§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE HON. ALFRED LYTTELTON (Warwick and Leamington)
Before I say a word about this Bill I desire, for my own part and on behalf of those who act with me in this matter, to express our warm gratitude to the Government for having promised in the Queen's Speech a Measure dealing with Church patronage. More than that I will not say in reference to the action of the Government, in relation to which, of course, I have no information. Sir, of course I have no warrant or title to any prominent position in connection with this Bill. I enter upon the labours of others—the labours conspicuous and unstinted of this House in Grand Committee in 1896, and the labours of many distinguished individuals, none of whom have given more energetic, more courageous, and more able support than 356 my noble Friend the Member for Rochester. Sir, none the less I am glad to use the opportunity which the good fortune of the ballot has afforded me to forward this cause, for I keenly sympathise with the desire of an ancient and historic body to purge itself from admitted abuses, and because I believe, in the second place, that the fulfilment of the desire will be not merely to give heart and encouragement to many of the best and worthiest men in this country, but that it also will do much indirectly, but still substantially, to promote the well being of thousands of our poorer fellow countrymen. Sir, this may seem to some to be the language of exaggeration, but I believe it not to be so, because, to thousands, at any rate of the rural population, to thousands of villagers, the idea of religion and the idea of morality is largely influenced and moulded by the character of the parson of the parish in which they are born, where they live and where they die. The parson of the parish is associated in the memories of his parishioners with many of the elemental, incidents of their lives; with their childhood, with their marriages, with the rearing of their children, and with the last rites of their departed. He is the natural organiser of charities, he is frequently the chairman of the school board, or the manager—the principal manager—of the voluntary school. He has the opportunity of being the arbiter and conciliator in the disputes of his parishioners, and finally has often much to do as promoter and director of those recreations and amusements which do so much to harmonise village life. Sir, I make no excuse for saying that I am sure that in the views of gentlemen who are opposite as well as on this side of the House, that one of the worst things for the community is a bad parson and one of the best things is a good one. Now, the object of this Bill is to minimise the chances a community has of having a bud parson appointed, and to increase the chances of having a good one; and that object is sought to be attained by this Bill in the form of an amendment—and it is not a large amendment—of the law of patronage, which is destined to prevent the evasion of its central principle, In the second place it 357 increases the right of the parishioners to cheek unfit persons who are nominated as pastors over them, and to slightly extend and strengthen the powers of the bishop, subject to safeguards, to refuse the presentation of unfit persons; and, lastly, if an unfit person has passed the two barriers which are proposed by this Bill, then to slightly increase the power of the bishop, subject to the safeguards of the Bill, to enable him to get rid of a parson who has proved himself to be inadequate and unfit for the duties which he has been appointed to fulfil. Now, Sir, the Bill assumes the existence of the old system of private patronage, and, as an almost necessary corollary of that, the right of transfer from time to time of such patronage. I would say no more about that than this, that in my humble judgment no practical substitute has been proposed for private patronage; that it at least ensures the circulation of patronage and it ensures that representation of varied opinion and that close touch of the laity with the Church, which most of us regard as one of the great elements of its strength. Now, Sir, the Bill further assumes as a fundamental basis of its provisions, that the rights of ecclesiastical patronage are property, but are subject to the obligation in exercising them to appoint fit persons. Sir, I might if this were an assembly of members of my own profession, give some interesting accounts—interesting to them but not to others—of what I call the central doctrine of the law of patronage. But if I may be permitted the indulgence of the House—there are one or two present who belong to the fraternity—I may mention what I think is a very interesting point. It is this: so repugnant to the common law of England is the idea of the sale of a cure of souls that it required a Statute in the reign of Edward the First to enable a successful plaintiff in an action of quare impedit to recover damages. I admit that is a technical point which I asked the indulgence of the House upon as interesting to members of my profession. It is enough to insist upon the principle which I have ventured to assert by mentioning what are the existing powers of the bishop to refuse presentation. He is entitled to refuse 358 to present or institute a presentee on the ground of age, on the ground of learning, and on the ground of behaviour. This by way of further illustration of the principle which I have noted. It is, of course, familiar to the House that no sale of next presentation is permissible when the benefice is vacant, that no sale of next presentation is permissible to a parson. There is some authority in the Common Law, at any ride, for this proposition that the purchase of an advowson or the right of patronage, when it is the stated intention of the purchaser to appoint a particular individual, is invalid. Now, Sir, to put it for a moment into the atmosphere of another profession—if I may do so—because ingenious devices have so obscured this matter that I think it is made plainer for a moment if we turn by way of illustration to another profession. Supposing one of the great Corporations—take the Corporation of London. Suppose they had a judicial patronage, and they had the right to appoint to a very high judicial position in the Court of London. No one would dispute that when that judicial position was vacant, that to put it up for sale would be a gross abuse of their position. On the other hand, I do not think it would be said that in the event of the Corporation considering that it was expedient to transfer the right of patronage which they had to this office to another body, even if that transfer was made for a valuable consideration, that they would be otherwise than in their rights in doing so. Well, that appears to me to show, with the instances which I have given from the existing law, that there does exist, and exist most emphatically, and beyond doubt, the principle which. I venture to assert—it has been asserted in other language, and it has been stated by many great authorities—that the right of patronage is a right subject to a trust For myself, I prefer keeping away from legal language which has every signification, and I prefer putting it in my own way, and it is this: that the right is subject to the obligation of the patron to appoint a fit person. Now, Sir, the most prominent evasion of this central principle has been found to have taken place by an experience of which such weighty evidence has been given upon former occasions to this House, that I will not trouble the House with instances of it. 359 But the most prominent evasions have been found by experience to have taken place in reference to the sale of next presentations, with what is practically "immediate possession guaranteed," a thing which a mere glance at the columns of the newspapers shows takes place very frequently now. Secondly, the sale of advowsons immediately after a patron, who is also the incumbent, has resigned his office; thirdly, secret transfers; fourthly, presentations immediately after transfers; fifthly, not genuine transfers; and lastly, presentations which may be called self presentations, that is presentations to himself by the wife of a man, or by the trustee of a man. Now, the recommendations which this Bill proposes—I am dealing with the patronage part of the scheme—the recommendations which this Bill proposes are in substance and in popular language, to abolish the sale of next presentations altogether. In the next place, to make absolutely void, the transfer of rights of patronage, if they are made after one year from the institution of an incumbent. And, perhaps, as that may not be quite palpable in the mischief at which it strikes, let me mention this illustration. A patron, who is also an incumbent of a parish, presents, or enters into a bargain, in point of fact to sell what is really the cure of souls. The way in which it is done is by making an arrangement whereby he resigns the living and presents a nominee, and within a few weeks conveys the whole advowson to him, so that in substance that is the mischief which the law has always aimed at. In the next place, the secrecy of transfers—by which many a mischief has been forwarded—is remedied by this Bill, by avoiding any transfer of which due notice has not been given in the Diocesan Register. Then auction sales of rights of patronage are prohibited absolutely, and in respect of these four matters transfers are made absolutely void. The right of presenting again, remains with the transferor, so that the mischief of imposing an unsuitable person upon the parish is dealt with, and the right of property is at any rate infringed as little as possibly may be. Sir, there is another clause still in reference to patronage, dealing with cases where the bishop is to use his discretion to refuse 360 institution. One is the converse of the case I have just mentioned. The bishop is entitled to refuse institution to a clerk who has been presented within twelve months of the transfer, and that, as the House will easily see, will prevent the sale of advowsons when the incumbent is in a dying condition, or the sale of the advowson with a secret trust by a patron-incumbent to resign shortly after selling it. It may be said that the limitation of twelve months is not wholly adequate to secure the object we have in view, but it is found in experience that those who are entering into corrupt bargains have so little trust in each other that a time like twelve months is very apt to break up the bargain, and dissuades people entering into them. The next remedy we propose as to patronage is when the purchase is seen to be not a genuine out and out purchase—where it is seen that there is a reservation of the consideration money, or part of the consideration money in the hands of the purchaser, or where there is a covenant to pay interest until possession is acquired. The bishop in such cases has a discretion to refuse institution. Obviously these cases are where the purchaser has bargained for immediate possession, and when he has taken the opportunity to safeguard himself when that of which he has contracted to get immediate possession has been delayed for a short time. Lastly, as to patronage, there is the abolition of the present ability of a person who has bought the advowson to present himself to it by the not very circuitous method of a presentation by his wife or trustee, which practically enables him to present himself with it. Now, Sir, stopping here for a moment, with reference to these remedies I humbly submit to the House that they are in no sense revolutionary. They assert no new principle. They are founded upon the principle which legislation, ever since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, has definitely asserted to be the principle of patronage law; they merely seek to block the holes through which the evaders of the law creep, and my contention is that they merely improve and render more efficient the machinery by which the principle of the law is enforced. In answer to those who have treated these proposals unfavourably, I would ask honourable Members to consider the case of a 361 just tax imposed upon a nation, upon a community, but which persons by ingenious conveyancing and Legal devices, or ingenious manipulation of accounts, have proved themselves clever enough to evade. Sir, to strengthen the machinery of the law by which that tax is collected from such people is not to assert a new principle, neither is it to confiscate existing property. It is merely to render more efficient and more capable of its object the machinery which has proved ineffective. I thank the House for having granted me their attention as regards this subject. With regard to the first part of the Bill—and it is by far the most difficult part—in having occupied some time in dealing with that subject I make no apology to the House, because I think it is impossible to make even intelligible the principles of the Measure which we have the honour to submit to the House without at least occupying that amount of time. But I promise to be more brief in relation to the subsequent propositions of the Bill, which, though some Members may object to them, are of less complexity. The second object of this Bill is to strengthen and extend the powers of the bishop to refuse institution to unfit persons. A power is given in the first place to the laity, to the parishioners of the parish to have their voice, by way of protest, against the selection of an unfit person, a power which I think every member of this House will recognise as valuable, and also recognise as a matter of great importance. In the second place, the powers of the bishop, which I have already ventured to tell the House exist, and have existed for many generations, to refuse presentation on the ground of age, learning, and behaviour, these are now extended to misconduct and neglect of duty in ecclesiastical offices; to evil life, which is also protected by another Act; to the causing of scandal by misconduct; scandal arising out of the conduct of the parson in question; and lastly, for existing pecuniary embarrassment. Sir, this was a phrase which last year provoked some discussion, some happy individuals professing themselves wholly unable to understand or appreciate what pecuniary embarrassment meant. I am afraid my own experience permits me to speak with understanding on this subject, but the experience of 362 other people may be more fortunate. Be that as it may, I do not think it will be denied that to impose a parson upon a parish who is burdened with debt, who has his mind subject to that worry and care, to subject the parish to his ministration is a breach of common sense. Sir, the jurisdiction of the bishop to refuse presentations must be, of course, after due inquiry, and I anticipate the other objection which was made last year, that that inquiry ought to be with lawyers and counsel on both sides and cross-examination of witnesses, and all the machinery of the law. Sir, that is not the intention of the promoters of this Bill. The first inquiry should be an inquiry of a judicial character, but have, in the words of a great judge, the substantial elements of natural justice, which have been defined to be by full notice of the charge, full hearing of the person accused, and a fair decision unbiassed by any other motive. Now, Sir, it has been said that this is an aggression and an attempt to extend what is called sacerdotalism, but I venture to think that it has precedents in oilier arenas in England where it cannot, by the most extreme persons, be deemed that sacerdotalism has any influence. The Medical College relieve from the register, after due inquiry, precisely of the kind I have described, the name of any practitioner who is guilty of infamous conduct. The solicitors of England—I admit that there is here a more formal procedure—have the power to recommend the removal of a solicitor from the rolls. In my own profession the Benchers of an Inn have power, without any legal authority beyond what I have mentioned, both to refuse to call a man, and also to disbar him when he is called. And I claim, therefore, that there is, at any rate in the three great professions I have mentioned, ample precedent for an inquiry such as this. In regard to the cases I have mentioned as to age, learning, and behaviour, power already exists in the bishop; therefore, I think it is an abuse of language to say that it has not got the precedents, while in connection with it the idea of sacerdotalism is too ridiculous to mention. So much for the inquiry. That inquiry is also subject to a Court of Appeal, which consists of a Judge of the High Court 363 sitting with the Archbishop, and which is so far from a sacerdotal tribunal that the Judge of the High Court or Court of Appeal is to have absolute jurisdiction of finding all the facts which are brought before him. Sir, I pass, therefore, from that to the last topic. There is a power proposed by this Bill which slightly extends existing powers, that when a commission, consisting of four laymen and three ecclesiastics, have found that an incumbent has by his own fault proved himself inadequate to fitly perform the duties of his office, there is power for the bishop to adopt the report of the commission which has sat, and prevent him from the use of his office. And there are provisions consequential upon this for the payment of curates, who are put in charge, for the sequestration of benefices, and a few other consequential matters, with which I need not trouble the House on the Second Reading. The power of the bishop is also subject to the Court of Appeal, whose functions I have briefly described to the House; that is these three provisions, the provision in regard to patronage with which I have already dealt, which merely extends and improves the machinery by which the central principle at the basis of the law of patronage exists; in the second place, the extension—the slight extension—of the powers of the bishop to refuse institution, and the empowering of the parishioners to take active measures for their own protection. There are, lastly, the safeguards of appeal. If it is found that a person, by his own fault, is inadequate to discharge the duties of the benefice, there is this power to enable the bishop to remove him. From all these provisions I think the House will see that it is the intention of the promoters—and I think by the terminology of the Bill this is quite clear—to exclude from the jurisdiction of the bishop matters which are matters of opinion, or which are matters upon which different opinions—and, naturally, different opinions—widely obtain within the sphere of the diocese. Sir, may I venture, in concluding, to impress upon the House, with all the earnestness that I can, that it is important, deeply important, that some action should in this Session be taken in this matter. Sir, it 364 can hardly be conceived that a more favourable moment will ever arise. The vast majority in this House are supporters, and warm and cordial supporters, of the Established Church. They are in turn supported by the members of the Church all over the country with equal cordiality. Sir, our opponents and honourable Gentlemen who differ from us in this matter, our opponents who conscientiously dislike the principle of establishments, and who desire to do everything that they can legitimately to relieve the country of them, they will recognise, I think, if they face substantial facts, that in any view the Established Church must be for many years with us. And if that be so I will not insult anybody by supposing that they think that this great fabric, which has stood so many shocks, is likely to be shaken by the scandalous reason that its opponents refuse the reforms which it desires, I do not think there is a Member of this House who stands upon that unworthy platform. But it is to be said, I think I may say, with the profoundest respect to the House, that the credit of the House is, to a certain extent, concerned when a Measure like this proceeds from within a body like the Church of England, which is earnestly, even passionately, desirous of purging itself from admitted abuses. It would not be to the credit of the House of Commons if it refused, under the circumstances I have, stated, to pass a Measure which, in my humble judgment, is supported by good sense and by rational enthusiasm. I beg to move—That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ MR. C. B. MCLAREN (Leicester, Bosworth)
