HL Deb 01 July 1844 vol 76 cc122-32
The Earl of Powis

moved, that the Bill be now read a third time.

Lord Vivian

said, that he was not present when the Bill went through Committee, when a right rev. Prelate had said that he believed the feelings in North Wales to be almost universally favourable to this measure. He (Lord Vivian) had just returned from North Wales, and he took leave to assure the right rev. Prelate that that was not the case. He could most explicitly state that the feeling in North Wales was not at all unanimous. On the contrary, he thought the great body of the people did not care much whether the sees were left as at present or not; and many of the clergy were indifferent, and some opposed to it. They complained, however, and as he thought most justly, of the diversion of the revenue raised in the diocese to a district so much richer as Manchester. It had been said that a vast number of Petitions had been presented. He had seen something of the way in which they had been got up. The rural deans sent petitions to the clergy, and directed them to go among their followers and get signatures. The clergyman of the parish in which he resided came to him with a petition which had been given him by his rural dean. He (Lord Vivian) told him what he believed the feeling of the people to be, and said, that if he would get up a counter-petition, it would be much more respectably signed. The clergyman did not proceed with his petition, and the consequence was, that there was no petition from that part of the Isle of Anglesea to which he referred. As an illustration of the working of the present system, under which livings were held by Bishops in commendam, he would cite the instance of the parish in which he resided. The living returned to the Bishop between 600l. and 700l. per annum, and two curates performed the duty of four clergyman, at salaries of 120l. each; the remainder went to the Bishop. About the commencement of the present year one of those curates died, and up to the present time no successor had been appointed. He thought it much better that their Lordships should adhere to the recommendations of the Commissioners, than give a third reading to this Bill, which would to a great extent interfere with their accomplishment. If the parochial clergy were better paid they would be enabled to perform their duties much more effectually; and if this Bill were carried, one available means for the improvement of their condition would be altogether cut off. He should therefore say "not content" to the Motion of the noble Earl.

The Bishop of Bangor

said, the noble Lord was entirely mistaken as to the public feeling on this Bill; certainly so far as the clergy were concerned, he did not believe that there were in his diocese two clergymen who were not exceedingly anxious on every ground that this Bill should pass, and that the Act for the union of the two sees should be repealed. This was the common feeling, and the petitions which had been sent up to that House were of the most voluntary nature. The rural dean had no power whatever to get up such petitions. With respect to the living to which the noble Lord had alluded, it was quite true that he had paid only 240l. to two curates, but of the remainder, which the noble Lord had said went into his pocket, at least 200l. per annum was paid in rates and other burthens. The noble Lord might have been aware that he (the Bishop of Bangor) was no longer rector of that living, having resigned it; and the reason why no clergyman had been presented was, that being a large parish, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had thought it advisable that it should be divided into two. To this the Archbishop of Canterbury had agreed, and all that was wanted to complete the arrangement was an Order in Council to carry it into effect. Several county meetings had been held in favour of this Bill, and he assured their Lordships that the almost unanimous feeling in the Principality was in its favour.

