HL Deb 10 July 1871 vol 207 cc1332-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it was unnecessary for him to go over the ground that had been travelled over last Session when a measure similar to the present had passed through both Houses of Parliament; but in the progress of the Bill through their Lordships' House some Amendments were introduced, with which, as it was understood, all parties—including the Government—were satisfied; but in the other House alterations were made, very unexpectedly, on the Motion of a Member of the Government, in contravention of the understanding which it was supposed to have been come to; and as their Lordships were unwilling to assent to those alterations, the measure was suffered to drop. The present measure, since its introduction into the other House this year, had been referred to a Select. Committee, whose sanction it had received. The object of the Bill was to repeal the Ecclesiastical Titles Act. It had become necessary that such a stop should be taken in consequence of the change in the law which had been effected by the Irish Church Act, by which the successors of the present Bishops of the Disestablished Church of Ireland, in the event of their assuming the titles held by their predecessors, would be liable to penalties under the terms of the statute it was now sought to repeal. The Ecclesiastical Titles Act was passed with the view of preventing persons from assuming the titles of any sees or dioceses other than those recognised by law, and its Preamble contained a strong protest against the assumption of such titles. While admitting that the case of the future Bishops of the Disestablished Church of Ireland demanded that some alteration should be made in the existing law upon the subject, he thought that it was desirable that there should be placed upon record on the face of the Bill a distinct protest against the recognition of a right on the part of foreign Powers to grant any jurisdiction to be exercised in this country by persons acting under their autho- rity. The only question that had arisen on the former occasion with reference to the matter was as to the form in which that protest should be drawn up in the Preamble of the measure. This matter had been settled by the Committee adopting in part the form in which their Lordships had put it in the Bill of last year, and partly the form preferred by the other House. As this was the chief point of dissension last year, and their Lordships had approved of the object and provisions of the Bill in other respects, it was not necessary that he should detain their Lordships by offering any arguments. He should, however, be perfectly ready to give any explanations, either now or in Committee.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Chancellor.)


considered that Her Majesty's Ministers were introducing an Imperial remedy to meet a special Irish difficulty. The Committee of which he had been a member had reported that it was inexpedient to make any change in the law. In only one point had circumstances changed since then, and that was in regard to the ecclesiastical legislation of the past two or three years. The Bishops of the Protestant Church of Ireland would in the future be open to the same penalties as the Roman Catholic Bishops of England, unless some change were made in the law, and therefore some change should be made; but he did not see why the change should be greater than the circumstances rendered necessary.


opposed the second reading. The Roman Catholic Bishops were the representatives of a foreign Power, and had their titles conferred upon them by that Power. Certainly there was a proviso appended to the last clause, declaring that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to authorize or sanction the conferring any title, precedence, or authority within this realm by any other person than the Sovereign; but inasmuch as such titles had been recognized by successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland, who had publicly received Cardinal Cullen, and given him precedence as holding the highest rank in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, he did not see that such a declaration would be of much use. He could not see why the existing Act should be repealed, unless it was in order that Roman Catholic Bishops might be received at Court, according to rank and precedence.


said, he had pointed out in the House of Commons during the discussion that had taken place at the time of the passing of the Ecclesiastical Titles Act that, except as a legislative protest against the right of a foreign Power to grant ecclesiastical titles in this country, the statute would be wholly inoperative, inasmuch as it would be very easy for those who were inclined to do so to evade its provisions—and he even divided the House twice in unsuccessful endeavours to make its provisions more stringent. As he had foreseen, since its passing the Act had remained a dead letter, not a single instance having occurred in which the penalties it imposed had been attempted to be enforced. Under these circumstances, he could not see what harm could result from its repeal, especially when he found that the protest it contained, which was its only valuable part, was to be renewed in the present Bill, and the Bill was further necessary to give proper protection to the future Bishops of the Irish Church. He should therefore support the second reading of the Bill.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.