§ 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.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I beg to move to add at the end of the Clause the words, "or to any Bill for repealing or altering an Act of the fifth year of the reign of Queen Anne, made in Scotland, intituled 'An Act for securing the Protestant religion and Prebyterian government.'"
The Bill, as originally introduced, contained these words. The effect of the 1697 Clause in the original Bill was to say that the Regent should not have power to give the Royal assent to any Bill for repealing, changing, or in any respect varying the course of succession to the Crown of this realm as established by Statute, or repealing or altering the Act made in Scotland in the year of Queen Anne for securing the Protestant religion. These words have appeared in every single Regency Bill which has been introduced into this House since the date of the Union of England with Scotland, and I feel bound to say I think it is really unfortunate that they should have been omitted from the Bill in Committee in precisely the manner in which they were along with an Amendment raising a totally different question, and without one single word being addressed to the precise question by any Law Officer of the Crown or by any Scottish Law Officer. I think it is only right the House should have an opportunity of reconsidering this question. As I have said, these words have been in every Bill since 1707, and that is natural, because they were there in pursuance of the Act of Union. It may be necessary for me to call attention to the actual words of the Act of Union. There was issued this morning a White Paper, and I propose to quote the words therein given from the actual article of the Treaty of Union itself.
These articles say: "Our Sovereign lady and the estates of Parliament considering that by the late Act of Parliament for a treaty with England for an union of both Kingdoms it is provided that the Commissioners for that treaty should not treat of or concerning any alteration of the worship discipline and Government of the Church of this Kingdom as now by law established which treaty being now reported to the Parliament and it being reasonable and necessary that the true Protestant religion as presently professed within this Kingdom with the worship discipline and government of this Church should be effectually and unalterably secured therefore Her Majesty with advice and consent of the said estates of Parliament doth hereby establish and confirm the said true Protestant religion and the worship discipline and government of this Church to continue without any alteration to the people of this land in all succeeding generations and more especially Her Majesty with advice and consent aforesaid ratifies approves and for ever confirms the fifth Act of the first Parliament of King William and Queen Mary intituled Act ratifying the confession of faith and 1698 settling Presbyterian Church government with all other Acts of Parliament relating thereto in prosecution of the declaration of the estates of this Kingdom containing the claim of right bearing date the eleventh of April one thousand six hundred and eighty-nine And Her Majesty with advice and consent aforesaid expressly provides and declares that the foresaid true Protestant religion contained in the above mentioned confession of faith with the form and purity of worship presently in use within this Church and its Presbyterian Church government and discipline (that is to say) the government of the Church by kirk sessions presbyteries provincial synods and general assemblies all established by the foresaid Acts of Parliament pursuant to the claim of right shall remain and continue unalterable and that the said Presbyterian Government shall be the only government of the Church within the Kingdom of Scotland.
"And further Her Majesty with advice aforesaid expressly declares and statutes that none of the subjects of this Kingdom shall be liable to put all and every one of them for ever free of any oath test or subscription within this Kingdom contrary to or inconsistent with the foresaid true Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church Government worship and discipline as above established and that the same within the bounds of this Church and Kingdom shall never be imposed upon or required of them in any sort. And lastly that after the decease of Her present Majesty (whom God long preserve) the Sovereign succeeding to her in the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Great Britain shall in all time coming at his or her accession to the Crown swear and subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid settlement of the true Protestant religion with the Government worship discipline right and privileges of this Church as above established by the laws of this Kingdom in prosecution of the claim of right."
These words appear in the Act of Union, and it is in virtue of those words in that Act that this provision has always appeared in successive Regency Bills down to the present time. Of course, it is said, and it may be said, that the House of Commons is entitled, after all, to alter an Act of Parliament and vary it. Yes; I will admit that to the full, but these words appear not only in an Act of this Parliament, but they appear in a Treaty, which is a very different thing. Let me put a point to the hon. Member who suggested that it might be possible to effect 1699 an alteration in any Act of Parliament. Supposing this treaty had not been made with Scotland—take the case of a treaty made with some foreign country. Would the hon. Gentleman suggest for a moment that without the consent of the other Power it would be possible to alter the terms of the treaty with that foreign country? Of course it would not without the consent of the other party to the treaty. That is exactly what I am prepared to say. The Government have not got that consent, and if they apply to the people of Scotland they would not get it. I do not think for one single moment that there is one single Member opposite representing a Scottish constituency who would dare to go back to his constituency and say he had aided and abetted the Government in tearing up the Act of Union. I do not think one hon. Member would be prepared to go back and say deliberately, and it would be deliberately, after this Debate, that he had agreed that the Sovereign should not be called upon to take the most solemn oath that he would preserve inviolate the Covenant in regard to the Presbyterian religion stated in the claim of right. I do not think there is a single Scotch Member who would dare to go back to his constituents and make a speech setting out the facts I have stated. I go further: this document appears in a paper issued to-day, entitled "Statutory Enactments Affecting the King's Religion," and is issued by the Government in order to show that there are a considerable number of what are, I understand, called safeguards to the Protestant Succession.
