§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I beg to move: That the Committee stage, Report stage, and Third Reading of the Established Church (Wales) Bill, and the necessary stages of any Financial Resolutions relating thereto, shall be proceeded with as follows:—
§ (1) Committee stage.
§ Fourteen allotted days shall be given to the Committee stage of the Bill (including the proceedings on any Instructions and the necessary stages of any Financial Resolutions relating to the Bill), and the proceedings on the Committee stage on each allotted day shall be as shown in the second column of the table annexed to this Order, and those proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time shown in the third column of the table.
§ (2) Report stage.
§ Two allotted days shall be given to the Report stage of the Bill, and the proceedings for each of those allotted days shall be such as may be hereafter determined in manner provided by this Order, and those proceedings, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion at such time on each such allotted day as may be so determined.
§ (3) Third Reading.
§ One allotted day shall be given to the Third Reading of the Bill, and the proceedings thereon shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. on that day.
§ On the conclusion of the Committee stage of the Bill the Chairman shall report 1616 the Bill to the House without Question put, and the House shall on a subsequent day consider the proposals made by the Government for the allocation of the proceedings on the Report stage of the Bill between the allotted days given to that stage. If the proceedings on the consideration of those proposals are not brought to a conclusion before the expiration of two hours after they have been commenced, the Speaker shall, at the expiration of that time, bring them to a conclusion by putting the Question on the Motion proposed by the Government, after having put the Question, if necessary, on any Amendment or other Motion which has been already proposed from the Chair and not disposed of.
§ After this Order comes into operation any day after the day on which this Order is passed shall be considered an allotted day for the purposes of this Order on which the Bill is put down as the first Order of the Day, or on which any stage of any Financial Resolution relating thereto is put down as the first Order of the Day followed by the Bill: Provided that 1.45 and 4.45 p.m. shall be substituted for 7 and 10.30 p.m. respectively, as respects any allotted day which is a Friday as the time at which proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under the foregoing provisions.
§ On any allotted day which is a Friday the House shall meet at Eleven o'clock in the morning, notwithstanding anything in Standing Order No. 2.
§ For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion on an allotted day and have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall, at the time appointed under this Order for the conclusion of those proceedings, put forthwith the Question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed successively to put forthwith the Question on any Amendments, new Clauses, or Schedules moved by the Government of which notice has been given, but no other Amendments, new Clauses, or Schedules, and on any Question necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded, and, in the case of Government Amendments or of Government new Clauses or Schedules, he shall put only the Question that the Amendment be made or that the Clauses or Schedule be added to the Bill, as the case may be.1617
§ The Chair shall have power to select the Amendments to be proposed on any allotted day, and Standing Order No. 26 shall apply as if a Motion had been carried under paragraph 3 of that Standing Order empowering the Chair to select the Amendments with respect to each Motion, Clause, or Schedule under debate on that day.
§ A Motion may be made by the Government to leave out any Clause or consecutive Clauses of the Bill before consideration of any Amendments to the Clause or Clauses in Committee.
§ The Question on a Motion made by the Government to leave out any Clause or Clauses of the Bill shall be put by the Chairman or Mr. Speaker after a brief explanatory statement from the Minister in charge and from any one Member who criticises any such statement.
§ Any Private Business which is set down for consideration at 8.15 p.m. and any Motion for Adjournment under Standing Order No. 10 on an allotted day shall on that day, instead of being taken as provided by the Standing Orders, be taken after the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or under this Order for that day, and any Private Business so taken may be
|Proceedings on Committee Stage.|
|Allotted Day.||Proceedings.||Time for Proceedings to be brought to a conclusion.|
|First||Instructions and Clauses 1 and 2||10.30|
|Clauses 10 to 12||10.30|
|Clauses 16 and 17||10.30|
|Twelfth||Clauses 19 to 21||7.0|
|Clauses 22 to 28 and Committee stage of any Financial Resolution||10.30|
|Thirteenth||Report stage of any Financial Resolution, and Clauses 29 to 36, and New Clauses||10.30|
|Fourteenth||Schedules 1 and 2||7.0|
|Schedule 3, and any other matter necessary to bring the Committee stage to a conclusion||10.30|
§ proceeded with, though opposed, notwithstanding any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House, and shall be treated as Government Business.
§ On an allotted day no dilatory Motion on the Bill, nor Motion to recommit the Bill, nor Motion to postpone a Clause, nor Motion that the Chairman do report Progress or do leave the Chair, shall be received unless moved by the Government, and the Question on such Motion, if moved by the Government, shall be put forthwith without any debate.
§ Nothing in this Order shall—
- (a) prevent any proceedings which under this Order are to be concluded on any particular day being concluded on any other day, or necessitate any particular day or part of a particular day being given to any such poceedings if those proceedings have been otherwise disposed of; or
- (b) prevent any other business being proceeded with on any particular day, or part of a particular day, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House, after any proceedings to be concluded under this Order on that particular day, or part of a particular day, have been disposed of.
§ In making the Motion which stands in my name, I have to restate two propositions, which I have, I think, more than once on previous occasions of a similar character submitted to the House. The first proposition is this: Under existing Parliamentary conditions which prevail in the House of Commons, and I see no probability in this respect of their being likely to change, all Bills which are at once contentious in their character and complex in any degree in their detail will, unless they are to involve both an excessive consumption of Parliamentary time, and a disproportionate application of the time so consumed as between their different parts and subjects, have to be the subject of some form of allocation of time. I do not care what party is in power, I do not care who has a majority on this side of the House, I do not care what is the character or the object of the legislation which the majority for the time being attempt to pass, I venture to assert with the utmost confidence that as time goes on it will be found—the Government may regret it or not—that as a normal part of our procedure the Government of the day, and the majority of the day, will require for the purpose, if their intentions are to be carried into effect in legislation, a businesslike and a reasonable allocation of time.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Gentleman must restrain himself. I am not for the moment speaking of this particular Motion. I am laying down a general proposition. As to the other proposition, it is often said, and said quite truly, that under the system of Closure, guillotine, or whatever you like to call it—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Or, as the Noble Lord not very originally calls it, the "gag"—a phrase invented by a Liberal Opposition—it is said with perfect truth that under this system it is inevitable that parts, and sometimes considerable parts of Clauses of Bills, if not the whole Bill in point of actual quantity, pass undiscussed. True! They always did.
If you look at the Parliamentary procedure of the old days, before there was any Closure or any guillotine, you will find that is exactly what happened, and the legislative output of this House, in 1620 such years, for instance, as the early days of Mr. Gladstone's first Administration, was really larger in quantity—I am not speaking of the number of pages it occupied on the Statute Book—and more complex and diverse in quality than any legislation which has been passed in the years since the new system of Closure has been in operation. Obviously, if the same minute and critical attention had been given to the discussion of the small details of every Bill of importance in those, which are sometimes called the palmy days of Parliament, as we give to-day, the rich crop of legislation which those years yielded would have been in fact comparatively small both in quality and in quantity. Therefore, I do not think that in fact less Parliamentary discussion is now given—I shall show it presently in connection with this particular measure—under the new system than was given under the old. But what is important is that the time should be regulated in such a way that serious and important points receive full attention, and that the trivial and minor points should not be allowed to occupy an excessive share of the energies of the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My second proposition is that in my opinion—I have frequently said this before, and it has been said by right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite when they have brought forward similar Motions—it is eminently desirable that we should set up, if we could, some permanent machinery in this House which would determine in regard to these Bills the amount and distribution of time to be occupied upon them. That would be an ideal system, if you could have a Business Committee, presided over by an impartial chairman, on which all parties and interests would be represented, and which would recommend to the House the proper distribution of time for any particular measure. I have always thought that that was the proper way to deal with the matter. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not take it"?] I have done my very best, and I have tried for years, but it is impossible to arrive at anything like a general agreement as to 1621 the best form of machinery for this purpose. Until such an agreement has been arrived at, we must go on doing the best we can under the existing system. That being the general situation, I now come, in dealing with this particular instance, as one must in these cases, to the question of precedents. It was suggested in a question which was put across the floor of the House the other day that there was something new in proposing an allocation of time for the Committee and Report stages of a Bill before the Committee has actually been entered upon and before some progress has been made in the discussion of the Clauses. That is not so. I have here six cases.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes. Not all my own, but all in the course of the last two Parliaments. They represent a very great improvement on the course of procedure which was followed before. I remember very well the Licensing Bill of 1904. We spent I do not know how many days—four or five—in Committee before the Allocation of Time Resolution was proposed. When it was proposed it only gave us two or three days more, and I do not think that more than a single paragraph of that highly contentious measure was ever discussed in Committee at all. I have here five or six cases, but I will only take two. I agree that contentious Bills in this respect stand on a different footing from Bills of a non-contentious character. The two contentious cases were those of the Licensing Bill of 1908 and the Elementary Education Bill of the same year.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It turned out to be most highly contentious. In fact, it disappeared because it was contentious.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
What I meant was that the guillotine was only imposed on the Education Bill when it was supposed to be non-contentious.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It was certainly not so in the case of the Licensing Bill, because a more contentious measure 1622 was never introduced into this House. I have been refreshing my memory as to what I said in proposing the allocation of time before we entered into Committee on that Bill. I pointed out, what I still think is right, that it is really better as a rule, save in circumstances such as exist in the case of the Government of Ireland Bill this year, if you are going to apportion time, to apportion it before you enter Committee, otherwise a good deal of time may be wasted on the earlier Clauses, which are not always the most important Clauses of a Bill, and therefore insufficient time is left for the remainder. [Interruption.] I think it would be better if I were allowed to proceed without a running chorus of comments. The real question then is whether the time proposed to be given is on the whole reasonable in quantity, and whether the allocation of that time between the different Clauses and subjects of the Bill is reasonable. In this case we have an example which makes it comparatively easy to answer that question.
There is the case of the Irish Church Bill of 1869. You could not possibly have a more relevant case. In one respect, I agree, the Irish Church Bill of 1869 differs from the present measure. The question of the disestablishment and disendowment of a State Church was then a new principle. It had never been presented in a concrete form in the shape of legislation to any Parliament. Again, the Irish Church Establishment, in both its scale and area, and certainly in the richness of its endowments, stood upon a very different footing from the Establishment in Wales. The questions raised were of much greater complexity than in this case. For instance, in dealing with the application of the endowments of the Irish Church questions arose which in dealing with Wales are much simpler. From whatever point of view you look at it, the magnitude of the interests involved, the complexity of the machinery which had to be applied to deal with it, there is no question that the Irish Church Bill was a much more serious and much more important measure, one requiring as much, if not more, Parliamentary time for its adequate discussion than the Bill now before the House. Let us see what a Parliament absolutely ungagged, in the enjoyment of perfect freedom—there was not even a rudimentary form of Closure existing in those days—did in the case of the Irish Church Bill.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The question of principle had been submitted to the country, but the Bill itself was a totally novel measure.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
This Bill is, on the contrary, in all essentials the same as the Bill which was actually introduced, read, a second time and considered partly in Committee seventeen years ago in this House. What happened in the case of the Irish Church? Compare the proceedings there with the proceedings we propose here. The First Reading was given one day. We give to the First Reading of this Bill two days. The Second Reading was given four days, which was practically the same as we gave to the Second Reading here. There was one day for the procedure which is now obsolete, the Order for going into Committee. Then the Committee stage occupied ten days. We are proposing to give fourteen. The Report stage of the Irish Church Bill occupied one day. We are proposing to give two. The Third Reading occupied one day, and we are proposing to give one day also. So that if you compare the total amount of Parliamentary days, adding in the one day for going into Committee, it works out at nineteen days in the case of the Irish Church Bill and twenty-three in the case of this. It is perfectly idle to say, comparing the gagged Parliament, as we are told this is, with the free Parliament, and comparing the quality of the two Bills, that if nineteen days was regarded by the great, free, untongue-tied Parliamentarians of that period as a sufficient time for the discussion of that measure, twenty-three days is not sufficient for the discussion of this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "There were late sittings."] I do not think you will find there were many late sittings.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In regard to the manner in which the time is allocated, we are ready to consider any criticisms which may be offered on the scheme of the time-table which appears in the Schedule to the Resolution. Although 1624 probably I shall not be believed when I say it, really the object of those who composed the time-table is, as far as possible, to secure that serious and important questions shall not be passed over. The only criticism which I have heard actually made upon it—there may be others which have escaped my notice—is that insufficient time is given to the early part of the Bill and the instructions to the Committee. It is very difficult in advance to say what instructions to a Committee will be in order and what will not. I have a very vivid recollection in 1895, when I was in charge of the Welsh Church Bill, there was a very large number of instructions on the Paper of which all but one, or at the outside two, were ruled out of order, and in point of fact, only one Instruction was discussed. It was discussed, I think, speaking from recollection, for something like two or three hours, and then we proceeded to the discussion of the first Clause of the Bill. I do not think it reasonable to suppose that the Instructions put down to this Bill will be more fortunate or ought to take up more time than was taken up by the discussion of those. Further, in regard to the first Clause of the Bill, as I understand, it simply declares the Establishment to be at an end.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In other words the very question which was decided on the First and Second Reading. Of course, in the case of the Irish Bill, where we rightly did not attempt to apply this principle of allocation of time to the discussion of the first Clause of the Bill, as we foresaw, and as in fact happened, almost every important constitutional question could be properly raised by way of Amendment. It was therefore quite right to give wide latitude. But that is not the case in reference to a Clause like this. There is no alternative to it except to reject the Bill altogether, and when I carry back my recollections—we spent a good deal more time on the first Clause in 1895—to what happened in that year. I know perfectly well how the time was occupied, and how it will probably be occupied again. It was occupied with a-series of Amendments attempting to exclude particular areas—some of them very small areas—in Wales and Monmouthshire from the operation of the Act. I do 1625 not think anyone who looks at the subject matter of the Debates will think they were anything comparable in importance to the larger questions raised by the later Clauses of the Bill.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I agree, but I believe a good number of them were attempts to exclude portions of Wales, and they occupied a substantial portion of our time. In the allocation now proposed, as regards this particular question of the consideration of the first Clause, I do not think, in view of that experience, that we have made an unreasonable proposal. In regard to the details of the time-table we are quite prepared to listen to criticism and I repeat, the object is, as far as possible, that the total amount of time which we believe to be adequate—as compared with the Irish precedent more than adequate—should be distributed amongst the different parts of the Bill with a genuine regard to the importance and contentiousness of the various subject matters.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is the Clause that puts an end to the Endowments. It is a question of principle which was discussed on the Second Reading.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It puts an end to all the Ecclesiastical corporations. That is to say, it is a necessary incident and consequence of Disestablishment. Let me further point out in regard to the whole Bill, as I understand it, that the attitude of the Opposition to this measure is one of uncompromising hostility. It is not a question either of mitigating the rigour of the Bill or of substituting, for instance, for the Disendowment proposals of the Bill some alternative and some more generous scheme in the interests of the Welsh Church people. Therefore, when one looks at the Amendments on the Paper, at their number and at their character one has to consider that they are avowedly not put down with the object of making this into a more workable practical scheme, but if possible of making it still more unworkable than they regard it in its present shape. All those are very relevant con- 1626 siderations, and having regard to the precedents and to actual recent experience, I think the proposal of the Government is one which gives ample time to all the various questions raised by the Bill.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
I beg to move, to leave out all the words after the word "That" ["That the Committee stage"], and to insert instead thereof, the words,
"a Bill which during the admitted suspension of the Constitution proposes to Disestablish, Disendow, and dismember the Church of England in Wales—being the oldest and largest of the Christian bodies in the Principality—which is supported by Members of His Majesty's Government as preliminary to the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England, and has never received the sanction of the country, requires the full and unfettered consideration of this House; and this House declines to apply any restriction to its discussion."
