§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
In rising to propose the Second Reading of this Bill, I must remind the House that it is only a little over four months since identically the same Bill received a Third Reading in this House by a majority of 107. Last Session the principles and details of this measure were discussed in the House upon no less than twenty-six days, and I think I am now justified in describing this Bill not merely as the legislative proposal of the Government, but as the considered and matured work of the House of Commons. When the Bill was introduced last year it cannot be said that either the House or the public were taken by surprise in having a project altogether new brought before them. For fifty years there has been a movement in Wales so widespread as can only properly be described as national in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. For nearly thirty years in this House the overwhelming majority of the Welsh representatives, never less than twenty-five to nine, at one time with unanimity, and to-day in the proportion of thirty-one to three, have supported 60 proposals of this kind. On three previous occasions the same principles have been introduced in this House on the authority of the Government of the day. The House and the public knew precisely in principle and in detail what was intended to be proposed by the Government. Since the last General Election there have been three by-elections in Wales, two of them since the introduction of this Bill, and in all three cases representatives were returned to this House supporting this measure.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Member speaks of "greatly reduced majorities," but, as a matter of fact, if he consults the figures, he will find that in the case of the two Members who were returned since the Bill was introduced, the reduction in the majority, although it existed and usually does exist when previous majorities are so large, was not great. As there has been no change in the character of Welsh opinion with regard to this Bill, so no new facts have appeared since the measure was last discussed in this House, and the situation to-day, both with the public and in this House, stands precisely as it stood at the close of last Session. I refer to Welsh opinion as expressed in the elections for two reasons. In the first place, the question of English opinion was debated on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill last week, and I do not wish to go over the same ground again. I would recall also to the House the remarkable fact that in only one of the elections in England, so far as I have been informed, was the Welsh Bill a prominent issue. That election was the Bolton election, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomas Taylor) is here to-day to tell us how far the English electorate were to be moved against this Bill when it was brought prominently before them. My second reason for referring to Welsh opinion is that this is a matter which vitally affects the Welsh and has little or no real effect upon the rest of the United Kingdom. I remember that in the former Debate it was argued that Wales is not entitled to be regarded as a separate entity for legislative purposes. If my memory serves me, the Noble Lord who represents Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) stated that in his opinion Wales could not be considered as in any degree a separate entity any more than any other group of English counties. That is a view which 61 in other fields Parliament has not adopted. The integrity and the distinctiveness of Wales has had Parliamentary sanction in legislation dealing with education and dealing with licences, and once that principle has been accepted by Parliament, as I submit to the House it has been, there is no field in which a country is entitled more definitely to special consideration than in the field of religious belief.
It has also been said that the opinion of the majority, however persistently held and however unmistakably declared, does not entitle Parliament to Disestablish and Disendow a Church. It has been argued that Church Establishment is a question of national ethics, and that we are not entitled to accept the opinion of the majority as the standard of moral rectitude. Again, with regard to Endowments, it is urged that the Endowments of the Church are private property, and, if Parliament takes away the private property of the individual, however lawful it may be legally, it becomes, in its moral aspect, an act of spoliation. These views have been forcibly expressed both against Disestablishment and Disendowment, but are these opinions in fact tenable? The Irish Church precedent disposes of both opinions so far as Parliament is concerned. In the Irish Church Act a national Church was Disestablished and Disendowed. Parliament not only then declared that it had a legal right to Disestablish and Disendow, but, with the assent of the House of Lords, it was admitted that Parliament had a moral right to act in that way. I would remind the House that again and again the connection between Church and State has been severed in our Dominions and Colonies. Although Establishment was once the rule throughout the British Empire, there is at this day no English-speaking country outside Great Britain in which there is an Established Church. These examples, these precedents, I admit, will not weigh with any hon. Member who conceives that Disestablishment is a moral wrong, but against such opinions I would ask the House to remember that there are those who think that any interference by the State in spiritual matters is also a moral wrong. You have here moral beliefs which are absolutely irreconcilable. What right have we to insist that the moral opinion of the minority in Wales shall be forced against the moral opinion of the majority in Wales? If this matter could be discussed simply and solely on the ground of moral right and moral wrong, I would 62 ask hon. Members who wish to keep their own consciences clear from having any hand in the Disestablishment of a National Church to remember that they are searing the consciences of the great majority of the Welsh people when they force an English Church establishment upon them. And again with regard to the subject of Disendowment. I do not propose to enter into the details which were so fully discussed last Session. A claim was put forward that the property of the Church is to be treated as private property. What have we done in this Bill? We have recognised that claim so far as we believe the property of the Church can be regarded as private. In our judgment much of the Endowments are attached to the Church in Wales, simply and solely because of the connection between the Church and State. The Church of England in Wales received those Endowments as the National Church, and, on the dissolution of the partnership between Church and State, the State is entitled, and ought to receive back that which is national property. All the Endowments of the Church of England, which the Church of England receives as a particular Church professing particular doctrines have been recognised as private in this Bill. More than that all vested interests have been respected and provided for as if they were vested interests in public or private property.
The argument as to whether the Endowments of the Church should be regarded as public or private must be founded on the historical origin of the property. Each class of property must be considered as to whether in its origin it should be regarded as public or private. In weighing the arguments the Government have endeavoured to do full justice to the claims of the Church. My hon. Friends who represent Wales consider that the Government have done more than full justice to those claims. This is certainly true that, in the construction of those claims, we have been no less lenient in this Bill than was Parliament under the Irish Church Act which, in the course of these Debates, has been held up as a model of generosity, and as an example which should be followed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) says it was better than this Bill in spite of the fact that the proportion which the Church in Wales retains under this Bill is 63 vastly larger than the proportion retained under the Irish Church Act. In dealing with a measure of this kind, which touches religious sentiment among such a mass of the people I am sure that the House would be glad to hear that there was a prospect of the Bill passing with the assent of all parties. But letters which have been written to the Press and the speeches which have been made since last February, give us no hope of such an issue. The four Welsh bishops, speaking of this Bill, have used the most uncompromising language. I am going to give the House one or two quotations—they are quite short—in order that we may have no misunderstanding as to what the position of this Bill is in Wales at the present period. The Bishop of St. David's, speaking at Blackpool on the 28th February, said:—There was no room for bargaining in a question of right or wrong and there could be no compromise. Those who believe the Bill to be morally wrong were bound to offer it persistent and uncompromising opposition. He was glad the Government's offer to let the Church in Wales retain its glebe had been refused.Perhaps I might be allowed to say that the suggestion that an offer was made is a flight of imagination. No such offer was ever made, hinted, or contemplated. The neat quotation is also from the Bishop of St. David's. Speaking at Milford Haven, on the 5th May, he said:—The four Welsh bishops had made it perfectly clear that they were not prepared to bargain their conditions for money"—Neither are we—and in this decision they had Welsh Churchmen solidly behind them, clergy and laity, as well as the great mass of Churchmen in England.Again, the same bishop, speaking at Fish-guard on the 4th June, said:—Suggestions had been persistently put forward in the Press for many months from the other side that the leaders of the Church were prepared to compromise their principles for money concessions. The appeal signed by two archbishops and thirty-two diocesan bishops, which was published last week, showed that those suggestions were entirely without foundation.As a rule, the Bishop of St. David's is usually the strongest spokesman on behalf of the Church in Wales, but on the present occasion he is out-done by the Bishop of St. Asaph. Hon. Members cheer that statement, but I am not so sure when they have heard what I am about to read that they will be willing to renew those cheers. Speaking at Llandudno, on the 11th April, this language was used by the Bishop of St. Asaph:—If this Bill passed, Churchmen would of necessity become one solid, resolute phalanx, all co-operation 64 with Nonconformists would cease, and there would be a permanent cleavage throughout the Principality.Hon. Members cheer that statement, but they have not heard what is to be the nature of that cleavage. The bishop went on to say:—In the past, Nonconformists have been largely helped by Churchmen. Twenty years ago the late Lord Penrhyn allowed them to have a return which showed how large in money and lands had been his contribution to the various Nonconformist bodies on his estate. The same was true of all our great landlords. But such generosity could hardly be expected in the future, nor would the change stop there. Every institution in Wales which was called national had derived a great part of its support from Churchmen, schools, colleges, societies like the Cymmrodorion, and so on. At the present moment contributions were needed for the National library. Was it likely that Churchmen would contribute to an institution mainly controlled by Nonconformists. … Personally he (the bishop) greatly disliked the whole system of sectarian and exclusive dealing with which Nonconformity had familiarised them in Wales, and from which hitherto Churchmen had kept studiously aloof. But injustice bred resentment.What is it the bishop threatens to do? He threatens us with a boycott. The Nonconformists are to be boycotted. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is only following you."] The hon. Member says he is only following us, but I can assure him that he is wrong; there is not the slightest evidence of any boycott of Churchmen m Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] That is my view.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I will say this, that whether in any isolated instance or not he can give evidence of boycotting, which I do not believe he can do, he can produce no case in which a leading Nonconformist divine has preached the boycotting of Nonconformists.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Again, the Bishop of St. Asaph, speaking this time at. the Church House, Westminster, on the 30th May, said:—He would entertain no proposal whatever of compromise, nor indeed if the Bill ever became law would he consent to any arrangement which would involve the Church in co-operation with its authors.We introduce this Bill and we press it forward in the firm belief that when all religious denominations are placed in the same position of equality that. they will live together side by side as sister churches. Let the Bishop of St. Asaph say what he will, I do not believe for one moment that in this speech he expresses the sentiments of the majority of Churchmen in Wales. My 65 hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Gladstone) made great endeavours last Session to amend the Bill in a manner which he believed to be more efficacious to his Church. I remember that at that time he received great encouragement in this House from hon. Members opposite, but when my hon. Friend came into touch with the Welsh bishops he was put on one side, and we find that, not only are his suggestions refused by the Welsh bishops, but he himself is warned that his efforts themselves will bring down upon him in the future the condemnation of the Church in Wales. Let us hear what the Bishop of St. Asaph has to say in reference to my hon. Friend, for I can read his language in no other way except as a direct reference to the efforts put forward by my hon. Friend. The bishop, speaking at the Church House, Westminster, on the 6th June, said:—Much has been said about compromise. It was suggested that such a course would lay the foundation for kindlier relations to their opponents in the future, and that it would secure material advantages for the Church. He was confident himself that so far from establishing kindlier relations it would deepen the bitterness of Churchmen and that the bitterness would extend, not only to the Nonconformists, but also to those who had been in any way responsible for advising or promoting such a course.That is the attitude taken up by the Welsh bishops when we seek to put into legislative form the expressed desires of the great majority of the Welsh people. Hon. Members opposite, if they will forgive me for saying so, do not really understand this question from the Welsh point of view. Speaking of their own Church, which they admire, and of which they speak of with most natural pride, they talk of the traditions of that Church. What are the traditions of the Church in Wales? What are the traditions of the Church which Welshmen recall? What are religious traditions in Wales to the modern Welshman? The history of the Church in Wales, with the exception of the last two generations—the history of the Church in Wales going back for 200 or 300 years—is a history of neglect and misrule. What are the true religious traditions of the Welsh people? What is it to which they look up, respect, and admire? They look up to these Nonconformist bodies, who are so bitterly attacked by the Bishop of St. Asaph, who drew Wales out of heathenism, gave them education—[Hon. MEMBERS:"No"], it is true taught them the Bible in their own tongue, preached to them in a language they could understand, and, at the very moment when apathy and infidelity were most rife in 66 Wales, the Nonconformists, driven out of the Church, after two centuries of neglect, brought religion back into the country. Those are the religious traditions of the Welsh people. That is why they do not respect the Church, and why they do respect the Nonconformist bodies. They ask now that these denominations should be all put upon the same footing of equality. Whatever you know in England, in Wales they have seen this under their own eyes; that a denomination is active and vigorous according to whether or not it is independent. The Church has made great efforts in the last fifty years; that is true. But it was the Nonconformists who led the way.
§ Mr. MCKENNA
Yes. It was the Nonconformists who brought back religious teaching to Wales. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No."] It was the Nonconformists who, during the end of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nineteenth century restored religion in Wales. What of the peculiarly Welsh institutions, such as the Sunday schools. To whom do they owe them? To the Church? The Church has copied them from the Nonconformists. The spirit of the people, to whom do they owe that? The revival of Welsh national feeling, to whom do they owe that? That great movement is directly traceable to Nonconformist feeling and effort. If that be so, and certainly Nonconformists believe it to be so, and if the great majority of the Welsh people believe that to be the case and are prepared at any moment to prove that to be the case, this House is only doing right and justice—[An HON. MEMBER: "In robbing the Church."]—when it refuses any longer to continue a Church establishment which is hostile to the feelings of the majority of the people.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day three months."
The Home Secretary, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, reminded the House that we had up to a very recent period been engaged in discussing it. The speech with which he moved the Second Reading was marked by all the characteristics of his mind, and with the unreality which springs from the impression given, whether rightly or wrongly, of a person making up a case to satisfy a particular occasion which deals with matters 67 with which he is only imperfectly acquainted. The right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill was the considered work of the House of Commons. I should think that it was hardly worth while making a statement of that kind. I quite understand, indeed to some extent—it is a common infirmity of politicians—that Gentlemen in the position of the right bon. Gentleman should say that the House of Commons approved or supported the Bill, or use any other phrase of that kind, but that they considered the Bill in the sense in which it is ordinarily understood in Parliament is notoriously untrue. They subjected it to the most severe guillotine that has ever been imposed. The effect of the guillotine went far beyond the Amendments it actually excluded, and these were considerable. It produced, as the guillotine invariably does, a sense of total unreality in the Debates, and the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as anyone that the Debates were thinly attended, and that neither the Debates nor the Divisions showed the true judgment of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman went on to argue that the Welsh people approved of this Bill. I really think that as we are now approaching the second consideration of this Bill under the Parliament Act, it is only reasonable to ask the Government what they contemplate should be the attitude of the House of Commons under the Parliament Act upon the second consideration of the Bill. What is it they expect to happen between the first consideration and the second consideration which makes the second consideration necessary at all? I suppose they think that something, at any rate, might happen, in which case they would not propose the Bill a second time, otherwise one cannot understand why the Bill could not at once be presented for the Royal Assent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear." I know that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite take the logical position of dispensing with a Second Chamber altogether, but I want to know what the Home Secretary thinks ought to be done under the Parliament Act in order to prevent a Bill being proposed for the second time. Every conceivable organ of public opinion which is accessible to us has, I think, pronounced against the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I should be glad to hear of any that has not.
I quite agree that our means of expressing public opinion are deficient. If we 68 had our way the Government would take quite a different course. They would propose to refer this Bill to a poll of the people. If they were ready to do that, they can carry their Referendum Bill, without opposition, through this House and the other House and decide this controversy once and for all. We are perfectly prepared to abide by the desire of the people, but the Government are not prepared to do anything of the kind. They force us back to all sorts of deficient ways of estimating the opinions of the people. We have the power of presenting petitions. I believe that there are only two signatures which have been presented in favour of this Bill, while there have been several hundred thousand against it. Every parish in the country has been or is being moved by meeting against the Bill. How many meetings have been held in favour of the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman says that only at Bolton was the issue a prominent one. I believe he is quite misinformed. With every one misinformation happens occasionally, but with him, misinformation is almost mechanical. There is scarcely ever a question of fact about which the right hon. Gentleman is not misinformed. The Bolton election, as a matter of fact, showed a reduction in the Liberal poll, which was not so large a reduction in the Liberal majority as people on our side had hoped. But there have been other elections. There was the Altrincham election the other day, and, as everybody knows, it was an election in which the Welsh case was a prominent issue.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Masterman)
What about Home Rule?
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
If he will resign his seat at Bethnal Green and fight an election on the Welsh Church Bill or Home Rule, or the two together, I do not think he would continue to be a Member of this Assembly. The truth is that the Government know just as well as we do that this Bill is unpopular. The omissions in the Home Secretary's speech were most eloquent, for he said nothing about English opinion, because his powers of assertion fell short of that supreme test to 69 which they were exposed. I will venture to say there are not ten Members on the other side who would say in private and freedom that they believe this Bill to be popular and approved by the electorate of the country. What is the purpose of your two years' delay under the Parliament Act? If you can propose for the second time a Bill which everybody knows is unpopular, what is the use of having the two years' delay? What purpose does it serve? It very much confuses and vexes both political parties in other issues. It is a matter of general inconvenience to have two years' delay. There is no advantage in it whatever. We say, and we have every ground for asserting that the people are against this Bill, and if your Parliament Act had any meaning, you ought not to propose it a second time. The only argument I ever heard is that the unpopularity of the Government is due to the Insurance Act. Of all the strange doctrines of mandate that has even been put forward, the strangest is this doctrine of relative popularity. The Government say they have a mandate for everything that is less unpopular than the Insurance Act. They naturally find their mandate is a very extensive one. It is a very ingenious theory. It is not original, for it was invented by the red Queen in "Alice through the Looking Glass." She said, "You call this a hill. I have seen hills compared with which this would be a valley." You call that nonsense. I have seen nonsense compared with which this would be as sensible as a dictionary. In the sense in which the Irish Bill and the Welsh Bill are popular, there are hills which are not so high and are therefore comparatively valleys, and there is nonsense as sensible as a dictionary.
In our view we still cherish the expiring flame of democratic tradition. [Laughter.] I do not at all complain of hon. Members being amused. At the same time, is it not true? We would appeal to the judgment of the electorate, and the Government shrink from the judgment of the people. We are only anxious to have these issues submitted, whether by Referendum or by General Election, to the judgment of the people. Grant us that and we shall be satisfied. But it is hon. Members opposite who shrink from that. Which, then, is the better democrat? We are not satisfied with this doctrine of relative unpopularity. We are not prepared to admit that the Government are entitled 70 to carry into law any Bill which is less disliked than their most disliked Bill. On the contrary, we think that the judgment of the people should prevail. We have no doubt at all that if it did prevail, the last would soon be heard of this Bill. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman showed in the course of his speech a very remarkable illustration of that which, until he spoke, had not occurred to me, and, as so little is fresh in this discussion, perhaps I may be allowed to point it out. He referred to the fact that this Bill has bees considered before by Parliament. No one will say that the Welsh Church is weaker in the judgment of the electorate than in 1895, when the Bill was undoubtedly taken before, or in 1909, when the Bill was presented to Parliament. Eighteen hundred and ninety-five is the real case, because then the Bill was carefully considered. What happened? Within one month of the last consideration of the Bill in that year a General Election took place, and the Government were decisively defeated. Is it not strange that the right hon. Gentleman, in arguing that this Bill has popular approbation, should call attention to the fact that this Bill has already been considered in the past? If it was considered, it was considered and decisively condemned. So far as the judgment of the electorate can be said to have been pronounced on the Bill, it has been pronounced decisively in the negative. The only election which has ever been held in the history of the country at which the Bill was a prominent issue resulted in the defeat of those who defended the Bill. I do not deny at all that discussions at this stage of the matter have become very unreal. We have to use arguments that have been used on one side or the other very often before, and we all know that no vote will be in the least degree influenced by any argument whatever.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The hon. Member rejoices in the stability of his convictions against any argument that can possibly be adduced. He has founded his convictions on considerations quite independent of argument. I really do not see, therefore, what is the advantage of having these renewed discussions under the Parliament Act. They are merely in the nature of a Parliamentary pageant, and I think it would be better if we appeared in fancy dress on these occasions. I have tried to imagine what fancy dress the Home Secre- 71 tary would select. All sorts of dresses are open to him. I think probably Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, would be the best. The Home Secretary regards himself as a great national hero vindicating the rights of Welsh nationality against the alien Saxon. That, I observe from his speeches, is the light in which he represents himself. I think I should have a higher respect for Welsh nationality if it were not intruded into a controversy which is essentially distinct from it. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Are the wishes of the Welsh nation not to be considered in respect to religious belief?" He forgot for the moment that his party is bringing in the Home Rule Bill, which precisely excludes from the jurisdiction of the Irish nation, if nation it be, the decision of this class of questions. And why does he exclude them? Why is the question of the Church Establishment excluded from the Irish Bill? Because, of course, it is a subject which excites the greatest possible feeling in England, and therefore from that point of view, not unreasonably, it is classed as an Imperial question. The Establishment of the Welsh Church excites the greatest possible feeling in England. I quite agree that it shows, if that is of any interest, the weakness of the theory of the four nationalities. If there were four true nationalities in the Kingdom there would not be this overlapping of ideas and interests. But that is not our fault. If you accept the doctrine of four nationalities, you must at any rate recognise that this Welsh Church question interests the English nationality quite as much as it does the Welsh. That is a matter of observation. You will see that the English people everywhere are profoundly interested, rightly or wrongly, in the subject. Therefore, on your own principle, they ought to be allowed a voice in deciding it. Of course, if you proceeded in that way and allowed the thing to be decided by the English and the Welsh representatives, the Bill would have been rejected long ago. So that on your theory and not on ours, this Bill ought to have been dead long ago. If it was really to be decided by these parts of the United Kingdom that feel an acute and vigorous interest in it, it would never be passed into law. On our theory the whole of the electors of the United Kingdom ought to judge it. We are only anxious that it should be submitted to that judgment. But you will proceed neither on our theory nor on your own, but on a sort of chaotic mixture of the two 72 theories which suits the political exigencies with which you found yourselves bound to deal.
I believe the Government and their supporters are pursuing a profoundly unwise as well as a very dangerous and mischievous course—unwise, I mean, in their own interests. What are they forcing on the country? They are forcing the destruction of the old doctrine that Bills should never be repealed. We are not, happily, in this case, faced, as we are in the Irish case, with the danger of grave public disorder. That does not arise. But everyone knows that if an election took place shortly after this Bill received the Royal Assent it would not be possible for the incoming Parliament, assuming it was returned hostile to this Bill, to leave the matter as it stands, and, indeed, so far as the Endowment Clauses of the Bill are concerned, nothing is easier than to repeal them, because nothing will be easier than to calculate in a lump sum what the Welsh Church Endowment has been and to make good the robbery by a lump sum out of the National Exchequer. That would be a very easy thing to do. What do you gain? I am arguing that politics are not a game but they are a reality, and if you force on the country an Act of Parliament that they really do not want—and we have every reason to think they do not want this Bill—you will only have the Act of Parliament modified or repealed afterwards. What do you gain? It is a futile proceeding as well as being undemocratic and oppressive, of which, if the Parliament Act had any meaning, no House of Commons on second consideration would be guilty. The right hon. Gentleman read some extracts, in which he seemed to take great satisfaction, showing how indignant the Welsh bishops are with the Bill as it stands and the vehemence with which they repudiated any suggestions of compromise. Of course on our side we must repudiate compromise. The right hon. Gentleman himself said the Opposition took the line that the Bill was ethically unjustifiable. Evidently you cannot compromise about a question of ethics. We think Disendowment is a form of robbery and that Disestablishment is a repudiation of religion. It is manifest that you cannot compromise on issues of that kind. What was the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman in reading these extracts when he shows by his own action that he is lust as much against compromise as the Welsh bishops?
73 He said Establishment seared the conscience of the Welsh people. That is rather odd. If the conscience of the Welsh people is raw and bleeding, it is rather odd that the Government have been seven years before they thought it worth while to apply a balm. If they really believe that the Establishment is a moral wrong to the Welsh people, they evidently ought to have dealt with in in the first Session of the new Parliament in 1906. In general they took a different line. They do not maintain that this is an ethical question; therefore it is for them to offer a compromise. Their attitude should be, "We are anxious to pass the Bill, we make a reasonable proposal, and it is for you to accept it or reject it; or, rather, it is for us to enact what we believe to be reasonable, whether it is accepted or whether it is not." But the Home Secretary did not see the real lesson which was to be learned from his extracts. It is that this Bill embitters feelings. How can you possibly expect, when you are going to take away from a great religious body more than half the Endowments to which it believed itself to be entitled—considerably more than half—that you will not greatly embitter those who are devoted to this religious body? Is it a matter really for anything but serious consideration how much mischief you are doing by setting one religious person, whether a bishop or a Nonconformist minister, against another, by embittering the whole controversy by an act of this kind? The lesson from the extracts he read is just the opposite to what he drew from it. It is the lesson that the Bill is doing nothing but mischief, and ought to be dropped. Then he says the Bishop of St. Asaph recommends a boycott. It is nothing of the kind. What he recommends is that when the Endowments have been taken away people should give their charitable donations to the Church which will need them. That is a very natural and inevitable result of taking away Endowments. Those to whom the Church is most dear will naturally give, in the first instance, to the body which will chiefly want their benefactions.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to repeat the old story that the Endowments of the Church belong to the Church in respect of its relation to the State. I did hope we had got rather beyond that stage. Does anyone who has looked into the matter really believe that the mediæval benefactor gave his wealth to the Church 74 because it was connected with the State? Everyone knows that the whole conception of endowing a body because it was national is a modern conception. When they endowed a religious body in the old days they endowed it because it was religious, because it was in their view the Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which they were devoted disciples. I understand, though I do not agree with, the the opinion that the Endowment properly ought to belong to the Roman Catholic Church. I can quite understand by what argumentative process that opinion is reached. But to say that the Endowments are given to the Church because it was a National Church, or was attached to the State, is to fly in the face of the most obvious facts of history. It is most alleged in respect of tithes. As I understand the case put forward on that side of the House, it is that in some countries, though there is no evidence that it was so in Wales, tithes were sometimes devoted to education and sometimes to the relief of poverty. There is no evidence that that applies to Wales, but there is evidence that it certainly did not apply in England. Therefore the whole case of the tripartite tithe is a very vague and conjectural one. It is further doubtful whether those tithes did not all fall into the hands of the monasteries and whether they were not long ago confiscated by Henry VIII., if that is a precedent that we feel inclined to admire. But what is quite certain is that tithe was always given as tithe, because it was conceived to be a payment religiously due, and the very name shows it. It was conceived to be the tenth which was due under the old scriptural doctrine which came down from the Old Testament, due for divine objects, and it was only given to the Church, whether for directly religious purposes or for educational purposes, because they were religious objects. Nor can anyone who has the smallest knowledge of mediawal thought and history doubt that the principal object with which tithe was always given was the use of the money to provide services for the Church. No mediæval person thought that either education or poor relief was so important a service as the direct service of worship in the Church. What you are doing now, in so far as the original donor matters at all, is to take away money which was given with a distinctly religious purpose for a religious object when you know, and no one can doubt, that the donor thought religious worship in the 75 Church the most important religious object which could possibly be served. I really cannot conceive how anyone can justify Disendowment on the purpose of the original donor.
