HC Deb 11 August 1919 vol 119 cc1033-48

(1)Section eighteen of the Welsh Church Act, 3.914, shall have effect as if the representative body had signified by notice in writing to the Welsh Commissioners that they have adopted the scheme of commutation set forth in that Act, and in paragraph (b) of the said Section the expression "the existing interests of holders of ecclesiastical offices in the Church in Wales" means and shall be deemed always to have meant existing interests of persons who, at the time of the passing of the Welsh Church Act, 1914, were holders of ecclesiastical offices in the Church in Wales.

(2) There shall be paid, out of moneys provided by Parliament, to the Welsh Commissioners a sum of one million pounds to be applied by them towards the payment of the sum due to the representative body under the said scheme of commutation.

(3) The annual income derived from property mentioned in paragraph (4) of the Fourth Schedule to the Welsh Church Act. 1914, shall, as respects tithe rent-charge be taken to be the amount of the tithe rent-charge according to tile septennial average computed at the date of Disestablishment as if the Tithe Act, 1918, had not passed, after making the deductions specified in the said paragraph.

(4) The annual income derived from property mentioned in paragraph (2) of the Fifth Schedule to the Welsh Church Act, 1914, shall as respects tithe rent charge be the amount of tithe rent-charge computed in accordance with the Tithe Act, 1918, after making the deductions specified in the said paragraph.

(5) Where, on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirteen, any ecclesiastical office in the Church in Wales, was vacant the person appointed to hold that office next after that date shall, for the purposes of paragraph (1) of the Fourth Schedule to the Welsh Church Act, 1914, be treated as if he had been the holder of that office on that date.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "by way of loan repayable in the year 1950."

I apologise for this manuscript Amendment. It is a consequence of the position I took up on the Second Heading of this Bill. I do not propose to repeat now the arguments I then used against the user of public moneys in order to adjust an arrangement—I will not call it a deal— arrived at between the Welsh Members and the Church, and also, I presume, between the Welsh county councils and the Welsh Commissioners appointed under the Act of 1914. My protest is this: they have no right, in any arrangement they have come to, to use public moneys to adjust their differences. The matter should have been adjusted between the parties concerned with the property concerned. What has been done here is that the necessary agreement has been arrived at by using public moneys to bridge the difference. The Second Beading being passed it is not open to me to make a Motion to leave this out, because that would kill the Bill. A point I wish to make is that we are setting a very serious precedent, which will be followed in other Bills. Someone has asked me who is going to pay in this particular instance. I am not particularly concerned with that. I suppose the county councils will pay. I do not know. Whichever of them pays, that sum ought to come back at least in the year 1950 to the public Treasury.


As far as I understand it, my right hon. Friend's proposal is that in 1950 this money, which is given— whether by way of loan or Grant is the same thing—by the British taxpayer for the purpose of settling this old and bitter feud, is to be repaid by the Welsh county councils. I do not know whether it is intended to be repaid by the Church?


I do not mind which it is, so long as it is paid.

11.0 P.M.


I hope the Welsh Members will mark that. I hope, equally, that those who are interested in the Church will take mark of the suggestion also. If it is to be repaid, it is clearly to be repaid by the one or the other. I hope those who are settling this old dispute will mark that. What is the difference between my right hon. Friend any myself? My right hon. Friend would keep open this old dispute till the year 1950, the dispute being as between the county councils and the Welsh Church as to who was to be responsible eventually for repaying this £1,000,000. That is his position to keep open this old bitter feud. What is ours? We say here is a chance to settle everything, here is a chance to raise the money which, given to the Welsh Commissioners for the purpose of carrying out this Act, will enable an old outstanding feud to be laid forever. That is what we propose. If this money is not forthcoming what is the result? You will get all the alienated secularised property of the Welsh Church vesting in the Welsh Commissioners. The Welsh Church will have lost their property and will not. Been titled to be repaid by the Welsh Commissioners, and the Welsh Commissioners will not be in a position to pay and the Welsh county councils will not be in a position to pay. What will be the result—bitter fighting, the Welsh Church having lost their money and their debtors the Welsh Commissioners unable to pay, and probably always trouble. We come and say let the Exchequer advance the necessary money to enable this to be carried out and to enable the property to be alienated on the one hand and secularised, and paid for so far an existing interests are concerned on the other. In that way you will lay this feud and start people afresh in a happy and contented mood. If my right hon. Friend's Amendment is adopted, it means that the whole dispute will be kept open for the next forty years. It will take thirty years to pay off the loan, apart from this, which it is necessary to raise on the security provided. When that is finished then the dispute would go on until it was decided who was to find the money. I hope my right hon. Friend, having made his protest, which is perfectly right, will not press his Amendment and keep an old wound open and prevent the settlement of an old and bitter feud.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "them" ["applied by them"], to insert the words "in the first place so that having, regard to the-provisions of this Act the representative body may receive the value of the whole of the property not transferred to the representative body by Section eight of the Welsh Church Act beyond that due to the representative body under the scheme of commutation, and in the second."

