HL Deb 16 September 1914 vol 17 cc704-32

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it is not necessary for me to enter into any fresh argument on the subject of this Bill, because the difference between this measure and the parallel measure which your Lordships passed yesterday and sent down to another place has become quite clear from the various discussions which we have held on the subject. They are both of them Bills which declare a moratorium for the purpose of the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Bill, but they proceed, as we know, on somewhat different lines, and their intention is not identical. I think I may take it that the House is fully apprised of the contents of Clause 1 of our Bill and the measure of the delay which we propose under it. I notice that the noble Viscount opposite, Lord St. Aldwyn, does not agree with us in applying identical procedure to the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Bill.


I ask you to do it.


Not precisely, I think, although the point is really a verbal one. We should say that identity of treatment in the terms of this clause cannot be identity of treatment in substance owing to the completely different circumstances in which the Irish and Welsh Bills are desired to be passed. However, I will not attempt to anticipate any discussion in Committee upon the Amendment which the noble Viscount has put on the Paper. I will therefore merely ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading.

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


My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of drawing any comparison between this Bill and the Bill which at the instance of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition was passed through your Lordships' House yesterday. I greatly prefer that Bill to the one now before your Lordships' House, but I am afraid we must anticipate, after what fell yesterday from the noble Marquess opposite, that Lord Lansdowne's Bill is not likely to receive assent in another place and that therefore the Bill now before us is the Bill with which we are practically concerned as carrying into effect what the noble Marquess has just called a moratorium with respect to these two measures. Therefore I think it advisable to call attention on the Second Reading to the provisions of this Bill although last night a good deal was said upon them, because, having carefully read the observations made by the Prime Minister in another place yesterday, I really believe that at any rate the Prime Minister and very possibly his colleagues also, judging from a statement made by the noble Earl the Lord President two days ago, have not by any means appreciated the effect of the proposal that they are making in this suspensory measure with regard to the Welsh Church Bill.

Both the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Bill contain within themselves provisions with respect to the dates at which they are respectively to come into operation. The Government of Ireland Bill is to come into operation, except as expressly provided in the Bill, on the first Tuesday in the eighth month after it is passed, or such other day, not more than seven months later, as is fixed by Order in Council, but the Irish Parliament shall be summoned to meet not later than four months after the said Tuesday. That is, of course, the time allotted in the Bill for making the necessary preparations for carrying it ultimately into effect. His Majesty's Government, with regard to the Government of Ireland Bill, propose to put in front of the times so named a delay of at least twelve months or a delay corresponding with the time of the war before the Government of Ireland Bill shall come into operation at all. That is a clear and definite statement and a real moratorium with regard to the date of its coming into effect. I do not know why the precise time named has been chosen, but at any rate I suppose one reason for the delay is that during the war it would be very difficult if not impossible to proceed with an Amending Bill. At any rate that is the decision of the Government, and it is proposed to be carried out in this Bill.

The Church in Wales suffers far more under the Welsh Church Bill by the fact of the war having broken out than any interests in Ireland can suffer by that fact. The Prime Minister said, in so many words, that neither Party should be in a worse position in these matters on account of the war. The Church in Wales, assuming the Welsh Church Bill to become law, will be in a very much worse position on account of the war than if no war had broken out. That is perfectly clear. And what is the provision as to delay with regard to the Welsh Church Bill? In that Bill it is proposed that the Act shall come into operation six months or not more than twelve months, to be fixed by Order in Council, after the date of its passing. But there are certain important exceptions to that proposal which I will proceed to mention to your Lordships, which I think had really not occurred to the Prime Minister—and possibly may not have occurred to other members of His Majesty's Government—when he made his statement in another place last night. In this Suspensory Bill His Majesty's Government propose that while the entire operation of the Government of Ireland Bill shall be postponed for twelve months or for the period of the war, all that shall be done with regard to the Welsh Church Bill is this—that the date of Disestablishment under the Bill shall be postponed during the same period. But that ignores the important matter of what, under the Welsh Church Bill, has to be done immediately on the passing of the Bill and between that date and the date of Disestablishment.

Let me quote what the Prime Minister said last night as to the intentions of His Majesty's Government in this matter. He said— We feel in regard to the Welsh Bill also that the outbreak of the war has created a state of things which would make it unjust and inequitable to proceed with the immediate operation of the measure. I refer particularly to the fact that the disendowment or partial disendowment of the Welsh Church would necessarily impose upon its supporters and friends during the early years of the existence of the disestablished body pecuniary sacrifices for the purpose of getting together and making good a voluntary Commutation Fund. The burden under which we all of us lie, in consequence of the war, to restrict our expenditure and devote as much as we can to public purposes, together with a certainty that new taxation must be imposed which will still further curtail the resources of the ordinary citizen, make it appear to us just and equitable that the operation of the disendowment provisions of that Bill should be postponed. But when you come to examine the matter you cannot disentangle the provisions in regard to Disendowment from those in regard to Disestablishment. We therefore propose, subject to comparatively formal matters, which prejudice nobody— I will call the attention of your Lordships to what these comparatively formal matters are— that with that exception, in the case of the Welsh Bill as in the case of the Irish Bill, no steps should he taken to put it into actual operation until twelve months from the date of passing, or if the war then continue, during the same terms as are prescribed in the Irish Bill. What are these formal matters which would come into effect on the passing of the Welsh Church Bill which, in the Prime Minister's view, would prejudice nobody? He really can never have considered the matter. In the first place, there is the appointment of the Welsh Commissioners. What have the Commissioners got to do? They have to communicate with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty so as to define what property is Welsh ecclesiastical property and what is not—the first process of Disendowment. They have to decide what are and what are not private benefactions which will remain to the Church. They have to decide what are the unclosed burial grounds which are to be taken away from the Church and given to the local authorities—a direct proposal of Disendowment which probably has created more bitter feeling among Churchmen in Wales than almost any proposal in the Bill. And it has to be settled what are border parishes and what are not between the date of the passing of the Bill and the date of Disestablishment. Not one of those matters will be postponed for a day by the proposal which His Majesty's Government make in this Suspensory Bill and which they tell us is a fair and equitable moratorium for the Welsh Church Bill. Moreover, directly after the passing of the Welsh Church Bill into an Act it is laid down in the Bill that there shall be no new interests created which shall be entitled to compensation. There, again, is a matter of vital importance win h respect to the disendowment of the Church. The position of lay patrons, as to what claim they may have to compensation, has to be considered within six months of the passing of the Bill.