The second line of defence is the change that took place at the Reformation. That was, of course, done under the leadership and under the pressure of the State. It is therefore impossible, in my view, for the State equitably to turn round on the Church and say, "You have changed your mind, and therefore, you must lose your money, because you have changed your mind at our instance." As a matter of fact everyone who has read the history of the Reformation knows very well that no one dreamed that the Church was changing either its legal or its moral identity, except those Papists who adhered to the Communion of the Pope. The whole British nation, Welsh and English, were fully convinced that the Church remained the Church that it had always been and Welsh people remained of that opinion. They did not at that time become Nonconformists. They remained of that opinion until the middle of the eighteenth century and adhered to the Church all those years. Therefore, there is not a shadow of ground in respect to Wales for saying that at the time of the Reformation there was any breach of continuity on which you could properly base the confiscation of property, though you could not base in any case confiscation of property on the breach that took place at the Reformation unless you are prepared to restore the Endowments to the Roman Church. The Reformation was a controversy between two Churches—two bodies of theological opinion. If you say that the old Church was continued in the Roman Church then the Endowments belong to the Roman Church; but if we say, as we say, that the old Church was continued in the English Church, the Endowments must be left as they are. In no case can they go to county councils for education.
Finally, there is the argument of prescriptive right. For 300 years the Church has enjoyed and used these Endowments. Whoever in any other controversy heard a hint of disturbing such a title as this. The truth is that Endowment is a relic from the earlier days of this controversy. When people first began to discuss the matter they did not understand the sub- 76 ject. They supposed that the money was in the national sense national money, and they came to the conclusion that Disendowment ought to accompany Disestablishment. As a mere matter of tradition and inheritance, they have come together, but in reason and fact there is no connection between the two. You may or may not sever the connection between the State and the Church, but in no case can you justify the depriving of the Church of Endowments, to which it has a prescriptive title. Nor are you entitled to do it on the ground that the thing has become obsolete, and that the body is no longer able to use wisely and well the Endowments entrusted to them. No one, I think, not even the hon. Member opposite, not the most vigorous opponent of the Established Church, suggests that the Church does not use her modest and moderate Endowments well. There are some ancient charities that in time become obsolete. In the ordinary case, when you find some ancient charity which circumstances have rendered quite obsolete, it is right for the State to interfere, but that does not arise here. Therefore, the whole case for Disendowment is without any bottom at all. It cannot be defended on the ground of a change in religion; it cannot be defended on the ground of the change which took place at the Reformation, and it cannot be defended on the ground of prescriptive right, or that the funds are not being used for the purpose for which they were intended. It breaks down totally by every possible test. It is not approved by Church opinion, or the opinion of Nonconformists. I believe the great mass of Nonconformists would be delighted to hear that Disendowment has been dropped, because it is something which they cannot defend in reason and conscience.
Now I turn to Disestablishment. The argument is that Wales is a nation. That would be an excellent argument if the Welsh Nation were a State, and that the Establishment, exists between the State and the Church. Whether there ought to be a Welsh State or not, there certainly is not at the present moment. That is not a matter of academical argument; it is a matter of fact at the present moment, and so far as Disestablishment goes it affects the whole State. Take, for example, the Ecclesiastical Court. The Courts that have superior jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters are the Court of Arches and the Privy Council. These are evidently for 77 more than a part of the United Kingdom. They are recognised, so far as they are recognised by the State at all, as for the whole country. They are, at any rate, recognised far beyond Wales. They are recognised in the law which prevails over the whole country. If the Welsh nation exists—upon that matter we have our own opinion, but the question does not arise here—it certainly is not a party to Disestablishment, and, so far as that goes, it may rest quiet and its conscience may cease to be seared. At any rate, the Establishment is a relation between the State and the Church, and it is far beyond the limits of Wales. Therefore, the case breaks down in respect of Disestablishment. The question that really, then, arises in respect of Establishment is this: Is the State to go on recognising religion? No one disputes that, if it recognises religion at all, the Church is the only religious body that can recognise it in Wales. Therefore, as the State is recognising religion in Wales, how can you say that the connection should determine because a large number of Welsh Members are pledged to Disestablishment? If that view is sound at all, it is tire moral duty of the whole community to recognise religion, and they ought not to shrink from it because the representatives of part of the State may take a different view.
In going over these arguments, I am quite conscious that they have been gone over before, but if we are to discuss the question once more, we must beat it out again. I maintain that neither for Disestablishment nor Disendowment, and, least of all, for the breaking of the Church into two by an act of the State, is there any case for the Bill. It is a most flagrant violation of toleration. On none of these points is there any case for this Bill. Why, then, persist in it? What good do you do by that? Is it for Nonconformity? Nonconformity will not be a penny the better. [Indications of dissent.] It is a silly thing to take pride in the barrenness of your legislation, because what you are doing is not going to do good to Nonconformity, but it, will do harm to the Church. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I understand that the Home Secretary cheered that.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman does not doubt that money is really of use to religious bodies in their 78 work. At any rate, you are not going to do any financial good to Nonconformists. How is any Nonconformist in the world going to be better because the Bishop of St. Asaph does not sit in the House of Lords? Does that prove that there is to be rare and refreshing fruit for Nonconformity? It is clear that there is only one sentiment in the hearts of Nonconformists —happily, not in the hearts of all, and I hope not in the hearts of many—and that is the sentiment of spite. That is the only sentiment that this Bill will gratify. The only thing it will do is to gratify the hatred which some Christians bear to others. If anyone will prove that any benefit would accrue to Churchman or Nonconformist, I shall be glad to hear him. One may appeal to the whole scale of politics in protesting against this Bill. It is an injury to religion because it takes away for secular purposes wealth which is now devoted to religious purposes. It is an injury to the good feeling that exists, or has existed, between Churchmen and Nonconformists. It is not denied that it is leading to great bitterness between the two. It is an injury, therefore, to religion twice over. It is a violation of the principles held by hon. Members opposite who themselves protest against the interference of the State in the affairs of the Church. They are going to interfere in the affairs of the Church by dividing it in two. Therefore, it is inconsistent, it is illogical, and it is not even popular. It is not even playing a party game, so far as I can see, except in so far as it keeps the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Boroughs (Mr. W. G. C. Gladstone) only intermittently attached to the Government, instead of habitually voting against them. That is what it does from the point of view of party politics. On the higher aspects of the question, I urge the Government to withdraw the Bill. Do they gain from the mere squalid point of view? Every higher consideration is against them.
We, therefore, ask the House to reject the Bill because every possible consideration to which you can appeal gives its testimony in favour of that rejection. We are sure that devotion will sink, and we are sure that religion will be injured, if the Bill passes. I am aware that hon. Members opposite rely upon the inherent vitality of the Church, and say, "After all, you will be all the better for Disestablishment and Disendowment. The Church will revive from the shock." We remember 79 the king who sent Daniel into the lions' den, saying, "The God you believe in will deliver you," and so it did happen, but not to the credit of the king. It is said that the same thing will happen here. A character still less estimable said:Cast thyself down,from a pinnacle of the Temple—for it is written. He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.But these sayings are not recorded for our imitation. We are not instructed to imitate the language of persecution or the language of temptation. We have to do, if we acknowledge any moral responsibility for our opinions, what is plainly right for the national conscience. We have to serve religion and not destroy it. We have to respect the rights of ownership and not despoil them. We have, if we believe that righteousness will exalt us as a nation in proportion as we really tread the path that is right, to turn aside from the counsels that would lead us to neglect the plain dictates of right and reason, and we have not to serve party exigencies. I am persuaded it is plain that the Government ought not to press the Bill. I believe that in the hearts of many of their supporters that feeling is acute. I believe they will gain nothing but a futile triumph in what they are doing, and in the name of every good quality, piety, and common sense, I ask this House to read the Bill a second time upon this day three months.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I understand this Amendment requires a Seconder, and so I rise once more to urge hon. Members to persist in their efforts to defeat the Bill in whole and in its several parts. I do think the speech of the Home Secretary gives us some encouragement in our cause in defending the Church against this assault, for not one single new argument was brought forward by him except the argument of the by-elections. He has been informed incorrectly that at only one election, namely, that at Bolton, was this question prominently before the electors. According to our information on this side of the House, there is no question which turns more Liberal votes to our side than this particular Welsh Church question. This measure is not gaining the Government votes, and they only persist in it, I believe, because they are afraid of a Welsh revolt. They were never afraid of it before. They were not afraid of it in the 80 1906 Parliament. What is the argument of the Home Secretary? The same old nine pins were put up and knocked down again. He began each sentence, "It is argued," and he proceeded to state arguments we did not use, and then to demolish them. He never touched the argument of the main nine pins we are asking about. They are these. They are dismembering a Church against its will. They are altering the ancient constitution of that Church and forcing upon it against its will a representative Church body which we do not want. They are confiscating money which has been used, and is being used to-day, for the best of all possible purposes, namely, for the maintenance of the special ministrations of religion, and they are going to divert them to be frittered away upon a library at Aberystwyth, to which nobody goes, and upon county councils who are to produce ethical schemes of no particular sect arid with no definite purpose whatever. We reproduce the argument that all through England and Wales you have failed to get up any enthusiasm whatever for this Bill. Look at the attendance this afternoon on the Liberal Benches while the Home Secretary, the great protagonist of the measure, was speaking. The Liberal Benches were almost empty. When did the Liberal party use this Bill at by-elections? They have scarcely ever made any reference to it. It is a most extraordinary thing that we can get up demonstrations up and down the country, even in Radical parts, against the Bill. What can the Liberal party do? Where are their demonstrations? Where are the views of the people behind them? They said that they would have a great Welsh national demonstration in Cardiff. The Home Secretary, the Mover, the introducer, the repairer of this Bill was to go down and address it. Two hundred thousand people, according to the "South Wales Daily News" were to be present. May I ask the Horne Secretary for an estimate of the number of people who were present? I am told that there were only between two and three thousand. The whole campaign in the country has fallen as flat as the Home Secretary's speeches in this House.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
There seems to be some conflict. I have been informed that the Home Secretary came down to a demonstration, that they expected 200,000 people, and that there were only 2,000 people there.
§ Mr. McKENNA
There was a conference of delegates only. There was no demonstration at Cardiff. There was a demonstration at Swansea before that.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Another Venetian oligarchy was collected together in order to support the Home Secretary in rushing this measure through in the manner which is characteristic of the way in which all your measures are being got through. You attempt to produce no petition. You have no great demonstrations and no sort of public support for your Bill. You come down to this House with no further evidence than your mechanical salaried majority, not with a majority of a party, but a majority of parts which all hang together by having different policies combined, a majority which contains many Members who do not take any special interest in this question at all. I do not think that there are five Nationalist Members at the present moment in the House. What is happening is typical of the way you take the name of the people in vain. You come down to this House and say that you have a majority in favour of this proposal. In our opinion you have nothing of the kind. But what does it matter? This question, as the Home Secretary says, has got to be argued upon the actual merits of the Bill before the House, and we never get any argument at all in favour of it. The Home Secretary never mentioned the Bill. He never dealt with a single one of its proposals. All he did deal with in the Bill was that he said that they had endeavoured to divide private and public property. The right hon. Gentleman's history this afternoon was quite the most ludicrous exposition of history that we have had on this question. I had not time to take it all down. I will take a paragraph of his travesty of Welsh history sentence by sentence, for I see it in print. There is not a single sentence which is not capable of the most complete refutation by any historical authority. I will take one of the most flagrant: "It was the Welsh 82 Nonconformists who gave the Welsh people the Bible in their own tongue and disseminated it." The Bible was translated into Welsh in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by Bishop Morgan, and was disseminated. In the early part of the eighteenth century the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge produced a special Welsh edition of the Bible and circulated it widely. It was long before Nonconformity was heard of that the Welsh Bible came to the people in their own tongue, and it came from the Church. That statement by the Home Secretary was a deliberate misrepresentation of history in order to get party capital and a party cheer. It is not true to say that Welsh Nonconformists were the first to give a Bible in Welsh to the Welsh people.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I said that the Welsh Nonconformist preachers first of all brought the Bible home to the Welsh people in their own tongue. Of course we all know that the Bible was translated into Welsh long before that time, but it was the Nonconformists who brought the Bible in their own tongue home to the Welsh people, and that is true.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The Home Secretary has modified his former statement considerably, but even then he is not accurate. What about Griffith Jones? What about the revival in the Church in the eighteenth century after the Church in Wales had been persecuted by your Puritans, by your predecessors in the eighteenth century? It was the Church herself who produced the revival, and it was inside the Church that these religious revivals of the Welsh people grew in the eighteenth century. It was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that there was a large development of Nonconformity in Wales. Look at any of the diocesan or public records. Congregationalists and Nonconformist bodies throughout Wales were very few and far between until the end of the eighteenth century. It was not until the opening up of industrial places and the mines and slate quarries and other things in the nineteenth century that the Nonconformists began to grow apace. When you refer to the traditions of Nonconformists who are smarting against the Establish- 83 ment, you should remember that Nonconformists even as late as 1834 passed a resolution against Disestablishment. They would have nothing to do with Disestablishment or Disendowment in Wales. Disestablishment was imported from England shortly after the Oxford Movement. It is entirely an English notion which was taken up in Wales during the last seventy years during which time the Church has been reviving, as is acknowledged even by the Home Secretary, whose historical travesty this afternoon has been the most disgraceful bit of argument on this Bill to which the House has been subjected. The Home Secretary used the argument that they had endeavoured to separate private and public property. We all know that the one idea of the Government was to get money from the Church and to invent an excuse afterwards to keep it away.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Was there ever produced in the country or in this House before the doctrine of the tripartite division of tithes or of frankalmoigne? This question has been advocated up and down the country for years, and we find now that the reason why the Government is taking this money away is that because for the first time they said last year that it was given in frankahnoigne. In passing the Home Secretary says that it is not an English question, but there is not a single acre of glebe land in England which is not held under frankalmoigne just as much as the glebe land in Wales, and there is not a single argument which applies in the case of Wales that does not apply equally to England. The dividends received are from English sources. There is not a single one of these Ecclesiastical Commissioners' grants that is not strengthened by the principles and the arguments you use in favour of the Bill, and we attach the same value to that. We know that the President of the Board of Agriculture has said before now that the turn of the Church of England will come next. Of course England is affected by this question, and particularly in the matter of glebes; but you have invented these historical nostrums and these theories, including that freak theory of tithe which, as we all know, was unknown until last year in order to support this Bill. I want to deal with one specific instance which I 84 think will show the House how absurd your division of property is, and what ridiculous anomalies are in the Bill, and how your nostrums have led you into a ridiculous condition. Take the parish of Penrhos in Montgomeryshire. My father happens to be the patron. I know the parish fairly well. The figures have been directly supplied by the Archdeacon of Montgomery, in whose archdeaconry the parish is situated. You have got there a most extraordinary anomaly. One farm will continue to pay tithe to the Church and the tithe on a farm alongside that will be confiscated. You have got tithes from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners which now go to the Church and are being taken away because they are Welsh Ecclesiastical appropriated property, and you have tithes coming from exactly the same source which will remain to Penrhos after dismemberment because they come from English sources.
You have the glebe lands left to the Church, and the churchyard confiscated, because although the glebe surrounds the churchyard the parish is a daughter parish of the parish of Llandrinio in Montgomeryshire and there is the original glebe of 1632, with founders' tithe, tithe on the farm of Cluwin, while the church was founded and built there. That, of course, will go. Sixty years later there was tithe on another farm, the farm of Collfwyn close to there, which was given soon after 1662 by Lord Darlington, and that tithe is to he let remain. There is a payment of £50 a year for the particular parishes of Llandrinio and Milifod, which is a charge on tithes and glebes which will be confiscated under your Bill, but tithes to the amount of nearly £38 will remain to the Church because they were purchased from a lay appropriator in the district by a private benefaction, and in the year 1872 Christ Church gave £59 10s. worth of tithes a year, which also will remain to the Church. At any rate what you have is, roughly, part of the tithe is to be confiscated and part is to be left to the Church. The whole thing is hopelessly mixed up. The churchyard is to be taken and the glebe left, and you will get the most absurd anomalies. Take the other case. I have given the Home Secretary a case of the separation of a churchyard in the parish of Llandulas, also in the diocese, where there is the church and an old churchyard, and then an extension of that churchyard. The church will be handed over to the representative Church body and the churchyard will be handed over to a secular body, and 85 the outside of the churchyard, although it is one piece of land, will be handed back to the Church. Therefore, you take from the Church its own portion of burial ground, and you have to go through part of the secularised property in order to reach that which belongs to the Church. Was there ever such an absurd and unjust Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman talks of bitterness and of ill-feeling. Do you think this sort of instances are likely to promote good feeling and goodwill in Wales? Do you think that the churchyard question and the curates' question are not going to rankle for many generations, and do you think that Churchmen are going to take this Bill lying down—a Bill passed without the consent of the people, and contrary, as we believe, to the will of the majority of the United Kingdom? How is it that the Government can believe that the Bill is going to be accepted by the Established Church? We have had another exhibition of what the full import of Clause 13 is. Again and again it has been argued in this House that it was undesirable to force upon the Church in Wales the constitution of the Church in Ireland; that we did not want to be governed by a synodical and representative Church body; that we did not want a bifurcated system of that kind; and I cannot understand how the Home Secretary can maintain that this measure is in any way freeing the Church. It is not freeing the Church from State control. The Church at the present moment, largely because of Establishment, bas, I believe, greater spiritual freedom than any other Church in the whole of Europe—greater freedom within the Church, greater power of pure, spiritual freedom, apart from all questions which deal with property and matters of that kind. I believe that the principle of Establishment is the guarantee of that freedom. I cannot help looking with regret at the results of Disestablishment in the Church of Ireland. You have narrowed that Church, you have made one school of thought predominate, and you have not made her attain that freedom which I should like to see.
I do not believe that the Church of Wales under this Bill will have any more freedom by being driven out of the Catholic Church in which she wishes to continue. What is the great point which will be discussed next Saturday when London Churchmen are coming to our assistance by holding a demonstration in Hyde Park? It is this: 86 They will ask that you shall not drive these four Welsh dioceses out of the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Oxford even said he would pursue the proposal to drive out these four dioceses with relentless opposition. We have had no argument upon that point. You guillotined us so that we could not discuss the convocational position in the Committee stage of the Bill. The point came at the end of Clause 3, and the end of that Clause was never reached. We discussed the first three or four paragraphs, which dealt with existing rites, doctrines, et cetera, and which said that they would be binding as a matter of contract upon the ministers of the Disestablished Church. We never reached the latter part of the Clause—indeed, it was not possible to do so at the time. But this is an example of the extraordinary notions which the Government and their supporters have got of this Bill. They think that they have merely got to suggest something and put it in the Bill, and say that the majority from Wales feels that it will do, and the Church must take the consequences. Not a single one of the really grave charges which we bring against this Bill has ever been met in any way by the Government. We did hope that we might hear some better alternative than this county council scheme for dealing with religious endowments. We spent two days on that, and there has never been an attempt on the other side to meet us on that issue.
I think that what perhaps is the saddest of all the things in connection with this Bill, and it is the sadness of the position to-day, is that you say, in the name of religious equality, that these Endowments must be taken from the Church, and you will not listen to any of our proposals as to how they should be used for analogous purposes. You take those Endowments from the Church and you use them for no analogous purpose whatsoever, for no truly spiritual purpose. What you say is, "We must bring the Church down; we must destroy not only all her privileges, traditions, and constitution, but much of her usefulness, by taking from her the slender resources she possesses." You do not use those resources for any specific religious purpose, but you hand them over to the county council to make what schemes they like. That is the tragic position, considering the needs of Wales, in which we stand under this Bill. The Home Secretary seems to think that if the Bill becomes law it will be all right, and that it 87 will work well. It will not, from the very day it passes into law. You will not, you cannot have Church people supporting a library which exists to a large extent upon glebe lands taken from the Church. You cannot expect Churchmen to administer schemes of the county council connected with tithes of the parish. You say that you will do without the Church. It is Nonconformists who are boycotting Churchmen, and not Churchmen who are boycotting Nonconformists. I do not accuse Nonconformists of boycotting Churchmen, but everybody knows that throughout Wales the Churchman is looked at askance by the overbearing and tyrannous majority of the county council. Everybody who has lived in Wales knows what treatment is meted out to Churchmen under existing circumstances. This Bill, instead of lessening that condition of matters, will, of course, increase it, and the memory of harsh treatment will continue for generations. After all you are driving us out. Let it be clearly understood that Churchmen regard this Bill as driving them out of their ancient unity against their will. It is parallel with the Ulster case. Ulster does not wish to be driven out of the union. We do not wish to be driven out of the Church of England, and you are attempting to do that. The cases are exactly parallel.
I wish to say one or two words about the Home Secretary's remark on the question of compromise. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks this afternoon were extraordinary. He put the whole blame for no further compromise upon us. Who is the man who first laid down the doctrine of no compromise? It was the Home Secretary himself, in response to Welsh Members and in response to a deputation. I understand that a deputation of preachers came to him. They were not very satisfied with the reception they had got from Welsh Members of Parliament, and they went to the Home Secretary, who said that there was nothing further from his thoughts than compromise, and that there would be nothing in the nature of compromise or further concessions. We have an example of what happened over concessions last Session. We heard the Home Secretary say that it was abstract justice which led him to make certain concessions. It is perfectly clear that it was the Home Secretary who, in his speech at Holyhead and in his speech to the deputation, closed the doors for ever to any concession to the curates or any concession 88 about Convocation. There was to be no iota of change in this harsh Bill. It is upon the Government and the Government alone that rests the responsibility of forcing through this detested measure without any attempt to come to any compromise either in this House or outside. Personally, I do not regret it, because it is what I expected. We always expected that it was the Government's intention to get this Bill on the Statute Book before another appeal to the country, in as harsh a form as they dared, and it is perfectly clear that that is what they now intend to do.
I do not think the Government have realised the results of their action and procedure on this Bill. The proposals of the Bill itself go far beyond affecting Wales or even England. We all regret that this Bill should come at a moment when within the national and traditional Establishment the Church of Scotland are corning once more together. We see that what we should like to see in Wales is being done in Scotland; but that apparently is made impossible for ever owing to the introduction of this Bill. We think that the Bill will go far beyond Wales and even in England for this reason, that it is one more of those efforts that have been seen throughout Europe recently to secularise and to go in the direction of secularism. This Bill is an attempt to divert people from the essential union between the highest form of government and the traditional faith. What shocks one in this twentieth century is that the Houses of Parliament of this country are asked to sever us from and to break with that great and inspiring tradition, a tradition which has been maintained for good, very strongly for good, and a tradition which has been the motive power, not so much among the saints of the Church, but amongst the great body of the nation. I believe it is vital to the nation, to the politics of the nation, and to the whole future of the nation, that the Christian standard should be maintained, and that we should not get the people of this country to regard government as a purely secular function, or purely secular, purely economic, and purely political business, in the narrow sense of the word.
