HL Deb 07 March 1882 vol 267 cc317-9

I propose to intro- duce into your Lordships' House a Bill which, I think, is one of very great importance. The question has been discussed in the other House. It is that of the admission of Atheists into Parliament. Now, I hold, and most distinctly hold, that it would not be expedient in this country to sanction the admission of Atheists into Parliament for the purpose of legislating for the people of this country; and the alteration I propose to make is for the purpose of getting rid of the difficulty which has arisen in regard to this matter; for I maintain that it is no part of the duty of Parliament to sanction the admission of Atheists for legislation or any other purpose. The Bill I propose is a very short one, and its purport is in the Preamble. The Preamble says— Whereas it is expedient that provision should he made against Atheists taking part in legislation for this country: Be it enacted as follows:—That, from and after the passing of this Act, every Peer and every Member of the House of Commons on taking his seat in Parliament shall, before making the oath of allegiance or affirming the same in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Oaths Act, 1866, make and subscribe the following declaration: 'I, A. B., do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that I believe in an Almighty God.' I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who objects to making any such declaration; and I believe it is very necessary that such a declaration should be made. We all know—we know it from Scripture—that, as time goes on, in all probability infidelity to a large extent will prevail, and we ought, therefore, to be very careful that nothing shall be done in this country in any manner tending to do away with the religious feelings and character of the Parliament of this country. The declaration in the existing Parliamentary Oath is for the purpose of sustaining allegiance to the Queen, as Sovereign of this country, and it has been thought necessary that every Member should take such an Oath. What I propose is, that we should make some allegiance with regard to our reverence to our God, and that no person should be admitted to take part in the legislation of this country who does not believe and accept the doctrine of an Almighty God. The proposal I now make would relieve Parliament from the whole of the present difficulty, and not offend any man. In conclusion, I wish to say that I desire that the question should be approached in no Party spirit, and that I have brought the Bill in from a deep sense of what is due to Almighty God.

Bill to make provision to exclude Atheists from taking part in legislation for this country—Presented (The Earl of REDESDALE).


asked the noble Earl whether he proposed to fix a day for the second reading of the Bill?


replied, that he would not at present fix a day for the next stage, though he should like the Bill to pass through Parliament as speedily as possible. He would not name a day now, as he might have to make a postponement; but when he did fix a day, he should like to proceed with the measure without delay.

Bill read 1a; and to be printed. (No. 32.)


said, he desired to add one word, and it was that he had not consulted any noble Lord on the one side of the House or on the other in regard to the introduction of the Bill, as he wished to keep the matter entirely free from anything of a Party character; and he believed that, on a question of this kind, every Member of their Lordships' House would take that course which he thought expedient, independently of any Party considerations. He had brought in the Bill from a deep sense of what he believed to be due to Almighty God, and he trusted it would be discussed and adopted by Parliament in the same spirit.

House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.