HL Deb 13 August 1904 vol 140 cc503-5


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I do not propose to take up your Lordships' time with many observations in regard to this Bill. It is, as your Lordships know, an old friend, and therefore it will be quite unnecessary for me to state at length either the reasons for the introduction of the Bill or the precise character of the provisions which it contains. It is substantially the same Bill as that which passed through your Lordships' House last year, though the drafting is somewhat different. It has been a good deal abbreviated, and in some respects it is more elastic. However, there is no intention, in carrying out the provisions of the Bill, which are subject, as your Lordships know, to certain schemes by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and by Order in Council, to produce substantially any different result than would have been produced by the more precise provisions of the Bill of last year. I feel all the more relieved from making any further observations because, as a matter of fact, this is rather the Bill of the most rev. Primate and the Bench of Bishops than of His Majesty's Government, not that His Majesty's Government do not cordially support it, but the Bill emanated from the Episcopal Bench. I would only say, in conclusion, that, connected as I have been for very many years with the diocese of Rochester, it does give me peculiar pleasure to be even to this extent instrumental in carrying out a great reform, a reform long needed, and one which it is a perfect scandal that Parliament has not found it possible to deal with before.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." (The Marquess of Salisbury.)


My Lords, I wish to say a single word on this Bill. The natural expectation might have been, at such a moment as the Second Reading of this Bill, after the long endeavours to which the noble Marquess has alluded which have been made in previous years to bring it into effect, that the Bishop of Rochester would have been here to advocate it. His absence is one of the most eloquent arguments that could be urged in favour of the Bill, for he is absent because he has broken down from overstrain. He would not have been absent from your Lordships' House or from the country on any occasion of such ecclesiastical importance, whether concerning his own diocese or another, had such a Bill as this been law some time ago, for in that case the strain upon his health would have been less. The strain placed upon the holder of either of the two dioceses which are mainly affected by this Bill, that of Worcester, containing the great town of Birmingham, and that of Rochester, containing the whole of the South of London, is more than one man can bear; and the object of the Bill is simply to effect, in each case, a subdivision greatly needed in view of the enormous increase of population. It is purely an administrative measure, containing no principle or change whatever beyond that of adapting modern resources to modern needs; it imposes no tax whatever on the public, but merely allows the voluntary contributions of those who care for the matter to be used in the way which the contributors think necessary. The noble Marquess the Lord Privy Seal has correctly stated that the Bill of to-day, though worded somewhat differently from the Bill which passed your Lordships' House on more than one previous occasion, is the same in its purport, and I am exceedingly glad to look forward now to effect being speedily given to a hope and an ambition which, as the noble Marquess has said, have been astir for a long time and the fulfilment of which is urgently required.

On Question, Bill read 2a; Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.