I believe that the tradition of the union between Church and State in this country has been of immense value to the nation. I believe it has helped us in Wales as much as in England. I believe that tradition and that connection are all important. 89 The Church in Ireland has gone; the Church in Wales you are taking now; there remains the Church of England, which is in precisely the same position as the Church in Wales to-day. As long as the Church is Established in England we will belong to that Established Church, and the tradition and constitution of that ancient institution will be maintained in Wales. Although our Church is Disestablished, we shall receive the reflected glory and the reflected advantages of the Establishment. So long as the Church of England remains Established, we shall endeavour to keep exactly where the Church of England is, and in full unity and full communion with her. We shall have no power of exercising that freedom to roam into the various channels of theological diversion as long as the Church of England remains Established. I hope that this Bill will not lead men to think that because the Church in Wales is attacked, therefore the Establishment has gone. I regard the Establishment, even more than the Endowments, or anything else, as absolutely vital to the future of the nation, as a most fundamental principle. I do not say control by Parliament, but that relation between Parliament and the Church which has been very seldom abused either by Parliament or the Church. I think there is a great case to be made for rather more freedom in certain matters, but on the whole I think that the Establishment as it is now makes for true spiritual freedom in the Church, and that we gain more from it than we should lose from the Church's point of view. From the nation's point of view, I think it far more important. The loss by Disestablishment and Disendowment, and by those principles being once asserted, and by those principles being carried, I regard, indeed, as an irretrievable disaster. I do ask the House to reject this measure and not to proceed further with it, and I urge the Government to pause before they pass yet another of those secularising measures which cuts the Church adrift from the great national stream and singles her out as a small sect to deal with one aspect of the life of man, and destroys that intimate connection between Government and the tradition and faith of the country.
§ Sir DAVID BRYNMOR JONES
The speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the rejection of this Bill ranged over so many matters, and looked a them from such different points of view, that it is difficult 90 for anyone replying to them to know exactly how to proceed. What is left in my mind is chiefly various impressions. I have a distinct impression that the hon. Gentleman who has just seconded has been a little unfair to the Home Secretary in regard to matters of history. I think, if I heard him aright, he said that this movement for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales is something that has been imported into Wales from England. There is absolutely no evidence to that effect. I do not know whether I should be giving information or not to the hon. Gentleman when I say that, in a magazine published in the Welsh language as far back as 1793, Morgan John Rhys, a Baptist minister, said that the only remedy for the disastrous religious condition of the Principality was the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. Does the hon. Gentleman know that, and does he deny it?
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
Then why did the hon. Member make that assertion in the course of his speech? Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that in the years 1830 to 1835, when the Methodist denomination had determined to split away from the Church of England, and when the other Nonconformist bodies had been gathering strength for more than sixty years, in Merionethshire a society was formed for the purpose of carrying on an agitation for the dissolution of the alliance between Church and State? Does the hon. Member know that? Is he acquainted with the history of the Welsh Press? I do not mean the history of the newspapers and magazines published in the English language, but the history of the periodicals and newspapers published in the Welsh language in Wales. If he will go back and read the earlier numbers of some magazines he will find that as early as the 'forties this matter was a matter of continual discussion amongst those who were leaders of opinion amongst the Welsh nation. I will not pursue the matter further, except to say that as far back as 1862 all the Nonconformist denominations met together at Swansea and, quite apart from the political aspect of the case, determined that for the general benefit of the religious life of the Principality the connection with the State should cease. Then we have the more recent history of the movement. I hope the hon. Member 91 will not think I have been unkind in reminding him that there are fields of history in which he has not yet had the opportunity of exploring.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
It disproves the allegation made by the hon. Member. If the allegation is irrelevant it does not matter, and if it is relevant it is disproved. I but chiefly gathered impressions from the speeches which have been made. I cannot write shorthand, and could not take down everything that was said in the eloquent speech delivered by the Noble Lord. My impression derived from his speech is that he is the representative of the inspiring flame of democracy. That shattered a delusion I have long formed that he is an ideal representative for the University of Oxford, which according to Matthew Arnold, is the home of lost causes. I am bound to say I thought there was a thread of reasoning and arrangement running through the speech which divided itself into two parts. First of all it was a general attack upon the Government for not dropping this Bill, and the second part was devoted to rearguing questions which had been discussed during last Session. I do not think the Noble Lord will quarrel with that description of the speech. What I propose to do is to deal with one or two of the topics suggested partly by the speech of the Noble Lord and partly by the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Denbigh Boroughs. Before I come to any special point, I should like, and I think I ought to say, that I listened with the very greatest satisfaction to the words of my right hon Friend the Home Secretary from which I gather that it is the intention of the Government, not only to apply to this Bill the provisions of the Parliament Act of 1911, but to reject any suggestions of material alteration in the terms by which the Church of England is to be Disestablished and Disendowed in regard to Wales and Monmouthshire. As one who knows the state of things in that part of the country, I can assure him that the views of the great majority of the Welsh people, expressed in the clearest way at so many General Elections, for more than a generation, have undergone no change upon this matter, and that they are eagerly looking forward to the speedy passing of this Bill, 92 as a measure of tardy justice and a necessary condition to the increased social and political well being of the Welsh people. In a recent speech made by our most energetic and redoubtable opponent, the Bishop of St. David's, he said:—The supporters of the Bill seemed to assume that the Government did not intend to have a General Election before the Bill became law.He was quite right. We not only seem to, but we do assume that this Bill is in the grip of the legislative machine, of absolutely good pattern and up-to-dater designed by Parliament to prevent gross abuse of its powers by the House of Lords, and I am rejoiced that the Government will do nothing to stop the action of the machinery, which is now set in motion and which will turn this Bill into a Statute in the course of the next Session. I recognise, of course, that by force of circumstances the fate of this Bill is mixed up with the fate of another Bill, the Home Rule Bill for Ireland. We accept that fact, we accept it not with dislike, but with sympathy not with misgiving, but with confidence. Those are the general remarks I wish to make. One finds it difficult, where there are so many topics, to pick out the one which is most appropriate to a Second Reading Debate, and I am anxious to avoid taking any points which in the ordinary course appears to be Committee points. The hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), very happily as I think, referred to one or two parishes, the parish of Penrhos and Llandrinio, to illustrate objections to this Bill. In the speech, both of that hon. Member and in the speech of the Noble Lord, there is I think a tendency to exaggerate the position occupied by the Church of England in Wales, and to exaggerate the progress which has been made in the Church during the last few years. As the Noble Lord knows, I was a member of the Welsh Church Commission, and signed the same Report that he signed. No one can read that Report without recognising the fact that since 1840 there has been a very marked and satisfactory progress in regard to the Church of England. That statement is being very largely used on Church Defence platforms as though it were quite relevant to the controversy raised by this Bill. I fail to see how it is relevant. It is true that this progress has been made, but it is also true that since the year 1840 progress has been made by the Nonconformist bodies. When one comes to examine what this notion of the progress of the Church of England in 93 Wales is, one begins to inquire still more what relevancy it can possibly have to this demand of the Welsh people.
What does this progress of the Church mean? First of all, it means that the clergy do their duty better. It means that the laity belonging to the Church are more alive to the obligations cast upon them. It means that there is a general and greater activity in those who rule the whole organisation, and the progress is evidenced by large additions to the adherents or members of the particular Church concerned. That there has been a large accession to the ranks of the Church of England in Wales since 1840 goes without saying. The population has enormously increased. There have been more immigrants from England into Wales during the last fifty years than during the five centuries that elapsed before that time. The point I wish to make is that this increase in the numbers of the members and adherents of the Church of England in Wales—assuming, as I am quite ready to do to the full, that the position is as stated in the report of the Royal Commission and by the Bishops of St. David's and St. Asaph on many platforms—is largely due to English immigration, and that it is not in the places where the Welsh people are mainly to be found, but in the great industrial districts, in the great towns of the South, and in the seaside resorts around the coastline of Wales. I should attach greater importance to this circumstance if it could be shown that the increase was extending to rural Wales. It so happens that my attention has been called to some articles in the "Herald Cymraeg," a Welsh newspaper, by an observer who had taken upon himself to visit various parishes in North Wales with a view to ascertaining whether or not these allegations as to the decline of Nonconformity and the increase of Church views in the rural parts of Wales were well founded. I do not think that this matter is very relevant; I refer to it only because so many hon. Members opposite, and supporters of the Church, appear to think it a vital matter.
I have taken the parish of Clynnog, in Carnarvonshire, the facts in regard to which I will briefly state to the House. I have selected this parish because the writer in the "Herald Cymraeg" made certain statements which attracted the notice of the vicar of the parish, who wrote to the "Manchester Guardian" giving the facts at the present day, which facts I fully 94 accept. I want to use the case of this parish for two purposes, first, as showing the condition of things in a typical rural parish in Wales, and secondly, as illustrating the effect of the operation of this Bill. First of all, let me state the facts as gathered from the Report of the Royal Commission. I think this case is a reasonably typical North Wales parish, but if any hon. Member cares to select any other parish and to give the same particulars about it, we shall be very ready to consider what he may have to say upon the point. In 1905 the population was 1,497. The income of the vicar, all told, was £596, of which £290 came from the tithe rent-charge, and £306 from a private benefaction since 1703. That £596 is subject to a charge of £120, due to Jesus College as rector of the parish. These are the material statistics as to the religious condition of the parish. The Church had in 1905 one parish Church, but I think that a chapel-of-ease is now being restored or re-erected. The seating accommodation was 500; the communicants were 19; the Sunday School scholars were 14; and the teachers in the Sunday School were 3. The Nonconformists, on the other hand, had 7 chapels, affording accommodation for 1,461 people; the communicants were 1,836; the children in the Sunday School were 278; and the teachers, including certain officers, superintendents, and so forth, in the Sunday School, were 136. I hear the statement made that even since 1905 the Church has made very great strides in the rural parishes of Wales. It would not discompose me in the slightest degree if that were true, nor would it diminish the force of the argument for this Bill. But let us see what was the position in 1905. According to the Report of the Royal Commission, in the year 1903 there were seven confirmations, in 1904 none, and in 1905 none. There you have the facts as to which there can be no reasonable dispute. The writer to whom I have referred said that he went to the parish church of Clynnog, and found at the morning service a congregation of only fifteen persons. The vicar has taken the trouble to write to the "Manchester Guardian" to state what the exact facts were. He does not deny that there were only fifteen persons in the congregation at the morning service, but he says that it was Communion Sunday. I do not quite follow how far that is an excuse for nonattendance. He says, however, that at the evening service there were seventy. With regard to the other statements, he 95 says that during the three and a half years during which he has been at Clynnog sixteen persons have been confirmed, of whom six were Nonconformists. Deducting the six Nonconformists, ten persons have been confirmed. We have there the facts. I do not see any evidence—
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I rise to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman lest my silence should be misinterpreted. I should not admit that Carnarvonshire was a typical part of rural Wales. The right hon. Gentleman would find a different state of things in Denbighshire, Pembrokeshire, and Montgomeryshire. Broadly speaking, Carnarvonshire, Anglesey, and Merioneth, are the weakest counties from the Church point of view.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
The Noble Lord may be quite right. I took, as I thought, a typical parish from the most distinctive part of Wales.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
The case may be different in the Diocese of St. Asaph. What I suggest is that the Noble Lord should point out some parish which is distinctively Welsh, and let us see how matters stand there. There was something said about contributions which struck me, because it shows that the people in this village who go to the parish church make out of their own pockets contributions practically equal to those of the Nonconformists. For instance, there were nineteen communicants, and the contributions for religious purposes amounted to £122 7s. 11½d. The contributions for religious purposes from the Nonconformists amounted to £937. The largeness of this amount corresponds to the largeness of the Nonconformist congregations, representing as they do practically all the people in the village. I think it right to point out that the Church people in this parish subscribed at practically the same rate as the Nonconformists. May I suggest that the Noble Lord should consider whether that is not an important fact? Would it not be the case, if, after this Bill becomes law, the Church communicants, who numbered 192,000 or 193,000 in the year 1905, followed the example lf the Church people at Clynnog, and gave a sovereign apiece, the Church would be better off then than she is now, and they would only be making a contri- 96 bution equal to that of the poor people who form for the most part the Nonconformist population? I suggest that to hon. Members opposite who are interested in this matter, because I think that the case of the village of Clynnog throws some light on the justice of the measure which we are advocating. I want to use the illustration not only for the purpose of showing that the Church is not that powerful and predominant body which is too often represented on Unionist platforms, but in order to show how just and fair are the provisions for the allocation of the property under this Bill. If hon. Members say there ought to be no Disendowment, assuming that the trust stands as now, the whole of this £290 of ancient tithes has to be applied to the benefit of nineteen communicants, fourteen children, and three teachers. I cannot conceive upon what principle of dissolution and reappropriation of trusts such a proposition can be maintained.
Here you have a very ancient parish—I tried to ascertain, but could not, when the boundaries of the parish were delimited or when the tithe was appropriated to the rector—possibly further research by antiquaries and others might give us the date—but long before all this the Church was an ancient foundation. It was, as I have said, counted a rival to Bangor. The parish was formed. What might have taken place was that somebody was appointed rector, and that certain properties were appropriated for the maintenance of his office. The vicar of the parish was a person in the Middle Ages who was charged with a variety of duties. He was not charged only with duties of a devotional character which we have heard a great deal of during our Debate: he was a person who under the archdeacon and the bishop had very considerable powers. It was his duty, being a secular priest, and having no cares with regard to the maintenance of a family, not only to administer the sacraments, and carry on the ordinary devotional services, but to look after the poor and the needy, to discharge the duties of hospitality, while more or less he was charged with the education of the youth of the parish. Above all, the whole object of the foundation was to benefit the parish. At the time when the foundation came into being there was only one rival religion, and that was the religion of the Church of the West. Centuries have elapsed, and 97 we in this Bill are proposing to dissolve that corporation and to discharge the rector from the duties imposed upon him, and so far as this Bill is concerned, to hand him over, whatever may be his position—subject to the rights of compensation—to the new dispensation of the Church in Wales. I am dealing, at the present time, partly—
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
I am very glad of that interruption. The Noble Lord will see that this income is divided into two parts, the ancient tithe of £290, and the sum of £300 odd of the private benefaction dating after 1662. The charge, as I gather it, in favour of Jesus College is the private benefaction, and not the ancient tithe. That is one of the things which we have dealt with under the Act. I now come to the question—shall I put it in that way?—as to whether we have a moral right to deal with this ancient tithe of this parish of Clynnog in the way we propose in this Bill. I want to be clear on the matter. I say that, first of all, we have a right to do it, because the original trust have become impossible of performance. I say that in view of statements that are made by opponents. The Acts of Uniformity of Elizabeth and Charles II., together with certain Statutes subsequently, make it perfectly impossible for any Courts, supposing the matter came before a Court of Justice, to order the original trusts to be performed. The Court of Chancery, which is very tender on the rights of property,— —
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
Let me restate the case. The Noble Lord will remember that members of the Royal Commission agreed that the property of the Church of England had been for many centuries appropriated for the maintenance of various offices. Very well, I was saying that this £290 of ancient tithe was appropriated by law long ago to the maintenance of the office of the rector or vicar of this particular parish that we are quoting, to the person who for the time being held that office certain duties were attached, as I have mentioned. I say that these original trusts are now impossible of performances. They have been altered by Parliament by the Acts of Uniformity I Lave mentioned; therefore, the case we 98 are dealing with is one in which the original trust purposes cannot be applied. In the second place, I say that the duties of the officer, the rector or the vicar of the parish, have been, partly by alteration by law, and partly by change of economic and other circumstances, much limited. In addition to the duties I have enumerated, devotional and social, the rector or vicar held a certain judicial position in the parish. You will see, according to our own Welsh Laws, the Common Law of Wales, that in some instances the Churches were used as Courts of Justice. The rector or vicar was in fact a great officer of the parish, exercising and discharging not simply those devotional duties of which the Noble Lord and others spoke during our Debate last Session, but discharging public functions of the utmost importance to the parish. He was a man to whom anybody, if he were oppressed by a neighbouring Lord, went to, or if there was a quarrel to whom everyone resorted. By the old Welsh Marriage Law, it was quite unnecessary in a contract of marriage to have the intervention of a priest at all, but if you did want to go to the Church you went to the rector or the vicar. By old Welsh Law you could make other contracts besides that of marriage in the Church if you went through certain forms, and these contracts were enforceable in the Courts of Justice. Sometimes, indeed, the Churches were used for many other purposes—whether rightly or wrongly I do not know; but they were in fact so used. The whole course of events in the Middle Ages indicates that the provision made for the maintenance of the priests of the parish was a provision made in the interests of the parishioners, and not only for what are now known or called spiritual duties; but for definite practical purposes devised by humanity for the good conduct of itself.
After the lapse of centuries these duties ceased to be applicable. It is perfectly true that many Nonconformists may, and probably have, called upon the parson at the present time to discharge various duties, and he does them. They do not call upon him to marry them or to bury their dead as a matter of right. The whole matter has become really voluntary. Lastly, I should say if it is right—because my argument is based upon the assumption that it is right—to disestablish the Church in Wales—if it is right to dissolve the corporation and reappropriate the 99 property, the will and the general voice of the inhabitants of the parish ought to be taken into account. That is my argument. I have taken for illustration in accordance with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs, the special case, which really illustrates the principles upon which this Bill proceeds. I commend them to the House of Commons as being fair and just principles, if you once admit that we are right in demanding the disestablishment of a Church in Wales. There is one thing I noticed about the speech of the Noble Lord. He dilated to some extent the wrongs done to the Church in England, or which might be done to the Church in England by the passing of this Bill. He said nothing at all about the wrong done to the Welsh nation by giving rights and privileges of a special kind to a Church whose communicants do not number one-tenth of the inhabitants of the country. He has not dealt, nor did the hon. Member who seconded this Motion deal, with our proposition that this is a National demand. We say that for a long time it has been the desire of the Welsh nation to have religious equality in the fullest and frankest sense of the term. It is because of that attitude of the Welsh people that we confidently rely upon the passing of this Bill through the House of Commons.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
: With one of the special subjects alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down I hope to deal in a subsequent portion of the remarks which I make. I look upon the hon. Gentleman as a fair controversialist, and also as an accurate recorder of facts within his knowledge. I am glad that that is the case, as he will, I am sure, forgive me if I do not follow him in minute detail in the case of the parish of Clynnog to which he devoted a large portion of his observations. There is one matter of great importance which I wish to speak about at the very outset. The Home Secretary endeavoured, as I think, to inflame feeling between Churchmen and Nonconformists by reading out without the context certain extracts from speeches of Welsh bishops. Nothing is going to induce me to depart from the attitude I have steadily endeavoured to pursue throughout these Debates of recognising and asking that there ought not to be bitterness as between Nonconformists and Churchmen, and I deeply regret that the Home Secretary at the 100 very outset of this Debate should have endeavoured to fan these flames and to exasperate feelings which naturally would be raised on such occasions. I say this with the more emphasis in that it is unquestionably a fact that whatever goodwill may exist between Churchmen and Nonconformists in the future, however anxious Churchmen may be to assist in the work, which they admit to be good, which Nonconformists are doing, their ability to do so would be most sensibly contracted by the fact, which must have been known to the right hon. Gentleman, that they will have to make good out of their narrow incomes the deficit of £158,000 a year, a sum which when capitalised amounts to between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. Are the Welsh bishops not right to inform the public and the Nonconformists that the ability of the Church to assist Nonconformists, which many of us have tried to do by our subscriptions, must he contracted by the immense burden laid upon the backs of the Church people in the future by the payment of the sum to which I have already referred?
As the Home Secretary remarked, this is a Bill which is far-reaching in its consequences, and which, if passed, is irrevocable. It is violating, as hon. Members know, the convictions of a multitude of people. Is it fair, then, to take this Bill and to force it through under the Parliament Act which recognises the Commons as defective, and under which the Lords are apparently ruined? This Bill, I say, has been brought in contrary to the specific assurance given by the Prime Minister, and the effect of taking it in face of these assurances, alongside of and in the same Session with the Home Rule Bill, will be to overweight the discussion, to withdraw many substantial points from debate, and to cause them not to be fully apprehended, either here or outside. After what the Home Secretary has said at Cardiff of his determination not to allow any material alteration whatever in the Bill, these stages are futile. We are bound to do our best once more to state our case. I need not enter in detail into the protest we make against the Bill itself. It is familiar to the House. But I think I ought to read once more—it has been read on previous occasions—the summary which the Bishop of St. Asaph gave of the result of this Bill upon his own diocese. He said, and he added that he was willing to prove these words in a Court of Law:—If this Bill passes into law this will be the result in the diocese of St. Asaph: The Bishop will be left with, 101 nothing but the bare walls of his Palace, wholly built and paid for since 1791 by two Bishops of St. Asaph, who were men of large private means. The Cathedral, founded in 580 and restored—indeed, wellnigh rebuilt—by Churchmen within the last hundred years, will be left without one penny for deans or canons or choir. The whole of their incomes and that of the Bishop will be taken from the Church to which they have belonged for more than a thousand years and given to the Aberystwyth, Bangor, and Cardiff Colleges, which are already endowed with £40,000 a year from public funds. Out of 209 parishes in the diocese, 116 will be left without one penny of their original Endowments. The unclosed churchyards, which are to many of us the purest and most hallowed spots in the land, will be taken away from the Church with no assurance whatever that their sacred character will be maintained. All the curates of the diocese will be turned adrift without one penny of compensation. To Churchmen, more important than any question of money, is the fact that this Bill, if passed, will dismember the Church and thrust them out of their historic unity with the Church of England.
§ Sir D. BRYNMOR JONES
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that the whole of the people in every parish of Wales will receive their pro rata share of the benefit?
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
I read the passage, although it is already familiar to the House, for this reason: The Home Secretary has had an opportunity of speaking since these asseverations were made in another place by the Bishop of St. Asaph. The Home Secretary said they had no connection with the truth. He never produced one single argument or one single figure from that time to this to support that statement of his, and I say that for a man in his position and with his responsibility thus to speak of the deliberate statement such as this made by a Bishop of the Church, and to say that has no connection with the truth, and then to shrink away from all endeavour to give one title of argument or evidence in favour of that statement is to do something unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman and unworthy of his office.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That statement, as I understand it, of the bishop, speaks of what would happen on the passing of the Bill, and that the bishops will be turned out without one farthing. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] That is what I understood the statement to be.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
The Home Secretary is not to be excused for not making himself familiar before he accuses anybody, even much below a bishop, of making a statement "that has no connection with the truth." The statement of the bishop says:—After the Bill passes into law this will be its result in the diocese upon the death of the present occupant of the See.
§ Mr. McKENNA
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, the speech or letter in the "Times" to which I referred did not contain these words. In that speech, or some part of the "Times" these words were omitted which gave the impression that the deprivation of income would occur immediately the Bill passed.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
My memory is perfectly accurate and good on this point. The bishop said in that letter "my successor," and therefore it is gross carelessness, notwithstanding that his error was pointed out to him, that the right hon. Gentleman should persist in this really outrageous statement. In fact, I say again of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman at Cardiff, it is useless for anyone, however pacific he may be by nature, now to address himself to compromise. But as we have been criticised by some Liberals, and I think by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Gladstone), whose services and whose fairness upon this Bill I cordially recognise, and also by the Bishop of Oxford, a man whom no one could mention without respect, let me say why we have been obliged not to consider compromise. First, it is no good considering compromise when we are told that no alteration will be made; it is useless to do so in these circumstances. The bishop himself answers himself, and answers him-self more completely than I could do. After dwelling upon the necessity of Disestablishment, he upbraids us for not having taken some concession in the direction of Disendowments. He says that at the beginning of his speech. What does he say at the end? He dwells with great eloquence upon the conspicuous virtues of the French Church for having dismissed the financial aspect of the case, and adhered only to the spiritual. He says:—I think what attracted our attention at that time was the magnificent loyalty with which it asserted its principles and made its spiritual claims, and at the same time betrayed an extraordinary degree of indifference as regards its secular position and as regards its financial resources.… Whatever their spiritual claim was … they asserted it. They put their spiritual principles first and their secular position and their finances last. They did wisely.That is what he says, and it really is amazing, if I may say so with great respect to the right hon. Prelate, that seeing this as clearly as he does he should rebuke us for not conceding the principle of Disestablishment and dismemberment which is the spiritual aspect of the Bill, and for not concentrating upon the financial and secular position which he most justly puts upon a lower plane. If that is true in the 103 eyes and opinion of men like him, what do you imagine would be said by the baser sort of antagonist if we had jettisoned our principles with regard to the mutilation, dismemberment and Disestablishment of the Church and accepted in lieu of these some £20,000 a year, which would be said to be the loaves and the fishes in this matter? Certain taunts have been made already by hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to the supposed leaning towards the financial aspect of this question by the Church, but after what I have said no one will be able fairly and honestly to throw it in our teeth that we have been ever using these things or putting forward any proposition on financial lines for compromising this question. I have said what our principle is with regard to Disestablishment. The State at the present moment is assuming duties far wider, far more manifold in directions than ever dreamed of in former centuries. I say that this is a strange time at which to divorce the State from the spiritual connection with the Church. There is a small minority, a minority which is greatly esteemed and regarded, who think that State religion should be civic benevolence, that the State should have no connection with religion, but the religion of the State should be civic or secular in character. The vast majority of the people of this country think absolutely differently from that. As I read them they are not greatly concerned with doctrinal differences or criticism of that kind, but they stand for a definite Christian basis.
