HC Deb 05 December 1919 vol 122 cc841-59

(3) After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a Report thereon to Parliament stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects.

(6) A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England, and may extend to the Amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament, including this Act.

Provided that, a measure shall not make any alteration in the composition or powers or duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee, or in the procedure in Parliament prescribed by Section four of this Act.

Amendments made: In Sub-section (3), leave out the words "their views as to its expediency," and insert instead thereof the words "its views as to the expediency thereof."

In Sub-section (6), leave out the words "passed in accordance with this Act."—[Viscount Wolmer.]


I beg to move, in Subsection (6), after the word "Act" ["of any Act of Parliament"] to insert the words "so far as any such Act relates to the procedure or government of the Church of England."

If this Amendment be not accepted I will move the next one. It is obviously a matter of common knowledge that there are some things which concern solely and only the Church of England, and the Church of England considered as a religious society devoted to spiritual work. There are other things within the gamut of our laws which concern the Church of England in its position as an established church with special duties and special legal rights, yet which are predominantly matters which concern the Church of England. There are, again, other matters in which it may be argued that the Church of England has some slight and ancillary concern which are really in themselves matters which affect the civil population as citizens primarily and predominantly, and in the ordinary common-sense interpretation of the facts of life. It has been felt by some of us, and it has been expressed in quarters outside, that it is desirable that there should be some form of limiting words to make it clear to the people of this country that the aim of this shortened Parliamentary procedure is to facilitate, and only to facilitate, the religious work of the Church of England, and not to make more difficult the full rights of discussion and debate which His Majesty's subjects ought to retain on matters which concern them all as His Majesty's subjects, and which are only in a secondary sense concerned with the Church of England. Therefore, I beg to move my Amendment.

I am advised by high legal authority that the form of words proposed will cover what may be necessary to improve the procedure of the Church of England, and what may be desired by the Church of England itself in alteration of its governance—that they, or any words analogous if such, are preferred by the Committee, will make it clear to the public—it is not clear in the Bill as it stands—that there is no intention, and that there cannot be any object, in using this Clause against reform when you come to alter any of the laws of England which may in any detail touch the interests or duties of the Church of England. I am fully aware that the Joint Committee will have matters of this kind to consider, whoever come to be the Joint Committee. It is rather serious that they should have so much put upon them, and I think that the public have a right to know, in connection with a Bill like this, which advocates a unique and shortened procedure, that it is only to be used for the specific purpose which has been so often clearly and persuasively declared by the promoters of the measure.


I beg to second the Amendment. It is in no spirit of hostility to this Bill, but with the desire that it should be clearly stated that, in our opinion, the Bill should be confined to the purpose for which it has been introduced.


I was a member of the Archbishop's Committee, and I have followed this measure from its inception with deep interest. At the same time I have never hid from myself that it contained defects and blemishes which appeared to me to make it necessary to insert some such words as have been suggested. I should have been prepared to support the Bill and to make it effective and useful as an Act, if it passes into law, notwithstanding these blemishes and notwithstanding the absence of the words proposed. But I do earnestly hope that some such words will be inserted. The Bill prescribes, in the scheme which is part of it, that those persons who are entitled to vote for representatives shall have to make a declaration that they are members of the Church of England and of no other body which is not in communion with the Church of England.

I regard those, last words as unfortunate and even deplorable. I claim to be a devoted member of the Church of England, but I think those words are typical of a reactionary spirit in those who do not realise the essential unity of the Christian Church; and the desire of many of us that all the Churches shall be drawn together in a still closer union than they have been before. We cannot alter those words under the ruling of the Chair, and it appears to me an essential corollary that if those persons are to be allowed no voice in the election of the Assembly, their rights ought not to be subject to the decision of persons in whose election they have no share. The Archbishop of Canterbury, in the speech which he made in the Representative Church Assembly, narrated one after another abuses and scandals in the Church which he said it was desirable should be removed at the earliest possible moment. In so far as this measure is designed to remove scandals and abuses, it has the support of every Christian and other Church, but if it is intended and is to be used for that purpose, I ask, Ought it not to be said at the same time, in deference and justice to my hon. Friend who has moved this Amendment, that it shall he used for no other purpose?

