HC Deb 03 December 1926 vol 200 cc1584-95

I beg to move, in page 1, line 24, after the word "to" to insert the words "Scotland or."

As origiNally proposed, this Bill included Northern Ireland, but in Committee we agreed to cut out Northern Ireland. I proposed in Committee, as I propose now, that Scotland should also be excluded. I did riot succeed in Committee. The argument used against me was that Northern Ireland has a Parliament of its own, whereas in Scotland we have not our own separate Parliament. We have, however, in Scotland certain bodies whose advice and opinion upon this matter could very readily be obtained, and they have not yet passed any opinion upon the Bill. When I was in Scotland I found that a great many people were unaware that this Bill was coming forward. We have a General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the other churches in Scotland have their Assemblies. The Episcopalians have their representative Church Council. Therefore, although we have not a separate Parliament in Scotland, we have these bodies which are very suitable for discussing and expressing an opinion upon a subject such as this.

The General Assembly usually sits in the month of May, but I have been in communication with the law agent of the Committee of the Church of Scotland in regard to the Bill. The Committee state that they are in favour of granting the fullest possible liberty to Roman Catholics in the exercise of their religion—that is on a par with what we all feel and what we all wish to do—but they officially, in my correspondence with them, take exception to the repeal of those Acts which would facilitate religious processions being engaged in in Scotland more than at the present time. Here we have the opinion of the Church of Scotland on one point. I submit that we ought not to have embarked upon this proposed legislation without having had fuller discussion in religious circles upon these important points.

I do not want to argue the question of religious processions very fully in this connection, but in passing I would like to say something on the subject. In the West of Scotland we have a large number of Roman Catholics and a large number of emigrants from Ireland. The numbers are increasing from day to day, and this influx of Roman Catholics and Irish constitutes one of the problems to be dealt with in Scotland. It is one of the problems which all bodies, the civil authorities and everybody else, have to keep in mind. We have, for instance, to deal with the question of building new Roman Catholic schools, and with the question of Roman Catholic teachers and Protestant teachers.


On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in discussing this matter on this Bill?


I admit that I was travelling a little wide, but I think the question is germane to some extent to this Bill. We have in that part of Scotland a great mixture of population, a great many Roman Catholics, Scotsmen and a large number of Orangemen. If religious processions of a character which I need not describe were to be encouraged more than they are at the present time, I am sure that a great deal of trouble would be occasioned. Close by my own constituency there is the Scottish Lourdes, a place of pilgrimage, and I am sure that if special facilities were given there would be a great increase in the number of processions of a size and character that would arouse feelings among the rest of the population that would cause a great deal of trouble. The answer is that permission to hold processions should be arranged by the civil authority and not form part of the Statute law. I do not think that the local authority, the police and so on, are strong enough to deal with that matter. You might have a majority on certain councils which would lean towards allowing processions of one sort of religious persuasion or the other. The members of those councils would be assailed with applications, and I do not consider that they would be strong enough to deal with the matter in the way that it ought to be dealt with. It is far better to have a provision upon the Statute Book as at present.

In London these matters are dealt with, I understand, by the Chief Commissioner of Police. Some time ago the Chief Commissioner of Police in London was a Roman Catholic. There was no objection in the world to that, but during his time there was, I believe, a large procession inaugurated which took place and led to a good deal of disturbance.


I do not see that this argument is relevant to the Bill. It does not appear to me that the Bill changes the law in any possible way in regard to that matter. Therefore I cannot see why the exclusion of Scotland can have any effect in the way referred to.


The Bill proposes to repeal one Act of Parliament which deals with the wearing of vestments and with processions in public streets. I have stated my case. I submit that Scotland has not discussed this question sufficiently and that it is only fair that more time should be given for these proosals to be thoroughly well digested and discussed before they are passed into law.

Lieut.-Colonel McINNES SHAW

I beg to second tap Amendment.

