HC Deb 17 June 1912 vol 39 cc1435-9

I beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."


I desire to raise a question arising out of the statement made by the Home Secretary in the course of his speech on the Second Reading of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. The statement is as follows:— Take Cardiff, and I will ask you to compare the work of the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement with the work of the Church of England. … The Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement in Cardiff alone has no less than twenty-two halls and a Preventive Home. The halls have accommodation for 10,000. What are the corresponding figures for the whole of the Church of England throughout Cardiff? There are but thirteen churches of the Church of England in Cardiff, and to anybody who knows Cardiff the whole of the work of the Church of England in Cardiff is not comparable to the work done by one Free Church alone, the Calvinistic Methodist."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th May, 1912, col. 1385.] I have received the real figures, worked out by the Bishop of St. Asaph, and instead of thirteen Churches of the Church of England in Cardiff there are twenty-five and thirteen mission halls, which shows a very considerable error on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. Instead of there being twenty-two mission halls of the Calvinistic Methodists, there are only twenty-one, and that number is arrived at by counting separate rooms in the same hall as separate halls. Then, as regards slums, the chief slum parish in Cardiff is St. Mary's. There is a Church there, with three resident clergymen. There is no resident Nonconformist minister. It is true that there is a Calvinistic Methodist chapel with thirty-six adherents and eighty-three members of a Sunday school. As against that there are 697 communicants and 1,120 members of the English Church Sunday school. One would have thought that when a serious error like that was pointed out the Home Secretary would immediately have admitted his mistake and withdrawn it. Not a bit of it. That is not the way that this Welsh Bill has been brought forward. The right hon. Gentleman gets his secretary to write a long and evasive letter saying that, his error is justified by the fact that he was only referring to purely missionary efforts.


Is the hon. Gentleman quoting the letter?


I am quoting from his secretary's own letter The letter states:— He was only referring to purely missionary effort. For that reason he justified leaving out the twenty-five Churches when he compares the Churches with the Calvinistic Methodists; and whereas he left the Churches out in the case of the Church of England and only included the mission halls, in the case of the Calvinistic Methodists he counted not only the mission halls but all the chapels at the same time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!" and "Nonsense."] I really think that my record for accuracy is a better one than that of the right hon. Gentleman. Throughout the Debate on the Welsh Church Bill we have had false history and false figures. Only last week the hon. Member for the Newton Division raised this matter in the form of a question, and the right hon. Gentleman did not venture to withdraw or explain his figures. What he did was simply to repeat his old error. The mission work of the Church of England in Cardiff, he said, was less than that of the Calvinistic Methodists. How can he make that contention when every figure is against him, and when it has been shown clearly by hon. Members that the Church of England has thirty-eight Churches and mission rooms and the Calvinistic Methodists have only twenty-one, counting all these rooms as separate mission rooms? I have brought this question forward in order that the Home Secretary may really explain himself. We do not want long and evasive answers from his secretary, but we want a clear statement from the Home Secretary himself. There are two courses open to the Home Secretary. I dare say there is only one if he approaches the matter in the way he usually does, but I must credit him with behaving in the manner in which Ministers ordinarily behave, that is when they been misinformed and made false statements they will without hesitation withdraw them. If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to take that course everybody on both sides will support his action, but if he does not we are driven to the conclusion that he is endeavouring to bolster up a bad case by figures that cannot be supported for a single moment on behalf of the Welsh Church Bill which we know has been supported by false history and false figures throughout. I leave it to the Home Secretary to make what explanation he can, and, at all events, to reply to those letters of the Bishop of St. Asaph, who, after all, has a right to speak. I ask for a plain answer to his letters. The figures he has quoted clearly show that the right hon. Gentleman has been in error, and that he owes an ample apology to the members of the Church of England.