There are other matters of even greater importance. As the most rev. Primate showed to your Lordships last night, a Church Representative Body has to be formed in order to take over what is left to the Church. How is it possible during the war, when everybody's thoughts are engaged elsewhere, when many of the most active and able men connected with the Church in Wales are fighting for their country or engaged in some other work for the successful conduct of the war, that the many and difficult matters connected with the formation of a Church Representative Body can be carried into effect? But that is not all. Nothing to my mind could be stronger than what the Prime Minister himself said, which I have read to your Lordships, on the impossibility of raising funds. He mentioned the necessity of raising funds for the purposes of commutation. Of course, it would be impossible for the Church to enter on the question of commutation at all unless it were in a position to see what its financial future would be. And I remember that Mr. McKenna himself, in defending his commutation proposals against the charge of meanness, to which I think they are very fairly subject, suggested to the House of Commons that funds should be provided to help them out by voluntary subscriptions. The Prime Minister has shown conclusively that that cannot be done during the war. Therefore the cruelty that this Bill as it now stands shows towards the Welsh Church by proposing that all these things shall be carried out from between the date of the passing of the Bill and the date of Disestablishment without any kind of moratorium at all is, I must say, something which I do not believe even His Majesty's Government could have entirely contemplated.

The suggestion which I have ventured to place on the Paper is that the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Bill, as regards the date of their operation, shall be dealt with identically in this Bill. Why should they not be? What can be the reason why His Majesty's Government insist on imposing these grave disabilities upon the Welsh Church as compared with those who are interested in the Government of Ireland Bill? It is an unreasonable piece of unfairness, and I do not believe it entered into the mind of the noble Marquess who leads the House or into the mind of the noble Earl the President of the Council before they consulted the draftsman of the Bill about it. I do not believe the Prime Minister ever intended it, and therefore I have ventured to bring this matter forward on the Second Reading of the Bill in the hope that some member of the Government, before we get into Committee, may explain to your Lordships the reasons for the extremely unfair and inequitable way in which they, although admitting the position in which the Church in Wales will he placed, deal with it under this Bill.

Even the strongest opponents of the Church in Wales have admitted that they hope the future of the Welsh Church will be progressive and strong. Some of the witnesses before the Committee over which I presided, Liberals anxious for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales, desiring to separate it entirely from the Church in England, hoping for a purely Welsh Church on the lines which the noble Earl the President of the Council suggested to us last night, yet felt strongly the evil and mistake of depriving the Church, to whose future they look as a Welsh Church, of its endowments. But in addition to that deprivation, this proposal as it now stands will prevent the Church from getting a fair start. I therefore trust that His Majesty's Government will either give us some reason for treating the Church in Wales in this way, or else accede to the Amendment which I have placed on the Paper.


My Lords, I rise for a purpose somewhat different from that of my noble friend who has just addressed the House. He has called the attention of your Lordships and of the Government to the gross specific injustice which he contends with great force, and as it seems to me with perfect accuracy, will be inflicted upon the Church of England in Wales if the procedure suggested by this Bill is carried into effect. I waited to see whether any noble Lord would rise from the Front Bench opposite to answer the particular points raised by my noble friend, but as no one did so I rise for the rather different purpose of stating, at the request of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, what is the general attitude of those who sit on these Benches with regard to this Bill and what is the course which we propose to take with reference to it.

I own that it is extremely distasteful to me to take any part in a political discussion of this nature at the present moment. I happen to have spent the last ten days in an atmosphere where no taint of Party spirit affected the air. Only two or three days ago, after listening to the speech of the noble Marquess opposite in defending the policy of His Majesty's Government, I was called away from this House to go down to the country to take part in a meeting with my noble friend the Lord Chief Justice. There we stood for the first time—I do not know whether it will be the last—together upon a platform upon which members of all Parties were represented, defending the Government, asking all the people whom we were addressing to support the Government, without any trace or recollection of Party divisions or animosities in our minds. The same has been my experience elsewhere during the past fortnight. Now I come back here, and, although I hope that I shall not say anything that will betray my resentment, I do feel that we have all of us been suddenly switched aside from the larger and nobler work upon which we had been engaged, and that by the action of His Majesty's Government we are once again compelled to take up Party issues with the deep feeling in our minds which their conduct has aroused.

I do not pretend for a moment that any credit attaches to me or to any one else for the line we have been taking, and shall continue, in spite of the conduct of the Government, to take. But this I will say, that no Government within my recollection have ever had, in prosecuting a great undertaking, anything like the support from the Opposition that His Majesty's Government have received, and it does seem to me a poor return for our patriotism and our loyalty to he called upon to accept what we regard as the humiliation and unfair treatment which is now being imposed upon us. It is not my desire this evening to recapitulate at any length the arguments which were stated with so much fullness and clearness by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition in this House a few days ago, and which were repeated, in reply to the Prime Minister, by Mr. Bonar Law in another place last night. But I do not think, in regard to a Bill of this unusual character and immense importance, it would be right if our side of the House were to leave their case entirely unstated. I think I might draw attention to the unusual character of the circumstances in which this Bill is introduced. Here is a Bill which we are invited to read a second time, and, I dare say, to pass through all its stages to-day, which was not circulated with our Papers this morning, which none of us have seen except in so far as we have read the proceedings in another place yesterday, and which, nevertheless, we are invited to discuss and to place upon the Statute Book now within two or three days of the Prorogation of Parliament. We have been during the last week or more dealing in a very unusual and peremptory way with legislation, and His Majesty's Government appear to think that we ought to swallow almost anything that they place before us.