In the West of Scotland we feel that not enough is known of this Bill, and the great deal of ill-feeling which has been aroused would, I am sure, have been obviated if all sections of the people had had the privilege of listening to the Mover of this Bill. For that reason we feel that more time should be given to allow Presbyterian opinion in Scotland to get more knowledge of this subject, and I hope the House will therefore allow Scotland to remain out of this Pill for the time being. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment has mentioned the fact that there are a number of Orangemen in Scotland. They are a very gallant and law-abiding people, but they feel that there is more in this Bill than meets the eye, and for that- reason more time should be given for Scotland to digest the proposals and thereby avoid any rancour and ill-feeling which may he engendered by passing this Measure too quickly.

Captain BENN

I feel that I ought not to give a silent vote on this matter. I cannot understand why, if the Bill is to be applicable to England, it should not be applicable also to Scotland. As a, matter of fact many of the difficulties that have been raised in regard to presentations do not apply to Scotland at all. But what does apply to Scotland is the general equality of religious beliefs as between different faiths. I am well aware that there is a feeling on this matter. As far as I am concerned I have very few Roman Catholic electors, but I think it would be a shameful thing if someone who is a Liberal, belonging to a party whose proud boast it is to have stood for religious freedom, should not raise his voice and say that, much as I regret differing from any persons who elect me, I certainly intend to cast my vote in favour of the Bill as it stands to-day.


The Amendment put forward by the hon. and gallant Member is that we should have more time in order that the Assemblies in Scotland should be consulted and Presbyterian opinion obtained. But the hon. and gallant Member was able to quote only one man, the law agent of the Church of Scotland as representing that church, and the Seconder of the Amendment was only able to refer to the opinion of the Orangemen—in support of his Motion. I claim to be as good an interpreter of the religious opinion of Scotland as either the law agent of the Church of Scotland or an Orangeman. I object strongly to the proposal made here, that Scotland should be the last refuge of bigotry, injustice and inequality. Scotland has been the great battlefield of religious freedom and equality in State and School. I grant you that we have not in church or School fully realised it. I grant you that some recent legislation in regard to the Scottish Church was rather going backwards, in my view, on that position, but our great aim in Scotland is, and has been, the great trend of our pofity in Church and State has been, towards complete religious freedom and equality. Democracy in Scotland as we have understood it, means equal rights to all creeds and preference for none, the most complete religious equality and the fullest freedom for every form of belief.

May I be allowed to sound a personal note. I was nursed in the Covenanter's spirit. I have the honour to belong to the most celebrated Covenanting parish in Scotland, the Parish of Fenwick, in Ayrshire. The blood of the Covenanters is in my veins. I have lectured more than any other living man on the Covenanters of Scotland, and I yield to no man in my regard for their struggles, their heroism, and their courage. Let me quote our national poet— The Solemn League and Covenant Now brings a smile, now brings a tear; But sacred Freedom too was theirs, If thou'rt a slave, indulge thy sneer. In pleading to-day that this Bill should cover the whole field and apply to Scotland, I am only putting my own stone on the great pyramid of freedom that throughout the ages my Scottish forebears have been rearing in my country, the foundations of which they laid in their very blood. I am a Protestant of the Protestants. If I may say so, without any offence, I am a Low Churchman. I go into Protestant pulpits preaching the great and noble simplicities of our faith. But the religious equality of all has been the very breath of my life. I have proclaimed it in our Assemblies, in the General Assembly, on public platforms. and I put it in my Election Address, and I feel that I should be false to every principle I have ever proclaimed if I did not stand up and support this Measure and plead that it should be applied to Scotland.

