§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
This is the second occasion in the comparatively short period of six years that I have heard the question of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales discussed in the House of Commons, and I think on the second occasion I notice a distinct falling off in the degree of enthusiasm which was noticeable on the last occasion when this proposal engaged the attention of the House. If I am right in this view the circumstance is a little surprising, because, under the effect of the Parliament Act there is, or there ought to be, a greater prospect of these proposals becoming law than there was on the last occasion when they were discussed in the House of Commons. At last equality is to be secured; 802 the nation's property is to be restored to the nation, and a new era of content is to dawn upon a unanimous country. I have known the present Government and their supporters in moments of elation and in moments of despondency, but I am bound to say I have never seen them more obviously overcome by a cloud of gloom than they have been during the Parliamentary progress, as far as it has gone, of the present Bill. Why is it that, with the doubtful exception of the Welsh Members—I shall have a word to say about them in a moment—and with the exception of those who still cling to the academic theory of the Liberation Society, there is hardly a Member opposite who is not in his heart secretly ashamed of the proposals of which the House of Commons is asked to approve? It is because the controversy, which twenty years ago was recruited from vital sources, is now exhausted and dead. A nation which has been taught as we have been taught to think in millions, and which is half-trembling before and half-welcoming incalculable industrial changes is thinking of quite different things than taking £170,000 from a Church. The whole progress and evolution of national thought has long outmarched this paltry and obsolete quarrel.
The second reason, as everybody in this House who listens to me knows, is that if this Bill became law to-morrow not one man, woman, or child in Wales would be better off, and that many estimable persons would be quite obviously worse off. Hence, I think, the volume of contradictory arguments by which these proposals have been defended on the Front Bench and by private Members. The speech of the Solicitor-General was wholly inconsistent, as I hope to show, with that of the Home Secretary; the speech of the Home Secretary was entirely inconsistent with that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was inconsistent on at least four fundamental points with itself. They were, however, all of them consistent on one point, and that was in extracting the last ounce of controversial advantage out of the Parliamentary representation of Wales as that representation has existed now for very many years. I think I can show that contention has been made to carry an argumentative superstructure to which it is wholly inadequate, but, as an argument very greatly relied on, I shall ask the indulgence of the House to consider it a little carefully. The Chancellor 803 of the Exchequer made this observation: "Whether we should pick out one of the five denominations and make it a national Church is for ourselves and ourselves alone." I want to ask at the outset, does anybody else in the House share that view? I point out in that connection you are admittedly conceding to Ireland to-day a wider range of national freedom than exists at the present time in Wales, and at the same time you are withholding from Ireland, to whom you give this larger share of self-government, the very right which the Chancellor of the Exchequer says is for Wales and Wales alone. I would recommend those who lay excessive stress on this argument a warning which fell from the Chief Secretary only a few days ago. He said, "Why do you not argue the case on principle? Do not be content to count heads and noses."
If it is the determination of the Government to decide at least some part of this question by counting heads and noses, we may usefully notice that several very important qualifications suggest themselves at once. We are told there is so overwhelming a proportion of Welsh Members who are in favour of these proposals that it makes it unanswerable, or at least unnecessary, even to consider the opposite view. I wonder whether it has been realised that if there were to-day in existence in Wales proportional representation, the present majority of Liberal Members in Wales would be ten. On the occasion of the only election at which this issue was a vital issue, treated by both parties in Wales as a vital question, the majority was some six or seven; and, observe, these figures are only arrived at by making in favour of the Government a number of assumptions which quite obviously have no correspondence with the facts. Is it suggested that at the last election in Wales nobody voted upon the issue of Home Rule? Did no one vote upon the issues involved in the Parliament Bill? Did no one vote for Free Trade? Did no one vote upon purely industrial issues? To test that last question, I might ask whether anybody suggests that the miners of South Wales who are well able to state their grievances in very intelligible language, are really palpitating with the desire to transfer £170,000 from curates to museums? The Welsh Members know perfectly well that in industrial South Wales the question is absolutely dead. In the industrial centres nobody cares a brass farthing 804 about it. Let any hon. Member go upon the platform and advertise two meetings—one on the Minimum Wage and one on the-Disestablishment of the Church, and see in what sense and on what issues those people voted at the last election. The Welsh Members know it is dead, and that is the reason of their own notorious indifference to this question. I think I can show the House very shortly that the Welsh Members themselves do not care in the least about this question. Such show of Parliamentary activity as they have made has been in no case spontaneous. I am going to quote an authority whom they will gladly acknowledge, the hon. Member for East Glamorganshire (Mr. Clement Edwards), who was interviewed by the "South Wales Gazette" as to the devotion of his colleagues to the cause of Disestablishment. The hon. Member for East Glamorgan is well known as one who showed fidelity to this cause at a time when others were less enthusiastic. These are the questions he was asked:—Are you confident that the Welsh party will do their duty spontaneously?—No.Why do you not think that they will do their duty?—This is a rather delicate question, but I should be lacking in moral courage if I did not frankly face it. Undoubtedly the Disestablishment Bill is going to cause considerable inconvenience if not considerable difficulty to the present Liberal Government. Look at the Members of the Welsh party. Most of them have been recipients of the spoils of victory. Political gifts inevitably produce political nepotism, which, under normal conditions, may be innocent enough, but which becomes serious in a great crisis.I think the hon. Member was an unhappy exception at that time: he was almost the only Welsh Member who had not been singled out for this species of preferment. But no doubt it may come in time. What, however, he said shows perfectly clearly that the Welsh Members on this question have simply been kicked against their own judgment into the firing line by the Free Church divines of Wales. When we are told that the whole of Wales is very enthusiastic, how can we accept that. If the shepherds themselves are suspect he is a bold man who will answer for the sheep. By what kind of argument has this supposed unanimity of the Welsh people been secured? I answer without any hesitation that the support, such as it is, which Welsh Disestablishment has gained in Wales has been gained by an appeal to naked motives of cupidity by Welsh speakers, and principally by the Under-Secretary for the Home Department. When we read the platform speeches of some of his colleagues we do not hear those high-sounding doctrines of 805 equality and of the greater activity of the Church of England, which play so large a part in our Parliamentary Debates. What we do hear from the hon. Gentleman and his Friends is what he stated on 18th February, 1907:—Disestablishment is a programme with money in it. That is the only sort of programme worth having.No doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer has that in his mind when he spoke on the question of absorbing the Welsh Church. On another occasion the Under-Secretary, adjusting his eloquence to the special knowledge of his own constituency, pointed out that the fund to be taken from the Church, if properly employed, would reduce the pensionable age in Anglesey from seventy to sixty? It is not difficult to obtain a majority by arguments of this kind. I can assure the Under-Secretary that a proposal to disestablish and disendow the House of Commons would meet with a surprising degree of popular support if the programme included the allocation of Members' salaries. But how far may that contention be pushed? It is contended, and I suppose the argument would otherwise have no force at all and would not be worth advancing, that the Bill as a whole must pass because the Welsh people demand it. This Bill raises three separate issues—Dismemberment, Disestablishment, and Disendowment. Suppose the Welsh people at ten elections declared that the Celtic temperament required that every penny should be taken from the Church and divided among the voters, and founded themselves on the song which the Government have taught them to sing—Why should we be beggars with a ballot in our hands?I would ask, is this demand to be conceded? On your argument, why not? Suppose the Welsh people advance it by an overwhelming majority in successive elections. There are two answers to that question. The first is that the view of Wales is a rather important consideration, but it is not decisive if the demand which they put forward is in conflict with fair dealing, public integrity and national policy. If this is conceded, as every honest man must concede it, would it not be highly convenient if speakers opposite first established the honesty of their convictions and then fell back on the question of Welsh solidarity? Or there is a further and convincing argument. The Minister for Agriculture, speaking last Saturday, reminded the country that the case of English disendowment was still inscribed 806 on a somewhat fly-blown banner. But in the same connection, three weeks ago, Dr. Clifford said:—If you disestablish the Church in Wales you create another argument in favour of disestablishing the Church in England.Assuming that the disestablishing of the Church of England is not relegated to the preambular atmosphere, and remembering that the argument in favour of disendowment applies to the English case, am I not entitled to say that this is notoriously a question for England, that it is a question on which Wales is entitled to vote, and on which England is entitled to vote? If that modest poposition be well founded it becomes important to ask how, if English and Welsh parties are entitled to vote, did they vote on the First Reading of this Bill? Everybody knows how they voted, and everybody knows what the result of that Division would have been had it not been for the last swan song of the unbroken representation of Ireland, and for the special arrangements which were made to enable the Irish representatives to take part in that Division. Let me ask a question even more relative than that, and that is how would the English and Welsh constituencies vote if they were given an opportunity to vote on this position to-morrow. The Government, when they create a Minister to-day, do not even pretend to promote him in reference to his own merit. They do so in reference to the merits of his constituency, and they used the Irish vote on the eve of Federalism, while deeply committed to Federal principles, they used the vote of the Irish Members which would not be at their disposal for this purpose under any federal system in the world. Nobody even pretends that the Irish Members gave a vote on this question which had any relation to any principle. They have not put it forward that they did. Here again I am able to quote the hon. Member for East Glamorganshire. He said:—A few months ago Mr. John Redmond came to speak at Wrexham, and, in response to some criticisms which I passed on the attitude of the Irish party on education, in reference to the future support of Home Rule by Welsh Nonconformists he gave us a public pledge that the Irish party would march shoulder to shoulder with the Welsh party on behalf of the great causes of disestablishment and disendowment.The bargain is perfectly and publicly made. Let us face the fact that it is a bargain. You are attempting to impose on us a bargain which we are going to resist. Let us avoid the hypocrisy of talking about mandates. Can it be suggested that the Irish constituencies gave a mandate on this question? I propose to deal 807 with this subject under the three heads of Dismemberment, Disestablishment, and Disendowment. I will take, first, Dismemberment. Under these proposals you are evicting the Welsh bishops and clergy from the Canterbury Houses of Convocation, of which they became a part two centuries before a single Welsh Member sat on the floor of the House of Commons. In one sense I think this Dismemberment proposal is both flagrant and scandalous—more so even than Disendowment. What right have the Welsh Members, if unanimous ten times over, to interfere with the domestic arrangements of the Church of England? What has it to do with Welsh Members or with any other non-Churchman what arrangements the Church of England chooses to make for its own domestic management? Would the London Members, if unanimous, be entitled to demand that the Roman Catholic Church in England should sever its connection with the Roman Catholic Church elsewhere, and, if not, why not?
§ Mr. F. E SMITH
The proposal is a reversion to the worst days of interference with religion. Is this the first fruits of freedom from Church fetters? No defence has ever been attempted by anybody who has addressed the House from the Treasury Bench except by the Home Secretary, and his attempt at defence was as singular as it was original. The right hon. Gentleman said:—On the authority of Giraldus Cambrensis, I venture to assert the union of the two Churches was made by the power of the Crown. I think I am justified therefore in saying that to sever the tie which now binds the four Welsh dioceses to the province of Canterbury is no more than restoring to the Welsh Church the freedom it enjoyed, and cannot in the very nature of things be an act of sacrilege such as is alleged by hon. Gentlemen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1912, col. 944.]Did anybody ever hear such an argument as this? It comes to this, that because the State joined two bodies eight centuries ago, therefore this Government ought to sever them against their wish. The Government is treating the Church and the Nonconformists in Wales are treating the Church in a manner which they would not and never have themselves tolerated. Nonconformist bodies in Wales, with the exception of the Strict Baptists, belong to the Council of the Evangelical Free Churches in England and Wales, and not of Wales only, and they have strenuously 808 resisted, through every spokesman authorised to speak on their behalf, any proposal for the dismemberment of that Council. The witness called by the Wesleyan Church to speak on behalf of that important body before the Welsh Commission was specifically questioned on that very point, and this is what he said:—The separation of the Welsh Wesleyan Conference from the British Annual Wesleyan Conference would be disastrous to us in Wales. We get such help from them.The General Secretary of the Free Church Council made exactly the same statement. He said that the idea of Wales having a separate entity for every organisation has been overdone:—Nothing but good could come of the uniting of England and Wales in one solid force.…Wales often needed English backing and England Welsh backing.…What was wanted in the Church was a great, solid, unmistakable force for both England and Wales.All these bodies refuse to be confined within the stagnating limits of a purely Welsh organisation, but they insist, and insist against their wishes, on your so confining the Church of England. Has any one defended this? No single speaker from the Government Bench, with the exception of the Home Secretary in the passage I have quoted, has attempted to justify this interference. I pass from the proposal with the observation that it is a piece of vicious, unwarrantable and tyrannous interference with the Church, wholly indefensible, even if you are right in disestablishing the Church and disendowing the Church and taking its funds. It stands alone; it has not been defended by any argument, and it is incapable of being defended by any argument. I proceed to the second question, that of Disestablishment. I am not myself a member of the Church of England, and for some years I felt a sympathy, if no particular enthusiam, for that abstract point of view which was sometimes summarised in the expression:—The duty of the State is to afford a fair field and no favour for all religions.I note the complete disappearance from this Debate of the old Liberationist arguments. Indeed, they would be plainly absurd in the face of the terms of this Bill. In this Bill there is no freedom. There is an anomalous hampering and an ill-conceived process of re-establishment. What is very much graver, the emotion and the rhetoric lavished upon Disestablishment by hon. Gentlemen opposite are a sham. Disestablishment is valued not in the least as the threshold of equality, but merely 809 as the avenue to purely vindictive confiscation. If anybody wanted Disestablishment for freedom's sake, it might be a mistaken desire, but it would at least be a creditable one. It would deserve, and receive, the earnest attention of the House of Commons. But it is not put on that ground. It was tested very recently in a manner and on an authority which will not be questioned by anyone. The senior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Edgar Jones) on 12th September, 1911, put the matter to a very practical test at the Welsh Convention of Nonconformist Churches, and he made a speech which I am told has filled with gratitude and emotion every Churchman in Wales for the generous language he held of the Church of England. He said:—No one denies that the Church of England on the whole to-day in Wales is making a fair use of the money it has. We must not blind ourselves to the truth. The Church makes just and active use of the money. How then are we to justify the retention of that money.In other words, the hon. Gentleman made a reasoned recommendation to his fellow Welsh Members and to the Nonconformists in Wales that they should proceed with Disestablishment and should drop Disendowment.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I am anxious to do the hon. Member justice. He says he did not suggest that they should proceed with Disestablishment without Disendowment. What he did was to point out that the Church was making good use of the money, and that they could not justify the retention of the money. He therefore proposed to drop Disendowment.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES dissented.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to question the quotation. He may be under disciplinary influences which lead him to qualify what he said.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I have read the hon. Member's exact words, and I submit the meaning and tenour of what he said to the judgment of the House of Commons. The matter was made even clearer the next day, when the proposal of the hon. Gentleman was considered by the Convention and discussed at some little length. On that occasion the hon. Member for Swansea 810 (Sir Alfred Mond) was the mouthpiece of the Celtic temperament. He made a speech breathing the very spirit of the wild mountains he loves so well. He described himself as shocked that any Welsh Nationalist should make such proposals as had proceeded from the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway opposite (Mr. Edgar Jones). Unanimously—whatever proposal the hon. Gentleman did make, and I will not enter into another controversy with him, because, at any rate, I have quoted what he said—that body rejected the proposal the hon. Gentleman made that the Church of England should be allowed to retain her money. They did not want Disestablishment.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES rose—
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I cannot give away again to the hon. Member. They rejected Disestablishment unless Disestablishment was coupled with Disendowment. I will undertake to say that everybody who has been authorised to speak on behalf of Welsh Nonconformity in all these years of controversy has openly avowed that they would not look at Disestablishment unless Disestablishment were coupled with Disendowment. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] I can quote speech after speech justifying that statement. If that is true, as undoubtedly it is true, I hope we shall have no rhetoric wasted on the cause which, taken alone, has not got a follower in Wales. You want the money. Let us keep to the money argument, and, above all, let us keep principle out of the question. The Bill then stands or falls as a whole. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made this clear in a speech which consisted of more bad law, bad history, bad sentiment and bad morality than that to which even he usually treats the House of Commons. He did not quarrel in terms with the tribute which the Prime Minister had paid to the Church of England, a tribute as generous as true, and consistent with every word that the Prime Minister has ever said in the twenty years of controversy on this subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not quarrel with that; he hardly could. He did not quarrel with the modern tribute, but he gloatingly exhumes a period of centuries ago, in which he recalls with relish of his country that for two centuries it was wallowing in the slough of perdition. To anyone but the Chancellor of the Exchequer it would be a sufficient answer that we usually legislate in the High Court of Parliament—to 811 use his own expression—in relation to contemporary demerits, and not in punitive correction of the wrongs of centuries ago.
The Prime Minister, in elevated language, recognised the Christian devotion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—I should have thought that no one would have quarrelled with that—the Christian devotion of sixty years in the Church. The Chancellor of the Exchequer qualifies the panegyric of his leader by diving into the dustheap of mediæval malice. With what credentials does the Chancellor of the Exchequer come to the House of Commons as a critic of the Church of England? He does not want to see the Church of England efficient. He has always striven to keep it inefficient for the most scandalous party purposes. As long ago as 1892 a Clergy Discipline (Immorality) Bill was introduced into this House, to correct scandals in the rare cases in which they occurred. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!" Does anybody suggest that they were other than rare? I have never heard a more indecent interruption. This Bill was introduced to correct scandals in the rare cases in which they were proved to exist among clergymen of the Church of England. You would have thought and I would have imagined, that any Christian was bound to give support to a Bill of that kind, and I would venture to say that no atheist could have resisted it, unless he were saturated with party venom. The Chancellor of the Exchequer opposed it bitterly and consistently. He wished to perpetuate the scandals in the Church. He wanted them for the platform, or for the Tabernacle. He was sternly rebuked by Mr. Gladstone for his attitude in relation to that measure, and his present colleague, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, spoke of him in the stinging phrase:—He deplores the scandals, but he is hypocritical in deploring them, for he does his best to maintain them.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is going a little further than the facts of that case warrant. I have never—and I challenge him to quote a single case—I have never, in the whole of my controversy on this subject, ever quoted a single case-of scandal in the Church of England to the detriment of the Church of England, or in support of my argument. Never a single case have I ever quoted. In the second place, the argument which I used then—it may have been a sound one, or it may 812 not have been a sound one—my argument was that it was no business of Parliament to interfere in that matter, and that the Church ought to be free to deal with her own business exactly as Nonconformist bodies were. That was the only argument I put forward.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his intervention. The facts speak for themselves. On the First Reading of this Bill he told us that the Church of England was unsuited for the spiritual life of Wales. It did not absorb the Celtic temperament. Twenty years ago, when an opportunity was given to the House of Commons, an opportunity welcomed by Mr. Gladstone and welcomed by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, for purging the Church of England of scandals, the right hon. Gentleman opposed it by every means in his power. He was twice called to order by the Speaker for childish and irrelevant repetitions, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland saw what Mr. Gladstone saw, that the right hon. Gentleman was guilty of hypocrisy, because he was pretending to deplore the scandals in the Church at the very moment he was doing his best to maintain them. With this record of partisanship behind him, I am astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should criticise the Church of England at all. The argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the Establishment was unique in its controversial character. I was anxious to hear enumerated the specific grievances which Nonconformists in Wales can now urge against the Establishment. The right hon. Gentleman devoted two or three columns of rhetoric to it, in order to persuade the House of Commons that there really were substantial grievances. What did he say:—In what form does the Church appear in Wales? Take the county councils, the town councils, boards of guardians, University Courts, education committees, County Courts. Magistrates' Courts, Quarter Sessions, and now the Assize Court. The Church in no form appears in any of these except the Assize Court—never.In the case of all these important bodies there is no very obvious grievance as far as we have gone. He goes on:—Where does the Church appear in the county councils?…When you have a Nonconformist mayor he goes to his own Church.…Let me now take the Assize Court.…There you get the chaplain to the Sheriffs.…The last two Sheriffs in our county were Nonconformists and they appointed a Nonconformist chaplain.…There was only one great occasion in Wales when we had a great ceremonial where the State Church might have come in. that was the Investiture at Carnarvon of the Prince of Wales.813 He then points out—I do not suppose there could have been a grievance there—The service was settled by the Archbishop of Canterbury, collaborating with the chairman of the "Welsh Free Church Council.And he adds this remarkable summary:—Supposing yon hail disestablished the Church ten years ago, there would not have been the slightest difference in that gathering."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1912, col. 1269.]You have it, then, that if you take the county councils, the town councils, the boards of guardians, the education committees, the Quarter Sessions, the Assizes, and the Investiture, there is not one practical grievance which Nonconformity in Wales sustains to-day by the Establishment, for the sake of which these funds are to be taken away. I would invite subsequent speakers on behalf of the Government to produce their modern complaints. We might really at this time of day pass away a little from Giraldus Cambrensis. We might tear ourselves away from the Council of Aries and try to understand, if we can, where is the real practical grievance under which Nonconformity labours. The Chancellor's speech has convinced me that there is no grievance at all at the present day in the existence of the Established Church. I pass from this part of the measure with the summarised conclusion that Wales does not want it unless there is money in it, that the Church does not want it, that no one wants it, and that it will do nobody any good.
Now I approach the real proposal, as far as Wales is concerned, and that is the question of Disendowment. On this I should be very grateful if someone who speaks at some period of the Debate in answer will be good enough to answer two questions. Is it the view of the Government that it is an advantage to a Church to be endowed or not? That is a simple question, to which I should like an answer. At this moment the Calvinistic Methodists and the Baptists are making desperate efforts to endow themselves. Only a few days ago Dr. Clifford said: "For want of endowments our chapels are becoming cinematograph theatres." I suppose there will be no doubt in the mind of anybody that it is a great advantage to a Church to be endowed, but I am able to support that view by an authority which I think will be recognised by everyone. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masterman) produced not very long ago a very thoughtful and brilliant book, which probably many Members read with pleasure, called "The Heart of the Empire." The hon. Gentle- 814 man has a great knowledge of the poorest constituencies of London, and this is what he says:—As one penetrates into the actual depth of the abyss, Nonconformists are found to be ever less and less operative. This is through no fault of their own; they have nothing corresponding with the certain, if small, endowments of the English Church. If the masses are to be reached, this must come through the National Established Church of England.I ask, in view of the evidence recited from the Debate on the First Reading as to Glamorganshire, would any man be so bold as to say this chain of reasoning has no application to industrial Glamorganshire? It is interesting to observe the progress which has been made by the Church in Wales in resistance to the successive proposals of this and other Liberal Governments. In 1895 the cathedrals were reserved to the Commissioners. In 1909 all but 1s. 6d. in the £ was taken. In 1912 all but 6s. 8d. in the £ is taken. The figures were selected by the Home Secretary with a characteristic absence of humour. Inasmuch as there is some reason for anticipating that some further concession—I use the term for want of a better one—may be indicated by the Government, I may perhaps be allowed to make the matter clear. I am allowed to state, on behalf of the leaders of the Church of England in Wales, and I am officially permitted to say so, on behalf of the party to which I belong, that just as when you offered us 1s. 6d. we refused it, just as when you offer 6s. 8d. we refuse it, so if you offer us 19s. 11d. in the £ we will refuse it. You may take this money if you dare, and if you can, but you shall take it all; you shall never say in extenuation that even under duress we consented to your taking it, or any portion of it. What is the scope of the present proposal? From an endowed revenue of £260,000 a year, admitted even by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway to be used to-day for religious purposes, the Home Secretary's Bill takes £173,000. This is the condition and the price of the Bill which you introduce. I am shocked by the paltriness of the peculation as by its lack of principle. Eighty seven thousand pounds a year are left.
