HC Deb 27 July 1910 vol 19 cc2283-95

(1) Schedules shall be prepared by or under the direction of the Local Government Board for the purpose of being filled up by or on behalf of the several occupiers of dwelling-houses, with the following particulars, and no others, namely, particulars as to—

  1. (a) the name sex, age, profession or occupation, condition as to marriage, relation to head of family, birthplace, and (in the case of a person born abroad) nationality, of every living person who abode in every house on the night of the Census day; and
  2. (b) whether any person who so abode was blind, deaf, dumb, imbecile, or lunatic; and
  3. (c) in the case of any person who so abode being married, the duration of marriage, and the number of children born of the marriage the number of such children living; and
  4. (d) the number of rooms inhabited; and
  5. (e) in the case of Wales or the county of Monmouth, whether any person who so abode (being of three years of age or upwards) speaks English only or Welsh only, or both English and Welsh.

(2) Every enumerator shall in the course of the week ending on the Saturday next before the Census day leave at every dwelling-house within his enumeration district one or more of these schedules for the occupier thereof or of any part there- of, and on every such schedule shall be plainly expressed that it is to be filled up by the occupier for whom it is left, and that the enumerator will collect all such schedules within his district on the Monday then next following.

(3) Every occupier for whom any such schedule has been so left shall fill up or cause to be filled up the schedule, to the best of his knowledge and belief, so far as relates to all persons dwelling in the house, tenement, or apartment occupied by him, and shall sign his name thereto, and shall deliver the schedule so filled up and signed to the enumerator when required so to do.

(4) In this section the expression "dwelling-house" shall include every building and tenement of which the whole or any part is used for the purpose of human habitation, and where a dwelling-house is let or sub-let in different tenements or apartments and occupied distinctly by different persons or families a separate schedule shall be left with or for and shall be filled up by the occupier of each such distinct tenement or apartment.

(5) For the purposes of this section, a person who is travelling or at work on the night of the Census day, and who returns to a house on the morning of the following day shall be treated as abiding in that house on the night of the Census day.

Lords Amendment to Clause 4, Sub-section 1 (a), after the word "occupation" ["age, profession or occupation"] insert the words "religious profession."


In moving "That this House disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," there is not much to be added to what took place in the Debate in this House on a previous occasion. On that occasion, after a lengthy Debate, the House of Commons, by a Division of 135 to 38, objected to a religious census being incorporated in the Census Bill for the year. Since that decision the Bill has been to another place and by two Divisions, 38 to 31, or a majority of seven in the first instance, and 32 to 29, or a majority of three only the second time, the Lords inserted an Amendment that a religious census was necessary. I now ask the House of Commons to abide by its own decision. It would, perhaps, not be uninteresting for this House at this stage to know that the House of Commons on several occasions has objected to the taking of a religious census. In 1910 they so decided by 135 to 38; in 1880 by 97 to 27; and in 1890 by 288 to 69. In 1870 the House of Lords were in favour of a religious census by a majority of four only, and when it was returned to the House of Commons on that occasion it was rejected by the Commons by a majority of 101 to 40. The Government object to this Amendment, and the succeeding one, on the broad ground that a religious census is useless as a means of ascertaining the real religious belief of the occupier, who himself will have to declare his religious profession. The Amendment seeks to impose no penalty for any false statement, as on every other point embodied in the census. It leaves to the occupier, who is not skilled in the niceties of creeds or religious denominations, the responsibility of declaring, practically, that he belongs to one of three or four of the principal denominations. Being optional, we regard it as being unreliable, and as there is no penalty attached it is untrustworthy from the point of view of statistics. As this proposal has been objected to so frequently by the House of Commons, and has only secured on one occasion a very small majority—in the highest case, seven—in the other place the Government ask the House of Commons again to disagree with the Lords in their desire that a religious census be taken. I beg to move.


