HC Deb 05 July 1910 vol 18 cc1528-35

The Regent shall not give or have power to give the Royal Assent to any Bill for repealing, changing, or in any respect varying, the order or course of Succession to the Crown of this realm, as established by the Act of Settlement or to any Bill for repealing or altering the Act of the fourteenth year of the reign of King Charles the Second, chapter four, commonly known as the Act of Uniformity, or an Act of the fifth year of the reign of Queen Anne, made in Scotland, intituled "An Act for securing the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Government."


I beg to move to leave out after the word "Settlement" ["as established by the Act of Settlement"] all the words to the end of the Clause.

This Clause precludes the Regent giving her assent to any Bill for repealing or altering the Act of Uniformity, and another Act with regard to the establishment of the Church in Scotland. I do not want to drag the Committee into any theological discussion, although I should be perfectly in order in discussing this Act, tout I would remind the Committee that this Act of Uniformity was passed at a bad time in English history. It was passed at the time of the Restoration, and it led to the breaking up of the Christian Church, and the expulsion of 2,000 clergymen from their livings. It is therefore not an Act to be particularly proud of. I think I am also right in saying this, that it is impossible to carry out any scheme for making an alteration in the Prayer-book of the Church of England without making an alteration in the Act of Uniformity. The Prime Minister has made an alteration in the Accession Declaration of the King in order to meet the wishes of Roman Catholics, but there are other persons who object to the Athanasian Creed, and the alteration of that is one of the very things which under this Clause the Regent will be prohibited from assenting to. Furthermore, the Act of Uniformity actually prevents the use of college churches and chapels in connection with universities for giving a fair and universal exposition of religious teaching among the persons going to the university. It is also a great bar to the interchange of the ordinary courtesies, such as the change of pulpits between the Established Church and other religious bodies, and I submit it is not an Act which ought to have any special difficulty put in the way of its repeal or alteration. I was under the impression that the Act would have to be altered or repealed in regard to the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, but the Prime Minister very courteously said he did not think it was necessary, and I would like to ask him a question. When the Bill was introduced for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales it was proposed that the parish churches and the great cathedrals should be handed over to the Established Church, but supposing the Bill were to provide that these churches were national monuments, and should be held by a national body as trustees for the use of all branches of the Christian Church—and no disestablishment ought to be undertaken which did not carry that provision out—I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether in that event he will say that it would be possible to disendow or disestablish the Church without repealing the Act of Uniformity?


Does the hon. Member advance the argument that it would not be possible to disestablish the Church if this Clause is in the Bill?


The argument I am advancing is that this Clause, if it has any effect, will prevent the Regent giving any assent to the disestablishment of the Church. Now, with regard to the Scotch Act, I do not know very much about Scotch domestic law, but I have read some evidence as to, and made some little inquiry into, the history of this Act, and a very superficial inquiry has shown me that at a recent date this Statute for securing the Protestant religion was actually partially repealed. That was in 1905, when an Act was passed called the Churches (Scotland) Act, which contains a Schedule repealing a portion of the Act referred to. So that far from this particular Act being sacrosanct and one to the repeal of which no Regent ought to give her assent, in the last five years it has been altered and portions of it have been repealed. Apart from the merits of these two particular Bills, it is a very mistaken policy to put in an Act of Parliament that the assent of the Regent to any possible measure which we may pass should be given on different grounds with respect to some measures from those on which it should be given in respect to others. First of all, it is absurd; you cannot possibly bind the Parliament of the day, you cannot prevent it from passing a Bill to repeal the Act of Uniformity. Does anyone suppose that if the two Houses of Parliament were to pass such a measure the Royal Assent would be refused? It is very childish, but, apart from that, it suggests a wrong idea of the position of the Crown. The Regent acts temporarily for the Crown, and what applies to one must apply to the other. This is a suggestion to the Crown that there are certain measures the assent to which ought not to be given on the advice of Ministers. If it means anything, it means that. There is no reason whatever why the Crown should be required to deal with matters affecting the Church establishment in England and in Scotland on different lines from other measures.


I rather agree with the hon. Member. I thought it was one of the well-recognised principles of legislation that you cannot bind future Parlia- merits. But, further, the only effect of this would be to involve the passing of two Acts of Parliament instead of one. There would be one Act to repeal this Section and another Act to carry whatever you please. I suppose this provision is merely copying an earlier Act, and it is evidently an irrational proposal. You cannot possibly restrict the Legislature. It is interesting to observe that the present Government have actually given letters of business to Convocation to consider changes in the Prayer Book which will involve a modification of the Act of Uniformity, and if the great calamity against which this Bill is intended to make provision takes place it might quite easily happen that the Act of Uniformity would come before the Regency. So that, unlike earlier Amendments, this is one which really might have some positive relevancy. It would put Parliament in an absurd position to have to pass two Acts of Parliament instead of one to carry out an alteration of the law.


I am very much disposed to agree with my hon. Friend and with the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil). I do not think a Disestablishment Bill would necessarily involve the repeal of the Act of Uniformity.