I put this question to the Government. If you are going to propose to-day to alter one of these things, which you describe as a safeguard to the Protestant Succession, what do you suppose people on Wednesday will say when you hold this same thing up as absolutely safeguarding the Succession for ever? The Government cannot have it both ways. Either the contents of this Paper which has been presented to-day are not absolute safeguards of the Protestant Succession, or, if they are, the Government have no right and no power to make the alteration they made in this Bill in Committee. If there are any hon. Members who may think there is sonic question with regard to the disestablishment of the Church in England connected with this matter, I think they ought to understand that the Church in 1700 Scotland stands in an entirely different relation to the State from the Church in England. In the Church in England the State has a large voice by patronage and otherwise in the appointment of the actual ministry, and the courts have considerable power in the direction of the administration of the Church. In Scotland nobody, and no representative of the State whatever, has any control in the way of patronage, and no court, except the court of the Church itself, has any control over the religious affairs of the Church. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, composed of ministers and laity, has absolute power over the control of its religious affairs, and I understand that Convocation in the Church of England has no such power at all corresponding to the General Assembly. I put these considerations forward in case the question of disestablishment, as it applies to the Church of England, might influence any hon. Member, and I urge the Government very seriously, and I hope not in any undue spirit of bitterness, because I really do not think they quite realised what they were doing when they originally accepted the Amendment, to reconsider their position, and I hope they will see their way to agree to the insertion of the words which I now beg to move.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
There are some points in which I think it necessary to supplement my hon. Friend's speech. The Bill was introduced in a way perfectly satisfactory to hon. Members from Scotland. We had no reason to suppose that any fundamental change would be made in it. It was under the charge of the Home Secretary. We know that he, along with the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil), interested himself in the matters of the Rubric and of the interpretation of the original language into the revised version, and I am sure that what time he has been able to spare from those studies he has given to a minute study of Scotch Ecclesiastical History. But I think, in spite of that study, he had rather allowed himself to be rushed into an unwise surrender. I was called out of the House for a few minutes, and when I came back I found that this important change had been made. A later change in the Schedule was proposed, but by that time wiser counsels had prevailed, and hesitation had seized even the Front Bench opposite with regard to this further change. The words of the Schedule were preserved, 1701 but these words were far less important than this Clause which was carelessly surrendered. After all, what is this Schedule? It cannot affect legislation in the slightest degree. We know quite well that the Oath was no hindrance, and could not be treated as a hindrance to the. Sovereign giving her assent to the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1868. It does not add to the power of veto as constitutionally exercised by the Crown. But the Clause the restoration of which we now wish to bring about, is a far more important thing. That Clause has been continued in every Regency Act passed since the Act of Union of 1707. It was that Act of the Parliament of Scotland, passed in the reign of Queen Anne, which was recited and repeated, and its binding nature was over and over again stated. It is quite easy to say Parliament can overturn any legislation, however sacred, and sanctioned by however solemn adjurations. But may we not carry this idea to a dilettante extent? At all events, this Clause marked one step more in the defence of something to which some may have some attachment. Let me ask the Member for Oxford University whether he thinks that if the Members of the Scottish Parliament in 1707 had been told that these solemn words were no more than waste paper which might be torn to pieces by the English Parliament of 1708, the Act of Union would ever have been passed under these circumstances? I am sure that no one who has studied the history of Scotland at that time would for a moment say that it ever would have been passed. What did this Act express? I have no doubt that many people who have not given close attention to the matter believe that it preserves the privileges of the Church as it stands, but I would ask hon. Gentlemen to remember that the main object was to preserve the Presbyterian form of Church Government. In clause after clause of that Act there is no mention whatever of the Established Church, but over and over again there is mention of the preservation of the government of the Church by kirk sessions, presbyteries, synods, and the general assembly, and that the Presbyterian form of government shall be the only form of Church government within the Kingdom of Scotland. I find no great fault with the right hon. Gentleman for having in a moment of generous concession given up a point the importance of which he did not see. I am appealing to my colleagues in the representation of Scotland in no party sense. I ask them to consider this from the point of view of Scotchmen. Do they 1702 not agree with me that the main object with which Scotland was then concerned in 1707 was to maintain in the Established Church or otherwise the Presbyterian form of Church governments? There were even at that day thousands of people in Scotland who had broken away from the Established Church. There were many dissenters. There were, for instance, the Cameronians.