The amount that is left is made up in the following way. It is not uninstructive to notice its composition. Eighteen thousand five hundred pounds is declared by the Home Secretary to consist of modern endowments. If I had time I could point out, and I think establish, that the criterion of the modernity of the endowment is ludicrous in its inconsistency, but 815 I will deal rather with the more important figure of £68,000 a year which is to be paid, or may be paid, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and by the Commissioners of Queen Anne's Bounty. This amount represents the sum by which the total Grants from the pooled funds of these two bodies exceed the amount of the income derived by these bodies from Welsh ecclesiastical property. The 1909 Bill prevented the richer English dioceses from applying these funds to the poorer Welsh dioceses. This proposal perished after being strenuously defended by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite amid universal execration. But though incredibly mean, it was at least logical and consistent. The substituted proposal which we are considering to-day totters under the weight of its own absurdity. English endowments were never in their origin at any point in contact with the Welsh people. Welsh endowments are being withdrawn on the ground that the Welsh Church is not national, but English endowments, tainted, according to the argument, with the same vice of origin, may be paid to a Church which is neither English nor national. Surely it becomes necessary to ask what is your principle? On what principle are you proceeding? These concessions—we know it, and the Church knows it—are the fruit of no principle. They reek of electioneering apprehensions. And, furthermore, this sum of £68,000 a year is entirely temporary and illusory, and we know now—the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) has told us—that the Church of England is to be disestablished and disendowed. When the Church of England is disendowed what then will be your answer to the English county councils? How are you going to defend the payment to Welsh curates of moneys which should go, according to your view, to English museums or to relieve the benevolence of Mr. Carnegie in London? What defence can the Government raise if the English Members or the English county councils say, "You refuse to allow Welsh moneys to go to this Welsh ecclesiastical purposes. How, now that you are restoring to us our freedom and incidentally taking our money, can you justify the continued payment of English money to Welsh county councils?" The thing cannot stand a moment. It is an illogical and temporary dole which is incapable of resisting the attack which will inevitably be made.
816 The next concession may very shortly be dismissed. The Home Secretary said the Commissioners may give £31,000 a year, capital grant. They may give it; equally they may not, and if they have any sense they will not, for the payment will weaken their defence when they are attacked. I can almost hear the Home Secretary say when the English proposals come to be discussed, and it becomes necessary to determine how much is to be allowed to the English Church, "This must go to a museum; this must go to a library." If you really wanted it for your own ecclesiastical purposes you would never be entitled to give it for a Welsh ecclesiastical purpose. Therefore neither the £68,000 nor the £31,000 a year need be seriously considered. These are the proposals which are brought forward. What do they mean? Putting it perfectly plainly, you are appropriating to secular uses moneys possessed under a prescriptive title, and piously employed by an impoverished Church. The offence, I should have thought, only required statement in any assembly consisting of civilised men for its abominable character to become clear. Let me ask two questions on that. Do the Government believe in the doctrine of prescription? If they do, why should the Church benefit from the doctrine less than an individual? The jurisprudence of every civilised country in the world at every stage of the history of the world has adopted long possession as the first condition of public tranquillity and the indispensable bedrock of proprietary title. The Government set a sinister precedent when they repudiated a principle which lies at the very root of civic security, and by what argument do they support the tremendous onus which everyone will surely admit their proposals impose upon them. The Home Secretary altogether ignores the question of prescription. I daresay his legal studies never penetrated quite so far. The tithe involved here is £110,000 a year, and this was the argument of the Home Secretary, matchless in an unmatched speech. He argued that tithe was not imposed in Wales until the twelfth century, when the Normans came. Therefore it was not a true tax, as perhaps the English one was. With a picturesque addition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was always informed on these points of detail, suggests that they came in mail for the purpose.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I never said that.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman really did say so. Let us see how far we are on common ground. Does he dispute that he distinguished between tithe in its Welsh origin and in its English origin? Does he dispute that he distinguished between the origin of tithe in England and in Wales respectively on the ground that tithe was not imposed in Wales until the twelfth century, when the Normans went there?
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that whether or not he laid down the doctrine—and everyone who heard him knows that he did—that the distinction was that tithe was not imposed in Wales; did not spring from voluntary contribution, but was compulsorily imposed by the Normans. He agrees with that. I repeat that this House is to be congratulated, in view of this discussion, on the possession of a Minister who is able to contribute to our Debates so profound and original a contribution of archaeological research. Selden never suspected this fact. It eluded the learned researches of Stubbs. Freeman forgot it. The Welsh Commission pronounced the subject too obscure even for conjecture, but the Home Secretary, the new Giraldus Cambrensis, has discovered the unsuspected truth in a flash of intuitive penetration. Historians are born, not made. Nor were the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this connection less characteristic. They were mutually destructive of one another, and they were in violent contradiction of everything the Prime Minister had ever said on this point. The Chancellor of the Exchequer called attention to the Reformation, and he defined the date with scholarly precision as fifteen hundred and something. He then founds himself on a breach of continuity, and this is his contribution:—I take the essential difference to be that at the Reformation there was a Church in communion with Rome.He talks of poor Thomas Smith—the tap of inexpensive sympathy is always ready with the right hon. Gentleman—who lost his masses. That argument is wholly destructive of the proposal of the Home Secretary to continue English Grants to this Church which ought to be saying masses for innumerable other poor Thomas Smiths in England. In the second place, the argument is in scandal- 818 ous conflict with everything the Prime Minister said on this point. What did he say in his speech, which is the locus classicus on the subject? The right hon. Gentleman said:—I am not one of those who think that the legislation of Henry VIII. transferred the endowments of a National Establishment from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. There has been amid all these changes a substantial identity and continuity of existence in our National Church. Any other view is based upon imperfect historical information.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I do not deny or qualify that statement in any way, but I think the right hon. Gentleman, in a matter which is controversial, should quote what follows.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I have read the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech over and over again, and I am confident I am right when I say there is not in the passage that follows anything that qualifies the passage that I have read, and there could not be. How can anything qualify a statement so explicit? The right hon. Gentleman's point was that amid all the changes there had been substantial identity and continuity of existence. Does the next passage continue in this way: "No there has not been such substantial identity and continuity?"
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I very much hope that the Prime Minister will commend that part of his speech to the close and early attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who stands in great need of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, overstating his case as usual, said, in reference to Nonconformity in Wales:—Nonconformity in Wales is undergoing such a revolution as no part of the world can show—a revolution incredible in its magnitude.We only had a Reformation hundreds of years ago, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is having a Revolution to-day. Would that justify us in taking your endowments? On this point we ask why nobody has ever made the slightest attempt to deal with the Dissenters Chapels Act of 1844. No one has ever attempted to answer that. I have read every word in the Debate, and I have heard most of the speeches, and I say that no answer was given to that. In case the Home Secretary should not have understood the point that was made, I will state it again as clearly as I can: Many chapels were built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to carry out the Trinitarian belief.
The Dissenters Chapels Act only dealt with chapels where there was a change in view.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I think the hon. Gentleman has not listened to what I said, otherwise he would never have made the interruption. I was addressing myself, and I hope courteously, to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and pointing out to him that these chapels were built for Trinitarian doctrines. I have read, and I dare say the hon. Gentleman has read, the judgment and the arguments in the case in which the matter was finally decided, but it is obvious that we cannot usefully deal with this matter by question and answer across the floor of the House of Commons. It is certain that Trinitarian doctrines were preached in these chapels, and it was on the ground that they had changed from Trinitarian to Unitarian that Parliamentary intervention became necessary. That is the point I desire to make. In Lady Hewley's case the judgment proceeded on the specific ground of discontinuity. Did Parliament say: "Commissioners shall take your chapels, and museums will absorb your funds?" Parliament varied the title. The; position is this: If the Church varies its doctrines, but thereafter acquires a legal title we will legislate to confiscate its endowments. If the chapels vary their doctrines and thereafter lose a legal title we will legislate to restore their endowments. Such are the proposals of the Government.
I do not believe anyone would dissent from the statement that if these proposals are carried out they mean generations of strife and bitterness in Wales. The first fruits are already visible at the Welsh Commission. Years have been spent before the Commission by Christian ministers. How? In discussing how to enlarge the boundaries of good and contract the boundaries of evil? No, Sir; in constant discouragement of those mutual spiritual activities, the vitality of which ought to be a source of Christian satisfaction to everyone. The Church had no choice, for she was accused of stagnation, and she had to defend herself against that charge. We have witnessed the spectacle of religious men lavishing research and intellectual subtlety to snatch children, not from the forces of evil, but from one another's Sunday school lists. Who that reads the proceedings can avoid the reflection: How much eloquence, how much ingenuity, how much enthusiasm, have been given to controversies, profoundly 820 injurious to every form of religion, which might have been bestowed upon the spiritual and moral necessities of Wales. This Bill will leave behind it the memory of unforgetable wrong. It will revive antagonisms happily declining. It will give satisfaction to none except those who say: "How these Christians love one another." The Government will be well advised, even at the eleventh hour, to withdraw a Bill which has shocked the conscience of every Christian community in Europe.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
In following the right hon. Gentleman on this matter, I think we must all agree that he has not made discussion more easy by the tone of his speech. In fact, he has stated that he has a title to speak on behalf of the authorities of the Church in Wales, meaning thereby, I assume, the Bishops of the Church in the Principality. We may, therefore, assume that they are associated with him in the attack he has made on the Nonconformists in Wales. It is all very well in a fine peroration to talk about unity and cooperation, but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is not the way to bring it about. He talked about "confiscation," "motives of cupidity," an "apocryphal Bill," and he suggested that we have been actuated by the most petty and spiteful motives. On 25th April I told the House what the Archbishop of Canterbury said about that, and I do not wish to repeat it; but I wish hon. Gentlemen who belong to the Church to bear it in mind. As a matter of fact, the position now is that the Opposition, in addition to all the other monopolies, claim a monopoly of honesty of conviction in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] It must be remembered that all this criticism of the right hon. Gentleman is not allocated to Wales alone, but is devoted, I think, to England as well, because in 1906 the first Session of the new Parliament was devoted to an attempt to justify the sectarian view. Therefore, the Nonconformists in England stand in the same position as the Nonconformists in Wales. It was called spite. It is the spite which the right hon. Gentleman discovers in everyone except those upon his own side. I think we might have expected better things from him. I understand that he has ceased to be a Nonconformist. He has become a Churchman, and, therefore, we might have expected him to hold the scales of justice on this occasion. He has spoken, as he said, upon instructions.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
He said he got the instructions of others to get money for them and not a penny for himself. We very much regret that we have fallen under the ban of the right hon. Gentleman's displeasure. It is our misfortune, and it is his fault. This is a very old movement. It has been going on since 1870. It is no sudden or new proposal, and I really think that this imputation of motives does not deceive anyone in this House. You cannot get vindictiveness, spite, or malice to last for two generations of people. It must be based upon some principle. What is the proposition which deserves all these hard words from the right hon. Gentleman? The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) introduced a Bill in reference to the census the other day. This is what the hon. Gentleman said on 1st May, 1912. He was not going to say that Disestablishment in itself destroyed, or, for that matter, seriously hurt the Church as a Church. It would, no doubt, take away from the Church certain privileges which were not of any particular or great importance, but, on the other hand, it might give the Church a certain freedom which it did not possess now.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
What I said was perfectly true, that is as regards Disestablishment alone.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
So I said. This may be taken as the hon. Gentleman's view as far as Disestablishment is concerned, he had no very serious objection to the Bill.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Only as regards the Church. If the hon. Member will read on what I said he will see that I said from the point of view of the nation Disestablishment would be fatal. Besides, this has got nothing to do with the Bill. It is dealing with an abstract question.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Disestablishment as an abstract question would do no harm, but as a concrete question in this Bill it would do a great deal of harm. I suppose that no one in this House now disputes that the Church is in a position of privilege. The right hon. Gentleman asks us what we really complain of. That is a very fair question. It is not a question of pounds, shillings, and pence. The question is whether the privileges which the Church now enjoys are fair to the other Churches and other religious bodies in the Principality. No one in this House disputes that the Church has legal, political and social privileges. Does anyone doubt that the State exercises control over the Church? I suppose no one disputes that. It is the combination of the privileges of the Church and the control of the State which make up the status of the Establishment. Against that status we protest. We are proposing in this Bill as far as Wales to do away with these privileges. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are they?"] First of all as to the legal privileges of the Church. The law of the Church is incorporated in the law of the land. Is that a privilege? [HON. MEMBERS: "What harm?"] It is not a question of "what harm." The question is, does it give privileges? The Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking quite recently, said, with evident pride, that England alone among all the nations of Western Europe still possesses Ecclesiastical Courts endowed by the State with the force of jurisdiction. The Civil Courts enforce and execute the decisions of the Ecclesiastical Courts. Therefore there is an intimate connection between them. Of course we all know that the King must be in communion with the Church of England. We know he must be crowned by the Archbishop of that Church. It is a privilege for the Church to have its Bishops in the House of Lords, or, at least, whether it is a privilege or not, it is a distinction. Then there are the social privileges that the Archbishops and Bishops enjoy special titles.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
There are legal and social privileges. Does anyone doubt the control exercised by the State over the Church? Does not the State appoint the Archbishops and Bishops? Has not the Crown through the Lord 823 Chancellor got a great deal of patronage? Is it to be presumed that there cannot be a change in the doctrine, ritual or constitutional of the Church without the consent of Parliament. Is it a fact that the two Houses of Convocation cannot be formed except on a King's Address, and cannot enact statutes without the King's licence and consent, and is there not an appeal from all Ecclesiastical Courts to the Civil Courts? What does all that amount to? It amounts to a special Statute, and if it does not amount to much then this Bill does not amount to much. All this Bill does is to remove all privileges from the Church as far as Wales is concerned, to deprive the Church of all the privileges it possesses, and introduce a system under which the Church of England and Wales will have the same rights and the same liberty as any other English body in Wales, no more and no less. Is that a mean or a petty object? You say you are persecuted under this Bill. Why do you say you are persecuted? Is it because you will be no longer a separate caste in the Principality? Is it because you are going to be deprived of privilege, and domination and ascendancy? Is that what you complain of? Are not you capable of accommodating yourselves to a condition of equality? Must not you always uphold anomalies and occupy a position of privilege and patronage? Cannot you really make up your minds to occupy a position of independence and stand up for yourselves? I say quite frankly that as far as the position of the Church is concerned, it contains both advantages and disadvantages. My view of it is this, that all the advantages in the Church are temporal, and that all the disadvantages which it suffers from are spiritual, and the status of the Church, as we all know, has been from generation to generation, to use the words of the Prime Minister, when heresy was a crime punishable by law, and when dissenters were exposed to every kind of civil and political disability. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said the other day that our Bill was out of harmony with the spirit of the times. Surely there never was a greater misinterpretation of the spirit of the times. On the Continent we know what is the tendency. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has that in his mind and I do not dwell on it. It is a commonplace of controversy that we are living in a democratic age, and 824 all the tendency of democracy is towards freedom and equality, and towards the equal rights of citizens of all kinds. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered ecclesiastical history during the last 100 years? I think it was in 1881 that the Bishop of Ely said that Disestablishment has been proceeding for the last fifty years. The Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, the Catholic Emancipation Act, the admission of Nonconformists to Universities, all these Statutes were concerned with removing disabilities of Dissenters and Nonconformists.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
We had great difficulty in getting Churchmen to pass them. I think that that is an unfortunate interruption.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
No doubt every Act of Parliament is passed by this House and the House of Lords, but does the Noble Lord deny that all these Acts were passed in the teeth of the opposition of the House of Lords and of the bishops? Will he deny this further fact, which casts some light on the attitude of the accredited representatives of the Church in the House of Lords, that, after being rejected once and twice in the House of Lords, and when they were going through the House of Lords for the last time, even then there was a majority of bishops against them in their last passage through the House of Lords? Is that a record of which he is proud on behalf of the Church party to which he belongs? Does not it prove, and prove conclusively, that the bishops in the House of Lords were more Tory even than the temporal peers, and stood more in the way of progress and reform than the peers of the realm in that House? And the Noble Lord knows that that is so even on matters that must be said to be outside of politics, such as the emancipation of slaves and the admission of Dissenters to universities. The bishops to the very last were against giving that right to Nonconformists. The view of hon. Members opposite is this: "We Churchmen have given you all these things; we have allowed you to have certain rights; but that is enough for you. We have graciously permitted you to go to universities; we have graciously allowed you to hold office without taking the Communion 825 of the Church of England. We have beneficently bestowed all these favours on you, but no further." Does the Noble Lord know that even now Nonconformists cannot take a Divinity degree in a university? Does he know that professorships and lectureships in Divinity cannot be held by anyone except by those in communion with the Church of England?
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
This is a Welsh Bill. It is not in the Bill. Does the Noble Lord think that that disadvantage ought to continue?
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
We say we are not satisfied. We have freedom, if you like, but we want more than freedom; we want equality. Do hon. Members opposite not think that, having passed to freedom, we are entitled to go further and ask for equality? And we shall not desist until this privilege and ascendancy are put aside and all religious bodies in Wales are put exactly upon the same footing. We do not mean to rest until we have achieved that equality of which I have spoken. All the goals we have arrived at are only the start for us in obtaining complete religious equality. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) said, "What right have you as a temporal power to interfere with the Church?
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I made that observation in exclusive relation to the dismemberment proposals of the Bill. It had no connection with Disestablishment or Disendowment.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I will limit it, then, to dismemberment. Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that dioceses have already been dismembered by this House? Six new bishoprics have been carved out. [HON. MEMBERS: "With the consent of the Church."] It is very difficult to speak when subject to running comments.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I must protest against that observation. The hon. Gentleman does nothing but ask us questions, and then complains of interruptions.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Do I understand the Noble Lord to say that if any- 826 thing is put interrogatively in this House twenty Members are to rise and answer? The Noble Lord is a master of rhetoric, and if he asked questions in that way he would be very much surprised if twenty Members on this side rose to answer him. First of all, as far as I understand, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) seems to suggest that we really have no constitutional right to deal with the Church. He said that if there were proportional representation, then we should get on. But we have to deal with the House of Commons as it is, and with the present law. We never heard anything about proportional representation in 1895 and 1900. Then there was a majority on the side of the Government out of all proportion. Then it is suggested that we ought to have a census. I am really surprised that the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) wants a census, unless he is willing to abide by the decision of Wales in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman says that England and Wales must be taken as one, while the hon. Baronet says, "I do not want a census for England; I want it for Wales." Does the hon. Baronet think, then, that the Welsh decision is conclusive on this point? Is it to be said that if a majority of Nonconformists is declared in the proposed census we shall then have our way in this Bill?
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
No, of course not. Then what is the good of it? It is simply an academic investigation, which I suppose will be used against us if we are in a minority, but which is not to be used for us if we are in a majority. I do not think that is carrying the controversy very much further. As a matter of fact, a good deal has been said about a census and about a referendum; but we stand upon the only constitutional way in which we can express our opinion in this House. What hon. Members opposite are really thinking about, when they speak of the Referendum and Census, is the power whereby the English vote may crush the voice of Wales in this House. I see the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood) here, and I am glad to have him on my side on this point. It has been said, "Why should Wales not have a separate decision?" The late Lord Derby, speaking in 1885, said:—I consider, speaking for myself, that Wales has a strong claim to be separately dealt with.827 In 1893, the hon. Member for Bolton, said:—I differ from the Bishop of Manchester, because I recognise that Wales possesses sufficient national characteristics to entitle her to separate treatment in this matter.Later on the hon. Member said:—I say that Wales and Scotland have a perfect right to speak for themselves, and I would not place a single obstacle in the way of their deciding just as they wish.Under those circumstances, I hope the hon. Gentleman will act upon those proposals. As I understand the right, hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) we are limited in regard to dismemberment, and that it would be ultra vires for this House to interfere. It is really too late for the Church to take this point. Since the Reformation the Church has accepted and invited the control of Parliament from time to time. Remember, the Ecclesiastical Courts do not administer the law of Scripture, or the law of theologians; they administer the Statutes of Parliament, and Parliament settles what shall be sin and what shall not be sin. Let me take the Ecclesiastical Disorders Bill. The right hon. Gentleman backed that Bill in 1908 and 1910. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me in a memorable speech, said that he, and Liverpool, and Kirkdale—I think that is the right order—"stood for the twin causes of Protestantism and Tariff Reform."
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
It is said that after the speech was delivered the right hon. Gentleman kissed his hands to the ladies on the balcony, and led the singing of "Rule Britannia" and "God Save the King."
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I do not know what that has got to do with this Bill. Except as a music-hall travesty it has nothing whatever to do with it, and it is quite inaccurate.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
I was asked a question and I answered it. If the right hon. Gentleman had not asked me, I would not have given those particulars. May I invite the attention of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) to a speech he made on 14th February, 1908, on the Ecclesiastical Disorders Bill, for which the right hon. Gentleman was a sponsor. The Noble Lord said:—This extraordinary Bill is one which appears to me to lead straight towards Disestablishment. The mere Introduction of this Bill is giving a great impulse to the cause of Disestablishment.828 The reason I quote that is that the right hon. Gentleman comes to Parliament to regulate his Church in one way, but when we come to regulate it in another he says: "It is dismemberment, and you must not touch it at all."
That is inconsistent. If the right hon. Gentleman who was sponsor for the Bill came to Parliament and asked for a Commission, why should we not ask Parliament to do something else, not quite on the same lines? Let me give another illustration. Up to the passing of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, to marry your deceased wife's sister was a sin according to the Canon law and according to the Civil law. The Canons of the Church declared that the man who committed that offence was "a notorious evil liver." The Act of Parliament was passed, and directly it was passed Parliament absolved that man from the sin committed under the Canon law. As a matter of fact, we all know that Parliament stands now to the Church relatively in the same position as the Popes stood to the pre-Reformation Church. The right hon. Gentleman has asked, further, what is the reason, and on what basis we interfere in this connection between Church and State. I am not going into the history of the subject, which I dealt with on the last occasion I spoke; but the numerical argument is of some importance, though as I understand the interjections of the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil), while the Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking the other night, he thinks there is very little to rely upon in the Report of the Royal Commission.