What evidence have I got for that statement? I find it in the practically unanimous rejection by the people of this country and this House of secular education. I ask this House to agree with me when I say that a vast majority of the people of this country desire religion for their children and a religious basis for their conduct as well as a religious basis for the State. If that is agreed, and I do not think that it can be denied, to that is due the real and deep feeling that the great national occasions of rejoicing and of mourning ought to be sanctified by religion. On the individual side I say even more emphatically that the right of an individual to marry in a parish church and have the marriage sanctified there is a very real and cherished one. I say that the right of every individual to take his nearest and dearest to the churchyard for 104 burial is valued very greatly, as is indeed the right which he has to have read over them those noble and beautiful words which have consoled the grief of the people for many generations. No suggestion has been made throughout these long Debates of any substitute for the National Church in those offices. Who would take the place of the Church on occasions of great national rejoicing and mourning? By what would you replace the right of an individual to sanctification on the great occasions I have alluded to? No suggestion on this point has been made, and to cut out of English life and national and Welsh life this element without offering to us any sort of substitute would be a national disaster.
This matter of severance, or what has been called the dismemberment, of the Welsh dioceses from the English Church is regarded by Churchmen with even greater indignation. In this I may claim the advocacy of the Bishop of Oxford, who is a strong partisan of Disestablishment. He admits that he would oppose to the bitter end dismemberment of the Church, but he does not seem to see that dismemberment of the Church is an absolutely necessary and logical consequence of the Disestablishment of the Church, and therefore he ought to be on our side in regard to Disestablishment as well. This proposal violates for the first time in our history and in civilised time that great principle which prohibits the State from interfering with the spiritual body in its spiritual function. I do not wish to speak myself upon this point, but I will quote to the House a very short passage from a speech made by the Bishop of St. Albans, who is a man not of extreme views, but a man of great soberness of mind. He said, speaking of dismemberment: —"I consider it such an outrage on a spiritual body to attempt to sever a part of it from the whole, that I would far rather be a member of a Disestablished Church, would far rather be Disestablished myself and go out together with the Church in Wales, than I would remain in an Established church with the Church in Wales cut off from the body.I read that passage as an indication of the opinion of a moderate and devoted Churchman. There is another proposal in this Bill which partakes of the nature both of Disestablishment and Disendowment—I refer to the manner in which it deals with the churchyards. They are called in the Bill burial grounds. Why are you afraid to employ a word of universal use? They have been churchyards for centuries and 105 centuries. I have in my possession a letter from a lady in Wales, in Cardigan, in which she speaks of a churchyard near her house which was in existence in the sixth century, and they have been, in popular terminology, churchyards from that day to this. They are inseparable from the church; in fact, they are the precincts of the church, and they are hallowed by the shrines which overshadow them. Their beneficial ownership is in the parishioners, and it is safeguarded by the elected churchwarden. If you were to take a poll of the inhabitants, even of the Nonconformist villages in Wales, I doubt whether there is a single parish in Wales which would desire the churchyard to be severed from the church and placed in the hands of a secular body. The reason is that these are matters which all Welshmen respect. The Church will never submit to such action as this. The sentiment which connects them is not a political sentiment, and what is proposed is something absolutely elemental and insulting to this body, and it is against common decency and common charity.
Then there is another matter, which is really an insult and outrage upon all feelings of common justice, which, I think, ought to be entertained in this House. Think of the odious discrimination which attaches to the life interest of the dispossessed clergy. Hon. Members opposite who have voted for these Clauses do not seem to be aware that even in the case of the licensed victuallers, whom they profess to regard as enemies of the community, they are compensated for the loss of life interests, or even expectations, under the Licensing Acts. Even the owners of insanitary property, who have allowed their property to get into that condition, are compensated fully, if in the public interest their property is taken. Can you really maintain the position that you will not extend justice to those whose calling you allege to be a danger to the community, and refuse that same justice to those whom we all agree are ministering to the highest and noblest interests of the community? It is an odious discrimination to make and it could not have been maintained if Mr. Gladstone had been in this House for two minutes, because there was a blot of detail which caused abuse of Mr. Gladstone's Bill in Ireland, and you have shrunk and divested yourselves of the provisions which he thought just, and which are just as just at the present moment as ever they were before. These 106 considerations lead me to one or two broad Second Reading financial points. The Home Secretary has dealt with the finance of this Bill not infrequently in this House and a wit on his own side said that the right hon. Gentleman treated the Bill as a liquidator treats the affairs of a company he is winding up rather than that of a great historic institution, the abolition of which he has proposed. I am not sure that that sarcasm does full justice to the liquidator, because we expect from a liquidator a severe accuracy and a quasi-judicial impartiality, and that has been entirely absent from the Home Secretary's treatment of this question.
The right hon. Gentleman has adopted the rather simple device of counting things twice over. Take for example the case of the life interest of the dispossessed clergyman. It is the boast of the Government, and I think quite a legitimate boast, that they are making provision for this lif[...] interest. What does that mean? I means that they are giving to the individuals who are dispossessed the full value of their interest, and they hand over that which they give them. In other words, the funds which they give to the dispossessed clergymen are theirs, they are exhausted directly they pass into their pockets and there is an end of it as far as the Government is concerned. It is perfectly true that if the clergy choose to hand over that which they have received to the Church, that is their bounty and not the Government's bounty. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot go on to platforms and boast of the justice with which you have treated the poor incumbents and then try, as the Home Secretary has done, to make out that you have not merely compensated the individuals, but compensated the Church as well. You cannot have it both ways. Either the individuals do not get it or the Church does not get it, and I should like anyone who is going to reply to answer that point. You do not meet the case by a reference to your commutation proposals. The commutation proposals merely express in terms of capital value that which is expressed in terms of revenue. If a clergyman who, say, has £200 a year from his living, takes a capital sum which brings him in £100 a year then, of course, £100 a year will have to be made up from the fund, with the result that in that way it will be exhausted. It is only if you deprive the individual whom you say you are fully compensating of his full com- 107 pensation, and by that means alone, that you can give anything to the Church of which he is a member. I mention this because the Home Secretary boasted of the result, amongst others, of the Flint election. I am informed that small victory was obtained for the Government by speakers going down and representing to the electors on the authority of the Home Secretary, and by means of financial juggling of the kind which I have endeavoured to expose, that the Church is not losing £158,000, but only £60,000.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The right hon. Gentleman has repeatedly referred to my authority. Would he be good enough to quote the statement to which he refers?
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
I do not bring extracts of everything here, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman, if he considers for a moment, will deny that he said the loss was only £60,000. He said it on the Third Reading of the Bill last year, and, if he did say so, it could only be arrived at by counting things twice over.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The right hon. Gentleman must not misrepresent me. I stated, and I repeat now, that on the figures of this Bill, if commutation is accepted, the Church by finding an additional £60,000 a year in voluntary subscriptions on the passing of the Bill will be as well off in the future as she is now. That is a true statement.
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
That is the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that it can only be maintained by counting things twice over. I think I have made that matter pretty clear to the House. The position of the right hon. Gentleman is not like that of a liquidator giving us the correct figures, but like an insolvent person endeavouring to swell his assets. The Solicitor-General at an early stage of this Bill, throwing aside much bad history and much had law that had been employed, said that which really weighed with him on the question of Disendowment was that the mediæval Church represented and embraced the whole nation, and that those who gave of their bounty to the Church regarded it as coincident with the nation, and therefore the whole nation as beneficiaries. I think that is a fair statement of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Supposing that these gifts were really given for the whole 108 of the community, no matter how improbable that may be, who are the whole of the community now? Obviously, it is a community compounded both of Nonconformists and of Churchmen, and, supposing your premises were correct, what would equity prescribe that you should do with the Endowments which you wish to make the fund of the whole community instead of a particular section? You would divide them fairly among the whole. You have not done that. You have taken the whole of the ancient Endowments of the Church away from them, and you are disposing of them in a manner of which every member of the Church disapproves. Churchpeople are surely not outlaws or pariahs. Why, if there ought to be a distribution among the whole of the community, should they be excluded from the enjoyment of that to which on your own hypothesis they are entitled? There is another argument which has been used by the Bishop of Oxford, whom I regard as the most informed of our opponents. He alleged in a very powerful speech in another place that the people cared only for the religion for which they pay. Is that really true? I should be sorry to put my own authority, which is indeed a very feeble one, or my experience against his, but I can call a witness from the opposite bench that people do care for the religion of the Church, and that the Church with its Endowments is the only body which is able to get access to the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Masterman), describing his large personal experience, which I know was so, of settlement work in Camberwell, after dealing with the Nonconformists, and saying that they are the strongest among the middle-class, goes on to say:—As one penetrates from the border regions into the actual depth they are found to become a less and less operative force in the life of the people. This seems due to two main forces. In the first place, they do not possess the machinery necessary to maintain endowed churches throughout this district, and few of the scattered missions are in a position to support themselves. There is nothing corresponding to the parochial system of the English Church, with its buildings, parsonages, and certain, if small, Endowments. The consequence of this is manifest: As the ghetto rolls forward, driving before it the middle-class element, so the Free Churches become submerged in the flood; some altogether disappearing some carrying on an uncertain existence as missions run by wealthier Churches on the outskirts or beyond the borders.What is his conclusion?I am profoundly convinced that this [if the masses are to he reached] must come through the only body possessing at present machinery adequate to the needs and claiming authority to cover the whole ground—the National Established Church of England.109 The right hon. Gentleman was then in a position where he had not the trammels of office, but as an historical document I do not think that it loses its weight for that reason.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
As the right hon. Gentleman has made something like a personal attack on me, may I say that at the very time when I was writing that and other statements, which I regret to hear read for a literary reason, but which I have no objection to defending, I was writing in the Press and in published books with such powers as I possess in advocacy of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England?
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
I should be extremely unwilling to make such a charge against the right hon. Gentleman, but he seems to me to be confessing that he was perhaps at the beginning of the week advocating Disendowment and at the end of the week declaring that Disendowment would be disastrous. I do not envy him the task of reconciling those two positions. If anybody can reconcile them, or if anybody ought to read the extracts, it ought to be the right hon. Gentleman himself. If his historical or social authority is regarded in any way impaired by hon. Members, they have only got to look at the writings of Charles Booth, one of our greatest statisticians, to find similar authority. They have only to look at and to bear in mind the great, strenuous, and, I think, valiant and admirable efforts made by Nonconformist bodies to raise funds for the purpose of endowing their own churches. They will see in that an absolute contradiction of the opinion and position taken up by the Bishop of Oxford that men only care for that for which they pay. I might further refer to a very valuable and interesting letter in the "Times" of 21st May, 1913, in which Mr. Horsefall points out what has been the effect in America of having no Endowed or Established Church:—There are at least seventy towns in Maine in which no religious service is held.…If this migration continues [of some of the richer classes from these towns] and no preventive measures are devised, I see no reason why isolation, irreligion, ignorance, vice, and degradation should not increase in the country until we have a rural American peasantry, illiterate and immoral, possessing the rights of citizenship but incapable of performing or comprehending its duties.7.0 P.M.
I only mention that as showing where there is no provision in poor places for the sustenance of a resident minister the kind of result which is recorded in books of 110 authority. I have spoken strongly, I admit, to-day; perhaps more strongly than I have throughout the whole course of these Debates, because I do feel that those provisions of this Bill to which I have referred, tend to insult and outrage the best sentiments of Churchmen, and, more than that, the Bill itself tends distinctly to interrupt the growing harmony which was beginning to prevail between Church and Nonconformity in Wales. I ask how bitterness can be avoided in the future when you have, as you must have, if this Bill goes through, the clergy in Wales compelled to raise a sum of three or four millions sterling, in order to replace that of which you will have despoiled the Church. Is it not inevitable that they must go through the whole story; that they must rehearse the wrongs which they believe have been done them, and they must recapitulate the sufferings which will have been imposed upon them. That will keep alive this controversy which you are so sanguine as to suppose is going to be assuaged and put an end to. I believe when you have these men pleading for their Church, and recapitulating the wrongs and suffering you are inflicting upon them, you will rue the day when you pass this Bill, and I certainly see no reason to go back from the opinion that no worse proceeding, no worse result from the legislation could possibly ensue than that of incensing and inflaming good men one against another. You are doing that without consulting the people. You have not consulted, and you do not intend to consult the people. You lack their moral authority for this Bill, and you have not much moral authority yourselves.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Whatever opinions one may hold in regard to this controversy, and irrespective of the side whereon one sits, we must all agree as to the sincerity of the speech to which we have just listened. But I profoundly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. I disagreed with him right the way through, but the great disagreement which kept forcing itself into my mind as I listened was softened with pleasure at the delightful way in which the right hon. Gentleman put his case. I will endeavour as best I can to follow in his footsteps. I disagree with him and his policy, and more particularly with his ecclesiasticism. I do not see how this House is to come to the conclusion that to Disestablish by a very substantial majority the Church of England 111 in Wales is something approaching an insult. It may be very inconvenient, and it may give rise to feelings exactly opposite to those placid ones to which the right hon. Gentleman gave expression; but I do not see how this House can refuse to listen to the demand for the Disestablishment of this Church. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, and those behind him cannot deny, that, so far as political judgments are concerned, the people of Wales have spoken again and again in the most definite and precise manner. If the people of Wales had had the settlement of their own ecclesiastical affairs, the Church of England in Wales would have been Disestablished generations ago. In that connection, I am bound to confess that I did not understand the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, when he talked about the State. He told us that the contract was made between the Church and State, and, there being no Welsh State, notwithstanding the claims of those who regard Welsh opinion as something substantial, he did not see how the contract could be dissolved. But that is mere juggling with words. The substance of what he was trying to grasp at, when he used the State in that connection, was simple. It was that Parliament is a political function of the State. It is perfectly true that the State is common to England and Wales, and also to Scotland and Ireland; but just as we have got a separate Church Establishment in Scotland, and we have no Church Establishment in Ireland at all, it is perfectly competent for that function of the State—Parliament—to say that we shall have no Church Establishment in Wales either. That is the answer to his argument, and that is my first point.
The English Church in Wales has never shared in Welsh nationality, in national revivals, or in any of those things which were referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the course of the Debate on the Government of Ireland Bill—literature, education, language, enthusiasm, and all those revivals which touch the spirit, mind, and soul of the people and knit them together in national unity and in national conscience. The Church of England in Wales has been outside all that, and, in so far as it has taken any part, it has been the part. of a laggard follower and not the part of an inspired leader. That is an important consideration which in any ration would have political consequences, 112 and one political consequence is this Bill. The part that was more fascinating to me than any other part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—his details were interesting, of course—was his reference to the churchyard, which I think touched a chord in all our hearts. Does he remember how often that precious feeling that the churchyard is for the people has been denied? When the right hon. Gentleman made those references he must have known there was passing through the minds of many of us the days when we did claim common rights of burial in a spot sacred to us all, independently of the Church to which it was attached. But we were denied that right of burial unless we conformed to opinions which were repulsive to our most sincere belief. The right hon. Gentleman talked about fine feeling. These things leave a sting behind, and when the thorn is taken out the fine feeling and a calm mind cannot be restored at once. If the criticisms made on this Bill are maintained in the tone and temper shown by the right hon. Gentleman, his hopes may, however, be justified.
The right hon. Gentleman laid down the theory that the State connection with the Church was fundamental. I am sorry I am bound to object to what he said, but a good deal depends upon phrasing. You can assume a whole programme of political philosophy, and that is what he did when he said that Establishment was the religious basis of the State. That is the whole controversy. My view of the Established Church is that its connection with the State gives a secular basis to the Church. I was born in the atmosphere of a phrase which has never left me and which I believe never will. The right hon. Gentleman of course remembers the great controversy in the Established Church in Scotland which led to the disruption of that Church. A minister of the Church at that time said all our hopes, all the teaching that moulded us and gave us our convictions and prejudices, if you like, centred around this magnificent expression: —" The only Head of the Church is Christ." The Established Church denies that by the mere fact that it claims it must be based on State recognition. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said it was very inspiring and magnificent that in the supreme moment of life and death we should have ministrations which unite us with a society that is eternal, that began long before we were born, and will go on 113 long after we have passed away. I agree it is very moving, very touching, and very necessary that in the moment of great national rejoicing there should be the voice of somebody who speaks, but not of our pettifogging national conflicts and contests. When I think of these things here and elsewhere, when I look to the Church to which I belong, when I look to the condition of my own flesh and blood, I find that in your time of great national rejoicing I am an alien, almost an outcast. Those very sentiments, so precious to you, are never appealed to so far as I am concerned. No Nonconformist who believes in Nonconformity on principle, and not because accidentally he is a Nonconformist, can feel otherwise than as I feel. Surely he must feel that it is the coordination of all the methods of religious expression that alone is regarded and can be regarded as a national expression ! No Church, not even your Established Church, can speak to us and require us to unite together in our expression. So long as the Established Church maintains the claim the right hon. Gentleman has put forward this afternoon, she divides the nation into two, and everybody who is outside her communion, as I am, must feel that with this magnificent connection they are still outside the welcome extended to the citizens of this country. The right hon. Gentleman said my complaint and my contention is that to associate the Church and the State in the bond of Establishment is not to sanctify the State, but to officialise the Church. We know it. It is very difficult for me perhaps to give adequate reasons for that, because it may seem to convey a reflection on my right hon. Friend who sits on the Treasury Bench now—the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I have had a good deal of experience of those districts, a description of which was read by the right hon. Gentleman.
I lived for two years next door to one of 1 he most active churches in London, a church dealing with a big population—St. Albans, Holborn. Nothing could be more magnificent than the secular work of that church. If the right hon. Gentleman had shared the rooms in which I was then living, and had rubbed shoulders with the people there as I did, he would have been profoundly dissatisfied with the religious results. You cannot bring religion to the people in that way. It may be true that one of the great problems of poverty, the great problem of having in your midst 114 vast masses of people concentrated together in little corners, into little communities, not a half a dozen families in which are living above the poverty line—it may be perfectly true that you have to subsidise the churches to bring religious ministrations to them. But there is nothing which is a greater calamity to you, or a greater calamity to the Church, or a greater calamity to the people, than that it should be so. The Bishop of Oxford is absolutely right. He knew of it, as we do. You are not Christianising them. It baffles the Church, just as much as it baffles the State that these people should exist, and it will continue to baffle them. They may go on forming organisations, congregations, churches, clubs, and all the various elements of all kinds and shapes and sizes and characters, but that is never going to do what I am sure the right hon. Gentleman wants the Church to do, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman himself will not suggest it. As a matter of fact, this problem of subsidising the Church in order to get at the masses is not an ecclesiastical problem, but an economic problem. Raise your masses, then you will be able to introduce ecclesiastical and religious principles which will fructify in the real Christian spirit in the individual life.
Again I go back. Can anyone who does that work and who knows the working of the Established Church either in Wales or in England, and to a less extent in Scotland, on account of special peculiarities with which one need not deal at the present moment, fail to know that the one thing that is always present in matters of preferment, promotion, and patronage, is that it is the officially-minded man who gets the best—the safe man. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman himself knows it. I have definite substantial cases in my mind while I speak of men who have thrown their whole hearts into their work, the most devoted, loyal, and self-sacrificing sons of the Church. Can they get preferment? Not at all. If they are heterodox, not in religious principles, but, say, in their political principles, if they stand by their cangregations when other people are against them, and when it is not so respectable or decent from the point of view of society that they should do so, they can see their children dying before them, they can see the lives of their families being sapped out of them, but because the Church is Established, because it has to observe certain 115 outward appearances and remain in certain contacts—respectable contacts—they have to remain there. That spirit goes right through the Established Church both in Wales and England. They are exceptions. Everyone knows that. The Bishop of Oxford himself is one. But there is not the least doubt that the door has been opened to that class of Churchmen by the -sacrifice of the men who have gone before him, who have occupied much more humble positions and have been condemned to remain in occupation of much more humble circumstances. I said it was very difficult for me to give a reason for the faith which is in me in that respect, because it necessitated my bringing up such questions as these. I do not want to dwell upon them. I make the statement, and nobody who has worked in the Church under these conditions will deny it, that the very fact that the Church is Established means that its spiritual life is hampered, hampered, and hampered by the necessities imposed upon it by its official connection with the State and with the authorities of the State.
I am sure that hon. Members of this House will quite understand, that being my fundamental position, that I am bound to accept this Bill which the Government now propose for Second Reading. It is not a question of hatred. The more the Church flourishes the better I shall be pleased, and the more it does its work successfully, the better the nation will flourish. It is because I believe that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are on the wrong lines, and that the Church will never flourish so long as it remains as it is, that I am willing to take this Bill as an instalment of Disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman said that he associated himself with what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord 'Hugh Cecil) said. But what the Noble Lord said was quite wrong. Let me put it in this way. Is anyone going to get up to-night or to-morrow in this Debate, and say that the mind of the pious donor of the Middle Ages is still with us. We have got to sit down and detach ourselves from the whole of modern society in order to familiarise ourselves with the type of mind that gave these Endowments. There are a few men—I am not at all sure how far the Noble Lord is one of them—who can associate themselves with that type of mind. It is certainly not the type of mind which is carrying on our ecclesiastical and secular institutions to-day. That is my 116 first point. The second point is, that however you may quibble about the Reformation and tell us what happened within a narrow compass of a few years, the fact remains that the faith to which these Endowments were given has changed. Our faith is not the mediaeval faith. The third point is, that the very conception of the Church has passed away. Even those who take the right hon. Gentleman's view and insist upon some sort of connection between the Church and State—I do not know how full he would make that connection, or how much content he would give it—even those who take that view and give it as full a content as modern ecclesiastical thought to the fullness of that view will allow, must admit in the end that the conception of the Church has fundamentally changed since the Middle Ages, when these Endowments were given.
Moreover, the officers of the Church have changed. They are not the same. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir D. Brynmor Jones) pointed that out with great force. He is perfectly right. The very officers are as different now as though they were not ecclesiastical officers at all. What is still more important, society itself has changed. The functions of the Church then are not fulfilled by the Church now, therefore when hon. Gentlemen talk about the Church's Endowments, pious founders, and so on, they are juggling with words. The thing, the entity, the community, the function which was endowed by those pious donors has ceased to exist. It was not merely transformed by the Reformation. The whole thing has absolutely changed; society has become much more complicated; it has thrown up new orders and new functions, and the work of the Church has been differentiated into a thousand and one different directions and over a thousand and one different activities. Consequently when hon. Members use modern language to indicate mediaeval conditions they are altogether wrong, and are not talking about realities at all. I would not like to say that taking Endowments for museums, university libraries, and so on, is carrying out the intention of the donors. Nobody can carry out the intention of the donors. You cannot hand that money over to the Catholic Church in communion with Rome; you cannot fairly keep it in the Church of England, and you cannot hand it over to the Nonconformists, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested. That is not 117 carrying out the wishes of the pious donors. The fundamental position I take up, is that your Church has so completely changed that the intention of the men who endowed it in the Middle Ages, cannot be carried out by any distribution amongst any sect or any combination of sects at the present time. I am ready to admit that if the Church of England in Wales had the adherence of 95 per cent. of the population, the argument I am making would be of such a finicky and unsubstantial character that you might say, "We are doing our best, and the best that can be done is to let arrangements remain where they are." I am bound to confess I should agree with that. But, as I have shown, that is not the situation. Whether you like it or not, you have to find some sort of public use as consistent as you can possibly find with the functions of the Church in the Middle Ages, and you have to hand over the money for that purpose.
If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to accept a compromise on the question of Disendowment, we might consider the matter, but they tell us they are not going to do it. The right hon. Gentleman certainly went wrong when he talked about the position of the French Church. The French Church said to the State, "Take our money, take away our recognition, but we insist upon self-government; we insist upon being the authority over ourselves." That is what we are doing in this Bill. Disestablishment is -not a spiritual proposition; it is a political proposition. The Noble Lord quoted texts. We have heard warnings addressed to communities and industries not to gain the whole world at the expense of their own souls. I am not sure that this enormous wealth has not got something to do with the bareness that has overtaken our religious life in this country. I am quite sure it is the right thing in a great many places, but whether or not it can go on in that respect, in the name of everything we hold dear, do not let us confuse that with religious success. Therefore I am going to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill because I believe in its principles, and because a long way down, but well within my horizon, I think it is the duty of this House to stand by its decision of last year and show that. it is going to carry the Parliament Act into operation in a most rigid and determined way. I hope that the majority by which this Bill received its Second Reading last year will be repeated to-morrow, and that 118 we shall stand up, not for destroying the Church, but for giving it liberty—not far doing anything in this House which will fundamentally destroy our authority and the respect in which we are held outside, but for using the Parliament Act conscientiously as a great constitutional power given to this House in order to assert the independence and authority of the elected Chamber in this country.