But I do not desire to take the point of the unusual, and, as I think, harsh procedure to which we are invited to submit. I rather desire to take the point of our objections to the proposals in the Bill itself. Now why do we on this side of the House feel so strongly about the proposals of His Majesty's Government? It is with the utmost reluctance that any one who has been engaged any length of time in public life ever brings a charge of breach of faith against his opponents. We assume in this country that the same standard of honour and we hope it is a very high standard of honour—prevails in both political Parties. But undoubtedly we do think that in this case there has been a breach of faith with us. I need not read passages from the speeches that have been made. The noble Marquess fulfilled that task the other evening. But, broadly speaking, the pledges which we had in mind and which we think have been broken are these. In the first place, we recall that the Prime Minister gave a distinct and unmistakable undertaking that the Government of Ireland Bill should not be submitted for the signature of the Sovereign without an Amending Bill. I recall the famous phrase of Lord Randolph Churchill many years ago that there was to be "simultaneity"; and I am not certain that some noble Lord, speaking for the Government, did not indicate to us that, just as at an earlier date we were told that the Parliament Act and its complementary Bill for the reform of your Lordships' House were "twin measures," so we might expect that these two Bills would proceed together. That is the first point. The next point was the pledge so often quoted—and, I may add, so often repeated by the Prime Minister—that neither Party should be prejudiced or be worse off as a result of the war. And the third pledge was that nothing should be done to revive controversy or to disturb unity while the war was going on.

We undoubtedly did regard—it was a matter that was often discussed between us on this side of the House—we undoubtedly did regard those three pledges as a solemn obligation entered into by the Prime Minister. They were, to use a familiar metaphor, our "scrap of paper" on which we relied, and which we thought would be equally operative in domestic as in international politics. We all of us believed that the whole of this controversy about the Irish Bill and about the Welsh Bill was postponed till the end of the war, and that only when the war was over should we all of us—I hope in a better frame of mind—have resumed the discussion at the point at which it was left. I think I am right in saying that that was the universal impression of noble Lords on this side of the House. Now what has passed? The first pledge, as we regarded it—that the Government of Ireland Bill would not be submitted to the King for signature without an Amending Bill—has been broken. The second pledge—that neither Party should be prejudiced or left the worse off as compared to the other—has been broken to our disadvantage. And the third pledge—that nothing should be said or done during the war to revive controversy—has surely not been kept when we review the rather painful discussion which took place in the House of Commons yesterday and the proceedings in which we are now engaged this afternoon.

May I take for a moment a point on which the noble Marquess opposite laid some stress the other afternoon—namely, the question whether the pledge about no prejudice to either Party has been maintained. The noble Marquess argued the other day, and it has been argued in the same sense in another place, that these two Rills would have automatically passed on to the Statute Book with the end of the session, and that therefore the Government have gained no greater advantage than would have accrued to them in the ordinary course of affairs. Does that truly represent the facts? I venture to say it does not. What was the position when we in this House were last discussing the Irish question? Surely I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the position of the Government at that time was one of very precarious stability, and that in the opinion of a good many competent people they were really on the brink of political disaster. It surely was quite clear that the Government could not at that time have got the Home Rule Bill or the Welsh Disestablishment Bill without amendment. They must have had to come to terms with their political opponents. I think the case is even stronger with regard to Ulster. I would ask a question of noble Lords. Is Ulster in a better or worse position than she occupied seven or eight weeks ago? It is notorious to every one that by her efforts, her self-sacrifice, her endurance, the control exercised by her leaders, she had built up a position during the past two or three years in which she was in a place, I will not say to dictate terms to the Government, but at any rate to secure just and ample consideration for her own claims. That, I think, we shall all agree upon. Now Ulster has had to disband her forces, or rather she has offered her forces to the service of her country. Her forces, anyhow, are not available for the present for the purpose for which they were originally raised; and whatever be the length of the war, whether it be two years or three years, during that time Ulster will have to continue her efforts, her endurance, her self-sacrifice in order, if possible, to find herself in the same position again at the termination of the war as she occupied a few weeks ago. Surely it is indisputable that when the war is over you on the Bench opposite, with your two measures already inscribed on the Statute Book, will start with an enormous advantage over Ulster and over your political opponents which you did not previously enjoy.

May I allude for a moment to the reply which has been made by the spokesmen of His Majesty's Government to these contentions on our part? I think the reply is somewhat lacking in generosity, and I think also it is weak. In the first place, you tell us that the Home Rule. Bill will not at any time he imposed by force upon any part of Ireland. I do not think that we are very much consoled by that assurance, because as a matter of fact we knew it all along. It is no new promise to us. No one of us has ever believed for a moment, and no one of you has ever believed, that you could enforce Home Rule upon Ulster; and to receive this assurance now, somewhat qualified as it was by the noble Marquess when lie was challenged by my noble friend beside me, I do not think carries us any further than we were before. Then the noble Marquess tried another method of consolation. He said, "You can take up this measure again at a later date; some time or other during the next twelve months you will again have an opportunity of discussing an Amending Bill." At that moment in the speech of the noble Marquess I fully expected that he was going to inform your Lordships in general terms what the nature of such an Amending Bill would be. There we should have been upon solid ground, because we should have known what was the consideration which was being offered to us for the treatment that we are receiving now. But not a bit. When the noble Marquess came to the subject of the Amending Bill he did not even know himself what it was going to be, much less did he give us any information on the point. He was not sure whether the Amending Bill would be an Exclusion Bill at all. He rather had an idea that it might be a Bill for offering us again some of those well-known mythical safeguards of which we have heard so much in the past and which have never been acceptable to those to whom they were offered.

