HC Deb 18 December 1946 vol 431 cc2110-41

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th December], That the Incumbents (Discipline) Measure, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to His Majesty for His Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament."—[Mr. Burden.]

Question again proposed.

11.3 p.m.

Captain John Crowder (Finchley)

I will not detain the House very long, because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak, and the hour is already late, but I should like to take this opportunity of reminding hon. Members who were not here last Thursday, when the Debate was adjourned, that this Measure has been passed by the House of Bishops, by the House of Clergy and the House of Laity by good majorities, and it really does safeguard to the full the rights and liberties of the incumbent. I would remind hon. Members—

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it not a fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain J. Crowder) moved the Adjournment of this Debate himself. Surely he cannot speak again?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I understood that the position was that the hon. and gallant Member reserved his right to speak and moved the Adjournment of the Debate. Therefore, he was in possession, and was entitled to speak first today.

Captain Crowder

This Measure was passed by a large majority, and therefore, the rights and the liberties—

Mr. King (Penryn and Falmouth)

Is the hon. and gallant Member right in saying that a large majority in the House of Bishops passed the Measure when, in fact, more than a majority refrained from voting at all?

Mr. Bowles

Further to my point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT? Captain John Crowder (Finchley): I beg to move, 'That this Debate be now adjourned.' There are many hon. Members who still want to speak, the hour is late, and, outside the weather is inclement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1946; Vol. 431, c. 1478.]

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That seems to be in Order. The hon. and gallant Member moved the Adjournment of the Debate to which the House agreed. He is now entitled to continue his speech.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

In view of the fact that we have already made up our minds, could we not have a vote? We are all going to vote against the Motion.

Captain Crowder

I know that a certain number of bishops abstained from voting, but the reason was that they thought the Measure would go through easily In the same way, hon. Members opposite have not polled their full strength tonight. The Ecclesiastical Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, gave a lot of thought and time to the Measure. They discussed it thoroughly. In then Report, in paragraph 3, they say: Except as mentioned in a paragraph of this Report, this Measure does not affect the constitutional rights of any of His Majesty's subjects. I submit, in all humility, that this House should not try to defeat a Measure which has been so thoroughly discussed in the democratic way which I have described. Hon. Members who do not belong to the Church of England and who are either wavering, or wish to vote against the Measure, may like to read the speech made by the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), who explained the case clearly and well. Once such a Measure as this has been so fully discussed, I submit that unless the liberties of the subject are likely to be interfered with seriously, this House should generally speaking, pass the Measure. I refer to only one other point. It was raised last Thursday by an hon. Member. In the first informal interview between the bishop and the incumbent, it was suggested the incumbent should be allowed to take a friend with him. The first interview is supposed to be of a confidential and informal nature. If the incumbent were to be allowed to take a friend with him, the bishop would also ask to have some legal representative on his side. Therefore the conversation would not be confidential and informal. The law as it stands is most unsatisfactory. I agree that it legal Members of this House were asked to redraft the Measure they might alter certain words, but, broadly speaking, this Measure has the support of bishops, clergy and laity. It has been discussed for a long time, and I hope that this House will now let it go through unopposed.

11.19 p.m.

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

When my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Burden) proposed this Motion, he said he did not think he was stating the case too highly in saying that the Measure had had the full backing of those who were entitled to speak for the Church. That is exactly the point that has just been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Finchley (Captain Crowder). I wonder whether either of those two hon. Members has looked at the Division lists in the Church Assembly. Only one quarter of the total House of Bishops could be found to vote for this Measure. I say in all humility that we know something of abstention on these benches, but abstention of that nature boggles the imagination of even the most enthusiastic rebel. What happened in the House of Clergy? Just one third, in fact, if one is going to be mathematical, just less than one third of the total membership of the House of Clergy voted in favour of this Measure. Is one third of one House and one quarter of another the full backing of the Church? When one talks of the House of Clergy one should remember that it is not quite the democratic body that it is sometimes represented to be.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

May I interrupt my hon. Friend, and ask what the vote was in the House of Laity, the laity being far more affected than any other part of the Church?

Mr. Bing

With respect to my hon. Friend, I felt that it was only showing respect to the clergy that I should deal with them first, and I am coming in a moment to the House of Laity. In the House of Clergy there are, I think I am right in saying, 133 ex officio members, and I think it is a little strange, though it is only a coincidence I admit, that the vote in favour of this Measure should be 113. It is possible that there is only some coincidence between these two figures. My hon. Friend very properly asked me about the House of Laity. It is valuable, I think, to take some means of comparison. Let us look and see what the vote was on another important Measure—the Prayer Book Revision. The total abstentions on the Prayer Book Measure in the three Houses was 61. The total abstentions in the House of Laity, not even counting the laity who voted against the Measure, was twice the total number of abstentions on the Prayer Book Measure in the three Houses. I do not think I need go further than that.

To come to the next point made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Park Division of Sheffield, he says that, this Measure had been submitted to the Diocesan Conferences for consideration. I think the House ought to be quite clear what happened because, in fact, this Measure was never before the Diocesan Conferences at all. The conferences which were called to deal with this Measure had, unfortunately, not to be based on the full text of the Measure, but for the most part on a precis which had been drawn up by the Commission. They had not the Measure before them, and what did they do? My hon. Friend has told us that only two conferences objected to the Measure. He did not mention that 35 Diocesan Conferences also proposed amendments, among them the very same amendments we suggest should be made in the Measure tonight. [HON. MEMBERS: "You cannot do it."] I will come to that.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)

Before the hon Member leaves that point would he be quite fair and mention that when this matter was first before the Assembly the proposal was given general approval without any division at all?

Mr. Bing

I quite agree. I am very glad the hon. and gallant Member has made the point. But we are all agreed on the main principle of the Measure. What we are concerned with is whether this Measure carries out the principle which is intended, and which it professes to do.

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point will he explain that when the Diocesan Conferences had considered the precis—as he called it—and it had come back, it was again referred to the largest Revision Committee of the Church Assembly to consider the further points sent up by the Diocesan Conferences?

