HL Deb 12 July 1910 vol 6 cc66-96

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Preparation and filling up of Schedules.

4.—(1) Schedules shall be prepared by or under the direction of the Local Government Board for the purpose of being filled up by or on behalf of the several occupiers of dwelling-houses, with the following particulars, and no others, namely, particulars as to—

  1. (a) the name, sex, age, profession or occupation, condition as to marriage, relation to bead of family, birthplace, and (in the case of a person born abroad) nationality, of every living person who abode in every house on the night of the census day; and
  2. (b) whether any person who so abode was blind, deaf, dumb, imbecile or lunatic; and
  3. (c) in the case of any person who so abode being married, the duration of marriage, and the number of children born of the marriage the number of such children living; and
  4. (d) the number of rooms inhabited; and
  5. (e) in the case of Wales or the county of Monmouth, whether any person who so abode (being of three years of age or upwards) speaks English only or Welsh only, or both English and Welsh.

(2) Every enumerator shall in the course of the week ending on the Saturday next before the census day leave at every dwelling-house within Ins enumeration district one or inure of these schedules for the occupier thereof or of any part thereof, and on every such schedule shall be plainly expressed that it is to be filled up by the occupier for whom it is left, and that the enumerator will collect all such schedules within his district on the Monday then next following.

(3) Every occupier for whom any such schedule has been so left shall fill up or cause to be filled up the schedule, to the best of his knowledge and belief, so far as relates to all persons dwelling in the house, tenement, or apartment occupied by him, and shall sign his name thereto, and shall deliver the schedule so tilled up and signed to the enumerator when required so to do.

(4) In this section the expression "dwelling-house" shall include every building and tenement of which the whole or any part is used for the purpose of human habitation, and where a dwelling-house is let or sub-let in different tenements or apartments and occupied distinctly by different persons or families a separate schedule shall be left with or for and shall be filled up by the occupier of each such distinct tenement or apartment.

(5) For the purposes of this section, a person who is travelling or at work on the night of the census day, and who returns to a house on the morning of the following day, shall be treated as abiding in that house on the night of the census day.

*LORD NEWTON moved to amend paragraph (a) of Clause 4 so that it would read—

  1. (a) the name, sex, age, profession, occupation, religious profession, condition as to marriage, relation to head of family, birthplace, and (in the case of a person born abroad) nationality, of every living person who abode in every house on the night of the census day; and

He had a further Amendment on the Paper to insert a provision that "no person shall be subject to any such penalty for refusing to state his religious profession."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I do not wish to recapitulate the arguments which I made use of 'a lien this Bill was read a second time, but I move the Amendment for a double reason. In the first place, I understand that there are a certain number of members of this House who are desirous of expressing their opinion upon the question to which it refers, and in the next place I wish to give the Government an opportunity of making some intelligible and coherent statement in explanation of their attitude upon this particular point. If the Government were to adopt a straightforward and candid attitude and were to come to this House and say, "We are very sorry we cannot accommodate you with regard to this matter, but the fact is that amongst our supporters are a large number of political Nonconformists of a persecuting type who desire to disestablish the Church in Wales, and who desire also to multiply their numbers in the estimation of the public very much in the same way that Mr. Haldane multiplies the numbers of the military forces of the Crown, and therefore, strongly object to any impartial enumeration of the different denominations in this country," we who understand the position could not admire the Government attitude, but at all events we should feel a certain amount of sympathy for them in their difficult position and it would have this result, that we should be able to believe what they said. But, under the present circumstances, with the best will in the world I find it impossible to accept seriously the statements which the noble Earl the Lord' President has made use of in this House. Instead of putting forward any really serious arguments, the noble Earl advanced reasons so futile and so incoherent and so unsatisfactory that really they do not take anybody in, not even myself.

What do the arguments of the Government amount to? Briefly they are covered by the inquisitorial argument and the argument that this country is different from the rest of the civilised world, including Ireland. It really does require the most extraordinary hardihood—I might almost say it requires a front of brass—to put forward arguments of this nature. The noble Earl, in his statement on the Second Reading of the Bill, said he ventured to impress upon the House that a very large number of people in this country really believe it to be improper for the State to ask such questions. I want to know who these, people are. Is anybody in this House acquainted with any person, male or female, who has any objection to stating what his or her religious belief is? Does the noble Earl know of anybody? I am convinced that there is not a single member of this House, or of the House of Commons as far as that gees, who would not infinitely sooner answer a question as to his religious belief than state what the amount of his income is, or answer other questions that are forced upon him by the Government.

But what I am asking the Government to do does not constitute anything of an inquisitorial nature, because it is purely optional. If there are the vast number of persons whose existence the noble Earl claims, all they have to do is to refuse to give the information. How can anything which is optional be inquisitorial? On the other hand, as I pointed out the other day, there are asked a certain number of not only inconvenient but possibly disagreeable questions which really enter into the arcana of the relations between the two sexes, and which a man or woman is obliged to answer under a penalty. The argument that this is a question of an inquisitorial nature is entirely destroyed by the fact that my Amendment is an optional one, and is in the same form as prevails in Ireland. Now with regard to the noble Earl's contention as to Ireland. Ireland, says the noble Earl, is different from England. As far as that goes, Scotland is different from England too, but no allowance is made for the difference of feeling which exists in Scotland. Why should Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Welshmen not be able to bear with a certain amount of equanimity the optional inquiry to which Irishmen take no objection at all?

I have always observed that for political purposes the Irish figure in speeches made by members of the Liberal Party as a romantic, emotional, impulsive, and quick-witted race, as contrasted with the heavier and more solid prosaic Englishman. Yet this sensitive and highly-strung being is called upon to face an ordeal for which the thicker-skinned Englishman or Scotsman is apparently considered to be unfitted, and the peculiar thing is that the Irishman makes no difficulty about it. He is not bound to furnish any particulars with regard to his religion—and I may say that the idea that there are only two denominations in Ireland is a complete fallacy, for in proportion to the population there are just as many denominations there as elsewhere—but he makes no objection whatever; and out of the whole of Ireland there are not 700 people who object to state what their religious profession is. The curious thing is that the most sensitive organisation in the world appears to be that of the British political Nonconformist.

