, but if he had been present he should have appealed to him in a manner in which he could hardly appeal to other hon. Members, for the right hon. Member had the credit—great, no doubt, from his point of view—of having settled this question. But if the question had been settled in 1880 it surely ought not to be raked up again in the time, of the same generation which settled it. It seemed to him that there ought to be some sort of finality—at any rate, a modified 1061 finality, if he might use the expression—on a subject of this kind, and that the time of Parliament should not be perpetually occupied with these questions. Of course, no great question on which men's minds were deeply agitated could be settled entirely to the satisfaction of both sides, and it was notorious that the settlement of 1880 was very painful to many on that side of the House. But they took their defeat like men, and he earnestly appealed to the House not to upset that settlement. His second point against the Bill, which he considered the more serious, was the evidence it afforded of the failure of its supporters to appreciate the religious convictions of other people. ["Hear, hear!"] It. was assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite that while Nonconformists had consciences, Church-people had none—[laughter and "hear, hear!"]—and that while the most scrupulous respect was to be paid to the grievances of the Nonconformists, that while they had only to state a grievance to have it removed, if such removal inflicted a hardship on the consciences of Church-people, that grievance was to be entirely ignored. That was not fair play, to put the matter on no higher ground. ["Hear, hear!"] If two sides disputed a question, and if one side, while insisting on having all their scruples attended to, refused to pay the slightest regard to the scruples of the other side, it was hopeless to expect a satisfactory settlement of the dispute. ["Hear, hear!"] Take the question of consecrated ground. It was a matter of conscience to a great many people to have consecrated ground in which to bury their dead; and if an Act of Parliament were passed declaring that there should be throughout the country districts in which there could be no consecrated ground for burials, it would put upon the conscience of Church-people the same kind of grievance as was alleged to be put upon Nonconformists if they were not provided with ground in which to bury their dead according to their own rites. ["Hear, hear!"] The Church of England, being the Established Church of the country, was the established exponent of Christianity to this land. Its services might be supposed to be in a sense the services of the whole nation. [Opposition cheers.] Then why should they not consider the spirit of those services with respect? And if they did not 1062 consider them with respect they struck a serious blow at the consciences and convictions of a great number of people. ["Hear, hear!"] He would not say that if the Bill were passed every dissenting funeral would be conducted in the church yards on Sundays in such a manner as to make them most offensive to the feelings of Church-people. But he did say that there were Nonconformists in this country—he did not mean religious Nonconformists, for Nonconformists were not all religious any more than all Church-people were religious—who would not scruple so to arrange matters that the funeral would take place at the beginning or at the end of the Church services, and so interefere with those services as to be an offence to the consciences of Churchmen. He, therefore, asked the House not to pass the Bill—first, because it was not a case for Parliamentary interference at all, the matter having been settled within the memory of them all; and, secondly, because it would tend to further embitter religious controversies which they all deplored, and which it should be their object to soothe rather than to inflame.
§ *MR. R. W. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said he regretted that the ignoble task of seconding the rejection of this Bill should have fallen to the lot of the Member for a distinguished University, which in bygone years had so often played such a conspicuous part in the assertion of the religious and civil rights of this country. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman had spoken of what he had called "modified finality in legislation." But he would point out that the House had been for several Sessions engaged in amending the land laws of Ireland and the educational laws of this country, which, according to the hon. Gentleman, should have been laid aside altogether and not interfered with, on this theory of Parliamentary settlement. He would remind the hon. Gentleman also that when the Burial Act of 1880 passed through the House of Commons, and went up to the House of Lords, the Liberal Lord Chancellor, Lord Selborne, stated, on behalf of the Government of the day, that the Measure was imperfect, and required rectification in some important particulars. The hon. Gentleman asked what was the object of Clause 11. It was to prevent a colourable evasion of the Act of 1880. It had been found in 1063 many parts of the country that the clergy, anxious to maintain their spiritual authority, such as it was, over the churchyards, but more anxious to retain their emoluments in the shape of fees, and in order to defeat the Act of 1880, which gave Nonconformist ministers the right to go into a parochial churchyard and conduct their services, had been in the habit of taking bits of glebeland or buying other pieces of land and adding them to the churchyards, and vesting them in trustees, and thus preventing Nonconformists from conducting their services in those parts of the parochial churchyards. It was gratifying to the supporters of the Bill to find that the duty of stating the views of the Government had been relegated to the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of the Home Office, who had often expressed sympathy with the objects of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was the one man who in Committee on the Burials Act of 1880 objected to the provision which required Christian and orderly services in the consecrated portions of churchyards and cemeteries, and who moved an Amendment to exclude from the Bill that very clause which hon. Gentlemen opposite regarded as their palladium and chief protection. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman then said:—No Burials Bill could be satisfactory which deprived any section of the community of their civil rights on account of their religious opinions.The right hon. Gentleman further claimed thatJews, Atheists, Theists, Positivists, Secularists, and all who did not choose to call themselves by the name of Christianshould have the right of conducting their services in those churchyards and cemeteries without any religious service; and he wound up by declaring:—As Nonconformists who had not forgotten their own trials, they objected to co-operate with their former persecutors—the hon. Gentlemen who now sat behind the right hon. Gentleman—" in the prosecution of classes not included in the scope of the Bill."
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. JESSE COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
All dealing with the civil rights of individuals.
§ *MR. PERKS
said it dealt with the rights of Jews, Atheists, Theists, Positivists, Secularists, to conduct funeral services in the consecrated portions of churchyards and graveyards without this restriction, that they must be "Christian and orderly." He thought, therefore, they could rely on the right hon. Gentleman to support this Measure, and not to do as he had done last Wednesday, when he opposed a Bill for the benefit of the working classes in the teeth of his former declarations. The supporters of the Bill did not object to the consecration of cemeteries; they acknowledged that it would be an anomaly if provision were not made for those desiring to be buried in consecrated ground. He had heard the noble Lord, the Member for Rochester, express great admiration for Wesley. ["Hear, hear!" from VISCOUNT CRANBORNE.] The Wesleyan Church had declared over and over again in favour of this Bill. Wesley attached no importance to the ceremony of consecration.
§ *MR. PERKS
said that he would read Wesley's own words:—I never wished that any Bishop should consecrate any chapel or burial ground of mine. Indeed, I should not dare to suffer it, as I am clearly persuaded that the thing is wrong in itself, being not authorised by any law of God or law of the land. In consequence of which I conceive that the clerk or sexton might as well consecrate the church or churchyard as the Bishop. With regard to the churchyard, I know not who could answer this plain question. 'You say this is consecrated ground so many feet broad and so many feet long. Pray how deep is the consecrated ground?' 'Deep! What does that signify? A great deal, for if my grave is dug too deep I may happen to get out of the consecrated ground, and who can tell what unhappy consequences may follow from this.… I take the whole practice to be a mere relic of Romish superstition.He admitted that great importance was attached to consecration by many persons; for instance, he knew of a man who would have been cremated but for the fact that the funeral urn could not be consecrated. But there, was nothing in the Bill to prevent the consecration of a portion of the cemetery.
