§ This Act shall not alter, add to, or abridge the law in force prior to the passing hereof relating to services, acts, matters, or things performed or done in any church or chapel of the established Church of England or relating to clergy or ministers of the said established Church of England or relating to the exercise by Roman Catholics of any right of presentation to any benefice or other ecclesiastical living or office in the established Church of England.
§ Nothing herein contained shall adversely affect the title to properties which were vested in the Crown by the statute, 1 Eliz., cap. 24.—[Mr. Dennis Herbert.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. DENNIS HERBERT
I beg to move "That the Clause be read a Second time."
I should explain at once that the object of this proposed new Clause is to meet as far as possible the principle involved in a number of Amendments which appear on the Order Paper. There may be some question as to whether the proviso—if one may so term it—made in this Clause is at all necessary. Those of us who are supporting the Bill are, however, most anxious to make it clear that our intention is not to interfere with what is known as the Reformation Settlement, or to interfere with the established Church of England. The New Clause, therefore, is designed to meet Amendments the principle of which we should be prepared to accept, although in some cases we could not accept them in the exact form in which they appear on the Paper. These Amendments include two new Clauses—(Saving rights of title) and (Presentations to benefices)—standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Northern Lanark (Colonel Sir A. Sprot), an Amendment to Clause 2 standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Clifton Brown)—to insert the wordsnothing herein contained shall permit or make lawful any act, practice or usage in 1562 a church of the Established Church of England which would have been unlawful if this Act had not been passed"—and also an Amendment thereto in the name of the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman) proposing to vary that wording. It is also designed to meet, and I believe I am right in saying it will satisfy the point of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) who proposes to amend the Schedule by restricting the repeal of a Statute of Edward VI to one section. The effect of the new Clause may be desribed in three parts. First, it provides that nothing in this Act shall in any way affect anything done in a church or chapel of the established Church of England, nor anything done by a churchman or minister of that church. Secondly, it saves the existing law which makes it impossible for a Roman Catholic to exercise the right of presentation to any living or other office in the established Church of England. Thirdly, it proposes to save rights of title derived from old Acts of Parliament which forfeited estates to the Crown. As I have said, we never had any wish to do any of the things which are guarded against by the new Clause. I notice on the Paper a number of what I think I may rightly describe as verbal Amendments to this new Clause. So far as I am concerned, and I think I can speak for my hon. friends who are acting with me, there is no objection to any of these proposed alterations in the actual drafting of the new Clause. In these circumstances I hope the Clause will meet with general acceptance.
§ Mr. BLUNDELL
I beg to second the Motion.
I do so with more pleasure because this proposed new Clause exemplifies the spirit in which this Bill has been brought forward. We do not desire to be provocative or aggressive in any sense or form. We do not desire to interfere with any other persons' liberties, or the rights of any other persons to manage their own affairs. All we ask in this Bill is that, as regards our own religion, we shall be put in the same position as those who profess other faiths in this country. The Bill, as origiNally drafted, was not intended to do, and, in fact, did not do, any of the things which are guarded against in this Clause, but as certain fears were expressed by some hon. Members, we drafted this. 1563 Clause to meet those fears and to make it perfectly clear to anybody who might read the Bill, even in the most casual way, that nothing in it affected the existing law of the Church of England or interfered with any of the rights to property or other rights which are set down. As to the question of presentations to benefices by Catholics, the House is no doubt aware that our right to present is -carefully guarded against by a number of statutes which are not interfered with in any way by this Bill, but we gladly put in this 'saving Clause to remove any fears or doubts which any hon. Member may have that the Bill goes further than it purports to do or interferes with anybody else. Regarding the Amendments to the New Clause, I think I can speak for my co-religionists in this House in saying that we are prepared to accept all of them.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I think this new Clause largely meets the point contained in the Amendment which I have put down to the Schedule, and I rise now to say that if my impression be confirmed by the Debate, it is not my intention to move that Amendment. Personally, I think many of the difficulties in connection with this Bill arise from the fact that it is legislation by reference of a peculiarly complicated character. Some of the acts referred to in the Bill can scarcely be discovered in the Library because they are bound up in Volumes which are very much larger than those in which the general Statutes are bound, and it has been difficult to find out precisely what is the intention of some of the Acts referred to. Personally I stand for religious tolerance, but I do not want to see an act of religious tolerance interfering with the religious body of which I happen to be a member. I am prepared to support the Bill so long as its effects are confined solely to those who are Roman Catholics.