Mr. Bing

I speak with all respect to my hon. Friend, but so far as I can recall there were 95 resolutions, and of these six were finally embodied in the Measure. So whether the matter was considered or not, the views of the Diocesan Conferences did not find very full expression.

If I can just go back to the main point, because there is, I think, a constitutional issue of some little importance here, it is a very novel constitutional theory propounded by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), and appropriately supported by the hon. Member the junior Burgess for Cambridge (Mr. Wilson Harris) and also by my hon Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. King). The right hon. Gentleman said that in 1919 Parliament deliberately passed the Church of England Assembly Powers Act in order to give, subject to certain precautions, legislative powers to the Church Assembly. If the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor as the senior Burgess, were to hear that it would make him turn in another place. Because what the right hon. Gentleman is saying is exactly what the opponents of the 1919 measure said would be its object, and what Lord Quickswood emphatically denied. I do not know whether he had the opportunity of looking at the full text of the matter and seeing what was said on the Committee stage. Lord Quickswood said: We fully accept the principle of State control: we fully recognise that it is part of the Establishment, but we do think that State control should mean control by the majority of the two Houses of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E: 19th November, 1919; Vol. 4. c. 645.] With great respect, anybody who is familiar with the debates knows that the same point was made by Sir Thomas Inskip, later Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor, with great authority, with great weight and at great length. I hope the House will excuse me if I do not now read what he said, since the same point was made with greater brevity and clarity by Mr. Ronald McNiell, Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Dealing with the matter of detail he said: The support of many of us was gained for that Measure by the assurance that nothing we were then doing would impair in the slightest degree the control of Parliament over legislation of this sort. Therefore, in considering this matter we may leave on one side any suggestion—I agree that my noble Friend"— that is, Lord Quickswood— did not make any such suggestion"— It has been left to his successor, the senior Burgess to make it— but it has been made elsewhere—that Parliament will be in any way encroaching upon the autonomous powers conferred upon the Church or interfering in a matter with which Parliament is not properly concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1926; Vol. 200, c. 702] He asked the House—dealing with matter of detail—to reject this particular Measure

Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)

May I put this to my hon. Friend, for whose courtesy I am indebted for giving me the reference? I did not argue that this was constitutionally or legally impossible if the House of Commons did reject this Measure. But I did say it was the apparent intention of the Act of 1919 that we should not debate measures affecting church discipline as if we had an ordinary Bill before this House. I have referred very quickly to that Debate, and I think it was Lord Robert Cecil, and not Lord Quickswood, who said what my hon. Friend quoted. We are bound to interpret the spirit and intention of the Act as a court of law and not refer to speeches made at the time and ask what was the intention of the provision.

Mr. Bing

I do not want to delay the House too long, particularly at this late hour, but if I may very shortly answer the right hon. Gentleman with what was actually said at the time, this is what was said on the Second Reading of the Enabling Act. This is the quotation of which he is thinking which was made by Lord Robert Cecil: This House, on the Address, expresses a strong view that certain Amendments ought to be made before the proposal can become law. That is exactly what we are doing. He went on that this House may decline to proceed with the Address until Amendments have been made. What will be the result? Either the promoters will have to submit to that and the Bill will be dropped altogether or they will take it back, put in the Amendment the House desires and bring it up again for the consideration of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1919; Vol. 120, c. 1872.] The House has clearly a constitutional duty in looking into the details of this Measure, and it seems to me, if I may say so with respect, that it has had no very close scrutiny as yet. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth said that in the Measure the Bishops' power consists of nothing other than ordinary conversation, that they had now no power to punish. I interrupted to give him a hint, but he did not take it. Let me read from the précis made by the Church Assembly itself what the power to punish is in Clause 8. The précis says: If the Bishop, acting under clause 8 decides …. that any charge against the incumbent has been proved, the Bishop has power at his discretion

  1. (i) to pronounce censure on the incumbent,
  2. 2117
  3. (ii) to inhibit him for a period not exceeding three years,
  4. (iii) either immediately or at any time during the continuance of the inhibition, to declare that the benefice is void."
If that is the result of what my hon. Friend calls an ordinary conversation with a Bishop, then ecclesiastical tête-à-têtes will become rarer and rarer. When I mentioned the matter to my hon. Friend, his reply was that the Clause is about 40 lines long. I think that it is the duty of Members of this House, and particularly of my hon. Friend, if I may say so with respect, who is, I understand, a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee which has to report to this House on this Measure, to read these Clauses however long they are. I may say that he rather overestimated its length. I do not want to make an excessive point of it, but the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield mentioned that this Measure had been carefully examined, Clause by Clause, by the Ecclesiastical Committee. If the only effect of such examination on one member of the Committee has been to impress on him the length of the Clauses rather than their content, I do not think their report is of great value.

Lieut.-Commander Joynson-Hicks

I am sure the hon. Member is not intending to deceive the House, but the Clause which he has quoted is not the Clause which deals with the personal interview between the Bishop and the parson. It is the Clause which deals with the occasion upon which a parson has asked a Bishop to exercise his jurisdiction and not a personal interview at all.

Mr. Bing

I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I feel that on a matter of this sort I ought to give way, and it is a little difficult if one has continually to answer these points. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will wait until I reach that point, when I think the matter will become clear to him. This House has a considerable constitutional responsibility in this matter. I am glad to see the right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) making notes. I trust he will deal with the considerable arguments against this Measure itself by the Vicar-General and Dean of Arches, Sir Philip Baker-Wilbraham—very strong reasons why we ought not to pass this Measure in its present form.