But they were the strongest promoters, many of them, of this Act of 1707. That separated that altogether from the question of establishment, and what they were fighting for was the maintenance of that which was bound up with the whole history and genius of the Scotch nation, the Presbyterian form of Church government. I ask hon. Members from Scotland to think twice before they give up this, which is bound up so much with the genius, history and traditions of our country. The hon. Member for Oxford pointed out, when the question was up before, that the Act of 1707 has already been altered by the Act of 1905. The object of the Act of 1905 was to do something which all hon. Members know had nothing whatever to do with the Church in Scotland. It was to endow the large free United Presbyterian Church with the riches which the courts had declared to belong to a small section of the Free Church. It was found convenient in the course of that Act to put in a Clause making a slight change in reference to the Church in Scotland, making, I think, insignificant changes, and for my own part it was no slight study of the conditions of ecclesiastical history that assured me that that Clause was absolutely unnecessary, and that the Church in Scotland had power under its own ecclesiastical courts to do everything that was done by Clause 5 in that Act. Therefore, however reasonable it is for an English Member to insert this change, I think it falls to the ground owing to the fact that this Clause was absolutely needless to give the necessary authority to the Church in Scotland. I appeal to my colleagues representing Scotland to defend the Presbyterianism of Scotland. They know what English Members do not know, and what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford did not know. What is the position of the Churches in Scotland at the present moment? We know that there is an enormously important Committee, representative of all the great bodies of dissenters and the Church of Scotland, which is now meeting, and meeting with the print of view of Scotchmen. Do they 1703 able to arrange a reconciliation and union of the Churches which will absolutely make the question of disestablishment disappear. They know that is the case. Do they think that within the few months of the great calamity which would bring on the Regency if it did occur, the few months which is the utmost period during which it would continue, a prospect of an Act of Disestablishment for Scotland would he contemplated with the goodwill of the great mass of the people of Scotland, at this moment when we see prospects opening for our country of a great reconciliation which would bind up their ecclesiastical differences to a large extent? What are you doing at this moment? If you strike out these words you will accomplish nothing. You do yourselves no good; you do not hasten by one hour the approach of disestablishment, if you wish it; but you do insult the feelings of Scotland, you do wantonly and recklessly tear up the strong condition belonging to the history of their race—the condition to which they are bound, and which they will not willingly see surrendered. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to restore those words. I have not urged this matter in any unreasonable spirit, and the omission of these words will be seriously felt and resented by the vast majority of the country.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not think that all the very serious consequences stated by the hon. Gentleman, in his excellent speech, really depend upon the decision which the House may come to either in one way or the other upon this Amendment. If they did, I quite agree that scarcely any more important topic could occupy our attention. But the Government hardly feel that such important issues hang on our discussions this afternoon. The Prime Minister, when this matter was debated in Committee, showed how entirely desirous the Government were of falling in with the general view of the House of Commons. Originally the Bill was in the old form, with all the words in the Clause, and it was at the wish of the House and in deference to that wish that Amendments were made. The subject was discussed, but the House did not regard the matter as of that supreme importance which the hon. Gentleman now attaches to it. It was shown that these matters only covered a period of a few years, and that whatever we put into this Bill could by the 1704 two successive Acts of Parliament be altered, and we could put in the original safeguard even for that temporary occasion. The House, after hearing the discussion, and after representations were made from all quarters of the House, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire——
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes; I heard the whole discussion, and I think there was a very general feeling that a reasonable course was being adopted. The Government was quite prepared to let the whole Clause go or any part of it, and, indeed, the argument against any portion of the Clause was valid against the whole. The general feeling was that it should be amended in this form, and that feeling was emphasised and expressed by the House in a Division by a majority of 209 to 118. In these circumstances, I do not think the Government are taking a harsh or obstinate line either in one direction or in the other, Frankly, we are not able to see that great consequences hang on the decision. If it were the general wish of Scottish Members in all parts of the House, if they attach sentimental importance to the inclusion of these words—though frankly we cannot see it—the Government would certainly bow to that general wish. I do not believe that it is so. I think the disposition of the House will be to adhere to the decision deliberately come to after the considerable discussion which took place in Committee, and unless I am further informed that there is a strong and united wish on the part of Scottish Members for the inclusion of these words, I shall probably put it to the House that we should not go back on the decision to which Parliament deliberately came on the occasion of the discussion in Committee.
