HL Deb 03 February 1860 vol 156 cc501-5

said, he was anxious to make a request of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cranworth) with regard to a Bill which he had introduced, and which stood for second reading on Tuesday next. He alluded to the Bill for amending the law relating to Endowed Schools. In order to make his question intelligible, however, it was necessary that he should trouble their Lordships by briefly recapitulating the proceedings which had taken place in the other House upon the subject. It would be remembered that a measure was introduced into the House of Commons last year by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). That measure was one with which he (Lord Carnarvon) could not agree, nor was it received with any great favour by the House of Commons. It provided that, where a will or deed endowing a school did not expressly state that the trustees should be persons belonging to a particular Church, persons of any religious denomination might be eligible for the office. Now, that measure was generally regarded in the light of a blow aimed at the Church of England; and if passed into a law, its effect would have amounted to a practical confiscation of Church property. But the Bill was not received with any very great favour by the other House. It was referred to a Select Committee, and that Committee, after carefully considering the question, prepared a second Bill in lieu of the first by way of compromise. The first was therefore thus superseded, and during the remainder of the Parliamentary Session no further steps were taken with the second. This year his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cranworth) had introduced a Bill into their Lordships' House, which seemed at the first blush to be nothing but a counterpart of the second Bill of last year. It was of just the same length, was printed in the same shape, and contained the same number of clauses. In fact, it was not until the seventh clause that any material difference was to be detected. That clause provided that, unless otherwise expressed in the will or deed of endowment, no person should be deemed ineligible, whatever his religious faith might be, to become a trustee of any charity or endowment for educational purposes; whereas, by the Bill of compromise which was drawn by the Committee of the House of Commons, it was provided that, unless it were otherwise expressed in the will or deed of endowment, and in those cases where it should appear that for twenty-five years immediately preceding persons of various denominations had been appointed as trustees, such person should be eligible for the trusteeship. The difference, therefore, consisted in this,—that his noble and learned Friend's Bill altogether ignored this important principle of usage or prescription, which lay at the very root of the matter.


rose to order. He thought the noble Earl wished to put a question to his noble and learned Friend; but instead of that he was entering into a discussion of a Bill which was not formally under the consideration of the House.


said, he would merely observe further, that, as there was the very decided and material difference to which he had drawn attention between the Bill of his noble and learned Friend and that of the Committee of the House of Commons, he hoped his noble and learned Friend would not insist upon pressing his Bill to a second reading on Tuesday.


said, he did not think that he could be charged with proceeding with the Bill with any undue haste in appointing Tuesday for moving the second reading. He introduced it on the second day of the Session. It was immediately printed, and placed in the hands of their Lordships. If the House were of opinion that the seventh clause ought not to stand in its present form, it was of course competent for them to strike it out; but after the lapse of ten days since the first reading, he really did not see why he should not now proceed with the measure. He could not consent, therefore, to the discharge of the order for Tuesday.


said, he hoped his noble and learned Friend would not proceed with or at least press on his Bill. His noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon) had not given a complete account of all that had taken place in the other House of Parliament with regard to this question, and of the nature of the proceedings which had induced him to consider that it was not desirable to press the Bill upon their Lordships' attention now. The Bill, which was introduced by Mr. Dillwyn was dealt with in a rather extraordinary manner by the Select Committee to whom it was referred. They altered every clause of it, and then, of course, the preamble not fitting the amended clauses, they were obliged to make a fresh one. Thus the Bill ceased to be any longer that of its honourable proposer, who thereupon declined to proceed with it. But in the present Session the same hon. Gentleman had introduced a Bill similar to that which he had originally presented to the House, and he understood from his hon. and learned Friend, Sir Hugh Cairns, who was a Member of the Select Committee, that it was his intention also to introduce a Bill founded entirely upon the Report of that Committee. Under these circumstances he put it to his noble and learned Friend whether it would not be desirable to allow the House of Commons, which had already considered the question, to have the two Bills before it, and determine for itself which of them it would prefer. That ground had not been stated by his noble Friend (the Earl of Carnarvon); but it was one upon which it appeared to him (Lord Chelmsford) that he might reasonably ask his noble and learned Friend not to persist with his Bill. But if his noble and learned Friend thought that it was desirable to ask their Lordships to give his Bill a second reading, then he would put it to him whether he might not afford a little more time in order to enable the House to be prepared for the discussion when it came on. It was true his noble and learned Friend had introduced his Bill at the earliest possible period; but he did so without accompanying it with any statement of its provisions; the result was that it had not attracted the attention which its importance entitled it to receive. The subject was one of great interest. It was deserving of serious consideration; and it would very probably excite much discus- sion. He hoped, therefore, his noble and learned Friend would feel, if he would determine to press the measure, that it was only fair to give a little further time for its consideration.


said, there could be no objection to proceeding with the Bill, seeing that there was not at present any great pressure of other business. It was rather a strange cause of complaint that the Bill had been introduced early in the Session, when the usual objection was that all the business was delayed until nearly the close of the Session.


said, he was anxious that sufficient time should be given by the noble and learned Lord for the consideration of the Bill, and for ascertaining what was the sentiment generally entertained out of doors upon the subject. In his own immediate neighbourhood, in the diocese of Salisbury, numerous meetings were being held this week for the express purpose of considering the Endowed Schools Bill; and he really thought the noble and learned Lord ought to give time for the full consideration of the question how far a compromise was capable of being effected, with the view of doing justice to the Dissenters, at the same time that no hardship or injury was inflicted upon the Church.


presumed that his noble and learned Friend would, as a matter of courtesy, have no objection to the postponement of the Bill for a day or two, say to Thursday next. The measure was one that affected the rights of a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects, and was one fully deserving discussion in their Lordships' House. There was no reason why it should originate with the House of Commons more than with this House.


said, it was true that Mr. Dillwyn had again introduced a Bill into the House of Commons which was the same, or nearly the same, as that of last year; but so far from thinking that to be a reason why he (Lord Cranworth) should not proceed with this Bill, it appeared to him that if he had not already introduced it, that was precisely the reason why this House should originate a measure which was more likely to meet the approbation of Parliament. True, the Bill in one important clause did differ in principle from the Bill which had received the sanction of the Select Committee of the House of Commons last year; but when it came under discussion he should be prepared to state his reasons for thinking that it was better as he had altered it than as it was approved by that House. It would be for their Lordships to say whether they concurred with him or not. If they did, the Bill would then go down to the House of Commons in its present shape. If they did not, then of course he had only to bow to the decision of the House. He would not object to take the second reading on Thursday instead of Tuesday, and was quite willing to defer the Committee for ten days from that date.

Second Reading (which stands appointed for Tuesday next) put of to Thursday next.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.