I should not worry the Government or anybody else over this particular question were it not for a very obvious reason. Everybody knows perfectly well that the disestablishment of the Church in Wales is in the air. It is a long overdue item in, I believe, the Newcastle programme, and the Government are pledged to deal with this question as soon as they feel themselves equal to the task. The case for disestablishment in Wales rests largely upon statistics, more or less imaginary because they are drawn up by amateurs. I observed the other day that the Prime Minister, when making a statement with regard to a Bill now before the other House, said there were 12,000,000 Roman Catholics who owned allegiance to the British Crown. I do not know what authority he had for making that statement; but my attention was also called to a letter which appeared in The Times from a gentleman whom I believe to be a pillar of Nonconformity, Sir Robert Perks. Sir Robert Perks, writing in a some what pontifical strain, said— The established Church of England has long ceased to embrace within her fold a majority of the people. I should like to know what authority there is for either of these statements. These are precisely the kind of statements upon which facts are required, and upon which facts will not be forthcoming unless you take an official and impartial census. I have no hesitation in saying that the refusal of the Government takes nobody in. Everybody knows perfectly well what it means. It is nothing but an attempt to conceal awkward facts, and, personally, I look upon it, in view of the political question involved, as taking an unfair political advantage of the situation. It is for that reason that I move the Amendment which stands in my name, and I need hardly say that if I obtain any support I am prepared to go to a Division.

Amendment moved— Clause 4, page 2, line 3, leave out ("or"), and after ("occupation") insert ("or religious profession").—(Lord Newton.)


My Lords, I venture very briefly to support the Amendment. The noble Lord has already dealt so fully and effectually with the inquisitorial argument that I do not think I need refer to that in any detail. That argument certainly seems to me to lose its force entirely when you look at the inquiries about age and about mental and bodily infirmities which the census form contains, and which seem to me much more in the nature of trying inquiries than any question about religious profession. I noticed that in the debate in another place the question of a voluntary religious census was treated as if it was very unpopular. Speaking from my experience, I do not think the taking of a census is at all an unpopular thing in Wales. A great number of amateurs have tried from time to time to take censuses and have seemed to derive great pleasure from it, and their results have afforded satisfaction to the particular bodies on whose behalf they were taken

There is one very striking fact with regard to the supposed unpopularity of taking a religious census. I find that in regard to the last census, that of 1901, there were only 695 people in Ireland who either omitted or declined to fill in the column about religious profession. That seems to me to be a very striking fact indeed with regard to the popularity or otherwise of a religious census. Then there is, of course, the fact that in nearly all other civilised States a religious census is taken. I think I am correct in stating that it is taken in most, if not in all, our Colonies, and in the Census Report for India for 1901 perhaps the most interesting chapter of all is that upon the results of the religious census taken in that country. As to Ireland, it is often said that the religious census in Ireland was taken for the first time in 1861, but some attempt was made to take a census in 1831 in Ireland, but the enumerators were under the impression that they were to be paid in accordance with the number of people they enumerated, and the result of that census was not altogether satisfactory. But in 1861 the first official religious census was taken in Ireland, and it is impossible to study the Irish census without seeing that the taking of this type of census can be defended on utilitarian grounds. The results must be of extreme value to the religious bodies themselves—of value in the comparison of their work, in estimating the weak points in their work, and in distributing their forces for work.

Again, I cannot help thinking that the results of such a census are invaluable to our legislators. For instance, the bearing of the census upon education is given in great detail in the Irish Report, and I think it would be of very great assistance to our legislators in dealing With the education problem if we had these figures before us. Wales is very often quoted in connection with the taking of a religious census. I am not at all prepared myself to base the defence of any church merely upon the counting of heads, hut, if you are going to use that argument, surely it is desirable that you should make it as accurate as it is possible to make it. I do not think it will be possible for those who are opposed to the taking of an official religious census any longer to appeal to these amateur figures, the taking of which has been very lax and in many cases very inefficient.

I noticed that in the debate in another place one of the representatives from Wales, in referring to the statistical argument as far as Wales is concerned, said— No ecclesiastic ever dared to say that Churchmen in Wales were in a majority over Nonconformity. I do not assert, but I am prepared to prove before any competent authority that the Church in Wales is in a great majority over any single Nonconformist body in that country. Of course, if you use Nonconformity in a lax way and include everybody who is not a churchman, I am not quite sure what might be the result with regard to a census of the whole Church of England. If Nonconformity merely refers to the leading Nonconformist bodies in Wales, there is this important fact, that even they themselves do not claim half of the whole population. What the other half may be I do not know, but I think a religious census would throw valuable light upon that. To return to the general question, it seems to me that the object of a census is to give us all possible information about subjects which concern in the broadest sense the well-being of the people, and I cannot myself think of any information which is of greater interest or of more vital importance than that for which the noble Lord now asks. I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment.


My Lords, we all enjoyed, as I am sure we always do, the speech made by the noble Lord opposite in moving this Amendment, but I hope he will forgive me if I say that I listened in vain for any useful purposes which in his mind would be served by passing this Amendment.


I gave them last week.


I am sorry the noble Earl did not repeat them, for I do not remember that he stated any useful purpose which this information would serve. I venture to think that an Amendment of this kind, which would undoubtedly offend the feelings of a great many people, ought at any rate to be supported by proof of some really useful purpose which it is likely to serve. Let me take, in the first place, the comparison with Ireland, to which the noble Lord referred and upon which he threw so much scorn. I have very little hope of being able to satisfy him, because he told me to-day that the arguments which I put forward on a previous occasion front the parallel with Ireland were neither coherent nor intelligent. They were, he said, quite futile and thoroughly unsatisfactory, and if we were quite straightforward and believed what we said, His Majesty's Government would, said the noble Lord, put forward different arguments altogether. The noble Lord will forgive me, not having his admirable resources in the matter of adjectives, if I do not follow him in that. But may I point this out to him. I think it is a fact that points to some difference between the two countries. In England the occupier fills up the census return, but in Ireland enumerators are employed, and it is their business to fill up the returns. I have not much hope that the noble Lord will accept that as making any difference.


Not in the least.