Something has been said about the figures as to the use of these endowments. May I give some figures? I say quite frankly I have chosen the figures, though not at random, deliberately from the Report of the Welsh Commission, of ten parishes in my Constituency. In those ten parishes the number of communicants totals 717 and the endowments amount to £6,250, which is nearly £9 per head per communicant. In five parishes there are 221 communicants, and endowments of £3,100, or nearly £15 per head per communicant. I really do suggest that those are examples where the money might be better spent even by the Church itself. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about slums in the East End. It is really a very peculiar feature about the Church in Wales that where it does social work in Wales it has no endowments to work upon. They work without any endowments at all 829 and on the voluntary efforts of those who support them. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no."] Really to very small extent. The endowments, I do not suppose, are more than 10 per cent, of the total income of the Church. There is one matter with regard to which I should like to say a word or two. The Commission thought it came within the purview of their inquiry. I submit the vitality and validity of the Church in Wales and Nonconformity respectively can be brought out very well by seeing what the Church and chapels do for Welsh people in large towns. Hon. Members opposite cannot say it is irrelevant because the two Welsh Churches in London have got a statutory endowment of £350 per year each. In London there are four churches of the Church of England and nearly twenty Nonconformist chapels. [An HON. MEMBER: "More."] It is about twenty-seven in all. May I give the figures for Liverpool, which I think are very striking. In Liverpool and Birkenhead there are two churches and two chapels-of-ease. If you include the whole of Liverpool and Birkenhead and the whole of South Lancashire, that is all the provision the Church of England makes for the Welsh residents.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
Yes. That is four churches in all, and they have accommodation for 1,350 people. In South Lancashire, Liverpool and district there are eighty chapels with congregations of 30,000, and there is a population, no doubt, of about 50,000 Welsh people in that area, so that really the contrast comes out very clearly. That shows the House that there is really life in Nonconformity in Wales. If you look at what has been done during the last thirty years in the number of standard books on theology, you will find that the Church has done very little and Nonconformity a great deal. The late Dean Howell, on 26th January, 1890, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, said:—It was sheer folly to hide from themselves the truth that the most vigorous life of the Welsh people no longer welled forth from the heart of the Welsh Church. Twelve weekly journals, eighteen magazines, and a large number of books are published in Welsh. Of this literature, fire-sixths are produced by Nonconformists for Nonconformists.Another very curious feature, as the House I think knows, is that, while English Nonconformist pulpits are filled by Welshmen all over the country, the Church of England has not produced any great preacher during the last twenty years in Wales. You hardly ever hear of 830 a Welsh clergyman going to preach in England. Under those circumstances, cart the House doubt that numerically and by the work it has done and in the vitality it has shown Nonconformity really does represent the great majority of the Welsh people? With regard to the Endowments, on the authority of the Church they will not take 19s. 11d., so that it is not a matter of compromise. As I understand it, they are really standing for the principle of Establishment or Disestablishment, Endowment or Disendowment. That simplifies the issue, and it is much more easy to discuss it. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Selden, Hallam, and Stubbs. I think I am right in saying that not one of those three eminent men devoted themselves to the question of Welsh tithes as such. There is not any document that proves the payment of tithes in Wales earlier than the twelfth century. [Sir A. CRIPPS was understood to indicate dissent.] I do not invite the hon. Member to reply now, but I hope if he addresses the House he will. Selden enumerates Anglo-Saxon laws re tithes from Ona, 786 A.D. to Canute, 1020 A.D., and Edward the Confessor. There are two inferences to be drawn from this. One is that they are conclusive proofs of the national origin of tithes and the second is that these laws simply extended the protection of the law to the possession of tithes already given to the Church. Brewer says:—The true place of these laws is between these two extreme positions. It is difficult to believe that the framers of these laws did not intend by their means one extension of the practice of tithe paying, or that these laws did not exert a powerful influence on the growth of the custom and conduce to its development in a later age into a legal right.If that be so, there cannot be any real dispute, even so far as England is concerned, as to our contention, which has not been removed yet, that the tithe system imposed on Wales was imposed on Wales by the Normans. As I understand the criticism taken by the other side it is this: "You may be right that it is no good having an alliance between Church and State. For the sake of argument we say you may be right, but not in regard to Endowments." They ask, "What good is it? Who is going to benefit by this Bill?" I think I may be allowed to make this preliminary observation as to that question. Are we right in Disestablishment and Disendowment? Of course, if we deserve all the adjectives which were showered on us, we are wrong. But whether it is right or whether it is wrong is the first question. Is it a right thing to 831 do? I think we are all agreed that if it is, that this is the best thing to be done. Does any Member on the other side think, that this would be the end of the Church? Does any Churchman really think it is satisfactory that the creeds, worship, and liturgy of the Church should be at the mercy of Parliament. Has the system worked well? Is it working well now? The hon. Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Mr. Watson Rutherford), speaking quite recently, said:—Three thousand of the clergy habitually break law and the majority of the bishops support those law breakers.Do hon. Gentlemen seriously say that that is a satisfactory position? I should have thought it was a very unsatisfactory position. Are you really anxious for reform? The Conservative party was in power from 1886 to 1906 except for three years, and why did they not try and do something for reform of the Church in those seventeen years. I think the answer was supplied by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London, who said some years ago:—There is no reform short of autonomy.Our contention is that there is no autonomy short of Disestablishment. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that they are to retain all their legal, political, and social privileges, and all their endowments, and also get rid of their responsibilities. Does anyone really think that that is possible? You want to keep the advantages and get rid of the control. I do submit with regard to this connection between Church and State that the termination of it would really be an advantage to the Church and an advantage to the State. It would be an advantage to the Church in this way: that for the first time the Church would have complete control over ritual and worship. In 1872 there was a controversy, a serious controversy, as to what should be done about the Athanasian Creed. From the beginning to the end of that controversy no one doubted the full competence of Parliament to deal with it. The only question was whether it was wise to do so or not. It is almost impossible for this House to deal with those questions. If the Church wants to deal with its Creed and ritual and form of belief, there is only one way to do so, and that is somehow or another to get the power to do so itself. If you do not want that freedom, then you must be content 832 with a verbal, mechanical, stereotyped creed, which must be very unsatisfactory to many members of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to dismemberment. It is quite true that what are now the four dioceses will stand apart from Canterbury, and will have no right to send proctors to Convocation. The official relationship between the four dioceses in Wales and Canterbury will go, but that is no reason why there should not be intercommunication and opportunities for spiritual counsel between one organisation and the other. There is no reason at all why Welsh clergymen could not be transferred to benefices in England and English clergymen to benefices in Wales without the necessity of reordination. At any rate, the Church in Wales under this Bill will be in the same relation to Canterbury as it is now to York. Not only will it have command over its liturgy and beliefs, but it will have free choice of spiritual leaders. I am sure that everybody agrees that private patronage should be abolished. Everyone agrees that congregations should have more voice in determining who shall be the incumbent of a particular parish. Further, everyone on both sides will agree that an endeavour ought to be made to enlist the services of the laity in order to do the work of the Church. I submit that all these matters will be forwarded under Disestablishment. The Church as a spiritual organisation will be more powerful for good than it can be under the present system. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord Robert Cecil), speaking the other night, emphasised the injury that would be done to the State. He said:—You cannot divorce religion from the State as such without doing the State an immense injury.He did not specify instances. He also said:—If you ask what is the religion of the State except the religion of the individuals who compose it—that is individualism run mad.But religion is madly individualistic. It is a matter for the individual and nobody else. It cannot be done by deputy or by proxy. One of the disadvantages of the establishment is that it makes some people think, "As there is a State religion, somebody is worshipping. I can stand out. Everything is going on all right." It creates a false idea of religion; it encourages men to think that religion is something that can be done for them by the State, and in which they themselves need not take any active part. It lays far too much stress upon external forms and ceremonies, whilst perhaps the spiritual life of 833 the country is ebbing away. Lord Selborne, speaking in the House of Commons on the Irish Church Bill, said:—It is impossible to lay clown a priori a rule to decide whether this change or that change tends to a departure from national religion. Every single individual will be in point of religion what he was before the change, and it is a monstrous and self-calumniating thing to say that an act of the nature now under consideration is an act of national apostacy.I submit under these circumstances that Disestablishment, if and when carried, will be a benefit to the Church and also a benefit to the State. It will also be a good thing for the community who live in Wales. A great deal has been said about the desirability of union. I am afraid that when some hon. Members use the term "union" they mean absorption. It is very easy to talk about union on those lines. But when we remember that three bishops in giving evidence before the Royal Commission said that in matters of divine service they thought that co-operation would be harmful to religion, we cannot expect much from co-operation under those circumstances. As a matter of fact, whatever happens, this Bill will remove a national injustice. Establishment is always an injustice. It is especially so in the Principality of Wales, where we Nonconformists are, after call, beyond all dispute, in a considerable majority. I venture to think that we deserve consideration from this House. We have returned Members consistently for two generations. It is high time that the matter should be dealt with, and I trust that we shall not have appealed in vain to the decision of the Imperial Parliament.
§ Mr. HOARE
The Under-Secretary for the Home Department has just given us the second part of his historical researches. We shall look forward to the third part on the Third Reading. His researches seem to have covered a wide field, extending as they do from St. Augustine to a press-cutting agency. I was somewhat surprised when the hon. Member quoted St. Augustine as a justification for this measure. When I heard the hon. Member developing his theme that this Bill, if passed into law, would be a good thing for the Church, I was reminded of another quotation. Sir Boyle Roche, a distinguished Irishman, at the end of the 18th Century, when speaking in the Irish House of Commons was carried away by a fit of enthusiasm, and addressed the Speaker in these words:—So great is my concern for the British Constitution that I would gladly sacrifice the whole to preserve the remainder.834 So great is the hon. Gentleman's concern for the national Church that it is evident from his speech he would gladly sacrifice the whole to preserve the remainder. He approached the question along two lines of argument. He pointed out that the existence of the Establishment meant, first, certain privileges to the Church, and, secondly, a certain measure of State control over the Church. He went on to say that if this Bill became law the State control would vanish, and the national Church would enter upon a period of increased liberty and equality with other denominations. When I heard that argument used by one who I should have supposed would have been not over sympathetic to the national Church as an institution, I was reminded of the epitaph upon a tombstone in a country churchyard:—I was well; I would be better—I am here.I am tempted to apply to these arguments the standard of certain definite concrete facts. We are fortunate in possessing a number of cases which seem to me to apply directly to the proposals we are now discussing. We are told that if this Bill becomes law we shall have, first, more liberty; secondly, more equality; and lastly, more fraternity. Take the question of liberty. There are the cases of the Disestablishment of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. If it were a correct assumption that Disestablishment meant more liberty to the Church, the Episcopal Church of Scotland during the three centuries which have elapsed since its disestablishment, should have become freer so also should the Church of Ireland since 1869. I say it in no spirit of criticism, but merely as a fact, that any impartial inquiry into the subsequent history of those two Churches will show that religious thought, so far from becoming more free, has become less free since Disestablishment.
Then we are told that if this Bill becomes law an era of equality will arise amongst religious denominations of every kind. Can it really be supposed that if you deprive the four bishops of their seats in the House of Lords or prevent them from attending the deliberations of Convocation, you will achieve real equality. Surely there are still some who do not believe that history began with themselves, and who will continue to attach more veneration to the Cathedral Church, say, of St. David's, than to the Nonconformist 835 chapels which have been built during the last ten or twenty years. Lastly, we are told that if we achieve equality and liberty by these proposals we shall reach the goal of fraternity amongst all religious denominations. As bearing upon that point, take the case of Australia. In Australia the Church is disestablished, and if this argument were well founded, an era of religious fraternity should have sprung up amongst the various denominations in that land. But what is the case? At the most solemn ceremony that has ever taken place in Australia, namely, the inauguration of the Commonwealth, there was so much difference of opinion between the representatives of the various religious denominations that all religious ceremony had to be abandoned. Then, take the case of Ireland. Surely if religious fraternity was the result of Disestablishment, we should have seen an era of peace in Ireland. Yet only within the last two years we have had one religious denomination issuing the Ne Temere decree, and a whole series of other denominations protesting with indignation against the issue of that decree. It may be that you will achieve fraternity by Disestablishment, but, if so, it will be the fraternity of the French Revolution—the fraternity of the Jacobin who said, "Be my brother or I will call you." I will cut off one of your hands, and then I will offer you the handshake of friendship to show my feeling for you. I believe that it can be proved by all these concrete cases, which Members can apply for themselves, that Disestablishment means neither equality, liberty, nor fraternity.
I could not help being struck by the fact that, although the Under-Secretary devoted a considerable portion of his speech to the subject, he said very little indeed about Disendowment. That is typical of the course the controversy has taken in the country during the last eighteen months. We have heard a great deal from hon. Gentlemen opposite about Disestablishment, but we have heard very little about Disendowment. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, for instance, made quite a long speech on the Bill to the Liberation Society, but never a word did he say about Disendowment. Even the Government draughtsman keeps clear of Disendowment, for he defines this part of the measure by the euphemistic term "the vesting of property." The arguments for Disendowment are apparently three: first, the charitable trust argument; secondly, the national property 836 argument; and, thirdly, the argument of the Welsh mandate. In reference to the diversion of charitable trusts from one object to another, we have not heard much in the course of this Debate. We are aware that in practically every case when the property of a charity or institution has been diverted to an object different from that which its founder intended, one of several pleas has always been used—the plea either of abuse, or misuse, or of excessive amount. Let me give an example which will show what I mean about each of these pleas. Close by this House, adjoining the General Post Office, is the Church of St. Ann and St. Agnes, which like most City Churches possessed a number of rich parochial endowments. When an inquiry was made by the City Parochial Charity Commissioners, it was discovered that one of the endowments of this Church was of a curious character. A certain John Werke in the year 1463 left a sum of 6s. 8d. with which to provide faggots for the burning of heretics. That may sound a very cruel form of bequest. It was nothing of the kind, for at that particular period the police authorities were not over honest in the provision of faggots, and it came about very often that not sufficient were provided, and the agonies of the unfortunate victims were consequently prolonged. This good man then left this bequest. But when the City Parochial Charity Commissioners came to inquire into the matter, it was found that the money was being used for the provision of a whitebait dinner for the churchwardens at Greenwich. You will see in that case in an extreme form, all the various forms of justification which have been used for the displacing of one charity for another, and you may take any standard you like, you may take the Report of the Royal Commission or any other test you may choose, and in not a single direction can it be shown that the funds of the Welsh Church should be diverted under any form of Charitable Trusts Act.
I come now to the second argument, that of national property. We heard a good deal about that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the First Reading, and we have heard more about it this evening. It seemed to me to concentrate in one or two different directions. In the first place there was the question of tithes, which was argued at considerable length on the First Reading, and has again been alluded 837 to by the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs this evening. Both the right hon. Gentlemen have challenged us on this side of the House, and to the eminent satisfaction of those behind them, to show how it is that there is no record of tithes in Wales before the twelfth century. Let me give the two right hon. Gentlemen an answer, and I think it is a good one. There is no record of tithes before the twelfth century for the very good reason that before the Norman period, with one single exception, the Book of Saint Chad, there is no Celtic record of anything at all. I do not know how that has come about. The demand for education in Wales has increased remarkably during the last century, but in those rude times there were no records of any kind whatever. Therefore, if you say that tithes were not mentioned, I reply, "Nor was anything else." We have heard a great deal about Giraldus Cambrensis. I remember reading with great pleasure the works of Giraldus Cambrensis during my studies for the history schools at Oxford, and I think I am right in saying that he was the son of a Norman father and a Welsh mother. For a considerable part of his life, when he was attempting to obtain the Archdeaconry of Brecon, he was regarded by the Welshmen as half an alien and wholly undesirable. He was offered the Bishoprics of Hereford and Bangor, and the choice of any Irish see he might desire, but he refused them all, because he was anxious to get the Bishopric of St. David's, where his uncle, The Justiciar, a Norman, was living on the fat of the land.
§ Mr. HOARE
No, his uncle was one of the famous Norman family of Fitzgerald. In the same interesting work he tells us that he made a visit to Ireland, and this is the description he gives of the Irish nation:—The Irish, a most disgusting nice, a race wallowing in vice, a race of all races most ignorant of the rudiments of the faithWhy? These are his words:—for they do not pay tithes.I pass from Giraldus Cambrensis to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the argument he used with reference to the changes which are alleged to have taken place during the sixteenth century. He quoted some instances of the Disendowment of monasteries. I should like to ask him how close he considers the analogy of the Disendowment of monasteries with 838 the Disendowment of parochial and episcopal property at the present time. The monasteries were Disendowed for the purpose of suppression. Have these proposals also been introduced for the suppression of the National Church in Wales? He told us that Disendowment was the direct result of certain doctrinal changes which were taking place in the creeds of the English Church. Let me remind him that the Disendowment of the monasteries took place years before there was any alleged change whatever in the creeds of the English Church. Let me remind him also that in the case of the Disendowment carried through at the instigation of Henry VIII. in the year 1536, the Disendowment of the greater monasteries, in that very year an Act was passed making a denial of the extreme mediæval proposition of transubstantiation a capital offence and making an offence punishable by the law of treason, the denial of all such practices and doctrines as auricular confession or the seven Sacraments. I can state without fear of historical contradiction from anyone that at the time that Henry VIII. disendowed the monasteries there was no question of doctrinal change at all. There are several other historical details that I should like to have gone into, but let me say that I was somewhat surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer create, if I did not mistake him, a new Bishop of the Church in Wales. He made a quotation from a certain Bishop Pritchard. He was interrupted with a correction, but he fell back to his point that this gentleman was a bishop. I pass from that, however. Let me put my argument in a concrete form. You tell us that Disendowment must follow some doctrinal change. In the sixteenth century a certain Dean Codman left a bequest, part of which was to be devoted to parochial purposes and the other part to be devoted to the foundation and maintenance of an hospital. By your Bill the parochial part of the endowment will be confiscated and you will leave that part of the endowment which concerns the hospital. If doctrinal change is to be the test of Disendowment let me put this point. Surely the changes that have taken place during the last 300 years in the science of medicine have been far greater than any changes, put them as high as you will, that have taken place in the formularies or creeds of the English Church.
I come now to the last line of argument, that of the Welsh Members. That argument, it seems to me, is weakened 839 immensely by only partially applying it. You take the argument of history and say—"We will Disestablish the Church because for several centuries in the past it did not fulfil its mission as we should desire." Surely on that line of argument you might Disestablish this House because in the eighteenth century it was corrupt, or in the seventeenth century revolutionary, and we might go further and bring to an end the British Monarchy because William of Normandy was an alien and William III. a foreigner. And so it is with the argument of a Welsh mandate. If you are really going to apply the principle of local option surely you must extend it all round and you must give to the English Members the right to settle what kind of religious education they want in the English schools. You take it for one purpose and apply it to the one question which you think will suit you best, but any impartial inquirer must regard that as a very weak form of argument. Let me now draw the attention of the House in all seriousness to a case which is very relevant to the consideration of this question of the Welsh mandate. In 1902 there was a General Election in France. The subject of the election was the Law of Separation, which, as hon. Members will remember, was a law of Disestablishment and Disendowment. Everywhere the Government candidates were returned; even in Brittainy and La Vendee, the most Conservative and religious parts of France, the candidates who were elected were pledged to support the Law of Separation. They were returned and they carried out what hon. Members opposite would call their mandate. The law passed, and how was it received? It was received with barricaded Churches, with bloodshed and riot in many villages, with the taking the inventories of the property of the Church by force of arms. It is one thing to assent to a general proposition upon an election platform, but it is quite another thing to see that proposition translated in a concrete form of robbery of your own parish Church and your own parish priests; but the parallel does not end there. The Act passed on to the Statute Book, not because it was wanted, but because a log-rolling coalition playing upon the ignorance and indifference of the people forced it upon the Statute Book in France.
§ Mr. HOARE
No, it has not been repealed: the harm was done, and a great blow was then struck, which France is still suffering from, at one of the strongest forces in the spiritual life of a great country. When I see a case of that kind across the Channel, I own I look with the very greatest apprehension at the proposals we are now considering.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill, in the earlier part of the speech, spoke of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales as being, to all intents and purposes, dead, and he said, it is no longer a subject of fierce controversy as it had been in its earlier years. To a large extent that is true. Disestablishment in Wales does not now arouse the fierce antagonism on either side which it did at the time of my first election. The reason is not that the desire for Disestablishment is dead, but because the Welsh people regard it as a settled question. It would undoubtedly suit the book of the opponents of progress to keep that question always open, dividing the Welsh people and preventing them going forward to the consideration of other topics. But having settled the matter in their own minds, and having sent a sufficient force to this House to ensure their will being carried through, they are now proceeding to consider other matters. I agree that the industrial question has to a very large extent superseded the Disestablishment question, and that is as it should be. But even men holding the opinions, which I myself do, and who regard Disestablishment as an insignificant item in a reform programme, and who try to magnify the need for industrial reform, would not stand the smallest chance of being elected in Wales if we left Disestablishment out of our programme. That being so, I am prepared to make certain admissions to the opponents of this measure. A dignitary of the Church in Wales said the other day that had there been a Labour Government in office this Bill would not have been introduced. I think that is very probable. If there had been a Labour Government in office it would not have been a Bill to disendow the Church that would have been brought forward, but a Bill to disendow the landlords, and if Gentlemen opposite agree with that I shall join with them in forcing the Government to drop this Bill and to take up the other.
It seems to me that to seek to abolish tithes and to leave rents untouched in 841 private hands is a case of swallowing the camel and straining at the gnat. As, however, the party with which I am associated intend to give what I believe will be a perfectly unanimous vote upon the Second Beading of this Bill, and to support it through all its stages, it has been deemed desirable we should state our reasons for doing so. We have a variety of reasons for that attitude, part of them are based upon principle and part of them are based upon expediency. I have already hinted at the argument of expediency, that this question being out of the way the people of Wales will have a freer course for going forward and making progress towards what we regard as matters of more importance. But, apart from that, there is also the question of principle. In the Labour party as in every other we have men of all creeds and of no creeds, but there is one point upon which we are all absolutely agreed, namely, that religion is essentially a matter for individual conscience. We take up the old Nonconformist standpoint that the duty of the State in regard to the teaching of religion should stop at the door both of Church and school, and that to allow the State to interfere with the religion of citizens, is an unwarrantable and dangerous encroachment which all the experience of the past has proved to be a danger to the liberty of the subject and harmful to the life of the nation. We take up the position which was so nobly upheld by those Ministers of Christ who came out from the Church of Scotland in 1843, declaring that the head of the Church was not the State but Christ. They would accept no other head save the Divine Headship of Jesus, their Great Master. So we support this Bill because it will remove the paralysing hand of the State from the free course of religious truth and religious teaching. We support it for another reason.
The Establishment in Wales stands in the way of the unity of the religious life of the nation. Hon. Gentlemen who are opposing this Bill should remember that whatever may be the case in England the English Church in Wales stands to the people as an alien Church. There was a Welsh Church, and those who oppose this Bill argue that the existing Church is a continuation of the old Welsh Church. If that be so, why are the people of Wales outside the Established Church? Because for generations the Established Church, originally the Welsh Church, quite independent, was the Church of the people, 842 but after the conquest and with the incoming of the Normans, it became the Church of the oppressor, until even Welshmen were debarred from holding benefices in the Welsh Church. It became associated in the minds of the people with the rule of the foreigner who had conquered Wales and imposed his will upon the Welsh people, and all down through the ages the Established Church in Wales, as the Established Church everywhere else has taken the side of the classes as against the masses in all great struggles for freedom. We believe, therefore, Disestablishment will make for unity among the religious bodies in Wales. It may be argued that in Scotland there is an Established Church and that the unity of the churches is on the point of becoming an accomplished fact. That is true of Scotland, but had there been an Anglican Church established in Scotland that would not have been true. The last speaker stated that since the Disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Scotland 300 years ago the religious life of the nation has suffered. I wonder how long the Anglican Church was established in Scotland. I live in a part of Scotland where the moors and the hillsides round about are studded with tombstones to the memory of men who resisted the coming of the Anglican Church in Scotland, even to the shedding of their blood. It is because the Church in Scotland is the Church of Scotland, and not the Church of England, imposed upon the people of Scotland, that we are likely to have this unity which appears to be so rapidly coming into being. So we support this Bill for a second reason, because it will remove a barrier out of the way of the unification of the religious forces.