What are the reasons why we should send this Measure back? I think there are four. First, that we insist that' the Church Assembly extends the protection given to political opinions to political activities. Second, we should insist that they should repeal the provision which gives statutory right of complaint to the patron. Patronage is not, perhaps, a tolerable thing in any event, and the only thing which makes it tolerable is that the patron has no right to interfere with the incumbent once he has made the appointment. Third, under Section 8, I think that at least the incumbent should have the right to be accompanied by a friend and adviser. Fourth, there should be a definition of "unbecoming conduct." Let me give an example, which, I believe, has been given in the Church Assembly. The patron of a living appeared unexpectedly and found the incumbent, at the hour of divine service, up a tree, wearing his wife's old straw hat and a veil. It is a thing which, on the face of it, would suggest a degree of "unbecoming conduct," but actually the incumbent was gathering a swarm. On the parallel of the parable of the ox falling in a pit on the Sabbath, it might be considered proper that he should so do. But, under Section 8, he writes a little note to the Bishop, saying, "I trust that you will deal with this trivial matter yourself," and he passes then into the hands of the Bishop, who can do all these things to this man without any appeal to anyone. That is the position of the unfortunate bee-keeping clergyman. It has been said that we do not have bad bishops. If I may say so with great respect to the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield, it hardly lies in his mouth to say this, because he is shortly to introduce a Measure for disciplining bishops. If such a Measure as this is, in fact, necessary, surely we should make provision for the activities of bad bishops in this Measure.

Finally the Measure should go back because it was passed by the Church Assembly under a genuine misapprehension. By including "political opinions" they thought that they were including "political activities," but that is not so. This is a Measure on which only a quarter of the House of Bishops has voted. Ninety-five Measures have come to this House, and I have taken some trouble to try to find a case which has had the support of only a quarter of the House of Bishops, but I have not found it. The Measure has the support of only a third of the House of Clergy, and I can only say that if a Government had the support of only a third of its Members, it would not last long. This Measure, owing to a drafting error, makes clergymen liable for prosecution, and the arguments of the Ecclesiastical Committee are a little equivocal. They say that this Measure safeguards incumbents' rights so far as is practicable, having regard to its objects. Suppose that we passed an Act of Attainder could it not be said that the life of the person concerned was safeguarded so far as was practicable, having regard to the objects of the Act?

The only other recommendation the Ecclesiastical Committee put forward is the somewhat doubtful one as to whether this Measure will work at all. Then there is the argument which is based, as I think my little exchange with the right hon. Gentleman showed, on a complete political misunderstanding. It is very unfortunate that it should be argued in a House with a Labour majority, that this House no longer possesses powers which were admitted on all hands in the days of Conservative Governments, and were, in fact, often used. I do not think we should discuss this matter in a party spirit at all. For that reason also I was particularly disappointed to hear the interjection of my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth. He may have some difference on foreign policy with my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Platts-Mills) but that does not seem to me to disqualify the one or qualify the other to talk on Church matters.

The final argument in favour of passing this Measure is that the House should not perform its clear constitutional duty to send this Measure back because it requires amendment, in view of the fact that the Church Assembly is incapable of amending it. I do not accept the argument. If it be true, it is a reason why we should not accept any Church Measure. If the Church Assembly is incapable of amending a Measure, how much more incapable must it be of drafting the Measure in the first place. I trust that this House will fulfil what I believe is our constitutional duty, that is, where we think there are serious defects in a Church Measure, to send that Measure back in the same way that such a Measure has been sent back from the House of Commons in the past for the Church Assembly to reconsider it. I hope that the House will do its duty.

Mr. King

My hon. Friend referred to me specifically, and though I cannot find the passage in the Measure, I would like to repeat the point which he contradicted. A bishop has, in fact, no power, save of persuasion and inducement, unless the incumbent asks in writing that he should exercise that power. Otherwise it must go to the special court. Therefore, what my hon. Friend said was, in fact, not accurate.

11.43 p.m.

Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)

On this important matter we have heard speeches from those who speak as members of the Church of England, and quite properly, from others who said frankly that they were not members of that religious body. It is right that I should make my own position clear. I speak as a member of the Church of England, though not as a member of the Church Assembly, but as one of the 15 Members of this House appointed by you, Mr. Speaker, to the Ecclesiastical Committee. On that Committee we have had the opportunity, first, of a full discussion ourselves of this Measure, and then of a full discussion with the Legislative Committee.

The House as a whole, I entirely agree, has its responsibility. But I should like to examine shortly what I conceive to be the special quality of that responsibility. It is obviously rather different from our responsibility with regard to a Bill which is capable of amendment in this House. It is also rather a special responsibility for each one of us, because we have no guidance of a party character to help us in deciding how our votes should be cast. It is a personal responsibility for each one of us, because this is in no sense a party Measure.

As long ago as 1919, as I understand the position, it was felt by Parliament that the Church of England, as by law established, was in need of greater freedom and a greater opportunity to put its own house in order. If had been felt for a long time that the Church had extreme difficulty in reforming itself, not only because this House and another place contained a very large number who were unfamiliar with its particular problems, but also because even then—and it is far more the case today—there was not time for full discussion of Church problems in this House. So a very special and important step was taken in the Church Assembly Powers Act of 1919. The intention of that Act surely was that the time spent by Parliament upon the administration of the Church of England should be reduced, that the Church of England should have greater freedom and that this House should deliberately abandon any power of detailed amendment of Measures which were thought proper by the Church of England for its own administration. Instead of the normal method, followed up to 1919, the Church Assembly was established. Not only so, but the dual machinery of the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly and the Ecclesiastical Committee of both Houses of Parliament was established by Statute, with 15 members of another place, and 15 hon. Members of this House appointed by Mr. Speaker upon it, with facilities for consultation between the two bodies. This is not irrelevant in connection with this particular Measure, because one of the features of the subject which we are discussing is the long period of time during which the trouble with which this Measure attempts to deal has been under consideration. It is as long ago as 1937 that an earlier Measure was brought forward from the Church Assembly and withdrawn after discussions between the Legislative and Ecclesiastical Committees.