Nevertheless, I think it marks a difference in taking the census. It is possible for the enumerator, who is generally a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, to get answers which will fulfil the requirements of the Government better than the occupier is likely to be able to do. Let me turn to another point in connection with Ireland which I think has escaped the notice of the noble Lord. It is quite true, as he said, that this inquiry as to religion is made in Ireland, but it is a curious fact, although the figures are not very large, that in the case of the last census more than double the number of people refused to give the information compared with 1890. There is a growing feeling on the part of the people of Ireland against disclosing their religion. There is another point. The whole matter of this census was before the Statistical Society. They appointed a Committee to go into the whole question, but they deliberately refrained from recommending that the religion of the various individuals in this country should be asked for. A few words with regard to Wales. Wales was chiefly in the mind of the right rev. Prelate behind me when he spoke. On a previous occasion an authority to whom the right rev. Prelate, I think, will pay some regard, Lord Hugh Cecil, said in another place that— A religious census was not asked for for the purpose of estimating the religious force of the various denominations in the country; and I venture to think that in such a matter as the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, we are, perhaps, on firmer ground if we take the opinion of the people's representatives in Parliament as being a more sure indication of opinion than the mere fact that the people state what their religious opinions may be in the census return. I would point out to the right rev. Prelate that there are a great many sincere and loyal members of the Church of England who wish to see the Church disestablished in Wales, and therefore in so far as he expects to find that everybody who returns himself as being a member of the Church of England is therefore anxious to maintain the establishment, the figures would certainly meet with a good deal of just criticism in this country. We do not see that any useful purpose would be served by including the religious profession in this census, and therefore we feel obliged to adhere to the Bill as it stands, and, if necessary, we shall ask your Lordships to divide upon the subject. Finally, I venture to think, in view of the fact that the matter was clearly before the Conservative Governments which were in office in 1890 and in 1900, when the question of the disestablishment of the Church in Wales was also in the minds of the people of this country, and the then Governments refused to include religion among the subjects upon which information was to be asked, your Lordships would be well advised in maintaining that prohibition on the present occasion.


My Lords, I am sorry to trespass on your Lordships' indulgence, but I cannot let what the noble Earl the Lord President has just said pass without some observations. He has attempted to justify the position of His Majesty's Government in taking a religious census in Ireland and refusing to take it in Great Britain on the ground of some difference in regard to enumerators. The noble Earl will correct me if I am wrong. Surely that is an inadequate argument for declining to apply in Great Britain the principle applied in Ireland. The other day, in the discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill, the noble Earl the Lord President said— The circumstances in the two countries are so far different that we trust they will be accepted as a sufficient reason for making a difference in regard to this matter. A very eminent Statesman, a former Lord Chancellor—Lord Cairns—in 1870 went very thoroughly into the alleged difference between Ireland and Great Britain in this respect, and if the noble Earl will look at that noble and learned Lord's speech he will find that some argument must be sought for refusing a religious census in Great Britain other than merely to say, in a general sort of way. that there is some difference between the two countries.

May I be permitted to point out to the noble Earl that he was not altogether correct in quoting the authority of the late Lord Salisbury in favour of the position taken up by His Majesty's Government? I think that the noble Earl said that the late Lord Salisbury had suggested certain difficulties in this matter in a speech which he delivered in your Lordships' House in 1890. I have that speech here, but I do not find any difficulties suggested. On the contrary, the late Lord Salisbury in 1870 spoke very strongly indeed in favour of a religious census, and, among other things, he said on that occasion that; he would be desirous to show clearly who was of the Church of England and who was not, and he did not shift his ground in 1890. One argument used in 1890 was that, though people in other countries do not mind being asked to what religion they belong, in England people feel a great peril in doing so, and always call themselves members of the Church of England. The eminent Statesman quoted dwelt with scornful satire on the hollowness of that argument. He said— Englishmen always seem very free to express their opinions on any subject, religious or otherwise. It is quite clear that if he reads Lord Salisbury's speech in this House in 1890 the noble Earl will find that he was led into an error by taking a particular sentence out of its context.

I hope the noble Earl will pardon me if I say that he also put rather too high his comments upon the Report of the Departmental Committee in 1890. The noble Earl said, on the Second Reading of this Bill, that the Departmental Committee refused to recommend a religious census. I have the Report of that Committee before me. What they say is this— In other countries and in our Colonies such information is obtained, and from a statistical point of view it is of value. Therefore in the opinion of the Departmental Committee these statistics are of value in every country in the world in which they are taken. But the Committee continued— Arguments, mainly of a political character, have been urged against the requirement of returns under this head, and we are not in a position to make any recommendation with regard to the matter. This Departmental Committee was a committee of statistical experts, and, very properly, they did not think that it would be right for them to report upon questions of politics, and so they said that while admitting the value of the returns they were not in a position to make any recommendation with regard to the matter. I think in these circumstances the noble Earl is hardly justified in making any deduction from the Committee's recommendation, except that they were desirous not to trespass upon what were really matters for the Government of the day.

I have looked up the debates on this subject on previous occasions. In 1860 Sir George Cornewall Lewis as Home Secretary proposed a religious census, and expressed the opinion that when a man was afforded full power of giving or refusing an answer to this question, it could not be contended that the inquiry came within the category of "authoritative demands." The noble Lord, in his Amendment to-day, provides that no penalty of any kind shall attach to a refusal on the part of any person to make this return. I therefore fail entirely to understand how any noble Lord who is concerned to use language with accuracy can apply the epithet "inquisitorial" to a schedule which simply gives a person an opportunity, if he so desires, of stating to which religious denomination he belongs. It was said in 1860, and has been said every decade since, that there are conscientious scruples on the part of many people to stating what their religion is. Sir George Cornewall Lewis pointed out that it was a very frequent thing for religious bodies to send petitions to Parliament and to say in those petitions that the petitioners belonged to certain denominations, that they represented a certain number of people; the fact that they represented that number of people of a particular religious persuasion was considered to carry great weight with Parliament, and Sir George Cornewall Lewis asked why they should object to insert in a census paper the description which they thus give of themselves. His question has never yet been answered.