Then with regard to endowment. I think one of the most amusing aspects of the opposition to this Bill is the argument addressed from the other side that what the Government and those who support this Bill are after are the endowments. That argument has been used by practically every speaker on the other side. If it be true that what the Government are after are the endowments, what are the defenders of Church property after? Karl Marx says, there are thirty-nine articles in the Church of England, but a Church bishop would sacrifice the whole of the thirty-nine articles before he will sacrifice one thirty-ninth part of the Church property, and it almost looks as if that was being proved by the opposition to this Bill. I admit this quite frankly and 843 freely that a clergyman of the State Endowed Church, has more freedom than the minister of a small chapel dependent upon a few wealthy shopkeepers or others for his maintenance. I do not dispute that for a single moment, but I do dispute the statement that there is anything sacred about Church tithes, or that in taking them from the Church and applying them to such matters as sanitation there is a transfer from sacred to secular purposes. There has been some discussion as to whether or not Church tithes were paid in Wales before the twelfth century. The hon. Member who has just sat down said there could not be any record of these tithes being paid because with one exception there was no record of anything prior to that date. That may have been true, but it is not the reason why there is no record of Church tithes being paid. Before the Norman Invasion there was no need for Church tithes.
The old Celtic system of land-holding made tithes unnecessary. Why? In various parts of the country, but largely in Scotland and Wales there still exist parts of villages and towns with such names as the Smith's Croft or Smith's field, the priest's Croft or priest's field, the piper's Croft or the piper's field, and so on. Under the Celtic system each occupation had their separate piece of land for use and there was no need for tithes. But when the land system was altered and the tribal system of holding land was swept away and private ownership was introduced, then the necessity for tithes arose; and now all we are doing is to put the priest in the same position as we put the piper. If we tax for the maintenance of the priest, why not for the maintenance of the piper, as in the times to which I have referred. The further argument is used that these tithes and Church endowments are necessary to provide religious teachers. One hon. Member quoted from a book written by the Secretary to the Treasury in which he said that in the poorer parts of London, and presumably in other great cities, just as the density of poverty increased, so did the Nonconformist chapel tend to disappear. First of all we lend ourselves to a system of wealth production which reduces a large number of people to such low depths of poverty that they cannot pay for their own religious requirements, and having brought them to that state of 844 degradation we then have to pay from State funds for a priest to console them and try to make them content with the position in which it has pleased God to call them. That argument will not hold good in Wales, because the poor people of Wales are to be found in the chapels. The tithes in Wales go to the Church where the landowners mostly are. So that argument in favour of tithes does not apply in the case of this particular measure.
We support this Bill, and we regard its provisions in regard to Disendowment as being not only just but generous. At the same time I do not think the Government have spoken their last word even in regard to the endowments of the Church. The Under-Secretary for the Home Office in a recent speech before he accepted his present office, said if Church people want further modifications of the Disendowment proposals they themselves must make the offer. I took that to mean that the last word had not been spoken on this subject. Whether that be so or not we of the Labour party take no sort of interest in any attempt to despoil a Church, and if the supporters of the Church and the Government come to some amicable arrangement on this matter the Labour party will offer no objection. All we desire is that when this question is settled it shall be finally settled. We support these proposals because we believe they will make for religious purity. I do not know how the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Hugh Cecil) feels in regard to great Church dignitaries, but to me they are an offence both in the sight of God and man. I wonder what would have happened to Christianity in the early days if it had had to depend upon State endowments. When one looks at a bishop or an archbishop with all the regalia and paraphernalia of office, their assumption of position and place, and contrasts those with the Galilean working man, whose creed they profess to serve, it stamps the State Church as being alien to religious purposes. Lowliness and meekness of spirit are not consistent with princely positions and offices of State and great endowments.
We also support this Bill on the ground of expediency, to make way for other reforms. We support it on the grounds of principle, because we deny the right of the State to interfere with a man's religion. We support it on the ground of the purity of religion, because if the religious life of a people has got to such a low ebb that it requires a State-paid chaplain, drastic reform is necessary. We support 845 it, further, because it establishes a good precedent. The time will come when the question being discussed in this House will not be the Disestablishment of the English Church in Wales, but the disestablishment and the disendowment of private ownership of land, and the same argument that justifies Disendowment in regard to the Church will hold equally good when it comes to be applied to the land. The Church received its tithes originally for performing a certain spiritual task for the people, and the landowner received his land in order to provide forces for the defence of the State. The Church had to make spiritual provision and provide for spiritual safety by keeping the enemy of mankind away, and the landowners were required to provide troops to keep the invader away. If the Church has failed in its duty, much more have the landowners, and the same argument that justifies the Disestablishment of the Church will one day be used for the disendowment of private ownership of land.
§ Sir J. D. REES
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House made an extremely useful admission when he said that the acquisition of Church property was a merely insignificant item in his programme. In that the hon. Member made an admission which is of the greatest possible use to those who are opposing the policy of this Bill. I wish to deny the statement made that the Church has always been on the side of the classes and against the masses. I was in South Wales when there existed the greatest industrial unrest we have known for a long time, and I know that the Church, instead of taking any part on the side of the classes, devoted itself in endeavouring to relieve the distress of the masses. I give that experience as it came under my own observation within the last few weeks. When the hon. Member says he does not consider Church property sacred, I think he is making a superfluous declaration on his part, because after his remarks it is evident that he considers no class of property sacred. When he talked about bishops and archbishops being an offence in the sight of God and man, I deny that he has any right to speak for any other than one man. I wish to answer, as far as I can, some remarks which were made by the Solicitor-General upon the occasion of the introduction of this Bill. I was surprised that a man of his ability and power should have been driven by the badness of his brief to grovelling among addresses of can- 846 didates at the elections. He did me the honour of quoting from one of my addresses; and he said that he supposed that during the course of this Debate the present Member for East Nottingham would explain himself. With the indulgence of the House I will endeavour to do so.
I think it showed great courage on the part of the Solicitor-General to twit any hon. Member of this House with changing his opinions, when in regard to the policy that is now being pursued by the Radicals. Mr. Gladstone "boxed the compass" in regard to Home Rule. Some hon. Members opposite have held both sets of opinions equally strongly. The Solicitor-General himself sat between two right hon. Gentlemen who now represent the Army and the Navy, both of whom have crossed the floor of the House. I do not know why the Solicitor-General hits upon me, because my case has been of the most simple description. The Solicitor-General came in very gallantly to support the Home Secretary, who broke down in spite of all his great talent in endeavouring to commend this Bill to the House, and nothing could have fallen more flat than the speech he made in introducing the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the statement made by the Prime Minister to the effect that Parliament cannot take away the religious spirit of the Church. No, Sir, but Parliament can take away its property; and, failing to do the one, they introduced a Bill to try to do the other. The right hon. Gentleman's speech amounted to this: See how well we are behaving to the Church in leaving to it, not 1s. 6d., but 6s. 8d., a sum with comforting professional associations, for which in no long time solicitors may be compelled to offer advice to all and sundry under some such Act as the Insurance Act. If the right hon. Gentleman's argument had anything in it, if the Church was the better spiritually for the destruction of part of its property, why not carry that argument to its logical conclusion, and take it all away.
The right hon. Gentleman further stated that the Government wished to relieve the Church from State control. In the year 1905, in Scotland, the Free Church and the United Presbyterians combined, and in 1907 the Methodists combined by legislation, and their property was vested under a trust deed. The intervention of the State in other spheres is regarded as elevating and advantageous, but only in the religious sphere 847 is it held to be demoralising. The hon. Member for Carmarthen also did me the honour to refer to me, and he said in my address in 1906 I stated that I would vote for Disestablishment, as I did. I think he rather suggested that on that occasion I had tried to ride off on the dark horse of religious equality, and that I required pinning down to the exact programme. I remember some years ago, when Sir Richard Temple, an old Indian servant, like myself, was a Member of this House, he ventured to laugh at some arguments used by an hon. Member below the Gangway, and the hon. Member turned round and said, "Laugh on, you Burmese idol." Whether old Indians are idols from India or Burmah, they are generally taken as the agents of a benevolent autocracy, and are here as children in English politics, very careful to cover up their feet of day. They see the cyclone of progress rushing on its furious orbit, and they say, each to himself, "Remember you are a peculiarly progressive person." That is how it is almost all old Indians begin life upon that side of the House. A man who comes home to this country late in life and wants to take part in English politics has to choose between the programme of one party or the other. He looks at them and sees "religious equality" inscribed on one of them. He says, "I was brought up upon that in India. It was my duty to administer religious equality between the different creeds in India." I, myself, represented forty millions of Hindus, Mahomedans, and Christians in the Viceroy's Council of India. Not one of them elected me; I was like a Senator under the Irish Home Rule Bill, but I did represent them. A man who comes to England and looks at the programmes of the parties and finds "religious equality" on one of them, naturally embraces it. He says, "At least I can do that. I have been accustomed to that all my life." When he sees the concrete expression of it is Disendowment of the Church, I own it gives him pause, but he says, "So much the worse for the Church." Then he takes the shilling, and you see him start; only he does not get the shilling. I was never lower than a Liberal Imperialist. What does such a Member find when he has once started? He seeks religious equality. A man in that position says, "What are the differences between these religions in Wales? Where comes in this need for religious equality?" He makes 848 inquiries, and for the life of him he cannot find anyone to tell him there is the slightest difference between any one sect in Wales and another, or between all the Nonconformists and the Church in respect of dogma, doctrine, or anything else. They are all merely different divisions of Christianity. Then where is the analogy? It crumbles away beneath him. There is no need for religious equality. It exists. He finds one difference: The one sect has property, the other has not. I take the figures of the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, though I do not accept them. The Church, he says, represents one-fourth of the people in Wales; I absolutely dispute it.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH dissented.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I was wrong in ascribing it to the hon. Gentleman, but it was certainly said that the Church represented one quarter and the Nonconformists three-quarters. That suffices for my purpose. The Mahomedans in India are about one-fifth and the Hindus are about four-fifths. The Mahomedans in India have endowments. They were given at the time when the Mahomedans were the ruling race. Does the Government of India say to the Mahomedans, "You have endowments; they are national property. The Hindus are five to one. Give up your endowments. We will hand them over to the Hindus. They shall be given to teaching their children in schools, and to teaching them that your religion is a false religion." In Wales the endowments that are being taken away from the Church are to go into schools where Socialism and other creeds that are abhorrent to the Church are feely taught. I do not say that in any spirit of offence. I merely state it is the case. Then where is the analogy? It is all very well for people who have lived all their lives in a narrow groove, but the case has to be proved, and is a man who originally starts with the idea that there is a need for religious equality in Wales when he finds there is religious equality, and that this proposal means taking endowments away from one Church and giving them to another, a policy which he has been brought up to believe is the grossest plunder, and a policy which in India, where the whole of his adult life has been spent, could not be pursued for one moment without the expulsion of the English from India, to go on accepting what he embraced as a general proposition? I say not. I have spoken quite openly and frankly, and I hope the House will believe, with the completest 849 sincerity, if they do not accept my answer, which I dare say they will not do.
I have tried and tried, but I have never succeeded in finding that there is the slightest, infinitesimal difference between the different Nonconformist creeds, or between the whole of their creeds collectively and the Church. Such differences as exist are entirely outside the sphere of religion. No question of religious equality enters into this matter in the smallest degree. It is simply a question of endowments, and I say the man who originally accepts this policy on the ground that it is a policy of religious equality when he subsequently finds religious equality exists, and that it is a policy of snatching the endowments of the Church is right in denouncing it as I have denounced it, and I will vote against this Bill. These are not the days in which the omission of a Latin word from a creed convulses Christendom. There are no differences in these islands between the different classes of Christians. The argument of seating accommodation and the numbers of the chapels and the churches has been used. The explanation of that matter is that the chapels proceed upon a policy of spending all you can and of borrowing, and the Church proceeds upon the policy of not borrowing. In point of fact, the chapel is the very place where the Chancellor of the Exchequer learnt his finance. The chapels spend every penny they can. They build as many chapels as possible, and they say, "Look at us; there are more of us." They proceed upon a policy of borrowing and spending money right and left. I dare say many hon. Gentlemen opposite have been allowed the privilege of a chance of making up such deficits. That is the root of this matter, and that is why it is there are so many more seats in the Free Churches than there are in the Church. I believe in my heart that as soon as the religious census is brought about these figures will be exposed, and it will be found that the case of the Church is even stronger than has been represented. I should like to quote to the House a passage from the Free Church Year Book for 1911. On page 290 these words will be found:—It must be admitted that even with the most sincere compiler of statistics there lurks the subtle temptation to make the figures mark a prosperity, which is inflated with partiality.This is the case with the statistics of the Free Churches, and they have the honour and the straightforwardness in their own book to admit it. Then it was stated, I think by the Under-Secretary, that the 850 Welsh are a superlatively religious people. I admit that. I do not know any more stirring thing in the world than to hear hymns sung by the Welsh people. The Home Secretary was moved to lyrical transports when he thought about it. He spoke of their worshipping in the hills and dales. He took good care to stick to the valleys and the hills of Wales, and so did the Chancellor of the Exchequer. How is it they do not find support in the great city of Cardiff? They do not find any support there. In the great intellectual, commercial, and urban centres of Wales there is not any support for this policy. The Noble Lord the Member for Cardiff (Lord N. Crichton-Stuart) is five times the representative of Wales that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is. The Chancellor of the Exchequer represents a few rural villages. The Noble Lord represents the great, city of Cardiff. If we are to take representation, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer is entirely outclassed in the matter, and, if we take cities instead of dales and hills, which the two right hon. Gentlemen took, I say we conspicuously have not got a case for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for South Monmouth shire (Sir Ivor Herbert) made a very deliberate and interesting speech on the First Reading of the Bill. He did not speak as the representative of South Monmouthshire—I do not mean he disclaimed that—he distinctly and more than once claimed to speak for the Catholics in Wales, and, speaking in that character, he said—
§ Sir J. D. REES
I heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and, if he tells me he did not speak as a representative of the Welsh Catholics, I have no more to say, but I grievously misunderstood him if that was not the case.
§ Sir IVOR HERBERT
I said for the information of those who might not happen to know it that I was a Catholic, but my speech was entirely made as a representative of a Welsh county. I said in my speech I did not come here as a Catholic. I think the hon. Gentleman will find these words.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Do I understand the hon. and gallant Baronet to say now, "I spoke as a representative of the Welsh Catholics"?
§ Sir J. D. REES
I was so unfortunate as to entirely misunderstand the whole drift of the hon. and gallant Member's speech, and yet I listened to every word of it with the utmost attention. I venture to think the Catholics of Wales—the Noble Lord the Member for Cardiff is, at any rate, an authorised exponent of their views—do not approve of this Bill. It would be a monstrous thing to suppose they did. Is there an institution in this world or has there been in history any institution of privilege, of establishment, or of historic renown like the Roman Catholic Church, and can it be supposed that they welcome the Disendowment and Disestablishment of a sister Church? Of course, hon. Members from Ireland can support this Bill as Catholics, because they know when once they have got Home Rule they can safeguard to the last degree the Catholic religious education in their schools, but that is not the case in Wales. I know something of the Catholics in Wales, and I venture to say they are most strongly opposed to Disestablishment and Disendowment in Wales, and, if the hon. and gallant Baronet supports it as he does, he is in that respect entirely unrepresentative of his own communion in the principality. Why did he vote the other day against a religious census, when not even the other representatives from Wales voted against it?
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. D. REES
When we get the religious census, against which the hon. And gallant Member voted, we shall know more about it. I take leave to make a statement entirely to the contrary, and to assert that the Churchmen of Wales, whether they belong to the Catholic Church or to the Anglican Church, are strongly and deeply opposed to Disestablishment and Disendowment. The Home Secretary, in his speech, dealt with the question of seating. He went to Cardiff and Glamorganshire, and the argument was that because the Church had not been able to provide the seating accommodation rendered necessary by the great expansion of population in Glamorganshire, therefore it was desirable to take away 852 from them the funds which they had and with which they were doing all they could to provide that accommodation. I admit that the question of Welsh representation and disestablishment is an extremely difficult subject. I do not propose to shrink from it, but, with the indulgence of the House, I would like to point out that in this matter I am reminded of a certain pious man called Damned Barebones. The formula really is if the Church of England is an alien, oppressive, foreign institution, down with the Church of England, but the qualification disappears and "Down with the Church" alone remains. If this question were really put before the Welsh people, if they knew that some of these Church endowments have a title of 700 or perhaps a thousand years, I do not believe that Welshmen would really have a desire to annex the endowments of the Church of England. I have had occasion to address many meetings, and I have found, in dealing with this matter, that they have been fair and open-minded. I really believe if this question were properly put before them you would not get this continual voting, without much consideration of the subject, in favour of Disestablishment. There are many of the most eminent divines among the Nonconformists who are not in favour of Disendowment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name, name."] I do not propose to give them away. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not like you."] I say that under these circumstances, especially when we recollect that Members in their election addresses, or at any rate a majority of them, did not pledge themselves to Disestablishment and Disendowment, there is a case for putting the two sides fairly before the people in Wales. I do not think that those who speak Welsh only ever hear anything of the other side. I admit that the argument of Welsh representation is exceedingly strong. I am not likely to destroy it. But I do submit this consideration to the House. I think there is considerable force in the fact, and I beg the House to remember it, that in the great centres—the great intellectual, commercial, and urban centres of Wales, you will not find this solid vote. It is only in the hills and vales from which certain right hon. Gentlemen get their support as Parliamentary representatives that you find that strong consensus of opinion which has led the Government to bring in this Bill in order to retain the votes of the Welsh Members.
853 I should like to adopt with all my heart and soul, what has been said by the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) about the action taken in France. The political anti-church policy of France has done the utmost damage to the spiritual life of that country, and I believe that a similar loss will attend this country when it cuts itself adrift from the Established Church. It is impossible to deny in addition to the considerations I have mentioned that there is a very strong political propaganda pursued in many of the chapels in Wales. Within the last few days at the assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, at the City Temple, an amendment was brought forward by a Nonconformist clergyman (Mr. E. Williams) who said he wished to leave out certain references to disputes in other matters because they gave the policy of the Church a political form, but that amendment was defeated by a large majority on a show of hands. I do not think in dealing with this question it would be fair or reasonable to leave out of account the extremely strong pressure put on the Welsh voter such as is put on the Irish voter, pressure which, in my belief, impairs the representation of the Principality and of the Sister Island as compared with that of this country and of Scotland. It is this persistent pressure that affects the representation of a good many constituencies in Wales. As to my own position, I admit that forcing the gate that leads to this House is very difficult to one who acts as I have done. It is an odious position entailing the severing of friendships and the accusation of motives. It is far more difficult than that of an hon. Member who has always sat on one side. I say if an hon. Member cannot accept a party's programme he should take the line which experience proves to him to be right and he should say:—It matters not how strait the gate,How charged with punishments the scroll;I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
I can assure the hon. Member who has just spoken that I do not believe there is any Member of this House who feels any grudge against him because he has taken his proper place in this assembly. I say this in all friendship, because it was always a wonder to many of us on these benches how he came to occupy a seat on this side. I am anxious to say a few words in this Debate from the Scottish point of view. Up to 854 the present, we have heard a great deal about England, Wales and Ireland; we have heard very little about Scotland; and it is as a Scottish Member, and as the Chairman of the Scottish Liberal unofficial Members, that I ask the indulgence of this House while I say a few words on this question. I ask it for another reason. I know Wales very nearly as well as Scotland. I have connections with Wales. My wife's name is Williams, and for many years I spent a great part of my vacations in Merionethshire, with a gentleman who was a Tory. I can answer this for him, that while he was a Conservative and a Churchman, his relations with the Nonconformists of the district were such that, after spending fifty years of his life among them, they presented him with a testimonial in which they bore testimony to his work, and said that during the time he had lived among them he had proved himself to be more a Christian than a Churchman, more a friend than a landlord. He came down and stayed with me in Scotland. That was before the union of the Churches, and I took him alternatively to the Established Church, to the Free Church, and to the United Presbyterian Church. We used to discuss with one another the cases of the Church in Wales and the Church in Scotland; and he told me that in Scotland there was no justification for an Established Church. He said:I have been in all three Churches. I cannot make out the slightest difference, and, for my part, if I came down here I should be content. You have no justification for an Established Church in Scotland, but in Wales it is very different indeed. We have odious dissent to contend with.Now that gentleman was a very strong Churchman. He was also a Conservative. He had always supported the Conservative party. He was keenly interested in the Churches both of Wales and Scotland, and he came to the conclusion that, so far as Scotland was concerned, there was no justification for any Established Church while it was necesary to have one in Wales in order to contend with dissent. I should be out of order if I were to go into the question of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Scottish Church. I therefore do not propose to say much about it, but I think I may fairly point out what was the position when I first started my political life in 1885—what was the position in reference to the Scottish more liberal-minded Church. So far as Scotland is concerned the Scottish Church was a national Church, but the Welsh Church was not a national Church. It was not the Church of the people who, therefore, 855 voted for its Disestablishment and Disendowment. I have risen mainly to say why I heartily support this Bill. I am not going into the question of the history of Giraldus Cambrensis, or into the question of tithes. I ask myself this question: Supposing we had an Episcopalian Church established in Scotland at the present time; supposing that upon one occasion every single Member out of the seventy-two Scottish Members came here to demand the Disestablishment and Disendowment of that Church, and supposing that a majority of something like sixty-six or sixty-seven Scottish Members came here and insisted upon the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Episcopalian Church in Scotland, I venture to say that we should have not remained quiescent so long as Welsh Members have done, and we should have had the Episcopalian Church Disestablished and Disendowed long before this time.
