HL Deb 10 July 1879 vol 248 cc1-9

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."—(The Earl Stanhope.)


rose to move that the House resolve itself into Committee that day three months; and said, that, although his noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition in that House had taken a Division on the second reading of this Bill, he had thought it right to give Notice of his intention to take the sense of the House on the measure a second time, because, in the debate on the second reading, their Lordships were not favoured with the opinion of the Government. He hoped they would now hear that opinion, and especially the opinion of the Local Government Board. The Bill was not a very important one; but it was not one that ought to pass without its provisions being thoroughly understood. It was extremely short. The operative clause was in these terms— "The provisions of the principal Act, as to a place for the reception of the dead before interment, in the principal Act called a mortuary, shall extend to a place for the interment of the dead, in this Act called a cemetery; and the purposes of the principal Act shall include the acquisition, construction, and maintenance of a cemetery. A local authority may acquire, construct, and maintain a cemetery, either wholly or partly, within or without, their district, subject as to works without their district for the purpose of a cemetery to the provisions of the principal Act as to sewage works by a local authority without their district. A local authority may accept a donation of land for the purpose of a cemetery, and a donation of money or other property for enabling them to acquire, construct, or maintain a cemetery. The Public Health Act of 1875 provided for the supply by the local authority of a mortuary for the reception of dead bodies; this Bill extended that provision to cemeteries, and being construed with the 141st clause of the principal Act, enacted that the local authority might, and when required by the Local Government Board should, provide a cemetery. If the Bill became law, there would be three classes of burial places—the churchyards, the cemeteries provided by the Burial Boards, and the cemeteries to be established under this Act. The sanitary authority, which might be the Board of Guardians, would be enabled to provide cemeteries at the expense of the ratepayers and subject to none of the provisions of the Burial Acts. It might provide an entirely consecrated burial ground or an entirely unconsecrated one. The Bill, so far from remedying, would, in his judgment, aggravate the evils that at present existed in connection with the Burial Laws. It was an insidious Bill, for under the guise of an apparently simple clause in this short Bill the whole Burial Law of the country would be altered. Though a Poor Law Guardian himself, he ventured to think that the machinery of a Board of Guardians was not the best one for such a purpose as that. Many persons thought that this was an injudicious Bill, and one calculated to increase the grievance of which the Dissenters now complained. The Nonconformists claimed to have their dead buried in churchyards in such a manner as should not violate their consciences and they were offered cemeteries in substitution for churchyards, to be provided at the expense of the ratepayers. He was certain that no contrivance of the kind would be satisfactory to the Nonconformist bodies. The noble Earl concluded by moving that the House do resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill that day three months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months.")—(The Earl of Kimberley.)


said, that this Bill, like all the Burial Acts which had ever been passed, had been introduced on grounds of public health. Up to this time, under the operation of the previous Acts, some thousands of burial grounds had been closed, and from 3,000 to 4,000 cemeteries opened. This Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in December last, and passed a second reading and went through Committee without opposition. On the third reading, a Motion was made for its rejection by the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), who seemed to have a vested interest in the burial question but the vote which carried the third reading was not a Party one, for the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and others of his Friends, voted against him. The Bill was a well-considered one. The noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley) appeared to think it was not necessary; but he would ask whether any noble Lord opposite who had filled the Office of Home Secretary had ever arrived at any definite understanding of the Burial Acts? It was true that under the existing Acts the Burial Boards were compelled to have unconsecrated burial ground; and there could be no doubt that the Local Government Board, who had control over the sanitary authorities in this matter, would give the fullest consideration to the wants of Nonconformists, and would never sanction a burial ground in which provision was not made for their wants. There was no existing Act to compel any district to have a burial ground, and at this moment the large town of Northampton was without a public one. Under the Bill, for the first time, where there was a local authority, and the Local Government Board ordered the closing of a burial ground as dangerous to public health, the Board could compel it to establish a cemetery. From his own experience at the Home Office, he did not think the Home Secretary was called on to perform any more painful duty than that of deciding on-the application of persons to have interments made in the family graves of closed cemeteries. He hoped that the question of passing this Bill would not be made one between Churchmen and Dissenters—that no such attempt would be made to amplify a little measure; but that their Lordships would agree to the Bill as one which was required to meet a necessity of the public health.


asked, where was the clause in the Bill which gave the Local Government Board a controlling power in the matter?


said, that it would be found in the Acts incorporated with the Bill.


