§ Postponed proceeding resumed. Amendment to Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.1722
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
On the interruption of business I was dealing with this statement of the Home Secretary:—There is no single occasion on which, if alt the representatives from Ireland had been absent from this House, any single important provision of the Bill during its progress…I pointed out to him that that was quite an inaccurate statement. I gave him three instances why it was not true, and I propose 1723 to quote one more, which I hope he will admit is equally contrary to the fact. An Amendment to this Bill was moved on the 10th January, 1913, to safeguard the interests of curates, and there was a majority outside the Members from Ireland of 23 in favour of the Amendment and against the Government. That makes four distinct instances in which the Home Secretary's statement was quite inaccurate; and if I need give him any greater proof I could refer to the communication made by the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool in the "Winnipeg Free Press," which has been already quoted to-night. The fact is that in order to keep up this bargain between the Government and hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway, this Bill is being pressed on for the purpose of the Home Rule Bill. In my opinion it is being pressed in this way in order to endeavour to justify the Parliament Act, and the Suggestion stage is being omitted under that Act for fear that the Irish vote would not be sufficient to counteract the awkward situations for the Government which may ensue. There have been various statements made during these Debates by hon. Members from Wales. I see the hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs is in his place. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to some remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley in the Debate the other night, and he stated that he was very glad that one thing had resulted from the discussion on the Financial Resolution, and that was that he had got an admission from my hon. and gallant Friend that if this Bill passed no church in Wales would be closed. I interrupted him at the time and pointed out that my hon. and gallant Friend said he hoped no church would be closed, and that is a very different thing, indeed.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
I remember the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley saying in this House, about eighteen months ago, that he spoke with the authority of the bishops, that no Christian service of the Church in Wales would be found to be affected.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I am afraid I have not looked up what was said before, but I very much doubt whether the bishops would go so far as that. I was certainly present, however, when my hon. and gallant Friend made the observation that he 1724 hoped no church would be closed in Wales, and when the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen Boroughs said the hon. Member for Dudley stated that "no church in Wales would be closed," I immediately interrupted him and said, "he hoped" no church would be closed. As far as I can gather, it has been said that the Welsh Church would lose no religious influence from being Disestablished; but if the hon. Member asks me if I really think and believe that, I would tell him that I do not. I think it will lose considerable influence. I think some churches run great risk of being closed, and I draw my conclusion from what has actually occurred in Ireland. If the hon. Member has been over in Ireland he may have learned that under the Irish Act a large number of churches have fallen out of repair and have been closed. There have been fewer clergy, and in one case, I believe, even something like eleven parishes have been amalgamated under one clergyman. I see no reason to suppose that the effect of this Bill in Wales will not be much the same. Though I hope, earnestly hope, that churches will not be closed, I cannot help but fear and believe that some of them probably will. We are not, of course, seeking merely to defend our property as such. We feel much more anxious, because if we lose so many Endowments we shall not, as a matter of practical common sense, be able to carry on the good work that the Church is endeavouring to do in Wales. If that required proof, I would refer to some interesting observations made a year or so ago at a meeting of the South Wales District Methodist Association, at which the Rev. J. Morgan Jones, of Cardiff, said that—If they could not pay their ministers proper salaries they would not be able to retain their best men, and would have to put up with secondary preachers. IT they wanted to retain the cream of their ministers they must be prepared to give them a living wage.Dr. Clifford said at the same meeting—The first thing of all was efficiency. Why was it so many churches in towns were being turned into cinematograph shows. And not always because the lease was run out, but because the ministry could not be maintained in a difficult down-town church.That is precisely the position in which probably we shall find ourselves in Wales, and that is as clear evidence as I think I could give to show that it is recognised among all hands, and among all denominations, that if you deprive any denomination of its Endowments to that extent, its work is crippled and its good influences restrained. Then we had, bearing on this 1725 matter of voluntary subscription, and maintaining the Endowments of the Church, or of chapels, the hon. Member for South Carnarvonshire (Mr. Ellis Davies) making this remarkable statement this evening. As I understood him, he said that it was a remarkable thing, but that no landowner or quarry-owner in Wales was a supporter of Nonconformity.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
The statement I made, and which I repeat, is, neither in the county of Carnarvon or Merionethshire was there a prominent land-owner who was not associated with the Church.