I desire to second everything my hon. Friend has said on this question. Perhaps I might ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he follows the advice he has given to us in discussing the Welsh Disestablishment question, and that is to go down to Wales and find out and gather, to use his own words, "your experience from Wales alone," as I have done. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to quote my words, but I took the opportunity in this House to point out the exact figures of the Church of England in Cardiff, and he might at least have gone as far as that if he did not wish to go to Wales and find out for himself. I say this not on behalf of myself, because to me this question is absolutely impersonal; but there are constituents behind me who are firm believers in their religion, and I do not think it right that the right hon. Gentleman or anyone else should attempt to get behind their backs when perhaps there is no personal representative of their own church to defend them. If the right hon. Gentleman's remarks were not nefarious in their reason they were at any rate insidious in the results they have had.


I am sorry to intervene, but, if the House will allow me, I would like to explain that every night on which we have previously debated this Welsh Church question I have come down with a well prepared speech, and I have frequently risen and endeavoured to catch your eye. No doubt other better speakers have been called upon, but to-night when I have left my speech at home I have the good fortune to have six minutes left to me to deliver a speech which took me many hours to prepare. I know enough of the Welsh question to be somewhat struck by the force of the remarks made this evening on the opposite side. There was a speech delivered in the Second Reading Debate by the Home Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "McKenna."] I would like to observe that we on this side have listened patiently to everything that has been said on the other side, and I think it would only be the usual courtesy of debate to allow meat least a chance.


It is courteous to let the Home Secretary speak.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover-Square (Mr. Alfred Lyttelton), has got to speak first, so that we had better continue this Debate and finish it on another occasion.


There is a serious charge made against the Home Secretary, Are you acting as his bonnet?


I rose for the purpose of calling for a reply from the Home Secretary, who has been challenged in this House of gross inaccuracy on the occasion of the Second Reading when nobody could answer him. He has been challenged in the most specific form, and he chooses to shelter himself behind the hon. Member.


No. I desire to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is justified in suggesting that I desire to shelter myself—


I confess I did not understand why the Home Secretary did not rise. There were only six minutes in which to answer. The hon. Gentleman who is now in possession has not the speech with him, and I cannot, therefore, see what object he had in rising. I understand that the hon. Member (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) had given notice to the Home Secretary that he was going to raise this question, and, as only six minutes remained, I thought that would give an opportunity for the Home Secretary to have risen.


When my hon. Friend rose there were nine minutes. I should have been quite satisfied to take two minutes to reply to the infamous charge. I ask was the right hon. Gentleman justified in charging me with taking shelter behind the hon. Member, who is perfectly at liberty to rise to address the House when called upon by you.


If the right hon. Gentleman asks me whether the expression "taking shelter behind the hon. Member is an un-parliamentary one, I can only say I do not think it is.

Colonel GREIG

There was another expression used, on which I ask your ruling. An hon. Member on the back benches near you called out, while the hon. Member was speaking on this side, "Is he acting as a bonnet to the Home Secretary?"


The word "bonnet" is a very well-known Parliamentary expression.


The hon. Gentleman has charged me with a misstatement in the Second Reading Debate. I gave the figures as twenty-two mission halls for the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement. I asked what were the corresponding figures for the Church of England. I gave the figures for the Church of England as thirteen. I should have said thirteen mission rooms, as I explained in a letter to the "Times." I spoke of the corresponding figures. The figures affecting the Calvinistic Methodists are that they have eleven chapels, and that they have got twenty-two halls, exactly as I described. I did not give thirty-three as the total: I gave twenty-two. I was speaking of mission halls, and I gave the number as twenty-two—as appear from the Report of the Royal Commission. The figures show that the Calvinistic Methodist Forward Movement have eight, and there are fourteen other rooms in which services are held at the same time as in the eight halls, and so twenty-two is the right figure for the Calvinistic Forward Movement. These are the halls of which I spoke. No matter what the Bishop of St. Asaph's may say, there are in addition eleven Calvinistic Methodists chapels in Cardiff. As to St. Mary's parish the facts are that within 500 yards of St. Mary's Church there are two Nonconformist chapels—one Wesleyan and one Calvinistic Methodist. I referred to the slum work. If the Bishop of St. Asaph confines himself to the parish area does he say the slum areas are coterminous with the parish area?—

And it being half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half after Eleven o'clock