The proposal here is to provide £1,000,000' in order, as the Home Secretary very fairly admitted, to relieve the county councils of certain obligations into which they entered under the Act of 1914, or-to make it easier for them to fulfil that obligation. I did not take part in the discussion on the last Amendment, and while I have no doubt there was a good deal of force in the observation of the Home Secretary, I wish to disclaim all responsibility for this particular method of dealing with the difficulty, and I can quite understand why some hon. Members feel a difficulty in accepting it. A million pounds is to be given, and it seems to me that the question for the Committee to consider is what would be the best means of applying that £1,000,000. Ought it to be applied to the benefit of the county councils and the University of Wales, or ought it to be applied for the benefit of the Church? That is the real issue raised; by this Amendment. I venture to submit that it ought to be applied, if you are going to settle this question, in the way most just to all the parties concerned. The question of what is most just depends a little, if not entirely, on the view you take upon the justifiability or Disendowment of the Welsh Church. I am not going to argue that at any length. I ventured to say something about it on Second Reading, and I do not know that I have anything very much to add. I have, never been able to conceive—I say so quite frankly—on what possible theory of the proper dealing by Parliament with public or semi-public funds, or, for the-matter of that, with private funds, it can be defended to deprive the Church of funds which by admission it is using strictly in accordance with its duty to the community and to give those funds to somebody else. The case has always appeared to me to be overwhelming. I am not going into the elaborate, lengthy, and historical arguments we had on the old controversy as to how these funds originally became attached to the Church. I remember there was a great deal said about' what happened seven or eight hundred years ago, or more than that, and as to what a certain gentleman called Giraldus Cambrensis did or did not say seven or eight hundred years ago. To my mind, the whole of these arguments, although I think they went in favour of the Church, are perfectly irrelevant. The point is— and no one can dispute it—that these funds have been, I will not say the property of, but applied by, the Church, for Church purposes, for centuries, and there is no question or dispute possible about it, and if there is to be any justification for the doctrine, which runs through the whole of our law and the whole of the law of every civilised people, that you are not to deprive any one of property which they have enjoyed for a certain number of years, because the evil under those circumstance of deprivation is much greater than any possible advantage to the community, then the right of the Church to this property is overwhelming.

I confess that, to me, an excellent illustration of the kind of absurdities to which you are driven if you take property which is applied to a definite and, as I think, a very high purpose, a definite religious purpose, as this property is, and give it to others, was the little incident that occurred at the beginning of this Committee. The Home Secretary suddenly said he proposed to prolong the life of the Welsh Commissioners for thirty years. What docs that mean? I do not know what the Welsh Commissioners are paid, or what they cost, but I believe I shall be easily within the mark if I say they cost £2,000 a year. That means to say that you are going to allot, out of funds which are at present applied to religious purposes, a sum which at the end of thirty years, will amount to £60,000, for j mere machinery, and to no public ad- I vantage at all. Can anything be more shocking, to those who take a certain view of this question, than such a way of dealing with funds applied to religious purposes? I venture to ask that the Committee, even at the eleventh hour, will take what I believe to be a sound, just, and, as I think, politic view of this question. Let them not soil their hands by taking away property which at present is used for the highest possible purpose, and putting it to any other purpose whatever. This is not a question of raking-up any settlement. If this is passed, there is no reason 'why the settlement should not go forward, and be as final as it would be in the Bill. It would be for the House of Commons to decide then what was the right way of arriving at a settlement. The principles of the settlement, if there are any, would remain. The only thing would be that the House of Commons would say that in their judgment the Church ought not to suffer pecuniarily in this matter at all. it is far from my purpose to delay matters on this Bill. I wish to obtain the decision of this Committee on this particular question of principle, and since, in my view, it is a question in which every Member of the House ought conscientiously to take his own view and his own stand, I shall divide the House upon this Amendment.