§ Mr. EVELYN CECIL
I think the hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. Haydn Jones) might be described as a quarry owner, and a landowner, and I think there is no doubt ho is a supporter of Nonconformity. I confess I fancied that the hon. Member's statement had a somewhat wider application, and that he intended it to apply to the whole of Wales, but even limited as it is, the instance I have given is a contradiction of his statement. Even if it were extended further, I should have been very much disposed to think there were other hon. Members from Wales, such as the hon. Members for Montgomeryshire (Mr. D. Davies), West Denbighshire (Sir J. H. Roberts), who is to be one of the Commissioners, and East Denbighshire (Mr. John), to say nothing of the right hon. Member for Swansea Town (Sir A. Mond), who may, I think, be relied upon to subscribe and sup-poet Nonconformity in Wales. Some hon. Members talk with a note of sarcasm of a "State-paid Church." I think some objection might be taken to that phrase, and if you bear in mind the individualist history of the Church, its initiative in educational progress, its centuries of ministrations to the poor, I consider it would be just as true to say you have a Church-made and Church-paid State as to say that you have a State-made and State-paid Church.
After all, the real issue of this Bill is a religious issue. If the Government insist upon taking away the Endowments of the Church, I can only say we on this side shall never rest satisfied until the money is restored. It is not such a very difficult thing to do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was good enough to give us £400 per year 1726 by a stroke of the pen in a couple of nights by Resolutions of this House. We might be glad to take that as a precedent for restoring money to the Church in Wales. And, mind, the Church itself seeks no party and no politics, if it is left alone. I note the sneer from an hon. Member. I am speaking with absolute genuineness and with absolute conviction, and I repeat that the Church to which I belong certainly desires to espouse no party and no politics if it were only left alone. It strives to use its influence and opportunities, just like other denominations, for the national welfare. This Bill will remove from many a parish the spiritual helper, the friend in need, the unfailing sympathiser, whose loss perhaps will only be really felt when he is gone. This Bill treads in the footsteps of that unfortunate measure in France some years ago, which confiscated religious property there. I have not heard since from any impartial observer that any advantage has come to France in consequence, or that any advantage is likely to come to France in future. When the religious minister of those parishes in Wales disappears, where his influences, have been unfelt and almost unseen, but are there nevertheless, secularism, infidelity, agnosticism, will step into his place. I can only add that we, whose convictions in this matter are very, very deep, once more implore the Government to hold their hand before an immeasurable evil, with far-reaching consequences, is forced, not upon Wales only, but upon the community as a whole.
§ Sir WALTER ESSEX
In listening to this Debate and the Debates on the same measure which have gone on in this House for several Sessions past, and taking a survey of the matters on which the battle has been waged, one could not help noticing that to a large extent we have won from the supporters of the Church the acknowledgment that Disestablishment-itself cannot any longer be as sturdily defended as at first seemed likely, and that they are choosing, as a stouter position, and one more easily maintained, resistance to the Disendowment Clauses. I congratulate the House, unaffectedly and sincerely, also upon the change in the tone of the Debate, in that it has recognised that men in all quarters of the House are motived by a very real concern for religion as they understand it and individually feel it; and so, saving for now and then the sparking out of a note of passion here and there, we have heard from 1727 the other side more temperate references to the opinions we severally hold. Those of us who are defending this Bill assure hon. Members opposite, who are as stoutly opposing it, that ours is by no means an undertaking which fills us with pleasure—for this reason, if for none other: That for the present we are in opposition to men who we know full well in the majority of cases are as keenly intent upon religious progress in this old country of ours as we ourselves can hope to be. Reference has been made to the position of Nonconformity in this struggle. We must not for a moment let pass unchallenged the statement that this is a struggle between Church and dissent. That may be an aspect of it, but it is only a one-sided view. Hon. Members who are disposed to read that idea into the discussion will do us the justice to remember that Nonconformity—whether we find it in this country or in any of the various colonies of our far-flung Empire, is of necessity a standing embodied protest against the idea of the association of the secular power of the State with those more intimate relations between the individual and his Creator, as carried on and ministered to by the Church. For this reason Nonconformity, when it has been virile and healthy, has never ceased on behalf of true religion to protest against that association as being detrimental to it, as making against the quality, the goodness, and the efficiency of the Church, and as by no means making for its support and invigoration.
