HC Deb 20 June 1898 vol 59 cc888-91

"Page 2, leave out clause 2."—(Mr. Brynmor Jones.)


I do not wish to introduce any lengthy discussion on the Motion to omit the clause, because the Amendments that have been put down will subsequently give us an ample opportunity of raising substantially any question that we desire to raise as a consequence of the action which I myself and some other Members took in the Standing Committee. This clause 2 of the Bill really is the clause to which my principal objection applies. I have not the slightest objection, as I said when I moved the rejection of the Bill on the Second Reading, to any reasonable Measure for putting down simoniacal practices in the Church or any real abuses. So far as clause 1 is concerned, beyond what I have already said with regard to it, I have no real objection to it at all. But when you come to clause 2, I wish the House to notice that you are entering upon a totally different order of topic—a totally different arrangement of ideas in regard to Church government. Clause 2 has nothing at all to do with the putting down of any mere simoniacal or corrupt practices of any kind in regard to the sale of advowsons or right of next presentation or anything of the kind. Clause 2 deals with a totally different kind of matter; that is to say, it deals with the grounds upon which a bishop may refuse to institute a clergyman who is presented by a lay patron, whether that lay patron happens to be the Prime Minister, or First Lord of the Treasury, or Lord Chancellor, or any of the collegiate bodies to whom I have more than once referred, or the ordinary owner of an estate to which an advowson is attached. Now, as I have ventured to point out, that has nothing to do with the general objects with which this Bill was originally introduced by the Government. As I understood the words of the First Lord of the Treasury, when he introduced the Bill, it was a Bill brought in in pursuance of the recommendation of certain Royal Commissions, and in accordance with the very general desire which has been represented year after year by Bills being introduced for putting down certain definite corrupt practices with regard to the sale of livings. What I assert is that this clause 2 practically changes the whole ground and object of the Measure. Let us see what are the grounds upon which a bishop may refuse to institute or admit a presentee. Before, however, I call the attention of the House to that matter, I should like honourable Members to notice that there is, or I believe there is, no statute which lays down the grounds upon which the bishop may refuse to institute the presentee of the patron. That is the case as I understand the law, and I state it with very consideraable confidence, because I have had to listen to the exposition of the law on several occasions, not only from the Attorney General, but also from my honourable and learned Friends. The bishop has discretion to refuse admission of a clergyman when he is presented by a patron, but that right is only a right that can have any interest from an ecclesiastical point of view. In a court of common law the right of the bishop to exercise his mere discretion by refusing to institute the presentee of a lay patron is not admitted, and if a lay patron objects to the refusal of the bishop to institute a presentee, he has a right at the present moment to commence an action in the High Court in order to try the question whether the bishop has or has not rightly exercised his discretion. In other words, while the the ecclesiastical law gives an absolute discretion, subject, of course, always to ecclesiastical action of a remote and uncertain character, the common law has preserved a right to the patron by giving him this right of action, which is exercised in accordance with the ordinary forms of the High Court of Justice. The point is this, that if a patron, when the bishop has refused institution, brings an action in the High Court of Justice, the matter ultimately comes before a really civil tribunal, and any civil tribunal under the circumstances is particularly advantageous to the lay patron, because the bishop has to give particulars of the reasons for which he refuses to institute a particular presentee.


Order, order!

It being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.