If this Amendment were carried, not only would it repeal the whole of the Disendowment Clauses of the Act of 1914, but even if it did not do that, it, would make absolutely impossible the proposal which we have put forward by means of this fund to carry out the proposed settlement. Under the Bill as it stands we propose that £1,000,000 should be advanced by the State for the purpose of carrying out the commutation provisions of the Act of 1914—that is to say, the life interests of the existing holders of beneficiaries, and so on, are to be commuted and paid for, but my right hon. and learned Friend proposes that only should the life interest of the existing holder be paid for, which might be a matter of two or three years' purchase, having regard to his age and so on, but that the capitalised value of the tithe is to be paid for. So that you might have the tithe rent-charge held by an incumbent who was so old that his existing interest was worth two or three years' purchase, whereas the capitalised value of the tithe, might be twenty-five years' purchase. The result would be that the £1,000,000 would not even carry out the proposals which my right hon. and learned Friend would desire. On the one hand, it might lead to the entire repeal of the Act of 1914, and certainly everyone of us who was elected to support this Coalition Government was pledged against the reopening of the question, and, in the second place, even if we did not do that, it absolutely would make it impossible to carry out the proposals we put forward in this Bill. It would mean that the whole £1,000,000 would be swamped up and the Church would find itself in the same position, and all the evils we seek to avert would be re-established. Therefore, I ask the House not to accept this Amendment.


I do not think my right hon. Friend really answers the case for the Amendment. It is quite true the Amendment would set up a different solution of the difficulty from the one founded by the Government. The solution founded by the Amendment is that the Church should be reimbursed for all the Endowments they lose under the principal Act. That is a solution which evidently cuts at the root of the whole difficulty and puts an end to it. The Government method is that the county councils should be financed for the purpose of meeting the provisions of the principal Act in regard to the life interest. The issue, therefore, raised is, which of the two ways out of the chaos and robbery is the better? Having started to steal some one else's property— the Church's property—in 1914, is it better to get out of the absurdities, contradictions, and incoherencies in which that undertaking has landed the Government, by restoring the stolen goods, or is it better to make some provision by which the commutation Clauses of the Act may not be inoperative and life interests may be respected? In our view there is no doubt on a choice so profound. We think the Church is eatitled to its Endowments. We think, as, of course, I think the largest part of the Government think, or a very large part, that the original proposal was robbery and was injurious to religion. We still think that which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the party used to think before he joined the Coalition, or, rather, what he still thinks but no longer feels able to act up to. We, who are in a position to more independence and less responsibility, are not bound by our political connections to carry out this robbery. Accordingly we think the best way is to restore the property stolen, and so avert the injury to religion which is being consummated. That is the case we put before the Committee. I am persuaded that the Government will get their way. They generally do. But I do not think they will get their way without that loss of esteem that belongs to those who, willingly and knowingly, set their hands to an enterprise which their own lips have declared to be disgraceful, but which they lack courage and moral rectitude to turn away from.

