HC Deb 08 May 1912 vol 38 cc415-9

I beg to move "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to provide for taking forthwith a religious census in Wales and Monmouthshire."

The events of the last few weeks have shown such a census to be absolutely necessary. The Government have brought in a Welsh Disestablishment Bill. They base their case for it almost entirely on the alleged weakness of the Church in Wales and the strength of Nonconformity; but when we come to examine their statements we find that they have no definite figures at all to go upon. On the contrary, they rely almost entirely on guesswork. For the last forty years they have been indulging in a sort of guessing competition, and it is high time, before this Bill is proceeded with, that there should be a definite ascertainment of the strength of the Church and of the Nonconformist bodies in Wales. The last guess is that Nonconformists are, in the words of the Under-Secretary, "the people of Wales," and that the Church is less than one-quarter. What do they rely upon? As regards the Nonconformist figures, I imagine they rely only upon the figures put in before the Royal Commission. What were those figures? They were the figures collected by the County Evidence Committee. Those figures were hopelessly wrong. They were so wrong that the Commissioners disregarded them entirely, and I am not surprised. They could not even count the number of Nonconformist ministers correctly. To give one instance, in the case of Lampeter, where it was known there were ten Nonconformist ministers, nine were counted twice over and the tenth was counted three times. As a consequence it was made out that there were twenty-one ministers. The Commissioners disregarded those figures, and fell bark upon the Year Books, but the Year Books were equally inaccurate, so much so that many Nonconformist witnesses said so. I will give one example, and one only. A Congregational minister, writing to the "Christian World" on 10th June, 1909, said:— When he was 'called' to his present pastorate, the membership according to the Year Book was over 100. When he got there he found that this membership was 'figurative rather than actual.' Is not that a beautiful phrase? I never knew there were so many synonyms for Inaccuracy. When he came to examine the figures he found that more than thirty members had gone to London, America, and elsewhere; some were dead, and others were awaiting transfer, and within eighteen months no less than fifteen more were estranged through various causes. Yet the revision of this particular Year Book only took place two and a-half years after he had settled in his charge. I say these figures are quite inaccurate, and the only way to make them accurate is to have a religious census. It is said that the Church only numbers one-fourth of the people of Wales. What do those who say that know? They know nothing, except that a certain number of figures of communicants were put in which were absolutely accurate because, instead of their resting on figures, the Church put in the names and addresses of communicants. From that you cannot deduce with any accuracy the total number of adherents of the Church. In my belief it is quite as many or nearly as many as all the Nonconformist bodies put together. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes; but that is only a guess, and if hon. Members cheer the fact that it is only a guess, why not agree with me to have a religious census? What are the objections to it? If hon. Members vote against it, we can only on this side say: "You are afraid of taking it." Yet every other country has one—Germany, Austro-Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States of America, and even Ireland.

Two years ago we had the remarkable spectacle of hon. Members opposite getting up one after another and denouncing a religious census in England and Wales as an abuse of the rights of conscience, and two days later supporting in the Lobby a religious census for Ireland. Under those circumstances the only thing we can do is to have a religious census and to bring this matter to an absolute test. The figures put forward by the Under-Secretary are clearly wrong. He says the Church is less than a quarter of the people, and the Nonconformists, even on their own computation—which is not an underestimate—only claim less than one-half of the people. If the Church members are less than a quarter, it follows that more than one-quarter of the people of Wales and Monmouthshire have no religion at all. That is a libel on the Welsh nation. I do not believe it myself. It ought to be tested in the proper way by a census. I will merely repeat that if hon. Members vote against this Motion as they have done in the past, they clearly show that they are afraid of the results. If they vote for it they admit that they have been wrong on every previous occasion. If hon. Members admit the necessity of a religious census now, the least we can expect is that the Government will give us facilities for this Bill, and will postpone further consideration of the Welsh Church Bill till the census has been taken, and the result has been made known. For these reasons, and

in order to help the Government in the great difficulty they are in, I beg to move for leave to introduce this Bill.

Question put, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to provide for taking a Religious Census in Wales and Monmouthshire."

The House divided: Ayes, 233; Noes, 16.