§ Mr. D. REID
I think this proposed new Clause brings to the front the point which has just been raised by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. H. Williams) in reference to the complicated nature of this legislation. The House, from time to time, has complained bitterly when Measures have been brought forward by Governments proposing legis 1564 lation by reference. As the last speaker said this is legislation by reference of a peculiarly complicated kind. I cannot see why the hon. Members who promoted this Bill should not have put down, in black arid white, what they wanted to do. If they had done that, we should have had a chance of understanding it, but what they have done is to seek to repeal a number of Statutes, which are, some of them, very long and complicated, and I defy anyone to say exactly what the result of those repeals may be. This Clause reminds me very much of what was said once in this House in reference to another provision, that it was equivalent to indicating that, when it was raining, a man who had failed to put up his umbrella should be entitled to the same protection as if he had put it up. The hon. Members who have promoted this Bill do not know the effect of their own legislation. They repeal a number of Acts of Parliament contained in the Schedule, but they have had pointed out to them from time to time that those repeals would affect various people whom they say they never meant to affect, and there may be numerous other cases in which these repeals will have effects which those hon. Members never contemplated at all.
It is almost impossible to say when any Act of Parliament is obsolete. One often hears talk of obsolete Acts of Parliament, but I, myself, within my own limited experience, was once engaged in a case which turned on one of the sanctions of the Statute for the suppression of the lesser monasteries, an older Statute than some of those which are intended to he repealed by this Bill. One might have said that that old Statute was past and done with, but we find it cropping up in some titles to property in the last 20 years, and so with regard to the Statutes in this Bill. It is impossible, when one repeals a Statute in this way, to say what the exact effect of such repeal will be, and -we must remember, when we are told that some of these Statutes have no effect at the present time, that there is a procedure by which obsolete Statutes are dealt with, and from time to time a Statute Law Revision Act is passed. Statutes are carefully examined, and the Committee which deals with them has the advantage of expert assistance. If it 1565 turns out on examination that those Statutes have no effect at the present time, a comprehensive Statute Law Revision Act is passed, and those Statutes are wiped off the Statute Book and cumber it no longer. That procedure has come down to a date much later than some of the Acts dealt with in this Bill.
Quite a number of Acts have been wiped off the Statute Book by Statute Law Revision Acts which are later in date than some of the Acts in this Schedule, which, as a result of expert consideration, have been left on the Statute Book. That is a prima facie ground for saying that they ought not to be lightly dealt with. There must have been something before the framers of the last Statute Law Revision Act or one of the previous Revision Acts that led them to think that those Statutes ought to be left in force. The hon. Gentleman who moved the new Clause has not attempted to explain what the Statutes are or what is the effect of their repeal. It must be remembered that this Bill was introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule.