§ *MR. PERKS
said that it would be a fair Amendment of the Bill to provide that a portion of the cemetery should be consecrated, if a certain proportion of the inhabitants demanded it. But that should not carry with it the obligation to pay large fees to clergy for services not rendered. Cases of intolerable hardship were much more frequent in the rural districts than hon. Gentlemen opposite supposed. They were almost of daily occurrence. In the Division which he represented a late Chairman of an important Parish Council was buried in an obscure portion of the graveyard, because his friends insisted on a Nonconformist service. There were cases where the bell could not be tolled, where extra fees to the extent of 10s. were imposed on Nonconformists, where the use of the bier or the services of the sexton were denied. Some years ago, at a place called Martin, in Lincolnshire, the mourners at a. Nonconformist funeral had to lower the coffin into the grave themselves, because the sexton was not there. Complaint was made to the Bishop of Lincoln, who said that, while he should have advised the sexton to be present, the law of the land did not require his presence. If the Church of England were to prosper as a spiritual force, it would not be by the perpetuation of these acts of petty tyranny, but by such a moderate Amendment of the law as would enable the rural communities to live in harmony.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)
said that this was not the first time he had addressed the House on this subject. He found that he had submitted observations to the House no less than 25 years since, when one of the Members for Yorkshire. Hon. Members seemed to forget that the Acts of 1870 and 1880 were both the work of Liberal Governments, and that the latter Measure was the end of a long and bitter controversy. It was hoped that these melancholy Debates would be ended by the Bill introduced by Lord Selborne, and supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the majority of the Bishops in 1880. Mr. John Bright said, with respect to that Bill,I think the time has come when we ought to close the door upon this controversy and settle it at once and for ever.1066 It was therefore very disappointing to find the whole question reopened at this day. But the settlement of 1880 had not been in vain. Remembering the Debates of those days, he could not help contrasting the position then and now. At that time the Nonconformists had grievances; and in 1872 he spoke in disapproval of the continuance of the law which gave rise to those grievances. There was now a very different state of affairs. The contrast between the grievances which were brought forward then and the allegation of grievances now was, indeed, amazing. At that time there was a complaint as to the want of burial grounds, and in 1879 Sir A. Marten introduced a Bill dealing with the subject. That Bill was spoken of with contempt, and in the year 1880 they were told that that legislation was dead. He found, however, on referring to the Local Government Board's Report of last year that the loans under that Act had reached £576,855 and was yearly increasing, £37,134 having been borrowed during the year to which the Report relates. He wished to refer briefly to one or two of the complaints made by the Mover of the Second Reading. The hon. Member referred to the hours, and said they were now so short that there was often hurry and confusion. In his opinion, the hours were sufficient. In conducting these sad ceremonials there was, in all classes of life, often a great want of punctuality, and he believed that some restriction of hours which would cause greater regularity would be a gain rather than a loss to the community. The hon. Member spoke of the convenience to the working classes it would be to have burials on Sunday. The hon. Gentleman entirely forgot the comfort of the congregation whose parish church he wished to use. He did not know anything more calculated to give pain to Nonconformists and Church-people alike, and to cause that friction which they all desired to remove, than having a burial service on the Sunday about the time that the services in the church were being conducted. He shrank from even the contemplation of the difficulties which must arise, and which would increase rather than diminish, where there was a kindly feeling between the two classes of the community. The same remark applied to Good 1067 Friday and Christmas Day. The Mover of the Second Heading spoke of those days being holidays. They might be holidays in one sense, but they were sacred days to members of the Church of England, and they were exactly the days when the members of that Church would least desire to have such services as were proposed celebrated in the churchyard. The hon. Gentleman referred to the use of the bell. He was surprised that the hon. Member, who was, he believed, in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church, should desire to use the bell. He hoped the hon. Gentleman's desire to use the bell would create a wish in him to preserve the Church some portions of whose ceremonials he regarded as of value to the community. He admitted the question of fees required attention, but he did not follow with any sympathy the criticism as to a £5 fee for a railing round a grave. Personally, he would substitute for a fee entire prohibition. He knew nothing more unseemly in a churchyard, and in graveyards belonging to Burial Boards, than these hideous railings round tombs. But if he objected to dealing with the question of fees as the hon. Member proposed, it was partly because he could not separate such a suggestion from the general attack upon the Church of England. As regarded the consecration of chapels, he felt that hon. Members opposite had not paid sufficient regard to the sentiments of Churchmen. He had no doubt there were some Churchmen who attached little importance to consecration; and, if he were cross-examined, he should be obliged to confess he belonged to that number. But he was bound to have regard for the feelings of others, and he knew perfectly well that appreciation of consecration was not confined to the highest and wealthiest classes. Turning again to the clauses of the Bill, he confessed he did not understand the meaning of the first clause. Was it intended that the parish churchyard should, on the passing of this Bill, cease to be the parochial burial ground? It certainly appeared to him that, under the words of the clause, the parish churchyard would entirely disappear. He trusted that before the Debate closed they would have a definition of the language of the clause, which to him was wholly unintelligible. Clause 4 took 1068 away from the bishop any power in respect to inscriptions and the fitness of monuments. A burial ground was a sacred place, and it appeared to him that nothing could be more in accord with the desire of those who had regard for sacred things than that some high ecclesiastical official should have a veto upon monumental inscriptions. Even under the present regulations there were many inscriptions which jarred upon one's sentiments, and he believed that some revision by the bishop would be a great advantage, not to one class of the community only, but to all. Under clause 10 the authorities were forbidden to assign particular parts of the churchyard to particular persons. He had received a letter from a vicar of a large parish in Yorkshire, in which the writer said that any clergyman who was so mean as to set apart any portion of the churchyard for particular burials deserved reproof. He was sure the condemnation which such conduct would receive would be sufficient to prevent such an occurrence. He did not say there were not in the Church of England a stray fanatic or two—[a laugh]—but to visit on the Church as a whole the errors of a few was a signal injustice which could not do good to any cause. He could not agree with what had been said as to the prohibition of dedication of land by public bodies to the purposes of a churchyard. He was greatly surprised that such proposals as were contained in the Bill should have been made in this Bill by the friends of religious liberty; but he found here, as often happened, that religious liberty and political tryranny went hand in hand. The Act of 1880 had not been in vain in its healing effect. That Act removed grievances; it satisfied sentiments which they revered. It was intended to close the controversy. This Bill removed no grievances; it satisfied no sentiment. It closed no old controversy, but opened a new one. It was said that no attack on the Church was meant, but he could not separate the Bill from those who proposed it. In the Bill dealing with the Welsh dioceses the clauses relating to burials were not the most fortunate, and did much to destroy the Bill. This Bill was an attack on all dioceses, English as well as Welsh, and one which could not succeed. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. JOHN BRIGG (Yorks, W.R., Keighley)
said that, while admitting a good deal of what had fallen from the hon. Member who represented Wigan to be full of good purpose and good intentions, and he was sure no one would give the hon. Gentleman more credit than he did for his distinguished efforts on behalf of what he thought to be right in the interest of the Church of England; he did not agree with all he had said, neither could he agree with much that had been said by the Member for Oxford University, who had put it distinctly to the House that there ought to be finality in this matter; at any rate, a modified finality, and had suggested that they should wait for another generation for any alteration in the law. That might be all very well for a Gentleman who represented a University, the associations of which had a tendency to cause people to lead a sleepy life, and think they might live long; but he and those for whom he spoke felt that the world was moving far too quickly for them to wait all that time for the Amendments they desired. It was absolutely necessary they should move with the times in which they lived. As a full explanation of the Bill had already been given he did not think it necessary to go into details; but he would say that the conditions under which the Burials Act was at present worked were full of great difficulty. In a place with which he was connected the clergy, for the sake of peace and quietness, had been quite willing to forego their fees in order that the Act might be carried out without ill feeling. That was, no doubt, generous conduct on their part, but as it could not be known how long the present Vicar would live, it was not thought desirable to adopt a compromise of that kind. There was undoubtedly great need of alteration, and of getting rid of the wrangling which now took place at funerals. ["Hear, hear!"] There was nothing in the Bill to interfere with religious sentiment. Only the legal position was to be changed. All that was asked was that the clergy should not be allowed to interfere and demand fees for services which they themselves did not render. The difficulties which arose in this way were often being thought of. The sayings and doings at weddings and funerals were neither forgiven nor forgotten. He could tell the House of a case in Keighley in which for 1070 the last seven years a lively contest had been carried on as to the consecration of a burial ground. In 1889 the Vestry empowered the Burial Board to purchase adjoining land to add to the unconsecrated part of the churchyard. The contest had been continued ever since, and at every vestry meeting there had been unseemly gatherings in the churchyard; and mobs of persons, standing or seated on the gravestones, were gathered for the purpose of electing to the Burial Board only members who held unconsecrated views. Eventually, the Home Office stopped the opening, and asked for plans showing the division of consecrated and unconsecrated ground. That, of course, caused more disturbance, and a division of parishes subsequently took place which caused still further trouble, and the Burial Board, fearing legal proceedings, sold to the Corporation under Marten's Act, the whole of the ground they had bought, and the purchase was approved by the Vestry, the Town Council, and the Local Government Board. No further difficulty was expected after this, but the matter was still unsettled. The Burial Board would continue to manage the old part of the ground, and as the old part was filled up it would cease to exist, and the two authorities would be merged into one. There was no objection on the part of the supporters of this Bill to consecration itself; the objection was to the legal position which consecration entitled members of the Church to take up. The power of an incumbent to exact fees for burials in his churchyard was oppressive in many cases. A case had been brought under his notice of a young girl who died away from home, and whose last wish was that she might be buried in the village churchyard where members of her family had been laid to rest, and where she, as a child, had played. But the clergyman raised objections on the ground that the girl was not a parishioner; and he claimed a very high fee for allowing the interment. In this case the relatives of the girl came forward and paid a very substantial sum, in order that the girl's last wish might be fulfilled. The question of consecration did not affect himself personally, for, owing to circumstances over which he had no control, he would not be buried in a churchyard. A former member of his family had quarrelled with the parish 1071 clergyman, and had given instructions that he should not be buried in the churchyard, and he was buried under a tree in a field; and that was where he should himself be buried. One of the elders of his family was once imprisoned in York Castle for six months for having kept away from church. It was high time that a change was made and more power given to the people. Behind demands for reforms such as this Bill would effect, members of the Church Party fancied they saw the ghost of Disestablishment stalking. He believed that if they could get rid of that apprehension many Members on the other side of the House would vote for Bills like the one now under discussion.