I look forward to the time when the Church of England and its representatives in this new, Assembly will take the view that we can lie.t1 our unhappy divisions by recognising the unity of all the Churches and can invite the co-operation of our Nonconformist Churchmen in the building up of a greater and more powerful and more spiritual church than exists to-day. When that time comes we shall all be content to see this Bill used for the purpose of making the Church as effective as possible, but as long its those limiting words are in the declaration, I ask the House to insert, some, such words as those which have been proposed in order that they may remove any possibility of bitterness which may accrue I hope there will be no bitterness, and the Nonconformists, I hope, will give a full assent to the measure and allow the Church to use it as it desires. But whether or not the words are inserted in the Bill—and if they are not I shall regard it as deplorable and a blemish upon it—I want to see it made the best Bill that can be made, and hope that one of these Amendments will he inserted with the consent of the Noble Lord in charge of the Bill.

Viscount WOLMER

Had I been able to say a word or two before the hon. Member who has just spoken I think I should have allayed the fears that seem to exist in his mind. In the first place, let me say that the question of the franchise has got very little to do with the matter. I do not intend to discuss the question of the franchise this afternoon, because I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have ruled that out of order. May I point out, however, that the franchise is not my choosing, and when it came to a question of a vote for the baptismal franchise as opposed to that originally proposed by the Archbishop's Committee in the Church Assembly, I voted against it, and my hon. Friend voted in favour of it, The question of the franchise has got little to do with the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins). I have made a very great effort whenever my hon. Friends have proposed points on which they do not feel satisfied to try and meet them, and to look at the Bill through their spectacles, and I should like to say that I appreciate the way in which they have directed all their criticisms and lent their assistance during the passage of this Bill. I would, however, ask my hon. Friend not to press this Amendment, or the next Amendment that stands in his name, because they really touch the same point, and that point, in my humble opinion, as I hope to show the House, is already amply covered in the Bill itself. My hon. Friend says we must be perfectly certain that no measures passed under this Bill are going beyond the sphere of ecclesiastical legislation. I think that is common ground between us, but I claim that that is already provided for in the Bill, and I wish to direct the attention of hon. Members to the words of the Bill itself. In the first place, in Sub-section (6) of Clause 3 it is provided that "A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England." Therefore in this very Clause we are discussing the scope of these measures are limited to matters concerning the Church of England. Then a question arises who is to be the judge as to whether a matter does concern the Church or England or whether it does not. Parliament and Parliament alone can be the judge, and to assist Parliament in arriving at that decision the Ecclesiastical Committee is brought in under Clause 2. We have during the Committee stage strengthened the Parliamentary scrutiny to which measures under the procedure of this Bill will be subjected, and we have done that designedly to meet the sort of point that the hon. Member for Middleton has in mind. We say to him that the only way in which you can guarantee both the efficient and just working of this proposal is that the opportunities for Parliamentary scrutiny, examination and decision should be real and effective. Having provided that, you cannot tie the hands of Parliament as to what its decision shall be, and, therefore, we are taking away the Privy Council Committee and putting in this Joint Parliamentary Committee instead. That Committee will contain sections representative of all important opinions in both Houses of Parliament, and they will examine the Bill as it Would be examined by Parliament itself. In Sub-section (3) of Clause 3, they are especially instructed to draft a report thereon to Parliament stating the nature and legal effect of the measure, and their views as to its expediency, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects. Therefore, we have an instrument to conduct this examination, one selected by the hon. Member for Middleton himself. We have them installed and specially instructed to examine every measure submitted by the Church Assembly, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects, and we have the further instruction in the Bill that measures may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England. I submit that that really does secure what my hon. Friend is after, and if additional words were put in they would not produce any greater security but might prove a great difficulty on occasions on which there would be no real division of opinion.