In reply to the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), I entirely admit the constitutional right of this House to reject this Measure if it thinks it radically bad. But I submit that the present constitutional arrangements for a proper balance between complete control of the Established Church and reasonable liberty for a spiritual body do involve this. When a Measure is passed by a subordinate legislature—as I would emphasise, by more than a two-thirds majority of that subordinate legislature—and has, further, been commended by the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is representative, under the appointment of Mr. Speaker, of the major parties in this House, and contains Members chosen by Mr. Speaker from those most familiar with the problems and interests of the Church of England—then in that case the burden of proof is upon those who object to the Church Measure. In the ordinary way, the burden of proof is upon those who propose a legislative Measure in this House; but, where a subordinate legislature has approved a Measure by a very large majority and a Statutory Committee of both Houses of Parliament has commended it for approval, there is a heavy burden of proof upon those who object.

In trying to assess my own individual responsibility in regard to a Measure of this kind, I put to myself two questions. First, "Will it be for the health and wellbeing of the Church to have a disciplinary Measure to deal with the cases with which this Measure deals?" When I say the "wellbeing" of the Church, I should really say of the community, because the parish priest—and it is with parish priests that we are dealing—who is guilty either of scandalous conduct, or of grossly negligent conduct, does grave harm, not only within the confines of actual Church membership, but in a much wider circle. I venture to think that the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) spoke too lightly when he said that it would be better for a few dozen lazy or intemperate clergymen to remain in the livings, than to run the risk of getting rid of a potential Conrad Noel or Hawker of Morwenstowe. What is he comparing? He is comparing a few dozen incumbents each with a population, on an average in the Church of England, of 3,000 or 4,000, taking town and country together, with Conrad Noel and Hawker, ceasing to be parish priests but remaining priests in an independent capacity. I venture to say that the consequences of a few dozen negligent or intemperate clergy remaining in office, holding their freehold in perpetuity, are consequences which are very serious not only for church people but for the community as a whole.

The second question I put to myself is, '' Are the provisions fair and just to those who may be affected by them?" Returning to my first question for one moment, I do not think anyone in the House tonight doubts that the time is long overdue for some limitation of the parson's freehold, and I say this from these Conservative benches. The cases are not very frequent, but for far too long—as I think any of those who are familiar with Church mat- ters know only too well—there have been cases of real scandal which have caused great unhappiness to Church people in the parishes in question.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Is that the same thing as "un becoming" in the Bill?

Mr. Willink

I will come to that in a moment. I have spoken of cases of scandal—cases of scandalous or grossly negligent conduct. Let me pass at once to the second point, because I think the first point is common ground throughout the House, that a Measure of this kind is badly needed and long overdue. As to the second point, whether the provisions of the Measure are fair and just to those who may be affected by it, as a lawyer I frankly and sincerely say that I have never seen a procedure so thick with safeguards for those affected by it. When I compare it with our ordinary civil procedure, under which any absolutely impecunious person can issue a writ at any moment, making the most scandalous charges against any one of us, imposing on us the inevitable consequence of incurring very heavy costs and the giving, if the plaintiff proceeds, of the most scandalous evidence—when I compare that procedure with this, I find this procedure cautious and protective to the incumbent to a most extraordinary degree. That is quite right; it is most desirable that idle gossips should not be given easy opportunities to cause scandal about incumbents, nor should incumbents of the Church of England be exposed to the risks of heavy expense in vexatious proceedings. But take this procedure, and compare the procedure under the Measure with what it is under the Measure which is at present the law of the land. The House will be aware that under this Measure, Parts 1 and 3 of the Measure of 1926 are to be repealed. The procedure there is most unfortunate. Under it the bishop is the only prosecutor, the only judge. May I read to the House what the proposals which are to be repealed amount to? The bishop can appoint a Commission—and now I quote: Whenever be has reason to think that the ecclesiastical duties of any benefice in his diocese are inadequately performed That puts a power in the hands of the bishop which this Measure most wisely curtails. I will come later to the present statutory definition of ecclesiastical duties and compare it with the subjects of proceedings under this Measure. Under this Measure proceedings cannot be instituted without the leave of both the bishop and at least four out of the elected ministerial committee in the diocese—at least four out of six have to be satisfied that the proceedings should be started. So there are two fences to be got over before what corresponds to a writ in civil proceedings can be issued. They cannot be launched until the incumbent has been given an opportunity, both by the bishop and by the ministerial committee, to make his comments on the complaint that has been made. Then the complaint has to be formulated according to rules which have to come before this House before they are approved When the complaint has been formulated, again both the Committee and the bishop can prevent the matter from going any further, and save the incumbent from any scandal or expense.

Then, if the matter does proceed, the incumbent has two options. Many an incumbent against whom scandalous conduct has been alleged may well say, "I admit my fault. I would prefer to be dealt with within the Church by the bishop himself." If so, he can choose that course. But he need not. If he does not there are two successive courts, if they are both required, most carefully constituted. The constitution of the Special Court is, I think, wholly admirable, because I feel—and I hope there are others who feel with me—that it should be a court consisting of members of the Church and not of those unfamiliar with the Church's life and problems. It should have, as it has got, three elements. It should have a trained lawyer—it has him, the chancellor of the diocese—it should have representatives of the clergy, and it should have representatives of the laity. I consider that court and the Provincial Court, which is similarly constituted, are admirable examples of courts to deal with matters of this kind. Reference was made to the argument of Sir Philip Baker-Wilbraham. The argument was that in the last resort there should be an appeal to the Privy Council. Those who are in favour of disestablishment, those who are in favour of freedom for the Church, have long been concerned by the fact that the final appeal in Church matters was to a body, none of the members of which need be members of the Church of England at all. I myself am with the majority of the Assembly in feeling that the proper tribunal to deal in the last resort with matters of this kind should be Church courts. That I would put as the affirmative case for the Measure.