said, the contention on his side of the House was that no provisions for the equal burial of Churchmen and Dissenters were to be found in the Bill. If he were only convinced that both sides would receive equal advantages, he would support the Bill. Then the manner in which the Bill had been brought forward looked very like legislation by surprise, and its very title was misleading. There were many things included in the measure which had nothing to do with public health. He denied, also, the statement of the noble Viscount that all the Burial Acts which had been passed had been passed in the interests of public health. Surely a measure proposing so important an alteration in the existing law Should not be sanctioned until it was thoroughly understood, especially as it was proposed to take money from the local rates. So far from this, however, eminent Nonconformists, including Members of the other House of Parliament, now expressed their astonishment at the Bill, which had not been looked into, and was not understood by them, before it passed the House of Commons. Under the Cemeteries Act, which was to be incorporated with this Bill, no provision was made for equality as regarded Church and Dissent; for if the Bishop of the diocese called on the local authorities to provide a cemetery and chapel they were compelled to do so; whereas, in all other cases, it was provided that they "may," if they think fit. He asked the right rev. Prelate opposite (the Bishop of Peterborough) whether, under the existing law, there was not equality, as a portion of the cemeteries now established must be consecrated?


said, he would not trouble their Lordships by entering into a discussion of the principles of the Bill; but the challenge just thrown out to him by his noble Friend was one which he could not pass by. His noble Friend appealed to him as to the correctness of his statement that under the existing Cemeteries Act there was perfect equality, inasmuch as private companies formed under that Act could be compelled by the Bishop to set apart a certain portion of the ground in their cemeteries for consecration at his hands. He could furnish a fact that was conclusive against that proposition. In Northampton, which was within his own diocese, and where for years all the parish grave-yards had been closed by Act of Parliament, there existed no public cemetery, but the cemetery in the hands of a private company. That private company, the majority of which were Dissenters, had not only not been compelled to have a portion of their ground consecrated, but they had repeatedly refused to do so; and at that moment Churchmen in Northampton were by his open connivance interred in unconsecrated ground with the service of the Church. He thought there ought to be equality towards all. For himself, he would be perfectly content to see a cemetery no portion of which was consecrated, and in which all might be buried without distinction, with their own forms. He mentioned that to show that it was in no illiberal spirit he expressed his opinion that the existing law did not do justice to Churchmen who desired to have consecrated ground.


said, that under this Bill every Town Council, without any control, and Board of Guardians throughout the country, subject to a certain limited control, could do the very same thing, either in favour of the Church or against the Church, as had been done at Northampton. Under the existing Burials Acts, when a new cemetery was established, it must be done on equal terms as between Churchmen and Dissenters; but under this Bill the local authorities would have the power of establishing out of the rates—that was, by public taxation, purely sectarian burial grounds; so that, instead of removing or mitigating any existing sense of grievance, the Bill would merely in- troduce a new element of discord. If they wanted to enlarge or alter the powers of the Burials Acts, let them do so but he deprecated their going back, from the policy of the Burials Acts, to the imperfect policy of earlier Acts, enabling companies to make cemeteries throughout the country because, if they reverted to such a policy, sectarian questions would arise under colour of a Bill professedly intended for the purposes of public health. And to enable this to be done out of rates was quite a new thing in public legislation; it was, in fact, to reverse the policy of the Church Bates Abolition Act.


said, that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Aberdare) had forgotten the Acts later than the only one he cited; which, in acknowledgment of the failure of the attempt to insist on posthumous schism in grave-yards, and of the enactment that there should always be unconsecrated as well as consecrated ground in every cemetery, and chapels for each, had provided that there might be either the one or other, or both, just as any locality desired. The principle of these later Acts was the principle of this Bill. The noble and learned Lord who had just spoken made the same mistake; and the Northampton case only showed the necessity of some authority being made to act, where no one was inclined to make requisite provision for burials at all. He, however, supported the Bill on sanitary grounds. It was distinctly a sanitary measure, and the first attempt to carry into full effect the recommendations of the Sanitary Commission over which he had presided for two years to make it part of the duties of local authorities to provide proper interment of the dead. He must point out that this Bill would only enact in respect of cemeteries what was already law in the case of mortuaries.


observed, that the fact that this Bill had passed through the House of Commons without discussion, except upon its third reading, was hardly surprising, inasmuch as some Bills were considered in the other House at such enormous length, and with such copiousness, that hon. Members got sick and passed other measures through the Forms of the House at a late hour of the night hurriedly, without giving them sufficient consideration. This, it -was said, was merely a sanitary measure; but the only reason given for placing it under that description was that the power was lodged in the local sanitary authorities. For his own part, he objected to any increased power in this matter being given to the sanitary authorities in the rural districts, for their action had certainly not rendered it advisable to increase their power in any way. The default of those bodies he regarded as a fundamental one, due to their constitution—namely, that under their constitution taxation and representation did not go together. Under this Bill, the sanitary authorities would have power to establish cemeteries consisting wholly of consecrated ground and after the decision which that House had come to two years ago, that all churchyards in the country should be open to all religious bodies, provided their funerals were conducted in a Christian and orderly manner, their Lordships would be stultifying themselves if they gave authority to any bodies to establish cemeteries in which restrictions were imposed upon burials. He hoped that the House would divide, and that the result of the hurried Division of the other night would be reversed.


hoped that no alteration would be made in the Bill.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 117; Not-Contents 69: Majority 48.