I thought at first that the noble Earl the Lord President was going to give way on the Second. Reading, when he said that if it could be proved that this return would serve some useful purpose the case would be different. Surely, seeing that His Majesty's Government last year introduced a Bill for Welsh disestablishment, most people would have thought that it would be useful to know how many people there were in Wales who described themselves as attached to or belonging to the Church of England. According to the noble Earl, it matters not what the people themselves think about the religious persuasion to which they belong, but what their Members of Parliament think. I am the last person in the world to speak disrespectfully of the Members of Parliament for Wales. They have many virtues, but I do not think the noble Earl will claim that they are particularly qualified to be enumerators of the people's religious persuasions. I ask why should you object to having the facts of the case stated. Why should you object to know how many people in Wales are prepared to declare themselves adherents to the Church of England?

In introducing the Welsh Disestablishment Bill in the House of Commons the Prime Minister deliberately chose to base his case, one-third of it at least, upon religious statistics in Wales, and he was advised to select the number of Nonconformist sittings as a cogent form of using statistics. That is, just the same as if the First Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a challenge as to the efficiency of the manning of the Navy, were to say that he had an over-abundance of hammocks in the Admiralty stores. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1906, and in the terms of reference was the requirement that they should inquire— as to the extent to which the people of Wales and Monmouthshire avail themselves of the provision made for their spiritual welfare by the churches of the various denominations. As far as I can see, His Majesty's Government in that year were distinctly of opinion that the extent to which the people of Wales availed themselves of the spiritual provision made for them was a very important matter indeed. For the last four years that Commission has been at work, and I am bound to do the Government the justice of saying that they showed their desire to have the Commission carried out irrespective of political partisanship by appointing to the chair a most distinguished Judge. I hope the noble Earl the Leader of the House and the noble Earl the Lord President will be able to do something in this matter. It is a very unfortunate thing that four years have passed and we have not had a Report from this Commission. We have been told in the public Press that the draft Report of the Chairman has been ready for months, and that the majority of the Commission, indeed all the members of the Commission it is reported, are quite ready to sign it. It is an unfortunate fact, which may before very long become a public scandal, that in these circumstances we have to wait so long for the Report, especially as His Majesty's Government may in a lull in politics reintroduce the Bill for Welsh disestablishment. When they asked the question to what extent the people of Wales avail themselves of the religious provision made for them, what His Majesty's Government wanted to know was the number of adherents. There are no doubt figures of considerable interest and some value which we shall have in our hands, I hope, before long. But there is one figure you are not likely to get. You are not likely to get a satisfactory figure of the number of adherents in Wales. I say that from what appeared in the public Press. Committees were appointed in every county to collect information on this subject, over one of which, the committee in Anglesey, the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, was the president—


The right rev. Prelate is entirely misinformed.


The public Press is not always accurate. Perhaps it was because the noble Lord did not attend the meeting that the statistics turned out so had. At any rate a variety Of meanings was attached to this term "adherents," and therefore His Majesty's Government are not likely to get from the Welsh Commission any complete and reliable Report of the extent to which the people of Wales avail themselves of the Church provision. What do His Majesty's Government now say? It does not now matter a pin to the Government to what extent the people of Wales avail themselves of the accommodation provided by the Church. Why, they actually appointed a Commission to ascertain that very fact. Unless His Majesty's Government have changed their minds I think I have answered the noble Earl's challenge to give a proof of some useful purpose that these figures would serve.

The noble Earl used an argument last week which touched me very much. He said that the inclusion of the request for this information concerning the religious profession of the people would certainly not tend to peace between the various churches and denominations in the country. It is our duty to do all that in us lies to promote peace between the various religious bodies in the country, and it is a comfort to me to think that, except when political hurricanes sweep over the platform and the Press, the relations between Churchmen and Nonconformists in Wales are, to a much larger extent than is generally thought, those of peace. I should be very sorry to stand up to-day and support this Amendment if I thought the noble Earl the Lord President was right in saying that to take a religious census would not tend to peace. I think what does not tend to peace in this matter is the attitude of His Majesty's Government. Let them either adopt the only fair and impartial test, or refrain from using such statistics as they have as an argument, an irrelevant and feeble argument, for cutting up the historical unity of the Church of England.


My Lords, I do not think that your Lordships can have been surprised when we found this evening that my noble friend behind me returned to the charge and insisted, in that direct and emphatic language of which he is a master, upon a more adequate reply to the very strong case which he laid before your Lordships' House the other evening, and, if I may be pardoned for saying so, it seems to me that up to the present he has had the best of the argument. I approach the subject with an entirely open mind. I came down to the House the other night without any strong feeling one way or the other, and I suppose that if I am prejudiced at all I ought, after hearing what fell from the noble Earl on the Front Bench opposite, to be prejudiced in his favour, because he apparently rested his case to a great extent on the fact that ten years ago and again twenty years ago his predecessors in office were inclined to the view which he holds this evening. I am not sure that that is an argument, although it is no doubt a telling one in debate, that always carries great conviction with it. Circumstances alter cases a good deal, and there are, at any rate, some facts to which my noble friend can point as being unchallenged and un-challengable.

In the first place, we have the example of other countries. With, I think, the exception of France, I believe all European countries have, when taking a census, insisted upon obtaining information of this kind. In our own Colonies the same thing is done. Our Colonies used to frame their institutions upon the British model. I am not sure that in these days we do not find ourselves rather frequently turning our eyes to the great Dominions beyond the seas in the hope of obtaining a useful hint from the systems and the procedure which they have adopted. Then there is the case of India. In India, of all countries in the world, the Government would hesitate to insist upon information as to the religious belief of its subjects unless there were strong reasons for obtaining such information, and unless it could be obtained without doing violence to those from whom the information was obtained. Finally, there is within the British Isles the case of Ireland. The noble Earl was at great pains to convince us that the circumstances of Ireland were so different from the circumstances of this country that we had no right to press the Irish analogy. We are all well aware, of course, that the circumstances of Ireland differ in many respects from those of this country, but when the noble Earl got to closer quarters what was the main difference upon which he relied? He said, "In Ireland the information is asked for by an enumerator who is a police constable, whereas in this country it will be collected by the occupier who his to fill up these forms." I should have thought that an average Britisher would be rather less inclined to divulge confidential matter to a policeman who came and required him to afford the information than to a member of his own family or the head of the house which he happened to inhabit at the moment.