Sir, in opposing the Second Reading of this Bill, it is not to be supposed that I hold a brief for the Church Association, or for any body of Protestant persons, or for the Liberation Society, apart from, or with any desire to throw doubt upon the high principles of the hon. Gentleman opposite who has brought in this Measure. I think we must all feel that, apart from the principle and details of the Bill, the hon. Members who have banded themselves together, Session after Session, in order to 365 promote what, in their view, is an important reform of the Church, have shown an example which everybody must admire. I do not join, for a moment, in the chorus of abuse which has been showered upon them in certain quarters—high places of the Church of England itself; but I oppose the Bill on what I may call general national grounds, because it appears to me that, while it attacks certain evils in the Church which we, perhaps, are supposed to admit exist, it does so in a very imperfect and inadequate manner, and it creates other evils, which are, in my opinion, contrary to the Protestant history of this country, and, at the same time, it does not do away radically with the evils of Church patronage, with which my hon. and learned Friend has dealt. Of course, everybody knows that the system of patronage in the Church of England is peculiar to this country. It is far from an ideal system. It is thoroughly illogical, but I hold that it has worked well for the people of England for the last 250 years. While we have seen the Church in other countries controlled by bishops and high ecclesiastical persons, or by Ministers of State; while we have seen the Church in other countries subjected to every kind of revolutionary attack; while we have seen it losing its influence over the vast majority of the grown-up men, we have found the Church of England, whether for good or evil, has weathered all these storms, and is to-day, perhaps, more powerful, in a religious sense, than the Church of England has ever been before. If that is so, then, surely the present system is not altogether a bad one. It brought the Church of England out of the hands of Laud and Strafford, men who, I think, were the political ancestors of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who are known in this House as the Clerical Party. They were the predecessors of those hon. Gentlemen in their desire to wrest the government of the Church of England from the congregations and from the worshippers and hand it over to the worst form of Episcopal domination. Fortunately for the Church, it was taken cut of their hands by means which were, perhaps, violent, but none the less efficacious, and through the dark days of the last century the Church survived, with 366 its fox-hunting parsons and its two-bottle men—men who were, perhaps, not a credit, from our point of view, to their sacred calling, but men who, at all events by their habits, possessed the sympathy of their flock to a remarkable degree. At all events, they were the sort, of type that suited that century; and when the religious revival produced by Methodism took place, the parson had the sense to fall, to some, extent, into line with that revival, and the patron of the living had the sense to look out a man who was, to some extent, in touch with the religious tendencies of the day. Therefore I am quite certain that we as candid men in this House can see that the present system has fulfilled its illogical work well for the Church of England. There is a great deal to be said in favour of the parson who believes in muscular Christianity, who is a good cricketer, who knows how to pull his parish together in all questions excepting theological questions; those he left very properly to Convocation of the Church of England and to the Dissenting communities who, to a large extent, administer spiritual consolation to the poor in the towns and rural parishes. But the parson, undoubtedly, is, it power in the parish. In a kind of way he is some relation to the Squire, or some friend. He and the Squire are looked up to socially by the people of the parish, and, on the whole, he is a success. Where do we find these terrible evils upon which this Bill is founded? Where do we find these unfit men who are said to be presented to livings? I do not know any. Of course, now and then we meet with an unfortunate specimen of the parson who may have gone wrong; but, in the main, I do believe that a very wise and proper judgment is exercised by patrons of livings, because when a man lives among his tenants and neighbours, he naturally looks out for a religious man and for a common-sense man, and takes care not to offend the proper susceptibilities of the people. I submit that unless hon. Members having charge of this Bill can make out a real case for practical reform of admitted grievances the House ought not to entertain a Measure of this importance, based on purely sacerdotal considerations. I notice it is very much more restricted in its provisions 367 than the Bill that came before us in 1896, which was read a second time and considered by a Committee. At all events, it is a very different Bill, because a large number of the provisions which were objected to in that Bill are omitted in this; and I have no doubt that after this Bill has passed through the same ordeal, and has been relegated to the limbo of Measures that are not proceeded with, we shall have another Bill before us next year. Again, we have the promise of a Measure from the Government, and I noticed in a report of what happened at Convocation last month, that the Archbishop of Canterbury—I think it was he—alluded to this Bill, damned it with faint praise, and relied entirely upon what the Government are going to do for his hope of Church reform. I think we ought to, at any rate, hear what the Government proposals are before taking up a reform such as this Bill embodies. I look at the Church papers, and I see that they do not talk much about this Bill, and one would have thought that if the Bill was going to meet such a terrible want in the Church, the papers would be full of articles, sounding the trumpet and beating the drum, in order to bring their forces together, and then, by petition, get it passed in some Parliamentary form or other. But it appears to have excited no notice whatever, as far as I can judge, from the Ecclesiastical Press. There is, however, a strong feeling amongst the country incumbents upon the Bill. I have had, and expect we all have had, a deluge of circulars upon the subject, and it is quite clear that unless the House has some mode of knowing what is the general feeling of the Church upon this subject, it ought to be very cautious how it interferes with questions so difficult and so mixed up with the Church, as this difficult question of Church patronage. I noticed in the Guardian this week a letter written by someone in favour of the Bill, and I also noticed in the Guardian, a letter strongly opposing the Bill. The latter gentleman—a rector—called it a hypocritical and factious Measure. I do not know what that means, but it is perfectly clear, from the strong language which made up the greater part of his letter, that the Bill is giving great offence indeed in quarters in which, I have no 368 doubt, we ought to expect it would be well received. Now, Sir, turning to the three principal clauses of the Bill, which my hon. and learned Friend discussed, I want to call the attention of the House to this fact—that while this Bill destroys all sales of advowsons—it does so without giving any compensation at all to the owners of advowsons. That is an absolutely revolutionary proposal to be made in this House. I have seen a good many Bills passed in this House for taking away private rights; I have read of a great many more, but I never knew this House, in any questions involving the forfeiture of proprietary rights, refuse to give compensation of an ample character to those who are deprived of those rights, and I am the more surprised to find the names of the gentlemen on the back of this Bill joining in a Jacobinical attack upon the rights of private property. Hon. Members may laugh, but that only shows with how little seriousness they regard this Bill. But are they prepared to adhere to this new principle of confiscation without compensation? Are they prepared to carry out that principle logically in dealing with the property of the Church? Are we, when the day for Disestablishment comes, to accept this principle and say, when the endowments are taken away from the Church, nobody is to have any compensation whatever? I do not think that my hon. Friends opposite would desire that that principle should be applied in dealing with the question of Church property. Why, then, should they seek by this simple, and at the same time irritating Measure, to assert a principle which seems to be based on this theory: that because it is property taken away from the patron of a living he should have no compensation, that because he is patron of a living he is a man without merits and without deserts, and his property should therefore be taken away from him. I venture to say, that a more extraordinary principle was never embodied in any Bill before Parliament. I cannot help feeling that there is a great deal to be said for Sub-section B in the first clause, to the effect that after the passing of this Act no sales shall take place by public auction. Why could not the Bill go a step further, and say that no sale shall take place at all? 369 What is the difference between a sale by public auction and a sale by private treaty? The only difference is that in the one case the public get to know about it, and the newspapers write disagreeable articles about it, while in the other case the transaction which is branded as nefarious has to be carried out in some lawyer's office. It seems to me, therefore, that the Bill is rather like a whited sepulchre, it is like only cleaning the outside of the platter, and I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member opposite would have done much better if they really believed in their own principles, had they put this clause on higher grounds, and not endeavoured, as they have done, to conceal the act which they deplore, instead of preventing it altogether. I notice there is nothing in the Bill which relates to the exchange of livings, so that under the cloak of an exchange of livings the very objects that this Bill intended to prevent would be defeated. This was a subject which was most fully discussed in convocation this year, and I should like to see something in the Bill showing how the promoters of it proposed to deal with that scandal of the Church. I come now to Subsection 2 of Clause 3, and that is, after all, the clause which the clergy object to most—Where the bishop, after holding an inquiry, is satisfied that a presentee is unfitted for discharging the duties attaching to the cure of souls of the benefice to which he has been presented, on the ground of age or infirmity, existing pecuniary embarrassment, misconduct, or neglect of duty in a previous benefice, or ecclesiastical office, evil life, or having by his conduct caused grave scandal or evil report concerning his moral conduct since his ordination, the bishop may refuse to institute the presentee to the benefice.I ask the House to observe on what grounds the bishop may interfere with the rights of the holder of the advowson. He may object that the presentee is unfit on the grounds of age, although, as my hon. and learned Friend tells us, that is already provided for by Statute. He may object on the grounds of "existing pecuniary embarrassments"; but I would ask, does the presentee propose to produce a balance sheet with which he has to satisfy the bishop, or the bishop's chaplain, that he is in a sound financial 370 position, that he has paid all his debts, and is able to meet all demands that tire likely to be made upon him? If that is not so, I do not see what meaning that clause has. Then there is "misconduct, or the neglect of duty in a previous benefice," which are grounds for disqualification. That phrase does not mean an evil life, or scandal, because that is altogether an independent ground of objection. I ask hon. Members in charge of this Bill to state clearly what they mean to cover by these words "misconduct or neglect of duty in a previous benefice." We all know very well that the Church of England is divided into two very hostile camps, and what is a right act on the part of a low Churchman stinks in the nostrils of his ritualistic brother, and there are many high Chinch clergymen who for their conduct in dealing with matters of ritual, which cannot be said to be theological differences, would be looked upon by a low Church bishop as quite undesirable persons to be inducted, and might possibly be considered fit persons to censure under this Bill. This Bill puts, by words of the most vague character, not only the living, but the career, the whole future of every clergyman in the hands of his bishop, and before the House sanctions anything of that kind, surely some means ought to be devised so that we may know what is the opinion of the clergy and the laity of the Church on this question. Happily, this House has sole jurisdiction in this matter, but I am quite certain that if this clause were put in any criminal Bill, dealing with the ordinary Englishman, it would never be passed by the House in its present form and I hope it will not be the case with the clergy, who are the last persons to be subjected to such arbitrary treatment. We have already the Clergy Discipline Act, which I should have thought would have sufficed to deal with cases where a man is unfit for his office. Take for instance the operation of this clause with regard to the hunting parson, who, in following that pursuit, perhaps, rather neglects his parochial work. Is that a neglect of duty? Suppose the parson cycles a good deal. It has been discussed in France a good deal whether a priest should be allowed to cycle—and that is a subject which might perfectly well be taken up by the bishops of this country. 371 Suppose a man goes racing, is that to disqualify him? No doubt many bishops would think it a very serious offence. Take the case of theatre going. In Cardinal Manning's time he had a strong objection to theatre going, and he would not allow any of his clergy in this country to attend a theatre, and I know-many Catholic priests who told me that, although they believed in theatres, they could never go to one in this country, although they always went to them in Paris or Brussels. The theory of episcopal influence and domination which is held by the Catholic Church of this country is the theory of a large section of the English Church. They desire to leave the bishop paramount in all matters of ecclesiastical discipline, and so far from the cases I have quoted being impossible cases, I undertake to say that if the high Church party had the upper hand they would place the recreation of the clergy entirely in the hands of their, ecclesiastical superiors, and therefore these matters are all very serious matters and merit our earnest and serious consideration. Then I come to Clause 4, which is an important clause in this Bill and by which the bish is to have power to turn a man out of his living.