The Duke of Wellington

rose to call their Lordships' attention to the state in which this question now stood before the House, and to state the course which he proposed to take in the discussion to-night on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Their Lordships had thought proper to pass the second reading of the Bill by a considerable majority; his noble Friend (Earl Powis) then moved that the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, but had not in Committee proposed any alterations in the Bill, which would have the effect of carrying into execution the measures which formed part of the Act which the Bill now before the House proposed in part to repeal. He had been called on, when the question of the committal of the Bill was under consideration, to state whether or not he was authorized to give Her Majesty's consent to its discussion; he answered that he was not so authorized; and he was not so authorized on this last stage of the Bill. He considered that a very material point for their Lord- ships' consideration. It was very true, that the Act of which this Bill would repeal a material Clause—the foundation of all the measures directed and authorized by that enactment—did not in its progress through that and the other House of Parliament receive the consent of Her Majesty to its discussion, and the reason was sufficiently obvious. That Act conferred certain powers on Her Majesty; it deprived Her Majesty of no prerogative, it did not touch the prerogative in any degree; on the contrary, it enabled Her Majesty in Council to do that which Her Majesty in Council could not do previous to the passing of that Bill. For that reason, that measure when under discussion in that House, according to the practice of Parliament, did not require that Her Majesty's consent should be given to the discussion thereof. But this was a Bill of a totally different nature. The tenor of this Bill repealed part of that Act, which was the foundation of all the measures to be carried into execution by Her Majesty's Order in Council; therefore, this Bill did touch the prerogative in a most material degree, and on a most important point—with regard to the regulation and the revenues of the Church; and he begged their Lordships, particularly the right rev. Bench, to consider well the expediency of passing a Bill to the discussion of which the consent of the Crown had not been given, which was to affect the prerogative of the Crown, and especially on a Church question, and a matter relating to the revenues of the Church. It might be, and he had no doubt it was the opinion of many of that right rev. Bench, very expedient that this Bill should be passed, and that these two dioceses should remain disunited; but he was sure of this—if their Lordships reflected they would see that it was much more important to the interests of religion, as connected with the interests of the Church, that the Establishment should not lose the advantage which it now enjoyed, of being protected by such a regulation as that to which he had referred—namely, that a Bill regarding the revenues of the Church, connected as they were with the prerogative of the Crown, could not be discussed without the previous consent of the Crown. He begged to remind their Lordships, and particularly that right rev. Bench, how much more important it was that they should not establish a precedent for the passing of such a Bill through Parliament without the previous consent of the Crown to its discussion, than that they should pass the Bill to prevent the union of these two dioceses. Having called their Lordships' attention to the question of form, he would now draw their attention to the matter of substance involved in the present question. There were some very important arrangements depending on that portion of the Act of Parliament to which it was the object of this Bill to repeal. First, there was the establishment of the diocese of Manchester; next, there was a measure of a very important nature, for the augmentation of the revenues of the sees of St. David's and Llandaff; next, there was the establishment and endowment of Archdeaconries, and likewise a provision for the parochial clergy in those very dioceses — all depending on that Act to which his noble Friend objected, and the Orders in Council which Her Majesty, on the report of the Commission, was empowered to carry into execution. These were all important points. On these grounds he founded the course he intended to take with reference to this Bill. He repealed he had no authority to give Her Majesty's consent to the discussion of this Bill; and on that ground alone the right rev. Bench ought to withdraw their support from this Bill, and allow it to drop. He had not the power nor the inclination to amend the Bill, and introduce such machinery as to carry out all those objects in relation to these Dioceses which were proposed in the Report of the Commissioners, and which Her Majesty in Council had power to execute if this Bill was not passsd. If, therefore, their Lordships did persist in the third reading, the Bill must be sent to the other House, there to be so amended as to enable it to attain its objects consistentently with the execution of the other Act of Parliament. Under these circumstances, he certainly did not mean again to take the sense of their Lordships on the Bill. He contended himself with declaring that he had not the authority to signify Her Majesty's consent to the discussion of this Bill.

Lord Monteagle

opposed the Bill on the ground that its enactments would stand in the way of all effectual amelioration of the condition of the working clergy. He would ask their Lordships, he would ask the noble Earl (the Earl of Powis) himself, whether the state of the Church in North or South Wales was satisfactory to the friends of the Establishment? Had it worked well? Had we an Established Church growing popular, or had we a great increase of dissent? Did not the Church stand in the position of being not the Church of the majority, but of the minority? In the face of experience, therefore, their Lordships were called upon to retrace the step they made a few years ago, and in a manner which would throw obstacles in the way of a future consideration of this subject. The Church had at this moment a protection against an incidental vote of Parliament in the prerogative of the Crown, which was the head of the Church, and he called upon their Lordships not lightly to set aside that protection. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had looked at the question as a whole; they did not limit themselves to the Principality of Wales, but they considered how the interests of religion would be best promoted, and that was the ground upon which they made their recommendations. If their Lordships had the power of fully looking into the motives which induced the turmoil out of doors upon this question, they would be found to be motives which their Lordships would be the last to recognize. With respect to the course which the noble Duke had suggested, the noble Duke had said that the Bill was in derogation of the prerogative of the Crown and that for the further progress of the measure it was necessary to have the consent of the Crown. In the event of the Bill not having this element which Parliamentary usage required, if it were against the prerogative of the Crown, and against the consent of the Crown, he should say with his noble Friend "Not Content" to the question of the third reading. As to allowing the Bill to go to the other House, in order that such amendments should be made in it there as would render it acceptable to the Crown, the framers of the Bill should have brought the Bill in a proper shape into the other House in the first instance; but to pass this Bill here in the expectation that the other House of Parliament would supply its deficiencies, was contrary to usage, and an abdication of the functions of this House. Were their Lordships sure that such amendments would be made by the other House? He besought them not to pass this Bill against the consent of the Crown, against the wishes of the two metropolitans of England, and against the opinions of the Ministers of the Crown. He entreated them to pause before they took such a step, in the mistaken hope that the Bill might be altered elsewhere, so as to obviate the objections to it. He should move that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.