Then the noble Earl delivered himself of what scented to me an amazing sentiment. He said "This information, when you have got it, serve no useful purpose." For what purpose then is it collected in European countries, in Ireland, and in India? And does the noble Earl exclude from his consideration the fact that in this country we are engaged with a number of great problems in which the political aspect of the case is inseparable from the religious aspect of it, so that you cannot deal with the one without adequate knowledge of the other? There is all our legislation that deals with the great question of education. There is all our legislation that deals with the great questions of the relations of Church and State. I believe I am right in saying that the Prime Minister not long ago, when he was discussing this subject of disestablishment in so far as it affected the principality of Wales, rested his case entirely, or to a great extent, on statistics having reference to the religion of the people of that country. Do not let us forget that in cases of this kind, if trustworthy and carefully compiled statistics are not forthcoming, people will be obliged to rely upon statistics which are untrustworthy and carelessly compiled.

The noble Earl's other great argument was that the collection of information as to the religion of our people would offend the feelings of a great many of them, that it was an inquisitorial inquiry. I am bound to say that I think the noble Lord who introduced this Amendment was well within the mark when he suggested to the House that the time had passed for complaining of legislation upon the ground that it is inquisitorial. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that five-sixths of our legislation in these days is inquisitorial. Every Act of Parliament, or almost every Act of Parliament, dealing with social matters, produces a fresh horde of inspectors whose business it is to be inquisitorial and to pry into the people's homes and find out everything concerning the most intimate affairs of their daily life. We make no complaint of it. We have to submit to it. But what we have, I think, a right to complain of is that these inquisitorial proceedings should be, as they are, encouraged by His Majesty's Government, but that on this particular occasion they should block us with the argument that it would be an inquisitorial and iniquitous proceeding to demand of the people of the United Kingdom that they should state what their religion is.

There is another, and it seems to me a complete, answer to the plea that this would be an inquisitorial proceeding. My noble friend provides by a second Amendment that no one need supply this information if he objects to supply it. Is it suggested, then, that the result of giving that option would be that a great many people would avail themselves of it and that your returns would be incomplete? I do not believe it. The Irish case which was cited to-night is, it seems to me, most instructive upon that point. I think we were told that on the occasion of the last census there were less than 700 abstentions in the whole of Ireland. The noble Earl says the number has increased. It may have doubled, but whether it is 300 or 700 the figure seems to me to be an entirely insignificant one, and to show that there is no genuine or deep-seated objection to supplying information of this kind. There was another argument which I noticed the other evening fell front the noble Lord who sits on the Back Bench opposite (Lord Sheffield). He was, unless I mistook his meaning, arguing that these returns were generally untrustworthy. He said that what would happen would be something of this kind. You would have a sturdy Nonconformist in the habit of attending chapel on Sundays, but who would get married in Church, and for whom the hospitality of the village churchyard would be claimed after his death. I gather that the noble Lord said that such a man would be very apt to return himself as a member of the Church of England.


I did not use the expression "sturdy" Nonconformist.


Well, the ordinary Nonconformist. I live in a part of England where there is a great deal of Nonconformity, and for all I know it may be the case that some of the Non- conformist villagers get married in the village church, and possibly some of them are buried in the village churchyard. But of this I am perfectly certain, that not one of them would declare himself, when he had to fill up a paper, to be a member of the Church of England if he was a Wesleyan or a Methodist. I believe it would be absolutely foreign to his idea of what was right and honest. Let me say, finally, that it seems to me that if a man has so little belief in the religion which he professes, so little courage of his religious opinion, as to return himself as belonging to some denomination other than that of which he is really a member, you may very fairly treat him and his religions opinions as a negligible quantity for all public purposes. For these reasons I think my noble friend behind me has had the best of the argument. I do not know whether he intends to press his Amendment to a Division. I am afraid that we are powerless on this side of the House to impose an Amendment of this kind upon His Majesty's Government, because it is perfectly clear that we must have a census, and if His Majesty's Government regard this proposal as fatal to their Bill we should be very sorry to see them drop it on account of our interference. Therefore my noble friend may possibly regard discretion as the better part of valour, and be content with having had, as I believe he has, very much the best of this discussion.


My Lords, I am sorry to have to intrude upon your Lordships again after last Thursday, but I will try to avoid the example which others have set and not repeat anything I said in the discussion upon the Second Reading, except so far as is absolutely necessary to explain to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition the position I took up. In the course of my life I have been brought a good deal in contact with what I may call the Nonconformist point of view, and though I am in no respect a member of any of their chinches I am familiar with their common attitude; and I would appeal to people who know the country whether there are not a large number who flow from Church to chapel and vice versâ according to the attractiveness of the services, and, may I say, the Protestantism of the established clergyman. I know that you have chapels emptied in some cases by a liberal and broad-minded clergyman of the Church of England, and if another man is appointed the people will flow back to chapel. I am not, of course, speaking of sturdy Nonconformists.

I pointed out last Thursday that there were also people whose religion consisted largely, like the Royal Declaration, in disclaiming the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and I said that you would entirely falsify any statistics of genuine adherence to any form of religious profession if you included all that floating body who will call themselves members of the Church of England if they have to call themselves something, because they really do not know what they are. I am reminded of a story of the great Lord Thurlow. There came to him when he was Lord Chancellor a deputation of Dissenters to urge upon him some grievance, and Lord Thurlow replied— Gentlemen, I belong to the Church of England. I belong to the Church of England because it is established. If your—religion was established I would belong to your—religion. That summarises a point of view that was rather prevalent in the eighteenth century. Theological activity has made that point of view not so prominent now as then, but it still exists in the minds of a great many people. What they subscribe to is to being members of the Established Church.

