HC Deb 18 February 1964 vol 689 cc1150-6

10.1 p.m.

Sir John Arbuthnot (Dover)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It may be a surprise to some hon. Members that this Measure comes forward as a Bill rather than as a Church Assembly Measure, since it is being initiated, in part, to assist the next batch of Revised Canons to be put forward for the Royal Assent. Since the Bill deals with the Episcopal Church in Scotland, however, it could not be a Church Assembly Measure, and it therefore comes forward in the form of a Bill.

The present position is that a duly ordained minister of any province of the Anglican Church outside England may minister in a church or chapel of the Church of England for a period of no more than seven days within three months, without reference to the Bishop. The Episcopal Church in Scotland, however, is excluded by Section 6 of the Episcopal Church (Scotland) Act, 1864, which limits such ministrations to no more than one in three months.

This Act was an attempt to lighten the previous disabilities imposed on the Scottish Episcopal Church in the eighteenth century. I feel that hon. Members will agree that it would be only right that that situation should now be brought into line with that which is prevailing in other provinces. That is the sole object of the Bill.

10.2 p.m.

Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)

As a member of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, I want briefly to support the Bill. The rector of the church which I attend in Scotland, although a Scotsman, was previously vicar of a parish in Leeds. The vicar of the church that I attend in Chelsea, when I am in London, although an Englishman, was formerly curate of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, in Edinburgh—a church where the present Bishop of Aston, in England, was at one time himself rector.

There are many other examples, but one which comes very near home is that of Canon Alan Don, who, as most hon. Members will remember, was a much-loved Chaplain to successive Speakers of this House of Commons. He was a Scot—a man whose beautiful speaking voice will long be remembered by those of us who knew him—who was Provost of the Cathedral of St. Paul's, Dundee, at one time.

My former bishop in the diocese in which I live in Scotland—Eric Graham—Bishop of Brechin, who died only a few weeks ago, was a former Principal of Cuddesden. Finally, the late Bishop of Thetford, the greatly loved "Pat" Leonard, was for many years Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral, in Glasgow.

So we of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, being in communion with the Church of England, are very much involved one with the other. We help one another and I hope that we are travelling along the same road. For this reason, I warmly welcome the Bill.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)

I hope that I may be forgiven for taking up the time of the House at this late hour in speaking as a member of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, but it may be of assistance to hon. Members if I give a brief explanation of the history of that Church.

The Episcopal Church in Scotland is a native Scottish Church and has had a continuous existence since the Reformation. At one time it was the Established Church, but it ceased to have that status principally because of its affection for the House of Stuart. When the Stuart dynasty ceased to occupy the throne and William of Orange became King, the Scottish Episcopal Church could no longer take the oath of allegiance to the reigning sovereign. From the seventeenth cen tury, not the eighteenth century, as was said by my hon. Friend, the Church has suffered a whole series of disabilities which this legislation will, in some measure, help to remove.

For many years the Church suffered the most dreadful persecution. Penalties of all sorts were imposed on its priests and bishops. It was not until the eighteenth century and after the death of the Young Pretender that these disabilities were, in part, removed. Some still remain, and it is because it is an attempt to remove some of those remaining disabilities that I welcome this Bill.

The Episcopal Church in Scotland is an integral part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, but it has suffered disabilities not suffered by other provinces in America, Africa and elsewhere. In those provinces priests of the Church can officiate in the churches of the Church of England without the consent of the bishop to a greater degree than is permitted to priests of the Scottish Province. That seems quite unfair and uncalled for in these days of increasing friendship between integral parts of the same Church, and indeed between different Churches. For that reason this legislation is to be welcomed.

I ask my hon. Friend to consider whether the Church of England could not encourage an even greater measure of relief for the Episcopal Church than is envisaged in this legislation. There are other disabilities contained in other legislation which ought to be removed. One is represented by an extraordinary power possessed by a bishop of the Church of England who is entitled, without assigning any reason whatever, to refuse to allow a priest of the Scottish Church to accept an incumbency in the Church of England. I suggest that some further provision of the sort might be introduced. With these and other reservations which are more suitable for discussion during the Committee stage, I wish to support the Bill.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

In view of what has been said about the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the persecution it suffered in the past, the House would be misled if it were thought that there was a one sided persecution. As a matter of fact, this is a relic of a civil war which went on for 200 or 300 years, in which Scots died in defence of what they thought the liberty of religion.

I am quite sure that we all welcome a Bill which will blow away the last embers of the civil war by getting rid of disabilities which are still imposed on the Episcopal Church in Scotland, but in claiming credit for the Episcopal Church hon. Members who have spoken might also have claimed credit for the American Revolution. The Scots Presbyterians, driven out of their own country into Ulster, were later driven by the terror of Episcopacy of the Presbyterians in Northern Ireland to America. The Episcopal Church at that time would not recognise marriages of Presbyterians and the Presbyterians had to come back even to Ayrshire and Stranraer to hold services during the time of James II. Literally thousands of Ulster Scots were driven by this persecution to America.

They formed the backbone of Washington's Army. They formed the backbone of the American Revolution. According to Theodore Roosevelt, they were the spearpoint of the Scots who drove the Indians back. Having fought the Irish, they were well skilled in fighting the Indians and, having taken Ireland from the Irish, they were quite able to take America from the Indians. Theodore Roosevelt points out that the Scots were the pioneers who moved westwards.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

Is that "How the West was Won"?