May I now deal, as I was invited to deal, with three criticisms which have been made? The first is that this Measure enhances the power of the bishops. That is an absolute travesty of this Measure. It is true that provision is made by this Measure—as, I fancy, we all think it should be made—for the vacation of a benefice in certain circumstances. But, has the House been told by those who object to this Measure that in no case whatever can the bishop take the course of vacating the benefice without obtaining the concurrence of five out of six of the elected Ministerial Committee of brother clergy of the incumbent in question? In addition to that, if the incumbent so chooses, has the funds or has the support, the bishop cannot vacate the benefice without, in addition to the concurrence of five out of six members of the elected ministerial committee, the judgment of the Special Court and of the Provincial Court as well. No man has ever been so protected in his office as incumbents are under this Measure. Bishops can inhibit today. There is nothing new in the power of a bishop to inhibit, and the principal function of the bishops under this Measure is not in oppression, or potential oppression, of incumbents. It is that at about four stages in the course of the procedure the bishop can say, with regard to a complaint, "This is merely vexatious, and shall not proceed." Reference was made to Clause 8. Clause 8 is a procedure entirely at the option of the incumbent, if the incumbent desires not to go before a court. The bishop cannot bring him before it. Indeed, it is only at a late stage, after the charges have been formulated and the matter has gone a considerable distance, that that question arises.

Secondly, there is criticism of the list of persons qualified with leave, but only with leave, to institute proceedings. I must say that I did not think very much of the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Maldon that all these people should be disqualified and that the only people qualified should be the parochial church council. I do not know whether the House can imagine what sort of parochial church council there is in a parish where the incumbent has been grossly negligent or is, in fact, an intemperate man. A parochial church council in those circumstances has probably ceased to exist or function at all. As to the patron, it is suggested that this Measure gives the patron a legal right to complain. It really is a sufficiently free country still for anybody who wants to do so to complain at present. All that happens to the patron under this Measure is that if he complains, which he can do at present, he only complains at the peril of being nominated a promoter by the bishop and then being ordered to give security for costs if the bishop is in doubt whether the complaint is one that will go forward, or if the incumbent happens to be a very poor man. The powers of the patron are not increased at all.

But there is a more general point than that. I am bound to say that if I happened to be a patron, which I only am as a member of a corporate body which is a patron, if I felt that the patron had made a most unfortunate appointment to a living, and if it had landed 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 people with a man who had gone sadly wrong, I should feel that I was not exceeding my jurisdiction in any way in pointing out, from any particular knowledge that I had, that thing3 were sadly wrong in that parish, and that I thought a complaint should be made of the incumbent.

The final criticism which is made is as to the subject matter of the proceedings, and that is under two heads. It is said, first, that the definition of the offence is too vague, and then it is said that political activities should be wholly excluded. Surely, it is far better in a Measure of this kind to have a broad definition of the sort of conduct which may come into question.

Mr. S. Silverman

I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting. He will understand that I am called upon to exercise, as conscientiously as I can, a judgment about matters of which I am profoundly ignorant, and he has come now to a point which has given me considerable difficulty. He referred earlier to cases of scandalous conduct, which I think I understand. He is now dealing with that part of the Measure which defines, or states the charge, of unbecoming conduct. Are we to understand from him that scandalous conduct and unbecoming conduct are synonymous terms?

Mr. Willink

I was coming to that part of the argument. It is right to bring to the notice of the House what the present law is. This is a Measure which repeals, or purports to repeal, the Benefices (Ecclesiastical Duties) Measure, 1926. In that year, Parliament approved an attempt to define ecclesiastical duties. It failed lamentably. When one attempts to set out what the duties of clergy are, one finds that it is hardly possible to do so. It was said that the bishop should appoint a commission whenever he had reason to think that the ecclesiastical duties of any benefice were inadequately performed. It defined ecclesiastical duties—this is the Statute at present—as including an obligation, binding on an incumbent, to manifest in his acts, conduct, and course of life, due respect for his sacred office and due solicitude for the moral and spiritual welfare of his parishioners. That is the law.

A man cannot under this Measure be put in peril because the bishop thinks that his obligations have not been fulfilled. Complaint has to be made not that the clergyman was guilty of unbecoming conduct, but that he is guilty of conduct unbecoming the character of a clergyman, which is a very much more precise phrase. Before the proceedings can start—and this is most important—full particulars have to be given under Section 6 of the Measure, so that the incumbent knows exactly what he has to meet. The matter is not just left that he is charged with unbecoming conduct; full particulars have to be given in a formulated charge. I submit that there is no way in which one can more appropriately phrase these things in a Measure.

Then with regard to political opinions. I gather that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Maldon is that the Measure could be amended by the Assembly adding the words "or activities." That is an impossible suggestion. It is obvious that the extent of political activity might amount to serious, persistent and continuous neglect of duty. One cannot possibly exclude from this Measure an extent of political activity amounting to abandonment of parochial duty. I go so far as to say that, in an extreme case, whether the political activity be on behalf of parties of the Right or of the Left, the activity might become conduct unbecoming the character of a clerk in holy orders.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

I see the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but can he explain why that objection does not apply to the inclusion of the words "or activities" in the bishops' Measure?

Mr. Willink

The bishops' Measure is not before us. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wriggling out of it."] I am not wriggling out of anything. I do not even know whether it has been passed by the Church Assembly. I am submitting that the Amendment which has been suggested would make the Measure unworkable.

This Measure is the outcome of no less than fifteen years of work on the part of the Church Assembly to achieve an acceptable disciplinary code. It is acceptable to the bishops, but they, I fancy, feel they have too little freedom under it to get rid of their black sheep, and that is very largely the explanation of the small number who voted. It is so hedged with safeguards that I fancy many of the bishops did not think it strong enough. It is a compromise and a code acceptable to the clergy who, in many cases, and particularly in the cases of those clergy who have communicated with hon. Members opposite, are extremely retentive of the parson's freehold. It is one of the curious features of this Debate that the most reactionary of the incumbents have found their allies on the other side of the House. It is acceptable to the laity who are the most closely concerned of all.