A challenge was thrown across the floor of the House to-night by a speaker whose contribution to the Debate was beautiful in tone, kindly in spirit, and wonderful in form—a challenge that to-day there were no disabilities that Nonconformists could urge as afflicting them in this country. We do not want to go back two or three centuries to find grounds to disprove that. Something has been said to-night about cemeteries. I know that my Church friends feel that the proposed alienation of the old parish graveyards is one of the bitterest provisions of the Bill. But do they not know that the same trouble is with us now in this country as in Wales? I reside in a London parish—and I use it as an illustration of what has gone on in Wales and all over the country. We put up out of municipal funds from £27,000 to £30,000 for the establishment of a parish cemetery. To-day there 1728 has been in the consecrated portion of that cemetery a virtual addition of a number of acres to the churchyard of the rector, which years before was closed under the Intra-mural Burials Act passed by this House, and but for the fact that the rector, long since passed from us, was a man who saw the fairness of our claim, the fees still drawn by his successor for that churchyard, which the parish itself had provided, would have been greater than they are to-day. Shall I need—I hope I do not speak unkindly or uncharitably—to call the attention of the House to what this country has suffered from the action of the Church in matters of education? We Nonconformists, at any rate, have suffered. [An HON. MEMBER: "Gained!"] We shall probably differ—but know that to-day we have not that national system of education we ought to have because the Church has stood between us and the attainment of that high ideal. My hon. Friend, of course, would remind me of the work done by Bell, and the National Society in thousands of villages of our country. I would like to point out to him the work of the predecessor of Bell—while in no sense disparaging the work done by the organisation I have mentioned, and which was first formed under Bell. The Church has fought us steadily, not merely in the schools, but also in our universities. It has stood between the nationalising of these institutions, and to-day, while we ought not to know in the education of our children any difference between the Nonconformist and the Church child, we have brought down into their young minds this miserable squabble, so often to the detriment of their moral, spiritual, and intellectual training.
There are real troubles still amongst us, but I for one am not supporting this Bill merely because of these things. I believe they can be removed with little difficulty. I know that they well could be removed by the action of this House could we get it to look upon these matters with a broader and wider view. But I would follow the criticism of the hon. Member for Sheffield and say that we as Liberals are perfectly sincere, whether we be Nonconformists, Irish, Roman Catholics, or what not, when we claim that this Bill should be defended by us on the ground that it liberates the Church from the fetters in which to-day she sits. How often we have heard opponents of the Bill speak as did the hon. Gentleman the last 1729 speaker from Sheffield about its being probably desirable occasionally to modify the liturgy of the Church, to give the layman larger powers within the Church and its counsels, to permit him to choose his own pastor and spiritual leader, and in various ways to make the Church more popular and more democratic. It can do none of these things without coming to this secular assembly and submitting to the mortification of these things of the Church being dealt with by Roman Catholics, Jews, Agnostics, or whatever the hon. Members may be who sit here. Is that a position which the hon. Member is proud of? Yet it cannot be altered so long as the State bears any relation to the Church—as it does—which is not altogether without a parallel in the relation it bears to the Post Office! I say this again, that we all sincerely believe that in the liberation of the Church from State patronage and control we shall confer upon her a widening of her liberty, an increase of her power, and a development of her usefulness.