We have heard a statement from the Prime Minister of the reasons which, I presume, he considers justify and regularise the course he has taken to-day. I shall deal in the course of my remarks with what he calls the precedents for this course, but principally, I may say, with the arguments which he has delivered today, and which are the same as he used in commending the Guillotine Resolution on the Home Rule Bill to this House. I may say that in one way it is a melancholy fact and in another way a happy fact for us that these arguments which justify, or attempt to justify, the present proposal of the Government, are refuted already by the experience we have had of the Home Rule Bill. We have the conditions of the gag fresh in our minds, and although the energy, ability, and resource, which have been shown in opposition to that measure have never been more conspicuous, yet I distinctly say, having heard much of the discussion from the point of view of a spectator, that never has a Bill been debated under conditions more heartbreaking and more mind-paralysing than those. I need only refer as an illustration to the events of two days ago, when we had before us a question which had baffled able men in the past, and upon which you have against you the authority not only of Mr. Gladstone, but of the most distinguished of your own colleagues, Lord Morley. That discussion took place with scarcely a score of men on the 1627 benches opposite and without a protest from that side as to the gravity and weight of the discussion. It is hardly possible that a worse case could be produced than that, but if a worse case is to be produced, it is this. The Prime Minister claimed in a former speech that no exceptional measures were taken, at any rate, as regards the Home Rule Bill upon the First Reading, the Second Reading, or, in Committee, upon the first Clause, and the introductory words of the second Clause. Before there is a word in Committee at all this procedure is applied to the present case, and what is more, and what was not referred to by the Prime Minister, if you compare the two measures, and if you consider what is possible before Christmas, when we are supposed to take this Bill, it is perfectly clear that the Government intend to allot simply Fridays for the discussion of this Bill. What is the result of that? It is at all times most difficult to discuss a Bill under the guillotine, but if you are going to interpose between each day's discussion six days, and if you are going to truncate and mutilate discussion in such a way, you will render it impossible for us to force home the points which we have against the Bill, and you will make it even more difficult than it is now for the Press properly to report the discussion, and thus you will leave the country unenlightened on a subject with respect to which it has a right to be informed.
I say when you come to do this virtually unprecedented act I reject altogether the precedents coming from that source. The Education Act was not claimed by the Prime Minister, though, when he was reminded of this, apparently he had forgotten that that was, at the time the guillotine was applied, an agreed measure. The Licensing Bill was the solitary relic of precedent he could give. I really thought it was scarcely necessary that he should have brought before the House as a precedent for this the Irish Church Bill. The Prime Minister knows—no one better than he—that that Bill was presented not in principle but in considerable outline by Mr. Gladstone in the House, and before the country, and that a General Election was fought upon that specific point. It is utterly beneath the Prime Minister to urge that such a measure as that, so presented to and commended by the country, upon which a General Election had been fought could possibly be adduced as a 1628 parallel case. Notwithstanding what I have said, which I think answers largely what has been brought forward, I am bound on the present occasion to make a reasoned and emphatic protest against the restrictions now proposed. I suppose that notwithstanding the downward progress which the Government have made upon this subject the Prime Minister will not disown his own reasoned announcement at a recent date as to the principles upon which such measures should be adopted. The Prime Minister has said—this is not a mere heated utterance when we were in power, but it is a deliberate enunciation of the principles without which the guillotine should not be introduced:—This procedure has never been and ought not to be resorted to except in one or two cases: In a case of extreme urgency in the interests of public order, or in the case where a Bill having been carefully considered by the country and by Parliament any discussion is ripe for final decision.No one will contend that this measure is urgent in the interests of public order. No one will say that the most fanatical Welshman in the realm will be guilty of riot or bloodshed or make any breach of public order because he is not allowed to take funds which have been devoted for centuries to spiritual purposes, and to devote them to museums and hospitals. No! Public order is not at stake. The only urgency in this matter is an urgency for the Government to keep tight the bonds which are already growing irksome to honest men, of the log-rolling coalition. When I see some Irish Members present it is amazing to me—and I justify my expression "log-rolling coalition" when I say it—that Nationalist members of the Roman Catholic Church should be here present supporting this Bill, which is to take away from a national establishment funds which are devoted to the poor. These Gentlemen support themselves an impoverished Church—
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
Which does very much indeed for the poor. It is most astonishing that such a proposal as this should be supported by such people. But take the Prime Minister's own words: Has this Bill been carefully considered by the country? Who could possibly say that it has? The Under-Secretary of the Home Department, who is a leader in this matter, has himself complained that there was no mandate from England, and that a mandate from England was necessary before you could deal with the subject.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
Certainly, in 1906. I claim, without hesitation, that there has been no such mandate. Will any English Member get up in his place and say that this subject was discussed in the constituencies? It was scarcely mentioned at the General Election in this country. We know that only eight Members in Wales mentioned it in their election addresses, and I think only six in England referred to it. My own experience, and the experience of every candid man in this House, is that the second of the Prime Minister's limitations, that this procedure should not be resorted to except in cases where the Bill has been thoroughly discussed in the country, is a limitation that has not been complied with. The last limitation is Parliamentary discussion. With the exception of a day or so in 1909, we have not had any Parliamentary discussion since 1895. Almost a generation has passed. Very few of us are left who took any part in that discussion. The country has to be educated since that time. It is impossible for any candid man to say that the frequency and continuity of Parliamentary discussion has permitted these summary and tyrannical methods. But look past the deliberate limitations of the Prime Minister. Look for a moment to the sense and the reason of the matter itself, and consider not the detail but the general nature of the Bill and the lessons relevant to this Debate to be gathered from the discussions which have already taken place. Great allowance ought to be made and great latitude given when you are dealing here with a Bill which is a Bill which invades the domain of profound religious feeling, and not merely does that but disturbs the emotions which gather round ancient habits and customs, round such matters as are affected by this Bill, round marriages and the burial of the dead. You have also to deal with the principles which you think give a warrant to you to deprive a poor ministry of nearly two-thirds of their funds. You have to deal with the principles and details of matters which you think give you warrant for disturbing the law of prescription, a law common to every civilised country. The mere statement of these general conditions surely entitle us to claim for this Bill very ample discussion under unfettered conditions. What have been the lessons 1630 learned already by the discussions which have taken place? So far as those Debates are concerned they have fulfilled the very best function of discussion. Three Debates have taken place already, and they have forced fallacies into the open. So far as the discussion has gone it has had extraordinary success. Debate of this matter under free conditions is claimed both in this House and in the country. There has been a disintegration of opinion opposite upon this subject. There have been extraordinary public pronouncements from the leading and most distinguished members of the Nonconformist and Free Churches contrary to the very principle of this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Names."] I will give the names. I will take Dr. Moulton; I will take Dr. Shakespeare, a most distinguished man; and Mr. Campbell Morgan, a name known throughout the whole of this country and Wales; I will take the name of one of the most distinguished of the Calvinistic Methodists, Mr. Redcliffe, together with many more I might mention, and they have all expressed themselves with great strength upon this question. I submit that the case of this Bill differs fundamentally from that in which there is an absolutely solid body of opinion on one side or upon the other. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well, and every Member on that Bench knows perfectly well, that there is no solidity of opinion on this Bill. Nonconformists of the most distinguished character have been so impressed by free discussion of this subject, and by the arguments we have already advanced, that we now see such a change of front that we are entitled to have hope of still further disintegration such as we have already witnessed on this question which is now before the country.
Let me say that we have also had urged in former free debate on this subject by Members of the Government, notably by the Home Secretary and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) described as "bad laws, bad morals, and bad history." The Home Secretary embarked upon the subject of the origin of tithes. I do not think anybody will say that a short discussion can possibly sufficiently and adequately expose the fallacies which the right hon. Gentleman expressed. The Home Secretary propounded unfounded theories with regard to the origin of tithes on his ipsi dixit, 1631 though the Royal Commission, appointed by his own Government, had pronounced the matter to be so obscure that they could not discuss, judge, examine, or report upon it. He propounded a theory which was contrary to the dicta of Lord Selborne and of the historians, Freeman and Stubbs. We can show the crudity, superficiality, and I will add the ignorance of his theory by free discussion. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to be convinced on the subject, but he cannot be convinced unless we have time, and ample time, to refute those crudities and those superficialities across the floor of this House in his presence, and by means which cannot be controverted. But apart from the crudities of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has embarked upon speculations about the Reformation which are not only contrary to the writings of great historians and scholars, some of whom I have mentioned already, but which are flatly contrary to the Prime Minister's own dicta. People in the country do not know this—they are not fully aware of it. I am sure my hon. Friends and myself have done the best we can in the country. Rightly enough, people say, "Why do you not use this language in the House of Commons?" We all know the way in which this is done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a statement of this kind in an elaborate speech on the Second Reading, and then disappears altogether from the scene. He does not come into Committee at all, and it is left to some unfortunate Under-Secretary to endeavour to hold the fort of his astounding propositions against conclusive arguments and conclusive evidence. We on this side of the House are willing and anxious to establish the fallacy of the arguments which have been made against us on the Second Reading. It cannot be done, except by an elaborate and full discussion. I say that those arguments can be readily probed, that their fallacy can be easily shown, and I cannot help thinking that is because you believe and know in your heart of hearts that the fallacy can be shown, that you have placed these fetters on discussion. Knowing that, with full discussion we can prove all we say on this subject. I now come to the Resolution, and I ask any candid man to say whether the time-table is sufficient. I only give two or three 1632 examples to show what a farce is the discussion to which the Prime Minister is condemning us. Of all the Instructions which have been moved there is one by the hon. Member for Dudley which alone calls for a day's discussion, and more than a full day is necessary. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that there are scores, hundreds, I may say thousands on their own side, devoted Radical Churchmen, who voted Nonconformist to support Disestablishment, but were utterly opposed to Disendowment. This Instruction is that the Committee should divide the Bill.
I do not make that statement without warrant, because I can quote passages from those whom I have already mentioned, showing that there is this feeling; and I do not think hon. Gentlemen will deny that there is a wide cleavage in the Liberal party and among the Free Churches on this subject. There may be a strong opinion in favour of Disestablishment, but there is strong and wide opinion against Disendowment. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Surely, when we have been successful by fair argument in driving that cleavage into the ranks of our opponents, we are entitled to present, and present fully, arguments, supported by those considerations—that the Bill should be divided. If we have a proper discussion on this matter the whole of Clauses 1 and 2 will go without any discussion at all. Clause 1 involves Disestablishment. It involves the very difficult discussion of what by law Establishment means. If you properly discuss this matter you will have to deal with Amendments discussing concurrent establishment, and you will have to deal with the extraordinarily important and unprecedented subject of the dismemberment of the Church of England. You will have to deal with the body which is to rule the Church of England and with the great question of patronage. All that is on Clause 1. Is it necessary to add a single word to that. It is really a tyranny, an absolutely grotesque tyranny, to say that in addition to the great subjects of Disendowment and Disestablishment that those subjects could be even approximately considered. It does not stop there. I do not wonder at the Prime Minister, in the multifarious nature of his duties, moving this code without appreciation of what is in the Bill. His argument was devoted to the question of principle. He said the 1633 principle in this matter had been discussed. I suppose he meant that Disendowment and Disestablishment had been discussed and decided in principle, and under that delusion he mentions that Clause 2 dealt with Disendowment. No such thing at all—it deals with very many other important matters that have never been discussed in this House. I would point out to him that this Clause deals with dissolution of ecclesiastical corporations in Wales, and you trench, in the course of this discussion, upon the question of the constitution of the House of Lords, the representation not merely of the bishops in it, but of other ecclesiastics. You have again disqualification for the House of Commons in respect of ecclesiastical persons removed. I do not say that those are questions comparable in importance to those under Clause 1, questions not really comparable in importance to those which deal with the very heart of these subjects of Disestablishment, Disendowment, patronage if you like, but still they are very important matters, and they make the case more and more overwhelming against the time-table which the Government have proposed. There is one day for Clause 8, which lays down the principles on which the Welsh Commissioners are to allot the property of the Church and the bodies to whom they are to allot it. Just think of the different subjects, the churches, the parsonages, repair funds and endowments, glebes, private benefactions, and the immensely important contingent question of burial grounds, and, lastly, tithe rent-charge. Is it not a farce to say that a Clause such as that under which the whole question of Disendowment arises, and under which the allotment of this property, the persons to whom it should be allotted, the character of the property that shall be allotted have all to be discussed in that time.