Colonel Sir R. WILLIAMS

I cannot give a silent vote on this occasion. I shall certainly vote against this Amendment, and I should like to tell the Committee why. It is raising the whole question of Disendowment over again by what I, by no ill-feeling a tall, would describe as a side-wind. But the original Act has been passed. It is an abominable Act. It is an Act which I regard as a disgrace to those who passed it. Nevertheless it was passed! It is quite obvious that the course of the War has altered the matter. If ever a Unionist Government came in it would be bound, by every sacred pledge, to try and repeal the Act. But we have not got a Unionist Government—nothing like it! On the contrary, I and practically every other member of the Coalition party, put aside our private feelings that we might support the Coalition—not for prewar purposes, but for altogether new purposes, for purposes of reconstruction after the War, with which the Welsh Church has nothing to do. It so happens that the War was prolonged beyond expectation, and certain circumstances have followed upon the War, and with regard to the Welsh Church—I call it now the Welsh Church, not the Church in Wales—an Act has been brought in to obviate some of these difficulties. To say because of this we should raise again the whole question of Disestablishment is manifestly absurd. To say that in not doing all this that is suggested and not to raise anew the question of Disendowment is to be false to our pledges, and false to our convictions about Disestablishment, is—I do not like to use the word—practically a caricature of the situation. I am one of those who regard the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church not only as robbery, but sacrilegious robbery. I am very sorry to see that in regard to certain questions to be raised in this Debate certain other grievances connected with glebe lands and churchyards are put down by Unionists Members. I had hoped that the Christian conscience of Welshmen would have made that concession and removed that grievance themselves, and I am disappointed that those Amendments have not come from Welshmen. I entirely repudiate the suggestion which has been put forward by the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil), and I do so on behalf of a great many members of the Church of England who feel as I do, that it is not fair to re-raise the whole question of Disendowment now. This Bill has been brought in to carry out an arrangement made with the Welsh Church on the one side and the Welsh county councils on the other. I hate the whole of the Disendowment Clauses, but I feel perfectly free to vote against this; Amendment in order to carry out that arrangement.

Major E. WOOD

The last thing I should, think of doing would be to criticise what ever opinion might be held by my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir R. Williams), although I profoundly differ from him for this reason. I hold the same view as my Noble Friends as to the absolutely unjustifiability

of Disendowment. That being my view, how can I in any way reconcile my conscience not to take every step I can as long as the matter is before the House to register my protest against it?

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 31; Noes, 159.