I ask the House to reconsider its position. What is it that is objected to? That there should be a column in the census in which a man should state what his religious profession is. The right hon. Gentleman has said that such a return would be misleading, and would be a difficult matter to carry through. I would remind the House that this very House of Commons has passed without objection this identical provision for Ireland. It has been the law in Ireland for a long time, and the statistics are supposed to be, and probably are, approximately correct. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Government really believe in the difficulties they have put before the House, why did they not strike the religious census out of the Irish Bill? No difficulty exists in Ireland. Practically all our Colonies have this religious census, as do also the vast majority of foreign countries, and no such difficulties as the right hon. Gentleman has adumbrated have ever arisen in any case. I should like to deal with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that this House, by a majority of 135 to 38, decided against this religious census. That being so, I ought to remind the House how this division came to be taken. The right hon. Gentleman was addressing the House at 8.15. A large number of hon. Members were anxious to address the House on this subject, but at 8.15 a Private Bill came up for discussion, and was discussed at very much shorter length than was expected. I do not mind admitting to the House that I was at that time dining, as were a large number of other hon. Members. Owing to an unfortunate accident, for which I do not suggest the Government was responsible in any way, the indicator which shows the business going on in the House recorded in the dining room that the Private Bill was still under discussion, whereas this subject had again come before the House.

The right hon. Gentleman was continuing the speech which had been interrupted at 8.15. The first intimation that we who were not inside this Chamber at the moment had that anything was happening was the ringing of the Division bell, and even that would not have happened but for the ceaseless watchfulness of the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who happened to be the only Member of the Opposition present in the House. The Division took place absolutely unexpectedly to the vast majority of those who were in favour of this religious census. We did not know, when the Division bell rang, but that it was a Division upon the Private Bill and not upon this matter at all. Therefore, the least that is said about being bound by this Division the better. I want to deal with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that such a census as this would be unreliable. Is there the slightest difficulty about making the return in Ireland? It is always made there without the slightest difficulty. Not a single Roman Catholic returns himself otherwise than as a Roman Catholic, and those who are not Roman Catholics do not return themselves as members of that communion. Would not this return enable us to get accurate information as to the number of Roman Catholics in England. We have been deluged recently with pamphlets saying that there is growing danger owing to the number of Roman Catholics in England. Would it not be an interesting and useful thing to find out whether there really is this large growth in the Roman Catholic population of Great Britain. It would be a perfectly simple thing to get; and would not it be very interesting and useful to know whether the growth is as large as suggested by certain people, or whether it is diminishing? Again, would it not be an exceedingly useful thing to know what the numbers of the Nonconformist bodies are? Except for a very small margin you would be able to get that with absolute accuracy.

The large majority of Nonconformists would put themselves down as belonging to the profession to which they do belong. And it would be exceedingly useful. In England it would certainly be useful. For instance, there are the questions upon education and passive resistance of which we used to hear some years ago, and may again possibly hear. We want to know whether the body from whom the vast majority of passive resisters came is an increasing body or a diminishing body. It would be a useful thing, surely, statistically, and you would get approximately correct returns. I am not going to deal with the trouble about the Report of the Welsh Church Commission, but in Wales it would be more difficult to get correct statistics without some Government census. Surely we could get approximate returns of the number of Nonconformists in that particular locality. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech on the last occasion, made light of this matter and with his easy humour told us some stories about what happened among a large number of people who returned themselves when in gaol as members of the Church of England because they got certain benefits by it—because the hymns were more attractive than the Nonconformist hymns. Whatever the reason, I do not know that that would apply to any large number of the population, unless we go on passing Bills like those of last year, and increase criminals at a tremendous rate. I am prepared to admit at once that probably, as regards the Church of England, a large number of the people who return themselves as members of the Church of England might strictly not really be in communion with that Church. Therefore the statistics would have to be taken subject to a liberal discount. But do you really mean that the people who are Nonconformists would not return themselves as Nonconformists? Are they the only religious profession that are ashamed to state what is their faith? Do you mean that a large number would put themselves down as Nonconformists who are not?


We get Nonconformist statistics from our chapels. Church people cannot get theirs from their churches because they put down as of the Church of England people who never attend the churches.


I am in a hostile House. There is not a single Member who has answered my question. In common fairness I expect an answer. You say I will get inaccurate statistics. Will anyone who is a Nonconformist not put himself down as one?


They will refuse.