There are, then, Clauses 22 to 28. I will not ask the House to read them now, but I ask them hereafter to look over them, and to weigh them. It has been my duty, and the duty of hon. Friends, to consult ecclesiastical experts and lawyers on the construction of many of these Clauses. I can assure the House that the most expert and the most experienced, both in the theory and practice of ecclesiastical law and the management of ecclesiastical revenues, returned in general the reply, "I really cannot tell you what it means." I 1634 think the Government will find out that is the case. I take those three examples, and many more will be given, and I ask any honest and sincere man to check the statement I have made and to ask himself then whether anything approaching a proper length of time has been given for the discussion of these matters. I know it will be said hereafter that those questions are questions which in principle, at any rate, have been discussed and decided in Wales during the course of the last forty years. That is the weight of the case which hon. Gentlemen opposite think is against us. They say what good is it for you to say that this Bill requires prolonged discussion. Why should it when it is res judicata in Wales. Let me point out that this is not a question for Wales wholly to be concerned with. The great question of principle, as regards Establishment, is whether this State, which at any rate as regards this island is not yet broken up, is or is not to recognise a national religion in any part of it, Wales included. That is a question, nobody can possibly deny, for England and Scotland as well as for Wales. You are estopped for denying it, because, although you are proposing to give Home Rule to Ireland, in the Home Rule Bill itself you recognise that the principle of the Establishment, of the national recognition of religion, is a matter which must not be dealt with, but which must be dealt with by the United Kingdom. I say again you cannot separate or disentangle this question from the question of the English Church. Does anybody deny that? [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see."] I assume it is denied. I shall wait with interest to see whether any Member of the Government dare deny it after the extract I am going to read, and I challenge them to deal with this subject, because even this Government must have a small lingering sense of responsibility. What did Lord Beauchamp say, bearing on this question of whether the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church can be separated or disentangled from this question? On 20th January of this year he said:—He should not be afraid of saying that the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was only the first step towards the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England.An hon. Gentleman opposite applauds that; I presume he will not go back from it. If he does not, with what pretence does he say that the question of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England is not inevitably 1635 bound up with this question? How can he possibly say that it is a Welsh question pure and simple? Take another great question of principle, that of the destination and treatment of great charitable properties and endowments. Take the question of dismemberment. Will it be said hereafter that in, say, the kingdoms of Yorkshire and Lancashire foreshadowed by the First Lord of the Admiralty, they will be entitled to say that the Roman Catholics within their dominions shall have no further connection with the Vatican? That is dismemberment. Would that be tyrannical or not? It would be most tyrannical.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
Will it be contended that a question of legal and constitutional principle so vital and so important as that of the treatment of endowments after 300 years' possession is a subject which can be dealt with by any provincial Assembly, and that on such a subject England and Scotland have not a right to pronounce? Let me assume for a moment that I am wrong upon all these points, though I do not think I am. Let me concede, for the purposes of argument, that we are dealing simply with a Welsh question. I say with the utmost distinctness and upon authority which no one can deny that this question is vitally different from that which it was forty years ago, thirty years ago, twenty years ago. Why do I say that? Because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who may be deemed to know something about the question, has said in open debate that the whole condition of theology and dogma in Nonconformist churches is utterly different from what it was when he was a boy, that dogmatic and theological opinion is in a condition of flux at the present moment, and that no one can say ten or twenty years ahead what the condition of opinion will be. It is perfectly true that he added that in his judgment, at whatever condition opinion might arive, it would never be in favour of the Established Church in Wales. Just consider what that admission is. There has been a vast change of opinion in forty years, in twenty years. How can you possibly say with that fluid condition of opinion that this matter is res judicata in Wales? It is impossible. Take, then, the question of opinion with regard to 1636 endowments. I see hon. Members opposite who have known Nonconformist Churches for a long time. Will not they admit that the opinion of Nonconformists with regard to endowments has enormously and vitally changed in the last twenty years? Formerly the idea of endowments was to many Nonconformists abhorrent. I hold in my hand appeals by Nonconformists for endowments. I find from a report in the "Manchester Guardian" that in connection with the South Wales Calvinistic Methodist Association appeals are made for endowments. I find that the Breconshire monthly meetings stated that they considered some such fund as the one suggested essential to their existence as a denomination in that part of Wales.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I find Congregational ministers strongly advocating the same principle. They say that there ought to be a minimum salary of £80 per annum for resident Congregational pastors in Wales, where there is now a good number whose wage is under 20s. a week. A very distinguished gentleman, the Rev. J. H. Shakespeare, presses most strongly for a permanent endowment fund. Dr. Clifford says that without such endowments the ministry—that is the Nonconformist ministry—cannot be maintained. The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Masterman), in his speech and in his book, has recognised that the Church of England in London is by reason of its Endowments the only body that can really get at and touch the very poor. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not true."] That is the right hon. Gentleman's opinion. May I summarise what I have said before entering upon my last point? Our recent unhappy experiences in the Debates on the Home Rule Bill have given us the best reason against accepting this Resolution. I have endeavoured to show, and I trust have shown, that the Prime Minister in moving it is not keeping within his own definition and his own limitation. I say that the time is greatly inadequate, whether you consider the general character of the Bill or whether you consider the lessons which have been and can be learnt even from the short discussion which has already taken place under three conditions. I have shown by detailed reference to a few leading examples the 1637 grotesque absurdity of the time allotted to the most important parts of the Bill. I have given what I trust are really sound reasons for believing that this question is admittedly one upon which English and Scotch as well as Welsh opinion ought to be consulted. We have already secured, whether you look at quantity or quality, widespread dissension on the part of the Government's own supporters from this measure. For a measure of such a character, if there is any relice of fair play in the House of Commons, surely we ought to have an unfettered fight. If we had that liberty, as we have already got well within the lines which surround the citadel, we should very shortly storm the citadel itself. Finally, I have to deal with a painful subject, but I should not be fulfilling my duty if I did not call the attention of the Prime Minister to his own pledges in this matter. On the Second Heading of this Bill—and this is not nearly the most important—the Prime Minister said:—I can only say in regard to that (the terms of Disendowment) that so far as we here are concerned—I speak for my colleagues and myself—we shall welcome, and welcome in the fullest degree, when we get into Committee, such discussion, both as to what is just and generous to leave to the Church and also to what purposes the residue which is not left to the Church can, in the interests of Wales, be most usefully applied.I submit to the House that those were offers and guarantees to many on his own side, who profoundly dissent from many of the provision of this Bill, that there should be in the fullest and amplest degree and measure an opportunity for discussing Clause by Clause the policy of this Bill which relates to Disendowment. But there is a much worse matter than that. Consider the whole circumstances under which we are discussing this Bill at all. Really they are absolutely discreditable to this House. My Amendment refers to the suspension of the Constitution. Of course, it is undeniable that the Constitution under the Parliament Act is suspended. I am not going through the arguments so powerfully advanced by my right hon. Friend and Leader on a similar occasion when the Home Rule Resolution was discussed, but I ask the House to take back its memory to the Debates on the Parliament Bill. What was urged upon this side again and again? It was that in the hands of a powerful and unscrupulous Minister the opportunities would be overwhelmingly great and the temptation overwhelmingly strong, not to put through one great Bill such as we all know in the old days was considered the absolute maximum for 1638 discussion during one Session; not one, but two or three. That was the argument that was adduced. Anybody who watched the faces of hon. Members opposite could recognise that they—especially the older ones amongst them—felt that there was a very great peril here. I do not think anybody could doubt that for one moment. The Prime Minister did not doubt it. May I recall to him what he said? He found it absolutely necessary to alleviate and assuage the alarm and suspicion which his own side felt in consequence of the prospect of such as is now happening—I mean placing three or more great first-class measures into one Session and crushing them through the House by the use of means such as this. What did the Prime Minister say? He said:—The hon. Member (Mr. Peel) has drawn an alarming picture of a future Government trying to carry through in a single Session a number of first-class controversial measures; but there are limits to the powers of human and Parliamentary endurance, which I think form a very adequate safeguard against anything of the kind suggested by the hon. Gentleman. It is difficult enough to pass a single controversial measure-and no one knows that better than the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury)—in the course of one session.I call the particular attention of the House to this:—There is not the least fear or prospect of the difficulty to which the hon. Member refers being realised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1911, col. 85, Vol. XXV.]I most earnestly invite the attention of the Prime Minister to those words. Could words be clearer, either specifically, in literary context, or in conjunction with the occasion on which they were uttered? Could there be a more specific pledge than that which is now being done—I mean the cramming of these three and more great measures into one Session of Parliament—should not be done? I venture to ask whether in honour and in conscience the Prime Minister can reconcile those words of his—which must have had a vital effect upon the fears and alarms of hon. Members on his own side—with his present action? There can be but one answer: they are irreconcilable. There is a course open to the Prime Minister which I most earnestly invite him to take. If he has forgotten his pledge, if he has forgotten these words, it is still open to him to do that which will be honourable. At any rate, whatever may be said, he can recognise his pledge and see that to put into one Session these three great meacures, and to apply to them this drastic and tyrannous procedure, is dishonouring to himself and dishonouring to his country.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I notice that directly a private Member gets up to address this House the Prime Minister leaves. When a Welsh Member and one of the few who was elected to oppose this Bill ventures to offer a few remarks on this drastic resolution, the Government Bench is left practically empty—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."]—and the Prime Minister has not the courtesy to listen. The indignation which this Resolution has created amongst Churchmen in Wales and many Churchmen in England is only paralleled by the even greater indignation that will be felt at the Prime Minister's speech to-day. There was not one shred of argument in support of the Closure as applied to this Bill. There was not one attempt to show there was even a movement in the country or any popular movement in support of this Bill. There was not a single attempt to go through the details of this Closure Resolution and defend it. Let us just examine what happens on the twelfth allotted day. On the twelfth allotted day we are to discuss the Financial Resolution and ten Clauses, and that is to be on a Friday afternoon when the House is empty. In addition to the "gag" and the guillotine and the "kangaroo," this is the first occasion upon which a first-class measure is to be taken on a Friday afternoon.
We saw the other night the first practical effect of the guillotine. Hon. Members opposite are sent to the National Liberal Club and remain in the smoke-room until the guillotine falls, when the Whips send for them. I was here during the whole of the Debate the day before yesterday, and there were seventeen Liberals and four Labour Members present. On the discussion in Committee of the Home Rule Bill we had two counts. That is on a great Bill in which you are so interested, but half an hour afterwards 580 Members voted in the Division, and the first effect of this gagging Resolution is to make the whole Committee stage in this Bill a farce, and to make the whole discussion a farce. It would be far honester to come down and say on this Welsh Disestablishment Bill, "We will dispense with the Committee stage; it is a res judicata in Wales. England has nothing to do with it." The Home Secretary said, I have his speech here, "It is their Church and nation and we in England should not interfere." That is res judicata; why have any discussion at all? These proceedings in the Committee stage seem to have been 1640 parcelled out just so as to shut out discussion, not so much on Amendments put down by hon. Members on this side as to shut out very awkward Amendments put down by Liberal Churchmen opposite. Just look at this point. On the sixth allotted day we are to have the whole of Clause 8 which occupies two pages and contains practically the whole of the Disendowment proposals of the Government and the various splitting up of the Endowments of the Church. There is an Amendment dealing with the question of glebe. The Government put something down for which there is no precedent; they are going to force under that Clause as it stands the Church in Wales to buy back the glebe she at present owns and has owned for centuries. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Yes, it is perfectly clear. The parson is to remain the landlord, but he has to buy back the glebe and there is an Amendment down to say the glebe shall be no longer administered and owned by the Church. You do not want discussion upon that point or upon any of these points, and the whole of this Endowment question is to be crammed into one day—another Friday afternoon when the Prime Minister is conveniently absent and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members of the Government are away.
I call the attention of the House to this: Here we are discussing the most drastic guillotine Motion and tyrannical measure ever put forward in this House offending opinion up and down the country. Whenever a petition against this Bill is presented hon. Members opposite laugh so that when Churchmen try and bring public opinion to bear without adopting militant measures, but try to adopt constitutional usages, all that happens is that hon. Members opposite laugh. Over half a million of Church people in Wales and over two million people in England have signed petitions against this Bill, yet not one word from the Prime Minister, and these petitions are laughed at by Liberal Members. In addition to insult and robbery the Government now mock the Church people and Church feeling in this country. It is a mockery from beginning to end. I want to draw attention to the twelfth allotted day, when we discuss ten Clauses dealing first with burial grounds, with first fruits, with Ecclesiastical compensation in the transitional period, with alteration of the Marriage Act, with the transfer of the powers of vestries, powers of the management of property, delivery and access to books and documents, and the continuance 1641 of liability of tithes. That is Clause 27, which is to be taken at the end of the day after we have discussed all these questions. That, of course, will conveniently be left undiscussed. Fancy taking ten controversial Clauses of a Bill in one day, and you do not even suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule or the Five o'clock Rule on Friday. There are at least one hundred Amendments on these Clauses worthy of consideration. There has never been a time-table Resolution so little careful of the importance of the Clauses or so little careful of the questions at issue as this. It is just as if the draftsman had taken the Bill and cut out so many lines here and so many lines there and put them down without any regard to their importance.
Take, as an example, the questions we have to discuss on the first day. We are to discuss the Instruction on going into Committee, dealing with the separation of the Bill into Disestablishment and Disendowment Bills. Then we will discuss the whole Clause of Establishment in the light of this Bill being the Preamble, being the excuse and precedent for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the whole Church in England. Then we come to discuss State patronage and private patronage and the question of concurrent establishment and the question of the King being allowed to appoint, as he did last year, an ecclesiastical office in connection with investiture, which is cut out of this Bill, and we are to discuss Clause 2, which dissolves all the cathedrals. We are to discuss the turning of the Welsh bishops out of the House of Lords and the keeping in of the English bishops. We are also to discuss whether clergymen of the Church in Wales are to become Members of this House. The Bill says they may, but what is to happen if clergymen in the Church in Wales have transferred to the English Church? Are they, then, to leave this House? Personally, I object to clergymen of any denomination sitting in this House. That brings us to the end of Clause 2. We will not have an opportunity of debating many of these matters at all, and many important principles will go by the board entirely undiscussed. That is the first day. The second day deals with the whole of the Ecclesiastical Courts, with the doctrine of binding, and all that business about binding as a matter of practice as between the existing Church in Wales and the future Church in Wales which this Bill 1642 seeks to establish, also the whole question of Convocation. I suppose you will be setting up penal Clauses as to who are to be members of Convocation, and I suppose you will have policemen at the door keeping the four Welsh Bishops out of Convocation, which they have attended for centuries. On that Clause the whole question of the relation between the Church of England in Wales and in England has to be discussed. That Church has been united far back into history. Then we are to consider Clause 4, but really it is comparatively unimportant, because the real discussion is on the Schedule. You give us a similar amount of time for Clause 4 as for Clause 3. Was there ever anything more absurd than the way this Resolution is drafted? It is done, as you do everything in connection with this Bill, simply to mock the Opposition and mock the Church. There is another day to which I wish to draw attention to, and it is the fifth day. On that day you have to deal with the thorny question of private benefactions. You have only one day to discuss the origin of those benefactions and the important question whether they are really State benefactions or private endowments. I quite understand why. It is because there are Amendments down from Liberal Members, and therefore you want to stifle discussion. I could go on in that way through the whole time-table. This Bill is one of the most complex and controversial measures ever introduced into the House of Commons. There is a Clause dealing with border parishes, taking them out of the parishes they have been in for centuries and putting them into other parishes, and splitting up the organisation of the Church. That subject has to be discussed between four o'clock and seven o'clock, which only allows three hours for Members representing those constituencies to put their views before the Committee.
Then you are giving only one day for the Re-establishment Clause. That is Clause 13, which re-establishes under Act of Parliament the Disestablished Church in Wales. I believe that Clause re-establishes the Church under an Order in Council by a constitution which pleases His Majesty's Government but which does not please us. The Church of England in Wales is endeavouring to fight this Bill fairly and squarely. We are holding meetings up and down the country, we are petitioning Parliament, and we are keeping within constitutional methods. Neverthe- 1643 less, you do not care and you pay no attention to us, and the more we adopt those methods the more you mock us. The only people you take any notice of are the militants in the Woman Suffrage movement, for you give them opportunities and pledges. Ulster you are beginning to be afraid of, and you say you will be willing to hear anything from the other side. But are you willing to hear the Church people of this country? You say minorities must suffer, and I know that is the Liberal theory. In Wales the Churchmen are in a minority. We are a small but an ancient Church, and a community desperately fond of our Church, which has come down to us from the earliest ages. Unity has existed between us and another Church for ages, and we have sincere views. We have views that you are inflicting upon us a great wrong. We may be a minority, and we are a small people, and a small portion of those people, and yet you come down here with the most drastic form of guillotine. You kick us because we are small, and you are the bullies who sit in office drawing your salaries and mocking us. This guillotine Resolution is the argument of the bully and the coward. You dare not have discussion—in fact, you fly from it, and you shrink from it. [Laughter.] I know hon. Members opposite laugh and jeer. The hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan (Mr. Hugh Edwards) merely laughs at me.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
What have I done to his chapel, I would like to know, and why does he laugh at my sincere convictions? I do not laugh at him.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
I did not laugh. [HON. MEMBRRS: "Oh, oh!" and "Withdraw."] I did not laugh at the hon. Member's convictions, but I laughed at the mixture of the hon. Member's metaphors. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is a falsehood." "Oh, oh!" and "Sit down."]
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
This comes very well from the hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan, who, of course, is one of the distinguished hon. Members of this House who never even mentioned this question at the last election or put it in his election address, although he angled deliberately for Church votes when he was fighting his seat. His reputation in Wales for in- 1644 accuracy is well known. Now I come to my third point. I have dealt with the Schedule and the time allotted in Committee. There are to be two allotted days for the Report stage and what does that mean? It simply means that that stage is going through without discussion. There is to be one day for the Third Reading, and as a private Member I protest against that kind of thing, because it simply means that the Members of the Front Bench get up and talk the whole of the time and the private Member is completely shut out from the discussion altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, will speak on the First and Second Reading, and other Ministers speak on the First and the Second Reading, and private Members from Wales will be unable to speak at all. It is perfectly clear that the intention of the Government is to shut us out from the Third Reading, except possibly during the dinner hour, and we are tied down to the Third Reading, which is supposed to be the one further chance we have of exposing the hollowness of the assertion of the Government that this is a popular movement or that there is any popular support for it. When people in Wales speak against your proposals you laugh at them because they stand up courageously and object to this money being transferred from religious to worldly objects. There is a movement in England against Disendowment, and that is why you bring down, on a Friday afternoon to an empty House, a Resolution of this kind.