Division No. 93. AYES. [11.25 p.m.
Ainsworth, Captain C. Hills, Major J. W. (Durham) Perkins, Walter Frank
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Sir Samuel J. G. Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Betterton, H. B. Hurst, Major G. B. Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Campion, Colonel W. R. Law, A. J. (Rochdale) Stanier, Captain Sir Beville
Carew, Charles R. S. (Tlverton) Lloyd, George Butler Tryon, Major George Clement
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.) Lort-Williams, J. Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin) Mount, William Arthur Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.) Wolmer, Viscount
Green, J. F. (Leicester) Newman, Sir R H. S. D. (Exeter)
Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major E.
Gretton, Colonel John Pennefather, De Fonblanque Wood and Capt. Ormsby-Gore.
Guinness. Lt.-Col. Hon. W.E. (B. St. E.)
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Glyn, Major R. Parker, James
Amery, Lieut-Col. L. C. M. S. Gould, J. C. Parry, Lt.-Colonel Thomas Henry
Atkey, A. R. Grant, James Augustus Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike
Baldwin, Stanley Greame, Major P. Lloyd Peel, Lt.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)
Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.) Green, A. (Derby) Perring, William George
Barnett, Major Richard W. Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)
Barnston, Major Harry Gregory, Holman Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Greig, Colonel James William Pratt, John William
Beck, Arthur Cecil Grundy, T. W. Pulley, Charles Thornton
Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Hacking, Captain D. H. Purchase, H. G.
Bellairs, Com. Carlyon W. Hailwood, A. Raffan, Peter Wilson
Bonn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth) Half, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.
Blades, Sir George R. Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Altrincham) Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)
Borwick, Major G. O. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Hilder, Lieut-Col. F. Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs.)
Briant, F. Hinds, John Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Briggs, Harold Hirst, G. H. Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)
Britton, G. B. Holmes, J. S. Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)
Broad, Thomas Tucker Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Samuel, S. (Wandsworth, Putney)
Brown, T. W. (Down, N.) Howard, Major S. G. Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur
Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Seager, Sir William
Buckley, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster) Seely, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. John
Cape, Tom Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G. Shaw, Tom (Preston)
Carr, W. T. Hunt, P. A. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Carter, W. (Mansfield) Inskip, T. W. H. Short, A. (Wednesbury)
Casey, T. W. Jameson, Major J. G. Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castie-on-T., W.)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Jesson, C. Smith, Capt A. (Nelson and Colne)
Clough, R. Johnson, L. S. Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Coates, Major Sir Edward F. Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvi') Stephenson, Colonel H. K.
Colvin, Brig.-Gen. R. B. Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke) Stewart, Gershom
Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan) Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Strauss, Edward Anthony
Cory, Sir James Herbert (Cardiff) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Sugden, W. H.
Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H. Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen) Sutherland, Sir William
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey) Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)
Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.) Kenworthy, Lieut-Commander Terrell, Capt. R. (Henley, Oxford)
Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe) King, Commander Douglas Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Knight, Capt E. A. Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Knights, Capt. H. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Dawes, J. A. Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow) Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Dennis, J. W. Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales) Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (M'yhl)
Deyle, N. Grattan Lewis, T. A. (Pentypridd, Glam.) Thorne, G. R, (Wolverhampton, E.)
Edwards. C. (Bedwelity) Loseby, Captain C. E. Vickers, D.
Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath) Mallalieu, Frederick William Walters, Sir John Tudor
Entwistle. Major C. F. Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.) Weston, Colonel John W.
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Matthews, David Wild, Sir Ernest Edward
Foreman, H. Mitchell, William Lane- Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)
Forestier-Walker, L. Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir Rhys (Banbury)
Foxcroft, Captain C. Morison, T. B. (Inverness) Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)
Fraser, Major Sir Keith Mosley, Oswald Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)
Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke) Murchison, C. K. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Neal, Arthur Younger, sir George
Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)
Gilbert, James Daniel Onions, Alfred TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Capt.
Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John Palmer, Brig.-General G. (Westbury) F. Guest and Lord E. Talbet.

I beg to move, in Sub-section (3), to leave out the words taken to be the amount of the tithe rent-charge according to the septennial average computed at the date of Disestablishment, us if the Tithe Act, 1918, had not passed, after making the deductions specified in the said paragraph, and to insert instead thereof the words computed in accordance with the Tithe Act, 1918, after deducting two and a-half per cent, on account of the cost of collection and the average amount paid during the three years preceding the date of Disestablishment on account of rates and Land Tax. The effect of this Amendment if carried would be that the Welsh Church Commissioners in commuting the tithe rent-charge will do so in exactly the same manner as the private tithe rent owner is able to redeem his, namely, at 109 instead of 136. This will bring a saving of about £ 36,000 to the Treasury. My Amendment further provides, if the words as they stand are carried, that in computing the net value of the tithe rent-charge the rates shall be computed or the average amount paid during the three years preceding the passing of the Act. At that time the tithe stood at 77and the rates were assessed accordingly. The amount was very low as compared with the total to-day. In my opinion it is absolutely unfair for the public authority first of all to say you must pay at the rate of 136 in lieu of rates which wore being really paid at 109. It cuts both ways. You are computing at the highest posible sum but allowing the rates at the lowest possible figure. I went to the trouble in my own county of ascertaining the difference in the rates now as compared with three years 'before the War. I find that in that time they have gone up exactly 100 per cent. It has been calculated that a quarter of a million sterling would be required to be borne by the Treasury to meet the rates on an estimated difference of only 33⅓per cent., and if my county is a fair index, as I think it is, then county rates generally have gone up 100 per cent., and it would be most unfair that the Treasury, or the Welsh Commissioners, or the county council or whatever body may be concerned, to commute at 136 and to only pay rates on the basis of 77. In moving this Amendment I am asking not for any favour, but for justice and nothing more.