I know it is said in Scotland: "This is a Protestant country. Why should we give relief to Roman Catholics?" The only Protestantism I have ever admired, and the only Protestantism to which I desire ever to be attached, is a Protestantism that concedes to all others the full liberty it claims for itself. Nay, more I believe that Protestantism, and my Roman Catholic friends will, no doubt, excuse me, is the last thing in the world that needs to make progress by receiving unjust favours at the hands of the State, or by inflicting unjust disabilities on those who differ in doctrine, creed or ritual. Another objection I know in Scotland is this. They say, "Do Roman Catholics in their country give you all this freedom?" I have never read in my Bible—and I am not so familiar with it as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood)—"Do unto others as they do unto you." What I do read in my Bible is, I think it is St. Matthew vii, 12: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to diem. In Scotland we have had our own code of disabilities and penal persecution. They tell us they are obsolete now. In one manifesto that I have read it is said: In no way whatever will this Bill affect either the civil or the religious liberty of Roman Catholics. If that is so, we need not trouble, because it will neither make things better nor worse. Why should they disturb themselves about it? It is all one to me if I feel that my liberty is being infringed, whether it be an old rusty chain or one forged but yesterday which binds me. I desire to have it removed. I do not take it that I am free to follow my hon. Friend in regard to the question of processions. I make only passing reference to the subject. Dr. W. B. Robertson, of Irvine, one of the greatest divines and men of genius ever given to the Church which I represent, when on the Continent saw a Roman Catholic procession. He was the narrowest and keenest of Protestants in one sense, but he was so impressed that he fell into line and continued with the procession. I say frankly that I do not propose to do anything of that kind, but I say to my hon. Friends opposite this, that a procession—I think it takes place somewhere about the 12th July—which stands for Protestant ascendancy is as repellent to me as one that stands for Roman Catholic ascendancy. Is our Protestantism so weak in Scotland that we cannot stand to see those of another faith parading the streets? In questions of liberty and equality we have not only to allow the things that are to our liking. We have been taught in Scotland, as well as in America, that we must "feel the chain when it works a brother's pain," that we are not "to break fetters for our own dear sake," but we are "to share all the chains our brothers wear." When we take the chains from others and make a broader freedom for others, we make broader avenues of freedom for ourselves, new pathways of liberty in which we walk and rejoice. May I make a reference to the greatest representative that Scotland ever had in this House? He used memorable words when speaking in this House as a Scottish representative. I refer to W. E. Gladstone, who in the Bradlaugh case said: I am convinced that upon every religious, as well as upon every political, ground the true and wise course is not to deal out religious liberty by halves, by quarters and by fractions; but to deal it out entire, and to leave no distinction between man and man on the ground of religious differences from one end of the land to the other. I believe that to-day I am representing Scottish opinion as a whole, religious opinion and political opinion in quoting those words. In regard to what fell from one speaker about the incoming of the Irish element into Scotland and the proposal made in Scotland to close the ports against the Irish Free State, I would say that that seems to me to be a most reactionary proposal, and it is one that I would strongly oppose. In my opinion Protestantism is not to win its way by repression at all, but by giving a fuller freedom to all; it is to win its way by reason, to win its way by argument, to win its way by noble deeds, and, like other religions, to win its way by showing what it can do to build up a greater, a better, a freer, a purer, a nobler and a more Christian Scotland. I say with John Milton— Let truth and falsehood grapple. Truth never was lost in an encounter with falsehood. We are not here to-day granting toleration. I heard the word "toleration" mentioned just now. No, Sir. In 1811 Lord Stanhope, in reply to Lord Sid-mouth's Bill for repressing the liberties of Dissenters, said: The time was when Dissenters sought for toleration as a favour. Presently they demand it as a right. The time will come when they will reject it as an insult. It is just because the promoters of this Bill are not to-day asking toleration, but because they are coming forward and claiming just and equal rights with their compatriots, that I give to this Measure, and its application to Scotland, my whole-hearted support and allegiance.

Viscountess ASTOR

Everyone wants Roman Catholics to have complete freedom. I have such faith in the Protestant religion that I am not in the least frightened by these processions, if Roman Catholics want to have them. I feel that if they are not right, the more they are exposed the more England will protest. What I cannot understand about some hon. Members opposite is that they have accepted the Bill as a whole without looking into it. There are Members on this side of the House who want absolute religious freedom for all Roman Catholics, but they cannot understand why four of the Acts mentioned in the Bill have nothing to do with Roman Catholic disabilities. That ought to be explained. That is what made some of us, who are stern and unbending Protestants, a little suspicious.


That comes on the Schedule, which applies to England as well as to Scotland. The present Amendment is to exclude Scotland from the Measure.