Look at our position with regard to the Amending Bill. We know nothing about it. It is going to be introduced at some time in the future. We shall enter into the discussion of such an Amending Bill with a halter round our necks. We are not free men with regard to it, and if the Bill turns out to be in our opinion bad, unacceptable to those who sit on this side of the House, what is then to happen? Is the Home Rule Bill then to be enforced without the Amending Bill which was described as an inseparable concomitant of it? Is it to be forced upon Ireland or upon any part of Ireland, and, if so, upon what part of Ireland? That is a very pertinent question, to which no reply was given by the noble Marquess the other day. He made one other point, upon which, I think, even greater stress was laid in the other House of Parliament. It was this. We were urged to adopt a wider point of view. The question was put to us, "Is it wise for you to disappoint the Nationalists in Ireland whose expectations have been roused to fever point? Is it wise to disappoint and chill Irish support and loyalty in your Dominions across the sea and in the United States of America?" We value that loyalty very highly. I hope it will be at the disposal of His Majesty's Government during the present war. But I roust say that I think we should value it more highly if it had been spontaneously offered and without any price being attached to it. And if you are considering the feelings of Ireland and the undesirability of disappointing any section of the Irish population either in this country or abroad, why not consider the feelings of Ulster? Why should Ulster be disappointed? In a word, why should the loyalty of Ulster be sacrificed to the loyalty of the Irish in the United States of America?

I venture to say that it would be impossible for any spokesman of His Majesty's Government to contend that in this matter we who sit on this side have not made every advance that we reasonably could to meet you and to secure a pacific solution of this question. The history of the past two years has really been a history of reiterated proposals made by members of the Party for which I am for the moment speaking, each endeavouring to come to some agreement with you. And even during the past few weeks we heard yesterday in the House of Commons from the Leader of our Party there that he, in conjunction with those who act with him, had been prepared, and had stated to the Government their willingness, to accept a definite suggestion for the exclusion of a certain part of the North of Ireland which had been submitted, not, it is true, in the form of a definite offer but still as a suggestion, by His Majesty's Government. Then, again, we have had the two proposals of my noble friend who leads the Opposition, the first of which was to give you, if you desired, the full advantages of the Parliament Act in the new session of Parliament; and the second was, again if you wished it, to extend the terms of this Parliament from five years to six. All of these proposals you have refused. I must say I do not think that indicates a very conciliatory temper on your part. And you have gone on persisting in a course of action which you really must not be surprised if we on our side, judging from the evidence that we see, believe to have been dictated in the main, if not entirely, by Party interest and Party interest alone.

I do not feel at all clear that in acting thus His Majesty's Government have been wise either in their own interests or in those of the nation. I say in their own interests because at a time when you want the tide of popular support to be running strongly in your favour, not merely for the moment but continuously for a term that may extend to years, it seems to me very unwise indeed to leave your political opponents, who are half of the nation if not more, with a sense of injury rankling in their minds, and with a sense of resentment which, even if they tried to obliterate it from their minds, nothing will altogether expunge. Then as regards the nation, what will happen? The policy which you are now carrying into effect, because we are powerless to prevent it, ensures, when the war is over, the revival of this controversy, if possible, in a more aggravated and embittered form. Indeed, the effect of your action may be this, that at the termination of the war, when this country, as I believe, will be, if not prostrated, at any rate exhausted by the great efforts which it will have to undergo, and when, even more than now in the early stages, there will be need for the co-operation and public spirit of all your citizens acting together—at that time you will be in a position to enforce what noble Lords on this side of the House regard as this detestable measure upon Ireland.

I venture humbly to say that I think the Government, and Mr. Redmond in particular, have missed a great opportunity. Mr. Redmond has earned much applause for the speech which I myself heard in the House of Commons a few weeks ago. I am the last to wish to attribute to him any insincerity in those utterances, although I am bound to say they do not seem to have been followed by that enthusiastic forward movement on the part of his supporters which has been the case with Ulster. What position would Mr. Redmond have occupied if he had followed with a speech now in which he had accepted the position that all was to be for the time being put on one side until the war was over, and then, in a new spirit, an endeavour would be made to find a fresh solution? I believe it would have been an advantage of seventy-five per cent. to him in the battle in which he is engaged. But he did not take that action. His Majesty's Government did not take that action. They rely upon their numerical strength, which is incontestable; they rely upon our patriotism, which is also incontestable; and they are taking advantage of both to get what most of us regard as a Party advantage. I am doubtful myself whether these tactics in the long run will succeed, because I believe it absolutely impossible that either the Home Rule Bill in its present form or the Welsh Disestablishment Bill in its present form can ever be brought into operation. You can get them on the Statute Book, but that is a very different thing from putting them in operation, and I would not mind prophesying that the latter contingency will not come about.

