HL Deb 22 June 1882 vol 271 cc4-11

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the Bill was founded on the recommendations of a Royal Commission, of which he had the honour to be Chairman, and was meant to provide a scheme whereby the Cathedral Statutes might be varied and modified from time to time to meet the altered circumstances of the day. It was obviously the wish of all parties in the Church that that power of modification which in ancient times was nominally vested in the Crown should become a reality. The cathedrals of the old foundation had seemed to many to have a power of altering their Statutes; but the result of the inquiry by the Royal Commission had been to give rise to serious doubts as to whether any such power existed even in those cathedrals, and it was absolutely certain that no such power existed in the new foundation. The Commission found, too, that many of the Statutes issued in very ancient times were totally inapplicable to the present day, and that those who wished to reform the existing state of things were perpetually hampered by the restraint imposed on their energies by old Statutes no longer applicable to modern times. Under these circumstances, the first thing the Commission had set itself to consider was how to remove all such doubts, and place all the cathedrals of the country upon the same footing by bringing forward a strong Constitutional measure whereby the undoubted rights of the Sovereign should be realized in those matters for the future. The Commission considered that no body would be more suited to give advice to Her Majesty on this subject than some Department of the Privy Council. Accordingly, this Bill proposed the formation of a Committee of the Privy Council, consisting, on the one hand, of persons supposed to be well-acquainted with cathedrals, and, on the other hand, of persons well-acquainted with the bearing of these institutions on the general welfare of the country. The Bill proposed that the Commit- tee should consist of the two Archbishops and the Bishop of London, the Lord Chancellor, the President of the Council, and four other Members of the Privy Council, and that they should hereafter advise Her Majesty as to the issue of new Statutes, or the amending of old Statutes, for the time to come. All persons connected with the cathedrals had been invited to give as much information as they could to the Royal Commission; and he was bound to say that the Royal Commission had had abundant information given to them. The Commission laid down, as a first principle of their action, that each cathedral was to be treated according to its own peculiar circumstances, and therefore any general statement in the Report of the Commission would not apply alike to all cathedrals. There was a great difference, for example, between Manchester and St. David's. It would be folly to apply the same rule in detail to the Cathedral Bodies in both those places, the first being the centre of civilization in the North, and the latter amidst a sparse population in a very distant part of a Welsh mountainous district. The Commission had shadowed forth, with, perhaps, as much detail as circumstances admitted, the sort of changes which it was desirable to make, varying those changes according to the differing circumstances of the places in which they were to be applied. In order to ascertain distinctly what were the opinions of each capitular body, the Commissioners, when new Statutes in respect to any particular cathedral began to assume a definite form in their recommendations, sent such Statutes for observation and criticism to the Bishop and the Chapter. He should greatly regret any unnecessary delay in dealing with the subject. Twenty-six years ago a Report had been published upon it by very competent persons, and it had been discussed in many learned works. The time had come when legislation should at last be undertaken. Increasing respect was being shown to Cathedral Bodies, and the estimation in which they were held was growing day by day. The large attendance of worshippers at St. Paul's Cathedral was one proof of that. It was very desirable, therefore, that means should be taken to remove any restrictions which impeded the usefulness of bodies, which might be as serviceable in the 19th century as they had been in past times. The most rev. Prelate concluded by moving that the Bill be now read a second time.

moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)


, in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, said, he regretted to find himself in opposition to the most rev. Prelate. The proposed mode of procedure was so contrary to sound principle, and so mischievous a precedent, and also so utterly unnecessary, that he could not conscientiously allow the Bill to be read a second time without stating his objections to it. To pass the Bill would be to legislate in the dark. The course which had been followed in connection with the subject before the House differed materially from the course usually followed in connection with kindred matters. The Commission which was appointed three years ago had collected a great deal of information about different cathedrals. Their Report, however, which was issued on February 8, 1882, was a most singular Report, for it did not contain one single statement of fact, and gave no idea of the nature of their proposed schemes. In fact, it was nothing more than a general expression of opinion with regard to what should be done with cathedrals. Fuller information had been promised, but it had not yet been given. The result of all this was seen in the peculiar form of the Bill, by which it was proposed to turn the present Commission of Inquiry into what might be called an Executive Commission, and to empower the Privy Council to hear objections. There the whole matter was left. The cathedrals, in fact, would practically be handed over to two irresponsible bodies, to whom no instructions would be given. There was nothing in the Bill to tell them what they were to do, and what the Commissioners thought should be done was only very vaguely suggested. If this Report had been put before the Commissioners at their first sitting by someone who had drawn it up because he thought that something should be done, and if this gentleman came to them to be examined, one of the first questions that would be asked of him would be—"Will you illustrate by one or two in- stances what you mean by this? You say you will endeavour to guard against any rash or ill-considered changes in the conduct of the cathedral services. What do you mean by that? You say that you will permit flexibility. What do you mean by flexibility? You propose to strengthen the cathedrals by introducing preachers from outside. In what way is this introduction of men who are not members of the Cathedral Body to be controlled?" It was as clear as anything could be that according to the answers the man who drew up the scheme would give would be the judgment of the Commissioners on it. But if Parliament was to pass this Bill, and create these two irresponsible bodies at all, they would be legislating in the dark; and he could not understand how such a course was to be reconciled with their ordinary practice in all these matters. It was not so much that he objected to the machinery provided; he did not think it was a bad machinery; but what he objected to was that they should leave these two bodies absolutely without guidance. It was true that when the schemes were drawn up by the Commissioners and submitted to the Privy Council, they might then be discussed by Parliament; but Parliament would have to discuss them one by one. There were no general principles laid down to guide Parliament. If he was to object to what was proposed with regard to Exeter Cathedral, there would be against him the authority of the Commissioners, who would say that they had examined into the matter, and he would have nothing to appeal to except his own opinions of the particular working of his own cathedral, and it was obvious that Parliament could not decide except according to the view of the Commission. He could not help thinking that it would be no more than right that before assenting to this application Parliament should ask the Commissioners to lay before it a certain number of Reports upon special cathedrals. What was proposed with regard to his own cathedral might be excellent; but he did not in the least know what it was, and he did not at all like consenting to legislation which practically illustrated the old nursery rhyme— Open your mouth and shut your eyes. And in your mouth you'll find a prize. It was said they could not deal with cathedrals as a whole. But his answer was—here were some general matters laid down, and could they not have some illustrations of them? He did not ask for indefinite delay, but only for such delay as would enable Parliament thoroughly to understand the case, which, very few Members of that House did at present. It seemed strange that Parliament should be ready to hand over everything without any real knowledge of the matter to those Commissioners to do as they thought best. It was not that he had not a high opinion of the Commissioners. He did not know that he would wish to change a single name; but the trust Parliament was asked to give them in this instance went beyond its ordinary practice, and would be a very bad precedent. If they waited until the early part of next year, no great harm would be done. For himself, he did not hesitate to say he was in no great hurry to reform the cathedrals, because he knew that if reformed on the Report of 26 years ago, they would not be reformed as they ought to be. No harm would be done by allowing public opinion in the Church and the nation at large to mature itself before making a change in those great institutions which must decide their character for a considerable time. The fact was that the cathedrals were becoming of more importance every day; and it was becoming evident to everyone how much they might do for the Church, and how important it was that they should do it well. He was told that the Bill was supported on both sides of the House, and that both Parties would unite to a considerable extent in carrying it. But it was a surprise to him that the Liberal Party, or anyone connected with a Liberal Government, should have anything to say to a Bill like this, because he always thought that one of the vital and cardinal principles of Liberalism was that whenever they legislated, they ought to do so in the light, with the fullest information and the most thorough discussion. He did not mean that the opposite Party at all flinched from the light; but they did not, like the Liberal Party, put that argument forward.