The Home Secretary spoke at Bristol the other day and what was his argument about the Bill, and his excuse for this Resolution? He said it was a popular movement supported by popular pence. Was there ever a more outrageous statement than that? You have a millionaire treasurer to your movement and others who roll out hundreds in support of your cause. Look in the columns of the "Liberator" and you will see how many subscriptions you are getting from North Wales. You only got twelve in one month, and that is what you call a popular movement supported by popular pence. The excuse for this guillotine Resolution is the growing unpopularity of this Bill, and the growing hatred of the people in this country against taking away money from religion and spending it on politics or museums. Any attempt to deprive the Church of its liberties and the traditions which it holds most dear and cherishes 1645 must fail. Every day Nonconformists are coming over to our side and Liberal Churchmen are fighting side by side with us, but because it is part of a log rolling arrangement that this Bill shall soothe a certain kind of Nonconformist who is opposed to Home Rule, you have to run the two concurrently, and you have to hurry up with this Bill, while the Irish Members are at Westminster, or else the Church would not be deprived of its revenue. You are, we maintain, doing a great wrong by this Bill. We wish to show you in every Clause where the wrong is going to be done. We wish to show you what harm you are going to do to Wales, what a precedent you are setting, and how deeply we feel against this Bill; and you come down and gag us, and Closure and guillotine us, and kangaroo us, and adopt all the devices for preventing public and honest opinion being heard in this House. It is the weapon of tyrants, degrading the House of Commons, degrading free speech, depriving us of our rights, kicking the minority. You are acting like bullies, and such proceedings will bring you—the Government—down, discredited, dishonoured, and unbeloved.
§ Mr. WHYTE
The hon. Member has made a spirited speech which, I think, the House will agree does credit to his Parliamentary powers as it does to his convictions. I am one of those prepared to go a certain way with him, but I am afraid not very far, because, to begin with, I am a convinced believer in the principle of Disestablishment, though I believe it can be applied with a somewhat less degree of hardship than it is applied in certain Clauses of this Bill. I am not going to follow the hon. Member into an examination of the time-table, because the detailed examination of that time-table, as I conceive it, necessarily comes on the specific Amendments which are on the Paper; and I shall take each of those Amendments on their merits and endeavour to judge them in that fashion. This Resolution, moved by the Prime Minister to-day, raises an exceedingly important question in Parliamentary procedure. This is, I think, the fourth, if not the fifth time that such a Resolution has appeared on the Order Paper of the House in the name of the First Lord of the Treasury to deal with a Bill of first-class and contentious importance. There are three things that strike me about such Motions. The first is: that they lead to most unedifying fusillades of recriminations between the 1646 two Front Benches, a form of activity of which, I think, both Front Benches are too fond; and far more important still is that the opinion grows upon both sides of the House that some measure of this kind is absolutely necessary, but that the present way of carrying that measure into effect is extremely unsatisfactory.
I want to invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to look at this question entirely apart from their partisan convictions, as I shall endeavour to do on my part. What is it that will probably in the future contribute to congestion in Parliament, even when, let us suppose, the Irish Home Rule Bill has relieved us of a certain amount of that congestion; and what is the position of Parliament at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century as contrasted with its position, let us say, about the middle of the nineteenth century? If the contention which we often hear from the other side, and with which I agree in great part, were absolutely true, namely, that the Parliamentary combatants of those days were giants as compared with the Parliamentary combatants of to-day, then surely it would follow that the contests of those days would necessarily be even more prolonged than the contests of to-day, because they would be so much closer and would be carried on with a far greater degree of power and conviction. I think, however, that is not a satisfactory reflection on this subject, because I believe the congestion is largely due to two things. First, there is the complete non-observance of that rule, which is very difficult to enforce, regarding the repetition of facts and arguments in this House, a rule which if adequately enforced would render a Resolution of this kind absolutely unnecessary. The second point which I wish to enforce is that since, let us say, 1850, the growth both of the Metropolitan Press, the Provincial Press, and of the smaller Local Press, has been so great that it offers an immensely wider field of Parliamentary activity for every single private Member now than was offered then, and that in consequence, whether the Member himself is actually impelled by the force of personal conviction to take part in a Debate or not, he feels himself compelled now and then to do so, because of the interest his constituents take in his appearance in this greater arena. All these things taken together create a situation under which the old methods of absolute freedom must go by the board, 1647 and therefore I want to approach this question from the point of view, not of a supporter of the Government, or of a Member of the Government, but as one who expects, I will not say hopes, some day to be in Opposition. If all Governments invite an Opposition to take it for granted that a procedure Resolution of this character is to become part of the permanent Parliamentary equipment of this country, it necessarily follows that all Governments must offer to all Oppositions some quid pro quo. You cannot invite an Opposition—and let me grant for a moment, and I grant only too freely, that the opposition to this particular Bill is both sincere in conviction and fierce in temper—sincere, devoted, and active in the discharge of its Parliamentary duty, namely, if we are to follow Lord Randolph Churchill, that of opposing to accept in permanency an arrangement of this kind unless you are prepared to give something in exchange, and the particular thing which I wish every Government would offer in exchange would not only give the Opposition a greater opportunity of carrying into force those Amendments upon which it chiefly sets its heart in relation to any given Bill, but it would also set free in this House a far greater degree of Parliamentary judgment than is at present exercised. If we are to agree that such Resolutions as these must necessarily be adopted by Government after Government to deal with public business, then it follows far more imperatively than it followed under the system of free discussion that this House should have the inestimable boon of free decision. I lay far greater stress and attach infinitely greater value, as one of the youngest and perhaps least experienced Members, to the power of free decision in this House than to the power of free discussion. I am one of those who believe that an immense amount of Parliamentary time is always wasted on both sides of the House, and that, as a great Parliamentarian in the past said, you can discuss the material points of a Clause easily within one day—ordinary business assemblies would take half a day and less—but if you are to have anything like an opportunity really of amending measures under circumstances of restrictive debate, you must have an absolutely unrestricted opportunity for the House to register its judgment in the Division Lobby. That is the appeal which I make to this, as to 1648 all, Governments: that they should regard the Committee stage as a stage of perfect freedom for the individual Member. When a party comes into this House supporting a Government which is pledged to the principle of Free Trade, to carry the Second Reading of a measure of Home Rule for Ireland, to carry the Second Reading of a measure disestablishing the Welsh Church, to give Scotland local option, and so on—I am not one of those who believe in the strict doctrine of mandate; I accept the words of Lord Morley in the House of Lords, in which he described what I believe to be the true doctrine with regard to the mandate—I say that when a party comes into this House supporting a Government pledged to carry such measures as I have described, it is obviously absurd to expect every one of the 300 odd Members who sit on these benches to actually interpret those principles exactly as they are interpreted in each successive Clause in each successive Bill. And if that applies to Governments it applies equally to Oppositions. It is quite as absurd to expect every one of the 280 odd Members on those benches to inteprret the successive Clauses of successive measures on one common ground. I therefore suggest they should be given an absolutely free decision—that not only should we set free the supporters of the Government, but you should equally set free Members of the Opposition from the binding force of the party tie.
I abate not one jot of my convictions that the party system has been good for the stability of the government of this country. But I believe we could retain all that is good in it, and yet give up this particular form of tyranny which has done more harm to the House of Commons than many other things that this House has done. I am going to support the Motion of the Prime Minister on these principles. But I hope, though it is not directly germane to the points raised in the speeches which have gone before—I hope this House will take into its deep consideration the question which I have raised, because I believe if you look back on the work of the last two or three years there is not a man either on the Front Bench or on any back bench who will deny that the measures which have been passed would have been better measures if it had not been that partisanship is the most binding force in this House on that side as well as on this.
§ Mr. WHYTE
The hon. Member for the City of London, I admit, is a mirror of Parliamentary procedure for us younger Members. I pay that tribute to him. As I have said on a previous occasion, he has been my tutor in some of the points which I hope to be able to practise perhaps when I sit on that side of the House. But I do not think it will be generally denied that partisanship is binding on the other side just as much as it is on this, and that it renders the decision cast against measures in some sense as factitious as the decisions given in favour. It is a blight which has fallen on the whole House without distinction of party, and I earnestly ask the House to turn its attention to the matter in the near future. If prognostications recently made are true, if they should turn out to be correct, we shall have two comparatively peaceful Sessions between now and the General Election, and this House could be occupied in no better task than in refashioning its own procedure in order to introduce these principles. I ask my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, to make a mental note of the point I have been raising, and if he can see his way to do so to transfer them to the attention of the Prime Minister. I, at all events, in the future as I have to a considerable extent in the past, propose to conduct my Parliamentary duties on the basis of the principles I have been expounding this afternoon. Even though I feel I came here with a perfect right to vote in either Lobby I appreciate the immense force of party appeal as everyone does in this House. I am sure if we can free both sides of the House from the party tie in the manner I have suggested this House will become a more resplendent mirror of public opinion than it has ever been in the past.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I entirely sympathise with the view put forward by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. But he has been denouncing the tyranny of the party Whip, and that is not a matter which can be settled with regard to the Rules of this House. It is a much wider question. I am delighted to think that the hon. Member intends to regulate his conduct according to his conscientious convictions in the future and not in accordance with the dictates of party.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I am congratulating the hon. Member on that. I think it would be a great advantage as regards the general prestige of the House if that line of conduct were more often followed. But if he asks me my opinion on this point, I reply that it is a matter of the feeling of the individual Members. It is not a matter which can be dealt with by the Rules of the House. It is not the matter which we are really discussing in any sense at the present time, and I wish to say, as regards the principle involved, I am heartily in accord with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Dealing with the matter immediately before the House I have to say that, in my view, the proposal made by the Prime Minister is a grotesque and unprecedented outrage both as regards the House itself and as regards what perhaps is of equal importance, the consciences and convictions of Churchmen, who feel strongly and will fight strenuously upon this question of dismemberment, Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. On the first point the Prime Minister offered no argument at all. He pleaded necessity, and necessity, as we know, is always the tyrant's plea. You have to go behind necessity, and you have-to ask yourselves why has the necessity, been brought about which you are pleading as a justification for this Motion. Let me come, however, to the other point. Directly we do that the whole basis of the-argument addressed to the House by the-Prime Minister disappears. The first matter I want to call your attention to was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman in moving his Motion. It is this. If you seek to drive through any body such as the House of Commons a far greater amount of legislation in a given time than that body can possibly deal with, you can always formulate a case of necessity. It is a question of crushing through legislation without proper discussion and without proper debate. The Prime Minister, by urging necessity under these circumstances, does not meet our case, and it is the outrage he has offered to the House of Commons in attempting under these conditions to press through a Bill of this kind, knowing perfectly well that there will not be time for full and free discussion, that we Churchmen are protesting against. When he tells us that necessity justifies his demand our answer is, "Withdraw the Bill." If you cannot discuss a 1651 Bill of this kind except under these conditions of the "gag" and guillotine, if the existing conditions make this abnormal procedure necessary, the answer is that the legislation itself ought not to be embarked upon under conditions of this kind. If the hon. Member who preceded me desires, as he said he did, the honour of this House, and that we should be a really representative body, he should join hands with us on this occasion, because he ought to realise that he will never get the conditions he wishes if an attempt is made to crush through a greater amount of legislation in a given time than this House can possibly deal with under any fair conditions.
The second point 1 wish to deal with is that we are constantly having these Resolutions. As the Prime Minister said, in a certain sense they have become a normal part of our procedure. That means that our Standing Orders, which are intended to be for the protection of the minority and to provide for free and fair discussion, have become a mockery and a farce at the present moment. What is the good of having Standing Orders which you can put on one side by a mere majority vote? It means that the provision for the protection of minorities can be put on one side by the mere tyranny of the majority. One of the first essential conditions of restoring the right of free discussion and free action in this House is that our Standing Orders should not be set aside except by some specified majority. I am only speaking of what applies in every business assembly. Immediately you allow the principle of a mere majority setting aside Standing Orders, which are only in force to protect the minority and give free and fair discussion, you bring in the tyrannous action of a majority, and might just as veil act without any of these Standing Orders at all. There is one other matter to which I would call the attention of the hon. Member. I have had the misfortune, if I may put it so, to be in this House longer than he. I have also, perhaps, had the misfortune of discussing in documents this question of the Standing Orders of this House, and of pointing out that in my view under the Standing Orders as they exist, so far from their providing for free discussion, free action, and liberty of speech, we have none of the proper Standing Orders which ought to be in force if we really desire to improve the conditions as regard free discussion in this House.
1652 I ask the hon. Member to join with us in what is the really fundamental question we have to approach if we are to maintain the old honour, the old prestige, and the old privileges of this House, namely, that any Standing Orders in force for the protection of the minority, and enabling free and fair discussion, shall not be set on one side at the mere will of the majority but only if there is some specified number, greater than a mere majority, which desires to supersede them in any particular case. I am perfectly certain, and the longer I remain a Member of this House the more do I feel it, that so long as the mere majority principle is in force and can set aside the Standing Orders, you constitute the Cabinet, which represents the majority for the time being, an absolutely tyrannous and irresponsible power, if they desire, as they ought not to, to crush through legislation without fair and full discussion by Members of this House. Upon this occasion we have what appears to me to be one of the most melancholy imbecilities of so called precedents. I shall say a word later about the particular precedent to which the Prime Minister referred. What does it mean? That each mistake we make—we are not an infallible body—on the question of procedure is quoted in order to further rivet the chains, and to further limit free discussion and fair action on the part of this House. I know that this Resolution will be passed. I always feel that in discussing these matters, as I am sure the hon. Member must feel, that after all we are going to vote in cast-iron departments. What will happen? Against our protests this will be passed. Next time it will be quoted as a precedent. Each precedent is quoted as giving greater power against free, discussion than the one that preceded it. If I may put it so, after a precedent of this kind, would it not be better, would it not be more straightforward, and would not the country understand it more clearly, if we said at once that if the Cabinet and the Government desire it, we should have no discussion. I am one of those who feel very strongly that discussion under the "gag" and guillotine is nothing more than a farce and a mockery. You do not want it if you are to have the mind and feeling of a deliberative body.
I do not think that the hon. Member has in the least exaggerated, although I doubt if all lion. Members realise it, the extent to which we are losing force in the country by allowing our own procedure to 1653 be degraded by this constant suspension of our Standing Orders. That is an extremely serious matter. I am not one of those who want to run down this House of Parliament. I look to it with the veneration which perhaps Conservatives entertain through their traditional and historical outlook. Let me say this to hon. Members opposite. If you ruin the procedure of this House in the eyes of the country, what are you going to put in its place? That question has always appealed to me very seriously. If we have rioting, difficulties, in connection with these serious social problems that arise, how are we to solve them without the country believing that there is free discussion, free action and liberty in this House. There has been some discussion lately as to the growth of lawlessness. Do not let us suppose that is a small matter. If you have free discussion in this House, and what is the true basis of representative Government—legislation by assent after free discussion—you have the basis of the old law-abiding character of the English people. To supersede that, to put on one side the doctrine of government by assent and to bring it about by "gag" and guillotine, makes the minority feel, and rightly feel, that they are entitled to dispute legislation which has been carried against their wishes without any possibility of fair or free discussion.