I said at the commencement of my remarks that it was my duty to state what our general attitude and intention are with regard to this Bill. We do not propose further to discuss it. We do not propose to enter into any wrangle about its provisions. We shall not abate in any respect, I hope, our loyalty with regard to the war. We shall continue to support the Government, because only by supporting the Government can we possibly hope to win in the great struggle with which we are confronted. But do remember this, that our loyalty, on which you may rely, will be a loyalty not to the Government but to the nation. We would gladly have given you our loyalty, but you have declined to take it. Our whole action is now based, and will be based, upon the necessity of continuing to demonstrate our loyalty to the nation. But may I, in sitting down, add this, that we shall not very easily forget—it will, perhaps, be rather difficult for us to forgive—




My noble friend says "impossible" for us to forgive, and I accept his amendment. And at the close of the war, whether it be soon or whether it be late, we shall renew the struggle in the defence of the interests of our friends in Ulster and shall endeavour to secure for them the full justice and consideration which you are now denying to them.


My Lords, it was, perhaps, fortunate that I delayed addressing your Lordships upon the subject of this Bill until after the noble Earl had sat down, as it gives me an opportunity, which I welcome warmly, of expressing the appreciation of His Majesty's Government for the efforts which he has made, in common, I know, with a good many others who are opposed to His Majesty's Government, on behalf of the endeavour to increase the Army at the present moment, and also for the way in which he has supported His Majesty's Government in the conduct of the war. I can assure him we all share that dislike of the Party controversy into which this House has been plunged yesterday and to-day. It is a controversy in which our right hon. colleagues in another place and their opponents have also taken their share. The fact that we have had these discussions during the last two days we are glad to think will not, from what noble Lords opposite have told us, prevent their continued support in matters relating to the war whenever His Majesty's Government call upon them for that support. But I hope at the same time, much as we appreciate the action of noble Lords, they will allow me to add that we should have been still more grateful bad they seen their way to extend it in other directions, in directions where they do not support His Majesty's Government so warmly as they do in connection with the war.

There were one or two smaller points raised by the noble Earl to which, perhaps, I should refer. With regard to the question of notice of this Bill, I confess it does not seem to me that His Majesty's Government need feel any alarm. After all, the notice which we gave in respect of our Bill was at any rate as long as, if not longer than, the notice which was given to your Lordships by the noble Marquess opposite, who passed his Bill through all its stages yesterday. Indeed, my noble friend behind me reminds me that even more notice was given of our Bill, because the terms of it were read out by my noble friend the Leader of the House some time ago. The noble Earl who has just sat down devoted the larger part of his speech to the question of the Home Rule Bill, whereas the noble Viscount who initiated this discussion spent most of his time discussing the Welsh Church Bill, and so far as it is possible for me to do so I am glad to repeat the assurances which were welcomed at one time by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition—the assurances which were given by my noble friend behind me with regard to Ulster at the present time and also with regard to the position of Ulster in the future. Is it not perfectly evident that when the end of this war comes there will probably be a very different state of things in Europe? There will be a new era. It is not too much to imagine that, as things change in Europe, so also things will be very different in Ireland.




It seems to me inconceivable, when men have been fighting side by side together in the British Army, encountering bullets in company with one another, that when they go back to Ireland their feelings will be as biter as they have been in the years gone by.


The noble Earl forgets that Englishmen and Irishmen have been fighting side by side for their country for a great number of years. Why should that affect their views now?


Because the question of Home Rule had not become so acute as at the present time. When men who go out from Ireland, when Ireland is in great excitement over the question of Home Rule, to meet a common foe, it is inconceivable to me that their feelings towards one another when they come back will not be far better and less acute than they were before they underwent that common experience. As it is inconceivable to me that men who have been fighting together should, on their return, fight against one another, I think things must be, when the war is over, very different indeed from what they are at the present time. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House has explained to your Lordships the position of His Majesty's Government with regard to Ulster. I would add to what he said with regard to the impossible idea that His Majesty's Government would coerce Ulster into accepting this form of Home Rule a further suggestion which seems to me to be a corollary of it—it would be impossible for Ulster to assume the extreme position with regard to Home Rule which she has assumed in the past. I do not believe that when the war is over feelings will be as bitter—


Oh! oh!


Do noble Lords who disagree with me wish that things should be as bitter in the future? Personally I think the state of things will be less acute, and if things are to be better a somewhat different tone might very well be adopted when we discuss this question in you} Lordships' House. I turn to the question which was raised by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, who dealt with the Welsh Church Bill. The point of difference, as it seems to me, between us is whether we should have the immediate effect of Disestablishment at the moment when the war comes to an end. The noble Viscount is anxious that the period during which the preparations for Disestablishment should be made—that period is to be six months—should begin when the war ends; whereas, on the other hand, the suggestion which is made by His Majesty's Government is that all the preparations should go on at the present time, and that the date of Disestablishment should be twelve months hence or at the end of the war. Does the noble Viscount really hope that during the extended period, during the six months for which he is asking, the position of affairs in England would be so much improved as to make the whole of the difference to the collection of the funds necessary in order that the Church should be in the same position as she was before Disestablishment took place? Of course, that must be a matter of opinion, and the noble Viscount's opinion on matters of finance is naturally far more valuable than mine. But I would venture to suggest that it is a very optimistic view on the part of the noble Viscount if he thinks that the financial wastage and wreckage of the war will really be removed within a comparatively short time.


I never suggested that for a moment. Nobody could suppose it. What I say is this, that when the war is over, if you give an interval of only six months, you will give an interval during which the country will be at peace and people will be able to look round and make promises of support to the Church which they cannot make while the war is going on.


I appreciate the noble Viscount's point, but I venture to think that that period will hardly be enough to make so much difference as he has suggested. At any rate we may say this, that His Majesty's Government have shown that they realise that the war makes a difference in regard to the position of the Welsh Church, and that they are not deaf to the pleas which are made on behalf of the Church; and I think it lies with the right rev. Prelates and with noble Lords opposite when the time comes, if they think they have been treated unfairly, to see whether they are able to make a case of any kind which will impress His Majesty's Government. But if they take any steps in that direction, I would venture to hope that they would be prepared to take some step also to meet His Majesty's Government. Is it to be, on the part of His Majesty's Government, all give and no take? It is surely hardly the most conciliatory way of approaching your opponents if you entirely refuse to recognise the position which the Welsh Church Bill has reached under the Parliament Act. The Bill has passed through the House of Commons three times, and is about to be placed upon the Statute Book. Are those things to count for nothing in the opinion of noble Lords who are opposed to this Bill?