For my own part there is nothing I detest and hate so much as these religious controversies. Every Member must feel that. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Hoare) said that the Disestablishment of the Episcopalian Church in Scotland had not left it a freer Church. I am not sure about that. I think the Episcopalian Church in Scotland is as free a Church as exists anywhere in the land. That Church was Disestablished and Disendowed centuries ago. I do not suppose hon. Members of this House know that Archbishop Laud sent one of his prelates to establish the Episcopalian liturgy in St. Giles' Cathedral on the celebrated occasion when Jenny Geddes said she would have none of it, and chucked her stool at his head. We endured a cruel persecution in the South-West of Scotland in the time of James II., and it is owing to that persecution more than to anything else that Episcopalianism to this day has never been favoured by the Scottish people. So far as Ireland is concerned. I remember the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Episcopalian Church in Ireland. I think I am quoting correctly when I say that the late Primate of Ireland, Dr. Alexander, stated that, while he was opposed at the time to the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Episcopalian Church in Ireland, the Church had been freer and had made more progress since its Disestablishment and Disendowment than it had ever done before. I should like to see this question settled by Welsh votes and Welsh votes only. I know that in Scotland we 856 would not tolerate the Irish, or the English, or the Welsh settling the question whether we should have a Scottish Established Church or not. Happily we are on the verge of coming to a settlement of that long-vexed question. Why are we coming to a settlement? Because in Scotland the ministers of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church and the Episcopalian Church freely interchange pulpits and take services for each other in the villages. That has brought about a new feeling among the Presbyterians. We hope to come to a reconciliation between the two great Presbyterian bodies without having to come to this House. In Wales no Episcopalian or Nonconformist can ever interchange pulpits. If the interchange could be brought about I believe it would do more than anything else in the world to reconcile Nonconformists and Churchmen. I am satisfied that when this Bill becomes law, as it will, there will be a great treaty of reconciliation between the Nonconformists and the Episcopalian Church in Wales, and I think the Episcopalian Church, from the date of its disestablishment and reasonable disendowment, will go on and prosper in a way that it has never done before.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made three points. In the first place, he has referred to the Scottish Establishment; secondly, he has treated Wales as if it were a separate unit from England; and, thirdly, he maintained that Disestablishment would be a message of peace. As to the Scottish Establishment, it is a matter of opinion. On the question of the establishment of a Church in any nation, I believe it is of advantage to a nation to have an Established Church rather than not to have one. I am prepared to support the establishment of a Church in Scotland, even though it does not happen to be the Church to which I personally belong. I am convinced that the fact of the establishment of a Church is one which does exercise for good a great religious influence throughout the nation. We heard only the other day a reference to the solemnity of the Coronation. Its beauty, its significance, its impressiveness were not lost upon any Member of this House. But if you had Disestablishment all that would go, just as I believe it has gone in the case of the installation of the Knights of St. Patrick in Ireland. We should deplore it. It would be a loss to the nation. Quite apart from any denominational question, 857 I believe that an established Church is a good thing. I believe it was the Lord Chancellor Eldon who said:—The Establishment exists not to make the Church political, but to make the State religious.That is a very sound maxim, one which we might well bear in mind. We have far too much modern materialism of every kind of influence, except the great religious and moral one, influencing both the doings of this House and the agitators outside this House. It would be better for all of us if we would try to recognise the value of a controlling religious influence, such as is to be got by the establishment of some Church. I think that a disestablished Church always tends to narrow views. I do not think that it produces the same high level of prominent men in the intellectual world which an established Church is prone to do. It would be a great misfortune, with the example of France before us, and that of other countries where there are disestablished Churches—if we do not take the lesson to heart that there is less prominent high intellectual religious influence exercised in those countries than where an establishment is existent. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that Wales was a separate unit, and that the matter ought to be decided by the votes of the Welsh Members. I can only say that the Church in England is the Church in Wales, and that the Church in Wales is the Church in England. There is no dividing or separating them. Why, Nonconformists themselves do not treat them as isolated separate units? My right hon. Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith), who moved the rejection of the Bill, referred to the fact that the Free Church Council was ardent in its efforts to bring together the organisations of Nonconformists in England and Wales. Why should we be denied the same privilege, especially when the Church of England has existed for centuries as the Church in England and Wales. It seems most unreasonable to separate the two or to dismember the Church piecemeal. The chief object in this piecemeal dismemberment is that it is intended as a blow at the Church of England as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman's third point was that if Disestablishment took place, it would be a message of peace to all denominations. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member cheers that. I can only ask him whether he has considered the analogy of the Church in Ireland. Does anybody who knows Ireland maintain that the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was a message of peace, 858 bringing ail Protestants nearer together? It is well known that was not. Every minister or priest of every denomination carefully eyes every member of his congregation mainly as a subscriber. He takes good care that he should not escape from the fold because of the pecuniary advantage of his presence there. I do not say that is the sole reason, but the net result of Irish Disestablishment has been that the different ministers watch their flocks with great care, because they find it absolutely necessary to secure subscriptions for the funds of the denomination. It has this influence in addition, that it creates an atmosphere of less spirituality and more materialism. The Church necessarily cannot be so independent if it depends upon the whims of subscribers. I do not think it is good for the community as a whole if you have that independent status, and if laymen, very often whimsical laymen, have hold of the purse strings and can dictate practically what they want to the minister, who ought to be guided by more spiritual concerns. There is no real analogy between the Irish Church and the Welsh Church for the conditions are very dissimilar. Roman Catholics greatly preponderate in Ireland. Before Disestablishment took place the census was taken. Here the census is denied, in spite of the Bill of the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), for which a large number of hon. Members opposite voted only the other day. In Ireland, parishes have been amalgamated, fewer services take place, they are longer distances from each other. All that cannot be for the spiritual good of the nation. It lessens religious influences as a whole, and it is material to add that, in spite of all these things, tithe-rent charge is still to be paid, the only difference being that instead of its being devoted to religious purposes, it goes to assist education or lunatic asylums or the like.
The grievance suggested by the Undersecretary for the Home Office, if I understood it aright, was that social privilege attached to the Established Church, and that it is desirable to get rid of it from any Church. As regards Ireland I venture to suggest that social privilege as regards the Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals continues just as great although it is not an Established Church. I do not believe that you can get rid of social privilege merely by the fact of a Church being established or disestablished. Is it supposed that the Church in Wales is not 859 doing its duty? It approaches a third of the total population of Wales. It is not denied that it is by far the largest religious body in Wales. The Church of England is increasing. Nonconformity, if not declining, is certainly not increasing in anything like the proportion that the Church is. In the diocese of St. Asaph I learned that, out of 208 parishes, 78 or 80 have no Nonconformist Minister of any kind. Is it desired to leave the people in those parishes without any sure ministration whatever, for after all the ministers of the Established Church in those parishes are mainly supported, by the establishment and the endowment. In the St. David's diocese, out of 371 incumbencies, 130 have no Nonconformist Minister. In the St. Asaph diocese the Easter communicants in 1890 were 14,534; in 1906 they were 24,938, and in 1912 there are 31,069. Is not that some proof that the Church is doing her duty, and that it is not for not doing her duty that she ought to be disestablished I can hardly believe that the reason can be alleged that it is because she is poor that she is to be disestablished. Nothing could be meaner than to cripple the poorest portion of the Church. It cannot be good for religious influence, and when we remember that the incomes of many of the clergy in Wales do not approach the salaries of head teachers in the larger provided schools, I think we have reason to say that these small salaries at least ought not to be taken away or imperilled. I am afraid the real reason of the attack of hon. Gentlemen opposite is hostility to the Church. I am very reluctant to approach this portion of my observations. I do not like making personal aspersions upon anyone. On the Clergy Discipline Bill of 1891 Mr. Goschen said:—I do not think hon. Members belonging to other Churches will stand in the way of those who belong to the Church of England in securing immunity from a scandal which must hurt the feelings of all.Notwithstanding that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. Sir Samuel Evans, an active Member of the party opposite, said:—It is said by some Members on the Liberal side that those who oppose the Bill desire to perpetuate scandals in the Church until it is Disestablished. I fear those Gentlemen are Churchmen first and Liberals afterwards.On which an hon. Member said "Christians first," and Sir Samuel Evans found it convenient to ignore the interruption. It is in that spirit that the whole controversy of Disestablishment and Disendow- 860 ment has been caried on for a long time. We saw it again in the Benefices Bill of 1898, which was to do away with the sale of presentations and to prevent improper persons from obtaining benefices in the Church of England. The hon. and learned Member for the Swansea district (Sir D. Brynmor Jones) moved, "That the Bill be read that day six months." He complained of the prominence given to the question, and considered that it was of such a subordinate character that Bills dealing with municipalities in London and other subjects ought to be given precedence. In fact, every obstruction was put in the way of improvement in the Church of England. I refrain from quoting some remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the Clergy Discipline Bill, but in 1892 after a number of arguments, which Mr. Gladstone somewhat severely criticised and censured afterwards, the Chancellor of the Exchequer maintained that the Clergy Discipline Immorality Bill was a Bill "to save the patience and purses of the bishops, not a measure to get rid of criminous clerks." With every desire not to make undue strictures on Members of the House, every hon. Member will be able to judge for himself whether that was or was not dictated by spiteful and hostile feeling towards the Church. I think there can be no two opinions about it, and I should hardly suppose it would be seriously disputed.
There remains the question of Disendowment. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith) asked the very pertinent question, "Do the Government think it is an advantage to be endowed?" To that we have never got a real answer. It is a matter of supreme importance, to my mind, for religious influence that the Church should be endowed, and I do not know upon what ground its property is going to be taken away. Why should it be taken away because it was given before 1662 or before 1703? Why should you not take 1536, when the Welsh finally sent Members to Parliament? Why not any other time? There is no reason at all for inserting that date, and apparently hon. Gentlemen opposite go on the principle that the longer you have possessed your property the less right you have to keep it. It is most unjust, and if we are to have this kind of property confiscated, if we are to be told that the reason for doing it is that the object is to produce equality, I want to know what equality there is in confiscating the endowments of the Church of England and 861 retaining the endowments of the Nonconformists. This property is to be resumed by the nation because, forsooth, some of it, it is not even alleged now all of it, was once given through Parliamentary Grants. State endowment has existed for Nonconformists in respect of reqium donum and in respect of exemption from the local taxation of chapels. Why is all this to be maintained and the Church of England to be attacked for having done this? Why are the endowments to be resumed by the nation when it really means that they are to be devoted to secular purposes? There is something to be said for concurrent endowment. I should feel that was more approaching the line of treating the various denominations with equality all round.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I am disposed to support it. I had much rather that you had one Established Church, and that the property should be shared by the respective denominations under the control and protection of the State than that you should go in for a policy such as is contained in this Bill. It is just to maintain the endowment of the Church for the Church. If you are going to take away money which was given in trust for religion, perhaps many years ago, I do not really see what property is safe. If gifts for religious uses are to be confiscated what else can hope to escape? I do not understand myself in. what respect these Nonconformist endowments are in a different position from the endowments of the Church. Nonconformist denominations are building up endowments. Why should ours be taken away? Both theirs and ours are very largely voluntary in their origin. Both theirs and ours are protected by law. England and Wales, so far as endowments are concerned, just as much as in organisation, are worked by various denominations as one unit together. We wish to stand on the same footing, and yet the Church is to be deprived of all its endowment income, leaving only 6s. 8d. in the pound. How would Nonconformists like it if, say, fifty years hence, it was to be proposed that their endowments should be handed over to hospitals? They have gone in for a policy of endowments—I think they are right—and so has the Church of England, but why are they to retain those endowments when ours are to be abolished and confiscated? Why are we to have our endowments given to museums and other secular 862 purposes, whereas theirs are to be retained for religious purposes? Surely the true ground of equality is to let us all keep our endowments, and all work together for greater religious unity. We are much more likely to do good for the nation as a whole if Nonconformists go on the lines of increasing their endowments rather than despoiling those of the Church. Who will be bentfited by this Bill? It will increase the bitterness and the rancour which will very properly and justly be felt, if it is passed, for years and years to come until justice is done to us. The Bill itself seems to me to be dishonest, because it takes away the property of the Church on the plea that it is going to do the Church some good. I consider the Bill is mean because it attacks the poorest portion of the Church of England and Wales. It is an insidious method of disestablishing the Church of England and Wales as a whole. The Church in Wales is growing, every day. It is not a discredited institution such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lead us to believe. It is a vivifying, vigorous, well - managed organisation. This attack is a mere waving of the party flag. We want to rise above such considerations, and appeal to all fair-minded Christians to be free from party and political bias, to put their Christianity first and their party allegiance afterwards, and if they will do that we feel certain that we shall not appeal in vain, and that the evil proposals of this Bill will be frustrated.
§ Sir FRANCIS EDWARDS
I approach this Bill from the point of view of a Churchman, and I desire to support it as a Churchman. It is suggested that members of other denominations have a natural bias against the Bill. I have none. I support Disestablishment from a long and earnest conviction that it is in the best interests of the Church itself. It is sometimes asked why should Parliament pay attention to the special needs of Wales more than of Yorkshire. Hon. Members opposite think they have settled this controversy by comparing Wales to an English county. This seems to satisfy them as a final answer to the claims of Wales. But they must not be surprised if we, the Liberal Members for Wales, say that it does not satisfy us. The essence and guerdon of our claim is nationality. Everybody knows that the Welsh have for long centuries maintained every mark and feature of a distinct nationality. You still have in Wales the native language spoken 863 by a greater number of people than ever before. Let me support the claim of Wales to a separate nationality by a quotation from one whose authority hon. Members opposite will not question—the late Lord Salisbury—who said this:—If ever there was a people who were a separate nationality, it is the people of Wales.I need not labour the point any further. We Welshmen say that this fact of nationality constitutes a claim for separate treatment as regards our country. English and Welsh are in partnership. But a partnership implies mutual rights as well as mutual obligations. And all we ask is that the rights of Wales and the obligations of England should have their proper consideration. I support this Bill on principle. The only excuse for a State Church is when it represents the whole nation, or a majority of the nation. The Church in Wales does not do this. Some Church defenders claim, and believe, that Churchmen are in a majority in Wales, that we are afraid of a religious census because of that fact. But a moment's reflection will make it clear that Churchmen are not in a majority. If they are, how comes it that thirty-one out of the thirty-four Members for Wales and Monmouth are pledged to Disestablishment? If Churchmen are in the majority or large minority then these thirty-one Welsh Liberal Members must have been supported by Churchmen. That is a most damaging fact for the Church, and strengthens our case enormously. It proves that Churchmen as well as Nonconformists are against the Establishment. The claim for Disestablishment in Wales has been as persistent as that for Home Rule in Ireland. Look at the voting whenever a Motion for Disestablishment has been before this House. In 1886, 27 voted for it, 5 against it; in '91, 29 for and 4 against it; in '93, 31 for and only 3 against, the same in '95, and the same now. The former Bishop of Norwich, speaking at the Church Congress in 1907, said:—It would not be justifiable, even if possible, to bolster up the Church as an Establishment against the conviction and will of the people of England.If you substitute the word "Wales" for "England" the bishop has most admirably stated our case. I have heard the argument that a national religion, that is, a State Church, is needed to make a religious nation. What is a national religion? Is it that which the State professes or the nation practises. Wales is a religious nation. The late Lord Randolph Churchill bore testimony to the fact. But the re- 864 ligion of Wales is not that of the Established Church. It has been finely said—"A nation dwells in its cottages." Most of the cottages in Wales are inhabited by Nonconformists. Nonconformity is the religion of Wales. In view of this fact a State religion, that is, the State Church, has not made Wales a religious nation. It is Nonconformity which has done this, and I regret to have to say it has done it often in face of the opposition of the national Church. To quote the words of the Bishop of Oxford the other day in Convocation:—He did not see how it (the State Church) can be reasonably claimed to be the religious organ of the Welsh people. It appeared to him that the case for Disestablishment was irresistible and Parliament was bound to take cognisance of it.It is suggested that Nonconformists cannot fill the gap created by Disestablishment. Well, but will there be a gap when the Church is Disestablished? I do not think so badly of my fellow Churchmen as to think this possible. I agree with Lord Halsbury, who at the Church Congress at Swansea in 1909, said:—No one supposes that if the revenues in question were taken away to-morrow the members of the Church would fail to supply the deficiency.We cannot forget that when the Church neglected her duty to Wales, religion did not perish. In the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, devout Nonconformists did the work which the Church neglected. The result was that the majority of the people of Wales found themselves outside the fold of the Established Church, and they have remained so ever since. If you doubt me I will read to the House the words of Canon Howell, of St. David's, preaching at St. Margaret's in 1890:—There is the unquestionable fact that the majority of the people (Welsh) are no longer within the fold of the Church.The theory of the Church is that there is a resident clergyman in every parish. That is not the universal practice in Wales. There are 1,014 parishes and 280 have no resident clergyman. That is about one-fourth of the whole of Wales. The proportion is about the same in my county, Radnorshire. About fourteen parishes there have no resident clergyman. I believe the number could be increased with advantage to the Church. Let the House note this. It is a "religious use" to devote the tithes to the maintenance of clergy who cannot fill up their time with parochial work, but it is "sacrilege" to gives the tithes to the relief of the sick poor. A great deal has been said about the origin of tithes and they have been freely attributed to the voluntary gifts of 865 pious ancestors. I desire to speak with all diffidence on so controversial a subject, but I must confess that I cannot accept the the pious ancestor theory as meeting the whole case. I accept the view stated by-Professor Freeman—The Church preached the payment of tithe as a duty…The State gradually came to enforce the duty by legal enactments.There were 9,000 parishes in existence before the Reformation. Were there 9,000 separate Grants to these churches? What has become of the documents? It is a bold assumption, and it is bolder still when it is remembered that much of the land was then uncultivated. Again, tithes were paid on merchants' earnings and mechanics' wages. Were these the gift of pious ancestors? Between the years 1760 and 1836 about 6,000,000 acres of waste land wore enclosed under many Enclosure Acts. Who tithed these lands, and were they pious ancestors? I know of cases in Radnorshire where waste land has been enclosed in the last 150 years. Tithes are paid on these lands. Who tithed them? Where are the documents? It is not so long ago that they can have been lost. Tithes were paid on the produce of the Lind. If there were no produce there were no tithes. This actually happened once in Wales. But did tithes cease? No, the clergy were equal to the situation. They made the people pay tithes on their wedding gifts. I am quite aware that Disendowment is the most difficult part of this subject. As to that, let me say that, in my opinion, Disendowment in some form is inevitable. It has been the regular consequence of Disestablishment, as was shown by the masterly and eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The results of Disendowment might for a time hamper the work of the Church, but the results would not be immediate, and would only be temporary. A measure of Disestablishment would, I believe, stir up Churchmen to greater zeal towards their Church. I have quoted the Bishop of Norwich about Disestablishment. Let me quote him about Disendowment. I do not suggest that he approves of either. Referring to the possibility of the Disendowment by the Church he said:I suppose that in proportion to their means, the laymen of no Christian community give so inadequately to their Church, and especially to the support of their ministers, as the laymen of the Church of England.This is a serious charge, but I believe it is true, and I support the Second Reading of this Bill because I believe that Disendowment would rouse the Church people 866 of Wales to a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of the Church, and because I believe that Disendowment would strengthen any Church enormously for the great work which awaits her in Wales.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GOULD1NG
The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Edwards) states the case for Disestablishment on much the same grounds as other supporters of the Bill on the other side of the House. He has pointed out that in every Parliament for practically twenty-five years the great majority of Welsh Members were returned to support the claim. No doubt a period like that is a long one in the history of a party for political purposes, but such a period is nothing in the history of the Church in Wales, which is one of the most ancient ecclesiastical fabrics in the British Isles, reaching back practically to the dawn of history. During the greater part of that history the majority of the people in Wales were adherents of the Church. During the Civil War there were no more devoted adherents of Church and State in the British Isles than were found in the Principality of Wales. No doubt weaknesses afterwards arose, but those weaknesses to my mind were due to a very large extent to the predecessors of the present Government—the Whigs of that day—who used the Church as a dumping ground for jobs to reward their supporters. They flooded the Church with bishops and ecclesiastics who cared nothing for the Church, and who were entirely ignorant of the Welsh language, and who indeed had no interest in the Welsh people whatsoever. They were mostly absentees, and by their transactions in the high offices to which the Whigs appointed them they outraged the sense and offended the conscience of the Welsh people. It seems to me not a little unjust that to-day the successors of these Whig offenders in the past, to whom much of the weakness of the Church in Wales is due, should come forth to penalise the Church for the sins of their immediate predecessors. The Church to-day no one denies is recovering her lost ground, and is every day increasing her hold on the people of Wales. Not a single Member has got up in this House to make the charge that the bishops or ecclesiastics appointed there to-day are not devoted to their work. Not a single charge is made as regards the clergy being too old or infirm for their work or clinging to emoluments or dignities which they are unable to earn or to 867 support. The absentee and sporting parson is a thing of the past, and no man can deny that, taking the clergy as a whole, the vast majority spend their lives in the service of the Church.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) deliberately states that the Church is using her funds well and properly. The Prime Minister gave the eloquent testimony in 1909 in regard to the Church, testimony for which it has been grateful. How much truer is that testimony now than when he delivered it? Further than that, the very zeal of the Church to-day is creating disquietude and alarm among the Liberationists. Only the other day I was reading of a gathering of Liberationists at which the speaker said, "We must have Disestablishment now or never. If we do not bring all the pressure we can to bear on the Radical Government to introduce it now the chance of Disestablishment is gone." I never read a more extraordinary statement put forward on behalf of a body of Christians against fellow Christians than this, that because they are up and doing their religious work that should be a justification for expediting their spoliation and crippling their resources.
As an Irishman I am entitled to speak with some authority as regards the case in Ireland; and the cases of the Church in Ireland and the case in Wales are totally different and bear no resemblance whatsoever. At the time of the Reformation the vast majority of the people of Ireland stood outside the Reformation. They never had anything to do with it. No such contention could ever be made in regard to the people of Wales. The great majority of the people did take part in the Reformation. They came within its pale, and were loyal adherents. Again, as regards Disestablishment, there is no similarity whatsoever. In 1800 the Church in Ireland was united to the Church in England. There was no fusion. There was no attempt at fusion. They remained separate organisations and what Parliament did in 1800 it proceeded sixty-nine years afterwards to undo when it passed the Disestablishment Act. In conjunction with that disestablishment it applied a system of disendowment. But now this House is asked to do a very different thing. It is asked to pull asunder a Church which Parliament has never had anything to do with joining together. It is asked deliberately to dismember the 868 Church of England, and to do this not at a time when the Church is ceasing to do good but at a time when no man can be got to stand up and say otherwise than that the Church is one of the best, most living, and most active Christian agencies working in any part of the King's Dominions. I deny altogether the moral right or the constitutional authority of this House to deal with this question. I am not going to take into consideration the votes of the eighty-odd Irish Nationalist Members whose interest in this question is so great that when the Bill was introduced they were away in Ireland, and the Division had to wait until they returned before it could be taken with safety to the Government, nor do I see their interest manifested today, for from start to finish their benches have been empty.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Our benches are vacant now, but your benches have been vacant during the whole discussion from start to finish. But I am going to deal with the English Members of Parliament who are supporting the Government. Of the 210 Liberal Members returned from England only four of them in their addresses mentioned Disestablishment at all, and only six of them mentioned religious equality, and not one single Member of the 210 mentioned the question of Disendowment. Then, when this Bill is produced, how does it fall in with their expressions of opinion? Three of its Clauses are devoted to Disestablishment and thirty-three of them to the division of the spoils. Hon. Members know perfectly well that at the last General Election they were returned on a very different issue from that of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales. They were returned for the specific purpose, which they failed to carry out, of restoring the representative character of the Revising Chamber in this country and giving the country a Second Chamber which would represent to a greater extent than it does the different trades and interests of the country. They have ignored entirely what they were returned for and they are bringing in this Bill for which they have got no authority. While I say that as regards the English Liberal Members I am not here to deny that the great majority of Members from Wales are entirely in favour of Disestablishment. But it is idle for us to be asked to ignore the illuminating episode 869 which took place in the Division of the hon. Member the Under-Secretary to the Home Office (Mr. Ellis Griffith). Only last year he was discussing this question of Disestablishment and one of his audience got up and said, "Where is the bread and butter coming in?" Immediately, showing the cupidity which was the driving force of the votes secured in that election, the hon. Member did not hesitate to get up and answer this bread-and-butter politician by saying, "There is no reason why some of the funds taken from the Church should not be devoted to the personal, individual use of the electors by reducing the qualifying period of old age." When these hints are deliberately thrown out by a Gentleman in the position of the Under-secretary to the Home Office we are justified in saying that a great many of the votes secured in Wales were secured on the ground of personal, individual advantage, and that many of the unfortunate poor electors were led to believe that they would get something out of the division of the spoils.