Let me go to the one precedent to which the Prime Minister referred. It is an extremely important point. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Irish Bill. I do not think he could have done anything which could have shown more clearly how you may mislead people if you do not allow fair and free discussion. It can be proved beyond all doubt that it is wholly misleading, absolutely inaccurate, and absolutely incorrect to quote the Irish Bill as a precedent for the Disestablishment Bill which is before the House at the present time. Let me state the four points. First of all, we all know that in the case of the Irish Bill Resolutions were passed and a dissolution was taken, and then you had a new election limited to one point only, namely, whether the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was to be carried through or not. If anyone on the Front Bench opposite will say that after this Bill is appreciated and understood, and after it has been discussed, we are to have the same opportunity as was given in the case of the Irish Bill, large 1654 amount of my objection would go; but they will not do it. The very feature which was the prominent feature in the Irish Church Bill is what is deliberately and, I think, most wrongly taken away as regards the protection of Church people in this country, and under these circumstances can you doubt, not only of our streriuousness, but I am obliged to say of our bitterness in a contest of this kind i You cannot appreciate our conscientious convictions towards our dear old Church. I am sure you cannot, or else you would not deal with our arguments in the w[...] they are sometimes dealt with. But they are very real. We may have to give them up after fair and free discussion, and after the country has decided absolutely against us, but to give them up on this pretext of a mandate under conditions of gag and guillotine—no Churchman worthy of his name would assent to legislation passed under conditions of that kind.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I am speaking on behalf of those who are 95 per cent, or 99 per cent, of members of the Church. We had a great meeting of representatives of the Church Council, at which something like 2,000 people were present, and there were two dissentients. I am speaking in the name of the Church as a whole, and I only ask you to give me the same credit for my conscientious objections as I give to every Nonconformist, in any part of the House, speaking on behalf of the particular denomination in which he was born and to which he was attached. Then as regards the Irish Bill, the whole question there was that the funds were being improperly used. That was Mr. Bright's argument and the argument of every great Liberal. What precedent is that compared with what is being done here, namely, the taking away of Endowments which admittedly are urgently needed and are being properly used at present? Let mo give one other illustration. I doubt whether all Members opposite appreciate it. Take the Irish Church as disendowed. The funds left to-day, having regard to the needs and numbers of the Anglican Church in Ireland, are grossly and largely greater than the funds which, without Disendowment, the Anglican Church in Wales is enjoying at present. How is that a prece- 1655 dent for what we are protesting against? We are protesting against it on the ground of Christian treatment and Christian progress. We are protesting against secularising funds now urgently needed for Christian life and Christian teaching. What precedent is there as regards Ireland, left with larger funds as regards its needs than the Welsh Church has at the present time even before a measure of Disendowment at all? I cannot go further into a matter of that kind at present except to protest against this constant suggestion of precedents which have no application at all to the conditions of the world to-day. It is bad enough to have your conscientious convictions trampled upon. It is an insult when they are trampled upon under the plea of precedents which have no application in the mind of any reasonable and sensible man to the particular legislation which happens to be proposed in this House.
When we come to the other part of the case it is this. The very moment we look to see whether the terms of this Resolution are reasonable or not there can be only one answer, and there are two points to which I want to direct attention. The Prime Minister referred, very rightly, to what is one of the worst features in this gag Resolution, namely, the time given to Clause 1 and the Instructions. A very large number of Members on the other side of the House, when we were arguing this point on the First and Second Reading, said the particular reason why they thought you might interfere with our Endowments, whereas you ought not to interfere with Nonconformist Endowments, was that we were an Established Church. To my mind there is a complete answer to that argument, an answer which ought to be thoroughly discussed on the Instruction as to whether you are to have Disestablishment and Disendowment in different Bills or not. All these Endowments which are being attacked have their origin earlier in what is called the establishment by law of the Church in this country. They all come from the time, in other words, when the position of the Church in this respect was on exactly the same footing as any Nonconformist body at the present day. That is a most important point. I feel it most strongly myself, because I do not believe one of these Endowments which are being attacked had anything to do with whether the Church is established by law or not. They are entirely independent, and were given to it as a religious 1656 body in the same way as Nonconformists have had endowments given to them by voluntary gift. Every research which I have read seems to lead to the same conclusion.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
Certainly. In Wales, as far as we know and as far as the documents can teach us, they show that all these Endowments which are now being attacked were in their origin purely voluntary gifts. It is sometimes forgotten it might be said, that the Endowments left to the Church since the Reformation period, were given to it in some sense as an established Church by law. That would be a possible argument; but to my mind it is an impossible argument to say that the old Endowments which are going to be confiscated, and to be secularised, had any other foundation except purely voluntary gifts, quite irrespective of whether the Church was established by law or not. At any rate it is enough for my purpose to say this. You have a most crucial question to discuss. I am not going too far if I judge by the opinion even of various Members on the other side who are opposed to us, and who desire that our view should have a full hearing—and I believe after all that is their desire—if I say that this is an argument which appeals to them very strongly as a decisive argument upon one side or the other. When answering what I had to say, the Solicitor-General, speaking, I think, on the Third Reading of the Bill, said that the only distinction he drew between Nonconformist Endowments and ours was on that point. I entirely deny that there is any distinction, but let us discuss it. How are we to discuss a great question of that kind under a Clause in the Bill at one sitting, and without any further opportunity?
I will only give one other illustration. Hon. Members will realise that our churchyards are dear to us. The churchyards surround the parish churches. [An HON. MEMBER: "They belong to all the parishioners."] Certainly, I quite agree. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that the Church of England in every respect is other than the church of the parishioners. I absolutely and wholly agree with that. I think the foundation and the real strength of the Church is in its parochial life, although I hope I have full respect for the hierarchy of the 1657 bishops. On that matter we are to have no chance of discussion. We are to have our churchyards taken from us as a Church. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not want to discuss it now. I am sure I am stating my view accurately. We are going to have the churchyards taken, and you are going to reserve to Churchmen the right of passage if they are going to services, but no funeral is to be allowed during the usual time of the ordinary services in the Church. Can you imagine a greater insult to a Church and to parochial life than a provision of that kind? If you want to create friction and a feeling of bitterness and intolerance in this country, you could not suggest a better means of bringing it about. It has been my view and hope that intolerance in religious matters was dying out in recent years. It has always been my belief and hope that religious people will join more closely together, recognising that, without owning that their own faith is not correct, other people are equally entitled to their own belief. That is the real basis of toleration. It is not in indiffercntism; it is in realising that honest opinion, wherever held, is entitled to respect. That has been my difficulty in connection with these religious differences. Is it not a sad thing to anyone who holds opinions of that kind to find this Disestablishment Bill brought in? If you adopt that principle, why should you attack the Anglican Church because of its Endowments, and because it does do it best to provide Christian ministrations, not only for the parishioners, but for all people in distant mountain parishes as well as in crowded cities? Why do you attack us if you believe we are doing our best in a Christian and religious spirit? What is the meaning of it? You do not want the money. The money is going to be thrown away practically. [Indications of dissent.] I mean that £100,000 is nothing as compared with the large sums we are spending in various directions. Then why are you attacking the Church? Is there more than one answer? I say that the worst part of this Bill is that it shows a resurrection of the mediæval spirit of reaction and intolerance. I do not think you will reduce religious prejudice if you not only bring forward a Bill of this kind, but if at the same time you gag and guillotine the Churchmen of this country, who are in earnest in this matter far outside of party politics or political considerations.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I listened with very great attention and interest to 1658 the earnest speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir A. Cripps). Perhaps, however, he will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow him into many of the questions raised in that speech, because, with very great deference, I think a good many of them were based on arguments already used on the Second Reading, and would have been more appropriate on the Third Reading than on the question now before the House. That is my excuse for not attempting to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into all his points. He asked one particular question, namely, what is the good of your Standing Orders if you are going to suspend them? He asked the question in terms that implied that the Standing Orders were devised for the protection of Members and for giving them the right of unlimited speech.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
Very well, free speech. If the hon. Member will read the Standing Orders, he will see that a great many deal with the limitation of the opportunities afforded to Members of this House to speak, and we are asked from time to time to make further limitation in order to see that business should be done. It is common ground to us all that the House ought to be a deliberative Assembly, but the words "deliberative Assembly" do not mean an Assembly proceeding in such a way that no business ever gets done. The answer to the question which the hon. and learned Gentleman puts to me is perfectly obvious. When you have a Bill proposed by a Government which has been returned to proceed with that Bill—[HON MEMBERS: "NO"]. Let me finish my proposition. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quite untrue."] How can a hypothetical proposition be untrue? I say if you have a Government returned to power in order to carry a measure which has received the sanction of the country, and you find that the existing Standing Orders make it impossible for the majority of the House to carry out its will, further restrictions must necessarily be imposed upon the time. That leads me to call attention to the inaccuracy of the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Lyttelton), because after several recitals which are in themselves, in my opinion, either inappropriate or inaccurate, the Amendment concludes with the words "requires the full and unfettered consideration of this House." You cannot have unfettered consideration 1659 of any measure, because under the Standing Orders to which I have referred the whole matter is one of degree. Supposing this Resolution of the Prime Minister were not being proposed, the discussion of this Bill would be fettered by the Standing Orders relating to closure of debate, the selection of Amendments, and various other Standing Orders. I was prematurely interrupted a minute or two ago upon the question whether this Bill has or has not received the sanction of the country, or to put the question in another way: whether the Government has received a mandate from the country to deal with this matter. My proposition is that in regard to this measure even more clearly than in regard to any of the other measures which the Government propose, they have received a mandate from the electors of the United Kingdom to proceed with it. That proposition, I understand, is not accepted by hon. Members opposite. I propose to show that, judging by any ordinary tests, the Government has a mandate from the electors to proceed with this matter. If I thought it fair to this House to go into all the details which anything like a proper history of this measure would involve, I could show that this is a very old movement indeed, and that it has been discussed not only at a few recent General Elections, but that it has been, at any rate in that part of the country most affected, a subject of continual discussion, at least ever since the year 1830.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
It has been quite the other way. Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Welsh Church was suggested as far back as the year 1793, but it was suggested among a people speaking what the Commissioners called a peculiar language and naturally attracted not much attention in the House of Commons of the day or among the English electors. But, seeing that no doubt other hon. Members wish to speak, I do not think it would be fair for me to go into the history of the question, and I abstain on precisely the same principle as the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire (Sir A. Cripps) abstained from going into the question of tithes. I will come down to what every Member of the House will consider absolutely relevant, 1660 the election of 1906. I assert that before that election the then Prime Minister, who had assumed office in December, 1905, announced in the most solemn manner that one of the questions with which his Government would deal would be the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church in Wales.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
He had been in Wales at an earlier period, but he did not come to Wales before the General Election in order to say what his programme would be. The Prime Minister announced his programme at a great meeting in the Albert Hall, in London. Apart from that, he sent a special messenger to the then Welsh Members of Parliament to inform them that they were at liberty to tell their constituents that Disestablishment and Disendowment occupied the same place in the Liberal programme as they had occupied in the programme of the Government of 1892. That is how matters stood in 1906. The result everyone knows. Every single Member of Parliament for the thirty-four Welsh constituencies who was returned was pledged to this measure and a Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales was brought in by the Prime Minister in the year 1909, and here I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment to the fact that the Bill of 1909 was in all substantial particulars the same as the present Bill, and it is therefore not quite accurate when he says that this Bill had never been presented to the country. In the election in January 1910, everyone who took an interest in this matter knew what would be the lines of a measure proposed by the Government if returned to power m reference to this matter; so that when you come to the election of January, 1910, you not only have all the preceding declarations of the two Prime Ministers, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and the present Prime Minister, but you have actually a Bill which got its First Reading in the Session of 1909 as part of the materials upon which the electorate is to form its judgment. Before the election of January, 1910, took place, the present Prime Minister at a meeting at the Albert Hall, in which he elaborated the programme of his Government if it should be returned to power again, referred to this measure of religious 1661 equality for Wales, and to the Bill introduced in the Session of 1909, and at the General Election which took place thirty-two Welsh Members were returned pledged to this measure. In December, 1910, when the second election was taking place, the present Prime Minister repeated the assurance to the country of his intention to carry this legislation. So far the matter stands upon declarations upon our side. I desire now to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the view taken by representatives of their own party. In order to put it most concisely I may refer to an extract from an influential Church paper, "The Guardian," of the 22nd December, 1909, just before the first election of 1910, which says:—The Bishop—that is to say the Bishop of St. David's,pointed out that Parliament is not entitled to overthrow an ancient National institution without any clear, deliberate and decisive warrant from the people. That warrant has now been asked for by the Government for Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, just as it was asked for at the General Election of 1868 in reference to the Irish Church. The Prime Minister's recent speech in the Albert Hall is a plain warning that if he and his friends are returned to power, the Welsh Church will be disestablished and disendowed.They were returned to power, and then, owing to events with which everyone in the House is conversant, there was a second General Election in that year, and in reference to that I might cite many paragraphs from speeches made by representative leaders of the Church and of the Conservative party. I will spare the House numerous quotations, but I will give one, because it is from a very distinguished exponent of the principles of the Church in regard to this matter.
§ Sir D.BRYNMOR JONES
I am now quoting, as I am entitled to do, the statement made by the Bishop of St. Asaph, as to what he thought at the second election of 1910. Speaking at Oswestry on 15th November, 1910, the Bishop said:—I am wholly unable to agree with those who think that this is not a supreme crisis in the history of the Church of Wales. So far as the Church is an established and endowed Church, personally I say without any hesitation at all, I think that the fate of the Church, so far as those two sides of her position are concerned, may be decided within the next six or eight weeks.I have given to the House first the statements of the Prime Minister to show that his intentions were published largely throughout the country, and I have given to the House extracts from which there 1662 can be no doubt that they realised the danger, as they conceived it, to the Church, as the result of the General Election, if that should be favourable to the Government of the day. I say under these circumstances it is as clearly proved, as it is possible under our existing Constitution to prove, that this measure has received the sanction, not simply of the electors of Wales, but the electors of the United Kingdom. That is my argument upon the point. I do not propose to detain the House further, nor do I propose to go into the interesting questions suggested in the very clear and able speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Something was said by him, however, as to the election addresses of Welsh Members, upon which I should like to make one comment, and it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Ormsby-Gore). There is a great misunderstanding about this. I do not for one single moment venture to-suggest that the hon. Member for Denbigh or the right hon. Gentleman are seeking to take any unfair advantage of the form of the electoral addresses which were issued by the various Welsh candidates, but I should like to give the exact facts. Obviously I cannot go into very great detail. I will deal with the last General Election, that of December, 1910. The matter has been analysed and gone into, and the result is this: In their election addresses nine candidates mentioned Disestablishment, that is they used the word "Disestablishment."
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
No, nine; the subject has been gone into. Two referred to the matter of "religious equality"; two said "their views were well-known." That was in the election of December, 1910, and both in the elections of January, 1910, and December, 1910, there were practically no new candidates. Nearly all the candidates for the thirty-four Welsh seats at both elections had been Members of Parliament for years, and I believe nearly all of them absolutely voted for the Bill of 1909. All that is to be taken into account You must also take into account that, as every electioneerer knows, you cannot attach too much importance to the address which the candidate makes to the electorate. Nine mentioned Disestablishment.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
Nine mentioned Disestablishment, using the word "Disestablishment,'' and I understood they were in favour of it.
§ Lord N. CRICHTON-STUART
I was a candidate in December, 1910. I certainly mentioned Disestablishment, but I was never in favour of it.
§ Lord N. CRICHTON-STUART
Nine out of the thirty-four candidates then. There can only be thirty-four candidates in Wales.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I said two of them referred to the matter and used the words "Religious equality"; two said their "views were well known."