§ Viscount WOLMER
We have just listened to a most interesting speech, which was heard with great attention and enjoyment in all quarters of the House, but which had very little to do with the actual proposals of this Bill. The speech commenced with a declaration that the Welsh people had given their verdict in favour of this measure, and therefore it should be accepted. The remainder of the speech was devoted to a tirade, not against the Church in Wales in particular, but against the whole system of Establishment. If there had been a proposal to abolish the Establishment throughout the United Kingdom, the speech of the hon. Member would have been slightly more to the point. I should like to ask him this question. He told us that when he witnessed the Coronation—those great national festivities—he, as a Presbyterian, felt himself an outcast from those ceremonies. I should be very interested to know what he would put in their place. I did not gather from his speech whether he was advocating the pure secularisation of the national life or whether he was advocating a sort of undenominational coronation in which he would imagine that Churchmen and Nonconformists could join together. If he was advocating either of these alternatives in the present state of affairs—and it seems to me he must support one of the two—they would both be as unpalatable to Churchmen as the present Establishment is to Nonconformists. We should feel ourselves just as much outsiders if the State was secularised, or if a new form of undenominational religion was established, as the hon. Member tells us he is when he sees the Church of England service being used in our great national festivities. I support the Establishment because it is the recognition, by the State, of religion, and the only way that can be carried out appears to me to be for the State to take the Church which is strongest and which is most fitted to rise to the situation and to recognise that as the Established Church, and it is for that reason that I support the principle of 119 Establishment in Scotland every bit as much as I do the principle of Establishment in England, because it means the recognition of God by the State through the Church which is the strongest in the hearts of the people. I think the foundation of the hon. Member's opinion on this subject was the fact that a relative of his, a Presbyterian minister, went out from the Church of Scotland at the time of the great Secession. I think that chance sentence illustrates the hon. Member's frame of mind. He is still where his relative was sixty years ago. What are Presbyterian ministers of the United Free Church in Scotland saying to-day? Are they saying the same about the Establishment as the sentence quoted by the hon. Member? Not at all. We are seeing a great movement in Scotland to-day, for the success of which every Christian must pray, of the two great branches of the Presbyterian Church drawing together under the condition of Establishment. There was a further remark of the hon. Member which was listened to with considerable amazement on this side of the House, and that was when he told us that he admired very much the secular work which was carried on by the clergy of St. Alban's, Holborn, but that the spiritual results wee very unsatisfactory.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I am obliged to the hon. Member for his correction. I know many of the laity who were intimately connected with that particular parish who would not by any means agree with the remark of the hon. Member. There was one part of his speech against which I should like to protest with all the warmth which is at my disposal. That was the part where he insinuated that those clergy who were not supporters of the Establishment or were not Conservatives in politics, did not get adequate promotion. He has no right to make that assertion at all. He tells us he is a Presbyterian. Therefore, the internal management of another Church is no concern of his. I do not admit, and never have admitted that the recognition by the State of the Church entitles any member of this or the other House to interfere with the internal government of the Church against the will of the Church. The hon. Member has talked to us a great deal about modern thought. Surely, if he is anxious to see the Church 120 in a position of what he calls complete freedom, and if he desires to give expression to the trend of modern thought, he as a member of another Church, has no right to criticise the internal government of the Church of England. But that subject has got nothing to do with the Establishment at all. I suppose the hon. Member does not propose that if the Church was Disestablished, the method by which priests and deacons should be ordained and appointed should be settled by this House. Surely he must admit that the way in which the clergy are appointed would be exactly the same under Disestablishment as it is under Establishment except for the fact that the King would not nominate the bishops. As a matter of fact, of course, we have bishops on the bench of every conceivable political opinion and for the hon. Member opposite to say that no man has a chance of promotion unless he favours the politics of any political party is a travesty on the Church and a statement which is absolutely unprovable in fact.
I would further say that we Churchmen indignantly repudiate the doctrine that the Church of to-day is not the same Church as existed in the Middle Ages. I must insist upon this fact because I think the hon. Member was in India during a large portion of the Debates in Committee on the Bill, and I do not think he quite realises that when he charges us with being a new State-made Church at the time of the Reformation, which is what his remarks amount to—if he did not mean to give that impression I apologise—if he denies the continuity of the Church to-day from what it was in the Middle Ages, he is attacking the title deeds of the Church in a way which all Churchmen must sincerely resent. I should like to ask one single question of those hon. Members opposite who intend to support the Second Reading of this Bill, that is, what good will it do? To say the people of Wales approve of it is not sufficient justification if the thing in itself is morally wrong. Is it going to do any good to Nonconformity? I heard some shouts earlier in the afternoon to the effect that certain hon. Members thought it was. I wish they could point to a single instance in which it can benefit Nonconformity. Will it give any of the Nonconformist Churches a single privilege which they have not got to-day? Will it give them a single opportunity that they have not got? Will it in any way strengthen the good work they are carrying on?
121 How can it possibly? Then of course we ask, "Is it going to benefit the Church?" Of course, hon. Members opposite tell us it is, but I think on that question again the opinion of the vast majority of Churchmen is important, and they undoubtedly take an entirely contrary view. To my mind, this Bill can only benefit the Church in the same sense that any persecution always will benefit the Church in the end. Some hon. Members tell us that the Church will be better for relying on the voluntary principle. The Church does rely on the voluntary principle to-day. The Church raises more money on a voluntary basis than any other denomination in the country, and raises more by voluntary offerings than it receives from Endowments. Hon. Members say the Church will actually be better for being poorer. The hon. Member said these riches had weakened the position of the Church and poverty would increase the spirituality of the Church. That argument is nothing more nor less than the statement which was originally made by the Apostate Emperor Julian when he said that insomuch as Christianity taught that the poorest inherit the kingdom of Heaven, he would assist Christians to get there by confiscating all their property. Nonconformists realise and recognise that a living wage is essential to their ministry, and they make every attempt to collect funds and establish endowments so that their clergy will he able to carry on the work of their churches all over the country. Unless they can prove to us that the money which the Church has in her possession is more than she can efficiently use they cannot make good their claim to take away a single farthing of it, but they have not proved anything of the sort. The Prime Minister himself has paid a glowing tribute to the efficient manner in which the Church carries out her work to-day, and nobody, as far as am aware, in a responsible position on that side of the House has insinuated that the Church has any surplus wealth of which she could dispose with an increase of efficiency on her part.
There is another class of argument that ran partly through the hon. Gentleman's speech, and of which we occasionally hear a great deal, namely, the statement that this Bill will give the Church self-government, and that the Church will benefit very much by self-government. I want to: ask the hon. Members opposite, "Is that: really your object in passing this Bill? Do 122 you really wish to free the Church? Do you benefit the Church or injure the Church in that way?" I am sure many of them want to benefit the Church. If they want to benefit the Church, and if they think that self-government is necessary for an improvement in the condition of the Church, it is perfectly easy for them to give the Church self-government without raising a single one of the three fundamental principles on which this Bill is based, namely, Disestablishment, Dismemberment and Disendowment. You have only to look across the Scottish border and see an Established Church which is in practice self-governing, and which this House does not presume to interfere with in any manner. if hon. Members are really earnest in their desire to give the Church complete self-government, it can be done perfectly easily without raising the issues which are involved in this Bill. The question is entirely apart from the question of Disestablishment, and to bring forward as an argument in favour of this Bill a consideration which is simply incidental, and not at all fundamentally concerned with the question, is really to raise another and misleading issue altogether. I entirely deny that this Bill does give real self-government to the Church. Self-government to be a reality must be of the Church's own choosing when the Church asks for it, otherwise it is a contradiction in terms. We see among our Scottish brethren a great movement for the re-union between the Established Church and the United Free Church. We are told that the Free Church are making it an absolute condition that in any union that may ever take place the constitution of the United Church of Scotland shall be settled by its members themselves, that if an Act of Parliament is passed to ratify it, as it must be, it should be passed in the form it is presented to this House, and that they would not tolerate for a single instant interference by this House with the internal management of the Established Church of Scotland.
Does this Bill do that as regards Wales? This Bill imposes dismemberment on the Church in Wales. It tears away the bishops and clergy from the Convocation of Canterbury, to which they have been sent for centuries, and to which they were summoned 250 years before any representative came to the House of Commons from Wales. This Bill does more than that. It recasts the whole borders of the 123 dioceses themselves. It dissolves every corporation of the Church in Wales. It completely upsets and destroys the whole structure of administration by which the Church is at present governed. Is that giving the Church self-government? Why, it would be just as reasonable for a landlord to tell his tenant that he would sell him his house, and therefore give him complete control over it, if he first of all consented to the landlord demolishing it and razing it to the ground. The whole tearing away of the Church from the Convocation of Canterbury, the scrapping of the whole organisation of the Church, and the tearing up of the dioceses, is a most unwarrantable interference with the internal management of the Church, which the hon. Member's co-religionists in Scotland would not tolerate for a moment, and which no Churchman in England or Wales will stand either. Therefore, I say that this Bill is one of the most Erastian Bills ever introduced in either House of Parliament. It does more than that. The Bill provides that the Church shall be governed by a Synod. This is a point on which I have questioned the right hon. Gentleman. He has touched upon it, but he has never dealt with it fully. The Bill provides that the Church is to be governed in future either by a Synod or a representative body, or else one body which shall be both Synod and representative body in one. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that this Bill provides that there shall be two bodies quite distinct?
§ Mr. McKENNA
There will be a representative body with powers as to the property of the Church, and the Bill provides that the government of the Church will be exclusively in the hands of the Church itself in a body which it is authorised to call a Synod.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question, but has simply restated what I already knew. I put the point in this way: The Bill provides for the establishment of a Synod. The words in Clause 13 are:—Nothing in any Act, law, or custom shall prevent the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church," etc.What authority has this House got in pretending to free the Church in Wales altogether to make the stipulation that the laity shall be included in the Synod at all? I am not asking that they should not be 124 included. That point does not arise. The point is this: Supposing the Synod is formed merely by bishops and clergy, that would not be the Synod contemplated under this Bill, and I cannot see how any Law Court in Wales could hold that a Synod so constituted had got 'proper and legal power to repeal any authority given to it in this Bill.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Noble Lord does not appreciate the point. All that the Bill does is to authorise a Court called the Synod, if the Church wishes it, but there is no stipulation that the Church shall be governed by the Synod, nor is there any stipulation that the laity shall be represented in the Synod. The laity must be represented in the representative body.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The Bill says that the Synod shall consist of the bishops, clergy, and laity. The Synod is to have authority for repealing an Act of Parliament, and that decision is liable to be challenged in the Law Courts by any disaffected person—priest or layman—who, feels that the decision of that body is not right. I venture to say that it would be impossible for a Law Court to hold that the Synod was duly and properly constituted unless the lay element was represented. I bring that forward to show how the Bill does interfere with the internal government of the Church. The question as to who shall be the laity will be decided by the Law Courts, because there is no-definition in the Bill. The Bill is vague on the point, and therefore the civil judges of the State will be in the position to say what the Bill means when it refers to the laity. Therefore the State will be settling one of the foundation stones on which the Church in Wales is built. Apart from the question of the Synod, what about the representative body? We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that the representative body must have an infusion of the laity in it. But why? What moral right has he got when pretending to free the Church in Wales to dictate to that Church how they will constitute their representative body He has absolutely no moral right at all. Personally, I am of opinion that the laity should be represented, but that is not the point. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any other Member of this House has a right to dictate to the Church in Wales, which we are supposed to be freeing, as to how the new constitution will be formed. The right hon. Gentleman has asserted in this. 125 House that he would not advise His Majesty to grant a charter of incorporation to the representative body unless the laity were, in his opinion, properly represented. On the question of the representative body which is to hold the property of the Church in Wales, the right hon. Gentleman would be judge whether the laity are properly represented or not. He will have to decide whether they should be communicants or not. He will have to decide whether they should be elected by communicants or not. He would have to decide in what numbers they should be present, and what right of voting they should have. Surely, therefore, he would have a voice in the body which would be one of the most powerful elements in the government of the Church in Wales!
§ Viscount WOLMER
I remember a speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which he said that it would be unwise to give to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in England power to give large grants to the Church in Wales, because they might use that power to unduly influence the Church in Wales. Having used that argument, how can he pretend that the representative body of the Church in Wales is to hold the property of the Church in Wales?
§ Viscount WOLMER
Trustees certainly have a say as to how property shall be used. How can he possibly say that that body's influence would not be supremely important in the government of the Church in Wales? The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he as a Churchman habitually avails himself of the toleration Acts, but the right hon. Gentleman is to be arbiter of the constitution of the representative body of the Church in Wales. Therefore, I say that to plead that this Bill brings self-government to the Church is to introduce an argument at once irrelevant and false. The self-government of the Church as a Church is entirely distinct from the issues raised by the Bill. The self-government promised by this Bill is a hollow fraud and sham. It is an Erastian settlement forced on the Church which Churchmen repudiate from the bottom of their hearts. I feel that this Bill benefits neither Nonconformity nor the 126 Church. It casts a sword of discord between fellow Christians who ought to co-operate, instead of bickering between-themselves. It will bring nothing but evil and harm to the religious work done both in Wales and England, and therefore it ought not to be read a second time, but consigned to the lumber heap, from which it should never rise again.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I have listened to the speeches from the Opposition side of the House, and one fact has impressed itself clearly on my mind, namely, that the Opposition do not claim a single Welshman among their number. It is true that three Members sitting on the opposite side re- present constituencies in the Principality, but two of them represent border constituencies in which there are special influences and the other represents the cosmopolitan city of Cardiff, so that we cannot expect to get a real interpretation of the feeling of Wales from the Members on the Opposition side. Members on the Opposition side speak not as politicians, but as members of the Church. They-seem to regard the question more or less, from the point of view of how it is-going to affect their Church. I maintain that they should look on it more from the-national point of view as to how it will affect Wales and the Welsh people. They build largely on the idea that Welsh nationality and the opinion of Welsh people as expressed by their representatives in Parliament are the two factors which they can safely disregard. They claim for themselves a mandate to oppose the Bill, while they tell us that we have no mandate to support it. They refer to election addresses and tell us that a large number of the thirty-one Members on this side never referred to this question at all in their addresses. I do not know whether I am included among those who did not refer to the question, but I know that in the only election address which I ever issued I made this a capital subject, and I referred to it at every meeting which I held in my Constituency, and if I had not referred to it myself, I am practically certain that my Constituents at those meetings would have very soon asked me what were my views on Disestablishment and Disendowment. Were there any point at all in the fact that some Members did not refer to it in their election addresses, I think the Bishop of St. Asaph himself has disposed of the question that there is no mandate for 127 this Bill. Speaking on 15th November, 1910, he used these words:—I am wholly unable to agree with those who think that this is not a moment of supreme crisis in the history of the Church in Wales so far as the Church is an Established and Endowed Church. Personally, I think that the fate of the Church, so far as these two sides of her position are concerned, may be decided within the next six or eight weeks. I think that it is better to put the thing quite plainly and concretely.So much for the mandate. I have always held as a Nonconformist that it does not matter whether the Church contains within its pale a majority of the nation or not, and that that in itself is no justification for its being Established. But I think that one of the claims upon which the Church found the opposition to this Bill is that the majority of the people are within the pale of the Established Church. I am going to test the Church of England in Wales to see whether it fulfils that one condition, which I think all Churchmen impose. I will test it by two Returns. First, the return made to the Church Commission, and, second, the petitions from Wales presented against the Bill. The returns made by Churchmen to the Welsh Church Commission were ad hoc returns, and differed materially from the ordinary returns made at Easter time; but taking the number of communicants as returned by them as absolutely correct, I find that 193,000 was the number for the -whole of Wales. The same Church Commission found that the number of full members who were embraced in the Free Churches was 550,000, so that, judging from those returns accepted by the Church Commission, they absolutely fail to make out a case. I come to the petitions presented by Churchmen against. the Bill now before the country. There were 1,094 presented. Three hundred and sixty-one of them transgressed the rules of this House, but we will accept the number and say nothing of those which transgressed the rules of the House. Persons who signed the petition were or were supposed to be persons over fifteen years of age, and inhabitants of the parishes from which the petitions came. I say that the petitions -contain the names of persons under fifteen.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I cannot tell the Noble Lord how many, but I investigated some. In one single instance in my own Constituency, there were nine. I could not go through all the petitions in that way, but I tested some in my own Constituency. They contain also the names 128 of persons who have signed the same petition more than once. They contain names which also appeared in more than one petition. I was not at all surprised to find that a publican in my Constituency had signed twice, because there is an intimate connection between the Church and that trade in Wales. But I was surprised to find an ex-high sheriff signing in two places, and to find the rector of a parish with his wife and two members of his household sign in two places, and with this addition, that the rector and his wife and the two persons in signing the second petition, took great care to vary the spelling of their names. It will be for the rector and his wife and these two persons to say why they did it. There is no question as to their identity.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
I will give the Noble Lord the name if he wishes, but I think that he will agree with me that it is not a thing to make public reference to here. Still, I can give the names and addresses if necessary. The petitions also contain the names of non-residents, although they purport to be the signatures of persons resident in the parishes. In one parish 665 out of the 2,056 signatures came from thirty-two English counties, four came from India, and there were a number from Scotland and also from Ireland. Lastly, the petitions contained the names of a number of Nonconformists. It may be said, "Why should not. Nonconformists sign?" I see no objection to their signing if they are not in favour. In one petition the person in charge of it was so pleased with the number of Nonconformists who signed, that he marked everyone of them with a cross. Even then they have failed to establish themselves as being in a majority by the petitions presented against the Bill.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
You will never get a census so favourable to yourselves as that which I am quoting at the present moment. These petitions contain nonresidents of the Principality, children under fifteen, duplicate signatures, and triplicate signatures; but even with all these the total number only comes to 546,894. It may be said that that is a large proportion of the population, but there were in Wales at the last census, 1,623,463 people over fifteen years of age, so that the proportion, counting all who signed the petitions, is only one in three. 129 cases it is clearly proved that the Church is in a hopeless minority. Still, we hear that Nonconformity is on the wane. There has been a decline, according to some persons, of 32,819 in the membership of the larger denominations, and in order to prove this decline, the year 1905 is taken and compared with 1911. Why do they take 1905? In the year 1904 a religious revival of widespread dimensions took place in Wales, and a large number of members joined the Free Churches. Then followed the inevitable falling off which always comes after a large influx of members. Sooner or later the results show a decline in the membership. We have, as Free Churchmen a system of discipline, and it is by that system of discipline that a real membership is maintained. People have left or have been excommunicated. Still, allowing for that decline, which we all regret, and which is more than we should have wished, if you compare the year 1903, which is a normal year, with the year 1911, you will find that in 1903 the four largest denominations had 447,020 members, and in 1911 they had 504,656, or an increase of over 57,000. So much for the decline in Nonconformity. I have heard it said that the Church in Wales is increasing. I believe that it is, and I wish it God-speed, too. But whatever the increase in the Church, there is a still larger increase in Nonconformity. In Nonconformity the increase averages between six and seven thousand per annum, and lien. Members opposite will agree when I say that the Church in Wales is increasing at the rate of about two thousand per annum. Another point which has been already emphasised by the hon. Member for Swansea is that the increase takes place not in Welsh speaking districts, "but in districts where the English element preponderates. I -will read a Churchman's view of the position of the Church in Wales, as given in a letter which appeared in the "Welsh Gazette" on the 29th May last. The writer says: —Sir,—I observe that the Bishop of St. David's has published a letter in the Times,' of 12th May, in which he makes the statement that the statistics published in the Welsh Nonconformist Year Books, show that the Baptists. Calvinistic Methodists and Congregationalists in. Wales, declined 34,219 in members and 28,970 in Sunday school scholars since 1905, the statistical year of the Royal Commission, whereas the Official Year Book of the Church of England shows for the four Welsh dioceses a substantial increase in Church school scholars, as well as in communicants during the same period.' If I remember right, some little time ago his Lordship pry; it in a briefer but perhaps more picturesque form when he said that during this period while the Free Churches were dwindling, the members our Church in Wales were going up by leaps and bounds! Now, while I do not wish to challenge the 130 accuracy of these figures, I venture to think that such a statement put in this way is most misleading, and liable to give a very false impression to those in England why may not happen to know Wales well. If the bishop means us to take him seriously, he may lead some to think that their beloved Church was making great strides by way of attracting native Welshmen to her communion, and that on the other hand members of the Free Churches were dwindling to such an extent that they were rapidly becoming a negligible quantity.Some ten years ago there was a great revival in Wales associated with the name of Evan Roberts, which mainly affected the Free Churches, and their numbers increased enormously. I believe that over 87,000 were added to their ranks. But in the course of time, as often is the case after a great wave of enthusiasm has passed over a Church or a nation, a reaction set in, and as the bishop tells us, there has been a decline of some 34,000. We, in England, have seen similar movements, and so also have they in Scotland and the north of Ireland. Although there has, in Wales, been a falling off, yet on the whole the gain to the Free Churches has been very considerable even after we have deducted that number from the original 87,000. 1 am sure that we deeply regret the falling off, but it need not cause surprise, and certainly 710 right-minded Churchman would find in such a declension any cause for rejoicing.Let us now consider the other part of his Lordship's letter and ask if there is any evidence that our Episcopal Church is gaining ground among the indigenous Welsh. I am quite prepared to admit that the Official Year Book of the Church shows what lie calls substantial increase 'in communicants of our Church, who correspond more or less to the membership of the Free Churches; but statistics, unless very carefully analysed, may be very misleading. I spent a delightful time in Wales only a couple of years ago, and during that period visited every place of worship within reach and was much struck with the fact that, our Episcopal Churches were bate? attended than they used to be. Unfortunately, however, for the theory that we are gaining ground among the indigenous people of the soil, I found that there were a great number of English people like myself making up the congregation. Anyone who has known Wales as long as 1 have must be conscious of the fact that there has been from one cause and another, an enormous influx of English people. As not only the tourists and visitors come from England, but a considerable number of the landlords, lodging house owners, servants, shopkeepers, etc., also come from the same country, we need not be surprised at quite a substantial increase in the Episcopalian Churches Those who attend our National Church in England not unnaturally go to the Episcopalian Church in Wales, and of course help considerably to swell the numbers. During my visits to Wales, and this includes not only the North and South, but also the central and more inland places, I have never been able to get any evidence that, apart from the influx of English already enumerated, there has been any great transfer from the Free Churches to our Church.I only wish that I could record that our Church was gaining ground in another direction from among the irreligious and worldly, the drunken and the profligate, such as was undoubtedly the case in the revival to which I have already referred. We do not wish our Church in Wales to degenerate into a mere medium for proselytising from other religious bodies, but we should feel very proud of it as a corporate body if it were gaining ground among those who have not been reached by the voluntary system.It is rather a long letter, but it comes from a Churchman who tells us exactly what I have always thought, that it is the English in Wales who increase the attendance at the Church, and not the Welshmen. It is simply due to the fact that English people come to reside in Wales. So much for the numerical 131 argument in favour of the Bill. It is said that there will be less religion in Wales if the Church is Disestablished. I am one of those who do not think so, though I am quite well aware that some people do. There is a Church dignitary in my Constituency who thinks very strongly that the moment you Disestablish the Church religion is going to die out in the Principality. I will read you what he wrote:—Disestablishment really and truly means the dethronement of God from His rightful position at the head of the nation!If Disestablishment should take place, God will be dishonoured by the nation. The nation, as a nation, will no longer he religious, but secular!The Sovereign will no longer be crowned at a religious service and by a minister of religion!Parliament will no longer be a Christian Parliament, for no religious service will be held to invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon its proceedings!The County Assize will no longer be inaugurated by a religious service in the parish church!The Army and Navy will cease to have chaplains The presence and blessing of God will no longer be sought by the nation at large!All the public acts of the nation would be secular, and not religious, and the word 'Ichabod' would be written upon the throne, the senate, the seat of justice, our ships and our armaments—the Glory of the Lord has departed from Britain.Honestly, is there any Member in this House who believes stuff of that kind? Is there any man who really thinks that Wales would be less religious simply because the connection between the Church and State had been severed? Are the prayers of the American House of Representatives, where there is no Established Church, any less religious than the prayers of this House? Nonconformist bodies are not Established, but I believe they are just as religious as the Church of England. I honestly believe that if the Church in Wales were Disestablished to-morrow her ministers would be no less keen in the performance of their duties and that they -would perform them in exactly the same way as they do to-day. Surely they would not take off their religion like a garment and cast it aside I hold that the enforced recognition of religion hinders rather than helps it, and produces the notion that it is something provided by the Government, and not something demanding the personal attention of every individual. While some attach importance to Establishment, there are others who regard Disendowment as a serious calamity. But I hold that you cannot Disestablish a Church and leave her the whole of what are national funds. If you Disestablish, you must Disendow. I think we have been liberal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But we have not 132 only to be liberal; we have a duty to perform to the nation, and we must be just to the nation. The Disendowment proposals are most liberal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] You may not think so, but we Nonconformists think that they are liberal, though not for the reason that hon. Members opposite attribute to us. We are accustomed to maintain and pay for our chapels. For a banner at a Church demonstration the words: "They take all except 8s. in the £ are suggested. Under these Disendowment proposals you will have 8s. in the according to your own showing. But a short time ago it was to be 1s. 6d_ In any case, you cannot point to a single Nonconformist denomination in the whole of the Principality of Wales whose members grumble at maintaining their religion
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
None of the Nonconformist bodies have national funds at their disposal. You have no right, in our opinion, to a 1.s. of those funds. Whatever funds we Nonconformists have we have subscribed ourselves, and surely we have liberty to do as we choose with them! Why is it that these facts in regard to our liberality are not recognised? Why are letters addressed from peer and peasant to Members of this House, saying, as a peer wrote, that the Endowments will all be taken away and that the parishes will be too poor to support incumbents I should be ashamed to send a letter of that kind. Surely Churchmen are wealthy enough to maintain incumbents in small parishes, and to send letters of that description is to misrepresent things. Look at the example of Nonconformists. It is all very well to say that there are debts on Nonconformist chapels, but those debts will all be cleared, and they have only been incurred in order to cope with the enormous influx of people into South Wales. Where the Church failed to tread, Nonconformity stepped in. I think the Church ought to be grateful to think that we really have been able do what we have done in the interests of Christianity. Several speakers have mentioned that we have had no demonstrations in Wales except a Church demonstration here and there. There is something in that. But I will tell you why we have not had demonstrations. The Welsh people have confidence that their thirty-one Members will not go back to. them for a fresh mandate until this measure, 133 for which they have longed during thirty years, has been placed on the Statute Book. We receive resolutions on these questions from vestries and other bodies. I have a resolution from an Easter Vestry in my Constituency. According to the Church Clergy List the population of that district in which the vestry was held is 2,211. The Easter Vestry is generally attended by two or three who merely certify the correctness of certain accounts of charities. This year as many as eleven or twelve put in an appearance; they were all of the same complexion, Church, and in that number were the rector, two curates, the sexton, and two Welshmen. The rest were Englishmen. They passed a resolution, and I ask you whether you agree that it makes for better feeling in Wales. It is written, so far as the handwriting is recognised, by the vicar, and is as follows:—This vestry meeting, assembled at Eastertide, 1913, enters a most solemn protest against the passing of the Welsh Church Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill, now before Parliament, on the grounds of its injustice to the Church people of Wales by depriving them of the greater part of their Church patrimony, and transferring the effects of sacred legacies to county and other councils for secular purposes in the face of the Eighth Commandment.