Though a certain number of things will undoubtedly be arranged for and considered upon the passage of the Bill, nothing irrevocable is done under the Bill. Nothing really is done, no act takes place, which makes Disestablishment and Disendowment necessary as a consequence of those matters having been considered. The noble Viscount gave us a list of things which have to be done when the Bill is passed, but those things when decided upon do not ipso facto because they have been settled make it necessary for Disestablishment and Disendowment to take place. We are giving this very definite period until the end of the war before Disestablishment and Disendowment take place. We recognise the fact that there is no moratorium for the preparations which are necessary for Disestablishment and Disendowment, but we do give the period of twelve months or until the end of the war before Disestablishment and Disendowment can become legal facts.


My Lords, I venture to think that the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down proves what the noble Viscount opposite said, that His Majesty's Government have a very imperfect appreciation of the practical effect of their proposals. I am glad to think so sincerely, for it would have been exceedingly painful if His Majesty's Government had made these proposals fully realising what they would be in practice. I do not gather from what the noble Earl said that he appreciated in the least degree what the most rev. Primate said with such great weight and moderation yesterday about the intolerable hardships which the proposals of His Majesty's Government would impose on the Church in Wales in regard to the task of reconstituting the whole of its legal organisation at this time of war. The noble Earl made no reference whatever to the fact that these proposals compel us to form a Representative Church Body, a very great task indeed. It would be an arduous task in time of peace, but it is absolutely unthinkable in time of war.

The Government have given the country repeatedly during the past month the exceedingly sound advice to carry on the ordinary business of life as far as possible on normal lines. But where is the sense, without doing good to anybody, of imposing on the Church in Wales an abnormal state of things? Then the noble Earl the Lord President told us that the Government appreciate the great difficulties, especially in regard to endowments, which the war causes, and he stated what the Government proposed to do to give practical effect to their sympathy with us. As far as I can understand, all that the proposals come to is that instead of six months, the period in the Bill now, we are to have twelve months, and the noble Earl himself admitted that that amounted to very little. All the emergency Bills which we have been passing in the last few weeks are for the time of the war and six months afterwards, but the Church in Wales is not to have the moratorium which is allowed to everybody else. The noble Earl said definitely that the Government do not propose any moratorium in regard to the preparations for Disestablishment. He was thinking, I suppose, of preparations on the part of the Welsh Commissioners, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and Queen Anne's Bounty, but the preparations which Churchmen will have to make are more important and more difficult. There is to be no moratorium at all in that sense.

The noble Viscount, to whose long Parliamentary experience and sound judgment I specially defer, said that he did not think any appeal made now would make much difference to His Majesty's Government. Still I think, speaking it may be for the last time in your Lordships' House on this subject, it is my duty as a Welsh Bishop to make one further appeal to His Majesty's Government. I base my appeal on the very sound doctrine laid down yesterday by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. He laid down the doctrine that at a time of great national calamity what the Government had to consider was how best to help the country to meet this great calamity, and I believe the wholesome nature of that doctrine entitles me to hold it applicable to the Welsh Bill as well as to the Irish Bill. In the speech of the noble Earl the Lord President yesterday I found no trace whatever—I think I did find some trace to-day—that he had appreciated the soundness of the Lord Chancellor's doctrine. There are three observations to be made. The first is that from the Lord Chancellor's standpoint this is not and ought not to be at all a question of Party gain; the second is that the application of that doctrine need not be the same to all Bills but must depend upon what the particular Bill is; and the third is that according to the noble and learned Viscount the simple question in regard to the attitude of the Government towards any particular Bill at this time of war is, Will the Bill help the country in this time of national calamity?

It is admitted on all hands that to those who oppose this Bill it is a religious question—this Bill raises a religious question from beginning to end—whereas to the promoters of the Bill, as the chairman of the Welsh Parliamentary Party once stated, it is a political question. Therefore when you are considering how to deal fairly by both sides I think you ought to consider that religious conviction deserves more consideration than merely political opinion. But if the Government cannot in regard to this Bill rise to the level of the doctrine laid down by the noble and learned Viscount yesterday, if they must mix Party considerations with patriotic duty, I ask most seriously whether the mixture contained in this Suspensory Bill is one which is tolerable to the honourable instincts of right hon. gentlemen and noble Lords. The Government, most wisely and rightly, through the Privy Council bade the people pray for our sailors and soldiers, and the response of all Christian people to that national call to prayer has been very marked and very hearty. Now we find in Holy Scripture and history that people in their prayers look forward to showing their thankfulness to Almighty God for His mercy in answering their prayers by a fuller acknowledgment of His supreme sovereignty and by offering of their substance to His honour and worship. I am constrained to see in the proposals which the Government have put before us with regard to this particular Bill that, instead of asking the people to look forward to a deeper acknowledgment of Almighty God as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they are rushing to put on the Statute Book a measure which means to our minds that the State has nothing to do with religion, and, instead of looking forward to making a thank offering to God, they are deliberately proposing to despoil His Church. Those who differ from as well as those who agree with His Majesty's Government have been proud of the way in which they have risen to their duty of defending the right in this war with energy and wisdom. When, however, the day of reckoning conies the people of this country will never forgive them for the mistake they are making this week in deeply offending their religious instincts.