§ MR. J. W. SIDEBOTHAM (Cheshire, Hyde)
said that he had voted for the Second Heading of the Bill of 1895 because he approved its principle, although he disliked intensely many of its provisions. He could still more readily give his support to the present Bill, because many of the most objectionable features of its predecessor had been omitted from it or had undergone modification. The Bill was not, however, without imperfections, but these, he maintained, could be removed in Committee. The law respecting the consecration of cemeteries was in an exceedingly unsatisfactory state, and questions arose which caused keen religious controversies, resulting in bitterness and enmity. Under Marten's Act, which gave the local sanitary authority power over burial grounds, that authority could permit consecration or refuse to permit it, could build chapels, and make its own regulations about fees; but immediately it allowed a portion of the ground to be consecrated it lost its control over it; another authority stepped in, a Church of England chaplain was appointed; his salary had to be paid, the register of burials had to be kept by him, and a number of other consequences followed, including the chaplain's right to fees. All this was wrong, and they could not be surprised that, in these circumstances, local authority after local authority refused to permit any portion of their burial ground to be consecrated. That state of things constituted a serious injustice to Church-people, who were compelled to contribute their share towards the purchase of the ground, but who could not use it, because it was not 1072 consecrated. The special rights and privileges that accrued to clergymen of the Church of England when consecration took place ought to be done away with. He said so two years ago, and he then received a number of letters from clergymen approving the position which he took up. One clergyman wrote to him, saying:—Your speech was very clear and proportionately valuable. With its principles I agree thoroughly.Another said:—With your speech, as you may expect from our former talks, I thoroughly sympathise and agree.A third said:—I most thoroughly agree with all you say. It seems to me perfectly idiotic that the present state of affairs should be allowed to continue. It is Church-people far more than Nonconformists who are already, and will be more and more, the sufferers from the existing state of affairs. Personally I feel inclined to say let us have legislation at any cost.When the Bishop of Chester, in October last, was about to consecrate a portion of a cemetery in the district of Hyde he voluntarily abandoned the claim to special rights and privileges for the clergy of his church. The following was an extract from the deed of consecration:Whereas the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the Borough of Hyde … have acquired certain lands … and are desirous that a portion of the said cemetery shall be consecrated for the burial of the dead according to the rites and usages of the Church of England … that it has been agreed between the said Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses, and the Incumbents of the several ecclesiastical parishes or districts comprised in the said Borough, with our approval, that the salary of the chaplain appointed to officiate in the consecrated part of the cemetery shall be nominal, namely £1 per annum, and that such chaplain shall permit the clergy of each of the several parishes or districts aforesaid to officiate at any interment if the representative of the deceased so desire, and to receive upon each such interment such fees as shall from time time be fixed by the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses, or their successors, and shall permit any Nonconformist minister, being duly invited or authorised, to officiate at any interment in the consecrated portion of such cemetery, to receive upon each such interment such fees as aforesaid:—that it has been agreed that the Register of Burials shall be kept by the Registrar of the said cemetery … and that the fees in the consecrated portion of the said cemetery shall be the same as in the unconsecrated portions thereof.1073 It would be noticed that the Bishop gave up the chaplains and the salary of the chaplains, the fees and the registers, and the cost of consecration borne by the Church. It might be urged that if this arrangement could be carried out in Hyde it might be carried out in other places; but he knew what years and years of controversy had preceded the settlement in Hyde, and he wished to save other districts from the bitterness, controversy, and ill-feeling which had been created in the district he represented. All Bishops, moreover, might not be so wise or broad-minded, and local authorities might be more exacting than the local authority of Hyde. This was a question the House ought to take up and settle, carrying it out of the region of controversy altogether. The Church would do well to embrace the opportunity of settling the question, and the House would do a good day's work if it accepted, not in its details, but in its main and broad principle, the Measure now before it. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. R. PURVIS (Peterborough)
said he had among his constituents a large number of Nonconformists who, in common with himself, desired to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours on the points raised by the Bill. The Mover of the Bill raised a great many questions as to the doings of an ancient Bishop of Exeter and old unhappy far-off things and troubles long ago; but when it was seen that, the effect of this Bill would be to allow funerals in the churchyard to be carried out on such days as Christmas Day and Good Friday he believed that the House would come to the conclusion that the liberty sought for by a certain section of the community was to take liberty with their neighbours. The Act of 1880 was more or less a practical settlement of this question, and it seemed to him that this Bill was a mere fanning of the flame of religious controversy and the breaking out of that old disgraceful human failing—a desire on the part of religious bodies to show their hate of each other for the love of God. The throwing open of consecrated ground in the circumstances claimed appeared as if there was a desire to climb over the 1074 wall instead of going in by the gate. It should be remembered that the burial fees were part and parcel of the endowment of the Church, and the Bill sought to take away from the incumbent the control of the churchyard. Some one must have the control of the churchyard, and while we had an Established National Church he suggested that the best person to have the practical control of the churchyard was and must be the Incumbent. ["Hear, hear!"] This Bill sought to disturb the peace between Nonconformists and members of the Church of England. As far as he could gather, the real religious Nonconformists did not seek the change, but rather the Nonconformists who, in endeavouring to make what was supposed to be an improvement in the relations between them and the Church of England, sought in reality to cloak under this Measure political aims of the very worst kind. ["No, no!"]
§ *MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)
said that the hon. Member had been re-echoing the fears and apprehensions uttered during the discussions of 1880, and which had long been proved to be groundless, but which were honestly entertained by the opponents of the Bill of that day. The hon. Member for Wigan spoke of that Measure as having been generally accepted as a solution of the whole question, and as ensuring a permanent settlement involving peace between all parties. The hon. Member should, however, remember that the whole conduct of that Bill was marked by a spirit of compromise, and that they carried on their Debates under the shadow of threatened opposition in another place, a threat which was continually held over the House by those in charge of the Bill at that time. It was said that this Bill was promoted, not by Nonconformists generally, but by those who desired to cloak under religious Nonconformity political aims. This was an old charge. No one could be ignorant of the fact that the public and local life of the country was very much stirred under a sense of the injustice and inequality of the existing law. Why should this be? One could not help feeling that if hon. Members opposite addressed themselves to the question in a 1075 spirit of charitable equity, and with a desire to promote kindliness of feeling between those who differed on points of religious faith in different communities, a very great end would be achieved. What were the main points asked for? That in grounds provided by the general community out of public funds, where there was a division of cemetery ground, and where consecration was desired, consecration should be allowed; but the religious advantage that might be supposed, according to the sentiments of Churchmen, to attach to consecration, should not carry with it any pecuniary advantage to any class of the community such as might be supposed to attach to the vested rights of the clergy of the parish. By all means let this ground be marked out in the severest manner desired, but do not attach to it a privilege on the one hand and a penalty on the other. He raised the question of chapels in 1880, and it was only in deference to the apprehension and the strong opposition against the Bill, that his right hon. Friend in charge of the Measure was induced to refuse the insertion of the right to erect a single chapel for the use of all denominations in grounds provided at the general expense of the community. But hon. Members must be aware that in many parts of the country single chapels had been provided, in some cases with the consent of the Bishops and by general agreement; and, speaking from his own experience in Burslem, this arrangement had been accepted as convenient and as representing the general equity of the situation.