The Lord Chancellor

doubted whether he had any authority to put to the House the question for the third reading of a Bill whereby not only the prerogatives but the pecuniary interests of the Crown were affected, and which had not the consent of the Crown to its discussion. Every alteration that could take place with respect to episcopal distribution, affected directly the pecuniary interests of the Crown, inasmuch as during the vacancy of a See, the temporalities belonged to the Crown. There could be no doubt, that the previous consent of the Crown was necessary for the passing of a measure that affected the pecuniary interests of the Crown. He would, therefore, seggest that a Committee should be appointed for the purpose of ascertaining precedents, that their Lordships might know what course should be pursued. If that suggestion met their Lordships approval, the debate should be adjourned for that purpose. He confessed he did not see how the Crown, which would be seised of the temporalities during the vacancy, would be damnified by two Sees being either united or separated.

Lord Brougham

said, that as this was a measure to prevent the consolidation of two Sees into one, to keep up two Sees, he could hardly see how the interests of the Crown could be damnified by the House agreeing to it. On the contrary, it was a question whether the interests of the Crown would not rather be benefitted by having two chances of the temporalities during vacancy of Bishoprics instead of the one that it would have were the See to be united.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the present measure affected the prerogatives of the Crown in this manner—the Act of Parliament recited certain reports of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and enabled the Crown, by Orders in Council, to carry the recommendations of these Reports into exeecution. Now, the present Bill by repealing an important Clause of this Act, repealed the foundation on which the Order in Council was based.

The Lord Chancellor

would remind their Lordships that the present measure would prevent the creation of the See of Manchester, and the matter, as regarded the prerogatives of the Crown, was not a question of more or less—for that was a question for the Crown to judge—but of high principle.

The Marquess of Lansdwne

claimed, before he was called upon to give an opinion, an opportunity of considering the question; and he trusted that the noble Earl would acquiesce in the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and either adjourn the question or refer it to a committee. It was not a question of form, but of substance. If it had been a question of form, considering the importance of forms, their Lordships should deliberate well before they proceeded with the Bill when they had a direct declaration of a Minister of the Crown that it had not the assent of the Crown But it was a question of substance affecting the prerogative of the Crown, if not as to the amount of patronage, as to the distribution of patronage, which was equally important, and as to the creation of a new bishopric, which was cut away by this Bill. If he was called on to give an opinion, he would say that the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack was not at liberty to put the question, and he had risen to express a hope that the noble Earl would consent to an adjournment of the question, considering the importance of the topic in all its consequences under future and unforeseen propositions which might be made affecting the interests of the Church of England, and the Constitution of England, and for which this Bill would make a most important precedent, which would not be forgotten.

The Duke of Richmond

said, if the question were put, he should vote for the third reading of the Bill. If, however, the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack should propose a Committee to search for precedents, he was not prepared to say that there would be found any precedent which would preclude the House of Lords from passing any measure through its stages up to the last, though the measure had not the consent of the Crown. He was therefore anxious that such a Committee should be appointed, in order to see whether it was not the privilege of that House to pass a Bill without the consent of the Crown.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, the House ought to be careful how the appointment of the Committee was worded. Their Lordships must not prejudice the question suggested by the noble Duke as to the right of the House to proceed with a Bill without the consent of the Crown.

The Duke of Richmond

said, there could be no doubt as to their right to read the Bill a third time, as non constat that it might not be so altered as not to affect the prerogative of the Crown, and his opinion was that the Bill should be read a third time. If they had a right to read it a second time without the consent of the Crown, they had a right to read it a third time.