§ MR. MCLAREN
Yes, through his own fault, but that is merely begging the question. The question is whether it is a man's own fault at all, and therefore that is where I complain that the parson is not safeguarded by the provisions of this Bill. Whenever the incumbent fails "adequately to discharge his duties," it will be lawful for a sort of inquisition to be appointed to sit upon this unfortunate incumbent. I will not trouble the House with details as how the incumbent is to be appointed, but it really is an inquisition pure and simple, and although it will not be able to call in the "Civil arm" yet it places the incumbent's character and his ecclesiastical position entirely at the mercy of this Bishop's Court. The Commissioners are all to be ecclesiastics, with the exception of two solicitors, or barristers, or justices of the peace—the composition of the inquisition is mentioned 372 in the latter part of the clause—and they are entitled to sit upon this alleged delinquent, and if they report that he is guilty the punishment is really a most terrible one. In looking through the Bill I find that these are the penalties which attach to a man who is found guilty of neglect of duty, and we know what that phrase means in eyes of certain ecclesiastics. He may be suspended from office, turned out of his residence, and the parsonage can be let, or handed over to the curate for his residence; but notwithstanding that the inhibited incumbent is to be liable for all delapidations during the curate's tenancy of the parsonage, and in addition to that the living may be sequestrated that the incumbent may be charged with the cost. Assuming for a moment the full gravity of his offences, there is nothing in the Bill which enables the bishop to turn the incumbent out of his benefice, although he may load him with all these penalties which seem to be so grievous under the circumstances. Surely when the meanest of Her Majesty's subjects has the right to be tried by a jury, the clergyman has a similar right when his punishment, if found guilty, is the deprivation of his position and character in life. Surely a jury of twelve Englishmen is as good as the six Commissioners named in Clause 4. It is at any rate good enough in the case of a railway company which neglects its duty by running over a passenger or committing any other offence, and I venture to say that if this Bill were passed, making the inquiry to be held by a judge of the High Court and a jury there would be much less objection to it. I, at all events, object to ecclesiastical domination of every kind, whether by laymen or parsons, and I oppose the Bill strongly on these grounds. The rest of the Bill is more or less machinery for carrying out this unfortunate clause. I cannot help feeling that when you look at the clause with regard to the Rules, then we are within measurable distance of a great injustice. By Clause 12, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice of England may frame the Rules. The clause does not say they "shall" frame them, but they "may" frame Rules, and the whole of the machinery for carrying out this Bill, and its drastic provisions is left 373 in the hands of this body of functionaries, who "may" perform the duties with which they are entrusted. There seems to be no power to entitle an attacked incumbent to be heard. I do not know whether that was intended or not, but it seems to me that, as far as I can read the Bill, there is a distinct omission as compared with the Bill of 1896. There is no provision for hearing the incumbent himself.
§ MR. MCLAREN
I accept that view of my hon. and learned Friend. No doubt it would probably be the case, but at the same time the omission of that safeguard is very remarkable, and I do not think we can have too many provisions for protecting the rights of the individual attacked. This Bill is put forward to a large extent as a Measure for the protection of the parishioners—a Bill to protect the rights of members of the Church of England who desire to have their services administered in a decent and proper manner. If that is so, why not call into your confidence or your councils the parishioners themselves? Why do you relegate everything to your Bishop and to these ecclesiastical people? Surely, in these days of democratic reform, where you have long ago put the power into the hands of inhabitants of parishes and districts—surely you may entrust them with, at all events, a partial interest, a small share of the management of their own ecclesiastical interests. I should be glad to see a wider power placed in the hands of the parishioners themselves. If an incumbent is unfit for his parochial duties, who is more fit to judge him than his own flock, who are the living witnesses of his faults and neglects? In every branch of life those who are directly affected have a remedy. The Dissenting communities manage their own affairs. They are a large mass of people who do not belong to the Church of England. They have their own ecclesiastical Courts, but they are popular, and they do not want Bishops and Chancellors to manage and direct their proceedings. They can remove the unfit parson and appoint a fit one in his stead. 374 Why cannot you repose in the wealthy, educated, and middle classes, the great bulk of whom belong to the Church of England, the same powers that are reposed by Dissennitg bodies in men in a similar position of life? You have a very striking example of the success of that system in Scotland to-day. The Scottish system of patronage was nearly as bad as that which is objected to here, and under a Conservative Government a Bill was passed abolishing it. So far as I know, there has been no abuse of the system, and if the Scotch are able to look after their own spiritual welfare by democratic methods, what is there in the nature of Englishmen that they should not be able to do the same thing? I say it is very much more consistent with the traditions of the Church of England that the parishioners should have a voice in the appointment and removal of their own parsons, than that the whole matter should be placed in the hands of the Bishops. I have quoted the proceedings of Convocation several times to-day, and I will quote them once more. At a meeting last month a proposal was brought up to appoint parochial Church Councils, to assist the parsons to administer the general affairs of the Church. Surely, that is a scheme which might be brought into this Bill, and we might deal with this great question on some such basis as that. If there is anything at all in the idea of parochial Church Councils for parochial matters, surely, they ought to be good enough to deal with the appointment or dismissal of the parson. The reform of Church government has been taken up in some way by Convocation, which has passed a resolution of a most democratic character in favour of putting Church matters in the hands of Churchmen themselves. I do not think that those are unreasonable proposals, and I should be very glad to support this Bill if it contained any proposals of that kind. I do not suppose this Bill can become law this Session, and I sincerely hope it will not be read a second time to-day. The news of the acceptance of this Measure by this House would give pain and cause a sense of injustice to tens of thousands of some of the best men in this country. And I say, that, before questions of this magnitude are dealt with by a Measure promoted by a 375 private Member, we ought to have a much clearer and fuller understanding of what the Church of England wishes in the matter. I have not heard anything from my hon. and learned Friend on what I would call the merits of the question. He has given the House very valuable information on many points, but I should like to know, before this Bill passes, what is the heart of the Church of England on the matter. I do not want to know what the Chancellors of the dioceses think of the Bill, but how it will be received by the people in the parishes. I earnestly hope it will not be proceeded with in any haste, but that we shall hear from the Government before very long that they have in preparation a Measure of a very much more drastic and satisfactory character. I beg to move that the Question be amended by leaving out the word "now," and adding the words "upon this day six months," at the end of the Question.
§ MR. C. A. CRIPPS (Gloucester, Stroud)
Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is necessary to follow at any great length the arguments which have been adduced by the hon. and learned Member for the Bosworth Division of Leicester. Following, as well as I could, his arguments, I do not understand whether he considered that at the present time the machinery and organisation of the Church of England was as perfect as he desired it should be, or whether there was some general national ground—I am using his own expression—in reference to which he required that there should be a Church reform in some shape. Because, when I come to the criticism of the hon. and learned Member upon the proposals of the Bill brought forward by the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, I am bound to say that those criticisms seem to be based on an imperfect apprehension of what the Bill proposes, or, at least, an imperfect apprehension of what the state of the law is at the present time. Let me take one or two illustrations, which I do not think will occupy too much time. The hon. and learned Gentleman has talked of trial by jury. I want to put this question to him. Is there any case, either of institution or deprivation, so far as 376 the position of the presentee is concerned, at the present moment, in which the issue can be brought before a jury? A similar misapprehension was shown during the discussions of this Bill in the year 1896. I admit that where the patron raises a point he may bring the matter before a jury. That is a right which he has had up to the present time, and it is preserved to him, untouched by the provisions of this Bill; but, although it is a theoretical right of the patron, for the last century it has not been exercised more than once or twice. So great a Judge as Lord Ellenborough thought that nothing could be more ridiculous than to ask a jury to decide whether a particular presentee was sufficiently learned, or whether his knowledge of Greek or Latin or ecclesiastical law was sufficient. He pointed out that, although under our law an action of this kind could be brought, yet within his knowledge no such action ever had been brought, and he hoped it never would be. Now, Mr. Speaker, I pass to other matters to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred. I will deal with some of them in some detail, when I come to the terms of the Bill itself. I come now to what he has said with regard to the principle of compensation. He has suggested that the provisions of this Bill were of a Jacobinical character, and interfered with the principles of compensation which were applied by this House when it dealt with proprietary rights. Now I challenge the hon. and learned Gentleman directly upon this point. Is there any instance in the whole compensation law of this country where you could get compensation when a man is exercising a right in the nature of a public trust? I challenge my hon. and learned Friend in the very broadest way. I will deal with the provisions of this Bill in a moment; but if I thought that, within the four corners of this Bill there was any interference with real proprietary rights or any principle which clashed with the terms on which we now deal with rights of that kind, I, for one, would not support it. I am perfectly satisfied that anyone who has to deal with these questions of compensation—and I have had to deal with them very constantly—will not find any interference with the law as to compensation in what it is proposed to do within the 377 four corners of the present Bill. I think it is most important that at last a question of this kind should be met and discussed, and fully understood. Now, let me deal with another Jacobinical point raised by my hon. and learned Friend opposite. He has talked of this Bill as though it were theoretical in its character and in its provisions. Why, Sir, it has already been pointed out to the House that there are provisions in this Bill which deal more directly in controlling the exercise of the discretion of the bishop in all matters of institution or deprivation than will be found in any part of the ecclesiastical or common law of this country at the present time. It is of the very essence of this Bill that we have introduced a new Appeal Court, where these matters of fact and of law are not dealt with by an ecclesiastical authority, but are dealt with by a judge specially appointed for that purpose. And let me ask the hon. and learned Member how he can substantiate the proposition he has brought forward? How he can suggest that this is a Bill which gives undue power either to the episcopal bench, or to what he calls, I suppose, the sacerdotal element in this country, when he finds within the four corners of the Bill a proposal, made for the first time, of a Court of Appeal, which brings all these matters of fact and all these difficult questions as to the evil life and pecuniary embarrassment, and all similar matters, to the decision, not of an ecclesiastical judge of an ecclesiastical court, but to the decision of a judge of the High Court, and his judgment on these points is to be final and binding? Now, Sir, I do not want to say anything which might introduce a feeling of prejudice into the discussion of these questions in this House, but one wonders whether my hon. and learned Friend opposite is sincere in what he has said, as regards his desire to protect the future of the Church of England in this country, in view of his references to the foxhunting parson, as he calls him, and the two-bottle parson. Although that sort of element may be a disgrace to the particular person concerned, yet it is one of the very greatest reforms which has come over men's minds in the present day, that parsons would rather have a cure of souls than engage in matters of this kind.