§ *MR. WOODALL
No; had it been consecrated it could only have been used by the adherents of one Church, and that was the main point of this Bill. Concede everything asked for—consecration, dedication—but only do not let that religious rite exclude from equal privileges the members of other communities. He thought it might fairly be said that since the passing of the Act of 1880 there had been no case of any kind of scandal, except where, from the obstinacy or Illiberality of Churchmen, such regrettable incidents had been provoked. He joined in the 1076 general expression of the hope that this Bill would be read a Second time, and that the House might go into Committee with a sincere desire to reconcile differences, and to avoid those scandals that were a great reflection on their common Christianity. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said those who were opposed to the Second Reading of this Bill, as he was, were placed in one respect in great difficulty, because undoubtedly there was a sentiment, a very honourable sentiment, prevailing in all parts of the House that in the presence of death, as far as possible, all minor questions should be laid aside. [Opposition cheers.] He for one had no sympathy whatever with that violent exercise of legal rights which had occasionally, but only very seldom, been seen in the case of certain clergymen of the Church of England. [Opposition cheers.] He had no sympathy whatever with such abuse of their legal position in order to outrage the feelings of Nonconformists in connection with the burial of deceased persons belonging to that faith. He resented very much the impression which had got abroad by the excesses of certain individuals among the ministry of the Church of England that they were a tyrannical or despotic Church. They were far from having those sentiments, and he should do his best, as he had done in the past, to restrain the outrageous conduct of certain rather rare individuals in their ministry in that respect. While he felt all that, he was not inclined to vote for this Bill, which in many respects was absolutely uncalled for. The mere fact that the present law was not perfect—and he was not concerned to say it was perfect—was not a reason for voting for the changes proposed in this Bill, almost every one of the clauses of which would require to be vitally amended. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said, for example, that they had respected vested interests, that they had saved the rights of existing incumbents. Yes; they had saved the rights of existing incumbents, but not the existing rights of the Church. The rights of the present incumbents were very important, no doubt, but the rights of the Church as a whole were far more important, and though it might be very well to 1077 provide that as long as a present incumbent lived he should enjoy the fees to which he was entitled, still the rights now-vested in the Church of England would continue long after the present incumbent had ceased to be. They could not accept any alteration of the law which would deprive the Church as a whole of the enjoyment of those rights which she enjoyed under the existing law. Under Clause 11 an incumbent was forbidden to grant or be instrumental in granting for the purpose of a churchyard parts of the property belonging to the church which might be more fitted for a churchyard than any other property which could be pitched upon. Even though the churchyard was full, or approaching fullness, and there might be a strong desire among the parishioners to have the churchyard enlarged so that they might continue to be laid under the shadow of the ancient church like their forefathers before them, yet that was prevented by this clause. And not merely was a clergyman prevented, but any corporation, such as a, town council, was prevented from granting or selling land belonging to the municipality to be devoted to interment in accordance with the Prayer Book of the Church of England. Anything more unfair was never incorporated in an Act of Parliament. The main principle of the Bill, according to the memorandum of the promoters, was that consecration should carry with it no legal consequences whatever. He did not say that consecration was essential, but it was not a question merely of what was essential. Surely it would be admitted that in the eyes of Churchmen there was a holy sentiment attached to the fact of consecration analogous with the particular class of sentiments which Nonconformists themselves valued. He would ask hon. Gentlemen, therefore, to have some regard to Churchmen's sensibilities in this matter just as he, on his side, respected those of Nonconformists. The Bill did in fact outrage Churchmen's sentiments, and it was principally for that very reason that he asked the House to reject the Second Reading. As had been pointed out, under the Act of 1880 the services conducted in the churchyard or in a consecrated building had to be Christian and orderly. But there was no limitation in this Bill—none whatever.
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
retorted that it did not remain law in defiance of an Act of Parliament which succeeded it and which was absolutely inconsistent with the tenour of the Act. There was no such limitation, and therefore it would be perfectly possible under this Bill for a Mahomedan or any other person to carry on any bind of service in consecrated ground or in a consecrated building in the burial ground as defined by this Bill. Such a provision was perfectly monstrous and outrageous. ["Hear, hear!"] The only thing that could be said in behalf of the provision was that it was consistent. From the non-Christian point of view there was no logical reason why the conditions of consecration under the present law should not be departed from altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] Let them once depart from the line with respect to consecration and there would be no logical reason for stopping anywhere; indeed, it would be possible to have services in the churchyards however impious and revolting. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] But under the provisions of the Bill it would be so. [Opposition cries of "No!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might not have intended it, but what he had stated would certainly be the effect of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He contended, therefore, that it was impossible to depart from the broad and simple line established in respect to consecration. ["Hear, hear!"] The buildings had been consecrated for a particular purpose—for funerals carried on according to the rites of the Church of England—["hear, hear!"]—and the question was not whether those buildings should be consecrated or not, but whether, being consecrated, they should afterwards be desecrated. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not agree with the hon. Member for the Hyde Division in believing that a good deal of the friction now attending the appointment of the burial or local authorities would be avoided if this Bill was passed. Those who controlled the Burial Boards would be free to allow consecration or not, and surely there could be no means more certain of insuring friction than to leave such a matter to the discretion of an elected local authority. ["Hear, 1079 hear!"] The fact was that Nonconformists were not quite consistent in this matter of consecration. He understood the hon. Member who introduced the Motion to say that even some Nonconformists desired that they should be buried in consecrated ground. That being so, it would appear that many Nonconformists appreciated consecration as well as the Members of the Church. ["Hear, hear!"] Yet the object of the Bill was to destroy as much as possible the distinctive nature of consecration, for the meaning of Clause 1, read with the Schedule—which repealed certain Acts or portions of Acts—was to destroy any marking line between what was the consecrated portion of a burial ground and what was not. But was that consistent with the knowledge that even some Nonconformists wished to be buried in consecrated ground? ["Hear, hear!"] As to Clause 4, which provided that the ecclesiastical authorities should no longer have control over the tombs and monuments and monumental inscriptions in any portion of the public burial ground, if a portion of a burial ground was consecrated, surely the monuments erected in it should have some relation to the sacred sentiment with which the act of consecration was associated—["hear, hear!"]—and, if so, there must be some ecclesiastical authority—some authority devoted to religion—whose business it should be to decide what was proper in, such cases. The Bishop was the chief minister of the Church, and the duty should rest with him. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *VISCOUTT CRANBORNE
presumed that the hon. Member referred to a, case in a quotation that had been read, in which it was shown that the incumbent was inclined to be tyrannical, but that the Bishop said the clergyman ought not to have behaved as he did, and that he regretted he had not the legal power to compel him to act differently.