In the earlier Debates a brilliant Member of the Opposition, who has since been promoted to another place, called attention to the fact that the Endowment and Trust deeds of every Church, Nonconformist included, were dealt with by this House. He referred to the settlement effected in the union of the three Methodist bodies under the title of the United Methodist Church. He said that the powers sought by that Bill were powers that had reference both to its creed and to its trust funds, and he said, why should the State not interfere more and more with Nonconformists, as in this case they did? For once that brilliant and eminent lawyer was away from his brief. I can speak with some authority about this particular settlement, for I had a pretty active share in the work of forming it. And I think every man may be proud that he is privileged with the work of the consolidation of Christian Churches rather than in their segregation. What was done in that case was to enable these three Churches to join in one common fund, the funds which had been and were their property as separate entities. And with regard to control by this House of these funds, this House, or the other, had no more right to interfere with these funds than with any other trust. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I recommend hon. Gentlemen who cheer that to cheer when I have finished—because the 1730 whole of these funds were given not to these churches, because they were State institutions, not because they represented the State on any particular side, such as education, Poor Law, or what-not, but were given to these churches because they were, Methodist churches, for the maintenance of Methodist doctrine and teaching, and for that, and that alone, and the endeavour was to see that these funds were continued for that purpose. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am prepared to take the argument up on that line, and only that they should not by any means pass from that line of usefulness.
Before I leave that, the matter of creed, it was not noticed by the right hon. Gentleman that the Act gave special powers to the controlling body of that newly constituted Church to modify in its annual assemblies any item of its doctrine and teaching, as such progress with religious teaching and experience seemed to make necessary. That you cannot do now, and remember that the liberty you are offered will give you that, although you may not at present place any great value upon it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed when I referred to the diversion of Church funds from Church purposes. Do they not see the difference that we claim arises between funds which are being taken by this Bill and those which are left. There are three classes of funds—those specifically for religious work and which can only be used by the body now possessing them, and that will still possess them. Others that were given to social work, to use the common cant phrase. [An HON. MEMBER: "When were they given?"] I broke a lance with the Noble Lord oposite on that point before, and the arguments used on this side have not been met in defence of the funds used for these proposals. There is no Noncnformist Church to-day in precisely the same position. We were met by the statement on the other side—I heard nothing of it in this Debate—that we might have concurrent Endowment, and I believe that Motion was made in all sincerity and good faith. I believe that the Noble Lord once or twice spoke tentatively upon it, and seemed to suggest that it would receive his favour; but it does not lie within the power of this House to make concurrent Endowment. Nonconformity neither wants it, nor would take it. Nonconformity stands proudly upon self-sustenance and self-support. We are free Churches, and what you offer is not yours to give, nor ours to receive.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
We are not taking from the purposes for which we hold it was originally intended to be devoted, whatever has been given to the Church as the Church of England, or as for a section of the Christian Church, is proposed to be left, and if we have blundered we have blundered "with a good intent and in ignorance. Those are the lines this Bill has been framed upon. The hon. Member for Croydon referred in his speech to the scope of this Bill as being so restricted that we should not dare to apply it to India. There could be no comparison between the multiform religions of the Fast and the Church in Wales. What has Islam or Hinduism to do with this question? They stand on no parallel ground. The hon. Member said that our proposals in certain Clauses of the Bill practically constitute a new sect and separated the Church, making it run along lines which were repugnant. I listened to that remark very closely, and I wondered how far the hon. Member had the support of those who sat behind him. The intention of those Clauses is to make sure that the reserve funds and the fabric of the Church, cathedrals and what not, shall be securely held until the properly constituted authorities of the freed Church shall be able to assume the control and direction of them.
What else could we have done? Could we have left these funds drifting about in anybody's care without control or security? Who was to take all these glorious old fabrics of the parish churches and the other buildings? We had to set up some sort of transferring authority, and that we have done, and surely it is unkind criticism to say after our honest endeavours to secure the continuity of these funds to the Church to which we admit they rightly belong, we have done ill-service to those who are speaking on behalf of them. There has been a great deal of talk about severance of the spiritual communion of the Church. If that comes about, then it is your own fault. There is no intention or endeavour or wish on this side of the House to separate you from a spiritual communion with Canterbury, which you value so highly, and doubtless so properly, and if your Church Convocations or governing assemblies want to make that spiritual connection still more close and vital, that is 1732 your concern, and we have no right to intervene.