The Home Secretary, in his speech in introducing this Bill, endeavoured to support it by a comparison of the numerical strength of the Church and Nonconformists in Wales. The one thing which I should have thought would have come out perfectly clearly was that the claim of Churchmen, now certified by the Royal Commission, is that of the individual denominations in Wales the Church is undoubtedly the biggest. One-third of the children born in Wales are baptised at their parents' request in churches belonging to the Church of England. No such figure can be produced by any single one of the Nonconformist bodies in Wales. I know that the right hon. Gentleman desired to support its claims by dealing with the question of seating accommodation. With all respect I never heard of such a worthless test to produce. Before this Royal Commission five of the counties, Cardigan, Carnarvon, Merioneth, Carmarthen, and Anglesey, produced as an argument to show the number of Non-conformists in those counties the sittings in their chapels, and it was proved that they actually handed in sittings which exceeded in number the whole population of those counties. When we bear in mind that, as has been acknowledged by the Treasury Benches, there is, unfortunately, a fair proportion of the population in Wales who have no religion at all, it is no wonder that bolstering a case on such a ridiculous basis was rightly 870 appreciated by the Royal Commission when they reported that—they were an estimate rather than an accurate figure and little or no use for statistics.Now a word in regard to endowment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that whenever there has been a change in the character of the national arrangements for religion endowments have always been taken from the Church which has ceased to be the official spiritual representative of the people, and have been applied by Statutes to other uses. I would like to point out that, if such has been the case, property was only taken after inquiry as to how those tests were used. Even in the time of Henry VIII., absolute despot though he was, when he came before Parliament to justify, or attempt to justify, his appropriation of the revenues of the Church, he stated that he had had inquiries made as regards how the trusts had been used, and he alleged that there had been gross abuse by the monks and general corruption prevailed, and that the funds had been entirely misused. Having produced that evidence here in Parliament, he then proceeded, first, to appropriate the property of the lesser monasteries, and afterwards, when his unfortunate greed had been encouraged, he produced again the same evidence and the same kind of justification, and then he proceeded to appropriate the property of the larger monasteries. Now there is no inquiry. What justification have you made, or has any single Member produced in this House, in regard to this Sill now or at any other time? No abuse of funds or negligence on the part of those who are doing the work is alleged. On the contrary, the whole facts of the case are in direct opposition, and you have very singular testimony brought forward that the Church is using its funds well, and that there has been no abuse of any kind. You, nevertheless, proceed to appropriate so much of the funds of the Church as to leave them the beggarly amount of 1s. 6d. I know from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that you have been so generous as to raise the sum to the amount of the attorney's fee of 6s. 8d. But how is that generosity made effective? By adding to the 1s. 6d. sums which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty may still contribute to the Church out of property which is in England, and has nothing to do with Wales whatsoever. In your Bill you do not propose to relieve the tithe-owners of one brass farthing. Did you, in your previous campaign, tell them 871 that whatever happens the tithe-owners would still continue to be called upon to pay every penny that they were paying then, and that they were to get no relief whatsoever?
§ Mr. GOULDING
I have not seen a single speech, and I should be very glad to see one produced by the right hon. Gentleman, in which it was stated that there would be no relief of any kind, and that the tithe was to remain just as it was, and would be taken in any particular parish and devoted to other purposes, namely, universities and other institutions.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to mislead the House as to the line of controversy adopted by myself and by my friends. So far from saying that tithe-rent charge would not be paid in future, we have elaborately discussed with our constituents the purposes to which tithe would be applied.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Of course, I accept what the hon. and learned Gentleman states as regards himself, but I would only say that it is a remarkable fact that in all the speeches that I have read—and I have read a great number of them—they have never given a definite explanation.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The purposes were embodied in the two Bills of 1895 and 1909. Those two Bills speak for themselves.
§ Mr. GOULDING
The right hon. Gentleman cannot sail off on that fact. He has told us that it was to be a different Bill from those, and that some advantage was to be taken of the discussion on the previous Bills when they were before Parliament. If the right hon. Gentleman is really so desirous of making the position of the Government clear in reference to tithe-owners why did he not distinctly do so in his speech, when he knows perfectly well that not one in a thousand, I may say not one in ten thousand, of the electors of the country, ever know any of the details which are inside an Act of Parliament? Another point I wish to put before the right hon. Gentleman. He now proposes to touch those tithes because they are national property, if they are national property, I ask him on what ground he is not laying a finger on the £39,000 a year which is at present owned by the lay impropriators? If tithe is interfered with at all, the right hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to explain—if the allegation is 872 correct that it is national property—why the lay impropriators are left alone while the property of the Church is attacked. The whole of this attack on the Church, this robbing of the Church, the whole of this campaign, the whole of this action, has for its base hatred, malice and all un-charitableness. If this Bill becomes law, the proposals of the Government will have the effect that over 200 incumbents in Wales will lose every penny of income, while a great many more will be allowed only a starvation wage. And who does this proposal come from? It comes from this Government, who, this very year, have been shouting from the housetops that they are in favour of giving people a living wage.
They are the authors of the Minimum Wage Act, which was to secure decent pay for decent work; yet they come forward in the very same Session, after having passed the Minimum Wage Bill with a great and powerful organisation like that of the miners behind them to force them along, and seek to impose on the labourers in the vineyard of God the pay of a sweater. What have these labourers in the Church done? No man dare get up in this House or elsewhere where an answer could be given to him and say that the men who today carry on the work of the Church are not men who do their duty in a manner second to none in this country. They are men who devote the whole of their time to their mission; they are men who enter on that mission, not on account of emoluments to the amount of £400 a year which they may get out of it, but because they are inspired to do what they can for the great Christian faith. These are the men who, when they leave college or the university, do not have the easy paths of society that people in other professions follow. These men separate themselves from their own class, and often from their own kin, and live in neighbourhoods where they do not meet a single one of the class to which they belong, and with which they have been accustomed to associate. They are there to place their services at the disposal of the poor of all sorts and conditions, they are there to comfort the people, among whom they live in distress, or in sickness, or in infirmity. I desire further to point out as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. E. Cecil) that in many of the parishes of the country you will take away those ministers, but you are going to leave no one in their 873 place. Many of us who live in the country are fully cognisant of the fact that in many parishes not only in Wales, but in England, the parson is the only educated individal living in those places.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
Do you say that the only person who is educated in many of the parishes of Wales is a parson? I challenge you to name a single parish in Wales of which that is true.
§ Mr. GOULDING
I say distinctly that in one county, Pembrokeshire, I certainly know cases where you can say that the parson is the only qualified, intellectual, and educated man resident there. There are four great Nonconformist denominations in Wales, and in half the parishes of the diocese of St. Asaph, the parson is the only resident minister to be found there who is able to minister to any single one of the parishioners in regard to religion. What good will be done to the people of these parishes by taking that man away from them when you yourselves are not in a position to bring other men there? The Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking the other day, said there was a great revolution in the religious thought of Wales to-day; it was incredible in its magnitude. Surely that change is not confined to Wales. Every man knows that. No one can ignore that there is a great religious revolution going on in the thoughts of many men today. What are you going to do to try and retain some strengthened institution by breaking down and crippling and impairing the one you recognise to-day is doing good work at the present. Is it not far more possible that if we exercise a little generosity, a little foresight, a little charity, that there may be some means in the future of bringing those different religious bodies into more reasonable harmony together in their work than they have been in the past. For my part I am inclined to think that a Church gains in breadth of view and in religious tolerance by being connected with the State. I have never forgotten what I heard from a 874 distinguished Church of England clergyman sitting here. What happened in London when the Licensing Bill was before this House? A great Nonconformist divine came and told this clergyman that be envied him the freedom and the tolerance of the pulpit of the Church of England, and that in reference to the Licensing Bill, which was then being discussed, in his congregation it was perfectly possible for him to speak in favour of that Bill criticising the action of the brewer and the publican, but that when he came to try and bring in the grocers under that Bill he was absolutely beaten off that ground because it was too near the political complexion of some of the elders in that Church and that he dare not broach it.
Who is there will tell us of one single church in the Church of England, either in Wales or in England, where the parson is going to be curtailed in giving expression to views by any individual or half-dozen individuals sitting in the church? Everyone in our Church has the same liberty of thought and the same right to speak, and no person would be in the least interfered with or controlled or impeded from saying what he thinks in the pulpit by the presence of that or this individual in the congregation. I do not think any single man considers that if this Bill passes into law it will make for peace or good will. If this Bill is passed into law it will only create further unrest and bitter animosity in many parishes and many districts. I am perfectly aware there are many Members on the opposite side of the House whose consciences are giving them a great amount of anxiety as regards whether they will be bound to vote for this Bill or not. I beg of them to take their courage in their hands, and in view even of the very remarks made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as regards this religious revolution which is taking place in the land, to consider whether they will by their votes by one single whit help on a Bill which can only pauperise clergy who are doing good work to-day and paganise a number of the laity.
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
I should like first of all to devote a few words to the speech to which we have just listened. Of course, if you are looking back into history for precedents, and you suddenly get your history from your imagination at the moment, then you can get a series of very wonderful results. When the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding) 875 spoke of all that mischief in the Church in Wales, all that jobbery being created by the predecessors of the present Whigs, I saw a long vista of Whiggish Archbishops of Canterbury and Whiggish Bishops of St. Asaph's and St. David's and of Llandaff and of Bangor, and I thought of the extraordinary Whiggism that prevailed in this House in the Restoration days of Charles and James, and in the regimes of Walpole, Pitt, Melbourne, and Sir Robert Peel. Of course the whole thing to which we have just listened in that respect is the sheerest balderdash, and the hon. Member for Worcester knows it. I can quite understand his desire to rule out the precedent of Ireland. Of course! Everything that has been denounced in regard to this Bill by hon. Members opposite as to endowments and the objects for which the endowments and the tithes are to be devoted, every one of those finds precedents in Acts of Parliament which were introduced and passed by Conservative Governments in regard to the endowments in the Irish Church. It is useful to find somebody getting up from the opposite side and saying that Henry the Eighth was perfectly right when he disendowed the Church at that time. It is quite useful to find that we have been misreading history when we thought that Henry the Eighth had acted vindictively because of the attitude of Rome concerning a personal matter, and that therefore he revenged himself by attacking the revenues of the monasteries, and to know that that is all wrong, and to know that that formed no part or parcel of the ground upon which he proceeded, but that he proceeded carefully, judicially, and equitably, and, having brought the matter before Parliament with overwhelming evidence as to the justice of his proceedings, that he then proceeded to attach the whole of the endowments of the Church that then existed and the greater and smaller monasteries.
There is one other thing which we have heard from the last speaker and which we have had iterated and reiterated from the other side in this discussion, and that is that in this Bill we are seeking to take away the property of the Church. That is the proposition. We are seeking to do nothing of the kind. What we are seeking to do is to transfer to other public trustees than the Church the property which belongs to the parishes and which belongs to the nation. I am not surprised at the opposition when we remember who are the vehement opponents of this measure. The 876 most vehement opponents of this measure are descendants of those who themselves attached, and took without any legal sanction and without constitutional sanction and without moral sanction, property away which was controlled by the Church, and which now forms the very foundations upon which their families exist. When we recognise that I am not in the least bit surprised that those people who speak for the trustees of this property actually seek, now that there is to be a rearrangement, to treat those trustees of the Established Church as though they were the beneficiaries of the property, and as though the property was theirs and nobody else's. As a matter of fact, if they could establish that the property which it is proposed to deal with under this Bill, if they could show that any of that property belonged to the living communicants of the Established Church as distinct from the living communicants, plus the whole of the parishioners, they would have some foundation for this constant argument which they have used. I challenge any hon. Member opposite to point to a single case of property which we propose to deal with under this Bill, and to say that that property is clearly and definitely the property of the living communicants of the Established Church as it is at present. They cannot do it. Of course they cannot. They proceed to talk about the property as though it had always and entirely been left for, devoted to, and earmarked for purely religious functions—"religious" with a very narrow interpretation. I challenged the hon. and learned Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Cripps) the other night, when he said that there was nothing in the law of the land to show that tithe in this country had in part ever been devoted to providing pensions for the poor. An Act of Parliament of the fifteenth year of Richard II. definitely enacted that pensions were to be paid and provided for out of the fruits of the Church. There is a passage in Black-stone which is well worth recalling in this controversy in view of what has proceeded over and over again from the other side. 15 Richard II., cap. vi., provides that it shall be enacted, etc.
"Item, because many damages and hindrances oftentimes have happened and daily do happen to the parishioners of divers places, by the appropriation of the benefices of the same place, it is agreed and assented that in every licence from henceforth to be made in the Chancery for the appropriation of any 877 parish church, it shall be expressly contained and comprised that the diocesan of the place, upon the appropriation of such churches, shall ordain according to the value of such churches, a convenient sum of money to be paid and distributed yearly, out of the fruits and profits of the same churches, by those that shall have the said churches to their proper use, and by their successors, to the poor parishioners of the said churches, in aid of their living and sustenance for ever; and also that the vicar be veil and sufficiently endowed."
§ Mr. C. EDWARDS
I thought that hon. Members could not be aware of this Act of Parliament. It is 15 Richard II., cap. vi. What is more, it is an Act of Parliament which has never been repealed, but is to be found in the volume of unrepealed Statutes in the Library of this House. So that there can be no mistake about it. Blackstone, the greatest legal historian of this country, in commenting on it, says:—It seems that parishes were frequently sufferers, not only by want of Divine services, but also by the withholding of alms for which, among other purposes, the payment of tithes was originally imposed. Therefore, in this Act a pension is directed to be distributed among poor parishioners, as well as a sufficient stipend to the vicar.I hope, now that the existence of that Act of Parliament has been recalled, we shall hear no more in this controversy that tithes originally were simply to provide for the stipends of the incumbents, and were not in part to provide for the maintenance of the poor. An enormously important consequence arises from the existence of this Act, namely, that through centuries these trustees in the Established Church for the parishioners, be they incumbents or whosoever they be, have grossly violated the trust by taking that portion of the income which ought to have been devoted to the maintenance of the poor, and devoting it either to the accession of their own salaries or to other purposes unprovided for. It is suggested that the property is the property of the Church, meaning by the Church those who constitute its living communicants. Here is a very important fact which hon. and learned Members will appreciate. Whenever property was stolen from a parish church, and an indictment was laid, was the property laid in the vicar? No. In the churchwardens? No. It was laid in the parishioners—which is conclusive as showing that the property was held 878 in trust for the parishioners. Hon. Members opposite have been quite fair in one respect, but they have not quite appreciated how far their argument carries them. They have said that all the precedents to be found for Parliament's devoting trust funds to certain purposes are only in cases where there has been either abuse or some failure in the object of the trust. Unless we could show some failure in the trust our case for this Bill would be a good deal less strong than it is. But if you have these moneys left for providing religious comforts or anything else for the whole of the parishioners, and the moneys have ceased to be devoted to the use of the religious comforts of the whole of the parishioners, then to the extent that there are parishioners who are not getting the advanage of these funds, to that extent the trust has failed, and to that extent Parliament is certainly justified in stepping in and finding means by which the whole of the parishioners can get the full enjoyment of the funds.
There is one other side of this Disendowment question to which I should like to refer. Some hon. Members opposite have spoken as though they thought it might be quite a right and proper thing for us to Disestablish the Church, but at all events the funds which they administer ought to be left in their hands. I will quote an authority which I am quite sure will appeal effectively to hon. Members opposite. The late Lord Beaconsfield said when he was Prime Minister in the great discussion in 1868 on the Irish Church Resolutions that if you Disestablished a Church it was impossible for you to devote the funds or the endowments of an established Church to a Church which was disestablished, and that is also the view which was taken by another great figure in this House, Sir Edward Clarke, in the Debate which took place on the Bill of 1895. I shall have some remarks to make later upon the details of the Bill, but I say it is impossible for any serious suggestion to be made by any reasonable person, or any advocate of the case of the opposite side, that a Church which has, whether as trustee or as beneficiary, enjoyed great financial power and great emolument, should continue to enjoy these emoluments and financial powers when she has ceased to be the representative Church as by law established. I do not think that can be seriously maintained as a constituent part of this great controversy.
Then it is suggested that this measure is unjust, that it is robbery, that it is the 879 outcome of a spirit of great hostility and uncharitableness on the part of Nonconformists in Wales to the Establishment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I have no doubt the hon. Member who says "Hear, hear," thinks so. He is in an atmosphere constantly which thinks all un-charitableness, and it is difficult for him to get outside of it. I regret I was not in the House earlier. I understand that before I came in certain remarks were made by the Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) touching the humble part I took in the Disestablishment campaign of 1909. I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman again used a quotation from a speech and interview of mine which might have served very well up to the General Election of 1910, but which I should have thought had ceased to be of any real utility since. I frankly, as hon. Members know, said in this House in 1909 that I thought the Government were playing with this question. I said here and on platforms throughout the country that I thought they did not recognise the overwhelming demand of the Welsh people for this measure, and I put it at that time as forcibly as I could that in my view the Government ought in loyalty to their pledges to Wales to do one or two things, either to take steps that would eventuate in a dissolution, so as to settle once and for all the great question of the relations between this House and the House of Lords, or to allow the Welsh measure to maintain its position of priority according to their pledges. As we know now, they adopted the second course. They did bring about a dissolution in which the issue was what were to be the relations between the Upper House and this House. The moment the Government did that, I said that Wales ought to sink for the time being her own demands in this great and comprehensive question as to the right of passage of measures through the Upper House, and I went so far as to say, in the election of 1910, the January election, when I was standing for Denbigh, that Disestablishment at that election was not an issue. But the moment the House of Lords question passed out of the way Disestablishment became not only an issue, but the great and predominant issue, and here we are after forty years and after fighting eleven General Elections, reiterating precisely the same demand which was made by our fathers in 1868.
880 The suggestion is made that we are moved in this matter by a spirit of uncharitableness. Speaking at all events for myself, I can say that is not true. Though in things economic I am highly Collectivist in my sympathies, I deny that religion is a proper and fit subject for the sphere of the State. In my opinion a man's religion, a man's faith, is a purely personal matter as between himself and his Maker, and is not a matter that should in any way be made the subject of a Government or State Department. But there are other grounds upon which I put this question. I say it is unjust that you should compulsorily tax the whole community for the propagation of the doctrines of a section of that community, that it is hurtful to the political and social system to put one denomination in a position of superiority and privilege, and another denomination in a position of inferiority. I say that is bad not merely for those Churches which are kept in an inferior position, but it is probably infinitely worse for the denomination which is put in a position of privilege. Privilege always leads to arrogance. Where you apply the principle of primogeniture to the Church you get almost the same incidents and circumstances which are so obnoxious when you have that principle at work in the case of the eldest son and his inheritance. So far from my being affected by any spirit of un-charitableness, I speak as one who has very tender memories indeed for the Established Church. I went to the National School in a little town, and I look back upon those days with a feeling of tenderness which would, if there was nothing else, banish from my heart all feeling of un-charitableness in regard to the Established Church. It is rather because I believe that Disestablishment and Disendowment will free the Church from the trammels of the State, and that it is going to be a much greater institution for good than it is at the present moment. The hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Evelyn Cecil) chided the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others on this side of the House because they had not given a free and quick passage to two measures, one the Benefices Bill of 1898 and the other the Church Discipline Bill. Does it not occur to him and to those on the other side of the House what a humiliating thing it is for them, belonging to this great Church and devoted to this great institution, that they should have to come from time to time to this House made up as we are, not only of members of the English Church, but 881 members of the Catholic Church, members of every Nonconformist denomination, members of no particular religious belief at all, and ask us to come and pronounce upon the rightness or wrongness of those offences or alleged offences within their own gate.
Does it not occur to them how utterly humiliating it is that they should have to come here to a mixed heterogeneous Assembly of this kind, and ask us to pronounce upon the rightness of their formulae, of the Tightness of their doctrines. They are tied and fastened and in the grip of the dead-hand with regard to their religious doctrine, and if they were wise in their generation they would join with us, not only in freeing themselves from the grip of the dead-hand in Wales, but in freeing themselves from the grip of the dead-hand in England, so that they might become a self-governing religious community, working out their own doctrinal destinies as they will without intervention by those who are not of the same faith and denomination as themselves. I have the profoundest respect and sympathy, if I may say so, with that cry from the greatest scholar of the Church of England, the Bishop of Oxford, when he said that in Disestablishment they will get that freedom for which they yearn. But that is their concern.
We want freedom in Wales. This is an alien Church. How alien is this Church was indicated in the speech of an hon. Member opposite. He was attributing as one of the bad effects of Disestablishment in Ireland that the ministers of the Disestablished Church had to appeal for funds to the people in their locality. That is one side of it. The Bishop of Salisbury, one of the most bitter opponents of this measure, has put the counterpart of that when he alleged as the chief objection to this measure of Disestablishment and Disendowment that the ministers of the Disestablished Church in Wales would, for the sake of maintenance, have to throw themselves upon national sentiment. That in a phrase constitutes one of the great strong grounds upon which we are figthing this question. We have an ecclesiastical garrison from England, in this institution, fighting us in our national work and thwarting us whenever they can, whereas if you disestablish them and place them on precisely the same footing as any other denomination to live and have their being, they will play their part in the great national movement of Wales instead of being at enmity with 882 us. It is said this Bill means robbery. In my view, and I say it frankly, the Government have gone a great deal farther than they ought to have gone in this measure. If our cause be right, that the property which, for the sake of convenience, I will speak of now as Church property, if that property be, as we contend it is, then why show the generosity that has been shown in this measure?
The fabric of the cathedrals go to them, the parish churches go to them, the vicarages, the religious residences go to them, the disused churchyards go to them, the whole of the movable chattels of the parish church go to them, and the glebes go to them in much larger part than under either of the previous Bills. Provision is made that they are to retain those moneys which come from Queen Anne's Bounty and from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The whole of the endowments given since 1663, and the whole of the endowments even before 1663, were specifically given for the purpose of the upkeep of the fabrics. In my view, the Government in many of these respects have gone further than they ought. I regret that in this Bill the Government has seen fit to exclude that provision which was in the Bill of 1909 for the creation of a National Council in Wales. I also regret, although I am not quite certain that it is so—and perhaps someone on the Government Bench would make this clear—that concurrently with the power conferred upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in England to continue certain Grants in Wales, they will not exercise a certain continuing jurisdiction. If that is so, I shall hope to see that provision expunged when the Bill comes into Committee.
I regret there is any official connection to be recognised under this Bill even on a voluntary basis with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Ecclesiastical Courts in England. I want to see this measure of Disestablishment absolute and entire, and I do not want any statutory body like the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or the Ecclesiastical Courts, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, exercising even in a modified degree the slightest jurisdiction in Wales in the future; but these are probably in their nature purely Committee points, and I ought not perhaps to have trenched upon them. I should like, as one who has fought strenuously for this measure, as one who has not hesitated to criticise even my own Government in the matter, to express my present gratification that the 883 Government have now, when the obstacle of the House of Lords is out of the way, redeemed their pledges to Wales so fully and so frankly, and I trust that this measure of freedom, received not so much in the spirit of justice as of ample and far-reaching generosity to the Established Church, may pass successfully through this House and become part and parcel of the Statutes of the Realm, realising the aspirations of the Welsh people for which they fought so valiantly for so many generations.
§ Mr. CAMPION
The hon. Member who has just sat down expressed some good intentions towards the Church, and he invited us on this side to support this Bill because in his opinion he thought it would be to the advantage of the Church to have her freedom. But any impression of favourable intentions towards the Church the hon. Member might have conveyed earlier in his speech were altogether destroyed by what he said at the termination of his remarks, because at the finish he complained of the great generosity which the Government are showing towards the Church, a generosity that is exhibited by taking all but 6s. 8d. in the £. I gather that if the hon. Member opposite had his way he would only be content if 20s. in the £ was taken from the Church. I do not think we need be very grateful for these expressions of good intentions towards the Church. I wish to speak as one who believes very strongly that an Established Church is a necessity for this, and is an advantage for any country. I strongly believe that the official recognition of religion by the State and the official association of the State with religion is a necessity if you mean to maintain the spiritual and moral welfare of the country and uphold the character of the nation. It has been said that this is a measure to Disestablish the Church, to dismember the Church, and separate the four dioceses in Wales from the Province of Canterbury. It is claimed that it is a measure to disendow the Church, and then it is said that it is a Bill which, to a great extent, re-establishes the Church under certain conditions and regulations which are somewhat obscure and provides for the possible uniting of the four dioceses of Wales again in the Province of Canterbury.