My Lords, before my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack puts the Question, I should like to say one word with reference to what fell from the noble Viscount opposite. What I have to say might be more appropriately deferred until he moves his Amendment, but as in my opening remarks I did not mention the Welsh Bill it is perhaps convenient that I should do so now. The noble Viscount made two pleas in favour of the particular sort of postponement which he favours and upon which he will move his Amendment, and with one of those pleas we on this side of the House find ourselves in greater sympathy than with the other. His first plea was that it was impossible at this time of stress to consider even those preliminary arrangements which, as my noble friend the Lord President pointed out, are all that it is contemplated should be undertaken in pursuance of our plan of postponement. The noble Viscount pointed out that, whereas nothing was going to be done under the Irish Bill, certain things are going to be done under the Welsh Bill, and that that constituted the different treatment meted out to the latter.


It is not only that.


I quite understand. But so far as concerns the particular business which has to be undertaken forthwith by our plan, it was maintained by the noble Viscount and also by the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down that it was not fair in time of war to ask that even such business as that should be undertaken. By that plea I confess that we are not at all impressed to the same extent that we are with the second plea which I shall mention in a moment. It is, I think, possible to overstate the difficulty which any man or any body of men may find at this moment in engaging in a business operation altogether unconnected with the war. It is no doubt true that the war is in everybody's mind, and that various business connected with the war in quite different degrees occupies the time of a great many citizens in this country; but I think it is an exaggeration to offer as a plea for postponing a matter of this kind that business directly arising out of the war so fills the thoughts and time of everybody who would be concerned in this matter that it is impossible for them to undertake to consider it. That thesis, as it seems to me, is capable of considerable overstatement, and I cannot help thinking that in the pleas that have been made for postponement on that ground some overstatement has, as a matter of fact, been made.

I pass from that to the second plea, with which I have already expressed sympathy—namely, that which asks that Disestablishment and Disendowment should not take place at once or even as early as is proposed in our measure because of the difficulty of collecting a sufficient sum by subscriptions, not only in Wales but also, no doubt, in England, to create a fund which would replace at any rate to a large extent the amount of which the Welsh Church is deprived in the form of tithes by the Welsh Bill. As I have stated, we are in not a little sympathy with that plea. It cannot be disputed that sums, possibly in some cases large, which would have been earmarked by donors for this purpose have directly, owing to the war been diverted to other uses, and this state of things is likely to continue for some time. We have tried so far as we can to meet that plea in our Bill. It is considered by the noble Viscount that the term of relief which we there offer is insufficient. My noble friend behind me pointed out that for this particular purpose the further relief offered by the noble Viscount's proposition does not to a great extent alter the position, although it does do so in some degree. My own view is that it is exceedingly difficult at this time, when we know practically nothing of the probable duration of the war or of the taxation which much necessarily follow upon the war, or, indeed, of the degree to which the private resources of those who might be expected to subscribe for such an object as this will be depleted owing to the war—because it is evident, I think, that the effect produced by the war upon the private resources of individuals will vary very greatly, and whereas some people will be greatly impoverished by it other people, if they are not actually enriched by it, which, in fact, sounds a paradox, will not find their resources materially reduced—it is exceedingly difficult at this time to make a forecast of how and when the position in relation to these subscriptions can be held to be re-established.

I would point out that it is always open to Parliament to reconsider this matter further, and, with regard to this particular purpose of the collection of money, to give, if it seems good to Parliament, some further relief in point of time for this particular object. I am glad to point this out because, like many others, I fully recognise the force of this particular plea. The other one I consider to have been somewhat overstated. But so far as this particular matter is concerned we are in sympathy with the object which the noble Viscount has in view. We shall not see our way to agree to the Amendment which he proposes, for the reasons given by my noble friend behind me. But I do not want it to be supposed that we are insensible to the force of the particular point relating to the collection of subscriptions and donations which he has forcibly stated.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Marquess has to-night said some words of sympathy with the Church. Nothing was more remarkable in the speech yesterday of the noble Earl in charge of the Bill than that he never said one single word of sympathy with or pity for the position in which the Church is being placed. We would rather have the assistance of the Government now than the promise of it a year hence. The noble Marquess who leads the House admits that there is a hard case now. He may not take the same view as we do a year hence. He says, and says quite truly, that no one can foresee exactly what the circumstances may be a year hence, to what extent the sources of contribution may have been dried up by the war. All the tone of the noble Marquess's speech was that there was a near balance of considerations as to whether further generosity should be shown to the Church now or not, and he preferred to wait. I put it to him, if there is a nice balance would it not be more in accordance with the spirit of the moment if the Government were to incline the beam towards generosity and accept the Amendment of my noble friend behind me? The noble Marquess says that there is not very much in it. We think there is a good deal in it. But if he thinks there is not very much in it, surely it is an opportunity when, without giving way on any question of principle, he may show some compassion and some generosity to the Church which is so dear to his political opponents.


Perhaps I might remind the noble Earl that the noble Viscount's Amendment is not really confined to this question of money. He desires also to postpone for a long period those more or less mechanical preparations with regard to which I said that we were not greatly affected by the arguments which he submitted.


The operations are no more mechanical in the case of the Church in Wales than they are in the case of the Irish Government. If His Majesty's Government can postpone the mechanical operations in the case of Ireland, why not in the case of the Welsh Church?

On Question, Bill read 2ª.

Moved (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Marquess of Crewe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]

Clause 1:

Suspension of the operation of the Government of Ireland Act, 1914, and the Welsh Church Act, 1914.

1.—(1) Notwithstanding anything in the Government of Ireland Act, 1914, no steps shall be taken to put that Act into operation, and notwithstanding anything in the Welsh Church Act, 1914, the date of disestablishment under that Act shall be postponed, until the expiration of twelve months from the date of the passing of those Acts respectively, or, if at the expiration of those twelve months the present war has not ended, until such later date (not being later than the end of the present war) as may be fixed by His Majesty by Order in Council; and the provisions of those Acts shall have effect accordingly.

