HL Deb 08 February 1858 vol 148 cc853-4

Debate on Second Reading resumed.


said, that the debate upon this Bill had been adjourned from the short sitting of Parliament before Christmas, and it would perhaps be for the convenience of the House that he should state the course he intended to take respecting the measure. There were now before their Lordships two Bills on this subject, one introduced by himself, the other by the most rev. Primate (the Archbishop of Canterbury), with the assent of the whole Episcopal Bench. After full consideration he (the Earl of Shaftesbury) infinitely preferred his own Bill, because he thought it would be far more simple in its operations, because it would not go one hair's breadth beyond the exigencies of the case, and would interfere much less than any proposition he had seen with the existing parochial system. Now this measure had received the almost unanimous support of the great mass of the laity throughout the kingdom, more particularly of the middle and those of the working classes, to whom it had been submitted; but he was bound to admit that it had not received by any means the same support from the clergy. A very large proportion of the clergy had declared themselves hostile to the Bill, and many were secretly unwilling to give it that support which would be necessary to carry it into operation. Since its introduction another measure had been introduced, and he was told that the whole four-and-twenty occupants of the Episcopal Bench were unanimous in its favour. Now, that must considerably influence his proceedings. It would not be possible for him to carry his Bill without long and angry contention, and without frequent appeals to the country, and without exciting ill-feeling between the clergy and the laity. Under these circumstances it was impossible for him to proceed with his Bill, and he would therefore ask their Lordships to give him permission to withdraw it. He had, however, to consider whether he could allow the Bill introduced by the most rev. Primate to pass a second reading without opposition on his part. The more inquiry he made respecting the probable operation of that measure, and the more information he received on the subject, the more was he satisfied that it was open to very grave objections. The Bill, as it seemed to him, would give a power to the Bishops which they had not heretofore possessed. It would enable a Bishop, without assigning any other reason than that a deficiency of means of religious instruction had been proved to his satisfaction, to send into any parish he pleased a clergyman to hold occasional services, for a period which was not defined in the Bill, but which would, no doubt, be fixed when the measure went through Committee. The Bishop, however, would have the power of renewing the intrusion as often as he pleased. He was convinced that in some dioceses the Bill would be oppressive, while in other dioceses it would be inoperative; and he was satisfied that the incumbents who had raised objections against the Bill he had introduced would raise ten times as many objections to the measure of the most rev. Primate, which now stood for a second reading. As, however, he found that it would be useless to attempt to carry the Bill he had brought forward, and as he found the Bill of the most rev. Primate was unanimously approved by the whole Bench of Bishops, and that by it they recognized the value and necessity of special services, he would not take upon himself the responsibility of opposing the second reading, and thereby of acting with apparent disrespect to the Episcopal Bench. He would not, therefore, offer any objection to the second reading of the Bill; but, as he regarded it on the one hand as most defective, and on the other as likely to be most oppressive, he would reserve to himself the right, at some future period, of re-opening the whole question of special services. The noble Earl then moved for leave to withdraw the Bill.

Motion agreed to; Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.