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I did not call it a mandate. I was referring to the proposition advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), namely, that only eight Liberals mentioned Disestablishment and Disendowmcnt in their addresses.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I do not know why the Noble Lord interrupted me by saying, "That is your mandate," because I was referring to the list of candidates who had mentioned this subject in their addresses. In the election of December, 1910, three emphasised the Parliament Act simply, but in saying that they were saying it in reference to the declaration which Ministers and which their own Friends had made, that the Parliament Act if passed would mean Home Rule for Ireland and Disestablishment for Wales. Everybody knew that. Six did not repeat the whole of their January addresses in December, 1910. I was one of those. In January, 1910, I gave a most elaborate address, with my photograph at the head of it, but in December, 1910, I did not go to the same expense; I simply repeated the declarations made in the January address. 1664 Nine out of the Liberal candidates, all of whom became Members, issued no address at all. In some cases they were opposed, and in some not opposed to the Bill, but those nine Members who did not issue any address were extremely well known in the House and in the country, some of them carrying on the work of Welsh Liberalism, which, above all, includes this Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. I should like before I sit down to say on behalf of my Liberal colleagues in Wales and Monmouthshire that we are greatly indebted to the Government for pressing on this measure.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I have listened to the whole of this Debate from its beginning, and I must say I have never in my Parliamentary experience, which is now a long one, heard a feebler case put forward than has been advanced for the Government Motion on the present occasion. I have the greatest respect for the ability of the Prime Minister, but I am sure that even his greatest Friends will admit that he made an exceedingly poor case in support of the Motion. He did not even know the Bill which he is seeking to Closure. When interrupted with the question of what time he was giving to Clause 2, he said, "Oh, that deals with Disendowment." The fact is he is giving only one day for the Instruction, which is a matter of very great importance, on Clauses 1 and 2, and he did not even know what Clause 2 was about.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Then there is the leader of the Welsh nation who has just spoken. I believe that is the title he assumes to himself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Mond."] I beg the hon. Gentlemen's pardon. I understand that the hon. Member for Swansea Boroughs (Sir A. Mend) is the leader, or, at all events, I believe he is the biggest contributor to the fund for despoiling the Church in Wales, though he himself, I am told, has an income greater than the whole Church in Wales at the present time.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
That statement of the hon. Gentleman has been made so frequently that I would like to take this opportunity of contradicting it.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I fully accept the explanation, and I condole with him on not having so much as the pittance he is taking away from the Church in Wales. To come back to the speech of the 1665 hon. Member for Swansea District (Sir D. Brynmor Jones), really I think if he had a case he would have made something of it on the present occasion. What did he tell us? The first part of his speech, if I may venture to say so, was pure hair-splitting. He said, this Assembly was a deliberative Assembly, but that it must not be so deliberative that you cannot pass anything. The point I want to make is that you should not utilise this Assembly by means of the gag and the guillotine to try and drive three first-class measures through in an Autumn Session. We have heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. A. Lyttelton) the pledge that the Prime Minister gave that this should not be attempted under the Parliament Act. We should like to hear the Prime Minister's explanation as to the breach of that pledge. There is no necessity whatever for trying to rush this Bill through now when you have got also a Home Rule Bill and a Franchise Bill. The Government knows perfectly well, and the hon. Member for Swansea District knows perfectly well, that if an election were to take place before this Bill becomes law the Government would be turned out and this Bill never would become law. That is the reason, and that is the only reason. You know this is your chance, and if you do not take your chance now you will never be able to carry it. The hon. Member indulged in a very futile attempt to try and prove that there had been a mandate for this Bill. He went back, I think, to about the year 1830. I wonder he did not go back to the Middle Ages. Whatever argument he may adduce as to what occurred before 1906 he is entirely out of court, because when the Radical Government came in in 1906 they admitted that they had no right to deal with this question because they had not got the facts. They proceeded, therefore, to appoint a Royal Commission, and this is what the late Prime Minister said about it:—Owing to the absence of official information on the question which has now been submitted to a Royal Commission, the Government of the day were exposed to a great deal of embarrassment in framing and in the conduct of the measure.How on earth, then, can the hon. Gentleman contend that there was a mandate for a thing about which there was an absence of official information? We have got that absence still. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because though the Royal Commission gathered a good deal of information, it did not get that material fact upon which 1666 all the argument for the Bill had been based, namely, the proportion between Nonconformists and Churchmen in the Principality, and the Government dare not attempt to get that information. This Session they refuse a religious Census. Why? Pure funk. The whole of your policy on this Bill is dictated by pure funk. Your guillotine Motion is pure funk. You know quite well that if there is free discussion you will have many damaging speeches made and many bad Divisions, and therefore pure funk dictates this guillotine Motion. You know perfectly well that if you had a religious Census the fantastic figures you venture to put forward to the country would be blown to atoms and the real strength of the Church would be proved. It is pure funk in every Department of the conduct of this measure I come back to the right hon. and learned Member's speech. I come back to his attempt to prove that there is a mandate for this Bill. I have pointed out that up to 1906 there could have been no mandate. The speech of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman is proof positive of that. What has happened since 1906? The right hon. and learned Member advanced the most extraordinary theory that nowadays in election addresses candidates do not put things that are really important, but only second rate, unimportant matters in them, and their photographs. I do not say the photograph of the right hon. Gentleman is an unimportant matter, but I do say it is the most extraordinary doctrine that any candidate has ever subscribed to that you do not put important things into your address with only matters of second-rate importance.
I will put it on another ground. Was this question really discussed and talked about at the last election by canvassers and in the principal speeches which were made? I have put it before and I never heard—[An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] Will you wait until you hear what the question is ! I quite agree the Home Secretary often answers questions when he has not heard them. The point I was putting was this, Were there any picture posters representing this Bill at the last election? [An HON. MEMBER: "They were covered by the dollar campaign."] An hon. Member says they were covered up by the dollar campaign, but at all events you covered it up because you thought anything was likely to be a more popular cry than the plundering of the Church in Wales. 1667 Nobody ever saw a poster in Wales or England representing this Bill with people with churches closed and county councillors and parish councillors squabbling over the money, for that is what you would have to have. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is what you ought to have." Lord It. CECIL: "Order."] The right hon. and learned Member tried to prove his case by quoting articles from the "Guardian" and by quoting speeches, I think by the Bishop of St. Asaph. Surely the House recognises that it is not for the opponents of a measure to put it before the country. The people who ought to put it before the country are the people who are proposing it, the Government of the day and the Welsh Members. I will ask the Members of the Cabinet present, and I do not see very many of them, Did any single Member of the Cabinet mention this measure in his election address at the last General Election? I have here an analysis of their election addresses. Not one single Member of the Cabinet referred to the matter at all. There is another and more recent case. The other day the Secretary for Scotland, after a well-deserved promotion, had to seek re-election. I have here an analysis of his election address. This is only a few months ago. He mentioned nearly every conceivable topic—Home Rule, temperance reform, electoral reform, and the franchise for women—but he, a Member of the Cabinet, seeking re-election in the very Session in which this Hill was to be brought forward and passed under the guillotine, never mentioned Welsh Disestablishment. It is true that we attempted, as far as we could, to warn the country that, if the Government obtained a majority for the Parliament Act, we thought it very likely, knowing their past record, that, having got a majority for one thing, they would use it for another. But it was not for us to put the question before the country. It was for the responsible Government of the day. They did not do it; therefore they have no mandate whatever and no right to persevere with this measure. Take what a distinguished Liberal writer wrote a little while ago in the "Daily News.":—It is not true to say that Home Rule was not in pack, but it was not at the top of the pack.1668 I know where it was. It was "up their sleeve." If that statement was true of Home Rule, it is infinitely more true of this Bill. No amount of special pleading on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman will ever convince the House or the country that the Government have a mandate for this measure at all. Look at the futility of some of the other arguments that were put forward. The right hon. and learned Gentleman fell foul of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir A. Cripps) because, as he said, his speech was of a nature that ought properly to be delivered on the Third Reading. What chance will any of us have of speaking on the Third Reading? We are given one day. I suppose we shall all rise, and Mr. Speaker will call as many as he can, as he always does. But what chance will Members have of speaking if only one day is given to the Third Reading of a Bill like this on which I suppose everybody could speak for at least two hours? The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Whyte), who made a very moderate speech, said that he was not going to discuss the actual operation of the time-table, because that would come more fittingly when we got to the details of this Motion. When are we going to get to them? I suppose we shall have the Closure applied even to this Closure Motion. At all events, we do not know. The whole thing is one long system of Closure, gag, guillotine and kangaroo, because the Government know that this is a most unpopular measure, and that they are liable to be badly damaged in the debate. They are curtailing our freedom of speech for that and no other reason. But I am not surprised. The speeches made on the First and Second Readings were of such an extraordinary character that I am not surprised that they do not want to have more discussion than can be helped. The Home Secretary has gone away, but we have not forgotten his statement about the Cardiff churches. We have not forgotten that night when he refused to answer and put up the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King) to talk the matter out.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I accept the hon. Member's statement. The reason I made my statement was that the hon. Member said when he got up that he had caught the Speaker's eye that night, but he had left his speech behind. I can hardly imagine that he would get up willingly under those circumstances.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
What the hon. Member said or did not say is of no consequence. The point is that when only seven minutes wore left for the Home Secretary to reply to a charge, which I repeat, of having made a gross misstatement of fact, instead of getting up at once, when he would have had precedence over the hon. Member for Somerset, the right hon. Gentleman chose to sit still. He never answered the charge, and absolutely talked the question out at the last moment. I am not surprised that the Government do not want to have more free discussion when there are statements of that, sort to be answered. Then there is the Under-Secretary for the Home Department, with his extraordinary doctrine that all glebe land was given in frarikalmoigne, and therefore ought to be devoted to the saying of masses for the dead.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Ellis Griffith)
I did not say that.
§ Mr. ELLIS GRIFFITH
As the hon. Member is professing to comment, perhaps he knows what he is commenting upon.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I confess I made a paraphrase, but I will quote the very words:—The Noble Lord opposite talked about glebe. I really think the less he says about glebe the better from his point of view, because the greater part of the private benefactions of glebe were given in frankalmoigne that was in order to have prayers for the dead. If ever there was a trust that failed —we have beard a great deal about the filing of trusts—it is these glebe lands given in frankalmoigne, because the present church cannot carry out the conditions of the trust."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1912, col. 1857.]I think the House will agree that I did not very greatly misrepresent the hon. Gentleman. Just as the Home Secretary has a freak theory of tithe, of which no historian but himself ever heard, so the Under- 1670 Secretary has a freak theory of glebe. All I can say is that such people as Professor Maitland lay it down distinctly that a great deal of the glebe was not given in frankalmoigne, and also that what was given in frankalmoigne was not necessarily for saying masses for the dead. I do not wonder that the Government do not want to have those statements exposed at too great length. Another right hon. Gentleman, who also has gone away, the Chancellor of the Duchy, showed his extraordinary knowledge of this Bill in a recent speech at Bristol, in the course of which he said:—Under this Bill every single person at present engaged in the work of the Church in Wales will be fully compensated.A more discreditable mispresentation, and a more discreditable attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the electors has never taken place. There is not a single one of the curates in the Church of Wales who will get a penny compensation. Then the Chancellor of the Duchy went on to say what was his view of the future of the Church after it had been despoiled and plundered. He said it would be a new Church and would start with all its cathedrals and organisation intact. In other words, you are not going to destroy a Church; you are going to start a new Church! Really, the historical methods of the Government are most extraordinary. The Home Secretary thinks the Normans established the Church in Wales. The Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks that Henry VIII. establised the Church in Wales. Now the Chancellor of the Duchy is going to establish the Church himself. No wonder Gentlemen opposite wish to have as little discussion as they can when they differ so much not only with other great historians, but with each other!
I want to refer for one moment to the absolutely false analogy that the Prime Minister made in regard to the Church in Ireland. There is no precedent whatever in what took place in regard to that Church for the procedure of this Bill. I can give the points of difference in a sentence or two. Before the Church of Ireland was attacked there had been a religious census: in this case there has been no religious census. Before the Church of Ireland, was attacked there had been a General Election taken directly upon that issue, following upon a series of Resolutions carried in this House; there has been nothing of the kind in this case. Then as regards the amount of Endowment, does the House realise—if not, the 1671 House should realise—that in the case of the Church in Ireland, which was numerically very weak, the Endowments were immensely large? The capital sum amounted to no less than £16,000,000. Even after Disendowment the money belonging to, or given back to the Church of Ireland, exceeded the present emoluments of the Church in Wales. Whatever case there may have been, it might have been put upon those grounds—that you were making use of the surplus funds of the Church of Ireland. If that was put forward—I do not say I agree—it is no precedent whatever for the Church in Wales, which, numerically stronger than the Church of Ireland, has funds now actually less than the Irish Church had after the Disendowment. I beg to protest to the best of my ability against this procedure. I am not one of those who like heated scenes in this House, but it is difficult under such circumstances to keep one's temper. Here you are attacking institutions which we hold dear—[HON.MEMBERS; "No, no," and laughter.]
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Attacking institutions which I say we all hold dear in Wales, and which, moreover, are part of our National Church in England; for to a certain extent this Bill must be a precedent for what may subsequently take place. We* come here in no obstructive spirit. We shall discuss these matters fully and fairly. We have been told by Members of the Government that the terms of this Disendowment shall be fully considered and every consideration given to any improvement or amendment in the Bill. But they deliberately take away the chance of this full discussion. I say it is an outrage, and because it is an outrage I oppose it.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I am anxious at the outset to make a personal statement. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) charged me a short time ago with having jeered at the remarks of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If I gave the House that impression I wish to tender my most sincere regret, because I would not do such a thing.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I respect the convictions of the hon. Gentleman as I expect he will respect mine. I am pleased to make this confession that nothing has struck me more in the whole of this contest than the absolute sincerity of our opponents. I have said that publicly before, and what I have said publicly I am prepared to say here. I am sorry that our side has not shown as much energy and initiative. The other side have fought their case well. They have fought it fairly, and I should be very very sorry to cast any aspersions upon any man's convictions.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I am one of those Welsh Members who did not put Disestablisment in his election address. I will tell the House why. In the first place, I had opposing me a Socialist candidate. Now, he declared he was in favour of the Veto Bill, of Disestablishment, of Home Rule, and a hundred and one other things.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I am sorry that the Noble Lord should attribute that motive to me, because I never got one of them. They sent out a circular saying I was as bad as the others. They absolutely refused to vote for me. They knew my record so well, that they know if I was returned to this House what would happen, and they warned their followers. I had exactly six days in which to fight the election. I had no time to write an election address. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh," and "It docs not take six days."] I know it does not take six days, but I had 23,000 electors. I had one of the largest constituencies in the Kingdom. I had not time even to make an election speech.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The hon. Member will allow me. When I came out, I said to the electors, My views are well-known to you. I made a declaration on the first question that was put to me when I was adopted as candidate for MidGlamorgan. It was: "Are you in favour of Welsh Disestablishment and Welsh Disendowment?" If I had said "No" I would not have had the ghost of a chance. 1673 [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] The three hon. Members for Wales who are opposed to this measure, who came here with very small majorities, if they went back to their constituencies, and said, "we have changed our minds on this question," would be returned again here by overwhelming majorities. But you cannot attach any importance to an election address.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The hon. Gentleman, the Member who sits for East Nottingham, and who, at the beginning of the sitting presented a petition against Disestablishment brought Disestablishment into his address when he contested Montgomery Burghs. He declared his absolute faith in Welsh Disestablishment and Welsh Disendowment. After that declaration in his address he comes here to-day and presents a petition against it. The whole question turns on the attitude of Wales to England. I think we must recognise that. I am free to confess that the English people—some English Nonconformists have not really grasped the position. I do not believe they really understand the case for Wales. There is an idea in England that there is a substantial sum of money ready, as if it were invested in Consols or land or something else, and that all we have to do is to let the Church have the money. I need not remind the House that that is a very fallacious statement.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The statement of some of our English Nonconformists, those gentlemen who have been quoted here to-day, Dr. Campbell Morgan, the Rev. J. H. Shakespeare, and others. They have stated that we are going to take cash from these people. That is not the position. What is the difference? The difference is this. The tithes are in the land, and how are you to get them from the land? By the sweat of Nonconformist brows. This is a charge upon the land and an unjust charge, but I will not go into that now. Here you have these Nonconformist fanners and agricultural labourers in Wales, and you force them to pay this tribute.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The Noble Lord knows very well that although the landlord pays it it comes out of the pockets of his tenants. I am sure the Noble Lord in calmer moments will recognise that.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The hon. Member opposite surely must know there is such a thing as property in land. The land belongs to the landlord, and out of that he pays tithes. The farmer and the labourer have nothing to do with that.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The Noble Lord will recognise that the landlord adds it on the rent, and the profits of the soil are secured by the efforts and the work and the labours of these Welsh Nonconformists.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
No, but the result of their toil will go to national purposes. They will not work less, I admit that.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
Surely not. We do not want to abolish tithes. These tithes are not to be abolished, but if you get the tithes diverted to national purposes and objects, then the feeling of resentment which now exists in the heart of the Welsh people will be removed. That is my whole point. We have been charged by the hon. Baronet who spoke last (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), and I should like to congratulate him upon his speech, with taking our chance. Who will blame us for that. Have we not waited long enough? Does the hon. Baronet think we passed the Parliament Bill for nothing?