§ 6.0 P.M.
Unfortunately, I was prevented by illness from being present the other day, and, therefore, have an imperfect knowledge of what took place in the House. When the right hon. Gentleman shelters himself on what he calls, most subtly, the opinion of the House of Commons, as expressed by the majority of 200 odd against some 119, I cannot doubt that those figures would have been far more than reversed if the right hon. Gentleman had adhered to what he now admits to be the only logical form——
If the Government—I beg pardon—adhere to the form in which the Bill was drafted, and they admit it is the only logical form, they admit, as far as they are concerned, that they are quite ready to restore it. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman goes the length of saying he is prepared to restore it to the only other logical form. If you keep any part of the old Clause you must keep it all. That is not arguable, and the right hon. Gentleman, to do him justice, did not attempt to argue it. He went back to the parties in the Division Lobbies, and that was literally the only argument he advanced. Under those circumstances I cannot understand why the Government show the smallest reluctance, or why Parliament should show the smallest reluctance to put back the Clause into its original shape, because it affords an equal measure of protection to the Establishment in England and in Scotland.
I do not think that the bon. Gentleman quite apprehends the point. The point is that the Clause as it originally stood was a bi-lateral Clause which deals out the same measure to England and to Scotland. As it is it deals out one measure to Scotland and another to England. Under those circumstances I cannot understand why the Government should adhere to what they admit is illogical and unequal. As the Debate goes on I cannot help thinking that they will see the propriety of adopting a course, which they frankly admit they have no personal objection to, to restore the Bill to the shape in which it was originally introduced in this House.
§ Colonel GREIG
There is some misconstruction on the benches opposite and I should like to bring back the House to the facts of the case and of the law as it stands. May I say I entirely agree with what has fallen from the hon. Member for the University of Glasgow (Sir H. Craik) about the hope that we Scottish Members have on this side as to the issue of the negotiations that are going on as to an understanding between the two great religious bodies in Scotland, and I hope nothing will be said here which will at all affect a hope of the successful issue of 1706 those negotiations. With reference to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, I think he has quite forgotten that in an earlier stage of the discussion on this Bill his Noble relative below the Gangway made a fierce attack upon the security which is granted under the original Clause to England, and said that the words of the Act of Uniformity and its preservation, was a matter of no importance whatever and might go. So that any argument that the Leader of the Opposition may found upon equal rights being conceded to Scotland and to England goes. Let me turn for a moment to the arguments of the Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Mitchell-Thomson). He suggests the restoration to the Clause of a reference to the Act securing the Protestant religion in Scotland, and says that the Act of Union creates a necessity for the insertion. The Act of Union does nothing of the sort. What it says, and this is the security for the Scottish establishment, is:—And lastly, that after the decease of her present Majesty (whom God long preserve) the Sovereign succeeding to her in the royal government of the kingdom of Great Britain shall, in all time coming at his or her accession to the Crown, swear and subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the foresaid settlement of the true Protestant religion with the government, worship, discipline, right and privileges of this Church as above established by the laws of this kingdom, in prosecution of the claims of right.[Several HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] Yes—as a fundamental and essential condition. The Sovereign, at the present time, always makes that Coronation Declaration or Oath to maintain the Scottish Church. It is exactly what is suggested the Regent shall do now. In the Schedule there is a provision that she shall make exactly the same Declaration as the Sovereign has to make when he or she comes to the Throne. There is nothing whatever in either the Act of Union or the Act of Settlement, which says that the Sovereign is never to have the power of consenting to an alteration in the establishment. It is simply and solely confined to this particular Declaration which is in the Act at the present time. Now turn back to the Sovereign. The Sovereign does not say anything on his accession about never giving consent to an Act of Parliament, even as regards the most explicit statements in the Act of Union that both the Church of England and the Church of Scotland shall be inviolate. All lawyers are agreed that that refers to the executive character of the Sovereign, and not to his legislative character. To show that we have acted in that sense, the Act 1707 of Union in Scotland has been altered once or twice. The hon. Member opposite (Sir H. Craik) admits that in an Act passed only four years ago there was an important provision. He minimises it; but what does it do? It gives the whole of the Church of Scotland, its synods and assemblies, the right to alter the confession of faith—and he calls that an unimportant thing. That was the very thing secured by the Act of Union.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
It does not allow them to alter the confession of faith; it only allows them to alter slightly the terms of adhesion to the confession of faith.