§ MR. CRIPPS
Then I did not understand my hon. and learned Friend, for I thought he referred to those old times as though he were a laudator temporis acti. Now, Sir, I have dealt with all the points raised by the hon. and learned Member opposite except one, and I only refer to it again in order to show that the hon. Member has not studied the Bill, and has not made himself familiar with what are really its proposals. He referred to Section 4, and said that certain matters under it might be brought before what he called an inquisition, of which there were only two lay members. He is quite wrong in that view, for if he looks into the matter, he will find that there are not two lay members but four. What do we propose in this Bill, to which, I think, we ought to have his consent? We add two lay members to a Commission, on which there are already, under the existing law, two lay members; and, therefore, what we do is but to increase the ecclesiastical and sacerdotal spirit. We add additional lay members to the Commission, and I want to know why the hon. and learned Member should find fault with us on that point. I do not wish to be hard, but it docs appear to me that in his desire to quote certain passages from Convocation, and in his desire to pose as the mouthpiece, as I understand, of the heart of the English Church, the hon. and learned Member has failed to study and to consider what this Bill does really propose, and what reforms it suggests. And I join issue with him upon another point. Who are likely to speak with knowledge of the wishes of the Church of England in this House? Is it likely that a Bill associated with the name of the noble Lord the Member for Rochester is not based on the true wishes of the Church of England? And I will go further and ask the hon. and learned Member whether he will get up in this House and say that he represents the heart of the Church of England in this country better than those who have brought forward this Bill, and who have been pressing this measure of reform year after year, for a series of years, upon the attention 379 of this House. Now, Sir, though at no undue length, I wish to call the attention of the House to what appear to me to be the main points of the Bill itself. I do not, of course, seek to go through the matters so admirably dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington, but I want to put forward one or two propositions only, because I consider that matters of mere detail can properly be dealt, with in Committee on the Bill. Now, as to the first part of this Bill. I do not think it is difficult or complex, but the first part of this Bill, as has been pointed out by the hon. and learned member for Warwick and Leamington, is that which deals with patronage. I may say that from time immemorial, at any rate from the time of Elizabeth, so far as our statute law is concerned, and from a much earlier period, so far as our ecclesiastical law is concerned, this question of the right of patronage, so far as the principle is concerned, has been clearly recognised and clearly ascertained. It has been laid down more than once that, though the right of patronage is properly a right of private property, yet the exercise of that right is a great public trust to be used in the spiritual interests of the various parishes throughout the length and breadth of this country. For the last two hundred years or more it has been recognised without doubt that when that right is exercised it cannot be exercised as a full right of private property, but must be exercised as a great and sacred public trust, in accordance with the statute law and the common law, and in accordance with the ecclesiastical rights laid down in our Ecclesiastical Courts. The hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington stated truly enough that this Bill is based on the assumption of the continuance of lay patronage. It is based on that assumption, because lay patronage is the essence of the organisation and life of the Church of England at the present moment. I am not going into a question of this kind now. It does not arise, Sir, upon the present Bill, but I want to state this as my opinion, in the clearest terms and the strongest language, that you could not have a system of lay patronage without recognising that the exercise of the right of lay patronage was a solemn and sacred public trust. 380 Now, Sir, in relation to this principle it has been for many years laid down that the transfer of patronage may be so closely connected with the right of patronage that you cannot control the one without, in part at least, controlling the other. What is the proposal here as regards patronage; at any rate, what is the first part of the proposal? It is that in exercising this public trust legislative control is necessary. It may be that hon. Members and critics opposite may say that the particular way in which we seek to control the exercise of this public trust is not justified. That is a very different matter. But when you once arrive at the point that you ought to control it, and that you ought to introduce some new Measure as regards the exercise of this great function of a public trust, then I say my hon. and learned Friend is wrong—wrong on precedent, wrong on law, and wrong on the whole principle applying to questions of this kind—when he says that controlling a public trust for this purpose ought to give any claim for compensation either to the patron or anybody else. Now, let me take the next provision in the Bill; surely nothing can be more reasonable than what the Bill proposes in its second section. Let me explain shortly what the principle involved in it is. The proposal is that after the bishop has made up his mind that a particular presentee is a suitable person, notice shall be given to the parishioners in order that they may bring forward at that stage any objection which they think they can justify and prove. Let me ask the attention of the House to the manner in which a provision of this kind practically works. It is a blot on the organisation of the Church of England, it is one of those unfortunate defects upon which the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington has commented, that it may be possible in this country to institute a person to a particular parish, although the parishioners have knowledge of facts which, if brought to the mind of the Bishop, ought to be against allowing any such thing to take place. I ask the House to consider what the provision is. Who are more interested in the selection of the parson than the parishioners themselves? Is it not right that they should have notice given to them in order that 381 if they know of any reasons why a particular clergyman ought not to be presented to that parish, they should at least be entitled to bring these matters to the mind of the Bishop and the Appellate Court? It is not creating, so far as this section is concerned, any new ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or any new ecclesiastical offence of any kind. It is merely saving, on the principle, of simple justice and equity, that the people most interested, the people whose future spiritual welfare may depend upon the clergyman who is coming to take charge of the cure of souls, if they have knowledge that he is not a, fit and proper person, ought to be able to bring their objections, such as they are, before a properly constituted Court. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to me to be rather inconsistent in his criticism of the Bill upon those points. I hardly know whether he welcomes proposals of this kind, but, if he does, it is hardly consistent with his attitude in moving the rejection of the Bill. Now let me deal with one or two other points in the hon. and learned Member's speech. There are in Section 3 provisions which I may explain in a very few words. Where a presentee is presented to a Bishop under circumstances of the gravest suspicion, what does the Bill propose? It gives the Bishop power to inquire whether those circumstances are such that the institution of the presentee would be injurious to the interests of the parish. Now, I ask the House whether a proposal of that kind is not well justified? Is it not, indeed, necessary in order to preserve the purity of presentations made under conditions of this kind? There is no interference here with the right of the patron whatever. It is simply this. A presentee is brought before the bishop under suspicious circumstances, and the Bishop, finding that those circumstances are such that to institute the presentee may be an injury to the true interests of the parish, is empowered to make inquiry. Is there any Member of this House who will get up and say that, under those circumstances, such a presentee ought to be forced upon a particular parish? And I would point out that there is no interference here with the rights of patronage in the ordinary sense at all. The Bill does not interfere with the patron making 382 any other presentation. It does not interfere with his bringing forward a proper presentee, who, as regards spiritual and other matters, would be a proper person to institute. There is only one other respect in which the right of institution is dealt with by this Bill, and it is in cases where the bishop after inquiry, is satisfied that the presentee, on particular and specified grounds, is unfitted for the discharge of the duties attaching to the cure of souls in a benefice. Let me put another point to the hon. and learned Member opposite, because he called attention to the proposals contained in this particular question. Supposing a bishop comes to the conclusion—I will take his own illustration—that, owing to evil life, a man is unfitted for discharging the duties attaching to the cure of souls in a benefice, would he leave the law such that a bishop would be compelled to institute that man, after coming to such a conclusion? Or, take another case. Suppose the man has, by his moral conduct, caused grave scandal since his ordination, I put it again to the hon. and learned Member opposite (he asked me to put questions, not on matters of theory, but on matters of fact and everyday life), and I put to him this question: Suppose it is brought to the mind of the bishop that a man has caused great scandal or evil report by his moral conduct, and suppose the bishop comes to the conclusion that such a man is unfitted to discharge the duties attaching to the cure of souls in a benefice? I ask the hon. and learned Member opposite, and I ask any other Member of this House, Whether, under those circumstances, there ought not to be power given to the bishop to refuse to institute such a person? This is a practical question. It is all very well to talk about sacerdotalism and theories, but the parishioners in thousands of parishes throughout the length and breadth of the country have to live with the person who may be instituted to the cure of souls by the bishop of their diocese. Would the hon. and learned Member opposite, under the circumstances I have described, go so far as to force such a clergyman on a parish? He asks me to deal with questions of fact, and to put on one side mere questions of theory; and that is my answer to him. I should like to know 383 whether, here or anywhere else, the hon. and learned Gentleman would get up and say that a parson should be instituted to a parish, although he is unfitted for the discharge of the duties attaching to the cure of souls, and unfitted because, by his conduct, he has caused grave scandal and evil reports concerning his moral character? That is an issue of fact. I am not dealing with matters of theory. I repudiate the word sacerdotalism myself, but I do not stop to discuss it. I am dealing here with the practical question whether, when a bishop may have to appoint a parson for 30 or 40 years, will the hon. and learned Member opposite say that such a man as I have described, who is found to be unfitted for the duties attaching to the cure of souls, ought to be appointed?
§ MR. CRIPPS
It has been suggested by the hon. and learned Member opposite that the purport of this Bill is to give fresh power to the bishops and others, and that, therefore, it will support sacerdotalism. That is entirely a mistake. What are the powers of a bishop as regards institution at the present moment, and what are the powers we propose to insert in this Bill? As, regards the special provisions of the Bill, if my hon. Friend opposite will pay attention to these, I think he will come to the conclusion that the fear he has suggested does not exist. Let me draw attention to what the proposal of the present Bill is. Take a case in which questions of evil life and existing pecuniary embarrassment arise. What do we propose? It is true that, in the first instance, there will be what is called "paternal consideration" of these questions before the bishop himself. That is the first step, and I call the attention of the House to this fact, that the first step under the existing law is exactly the same as the first step proposed in this Bill. I do not know whether the attention of the House has been fully called to the proposals for an Appeal Court; but no one who reads these proposals under Section 7, and has cognisance of the difficulties, can feel otherwise than, that the protection of the Common Law is more than fully preserved. Let me explain to the House exactly how the point arises. The bishop is only entitled to refuse institution 384 on certain specified grounds, and when he refuses institution, he has to specify the grounds of his refusal. Whether these grounds have been established, or whether they have not been established, on what we know as legal evidence, is a matter entirely left to the cognisance, consideration, and decision of one of the Judges of Her Majesty's High Court. What does the right hon. Gentleman opposite mean when he talks about sacerdotalism and ecclesiasticism?. Accusations of that kind ought not to be made until the Bill has been thoroughly studied. If the Judges of the High Court find that the bishop has not taken a true view of these questions of evil life and existing pecuniary embarrassments, the man is instituted as a matter of right. Where does any question of ecclesiastical tyranny arise there? And, I may point out to the House that there is another further right of appeal. Even when a Judges agrees with the bishop, the Archbishop may either confirm the sentence of the bishop who presided in the first instance, or may give a conclusion in the opposite sense and in favour of the presentee. This system of appeal is really the essence of the Bill; it is a greater safeguard than exists at the present time. It gets rid of the whole difficulties of conflict between the ecclesiastic and the Common Law Courts, and I hold it will be of value not only in this Bill, but in some great Consolidation Act which will deal with all these difficulties in a satisfactory way. One, other part of the Bill to which the hon. and learned Friend referred was Section 4, dealing with the question of deprivation. This section is as follows—Whenever the bishop is of opinion that the incumbent of a benefice fails through his own fault (otherwise than in respect of a question of doctrine or ritual, or of opinion or action in matters of policy in Church or State) adequately to discharge the duties attaching to the cure of souls in his benefice, it shall be lawful for the bishop to issue a commission to six commissioners, directing them to inquire into the facts of the case.Sir, the very difficulty to which the hon. Member opposite refers so often has been provided against. I put this question to the hon. Member: Supposing the bishop comes to the conclusion that the man, through his own fault, is not discharging the duties of his office, would he have the bishop stand by and not act? The hon. 385 Member for Bosworth says, "Freehold." I am very glad the hon. Member has said that, because I take it that a benefice is a freehold with duties attached to it. If these duties are not adequately performed would the hon. Member opposite starve for 20 or 30 years the whole spiritual life of the parishioners? And how would the hon. Member justify that? If he can carry his idea through, I think it would not be long till we were on the verge of disestablishment. The hon. Member has referred to the words "adequately discharging." But if there is any doubt as to whether the duties have been adequately performed or not, who is to decide the question? It is not the bishop; he takes no part at all. The question is decided by a commission of six, four of whom are lay members, and if that commission comes to the conclusion that an incumbent does not adequately discharge the duties of his office, there is an appeal to a judge of the High Court. The bishop only sets the law in motion, and surely my hon. Friend opposite must see the distinction between setting a tribunal in motion and being that tribunal. What is there of sacerdotalism in asking seven or eight commissioners to consider whether a gentleman has adequately discharged the duties of his office or not? What is there of sacerdotalism in that, or in asking a judge of the High Court to say whether these seven or eight commissioners have come to the right decision? The real truth is that this Bill was not framed with the object of increasing the powers of the bishops, but to give every litigant as full and fair a trial as possible. Sir, I appeal to the House on two grounds to support this Bill. We know that the friends of the Church of England in this House are in a large majority, and we know that at the last election the attack on the Church in Wales was an important factor in building up the large majority we have in this House. If, with this vast majority, we cannot bring forward and pass a Measure of reform, the chances of the Church of England in this House must in the future be looked upon as hopeless. Sir, there is another point which is equally important. The Church of England, which we on this side of the House respect and revere, and which is the most potent influence in our national social character and religious life, must, 386 like all other institutions, be subject to reform and adaptation in order that we may maintain its position, or increase its power and influence for good in the future.
*MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts., Mansfield Division)
Although this is an old Bill, it comes before the House for a Second Reading under new and interesting circumstances. For, in the first place, its promoters have put sufficient pressure upon the Government to extract from it a promise of legislation on the subject, and yet they appear to be sufficiently distrustful of the Government to be unwilling to wait for the production of the promised Measure, and so have once more introduced the Bill with which this House has become almost painfully familiar. The second novel circumstance is, that since the Bill was debated two years ago there has arisen a new school of Church Reformers; who have reached the conclusion at which the late Lord Carnarvon arrived several years ago, that the less the Church of England has of Parliamentary interposition the happier it will be. They have accordingly abandoned the hope of obtaining the needed reforms from Parliament, and insist that Convocation should be the Church's Parliament, and that the Imperial Parliament should hand over to it all Church legislation, and content itself with a modest veto on the Measures which are submitted to it. I feel curious to see what the friends of the Church Reform League—if it has any in this House—will say to this new attempt to proceed in accordance with the old mode of procedure. As the authors of the Bill have thought it well to adhere to the old methods, I can only repeat the objections which I have thought it right to offer to the Bill when previously before the House. And my objections are that it is thoroughly unsound in principle, that its provisions are so inadequate that it will do but little to effect the object that it has in view, and that it will ultimately increase the difficulties and embarrassment of Churchmen. I have said that the principle on which the Bill is based is thoroughly bad, and that principle I take to be that it is right to treat the power of allocating the clergy of the Established Church as a marketable 387 commodity. You may call it a sacred trust, but the ideas of trust and sale are altogether incompatible. This is a Bill for perpetuating, though under new conditions, what most of the religious people of this country—whether in the Church of England or out of it—regard as an iniquitous traffic. All that the Bill aims at is to repress what are called the grosser scandals of the system—the more public scandals, that is—and those which are most injurious to the Church as an establishment; but why should the minor and the private scandals be tolerated? It is considered a great point in favour of the Bill that it abolishes the sale of livings by auction; but practically such sales have been abolished by public opinion, for they are of very rare occurrence; but the sale of advowsons and next presentations is going on in secrecy in the offices of the clerical agents every day. Yes; and advertisements are continually appearing in the Times which cannot but disgust every right-minded Churchman, to say nothing of every right-minded Christian. Here is one culled from a number which have lately appeared—Valuable Presentation.—A Rectory. Income derived from tithe rent-charge and glebe. The rectory house is a perfect gentleman's residence. Excellent stabling, coach-house, loose boxes, lawns, pleasure gardens, and well-stocked kitchen garden. Fine old church. Charming parish, close to a railway station.Is not such an advertisement as injurious to the Church as the prohibited sales by auction? Yet, if this Bill should pass, the traffic will continue to be carried on by such means as those. I shall be told that, at least, the traffic will be diminished in amount, because the sale of next presentations will be prohibited, and only advowsons will remain saleable. Yes; but is there any difference in principle between the sale of an advowson and the sale of a right of one presentation only? The only difference I know is that between wholesale and retail dealing. And there is this to be said in favour of the sale of next presentations: that the buyer can make but one bad selection, while the purchaser of an advowson may make not only two or three bad appointments himslf, but may transmit his patronage rights to a successor as ill-qualified to choose ministers 388 of religion as himself. It is important to note this fact, that while this Bill aims at preventing the appointment of unworthy or unsuitable clergymen, it does not make the slightest attempt to prevent the purchase of patronage rights by immoral or incompetent persons. It is as true now as it was when Archbishop Magee said, some years ago, that—The very greatest scoundrel in England may be a patron, and his extreme immorality is no bar in law to his acting as patron.I could illustrate the truth of that statement by giving a list of no fewer than 63 livings which, not long ago, were in the hands of three patrons who, because of their known bad character, everybody would consider to be the last persons in the country to be entrusted with such a responsibility. As for the checks and safeguards and new clerical declarations provided for by this Bill, I need only recall the disclosures which were made some years ago, and of which I give these specimens. Mr. Bridges, solicitor to several Church societies, being asked by the Lords' Committee if the oath and declaration against simony were of any practical use, replied—I think they are constantly in the habit of being evaded, and I do not think they practically prevent simonical transactions. We know that a great many transactions of this kind are being carried out.Mr. Few, solicitor to the Bishop of London's Fund, was asked—You have considerable difficulty in getting clergymen to understand the stringent character of the oath against simony, have you not?and this was his answer—Undoubtedly, even in the case of men of undoubted piety, and more particularly in the case of the oath, it is quite remarkable how dense they were in seeing what its tenor was.The well-known Mr. Emary Stark told the Royal Commissioners of 1878—Three-fourths of my transactions are with immediate possession, and, strictly speaking, they are nearly all illegal.Then, being asked by the Bishop of Peterborough: "Knowing it to be illegal, these clerical patrons ask you to help them to break the law?" the answer was—Decidedly, and the matter is completed by solicitors of the highest standing in the country.389 After those statements, I leave the House to judge of the value of the new safe guards and declarations contained in this Bill. I do not wish to speak disrespect fully of the Measure; but I cannot help regarding it as being very much of a make-believe Measure. I say that for three reasons. The first is that a considerable number of livings are altogether exempt from the operation of the Bill—namely, livings transferred by death, by the operation of the law, and by a change of trustees. These are in no way affected by the Bill, and so it is evident that one class of livings is dealt with rigorously, whilst others are not dealt with at all. Then the Bill professes to recognise the right of parishioners to have some voice in the appointment of their parsons; but what voice? Three parishioners may forward to the bishop their objections to the clergyman who has been chosen by the patron; and, having done that, they disappear from the scene, and all the rest is left to the bishop, and the judges and the lawyers. But the grounds of objection are only such as would justify the bishop in refusing to institute, and they are carefully defined and limited by Clause 3. In Clause 4, which is one of the clauses which provide for the inhibition of clergymen by the bishop, not only have parishioners no locus standi, but the failure of the clergyman must be due to his own fault, and all questions relating to doctrine and ritual are excluded. Yet those are the very questions which may most affect the parish. The disqualifications named are, no doubt, of a serious character; but a clergyman may be a most unfit man on other grounds, which are not included. He may be a poor preacher, or he may be ill-tempered—"cantankerous," to use a phrase of the noble Lord the Member fur Rochester. Or he may possess excellent qualities, and yet be altogether unsuitable for the particular incumbency to which he is appointed. He may be a round man in a square hole. In such cases, as well as where the religious teaching or practices of the clergyman are objectionable in the view of the parishioners, they will be as helpless as they are at this moment. It is the Bishop who alone will have initiative power. I shall not criticise the 390 legal merits, or demerits, of the Bill, but make only one remark relative to that portion of the Measure. The clauses containing the legal machinery of the Bill appear to me a strange compound of law and gospel—of the religious and the secular. If any such scheme for either the appointment or the dismissal of their ministers were proposed for the adoption of any of the Free Churches of the land, they would receive it with derision. They have their difficulties in regard to the appointment and removal of ministers, but they do not meet them by either legislation or litigation, but adopt simpler, more rational, and, I will add, more Christian methods. Why cannot the Church of England do the same? I answer that question, not in my own words, but in those of a candid and influential Church journalist, who, writing on this subject some time ago, in the Guardian, said—It deserves to be again said and urged that the abuses of private patronage are specially and emphatically due to the connection of Church and State.That is the source of all the evils with which this Measure vainly strives to grapple, and therefore I may apply to it the language of Hugh Latimer, in regard to covetousness, and say—Establishment is the root of all this evil. Therefore strike at that root. Stand not tickling and loving at the branches, for new branches may spring forth again; but strike at the root.Sir, I do not intend to offer any obstruction to this Measure; but, believing it to be objectionable in principle, and certain to fail in effecting its intended objects, I certainly cannot take upon myself the responsibility of supporting it.
*MR. A. S. T. G. BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tonbridge)
Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege, during the five and a half years I have been in Parliament, of hearing discussions upon this question every single year, and I have taken some part in promoting Bills of this character; but I confess I have never heard the opposition to this Measure so inconclusive and feeble as on the present occasion. The hon. Member who has just sat down has told us quite plainly what his objections to the Bill are. He objects to amending 391 the machinery of the Church, because he wants to destroy the machinery of the Church. We know that that has been his policy all along.
Well, is not establishment the machinery of the Church? And is not that what he wants to destroy? The hon. Member, with honourable motives no doubt, has been aiming at that object throughout his life, and I can quite understand that anything which, like this Bill, will go to raise the Church in the affection of the people, and which would enable the Church, by her machinery, to carry out her spiritual work better and more effectively than she has been able to do up to the present time, would meet with the hon. Gentleman's strongest opposition. I venture to hope, however, that Nonconformists generally will not take that line. I think they ought, as religious men, to recognise that this is a perfectly honest attempt to improve the machinery of the Church. Just as I should bitterly regret that any Churchman should oppose a Nonconformist Measure brought in for the reform of anything connected with Nonconformist practice or worship, so I hope Nonconformists will treat this Bill for improving the machinery of the Church in an equally friendly spirit, and not oppose it. The hon. Member says it is only the Church of England which has to seek the aid of Parliament. May I remind him that, although the Nonconformists call themselves Free Churchmen they also have to come to Parliament? I believe they are coming to Parliament on one or two important matters in the present Session, and, for my part, I shall gladly support any Measures they may bring forward for improving the efficiency of their Churches. Going from the speech of the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division of Nottingham to that of the hon. Member for Bosworth, who moved the rejection of this Bill, I confess I war greatly astonished at his remarks. He appeared to have a very great regard for what he called "the old-fashioned parson." He asked whether a parson who went in fur cycling, hunting, or other 392 sports, would be considered to be neglecting his duty. Well, Sir, I do not think that theatre-going, or any other form of amusement, should be carried to such an extent as to interfere with the duties of a clergyman. If an "old-fashioned parson" is so taken up with these matters that he docs not properly carry out his duties, it is time he was superseded by someone who would properly carry out those duties. The sole question is: Is he doing his duty? If he is he should not be interfered with; but if he is not he should be removed out of his parish. So far as that part of the Bill is concerned, that is all we aim at. The matter was very clearly put by an hon. Member some time ago. He said that—If a man comes to a parish and finds a full church, an empty chapel, and a thriving school, and if, after two years, he empties the first, fills the second, and closes the third, surely it is time that he went somewhere else, and that another man took his place.That is the sole test. I contend that it is a scandal to the Church of England that there are at present no means whatever of removing a man who will not properly carry out his duties. There is another thing I should like to refer to in the speech of the hon. Member for Bosworth. He is terribly afraid that this Bill is what he calls a "sacerdotal or High Church Bill," and he seems to think that all those who are promoting the Bill are Sacerdotalists or Romanists in disguise, and that the proposals contained in the Bill are the proposals of one party only in the Church. I should like to point out that these proposals have the support of all the best men of all the parties in the Church. They have been supported, no doubt, by High Churchmen, they are supported by Moderate Churchmen, and they have, I venture to say, been supported by Low Churchmen also. One of the most important proposals in this Bill deals with the sale of livings. The Bishop of Liverpool, who is regarded as a High Churchman, says, in a book which he has published on Church reforms—A system by which the cure of souls can be sold like a flock of sheep or a drove of pigs deserves unmitigated condemnation; it is a 393 system which is a disgrace to the Church which tolerates it, and to the country in which it exists.I ask hon. Members to note the words of the Bishop of Liverpool. He says that where the cure of souls is sold if is a disgrace. That is what we are trying to prevent by this Bill. I do not see any equal objection to the sale of an advowson or of a presentation. It is the sale practically of the duties and responsibilities of the incumbent—of, in fact, the cure of souls—which is objectionable. This Bill would prevent the sale from being a sale of the cure of souls. It would prevent a man from buying in order that, he could present the living to a, friend, because it gives full powers to the bishop to refuse to institute such a man if presented. The important point is not merely how a patron acquires his right or how he disposes of his right; the important point is to see that the right is not, actually bought and sold against the wish of the parishioners and over their heads by the incumbent himself. If you are able, by a series of safeguards, to secure that no such transaction goes on, and that the man appointed is a good man, that is really all you want; and although, for my own part, I should not object, to abolish the sale altogether, I recognise that at the present, moment it is impossible to carry that out, and, failing that, I think if we are able to prevent the sale of the cure of souls, we really touch the root and heart of the disease. The hon. Member opposite may ask why I think it impossible to prevent the sale of presentation and advowson altogether. My answer is that I do not think you can in reason take away from the patron what has been regarded in one sense its a property, though in the other sense it is a sacred trust, without giving some compensation.
That is a different matter. The sale of next presentations is a far more fruitful source of scandal than the sale of advowsons generally, and as we stop the sale of next presentations, and also limit the sale of advowsons, by giving the bishop 394 power to refuse to institute a man when the presentation occurs within a year of the transfer we go very far indeed to mitigate these evils, and remove the scandals that now exist in the Church. The hon. Member for Mansfield quoted some advertisements to show the scandals that exist. He has by so doing greatly added to our case in presenting this Bill to the House, because those advertisements nearly always refer to the sale of next presentations.
I will now pass on and deal for one or two moments with what I regard as the most important part of the Bill—I refer to the powers conferred upon the bishop to refuse to institute an unfit person. Now, is there any man in this House who is willing to get up and say, that if a clergy-man has been guilty of any of the things specified in the clause, that he is the sort of person who ought to be appointed to a living in the Church of England? And if he is not the sort of person who ought to be appointed to a living, by what means are you going to prevent his appointment unless you give these powers to the bishop? We are told that we are giving far too great powers to the bishops. I reply that we are merely doing what every other Church does, and that, as a matter of fact, our bishops at the present moment are circumscribed in their powers in a manner in which the bishops of no other Church are. Let us take the Protestant Episcopal Church of Ireland. What is the case there? In the Church of Ireland the appointments to livings are made by the Board of Nomination, and when the Board of Nomination has nominated, the bishop may refuse to institute the person nominated, simply if he gives his reasons in writing. When the bishop has done that, the person nominated may appeal, but the appeal is to a Church Court, and only to a Church Court. By this Bill we give much greater rights of appeal than exists in the Church of Ireland. Take, again, the case of Australia. Powers almost exactly similar to those which I have spoken of as existing in Ireland obtain in Australia. In the Episcopal Church of America, if the clergyman has been regularly chosen 395 by the parishioners, under the supervision of the Vestry, the bishop may absolutely refuse to admit him into his diocese at all, much less into the parish, and from his decision there is no appeal whatever. Compared with this, the proposals of our Bill are very moderate indeed, and I cannot understand how any hon. Member can object to them. I would like to refer to what takes place in another Church with reference to the removal of a clergyman who is incompetent or who neglects his work. The Church I refer to is not a branch of the Anglican Church, but it is, perhaps, parallel with our Church, inasmuch as it is both established and endowed. I allude to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. As I understand, the method of procedure there is as follows: By an Act, or whatever it is called, of the General Assembly, passed two years ago, the Presbyteries are responsible for the parishes, and for the work that goes on in the parishes, and at their visitation they have the right to inquire if the work is being properly performed, and take into consideration any complaint brought before them. If the minister is found guilty of neglect, he is capable of being deposed. That is what goes on in the Established Church of Scotland.