These words are really of importance. I do not think that they can possibly injure the Church of England in any legitimate work which it is going to do, but they would certainly keep out of general discussion any questions which, though they might concern the Church of England, might also concern the general public. One of the things that I for one want to avoid is controversial matters being carried in this way and then coming here, possibly through' the Committee, and leading to serious religious wrangling in this House. It is quite true that there are safeguards to protect the subject generally, but the safeguard that the Noble Lord has mentioned is that they shall be "matters concerning the Church of England." There may be matters which very slightly concern the Church of England and very much concern the general public, and those are the matters which we want to avoid being brought up in this way. Let those matters, which must be very few, be dealt with in the ordinary way by Parliament, and let purely Church matters be dealt with by this Bill. Surely there can be no real injury to the Church of England or to the working of this Bill if matters outside the Church are brought up in Parliament in the ordinary way, instead of in this roundabout way through this Committee! It is said that the Committee will be the judge. I do not think that is enough. This House ought to have it strictly laid down that any matters outside absolutely Church matters ought to come before it. It ought to be laid down that matters concerning the privileges of the ordinary citizen should come up in this House unfettered by any decisions or any previous discussions of any Committee or of any Church Assembly, and I hope that the Noble Lord will make this concession. I do not think that it can really affect the working of this Act, and I am quite sure, if there were any things that came up, that it would avoid troubles and quarrels and difficulties with the Church.


I did not hear the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, but I heard the speech of the Noble Lord, and, like all the speeches that he has made on this subject, it was one which must command respect and sympathy, because he treats the claims and the feelings of others with such consideration himself. He said that it was a matter of common agreement among all those in favour of the Bill that we wished to protect in every conceivable way the very point which this Amendment is really directed to secure. That being so I searched his speech to find the real reason of his objection to an additional safeguard to secure a thing which he himself admits it is very desirable to secure. The only words upon which I found he relied were the words in the Bill, "any matter concerning the Church of England." It has been pointed out by a previous speaker that there are many matters which concern the Church of England. We want to be a little more definite. There are matters that very properly concern the Church of England with regard to the life of the country generally. No doubt the question of premium bonds concerns the Church of England. No doubt the marriage laws concern the Church of England. No doubt the question of divorce concerns the Church of England. If there is any possibility of doubt a to the meaning of this Bill and as to how far there can be any touching of the life of the nation outside what is intended, it seems to me desirable that there should be every safeguard introduced in the Bill, especially as the Noble Lord generously admits that we are all agreed in desiring to secure that end. I therefore ask him to consider whether there is not a good deal of force in the Amendment.


I think I can convince my hon. Friend that the words proposed would be entirely unacceptable. The words limit the operation of the Bill to "Procedure and government of the Church of England." I am not quite sure what is the "procedure of the Church of England," but it is quite obvious that those words would not include two important branches of Church reform—the whole of the advowsons and the whole of the material fabrics of the Churches. Those are neither procedure nor government. May I say, as I said upstairs in Committee, that these words or any other words would not exclude gross abuses on the other side. If you are not going to trust to your safeguards, the statute de haeretico comburendo that might be revived. That is one way of governing the heretical members of a Church. Therefore, you cannot rely upon words drawing exceptions. This problem, I need not say, was most carefully considered at the very outset, and has been repeatedly reconsidered by those framing this scheme, which has taken, I think, more than ten years to frame.

There are two ways of dealing with the difficulty, which is perfectly simply stated. You have what is called the Established Church, an establishment which has grown up not by positive enactments but in the passage of time. It has been the subject of endless Bills and Acts of Parliament, by which one way or the other the fabric of the Church Life and the fabric of the National Life have been intertwined. You want to pass a Bill which enables the Church to deal with its own proper affairs without interfering with properly national affairs. If you try and do it by words divining the spheres. saying, "These are ecclesiastical and these are national," you at once get into a peck of trouble. It is not susceptible of verbal definition at all. It is far too intricate for that, and, if you put in words, you find that you cut out, something from the ecclesiastical sphere which ought to be brought in, and you bring in something from the national sphere which ought to be kept out. Therefore, the method adopted by the framers was to use quite general words capable of being well understood by anyone exercising an honest, genuine discretion, and to give to competent bodies power to exercise that discretion. The competent bodies are the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is to scrutinise at leisure the details of the Bill, and, secondly, the two Houses of Parliament themselves, who, after all, are the supreme judges in all such matters. Surely after a measure has been first discussed by the Church Assembly and then scrutinised by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is to be a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, the two Houses, acting after all that debate and scrutiny, can be trusted to safeguard the National sphere and to keep the Church Assembly within its proper ecclesiastical sphere.