Canterbury, L. Archp. Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queens-berry.)
Cairns, E. (L. Chancellor.)
York, L. Archp. Dundonald, E.
Eldon, E.
Leeds, D Gainsborough, E.
Richmond, D Hardwicke, E.
Harewood, E.
Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.) Lanesborough, E
Lonsdale, E.
Abergavenny, M. Lucan, E.
Bristol, M. Macclesfield, E.
Exeter, M. Mar and Kellie, E.
Hertford, M. Morton, E.
Salisbury, M. Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Nelson, E.
Amherst, E. Pembroke and Montgomery, E.
Bathurst, E.
Beaconsfield, E. Powis, E.
Beauchamp, E. Redesdale, E.
Bradford, E. Romney, E.
Brownlow, E. Rosslyn, E.
Cadogan, E. Sandwich, E.
Coventry, E. Stanhope, E. [Taller]
Dartmouth, E, Verulam, E.
Devon, E, Wharncliffe, E.
Wilton, E. Gordon of Drumearn, L
Bridport, V.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)
Cranbrook, V. Grey de Radcliffe, L. (V. Grey de Wilton.)
Hardinge, V. Hampton, L.
Hawarden, V. Harlech, L.
Hood, V.
Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.) Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Melville, V. Inchiquin, L.
Strathallan, V. Kenlis, L. (M. Head-fort.)
Bangor, L. Bp. Leconfield, L.
Chichester, L. Bp. Lilford, L.
Ely, L. Bp. Lovel and Holland, L.(E. Egmont.)
Llandaff, L. Bp.
London, L. Bp. Manners, L.
Peterborough, L. Bp. Norton, L.
St. Albans, L. Bp. O'Neill, L.
St. David's, L. Bp. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Winchester, L. Bp.
Penrhyn, L.
Alington, L. Raglan, L.
Ashford, L. (V. Bury.) Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfarly.)
Aveland, L.
Bagot, L. Rivers, L.
Bateman, L. Saltoun, L.
Bolton, L. Silchester, L. (E. Long-ford.)
Brodrick. L. (V. Midleton..)
Skelmersdale, L. [Teller.]
Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Sondes, L.
Clements, L. (E. Lei-trim.) Strathnairn, L.
Strathspey, L. (E. Sea-field.)
Clinton, L.
Colchester, L. Talbot de Malahide, L.
Colville of Culross, L.
De L'Isle and Dudley, L. Templemore, L.
Tredegar, L.
Denman, L. Tyrone, L. (M. Water-ford.)
de Ros, L.
De Saumarez, L. Ventry, L.
Ellenborough, L. Walsingham, L.
Forbes, L. Windsor, L.
Forester, L. Winmarleigh, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick) Zouche of Haryngworth, L.
Bedford, D. Sydney, E.
Devonshire, D. Zetland, E.
Westminster, D.
Canterbury, V.
Ailesbury, M. Cardwell, V.
Northampton, M. Powerscourt, V.
Ripon, M.
Aberdare, L.
Airlie, E. Annaly, L.
Camperdown, E. Blantyre, L.
Chichester, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.]
Cowper, E. Breadalbane, L. [E. Breadalbance.)
Dartrey, E.
Fortescue, E. Carrington, L.
Granville, E. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Ilchester, E.
Kimberley, E. Castletown, L.
Minto, E. Churchill, L.
Morley, E. Clifford of Chudleigh, L
Portsmouth, E.
Spencer, E. Coleridge, L.
Congleton, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-borough.)
Dacre, L.
Ebury, L. Ribblesdale, L.
Elgin, L. ( Elgin and Kincardine.) Robartes, L.
Romilly, L.
Emly, L. Rosebery, L. (Rosebery..
Foley, L.
Hammond, L. Sandys, L.
Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)
Hatherley, L. Selborne, L.
Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.) Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Leigh, L. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Sudeley, L.
Monck, L. (V. Monck.) Truro, L.
Monson, L. [Teller.] Vernon L.
Mostyn, L. Vivian, L.
O'Hagan, L. Waveney, L.
Poltimore, L. Wolverton, L.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

House in Committee accordingly; Bill reported, without Amendment; and to be read 3a on Tuesday next.


gave Notice that on the third reading he would bring forward Amendments which, from some unfortunate mistake, had not been printed on the Notice Paper.