The noble Marquess has suggested that with reference to much legislation it would be important to know the religious point of view of proportions of the population. I agree with him. When important questions come up in Parliament—such questions as under the leadership of Mr. Disraeli led to the Public Worship Bill—this information is of value. It would be a very important thing, when dealing with ritual in the Established Church, to know whether the legislation is sympathised with by the bulk of the people who are nominally members of the Church of England. The Established Church is like that net in Scripture which enclosed a great variety of fishes, and also like that net which contained animals clean and otherwise. If, in taking the census, we could ask people to say whether they were Broad Church, High Church, or Low Church, we should get some idea of what their religious preferences were. The Church contains within itself people far more widely removed from one another in religious belief than is the average Nonconformist from the average member of the Church of England, and if we are to secure figures that are to be of any value in order to determine how we are to legislate we should have to go further and find out what they really believe. For these reasons and those I gave before, which I will not repeat, I think the figures as to religious profession would be deceitful; they would give an apparent weight to the Church of England to which it is not entitled. I understood the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. David's to say that I had taken the chair at a meeting for the purposes of collecting statistics connected with the Commission upon the Welsh Church. I never took the chair at any such meeting.


I did not say the noble Lord took the chair, but he was president of the committee. I, of course, accept his disclaimer.


I have been to a good many meetings connected with Disestablishment, but I do not remember that I was ever at a meeting where this question of collecting statistics came up. But that is a. small matter. The right rev. Prelate, after asking why we should not collect these valuable statistics, answered himself by going on to say that. statistics are an irrelevant and feeble argument in this matter. I will not say they are entirely irrelevant or that they are always feeble, but when we are arguing these matters we should argue them on a better basis than that of statistics. The two right rev. Prelates, while clamouring for these figures, said that if the figures went against them they would not be bound by them. I put it to the right rev. Prelates: Will they say to the Government, "If these figures of the adherents to the Established Church and other bodies in Wales are forthcoming and they go against the Established Church and show that the Established Church is in a minority, we will join with you in disestablishing the Church"? Of course, they will not. Then what is the good of playing the game of "heads I win tails you lose." I think that is rather an injudicious attitude to take up. There are very few in this House whom I should be more unhappy to be misunderstood by than the noble Marquess opposite, and I have therefore made these few observations in order to make clear my position.


My Lords, the noble Earl the Lord President, in speaking on the Amendment, asked what possible use there could be in any kind of religious census, at all events at the present day. That question has been so ably answered that I am not going to detain your Lordships one minute more than is necessary. But there is one thing which has been omitted with reference to this matter. There is an important piece of legislation now in the other House of Parliament and which will soon be presented to this House for the alteration of the Accession Oath. I think it would be extremely useful to ascertain how many Roman Catholics there are in Great Britain. It is a curious thing that the number has never been really ascertained. It has only been very approximately guessed at; and, speaking as a Catholic myself, I have always heard it stated there we number 2,000.000 in Great Britain alone. Personally, I think that number is slightly overdrawn. Others go further, and say there more than 2.000,000. However that may be, it is quite certain that the exact number has not been ascertained.

I agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down that it would be practically impossible to ascertain with exactitude the number of members or adherents of the Church of England in this country, for the simple reason that there are hundreds and thousands of men and women who go to the Anglican church in the morning and also for baptisms, weddings, and funerals, but who frequent a dissenting chapel in the village or large town in the evening. When such people were asked to which denomination they belonged, in nine cases out of ten they would write themselves down as members of the Church of England, but their practical religion is really Nonconformist. Therefore it would be exceedingly difficult to obtain the true figures for the Church of England. But when you come to the Catholic question it is totally different. Every Catholic all over the world knows whether he is a Catholic or not; there would be no difficulty in getting a. plain "Yes" or "No" in the case of adherents of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore I venture to think the proposed statistics would be of considerable value in this country, especially in view of the proposed alteration in the Royal Declaration.


My Lords, as it was impossible for me to be in the House on Thursday last when this subject was preliminarily discussed, I should like to say a few words upon the point raised by this Amendment. I am sorry that His Majesty's Government have refused what I am bound to say seems to me a perfectly reasonable request—a request which goes no further than this, that any man who desires to do so when the census returns are made should have an opportunity of stating to what religious denomination he belongs. Such a Return, Lord Sheffield says, would tell in debate hereafter to the disadvantage of a. cause which he has long advocated, and we are there, I suppose, to learn the reason why a request which otherwise would seem so reasonable is to be refused.

Some of the arguments dwelt upon by the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council in his speech surprised me. I cannot see what it has to do with the matter that years ago the people of Ireland were so illiterate that it had been necessary to make the enumerators fill up the return. What that has to do with the fact that we want to get this return to-day I am totally unable to conjecture. Would the Government be prepared to accept the Amendment if it stated that the return must be filled up by the enumerator? Then we are told that people dislike giving this information. That is to say, they dislike being offered an opportunity that they need not accept unless they choose of filling up a particular form in a way which would indicate certain facts respecting them.

The question of Welsh Disestablishment has loomed rather needlessly large in this question. The difficulty and obscurity of that controversy is not the ground on which I mainly desire to see this Amendment carried through. I am by no means prepared to say that such statistics, after proper discount has been made on both sides, would be without value when that controversy comes up. But it is on other grounds that I personally would desire to see the additional column which is suggested by this Amendment. I do not know whether I beard the noble Earl correctly, but I gathered that he said we must not rely, in a matter of Parliamentary controversy, upon the religious opinions of the electors but rather examine what are the religious opinions of those whom they choose as representatives. Have we really conic to this, that a Liberal Government say that the main factor in selecting a Member of Parliament is his religious opinions? That is not the doctrine of Liberalism in which I was reared, and I fear that it would be a very misleading form of criterion.

We are told that these statistics would be of no value. I do not grant it, but, If I did, I should still value these statistics. It is true that a purely Parliamentary controversy, though Disestablishment is more than that, could not wholly be decided either in England or Wales on the mere statistical question, but I should still maintain that obtaining and tabulating these facts would be of very real value if they were used with common sense and with large discounts on each side. It is perfectly true that there would be a great many people who would return themselves as Churchmen who are not Churchmen worthy of the name. It is also true, I am quite certain, that there would be a great many of these Nonconformists whom we are warned not to call "sturdy," who as heads of the households would fill up the return by a statement that the family were all Nonconformists, while it might be perfectly true that a good many members of the family were, to ssy the least, very lukewarm in their Nonconformity. Therefore I should wish to discount these statistics; but I still maintain that, after discounts had been made, such a return would serve a very useful purpose.