§ Mr. HERBERT
It would have been out of order to discuss the Statutes to be repealed in moving this new Clause, but every single one of them was referred to in the Memorandum attached to the Bill as first, printed, and they were all fully discussed in the two days' discussion in the Standing Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. REID
The hon. Gentleman has now called attention to what seems to me to be one of the defects of our modern procedure in this House. A Bill goes to Standing Committee, and unless a Member happens to be chosen a member of the Committee dealing with the Bill, it passes from his sight altogether. The Standing Committee only comprises a comparatively small number of Members of this House. The ordinary channel of information concerning Bills is the Second Reading Debate, and there was no Second Reading Debate on this Bill, so that the question now comes before this House for the first time for reasonable consideration. The fact that these Acts are on the Statute Book now is a prima facie case for leaving them here. H they are obsolete, they can be dealt with the next time a. Statute Law Revision Bill is brought into the House. The House will then know that the matter has received expert attention and that it has 1566 been before a Committee with expert assistance, and the matter would have to pass the scrutiny of the Law Officers of the Crown. Therefore, the mere fact that they are on the Statute Book and that the Statute Law Revision Acts have come down to a later date is prima facie evidence that they ought to remain on the Statute Book until they are dealt with in the ordinary way. So much for the general question. But this new Clause states, among other things—This Act shall not alter, add to, or abridge the law in force prior to the passing hereof relating to services, the exercise by Roman Catholics of any right of presentation to any benefice or other ecclesiastical living or office in the established Church of England.There is an Act referred to in the Schedule of this Bill, the 11th of George II, cap. 17—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I notice from the Order Paper that an hon. Member is proposing to remove that Act from the Schedule. I do not know whether it is desired that this Debate should be substituted for the Debate on the Schedule.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
On a point of Order. The last part of this new Clause is a saving Clause in respect of a particular matter. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Down (Mr. Reid) is calling attention to the Statute which is intended to be repealed, because it will appear upon examination that if the Statute in the Schedule is repealed, and the last sentence in the first paragraph of this new Clause on the Paper is passed, there will be two enactments in the same Bill which cancel each other. I, therefore, submit that my hon. Friend is entitled to refer to the Act which is repealed by the Schedule to show that that repeal would be contrary to the intention, at least as I understand it, of the Clause that my hon. Friend has been good enough to say he would be glad to ask the House to accept.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is the reason why I wish to safeguard the right to move to omit that Statute from the Schedule, but if it be desired to discuss it now, I do not object myself.
§ Mr. HERBERT
Certainly not. There seems to be some misunderstanding here. The Section the hon. Member proposes to repeal deals, not with the right of presentation, but with the actual transfer of the ownership of an advowson.
§ Mr. REID
I think it would be convenient if the hon. member in whose name the subsequent Amendment appears has no objection to deal with this point here. The House is aware that where the right of presentation to a living in the Church of England is vested in a Roman Catholic, that right of presentation is exercisable by the University of Oxford or by the University of Cambridge. That is enacted by a Statute of William and Mary, to which I need not further refer, as that Statute is not in question. Section 5 of the Act of George II, Chapter 17, is the Section which is still in operation, and that Section contains a recital as to why it was passed. It sets out, first of all, the existing provision as to the presentation to benefices by the Universities when the right of presentation belonged to a Roman Catholic, and it goes on to say:Several provisions were made by the said. Act of the twelfth year of the reign of Queen Anne, which have been fraudulently evaded by persons obtaining from such Papists, without a full and valuable consideration, Grants of such Advowsons and Right of Presentation, Nomination and Donation, upon confidence only, that such Grantees will, at the Request of such Papists, present to such Benefices or Ecclesiastical Livings, Clerks nominated by such Papists who have been presented accordingly, contrary to the true Intent and Meaning of the said Acts.This Statute is only a supplementary Statute, and, as I say, it provides that where the right of presentation to a benefice belongs to a Roman Catholic it shall be exercised by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. According to this recital, it was found that the early Statute was evaded by a Roman Catholic conveying the benefice to a trustee, who was a Protestant, and that Protestant had presented to the benefice the nominee of the Roman Catholic patron, who was incapable of presenting it himself. This Statute, as I say, is only a supplementary Statute. The same with regard to wills. A Roman Catholic in his will devised the benefice to a Protestant, and that Protestant presented the person nominated 1568 by the Roman Catholic. Therefore, this Statute is not in itself a substantive Statute.
I think the House will see that this Clause does not carry out what the hon. Gentleman himself said he intends that it should carry out. He does not want to alter the law which provides that if the right of presenation belongs to a Roman Catholic, it shall be exercised by the Universities. That he is prepared to leave standing, but what he does propose would remove the safeguard against the evasion of that Statute, and, therefore, I say this new Clause does not, as a matter of fact, keep the law in the same position as it was before. It leaves the existing law standing, but it presents a method of evasion. In. these circumstances, I submit that this Clause will not carry out what the Mover says is his intention.