§ Mr. MALCOLM
Supposing the Welsh bishops were summoned to Convocation of Canterbury after the passing of this Bill, it would not be considered a Convocation.
§ Sir W. ESSEX
The hon. Member may get the better of me on Church law. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Home Secretary said it!"] All I want to point out is that any spiritual communion for the purpose of solidarity and work might be carried on. I do not doubt that if it found that the existing Church authority is unequal to making that communion complete and all-embracing, the ingenuity which is not wanting in the councils of the Church will be able to effect that small alteration. Reference has been made to-night U. Swansea, Cardiff, and South Wales generally. I would very respectfully commend the experiences of the Church of England in those great crowded districts as an example of what we desire for the whole of Wales. She there is less endowed than anywhere. Over great areas of South Wales she has practically no Endowments. She depends upon that which cannot be better assured, the love of her people. It has proved equal to the building up of magnificent structures for the worship of God and for the comfort of the numerous communicants assembled in those great cities; and I am perfectly sure the proud boast of Welshmen combatting this measure will be realised to the full, and that not a Church whose ministrations are necessary for the spirtual welfare of any town or village will be closed by this Act, but that there will be set up an enormous accretion of enthusiasm and passionate devotion which will have its results in the Church in an unmistakable manner in the very near future. You have driven by your hard and rigid methods and governmental polity many and many a man from your ranks into Nonconformity. These men will come back to you in large numbers when they find there is scope for their activity and their proper personal responsibility is accepted by your clergymen. They will come back to you in large numbers, for I for one do not hesitate to say here that I do not believe that this measure, when it is passed, is going to make for the strengthening of Nonconformity, for it will remove very largely the raison d'étre of Nonconformity in your district.
In short, the Church, while it may lose this beggarly sum—[HON. MEMBERS: 1733 "Oh!"] Yes, for a great wealthy community like yours it is not worth the fuss you are making about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then why take it?"] We are not taking it. Nonconformists are not taking it. They have built up a gigantic system of religious communities all over the length and breadth of this land from their own contributions, direct and particular. You will find that same fertilising flow of benevolence come to you and your work. For my part—though it is no immediate concern of this House; it lies very close to the affections of me and many a religious man who is not a member of the Church of England—I believe that the outcome of all this struggle will be for the Church of England in Wales a large and a new birth. We detest the necessity laid upon us—that was the meaning of the revolt in the Liberal party last year—to take from this Church what is not the peculiar property of the Church and to give it to secular purposes, and you have no right to ask that we should do other than we have done. The funds are not yours, and they are not ours as Nonconformists. They belong to the whole community. When you have recognised that small matter, and have assessed that beggarly figure, your hearts are big enough, and your purse is deep enough, to refertilise your Church with streams of money and with oceans of love to find her a greater blessing and a more glorious light to Wales than ever she has been.
§ Viscount WOLMER
We have just listened to a very interesting speech—a speech which I think is largely representative of a very important section of English Nonconformist opinion. If I may say so, it was a hesitating, apologetic defence of this Bill, and I am convinced that the hon. Member supports this Bill more because it represents the accomplishment of old ideals of his than because he really feels that it is going to do any good either to the nation or to any religious community within the nation. We also listened earlier in the afternoon to another speech of a very different character. It was a speech by the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. W. Jones). I confess when I listened to his speech I realised deeply the difference in temperament between Welshmen and Englishmen, and, if I may say so, that speech, eloquent and brilliant as it was, was very characteristic of the sort of speech we are accustomed to hear from Welsh Members on this Bill.
1734 The hon. Member devoted a, great part of his time and eloquence to descriptions of the evils and wrongs of the Church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He told harrowing stories how men were driven out of the Church, but I do not think all his facts were strictly accurate, for they were largely touched up by that imagination which the Prime Minister complained we on this side of the House did not possess. I should like to put this to the hon. Member. It is not enough that he should dwell on the wrongs of the past. He may say if he likes that Anglicanism is not a suitable religion for the people of Wales. If he can prove his point, and if it is admitted—which I am not prepared to admit—that Wales is a nation in the ordinary sense of the term, I think a certain case could be made out for Disestablishment, but in order to justify Dis-endowment you have to prove a great deal more than that. You have to prove either that the Church is not entitled to the Endowments or that she is misusing them, and that is the point where hon. Members for Wales stop short.