Why they should refuse it is difficult to discover. Why should a Nonconformist possibly refuse to put his religious profession down? In an ordinary small town he would be very well known. He goes to chapel, probably openly, and it is known perfectly well that he is a member of some particular body. There is nothing inquisitorial. He need not be ashamed to put that down. You would get, as in the case of the Roman Catholics, an approximately accurate account of the Nonconformist bodies. I put the question: Would a large number of people put themselves down as Nonconformists who were not Nonconformists? I do not think that would occur. You have in practically every other country reliable statistics on the matter which are highly important. As far as I have heard there is no argument put forward seriously against this particular measure. It is said that you may get a certain number of inaccuracies. A second suggestion is that the question is inquisitorial—to inquire into people's private affairs. I cannot think for one moment that any man would sooner object to give his religious profession than to give the details of his income, and he has to do that already. As far as women are concerned, is there in the majority of cases any women who would look upon it as more inquisitorial to be asked her religious profession than to be asked her age, as she is asked now? It certainly does not lie in the mouth of this Government to complain of this being an inquisitorial question, when they have added to this very Census Bill one or two questions of the most inquisitorial character which never existed before. I venture to press the House in fair play, in the absence of any argument against this proposal to agree with the Lords Amendment, are not the objections imaginary, and is there any reason why we should not do in England and in Scotland what is done in Ireland, and what other countries are doing?


I would like to draw the attention of the President of the Local Government Board to a letter which appeared in the "Times" of last Monday from Sir Athelstone Baines, in which, writing on behalf of the Royal Statistical Society, he quoted the resolution passed by the Council of the Society. It is as follows:— Religions Denominations.—A column, the filling up of which may be left optional, should be added for this subject, in accordance with the practice in Ireland and Australasia. The Committee are of opinion that the information is likely to be of use in administrative as well as in social and vital statistics. That is the opinion of the foremost Statistical Society, which does not take into consideration the purely political methods of those on the opposite side of the House who resist a religious census. The Society looks at the question from a calm, dispassionate point of view, and urges what we on this side of the House urge, namely, that there should be a religious column equally as inquisitorial as, but no more inquisitorial than the Irish religious census column. I cannot understand on what ground we should pass into law an Act which insists on a religious column for Ireland, and does not insist on a religious column for England and Wales. If there is a reason it is because of the existence of the Established Church. They had it in Ireland before the Church was disestablished. The first year they had the religious census in Ireland it was ob-obtained specifically to find out the strength of the various denominations with the view of obtaining material for the disestablishment of the Church. It suited their purpose in 1861 to have a religious census in Ireland, and it does not suit their purpose to have the light of truth thrown on the strength of religious denominations in England and Wales. I wish to say a word in answer to the President of the Local Government Board when he states that the census would be unreliable, being an optional one. Is it unreliable in Australia? Is it unreliable in Germany? Is it unreliable in Ireland? Why is it not reliable, when in Ireland more than 99 per cent. furnish the return optionally? Everywhere it is optional; hardly anybody declines to fill in the religious column. If this Amendment which the Lords have introduced were to pass, I suppose there would be a sort of passive resistance on the part of some Nonconformist sects who do not wish to exhibit their exiguous nature, but we have yet had no answer to the very specific point I made on this subject, and that is, that as long as you do not have official statistics you will have unofficial statistics. In the very interruption of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire to-night we have a good illustration of the value of religious statistics in this country. He said, "We, in our chapels, number ourselves." I, as a person who has had to deal considerably with various Welsh questions, including disestablishment and disendowment, am constantly brought into contact with a maze of statistics, all unofficial and many of them contradictory.

The Congregational Year Book contradicts the Free Church Year Book about the strength of a particular denomination in the same year. I have to wander through a maze of unofficial statistics. They are hurled at me on platforms. These unofficial statistics are most harmful for administrative purposes, for official purposes, or for any purposes whatever. I should like to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he read the letter of the Bishop of St. David's in "The Times" one day last week, in which he pointed out quite clearly that the Nonconformists themselves, when the question of statistics before the Welsh Church Commission was up, confessed that in the vital question of adherence to the various Nonconformist denominations, the statistics that were furnished were in an absolutely chaotic state, and were unreliable. I wish to withdraw a remark to which I rather committed myself on this point in the House of Commons, when I said I was perfectly willing to accept the statistics produced by the Welsh Church Commission. From what I have heard since—and from the Bishop of St. David's letter, I admit—these statistics seem to be no more official statistics than the statistics we have had from the various chapels and the various unofficial statistics we have had from time to time. I do not wish at this late hour of the night to introduce any controversial matter into the subject, but I say I stick to my guns, I remain in the same position, and shall oppose the motion of the President of the Local Government Board to disagree with the Lords' Amendment.