§ *MR. PERKS
The reference was to a former Bishop of Lincoln, who refused to allow the word "reverend" to be placed on the tombstone before the name of a Weslevan minister. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said he had no doubt there was the proper legal remedy available for any offence of which the Bishop was guilty. He did not believe 1080 the Bishops were at all likely to use their powers over monuments unwisely, or with undue severity, but as long as a portion of the burial ground was set apart as consecrated there must necessarily be some ecclesiastical authority to control those matters. He therefore held, in respect to all the matters to which he had referred, that the Bill was a thoroughly bad Bill. If the Measure went to a Commitee every clause of it would have to be amended—vitally amended. It would be necessary for Churchmen to negative the very principle on which the Bill was put forward—that there should be no distinction between consecrated and non-consecrated ground. Therefore, those on that side of the House who were opposed to the Bill had no course open to them but to ask the House to reject it. Still, he could not say that the present state of the law was perfect, and if a Measure had been brought forward dealing with some of the minor matters included in the present Bill—such as the question of fees, access to churchyards, and so on—it would have been met and considered by him and his hon. Friends in a very different spirit. But in regard to a, Bill which was bad in principle and in all its provisions they had no choice but to urge the House not to assent to its Second Reading. [Cheers.]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said the invariable attitude of the noble Lord towards Measures introduced to remedy the grievances of Dissenters was to sympathise with the Nonconformists, to express a desire to see their grievances remedied, and then to declare that he must oppose the Measure before the House because it was a bad one. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] That had again been the course of the noble Lord on the present occasion. Now, the Bill was opposed on the ground that it was an attack on the rights and the sentiments of the Church of England, but he denied that the Bill involved an attack on either. With regard to the question of fees, he would remind the House that the fees were paid as remuneration for services rendered. If the services of the clergyman of the Church of England were brought into requisition those services should be paid for, but surely if the clergyman was not called upon to render any service he ought not to be paid. ["Hear, hear!"] Then it must be borne in mind that the consecrated ground as well as 1081 other ground was bought at the expense of the ratepayers of the locality; and why should the clergyman be entitled to charge fees in respect of every burial that took place in one part of the burial ground whether he officiated or not? ["Hear, hear!"] As to Clause 11, which had been strongly objected to, he maintained that it had been grossly misrepresented. It simply provided that if they were going to make an addition to a burial place or churchyard out of glebe land, it should not be a private burial ground for one denomination only. It was parochial property, held by a gentleman who was a trustee for the parishioners, and the clause said that they were not to be allowed, out of parochial property, to use a plot of land for the benefit of one sect and one sect alone. ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord the Member for Rochester knew perfectly well that that clause was intended to meet a grievance which was a very substantial one. He knew a special case in point, where an addition was promised, in the first instance, towards a parochial burial ground before the Act of 1880. Unfortunately the deed was not prepared before the Act. A few years after the Act was passed the title deeds were prepared, and it was then found that there was an express condition that what was promised for the whole of the parishioners before the Act was to be used exclusively for the benefit of the members of the Church of England. This clause was to prevent what was practically a fraud on the parishioners being perpetrated again in the same way. The Bill was also objected to by the noble Lord on the ground of sentiment, and he said that the Church of England were entitled to consecrate a portion of the churchyard if they wished to do so. The members of the Church of England were perfectly entitled to do this, but what they objected to, in the first place, was the consecration, being done at the expense of the whole community when it was not in the interests of the whole community; and, in the second place, to a part of the churchyard being set on one side, by means of that consecration, for the benefit of one sect absolutely and exclusively. If Churchmen wished to consecrate the 1082 whole of the churchyard he did not believe that Nonconformists in any parish in the kingdom would object, but they did object to consecration being made the means and instrument of vesting the property in one part of the churchyard, which belonged to the whole parish, in one sect and one sect alone. ["Hear, hear!"] That was really the whole point of their objection to consecration. This Bill would create no grievance in this respect so far as the Church of England was concerned. The noble Lord said that if Clause 3 of the Bill were carried in its present form the result would be that Mahomedans might use the chapels which were erected in the burial grounds. He did not accept the noble Lord's interpretation, but, even so, they were all absolutely agreed that, whether the section bore that construction or not, what was intended was that the service must be a Christian one. It simply wanted the addition of a couple of words at the end of the section and the whole thing would be placed absolutely right. There was no desire to desecrate the churchyards. All they wished was to give the same lights to Nonconformists as to Churchmen in these burial grounds. The noble Lord wanted to create a property in a corner of the churchyard for one sect only. The noble Lord said: "Let us build walls, let us consecrate, let us give a vested interest in the form of fees, let us create an absolute property which will be a source of profit and remuneration to a particular sect of the community, and let us do that at the expense of the general body of the ratepayers." That was perfectly unfair as between one denomination and another. ["Hear, hear."] The noble Lord kept perfectly clear of the last part of the Bill, and he was not surprised that he did so. The only thing he said was that he deprecated the action of certain clergymen who insisted on their legal rights under the Act of 1880. But what was the good of expressing a general denunciation of extreme and violent acts of clergymen when, according to the noble Lord himself, they were acting well within their legal rights. What they wanted to do was to make these ridiculous and violent and unfair claims on the part of the clergy which outraged the 1083 feelings of Nonconformists illegal. The noble Lord admitted that he had no sympathy with this conduct. Well, then, why didn't he help them to alter the law of the land and make what he regarded as unfair illegal as well?
§ *MR W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said that however much Members on that side of the House might desire to allow this Bill to be Read a Second time, with a possible view in Committee of taking out a great deal that was in it and of putting in a great deal that was not in at present, and thereby, in some way, to bring about a state of peace in reference to these matters, that desire was not advanced by such speeches as the House had just listened to. It was obvious from the speeches of the hon. Member for Carnarvon and of other hon. Members opposite, that Clause 11 was regarded as a very essential clause of the Bill, and that being so it did appear to him that those who took that view really did not understand fair treatment of those who did not happen to agree with them. The clause, in his opinion, would inflict gross injustice on every corporate body, and not exclusively those connected with the Church of England. How anyone who desired to deal fairly as between the Church of England and other bodies, and yet said it was not an injustice and a hardship that for all future time the Church of England should be deprived of the power of adding any land to the churchyard which might happen to come from a corporate body or glebe, passed his comprehension. If such a clause were left in the Bill, it appeared to him that the Measure, so far from tending to peace and quiet, would only stir up strife and ill-will. He did not think any of them would not wish to see the law as to fees, whether burial or other kind of fees, carefully considered, but he did not think any good result arose out of discussing that subject upon a. Bill merely brought in by a private Member. The question of fees was a very large one. It involved matters on which the direction of the 1084 Home Office, or whatever other Department might be concerned, was eminently desirable, and he did not himself see sufficient prospect of being able to work out an arrangement with regard to fees to make it worth while attempting to go into Committee on this Bill. When he first looked at the Bill he did not do so in a hostile spirit, but with every desire to consider whether it was a Bill to which a Second reading might fairly be given. If the desires and intentions expressed by some of the supporters of the Bill had been found embodied in the Bill itself then he would not have been disinclined to reserve his objections to certain points for Committee. But it was, in its main features, so objectionable, it showed so little conception of the fair and just position of the Church of England and its members, that he should certainly vote for the rejection of the Bill.