The suggestion that it should be sent back is really an attempt by this House to amend the Measure, a procedure which this House has abandoned. The parallel of the Prayer Book is, in my submission, most unfortunate because I think everyone knows the second Prayer Book was less acceptable than the first. The Measure comes forward with two statements by the Ecclesiastical Committee. The Ecclesiastical Committee have stated, after full discussion, that they are satisfied that procrastination rather than improvement would be the probable result of further consideration of its terms. It comes forward with a most remarkable majority—303 votes to 137, more than a two-thirds majority, in spite of the subject being most highly controversial. It comes forward with these two further statements: that the Ecclesiastical Committee are satisfied that the Measure safeguards the rights of incumbents so far as is practical with regard to its objects which are, of course, a reduction of the parson's freehold; and, further, that the Ecclesiastical Committee are convinced that there is a real need for the Measure, and are of opinion that the Measure should proceed. I most urgently trust that this House will give the Church of England this measure of reform for which it asks.

12.12 a.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I am sure the right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) will not misunderstand me when I say that I have rarely listened to a less convincing argument than the one he has just addressed to the House. I want, first of all, to deal with the constitutional question because that is a matter of some importance. If one may paraphrase the argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, he said in effect that this House ought not to reject this Measure, because this House ought not to exercise its power of amendment of the Measure. He said that the House ought not to reject this Measure unless it regarded it as a radically bad Measure, and that the House ought not to exercise powers of Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "It cannot."] I want to deal with that point because it is important that it should be understood.

The Enabling Act of 1919, which gives the Church Assembly this very large power of dealing with its own affairs, was passed by Parliament after a great deal of discussion and after a great deal of heartburning in certain quarters of the House. It was passed because certain assurances were given, and one of the assurances was that this House would, in fact, be able to amend a Measure which it regarded as imperfect in various details. Objections were raised on the Second Reading of the Enabling Bill on the ground that this House would have no power of amendment. When Lord Robert Cecil, as he then was, made the winding-up speech he expressly dealt with the argument that this House would, in effect, have no power of amendment. He stressed the fact that when Measures came here for Debate hon. Members would be able to express objections and make criticisms of them. He said it would not be the case that this House was parting with all control to the Church Assembly, but that in effect this House would retain and must retain its power of amendment, and could always say "We will not let the Bill go forward unless it is amended."

The position with which we are faced this evening is that everybody agrees that this question of the discipline of the clergy calls for reform. It has called for reform for a great many years, and in fact it was one of the reasons why the Church Assembly Bill was passed in 1919. It was one of the express reasons given by Sir Edward Beauchamp, who moved the Second Reading on 7th November, 1919, asking the House to deal with the question of the powers of the Church of England. He said: Under the existing law it is impossible to remove an incumbent, however unsuitable he may be for the work he has to do. He may neglect his ministrations; he may empty his church; he may be able to make no impression on his people. As long as he leads a moral life and has two services in church on Sunday no power on earth can remove him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1919; Vol. 120, c. 1818.] That was the problem in 1919, and admittedly it is a great problem. One of the criticisms referred to by the spokesmen for the Measure is that a clergyman may make no impression on his people. But it is not suggested today that that is one of the reasons to justify removal. Admittedly there is need for discipline of the clergy. But it has taken the Church Assembly 17 years to produce this Measure. It produced a Measure in 1926 which admittedly was imperfect. It has now produced another Measure which is an improvement on the 1926 one. I do not think the present Measure is perfect, and I do not think the right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon suggests that it is. The Measure is an improvement on the existing law, but various defects have been pointed out in it. I do not think anyone doubts that there are defects and as these defects have been pointed out and as they call for amendment, it is, I submit, the duty of this House to reject the Measure, in order that the Church Assembly can improve it and take advantage of the observations made in this House, and correct the defects which have been brought to light. That is the proper function of this House. This question of the discipline of the clergy is not such a burning question that anything very serious will happen to the Church of England if the passage of this Measure is deferred for a further year, having now waited sixteen or seventeen years.

I do not want to weary the House by going over again the various defects in the Measure which have already been pointed out. But I do want to point out one defect which has not been mentioned, and which I consider to be a most serious constitutional defect. This is the provisions in Section 14. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, there is a very elaborate—perhaps too elaborate—machinery for dealing with these matters through various courts, and Section 14 is the one which provides for a rule-making body. The right hon. Gentleman said that rules could be made dealing with various matters. Anyone who has had any knowledge of these matters—as the right hon. Gentleman has had—will know that, in all probability, the rules which will have to be made under this Measure in order to carry it into effect, will amount in volume to something far greater in length than the Measure itself. Rules have to be made to provide for the procedure of special courts, the appointment and duties of officers, matters relating to costs, fees and expenses, the remuneration of officers and others, and so on. There will have to be a special committee to deal with these matters.

In my view, one of the objections to this Measure is that it may well involve some of those impoverished clergymen in expenses they can ill afford. But there is a constitutional objection, and I am sure this argument will appeal to hon. Members on the benches opposite, who are so fond of introducing Prayers to this House against delegated legislation. In Section 14, authority is given to a rule committee not yet appointed, but to be appointed, to make rules; and the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that those rules will then have to be laid before the House. In fact the House would assume that we shall have the same kind of control over those rules as we have at present over other kinds of delegated legislation. But that is not the case. What happens? When any rule is made by this committee, two things have to happen. The rule has to be laid before the Church Assembly, and the rule has to be laid forthwith before both Houses of Parliament. Now when the rule is laid before the Church Assembly, it does not have to come up for consideration by the Church Assembly until its next session, which obviously may be a considerable interval of time. On the other hand, the rule, if it is to be debated at all, has to be debated in this House within 20 days. We may very well, therefore, have a situation in which rules are made under Section 14; they then come before the Church Assembly and the Church Assembly may vary or throw them out. But these rules have to come before this House within 20 days, not the usual 40 days under an Act of Parliament. We may have to deal with them in 20 days without knowing whether the Church Assembly approves or disapproves of them. Unless they are dealt with within 20 days, this House in fact loses its control over that kind of delegated legislation made by a committee not yet appointed, and not yet defined. This is one of the matters which, in my view, is of constitutional importance and ought to be dealt with.

Mr. Willink

Will the hon. Member compare and contrast these provisions with the provisions for rules of court which affect all of us, in our civil capacity?