There are other points. The latter part of the new Clause deals with the Act of Elizabeth. There is another new Clause on the Order Paper later dealing with that subject, and I hope to deal with the point when that Clause is reached. I do think the House has reason to complain. Here we have a Bill which proposes to alter what has been the settled policy of this country. It was for a century the settled policy of the Government of this country to impose certain restrictions on Roman Catholics. In order to remove those restrictions, we have a Bill brought before us in an extraordinarily difficult form. There is no member of the Government present except the learned Solicitor-General. I think in a case of this kind the House is entitled to ask for some assistance from the Government. I think the House is entitled to ask that the Government will state what the position is. I would submit that what is really wanted is the withdrawal of the Bill, and that the Government should undertake to go into the whole matter. If there are any disabilities with regard to taxation or such matters, I am quite sure the House would be prepared to deal with them, but I think the Government should give us their assistance, and let us know definitely what we are doing if we pass this Bill. In these circumstances, I would ask the hon. and learned 1569 Gentleman the Solicitor-General if he could at least give the House some assistance on the points I have raised.
Sir JOSEPH NAIL
I would like to remind the House that we are on the Report stage. The Bill has been through Committee upstairs, and has been before the House year after year in recent times. If any of the quite extraordinary interpretations, such as are indicated in some of the criticisms which have been circulated, could be read into the Measure, I should be one of the last Members in the House to be associated with this Bill. It has been said that it is very complicated legislation by reference. That is an absolutely unfounded criticism. If you seek to exempt certain persons from the incidence of existing law, or seek to repeal an existing Statute, you are bound to refer to it, so that I do not quite know what my hon. Friend means when he complains of references to existing Statutes. I am a little surprised that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has taken the attitude he does to this Measure, because his own constituents in Ulster already enjoy—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid the hon. Member is following a bad scent. This discussion would be appropriate to the Third Reading.
Sir J. NAIL
I was going to comment on this new Clause which it is proposed should be added to the Bill, and I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend that the Amendments which are down in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Pennefather) and some others should be accepted in this new Clause. I only want to point out that there is a precedent for this Bill and this new Clause in principle, because the House has already enacted that in Ireland this exemption should be granted. I would remind the House that in Section 5, Sub-section (2), of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, it is enacted thatAny existing enactment by which any penalty, disadvantage, or disability is imposed on account of religious belief or on a member of any religious order as such shall, as from the appointed day, cease to have effect in Ireland.That has been done in Ireland, and yet my hon. Friends from Ulster come and object to the same thing being done in 1570 England. What this Bill proposes to do is to grant similar exemption in Great Britain, and if that is done the statutes will cease to function altogether. That is why they are referred to and included in the Schedule for repeal. I hope the House will not be drawn off into the discussion of some quite distinct point which may well arise on the particular Amendment, but will accept this Clause which, in my view, entirely meets the real objections which have been quite sincerely raised to the Measure as a whole, and I hope that having accepted this Clause, with the Amendments to it, we can then proceed to the one or two remaining points, which can be quite as readily and usefully disposed of.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
My hon. and gallant Friend made one or two observations which, I think, ought to be referred to. I hope the House will allow me to say that, holding the convictions I do on these matters, I have deemed it not improper, though I happen to be a member of the Government, to give expression to those convictions as opportunity arises. My hon. Friends who are interested in this Bill and who do not belong to the English Church feel very deeply upon it, and I am quite sure that my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment will not complain of other Members who feel equally deeply expressing their sincere convictions. At the same time I wish to remark that anything I may say upon this Amendment or upon this Bill is entirely personal to myself, and that if I presume to express an opinion upon a legal question that arises here, hon. Members will take it as they would from any other lawyer who happens to he a Member of the House—and perhaps give the less attention to it for that reason. There is one real point of substance which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Down (Mr. Reid) has referred to, and it is only upon that point that I think it necessary to say a word now, because I understand, Mr. Speaker, you have indicated that we had better have the discussion upon it in substance at this stage, though one or two other points may later have to be dealt with shortly.
