HC Deb 23 September 1915 vol 74 cc699-702

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 3rd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."


I wish to call the attention of the Government, and more particularly of the Home Secretary, to the recent action of the Welsh Commissioners, set up under the Welsh Church Act, 1914. I should like to ask first, when the Commission is going to be properly constituted? One of the Commissioners has resigned, and his place is not yet filled. In view of the fact that the second of the three Commissioners is, I understand, entirely engaged on other duties in connection with the War, I think it is throwing a burden of responsibility upon the Secretary and the remaining Commissioners, which they ought not to have. I think there should be a Commissioner appointed without delay who is a Member of this House, because the Commissioners are taking very strong action in the way of putting the Welsh Church Act into operation. I do not think the country realises how different the Welsh Church Act is in this, respect from the Government of Ireland Act. The Welsh Church Act is being pushed into operation with almost indecent haste, and the Commissioners are acting. The particular action I wish to bring up is the issue last week of certain figures, particulars, and answers to certain questions which have been circulated, not in a proper manner to the representatives of the Church in Wales, but to each single parish clergyman in Wales. This circular is a very lengthy document. The separate questions which will have to be answered total up to over 100, and I maintain that, at any rate, one part of this circular is wholly ultra vires. The Welsh Commissioners are preparing to put the Welsh Church Act into full force the day peace is declared—that is to say, they are preparing to take over the whole of the Endowments of the Church in Wales immediately the War comes to an end, and they are causing these inquiries to be made. But, in addition to asking about the Endowments, they have sent round to every incumbent a form to be filled up by 20th November this year, called Form D, Part II., which I maintain they have no right to circulate to incumbents, and asking questions, which are quite unnecessary, to bring the Act into operation.

They deal not with Endowments, but with voluntary contributions and emoluments, with which the Commissioners have really absolutely nothing to do, and with certain fees. To show you the sort of way in which this is being done, I notice:— Customary Fees. A. For Baptisms —as if it was not perfectly well known that fees are not charged for baptisms. They ask all about the Easter collections, referring to the Rubric at the end of the Communion office. But, more than that, they ask:— Any other receipts not included above —under the heading of Emoluments. It means every £5 note given by the villagers to the clergyman to take a holiday, and any offertories of that kind. If that were sent round to Nonconformist chapels in Wales there would be an outcry—

Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members not being present, the House was adjourned at Two minutes before Eleven o'clock, till Tuesday next, 28th September, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.