HC Deb 08 November 1927 vol 210 cc63-9

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give additional powers to Parliament as to Measures passed by the Church of England Assembly. When the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act was introduced into the House of Commons I was one of the principal supporters of that Measure throughout its passage through Parliament. My name was on the back of the Bill, and I was a member of the committee which supported the Bill throughout its course in Parliament. But I think no one who has studied what has happened during the eight or nine years since that Bill passed into law will say that everything has been quite satisfactory. I have taken the trouble to refresh my memory with the speech made during those Debates by Viscount Cecil, who was then Lord Robert Cecil and Member for Hitchin. The whole basis of his speech then was that the object of that legislation was to cure abuses in the Church of England, and he laid great stress upon the sale of advowsons; but not one of the abuses to which he referred has been removed.

I do not mind admitting that the real reason why I am introducing this Bill is that at the end of the last Session of Parliament—as at the present moment—I felt very strongly on the question of the deposited Prayer Book; but since then other cases have come to my notice where action has been taken by the Church of England Assembly touching matters only remotely connected with the Church of England but seriously affecting the constitutional rights of the people of this country; and it seems to me that by the powers under this Act we are doing the very same thing which Lord Hewart condemned so strongly a short time ago in the course of a speech—we are attempting legislation by administrative action. It may be said of any legislation passed by this House that eventually there must follow a General Election, and that if there is a change of Government after that General Election the legislation can be changed; but in the case of the Church of England Assembly there is no such General Election, and the chance of appeal is exceedingly remote, even though the majority of the people are opposed to any action it takes. The Act gives the House of Commons very minute control, and though I do not desire by the Bill which I am now introducing to restore the control possessed by the House of Commons before that Act was passed, I do desire to give the House of Commons more power than it has at the present time. The powers of Parliament as defined in that Act are very indefinite; it is very doubtful what really are the powers of Parliament under it. The House of Lords, I am informed, has a procedure under which it can put forward a reasoned Motion for the rejection of any Measure passed by the Church of England Assembly, whereas Mr. Speaker has ruled that the House of Commons must vote either for the acceptance or rejection of any Measure and is not entitled to express the reasons for the decision.

In the next few days the House of Commons has got to face, I venture to say, as grave and as serious an issue on the deposited Prayer Book as can well be imagined, and I venture to say not one Member of the House of Commons will like the vote which he is going to give on that particular subject. Whether he votes for it or against it, as I am going to vote against it—whatever his vote may be, he must dislike it. I shall dislike voting against a Measure with nine-tenths of which I am in hearty agreement simply because there is one-tenth of it which I dis- like, and I think the Bill I am putting forward to amend that Act provides the way out of a very serious difficulty. The Bill defines the power of Parliament in more definite language and will enable the House of Commons to make a reasoned rejection of that Measure or any other Measure which comes from the Church of England Assembly, and enable it to state the reasons why it is taking a particular line of action. The Bill would also enable the House of Commons to declare what portion of a particular Measure it is prepared to pass. I sincerely hope the Government will give time for consideration of this Bill before the question of the Prayer Book comes up for decision.


I rise to oppose this Motion. It is hardly right, I think, that the House should be asked to vote in favour of it without realising what the Bill means. It is quite true that under the powers which have been given to the Church of England Assembly the House of Commons has voluntarily foregone the right to propose amendments to any Measure which is submitted to it, and it is quite natural that Members should wish to propose amendments and should feel aggrieved when a Measure comes before them which they are unable to amend, and can only vote either for or against it. A moment's consideration will, I think, justify that position. The object of the Act passed some seven or eight years ago was to give the Church of England certain powers of self-government, subject only to the final veto of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. If the proposal made by my hon. Friend were carried, it would mean that the House of Commons would have the right

of amending the Measures sent up from the Assembly. What would happen? If an amendment were proposed to a Measure submitted by the Church of England Assembly, that Measure, with the amendment, could not be passed until it had gone back to the Church of England Assembly for approval, and it would have to pass through all the stages in the Assembly before it could be presented to Parliament again. Then it could be further amended by the House, and again it would have to go back to the Assembly, and I am afraid the result of such a procedure would be that we should be reduced to the state we were in before the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act was passed, when practically no Church legislation could get through—none of the great reforms which we desire to see in the Church could be accomplished because of the enormous amount of work the House of Commons has to do and its utter inability to give time to the consideration of such matters. I hope, therefore, the House will not go back on what it did seven or eight years ago, and will not pass this Motion. May I, in a final word, correct the statement of the hon. Member that there is a difference between the procedure in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons? That is not so. In both cases a simple resolution of assent is moved, and the vote is for or against it. There is no power in either House to amend the Measures.

Question put,

"That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give additional powers to Parliament as to Measures passed by the Church of England Assembly."

The House divided: Ayes, 80; Noes, 226.