Mr. Fletcher

I will certainly do that. Such rules come before this House and we have the opportunity of objecting to them within 40 days. Rules of court, being Statutory Rules and Orders, are laid before this House. Admittedly, it is very rarely that any objection is taken to them but in my recollection as a Member of this House, objection has been taken to rules of court made by the rules committee under our civil procedure. I have mentioned this matter as an indication of one of the things which has been imperfectly considered by the Church Assembly, and if the House, as I hope it will, rejects the Measure tonight, it will give the Church Assembly another opportunity of improving the Measure. Finally, may I say this? Reference has been made to the Ecclesiastical Committee. The real burden of the report of the Committee is that on some points of detail the Measure is open to criticism. These criticisms have been debated by this House. I think that some such Measure ought to be passed with all convenient speed, but that Measure ought to be as perfectly framed as possible. I think the House will be doing what is its constitutional duty, by rejecting this Measure because of the defects which have been shown to exist in it.

12.26 a.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)

The right hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) has spoken in support of this Measure, and if I say a word or two from this side of the House, I hope it will not be taken as expressing the opinions of the Government, any more than his speech was an expression of the opinion of the Opposition. There is an entirely free vote on this matter, and I venture to intervene because there was before the last Parliament a Measure of a similar kind which I then opposed. I am not going to speak on the merits of this Measure, but I am going to ask the House to think very seriously before it submits the Measure to the argument of the Division Lobby. It has been suggested that the principal Act having removed from the House of Commons any chance of amending the proposals brought before it, we ought not to reject any proposals brought before us in this way unless we resented a Measure as being a radically bad Measure, or unless it contained some major principle which we resented. Now that, of course, is a position which would create the utmost acrimony between the Church and this House because it would mean that, in no circumstances, could we influence the Church authorities to modify any proposals, unless that modification was on a major principle. Nothing, I suggest, could do greater disservice to the relationship between this House and the Church than such a proposal, if it were passed. But there is another aspect of the matter that worries me. This form of proposal is analogous to an Order which is brought before the House of Commons, and which cannot be amended. But Orders have the advantage that when they are passed into law, their administration can come under day-to-day review by the House of Commons. But not this Measure. Once we have passed it, its administration goes beyond our control, and the content of most laws lies in their administration. The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

Who was it who could quote Scripture to his purpose?

Mr. Bevan

I was not attempting to usurp the functions of a university don, who usually interpolates pedantry in place of argument. I am seriously submitting the argument that we should not consider minor modifications of these principles, because the principal Act removed from us the power to amend, on the ground that, once we have passed it, the nature of this law will depend entirely on the way in which it is carried out, and there is no one in the House answerable for it. No one in this place can stand up and be responsible for the way in which this Order, or resolution, or proposal, is carried out. I, therefore, suggest that if there is, as has been disclosed, resentment among a substantial number of Members about certain principles contained in this proposal, it is far better for the Church authorities to take the Measure back and think over it again, and make alterations, than for them to try to force it down the throat of the House of Commons on the ground that the main desires of the Church commend themselves to the House as a whole. I should have thought that myself. It is the only reason why I have risen to speak. It is too late to argue the merits of the particular arguments advanced. I suggest to those who are in favour of this proposal that their main purpose would be far better achieved if this matter were looked at again, and that the Church should not do offence to the opinions of a substantial body of opinion in the House at the present time. As I have said, in the last House we discussed analogous proposals on several occasions. I should hate to think that a House composed as that one was, rejected the proposals, and that a House composed as this one is, accepted them.

12.34 a.m.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

As a humble back bencher I feel in some difficulty in that the Minister of Health, as a Private Member, has intervened on the side of the opponents of this Measure. But he has not, I think, added to any of the arguments adduced by those who have hitherto spoken. I shall, therefore, with respect, treat him as being in the same category as those who have so far opposed the Measure. I ask the House to pay closer attention because the hour is late, and also I have some closely reasoned arguments to put in favour of the Measure. I think that the opponents have so far got bogged down in the minutiae and detail of the Measure, and have failed to see the wood for the trees. They have largely overlooked the overriding consideration which should determine everyone's vote tonight. I want to deal quite shortly with some of the main objections which have been raised by the opponents of this Measure, and I want to put before the House two main overriding considerations which should determine which way our votes should be cast in the Division Lobbies. Let me say at once that not a single statement has been made in respect of this Measure with which I and other members of the Ecclesiastical Committee were not fully familiar long ago. What is this Ecclesiastical Committee of which we have heard a good deal in this Debate? An hon. Member opposite came to me the other day and said, "I am very surprised to hear that you are one of those who are overawed by the ecclesiastics who sit on the Ecclesiastical Committee." When I told him the Committee was composed entirely of laymen, he was very much amazed. There is, on our side of the House too, a good deal of misunderstanding about the composition of the Ecclesiastical Committee and its functions.

Because of such misunderstanding, I think it is worth while reminding hon. Members on both sides of the House what it actually exists to do. It is, in fact, far from being a rubber stamp. It is a committee which examines Measures sent to it for consideration by the Church Assembly, and the most careful consideration is given to them by the committee. Its report on this Measure is before the House tonight. The committee says, quite rightly, that the Measure is, in some respects, open to criticism, and opponents of the Measure on this side of the House will, I think, admit that I have been one of the main critics behind the scenes. I am standing before the House tonight as a converted critic. The Ecclesiastical Committee recommends that the House should proceed with the Measure, and they point out that procrastination, rather than improvement would have the probable result of further consideration of its terms by the Church Assembly. That is, in brief, my answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health in regard to the point he made that this Measure should be referred back to the Church Assembly. [Interruption.] Well, I am not a bishop's stooge; nor am I a crypto-bishop. I cannot think that the hon. Members were seriously discussing the content of my speech.

Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)

On a point of Order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that, in the middle of a serious discussion, three Ministers of the Crown are gossiping on the Front Bench?

Mr. Bevan

As the hon. and gallant Member was unable to hear what we were saying, how could he know it was gossip?

