HL Deb 06 July 1871 vol 207 cc1197-200

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1 (Person objecting to burial service entitled to decent interment).


objected that Dissenters should be precluded from celebrating any burial service in the churchyard—such a prohibition seemed to him an unjust stigma upon our co-religionists. There were thousands of good and devout Nonconformist ministers who were capable of performing a service reverently and properly; and though the permission to do this would be liable to abuse, it was no more than was the case with every good thing. As a clergyman he felt it to be a sacrifice to allow Dissenters to celebrate a burial service in the churchyard; but he had felt that it was a sacrifice which he ought to make—and having conceded Dissenters the right of burial their Lordships should go a little further, and allow them, under proper safeguards, such as restricting the service to hymns, a portion of Scripture, and prayer, to celebrate a burial service. He thought it would be better to wait until the Bill which was now passing through the other House should come up to their Lordships, when he hoped some satisfactory measure might be devised.


said, that the Bill, as he originally introduced it, had been amended by the Select Committee, in accordance with the suggestion of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Winchester). As to the noble Lord's proposition for the introduction of safeguards, he (Earl Beauchamp) had found that "safeguards" were usually of an unsubstantial character, and that to leave anything to a person's discretion was to leave it to his indiscretion. Even hymns might be made the vehicle of an unpleasant feeling. The subsequent clauses of the Bill would enable persons to convey not more than an acre of ground for the purpose of a Nonconformist burial-ground, and this facility, coupled with the permission to bury in the churchyard without any service where the deceased person had expressed his wish in writing to that effect, or where his relatives entertained the same objection, would remedy any hardship which at present existed.


thought it would be satisfactory to their Lordships to learn from the noble Earl or from the Government whether the Bill was likely to satisfy those whom the House would be anxious to conciliate.


said, he could not undertake to say whether the Bill would satisfy the Nonconformists, and, seeing the variety of opinions which existed among them, it would be difficult for anyone else to do so. He looked upon the matter in this light—that there was a grievance, and this was an honest and conciliatory attempt to remove it; and therefore he believed the Bill would satisfy the reasonable portion of the Dissenters, and those who had no ulterior designs in raising this question. Their Lordships ought to be anxious, whatever the opinion of the Dissenters might be, to redress a substantial grievance—especially as it was one which had excited a feeling against the Church not warranted by the extent of the grievance.


remarked, that had his most rev. Friend (the Archbishop of Canterbury) been present on the second reading he would have felt and sympathized with the general desire of their Lordships to remove a real grievance, without attempting to satisfy every dissatisfied person. The noble Baron who spoke first (Lord Dynevor), so far from putting the Dissenter and the Churchman on air equality, would give the former a liberty which no Churchman or clergyman enjoyed. To do more than remedy the actual grievance and go further would be unjust to the Church:—and it was, at all events, worth trying whether this Bill would not gradually heal any irritation which at present existed.


said, he rejoiced to hear the kind feelings expressed by the right rev. Prelate towards the Dissenters; but he thought their Lordships should remember that they were almost to a man Churchmen, and that it was very important to use great care and circumspection when they undertook to legislate on questions affecting Nonconformists. He could not say how far the Bill would be satisfactory to Dissenters; but as it had been settled by a Select Committee, he should not, without compromising himself as to the future, interfere with its present progress.


remarked, that unless they had some reason to believe that the Bill would be acceptable to those who represented the Nonconformists in the other House, the discussion could at best be a piece of amusement and might possibly be mischievous. Unless it satisfied the Dissenters it would be mischievous, because the effect of the 1st clause was to make the use of the burial service merely optional, and might lead to irreverence and ill-feeling.


, as a member of the Select Committee, was convinced that the Bill, in its present form, would not satisfy the great body of the Dissenters.


said, he did not look upon the Bill as simply a relief to Dissenters. On the contrary, it was notorious that on the subject of the burial service very unpleasant and acrimonious disputes arose among Churchmen. Therefore, it seemed to him desirable, as some persons, through exaggerated scruples, objected to particular expressions in the burial service, that Churchmen as well as Dissenters should be able to dispense with it. Even, therefore, if it failed to satisfy Dissenters, the Bill would not be useless. Moreover, where there was a grievance partly real and partly fictitious, the House should not wait for the question to be thrust upon them, but should at once lay down the policy which they thought just, both to Churchmen and Dissenters. He hoped that when the Bill went down to the other House the Dissenters and their representatives would consider it in a conciliatory spirit; but in any case their Lordships would not be wasting labour by showing their anxiety to remedy a substantial grievance.


, as another member of the Select Committee, explained that they had modified the Bill in the sense suggested by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Winchester), which appeared acceptable to many of their Lordships. To attempt to prescribe a form of service acceptable to Dissenters would have been hopeless, and he believed the Bill would satisfy many of the promoters of another measure in the House of Commons—though, of course, it would not satisfy persons of extreme opinions.


, as another member of the Committee, pointed out the abuse to which permission to pronounce any discourse in a churchyard would be open; but he was ready to accept any suitable form of service on which the Dissenters and their representatives in the House of Commons might agree.


feared, from the proceedings in "another place," that the Bill was not likely to satisfy any considerable proportion of the Dissenters.

Amendments made; the Report thereof to be received on Monday next.