Viscountess ASTOR

I only wanted to explain that some of us could not understand why some of the Scottish members have given assent to the Bill without looking into it more fully. We on this side have no desire whatever to be unfair to Roman Catholics. If hon. Members opposite are so keen about the Bill, we do not understand why they did not look into it a little more closely.


I think that the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) has disposed of the main arguments against the general application of the Bill to Scotland. It has been stated that this question has never been discussed in Scotland, that nobody in Scotland knew anything about it. I represent the second or third largest Division in Scotland, numerically. In the 1924 and 1923 elections I was asked questions about it. It will be remembered that the subject was acute in 1923 owing to certain actions which then took place at Carfin. We have been told that there is a strong anti-Catholic feeling against the Bill. If that be so, it is curious that no Glasgow Member has had any communication from any one in Scotland against the Bill. My constituents number 41,000, and I have received one penny postcard against the Bill. The fact of the matter is that in Scotland there is no feeling whatever against the Bill. On the contrary, the general feeling is that the Bill ought to be passed without any discussion at all.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir WILLIAM ALLEN

Since Northern Ireland has been left out of the Bill, it is not my intention to say very much, but there is one thing that the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) said, to which I take the very strongest objection and it is only right that, so far as my knowledge goes, I should contradict it in the strongest terms. He said—and he will correct me if I am misstating him or if I have misunderstood him—that the processions that take place on the 12th of July stand for Protestant ascendancy. I wish to take the opportunity of saying that nothing could be further from the truth. I have belonged to that society nearly all my life and never at any time have we taken the attitude that we stand for Protestant ascendancy. Nothing could be further from the truth and I am very sorry if it should remain an impression on Members that such a thing could be true. We have always stood for civil and religious liberty for all. I wish to make my protest against the words of the hon. Member.


Before we divide on this Amendment, I would like to ask the framers of the Bill why it is that in framing the Bill they made it apply to Scotland and yet particularly excluded Northern Ireland. I can perfectly well see that it may not be necessary to make the Bill apply to Northern Ireland because of the older Statutes, but there are some of the more recent Statutes, such as those passed in the reigns of the Georges, that must apply to Northern Ireland in the same way as they apply to Scotland. I would like an explanation on this point.


The first reason for excluding Northern Ireland would be that Northern Ireland has a Parliament of its own which aught to be left to deal with questions of this sort. The second reason is that it has already been dealt with in Ulster by the Government of Ireland Act which in a very few lines wholly swept away every single one of these disabilities.

1.0 P.M.


I feel bound to express a Scottish view which has not much expression in any of the speeches of those who have hitherto spoken on behalf of Scottish constituencies. As regards the principle on which this Bill purports to be founded—the principle of religious liberty and of freedom of conscience—I subscribe to everything which has been said and where there is a substantial and direct grievance which is suffered by our Roman Catholic fellow citizens (for example, it is suggested that they do not receive the same remission of Income Tax on their charities as do other charities), there I would support any amendment of the law. But there are two reasons why a very large number—and here I would say with great respect to the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Barr) that he may be entitled to speak for some districts, but not for all districts of Scotland—of people in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, are doubtful about this Bill. The first reason is that, as the hon. Member opposite said, they have not been told how four of the Acts enumerated in the Schedule affect the Roman Catholics at all. The second broad principle is that we ask ourselves where in all the world is there a country which shows greater religious toleration and affords more complete liberty of conscience and worship that this country?

In England and in Scotland Roman Catholics from Liberal and democratic France and from Liberal Italy come flocking to receive asylum. I am proud of it. But we in the Highlands of Scotland ask why it is that it is necessary for this, the most tolerant of all countries in the world, to introduce this Measure for relief. I listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Motherwell and of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), with which on the broad principles I was in general agreement, and also to the eloquent speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite, but I have failed to ascertain any substantial and practical grievance from which this Bill would relieve Roman Catholics in England and Scotland. I am not opposed to the Bill solely on that ground. It may be that there are such grievances. Why should we not leave this matter until it can be brought up and discussed in our representative Scottish Assemblies? I would therefore appeal for a little time. Why do not the Roman Catholics let it alone unless they can show some real and practical grievance from which they are suffering? The only fear I feel about this Bill is that it will tend not to appease but to revive those religious dissensions from which we have suffered in the past and which we hope will not recur in the future. It is for those reasons, because I know that we in the Highlands of Scotland are just as staunch as the hon. Member for Motherwell in those principles of religious freedom, those covenanting principles, to which he has referred and of which he himself is so respected a protagonist, that I feel bound to voice, on behalf of the people whom I know and to whom I belong, their opposition to this Bill.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 22; Noes, 200.