§ Mr. HAYDN JONES
We do not steal; we simply claim for the nation what is the nation's, and Churchmen as well as Nonconformists will enjoy the benefits of what is transferred in that way. You will partake of it in exactly the same way as any others. Is it not so? It is all very well to sneer, but is it not so? The resolution goes on:—Further, it is a sure conviction of this vestry meeting, that this proposed Bill of spoliation, if it unhappily should become the law of the land, will engender a spirit of variance and bitterness among the whole body of the people of Wales, to their detriment and confusion, to the third and fourth generation, and will he written down in history for all time as an act of malicious meanness, wilfully directed against the oldest and most worthy institution of our land.Here we have a Resolution moved by an Englishman who does not understand a word of Welsh, and who had just come to live in the parish, and that is the sort of thing they ask you to pay attention to, a Resolution of this kind passed by twelve persons out of 2,000. There is one other point which I think has been alluded to. It is, how would it be if Wales were allowed to decide this question itself. What would Wales answer? Would the Church for a moment stand a chance? Tested by your returns and petitions, tested by its representatives, does any one doubt what 134 the answer of Wales would be? Not even the "Church Times" doubts this, for on the 24th November, 1911, it wrote: —If Wales were a separate country——and it is a separate country; it has its own language; its own traditions, and we claim to be a separate nation with a separate nationality. The paragraph proceeds: —If Wales were a separate country with a separate Legislature there would hardly be room for any discussion at all. Disestablishment would be effected straight away by an overwhelming majority.Why, therefore, deny Wales what she has constitutionally demanded for forty years? If this Bill were defeated, do you imagine you would kill the movement? You would do nothing of the kind; you would simply fan the flame and add fuel to the fire. I have lived, moved and had my being amongst the Welsh people. I know the intensity of their feelings on this question. The Anglican Church is in a hopeless minority; it is consistently anti-national. It is not elementary justice that funds left for the nation should be monopolised by a Church representing a small section, and that the least Welsh of the Welsh people. I am in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment in the interests both of civic justice and of religion. People say the controversy will embitter the relations between Anglicans and Free Churchmen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Lyttelton) talked about incensing and inflaming one man against another. God forbid that this Bill should do that, but what are the relations which at present exist? Undoubtedly, with a few notable exceptions, the Anglican Church shows but little brotherly spirit. It is the Establishment it self which is the root of the bitterness, and the great bar to unity. A better day will dawn for the Principality and a kindlier spirit will prevail when the wrong under which the people have chafed for years is removed. I appeal to hon. Members in this House, to those on the Opposition side and this, to help us to remove that wrong. Religion can never be helped by injustice and the Establishment and Endowment of a minority Church is an injustice. Till that wrong is redressed, there will be no religious peace. By passing this measure you will help to bring peace about, and there will follow that co-operation between Establishment and dissent which does not now exist, and which is essential to cope successfully with the evils of irreligion, materialism and indifference.
§ Sir JOHN RANDLES
I am sorry I cannot comply with the requirements of the hon. Member who has just spoken, and speak Welsh. He complained that no Member of the Opposition could speak the language of Wales. I very much doubt if the Home Secretary himself could introduce this Bill in that language, and the qualification is one which would prove a bar to a good many Members on both sides. The complaint of the hon. Member was very largely that those who spoke in opposition to this Bill, spoke from the point of view of how it affected their own Church. I do not think all of us speak from that point of view. At any rate I do not, because I am not a member of the Established Church either in England or in Wales. I do not think that the speech of the hon. Member himself showed a very detached mind. He put into his speech a good deal of that prejudice and bitterness which helps to make this controversy distasteful to many people who would like to see religious peace and religious charity prevail as distinguished from the bitterness which so often comes in. A good deal of the earlier portion of his speech was taken up with criticism of the petitions and with a careful analysis, finding out as to whether this person or that person was fifteen years of age or not. A good deal of searching seems to have revealed that there was a small percentage of petitions signed by people who should not have signed them. I suppose the hon. Member would agree that substantially all the Established Church in Wales are against the Bill, and I think he would have to agree that a very large number of Nonconformists in Wales are against the Bill, and also that persons who claim to be neither Nonconformists nor members of the Established Church were quite indifferent. Why is it that while he could tell us that one in three had signed the petitions against the Bill, he did not tell us that two-thirds of the population had signed for the Bill, or how many petitions there were for the Bill with an analysis as to the signatories, and all the other details given about the petitions against the Bill? I have a strong suspicion that the petitions in favour of the Bill have been remarkably few, and I believe you could not count them by hundreds or thousands, but that you would have to go down to scores. I gathered from what the hon. Member said that they do not rely on demonstrations and petitions for the support of the Bill, but on the votes of thirty-one Welsh Members in 136 this House. I do not think they really do rely on the votes of thirty-one Welsh Members. I think if the hon. Member had said that they relied on the votes of about eighty Irish Members he would have been nearer the mark. Those Irish votes are vastly more important than even the thirty-one Welsh Members' votes. How comes it that they have such wide confidence and reliance on the Irish votes? I can only take it that there is something in the nature of an understanding that if Home Rule is passed, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill will be passed and that if Home Rule is not passed, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill will not be housed. So that there is a bargain, or a coalition, or call it what you like. That is the real reliance of these men who are so keenly in earnest in support of this Bill. When I last had an opportunity of speaking on this subject the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reply said that there would be bitterness in every parish in Wales unless this measure were passed—bitterness, as I understand it, because one Church in Wales has some apparent advantage of a financial nature as compared with other Churches in Wales. It passes my comprehension how in the scheme of Christianity —for they are all Christian Churches—bitterness should arise because a certain section of Christian people have some financial advantage over another section of Christian people.
If this is only a Bill to Disestablish and not to Disendow the Church, I cannot see why, if it is such a great measure of justice and of principle, the whole of the Church, and not a section of it, should not be Disestablished. I could understand a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in England and Wales. That would be arguable. If there were a great conviction and great principles behind it, if the Government had the courage of their convictions and were prepared to carry out the principles by which they profess to stand, surely they would do the whole thing and get rid of the great evil which they say exists! But not at all. Small and piecemeal are their desires in reference to this great conviction of theirs. Only one small corner of the field is to be covered. But we are given plainly to understand that if there is any abatement whatever in the portion relating to Disendowment, the Bill will not be acceptable to Wales. I understand from the mouths of leading representatives of that country that if the Govern- 137 ment in a moment of weakness yield to the conviction or belief of their own friends that the measure is unduly severe in the matter of Disendowment, the Bill will be rejected by them. I should like to know what they really mean—whether there is an intelligent principle or conviction, or whether it is a time-serving, vote-hunting, commonplace deal between parties and coalitions in order to secure this or that end by trafficking in votes in the House of Commons. As regards the use of these funds, the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Haydn Jones) very pointedly asked whether we considered that this money was being stolen from the Church in Wales. It seemed to me a reasonable question to ask, because I thought it was capable of an answer. The hen. Member tried to tell us that the taking away of these funds from the Church was a great act of justice. I cannot see how or where. My dull comprehension does not enable me to see where the justice of taking property away from people who have held it for centuries comes in. There may be in some mysterious way some kind of wild justice. Perhaps the man who originally appropriated these funds, say, 500 years ago, and, in order to clear his conscience, handed them over to the Church, ought to have restored them to some original inhabitant of the country. If that were so, and you could find the direct heir who ought to receive the property, it might be a case for investigation. But when property has been held for centuries and administered according to the terms of the trust, deed, or bequest, surely it is going into very fine hair-splitting to find some method of arguing as to its justice or righteousness! You are doing nothing at any rate for religion, which these funds were intended to benefit, by depriving any section of the Church of them.
If you are going to redistribute the funds amongst all the Churches in Wales, we might have some satisfaction in thinking that money intended for religious uses would still be applied to those purposes; but we have no such satisfaction. The moneys are to be taken away from religious purposes and devoted to other uses. There must inevitably be a lowering of the religious activities of the country. The religious life of Wales cannot benefit. It must surely suffer by the people of the country being deprived of funds which, at any rate to some extent, are being used in the interests of religion—in the interests of religious beliefs that are held by both 138 Nonconformists and Churchmen. I am informed that there are in Wales in Nonconformist churches great need of funds, and that the pastoral attention that can be afforded to the people by Nonconformist churches is hampered and crippled by lack of funds. It would be a noble and patriotic thing for men of all Churches in Wales to try to remove that difficulty and stumbling block. But when there is a scarcity of money and a difficulty in finding funds for this purpose, is it a good time to take away what one church seems to have? Is it not rather on the principle of the fox that has no tail saying that no foxes should wear tails? Is it not because we see our neighbours having this, that, and the other which we lack and cannot obtain, and therefore we try to bring them down to the level on which we are engaged in living? Far nobler and worthier would it be to try to remove all the hindrances, and, if it were possible, to put Endowments, or at any rate, funds into the hands of all the churches, in order that they might fulfil the mission of their Master who was common to them all, in the propagation of those principles which make for the greatness of all those nations which adopt and work on the principles about which we are all supposed to agree, but over which in this House we fight and squabble in the endeavour to deprive a Church of the means by which it is endeavouring to work and live for the Christianising of the population.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
My hon. Friend has delivered an interesting speech from the Nonconformist point of view, and has made what I believe to be a valuable contribution to the Debate. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Haydn Jones), asked a number of questions, some of which my hon. Friend has answered, and upon others of which I desire to make some observations. He seemed to pride himself with great satisfaction on the fact that he was leaving to the Church originally s. 6d. in the £, and now as much as 8s. in the Does the hon. Member think that, if a burglar said to him, "Your money or your life," and then when he handed over a sovereign gave him back 8s., he would feel particularly grateful to the burglar? Yet that is exactly the position in which the hon. Member is endeavouring to put the Church in Wales. 1 should have thought he would have realised that their religious feelings would be much the same as his own under the similar 139 cucumstances. The whole use of the Parliament Act to pass such a measure as this seems to me to be grossly unjust, and grossly unfair, while it entirely disregards the extreme importance of the issue involved.
The Parliament Act being put into force with a suspended Second Chamber, and before the reconstitution of that Chamber has taken place—as was promised—is really a fraud upon the nation. It seems to me that to make use of the Parliament Act for this purpose is a business scarcely less partisan than is the report of the Marconi Committee. Why should we take part under these circumstances in endeavouring to amend the measure and to make suggestions? I do not propose to make any suggest ions when we disapprove of the whole principle. It would tie our hands to make a compromise of this character if we joined in any attempt to amend a Bill which, in our opinion, in principle is radically bad and radically unjust. Supposing this Bill is really passed—which Heaven forbid—then I am disposed to endorse the remarks of my Noble Friend below the Gangway earlier in the evening, that it would be perfectly possible for us, if the Unionist party came again into office, if they do not repeal the Act—which would be quite an open question considering the methods under which it is passed—at any rate, restore the money to the Church by a similar procedure to that used by the Government itself in voting salaries to Members of this House. That could be done in a couple of days by a mere Financial Resolution. I venture to suggest that a similar procedure could be perfectly well adopted with a great deal more reason. There can be no compromise in a matter of this kind. Rightly or wrongly, so long as we believe it is morally wrong to take the property of a Church in this manner, and that it is doing a fundamental injustice to religious influence throughout the nation—believing that we cannot make a compromise of any sort or character.
The real question before the nation is whether it is right to devote to secular purposes money which was given for religious purposes. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is really a matter of religion; that this money is to go for educational purposes or for hospitals or museums; that it is all good influence, and is practically to be considered as identical with religious pur- 140 poses. But I should hardly suppose that that is the view of the pious donrs who gave these benefactions, nor I suppose would it be the view, let us say, of a Nonconformist minister if someone perhaps were to move that his salary should be sequestrated and given to education and museums in Wales. I cannot see any difference myself. If we bring forward a proposition of that kind, I should like to know whether hon. Members opposite would endorse it as a matter of national justice or as a matter of charity and religious influence for the nation? The thing is absurd. And it being morally wrong in our opinion to bring in any alterations to any proposal of this kind, we cannot undertake to make any suggestions or any compromise.
As to Disendowment, as my hon. Friend who has just addressed the House has said, this is really a party bargain. It adds insult to injury. We know if there were an impartial tribunal, if you should judge the merits and demerits of Disendowment on the mere prescriptive title or almost any other ground, and just argue it, that the verdict would be given in our favour. Because it happens to be a public matter it is a question of log-rolling with eighty Irish votes below the Gangway. One party is trying to pass Home Rule and the other Welsh Disestablishment. They cannot do it apart from the help of each other, therefore we have to submit to this preposterous injustice. Was there ever a great religious change effected on a more sordid Pretext? This is a matter, as was pointed out last year, which was not before the country at the last General Election in any specific sense. Few Members mentioned it in their election addresses. The Home Secretary this afternoon spoke of the year 1868, and said that the House of Lords then consented to the Irish Disestablishment Bill. But the Irish Disestablishment Bill was specifically before the country, and was pointedly put there by Mr. Gladstone, who devoted about half his election address to that particular question. The country decided that they desired to support Mr. Gladstone. That is a very different position from now. When that had occurred, naturally it was the duty of the Second Chamber to endorse the verdict of the nation. We have had no verdict of the nation upon this matter. All we are told is that we have got the verdict of thirty-one Members from Wales.
141 This question is greater and wider than a mere Welsh question. The Church of England is the Church of Wales, and the Church of Wales is the Church of England. It cannot be dismembered without the greatest injustice and danger to religious influence throughout the Kingdom. What is more, Disendowment is not to be carried out on the basis of bringing about religions equality at all. If it were, I presume that Nonconformist Endowments would be taken away just as much as the Endowments of the Church of England. But. Nonconformist Endowments are to remain, even though they have far less prescriptive title than have many of the benefactions of the Church of England. Nonconformist Endowments are to remain, yet we are still told that this is all on a basis of religious equality! Can there be anything more cynical, more ludicrous, by way of argument, for the maintenance and propping up of this case? I feel most strongly myself that passing this Bill does mean the embittering of feeling between religious sections in Wales to a far greater degree than has been the case up till now. You are committing what will be felt for two generations to be a gross injustice, to be robbery of Church property, and you cannot expect those who feel that they have been so robbed to sit down and work together as friends. It is more than human nature can be expected to submit to.
Hon. Members speak of Ireland. Have hon. Members studied the position of the Church of Ireland since it was Disestablished? There is no greater unity there. There is none of the good feeling which is alleged to be produced by Disestablishment. On the contrary, religious influence is worse because there are fewer clergy to minister. Many parishes have been grouped together, instead of there being individual parishes and individual ministers. In some cases I believe as many as ten or eleven parishes are grouped together under one minister. Can that be to the advantage of religion or help in religious influences as a whole? As to unity, I believe that a minister of any denomination necessarily looks upon individual members of his flock largely as subscribers to help on his work, and he has the greatest suspicion of any effort to proselytise them, because it means less income to his particular denomination. That is not the kind of thing we want to introduce into Wales. Surely the most likely method of working well together and. understanding each other, 142 encouraging brotherly love, which some speakers have already referred to, is not to attack and to despoil one particular denomination, but, to let them all work together in fairness and justice, and not to allow one denomination to deprive another of its property through jealousy or spite. I mentioned Ireland. Let me just mention France. Religious work in France has not improved since the State stepped in and confiscated religious property. I cannot see myself how you can argue, although you may from the abstract. point of view, that religion is far better off if it has no endowment whatever, no material support at all, and that religion is in a stronger position, if it can discard all material things and money to support it. You may say that in theory, but we all know that in practice, from the point of view of common sense, that much religious work could not be done without funds to support it, and that the object of a State Establishment is not to make the Church political, but to make the State religious.
On the other hand, why should we not try and imitate the example of Scotland? There the opposite is going on at this very moment. Different religious sections are endeavouring to unite in mutual Endowment and mutual Establishment. The prospect there seems to me far greater from the religious point of view than it can possibly be in Wales under the present Bill if it ever becomes law. I do appeal to hon. Members opposite who think they are assisting the cause of religion by putting this instrument of strife between denominations in different parts of Wales, to think once, twice, thrice before doing such things, and to let Wales have a fair chance under a better influence. The Government is taking all these Endowments, I believe, to spite the Church, at least as regards some of those supporting the Bill, and from jealousy of what the Church has done. Any excuse seems to be good enough for taking the Church's property. Varied excuses seem to be given according to the circumstances or the purpose served. They are not always of the same kind. The reasons are also often inconsistent. Tithe is to be taken because it was imposed as a sort of tax. It was national property, although, let it be remembered, that the Royal Commission reported that the origin of tithe was so obscure that no certain conclusion could be formed. Tithe is to be taken because. it is alleged, it is 143 national property. That is one reason for taking it. If we ask about Queen Anne's Bounty, we are told it was given by a Parliamentary title, and that Parliament has a right to take away any title that it has granted. That is a wholly different reason altogether from tithe. If you talk about a commutation scheme you are told that the Irish commutation scheme was far too generous, and, therefore, we must have a commutation scheme upon a niggardly basis; and if we mention glebe we are told by the Under-Secretary to the Home Office that it was given to the Church under a provision of prayers for the dead, and now that prayers for the dead can no longer be urged, that it ought to be taken away. All these arguments are extremely varied; they are not always consistent with each other, and they are brought forward because somehow or another you are determined to take away the Church property. That, again, is to us a most irritating point of view with which to approach this question. The rightness or the wrongness of the thing stands upon a much broader basis. The property of the Church belonging to the Church for centuries gives it a prescriptive title which goes with every other sort of property, and no Law Court would impugn it or this House, were it not that it is to be taken away in order to satisfy the votes of thirty-one Welsh Members. This is a question for England and Wales, and not for Wales alone. I earnestly support the view that we ought to do nothing that will increase hostility between one section of Christians and another. We ought to try and pull together, either by way of concurrent Endowment or any other way that we think will bring Christians together for the purpose of increasing religious interests throughout the nation, and we ought to disregard a Bill which is one of the most unjust Bills ever brought forward in this House, and than which, I think, there never was a meaner Bill advocated on more false pretences, or attempted to be carried by more arbitrary methods.
Mr. HUGH EDWARDS
I can assure the hon. Member who has just sat down that we reciprocate his kind sentiments in regard to a better feeling between Churchmen and Nonconformists in Wales, but he may take it froth me that that co-operation will never be realised as long as you have preferential treatment meted out to 144 one denomination in the Principality at the expense of another denomination, and if he desires that co-operation I venture to think that the only way possible to effect it is to pass this Bill into law, and so bring about that happy state of things that now exists in Ireland ecclesiastically. In the course of this Debate, the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford, said nothing fresh could be stated on this question. Every available argument has been used, every phase of the question has been brought to light, and every weapon in the armoury of dialectics has been brought into use. Yet I venture to think that in the interval that has elapsed since the Bill passed through this House a good deal has occurred. The position is not exactly to-day what it was then, Welsh Church-men have met, and at the instigation of the Welsh bishops, have raised the cry of "No compromise," and we have raised the cry of "No concessions." The Welsh bishops have declared that the consciences of Welsh Churchmen were not in the market. I fully accept that statement, and I hope the Opposition will accept our assurances that there were no buyers on this side of the House. I have never for a moment—and here I speak for all my colleagues—doubted the sincerity of our opponents upon this question. I think by this time we are all absolutely convinced that their Church is as dear to them as our Nonconformity is to us. We are quite sure of that, but what I cannot understand is the attitude of the Opposition towards this question. In regard to the Irish question, all the speakers—the Leader of the Opposition and speakers in another place—admitted the existence of an Irish problem. The difference of opinion was as to the best way to solve the question, but none of the speakers of the Opposition seem to recognise that there is such a problem as a Welsh problem; they do not seem to realise what I may call the crucial aspect of the whole question. I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury summed up the whole position in one sentence when he said:—Only two arguments remain open to the opponents of this measure, the one is that the Welsh people are in favour of the Establishment; the other that Wales is not a nation.I have heard almost every one of the speeches to-night, and no speaker on the opposite side has dared to make either of those statements. You have never said that the Welsh people are in favour of the Establishment, and you have not even dared to say that Wales is not a nation.
If the hon. Baronet says that, then I am sorry for him. I do not know whether the hon. Baronet has ever been to Wales, but if he doubts that Wales is a nation let him consult the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), and I am sure he will tell him that Wales is a nation. What is the position in Wales? Here is a little country with a claim as clear and as distinct and as fundamental to nationality as either Scotland or Ireland. I do not know whether the hon. Baronet opposite is prepared to grant that Scotland is a nation?
If the hon. Baronet says there is no nation except the English nation, then we know where we are.