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I am very much surprised at the attitude adopted on the other side. We did not pass the Parliament Act for the fun of the thing. We passed it because we knew that neither Welsh Disestablishment nor Home Rule would have a single chance as long as the House of Lords remained in force as it was. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Exactly. Does not the Noble Lord opposite think that we should be fools if we went on ploughing the sands m face of the House of Lords?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
It shows how clearly the hon. Gentleman feels that if this Bill was submitted to the people the result would be its defeat.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I confess I got rather uneasy when I found the Noble Lord cheering that last statement of mine. Now I am not. We put this Bill before the people, and all your speakers did. It was declared during the last General Election, even the Welsh bishops declared it, that, if the Parliament Act went through, Irish Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment would also go through. Your side, as well as ours, put that point. They opened the eyes of the voters. They opened their mouths as well.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
I think the hon. Member is in the same position on that score as I am. There is nothing to choose between us, so that is satisfactory, and I am glad to find myself in such distinguished company. We fought for the Parliament Act, and we have a right to expect this Bill from the Government and the House. We hear talk about the mandate of the country. Why was the Parliament Act passed?
Mr. H. EDWARDS
Mr. H. EDWARDS
The hon. Member may take it from me that we are as anxious for the welfare of the King as he is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order."] I say that Lord Lansdowne and other constitutionalists allowed the Parliament Act to go through because we bad three General Elections upon that issue.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
They were very free agents whenever Liberal measures came before them and they exercised their freedom. The Noble Lord knows that the Government could not have passed the Parliament Act except that three successive elections had been fought upon it, and neither Lord Lansdowne nor any other power, except the handful of diehards that showed discretion at the last moment, could have prevented it. I say the Bill could not have gone through were it not for the fact that we had succeeded in three elections. What are the facts in regard to Wales? We have not only had three elections on Welsh Disestablishment, but we have had eleven elections. Out of thirty-four Welsh Members returned to this House there are only three opposed to it, and I predict that unless they come over before the next election the seats which they hold will have gone from them. You must recognise Welsh sentiment in this. I am not going back to past history—the Noble Lord is well versed in ecclesiastical history and was a qualified as a member of the Welsh Church Commission, and he well knows that far back in history Welsh Churchmen have all along objected to the sovereignty of Canterbury.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
Until very recently. He knows that Owen Llewellyn was one of the greatest kings Wales ever had. It is rather trying to give Welsh instruction to a Member of the Welsh Church Commission, but the Noble Lord will have gathered that from Llewellyn down to Dean Edwards they all objected to the anglicising policy of the See of Canterbury, and they made it clear that Wales should be severed from it, which I take it this Bill is going to do. I am not speaking for England, but I speak for Wales. [An HON. MEMBER: "For one constituency."] I am able also to speak on behalf of Montgomery Boroughs. I gave the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) my vote when I lived there, and I was assured by his agent that although the hon. Member for East Nottingham wobbled on some things he was very good on Disestablishment. I can assure the hon. Member that I do not regret my vote at all.
Mr. H. EDWARDS
Wales is one of the most religious countries in the world, and it requires no Act of Parliament to secure the recognition of religion there.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I listened to the last speech with the very greatest interest, and especially the hon. Member's allusions to a mandate. Now we have been informed that an election can go on for six days, and there is not time to allude to the one subject which is of the most importance to Wales. I will go back to the original speech which introduced this Resolution to us to-day, because I do think that we ought sometimes, in the natural heat of a Debate like this, to look at the question as affecting the interests of the House itself apart from the special subject with which this Resolution is connected. We have, again, another encroachment upon the liberties of this House. We have constantly to watch those liberties, and we know every time that one of these Resolutions is brought forward it increases in stringency, reduces the power of the private Members especially, and acts contrary to all that has been laid down by this House as a reasonable means of carrying on our procedure. Some allusion has been made to our Standing Orders. I admit that all Standing Orders are, to some extent, restrictions upon those old liberties we possessed under custom and tradition which have had to be varied from time to time, but, at all events, the Standing Orders represent the considered opinion of the House. They have been the subject of Debate, as we know they were when this subject was dealt with, and they are printed as the rules by which we discuss business in this House.
Every time we have really important business brought forward now we find the Government infringing nearly every Standing Order. If you look through our Standing Orders you will find in this guillotine Resolution that something has been infringed or relaxed or abolished under this proposal. It is, therefore, a direct attack upon the ordinary Members of the House. It is not those who sit on the Front Benches who are concerned so much in these Resolutions, because both sides in their time have been forced to carry such Resolutions through the House. It is, however, the private Member whose liberties are attacked and whose position is infringed, and he will find himself shortly?deprived of every opportunity and liberty 1678 he possesses in this House. The right hon. Gentleman, in his opening speech, said that he referred back to a time when the only precedent for this gagging Resolution was produced, namely, the Licensing Bill of 1908. I wonder whether his researches carry him back to the allusions in that Debate to a previous Licensing Bill, in which he took a somewhat prominent part. I think probably there could be no better description of the condition of things then than that which was given by the Prime Minister in 1904 in connection with the guillotine Resolution upon the Licensing Bill of that Government. The Prime Minister said:—After all the right hon. Gentleman made some remarks about, measures of this kind being necessary for the efficiency of the House. I confess I think political cynicism has never reached a higher level. Parliaments come and go and Ministers come and go. but there is one thing which is permanent through all this,. and that is the authority and freedom of the House of Commons. That is a great permanent asset in our national balance sheet, and it will be an evil day for the future democracy of this country when the House of Commons comes to be regarded as a mere automatic, machine for registering the decrees of a transient and perhaps crumbling majority.That was the description given in 1904 by the Prime Minister of an attack of this nature. [HON. MEMHKKS: "Where is the Cabinet?"]
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned." I think, on an occasion of this sort we are justified, whatever may be the circumstances, in demanding the presence of some of those who are responsible in the Cabinet. If this matter is to be passed by the autocratic command of the Cabinet, and not by the free will of the House of Commons, I think we are at least entitled to ask that some Member of the Cabinet should be present.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is not the occasion when such topics can be discussed. The Motion before the House is one for the Adjournment of the Debate, and the hon. Member must confine himself to that question.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
May I ask?whether the hon. Gentleman imputes to me a want of good faith? I moved it entirely for the good of the House itself.
§ Mr. KING
Of course, I did not impute any evil motive to the hon Gentleman, and I gladly withdraw the expression which I certainly did not use with any evil intention. I will say, however, that this Motion has been made not with the object of facilitating business, but as a move in the party game, and I suppose, as a Member of the Cabinet is now present, it will be withdrawn. It was made, I understand, simply at the suggestion of those sitting round the hon. Member because no Cabinet Minister at the time happened to be in his place. As that condition no longer prevails, I would appeal to the hon. Member to withdraw. If he will not withdraw, I shall certainly vote against the Motion. I want to insist on this fact, which I am sure must be plain to the electors of England. I think I may venture to speak on their behalf here, because, after all, I am the first English Member sitting on this side of the House who has been called this afternoon. It has been a curious thing and certainly not of my wishing that no English Member supporting the Government has been able to catch the Speaker's eye.
§ Mr. REMNANT
Mr. Speaker, I appeal to you, Sir. The hon. Member has said that what f said was untrue. I said the hon. Member was the only Member on that side of the House to get up when my hon. Friend behind me sat down, and I appeal to anyone in this House who saw the condition of affairs. I ask him to withdraw.
§ Mr. REMNANT
Is the hon. Member in order in saying that what I said was untrue, when it is in the memory of every hon. Gentleman in this House that he was the only Member on that side of the House who rose?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ :Mr. KING
I did not accuse the hon. Member of a deliberate un truth but the statement he made was not in accordance with facts. Now, possibly I may be allowed to proceed with the arguments which I wish to address to the House. I wish to call attention, first of all, to the extreme violence of language, bitterness of expression, and frequent interruptions which have characterised the speeches and actions of those on the opposite side of the House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The only topic which is now open to the hon. Member to discuss is whether this Debate should be adjourned or not.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I wish to explain to the House the reason of my absence, which was necessary and which I very much regret. A Cabinet meeting was called hurriedly and I had to attend it, but I have left it now in order once more to take a share in this discussion.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
We do not complain of the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt on a very urgent occasion, but it did appear to many on this side of the House that if from unavoidable causes no Cabinet Minister could be present it was not respectful to the House or proper that a Debate of this kind should proceed at four o'clock, when Ministers are generally in attendance. If they cannot be in attendance, then it is desirable the House should adjourn.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
I consider my right hon. Friend was absolutely right in moving this Motion. It is not respectful to the House and it is not possible to carry on this Debate in the absence of the Government. I think this most undesirable position largely arose from the fact of taking a Debate of this importance on a Friday when, as everybody knows, it is the practice of Cabinets to meet.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
But inasmuch as that difficulty has now been cleared away and the Home Secretary is again present, I think, whilst applauding my right hon. Friend for the action he has taken, that as he has secured his object he might withdraw his Motion.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
We are really in a difficult position. The Cabinet at the moment is being deprived of the services of the right hon. Gentleman, and, unless this Debate is adjourned, it will continue to be deprived of them. It would therefore be very much simpler, in the interests of the country, that we should adjourn in order to enable the right hon. Gentleman to return to the Cabinet meeting.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There is no understanding at all. I have made no statement which justifies the idea there is any understanding.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Am I to understand the right hon. Gentleman proposes to leave the House directly the Motion is withdrawn?
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The Motion for the adjournment of the Debate was made on the ground that it is indecent to discuss a measure of first-class importance when the Cabinet are not present. The right hon. Gentleman returns and says, "I am here," and my right hon. Friend says that under those circumstances he will withdraw his Motion. Thereupon the right hon. Gentleman gets up and says there is no understanding. Is that bench to be depleted again?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The understanding the hon. Member referred to, as I understood him, was not that understanding, but that the discussion should come shortly to a close.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The time has not arrived for us to enter into any under-handing with the Government. When a measure of first-class importance is before us, it is obvious many hon. Members desire to discuss it, and they are fully entitled, not only to address the House, but to be heard by the Ministry as well. If is intolerable that they should be asked to do so at great length when nearly the whole of the Cabinet is absent, or that they should be invited to prolong the Debate until late on a Friday night.
§ Motion "That the Debate be now adjourned," by leave, withdrawn. Debate resumed.1682
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
The most interesting speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, laid very little stress indeed on the question of Disestablishment. He, although referring to differences of opinion among Nonconformists in this country and the very limited amount of difference on the question of Disendowment, did not refer to the difficulties in the Anglican Church on the question of Disestablishment. The fact that there is a growing party of Churchmen who are in favour, not only of Disestablishing the Church in Wales, but also of Disestablishing the Church in England, gives him some ground for not laying much emphasis on the small amount of time available for the discussion of Disestablishment, and he has concentrated his attention on the subject of Disendowment. If that be so, there is ample time for the programme set out today for the full discussion of Disendowment. Some of us will note the fact, not in any sense of hostility to the Church of England, that the question of Disestablishment is falling more and more into the background, and is not being argued as a necessity for the existence and usefulness of the Church. One is not surprised to hear that.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
There is a very strong feeling, both in this country and abroad, that Churches established by law can do very little more for the cause of religion than those self-originated, self-contained, and self-constituted churches whose powers are drawn from a living membership and who have no need to draw on the resources of the State, and that feeling is probably due to the present phase of civilisation of a material form that is weakening the members of the established and non-established churches. Even the attempt to stir up fanaticism in the present war in the East has failed. The war is being fought on ideals that are not religious, although such ideals have frequently been put in the forefront in other wars. At the present moment both in this country and other countries the ideal of patriotism is the self-sacrifice of man, and that is really taking the place of religion. We have listened to a most interesting speech from the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire on the subject of Disendowment. He has made what I consider a very valuable admission. He 1683 called attention to the fact that in the present Bill there is no suggestion that the Church of England as established by law should be deprived of her property. I quite agree, and I further agree that if any such attempt were made the case would not be on all fours with the case of the Free Churches. There would be no liability to challenge the property of churches if the Church established at the time of the Reformation might be deprived of donations and endowments subsequently granted to her. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that before the Reformation of the Church that then existed in England was a Church on all fours with the Free Churches of this country. I do not think that is correct, yet it is sufficiently correct for one's argument. The Catholic Church was practically the owner, both in Wales and elsewhere—if there be an owner of property in a different sense from that in which the Church of England as by law established holds her property under trusts—of the tithe and the other property now sought to be distributed. It was given to that Church through some ages, too prehistoric for us to have records of it, but it was undoubtedly given to that Church for purposes other than that of religion, and for something more than the maintenance of worship, prayers for the dead, and the consolation of the sick. [HON. MEMBERS: "What purposes?"] It was given for poor relief.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
It was given because that Church was the sole educator in those days. We have been urged in the education debates in this House to remember what the Church of England has done to preserve alive in this country the old learning by giving such rudiments of knowledge as the people were able to obtain from the learned clerks of those days. Undoubtedly you must discriminate between, if you cannot earmark, the large sums which were left from time to time to the Catholic Church when it was the Poor Law and the educator and the maintenance of religious worship all in one. What do we find when the monasteries were dissolved? That it was necessary, for the first time, to give Poor Law relief, showing clearly that these Endowments were the property of the Church for more than one purpose.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The topics the hon. Member is now discussing would very fitly 1684 come in on some of the Clauses of the Bill. The Motion before the House is to limit discussion on the Bill.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
I quite submit to your ruling, Sir. I know that the subject is very wide of the Motion before us, and I can only plead that other speakers have exercised a great width. I was replying to a speech made in your absence from the Chair, in which these very matters were brought forward. If you rule me out of order I must bow to your decision. It is very clear that the question of Disendowment has been discussed again and again, not as a question whether a Church holding a certain amount of property should be deprived of it, but as to what could be done if a particular branch of the Church is not able to apply to the full the endowments of which she is possessed and which she was able to employ in the past, and whether there is not some claim upon her to redistribute it. The question before us is the question of the time in which we are to discuss the matter. These questions have been well debated. They have been debated for years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]. In the Press. They have been debated in the papers and reviews, on platforms, and in a succession of Debates in this House on previous Bills, and I submit, crippled as we are by the terms of reference in this Debate, that there is ample time allowed, especially as the question of Disestablishment has been treated as a judged question very largely—[HON. MEMBERS: "Never."]—for debating the question of Disendowment.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I have only been driven to rise because of the hon. Member's last sentence. He repeats the gross arrogance which is displayed by hon. Members who are in favour of the Bill. They do not take the trouble to understand the ease against them. The hon. Member talks of the Press. I do not think he has ever read a single speech made on the subject of the Bill in the country. Take one of the foremost champions of the Church in Wales, the Bishop of St. David's. He has delivered a number of speeches in every part of the country, but he has not made a single speech without insisting that he is as much against Disestablishment as he is against Disendowment. I quite admit there is more of a case for Disestablishment than there is for Disendowment. The thing is arguable, which I do not think Disendowment 1685 is by any fair-minded man, but to say it has been abandoned is a gross—
I did not mean generally given up. I was referring to the speeches made to-day.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman did not listen to the speeches made from this side of the House. I listened to almost all the speeches made on the First and Second Headings, and to say that any single Member on these benches gave away the case against Disestablishment is simply to utter a gross and, if done with knowledge, a wilful misrepresentation of what was said.