Would it make any difference if particular churches were to be retained by the State?


I do not think it would. This is not really a very important matter. We are dealing only with a period, at the outside, of two years, during which I do not suppose the Noble Lord is sanguine enough to think that such a Bill will be awaiting the Royal Assent or that of the Regent. He is more sanguine than I am if he anticipates anything of the kind. We have in this matter followed strictly the precedent of preceding Acts. I think they are rather irrational, because, as the Noble Lord says, by the simple expedient of passing two Bills— one empowering the Regent to give her assent to a new Act and the other the new Act itself—any Parliament could at any moment override this provision. I think we should be well advised to accept the Amendment.


I understand that the right hon. Gentleman confines his advice to the House to accepting the Amendment. The argument of the hon. Member, as apart from the illustration, of course, applies to the whole Clause.


I do not mind omitting the Clause.


I think it is better to confine the alteration to be made to the words proposed by the hon. Member in substitution for those of the former Statute. It is quite true that Parliament, no doubt, could first repeal the Clause, and then pass the contravention of the Clause. At any rate, the Succession to the Throne is a matter of some solemnity and importance, and it is not a bad thing that we should place on record our opinion that the Act of Uniformity ought not to be altered during the minority. We are providing for a contingency which we hope will not occur, even if the Regency occurs. The probability of any Bill of the kind prohibited here in the first words of the Clause being introduced or passed is very remote and almost nonexistent, and it is just as well to mark the solemnity of that Act and to say that it is one which ought not to be treated of under such circumstances as that.


I am not at all sure that I agree with my right hon. Friend or with the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil). Here we have a Clause which undoubtedly the Government put in after careful consideration. The hon. Member opposite is desirous of disestablishing the Church of England, and in the hope of doing that he tries to persuade his Leader to make an alteration in the Clause which that same Leader has carefully considered, and presented to the House as being a proper Clause to pass. I do not see what we are going to gain by accepting the Amendment, but I can see what we are going to lose. We are going to give an opportunity for an immediate agitation for the abolition of the Chuch of England in Wales. Probably that is the meaning of the Amendment. I really think we might wait before we have any more of this harassing legislation, and if we were to have the calamity, which none of us hope will come about—the Leader of the House says it will only be a question of two years—and as we have been so many years in possession of the Church of England in Wales, we can certainly wait for two years before we trouble about disestablishing it. The Bill is really more or less, if not entirely, on the lines of former Regency Bills. What is the use of introducing all these alterations? I believe the Act of Uniformity deals with the Rubric. We may have all sorts of alterations made in the Rubric, and all the trouble between High Church and Low Church springing up which we might be deprived of it was left as it is. If, unfortunately, such things occur we do not want to take the time when there is an interval between the death of the last King and the succession of the next King for controversial measures, and none can be more controversial, or more likely to lead to bitter feeling than the religious question, and it would be very much simpler if the right hon. Gentleman would stick to the Bill, and not accept the Amendment.


I wish to intervene in consequence of some words which fell from the Prime Minister. He stated just now that we are only legislating for two years. Surely that is inaccurate. Surely it is quite possible that the events contemplated might arise at a period much beyond two years. Suppose, for instance, we were face to face with the unfortunate event of the

death of the Sovereign, and also before that time, the death of the present Heir-apparent. The circumstances contemplated under this Bill would possibly arise at a much later date than the two years, and though we, in the first instance, contemplate only a possible two years, yet really the purview of the Bill may be extended to a much further period, therefore I think it would be much more to the point that we should legislate with a view to the possible circumstances which the Mover of the Amendment contemplates.


The Noble Lord suggests that the Amendment should be accepted in order to alter the Prayer Book so as to make legal the illegal practices now being carried on by the Church of England. I therefore think it better that the words should be left in, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will keep them in.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 118; Noes, 209.