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, at the end, to insert the words Provided also that no existing right of any person who is not a member of the Church of England, or who is a member of some religious body other than the Church of England, shall be prejudicially affected by any such measure. Although this Amendment deals with the Bill in a somewhat similar aspect to the last, it is quite distinct, and, in submitting it to the House, I hope it may-commend itself to Members who found hesitation in supporting the previous one. It is a very good thing we all have the tame object, and I welcome and shall recollect what the Noble Lord said in connection with the last Amendment as to the wishes of the promoters of the Bill. But this Amendment raises a different point, as I said, from the last, and I hope the House will consider it one of real importance. In this country you have a number of persons who are not members of the Church of England in any sense, and you also have people who are mom-hers of other communions and are thereby excluded from all share in the conferences and legislation with which this Bill deals, until it comes before the House for a decision "aye" or "no." I hope the House will agree it is not right in a, Bill which does many good things, and which, for the purposes of those who it includes, may be of the greatest public benefit—it is not right that such a Bill should have the power to injure or take away the rights of any persons outside its purview by means of this unusual form of legislation, and this abbreviated form of Parliamentary procedure which are being recommended as a means of getting through necessary reforms which involve great detail, without undue calls on the time of the House. But where it is a matter of taking away the rights of any- one, no time of the House is undue; the poorest and most defenceless of His Majesty's subjects is entitled to fair consideration by Parliament before his rights are prejudicially affected. Therefore I move this Amendment, which seeks to exclude from the purview of the Bill the injurious affecting of the rights of persons who are not within the benefits of the Bill and who have no share in the ecclesiastical arrangements for the purposes of which the Bill is promoted. The promoters of the Bill, whom one is so glad to know in many respects are within the area of agreement, will minimise criticism outside this House, will promote good feeling, and will secure wider sympathy in the great and sometimes difficult experiment which they are to try, which will be all to the good if they will let the Committee put it into the Bill quite clearly that they are not going by this Act to prejudicially affect the rights of His Majestys' subjects in this country who are not members of the Church of England, but are members of other communions, and are, therefore, entirely outside the benefits which it is hoped this Bill will succeed in achieving.


I beg to second the Amendment. It is with some reluctance that we, press this point on the House, because during the Committee stage of this Bill the spirit of compromise was so strong that we all seemed to combine our efforts in the desire to improve the measure, but it is absolutely impossible, even in the best spirit of compromise always to secure a. perfect arrangement. These are times when there is a great desire for greater unity among the Churches, and there is a spirit abroad for promoting that unity, but I am afraid that unless some such words as those suggested here are put into this Bill it may prevent members of other Churches from taking that public part in regard to the work of the Church of England which otherwise they would take. I am quite sure that if these words were inserted we should be securing rights that at present exist. Upstairs we were told again and again by the promoters that there was no desire, and, indeed I do not think there is a desire, but I am afraid there is a danger, that the rights that now exist may not exist after the passing of the Act. We all desire it should be a national Church, and not simply a religious denomination. If the Church of England is to be a national Church I am afraid that by excluding citizens from participating in its work it will cease to have a claim to be a national Church. These points were brought before the Committee upstairs. Our views were not accepted, and we think it is our bounden duty to bring the matter before the House and to leave the House itself to determine whether or not tire words should be inserted.

Viscount WOLMER

I do not think my hon. Friends have thought out the consequences that would ensue if this Amendment were carried. They have shown us abundantly already that they do not want to wreck the Bill or injure its usefulness. I will not repeat what I said on the last Amendment about the Parliamentary safeguards being adequate, but I would ask the House to consider what the actual effect of these words would be on the sort of legislation which everybody agrees would be proper legislation for the Church Assembly to submit to Parliament. Let me take the case of the appalling scandal of the sale of livings—one of the scandals which men of all Christian denominations disapprove of and repudiate in the strongest possible way. It is a matter of common knowledge that livings can be bought and owned by people whether or not they are members of The Church of England, in fact, whether or not they are Christians, so long as they are not Roman Catholics. Therefore, it is possible, let us say, that a member of the Jewish faith should own an advowson and that that advowson could be sold to somebody else who was not a member of the Church of England. If these words were inserted in the Bill, no measure could be submitted by the Church Assembly to put an end to the sale of livings so long as that sale was conducted by somebody who is not a. member of the Church of England. It is the same in other matters. Matters of ecclesiactical administration are so much intertwined with our national life that you cannot draw hard and fast lines in a sentence in an Act of Parliament. The only course to pursue is to see that your Parliamentary guarantees and safeguards are adequate and trust to the discretion and judgment of Parliament. I am glad to see the Solicitor-General present. I should like to appeal to him to tell us whether what I have said is not in fact in law, and whether words of this sort would not cut right across the whole schemes of Church reform which I think would be common ground to us all in this House and in the other House too.