Division No. 526.] AYES. [1.5 p.m.
Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H. Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Lynn, Sir Robert J. Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)
Burton, Colonel H. W. MacIntyre, Ian Tinne, J. A.
Chapman, Sir S. Moles, Thomae Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim) Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Haslam, Henry C Oman, Sir Charles William C. Sir A. Sprot and Lieut.-Colonel
Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley) Reid, D. D. (County Down) Molnnes Shaw.
Hurd, Percy A. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Greenwood, Rt. Hn.Sir H. (W'th's'w, E) Potts, John S.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Groves, T. Preston, William
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Grundy, T. W. Radford, E. A.
Ammon, Charles George Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Rees, Sir Beddoe
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Rentoul, G. S.
Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W. Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R.(Eastbourne) Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Baker, Walter Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Riley, Ben
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Hardie, George D. Robinson, W. C.(Yorks, W.R., Elland)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Harney, E. A. Ropner, Major L.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Hayday, Arthur Rose, Frank H.
Batey, Joseph Hayes, John Henry Saklatvala, Shapurji
Beamish, Captain T. P. H. Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Sandeman, A. Stewart
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Scurr, John
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford) Sexton, James
Bondfield, Margaret Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by) Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)
Bourne, Captain Robert Craft Hilton, Cecil Skelton, A. N.
Bowyer, Captain G. E. W. Hirst, G. H. Slaney, Major p. Kenyon
Briant, Frank Hirst, W. (Bradford, South) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Holland, Sir Arthur Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Bromley, J. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Buchanan, G. Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Buckingham, Sir H. Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n) Stamford, T. W.
Carver, W. H. Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose) Steel, Major Samuel Strang
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Jacob, A. E. Stephen, Campbell
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Storry-Deans, R.
Charleton, H. C. John, William (Rhondda, West) Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Clarry, Reginald George Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Clayton, G. C. Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Sullivan, J.
Cluse, W. S. Kelly, W. T, Sutton, J. E.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Kennedy, T. Taylor, R. A.
Compton, Joseph Kirkwood, D. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Darby)
Connolly, M. Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)
Cove, W. G. Lansbury, George Thorne, W. (West Ham, plaistow)
Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.) Lawson, John James Thurtle, Ernest
Crott, Brigadier-General Sir H. Lee, F. Tinker, John Joseph
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick) Lister, Cunliffe-. Rt Hon. Sir Philip V'ant, S. P.
Dalton, Hugh Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'ts) Wallhead, Richard C.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Looker, Herbert William Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston- [...] -Hull>
Davies, Dr. Vernon Lowth, T. Warrender, Sir Victor
Day, Colonel Harry Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dixey, A. C. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Duncan, C. MacRobert, Alexander M. Welsh, J. C
Dunnico, H. Malone, Major P. B. Westwood J.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.
Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington) March, S. White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-
Elveden, Viscount Margesson, Captain D. Whiteley, W.
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.) Maxton, James Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South) Meyer, Sir Frank Williams. A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Everard, W. Lindsay Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Finburgh, S. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Ford, Sir P. J. Montague, Frederick Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Moore, Sir Newton J. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Fraser, Captain Ian Morden, Col. W. Grant Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Murnin, H. Windsor, Walter
Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ganzoni, Sir John Naylor, T. E. Wise, Sir Fredric
Gibbins, Joseph Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Wolmer, Viscount
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Wright, W.
Goff, Sir Park O'Connor, Thomas P. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Gosling, Harry Palin, John Henry Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Gower, Sir Robert Paling, W.
Grace, John Perkins, Colonel E. K. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Mr. Blundell and Mr. Barr.
Greene, W. P. Crawford Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.