There are a large number of people in the country who are indifferent, careless, non-religious if you will, as regards any outward exhibition of religious devotion by attending at a place of worship, or in any other similar way, but every one of us who has had to do with parish work in England knows that these people are daily asking for ministration or counsel or help on the part of the clergy quite apart from the mere question of religious teaching. But from those who claim that kind of ministration on the part of the Church there must be deducted those who definitely claim religious ministration in other quarters, and we should know in a particular town or district or county or great area what number of people there were who might be distinctly regarded as those who do not want and do not use the ministrations of the Church as such. But when that deduction has been made, there will remain a huge number of persons who, as a matter of fact, while not returning themselves necessarily as members of the Church of England, will not return themselves as members of other denominations, and who, when they do not return themselves as belonging to other denominations, are practically left to such help, such counsel, and such guidance as in great crowded places is given daily by the clergy of the Church of England.

It was my privilege to work for some years in the Bishopric of Rochester, which included the whole of South London, and. there the proportion was something like ten or twelve resident clergy for one resident Nonconformist minister. These resident clergy are men who are working day in and day out, and what we want to know is what number of people there are in a neighbourhood who because they are firmly attached to other denominations do not want the kind of help, secular as well as sacred, which is given by the clergy. Those sort of statistics would be of the greatest possible value, not perhaps to the nation, but to the religious bodies themselves, whether Church or Nonconformist. Therefore I urge the expediency of accepting the Amendment, not because of its value to the nation or its Blue-book statistics, but for its value to the religious work of the country both Church and Nonconformist. I think great help would be derived from the possession of such figures, and it does seem to me strange that so reasonable a request should be declined.


My Lords, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition began by dealing with an argument used by my noble friend the Lord President as to the action of previous Governments in reference to this question, and he said that the argument was not a strong one because the mere fact that a thing was not done ten years ago was no reason for not doing it now. But, on the other hand, when you are asked to change a practice which has uniformly obtained, you may reasonably ask that strong reasons should be brought forward for doing so; and I think we must assume that on the last two occasions, in 1890 and 1900, a strong opinion was held on both sides of the House that this particular change was not desirable. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. David's quoted the late Lord Salisbury, but it was evident that if Lord Salisbury had entertained the view that a change was one which ought to be made, having, as he had in the year 1900, a complete command over both Houses, he would have carried it into effect. I note that in another place on that occasion Mr. Chaplin, who is, I am sure, a good Churchman, used the following expression. This proposition was made by Lord Hugh Cecil, and, a rather warm debate following, Mr. Chaplin said— The fact that this proposal has called forth such heat is the best practical argument against inserting religious questions in the census. Therefore, I think we are entitled to say that noble Lords opposite who desire this change ought to adduce some reasons for supposing that the circumstances have materially changed during the last ten years.

Now have the circumstances changed? The most rev. Primate who has just sat down used arguments of which certainly do not deny the force, but which would have carried exactly the same weight ten or twenty years ago that they carry now, and the fact that the considerations which he adduced with regard to the value of a census of this kind, if it could be obtained, to general church work must have been brought before the Government of the day but did not persuade them to insert this provision, is one which I think ought to be noted. The Government, in considering a matter of this kind, have to ask two questions. They have to ask, do people generally wish a change of this kind to be made? and secondly, if it is made, will it serve any useful purpose? Up to the time when the most rev. Primate rose the argument in favour of the change was practically entirely based upon the question of the Welsh Church. What the noble Lord who moved the Amendment and what the two right rev. Prelates ask for is a referendum in Wales on the question of Disestablishment. They hope to obtain it by this insertion of a question in the census, and I think it is only fair to assume that they hope thus to obtain it in a form which will be generally favourable to the views which they support. I confess that I do not believe myself that if a definite referendum were taken upon the Disestablishment question in Wales it would lead to a result which would be conclusive or convincing. But if the matter is to be subjected to a direct inquiry to the people, by all means let it be done in regular form, and not be done in a manner which, as my noble friends behind me have pointed out, can only lead to an inaccurate and misleading result.

The most rev. Primate complained of my noble friend the Lord President for a statement which he made that in such a matter you could only go by the views of the representatives returned to Parliament, and he asked whether Liberalism had come to this, that a man's religious opinions were to be the test of his being returned to Parliament. It seems to me that that is hardly, if the most rev. Primate will excuse me, a fair way of putting it. The question of the maintenance of the Church in Wales or of its disestablishment is not, in itself, a religious question. It is a political question, and I think it may be assumed that at any election in Wales, so long as the matter is before the country, the election to a very large extent will turn upon the question whether the candidate is or is not in favour of the disestablishment of the Church. I see no reason for taking this particular question out of the category of general political questions, the passing of which is generally assumed to be contingent on the securing of a majority of the representatives of the people in their favour who will proceed to legislate on the subject.

The case of Ireland, and the historical reason for the application of this particular system to Ireland has been mentioned. I am bound to say, so far as my own experience goes, although I do not wish to lay down the law on the subject, I cannot recall any case within my own knowledge in which the possession of the facts obtained by a religious census was of any assistance to the Government of Ireland in arriving at any conclusion. It so happened that when I was partly responsible for the Government of Ireland we had to deal with difficult and intricate questions in relation to schools carried on by religious communities, but I cannot recall that on that or on any other subject this particular ascertainment of results was of a special help to us. At the same time, if Ireland likes a religious census, and if it is, as it undoubtedly is, a country in which religions and those who profess them can be divided into water-tight compartments for the purposes of enumeration of this kind, by any means let Ireland have it; but I confess I am not convinced by anything that has been said that if we were to agree to the noble Lord's Amendment we should be doing anything which is at all popular in this country. I believe that the notion of a religious census of this kind would be thoroughly unpopular in England, and I have heard nothing from noble Lords opposite to lead me to alter that view.