This is not only an interesting Amendment, but a striking Constitutional object-lesson. The House is at present engaged in reconsidering a decision given it by the other House of Parliament. We were told in the earlier part of the Session that that was a very valuable function. You can see, Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons reconsidering the question at half-past two in the morning. The question is well known to be a party one. No human being has the slightest doubt but that every single Member will vote as he voted before. What hypocrisy it is! It is well known that where the House of Lords is not in a position to insist on its Amendment, reconsideration by this House is the merest farce. It has been said actually in the Press that the House of Lords courted a rebuff by making this Amendment. Therefore the Government are to restrict the functions of the Second Chamber to the exclusive one of courting a rebuff. It is perfectly clear that a religious census would be of statistical value. It is perfectly clear that if it were not for political and sectarian considerations that statistical argument would be allowed to prevail. It is not allowed to prevail, because the political Nonconformists dare not face the results of a religious census. But it may be observed that by their action in these repeated discussions they have defeated their own object. So far as controversy goes whatever is the result of the Division we have prevailed, no Nonconformist in the future who does not wish to be laughed at will be able to talk about the numbers of Nonconformity and contrast them with the numbers of the Church. No one can talk about numbers who is not prepared to stand an official count. They have shrunk from the test. We shall know what their pretensions are worth for the future.


I think I gather from an interruption from the other side that there is an opinion among the hon. Gentlemen opposite that a religious census would be unfair and unjust to Nonconformists, and I think it was said that some of them would not dare to say what their religious opinions were. The Bill itself says:— If any person employed in taking the census communicates, without lawful authority, any information acquired in the course of his employment, he shall be guilty of a breach of official trust within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act, 1889, and that Act shall apply accordingly. I may therefore claim that the operation for this proposal, if carried out, would be quite as secret, if not mere secret, than the ballot.


I will not enter into any of the arguments used to-night. They have been answered in advance by the Debates which have taken place already. This Amendment has been sent to us by the House of Lords, but how has it been sent to us? With any emphatic majority? With the endorsement of the Unionist Leaders in the House of Lords itself? On the contrary, they have abstained from voting on that question, and it has come to us in this half-hearted, desultory, perfunctory way, and we are expected to reverse the decision which has been given in this House over and over again from 1860 onwards without the slightest variation, and with a majority as uniform as it has been overwhelming. We are face to face with an Amendment that is sent to us in that spirit from the House of Lords, and when we are asked to reconsider a question which the House of Lords has, in the most unofficial way, presented to us with a majority of three, we are entitled to contrast with it the enormous majorities by which this House has unanimously recorded and registered its opinions. It only now remains for the House of Commons finally to pass its judgment upon this question, feeling sure that the steps which have been taken hitherto by Ministries of both parties in relation to this question have not been taken without reason, and that we shall be on a sound and sure foundation if we follow the precedents that have been set from both sides of the House.

Viscount MORPETH

I do not know what the Under-Secretary means by unofficial majority of the House of Lords


I mean that, as a matter of fact, a much larger number of Unionist Peers abstained from voting than those who recorded their votes and that among those who recorded their votes there was not a single Leader.

Viscount MORPETH

I have seen legistion passed through this House with less than half the Ministerialist Members recording their votes. I should be surprised if half their number are not present now. Is this vote therefore to be called unofficial? Is the hon. Gentleman to hold that no measure passed by the House of Lords is to be recognised unless supported by the recognised Leaders? When the Licensing Bill was before the House of Lords the country resounded with denunciation because the House of Lords was in the hands of Lord Lansdowne, and because a single wink from the Leader of the Opposition was sufficient. We heard of the caucus at Lansdowne House and private meetings there. But now, when Lansdowne House does not vote the decision of the House of Lords is to have no attention paid to it, because the Leaders of the party in the

House have not given their imprimature to it. That is officialism run mad. Not only are we to be governed by officials and Ministers, but even, unless the Leaders of the Unionist party in the House of Lords concur in the vote, that vote is to be considered null and void.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 130; Noes. 66.