§ Colonel GREIG
I have not the statute with me; but, speaking from memory, I think it allows the synods to alter the confession of faith. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."]
§ Colonel GREIG
Well, we shall see. I have not got the statute here, and I am quoting from memory. But what I want to point out is this——
§ Colonel GREIG
Will the hon. Gentleman give me the formula of subscription? The formula of subscription meant this: That if there was any alteration made, the people who were given that formula might accept the alteration. You will find that that was the object of the alteration, because the Church of Scotland desired to make certain alterations in its confession of faith—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]—with progress and evolution. Nowadays Churches demand that. But this is beside the point. What I want to impress upon the House is that this is going beyond the necessity of the case altogether. The Sovereign never does make any such Declaration as that ought to be imposed. We will not consent to alter the Act of Union, or any other Act, and to put this into the mouth of the Regent except as regards the Succession—there, I admit, it is useful—but, of course, the Regent stands in a peculiar relation to the Sovereign who is a minor, to go further and say that the Act of Union imposes any such security is really to fly in the face of facts. I hope my colleague opposite will not say now that I am less keen for the establishment in Scotland. It is not in the Act of Union that there is security such as he wishes to impose on the Regent. I am perfectly con- 1708 vinced that the Church of Scotland will go on existing just as well without the security as with it.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I may perhaps be allowed to say one word, though I do not attach very great importance to the subject which is now dividing the House. I think what took place in Committee was this: An Amendment was put down to leave out the whole Clause. I supported that Amendment, and still support it, because I think that Clause 4 of the Regency Bill is a foolish one. At any rate, the argument which I addressed to the Committee was that Clause 4 was a foolish Clause. It says:—"The Regent shall not give or have power to give the Royal Assent to any Bill for repealing or 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."
That is as it stands now. As it stood before there was a reference to the Act of Security, and to the Act of Uniformity. It is obvious that the only effect of the Clause is that if Parliament passed a Bill they would have to pass two Bills instead of one. The only conceivable reason or object that I can see is to put Acts of Parliament into different categories. It cannot really restrain Parliament in the least. Personally, I think it would be better to leave out the Clause altogether. There is this difference between the two. The Debate merely turns upon the English Act, and I pointed out that there was just this chance that we might want to modify the Act of Uniformity within the next two or three years owing to certain changes in the Rubrics, but there is no prospect whatever of the Act of Settlement being interfered with.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I agree that the subject which the House is now discussing is extremely theoretical. I cannot understand why my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham should lay such stress upon the terms "fundamental" and "essential" which appear in the Act. These terms seem to me to be altogether meaningless in the British Constitution, because in our Constitution there is no such thing as fundamental law requiring special machinery for its operation. What is the effect of this Clause? It prevents the Regent giving her assent to a measure to which the King could not give his assent. That would mean this: that had the Act to which the hon. Member for Glasgow 1709 and Aberdeen University referred been brought forward during the Regency, the Regent would be unable to give his or her assent to it. The hon. Member also referred to the work of the Union Committee representing both of the great Churches in Scotland. That body is in favour of finding a basis of union between these two great denominations. Were the parties successful, and was it necessary as a result of their labour that some change should be made which would improve the condition of things, it would be impossible during the Regency to give effect to the labours of that Committee. That seems to me to be a most regrettable conclusion, and in the circumstances I think the House would be well advised in adhering to the omission of the Clause.