We are a part of Great Britain, and our ancestors were here before the ancestors of the hon. Baronet. We in Wales are a country with as fundamental a claim to be a nation as Scotland or Ireland. At eleven General Elections Wales, in a constitutional manner, has declared against preferential treatment of one religious body at the expense of the other. If representative government in this country is a reality and not a farce, then this House must recognise the significance of the situation. I should like to quote a statement made by Mr. Lathbury, the editor of a prominent Church organ, and this is what he said: —As I read the glowing words of anti-Disestablishment meetings sometimes wonder whether the eloquent and enthusiastic speakers ever stop to consider what is likely to happen if their efforts are likely to be successful. Granting that some happy accident brings the present Parliament to an end before the machinery of the Parliament Act has had time to come into operation, and, that as a result of the consequent Dissolution the Welsh Bill is dropped, do they expect that the question will be disposed of?The hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs knows Welsh feeling, and I am sure he does not for a moment think that if the Government, by some astuteness on the part of his colleagues, were to come out of power before this Bill goes through that that would be the end of the measure. Surely not. We were agitating in Wales for this measure before the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs was born. You are pinning your faith to that, but you are forgetting that while you are having your demonstrations in Hyde Park the Welsh nation has set its heart upon this measure, and nothing will ever stop it from realising 146 its object. Take the question from a wider standpoint. At the last General Election the Established Church exerted its whole influence against this measure. The four Welsh bishops took to the political platform and made speeches, and the Bishop of St. Asaph warned Churchmen that if this Government was returned to, power and the Parliament Act was passed Disestablishment would be bound to come about. The Welsh Church exerted its whole political influence, and the result was that only three out of thirty-four Welsh Members were returned opposed to this measure, and they were returned with very small majorities. I very much doubt that if another election were to take place more than one of those three would come back to this House. The hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs has worked very hard, and he is the only one of the three who would probably come back after the election. Although only three hon. Members opposite out of thirty-four were returned in opposition to this Bill, yet as a result of the Establishment, four of the dignitaries of the Church of England are able to go to the other House to revise,. modify, and reject measures approved by thirty-one out of thirty-four Welsh representatives. At the election one, the Bishop of St. Asaph, sent a specie letter declaring at an election fought under the very walls of his cathedral that if this measure were passed the cathedral would be dismantled and so on, 'but in spite of that the Liberal candidate was returned. In spite of that fact the Bishop of St. Asaph, although his candidate was defeated in his own constituency, is able to take his place in the other House and he is able to revise and assist in rejecting measures passed by the vast majority of the Welsh Members.
The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Bridgeman) cannot deny that these four Welsh bishops are able to veto measures approved of by thirty-on3 out of thirty-four Welsh Members. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) referred to the Referendum. We are prepared to accept the Referendum in Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh! "] Certainly we are, and I attach great importance to that, and I will tell the House why. This is a matter which does not concern England as much as it does Wales, and it is essentially a Welsh question. If I may use a simple illustration, supposing the people of Manchester were keen upon something which vitally affected them, and the majority of 147 the people of Manchester were in favour of it, what argument would it be to say that the people of Liverpool, Dublin, Edinburgh, Nottingham, and Bristol are opposed to it. When I hear of petitions brought as they were last Session from the Channel Islands, and other places in Great Britain, objecting to Welsh Disestablishment, from men who had probably never been to Wales, I say it does not concern them. This is a matter primarily for the Welsh people, and the feeling of the Welsh people ought to prevail. The whole controversy is narrowed down to one single question: Is the Church in Wales a national Church or does it represent only four Dioceses in the See of Canterbury? The hon. Member for Denbigh Burghs will claim that it is a national Church. He is sufficient of a Welsh patriot to do that, but I have heard English Members again and again speak of it as though it were only four Dioceses in the See of Canterbury, eliminating altogether the question of nationality. If the Church in Wales is a national Church, then she ought to justify herself in the eyes of the nation, and it is immaterial to us in Wales what you pass at your Hyde Park demonstration next Saturday, if you cannot carry the people of Wales with you. If the Church only represents four Welsh Dioceses, then she has no claim to retain national property. I should like to quote a statement made by the "Guardian "newspaper some years ago, in the year 1846: —We do not require that the Church should remain national any longer than Englishmen remain Churchmen. What she has in her own right is indeed hers and hers only, but what. she can be shown to hold in virtue of her national character is the nation's, if the nation chooses to reclaim it.That statement of the "Guardian" applies to the position in Wales. If what she holds she holds in virtue of her national character, then it belongs to the nation, if the nation chooses to reclaim it, and we base the Disendowment proposals in this Bill undoubtedly on that principle. We believe that this is national property, and that the nation has the right to reclaim it. Opposition has been made by some to the provisions of the Bill. The Bishop of St. David's is never tired of referring to it as "the mean little Bill." He has repeated it with a persistency -which I think has made the phrase almost threadbare. The hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A Griffith-Boscawen), in the -course of the last Session, spoke of us 148doing an injury to a poor little Church." I take exception to that statement. I say that the Church in Wales is not poor compared with the Church in Ireland. Wales is a much poorer country than Ireland. We have not the wealth, the population, and the large towns that they have in Ireland. In Ireland there are two archbishops, and of course, an archbishop is very much higher than a diocesan bishop, and they only pay them £2,500 a year each. No diocesan bishop in Ireland receives more than £1,800 a year. What is the position in this poor little Church in poor little Wales? There are four Welsh bishops. The Bishop of St. David's has £4,500. I believe he is the best of the Welsh bishops, but he has a deep Nonconformist strain in him. The other three Welsh bishops receive £4,200 a year each, so that in Wales each diocesan bishop receives nearly twice as much -as the archbishops in Ireland. Take the principals of our national colleges, our County Court judges, and our Insurance Commissioners. There is not one of them who receives a stipend of more than £1,500 a year, and I do not believe that even the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London would dare rise in this House and declare that a Welsh bishop works harder, or performs more important or useful work than the principals of our national colleges or of our Insurance Commissioners.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I should think that the bishops perform a more useful work than the Insurance Commissioners.
Well, of course, they cover the insurance for the world to of conic. This Bill will not impair the spiritual interests of the Church. It is a very remarkable fact, and one which I should like to emphasise, that in those places where there is congestion of population, where the needs of the community are greatest, and where the Church is most prosperous, the Church will scarcely be affected by the financial provisions of this Bill. Take the Rhondda Valley, the most crowded and populated part of the whole Principality. There is a population in the Rhondda, Valley of 180,000, and the tithe affected only amounts to £20. There is Swansea, an important town like Swansea, with a population of 80,000, and yet the tithe affected only represents a sum of £150. Surely no one will declare that to take away £150 will affect the interests or the energy of the Church in Swansea. Take 149 some of the other districts. There is Llandwyfan—I give these on the authority of Sir John Williams, a member of the Welsh Church Commission, with five communicants, and its income is £225; Clynnog with nineteen communicants, and its income is £428, and Llandervaud, with seventeen communicants, and its income is nearly £500—£481, so that in Wales the position is that where you have the people, where the Church is most energetic, and where she is scoring her greatest success there is scarcely any tithe, whereas in rural parishes, with five, nineteen, and twenty communicants, the tithe amounts to between £400 and £500 a year.
We are going to lei the whole nation participate. We do not believe in taking it away from the parish to which it has been given, but we say: "Let all the people in that parish participate, and let the people in the populated districts—they are Englishmen and Irishmen as well as Welshmen—such as the Rhondda Valley, provide for themselves." I read a letter in the "Times" written by a dean in the Church of England, and he expressed the fear that if this Bill were passed it would serve to create a National Church for Wales. It would mean the creation of a Welsh Church in Wales. I wondered when I read it what the hon. Member for Denbigh Burghs thought of it. If you have a Church of England in England and a Church of Scotland in Scotland, why not a Church of Wales in Wales? There was a time when there was a National Church in Wales. When the native princes of Wales went forth to war in defence of their homes and their country they were followed by the blessings of the Welsh Church. If they were victorious they were received -with the triumphant strains of the Te Deum, and if they were defeated and slain they were mourned and prayers were 'uttered for their souls by the Welsh clergy. The ancient Church of Wales was the repository of the traditions of the Welsh nation, the interpreter of its ideals and the champion of its interests, but, alas, it became submissive to Canterbury, and from the very hour of its submission -to and incorporation in the See of Canterbury a blight fell upon her and she became anti-national. Among all the opponents of this Bill there is not one of them who scan speak the language of the Welsh 150 people. Not one. Take the position of those who are in favour of Disestablishment. Two-thirds of the Welsh Members speak Welsh. Half a dozen English Members speak Welsh. One Scotchman, and even an Irish Member, speak Welsh. I venture to say that that fact is significant. As a party you have set yourselves against the traditions, ideals, and language of the Welsh people.
It would be folly to close one's eyes to the fact that a Bill of this kind, so far-reaching in its consequences, and so deep in its operation, must cause a great upheaval in the land. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, bemoaned the fact that if this Bill passed into law, there would be a rupture of the happy relationship between Church and dissent in the Principality. He may take it from me that when this Bill does become law, as become it will, there will be plenty of Anglican clergymen in Wales only too pleased to bury a Nonconformist whenever there is an opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the danger of bitter estrangement. Unfortunately the estrangement between Church and dissent cannot possibly be more bitter than it is at present in Wales. The relationship between the two communities could not 1 e more strained than now. I was very much struck in reading the evidence before tie Welsh Church Commission, and by Coe admissions made by one witness after another, representing both Churchman and Nonconformists, that at present there is absolutely no co-operation and no cordiality between the two communities. Even the British and Foreign Bible Society, whenever it holds a meeting in any town, finds that no Anglican Churchman will attend a Nonconformist place of worship. The meeting must be held in a public hall; they will have nothing whatever to do with Nonconformists. A speech was made the other day by the Bishop of St. Asaph, and I venture to say that hon. Members on the other side must have read that bitter attack made by the Bishop on one of the leading religious bodies in Wales with amazement. There could be no more bitter estrangement than at present. I venture to say, however, the wounds inflicted by this Bill are purely surgical and antiseptic in their nature and healing in their purpose, and I trust that in time these wounds will wholly disappear, leaving no semblance of a scar. When that time comes the Episcopalian Church and the various Nonconformist 151 Churches throughout the Principality will inevitably be drawn together by identity of spiritual interests and by the common and increasing desire to realise that primary and fundamental progress which first inspired their existence and for the consummation of which they all alike need the same full measure of inspiration from the same great source.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I rise chiefly to answer broadly the speech made by the Home Secretary, but I should like to say one or two words with reference to the speech to which we have just listened. I want in the first place to assure the hon. Member that, at any rate so far as the mass of English Churchmen is concerned, they do not consider that Welsh nationality comes into this question at all. We are not opposed to Welsh nationality or to Welsh ideas, and I shall point out later on that, in my view, it is a mere appeal to prejudice, and nothing else, to bring in this question of nationality. Let me deal with one or two points raised by the hon. Member. Throughout this Debate we Churchmen have always desired, and do desire to give the same credit for sincerity to the members of the Nonconformist community as we claim for ourselves. I do not think that, in this House, any Churchman has ever said a single word impunging the sincerity of any Nonconformist to whatever community he may happen to belong. I want that made clear in reference to anything I may say. There is every difference between this ease and the Irish case. I should like upon this point, although I have not got his words—I did not think the matter was going to be referred tot should like to illustrate this by the attitude which such a Nonconformist as Mr. Bright took up. He said distinctly that there was no question of party in the Irish Bill, except to show that the Irish Church was in fault and in possession of funds which it could not use for religious purposes. That is the whole difference between the two cases. I should like to put it to hon. Members, what right has the Government, or any party in this House, to attack a great Christian community? It is the largest Christian community, whether we take it in Wales itself, or in England and Wales, or in the United Kingdom. What right have the Government to attack that great Christian community, seeking to dismember it, to Disestablish it, and to partially Disendow it, when at the same time no 152 allegations and no charge of any kind is brought against it?
When the Home Secretary was speaking earlier in the evening, he put forward a point upon which I wish to ask a question. For years I have striven to promote concentration and co - operation between various Christian communities in this country. I think that is an exceptional danger as regards the future of Christianity. Why am I such a bitter opponent of this Bill? Because I see in it religious persecution. I see in it conditions which are certain to stir up. the smouldering embers of religious antagonism. How can you help it? Just look at this great Christian community doing its work and doing its religious duty without any charge at all'? What is being done? Other Christian communities place their knife at its throat and their hands in its pockets. I may, as regards human nature, put another quotation. Is there anyone who can believe for a moment that a proposal of this kind can do otherwise than stir up the smouldering embers of religious intolerance and religious bigotry? If the smallest Nonconformist community had been attacked, either as regards its organisation or its funds, it might have relied on the united support of every member of the Church of England in this country, and the opinion, if there is such an opinion, that we are in any way attacking Nonconformist communities is absolutely inconsistent with the trend of religious opinion in the Church at the present moment. No. We are being attacked, and those who attack us must realise that if we are attacked as regards our organisation and our funds, which we consider absolutely essential for our great religious work, they are stirring up-animosity which is certain to affect the relationship between the Church and Nonconformist communities. I may quote perhaps just one passage on this point. It has, I believe, been quoted before, but I should like to quote it again, because it is so essential to my argument to keep this point of view to the front, that the whole of this Bill is entirely unjustifiable, unless you are prepared to make some allegations or some charge against the Church in its religious life and its religious duty. I will quote one passage written, not by an ecclesiastic, but written by a man whose sympathies were with rationalism. He speaks of a great corporation which is indissolubly bound up with the best elements of national life and history, and 153 which is exercising over a vast area and in multifarious ways a beneficent, moralising, and spiritualising influence. Assume for a moment that that is true. Can it be made consistent with the Christian spirit to attack a great religious community, carrying out a great religious work and exercising a great spiritual power over a vast area? Why should you desire to do it? Of course, I can understand—I am not going to make allegations against hon. Members opposite—social spite and social jealousy, but jealousy is one of the most unchristian and reactionary sentiments you can possibly have as regards human nature and character. I ask hon. Members opposite to search their minds, and when they feel that no charge can be made, is it not possible, at any rate, that some of those who are attacking the Church of England at the present time are actuated by what I call social jealousy or religious spite. What is this great Christian community you are attacking? Either in the United Kingdom, in Wales and England, or taking Wales by itself, it is the greatest, and is undoubtedly doing the most beneficient work at the present time. It is a Church which has long had the love, respect and veneration of the vast majority of the Anglo-Saxon people, and even in Wales the minority is substantially large. We look upon the Church as the true expression of Christian life and Christian belief. We believe that our Church is the only safe protection against either irreligion or secularism. If we have that belief, how can you expect us to take any other attitude than that of uncompromising resistance to a Bill which in our view cripples our organisation and destroys a great part of our power for good? You would do the same. I do not believe there is a single Member on the benches opposite who if his own community were attacked in the same way the Church is attacked, would not take the same view as Churchmen are taking in this House. I should respect him for doing it. I should not respect a man whose own religious community, in which he sought the best teaching of Christian life and faith, was attacked, who did not, without compromise and to the best of his power, fight to the last ditch in defence of his religious views.
I want to say one word as regards the operation of the Parliament Act. It is quite true that the discussion here, whether on Home Rule or on Church questions, have an air of sham and unreality under the terms of the Parliament Act. No one denies that. I do not think any Act has 154 done so much to destroy the prestige, importance and popularity of this Chamber as the Parliament of the country, because, to my mind, it is dead in the teeth of the representative principle, which is the foundation and backbone of the power of this House. I cannot agree with the Home Secretary that because we are in the grip of the Parliament Act, therefore it is unnecessary, even with reiteration, to put forward what we consider the true view as regards this great question of Church dismemberment, Disestablishment, and partial Disendowment. We have to recollect that although, as appears in the Preamble of the Parliament Act, we are now working under the terms of what I might call a wrecked Constitution, yet all the great constitutional safeguards have not been swept away, and there is still a constitutional safeguard which may be exercised in a perfectly constitutional way in order to obtain a popular verdict on a great Bill of this kind before it passes into law. Let me now deal with the arguments addressed by the Home Secretary to this Bill. His first argument was the majority argument. There is a complete answer to that. A majority, in the sense of a party majority to which he has referred, may no doubt bring in ark appeal to force, but it never brings in an appeal to right and wrong. The right hon. Gentleman says that his moral views differ from ours as regards this Bill. Then let us argue whether he is right or we are right. The appeal to a mere party majority vote is of no value in a case of this kind, when you are considering whether great moral principles advocated by the one side or the other ought to prevail. Upon this point let me quote what was said not long ago by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who in this respect called himself an historical Nonconformist. What he said appears to be well worthy of deep attention as regards the question whether this Bill is right or wrong. He said: —I appeal to those who are taking part in this great question of Church government and Church Endowment, not to rely upon the counting of heads, but to see if they cannot support their position with sound and solid arguments.I appeal in the same way to the Home Secretary. Do not let us have again and again this appeal to force, which is the majority argument. Let us go behind that, and, as the Chief Secretary pointed out, not merely count heads, but see whether in truth and reality the arguments upon the one side or the other are right and just. There is another way in which 155 I think this majority argument ought to be put. No one can deny that this Church question affects both England and Wales. It may affect Wales to a greater extent than England—I do not care to argue upon a point of this kind—but it undoubtedly affects England as well as Wales. We know that so far as England is concerned, there is a large majority—I need not say what the actual numbers are—against any proposal to Disestablish and Disendow the English Church in Wales. That being so, does the Home Secretary or the Secretary to the Treasury say that we ought to wholly disregard English opinion in this matter? I want to give full weight to the nationality of Wales, but, at the same time, I am not going to resign the claim to nationality in England. According to my view, if you are to deal with this question as a matter of majority, you ought to consider the majority both in England and Wales. But let me put that on one side for the moment. No one can deny that the English nationality is affected by this proposal to Disestablish and dismember the English Church. I want the right hon. Gentleman opposite to answer this. To what extent does he say that the opinion of England ought to come into force and operation as regards this common Church? I am beginning as an Englishman to think that English opinion is being sacrificed in many directions, either in Ireland or in Scotland or in Wales. This is a matter of which England feels deeply. It is a matter in which the opinion of England cannot be disregarded. It is a matter affecting one Church, common both to England and Wales, and I put to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury again, even if he does not agree with me that England has an equal right to be heard with Wales in this matter, will he say that the English nationality, English ideas, English opinion, ought to be wholly disregarded in a question of this kind and, if he does not, what weight is he going to give to it? It appears to me that any weight he gives to it, at any rate any reasonable weight, entirely upsets the majority argument, and shows conclusively, if we are to go by majorities, that the majority of people really interested in this question are distinctly and decidedly opposed to the present Bill. Now that we are dealing with one Church, may I quote—he is often quoted, but he was a great statesman whom we are proud to quote—what was said by 156 Mr. Gladstone on this question of a common Church? It was at the time when Mr. Watkin Williams brought forward one. of the first Bills for Disestablishment and Disendowment in Wales. He said:—My hon. and learned Friend might just as well set up the doctrine of a separate Church for the northern portion of England as for Wales. There is a complete ecclesiastical, constitutional, legal, and, I may add for-this purpose, historical identity between the Church in Wales and the rest of England. I think, therefore, it, is practically impossible to separate the case of Wales from that of England.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
In 1874, at the time of the introduction of the Bill by Mr. Watkin Williams, who was afterwards Mr. Justice Watkin Williams. What possible answer is there to that statement which I am making? Would the hon. Member (Mr. Gladstone) attempt to deny that you have one common Church in England and Wales? No Churchman will deny that. As soon as you come to that conclusion what is the necessary inference? It is not interfering with Welsh nationality, but it is giving due weight to English nationality, and where you have two nationalities interested in a common Church, on every democratic principle, every principle 'of nationality, every principle of popular government, you must give due weight to the opinions expressed both in the one country and in the other, and immediately you do that the majority argument is displaced altogether. I want to be very clear that I am not in that respect attacking the Welsh nationality. Of course the difficulty in framing legislation of this kind is where you have two nationalities jointly interested, and you have to draw the line fairly and justly as between the one and the other, and if you do that the very majority argument of the Home Secretary turns round the other way and condemns, by the voice of England and Wales, this attack upon the one common Church in which they both have a common interest.
The next argument he used was really a very curious one. It is the alien argument. What does that expression mean? Christianity is an alien Church in the whole of Western Europe. Is it any the worse religion because it has come to us from foreign countries? Supposing you have two religions, one which comes from abroad, and is universally adopted and admired, and one which springs up at 157 home and which makes no way at all, are you going to say that because the greater religion comes from an alien source it is to be condemned? Is a religion the worse because it is alien? I know an immense amount of prejudice is raised about the word "alien" and the question of nationality, but I want to take a broader issue. I am dealing with religious matters, with religious influence, with religious tolerance, and religious sobriety, and I want to know will anyone say that a Church which is doing a great religious work is the worse because it happens to have an alien origin. If I might go further, there is not a Nonconformist community in Wales at present of which the origin is not alien. Wesley was not a Welshman. Perhaps the most characteristic of the Nonconformist communities in Wales are the Calvinistic Methodists. Calvin was not a Welshman any more than the northern bishops to whom we have had reference several times during the Debate. I want to know really, in dealing with a religious question, do you seriously contend that if this Church in. Wales was doing a great religious work in an excellent manner, as we say it is, you would attempt to destroy that religious work, because the Church, like all Christianity, has in one sense an alien origin.
The last argument strikes me as having less in it than any other argument of the Home Secretary. I do not want to miss any of his arguments. I do not want it to be said that we could not answer his arguments, or that we assented to them. The next argument is that the Church in Wales, and the rights of the Church in Wales, in some way interfere with the right of Welshmen to develop their religious life in their own way. That is an absolute fallacy directly you come to analyse what is meant by it. The fact of the existence of the Church in Wales does not prevent the development of its religious life for any -Welshman, in any direction which he finds best, for his spiritual and moral welfare. He has absolute freedom, and he can do as he likes, and, so far as the Church is concerned, it need not influence him either one way or the other. What is meant by an allegation of this kind? Of course, if it could be shown that religious development in Wales had been retarded and put back by the action of the Church, I agree that some case, at any rate, could be made on behalf of Welsh feeling and Welsh nationality, but exactly the contrary is the case. We have been told again and again 158 that in no part of the United Kingdom has there been the same amount of religious development in recent years as there has been in the Principality of Wales. So far from it being true that the Church in Wales has retarded religious development, or has interfered with the liberty of every Welshman to carry out his own spiritual life in whatever manner he desires, every test and every evidence shows that with what you call the friction and what I call the co-operation of Nonconformists and the. Church in Wales, you have at present a. religious development which is said to be greater than that of any other part of the United Kingdom. Under these circumstances, what becomes of the argument? It is not suggested that the Church has stood in the way of religious development in Wales. It cannot be alleged that it interferes with the freedom of any Welshman to develop his religious life in the way he thinks best. Under these circumstances what harm is the Church doing? It would be just as logical for a Churchman to say he wanted to destroy, for instance, the Calvinistic Methodists and to cripple their work in Wales. That is not my view. I believe in variety of expression as regards religious life and religious development. I want to encourage all forms, and I would not seek to cripple or break up the organisation of any. It is, in my opinion, in that way alone in the aggregate that you can get the greatest religious development in any nation or in any people. Directly you get the antagonism which this Bill would stir up, directly you get the idea of persecution, directly you get the idea of religious intolerance and bigotry, it is in these circumstances that you get interference with the true religious spirit, and it is for that reason more than any other that I am, opposed to this, what I call, intolerant and bigoted Bill.
I want to say a few words in regard to, what the Bill does. I hope I have dealt succinctly and thoroughly with all the arguments on which the Home Secretary based his reason why the Bill should go forward. I wish to recall the attention of the House to what the Bill is. Do not let us use phrases and terms, and do not let us wrap up realities under vague expressions. Let us see what is really being done. The worst feature of this matter—and with respect to this no question can b raised—is that the Bill attempts to dismember by State coercion a religious community against the passionate and 159 practically unanimous protest of all its members. Let me apply that to any Nonconformist community in any part of the country. Would any Nonconformist community, as regards its own religious life, allow the breaking up and the dismemberment of the community without using every force at their command to prevent a reactionary thing of that kind being done? Since the Toleration Act of William and Mary there has never been a reactionary proposal of this kind passed into law. Just conceive what you mean by it. You are breaking up the organisation of a religious community which is doing its work in an admirable manner at the present moment and under present conditions. Can that be to the advantage of the religious life of this country? If you were to apply the same principle in terms to the various Nonconformist religious communities, if you sought to break up their organisations and to cripple their work, it appears to me that you would do the worst you possibly could as to the religious life in our nation. After all, can anyone wonder that we are passionately opposed to a proposal of that kind? What right has the State to dismember a religious community against the passionate resistance of practically every member? Of course, you may say that Parliament or the Government has a right to interfere in religious development in that direction. I deny it. I deny that it has the right to dismember our Church, or any of the Nonconformist communities, who are carrying on their work both in England and Wales. I want this point of view to be thoroughly thought out. It is no good talking about nationalities, majorities, or an alien' Church unless you are prepared to make the proposition that if you find a Church -with which you do not agree in regard to religious expression and you can get a party majority on one side or the other, you are justified in breaking up its organisation and crippling it. The only argument ever put forward as regards dismemberment was put forward in the previous Session, thatnecessity always justifies such action. It is no defence of injustice to say that injustice is necessary. If you cannot carry out a measure without injustice, why the measure stands condemned. I do not believe that any more reactionary proposition could be made than that the Government by Government action should interfere with the organisation of a religious community and break it up 160 against the protest of its members. I think that is true generally, but surely it is especially true here. Our Church organisation is older than the organisation of this House. It comes down from the time of Henry II. What reason is there why you should attack and dismember an organisation of this kind? If you were to attempt to Disestablish and Disendow the whole Church, this argument would not arise. It is in this respect. I think, that the Bishop of St. David's is justified in referring to this as a mean and petty Bill. It is mean and petty in respect that you are afraid to attack the Church as a whole, and that you select for dismemberment one of its poorest and weakest parts. I cannot see what justification there is for dismemberment under these conditions. There are arguments for Disestablishment and Disendowment, but what arguments are there for dismemberment. I will ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury these two questions. Since the Toleration Act can he show any instance of the compulsory dismemberment of a Church similar to that proposed in this Bill? The second question is, is he prepared to support the reactionary idea that the Government by government coercion is entitled to break up against the passionate protest of its members the organisation of a great religious community? In answering these questions I will ask him to consider the Church on the same footing as any other religious community. I draw no distinction in this respect between the two, although I do say strongly and firmly that we have a condition of antiquity which renders it peculiarly distasteful to exclude the Welsh bishops and the representatives of the Welsh clergy from the ancient Convocation which has come down from the earliest times as the representation of the clergy in this country. On the question of Disestablishment let me say this. I have always said from the outset that I consider Disestablishment more important than Disendowment. I know there are some people who take the other view. There are some people who think that it is less popular to oppose Disestablishment than to oppose Disendowment. I do not know in a matter of this kind whether the one action or the other is more or less objectionable. I say you could have no greater misfortune in this country than the Disestablishment of our ancient and honoured Church.
