HC Deb 20 May 1914 vol 62 cc1937-8
58. Mr. HOGGE

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that under the Churches (Scotland) Act, 1905, the Free Church of Scotland claimed to have 160 full sanctioned charges and had churches and manses allocated to them for that number and funds for the equipment of the same; whether, in 1914, the Free Church had sixty-eight fewer congregations than in 1907, two years after the Union; that in 1914 the Free Church had thirty-two fewer congregations than in 1913; that the number of stations are increasing; that this is due to the fact that stations contribute nothing to the widows and orphan fund, while congregations must pay £7 annually; that there are one professor and three ministers fewer in 1914 than in 1913, and still eighty-one vacancies to be filled; and that the decrease in con- gregations has averaged nearly ten each year; whether his attention has been called to the fact that there is now a proposal to abandon the assembly and hold a synod instead; and whether, in view of all these circumstances, he will cause some investigation to be made into the administration of the money allocated to the Free Church by Parliament?


My hon. Friend asked a question on this subject on 12th August last year. Since then communications have passed with the authorities of the Free Church, and I understand that they dispute the statement contained in that question. The present question differs from the previous question, except as regards the first paragraph, to which the authorities of the Free Church say the answer is in the negative. I cannot reply as regards an inquiry until I have made-further investigation with regard to the-fresh statements made by my hon. Friend.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statistics given in this question, as those given in the question last August, are taken from the official figures supplied by the officials of the Free Church of Scotland?


I dare say that they are. I do not know. I do not follow these things very closely.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Free Church was in enormous difficulty at the time of the Separation Act, and is he also aware that it is eminently fitted for its work in the Highlands of Scotland and has as great a proportion of students attending its colleges as there are students attending the colleges of other Churches?


That is ground which I hesitate to tread.