Division No. 140.] AYES. [2.25 a.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Guest, Major Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Ainsworth, John Stirling Hall, Frederick (Normanton) Pointer, Joseph
Allen, Charles Peter Hancock, J. G. Pollard, Sir George H.
Armitage, R. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Priestley, Sir W. E. B.(Bradford, E.)
Barclay, Sir T. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Pringle, William M. R.
Barnes, G. N. Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Radford, G. H.
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Raffan, Peter W.
Barton, W. Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Raphael, Herbert H
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Haworth, Arthur A. Rea, Walter Russell
Black, Arthur W. Hayward, Evan Reddy, M.
Bowerman, C. W. Helme, Norval Watson Rendall, Atheistan
Brady, P. J. Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Brocklehurst, W. B. Henry, Charles S. Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Brunner, J. F. L. Higham, John Sharp Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Robinson, S.
Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid.) Holt, Richard Durning Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Byles, William Pollard Illingworth, Percy H. Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Johnson, W. Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.
Clough, William Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Shackleton, David James
Clynes, J. R. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Shortt, Edward
Collins, G. P. (Greenock) Kilbride, Denis Smith, H. B. (Northampton)
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. King, J. (Somerset, N.) Soares, Ernest J.
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Lambert, George Strachey, Sir Edward
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Leach, Charles Summers, James Woolley
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Lehmann, R. C. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Crosfield, A. H. Levy, Sir Maurice Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Crossley, Sir W. J. Lewis, John Herbert Waring, Walter
Dawes, J. A. Lincoln, Ignatius T. T. Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Doris, W. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) M'Laren, F. W. S. (Linc., Spalding) Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Elibank, Master of Marks, G. Croydon Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Elverston, H. Middlebrook, William Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)
Ferens, T. R. Montagu, Hon. E. S. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
France, G. A. Munro, R. Winfrey, Richard
Furness, Stephen Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. Wing, Thomas
Gelder, Sir W. A. Muspratt, M. Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)
Gibbins, F. W. Neilson, Francis
Gibson, Sir James P. Nussey, Sir Willans TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Gulland and Mr. Dudley Ward.
Gill, A. H. Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Glanville, H. J. Parker, James (Halifax)
Ashley, W. W. Chambers, J. Gordon, J.
Baird, J. L. Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Clyde, J. Avon Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Cooper, R. A. (Walsall) Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)
Barnston, H. Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Hohler, G. F.
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Craig, Norman (Kent) Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Bird, A. Dalrymple, Viscount Horner, Andrew Long
Brackenbury, H. L. Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Kerr-Smiley, Peter
Bridgeman, William Clive Duncannon, Viscount Kyffin-Taylor, G.
Carlile, E. Hildred Fisher, W. Hayes Lane-Fox, G. R.
Castlereagh, Viscount Fleming, Valentine Llewelyn, Venables
Cator, John Forster, Henry William Lloyd, G. A.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Gibbs, G. A. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Gilmour, Captain J. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)
Meysey-Thompson, E. C. Rothschild, Lionel de Thynne, Lord Alexander
Morpeth, Viscount Sanders, Robert A. Tryon, Capt. George Clement
Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Newton, Harry Kottingham Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire) Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid.) Steel-Maitland, A. D. Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G A. Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral) Worthington-Evans, L.
Peto, Basil Edward Sykes, Alan John
Pollock, Ernest Murray Talbot, Lord E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Rawlinson and Mr. Ormsby-Gore.
Rice, Hon. Walter F. Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)

House disagreed with remaining Lords Amendment.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments made by the Lords to the Bill.

Committee nominated of,—Mr. Barnes, Mr. Burns, Mr. Holt, Mr. William Jones, and Mr. Herbert Lewis.

Three to be the quorum.

To withdraw immediately.—[Mr. Burns.]

Reasons for disagreeing to the Lords Amendments reported, and agreed to.

To be communicated to the Lords.—[Mr. Burns.]