I am not going to say that we cannot have religious life without Establishment 161 I think I may say that that would be a monstrous proposition, and, at any rate, it is a proposition to which I will never be a party. What I do say is that it is of the greatest importance to have national recognition of religion in our temporal life and duties. What does national recognition mean? It means that the Church has undertaken the great national duty so far as its funds will allow her, to provide Christian ministrations and to bring them within the reach of every citizen of this country. That is a great duty of national service. It is the greatest duty of national service you can possibly think of. What cause is there that this national recognition of religion as I have defined it should be pushed on one side on any theoretical grounds as regards aliens or majorities or nationality. It is quite outside any consideration of the kind. I know that the argument against Disestablishment has been put on some suggestion of inequality: I give the answer which was given by the Bishop of Peterborough when he was speaking upon the Irish Bill in the House of Lords. If I thought there was any inequality in the sense of giving unfair privilege to my Church, I would not slip-port it. I deny that absolutely, but if it is right that you should have a national re-cognition of religion, you must have some form of Established Church. If any other Nonconformist body can do the work better than we can let them be put in our pisition. It is not the advantage of a Church; it is the carrying out of a great religious duty by the denomination which alone has the power to perform that duty. It is suggested by some of our opponents that it would be an advantage to us Churchmen to be Disestablished, because we should have greater freedom as regards our spiritual and religious life. If other communities are the best judges of what they want in this respect, so must -also Churchmen be the best judges of what they want as to regards their views and ideas upon a matter of this kind.
There is no inconsistency whatever between the national recognition of religion and complete spiritual independence. It has been formulated and worked out already practically in Scotland. It is a matter for reform, and not a matter for destruction. Although the Under. Secretary to the Treasury may find here and there a Churchman who is not in agreement with what I say, the answer to that at the representative council, there was a minority of only two, Mr.' Lath- 162 bury and a certain bishop, for whom I have a great respect, and whom I need not name. In the House of Layman a representative body of which I have the honour to be chairman, there was a minority of only one. You always get cranks. You always get a minority of one. In fact if you do not, one suspects that there is too great a unanimity. But by every test you like to take, as to every constituted body which is entitled to express an opinion upon a point of this kind, they are practically unanimous against the whole of this Bill, Dismemberment, Disestablishment, and Disendowment. I was astonished to hear what was said by the Home Secretary this afternoon on the question of Disendowment. He based his claim for Disendowment on the origin of tithe, and said that because tithe had what he called a national origin, therefore he was justified in taking it for national purposes. I join issue with that entirely. He never draws a distinction, which is essential for understanding this matter, between general tithe and parochial tithe. There is no case whatever where parochial tithe was ever even suggested to have been subject to tripartite or quadrupartite division. I deny, of course, as regards general tithe, but general tithe is quite distinct from parochial which came into operation and became formulated in the twelfth century. The Home Secretary never this afternoon referred to the authorities on the origin in Wales. Has he ever looked, for instance, into Giraldus Cambrensis?
Let me challenge him in this respect. I do not want to go into detail in a matter of this kind, but I do want to show that it is a sham and a delusion to suggest that tithe in Wales ever had a national origin as distinct from a religious one. The first notice of tithe which he gives was as long ago as the year 429. I will now read what he says about tithe in the year 1172. He wrote many volumes, fourteen, I think, in somewhat complicated Latin, and referring to Welsh tithes, he said: —It is wonderful how some people possessed by that nefarious desire for forbidden fruit which they have inherited from their first: parents (sicut primi parentes fructum arboris) strive to wrongfully appropriate to their own perpetual damnation that tithe of the Lord which has been reserved as a recognition of the Divine Power, and for the sustenation of His ministers.That was written by a man who is the greatest authority upon these topics as regards the condition of tithe in the Diocese of St. Asaph in 1172. It confirms what I have stated More than once, that there is no difference between the origin of tithe in Wales and in other parts of the 163 United Kingdom. In the next place, tithe was given for religious purposes and for religious purposes only from the start. There is a rather curious commentary upon this. The Flemings, that is the English population in Pembrokeshire, about this time refused to pay tithe—that I suppose is the foreign or alien element—and the Welsh people rose against this, and invaded the Fleming settlement at that time in Pembrokeshire, in order to compel them to pay tithe, which, according to the Welsh views, had to be paid to the See of St. David. I cannot imagine how anyone looking back on the question of the origin of tithe can come to any other conclusion than that it was given for religious purposes and religious purposes only. I join issue on two other points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman. If he supposes that tithe was tripartite or quadrupartite, of course this Bill is wholly unjust. You do not propose a tripartite division of the tithe, in which two-thirds goes to religious purposes only. You propose its confiscation altogether, and although I wholly deny that there is any evidence whatever of any tripartite division of the parochial tithe of Wales, yet if it were true it is wholly inconsistent with this unjust view, which does not reserve two-thirds for religious purposes, but confiscates it altogether.
One other matter. I understand the Home Secretary's view is that there was a break in the continuity of the Church at the Period of the Reformation. I take the opposite view. But let us assume that to be the view, what then becomes of his historical disquisition on the origin of tithe in earlier days? If tithe starts from the period of the Reformation, we can put on one side these disquisitions as to the historical origin of tithe, on which the Home Secretary bases his argument, the only argument he put forward, as to the historical origin of tithe. As regards the present title, if it be true that the tithe comes from the Reformation, then the whole of the historical research as regards the national origin of tithe has no bearing or relevance whatever as regards Disendcwment as proposed in this Bill. After all, are we driven to historical disquisition as to the origin of tithe on a matter of this kind? I say, certainly not. What is the position? Tithe has been enjoyed, at least by prescriptive right, for three hundred years. Tithe is in the nature of trust funds, applicable, no doubt, to public purposes, but 164 public purposes of a religious character. It is admitted as regards those trust funds that there has been no misappropriation and no wrong user at all. We come up against this principle: Take those religious trust funds, enjoyed for three hundred years, you admit that they have been properly used and appropriated up to the present moment, and what possible justification have you for seeking to confiscate them? If you allow a principle of that kind, there is no title to property in this country which would hold good at all. I say without any hesitation that there is not a title in this country so strong as that which the Church has to its tithe at the present day. Just conceive for a moment what the whole position is. What is the use of having trust funds? What is the meaning of trust funds? The meaning is that they are not to be misused, squandered or wasted, or altered at the whim or caprice of some ephemeral opinion, which may last for a short time. That is the whole meaning of the trust fund principle. If you once admit the idea that a trust fund for religious purposes may be confiscated because the majority desires it, although they are 133ing properly used for religious purposes, I say again that no title in the country could stand criticism of that kind.
How about the lay impropriator? The only difference between his tithe and the tithe enjoyed by the Church is, as regards the lay impropriator, that he has no duty to perform, while as regards the Church, not only has she duties to perform, but you take away the funds which she urgently needs. I cannot understand how the Home Secretary can formulate his case against the Endowments of the Church in Wales. So far as the historical origin of the tithe is concerned, I am sure he is inaccurate, or, at any rate, we cannot decide these matters where there is so grave doubt. As regards the legal aspect of the question, is there any justification for saying that a chance majority can undo all that our ancestors have done by giving trust funds either for charitable or religious purposes. Then there is the question of glebes. I assume that by this time the Home Secretary is satisfied that the title of the glebe owner for religious purposes cannot be questioned. We have had the idea of frankalmoigne which dedicates the property to religious purposes only. Therefore whether as regards tithe or glebe, whether we regard the origin or 165 prescriptive right there is no justification except the general notion that "We would like to secularise those funds when we get the opportunity, and we have got it." It simply means, "I will, if I can, and I can, because I have got a majority behind me at present." On those lines none of the great traditional institutions on which we built up our national character could be safe from the blighting influence of a passing party majority. I do not care whether it is a question of Church or other religious community, or some of the great institutions with which trust funds have been dedicated. I lay down this proposition that before you can touch them you must show that those in whose trust they are, either cannot carry out the original purpose or are misappropriating the funds in some wrong way. If you once leave that and make the question dependent on the mere will of a passing majority, then you have no security as regards our great traditional institutions in this country.
We have of course urged the opinion very strongly as regards the secularisation of these funds I do not myself regard it as of so much importance even if the Home Secretary could show that there is a Parliamentary origin 300 years ago. Trust funds properly used for religious purposes from that day to this—that would be sufficient for my purpose. How about the Presbyterians in Ulster who got a Parliamentary title which gives them £30,000 per year for sustentation purposes, and how about the terms of this Bill? Why, the only Parliamentary funds which the Church enjoys are not touched at all by this Bill. I refer to the grants from the Queen Anne's Bounty and to the, others under the Act. I say this whole idea of Parliamentary origin is nothing but a sham and a mockery, and is really irrelevant and unimportant when we consider the prescriptive right. I want to say this in conclusion: We intend to fight this Bill to the bitter end. We have plenty of courage, and we will have no compromise. I think it is a monstrous outrage to apply the Parliament Act to a Bill of this category. It is an outrage which we will make heard, or at any rate, voiced at many meetings in this country. I want to know exactly, and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) asked the same question: What sort of evidence do you want that upon this point opinion in England and Wales is against 166 you? Have you not got sufficient? What do you want 7 But, after all, we are at the present moment dealing with measures in this House not desired by a majority, but by a coalition of minorities. It is a log-rolling combination, and nothing more. The Home Rulers do not care about the Church in Wales, but the support of the Nationalists will be reciprocated by the support of the Welsh Members on Home Rule. I do not believe there is any evidence whatever that popular opinion in the true sense of the term is in favour of this Bill, and those who talk about Irish nationality should remember that an important part of that nationality consists of Churchmen who are bitterly opposed to the Bill which the Government are now proposing.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Let me recognise fully, as I am always glad to recognise when I have the opportunity, both in this House and in the ecclesiastical assemblies outside, the fairness and sincerity of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Sir A. Cripps), and his capacity, although he feels deeply upon this subject, of making a speech free from personal attacks against his political enemies. If I am unable to deal at length with the questions he has addressed to me, I am afraid I must plead the exigencies of time, as I have to deal with other questions which have been put in the course of the Debate to this bench. May I say also with what regret most private Members in this House find that whenever there are unusual displays of bitterness and unusual throwing of base and mean motives from that side of the House to this, it, is always when we come to discuss religious questions. I listened to all the utterances in the Home Rule Debate and to all the eloquence of other Debates in which party opinion has been divided, but in no Debate have I heard such language accusing us of spite, malice, deliberate deception, mendacity, and including all Nonconformists and all Liberal Churchmen who support Disestablishment, in an indictment against practically the whole people of Wales. I wonder whether that method really does any good when Members are pretending to speak in a cause associated with the Christian Church. May I say that even my enjoyment—and I did enjoy it—of the sincere and sustained eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, in a speech which is certainly one of the 167 most remarkable I have ever heard in this House, was largely impaired by an attack which I think most people felt was a bitter, unfair, and unnecessary attack, when he was dealing with a high question in such a high fashion, on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
I confess with all sincerity—and I appeal to the House in all sincerity upon this question—that it is difficult to deal in adequate fashion with the question at issue. I never so much hate making a speech as when it is on such a subject as this, in which religious and political questions are involved. The line between what is appropriate to a political Assembly like this, and what is not, is very hard to draw. I was surprised last year when I spoke on this subject that I had given offence to a number of persons to whom I had no intention of giving offence. I can only hope that I may be allowed to put the position of a Liberal Churchman on this matter without attacking any single sacred conviction of any single Member of this House. That position has been put with magnificent eloquence by the Bishop of Oxford in the House of Lords, but I do not think it has been very largely put in this House. I think the hon. Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps) too readily assumes that this is a fight between Church and Dissent, and that no Liberal Churchmen are prepared to give up privilege and emolument for the sake of freedom. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) showed in one sentence the impossibility of intellectual agreement between those who are sincere on both sides of the House. He said that the question whether Wales as a nation exists does not arise in this controversy. If Wales as a nation did not exist, if Wales were Cornwall, Devonshire, or Cambridge, this Bill would not be in existence, and we should not be engaged in what would be a purely academic Debate on the desirability of Disestablishment and Disendowmcnt. Does such a nation as Wales exist? I am not going into proofs or expressions of what a nation is. But I regard anyone who makes that statement as exactly in the position of a man who is entirely colour-blind, who says that red is green because he sees it so, and proceeds on that assumption without any possibility of conversion. Not only does Wales exist as a nation in every form of self-conscious entity, ex- 168 pression, historic evolution, and pride, but it exists above all as a nation in connection with religious matters. If there is one thing more certain than anything else, it is that you can find no deeper division in the religious life of Christendom than that between the religion, ethos, and temper appropriate to the people of England, and the religion, ethos and temper appropriate to the people of Wales. I can conceive that, even more than the fact that the Church of Wales in England is an alien Church may be a reason why she utterly fails in the adhesion of the vast majority of the people of Great Britain.
The Noble Lord challenged me to go down to Bethnal Green and fight an election upon this question. Bethnal Green at all events is a democratic electorate, and returned me when the Parliament Act was being passed, knowing fully what the Parliament Act carried with it. I would offer this challenge to the Noble Lord if he were here: Let the Noble Lord who, in his own words, represents "the expiring flame of democratic tradition"—in a typical democratic constituency—let him I say go to any Welsh constituency, Liberal or Tory—let him exchange with the hon. Member for Denbigh Boroughs—and fight an election on this principle and on this principle alone, that Wales is not a nation. So sure as I stand here, so sure would his eloquence be confined for a time to spheres outside the House of Commons. Then I would like secondly to ask the Noble Lord a question on one other point. The Noble Lord outlined what he said was, of course, the policy of the Opposition, if this Bill passed, and if the Opposition were afterwards returned to power. It did not agree with the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's. I should like very much to know whether it agrees with the official opposition view when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition comes to speak. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's said this was a step which, if once taken, was irrevocable. The Noble Lord said, "Of course, we shall repeal the Bill, and we shall take taxes from the Exchequer in order to pay back to the clergy the money which they might have been deprived of through this Bill." Is that the official policy of the Opposition?
I have already said what I would do if I had the power. I 169 should certainly, if the people of this country showed that they were against the Government, return to the Church the money of which it had been robbed.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
If I may respectfully say so to the right hon. Gentleman and the Noble Lord, if such was proposed to the House there would not be much doubt as to what Welsh Nationality was!
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
The challenge offered us is this: It is offered to us for the moment not as persons concerned in Wales, but as persons concerned with looking on in this struggle, from England. "What conceivable gain to anyone can be done by a Bill which my right hon. Friend is asking us to read a Second Time?" It seems to me the gain is exactly this: "Do you desire money more than freedom, or do you desire freedom more than money?" I know that freedom is a thing that many men have no desire for. I have heard hon. Members below the Gangway say: "We do not want freedom; we are afraid of it." We have the statement from a man who is an active Churchman, and who says the Church of Wales is not bound hand and foot to the Church of England, which is in itself bound hand and foot to the State, so that it is quite unable to fulfil its proper function in the world! As the discussion has ranged over so much let. me deal in a word with Establishment, and also in a word with a charge made against me this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. You can talk as much as you like about the splendour of Establishment, about emoluments, great functions, coronation ceremonies, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman there are other ways of carrying out great coronation ceremonies than exclusively by the Established Church, and in this way Wales has set the example. What is to prevent them doing that after Disestablishment? I ant interested in a different Christianity from the feudel Christianity fixed by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford. The only thing I care about is that the Church, should have a living and vital influence upon the lives of the poor 170 and the working people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, suggested that I declared the Established Church was doing more for the poor than any other body. If he could remember something further of that congruity of mine, he would see that I stated that the greatest religious influences were those exercised on the lives of the poor by Churches which were not Established, and had not a farthing of Endowments—the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army; and if he read a little further into that work of mine, published twelve years ago, he would find, if the House will forgive me for reading a sentence or two, that I expressed my feelings on Disestablishment in these words. I said:—There appears scant reason to anticipate any signal awakening in corning years. She is bound with the grave clothes of a dead past: her formularies are embodied in antique phraseology; her organisation is strengthened to meeting the changed conditions of a newer age. She possesses no power of collective utterance, no organising body, no capacity of internal information. … Her alliance with the State seems to take the heart out of her prophetic function and damped the energies of her sacrifice. All they that pass by wag their heads and mourn at her conventionalities her respectabilities, her lack of discernment of the signs of the times.What I said then I say to-day. The only hope, as I see it, is that this Church becomes active and vital, and living, and that it once more resumes its freedom by abandoning the privileges of Establishment and some of the emoluments of Endowment, by showing that it can exist as a Church of the twentieth century, instead of being hopelessly bound up in the crabbed compartments of the articles of the sixteenth century, by living a life in which it can reduce its various forms, in which it can proclaim the truth as it sees it, and get that truth home into the minds of the masses of the people by somebody that has a right to speak for the people as a whole. We in this House are the laity of the Church of England and Wales by law established men of all religions and opinions. The hon. Member talked about the House of Laymen of Convocation, of which I was a member—that is a mere debating society. I was a member of the Laymen's House of Convocation: —
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
I was a member of the Laymen's House, over which the hon. and learned Member presides with such skill. The House of Laymen is a debating society, and nothing more. We are the 171 Church of England. Look at the position as it stands at the present time. We cannot change a formula; we cannot alter an item of ritual; we cannot deal with any kind of methods of devotion or any kind of variation which will make it more possible for sincere persons in this century to take service in the orders of the Church. I read the other day the correspondence between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Manchester, and I find the archbishop said:—After all, the question is, in my judgment, of archaeological rather than cogent practical importance. We ought surely to be able to say in the twentieth century what we do want and not merely to find some explanation of what other people said or wanted 250 or 350 years ago.Unless the Church is Disestablished the Archbishop of Canterbury and anybody who followed that advice and who did not agree with what the Court said was the custom 250 years ago, might be clapped into gaol. The whole House of Convocation, bishop and clergy, and the debating society as well, might lay down an ordinary question of ritual, and might declare that a clergyman under certain circumstances ought to wear a red gown. They might try to wear that red gown, but unless the red gown was worn in the first year of Edward VI., they would be violating the law and would have no power to alter it except by coming to this House. How anyone who cares for liberty and realises the changes the world is passing through, how anyone who understands the enormous divergence between the faith by which a man can live in this country and the faith by which he lived in the sixteenth century, is not prepared to abandon all these festivities and a part of the emoluments to enable the Church to be sincere; how any man can call himself a real servant of the Church, unless he is free to do that, I am at a, loss to understand.
§ Mr. MASTERMAN
Because the Noble Lord knows as well as I do that there is not the remotest chance of England or Wales, or any other country in which the religious life is divided into so many different ways allowing the emoluments once used for the religious life of all to be diverted into the religious life of what is confessedly a minority. There are two courses open. You may make up your Established Church of all creeds 172 which all people believe in. You can call that the Established Church of England, undenominational, or you can keep your Church with its tests, baptism, or communion, but then you must realise that you must be content with less than the emoluments given for the religious life of the whole nation. I am sorry to deal in any vehement way with a question upon which I feel so strongly. But let me pass away from that for the moment to the other great charge made against us in this matter, the charge of dismemberment of the Church. I confess that I have never heard more wild and wordy words about this change than I have heard this afternoon, coming down to the statement made by the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) that we are by this action turning out the Church in Wales from the Catholic and Universal Church. The Catholic and Universal Church is not the Anglican communion in England. It may not be exclusively the Anglican communion anywhere, but, in so far as the Anglican communion has the right to make that claim, it is not limited to the two Convocations of Canterbury, but extends to every other Church in communion with the Anglican Church, in Scotland, in Ireland, in America, and in all the British Dominions beyond the seas which in a very few years will outnumber in population the Established or Unestablished Church in England in whose reunion we delight. I think that the hon. Gentleman and myself both voted at the Pan-Anglican Congress at the Albert Hall. What is there in this Bill to prevent the Anglican Church in Wales remaining in communion and with the same creeds as these other Anglican Churches are in communion with the Anglican Church in England? Surely, if there is any= thing the Church of Wales should ask it is this: We object to your taking away our Endowment, we object to Disendowment, but, if you do take away our Endowments and Disestablish us, for Heaven's sake give us the opportunity of becoming the National Church in Wales! Why should the Welsh Church, which existed as a Christian communion long before Canterbury was anything but a heathen shrine, always be looking to the last to Canterbury and not looking round among its own people, calling in that national characteristics, adjusting its system to national desires, and making itself, as I believe it might make itself when the history of its immediate past is forgotten, a potent 173 influence in the religious life of Wales? It would have to cast away much that is useless and much that is unbelief; it would have to adapt its religious ceremonies, its ritual, its services, and its devotions to a nation which desires these things in quite a different fashion to the dignified, quiet, unemotional ritual of the English Church.
I should have thought that if there were one thing needed at this present time it was a statesman in the Church of Wales who would realise that anger and continual opposition is produced by Establishment, and a feeling of bitterness in the national life is occasioned by a continued and persistent adherence to Endowments which certainly the majority of the nation think it has no right to, and who would realise that those things alone make the continuance of the present position impossible. It is for the Church adapting itself to the life and civilisation of Wales—not necessarily seeking adherents and proselytes from other Christian communities, but joining with other Christian communities—to face that great problem which, though less established in Wales, is creeping over every nation in Europe—the problem of a purely material and secular civilisation—and to attack it in that manner and to win people back to Christianity in a method which might be regarded as something of a wonder of the world. Instead of that, all we get is the continual repetition of the statement that anger and ill-feeling and bitterness will remain and that boycotting and a bitter determination not to deal with Nonconformists, what will be the result of a Bill which is desired by no one except my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? I sometimes wonder, and I have been thinking of it many times during the last?few days, why hon. Gentlemen opposite so often look only to what the result will be if a Bill is passed, and never look to the result if a Bill fails. Do they think if this Bill were withdrawn to-night, the question of religious equality in Wales would be settled? Are they not aware that this question has been an ulcer and a running sore in Wales for more than a generation, turning the attention of both Nonconformists and Churchmen alike to a controversy of which they would gladly be rid, and crippling and handicapping them in every way, in any action they may take towards the religious and social amelioration of their country. If, in the unlikely event of a General Election coming before this Bill passes, and if in 174 the more unlikely event of hon. Members opposite being returned to power, if you could stop every letter and telegram from Wales, and say, "We do not want to hear any more—we have settled the religious question," you would not even have commenced it; you would have to break the spirit of a nation, and that a nation which history has shown is not easily broken before you destroy the unappeasable demand of the people of Wales for religious equality. [An Hox. MEMBER: "For other people's money."]
I have only one word more to say, and I say it in answer to the challenge definitely thrown out to the House by the Noble Lord. He says it is not a question of expediency: it is a question of right and wrong. I agree with him that nine times out of ten the questions we have to deal with in this House are questions of expediency, and rightly in a political sense I agree with him also that this is a question of right and wrong. It is wrong to force the continuance of the Establishment of the Church of England upon the people of Wales, when Wales by an overwhelming majority refuses to recognise that Church as the Church of its own nation. It is wrong to limit the ancient endowments designed for the life of the whole nation and charged on the very soil of Wales to a small minority instead of providing that a proportion at least shall go to work which the whole nation—Churchmen and Nonconformists alike—can join in. It is wrong to refuse to give to one of the four nations of the United Kingdom that equality which everyone in this House knows would be the first thing to be carried if that nation had a representative assembly of its own. Here is a little people and a loyal people. It is wrong to take advantage of her littleness and to strain their loyalty by rejecting an appeal to justice proposed in every constitutional fashion from Parliament to Parliament., through decade after decade and by generation after generation. And it is because it is wrong and not right that all your eloquence and all your invective, your processions, and your demonstrations will fail, and this Bill will become the law of the land.
§ Question put, and agreed to. Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Tuesday).