HC Deb 12 July 1927 vol 208 cc2091-4

I beg to move, in page 14, line 23, to leave out the words transferred to the London Diocesan Fund, and to insert instead thereof the words used for the benefit of persons residing, or for whom dwellings any be erected, on any Crown land. I have a series of Amendments to this Clause which raise matters of some importance. I understand there is a general desire that we should not be delayed, and I wish, as far as possible, to fall in with that desire; but my Amendments to this Clause are genuine Committee points and the matter raised is of considerable importance. This sum of money has been generally controlled by the Commissioners in the past, with the right of veto on the part of the Bishop of the Diocese of London. It is proposed in the Clause to transfer the whole of this sum absolutely into the hands of the Bishop of London. I do not think that that should be done. My Amendment is aimed at putting the matter entirely into the hands of the Crown, and leaving out the Bishop of London. I am prepared to be persuaded that that perhaps is going too far, and, if the Minister could meet us in any way, it would make for the convenience of the House.


The hon. Member is proposing to widen this Trust, which is now limited, to certain Church purposes. The funds came into the administration of the Commissioners of Crown Lands under the Public Offices Sites Act, 1882, as compensation for an area which was taken over from the Chapel of St. Mathias, Spring Gardens. At the present these funds are held for the purpose of providing for the enlargement of churches and chapels to the advantage of the lessors or tenants of Crown Lands in London. The proposal of the Bill is that that limitation on this particular church property should be removed and that the fund should be transferred to the London Diocesan Funds. The hon. Member is proposing an alternative, to vary the Trust in the other direction and take away the limitation to church purposes and allow this fund to be used for the benefit of Crown tenants in any philanthropic direction. I am afraid I cannot possibly agree to any such variation of the Trust. I do not think it would be fair to the Church. I have had discussions with hon. Members who are interested in this matter and, seeing the amount of feel ing which has been engendered, and the desirability of not keeping the Committee up at this late hour by a discussion on this question, I am quite prepared to omit the whole Clause if that will satisfy hon. Members opposite.


I do not think this is a matter of such slight importance that the mere fact that the Committee has to remain a few minutes should affect the proper disposal of this Church Fund. I entirely disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I think this Fund is properly set aside, and ought to be administered by the Diocesan Fund which manages other Church funds which are used for similar purposes. The hon. Member wants these Church funds to be used for secular purposes; and I do not think the Minister should meet the demand made by this Amendment by cutting out the Ecclesiastical Commissioners altogether and refuse to transfer the administration of this Fund to the London Diocesan Fund. I cannot see the logic of it. If my hon. Friend objects to the Fund being used in the future for religious purposes, I can understand that, but if his point is simply one between the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the London Diocese, how does the omission of the Clause meet the point of the hon. Member? How can he be any happier, as he wants the money for secular purposes. The Church in London is extremely hard pressed for money and I do not believe in withdrawing it from the London Diocese. The Minister of Agriculture has not given the matter the attention it deserves. It is far too important to be set aside in this way merely because it is late in the evening, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, having regard to the fact that the money is to be left in the Church, to allow the Clause to stand.


It may be that the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) was not present when this Bill was fully discussed. It is not a matter which has been sprung upon the Committee. We discussed it for six hours and it was made clear that hon. Members opposite were applying their minds to the object of defeating this Clause. I do not think it is reasonable to involve the Committee in the possibility of discussing this Clause at length, and for that reason I am prepared to delete the Clause.

Amendment negatived.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

Clauses 20 (Transfer to Gloucester Diocesan Board of Finance of trust funds held by Commissioners of Crown Lands and Bishop of Gloucester under 5 and 6 Vict. c. 65), 21 (Treasury authorization), 22 (Interpretation), 23 (Saving as to Royal forests, etc.) and 24 (Saving as to Board of Trade and Forestry Commissioners), ordered to stand part of the Bill.