Yes; by a Church Court; and here we give an appeal to a Lay Court. I think that when this Bill is examined from top to bottom, it will be found that the objections to it one by one disappear. It is extraordinary that our opponents always seem to misunderstand the details of the Bill. We are told, for example, by a paper which was sent round this morning, and we were also told by the hon. Member for Bosworth, that the proposed Court would be absolutely unfair, because the bishop would be the accuser, the jury, and the judge. That is not the case. What is the fact? The Commissioners who will hold inquiry into any alleged neglect of duty will be impartially chosen. It has been said that the bishop will appoint them. As a matter of fact, the 396 bishop does not appoint a single one. He only chooses whether the archdeacon or rural dean should be one of them; the others are appointed: one by the Dean and Chapter, one by the Clergy of the Deanery, two by the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, four by the accused man himself. The Commission is absolutely independent of episcopal influence altogether. I think the Bill is an exceedingly fair one. It is an attempt to remove defects in the machinery of the Church of England, and I would appeal to this House to allow this little Measure of Church reform to go through. I know there are some people who tell us that Church reform is unnecessary, and I acknowledge that there are some people who hold that the Church of England should be entirely above popular reform and Acts of Parliament. But, Sir, the Church of England, though it is a spiritual body, must also act at all times upon men through human machinery, and our duty as loyal sons of the Church is to see that machinery made as perfect as possible. I believe we can do this by gradual measures of reform, such as this Measure, which I believe to be an honest Bill. We have fought for this for many years, and I cannot believe that our Nonconformist friends in this House really desire that abuses within the Church of England should continue. I consequently ask the House to pass the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON: (Suffolk, Eye)
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has gone beyond what is contained in this Bill in the remarks he made in regard to sales—the distinction between the sale of the cure of souls, the sale of advowsons, and the sale of presentations. I think, from the point of view of common sense, little distinction can be drawn between the practical effect of one and the other; and, therefore, when he was alluding to certain reforms, the introduction of which he was advocating, he was referring to reforms which are not contained in this Bill. What he said applied not to this Measure now before the House, but to some Bill he evolved out of his inner consciousness, or to some future Bill. In the remarks he made with respect to other 397 branches of the Anglican Church, and also to the Churches throughout the world. I must say that, though I do not agree with the arguments put forward from this side of the House against the Bill, I feel that there is a great deal of truth in what is said as to the Church of England standing in this peculiar position—that, whereas other Churches are able to govern themselves and propose measures within themselves for their own discipline, the Church of England is subject to certain disabilities which she suffers in return for certain privileges which she enjoys by virtue of her connection with the State. That being the case, although certain of the Free Churches have to come to Parliament from time to time in connection with their own affairs, it is not the case that they have to come to Parliament in regard to presentations or institutions. The other matters dealt with in that Bill do not form part of the affairs for which the Free Churches of this country have to come to Parliament for an increase of power when they have desired Measures of discipline concerning their own members. If it is acknowledged that the Church of England is under these disabilities from which it suffers in return for the privileges she enjoys, I am bound to say that a Measure of this kind is one that may well be brought before this House for its consideration. Assuming that matters are to remain as they are, that the Church is in remain established on the basis on which it now stands, it is the duty of the Members of this House to do all they can to prevent abuses from appearing within the bosom of the Church, quite independently of any opinions they may entertain with regard to the desirability or the reverse of a Church establishment. But those who have criticised this Bill are justified in pointing out that, in regard to the particular manner in which this Measure desires to carry out its avowed object, the machinery it introduces goes either too far or not far enough. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for Gloucestershire who said that those who served on the Grand Committee of Law in 1896 were satisfied with the changes that were introduced by that Committee, and that those changes were practically embodied in the present Measure, With all deference to him, I 398 am bound to say that my recollection is not in accordance with his on that point. There are a good many points on which concessions were made by way of compromise, which did not give satisfaction to those who had to make those concessions for the sake of a quiet life, and there are some provisions in this Measure which do not exactly embody the concessions then introduced in the discussion in the Grand Committee on Law. I am afraid the quasi-regimental discipline introduced into this Measure will defeat its own object. This discipline, with the increase of the power of the bishops, will defeat its own object, and it will have to be surrounded by safeguards, as it might be when the Bill comes to be considered in Committee. The parishioners ought to be considered far more carefully than they appear to be by the promoters of this Bill. I turn to another point, which is the matter referred to both by the hon. and learned Member for one of the divisions of Gloucestershire and also by the last hon. Member who spoke. He pointed out that the conditions are a source of great concern to the parishioners, and the placing of a halter round their neck from which they cannot be rid. The only remedy, as far as one can see, in this Measure is by increasing the power of the bishops, who are not necessarily in touch with the inhabitants of the parish. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred to the system in the Free Anglican Church in Australia, and also to the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, but in the Church in Scotland the parishioners have real and direct power in regard to the appointment of the minister. That same power exists in the case of Australia, because their incumbents are nominated by the parishioners.
§ *MR. STEVENSON
There is absolutely no real power placed in the hands of the parishioners under this Bill. Three parishioners might put forward certain objections, and those objections have to be put on the same ground on which the bishop can refuse institution. The bishop might or might not act. In some respects that power is too limited, 399 whereas in other cases it would defeat its own object. It is too limited in the sense that there ought to be a definite, recognised, parochial body, which would be entrusted with the power of making these objections; because, especially in the large parishes, and in a good many of the smaller parishes, it would be easy to find three somewhat cantankerous persons who, on a presentation being made, would be able to find objections. It would be very easy in the large parishes for any three to unite together and send a letter to the bishop, in which they may state that the incumbent showed "neglect of duty" in his previous incumbency. It is a very rude phrase, and it is conceivable that three persons may be found in a parish to put forward, in a manner which may be very disagreeable to the new incumbent, that he has been guilty of neglect of duty in his previous incumbency. Although that might not lead to any subsequent consequences, it would be a cause of the utmost mental anxiety to the incumbent. The promoters of the Bill have overdone it by allowing three parishioners to put forward complaints on that ground. The case would be met by allowing a definite and responsible body to be the one to put forward an objection, and also to be the one to make any recommendation, and give them not only negative, but positive, powers in this matter. In that way you would confer greater power upon the parishioners, and give them greater interest in their ecclesiastical and local affairs. At the same time, you would confer upon them a certain responsibility, which would be of great value to the parish in which they live. This Bill does nothing of that kind, but simply enables three parishioners to offer an objection to the institution of the new incumbent. That objection need not be followed out, but simply goes to the bishop, who may, if he chooses, put it in his waste-paper basket. At all events, the parishioners have nothing to do with it; they have no voice in the matter. There is another great flaw in this Measure. It does not touch upon one aspect of the ecclesiastical machinery, which, after all, is of considerable importance. It does not deal in any way with the case of the curates. The curates are the un-beneficed clergy, and they are the feeding 400 ground of the beneficed clergy. There is only one clause in this connection, copied, with certain modifications, from the Pluralities Act of 1838, and mentioning curates incidentally. There might be in the Measure certain safeguards as to the age and experience of curates. A good many cases have arisen in which men have been appointed to benefices after insufficient experience, or at too young an age. If some provision had been inserted that they should only be appointed after four or five years' experience, that, in itself, would be an advantage. There ought to be some amendment of the Pluralities Act of 1838, which practically gives the curates no adequate protection against dismissal at six months' notice by the incumbent. In a way, there is a right on the part of the bishop to interfere with the dismissal, but in the great majority of cases the bishop simply takes the word of the incumbent. What I think ought to be done is that some provision should be introduced into the Measure whereby, when the curate appeals against dismissal, the bishop would be bound to hold an inquiry, and that, for the purpose of holding that inquiry, a certain number of laymen should be appointed, in addition to the ecclesiastical persons, to form part of that Commission of Inquiry. That, it appears to me, is one great flaw in the Measure. Most of these matters can be dealt with in Committee, and I do not intend to offer any opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill. If these matters are not dealt with adequately in Committee, I shall reserve to myself the right to vote against it. At the same time, I cannot but think that many of the provisions of this Measure have not been properly thought out by its promoters in regard to the practical effect they would exercise; and, above all, I deplore that no steps have been taken to give to the parishioners that right and that power which they ought to possess.
§ *LORD WARKWORTH (Kensington, S.)
I do not think any Measure has ever been introduced into this House the principle of which has received such universal acquiescence as this Bill, and yet in regard to which such extraordinary ingenuity has been displayed in devising 401 insuperable objections to the method of putting that principle, into operation. I have never heard anyone deny that the sale of benefices and next presentations is open to the gravest abuse and scandal. The practice has been condemned by two successive Commissions, and that condemnation has been emphasised by repeated and overwhelming majorities in this House. Partly owing to the limitation put upon the time of private Members, and partly owing to the free use of recognised Parliamentary methods, the Church of England is still asking in vain for the liberty of removing abuses which strike at the root of her spiritual life. I think we cannot fail to recognise that this state of things affords the strongest justification to those who are so hostile to us, and who think that Church Establishment is incompatible with the best interests of the Church—first, because it forces the Church to come for necessary powers to a Parliament which, if not hostile is hard to move in matters relating to the Church; and, secondly, because by it the parishioners themselves cannot obtain any remedy for an abuse under which their spiritual interests suffer. I quite understand the position of those who naturally think, from the Nonconformist point of view, that no Measure of this kind can be a sufficient remedy for a, disease that ought to be cut out at the root; but I do hope that Members of the Established Church will do nothing in the way of perpetrating the abuses. I am aware of the objection principally urged on this side of the House, that it is an interference with the rights of private property. That. I think, would be a sufficient excuse, and I do not think I should be justified, out of any consideration of conferring any possible benefit on the Church, in sanctioning an injustice which might be used as a very dangerous precedent in the future. But what is the allegation as to the con fiscatory nature of the proposals made by my hon. and learned Friend there? The whole question turns upon the interpretation placed on the rights exercised by private laymen. Are we to regard that right as in the nature of mere freehold property, in regard to which there are no more sacred obligations than exist in 402 regard to any other private property; or, is it a right that is strictly limited and confined by the correlative rights of the parishioner? If the extreme view is to be taken that the patron has no responsibility for the character of the man who is appointed, and if the bishop has alone the responsibility of deciding whether the man has the necessary qualifications, surely there is no material interference with the patron's right in giving the bishop additional powers as to those necessary qualifications. It is one of the features of the Bill which I regard with the greatest satisfaction that it does afford an opportunity—which only exists to a very limited extent now at the ordination service, and which ought to exist to a larger extent—of allowing the parishioners to express their views in regard to those appointments, for it would still further increase the responsibility of all classes in the character of the ministry. Some hon. Members who are Presbyterians and Congregationalists may like to see still further control. They may think that the control afforded in this Bill may lead to more scandals, but, to my mind, scandal is very much more unlikely to arise when the patron knows beforehand that he has to consult the parishioners before he submits the candidate to the bishop. As far as I understand the doctrine of the Church of England, under no circumstances could you give the parishioners control over the appointment of the incumbent, because it is fundamentally opposed to the whole theory of the Church of England in regard to Church government. If there is any omission. I regret it is the omission to lay down any broad rule as to the hearing of evidence on oath and the presence of persons directly accused or concerned, either at the preliminary investigation by the bishop, or at the investigation undertaken by the Commission subsequent to the appointment of the incumbent. It is a very dangerous thing: it offers an unnecessary opening for scandal if you allow a parishioner to prefer a complaint against a man on the ground of morals. A charge of a moral offence is very easy to make and very difficult to disprove, and yet no absolute right is given to the person accused to appear 403 before the bishop. There are very few bishops who would not be willing to sanction such a proposal. I do not think such a thing ought to be left to the discretion of any single individual. I think, in the interests of the Church itself, that some rule ought to be laid down on this ground that the person presented for a benefice ought to have some opportunity of clearing himself or of being confronted by his accusers before the question is brought into open court. Then there is the question of what is considered a disqualifying age. I think that some rule ought to be laid down for guidance as to what is a disqualifying age. Seventy was suggested as the disqualifying age in the Report of the Commissioners. Some such limit should be put in the Bill. I have no sympathy with the exaggerated apprehension which is entertained by the Association—I mean the Church Association—with regard to the very free interpretation which might be placed upon the term in the Bill, "neglect of duty." I quote the sentence from the circular of the Church Association—By canon law the orders of a bishop, especially if put forward in a Diocesan Synod, were held to be binding on the clergy of the diocese in all matters not regulated by higher law. Disobedience, therefore, to the bishop's directions may be treated as 'misconduct.'I confess I cannot understand the attitude of mind of those members of the Church of England who apparently regard it as a sacred and inalienable right for an ordained parson to violate his ordination oath. At the service for the Ordination of Priests, he is asked—Will you reverently obey your ordinary and other chief ministers unto whom is committed the charge and government over you, following with a glad mind their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?If a man has taken that most binding oath on that most solemn occasion, as to the condition it imposes on him, he cannot properly complain if a violation of that oath is felt to be a disqualification. With regard to the hearing of evidence before the Commissioners, I think that is of far more importance. You are depriving the incumbent of the protection he has got under the present law. Under the Pluralities Act Amendment 404 Act, power is given to any one of the Commissioners to demand that evidence should be taken on oath. In the interests of justice and economy, I think this rule might very well be laid down. I do not think there is the slightest ground for the assertion that this Bill deprives one class of Her Majesty's subjects of the protection that they at present have. The only protection they now have is an appeal to the Privy Council, and they seldom avail themselves of that right. Now a Court of Appeal is set up by this Bill, but the bishop who has to preside will be bound by the findings of the lay judge on all questions of fact and law, and when we compare this with the far more stringent proposal made by a Royal Commission, that in a case of suggested incapacity the appeal should merely be to the archbishop, I do not think it will be said that this part of the Bill errs on the side of giving too great powers to the Episcopal Bench. I do regret that from this Bill has been eliminated some of the most useful provisions contained in the Bill of last year. For instance, I think some means should be given the Church of securing the retirement of incumbents incapacitated by age, and of providing them with a certain proportion of the funds of the benefice. Considering there is already power in the Church of getting rid of a bishop who is insane, on the representation of two of his fellow bishops that he is insane, there would be surely no injustice in applying a similar provision to the case of incumbents. I hope that this Bill, or the Bill to be brought in by the Government, will pass the House this Session, and that not only may members of the Church of England refrain from giving it their opposition, but that the Nonconformists also will support it, seeing that they are perpetually denouncing the iniquity, on abstract principles, of the interference of the temporal powers with spiritual matters.