They tell us about the grievances of the past—about what was done two or three hundred years ago. I remember listening last year to a speech by the hon. Member for the Carmarthen Boroughs (Mr. L. Williams) in which he started with the Ven. Bede and stopped in the middle of the 18th century. That speech was on the Second Reading Debate, and to the hon. Member's mind it was obviously a sufficient excuse to justify the provisions of this Bill. Speaking as an Englishman, I do not know whether or not the Church in Wales is one which is suitable to Welshman. But this I know—that before the Royal Commission the entire Welsh Nonconformist denominations only claimed 42 per cent. of the population as their adherents. What is to become of the remaining 58 per cent.? If they are not within the pale of the Church what right have you to minimise the chances of their coming within the pale of the Church, and what good are you going to do by crippling the work of the Church? We want a great deal more than that to justify the provision of this Bill. If hon. Members can make good their claim to Disestablishment—I do not think they have succeeded in doing so—they have yet to justify the other parts of the Bill, and they have to prove that Disendowment must necessarily follow. The majority of the precedents are against them. They have the Irish 1735 precedent in their favour, but the precedents from Canada and Australia are against them. In those Colonies the Church has been Disestablished, but it has not been Disendowed, because it was proved that she was using her Endowments in the best possible manner. I maintain that that can be proved of the Church in Wales to-day.
§ Viscount WOLMER
The hon. Member is taking a good deal more than tithe; he is taking glebes and churchyards. When he gives glebes and churchyards back to the Church, I will consent to argue the question of tithe. Hon. Members have also to explain that Disestablishment necessarily means dismemberment. Again I can quote precedents against them there. In the West Indies you will find Disestablished and Established dioceses represented in the same synod. There is no earthly reason why the same thing should not prevail in these islands. The questions of Disendowment and dismemberment have nothing to do with the question of Disestablishment. Those are the points upon which we look to hon. Members opposite for justification. The hon. Member for the Eifion Division (Mr. Ellis Davies) did attempt to answer some of the arguments we have brought forward. He spoke a great deal about Church reform and Church self-government. He said that the Church's funds were not used for the best possible purposes, because they were in need of redistribution, and he said a Bill had been introduced to redistribute them, but it had not been passed. I do not think he is correct in that. I have looked up the annals on this question rather carefully, and I do not think a Bill of that kind has been introduced.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
What I said was that it was prepared, but I was not quite sure whether it had been introduced.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not think it has been introduced. That, however, is a minor point on the questions of Church reform and Church self-government. I ask the House who have been the greatest opponents of Church reform during the last generation? Why, members of the Liberation Society sitting opposite. What was the history of the Clergy Discipline Bill or the Benefices Bill? Both of these were introduced to deal with the crying 1736 needs of the Church. They were obstructed by the Members opposite, by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by Sir Samuel Evans. They were obstructed Clause after Clause, and line-after line. In regard to the Clergy Discipline Bill, your predecessor in the Chair, Sir, had to interrupt a speech of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and say he had never known such Parliamentary obstruction in the whole course of his experience. Hon. Members opposite are not entitled to cast that in the teeth of the Church. If their desire is that the Endowments of the Church should be better distributed, that the Church should be given self-government, and that her spiritual efficiency should be increased, and her power developed to the utmost possible limit, then an easy course is open to them. They have only to facilitate instead of to frustrate the various measures of Church reform which are brought forward. They have only to lend their great powers of eloquence and influence to further the self-government of the Church with the various reforms of Church matters which are brought forward without plundering her, or dismembering her as they are doing in this Bill. One thing that strikes me most forcibly in this Debate is the cynical manner in which a small House is passing this measure into law against the will of the people of this country and, I believe, against its own better feelings, too. The opinion in this country has been expressed against it more unspokenly than against any measure which has ever been before Parliament, and I believe, if there was a free vote taken in this House, there would be a clear majority against the Bill. It stinks in the nostrils of Members on both sides of the House, and they are inwardly ashamed that they are wasting the time of this great Parliament in depriving a Church, which is doing nothing but good, of £150,000 a year.