Anybody who has studied this Bill must have come to the conclusion that has been held for a long time by hon. Members on 884 this side of the House, namely, that it is extremely difficult to approach this matter by any method of piecemeal legislation. The union between the dioceses of Wales and the Province of Canterbury is one which has existed for centuries and centuries. The relations between the dioceses in Wales and the other dioceses in the Province of Canterbury have become so interwoven and so established that it is almost impossible to deal with this question apart from the question of the Disestablishment of the Church as a whole. Most of the arguments which have been adduced in this House on the other side have not been in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales alone, but they have been arguments that could be applied to the Disestablishment of the Church as a whole. It has now been admitted that this proposal is merely a precedent for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church as a whole, and, if that is the case, it does seem to me that it would be a more businesslike and a less difficult proposition to deal with the case as a whole. Certainly, to my mind it would be a more honest proposition to put the whole question before the people of this country. Arguments on the other side in support of the justification of this Bill have generally been concentrated on what hon. Members are pleased to call the mandate they have received from Wales. I was interested by an admission made by the last speaker, who said that in the January Election of 1910, he stated that this question of Welsh Disestablishment was not an issue before the electorate, and at the later election of that year he told us that he stated it was an issue. If at the beginning of the year you tell the electorate that this is not an issue before the people, and you neglect to put Welsh Disestablishment in your election address, surely it is probable the people will continue to believe that the question is not one of prominent importance.
I very much doubt whether there is this great mandate from Wales itself. I have not had very great experience of Welsh matters, although I have been in Wales, but from all the information one receives, and from what one can gather from the other side, I very much doubt whether there is this great enthusiasm in Wales itself on behalf of this Disestablishment Bill. If there is, it is an extraordinary thing, to my mind, that at the last election, when the people in Wales were unable to make up their minds on this very 885 difficult question, they were told by this Government, and by the late Liberal Government, that in order to make up their minds on the question at all it was necessary that a Royal Commission should sit, that the evidence should be carefully sifted, that the facts should be put before the people, and on those facts they would be able to come to a decision. We know perfectly well that there was no opportunity at all for the voters in Wales, or any other part of the country, to come to a decision on the Report of the Royal Commission, because we know that that Report was not issued until after the election had actually started. But whether that be so or not, for centuries the Church in Wales has been in partnership with the Church in England, and it seems to me that if you are going to interfere as you propose to do with the organisation of a great Church such as this you are going to dissolve this partnership, and the first essential is that you should ask the consent or consult the wishes of the parties concerned. You are not now consulting the wishes of either party. Churchmen in Wales wish to remain in union with Churchmen in England. I think in this country Churchmen have some right to be consulted as to whether we wish to remain in partnership with the Church in Wales. I maintain that if there is, as undoubtedly there is, great difficulty in dealing with this question by piecemeal legislation, and if it is admitted that this is the first step in a system of Disestablishment of the Church as a whole, then I submit that this question should not be brought before the country merely with regard to Wales alone, but that it should be submitted as a whole to the nation as a whole, and it would be more honest to take that course. If this were done, I have no doubt what the decision of the people of this country would be.
There is another aspect of this question which I should like to say a few words about. It is a question which does not so much affect those who are in better circumstances, but it does affect the poor man who cannot so easily move from one parish to another. This is largely a poor man's question. What is one of the advantages of Establishment? I take it one of the greatest advantages of an Established Church is that the people, no matter what their religious faith may be or what their actual position may be, have the immemorial right of applying to the clergy of the parish for religious ministration. Anybody who took the trouble to ascertain 886 what are the various duties of the parish clergy would be perfectly amazed to find the number of duties he performs and the great help he is able to give, not only to all classes of people in his parish, but to people of all religions. That is a very great benefit. The Church of England as an Established Church is bound to organise the whole country from one end to another, to split the whole country into parishes; and it is bound to minister to the people. What is calculated will be the effect of this Bill? According to the "Morning Leader," which is not favourably disposed to the opinions held on this side of the House, it will mean that 220 parishes in Wales will not be left with any income at all to supply their incumbents, and it will mean that 75 parishes will be left with less than 5s. per week for their incumbents. We are told that at the present time in the diocese of St. Asaph, out of 208 parishes, there are 80 without a resident Nonconformist Minister.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
Will the hon. Member give the names of those parishes? That statement has been challenged.
§ Mr. CAMPION
I really could not give the names of 80 parishes in the diocese of St. Asaph, but the statement has been made many times.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
Can the hon. Gentleman give us a single parish where there is not a Nonconformist chapel?
§ Mr. CAMPION
Of course, I know there are a great many Nonconformists chapels, and that there are more seats in the chapels than there is population, but that was not the point.
§ Mr. CAMPION
There are more seats in many chapels than there is population in the parish. It is also said that in the diocese of St. David's, out of 371 parishes, there are no less than 130 where there is no resident Nonconformist minister. In a large number of parishes in Wales there exists no resident Nonconformist minister, and I maintain that for the proper ministration of religion and for the proper care of souls in a parish a resident minister of religion is absolutely essential. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Hon. Members may not agree, but we on I his side regard that as most essential, and there are many poor men who will realise bitterly the injury 887 that will be done them when this advantage is taken away owing to the terms of this Bill. In many of the poorer districts in our big towns, the very poor districts, the voluntary system has broken down, and everywhere we find—I appreciate their reasons, and I wish them all success in their endeavours—the Nonconformist bodies doing their best to supplement the voluntary system by the system of endowments, and any hon. Member who takes the trouble, as I have done on several occasions, to go into some of the very poorest districts either in Wales or in this country will find two forces, as a rule, really active in support of religion. One is the Salvation Army and the other is the Church of England; the Church of England because it is able to have its voluntary system supplemented by the endowment system. Nonconformists realise the inefficiency of the voluntary system, and they are building up an endowment system. Surely it is not fair to deprive the Church of England by taking away their endowments when Nonconformists are creating endowments. Surely it is not fair to deprive working men in the poorest districts of the advantages of religion when they realise they cannot be obtained without the help of endowments.
I know hon. Members opposite will repudiate, and justly repudiate, any suggestion that they have any intention of destroying religion. I quite acknowledge they are sincere in that repudiation, but I am convinced myself that they will injure, not only the Church of England, but Christian religion as a whole, because once you pass a Bill for Disestablishment it will be recognised or taken by the people of this country as a tacit admission that religion need not necessarily form a part of the life of the individual. If ever that principle gets into the minds of the people, it will be deplorable, and it will have a most injurious influence upon the future character of the people of this country. There is another advantage in having an Established Church. When you have an Established Church such as the Church of England it is not the Church of high or low; it opens its arms wide and receives into its fold men and women of very different shades of religious thought. It is not the Church of the High Church party; it embraces both. It is not the Church of a particular party, political or otherwise in this country. Reference has been made in the course of these Debates to the question of the Colonies, and hon. 888 Members have alluded to the fact that there is no Established Church there. If you take the example of the Colonies, you will at any rate find that the Church where it is un-established shows a great tendency to be either the Church of the high, or the Church of the low, or the Church of a party. A letter appeared in the "Times" of last week, in which the writer said:—Personally, I should regret Disestablishment and Disendowment, mainly because I served for some eight years in the ministry of an unestablished and unendowed Church, and learned that an unestablished Church is a Church of party, high or low, or it may be of both.I think that is a very strong reason for maintaining the Establishment, in order that we may have a Church that will not be a Church of party, and will not be dependent on voluntary subscriptions, but will maintain its independence in that direction, and may embrace all shades of religious thought and opinion. On the First Reading the Chancellor, of the Exchequer referred to the revolution in religious thought taking place in Wales, and he even suggested the possibility that the people in Wales might depart from the Nonconformist fold. Surely, if a revolution is taking place in religious life in Wales this is not the time to uproot the existing order of things when you realise, as everyone must realise, the influences many of us deplore and recognise which are agitating men's minds at the present moment, not only in Wales but throughout the country and throughout the world. When we recognise these facts we must realise that there are a number of religious bodies doing well, and it would be far better for those religious bodies to go on quietly and proceed with their work rather than by doing what is being done in dealing with jealousies and animosities between different religious bodies and thus retarding the cause of religion throughout the world. We all look forward to the time when there may be a reunion of Christian Churches, and I think that instead of helping forward this union which we all desire, the discussion of this Bill is retarding that object, and I would, if I may appeal to hon. Members opposite, ask them to hesitate considerably, before, by their vote, action, or speech, they give any support to this Bill—a support which, I believe, they will bitterly regret.
Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on many of the points he has dealt with, but he referred to the fact that there are a number of parishes 889 in Wales where there is no ordained resident minister. If he knew the real relations of religious life in Wales he would be aware that, from the Nonconformist's standpoint, the religious area is not the parish area. We do not map out our work in that way. What we do is to see that in every area there is a religious equipment for the real needs of that area. I am one of the few Members in this House who took part in the Debates in 1894 and 1895 on the Welsh Church Bills, and I happen to represent a constituency which has been for the last forty years prominently and honourably connected with this movement. I desire very briefly to lay before the House, as a Nonconformist and from the standpoint of a Welsh Nonconformist, some of the main grounds on which this Bill rests, and to indicate one or two of the main grievances on which our votes are based. Many of the speakers have referred to the fact that during the recent General Election a certain number of my colleagues did not refer in their election addresses to the question of Welsh Disestablishment. Now, in the election of 1910, speaking for myself, I did refer both to Disestablishment and Disendowment. But, supposing that I had not done so, is there any one of my electors who for a moment would have thought that I had changed my views on that question? The omission of any reference to it in the election addresses of Liberal candidates is to my mind a tribute to the strength of opinion behind the movement. In the first place, the Liberal electors knew the views of their representatives very well indeed. In the second place, both the electors and their representatives in Parliament have for a long time had full confidence in the promise of the Government to introduce this Bill and pass it into law. We may be right, we think we are, or we may be wrong in the view we hold with regard to Disestablishment, but there is not a shadow of foundation for the statement that we or those we represent have changed our feelings in regard to it.
The question behind this Bill is essentially a question of principle. A number of my hon. Friends opposite feel very strongly with regard to the principle of the connection between Church and State. They have a right to believe in that principle, they have every right to believe in it. But we on this side have an equal right to believe in an opposite sense. Also with regard to Disendowment I am one of those who believe that a certain measure 890 of Disendowment is necessary in consequence of Disestablishment. The two points run together. Many hard things have been said, some of them in the course of this Debate, as to the motives that have impelled us to urge the Government to bring forward this Bill. May I urge the House to believe this? There is no really selfish or vindictive motive behind the action of those of us who have for many years expressed our own convictions and those of our supporters in Wales in urging the Government to bring forward this legislation. The cardinal principle which I desire to put forward is this: that the provision made by the Nonconformists of Wales for religion shows the reality and strength of the demand behind this Bill. We come to Parliament and ask it to pass this Bill, and we have stated the grounds upon which we make this demand. I am not going over those grounds in detail, but may I mention one or two grounds upon which this demand rests. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have made light of the fact that during the last thirty or more years there have been returned to this House from Wales at every General Election an overwhelming majority of Members pledged to support the principle of this Bill. That fact cannot be denied. The Prime Minister has himself recognised the true meaning of it. The Prime Minister, who generally says what he means, and says it in the clearest possible way, has said:—I do not remember that a case so strong and so irresistible has ever been presented to any Legislature in the world.Another point, if hon. Members went back and read the annals of the House for the last thirty-five or forty years, they would be surprised at the number of occasions upon which those who were here before us and ourselves have brought forward by measures and in other ways the demand of the Welsh people for the principle of this Bill. May I appeal also to the experience of English, Irish, and Scottish Members, who have from time to time come down to Wales to address political meetings, as to whether they cannot corroborate the fact that this has been throughout all these years a dominating question in Welsh politics. Let us move forward another step in the way of evidence. I am not going into the figures which have been put forward in the Report of the Royal Commission as to the provision made by the Nonconformists on the one side and the Church of England on the other for religious purposes in Wales, but may I summarise the main result of the 891 statistics put forward in the Report of that Commission. The result of that long inquiry has been to establish the fact that the provision made by Nonconformists in Wales in religious ministry, in Church membership, in accommodation for worship, in voluntary contributions, and in the number of Sunday school scholars, is at least three times that made by the Church of England.
The meaning of those figures will not be fully realised unless the House knows the conditions and circumstances of Wales. The House must remember—I do not say this by way of hostile criticism against the Church, but' it is a fact—that in regard to Wales the great bulk of the wealth of the country is on the side of the Church of England. The great bulk of the land of Wales is owned by members of the Church of England. The greater part of those influences which spring from the possession and control of large industrial concerns also operate on the side of the Church, and not on the side of Nonconformity, with certain notable exceptions. Here is another point. The splendid provision which has been made during the last 100 years and more for religious purposes by Nonconformists has been made in the teeth of great difficulties. There are three times, and more, the number of chapels in Wales than of churches, but the House ought to remember that until quite lately many and great difficulties have been put in the way of Nonconformists in regard to the building of chapels owing to the difficulty of obtaining land. Many a story could have been told here to-day of those difficulties, and how they have been surmounted by Nonconformists in this matter alone. In Wales, perhaps more than in any other part of the community, dissent has meant sacrifice and loss. I only press these points in order to show that there is some power behind the provision which has been made by Nonconformists for religion in that country, and that it is that something which is at the back of this Bill. Statistics as to the numbers of members of Churches, the number of churches built, and all the external things in regard to Church work are, after all, but the outward expression of something which cannot be measured in figures or depicted in words.
If the House really desires to know the reason for the power of Nonconformity in the national life of Wales it must look beyond statistics, and it must trace the influence of Nonconformity along many 892 channels. Let me mention one or two of those channels. I ask anyone who knows Wales to-day, what is the debt of the people of Wales to Nonconformity in the matter of higher education, of general culture, and of citizenship. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in his notable speech the other day on the First Reading, you must go deeper than this to get at the real meaning of the power of Nonconformity; you must go down to the fact that Nonconformity has in the past been the medium for the accession of religious thought to the people of Wales, which I believe is her most precious heritage. I do not like to speak much about statistics in regard to religious work. I think it is a deplorable thing that at the beginning of the twentieth century we should be wrangling about comparisons as to this and that provision made on one side or the other. Should it not be a source of common satisfaction that any Church and any denomination has made an advance. Nonconformity is powerful in the national life because of the sense that it has been for many generations the friend of freedom. Nonconformity is influential in Wales because it has been for generations the training ground for self-government. I do not know whether the House realises the meaning of that fact. Nonconformity in Wales is particularly a democratic system from top to bottom. Every member of a Nonconformist Church in Wales has an opportunity of doing something for the public service. Some of our best public men in Wales had been developed for public service in connection with their religious work within the walls of their churches. I state these facts in order to show that Nonconformity is something which is deeply imbedded in the heart of the people of Wales. It is wedded to all that is best in our national life. In conclusion—I hope I do not appear to be egotistic; I do not desire to be so—I am trying to give the higher aspects, the best aspects of Nonconformist influences upon our national life. At the same time I am one of those who desire to express satisfaction and gratification at the manifest signs of progress made by the Church of England in the past few years. Particularly in the large centres, the Church is doing splendid service for the people of the country.
May I refer to one or two wider aspects of the question. The real point for the House of Commons and Parliament to consider and decide in regard to a Bill of this kind is whether the present position 893 in the sphere of religious life is satisfactory. It is a condition of things which, I am sorry to say, divides the community into two spheres and makes united action impossible. It is a condition of things which perpetuates bitterness and discord in many parts of the country. It also paralyses all possible effective united action for temperance and other of those great social reforms on which the welfare of the people so largely depends. It is worth while making on both sides some sacrifice in order to put an end to this perpetual discord. It is said that this Bill, if passed, would be the means of crippling religious life. Let me say emphatically that if I for a moment thought the passing of this Bill would in any way cripple religious work in Wales I would never support it. We have a right to appeal to the experience of history and to the experience of other countries which have not at present an Established Church in their midst. How is it that in the United States there is to-day more enthusiasm and a deeper conviction, say for temperance and for many causes of vital interest to the moral progress of the people, than there is in this country? There are in the United States to-day no fewer than forty millions of people living under prohibition laws. Behind that movement which has produced this state of things there must be, and there is, strong religious feeling. Many of the laws of Australia and New Zealand affecting citizenship are an example to us in this country. What is the trend of the times? The Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil), in his speech upon the First Reading, refered to the fact that great changes were taking place all round us. So it is. Changes in thought and in conditions of life. Everyone here must recognise that the Established Church, although making great progress in many directions, is not able to meet to-day the new needs of the age. It is manifest that the Established Church does not through its visible Church organisation comprehend or grip the life of the country today. At the same time there are great religious forces working outside the limit of the Church organisation which, I believe, will take expression in the future in a nobler and better form of religious life, and when that time comes we shall be able more truly to say that we are in this country a national Church established in the hearts and minds of the people. What is the one condition necessary in order to realise this idea? It is to achieve 894 religious equality. There are many hon. Members opposite who, I know, do not agree with me that there is a lack of religious equality in the sphere of religion to-day in Wales, but there is that something which produces the sense that we have not got it. There is something which builds up in the life of Wales today a little wall of partition between one denomination and another, between the members of the Established Church and those who stand outside the Church. We want to do away with that. We want to make it impossible to continue it. We want to make all churches and chapels one in the service of religion, and the Nonconformists of Wales come to Parliament to-day to ask it, through this Bill, to grant them an opportunity of achieving what they feel to be full religious equality, and in that way of vindicating to the history of the future the principles of their faith.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I represent a constituency which is not a Welsh constituency, but which at the same time is affected by this Bill. There are within my Constituency some dozen of parishes which will be torn out of the diocese of St. Asaph's and, without any power of expressing any wish as to which diocese they shall be joined to, will be joined to some English see which is already quite large enough and quite unable to take any additional work. These parishes also represent the fact that the Church in England and in Wales is one as a whole. They are united with Welsh dioceses by ties of a voluntary character which are entirely separate from any political or civil consideration, and are not, as hon. Members opposite are so fond of saying, forced by the conquest of Wales by England or by the Normans. I speak for a very much larger number of people than my own Constituency when I say that the Churchmen in England intend to stand by the Churchmen in Wales, and to resist this Bill with ail the power they can, believing that the Church is one as a whole, and that it is the duty of Churchmen all over the country to stand by those who are weakest when they are being attacked. I am astonished to find how little justification has been pub forward for this measure. The one argument that hon. Members opposite harp upon from morning to night is the argument that there is a majority of Welsh Members in favour of the Bill. That is a self-evident proposition. What I deny absolutely is that the Welsh people are in 895 favour of this Bill. The Welsh people have never had the Bill put before them, they never had the Bill of 1909 explained to them, or any Bill in the least like this, and hon. Members know perfectly well that this Bill has not been explained to them, and is only just now beginning to become clear to them owing to the efforts, not of themselves but of those who are opposing the Bill.
Those who are familiar with the Welsh platform know perfectly well that the Welsh orator appeals to romance and to the imagination rather than to reason. He regards it as betokening a dull and unenterprising and almost uncultivated mind to call a spade a spade. His idea is to appeal to the imagination of those whom he addresses, and to leave facts and figures to look after themselves. I should like to know how many Welsh Members or candidates went to their constituents and said that this Bill, or, rather, the Bill of 1909, which was the only one they knew about, was going to take 18s. 6d. in the £ from the endowments of the Church in Wales.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member says he did, but it has already been pointed out by my right hon. Friend that he had very great doubt as to whether that was a right proposal. What they went to their constituents and said was "Vote for Jones and religious equality," and perhaps occasionally they added that they wished to give very generous treatment to the Church. I find it very difficult to bear with patience that phrase "generous treatment." Really, hon. Members opposite ought to know that generosity is not measured by the small-ness of the amount you take from somebody else, but by the magnitude of the amount you give of what is your own. How many candidates in Wales told their constituents that tithes would always have to be paid? I know one or two have said it, but it is an extraordinary thing how little distance their voices have carried, for, if there is one thing that the Welsh people have not understood until recently, it is that if this Bill passes tithes will have to be paid. If they wished to put the provisions of this Bill before their constituents, they would have said, "You will have to go on paying tithes of the same amount as before, but they will go, not to maintain a minister of the Church of England in your parish, 896 but to provide a public library perhaps in some parish not yours at all, and in which you have no interest. They may go to any purpose to which the Commissioners choose to devote them, and you will have little choice in the matter. The only thing you will have to remember is that you will have to pay." Did anyone say that plainly in any speech he made to his constituents? I can only say that, if they did, the constituents were people who only understood Welsh and could not understand English, or people who only understood English and could not understand Welsh. Possibly they spoke in Welsh to English audiences and in English to Welsh audiences.
I am perfectly right in saying that the people of Wales have not understood this Bill until the last month or two, and now when they are beginning to understand it they dislike it. Again, if this question of the majority of Members in Wales is such a conclusive proof, why is it when they had the total number of Members for Wales between 1906 and 1910, and when the Government had a majority in this House independent of their vote, they did not press this measure? Surely if they had passed the Bill through the House of Commons at that time, it would have gone to the country, and if the country had been determined to have it, the country would have had an opportunity of expressing its opinion. If the people of Wales were so desperately keen and so consumed with the desire that this Bill should become law, how was it that when the Welsh Members returned to their constituents in 1910, "with all their blushing honours thick upon them," the people did not say, "You have come back no doubt with a peerage, or a baronetcy, or a County Court judgeship, but you have not come back with the Bill which in 1906 we sent you to pass"? They did not say that because they did not care. If they had been desperately keen about this measure, they would have chosen others to represent them rather than those who did nothing to carry out their wish.
If any further proof were needed, it is to be found in the action of the hon. Member for Swansea who was referred to as such a distinguished Welsh patriot. With a business instinct which nobody in this House will deny he went about and discovered that this mandate was not working, and that the thing wanted to make it work was money. He found that those who were anxious to defend the Church 897 were explaining the Bill, the one thing which the Welsh Members did not wish to see done, and he started a fund with the object of collecting £10,000 in order to counteract the work which had been done in trying to explain the Bill. He has shown by his action that, at any rate, the mandate was not so clear as he thought it was at first. When the people of Wales began to understand what the Bill meant they began to turn the other way, and the enthusiasm on the question now is enthusiasm on our side and not on that of the disestablishers. But I should like to go further in respect of the argument as to the majority. A majority may no doubt prevail when it is a matter of opinion, and where they are quite certain that they represent well-informed opinion, but I do say that in matters of right or wrong, justice or injustice, it is quite a new doctrine to say that the majority must rule. If you say that you admit "might is right," and you subvert all the doctrines of civilisation which we were brought up to believe were truly British doctrines. I have always understood that it was the pride of the Government to defend the weak, and that they were safe under the Government wing, and that the weaker they were the safer they were, but if the argument as to the majority which is advanced by hon. Members opposite is right, then I say it is entirely subverting the old doctrines, and if majorities are to rule, whether they are right or wrong, we are coming to the conclusion that might is right and civilisation counts for nothing at all. Then why should one minority be selected for persecution? The Church is a minority as compared with the other bodies grouped together, but any one of those bodies is a minority as compared with the Church and the other religious bodies grouped together.