Mr. Speaker

The hour is getting late, and I think we should proceed.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

I suggest that we Members of Parliament are right in thoroughly debating this Measure and passing our opinion about it on a careful analysis of the pros and cons associated with it. I would even go further. I am one who thinks that it is an excellent thing for Church affairs and matters of concern to Christians as such to be ventilated, debated and discussed in this House from time to time. I was not of course here when it took place, but I have often been reminded of the fact that the Debate which occurred in this House on the new Prayer Book was one of the most vital and interesting Debates ever held in this House, and it found the House at its very best Public interest in that Debate was remarkable, and I think the fact that so much interest has been shown in the House in regard to this Measure is something which should cause us to rejoice.

Great stress has been laid on the small majorities in favour of this Measure in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy. In this connection—and my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) virtually admitted it—it is most relevant to remember that 80 per cent, of those who voted in favour of the Measure in the House of Laity recorded their support because they realised that the laity are the people most affected when an incumbent is inflicted on them, who cannot easily be removed, and who can carry on indefinitely as things stand at present.

Mr. Bing

Will my hon. Friend let me put this one point? Could he give us an example of one Church Measure which has been submitted to this House which has had in favour of it so few as 11 Bishops and so few as 113 of the House of Clergy? Can he quote any one Measure?

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

I have just said that in my judgment the people most affected by this Measure are the laity and they have not been duly considered as they ought to have been in the discussion that has so far taken place. I admit the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch, indeed I admit that most of the clever and, I would even add, the cute debating points are in favour of the opponents of the Measure, but there were reasons why the bishops did not vote more fully in favour of the Measure and why the clergy did not do the same. In the case of the bishops I understand that some considered that the final court of appeal should be the Court of Arches, and because that was not included in the Measure they either abstained or voted against.

However, these are details really, and I think the two main considerations which I am leading up to are those which the House should take most notice of. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) complained that the Measure gave more power to the bishops. About this I disagree. All that this Measure does is to substitute workable machinery for the unworkable machinery which exists in respect of the law as it stands at present, for the Benefices (Ecclesiastical Duties) Measure of 1926 is virtually a dead letter. I contend that this Measure does not alter specifically the powers which the bishops already have. It may speed up the application of that power, but it does not, I think, alter the volume or the amount of power which the bishops have. Points have also been made about there being no specific definition of unbecoming conduct. On the face of it I admit that seems a weakness. But hon. and right hon. Members should remember that before the bishop comes into the picture in any official capacity an incumbent is judged by his peers. Surely, it cannot be contended for one moment that any clergy will sit in unfair judgment on an incumbent, when their main consideration is to preserve the good name of their profession? Moreover, an incumbent can, by appealing, make representations against the members of the Ministerial Committee before which his case comes.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

On a point of Order. As it is so late, Mr. Speaker, could you not have speeches reduced in length?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of Order.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Much more serious is the argument about political activities as such not being mentioned in the Measure. I am informed that the Bishops Discipline Measure, which is under consideration at the present time does actually embrace political opinions and activities as a basis on which no action could possibly be taken. Is it possible that any bishop could, in view of that, logically or sensibly proceed against an incumbent for his political activities?

Mr. Driberg

Could my hon. Friend deal with the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink), in which he objected to the inclusion of the words "or activities" on the ground that political activities might amount to unbecoming conduct? Why does not that apply in the case of bishops?

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

I think, if I may say so, that is a mistaken argument.

Mr. Driberg

On the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman?

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Yes. I say that with all due respect. I do not believe that public opinion would endorse any proceedings against any incumbent in respect of political opinions or activities, the feeling in regard to politics being what it is in the country. That is enough of my reply to these detailed criticisms. I concede, as I have already said, a great number of the debating points to the opponents to the Measure.

What are the real considerations which should guide us? First, I submit that the rejection of this Measure would represent a vote of no confidence in what I claim to be, as a member of it, the hard working and conscientious Ecclesiastical Committee appointed to consider and to "vet" these Measures presented to it by the Church Assembly before they come to this House and to another place.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest this House never ought to reject the advice of the Ecclesiastical Committee?

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

I do not suggest that for a moment, but I do suggest that the opinion of the Ecclesiastical Committee should be taken into the fullest consideration before anything that it recommends is turned down. Much more important still, I think—and this is my final point—is this consideration. To reject this Measure would invalidate the plain intention and meaning of the enabling Act of 1919, passed by this House of Commons. That Act gave the Church a measure of autonomy whereby it could look after such matters as its internal economy, the enforcement of discipline, and that sort of thing. Let me remind the House that that Measure did concede to the Church a measure of self-government regarding just these very matters which we are discussing tonight. Moreover, the democratic machinery set up under that Measure has functioned, it has given its approval to this Measure, and to upset that decision, except for the very gravest reasons and except on the most vital issues, which I do not think are at stake in regard to this, would, in my judgment, be absolutely wrong. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Members will come into the Lobby with me, who am a converted critic, and who, on balance, think that this Measure should be given our support.

Several Hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker

As it is getting late, I hope the House will come to a decision

Question put, That the Incumbents (Discipline) Measure, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to His Majesty for His Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Commander AGNEW and Mr. SKEFFINGTON-LODGE were nominated Tellers for the Ayes and Mrs. LEAH MANNING and Mr. MITCHISON were nominated Tellers for the Noes.

The Tellers being come to the Table, and a Teller for the "Ayes" having reported that the "Ayes" were 93—

Mr. Speaker

I understood that a proposition was going to be made to me that a Teller had left the Division Lobby before all the Members had gone through. I do not know which one.

Mr. Driberg

It was the "No" Lobby.

Mr. Speaker

If so, the fellers should have reported it to me. Otherwise. I can pay no attention to it.

Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)

Yes, Sir, I had left the Lobby before the last five Members came through.

Mr. Speaker

If one of the Tellers left before the Members were all through the Division Lobby, I have no option but to declare that another Division must be taken.

Question again put.

The House divided: Ayes, 8b: Noes, 74.

Resolved: That the Incumbents (Discipline) Measure, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to His Majesty for His Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.

Forward to