§ Mr. J. A. CLYDE
It appears to me that both the hon. Members have completely misapprehended the point. I cannot imagine that we have anything whatever to do with the Establishment of the Church of Scotland or the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland or the reestablishment of the Church of Scotland. What we have to deal with is the expediency or inexpediency, the justice or the injustice, of keeping in Clause 4 the Act of Settlement and of excluding from Clause 4 the Act for settling the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. That is the question. The hon. Member opposite spoke as if this question with regard to Clause 4 raised some issue with reference to the Declaration. Clause 4 is a clause of limitation on the powers of the Regency. Limitation of the powers of the Regent may be wise or unwise; if I were to speak entirely for myself I cannot see why the Regent who is to act for the King should not be as free as the King, but that means the deletion of Clause 4. That is not proposed at all. The proposal is that Clause 4 is to remain, but to remain only to the effect of preventing the Regent from giving assent to any measure which upsets or interferes with the Act of Settlement.
§ Mr. CLYDE
That is quite true—Succession to the Crown as established by the Act of Settlement, but, fortunately or unfortunately, and unfortunately for the view maintained on the other side, the the Act of Settlement, so far as it relates to the Succession to the Crown, does bring, 1710 and necessarily brings in the relation of the Sovereign to the Protestant reformed religion as established by law in England, and it also necessarily excludes, unless you bring in our Scotch Act for the settlement of the Presbyterian government, the Sovereign's relation to the Protestant religion in Scotland. Observe that this matter may be regarded to a large extent as one of sentiment, but it does touch both the imagination and the hearts of the people of Scotland deeply. I want to make it quite clear what I mean by saying that the Act of Settlement does touch the relation of the Sovereign to Church government in England, and does not touch the relation of the Sovereign to Church government in Scotland at all. Under the Act of Settlement one of the things that the Sovereign must do is to take the English Coronation Oath, and that is an Oath by the Sovereign put to him by an English Archbishop or Bishop. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, it is an English Act."] That is my point, but the hon. Member has apparently forgotten the Scotch history of the question. The Oath put to the Sovereign by the Archbishop or Bishop pledges him to do his utmost to maintain and preserve the settlement of the true Protestant religion as by law established. That relates to English law, and so strongly did the Parliament of Scotland realise that that was so that the Scotch Parliament insisted on incorporating with the Act of Union not merely the English Act of Settlement, but also our Scotch Act of Security, thus embracing in the Act of Union from a Scotch point of view the Act for the settlement of the Presbyterian religion which was originally passed after the Revolution of 1690, and which was re-enacted in 1707. In our Scotch Act of Parliament it was provided that the King was to take his oath to Scotland, and was to maintain the settlement of the Presbyterian religion. We thought in Scotland in that respect that we had come out of the negotiations for the Union very well, but the provisions of the Act of Settlement were reinforced, and we got included our own adhesion to the Presbyterian government across the border. The hon. Member opposite says that the King does that now, but he appears to me to be mixing up two things—that is, the Declaration or the Oath the King takes with the obligation in the Treaty of Union, which is just as strong as any obligation to be found in the Act of Settlement, to maintain Presbyterian government in Scotland. That established that Presbyterian government 1711 shall be observed in all times as a fundamental and essential condition of any treaty of union to be concluded between the two kingdoms. I think my point of view is plain enough. The Scottish Parliament of 1707 and the Scottish people of today do regard the preservation in our treaty with England of that assurance of the settlement of Presbyterian government in Scotland as of very considerable importance to them The real matter at issue is this: Is it reasonable, in view of that state of feeling, to keep Clause 4 in the Bill, but to make it apply only to the settlement of religious matters in England, and to exclude from it the settlement of religious matters in Scotland? I would, even now, make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I am certain, notwithstanding what has been said, because I am sure there has been some misunderstanding, he would win very considerable gratitude in Scotland from public opinion, and perhaps even more, from public sentiment, and he would not be giving anything away. He would only be preserving in this Bill what I am told has been contained in previous Regency Bills, without exception, and he would only be giving equal treatment—I may describe it as equal historical treatment—to the religious settlement in Scotland and to the religious settlement in England. I therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on the matter which he himself says he does not think of any great importance in the interests of public opinion and public sentiment in the North, to consider whether he would not be well advised to allow this Clause, so far as it deals with the settlement of the Presbyterian religion of Scotland, to remain as the Government originally proposed?