What is the charge against the Church? That she has not covered the ground of the whole Welsh nation. If that is what she is to be punished for why not punish all the other Churches, none of which have covered the ground of the whole nation? [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not established."] Another argument is that of the grievances which Nonconformists have which are supposed to be redressed by this Bill. The grievances we have heard most about are grievances of the eighteenth century and not grievances of to-day. The hon. Member for Swansea district spoke -very properly and, I thought, very feel- 898 ingly about the grievances of the eighteenth century and about the new birth brought about by such men as Howell Harris, Daniel Rowland, David Jones, and various other estimable persons whom he mentioned with great admiration, an admiration which all of us share. But he said that that was the new birth in Wales and that was the beginning of this movement, which he admired most, and that the grievances of that time were the grievances which he most wished to see abolished. He must have known that those men who did all they could to instil spiritual life into that stagnant period wished to work inside the Church and within its borders reform the Church, and that none of them had the intention of disestablishing or disendowing. I would like to ask him to imagine if he could what would be the position of those men to-day. They thought that the Church was working badly in the eighteenth century and that it could be reformed and made to work better. But badly as they thought it worked they did not think it a right thing to disendow that Church. What would they think if they were here to-day and were able to say everybody admits that the Church in Wales has made the most extraordinary progress in the last thirty or forty years, and is now doing the work which they longed in vain for the Church to do in the eighteenth century? Would they be asking for Disestablishment or Disendowment of the Church? Undoubtedly not. If they were then the argument would be this: as long as the Church is doing badly then she may retain her endowment, but the moment she begins to do well then you have got to take it away. That is the only argument which hon. Gentlemen opposite can use if they wish to try to make out that the men of the new birth would have wished to Disendow and Disestablish the Church of their day. It is the same as the "too late" argument advanced by the Prime Minister in 1909, which was utterably unworthy of him, and which can only appeal to those who are displeased with the work of their Church. The grievances of the eighteenth century were real grievances in my opinion. The grievances of to-day are fictitious grievances brought before the people by political agitators and persons who are trying to open an old sore rather than do the work which all Christians ought to do of healing up differences.
I know that Wales is full of the love of romance and the love of tragedy and of epic, and that it is difficult for speakers in 899 Wales to refrain from introducing tragedy where it is possible to do it. They have not been able to refrain from introducing the tragedy of the grievances of the past, but they have entirely failed to make anything but comedy of the grievances of the pre sent. No one has attempted to show that the Church in Wales is not carrying out its work efficiently. No one can say what was said in the eighteenth century of absentees, pluralism, and apathy. They know perfectly well that the Church is doing its work and doing it magnificently, and, perhaps, more successfully than any other religious body in Wales. What are the grievances to-day? We have heard from the Under-Secretary to the Home Office a description of some of them, and in his famous after-dinner speech at the National Liberal Club enumerated several of them to which I would like to refer. One was that there was great religious inequality because the Church had to submit to Ecclesiastical Courts and there was coercive jurisdiction in the State Courts. If that is all in which he wants equality I am sure that there are very few friends of mine who would grudge him Nonconformist Courts. He said in the same speech that one of the grievances was that the Church had the crowning of the King. Is this Bill to make any difference in that? Was the King crowned by a Welsh bishop? Should the majority argument apply to that? Is the majority of Wales to dictate against the wishes of the majority of England in this matter? If not, I do not see how that question can possibly arise in discussing a Welsh Disestablishment Bill. Another grievance was that the bishops sat in the House of Lords. Has he so little confidence in the honourable pledge given by the Prime Minister that the Preamble of the Parliament Act would be carried out as soon as convenient that he thinks it necessary to bring in another Bill to carry this out? Another grievance he said was a social grievance—
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
One of them, he said, was that the clergy of the Church in Wales and the Roman Catholic clergymen were distinguished by the name of "Clerks 900 in Holy Orders," and there was thus a social privilege which the Church enjoyed. If the Roman Catholics are entitled to that privilege how does Disestablishment affect the matter? And surely there is no Act of Parliament at the present moment which prohibits the clergy of the other Churches from calling themselves Clerks in Holy Orders or anything else they like to name themselves. My contention is that grievances of that kind are not such as to make anybody's flesh creep, and the only grievance that was able to get any support in Wales at all was a grievance of 150 or 200 years ago. I know the spirit of the Welsh people, who are not a revengeful people, and who, if you would allow this hatchet to be buried, I believe wish to work for the common cause of Christianity. If it is the case that these grievances are of any consequence at all, why is it that the Bill does so very little to rectify them? They are grievances apparently against the Establishment, but does that make it necessary to inflict a cruel injustice upon the Church in Wales? The hon. Member for Swansea district (Sir D. Brynmor Jones), told us that—Disestablishment and Disendowment must go together.He said—when a man is dead he does not enjoy his property, and that Disestablishment is the dissolution of a corporation, and therefore a corporation that is dissolved cannot enjoy property.That was his argument. I should like to ask him how it is that a dead man may enjoy 6s. 8d. but may not enjoy £l? Until he can show that I do not think we need attach very much weight to his argument. The real contention of hon. Members opposite is that there are certain grievances which need redress, and in order to redress them you must inflict upon the Church the monstrous injustice of Disendowment. It does not redress those grievances, but it does a very much greater and more serious injury to the work of the Church in Wales. What is there wrong in the possession of endowments? Is there, anything wrong in them? If there is, I can hardly understand why it is that Nonconformist bodies are striving to create sustentation and endowment funds. Allow me to quote from a leading article in "The Methodist Times" of the 25th April last, entitled "Baptist Ministers' Minimum Wages":—We have no sympathy with those who believe that existence on a beggarly pittance promotes the spiritual well-being and efficiency of the ministry. The experience of history from the mendicant friars downwards shows that an entirely opposite effect is produced. Sordid cares eat up the attention and the thought 901 which are required for the great and serious tasks of the pastorate. Given the right man, the possession of adequate means adds unquestionably to his influence and power of doing good.The Under-Secretary for the Home Office practically did not refer at all to the question of Disendowment in his speech to-day. The only reference made to it, I think was made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who welcomed Disendowment as part of the great policy of nationalisation of the land generally. If it is right for Nonconformists to have endowments, it is right for the Church to have them. They serve the very useful purpose of keeping the ministry independent of allowing voluntary contributions to be given for missionary effort, for hospital and other necessary work of the Christian Churches. And people who imagine that to Disestablish the Church in Wales will do good in any direction must remember that even if endowments are made good by members of the Church, it will have to be at the expense of hospital work and many other things which the Bill proposes to provide for. Some Members have contended that the Church has not proper title to these endowments. They have wandered into the mazes of ancient Welsh history, and each of them comes away with a different bit of information, generally conflicting one with the other, but none of it is, I think, of the slightest value in this controversy. I hope I am not speaking with great disrespect of Welsh historians when I say I am not inclined to attach more importance to the verbal inspiration of Welsh historians than I am to the terminological exactitude of the Welsh representatives of to-day. The whole question of what may have happened in the twelfth century seems to me to be entirely beside the mark. We have the admission of the Solicitor-General in his speech on the First Reading, in which he said:—It is a well-founded contention—of the Church Endowmentsthat they trace their title to what would be recognised as good and solid in a Court of Law.That is enough for me. We trace out title to what is recognised as good and solid in a Court of Law. We trace our title to what is recognised as good and solid in the case of any layman or any single individual who owns property of a similar kind. This Bill recognises that that title is good for anybody except a religious body, and I say that title is good enough for me. As my right hon. Friend pointed out in the case of the Dissenters' Chapels, 902 a much shorter title has been recognised. Therefore I say that what they would not dare to take away from a private individual they have no right to dare take away from a religious body, and still less as our money is being well used. The Under-Secretary for the Home Department ventured to say that perhaps some of the livings in the Church in Wales had excessive endowments and others too little. That is a question for Church reform and not for this Bill. Some Hon. Gentleman, and I think the Prime Minister himself, when he spoke in 1909, suggested that because Nonconformist bodies had provided much more accommodation than other people that therefore that was a sign that they used their money better than the Church did. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite are aware that a good deal of that accommodation is not yet paid for, and therefore cannot be represented as money at all, and it has already been shown that a great deal of that accommodation consists in empty places. Everyone who knows anything about the building of those chapels knows that many of them are built in rivalry to the Church, and many in rivalry with one another: I should like those who use that argument, and the Home Secretary used it amongst others, to commend it to the Minister for War, who is very often in difficulties to find arguments to show how very efficient the Territorial Force is. Would it not be conclusive proof in his opinion that the Territorial Force was in a very flourishing condition if he were able to announce that there were vacancies for one thousand or more officers in their ranks? That is the same argument that empty places in Dissenting chapels amounts to in this connection. I ask finally what good will this Bill do to anybody? It will not do any good to the Church. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture is reported in to-day's paper as having said that it ought to be applied to the English Church as well as to the Welsh, and that it would be very good for the Church. I should not venture to dictate to him what would be good for his Church, and I think that before he states what is good for ours he might consult us. We ought to be the best judges of what is good for our Church. It is said to be good for Welsh nationality. The Home Secretary says it would be a good thing for Wales to go back to the state of affairs before the twelfth century, when Wales consisted of a lot of quarrelsome predatory tribes. As 903 to Welsh nationality, I admire the sentiment, although I do not altogether agree with it. You cannot agree with it when you know that the Home Secretary has already said that there are at least 700,000 people who are not Welshmen taking part in this "national" movement.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The right hon. Gentleman said there was a migration of 700,000 people into Glamorganshire.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Will the right hon. Gentleman give me the domiciles of the 700,000 people before they migrated into Glamorganshire?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
They are not; a great many of them went from my own Constituency. Whatever may be the argument of Welsh nationality, it is not, in my opinion, in the interest of nationality that you should base it upon an Act such as this. It is righteousness that exalts a nation, not robbery. No great nation worth the name is founded on intolerance and religious bigotry. In conclusion, may I appeal from the point of view of religion? I would ask hon. Members in all seriousness—if I have shown, as I think I have, that absolutely no good can come of this proposal, whether to religion or to anything else—do they agree with me that we who are interested in religion are working' for one common cause? We are working against one common foe, and the weakening of one of the brigades which are marching against that common foe is a weakening of the whole force. If they agree with that, how do they justify voting for the weakening of one of the denominations which are working for the same cause? We are working in different ways, but there is room for us all. God knows there are thousands in Wales who are not appealed to by any one denomination or sect and who have yet to be got hold of by one or another. Are you going to do any good by weakening any one of the sections? In all solemnity I ask those who are going to vote for this Bill on Thursday next—on Ascension Day, a day on which this House used not to sit, I believe; a day, at any rate, on which we might put aside all worldly and political 904 considerations—can they justify doing good to the cause of religion by taking away money which is being well spent in the cause of religion? They have got to ask themselves this question—whose image and superscription does that money bear? Is it that of Cæsar or of God? Is it that of the civil community or of the religious community? It has always belonged to the religious community. It has never been given by the State, and if it was done away with the State would be no worse off. It is obviously not the money of Cæsar, and therefore I ask those who are going to vote on this matter on Thursday, to put to themselves that question, and I believe if they do honestly answer that question they will render that money to God's service, to the object to which it is due, and in which it has always been spent.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
We have had a very able and, may I say, a very sincere speech against the Bill and, I think, however much we may or may not agree with the hon. Gentleman, we may be thankful for the tone of his speech, which was in marked contrast with the opening speech to-day from that bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), delivered a speech which certainly I, as a Welshman, resented, and which I think every Welshman throughout the United Kingdom will resent with me. The hon. Member who has just sat down asked whether it was wise, at a time when there was need for every Christian effort to unite against the common foe in this country, to be weakening one branch of the Christian army and whether we are not by that weakening the whole army? I agree with him, and if I thought we were weakening the forces that make for righteousness in this country by this Bill I should not support it; but my profound conviction is that the existence of the Establishment in Wales is a weakness for religion and not a strength, and for that reason I am heartily supporting the Bill, and I will try to justify the position I have taken up in the course of my remarks. I hope I shall say nothing offensive to the religious feelings of any Member of the House. It is extremely difficult to discuss this question in that way, but we may try to give one another credit for believing the views which we hold, and without making imputations of motives which in most cases are absolutely unjustifiable. As I listened to this Debate and the Debate on the 905 First Reading of the Bill I must confess that I grew more and more to realise how almost impossible it is for any Member of this House who has not been bred in Wales to understand the depth and intensity of the demand of the Welsh people for religious equality. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division to-day made a great point about the Welsh Members, and he quoted from a speech of the hon. Member for East Glamorgan, from which he deduced the point that the Welsh Members were not spontaneously in favour of this Bill. Why did he quote that remark from the speech of the Member for East Glamorgan? Surely because he thought that it was the most damaging thing he could say, that the Welsh Members were not warmly and heartily in favour of Welsh Disestablishment. Does he really think he strengthens his case by showing that Welsh Disestablishment is forced upon Welsh Members by their constituents, and that the Members themselves are unwilling parties to the Bill? In the same way the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) writes a preface to this little book, which, I suppose, is an official statement of the case, written by the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) upon this Bill. The Member for Walton says that the Government will incur retribution for their Welsh policy in this Bill. That may or may not be so, but this policy did not begin with the Government; it was not initiated by the Government; it was initiated by the Welsh people. As long as I have known Wales, which is much longer than I care to look back, this demand has been part of the public demand of the Non-conformists of Wales. It is bred in the bone in all their public life and all their private life. The Government have but responded to the demand of the Welsh people, and the Welsh Members are putting forward a demand which is such that if they were not putting it forward they would soon cease to be Welsh Members, and other men would be found to take their places. [An HON. MEMBER: "Toeing the line."] Yon may put it in that way if you like. If it is toeing the line it is toeing the line to the demand of the Welsh people, and my point is it is a demand that the Welsh people put constitutionally forward through the Welsh representatives, and the Government have yielded properly to that demand.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) has in- 906 troduced a Bill for taking a census of the Welsh people. It is not very much use doing that unless you are willing to accept the verdict that must be reached in the census, and, as he refuses to accept that, I do not think it is much use going on with his Bill. I think he is quite right not to accept the verdict, for I do not in the least admit that this is to be decided as a question of numbers. I am not afraid of the verdict. I do not think that anyone who knows Wales has the least doubt that the great majority of the people in Wales are Nonconformists; but there are grievances that you cannot reckon by numbers.
May I trouble the House with a personal reminiscence? We have been challenged to-day and told we produce nothing but stale grievances of Nonconformists in Wales. I am the son of a Welsh Nonconformist minister. I was brought up in Wales, and as my father has been dead for thirty years, I may venture, without impropriety, to tell the House something about him. My father, by common consent, was one of the great preachers of Wales. His countrymen, when I go about amongst them, remind me of the days when they listened to the man whom they still call the poet-preacher of Wales. He rose high in his denomination, and became chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales; he had a church in London for many years, and he then went back to Wales to end his days there. When he went there he was welcomed by the Nonconformist ministers and preachers in Wales. They met to do honour to the man who had shed lustre upon their country in England, but the Church in Swansea and in Wales steadily abstained from joining in any degree in that welcome. There never was any sign of brotherhood or fellowship held out towards him, and speaking from my own knowledge of Swansea I say there was an absolute barrier dividing Nonconformists and Churchmen in that population, and when I am asked what is the grievance I say the inequality and separation is the grievance, and until you have broken down that barrier that divides Nonconformity and Churchmen in Wales you never will have that great brotherhood which is essential. The demand for equality is a real demand. Hon. Members may say anything they like about laying hands upon the endowments of the Church. The Noble Lord, in his preface, says:—The assailants of the Welsh Church usually seek to concentrate attention upon 'Disestablishment.' The word is well designed.907 I do not know why the Noble Lord should object to our using the word Disestablishment. The Church is by law established. We did not choose the word. We want to reverse what is already decided. The Church is by law established, and it is the Church's boast it is so. The Noble Lord goes on to say:—All that Establishment merely means is that the State officially recognises the Church as the national exponent of Christianity.Those are the Noble Lord's own words. I do not think he can seriously mean that that is all that Establishment means. If it were, if that were all it meant, it would be fatal to the claim of the Church to be Established in Wales, because it is quite certain that, so far as the people of Wales are concerned the Church of England cannot claim to be the national exponent of the Welsh people. The Noble Lord feels that so strongly that he goes on to say that there is much to be said for the view that other Christian bodies should be equally recognised. Is that a position which hon. Members opposite are prepared to take up? Is it really their desire to have all the different denominations in Wales recognised as equal and jointly established? The Noble Lord says there is much to be said for that view, but does he say that that is his view?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Certainly my view is that there should be some national recognition of religion. I find that the Church of England is the national exponent of religion at the present moment, and I am not prepared to destroy that national exponent of religion unless something else is put in its place. If there were a proposal made to establish all the Christian sects I should consider it with a favourable eye.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The Noble Lord admits the claim to equality of treatment on the part of the other religious denominations, but the solution offered is wholly unacceptable to the religious bodies for whom it is made, and it is no solution of the difficulty that the Church of England as a national Church is not representative of the people of whom it professes to be the national exponent. The suggestion made involves State control, and the Nonconformists of Wales will never accept State control in regard to their religion. State control is a reality now. I noticed the outcry with which the name of the Bishop of Hereford was greeted from the benches opposite the other day. I know 908 the Bishop of Hereford was not chosen by those representing the party opposite and they do not like the views he puts forward. Does it not occur to them that it might be advisable to have a system of Church government by which the Church would be free to choose bishops in harmony with its views instead of having them chosen by a Government who differed from them?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I believe a majority of them do. I am very glad to hear the Noble Lord say that because I had myself the honour of being a pupil of the Bishop of Hereford, and I am grateful for the lessons he taught me, and I am glad that there is one Noble Lord opposite who does not repudiate the teachings of the Bishop of Hereford. The Church of England is subject to State control over its doctrines and ritual, and it cannot effect any change without the consent of Parliament. It is, therefore, no solution of this problem to suggest a joint establishment of all the denominations in Wales. For my own part, I am so far from agreement with the Noble Lord that I do not think Establishment is any benefit in England any more than it is in Wales. Looking back in history, it is not difficult to show that from the spiritual point of view Establishment, from the days of Constantine to the present, has been nothing but a disadvantage to the Christian Church. You need no Establishment in order to be a Christian nation. The Noble Lord wants a national exposition of religion. He can find it in the lives and conduct of a Christian people. If you do not find the people are living in obedience to the laws of Christ, it is of little purpose your Church being established, and, if they are so living, Establishment matters very little. We are taunted that we only care for Disestablishment because it means Disendowment. I admit Disestablishment carries with it, necessarily carries with it, Disendowment. You cannot have Disestablishment without a measure of Disendowment.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I am going to try and explain to the Noble Lord. By the Act of Disestablishment you dissolve the corporations which hold the endowments of the Church. Their endowments are appropriated to certain uses. You destroy the bodies which are entrusted with those 909 funds, and you have either to recreate them or some other body. You, therefore, cannot have a measure of Disestablishment without Disendowment. It is true you can appropriate the whole of the funds to the new body, but, if Disestablishment is essentially wicked, which has been argued from the other side, there is no more to be said. If it is indeed spoliation and robbery, we need not argue about it, and we need not discuss its advantages or disadvantages. If I accepted the view of the Noble Lord, who talks of the essential wickedness of Disendowment—if that is true—there is no more to be said. I accept the words of Mr. Mill, whose work upon this question of endowments I would recommend to the attentive consideration of Members of this House. It is the finest statement of the case of the State in regard to public endowments that I know. Mr. Mill says:—It is not a fitting occupation for an honest man to cast up the probable profits of an act of plunder.I accept that we could not go on discussing it if it was really the act of plunder which hon. Members opposite imply. I do not so regard it. On the contrary, I maintain that the State has an absolute right to deal with all public endowments in the interests of the community. I separate entirely two question. There is the morality of Disendowment, and there is the expediency of Disendowment. In regard to the morality of Disendowment, I really do not think the case is arguable as it has been argued on the other side. The morality of it is not affected by the goodness or the badness of the corporation which you may be going to disendow. If a man is in possession of funds which are not his, he does not, when the question is raised, come forward and say he is a good man or that he is spending the money wisely. He has to justify that he is rightly in possession of the funds, and, unless he can show his title is good, all that argument is beside the mark. Endowments are money or money's worth assigned in perpetuity or for a long period for some public purpose, that is not for personal use or for the enjoyment of an individual or individuals. I do not think anyone will argue over that definition. That being so, I do not need to go into the origin of the Endowments of the Church of England. I am not concerned with the historic argument, at least from this point of view; it does not touch the right of the State to handle these Endowments. These Endowments originally belonged either to 910 some individual or individuals or to the State; and they were appropriated long ago for the spiritual purposes of the Welsh Church or the English Church, as the case may be. If the State allows Endowment, how long a time must we allow before the State can intervene? You must clearly respect endowments during the lifetime of the founder, but for how much longer?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
It depends on the circumstances of the case. The State must deal with endowments and it would be folly on the part of the State to do otherwise. There should be sufficient security to those who endow that their funds should be used for a reasonable period. But they cannot foresee what may happen in the history of nations. Circumstances may change, and to ensure that the wishes of the pious founder be respected in his lifetime, and for a reasonable period after, is as much as can wisely be allowed.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
No, it was given to trustees for religious purposes. I am not a lawyer, but it is contrary to law to allow the setting up in perpetuity of these endowments. There was a case in which this was attempted to be done, but Parliament took steps to prevent a recurrence of it. I entirely repudiate the idea that there is any immorality in meddling with disendowments. It is no crime to disobey the injunction of a man who lived 500 years ago. We have to respect the rights of the living and this Bill does that. Life interests are fully safe-guarded by this Bill. If the Noble Lord or anybody else can show that the life interests of any clergymen or curate or other person are disregarded, I am confident that the Government will accept an Amendment on the subject. All life interests are safeguarded. We are guarding the rights of the public. The Noble Lord kindly said the rights of all the people. The Nonconformists of Wales have a right to their share of the use of these funds, which were allocated years ago to the use of the people of Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because they were meant for all the people of Wales, and not for the use of one denomination. Our claim for disendowment is this: That having the right to disendow, and having disendowed 911 by the act of Disestablishment, we give to the Church, under this Bill, ample provision to enable them to carry on their religious work in Wales. They start by having in their ranks nearly all the rich people in Wales. They are the Church of the rich already, and they will start with ample endowments. We are restoring to the whole of the people their due share of national funds, which have been taken away from them and used for the purposes of one denomination. It is said that we must not talk of generosity in regard to the distribution of these funds. But, from my point of view, they are national funds, being distributed by Parliament on behalf of the nation. I claim that this Bill makes generous provision for the future administration of the Church in Wales. The hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) said that the motive underlying the action of Nonconformists was, "Down with the Church of England." That, at any rate, is not my motive in supporting this Bill. I believe in my heart that this Bill will not injure the Church in Wales. Her privileged position has not benefited the Church of England in Wales. It has bred on the one side a sense of injustice, and on the other side arrogance and intolerance. Make these Christian communities in Wales equal and I believe that religion will benefit. Judah will not vex Ephraim and Ephraim will not envy Judah, but all denominations will work harmoniously together for the common ends of their common Christianity.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Tuesday.)