I am very glad my hon. Friend has at last put down an Amendment which does meet some of the objections which 1571 some of my hon. Friends have felt towards this Bill. I think it was put upon the Order Paper only the day before yesterday, and I think it was a rather tardy recognition, perhaps the result of a rather tardy examination, of what the Bill really does, that led them to put down that Amendment. Speaking for myself, I think the Amendment is a great improvement in at least two respects, and I do not imagine there will be any objection to it if it is amended in the way the other Amendments on the Paper, which I understand my hon. Friend is willing to accept, propose to amend it.
I would draw attention to the last part of the first paragraph of the Clause, with which I am concerned at the moment. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Down has explained that it was a Statute of Anne which made it illegal for Roman Catholics to make a presentation to an English advowson; that in the event of an advowson or a right of presentation being owned by a Roman Catholic the right of presentation passes to the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge or, in other circumstances to other persons. My hon. Friends quite rightly say they do not propose, and never did propose to repeal that Statute. It was so stated in the original Memorandum introducing the Bill, which said the repeal of this Section—that is Section 5 of 11 George H—will not affect the right of presentation, which passes to one of the Universities while the advowson is in Roman Catholic owner ship. It was early found out, after the Statute of Anne that, quite legitimately, Roman Catholics transferred their advowsons to persons who might be described as their trustees, persons in whom they had confidence, in order to avoid the disabilities created by the Statute of Anne. They transferred the advowson to a certain person who happened to be a Protestant and who might he trusted to appoint the nominee of the Roman Catholic owner. That was a plain evasion of the object of the Statute of Anne. Thereupon the Section which it is proposed to repeal—this Section 5 of 11 George II—was passed. Section 5, having recited the former Statute which transferred the advowson in those circumstances to the Universities 1572 of Oxford and Cambridge, went on to provide that every grant to be made by a Roman Catholic at any advowsonother than bona fide and for a full and valuable consideration to and for a Protestantshould be null and void. In other words, it prevented these colourable transfers of advowsons to Protestants with the object of appointing a particular person, the advowson then to revert back to the Roman Catholic owner. It is quite true my hon. Friends do not propose to repeal the Statute which makes it illegal for a Roman Catholic to present to an advowson, but to repeal the Statute which makes it possible for a Roman Catholic to avoid that disability. My hon. Friends who are Roman Catholics admit that they have no right, as they have no desire, to interfere in any way at all with the rights of presentation in the Established Church, and I should not expect any of my hon. Friends, for whom I have the most sincers respect, to desire to interfere. Then let me ask them how they can ask us to repeal this Section of 11 George II when the only thing the Section does is to say that a Roman Catholic shall not transfer for a colourable purpose, that is, otherwise than bona fide, an advowson of which he happens to be the owner? I can imagine some of my hon. Friends opening their eyes if, by some freak of fortune, it happened that a Protestant had some power to deal in or transfer some right of presentation in their own Church. I say to the credit of Roman Catholics that they have always recognised in their text books that they have no right to complain of this particular disability. I quote an observation from a legal text book by a Roman Catholic, Mr. Anstey's "Guide to the Laws of England," affecting Roman Catholics. He speaks of this Statute and says:There can be no practical grievance to a Roman Catholic in being forbidden by law to do that which his conscience would scarcely permit him in any case to do.That is very frank and it is very proper, and I imagine it would secure the assent of all hon. Members, whether members of the Church of England or of the Roman Catholic Church.
Then I ask leave to point this out, so that the House may understand what they will do if they leave this Statute of George II in the Schedule. My hon. 1573 Friend has indicated his willingness to accept the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Northern Lanark (Colonel Sir Alexander Sprot) which proposes to leave out the words "the exercise by Roman Catholics of." The Clause as drawn undoubtedly only saves the Statute of Anne, but if those words are left out, as it is proposed, it will read: "or relating to any right of presentation to any benefice."