§ *MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
As it fell to my lot to take an active part in connection with the Bill of 1896, the House will perhaps permit me to make a few observations on the present Measure. I think that both 405 those who approve and those who oppose the Kill may congratulate themselves on the fact that we come to consider this question to-day in a very different position to that which obtained in 1896. In that year very little interest was felt in the Benefices Bill on its introduction, and but little knowledge was possessed on the subject in the House of Commons, while, practically, there was no knowledge at all on it outside. The Bill before us to-day is the outcome of a large amount of discussion, both in this House and out of it. What was the case in 1896? The promoters of that Bill, owing to the early position they secured in the ballot, obviously had little opportunity for discussing it, but to-day we have a full Debate. My hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading fell, I regret, into the popular error, and one which gives a handle to those who are the avowed enemies of the Church of England. He spoke frequently of the sale of the "cure of souls," and I admit that if such a practice did prevail in the Church of England, it would more than justify all the severe strictures uttered by the enemies of the Church. But, as a matter of fact, I am not aware of any such practice either in law or in reality in the Church of England. What, after all, is the practice? The patron has a right to present a man to a cure of souls. But, as Professor Freeman has laid it down, when an advowson is sold, what is actually sold is not, as some people foolishly and wickedly say, the spiritual office with the temporal profits attached, but the perpetual right to present a clerk to the Ordinary for institution. It is in fact the right to nominate "a fit and proper person" for the office, and the responsibility rests with the bishop of saying whether or not the person presented is fit and proper. In this Bill I note with great satisfaction several improvements on the Bill of 1896. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading suggested that it was practically the same Measure as was introduced in 1896, but I will venture to point out to the House that it is a very large improvement upon it. I find, for instance, that there is no restraint on the right of mortgaging the income of a benefice. I remember that when the Bill of 1896 was before the Grand Committee, I moved an Amendment for the 406 purpose of striking out a provision which imposed such restraint, but I was then one of a minority of three, and there were 31 against us. In this Bill that restraint in dealing with advowson property is very much modified, and instead of rendering the transfer actually void, it leaves it to the discretion of the bishop to inquire, and, if necessary, to impose conditions, before sanctioning the transfer. Another modification is with reference to the right of a man to present himself or to be presented by his wife or his trustee to the bishop. The test in all these cases is to be the well being of the parish, I think, in such a case, the bishop pays much more attention to the fitness of such a candidate under the existing law. After all, the question is not how the right of patronage came to be acquired, but whether the person presented is a fit and proper person to hold the cure of souls. The onus really lies with the bishop. I am glad to observe, also, that the Star Chamber Inquiry of 1896 has entirely disappeared, and has no place in the Measure we are now discussing. What I regarded as the most dangerous innovation of the Bill of 1896 has also disappeared—i.e., the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the archbishop over the clergy in purely civil matters. The Bill of 1896 provided that the archbishop should constitute the Court of Appeal, but many of us felt that while a judge of the High Court should act it would be beneath his dignity to sit as an assessor merely beside the archbishop or bishop. But under this Bill the Court of Appeal will consist of the archbishop and of a judge of the High Court, and it will not be constituted unless a judge does so sit. It will be regulated by rules of evidence, and the judge is to be the sole authority on questions of law and of fact. I am triad also that the present Bill does not propose to deal with aged and infirm incumbents, and I think the promoters were wise in dropping that part of the Bill. No part of the Bill of 1896 excited more hostile comment amongst Churchmen outside the House than the provision to get rid of incumbents in their old age. Since that time Churchmen have been actively engaged in providing a Sustenation Fund for the assistance of the poorer clergy. That provision must 407 precede any law to remove aged incumbents. So much for the improvements that have been made in the Bill. They make me think that by further amendment in Committee it may be made a useful and practical Measure. I thought the Bill of 1896 was a bad Bill, and I felt justified in voting against the Second Reading of it. I believe the present Bill is a great improvement on it, and shall therefore support, it. Without wearying the House with details, I should like to mention one or two matters requiring attention. It is provided that no right of patronage shall be exercised within 12 months of the appointment or presentation of an incumbent. What will be the effect of that provision? If there is a lapse, will not the patronage fall on the bishop and be taken out of the lay patron's hands for a year? In the Bill of 1896 there was a provision that any patronage which might arise during the twelve months should be exercised by the Crown, but I find no such provision in the present Bill. Then, again, there are restrictions with regard to registering transfers. The provision is somewhat singular. Sub-section d of the first clause says any transfer shall be void unless notice in writing is sent to the Diocesan Registry eight weeks before it takes effect. What is the object of that? With regard to the offences which constitute a bar to institution, I suppose there is no Member of the House who does not assent to the general proposition that an unfit man should be prevented from being instituted. But when we come to the application of the principle, we find that the Bill imposes on the bishop the duty of making the inquiry, of acting as inquisitor, and of sitting in judgment upon civil matters. That, I think, places the bishop in an exceedingly unfair position. The Act of 1892 created machinery for the purpose of trying immoral clergymen; why could it not be adapted for the purposes of this Act? Of course, the object of the promoters of the Bill is to ensure that unfit presentees shall not be forced on a parish, and if it is alleged that a man is unfit for the post, then the accusing parties should be called upon to make good 408 their accusations before a tribunal similar to that created by the Clergy Discipline Act. By that means the promoters would secure the end for which they are striving. With regard to offences, I have no doubt that in Committee a clearer definition will be insisted upon of some of the extremely indefinite offences specified in the Bill. Will the Committee be content with the definition laid down in previous Acts of offences of this kind? What neglect of duty is there which is not covered by the words of existing Acts? Visiting may be called a duty, but we know perfectly well that it would be a physical impossibility in many cases for the incumbent to completely visit his parishioners once only even in the course of two or three years. And, again, what is to constitute neglect of duty—ecclesiastical duty? Where is it properly defined? And so with regard to "existing pecuniary embarrassment." The larger a man's heart, very often the poorer he is. Perhaps a man who has been struggling for years with a small stipend, and, perhaps, a large family, is necessarily in pecuniary embarrassment, and, because he has a living offered him, perhaps that very embarrassment under which he has suffered down to that time is to be the means of depriving him of improving his worldly prospects. We want to guard against a disability of that kind, but the words of the Bill, as it at present exists, do not accomplish this. And then with regard to the inhibition of the incumbents, in the same way there is some necessity for better definition, and I hope the House will insist upon defining what is considered to be adequately discharging the duties attached to the cure of souls. Some clearer definitions must be laid down before the bishop can be allowed to exercise the very large and extensive rights which will be given to him under the Bill. Mr. Speaker, I apologise for having detained the House so long, but this is a Measure in which I, naturally, take some interest. I shall certainly support the Second Reading of this Bill, because I believe it contains within it the germs of a useful Measure. But in doing so, like my hon. Friend the Member for 409 the Eye Division, I support it in the expectation that in Committee this Bill will be so improved that it will be made a useful and workable Measure, and that it will carry out the object which the promoters have in view, which, I believe, meets with the general sympathy of every section of the House, and that is a desire to remove from the Church of England those abuses which have enabled its enemies to make so much capital in the past, and may thus increase her usefulness and power amongst the people.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
do not propose to detain the House this afternoon by any discussion, either of the general principles of the Bill or of its details, but inasmuch as a Bill of this kind was promised in the Queen's Speech, some observations from this Bench seem desirable. The broad outlines of any Bill dealing with this Question are practically settled by previous legislative efforts, previous discussions in Committees, previous reports of various Commissions and Committees which have sat on the subject; and though, of course. I shall not be in order in explaining at length the Bill I propose to bring in tomorrow, I may say that it greatly resembles the Bill now before the House in the ground which it covers, though it does differ from it in certain details, and it does not follow exactly the lines of this Measure in respect to some of the machinery which lead to the end sought to be obtained by this Bill. But inasmuch as the Government propose to deal with this subject, we of course support, to the best of our ability, a Measure whose principles accord with those which we ourselves wish to carry into effect, and which may be of assistance to the Grand Committee which, we hope, will be entrusted to take into consideration both the present Bill and the Bill which I shall introduce to-morrow at four o'clock. I confess that, so far as I have gathered the feeling from the speeches made in opposition to this Bill, the opposition really rests upon no solid foundation at all, unless you can call a solid foundation a kind of general hostility to anything which can improve 410 or reform the position of the Established Church. The truth is, it is quite unnecessary to go into legal subtleties or technicalities in connection with this Measure. There is a plain duty before the House, which is to make the machinery of the law carry out what has always been the spirit of the law, and to enable the Church to prevent persons from being entrusted with some of the most important functions within the Church who are wholly unlit to carry out those responsible duties. I am sure there is no interference with property in the Bill now before the House, and I am sure there will be none in the Bill which I shall have the honour to introduce tomorrow. The duty of preventing unfit persons from holding any office, whether it be the cure of souls or an Imperial office, is a plain and manifest duty, and no legal subtleties can get round the principles which, I think, underlie legislation in matters upon which the House is now engaged. Sir, I only got up to make this brief declaration of the views of the Government, because it will be upon the Second Reading of the Government Bill more proper for me to express in detail the views of the Government, which we shall ask the House to adopt, and to answer any objections which may be made to our proposals. For the present it is enough to say that we agree not only with the spirit which animates the present Bill, but we agree broadly with the principle which they have endeavoured to embody in their Measure, and we shall vote for it, and I trust this and our own Measure will be referred to a Grand Committee, where they will be improved in detail and afterwards, I hope, will meet with the general acceptance of the House.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I quite understand, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the real discussion on this subject should belong to the Government Bill rather than to this Rill. But I have to consider whether I should vote for the Second Reading of this Bill or not. Well, there is a future of this Bill, which astonishes me, especially considering the able and learned quarter from which it emanated, and to which 411 objection has already been taken by the noble Lord opposite, and which, unless I receive some explanation of it which I have not yet heard, I shall not be satisfied with. I suppose the noble Lord is responsible for this Measure. There was a provision in the Bill last year to the effect that in all individual inquiries affecting a clergyman's status and property, and everything that people—all people—respect—and I do not except the Party opposite from respect for the rights of property—that at any such inquiry the bishop shall hear the patron and the presentee, as owner of the property, and any witnesses called by the patron and presentee, and any person whom the patron or presentee may select to examine witnesses, and represent him at the inquiry. I am very much surprised that my hon. and learned Friend should be the sponsor of a Measure, in which I suppose that clause is omitted for some reason.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The promoters of the Bill think that sufficient authority is given to the Rule Committee by Section 12 of the Bill, which provides that the authorities there named—the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Chancellor, and other not very revolutionary authorities—may regulate matters with regard to procedure and practice.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
That leaves it to the Rule Committee. No doubt most bishops will not behave like the judge of an inferior Court, called Rhadamanthus, who decided before he heard. But why was this provision of the Bill of 1897—which is fundamental in all judicial proceedings—left out? Why is that left to the Rule Committee which ought to be the fundamental principle of any inquiry of this kind? I cannot vote for a Bill which does not, on the face of it, provide that in an inquiry of this kind the parties interested should be heard.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