Mr. CATHCART WASON
I cordially support the right hon. Gentleman opposite who has spoken in favour of this Instruction down in the Paper. I think it is very much to be regretted that the Government did not make up their minds fully on this question some considerable time ago. A reference to the Debate in the Committee shows that this Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Exeter in a speech of some considerable length, but no Scotch non-official Members took part in the Debate. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister certainly made a few remarks on the subject, not of very great importance as regards Scotland, but Scotch opinion, as far as we know, was entirely ignored. 1712 This is emphatically a Scotch question, and surely, after the ferment which has been going on all over Scotland during the last four or five weeks, it is at least very inadvisable of the Government to pour oil on the flame which is already burning sufficiently bright. We have got a Scotch Committee which is very rarely consulted about any matters of importance to Scotland, and surely we might have fought out this little family quarrel amongst ourselves. The hon. Gentleman who spoke just now from below the Gangway has it apparently fixed in his mind that if this Clause is reinstated in the Bill it will effectively bar the question of disestablishment.
Mr. CATHCART WASON
I apologise, but that is really the only ground which was suggested for moving the Amendment of the hon. Member for Exeter, simply the question of the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland. That is all nonsense. If ever the feeling in Scotland is sufficiently strong and united to demand disestablishment, it will be perfectly easy for the House of Commons to repeal that portion of the Bill which prevents the Regent giving consent to such a Bill. There is absolutely no question whatever of disestablishment being connected even remotely or immediately with this question. The suggestion made by the Home Secretary was that this was struck out in deference to the general sense of the House of Commons. I most respectfully submit that that is to a great extent misleading. We know exactly what takes place on an occasion of this sort, and had I at the moment been having tea with my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Eugene Wason) I should not have been surprised if we had voted in the same Lobby without knowing what we were voting for. I hope the Government will either do as has been suggested, restore these words, or, as the Prime Minister suggested, omit the Clause altogether. There is a good deal of Scottish sentiment around this matter.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
May I reply to the appeal which has been made to me? The discussion has shown a very considerable difference of opinion on this subject on both sides of the House, and the existence of a strong opinion. The Government have no strong opinions on the subject, 1713 and I am very anxious the House should decide this without the intervention of the Whips.
§ Mr. STEEL-MAITLAND
After what we have been delighted to hear from the Home Secretary we sincerely appeal to the House to allow these words to be reinserted. We are very grateful to the Home Secretary for the attitude he has taken up. Some hon. Members who have spoken have treated this as a trivial matter: if so, they can have no objection to the re-insertion of these words. We on our part attach a very considerable measure of importance to the words. There is a reason for re-inserting them rather than omitting the Clause altogether, and the reason is quite obvious. The positions of a Regent and of a reigning Sovereign are really essentially different. There is a freedom to the reigning Sovereign which quite rightly cannot be permitted to a Regent, and for that reason it is desirable, seeing the essential difference in their positions, that there should be some restriction on the position of the Regent which is not necessary in connection with that of a Sovereign. Also ex hypothesi there really is some value in an oath. The Sovereign takes an Oath to observe the establishment of the Church in Scotland before he is declared King. He takes this Oath before the Privy Council. If the Sovereign is a minor the Regency Bill comes into operation, and therefore it is only rational that the Regent should be debarred, if by that hypothesis there is value in the Oath from influencing the Sovereign in one way or another to act contrary to his Oath while the Regent is not in a position to do so. I really do urge the House most strongly upon this point. With the exception of one other hon. Gentleman, I happen to be the only member of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who is a Member of this House, and I can assure the House that there are a very large number of the members of the Church of Scotland who are exceedingly anxious that the course should not be taken here which was taken in Committee on this Bill, and they are anxious that these words should be reinserted, as it is proposed to do in the Amendment. The hon. Member for Sheffield has said that the matter was not really carefully reflected upon when it was considered in Committee. It is considered trivial by some of those who object, therefore I appeal to the House that if those are the 1714 only objectors to the words, while we on this side of the House attach considerable importance to them, that they should allow these words to be reinserted and support that course if we go to a Division.