Lord Cottenham

said, the question raised by the noble Duke went to one of the best established rules of Parliament. It was a rule in both Houses of Parliament that a question involving the interests of the Crown should never be debated without, its consent. The noble Duke said, that it was the right of this House to debate, if not to pass the Bill, without the consent of the Crown. [The Duke of Richmond dissented.] The House was in this position: two Ministers of the Crown had declared that this was a case in which the consent of the Crown was required, and would not be given. Was the House then in a condition to read the Bill a third time? If so it would be destructive of the rights of the Crown, for this was a question involving the pecuniary interests of the Crown and the patronage of the Crown.

Lord Campbell

said, he entirely concurred with the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Vivian

suggested that the question might be put, whether the Bill be read a third time now or in six months, and if the amendment should be carried, all the difficulty should be at an end.

Lord Kenyon

had been forty-two years in Parliament, and his experience was, that there was no irregularity in passing a measure through its stages, including the third reading, whether or not the consent of the Crown had been given. He should certainly vote for the third reading of the Bill, as he considered the opinion of the House to be decidedly declared as to the merits of the Bill. After that had been done he should be ready to vote for a Committee.

Lord Canterbury

thought it improper to mix up the merits of the Bill with that most important one suggested by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It no doubt had been the practice of Parliament, from almost time immemorial, with regard to certain measures, to obtain the previous consent of the Crown, before any such measure was carried to its last stage. He confessed that he did not think that this was a very easy question to answer at once. The Motion now was for the third reading of a Bill, and then there would be a subsequent Motion that "the Bill do pass." He was quite sure that it was the most anxious desire of both Houses of Parliament to preserve intact and inviolate as well the prerogatives of the Crown as the privileges of Parliament, and he thought that instead of attempting to run a middle course, it would be much preferable to postpone their consideration of the question until they had had the opportunity of a search for precedents whereby to guide them to a final decision. He confessed that he was not prepared to say, off-hand, whether or not the present measure required the consent of the Crown before it passed the last stage, the point raised by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, whether he could constitutionally put the question without the previous consent of the Crown, was a most important and delicate point. The question had nothing whatever to do with the merits of the measure under consideration, or of the feelings or judgment of individual Members of the House. He thought that such considerations were of no avail until the question of prerogative was decided. For these reasons he thought there should be an inquiry and a search for precedents, as suggested; and that pending that inquiry, they should suspend the further consideration of the measure.

The Bishop of Salisbury

felt, in common with the noble Viscount (Viscount Canterbury), that the merits of this Bill should be altogether separated from the question of prerogative; but he thought the present the most convenient time for discussing its merits, leaving the question of prerogative to be taken into account on the final question that the Bill do pass.

Lord Canterbury

wished to say one word as to the question of whether the noble and learned Lord was or was not to put the final question. [Cries of "No."] He admitted that the third reading was not the final question, and that alterations might be made in the Bill after it had passed that stage, but he submitted, as this most important constitutional question had been stirred, whether it would not be more convenient for the full, fair, deliberate, and unprejudiced discussion upon the third reading of the Bill, that an adjournment should take place, and that the Committee be appointed in the mean time. There was fuller scope for discussion on the third reading than there could be afterwards. He therefore moved, that the debate thereon be adjourned.

The Duke of Wellington

said, he had already recommended the right rev. Bench, for the sake of the Church, not to proceed with the Bill at present, and his first reason amongst others for giving that advice was, that the question of prerogative might be considered.

The Earl of Powis

said, that for proceeding without the consent of the Crown he had the precedent of the Act respecting the Bishopric of Sodor and Man, and also of the Act for carrying into effect certain modifications of the fourth Report of the Commissioners of Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues, which passed both Houses of Parliament without the House having sought the previous consent of the Crown, when the noble and learned Lord (Lord Campbell) was Attorney General, and the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cottenham) was Lord Chancellor. If the feeling of the House was against his now pressing the third reading of the Bill, he would give way, but he thought the better course would have been to take the third reading now, and postpone further discussion until the question "that the Bill do pass."

The Lord Chancellor

said, he had only to put the question that the debate on the third reading of the Bill be adjourned.

House adjourned.