I think it is quite possible to press the inquisitorial argument too far. That argument is no doubt met to some extent by leaving it a matter of choice whether the return be made or not. On the other hand, I confess I am not convinced that the value, if value there be, of the return would not be very greatly diminished by the insertion of such a provision. I think you would get an enormous number of blank papers. You would get some, perhaps, flippantly filled up, and you would get many others misleadingly made up in the circumstances explained by my noble friend behind me, Lord Sheffield. Because, after all, the Church of England cannot be quite described as the noble Marquess opposite described it, possibly by accident but he did so describe it, as a denomination. I do not think that the most rev. Primate would agree that the Church of England should be spoken of as a denomination; and the mere fact that it is the established Church and is presumably the Church to which everybody belongs who is not an active member of some other religious body must surely vitiate an inquiry of this kind for the purposes for which alone it could be used. On this point the most rev. Primate was as fair as we always expect to find him. He said that a most liberal discount would have to be taken off any statistics arrived at in this way. I am sure that is so, but I am afraid everybody would not be so fair as the most rev. Primate, and that the figures, whatever they might prove to be, would be used unfairly and for misleading purposes by one side or the other, not necessarily only by those who desire to adduce particular arguments on behalf of the Church of England.

I ask once more what are the useful purposes to which this census could be put. The noble Marquess opposite spoke of various great problems, educational and other, and seemed to think that some assistance might be gained by such a census. I confess I do not see in what respect a religious census of this kind would help us with regard to a solution of the education question. Where there is a question of the encouragement of schools carrying out one particular form of religious teaching, the point has always been assumed to be, not the number of individuals of a particular religious faith who live in the locality, but the number of parents who desire t heir children to obtain that particular kind of teaching. If, for instance, at some fashionable watering place there were a large number of elderly maiden ladies who belonged to the Church of England, the argument for a Church school in that particular town would be neither stronger nor weaker than it would be if those ladies lived somewhere else. Consequently from this point of view on this matter of education I do not see that we should be helped. The conclusion, therefore, which I have reached is the same which my noble friend behind me has reached, and is the conclusion of His Majesty's Government. I cannot regard this as in any sense a Party question, and I have no reason that it should be so regarded; but as we happen for the time being to be responsible for the form in which this census is taken, we cannot make ourselves responsible for an addition to the form which in our view would be fictitious and misleading; and, speaking generally, it seems to me undesirable to include in a census paper voluntary questions

of this kind, or indeed of any kind. I should equally deprecate an inquiry, although it might be an interesting one from some points of view, as to whether a man described himself as a Unionist or as a Liberal. I take it that a large number of the inhabitants of this country would refuse to describe themselves as either. It seems to me undesirable, when the State is making an inquiry of this kind, although, of course, I am aware of the precedents to the contrary in other countries and in our Colonies, to depart from those questions to which the State says it has an absolute right to demand an answer, and therefore I fear we cannot recede from our determination not to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.


May I ask, merely in order that the House may be under no misapprehension, whether I understood the noble Earl to say that while, on the one hand, he did not regard this as a Party question on the other hand His Majesty's Government would distinctly refuse to make themselves responsible for the Bill if it contained a provision such as that which the Amendment desires to insert in it?


I have not had any direct communication with my right hon. friend in charge of the Bill on that subject; but I think it may safely be assumed that supposing your Lordships were to carry the Amendment His Majesty's Government would not accept it in another place.

On Question, whether the word proposed to be left out stand part of the clause?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 31; Not-contents, 38.

Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.) Balfour, L. Lucas, L.
Beauchamp, E.(L. President.) Denman, L. [Teller.] Pentland, L.
Crewe, E.(L. Privy Seal.) Digby, L. Pirrie, L.
Eversley, L. Reay, L.
Craven, E. Farrer, L. Ribblesdale, L.
Liverpool, E. Granard, L. (E. Granard) Saye and Sele, L.
Portsmouth, E. Haversham, L. Stanley of Aldorley, L. (L. Sheffield.)
Hemphill, L.
Morley of Blackburn, V. Herschell, L.[Teller.] Swaythling, L.
Joicey, L. Woardale, L.
Airedale, L. Kinnaird, L. Welby, L.
Armitstead, L. Lochee, L.
Canterbury, L. Abp. London, L. Bp. Colchester, L.
Ripon, L. Bp. Crawshaw, L.
Linlithgow, M. St. Asaph, L. Bp. Faber, L.
St. David's, L. Bp. Heneage, L.[Teller]
Bathurst, E. Wakefield, L. Bp. Lamington, L.
Camperdown, E. Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Cromer, E. Addington, L. Mostyn, L.
Mar, E. Ampthill, L. Newton, L.[Teller]
Morton, E. Barrymore, L. Penrhyn, L.
Onslow, E. Braye, L. Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)
Westmeath, E. Brougham and Vaux, L. Ravensworth, L.
Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.) St. Levan, L.
Falkland, V. Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Sinclair, L.
Halifax, V. Clonbrock, L. Wenlock, L.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Amendment agreed to accordingly.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12:

Penalties for offences.

12.—(1) If any superintendent registrar, registrar, enumerator, or other person employed under this Act, makes wilful default in the performance of any of his duties under this Act, or makes any wilfully false declaration, he shall for each offence be liable on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

(2) If any occupier for whom a schedule is left under this Act—

  1. (a) wilfully refuses, or without lawful excuse neglects, to fill up or cause to be filled up the schedule to the best of his knowledge and belief, or to sign and deliver it as by this Act required; or
  2. (b) wilfully makes, signs, or delivers, or causes to be made, signed, or delivered, any false return of any matter specified in the schedule; or
  3. (c) refuses to answer, or wilfully gives a false answer to, any question necessary for obtaining the information required to be obtained under this Act;
he shall for each offence be liable on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts to a fine not exceeding five pounds.

(3) If any person employed in taking the census communicates, without lawful authority, any information acquired in the course of his employment, he shall be guilty of a breach of official trust within the meaning of the Official Secrets Act, 1889, and that Act shall apply accordingly.

*LORD NEWTON moved to add, at the end of subsection (1) of Clause 12, the words "Provided that no person shall be subject to any such penalty for refusing to state his religious profession."

Amendment moved— Clause 12, page 4, line 31, after ("pounds") insert ("Provided that no person shall be subject "to any such penalty for refusing to state his "religious profession").—(Lord Newton.)

Clause 12, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

The Report of Amendments to be received on Tuesday next, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 103.)