§ *SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
thought the Debate had been very unsatisfactory as a subsequent edition of the Debate of the Act of 1880. Every objection raised during the afternoon had been urged with great force and persistence in the Debate of 1880; he had heard no criticism that had not been then used, and with predictions of the lamentable and evil results, good order, and the interests of the Church that would follow such legislation as was then proposed. The anxiety displayed on that occasion was even greater than that evinced this afternoon, and yet he did not think that anyone would now insist that the Act of 1880 had rendered any disservice to Christianity or the Church of England. He had heard a very distinguished bishop, speaking at the Church Congress, caution his clerical auditors not to be too much alarmed at modern legislation, and he mentioned that he had regarded this Act with very great apprehension and dissatisfaction, but that all the fears he had then entertained vanished with the actual working of the Act, and no injury to the Church 1085 was done. If the House could approach the subject in the spirit of the hon. Member for Hyde, then a practical compromise might be arrived at on many points raised by the Bill. ["Hear, hear !"] He reminded the House of the point at which legislation had arrived. The day was too far advanced, and we had got far beyond the points raised by the hon. Member for Peterborough. The law was as it had been for many generations, that every parishioner had the right of burial in the churchyard of the parish where he died, and the right to be buried in consecrated ground. That right involved, of course, the user of consecrated ground by the minister with the services and the protection of which the noble Lord spoke with so much appreciation with reference to such burial. But the Legislature stepped in and said: No, that does not meet the case of those who wish to be buried in consecrated ground and with orderly and Christian services in accordance with the rites of their own community; and, so far, exclusive control for purposes of burial passed from the Church of Eng-land. ["Hear!"] What an hon. Member called climbing over the wall and cloaking under this Bill the claims of Nonconformists were arguments which were all demolished and pulverised before the Act of 1880 passed and both Houses sanctioned legislation to remedy admitted grievances. That was not a perfect Measure, and no Measure was perfect on its first inception; experience had to be brought to bear, and experience had shown that certain grievances remained—grievances of an administrative character, and grievances of what the noble Lord had called a sentimental character, and in the form of the present Bill a request was made to Parliament to remedy these grievances. It was not the occasion to raise upon a Bill, which was emphatically a detailed Bill to remove grievances, any great question of disestablishment or any theological questions of consecration or non-consecration. What were the administrative grievances? He could not put them better than they had been put in the speech of the hon. 1086 Member for Hyde. Of course, our churchyards are rapidly filling up, and in or near towns additional ground was not added to churchyards, but, instead, cemeteries were provided. The state of the law in regard to cemeteries was most chaotic and unsatisfactory. There were private cemetery companies—which he would like to see abolished—there were Burial Boards in certain old districts formed before recent modifications of the Public Health Act, and there was Marten's Act and the amendment of the Act passed in 1879, vesting in local authorities all the powers of Burial Boards with regard to the construction of cemeteries, giving those authorities certain option in regard to consecration. As the hon. Member for Hyde had pointed out, unsatisfactory results followed from having two authorities in burial grounds, the one controlling one part, the other controlling another part of a cemetery; and there were further grievances which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Carnarvon, and the question of what the noble Lord had called the right of the Church of England, though it was a question of creating new rights, not of existing rights. A local board, acting, no doubt, in harmony with the feelings of those over whom it exercised jurisdiction, decided to provide consecrated ground, but upon the consecration of the ground according to the rites of the Church of England there arose certain pecuniary conditions, a salary had to be assigned for a chaplain, and certain fees were required to be paid.
§ *VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said that, as far as fees were concerned, he had expressly drawn a distinction between existing burial grounds and burial grounds created after the Act.
§ *SIR H. FOWLER
said this was a Bill of detail, and a great many of the objections of the noble Lord were powerful so far as details were concerned, but would be most unjust reasons for throwing out the Bill altogether. The hon. Member opposite quoted a case at Hyde, and he 1087 remembered a similar case in Cheshire, under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Chester, which came before him when he held the office of President, of the Local Government Board. A clergyman, very sensibly, wanted to resign the rights he had in regard to fees for burials in consecrated ground. But the Local Government Board was obliged to decide that, although the clergyman might surrender his fees, that would in no way bind his successor, so that the grievance could only be remedied for the lifetime of that incumbent. This grievance the Bill sought, to remedy. The noble Lord had pointed out grave evils he thought would result from several clauses of the Bill. He had raised a point upon which it must be admitted the Bill was not clearly drawn in reference to the third Clause. A very astute mind could construe that clause as the noble Lord had construed it, but he did not think the intention of the promoters or the legal construction agreed with the interpretation of the noble Lord. The third Clause practically repealed, so far as burial grounds were concerned, a portion of the Act of 1880, and the noble Lord apprehended that this would render possible Mahomedan or infidel services on consecrated ground. But, if the noble Lord would look at the clause again he would see, perhaps, that his apprehensions were unfounded. Burial authorities might provide a building for the performance of burial services in any public burial ground, and this was to be available for all persons attending the funeral. But if the noble Lord would turn to the clause on the construction of the Act he would find that this Act was, so far as was consistent with the tenor thereof, to be construed as one with the Burials Acts, 1852 to 1885. That was, that the Burials Act of 1880, which sanctioned this user of consecrated ground, yet provided that there should be orderly and Christian services. He was not an authority on the law of the case, but, bringing his mind to bear on the construction of the Bill, he believed that the 1088 Burials Act of 1880 would apply to this provision in Clause 3. Be that so or not, three or four words would make that intention clear, and there was really no difference as to what should be the effect. Then he came to another question, which he regarded as of more practical imports ance, and though it had a sentimental character, it had throughout the country created a great deal of bitter feeling. The noble Lord said there were certain portions of the Bill to which he had no objection. He denounced "the outrageous conduct of certain clergymen" of the Church of England, and, with perfect truth, he said those guilty of such conduct were few in number. ["Hear !"] Yes, but what consolation was it to the victims of such outrageous conduct to be told that they were few in number? A poor man takes the body of his child to the burial ground, and he finds it—he might almost say—thrown like a dog into a portion of the ground used for rubbish, because the Church of England will not allow the burial in consecrated ground. What consolation is it to that poor father to be told there is not many men in England would do as that clergyman has done? ["Hear, hear!"] The cases were limited, but why not prevent any single case of the kind? That was the object of the clause. ["Hear, hear!"] There were certain other matters of detail to mention; one hon. Member talked about "climbing over the wall," but let him refer to Subsection 2 of Clause 10, and there he would find provision for going through the gate, and which would put an end to such scenes as the breaking down a wall, because entrance by the gate was refused. Why should Dissenters, because they lived in a parish and were compelled to be buried in the churchyard—where they had a right, to be buried, and to have the service conducted by their own minister—solely because they were Dissenters, be deprived of the ceremony of the tolling of the bell and the use of the various appliances of funerals which were there? 1089 ["Hear, hear!"] He knew that the laity of the Church of England in that House, the great bulk of the clergy, and the Episcopal Bench, repudiated that sort of behaviour; and why, he asked, should they not render it illegal once and for ever? ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord opposite objected to Clause 11, but he considered it dealt with a real and practical evil. It was intended to prevent the evasion of the Burial Act of 1880 by conveying, adjacent to a churchyard, and as part of it, a piece of land to be used as a burial ground to which the Act was not intended to apply. He believed that high legal authority had advised that that device would not succeed. There could be no doubt it ought to be prevented from succeeding, and surely there could be no objection to saying that, where additional land was added to a churchyard, that new additional land should be subjected to the same conditions as the existing churchyard, and that a Nonconformist should have the right to be burled there, and for a minister of his own denomination to conduct the burial service. ["Hear, hear!"] The noble Lord had said that a great many Nonconformists desired to be buried in consecrated ground. Yes; they desired to be buried where their fore-fathers and relatives were buried, but that was no reason why they should be subjected to any disadvantages. He put it to hon. Members, not in the interests of a political party, but in the interests of Christianity and the Church of England, it was time that these troublesome scandals should be brought to an end. ["Hear, hear!"] No one who remembered the state of things before 1880 could doubt that it was impossible to maintain the then existing conditions, and no one could contend that any injury had resulted from the legislation of 1880, or that there had been anything discreditable to religion or injurious to the Church in consequence of that Act. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not pretend that the Bill was perfect in point of draftsmanship, but he ventured to think it was one to which 1090 the House ought to give a Second Beading, and then allow it to be sent to a Committee in order that the various points might be considered. He could assure hon. Members opposite that no one on his side of the House desired to commit any injustice or do anything that was offensive to the Church of England. All they claimed was that in the most solemn period of life, when persons were mourning the loss of their dead, they should not labour under the grievances which had been shown to exist. They had tried to state the case temperately and fairly, and they asked the House, as representing both Churchmen and Nonconformists, to remove those grievances and make Amendments in the administration of the law which they believed would be beneficial to the whole community, and tend to the allaying and not the exciting of sectarian controversy. [Cheers.]
