§ [THIRD HEADING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, before this Bill is passed I should like to call attention to one matter which has excited a feeling of anxiety on the part of antiquaries. One of the inconveniences of the prevailing method of legislating by reference is that it is extremely difficult for ordinary laymen to understand exactly the scope of a particular Bill. I am informed that under the Union of Benefices Act, 1860, a large number of churches in the metropolis have been pulled down and destroyed, and that by extending this Act to the whole of England you are putting it in the power of certain persons to pull down and destroy 592 any parish church in any part of England. If that be the case I think it is a very grave power to give. The parish churches of England are absolutely unique from an historical point of view. And I cannot but think that if for certain reasons benefices are to be united there should be some machinery for handing over the disused churches to some responsible persons, either to the county council or to some other public body. I trust that if this Bill is taken up in another place this point will be attended to, and that we shall not be led by the vicious form of legislation by reference to sanction something which we otherwise would not permit.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, there are various eases in which it is important that the powers which have been exercised in the metropolis should be extended to other parts of the country. For instance, you have in the city of Exeter a considerable number of churches which are really of no use at all, the population of the parishes being so exceedingly small that they do not work as parishes ought to work. Moreover, the incomes have been so small that it is practically impossible to get anyone to remain for a considerable period. The removal of these churches would be in every respect a great gain, as the removal of similar churches has been a great gain in the metropolis. As I explained when this Bill was read a second time, the city of Norwich contains a great number of churches of precisely the same character, and there are many other cases throughout the country. The Bill has had the consent of the Convocation of Canterbury and of all the bishops of that Convocation, and it is a Bill which is very much needed in the interests of the Church.
§ On Question, agreed to. Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed, and sent to the Commons.