Mr. Hendry

Before the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) leaves the Americans he should recollect that the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in America was consecrated by a Scottish Episcopal Church bishop because no bishop of the Church of England was prepared to consecrate him.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

Order. Perhaps it would be as well to bear in mind that this is a very small Bill which we are now considering.

Mr. Woodburn

It is a small Bill, but it deals with hundreds of years of history and winds up to some extent an episode of which we can be partly proud and partly ashamed. Not only did they drive forward and drive the Indians sack, but wherever the Presbyterian Army went in America they founded a church and then a school.

Since Scotland was the place where after the Reformation democracy established the first public education for ordinary people, it was they who carried education with the Church right through America. The famous colleges of America—Princeton, Yale, Harvard—are relics of this Scottish Presbyterian Church school development in America. Therefore, hon. Members when claiming credit for the Episcopal Church can also claim credit for the emancipation of America from the English.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that Yale was, in fact, founded by a Welshman, Elihu Yale?

Mr. Woodburn

He probably was a Presbyterian. We are quite willing to give credit to our fellow Celts.

The point is that the inspiration came from the persecution of Presbyterians in Ireland in revenge for the persecution of the Ep[...]scopalians. We can claim credit for the Church in America. In winding up this history of the Civil War in Scotland we have to remember that there was persecution on both sides. It was a sad episode in Scottish history and kept back the development of ordinary people for generations, but out of it came great good. Education spread from Scotland to Africa and all over the world. We can be proud today that some of our best exports were good men and good principles which have helped to civilise the world.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

This is indeed a very important occasion. It is amazing to one who has studied a little of the history of the Scottish Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church to find an Englishman prepared to sponsor a Bill that removes—

Sir John Arbuthnot

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am as Scottish as he is.

Mr. Ross

Mind ye, ye wouldna ken it by the way the fellow talks. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is a member of the Episcopal Church of England—a member of the Church of England. It would be more accurate for me to say that it is amazing to find a member of, and one probably speaking on behalf of, that Church prepared to remove one of the remaining existing penal qualifications or disqualifications in respect of the Episcopal Church of Scotland.

One hon. Member mentioned what had happened in relation to the Scottish Church, which was a native Scottish Church and which had resisted for over 1,000 years the efforts of the English Church to dominate it, so much so that on the passing of the penal laws in the eighteenth century, following the Jacobite Rebellions and when the Scottish Church found that it could not drink to or pray for or ask blessings on a Royal Family that they did not think was the legitimate Royal Family, these penal laws stated that no meeting of more than five Episcopalians under the Scottish régime would be recognised.

To get over this, many of the Scottish Episcopalians brought in from England English-ordained ministers. Others went to the garrisons of English troops which were stationed at Fort William, Fort Augustus and other places. They legalised their activities, or proclaimed their legality, by calling their Church what it is still called today—the English Church. It was not nationalisation. It is true to state that thereafter Bishop Skinner himself stated that the English Episcopal Church had a vested interest in the retention of these penal laws, and indeed did everything to prevent their removal, because it would mean the re-establishment of native Scottish Episcopacy.

It is well within the scope of this debate on Second Reading for us to be reminded that in, I think it was, November, 1783, Samuel Seabury came from the United States—let it be remembered that things had happened there, too, that did not endear them to the Establishment South of the Border—to seek consecration as a bishop so that they could control the government of their scattered community. He was refused all over England. He had been a student at Edinburgh University. He travelled to Aberdeen and was consecrated there in the back room of the house of Bishop Skinner. If anyone likes to go today to the Cathedral in Aberdeen, he will find one aisle on which there are the arms of the then States of the United States, and I believe that the High Altar too was donated by the Episcopal Church of America.

Some of these penal laws were removed in, I think it was, about 1794, but there were some strange remnants. One of the remnants is still in force at the moment. I do not know how these lawbreakers from Scottish Episcopalianism proclaim themselves here tonight, because one of the laws said that they should not any more than once in any one year—is it once or twice a year?—submit themselves to being present at a gathering where the blessing is not asked upon the Royal Family. Indeed, it may be that one hon. Member opposite should be imprisoned for at least two years. It is worth remembering that this applied to the Prime Minister as well. I thought at one time of raising this during the Kinross and West Perthshire by-election, but I felt restrained. I did not want to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman in that way.

As I have explained, these things are still in existence and it is really all part of a struggle between Churches and, of course, the desire of the English to dominate the Scots. I am glad to see that the Leader of the House has come into the Chamber. He should have been here earlier, when I was carrying on a part of this battle; when we were talking about Scottish legislation. We have spoken about this before. Having just come in, the right hon. and learned Gentleman probably does not know what is going on in relation to hire purchase and how Scotland is being treated, particularly the dignity of Scottish law.

I must leave that for another time. What we are now doing is sensible and I am glad that it is being done. It represents another measure of freedom for the Scottish ordained Episcopalian ministers. As a good Presbyterian, I am glad to see two parts of the Episcopalians getting on a wee bit better.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Sir J. Arbuthnot.]

Committee Tomorrow.