Division No. 85.] AYES. [3.57 p.m.
Addison, Dr. C. Falle, B. G. Mackinder, H. J.
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Fell, Arthur Macmaster, Donald
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Fitzroy, Hon. E. A. M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)
Amery, L. C. M. S. Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Foster, Philip Staveley M'Mordie, Robert James
Ashley, W. W. France, G. A. McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)
Astor, Waldorf Gardner, Ernest Menzies, Sir Walter
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Meysey-Thompson, E. C.
Baird, J. L. Gill, A. H. Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Gilmour, Captain John Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Gladstone, W. G. C. Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Balcarres, Lord Glanville, H. J. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Baldwin, Stanley Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K. Mount, William Arthur
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Goldman, C. S. Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Goldsmith, Frank Newdegate, F. A.
Barnes, G. N. Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Newman, John R. P.
Barnston, H. Goulding, Edward Alfred Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick) Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds) Norman, Sip Hnery
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Gulland, John William Norton, Captain Cecil W.
Bathurst, C. (Wilts, Wilton) Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)
Beck, Arthur Cecil Haddock, George Bahr O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. Geo.) Hall, Fred (Dulwich) Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Bigland, Alfred Hambro, Angus Valdemar Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Bird, A. Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Parker, James (Halifax)
Bowerman, C. W. Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) Parkes, Ebenezer
Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid) Harris, Henry Percy Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Boyton, J. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Harwood, George Perkins, Walter F.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Peto, Basil Edward
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Pointer, Joseph
Butcher, J. G. Henry, Sir Charles Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Byles, Sir William Pollard Hewins, William Albert Samuel Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Hickman, Col. Thomas E. Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Campion, W. R. Higham, John Sharp Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford)
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hill, Sir Clement L. Rawson, Col. R. H.
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Hills, J. W. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Cassel, Felix Hoare, S. J. G. Rees, Sir J. D.
Castlereagh, viscount Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Remnant, James Farquharson
Cator, John Holmes, Daniel Turner Rendall, Athelstan
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hope, Harry (Bute) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford) Roe, Sir Thomas
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Ronaldshay, Earl of
Chambers, James Hunt, Rowland Rose, Sir Charles Day
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath) Rowlands, James
Clough, William Ingleby, Holcombe Royds, Edmund
Clyde, J. Avon Jessel, Captain H. M. Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Clynes, J. R. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Sanders, Robert A.
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Kellaway, Frederick George Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Kemp, Sir G. Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)
Courthope, George Loyd Kerry, Earl of Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Craik, Sir Henry Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Knight, Captain E. A. Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)
Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Spicer, Sir Albert
Crooks, William Lansbury, George Stanier, Beville
Dalrymple, Viscount Larmor, Sir J Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Staveley-Hill, Henry
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End) Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Denniss, E. R. B. Lee, Arthur H. Stewart, Gershom
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott- Lloyd, G. A. Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Dixon, C. H. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)
Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Sykes Mark (Hull, Central)
Esslemont, George Birnie Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.) Talbot, Lord E.
Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Faber, George Denison (Clapham) McCaw, William J. MacGeaqh Tennant, Harold John
Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.) Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Thomas, J. H. (Derby)
Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North) Watt, Henry A. Wolmer, Viscount
Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.) Weigall, Capt A. G. Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Tobin, Alfred Aspinall Wheler, Granville C. H. Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Touche, George Alexander White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Tryon, Captain George Clement Whyte, A. F. (Perth) Yate, Colonel C. E.
Tullibardine, Marquess of Williams, J. (Glamorgan) Yerburgh, Robert
Verney, Sir Harry Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent) Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir A. Griffith Boscawen and Lord Robert Cecil.
Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Bentham, G. J. Hogge, James Myles White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Booth, Frederick Handel Holt, Richard Durning Whitehouse, John Howard
Brunner, J. F, L. King, J. (Somerset, N.)
Chancellor, H. G. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Moore and Mr. John Gordon(Londonderry, South)
Chapple, Dr. W. A. M'Calmont, Colonel James
Helme, Norval Watson Pollard, Sir George H.
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Wedgwood, Josiah C,

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, Lord Bobert Cecil, and Mr. Ormsby-Gore.

Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 200.]