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
expressed his anxiety to respond to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, and to meet this question in a reasonable spirit. He was perfectly prepared to admit that, on the whole, the Act of 1880 had not. worked unsuccessfully, but that there were still some grievances, which had arisen under the operation of that Act or which were not touched by it, that it was very desirable should be considered. He did not think there had been in the carrying out of the Act of 1880, by the clergy of the Church of England, the great number of improper attempts to go against the spirit of the Measure which was sometimes imputed to them out of doors. There had been exceptional instances in which certain clergymen—the fanatics of their party and of the Church—had not acted as could have been wished; but to ask the House by legislation to meet those isolated cases appeared to him to be a mistake. ["Hear, hear!"] If he had been asked to assent to the principle that it was desirable there should be some inquiry into, and some 1091 improvement in their Burial Laws, with special reference to the points indicated in the Bill, he should have done so. There were many points which were somewhat difficult to handle under the present law, and which legislation might improve; but when he was asked to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill he was asked to go a great deal further than that, and to vote for the way in which the Bill dealt with the points it raised. The right hon. Gentleman said it was all matter of detail. Very likely it was, but if the only principle upon which they were asked to vote was that there should be a reform of the Burial Laws, then he thought, before the House assented to the Second Reading of a Bill of this sort, it should have some knowledge of the method in which that improvement was to be carried out. The principal argument in support of the Bill centred round the vexed question of consecration. It had been admitted that, whereas there might be differences of opinion as to the value to be attached to consecration, the reverence for it was a feeling which ought to be respected. The Bill proposed to abolish the necessity of compulsory consecration in the provision of new burial grounds. Why had the law provided for this compulsory consecration? Because that burial ground was a substitution for the old parish churchyard, which, by Order in Council, had been closed as inadequate for the burial of parishioners; and what the law had said, with great fairness, was that, if the parishioners were deprived by the closing of the parish churchyard of the right to interment according to the rites to which they were accustomed, and which they valued, then they ought in the new ground to be established under the local authority to have—whatever be the smallness of the minority—compulsorily by law, the same rights of interment as they had in the parish churchyard. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill proposed to leave the matter entirely in the option of the local authority, so that the rights of the minority to have consecrated ground might be taken 1092 away from them by a small majority. That, he submitted, was an objectionable proposal, and it was not surprising there should be strong opposition to it by all hon. Members on his side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] There was, again, the question of chapels. He should have wished that, in all future burial grounds, arrangements could be made by common consent, and, if necessary, by law, that there should be an adequate mortuary chapel built at the expense of the ratepayers, to which there should be common access and common rights. In the cases where there was no general desire to have a consecrated chapel, he did not think that there should necessarily be one, nor did he see that any member of the Church of England would be injured by its absence. But he did share the feeling of repugnance to the proposal that, when they had a specially-erected mortuary chapel in the consecrated portion of the burial ground, into that mortuary chapel, although there was another provided by law in the unconsecrated part, there should be, as proposed by Clause 3, an absolutely unrestricted right of access by persons who had possibly no religious belief whatever. ["Hear, hear!"] He dared say many of the difficulties which had been alluded to by hon. Members were made on the floor of the House of Commons, for, certainly in the districts with which he was connected he was not sensible of any. When, therefore, clauses were introduced into Bills for the purpose of remedying grievances of which there was very small complaint they had a right to ask that those clauses should be of a more reasonable character. ["Hear, hear!"] As to fees, it could not be denied that there was some grievance. But, while the vested interests of existing persons should be protected, it was unreasonable that when Nonconformists were given the right to be buried in consecrated ground, they should pay not only the legitimate reward of services rendered by a Nonconformist Minister, but also the fees to an incumbent. [Opposition cheers.] The 1093 Bill no doubt was well meant, but it greatly irritated members of the Church of England, and attempted to remedy in the most illogical and impracticable manner both alleged grievances and others which he admitted to exist. Clause 1, read in connection with the Schedule, seemed to take away a great deal of the authority which the incumbent and parishioners now exercised over the parochial burial ground, and would prevent a burial authority establishing a cemetery with exclusive right to the Church of England even if desired. Permissive consecration was a matter which required to be carefully considered. Fair-minded men would agree that when a burial ground was being provided, not in addition to but in substitution for an old parish churchyard, there should be some provision under the law for compulsory consecration to preserve the rights even of five or six parishioners who were members of the Church of England.
§ *SIR H. FOWLER
asked whether the objection of the local bodies had not been entirely on the ground of fees.
§ *SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
replied that he did not think that was the case. He believed the objection had been on the ground of consecration. But whatever the objection might have been, the Home Office was bound to carry out the law—that when there was a burial ground of that sort a portion of it must be consecrated. As regarded the second part of the Bill, his hon. Friends said the proposals of the Bill were not only ill-conceived, but caused—he did not say intentionally—quite unnecessary irritation to members of the Church of England. There had been few complaints on the subject to which that part of the Bill related since he had been in office. In one or two cases there had been an abuse of the Act of 1880, but to say that abuse of the Act was general or required general amendment of the law admitted of considerable doubt. If voting for the Second Beading of the Bill had meant that something should be done, he should have 1094 been inclined to vote for it, and if hon. Members opposite had asked him whether it might not be useful to institute an inquiry into the Act of 1880 he should not have objected. But he was asked to support the Second Reading of a Bill which contained so many unreasonable clauses, and which gave dissatisfaction to many members of the Church of England. Personally he would be obliged to support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. His own conviction was that there might be great improvements in the law, but before amendments in the law were made there should be some satisfactory inquiry. The proposals of the Bill were crude and unnecessarily offensive to the Church of England, and for himself personally he should support the Amendment for its rejection. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOHNSON-FERGUSON (Leicester, Loughborough)
said he should not have intervened in the Debate, but would have given a silent vote, except for the fact that one of the cases to which allusion had been made occurred in the constituency which he had the honour of representing, and the arrangement by which that difficulty was ended presented perhaps one of the strongest arguments in favour of the passing of this Bill. The difficulty to which he alluded arose in the parish of Barrow-on-Soar, in Leicestershire. The churchyard had been closed by order of the Home Office, and a cemetery had been formed, but the Parish Council declined either to comply with the order of the Home Office or to have one portion of it consecrated, because of the objection which a large majority of the Parish Council felt to the right which it gave the rector of the parish to claim special fees in respect of interments which took place. He need hardly say that the former Home Secretary, in whose term of office this difficulty originally arose, and the present Home Secretary, acted in the most reasonable and courteous manner with respect to the difficulty, and did everything that lay in their power to bring it to a satisfactory 1095 and amicable settlement. But it was ultimately brought to a settlement by the intervention of the Bishop of the diocese, the present Bishop of London, who, jointly with the rector of the parish, gave an undertaking that no extra fees should be demanded by the rector where interments did not take place by himself or his curates, and the 48 hours' notice at present required to be given to him when an interment was to take place in the consecrated portion of the cemetery should no longer be demanded. What was the position? On one side they had the law distinctly stating that a portion of the cemetery should be consecrated, and he entirely agreed with every word the Home Secretary had said as to the right of every Churchman to insist that a portion of the cemetery should be consecrated. He himself should be one of the last to support a Bill which could not be amended so as to insure that right to every Churchman in the country. But, on the other side, they had the Bishop of the diocese, the rector of the parish, and the Parish Council deliberately joining together to see if they could not evade the law. Was that a condition of things which they in that House wished to see maintained? Since then another cemetery had been consecrated on precisely the same terms as those arranged in the parish of Barrow-on-Soar, which constituted a distinct evasion of the law. When they saw an astute man of the world like the present Bishop of London coming forward and making an effort like that, which practically amounted to an evasion of the law, it showed that he at least recognised that had the right hon. Gentleman opposite put the law in motion to enforce on the Parish Council the legal consecration of the cemetery, it would have done more harm to the Church than the giving up of the paltry fees. He thought that they ought to bring the law into harmony with what was the public sentiment in a very large number of the districts of the country.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