This Amendment seeks really to upset the whole of the proposals which the Government have brought for- ward. May I remind my hon. Friend that the legal opinion which we have sought is that the Church is not entitled under the Act of 1914 to the septennial average-of next year, assuming next year to be the date of Disestablishment. It is quite possible —although I do not know—that in case of a lawsuit the Courts might differ from the opinion of our Law Officers, but at any rate we have gone on the supposition that they are right. We have further tried as far as possible not to reopen in any way anything in the Act of 1914. We have tried to avoid reopening anything that was controversial. We have tried to alter nothing in that Act except by agreement or unless it is of a purely domestic matter. But the question of amount cannot be described as non-controversial: it is the most controversial part of the whole thing. We have, therefore, to accept as the basis of our proposal what we are advised is the legal position of the Church; we want that regularised and adopted, and in order to prevent a deadlock and much trouble and bother we have come forward with the money proposed to be allowed in order to meet that position.

This Amendment reopens at once the Act of 1914. Assuming that the Law Officers are right in their opinion, it alters the terms of the Act and reopens the whole controversy, therefore, that is just what we are anxious to avoid. I shall have to say the same to the next Amendment if it is moved. I quite appreciate my hon. Friend's point, and indeed, one of the things to make me feel that the Government's proposals are eminently fair is that on the one hand they are opposed by my hon. Friends behind me, who say the Church is the loser and the county councils gain all the benefit, and, on the-other hand, I am told the Church gains everything and the county councils lose everything. When you are told that by both sides you are pretty sure you have arrived somewhere near a fair solution.


I am sorry the Home Secretary has adopted the attitude he has. I am sure the Committee will feel that the Amendment is an eminently reasonable and fair one. It is quite true it is the crux of the whole Bill, and if it is carried it will not keep the foundation of the bargain which has been arrived at with regard to this question of Endowments. We feel very strongly that this Act is not in conformity with the pledges which were given by the Government which was in office at the time the Suspensory Act was passed, when we understood that owing to the conditions created by the War the Act, which had then just become law, was not to be modified in the interest of either of the parties concerned in the matter. Some of us at the last election made it quite plain that we were not prepared to see the Church lose as the result of the conditions created by the War, but, on the other hand, we were not prepared to see that the Church made any profit from the conditions which had been created by the War. This whole settlement could have been placed on a just and fair foundation which would have done justice to the Welsh people and equal justice to the Church. Those who voted for the Act passed in 1914, those who were convinced that it was right and reasonable and just, cannot possibly be expected to vote for this Bill. I can quite understand the attitude of the Noble Lord and his friends, because they believe quite honestly that it was wrong to take any property away from the Church at all, but that is not the attitude of those hon. Members, and especially the Welsh Members, who supported the Act of 1914, and it appears to me that the provisions in this Bill are nothing more nor less than a re-endowment of the Church in Wales out of the public funds of this country. That may be a pleasing prospect to the taxpayers in Scotland, Ireland, and the other parts of the United Kingdom, but from the point of view of those who have always contended for the principle that religious bodies in this country should not be supported out of public funds, the principle embodied in this Bill is one to which we cannot for a moment concur, I think I have said enough to show the broad grounds of principle on which we should like to see this controversy coming to an end with justice done to all the parties concerned. I do not think we shall promote a real, lasting, true settlement if one side feels that the whole issue has been side-tracked and that they have been left in the lurch before they really understood the true meaning of this Bill. I would rather see this Bill entirely abandoned than to find that public money was being used again to re-endow the Church in Wales. We have heard a great deal about devolution and setting up of Parliaments in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the day may come when the Welsh people may still' have an opportunity of dealing with this. matter in accordance with justice and in, accordance with the views they have always held.