Division No. 84.] AYES. [4.45 P.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Grant, J. A. O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid.)
Adam, Major W. A. Guinness, Hon. W. E. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Arbuthnot, G. A. Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Perkins, Walter F.
Archer-Shee, Major M. Haddock, George Bahr Peto, Basil Edward
Attenborough, W. A. Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) Primrose, Hon. Neil James
Bagot, Captain J. Hambro, Angus Valdemar Proby, Colonel Douglas James
Balrd, J. L. Hamersley, A. St. George Quilter, William Eley C.
Balcarres, Lord Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) Randies, Sir John Scurrah
Baldwin, Stanley Hardy, Laurence Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Banner, John S. Harmood- Harris, F. L. (Stepney) Remnant, James Farquharson
Barnston, H. Harris, H. P. (Paddington, S.) Rice, Hon. W.
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Ridley, Samuel Forde
Bird, A. Heath, Col. A. H. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid) Henderson, H. (Berks, Abingdon) Rolleston, Sir John
Bull, Sir William James Hickmann, Col. T, Ronaldshay, Earl of
Calley, Colonel T. C. P. Hill, Sir Clement Rothschild, Lionel de
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Sanders, Robert A.
Campion, W. R. Home, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford) Sanderson, Lancelot
Carlile, E. Hildred Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven) Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)
Cator, John Kerry, Earl of Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Cautiey, H. S Kimber, Sir Henry Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Clay, Captain H. Spender Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)
Clive, Percy Archer Kirkwood, J. H. M. Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral)
Coates, Major E. F. Knight, Capt. E. A. Stewart, Sir M'T. (Kirkcudbright)
Cooper, Capt. Bryan (Dublin Co., S.) Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich) Sykes, Alan John
Cooper, R. A. (Walsall) Llewelyn, Major Venables Talbot, Lord E.
Cory, Sir Clifford John Lloyd, G. A. Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)
Cioft, H. P. Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Thomson, W. Mitchell (Down, North)
Dixon, C. H. Lonsdale, John Brownlee Tullibardine, Marquess of
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Valentia, Viscount
Dunn, Sir W. H. (Southwark) Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Ward, Arnold (Herts, Watford)
Eyres-Monsell, B. M. MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)
Falle, B. G. Macklnder, H. J. Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
Fell, Arthur Macmaster, Donald Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Fleming, Valentine Meysey-Thompson, E. C. Worthington-Evans, L.
Fletcher, J. S. Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)
Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S.W.) Mitchell, William Foot
Goldman, C. S. Morpeth, Viscount
Gooch, Henry Cubitt Mount, William Arthur TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir F.
Gordon, J. Newman, John R. P. Banbury and Mr. Ashley.
Goulding, Edward Alfred Newton, Harry Kottingham
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Agnew, George William Hancock, J. G. O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) O'Doherty, Philip
Alaen, Percy Hardle, J. Keir O'Dowd, John
Allen, Charles P. Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) O'Malley, William
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Palmer, Godfrey
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Parker, James (Halifax)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Partington, Oswald
Barlow, Sir John E. Haworth, Arthur A. Pearson, Weetman H. M.
Barnes, G. N. Hayward, Evan Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.
Barton, W. Healy, Timothy Michael (Louth, N.) Pirle, Duncan V.
Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R. Helme, Norval Watson Pointer, Joseph
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets) Henry, Charles S. Pollard, Sir George H.
Bentham, G. J. Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Boland, John Pius Higham, John Sharp Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Bowerman, C. W. Hindle, F. G. Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Bowles, T. Gibson Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Pringle, William M. R.
Brace, William Holt, Richard Durning Rainy, A. Rolland
Brigg, Sir John Hooper, A. G. Rea, Walter Russell
Brunner, J. F. L. Hope, John Deans (Fife West) Reddy, H.
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Home, C. Silvester (Ipswich) Rendall, Athelstan
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid.) Hudson, Walter Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar) Hughes, S. L. Robinson, S.
Byles, William Pollard Hunter, W. (Govan) Roche, John (Galway East)
Cameron, Robert Illingworth, Percy H. Roe, Sir Thomas
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel Powntree, Arnold
Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood) Johnson, W. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Jones, Edgar (Merttiyr Tydvil) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Chancellor, Henry G. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Jowett, F. W. Smith, H. B. (Northampton)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Joyce, Michael Snowden, P.
Clough, William King, J. (Somerset, N.) Soares, Ernest J.
Clynes, J. R- Lambert, George Spicer, Sir Albert
Collins, G. P. (Greenock) Leach, Charles Strachey, Sir Edward
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Lehmann, R. C. Summers, James Woolley
Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.) Levy, Sir Maurice Sutton, John E.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lewis, John Herbert Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Corbett, A. Cameron Lincoln-, Ignatius T. T. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Thomas, Sir A. (Glamo'gan, E)
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Lyell, Charles Henry Thomas, J. H. (Derby)
Crossley, Sir W. J. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burgh;) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Toulmin, George
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) MacVeagh, Jeremiah Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Delany, William M'Callum, John M. Lire, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Denman, R. D. M'Curdy, C. A. Wadsworth, J.
Devlin, Joseph McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness) M'Laren, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. (Leics.) Walton, Sir Joseph
Dickinson, W. H. M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Duffy, William J. Markham, Arthur Basil Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-ln-Furness) Martin, J. Waterlow, D. S.
Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) Masterman, C. F. G. Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Menzies, Sir Walter White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward Middlebrook, William White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Esslemont, George Birnle Millar, J. D. Whitehouse, John Howard
Falconer, J. Molteno, Percy Alport Whyte, Alexander F.
Fenwick, Charles Mond, Sir Alfred Wiles, Thomas
Ferens, T. R. Montagu, Hon. E. S. Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
France, G. A. Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Furness, Stephen Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Gelder, Sir W. A. Muldoon, John Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)
George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Munro, R. Winfrey, Richard
Glanville, H. J. Murray, Captain Hon. A. C. Wing, Thomas
Glover, Thomas Muspratt, M. Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Neilson, Francis Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Greenwood, G. G. Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Griffith, Ellis J. Noland, Joseph TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Norton, Capt. Cecil W. of Elibank and Mr. Gulland.
Guest, Major Nuttall, Harry

Question, "That the Bill be read a second time," put, and agreed to.