4.0 P.M.


I should like to say a few words, first as a Nonconformist, and, secondly, as a Labour Member. I sincerely hope that my Nonconformist Friends will not press this Amendment to a Division. There never was a time when we should approach these questions with a greater degree of sympathy and with a greater desire for the manifestation of a spirit of unity than at the present time. While I recognise that those who are moving these Amendments are prompted by the best possible motives in regard to the Church, yet they might be said by some persons, who are not well-disposed to any of the divisions of the Church, to spring from suspicion one towards the other. I am quite sure that the House will not for one moment ascribe that suspicion to those who are moving this Amendment; but in order to allay any such feeling, and to show a spirit of trust between each denomination, I sincerely hope that the Amendment will not be pressed to a Division. The Noble Lord opposite (Viscount Wolmer), who has been conducting this Bill both in this House and upstairs, has displayed from time to time a very generous desire to meet the wishes of those concerned, and more than once he has told my Nonconformist Friends that if any kind of words could be found which would safeguard both sides, the promoters of the Bill would be prepared to give them consideration. The Noble Lord has shown how detrimental this Amendment world be to the future work of the Church in a very important direction. That was known by many people interested in Church work and who were on the Committee. Having had that pointed out to as, we should not be doing the best service to the Church if we pressed this Amendment. We have sufficient and ample safeguards in this Bill. But assume for the moment that we had not those safeguards. I could not conceive of anything which would be more disastrous to the future well-bring of the Church than an attempt to do anything which would be derogatory or detrimental to the general interests of the country. I am quite certain that the sound common sense and the sense of fairness of those who are conducting this Bill, and of those who are behind them, will always lead them to be very discreet in any step they take lest they should damage the interests of the community. I believe we should have a generous spirit displayed one towards another, so that the Church should have a real opportunity of expressing her spiritual and moral mission. All of us must be impressed by the fact that there was never a time in the history of this country when it was so essential that the Christian bodies should be alive to their mission and work as it is at the present time. For these reasons, I sincerely hope that my Friends of the Nonconformist Churches will not press their Amendment.


I desire to endorse most heartily the sentiments expressed by the last speaker in regard to the unity of the Church. This Amendment has very far-reaching possibilities. It is intended to protect all those who, although not in communion with the Church of England, reverence, tradition, and many other things have almost brought within its fold. The point has been raised as to an advowson being held by a Jew. I hope that in the future such a thing will be dealt with, but if a man has acquired a vested interest in the past, I understand that is not to be confiscated. I view with some alarm the possibility that if this Amendment be not passed those who are not of the Church of England may have that which they have paid for prejudiced by the passing of this Bill. I feel sure that is not the intention. I would put it on a higher plane altogether. Even in the Church of England itself, of which I am a devout though a humble member, there are those who, while they sing of unity, are with their hands raising barriers against other Churches and communions. Therefore, on the highest plane, not as a mere matter of barter and purchase, but in order to bring together those to whom the Church of England, if it is not theirs is a very high and reverend association and institution of this Kingdom, I support the Amendment most strenuously.


If I understand the hon. Member opposite rightly that he is pressing this Amendment so as to protect the Church against the bartering by all and sundry of the livings in the Church, I sincerely trust the Amendment will be agreed to.