I am very reluctant to interfere in this purely domestic issue, but I am tempted to do so by the statement of the Home Secretary that the justification; of the finance of the Bill is that the Noble-Lord (Lord E. Cecil) says that the Church: is going to be the loser and the county councils are going to be the gainers, whilst my hon. Friends behind me say quite the, reverse. I do not think the confusion is at all surprising, because when the Home Secretary was introducing the Bill and I asked him in curiosity who was going to get this million of money- was it the Church or the county councils he was not able to tell me. He said, "We are providing a million and a quarter of money, and the hon. Member must decide for himself which of the two is going to get it. "is that 'be the attitude of the Home Secretary, he need not complain that there is confusion on both sides of the House as to who is to get the best of this transaction. As an unsophisticated Irishman, may I give what seems to me a simple explanation of the finance of this Bill? This House decided in 1914, to rob the Welsh Church. In 1019, whether for motives: of political expediency, or from remorse of conscience I do not know, the Government decided that they were taking-too much from the Church, and that they had better give them back some of the "swag," It was arranged that the property was to go to the Welsh county councils, and there-fore: both sides had to be squared. So the Prime Minister sent for some of the Welsh bishope to come and see him. Two of them came, bringing their camp stools with them and bivouacked on the doorstep of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House for several days, and at last a deal was arrived at. The Prime Minister told them that the War through which the whole world had passed, had made a wonderful change, that the differences which seemed 'big and gigantic before the War, now seemed small when we were face to face with realities. He said, "We want to make terms with the Church now, so that all denominations in Wales may henceforth live on terms of peace, amity and brotherly love."

These two simple-minded, innocent, unworldly bishops believed him! They went away and said, "What a charming, fascinating man he is! How generous he is! How completely we have misunderstood him in all the years that have gone by!" But the Prime Minister did not tell them what he told the Welsh Members the next day. He did not say to them," If you do not pass this Bill all the county councils -will be bankrupt and we shall have to repeal this Act." He knew better than to tell them that.

He talked Christianity to the bishops, and business to the laymen, and he persuaded the bishops to believe that they were getting 9d. for 4d. He tried to make the Welsh Members believe that they also were getting 9d. for 4d., but the difficulty was that the accounts would not balance; and "he said to the Welsh Members, so I am told—of course he perorated a little in the usual way, and he brought in the valleys and the mountains again, and he said that it would be intolerable that the cloud of bankruptcy should be allowed to settle on the sun gilt hill tops and the happy valleys of their native country—"But," he said, "gentlemen, you have got to make your choice. It is either repeal of this. Act or bankruptcy and red ruin for our beloved Principality." And then the Welsh Members agreed. The Welsh Members would agree with the Prime Minister. He has got the measure of the Welsh Members, Half of them have got jobs or titles already, and the other half think they ought to have them. The Prime Minister knew exactly at what value he was to take all such, protestations as were made by the Welsh Members. He knew that with two or three exceptions, they would all troop into the Lobby in support of anything that he would propose. He persuaded the Welsh Members, therefore, to agree. But then one of them said, "What about the plunder The Welsh county councils were to get the plunder. Are we still going to get it?" Then the Prime Minister closed one eye, and kept the other oscillating, and he said, "I know another hen roost. It is called the Treasury. I will make a descent on it. I will make the Treasury pay the difference, and then everybody will be perfectly happy." Well, he seems to have made both sides perfectly happy, and so far as I am concerned I do not care how much he gives to the Church. I am not going to take the trouble to go into the Division Lobby against it. I congratulate him on his success in humbugging both sides, and making both sides believe, that they hare got a great bargain.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, at the end, to insert (5) If the Welsh Commissioners shall not have paid to the representative body, within six months after the date of commutation, the aggregate value of the existing interests of holders of ecclesiastical offices in the Church of Wales, as ascertained in the manner provided by the Fourth Schedule of the Welsh Church Act, 1914, and this Act, they shall pay interest on any amount unpaid at the rate of. five and a-half per cent, per annum until such payment. Hon. Members will realise that under the Act the Welsh Commissioners are ordered to pay over as soon as possible such sums of money so arrived at, and interest thereon, at the rate of 3 ½ per cent., but the rate of interest at present is 3 rather than 3 ½per cent., and I would ask the Home Secretary to accept this Amendment so that there may be no delay in the payment of the amount of money due for commutation by the Welsh Commissioners to the Representative Body.


I would ask the Committee to accept this Amendment. It seems to be perfectly reasonable that everyone who is entitled to money should be paid as soon as possible. At the same time if anything occurs to prevent this being done I do not think that the persons who are entitled to receive the money should suffer in consequence.

Amendment agreed to.