After the able speech of the hon. Member who introduced this Bill, very little more need be said upon this occasion. I confess that I think it will be welcomed 412 by every section of the Church, both in this House and out of this House, with feelings of enthusiasm. We were quite sure that when Her Majesty's Government put the Measure in the Queen's Speech that that promise would be fulfilled, but we had no right to expect when the right hon. Gentleman promised it that its fulfilment would be at such an early day as to-morrow, and that after to-morrow we should be in possession of the views which Her Majesty's Government intend to put forward in dealing with this question. But there is no doubt whatever that as the years have gone by the general attitude of hon. Gentlemen in this House has brought a general agreement upon this subject. No one could have listened to the Debate, or to any of the speakers from whatever part of the House they sat, without being convinced that they were all agreed upon the main objects of the Bill. Everyone agrees that patronage partakes of the nature of a trust, and that that trust is occasionally not actually discharged, as it ought to be discharged, and that there ought to be a law compelling them to discharge that trust properly. Nobody denies that improper presentees are occasionally instituted who ought not to be instituted, and nobody denies that there are incumbents who ought to be removed from their cures who cannot be removed under the present state of the law, but who ought to be removed. With the great object of this Bill the House is in entire agreement. Sir, my right hon. Friend has made a declaration, which he has given to the House, and it will be my duty, as representing the promoters of this Bill, to go through some of the details in the course of the Debate. I do not think, therefore, that the House will expect me to do so now, but I think, in courtesy to the right hon. Gentleman, that I ought to take notice of the remark he has made. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has taken a sort of cursory interest in this question from time to time, but he did not serve upon the Grand Committee; if he had he would have known, as we all know, how difficult it was, in the face of the details, to determine what ought to guide an inquiry of this kind. It was 413 necessary even then to leave a good deal undone. I need not stop for more than a moment to take notice of the argument that we have left it optional with the Rule Committee whether they shall or not. Anyone who knows anything of these Acts of Parliament knows that words such as we have inserted in the Bill, giving the option to the Rule; Committee, really means an absolute direction upon them to draw up these rules in respect of such matters as we have mentioned. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it would be better, upon the face of the Bill, rather than leave it to the Rule Committee. Well, that is a matter which will be heard in Committee, and which will have the very careful consideration of those who are in charge of the Bill under discussion. I would ask my noble Friend who introduced the Bill if he can draw a word to cover all the necessary conditions in respect of the hearing of the parson at the inquiry. If he thinks he can draw a word within a reasonable limit of space to cover all these matters, then by all means let it be placed in the Act of Parliament. Having said this much, I need say nothing more with regard to the part of the Measure now under discussion. I should like to explain that the reason why we have abandoned that part of the question which deals with the retirement of incumbents who are incapacitated by age or infirmity is not in the least that we have withdrawn the opinion we have always held upon the subject. We think that if a man can no longer do his work, and will not provide anybody to do it, for him, he ought to retire upon his pension. It is upon a pension that he must retire, and hon. Gentlemen opposite surely do not think money is so scarce in the Church of England that we cannot find a pension whenever we want it. Leaving this subject, it has been submitted to us that the Church, with the opportunities which time alone will give it, will be able to collect sufficient money to deal with this matter. In every case in which an incumbent has retired through infirmity alone he will be entitled to receive a pension. I should like to read to the House a letter, or part of a letter, which shows how impossible, 414 it is, under the present law, to deal with incumbents. As the House is aware, under the present law, if the Commission find that the incumbent inadequately performs his duties, the bishop has a right to call upon him to appoint a deputy, but the condition of the law is that a man who Performs the duties of curate is the actual delinquent. When he is appointed, not only is the incumbent left in full possession of the spiritual cure, but he may prevent the curate taking part in any of the services whatever. He is practically appointed to make good his own inefficiency. I hold in my hand a letter from a bishop, who writes concerning a case which I think illustrates almost as well as any other case of several which have come under my notice, the condition of things. It reads—Great complaints were made to me about two years ago of the sad state of things in the parish. The morning service on Sundays was gabbled over, sermon and all, in 35 minutes. The clergyman was wholly unintelligible. There was no visiting, no care either of the whole or the sick, no one to minister to the dying. The wife of a respectable farmer came to wait on me, and was moved almost to tears as she described the spiritual destitution of the parish. 'Surely,' she said, 'something can be done. Are my children to grow up without religious services—or as good as none—and without religious instruction?' I told her what the law was, but she evidently hardly believed me. I asked her if any of the other parishioners would come forward if I issued a commission. She said she thought they would. But I pointed out to her that if I issued the commission, and the charges were substantiated, I could only call on the incumbent to find a curate; but, as the combined value of the two livings was £140 a year, how was it likely, even if I could assign half the amount of the living to a curate, that any curate could be found to go there for £70 a year?The House will recognise, in a case of this kind, that under the Bill which we promote if will be the duty of the Commissioners to see that the curate is properly paid—Further, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for a curate"—I should like the House to attend to this paragraph—to find a house or lodgings within any reasonable distance. The poor woman went away very sad, and seemed to think it quite 415 incredible that the bishop was unable to redress her grievance. I have heard since that her husband has given up his farm and gone to live elsewhere. In this case—and there are others not unlike it—if the law gave the bishop power to appoint a curate in charge (not leaving it in the first instance to the incumbent, who has been found guilty of neglect of duty, to nominate), and to insist on the incumbent leaving the parish altogether, assigning to him a certain portion of the income, and giving the parsonage house to the curate in charge, the present scandals might be entirely averted. The fundamental error in all legislation on Clergy Discipline is, as I have said, that the law protects the clergyman against the Parishioners, but does not protect the parishioners against the clergyman.Now, Sir, in this I have refrained on purpose from giving any names; but that is a most serious case, and presents a hopeless difficulty of being dealt with under the present law. I earnestly hope, Sir, that the House will bear this in mind, and that in any legislation that we may be called upon to consider this, the essential part of the plea that we have put forward, will not be ignored. For my part I have never shared the view which some hon. Gentlemen have put forward, that this Parliament is unable to redress the grievances of the Church of England. I do not believe that; my experience has been quite otherwise. My experience is that if you have a real grievance to bring before Parliament, and if you can get hon. Members to give their time to the grievance, you will find justice given you. We come to the House for justice. We have, year after year, pleaded our cause before this House. We do not care for the particular lines on which the Measure is framed—much less do we care whether it is passed by ourselves or by the Government—but we earnestly hope that this Session will not come to an end without the Parliament of Great Britain doing justice to the Church of England.
§ MR. JAMES CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
In Scotland we have gone through the whole of this question of Church patronage, and the proposal of this Bill is to practically redeem the Church patronage from certain difficulties attached to it. That is a matter which existed in Scotland for many years, but which was 416 found to be unworkable, and the result was that, in the case of Scotland, Parliament, with a Unionist Government in power at the time, came to the conclusion that the only proper way of dealing with Church patronage was to abolish patronage altogether, and that the election of the spiritual adviser in a particular parish—the election of the clergyman—should be a matter which should be vested in the parishioners, unless he was unfit to undertake the ministrations of a clergyman. That has been accomplished in Scotland at the present moment. There is no such thing as a patron in any parish in Scotland. The patronage of the clergyman of the parish is vested solely in those to whom he ministers in the parish. Then you can at once see how easy it is to get over all the difficulties which you are trying to get over in this Bill. There is no question that if a man is not fit to be a presentee to a parish on account of misconduct, such as you have in this Bill, he is not fit to hold office at all or to be a clergyman at all. Therefore, in the case of Scotland, we have a very strict law to the effect that no man who has any of the particular things that you describe here can hold office at all, and that the parishioners are entitled to elect any clergyman whom they consider most suitable for that particular district. Now, observe the effect of that. In the case of the congregation having the choice of the clergyman, you are giving the choice to the people who are to benefit or to lose by his ministrations. What was the motive adopted for the abolition of patronage? I do not recognise the principle that patronage is necessarily a right of property. No doubt if you looked at the law books they would describe it as a right of property, but it is a right of property only in a technical sense; but you cannot possibly dissever the right of property from the cure of souls, which is practically attached and inseparable; and I say that the right of presentation, whether it be by public auction or by private bargain, is contrary to all the public policy in the country. What were the terms upon which patronage was abolished in Scotland? Under a Conservative 417 Government—and a Conservative Government, as we all know, is exceedingly careful of the rights of property, and especially in Scotland, where the patronage was in the hands of Conservative adherents—the terms of the abolition of patronage were these: that it was to be one year's income of the benefice. One year's income was to be given as compensation money, and then it was only to be given when the vacancy occurred, and then only in the event of certain things happening. If the Government will bring in a Bill to put Church patronage in England on the same footing as it is in Scotland, abolish the right of patronage as well as patronage itself altogether, and give the right of presentation to the parishioners of the parish,—that would be a proper way of dealing with the subject, and a way in which, I venture to say, all parts of the House would acquiesce. But I must say, so far as this Bill goes, it is a mere tinkering with the subject, and so far as the parishioners are concerned you give them practically no protection whatever in this Bill. I do not, of course, know whether that will be different in the Government Rill. But, so far as this Bill is concerned, all that the parishioners have the right to do is to put in certain objections to the bishop, and after that they have nothing whatever to do with the procedure. There is no Court to hear objections, and the bishop may do what is wrong, and the parishioners have no right of appeal. That is quite a different case from the case of Scotland. If the parishioners have an objection to bring forward they have the right of putting it before an open Court, and then there is an appeal, not only to the incumbent, but also to the people. Well, the noble Lord opposite says that the Church of England is not sufficiently wealthy to provide funds for buying out the patrons. I am surprised that the Church of England should put a poor face on this matter. What is the condition of the Church of England compared with Dissenters in England and Scotland? Why, the members of the Church of England practically got the whole of the religious services for nothing. You have got a 418 National Church on these terms, that practically the people who attend are put to no expense, and if the parishioners like themselves to supplement those means they can do so. But look at the Dissenters in England. They pay every penny of the expenses of their religious services. They get no contribution from tithes or any other source of endowment. They pay the whole of their expenses themselves, and in Scotland the whole of the Dissenters, including the Roman Catholic Church, have not a penny contributed towards the cost of their religious services. If the Church of England has simply to pay at the rate of one year's salary of the incumbent in case of an aged clergyman, that is a mere bagatelle for the Church of England compared with what other Churches do, and I say that the Church of England should rise to the occasion and really deal with the subject from a broad point of view, make some little sacrifice, and do away with the reproach that the clergyman—the aged clergyman—cannot be superannuated because there is no fund. I think it is not creditable to the Church of England, which is certainly the wealthiest Church in the country, that it should be in a position of that kind, and say they can neither pay one year's purchase of the patronage nor provide as much funds as will enable an aged clergyman to retire.
§ SIR J. H. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
Mr. Speaker, we do not know what the Government Measure, which will be paid before us to-morrow, will contain, but I think we may be quite sure that the Government will not follow the example which has been spoken of this afternoon, and leave the patronage of the livings in the Church of England for election by the whole body of parishioners. Our system of patronage, we are satisfied, has worked well in many cases. What we want to do is to ensure that it will work rather better, and I heartily agree with the noble Lord in expressing the thanks of all Churchmen to the Government for grappling with this question, and I hope that they will carry it to a successful issue. During the last 419 Parliament we were fighting for our lives. We are now enjoying a time of quiet, and we all want to make good use of that time, so that we may put our house in order and do all that we can to remove the abuses in the Church. I heartily agree with my right hon. Friend in saying that it would be superfluous to discuss the details of the Bill at present before us, because I hope it will be read a second time, and it will be an encouragement to the Government to go forward, and an assurance to them that they have rightly interpreted the general opinion of the House in this matter, but I would say that this subject is not an easy subject to deal with. We are all agreed upon the principle of Church reform. There are in some places supposed to be rights of property which make those who are interested look with suspicion on proposals of this kind. And there is also, and not unnaturally, great jealousy of the increasing power of the bishops, but that is not our present subject. The battle between the bishop and the parochial clergy is one that has gone on for many centuries, the parochial clergy being jealous of their rights and the bishops jealous of theirs on the other hand. I think this Bill is certainly an advance on previous Measures, from the fact that it is much simpler and shorter, and I hope the Government will introduce a simple and short Bill. We desire a Bill which provides, not so much by legal restrictions as by letting in the light of day on those transactions which would be put a stop to if public opinion could be brought to bear upon them. I will not further detain the House on this subject, but I hope we shall be able to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ The Motion for the Second Reading was agreed to, and on the Motion of Mr. Lyttelton the Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Law.