Division No. 315.] AYES. [5.27 p.m.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Conway, Sir W. Martin Hurd, Percy A.
Applin, Colonel R. V. K. Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Iliffe, Slr Edward M.
Astor, Viscountess Crooke, J. Smedley Deritend) Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.
Atkinson, C. Crookshank, Col C. de W. (Berwick) Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Baker, Walter Dalkeith, Earl of Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh) Knox, Sir Alfred
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Davies, Dr. Vernon Long, Major Eric
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Day, Colonel Harry Macdonald, Capt. P. D.(I. of W.)
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Dixey, A. C. Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Barks, Newb'y) Drewe, C. McLean. Major A.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Edmondson, Major A. J. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Everard, W. Lindsay Marriott, Sir J. A. R.
Burton, Colonel H. W. Foster, Sir Harry S. Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-
Caine, Gordon Hall Galbraith, J. F. W. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth.S.) Grace, John Morris, R. H.
Christie, J. A. Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Nuttall, Ellis
Olayton, G. C. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) O'Connor, Thomas P.
Connolly, M Hilton, Cecil Pennefather, Sir John
Penny, Frederick George Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)
Power, Sir John Cecil Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.) Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Rawson, Sir Cooper Smith-Carington, Neville W. Wells, S. R.
Reid, D. D. (County Down) Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Stephen, Campbell Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Rye, F. G. Strauss, E. A. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Sandon, Lord Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Womersley, W. J.
Shaw, R. G (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby) Thurtle, Ernest Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. McI. (Renfrew, W) Tinne, J. A.
Shepperson, E. W. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Remer and Dr. Watts.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Naylor, T. E.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.) Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Grant, Sir J. A. Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Oliver, George Harold
Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Greene, W. P. Crawford Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Attlee, Clement Richard Greenwood. A. (Nelson and Colne) Paling, W.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
Balniel, Lord Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Perkins, Colonel E. K.
Barnes, A. Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Groves, T. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Beckett, John (Gateshead) Grundy, T. W. Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Guest,Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristol, N.) Pilcher, G.
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Guinness, Rt. Hon. Waiter E. Pilditch, Sir Philip
Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.) Gunston, Captain D. W. Potts, John S.
Bondfield, Margaret Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Pownall, Sir Assheton
Boothby, R. J. G. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Price, Major C. W. M.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvll) Remnant, Sir James
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Rantoul, G. S.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Hammersley, S. S. Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)
Briant, Frank Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Briggs, J. Harold Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Ritson,J.
Broad, F. A. Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)
Brockiebank, C. E. R. Haslam, Henry C. Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)
Bromley, J. Hayday, Arthur Ropner, Major L.
Broun-Lindsay, Major H. Hayes. John Henry Rose, Frank H.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham) Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C.M. Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Salmon, Major I.
Buchan, John Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Buchanan, G. Henn, Sir Sydney H. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bullock, Captain M. Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Sandeman, N. Stewart
Butt, Sir Alfred Hirst, G. H. Sanders, Sir Robert A.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Holt, Capt. H. P. Savery, S. S.
Campbell, E. T. Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.) Scrymgeour, E.
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) Hopkins, J. W. W. Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Charteris, Brigadier-General J. Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley) Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. Hackney, N.) Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Clowes, S. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l) Sitch, Charles H.
Cluse, W. S. John, William (Rhondda, West) Slesser, Sir Henry H.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smillie, Robert
Cobb, Sir Cyril Kelly, W. T. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George Kennedy, T. Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)
Compton, Joseph Kindersley, Major Guy M. Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Smithers, Waldron
Cove, W. G. Kirkwood, D. Snell, Harry
Cowan. D. M. (Scottish Universities) Lamb, J. Q. Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
Cunliffe, Sir Herbert Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R. Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)
Dalton. Hugh Lawson, John James Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Lee, F. Sprot, Sir Alexander
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset,Yeovil) Loder. I. de V. Stamford, T. W.
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester) Lowth, T. Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Dawson, Sir Philip Lumley, L. R. Stephen, Campbell
Dean, Arthur Wellesley Lunn, William Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Dennison, R. MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Dunnico, H. Mackinder, W. Styles, Captain H. Walter
Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) MacNeill-Weir, L. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Ellis, R. G. Malone, Major P. B. Sullivan, Joseph
Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn Sutton, J. E.
Fairfax, Captain J. G. March, S. Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Maxton, James Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Fenby, T. D. Meller, R. J. Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)
Fielden, E. B. Merriman, F. B. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Meyer, Sir Frank Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Forrest, W. Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Tinker, John Joseph
Ganzoni, Sir John Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Viant, S. P.
Gardner, J. P. Monsell, Eyres, Comn. Rt. Hon. B. M. Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M. Montague, Frederick Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Gates, Percy Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham. N.) Watson. W. M. (Dunfermline)
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Glyn, Major R. G. C Murchison, Sir Kenneth Wellock, Wilfred
Gosling, Harry Murnin, H. Welsh, J. C.
Westwood, J. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow) Wright, W
Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J. Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield) Yerburgh, Mafor Robert D. T.
White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple- Winby, Colonel L. P. Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Whiteley, W. Windsor, Walter
Wilkinson, Ellen C. Wolmer, Viscount TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe) Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak) Major Birchall and Mr. Charleton