That Amendment will have the result of saying that nothing in this Bill shall have the effect of repealing Section 5 of 11 of George II—the Section I have been dealing with; but then we shall have this extraordinary position. Unless it is agreed to omit the Act from the Schedule, we shall have the Act repealed in the Schedule but re-enacted in substance in the body of the Bill. I hardly think that would be creditable to the commonsense of the House of Commons. I do not know what might be done in another place, but I cannot believe that any of my hon. Friends, whether members of the Established Church or not, would desire a piece of legislation which would be confused and, indeed, contradictory. I think my hon. Friends who belong to the Roman Catholic Church will be doing, if I may say so with respect, honour to themselves if they say frankly "We have not the least desire to interfere even indirectly with rights of presentation in another Church. If unintentioNaily our Bill has been drawn with that effect we will recognise the fact, and we will hold it over for some further inquiry, because we think we may have been mistaken; but at any rate we will not do that at this present moment and we will allow the Act to go out of the Schedule." When that has been done it may not be necessary to have the last few words at all.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I presume the Solicitor-General would not wish to retain the existing disability of the Roman Catholic owner of advowsons to make them over freely and Voluntarily to the bishop or the Church or to a university.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
My hon. Friend has raised an interesting and in- 1574 genious point, and he is suggesting that the object of this Bill is to facilitate the disposal of advowsons to bishops.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I understand the hon. Member to suggest that Roman Catholics under this Bill will be entitled to transfer their advowsons to bishops. I think the existing law is quite adequate to deal with advowsons. The whole question of presentation of benefices is under consideration in the Assembly of the Church of England. It is better to leave the law as it is than to pass a Bill which might indeed facilitate the transfer by Roman Catholics to a bishop, but at the same time open a much wider door to the evasions which the Act was origiNally passed to prevent.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would like to say that we on these benches, like every other section of the House, hold various views about religion and matters concerning religion. There is one thing, however, upon which we are all agreed, and it is that every citizen should be free to worship God or not to worship God, and we believe in regard Lo this matter in absolute religious freedom and equality. I think we might also say that we agree with the principle that the less Parliament has to do with the making of laws for the regulation of religion or churches the better it will he for religion. In regard to this particular Bill Personally I would prefer that the Bill had remained very much as it came from the Committee, but I recognise that the promoters of this Bill have been called upon to satisfy certain objections which have been raised. On this Amendment I would like to say that I do not understand the frame of mind or the logic of those who object to a Roman Catholic who possesses a church living exercising his ordinary right. Personally I do not think lay people ought to possess those livings, and I hope the day will come when the Church will control those matters entirely.
But things being as they are, I do not understand the strong objection that is taken to a Roman Catholic appointing a Church of England Minister when at this time of day you may have an agnostic Prime Minister who may have the gift of bishoprics and even the appointment of an archbishop in his hands, and even a 1575 Jew, an infidel, a Turk, a Buddhist, a Christian Scientist, or a Theosophist may have the right to appoint these people when a Roman Catholic is not allowed this privilege. I think that is perfectly absurd, and all these arguments this afternoon and these appeals to musty old laws are quite out of date. Those old laws are only appropriate to the days when freedom to speak was much less respected than it is now. I cannot understand the storm which is being raised because they are proposing this afternoon to remove this disability from those who hold the Roman Catholic faith. I would like to point out that if it is held that the reason you want to prevent Roman Catholics appointing to a living is because you do not desire that men should be appointed with Romish tendencies and leanings—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understand that this new Clause is merely an attempt to state the law as it now exists, and does not raise any new,question.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think that the discussion up to the present has been on the lines of preserving the present position by which the Roman Catholic is not allowed to make a presentation to a Church of England living.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to argue on the merits of the question, but merely on the law.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am afraid, if it comes to a question of law, I cannot compete with hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite. But I want to make it clear that at this time of day for the House of Commons to be discussing this question is rather childish, and I do not think it adds to the reputation of the Church or any of those who wish to uphold religion. I do not think religion can be upheld in this sort of way, and I wish to repeat that the less this House has to do with the regulation of religion or of churches the better it will be for religion and for the churches.
§ Sir JOHN PENNEFATHER
I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if I am now entitled to move my Amendments.