Colonel YATE

I wish to say a word in support of what was said by the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Inskip) as to his objection to the wording of the qualifications for electors of the parish who have to make a declaration that they do not belong to any other religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England. I cannot help thinking the addition of these words will unchurch millions of people who can now legally claim to be members of the Church. I also think the Church will no longer be the Church of the nation as it has been ever since the days of the Saxons. I am a Churchman, and I hope to see union in every possible way with the other Churches, but I do not like these stipulations in the conditions of the franchise. The two main objects I have, which I should like to see carried out and which I have serious doubts about, are the preservation of the rights of the Crown with regard to its ecclesiastical patronage, and the parishioners given more control in the services of their own Church. Feeling as I do, I think I ought to support the Amendment.


I appreciate the attitude of the hon. Member opposite who hopes in the future for a spirit of friendliness, but if we are to trust entirely to that we should not bother about the Clauses of the Bill at all. If we rely entirely on the benevolence and goodness of the Noble Lord, do not let us bother at all about any safeguarding words in the Bill. But very unfortunately the Noble Lord will not last for ever, and there may to others in future looking at it purely from the commonsense point of view, with the best intentions in the world, and with the most charitable spirit, who will nut look at these things as the Noble Lord does, and in framing a Bill of such an important character it is important to see that we give adequate protection at all future times. The illustration he gave was a little unfortunate. It is said that hard cases make bad law. He spoke of one or two particular kinds of cases which must be very rare, and suggested that it would be possible for people who were not members of the Church of England to acquire livings. I do not know how these things are done, but it is suggested that it could be done in order to sell them. He cannot have read the wording of the Amendment. It is only that the existing rights of any person shall not be prejudicially affected.

Viscount WOLMER

A Jew at present has a right to acquire a living.


I beg the Noble Lord's pardon. I am referring to the existing right of any person, not of an institution. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if any particular Jew held a living to-day that case would not be touched, but cases could not be multiplied, and the scandal could not be continued. There may be a few cases of that kind in regard to which it might be necessary to come to the House to have the law altered, but there are many other cases which might be adversely affected, and I should be glad if the Noble Lord and those who are supporting him could see their way to provide every conceivable safeguard in the spirit in which they have so very generously met criticism during the proceedings on the I was not very much impressed by that part of his argument. Much as I desired to see the most perfect friendship and the spirit of charity between the different Churches, we must have some protection, and this Amendment seems to me a perfectly reasonable one.


I hope this Amendment will not be pressed. The truth is that any words of this kind are unworkable. I do not think hon. Members have reflected how the Amendment would work. You are going to say that no measure shall be passed which shall be prejudicial to anyone who is not a member of the Church of England. Who is going to decide whether a particular measure is or is not prejudicial to the interests of a person who is not a member of the Church of England? Obviously all measures which directly or indirectly affect the general rights of property of the community might come within the scope of this Amendment. Supposing we deal, as I hope we are going to deal, with the City churches. We shall have to deal with ancient lights when we destroy a church and sell the site. That affects the rights of property of everybody all round, and some of those affected may not be members of the Church of England.


How on earth does the question of ancient lights come in?


Quite simply. If you are going to destroy a church and sell the site you will have to make provision for the lighting rights of all those around in the measure providing for the destruction of the church.


If you pull down a church and sell the site the purchaser of the site will not be able to interfere with the ancient lights of the surrounding owners any more than the Church does at the present time. They will be in just the same position, no better and no worse, than the ecclesiastical authorities.


They might very easily say, "A settlement which seemed reasonable for the Houses of Parliament and those who framed this measure does not seem reasonable to us." Who is to decide? If you once introduce the word "prejudicial" you propound a conundrum which only a Court of law would be able to decide. This would invert the whole procedure of the Bill. We want this to be a short way to obtaining an Act of Parliament. We do not want to have a scrutiny of each measure before the Courts of law so that you may be troubled with this technical point or that technical point. If that happens, so far as I can see, the whole measure will be in danger. In regard to its operation in particular cases a person might satisfy the Courts that his interests were prejudicially affected. The Courts of law having so decided, the whole measure would go by the board, and you might have to wait perhaps years, may be ten or twenty years, to get another Bill through. The only sound way is to have safeguards openly debated and scrutinised here, and having that ample safeguard, the most complete safeguard in the world, let hon. Members trust it.