regretted that the Home Secretary had not seen his way to support the Bill. He thought the right hon. Gentleman should have paid more attention to the weighty utterance of the hon. Member for the Hyde Division of Cheshire, who had had a long and somewhat bitter experience in connection with this matter. Undoubtedly a grievance existed, and they had had Commission after Commission from the other side of the House. The hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division admitted that if the Bill were only shortened in the way he indicated he would be willing to support it. It seemed to him that from the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division, and the hon. Member for the Hyde Division, they had had an admission that there was a need for this Bill, which, at all events, would justify the House in passing the Second Reading. A similar Measure, though one very much less acceptable he was sure to hon. Gentlemen on the other side, passed that House two years ago by a very large majority. He was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Wigan deliver a paternal benediction on the Bill of 1880, and he hoped that he might live long enough also to pronounce a benediction on this Measure. He hoped this matter would be dealt with with as little bitterness as possible. He earnestly appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to give this Bill a Second Reading. They on that side were absolutely in their hands, all that they desired was that the Measure should be discussed point by point in Committee and thoroughly thrashed out. Unquestionably there were a number of questions on which they agreed. He would like to lay emphasis on the fact that they had absolutely no objection to any kind of consecration; all that they objected to were the legal distinctions and unnecessary disqualifications that followed the act of consecration. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in 1880 protested 1097 against the Bill of that day being introduced, because it put Nonconformists together with Churchmen inside a sort of pale of favouritism, and excluded a large number of other persons. He had hoped that they might have had a little light and guidance from the right hon. Gentleman on this question. He was sure the House would listen with the greatest interest to what he had to say about those whom he then described as the persecutors of Nonconformists. All that they asked was that those causes of bitterness which had existed in the past should be removed, and that they might have a chance of making this Bill into a workable Bill.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
, referring to what had been said by the hon. Member for the Tunbridge Division as to the very few instances of Nonconformist burials that had occurred in the diocese of St. Asaph, said that the real reason why there was a small number of Nonconformist burials in Wales under the Act of 1880 was, not because the people did not desire to take advantage of the Act, but because of the unexampled difficulties placed in their way by a large number of the clergy in Wales. There was the difficulty of the 48 hours' notice, especially in the rural districts,
§ where it was not easy to make rapid arrangements. He knew a number of cases where objection had been taken because of the shortness of the notification. Another objection that was frequently made was that the person to be buried did not live exactly within the borders of the parish to which the churchyard belonged. He cited the case which had occurred in connection with a Nonconformist minister at Barmouth, and said that these cases frequently occurred in Wales. Then there was what he would describe as the cruel method sometimes adopted of deciding the exact spot where a person was to be buried. Perhaps the spot selected might be unsuitable and unattractive, and there was a case where a clergyman had insisted on a person being buried in the suicide portion of the churchyard. The grievances they complained of were real, and they appealed to hon. Members opposite, therefore, to allow the Bill to pass its Second Reading.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 150; Noes, 194.—(Division List—No. 47—appended.)1101
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E).||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Fenwick, Charles|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson-||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. A. H. Dyke||Causton, Richard Knight||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Channing, Francis Allston||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)|
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-Lyme||Clough, Walter Owen||Fowler, Rt. En. Sir Hy. (Wol'tn)|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Colville, John||Gilhooly, James|
|Arch, Joseph||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Crilly, Daniel||Gordon, John Edward|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Crombie, John William||Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'y)|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Dalbiac, Major Philip Hugh||Haldane, Richard Burdon|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Baker, Sir John||Davies, W. Rees (Pembrokesh.)||Harwood, George|
|Barlow, John Emmot||Davitt, Michael||Haslett, Sir James Horner|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Denny, Colonel||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-|
|Birrell, Augustine||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Hickman, Sir Alfred|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Dillon, John||Howard, Joseph|
|Brigg, John||Dixon, George||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C|
|Brown, Alexander H.||Donelan, Captain A.||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Doughty, George||Jameson, Major J. Eustace|
|Burns, John||Dunn, Sir William||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.|
|Burt, Thomas||Ellis, Thos. Edw.(Merionethsh.)||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Evans, Samuel T. Glamorgan)||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Caldwell, James||Evans, Sir Francis H.(South'ton)||Kitson, Sir James|
|Cameron, Sir Charles (Glasgow)||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Labouchere, Henry|
|Lambert, George||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Strachey, Edward|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Strauss, Arthur|
|Leng, Sir John||Owen, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Leuty, Thomas Richmond||Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham)||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Paulton, James Mellor||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lloyd-George, David||Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Lockwood, Sir Frank (York)||Perks, Robert William||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Logan, John William||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)|
|Lough, Thomas||Pirie, Captain Duncan Vernon||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Power, Patrick Joseph||Walton, John Lawson|
|Lyell, Sir Leonard||Price, Robert John||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Macaleese, Daniel||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Wayman, Thomas|
|McArthur, William||Reid, Sir Robert T.||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|McEwan, William||Rickett, J. Compton||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.)||Roberts, John Bryan (Eifion)||Wills, Sir William Henry|
|McKillop, James||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)||Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk)|
|McLaren, Charles Benjamin||Robson, William Snowdon||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|McLeod, John||Roche, Hon. James (East Kerry)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Mellor, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Yorks.)||Schwann, Charles E.||Woodall, William|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||Woods, Samuel|
|Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)||Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Morley, Rt. Hn. John (Montrose)||Spicer, Albert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Mr.|
|Mundella, Rt. Hn. Anthony John||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.||Cameron and Mr. Carvell|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stevenson, Francis S.||Williams.|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds.)||Halsey, Thomas Frederick|
|Aird, John||Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cranborne, Viscount||Hardy, Laurence|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Arrol, Sir William||Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Havelock-Allan, General Sir H.|
|Ascroft, Robert||Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N.(Lancs. S W.)||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Davenport, W. Bromley -||Helder, Augustus|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter|
|Baden-Powell, Sir Geo. Smyth||Donkin, Richard Sim||Hill, Rt. Hn. A. Staveley (Staffs.)|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Doxford, William Theodore||Hobhouse, Henry|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Howell, William Tudor|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Edwards, Gen. Sir James Bevan||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn|
|Balfour, Gerald William (Leeds)||Fardell, Thomas George||Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice-|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J.(Manc'r)||Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.)|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-(Hunts.)||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Isaacson, Frederick Wootton|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Fielden, Thomas||Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)|
|Bass, Hamar||Finch, George H.||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H.|
|Beach, Rt. Hon. SirM. H. (Bristol)||Fisher, William Hayes||Knowles, Lees|
|Beach, W. W. Bramston (Hants.)||Fison, Frederick William||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Bhownaggree, M. M.||FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)|
|Biddulph, Michael||Flower, Ernest||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Folkestone, Viscount||Leighton, Stanley|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Forster, Henry William||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swnsea)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Forwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur B.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Brassey, Albert||Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk)||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Galloway, William Johnson||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (L'pool.)|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Garfit, William||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H.(City of Lond.)||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Carson, Edward||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Lowles, John|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Lowther, Rt. Hn. James (Kent)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Gilliat, John Saunders||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Charrington, Spencer||Goulding Edward Alfred||Maclean, James Mackenzie|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||McCalmont, Mj.-Gen (Antr'mN)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Gretton, John||Malcolm, Ian|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Gull, Sir Cameron||Maple, Sir John Blundell|
|Marks, Henry Hananel||Richardson, Thomas||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir MatthewW.||Usborne, Thomas|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hon. W. F.||Round, James||Valentia, Viscount|
|Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenh'm)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Milward, Colonel Victor||Russell, Sir George (Berkshire)||Walrond, Sir William Hood|
|Monckton, Edward Philip||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Saunderson, Col. Edw. James||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)|
|Morrison, Walter||Savory, Sir Joseph||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Mount, William George||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Mowbray, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Murdoch, Charles Townshend||Simeon, Sir Barrington||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon|
|Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)||Smith, Abel (Herts.)||Wharton, John Lloyd|
|Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Willox, John Archibald|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Penn, John||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Plunkett, Hon. Horace Curzon||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)||Wyndham, George|
|Priestley, SirW. Overend (Edin)||Stephens, Henry Charles||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Pryce-Jones, Edward||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy|
|Purvis, Robert||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Rasch, Major Frederic Carne||Thornton, Percy M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES, Mr.|
|Rentoul, James Alexander||Tollemache, Henry James||Talbot and Sir Francis|
|Richards, Henry Charles||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Powell.|
§ Words added; Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to. Second Heading put off for six months.