§ Mr. BLUNDELL
With regard to what has been said by the Solicitor-General, may I be allowed to say that we have no desire whatever to interfere directly or indirectly by evasion or in any other way with the presentation to any living of the Church of England, even if it is appurtenant to an estate. The reason we include Section 5 is because under the existing law a Catholic may not leave an advowson by will. This Clause, as amended, will read as follows:Nothing this Act nor the repeal of any enactments or parts thereof specified in the Schedule thereof shall in any way alter, add to, or abridge the law in force prior to the passing hereof relating to services, acts, matters or things performed or done in any church or chapel of the established Church of England, or remove the existing disabilities of Roman Catholics as regards presentation to any benefice or other ecclesiastical living or office in the established Church of England.I submit to my hon. Friend that nothing' could be more clear and explicit than that. We wish to repeal the Section because it inflicts another small disability, and we put in a saving Clause which makes it impossible for anyone to do that to which my hon. and learned Friend objects.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
I appreciate very much the way in which my hon. Friends have accepted our Amendments to this new Clause, and the only thing I want to be satisfied about is why, if they are accepting these Amendments, they find it necessary at all to do away with Section 5 of the Act of George II. The whole object of the Bill is to relieve Roman Catholics from certain disabilities, and, if they can assure mo that in doing away with these Statutes, they are not altering the law regarding the exercise by Roman Catholics of the right of presentation to benefices in the Church of England, I shall not oppose the Third Reading. I am not altogether convinced, but I have a, perfectly open mind, and if I can be convinced that it is all right, I shall be only too glad not to vote against the Third Reading. I should like, in regard to what has been said by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), to say one word about Roman Catholics having the right to give away Church of England livings. It is an interference with the Church of England, because it is for that Church to give away its own livings, and that is one of the 1577 reasons why this Clause goes far to meet my objections.
§ Mr. REID
This Amendment, standing in my name, which the hon. Member has expressed his willingness to accept, would not in my opinion carry out what we want to carry out, but, if the hon. Member will agree to omitting this Act from the Schedule, that I think would do so, and, in my opinion, nothing short of that will carry out the object which I have in view.
§ Sir BEDDOE REES
I do not belong to the Church of England and I am not a Roman Catholic; I represent the rather big body of Free Church opinion, and they look upon this Bill with favour because they believe in civil and religious liberty. I have just had sent me a Resolution from the Committee of the Evangelical Free Churches. After very carefully considering the Bill, they have passed a Resolution in which they say that they adhere to the historic Nonconformist principle of free and complete civil and religious liberty in faith and practice. It should surely be established that a member of the Roman Catholic Church should have nothing whatever to do with the presentation of a living in the Established Church of England.
§ Sir B. REES
Certainly, a Wesleyan should not interfere any more than a Roman Catholic or a Jew. I hope the time is soon coming when the Church of England will have complete control over its own livings. Therefore, I would appeal to the supporters of the Bill to agree to the suggestion of the Solicitor-General and take out the reference to this particular old Act. I think, if that were done, it would command very large support, and, on behalf of those I represent, I certainly support the Bill.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I can quite see why my Catholic friends object to having this kept in. It does seem peculiar when people of all kinds of religion and of no religion can present advowsons, you should pick out one particular sect and say that they should not.
§ Mr. BLUNDELL
The hon. Member is really conveying quite a false impression to the House though, I am sure, with the best intentions. Catholics do not now 1578 present to livings in the Church of England, and have not the slightest desire to do so.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Sir J. PENNEFATHER
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out the words "This Act shall not," and to insert instead thereof the wordsNothing in this Act nor the repeal of any enactments or parts thereof specified in the Schedule thereof shall in any way.The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) and the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Blundell) have intimated that they see no objection to this Amendment, but I think it is only due to the House and the public outside that the reason for it should be stated in order to sweep away many misapprehensions May I refer to the genesis of the new Clause. It arose in this way. Two sections of the Church of England put down Amendments. One section feared that the effect of this Bill might be in one direction, and the other section feared that it might be in the. Opposite direction. Therefore, my hon. Friend and his colleagues put down this new Clause which relates, not at all to Roman Catholic disabilities, but merely to questions concerning the Church of England. There are in this country millions of people who are very nervous as to what the effect of this Bill may be, They look at the Bill, and they find it is a very small Measure with very few words. They probably see no objection as regards the words printed on the first page, but, When they turn over, they find it is intended to repeal no less than eight Statutes or sections of Statutes and very naturally they ask themselves what is the effect of this repeal. Therefore, in the wording of my Amendment I have made it quite clear that the repeal of the various Statutes shall not have any effect as regards the practices and ceremonies of the Church of England.