Hon. Members seem to be apprehensive that something affecting the rights of Nonconformists might be passed in this Assembly. Can anyone with any imagination suppose that such a thing is possible? First, you would have to have a measure invading the rights of Nonconformists debated in the Church Assembly. There would be a great deal of opposition. You would to satisfy the three houses that the proposal was a proper one. Meantime public attention would be concentrated. Every Nonconformist would be up in arms long before it was brought to the Committee. The newspapers would be full of letters drawing attention to the provision to which objection was taken, and by the time it came to the Parliamentary Committee the opposition would be overwhelming. I gave an illustration just now about burning heretics. It is quite as likely that Parliament would allow the Church Assembly to pass a Bill for the burning of heretics as to pass a law invading the rights of Nonconformists. Do not spoil the efficiency of the Bill for its own proper purposes because of these quite visionary fears. These dangers are not in the least likely to take place, but it is easy to spoil the working of the machinery by the insertion of injudiciously chosen words.


I would appeal to the Noble Lord in charge of the Bill whether, with a little more of that conciliation which he has shown in the Committee, he cannot meet the position put by hon. Friend who moved the Amendment Speaking as a Nonconformist, I sympathise fully with the Noble Lord as to the scandal of the sale of livings. I feel that that scandal is detrimental not only to the Church, but to the best interests of religion altogether, and I am quite sure he can count upon our sympathy there. But it seems to me that there is another issue of which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University has lost sight. Would not it be possible to insert words which would make it impossible for the sale or livings to take place by a person who was not a Churchman but at the same time would do something to safeguard the interests and rights of Nonconformists? I do not know whether the Noble Lord sees the full implication of the Clause in the Bill. The Church of England cannot have its cake and eat it. It cannot claim to be a National Church, representing the whole nation, giving equal rights to every section in the nation, and at the same time limit the rights and powers to one particular section. In the Debates on the Welsh Church Bill we were informed again and again by the Noble Lord and his friends that in every parish every parishioner, whether he went to church or chapel, had equal rights in the sight of the law and of the Church. If this Bill becomes law, and this Amendment is rejected, you cannot make that claim. I do not think that anybody but a Churchman ought to have a say in the management and government of the Church; I should resent a Churchman coming into my church and interfering with it, but we do not claim to go into the National Church. The words of this Amendment are, "No

existing rights of any person." The Nonconformists have existing rights, and this Bill will deal with those existing rights. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There is a division of opinion, some members of the Church saying "Yes," and others saying "No." The rights of Nonconformists in the parishes will be affected by the pasage of this Bill.

Viscount WOLMER

No existing right of any Nonconformist is affected by the passage of the Bill.


Under this Bill there is a short method of taking away every right.

Viscount WOLMER

Only with the consent of both Houses of Parliament after elaborate scrutiny. It is in the power of Parliament to take away all the rights of Nonconformists now.


Yes, but the State does not give Nonconformists now any special privileges. I hope the Amendment will be pressed to a Division.


Those who have been supporting this Amendment have been so genuine in their friendly attitude towards the Bill as a whole that I cannot help thinking they have mistaken the position with regard to this particular point. The last speaker spoke of the Church of England as the National Church. It is because the Church is the National Church, and wishes to remain so, that we are obliged to resort to some procedure of this kind in order to get the necessary measures through. The mere fact that the National, Church is in that position makes it a practical impossibility to carry through any of those great schemes which the hon. Member and others are so anxious to see carried. It would be impossible to carry them through if we had this hindrance put upon us.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 154.

