§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the measure, which had passed the other House with little opposition, had a two-fold application. The first portion of the measure extended to certain chapels more or less of a public 1925 character that exemption from the control of the incumbent already granted to certain institutions. It empowered the Bishop to license a clergyman of the Church of England to perform the services of the Church in any chapel belonging to any college, school, hospital, asylum, or other public institution, being duly consecrated and licensed, and to administer therein the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or such services as may be specified in the licence; but the licence did not extend to the solemnization of marriage. The clergyman so licensed was to be subject to no control or interference on the part of the incumbent of the parish or district; but without prejudice to the right of the incumbent to the entire cure of souls. The second part of the Bill applied these provisions to proprietary and other private chapels, the erection of which was sometimes thwarted by unreasonable opposition on the part of the incumbent. The Bishop, on being satisfied that the building was proper for the purpose, and that a sufficient stipend was provided, might license a minister to serve such chapel in the same manner as the first-named chapels. The Bishop was to give one month's notice to the incumbent of his intention, and in case the incumbent objected, was to transmit to the Archbishop his reasons for overruling his objections, and the decision of the Archbishop was to be conclusive. There was a provision with respect to pew-rents which he proposed to strike out in Committee.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Lyttelton.)
THE ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
said, the first part of the Bill referred to institutions of a public character, but under the second there might be two distinct churches in the same parish. In certain cases no doubt the working of the parochial system was too stringent, and he did not say that some modification might not be introduced into it; but our parochial system had been part and parcel of the system of the Church of England up to that time, and it ought not rashly to be parted with. This Bill would introduce a revolution into the Church of England, of which the clergy had had no notice whatever, and, influenced by these considerations, he now gave notice that in Committee on the Bill he should move 1926 the omission of the 4th clause. One further remark he had to make—the noble Lord who had introduced the Bill was under the impression that proprietary chapels were consecrated, but that was not the case—they were usually merely licensed buildings.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
concurred in the observations that had fallen from the most rev. Primate. The Bill in regard to the first three clauses might be harmless; but the 4th clause ought not to be passed without very much consideration and inquiry, as it would authorize the Bishop to make a raid into every parish and set up an opposition chapel against the parish church. He doubted whether cases of unreasonable obstruction on the part of the incumbents were sufficiently common to justify so sweeping a measure. Even if the 4th clause were passed, it ought to be accompanied by a more stringent definition of what was a private chapel.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
thought it was hardly fair to say that the 4th clause would authorize the Bishop to make a raid into a parish, as it only empowered him to give a licence to a clergyman to perform service in a part of a parish which might have been theretofore entirely neglected. He could testify that there were many cases in which an incumbent did not do anything himself and would not allow anyone else to do anything—although a wealthy layman might offer to provide the pecuniary means—and the 4th clause of the present Bill would give the opportunity of remedying the serious neglect which occurred in some parishes. Nothing was more common than to hear a desire expressed for greater elasticity in the organization of the Church of England; and yet every measure brought forward with this object met with opposition at the hands of her friends. He should regret to see the clause struck out of that very useful Bill.
THE BISHOP OF GLOUCESTER AND BRISTOL
said, he believed that in any case of insufficient ministrations for any hamlet an appeal by the Bishop to the incumbent would almost invariably be successful. The pecuniary means were frequently wanting; but where these were available he had never known an incumbent object, and instances of objection must be very rare. He had a strong objection to the clause, and hoped 1927 their Lordships would not be induced to adopt it by the more favourable opinion expressed by his right rev. Friend who had just sat down. He also thought that care should be taken that services in chapels belonging to public institutions should be conducted mainly, at all events, for the inmates.
THE BISHOP OF RIPON
hoped that, whatever might be done with the 4th clause, the earlier provisions would not be rejected. In the case of the chapels attached to infirmaries and other charitable institutions, no service could be carried on in them without the consent of the incumbent of the parish; but it was most important that services of a special character, adapted to the circumstances of the inmates, should be held in those institutions, and they would not in any way interfere with the exercise of the incumbent's rights. In his own diocese there was an institution to promote the temporal and spiritual welfare of discharged prisoners, and there it was specially necessary to have services adapted to the circumstances of the inmates; but the incumbent of the parish had stepped in and exercised his power to interfere with the ministrations of Divine worship, and thus a great injury had been inflicted on the spiritual and moral welfare of the inmates of the institution. He thought that chapels of this kind ought to be regarded as extra-parochial; and viewed in that light the Bill could not be considered as interfering with the parochial system.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that inconvenience frequently arose from the incumbent's power of veto in the case of chapels connected with alms-houses and other charities; it being sometimes interposed not from any bad motive, but from an old incumbent's indisposition to change. He should be sorry to see the parochial system broken up; but he thought the Bill contained sufficient safeguards in the shape of a notice to the incumbent and power of appeal to the Archbishop.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.