HC Deb 08 June 1899 vol 72 cc619-23
MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr-Tydvil)

It is only necessary to detain the House a very short time in order to explain the Motion which appears on the Paper in my name. The Bill to which my Motion refers is called the "All Saints' Church (Cardiff) Bill," and it has passed the House of Lords. It has not yet been read a second time in this House, and, in fact, I take the opportunity of bringing up my Motion before the Bill comes on for second reading. My contention is that the Standing Orders of the House have not been complied with in this case. Hon. Members know that the Standing Orders provide in the case of Private Bills that notice should be given in October or November setting forth the objects of the Bill to be brought in, with a short explanation at the head of the notice describing the main objects of the Bill. I do not want to go into the merits of the Bill, but I may say that the objects of the Bill are to sell the present parish church called All Saints, and to devote the funds partly to the building of a new church and partly towards the present church of Dewi Sant, and to substitute as parish church for the church about to be sold the church about to be built. In the notices published in the Gazette and in the local newspapers in November last, it was stated at the head that it was proposed that the church called the New Church of Dewi Sant, the Welsh Church of the parish of All Saints' should be constituted the parish church in place of the church it is proposed to sell. Now, the Bill itself provides for something very different indeed. Had it not been for what I regard as the very material changes between the objects as set forth in the notices and the objects provided for in the Bill, I suppose there would have been very little opposition to the Bill. The Bill itself provides, not that the church of Dewi Sant should be substituted as the parish church, but that the new church proposed to be built should be the parish church. Clause 10 provides that "The new church (to be built) should, on and after its consecration, for all purposes, take the place of and be in substitution for, the old church." I contend that the notices given in November last were distinctly misleading, and that a complete change of policy occurred between the time of giving the notices and the introduction of the Bill. The Bill in due course came before the Examiners, and they reported that the Standing Orders were compiled with; and I understand that there is no appeal against the decision of the Examiners. The only way to get out of the difficulty, it appears to me, is to refer the Bill back to them. I do not believe that this would cause any delay, because they will be able to report in a few days, and the Bill has not yet been put down for a second reading in this House. I do not wish to attach the smallest suspicion of blame to the Examiners. If I had been one of them I would have committed exactly the same mistake. Nor do I want to ascribe any blame to the Parliamentary agents of the promoters of the Bill, who are a firm of very high standing. But I cannot free myself from suspicion of doubt as to the action of the promoters. A friend of mind told me that in January he heard rumours that a change of policy had occurred, but, on inquiring, he was assured that the church of Dewi Sant was to be made the parish church. I say deliberately that the notices given of this Bill were distinctly misleading, and have, in fact, misled the people of Cardiff.

Motion made and Question proposed— That it be an Instruction to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, to whom the Bill is referred, that they do inquire and report as to whether Standing Order No. 3 (notices by advertisement) has or has not been complied with."—(Mr. D. A. Thomas.)

*MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

The view taken by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil in this case has my warmest sympathy, although I am afraid I cannot recommend the House to accept the motion which he has just made. The case, in a few words, is simply this: that under the notices which were given of this Bill it was proposed, amongst other things, to "constitute the new church dedicated to Dewi Sant, situate in Howard Gardens, in the said parish of All Saints', the Parish Church of the Parish and District Chapelry of All Saints' in substitution for the existing Church of All Saints, and to make all such provisions and confer all such powers as may be necessary for accomplishing that object." In the short title of the notice which was given, this phrase occurs: "Constitution of the New Church of Dewi Sant as Parish Church." I think that that is a wholly misleading notice, and I can quite understand that the inhabitants of Cardiff, seeing that notice of the Bill, thought that the Welsh church of Dewi Sant was to be constituted the parish church; that that fell in with their views, and that they, therefore, would not take further objection. They did not do what perhaps they ought to have done—send for a copy of the Bill, or at any rate inspect the Bill at the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons. It is only recently that they have discovered the omission in the Bill itself of provisions to carry out what was in the notice. It seems to me, as I have said, that the notice was very misleading, and that the public were led to expect that certain things would appear in the Bill. But when the Bill came to this House not only does this provision not occur, but the very opposite occurs—that the new church to be built is to be the parish church of the parish of All Saints'. So much on the merits of the case. Then comes the question of procedure. Now, although I have not a very strong feeling on the matter, I think it would not be a very wise thing to send the Bill back to the Examiners. It must be a matter of common knowledge that very often the notices go considerably beyond what is afterwards contained in the Bill. You cannot, under certain circumstances, expect that the Bill shall contain everything that is in the notice. There are numerous cases in which notices drawn in November must contain proposals which, by the time the Bill reaches this House, it is obvious cannot be carried out. And, therefore, we cannot say that because a Bill does not carry out every particular in the notice there has been a non-compliance with the Standing Orders. If the Bill went back to the Examiners they would only report that, though in certain respects it did not carry out all that was in the notice, there has not been non-compliance with the Standing Orders. To send it back, moreover, would cause a great deal of delay and a very considerable amount of expense. Exception to the notices should also have been taken at an earlier stage, in the other House. For these reasons I do not ask the House to take that step on a question of procedure. When the Bill comes before the House there will be an opportunity to excise or amend the clause to which the hon. Member objects, and to insert the proposal that the church of Dewi Sant shall be the parish church. To that no technical objection can be taken. The hon. Member's case will not be prejudiced by waiting till that time, and therefore I should suggest that the House should not pass the motion standing in the hon. Member's name, but reserve to itself the right to amend the Bill in Committee.

MR. D. BKYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)

I do not think that the case is quite met by the course suggested by the Chairman of Committees. If we get the Bill sent back to the Examiners they will have to report that the Standing Orders have not been complied with. In Sir Erskine May's, "Parliamentary Practice," it is said that "in preparing a Bill for deposit the promoters should be careful that no provisions are inserted which are not sufficiently alluded to in the notices." Our complaint is that in the notices there was no sufficient indication that the Bill would propose that the new church would be the parish church. It was quite the contrary. The notice was that the existing Welsh church of Dewi Sant should be the parish church. But when the Bill is laid on the Table of the House it turns out that another church is to be made the parish church, the new church of All Saints, in which the English services are to be carried on. The case comes back to the general proposition I have read. In the notice in November no sufficient indication was given that it was intended to make the new All Saints' Church the parish church, and therefore we ask that the Bill should be sent back to the Examiners, and that they should report whether the rule has been complied with.

SIR E. HILL (Bristol, S.)

It is not my intention to offer any remarks upon the technical objection as to the sufficiency of the notice, but I wish to state that which I think the House ought to know, and which probably is the cause of the terms of the original notice not being in exact accordance with the Bill. The church of Dewi Sant is a church built by the subscriptions of those who thought that the Welsh-speaking population of the whole of Cardiff should possess a church in which their own language was used. The Welsh-speaking population of All Saints' is a very small and diminishing quantity. Under these circumstances it would have been impossible to carry out the terms of the notice without destroying what the hon. Member opposite has rightly described as a thorough Welsh church, inasmuch as, as soon as it becomes the parish church, the services must necessarily be held in the language of the great majority of the parishioners.


Order, order. I think the hon. Member is going into a question which does not arise upon the instruction.

MR. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

I quite agree with the view expressed by the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means. The House of Lords has passed this Bill, but it is still open to consideration by this House. How, therefore, can the public suffer any loss by anything that has been overlooked by the House of Lords? Hon. Members will have ample opportunity, when the Bill is brought forward, of correcting it.


After what has fallen from the Chairman of Ways and Means I do not propose to press my motion to a division.

Motion by leave withdrawn.