Division No. 146.] AYES. [4.25 p.m.
Barrand, A. R. Griffiths, T. (Pontypool) Ward, Col. J. (Stoke, Trent)
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Hambro, Angus Valdemar Waring, Major Walter
Broad, Thomas Tucker Hinds, John Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.
Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh) Holmes, J. Stanley Williams, A. (Consett, Durham)
Davies, Sir W, Howell (Bristol, S.) Johnstone, J. Worsfold, T. Cato
Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon) Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.) Yale, Colonel Charles Edward
Edwards. J. H. (Giam., Neath) Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles) Young, William (Perth and Kinross)
Gardiner, J. (Perth) Rees, Captain J. Tudor (Barnstaple)
Grant, James Augustus Rowlands, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir
Greig, Colonel James William Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock) R. Adkins and Mr. France.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Forrest, W. Mount, William Arthur
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Galbraith, Samuel Nall, Major Joseph
Bagley, Captain E. A. Ganzoni, Captain F. C. Neal, Arthur
Baird, John Lawrence Gardner, E. (Berks, Windsor) Nicholson, W. (Petersfield)
Baldwin, Stanley Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Bas'gst'ke) Nield, Sir Herbert
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London) Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Cambridge) Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John O'Neill, Captain Hon. Robert W. H.
Barnett, Major Richard Glyn, Major R. Ormsby-Gore. HON. William
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Goff, Sir Park Pease, Rt. Hon, Herbert Pike
Benn, Com. Ian Hamilton (G'nwich) Goulding, Rt. Hon. Sir E. A. Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)
Bennett, T. J. Greame, Major P. Lloyd Perkins, Wailer Frank
Billing, Noel Pemberton Green, J. F. (Leicester) Philipps, Sir O. C. (Cnester)
Birchall, Major J. D. Griggs, Sir Peter Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles
Blair, Major Reginald Grundy, T. W. Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray
Borwick, Major G. O. Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hn. W. E. (B. St. E) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith- Hailwood, A. Preston W. R.
Bowles, Colonel H. F. Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich) Pulley, Charles Thornton
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E. Hanson, Sir Charles Raeburn, Sir William
Brassey, H. L. C. Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.) Raffan, Peter Wilson
Breese, Major C. E. Henderson, Maj. V. L. (Tradeston, Glas) Rees, Sir J. D.
Bromfield, W. Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.) Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)
Bruton, Sir J. Herbert, Denniss (Hertford) Richardson, R. (Houghton)
Buckley, Lt.-Colonel A. Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Burden, Colonel Rowland Hilder, Lt.-Colonel F. Rogers, Sir Hallewell
Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay) Hills, Major J. W. (Durham) Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F.
Campion, Colonel W. R. Hoare, Lt.-Colonel Sir Samuel J. G. Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)
Carr, W. T. Hood, Joseph Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hopkins, J. W. W. Sitch, C. H.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.) Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead) Spencer, George A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J.A. (Birm., W.) Hughes, Spencer Leigh Stanley, Col. Hon. G. (Preston)
Clyde, James Avon Hunter, Gen. Sir A. (Lancaster) Sutherland, Sir William
Coats, Sir Stuart Hurd. P. A. Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chichester)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Jesson, C. Talbot, G. A. (Hemel Hempstead)
Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole Johnson, L. S. Terrell, G. (Chippenham, Wilts.)
Courthope, Major George Loyd Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington) Tickler, Thomas George
Croft, Brig.-General Henry Page Jones, J. (Silvertown) Tillett, Benjamin
Curzon, Commander Viscount Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham) Turton, Edmund Russborough
Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe) Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander Vickers, D.
Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Boner (Glasgow) White, Colonel G. D. (Southport)
Dean, Com. P. T. Lindsay, William Arthur Whitla, Sir William
Denison-Pender, John C. Lonsdale, James R. Wignall, James
Denniss, E. R. Bartley (Oldham) Lorden, John William Wilkie, Alexander
Dockrell, Sir M. Loseby, Captain C. E. Willoughby, Lt.-Col. Hon. Claud
Doyle, N. Grattan Lyon, L. Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Hold'ness)
Duncannon, Viscount M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey) Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)
Elveden, Viscount Macmaster, Donald Wilson-Fox, Henry
Eyres-Monsell, Commander Mitchell, William Lane- Winterton, Major Earl
Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfrey Moles, Thomas Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)
Farquharson, Major A. C. Molson, Major John Elsdale
Fell, Sir Arthur Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Morrison, H. (Salisbury) Wormer and Sir Edward Beauchamp.
Forestier-Walker, L. Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.

Bill read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.

Viscount WOLMER

I beg to move, after Sub-section (6), to insert: (7) No proceedings of the Church Assembly in relation to a measure shall be invalidated by any vacancy in the membership of the Church Assembly or by any defect m the qualification or election of any member thereof. This, I am legally advised, is a common formula which is nearly always inserted in Acts of Parliament when any powers are given to any body, so that its proceedings shall not be upset on some technicality subsequently.

Amendment agreed to.