Brigadier-General C. BROWN
I beg to second the Amendment.
This Clause was, I think, put down in order to meet an Amendment that I myself origiNally put down. When I put down that Amendment, I first of all 1579 went to the promoters of the Bill, and they asked me to alter it. I gave them the Amendment to alter, and my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) altered it, and I put it down in the altered form that he suggested. I take no exception to the intentions of the Movers in putting down this proposed new Clause, and I appreciate the fact that they are allowing us to insert Amendments which we think will improve it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
Brigadier-General C. BROWN
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out the wordsin force prior to the passing hereof.It seems to me that there is no need to qualify the law by these words, and, as I understand that my hon. Friend is kind enough to accept this Amendment, I need not say more.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir J. PENNEFATHER
I do not move the next Amendment standing in my name—in line 4, to leave out the wordsrelating to the exercise by,and to insert instead thereof the wordsremove the existing disabilities of.
§ Mr. HERBERT
I do not want nay hon. Friends to be misled when I said I would accept all these Amendments. It does occur to me that this proposed Amendment in line 4— [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not being moved!]—and the following Amend, went in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Sir A. Sprot), in line 5, to leave out the wordsthe exercise by Roman Catholics of,are somewhat inconsistent. The whole point is whether it is better for my hon. Friends to move the first one or the second.
§ Sir ALEXANDER SPROT
I beg to move, in line 5, to leave out the wordsthe exercise by Roman Catholics of.This Amendment has been dealt with by previous speakers, but I hope I may be allowed to say a word or two about it. The matter is a little complicated, and I wish to try to make it as clear as Possible. It is the presentation to 1580 livings in the Church of England. Roman Catholics do not desire to have the right to present to livings in the Church of England. They are prohibited from doing so by an Act of William and Mary, or of Queen Anne, I do not know which; and it is not proposed to interfere with that legisation at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Blundell) has disavowed, quite properly, any intention of doing that, but that is not the point. It is not the Act of William and Mary, or of Queen Anne, which is proposed to lie repealed by this Bill; it is an Act of George II which was passed in order to meet evasions of the prohibition of presentation, where Roman Catholics who were owners of livings, or presentations to livings, arranged to do it by nominating a third party. I consider that in this proposed new Clause the words "the exercise by Roman Catholics" will not meet that case at all, although they would meet the case of the Act of William and Mary, or of Queen Anne, with which, however, as I have said, no one desires to interfere.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir J. PENNEFATHER
I beg to move, in line 8, to leave out the word "were," and to insert instead thereof the word "are."
I do not move- the consequential Amendment in line 4 which stands in my name, to leave out the words "of any right of," arid insert the words "as regards," because that has been covered by the last Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for North Lanark (Sir A. Sprot). There is a, further consequential Amendment in my name, in line 8, to leave out the words "1 Eliz., cap. 24." My object in putting down these two Amendments is that the rights of the Crown may not he limited by the words "1 Eliz., cap.24." but that, whatever the rights of the Crown are, they should be maintained without disturbance by the present Measure.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am not quite sure that by this Amendment my hon. Friend is really doing what he 1581 intends. I am speaking now on the purely technical point of drafting. The Statute of Elizabeth vested certain lands of certain monasteries and chantries in the Crown, and a great many of those lands were almost at once granted to other persons—
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
—to educational institutions and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for the greater part. If my hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted, and the word "were" were changed into "are," the Amendment would only save the title of properties which are at present vested in the Crown. What we want to do is to save the properties which, although origiNally vested in the Crown by the Statute, are now held either by the Crown or by other grantees from the Crown. Therefore, I suggest that the word "were" is the proper word.
Sir J. PENNEFATHFR
In view of what the Solicitor-General has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Proposed Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.