HC Deb 27 August 1907 vol 182 cc413-6

Lords Amendments considered.

Lords Amendments to the Amendment in page 1, line 18, agreed to.

Lords Amendment— In page 1, line 18, to leave out the word 'shall' and insert, the word 'may,'

Read a second time.

MR. NAPIER (Kent, Faversham)

hoped this Amendment would not be agreed to. Under it a clergyman might forbid the use of his church for the celebration of a marriage with a deceased wife's sister. In the present position of the Church of England that was quite a wrong thing. The right of marriage in the parish church was a common law right of Englishmen; what right had the clergy to withhold that right from people who belonged to the Church of England? He denied entirely that the clergy represented the Church of England, or that they were the Church of England. Parliament having laid it down that this was a fit and proper marriage to be celebrated in a parish church, a clergyman had no right to refuse his church for that purpose.


made an earnest appeal to the House not to endanger the Bill. Under the Bill marriage with a deceased wife's sister would be made legal from to-morrow, and it would also be made legal retrospectively. The point involved in the Amendment was a very small thing, and he did not believe that in practice it would have any effect at all, because he felt quite certain that in two or three years the whole matter would have dropped, people would have forgotten that these marriages were over forbidden, and he did not believe that any clergyman would refuse the use of his church—or, at any rate, it would be a very rare thing for him to do so. If they did not insert these Amendments of the Lords, they would run a very great danger of losing the Bill.

Lords Amendment agreed to.

LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone)

asked the promoters whether they would not strike out the whole of this proviso. It was perfectly valueless and otiose.


preferred to retain the Bill in the form in which it had been agreed to by the Lords.

Lords Amendment— In page 2, line 27, after Clause 3 to insert a new clause ('Liability incurred through ecclesiastical censure),'

Read a second time.

* MR. ESSEX (Gloucestershire, Cirencester)

looked upon this as a serious Amendment, and hoped it would not be agreed to. The promoters seemed prepared to throw everything to the winds in order to secure their Bill. This concession was not only weak, but wholly wrong in principle. It was pandering to episcopal intolerance. Many, himself included, were wholly indifferent to episcopal censure and dislike, and would sleep undisturbed in spite of it, but there were others for whom they had a profound respect, who were not equally insusceptible to such influence, and he appealed on their behalf. He hoped the House would not accept the Amendment, for it was unjust to lessen to the clergy the liberty which the Government proposed to give to the ordinary person by this Bill.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said that those who had had the conduct of the Bill had always maintained that they would never sanction or accept any part of a measure which would inflict injury upon the clergy or upon members of the Church of England. After the battle they had gone through and the difficulties they had faced it was rather severe for his hon. friend behind him to say that their conduct had been weak and that they were pandering to the Church. What did they, who were Nonconformist, care for ecclesiastical censures? It conferred no temporal loss upon any individual subjected to it, and what the real meaning of "ecclesiastical censure" was he failed to comprehend. The question, however, the House had got to decide was whether they were going to pass the Bill or not, and on behalf of the Government and those who supported the measure he appealed to the House to put no obstacle in its way.

MR. STEWART (Greenock)

asked if it were perfectly clear that ecclesiastical censure did not carry with it deprivation, because if it did the person subjected to such censure would suffer civil disability as a consequence. He would be glad to suggest that they should keep to the text of the Amendment as it stood at present, but add the words "no such censure shall carry with it civil disability." If it did not carry with it civil disability his objection would cease.


reminded the House that the Archbishop had stated in another place the day before that the episcopacy would endeavour to carry out the measure, should it become law, to the best of their ability. He thanked the Government for having given facilities for the Bill, and the supporters of the measure in that House for their unselfish and ungrudging support.


said he thought the hon. Member was wrong when he said the Bishops had accepted the Bill, because they divided against the Third Reading.

Lords Amendment agreed to.