§ Sir J. COMPTON-RICKETT
All I said was that the emphasis of the speeches has been laid on Disendowment, and if anyone had been listening impartially—I do not suggest it is technically given up, but as the emphasis has been laid on Disendowment and not on Disestablishment in the leading speech which was made in introducing the Amendment, I am entitled to say that it gives one the impression that the fight is not on Disestablishment. What I said about the country generally was that Disendowment has been discussed largely, not that Disestablishment has been given up. I am sure the Noble Lord does not wish to speak offensively to me. I was not offensive to him.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
As a matter of personal explanation, may I say that in the speech I made on the First Beading I made my position about Disestablishment absolutely clear. I did not repeat it all to-day, but I do not abandon it.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If I had any doubt at all about the accuracy of my criticism it would be removed by the fact that the Home Secretary cheered the hon. Gentleman's explanation. Indeed, I think he went so far as to say it was quite true. I am utterly opposed to this proposal. I conceive that it is likely to cause these debates, which would necessarily have been rather bitter and angry debates—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why bitter?"] Because we think this a dishonest and unjust Bill, and I am sorry the hon. Member shares the ignorance of the feeling with which Churchman regard this Bill which is displayed by the hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Compton-Rickett). Let them understand, once for all, that we are bitterly opposed to this Bill. It is put forward without any kind of defence in justice or honesty, and we will fight it by 1686 every means in our power to the very end. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that so?"] Yes, that is so. The hon. Member is pleased to regard this as a facetious matter, but I do not think he will so regard it before the end of this Debate. This Resolution proposes still further to limit the rights of the House and the people of the country to a fair discussion in this House. Let me remind the House of what really is our position as a legislative Assembly. Hon. Members regard this House as representative of the people. They are fond of talking of it as the people's House. What are the real facts? What hon. Member in this House really represents the opinions of his constituents 1 I venture to say there is scarcely one. What is the choice put before a constituency? Not whether they agree with one man or not, but whether, on the whole, they prefer one politician to another. That is the only thing they have to decide, and they select one or other, not because they like him, but because they dislike him less than they dislike the other. And then we have all this talk about mandates. It is perfectly notorious that no hon. Member comes to this House with a mandate to do almost any of the things he does do. The greater part of his constituents have not the slightest idea that certain measures would be proposed in the Parliament which is being elected. As to the Welsh Church Bill, it is incredible that the hon. Member for the Swansea District (Sir D. Brynmor Jones) could seriously say to this House that there was anything like a mandate to the Members for Great Britain or Ireland for this Bill. It is perfectly notorious that there was not a word said in 90 per cent, of the constituencies upon the Welsh Church Bill. He despises election addresses—or rather it was one of his colleagues from Wales who said that he despises election addresses—but after all, they are recognised as the most formal statement of the reasons on which a candidate asks the suffrages of the electors. Let him look through the election addresses on his own side, and I venture to say that he will not find twenty—I do not believe he will find ten—in the whole of the addresses of Liberal, Nationalist, and Labour Members who mention this Bill.
It does not rest upon that. Surely we are not going to be misled by technicalities, and admit that because the Prime Minister said in his Albert Hall speech in 1909 he stood by the Welsh Church Bill, and because he never withdrew the state- 1687 ment in 1910, therefore every vote given to a Liberal candidate must be taken as in favour of the Bill. Of course, there was no mandate at all. The electors of this country had no conception, no idea at all, that their votes were going to be used for this purpose, and I am amazed that the lion. Member should have thought it worth while to deny that. The hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Whyte) in his interesting and striking speech early in the Debate, explained quite truly what happens. As we know nobody is allowed any liberty at all. The hon. Member thinks that the Opposition Members are as much bound as the supporters of the Government, but that is not so. I am not speaking now of this Opposition, but of Oppositions generally. It is upon the votes of their supporters that the life of the Government depends, but whether is be so or not, unquestionably there is no kind of freedom. They are driven into the Lobby. Generally they do not hear a word of the Debate. They come in from the smoking room and the terrace, and everyone knows how decisions are arrived at. It has been described by the hon. Member for Blackburn on the whole more vividly than by anybody else. Everybody knows they come all trooping in at that door. I tell every meeting 1 go to exactly how the decisions of this House are arrived at. Sometime or other we will begin to realise what the House of Commons means under present conditions.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Certainly. I constantly do so. I am a Member of the House of Commons. I am not setting myself up to be even the superior of the hon. Member. I am merely pointing out the way in which decisions are in fact arrived at, and, when you talk about this being the people's House and having a mandate for this or that, then you are bound to look at the actual way in which the House comes to its decision.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If the hon. Member had done me the courtesy to listen to my argument he would have appreciated what I said. My point is simply this: That the decisions of this House in 1688 ordinary circumstances are unsatisfactory, and under the guillotine they are grotesque. I have tried to describe to the House the way the ordinary working of the House proceeds. When you come to the guillotine the thing is still worse. Hon. Members will not take the slightest trouble to follow the Debate. Ministers we have seen over and over again make the most perfunctory answers to arguments; they are perfectly indifferent whether they make an answer or not. All they have got to do is to sit quiet until the magic hour fixed for the guillotine arrives, and then send for hon. Members, some of whom I am told go to the National Liberal Club. [HON. MEMBEKS: "The St Stephen's Club."] Yes, I daresay, and other clubs. The worse you make it the better I am pleased— and then they come trooping in. They have heard nothing about it; they know nothing about it; they care nothing about it. Their object is to keep the Government in power and to draw their £400 a year, and the country is beginning to realise what its representatives really are. From their decisions under the Parliament Act, there is no appeal whatever under any circumstances. This House, by its sole authority without any check, without any appeal to the country, without any control by the Second Chamber, without any kind of guarantee for fairness, elected as I have described, makes laws for the whole country and passes this Bill. I ask myself what is the nature of the Bill for which the Government have devised this outrageous decision. I will tell the House how I regard it. I listened to the hon. Member for Osgoldcross (Sir J. Compton-Rickett) stating his curious doctrine with regard to tithe. He is not now in his place—perhaps that is too common an event to pass any remark upon—but his view was that it was a perfectly fair Bill and that no one could object to its being proceeded with under the guillotine, because tithe, he said, was given for other purposes than to be the property of the Church. That shows the way in which this matter is regarded by hon. Members. Tithe is an endowment of the Church, and nothing but that, as a provision made for the support of the parochial clergy and other officers of the Church in Wales. It is not a property of the Church in any other sense. No doubt it is the duty of the clergy, which still lies on them and is still discharged by them, to make contributions 1689 out of their income, generally very large and generous contributions, to education, the support of the poor, and all sorts of other purposes, but in that sense it still operates, and in no other was tithe in England ever granted except in support of the clergy and in support of public worship.
This Bill is simply promoted by the rivals of the Church of England in order to do her harm, I do not say that is the motive of everybody who is in favour of the Bill; I am quite ready to believe that both in this House and in the country there are people who are prompted by-other motives, but the great strength of the movement for Disestablishment and Disendowment is that and nothing else; it is sectarian jealousy and nothing else. Everybody knows that to be true; there is not a man in this House who does not know that I am speaking the literal truth. I have heard it described by Members on the other side as part of the secular fight between Church and Chapel; so it is an act of war and nothing else, and it is a war not even veiled under the conditions of the Geneva Convention. We feel absolutely that this is an indefensible piece of legislation. I believe the Government recognise that the feeling against the Bill is very strong and bitter. I was in Swansea last night. I do not in the least pretend to know whether the majority in Swansea are in favour or against this Bill, but I do know that there is a very large and very determined body of men in Swansea who are as bitterly opposed to this Bill as myself. The Home Secretary is reported to have said at Bristol that every Welshman is in favour of Disestablishment. All I can say is that it is of a piece with a number of other declarations of the right hon. Gentleman on this and other subjects. When I come to consider the reasons why the Government proposed this very drastic form of Closure, I think one is that they knew that the Home Secretary was going to be in charge of the Bill, and they thought it was safer to trust him with the protection of the guillotine than with free and unfettered discussion. The truth is that this is a thoroughly disreputable proposal, made in a disreputable way, and the Government desire to have as little discussion of it as they can. It is because it is disreputable and because they are ashamed of it that they desire to have as little discussion on it as posible.
For my part, I say quite plainly that if the Government persist in prostituting the 1690 House of Commons in this way they will destroy its whole authority, and it cannot be expected that the result will be limited to this or that Bill. It will destroy the whole authority and proceedings of the House in every direction. Do not be misled. It is a very serious matter you are undertaking now. The destruction of the sovereign legislative body of the country is a blow at the very heart of our civilisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members from Ireland naturally regard that as a very laudable and indeed humorous observation, but that has been their attitude for many years past, and is still their attitude. To English, Welsh, and Scottish Members, and to Ulster Unionist Members, whom I may regard as the loyal part of this Assembly, I say they should consider well before they take steps to destroy the House of Commons. You cannot replace it. There is nothing else that can come in its place. If the authority of the House is really destroyed—and it is weakening day by day; I never go to a meeting without finding how much it has been weakened—I say it is going to destroy the whole of your civilisation, and if you persist in it the consequences will be much worse and much more serious than any Member on the Treasury Bench cares to consider on the present occasion.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) has delivered a speech more violent in its terms than personally I remember to have heard in this House. I would suggest to him if he were to follow the example of the head of his own Church he would be more careful in the language which he uses about the Welsh people with regard to this Bill. The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken both in Wales and in England very frequently on this subject, and no one has deprecated more strongly than he has attributing to the supporters of this measure the kind of feeling which the Noble Lord, I think, not merely without warrant, but, if he will forgive me for saying so, in the most shameless manner, ascribes to hon. Members in this House and to Welshmen throughout Wales. The Noble Lord says that we have no moral right—I summarise his argument—to pass this Bill. I will appeal again from the Noble Lord to a right hon. Gentleman on his own side of the House. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Motion. In his election address, which we have had described as the most solemn utterance 1691 that a man can give of his opinions and views, of 1910.The right hon. Gentleman, as I am informed, having had it handed to me since this Debate began, so that I have not had the opportunity of verifying it, said:—If the Parliament Bill were passed the Radical Government, if faithful to its pledges, would carry Home Rule and the Disestablishment and the Disendowment of the Welsh Church.The right hon. Gentleman will remember his own address, and will correct me if—
§ Mr. McKENNA
I observe that, while the claim is made for full and fair discussion in this House, every effort is made to interrupt—
§ Mr. McKENNA
To interrupt any Member of the Government who endeavours to address the House. The Noble Lord is answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. A. Lyttelton). I am content to leave those two hon. Members to settle the matter. This discussion has, except in one respect, followed the lines of all previous Debates upon what are called guillotine Motions. There was one new point raised; quite new; the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, that the Prime Minister was breaking a pledge.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That the Prime Minister was breaking a pledge in endeavouring to pass through Parliament in a single Session more than one large controversial measure.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Prime Minister has already spoken. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a reply which the Prime Minister made to a speech by Mr. Peel. I think the right hon. Gentleman can only have had the quotation handed to him; he cannot have seen the whole Debate.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Then I am profoundly astonished that the right hon. Gentleman I did not at the same time inform the House of the occasion upon which the statement was made. His argument was that that sentence amounted to a pledge that there should be only one measure passed through Parliament in a single Session under the Parliament Act. Will it be believed that in that speech the Prime Minister was opposing an Amendment to limit the number of measures. Mr. Peel's Amendment was to add the words:—
"Provided also that this Section shall only apply to one Bill in each Session."
The Prime Minister's opposition to that proposal is now quoted as a pledge that only one measure should be passed in each Session. It is very necessary that the House should understand the nature of the charges which are so freely made. Mr. Peel, in concluding his speech, used this language:—The right hon. Gentleman may say that they would not use this procedure to pile up a great mass of Bills upon the electorate;and the Prime Minister in replying to that observation said:—The hon. Member has drawn an alarming picture of a future Government trying to carry through in a single Session a number of first-class controversial measures—
§ Mr. McKENNA
but there are limits to the powers of human and Parliamentary endurance which I think form a very adequate safeguard—
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is difficult enough to pass a single controversial' measure, and nobody knows that better than the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury), in the course of one Session. There is not the least fear of or prospect of the difficulty to which the hon Member refers being realised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1911, col.85, Vol. XXV.]The foundation for this alleged pledge followed a series of events. An Amendment was moved to limit the Section to, I think, one Bill in a Session. In proposing that Amendment the hon. Member drew a picture of a vast mass of measures being put through in a single Session. The Prime Minister, while repudiating any acceptance of this Amendment, described' the picture of a vast mass of measures.
§ Mr. A. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member (Mr. Peel) took two or three, or more measures, and the Prime Minister said: "There is not the least fear or prospect of the difficulty to which the hon. Member refers being realised." Now we have three measures.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I have quoted almost the concluding words of the hon. Gentleman, who said "he would not say this procedure on a Bill, but on a great mass of Bills."
§ Mr. McKENNA
Let the House mark this. The refusal to accept—[HON. MEMBERS: "Chair, Chair"]—I trust, Sir, I am not being discourteous to you—an Amendment which would have limited the operation to a single Bill, and a speech and a vote against it, is now taken as a pledge in favour of it. I will deal with the other points raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Lyttelton). He complained in detail that sufficient time was not allotted to particular parts of the Welsh Bill. That matter will be considered when we deal with the guillotine Resolution in detail. Any reasonable argument that is brought forward will be fairly listened to. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking, I think, in error, as I believe will be proved, said that this Bill would only be taken from week to week once a week. That, I think, he will find is not the case. It may be so on individual occasions, but this Bill, like other Bills, will be taken de die in diem.. Except for the last part of his speech I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyttelton) made a very fair and reasoned argument, and I am endeavouring to give him a personal reply because he always treats me with personal courtesy. On the question of accuracy as to the time allotted, I think the right hon. Gentleman did not pay sufficient account to the precedent of the Irish Bill. The Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) was courteous enough to interrupt the Prime Minister and to tell him that he did not know what he was talking about when he compared the number of days.
§ Mr. McKENNA
He did not say that. He compared the number of days given to the Irish Church Bill with the number of 1694 days given to the Welsh Bill. The Noble Lord by his interruption suggested that in the case of the Irish Bill the sittings were very much longer each day.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Does the Noble Lord means to say when he said they were much later he did not mean that they were much longer?
§ Mr. McKENNA
I assume that the Noble Lord is frank enough to admit when he said later he meant to imply that they sat longer. What are the facts about that? An hon. Friend of mine made an analysis of the time that was occupied by the Irish Bill in Committee. Averaging the mean time—the House rose in those days shortly before One o'clock; at that time the House usually sat at Four o'clock, there was a short interval of twenty minutes to half an hour known as the time for Mr. Speaker's chop, there were also questions and other business—if hon. Members will examine the time they will see that the whole time then given from day to day to the Irish Bill amounted in hours to very much the same time as now.
§ Mr. GOULDING rose— [HON.MEMIIERS: "Order, order," and Interruption.]
§ Mr. McKENNA
So far as the length of time is concerned, there is a longer time allotted under the Welsh guillotine Closure than there was in the case which has been referred to.[Interruptions.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
All this ground was gone over by the Prime Minister, and if the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Goulding) did not hear him, that is no reason why he should interrupt.
§ Mr. McKENNA
A longer time is given under the guillotine Resolution for discussion on the Welsh Bill than was in fact occupied by the discussion of the Irish Church Bill. As regards the importance of the two measures, there can be no question that the Irish Church Bill was at least as important as the Welsh Bill. It has been alleged that there is a fundamental 1695 difference because the Irish Bill was introduced after a dissolution, whereas there has been no dissolution in this case. There was no more a definite dissolution in the case of the Irish Church Bill than there is a definite dissolution in the case of this Bill. It is true that the Irish question was prominently brought before the election of 1868, but it would be absurd to say that the Irish Church Bill was not before the electors, because in both cases the two Bills were prominently before the electorate. Looking to the number of days, they appear to be adequate in comparison with the only precedent which we have had advanced. As regards the allocation of time and the consideration of any fair criticism, we are willing to give a fair hearing to hon. Members when we come to discuss the matter, but I trust that the House of Commons will come to a decision upon the question before the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to. Debate accordingly adjourned; to be resumed upon Friday next (15th November).
§ The Orders for the remaining Government business were read and postponed,
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of 14th October, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One minute before Five o'clock, till Monday next, 11th November, pursuant to the Order of the House of 14th October.