HL Deb 17 March 1870 vol 200 cc62-5

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


rose and said, he wished to make an appeal to the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) as to the course which he should take. Last year their Lordships gave their assent to two Bills upon the subject, one introduced by the noble Earl himself, and the other by the Archbishop of Canterbury; and both of them were referred to a Select Committee, over which the most rev. Prelate presided, and of which he (Viscount Halifax) had the honour to be a member. At present, unfortunately, the most rev. Prelate was not able to be present and take part in the discussion of measures of this nature. All must deplore the cause of the most rev. Prelate's absence; but it was hoped that after Easter he would be able to be present and take as much part as heretofore in the discussion of matters affecting the Church. He appealed to the noble Earl whether it was not duo to the character and station of the most rev. Prelate that there should be afforded to him the opportunity of taking part in the debate in the Committee upon this Bill, and he suggested, therefore, to his noble Friend that he should postpone the Committee of the Bill until after Easter, so that they might have the advice and assistance of the most rev. Prelate in the matter.


suggested that the second reading should be postponed, and the grounds he had for this were two. In the first place, there was a very general impression in this House that this would be the course taken, and this seemed to have been derived from something that the noble Earl himself had said or done. What was specially important was that he knew that his noble Friend who led upon that side of the House (the Duke of Richmond) was under the same impression, and certainly he would have been present if he had known that the second reading was to be proceeded with. Further, it was of the greatest importance that they should have the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury when the measure was discussed, for it was a most important Bill—indeed, he might say one of a highly penal character. It proposed to draw very much tighter than had over been drawn before the chains both of opinion and practice in reference to the clergy of the Church of England. Whether that were a wise or a foolish step was not a question which he desired then to discuss; but certainly no such step should be taken without the gravest deliberation, and without having the assistance of those whose official position enabled them to give a competent opinion upon the matter. For himself he should very much have preferred that a Bill of this magnitude should have been introduced by the Government; but certainly the most rev. Prelate should be present when it was discussed.


joined in the appeal for postponement. This was the time of year when members of the Episcopal Bench were least able to attend the House, and, in fact, only two of his right rev. Brethren were now present.


said, he had understood from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that the Bill would be postponed. He gave the greatest credit to the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury) for having grappled with this question, though, as the noble Earl knew, he did not agree with him on many points; but it was only fair that the second reading should be considered at a time when members of the Episcopal Bench could attend with a frequency which at present was quite impossible.


replied that, when asked by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Winchester) whether the second reading would be postponed till after Easter, told him that this would probably be the case. He derived that impression from the noble Earl; but it now appeared that he was mistaken, and that it was the Committee which the noble Earl agreed to postpone.


thought that as the Bill embodied that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it should be postponed till after Easter, when there would be a larger attendance of Bishops.


said, he was unable to resist the appeal made to him; but it was rather hard that such an impression should have gone forth in his name without the least shadow of authority from him for it. He had never directly or indirectly said that he would postpone the second reading, though he had mentioned to the noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack, that he should be prepared to defer the Committee until after Easter. Last year, as their Lordships would remember, he brought in a Bill upon the subject, and it was read a second time; and the most rev. Prelate proposed another Bill, which was also read a second time. Both these Bills were referred to a Select Committee, and in that Committee the most rev. Prelate occupied the Chair. The Committee, after a little deliberation, determined that his (the Earl of Shaftesbury's) Bill, having precedence, should be the material upon which they would work, and that Bill was therefore taken by the Committee; but the Amendments which they made in it were very unimportant. He did not think, with the exception of verbal ones, that there were three alterations, and they did not affect the principle of the Bill. When, however, the measure came down from the Committee it was too late to proceed with it; but he determined to go on with it this year, and that he might have the support of the Members of the Committee, he introduced the Bill precisely in that form in which it was settled by them. He felt that it would be perfectly impossible, in the face of the appeal that had been made to him, and when there was so small a number of right rev. Prelates upon the ecclesiastical Bench, to push the Bill to a second reading, because he would have little or no support if he were to resist. Therefore, he must agree to postpone the second reading until after Easter. But, at the same time, he was bound to say that this Bill was proposed to remedy some of the greatest abuses that had ever existed in a court of justice, and he believed that neither the House, the Bishops, nor the Church would gain anything whatever in the estimation of the country from the delay that had now been interposed in the way of the accepting the principle of this most important Bill.

Second Beading put off 'till after the Recess at Easter.