Amendment moved, to leave ont ("now") and add at the end of the motion ("this day three months.")—(The Lord bishop of Exeter.)


said, that, as a Member of the Commission, he would ask their Lordships to hear him upon the question whether the Bill should be now read a second time. He regretted that the right rev. Prelate should be found in collision with the Primate and with himself, and still more the tone the right rev. Prelate had adopted with regard to this question. When the right rev. Prelate spoke of the solemn Report of the Commission, he spoke of "the man who drew up this Paper."


explained that what he said was, he could conceive that something of this sort should be put before the Commission by a gentleman from the outside; and it was in that way he spoke of this hypothetical gentleman drawing up the Report.


said, that the right rev. Prelate had not shown the respect to the Commission and its Head with which he prefaced his speech. He was, indeed, in some of his statements, very rash, and not always consistent. The right rev. Prelate assumed that the machinery created for a special and limited purpose would carry everything of substance before it; but towards the end of his speech he said he did not think the machinery at all bad in itself. He said, also, that Parliament would not have an opportunity of discussing the schemes, and towards the close of his speech that it would have that opportunity. Then, as to his charge of darkness and secrecy, what did the Commissioners do? In the first instance, they sent out papers of inquiry to the Bishops, to the Deans and Chapters, and to everyone connected with the cathedrals, and endeavoured to ascertain their opinions as to the state of the cathedrals, and any changes that might usefully be made in their Statutes. Then, when those Papers came back, the Dean and one of the Canons of the cathedral which was to be examined by the Commission attended the Commission, as Commissioners themselves, with full powers for the time being. So far, there was no secrecy as between the Commissioners and authorities of the cathedral, but everything was done openly. Subsequently, when the first process had been gone through, recommendations would be made, which would be laid before the Bishop of the diocese and the Cathedral Chapter before assuming their final form. A Report would be made upon each cathedral, and would be laid upon the Table of the House, so that the Bishops and all their Lordships would have the fullest opportunity of considering each scheme. The Report would then, either by the Commissioners or by the Dean and Chapter of the cathedral, in concert with the Commissioners, be taken before the Privy Council, where objectors would have an opportunity of opposing such Statutes as they deemed unadvisable. And, besides that, as soon as the Council came to a conclusion on the subject, the Statutes, as passed in the Privy Council, would be laid on the Table of the House. It could not be said, therefore, that opportunities would not be given for the fullest discussion; indeed, it seemed to him that this arrangement, whether invented by Liberals or by Tories, was as open a mode of proceeding as could possibly have been devised. The right rev. Prelate had spoken with approbation of the procedure of the University Commission; but the House knew comparatively little of the work of that Commission, and the opportunities for discussing its operations were no more in any degree or sense than would be given by this Bill. A great deal of attention had been given to the subject for many long years, and it was, therefore, not like a new one. The greatest disappointment had resulted from the abortive Report of the Commission that sat 20 years ago. The right rev. Prelate said that he wished for no reform at the present moment; but he himself was of a decidedly different opinion. The whole question had been considered very carefully, and each cathedral might be dealt with separately, by which means it was more likely that a rational conclusion would be arrived at, than if a number of cathedrals were included in the same scheme. It ought to be generally known that there would be a way of altering the Statutes of a cathedral. Times were changing, and circumstances required that many matters connected with cathedrals should be dealt with immediately, or, at any rate, as soon as possible. He wished that these desirable changes should be made speedily, and not adjourned sine die; and it was the object of the Bill to effect them. If the right rev. Prelate was, as he had hinted, in the dark, the machinery of the Bill would bring everything to light. There would be in every respect the utmost publicity, and nothing would be done without the fullest information, or without several opportunities of discussion.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the motion? Resolved in the affirmative.

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