I ask the House why it is that the Government are proceeding in this fashion. When the Prime Minister introduced the Parliament Bill he invited, especially and personally, the electorate of the country during the passage of any great Bill through the House to protest in a constitutional manner against the Bill if they disapproved of it. How has that invitation been responded to in regard to this Bill? There was, in the first place, a petition of 500,000 adults from Wales, and no petition of equal magnitude has ever been 1737 raised in. Wales. Then there was a petition of 2,000,000 adults from England against it, and not a single petition worth mentioning in favour of it. I ask how the Prime Minister's challenge could have been better accepted that that. Finally, there was this petition of 100,000 Nonconformists, whose consciences were shocked at the Disendowment Clauses of the Bill. That is one way of protesting. But there is another way of protesting against the Bill being passed through Parliament. There is another Bill going through this House—the Home Rule Bill—and there is a section of public opinion which feels strongly against it, and they did not waste their time in petitions. They did not waste their time in organising meetings and petitions. They spent their money on rifles, and the people of Ulster, by arming themselves and preparing to resist the Bill by force, have been able to extract concessions from this Government which Welsh Churchmen have never been able to extract. Just compare the difference of the conduct of the Government on these two Bills. Of the two Bills, this Welsh Church Bill, I venture to say, has shocked the people of England more than the Home Rule Bill. It has aroused more resentment than any other Bill that has ever been known. Even the Home Rule Bill has not aroused the same degree of resentment as the Welsh Church Bill; but all the efforts of life-long Liberals, such as the Bean of Lincoln, the Bishop of St. Asaph, the hon. Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs (Mr. Gladstone), and the Nonconformists who have made protests, have been treated with supreme contempt by the Government. Why, even a Suggestion stage has been denied them. Even the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is shocked at the treatment the curates are going to receive under the Bill. The hon. Member for Glamorgan feels the same as he does on this question. The hon. Member for Morley feels that the glebe ought not to be alienated from the Church, and different sections of this House and different parts of the country which usually support the Government in every measure, raise their voices in protest against the inquitous meanness of the various parts of this Bill. The whole thing is waved aside by the Government without the slightest consideration and without affording us time to discuss it. But here they come to the Ulster Volunteers promising them an amending Bill. I say that the whole conduct of the Government is an incitement 1738 to violence. It proves that they will not listen to Debate, or consider the merits of the arguments. It proves that they are not prepared to listen to the justice of the case, and that they will yield to force and nothing else. I say that their conduct of this Bill proves absolutely the wisdom of the men of Ulster. They measured up the Prime Minister, and saw that the only argument, to which he would listen was force. I say that the studied contempt with which the Church, and Nonconformists, too, have been treated, absolutely justifies the attitude of Ulstermen. No argument has been too trifling and too absurd to justify hon. Members in their own minds in passing into law this Bill, which is going to cripple to a great extent the Church in Wales and the noble work in which she is engaged without benefiting any other religious community in the land. I think that the last insult which the Church has received is the names of the Commissioners who have been announced. Why, the hon. Member who is to reply in this House for the Commission is known to be one of the bitterest opponents of the Welsh Church—one of those promoters of this Bill who have insisted upon thier pound of flesh, and resisted every concession which the Government has given as depriving them of the spoil for which they were eagerly hoping. Why the appointment of such men to act in a judicial capacity, and from whom there is no appeal, shows the sort of mercy the Government is prepared to extend to the Church in Wales. They are claiming tithe on the ground that it is national property. They are claiming the tithe of the Church, but they are not going to touch the tithe of the lay impropriators which comes from the same origin.
It being Eleven of the clock the Debate stood adjourned; Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Tuesday).
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.