(2) In this Act, the Government of Ireland Act, 1914, means any Act which becomes law during the present session, and which may be cited by that short title; and the Welsh Church Act, 1914, means any Act which becomes law during the present session and which may be cited by that short title.

VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN moved an Amendment at the beginning of the clause to make it read, "Notwithstanding anything in the Government of Ireland Act, 1914, or in the Welsh Church Act, 1914, no steps shall be taken to put these Acts," etc. The noble Viscount said: I do not wish to detain your Lordships now because I have already stated the case in favour of this Amendment, but after what the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has said I trust that His Majesty's Government may allow it to be placed in the Bill. I understand that the noble Marquess feels that the Government could not accept the Amendment as it stands, but they see the force of it with regard to part of the matter to which it is intended to apply. Unless, however, some Amendment is inserted it will be impossible for the matter to be further considered. I think what the noble Marquess has said shows that he does feel, and I hope his colleagues may feel, that the matter requires further consideration. If he will allow my Amendment to be placed in the Bill it can be considered in another place how far it should go, and His Majesty's Government will have the power of endeavouring to deal generously with the matter on lines of which they themselves may approve. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 6, after ("1914,") insert ("or in the Welsh Church Act, 1914,") and leave out ("that Act") and insert ("these Acts").—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)


This Amendment, for reasons which I need not repeat, as the matter has been already discussed, goes much further than, and does not fit in with, what has been said by my noble friend, and I entertain more than doubt as to whether it would prove acceptable in another place. But I wish again to say that we appreciate the broad consideration that this war may last a considerable time and that with the lapse of time circumstances which we cannot foresee to-day may make a great difference, and we reserve our judgment as to whether further consideration of the matters which have been raised in this debate, particularly the matter of the postponement of Dis-endowment, may not have to be re-entered upon.


My Lords, what I understand the Government to say is that they are going to do something which they admit to be intolerably harsh but that perhaps they may legislate to amend it in another session. I detest this discussion at a time like this. We have been trying, every one of us, to the best of our power to support His Majesty's Government in a matter which concerns the Empire at its heart and the well-being of the whole of the nation that we love; but we cannot, because that is the case, allow in silence something to be done which we believe to be largely due to a misunderstanding but which inflicts a grievous wrong. What has become of the promises which were made to us that the hardship which it was certain would ensue from the Welsh Church Bill if it passes now would be alleviated by a postponement? What is proposed is practically no postponement at all. The Disestablishment Bill says that there shall be an interval of six or, if it may be desirable, of twelve months before the date of Disestablishment. All that this Suspensory Bill says is that there shall be an interval of twelve months before the date of Disestablishment, and, if the Government likes, it may go on to the end of the war, but meantime the necessary arrangements have to go on. The hope held out that possibly in another session there may be some alleviation offered by way of allowing more time during which money could be collected or something of that sort, is, I suppose, an admission that at present the Bill as it stands presses with intolerable hardship on those who are producing every penny that they can for the national good and would therefore be helpless to assist the Church afterwards, but it is a hope of the vaguest and most unsubstantial kind.

The noble and learned Viscount and the noble Earl in charge of the Bill have belittled the fact that things must happen when this Bill receives the Royal Assent which ought to begin next week. If the Bill becomes law to-morrow, the duty will devolve upon the Welsh Church, not a few months hence but forthwith, to undertake the most difficult task that could be given to a religious community anywhere—that of constituting a Representative Body; and that at a time when the very men on whom the burden and the responsibility would fall of taking that task in hand and carrying it through are serving their country elsewhere. I will give a practical example. I know a leading Church family in Wales, the head of which has three sons and two sons-in-law serving at this moment, and those are the men who in that diocese would have to be looked to as the people on whom the responsibility would rest to set up this new Church Body. Is that a tolerable position in which to place the Church in Wales at this moment? These are not formalities; they are not preliminary arrangements, for the duties of the Representative Body begin at once; these matters are of the strongest possible importance as regards the life of the Church in Wales after this blow has fallen upon it, and I feel that it is difficult to put into words what will be the sense of the injury that will be done by the absolutely needless pressing forward of a measure which, with the exception of the smallest possible clique, even its keenest supporters are willing should be postponed until after the war.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend behind me will ask the House to divide upon his Amendment. There has really been no defence from the Benches opposite. What was the argument of the noble Marquess who leads the House? He did not dispute the existence of the hardship to which my noble friend called attention. He minimised it, and said it was not quite so great as we supposed and could be corrected hereafter by more legislation. We want to correct it so far as we can now. The noble and learned Viscount told us that he was more than doubtful whether the House of Commons would accept the Amendment if we put it in. That is not our business. It is our business to consider what is right and just; and if the House of Commons refuses to listen to the Amendment, let the responsibility be upon that House and not upon this.

On question, Amendment agreed to.


The other Amendments are consequential. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out from ("operation") to ("until") in line 9.

Clause 1, page 1, after line 14 insert ("Throughout the Welsh Church Act, 1914, the date of the Act coming into operation shall be substituted for the date of the passing of the Act").—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)


I understand that some of those who would otherwise look not unfavourably upon the second of these Amendments apprehend that some difficulty might arise from the creation of vested interests during the longer period of delay. I would like to say at once that if in the other House that is felt to be a difficulty in the matter I should be ready, and the noble Viscount opposite and others would probably not be unwilling, to accept words which would render anything of that kind impossible.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

Amendments reported.

Bill read 3ª, and passed, and returned to the Commons, and to be printed as amended. (No. 295).