§ Mr. MORTON
I understand that the Government have no settled convictions on this matter, therefore we may be allowed to decide it in a straightforward manner. I hope the House will agree with respect to putting Scotland as it was before a portion of the Clause was struck out. I was not here, but no notice was given that it was going to be struck out. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I did not happen to see it, or I should have been here to oppose it. My Constituents take a very strong view with regard to this case altogether, and all over Scotland there is a very strong opinion always against tampering with a Treaty. I am aware that the Treaty has been tampered with once or twice, and once it was by stealth, but I should advise this House strongly to leave Scotland alone in this matter. Do as the Scottish people want, and you will find yourselves right.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
I want to point out the reason why the Prime Minister accepted the deletion of a portion of the Clause. There were three things in the Clause originally. First of all, this provision in regard to varying the order or course of Succession. Then there were two portions which dealt with the question of religion in Scotland under that measure of Queen Anne and the parallel measure, the Act of Uniformity, for England. It was felt by the Noble Lord for one reason, and by some of us for other reasons, that it was not desirable to make it impossible, by a kind of specially written Constitution, for the Regent to give the Royal assent to a measure for a change in the religion or for disestablishment for Wales. That was the difficulty we had. Therefore we struck out Scotland and England. I am not going to interfere in the Scotch question at all—it is a purely local one—except that I very much hope it will be quite clear that we are not establishing any sort of principle or anything else that is going to affect the English question. I hope the Committee will bear in mind that we struck the two out on a question of principle, and we were not going to make it impossible for the Regent, even though Parliament passed a measure, to give assent to a violation of the Establishment in any way whatsoever.
Mr. J. M`CALLUM
I cordially support the position of the hon. Member who has just spoken. I thought the Government before took a wise and prudent step when they distinctly stated that they would support the Amendment. It was putting Scotland in the same position as England. It was on the lines of tolerance and of Catholicism. I trust the House will vote as we voted before, with a clear issue before us. Those who heard the discussion clearly understood that what we are now fighting for was on the side of toleration and to put Scotland in the same position as England.
§ Sir MARK STEWART
If they knew the strength of feeling in Scotland in favour of the Amendment, I am quite satisfied that every Scotch Member here would vote for it. I have had very large and very long experience, but I have had more communications on this matter than I have ever had before in such a short time. I hope and trust that all Scottish Members will vote for this Clause in its reconstructed and amended form.
§ Sir CLIFFORD CORY
I rise to support the Amendment, for the reason that I voted against the deletion of these words from the Bill when the Bill was in Committee, and now intend to vote that they be re-inserted. The Home Secretary has
§ highly distinguished himself by his courtesy in debate to-day by the brilliant, long, and closely-reasoned speech which he did me the honour to make in refusing, on behalf of the Government, to accept the Amendment which I proposed to Clause (2) of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have gained little knowledge by his Parliamentary experience as apparently he is unable to distinguish the difference between a Bill that has passed its First Reading and one that has become the law of the land. This is another instance of the Government rushing legislation through the House. If they had only taken proper time to consider the measure, we should not have got into the tangle we are in to-day. They are so anxious not to get the opinion of the electorate that they are trying to rush this Bill through as well as the Declaration Bill. They have torn up the Constitution, or endeavoured to, and they have broken the Treaty between England and Scotland. I really think, for the credit of the Government, they would do very well to adjourn the Bill and allow it to be brought forward again for Debate after the Royal Declaration Bill has been passed.
§ Question putt, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 61; Noes, 61.1717
|Division No. 127.]||AYES.||[6.45 P.m.|
|Attenborough, Walter Annis||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Shortt, Edward|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.||Hillier, Dr. A. P.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral)|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)||Stewart, Sir M'T. (Kirkc'dbr'tsh.)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Tuillbardine, Marquess of|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Clyde, James Avon||Mackinder, Halford J.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Walsh, Stephen|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Morpeth, Viscount||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Watt, Henry A.|
|Elibank, Master of||Munro, Robert||White, Major G. D. (Lancs. Southport)|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Ormsby-Gore, William||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Forster, Henry William||Peto, Basil Edward||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Grant, J. A.||Salter, Arthur Clevell||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir H. Cralk and Mr. Mitchell Thomson.|
|Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Sandys, Lt.-Col. T. M. (Bootle)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)|
|Allen, Charles Peter||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gulland, John William|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Barnes, George N.||Crosfield, Arthur H.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Dawes, James Arthur||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Elverston, Harold||Hayward, Evan|
|Bryce, John Annan||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Henry, Charles S.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Greenwood, Granville George||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Guest, Major||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Smith, N. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Vivian, Henry|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Rainy, Adam Rolland||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Rea, Walter Russell||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ridley, Samuel Forde||Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Young, William (Perth, E.)|
|Leach, Charles||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Seddon, James A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. M'Callum and Mr. Pringle.|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
Bill read the third time, and passed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think I ought to vote for the Bill as it originally stood. I will vote with the Ayes. The figures are: Ayes, 62; Noes, 61.