HL Deb 17 May 1915 vol 18 cc1007-9


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

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


My Lords, I should like to make a few remarks and to ask a few questions on this Bill, from which I gather that in the year 1818 there was a society formed in Ireland called the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society of Ireland, and that in 1871 she obtained an Act of Parliament which gave her leave to unite and co-operate with any church or religious body in Ireland that she wished. In 1872 she appointed fifteen trustees to look after her endowments, and in 1878, under her Act of Parliament, she decided to join with the Wesleyan Methodist Society of Ireland. The two were henceforth known as the Methodist Church in Ireland, and it is on behalf of that body that this Bill is introduced. I find that, no doubt quite unintentionally, this Methodist Church has not legally by deed appointed those nominated to take the place of the fifteen old trustees. Therefore their property has not been legally invested, and the old trustees have exceeded their powers. It is for that reason chiefly that this Bill has been introduced—namely, to indemnify the trustees and to condone their irregularities, which, as the Preamble of the Bill says, cannot be done without an Act of Parliament.

I have no wish whatever to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. It seems to me to be a perfectly right and proper Bill. But I should like to know how it is that whilst Parliament is so ready to grant the wishes of the Methodist Church in Ireland the Government is behaving so harshly towards the Welsh Church, which is to be disendowed, granted a new constitution for which she has not asked, and to be heavily crippled in her resources. What irregularities has the Church in Wales committed? Why, none. Yet all her wishes are to go unconsidered, while the wishes of the Methodist Church in Ireland are to be fulfilled and her irregularities condoned. I have no doubt that the Methodist Church in Ireland considers itself to be a Free Church; yet she had already in 1871 obtained one Act of Parliament under the old society, and she is now coming for a second Act of Parliament; she evidently, therefore, has no objection whatever to State interference.

And we gather from this Bill that the Methodist Church in Ireland has considerable endowments. Judging from the way in which the Government has treated the Welsh Church as regards her endowments, one would come to the conclusion that to the Government for a Church to have endowments must be anathema. We are so often told that a Church should not rely upon its endowments but should practise the voluntary system, by which, I conclude, is meant that people year by year should collect the amount of money necessary for the administration of their Church. It is quite clear that the Methodist Church in Ireland, like nearly all other Nonconformist bodies, has fully realised that the voluntary system will not bring in a sufficient amount. The Home Secretary has told us that the Welsh Church Bill gives equal treatment. Where is the equal treatment regarding this Bill and the Welsh Church Bill? The Welsh Church is to be disendowed, whilst the Methodist Church in Ireland is to keep all her endowments. I do not wish to disendow the Methodist Church in Ireland, neither do I wish my Church to be disendowed. I therefore most earnestly ask the Government during this great crisis of the war at least also to help the Welsh Church by passing the Postponement Bill which I understood was an agreed measure.

No one rising to reply for the Government,

THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHATORE) said: My Lords, I have no concern with answering the question which the noble Lord has addressed to the Government, but I was glad to notice that he did not move the rejection of the Bill on Second Reading; in fact, I heard him describe the Bill as a right and proper one. I have merely to point out to your Lordships that this is an ordinary Bill which comes to your Lordships' House in the usual course as a Private Bill. One might almost say that it is an accident; that it is deposited by a Church at all. Similar Bills are deposited by trustees, private companies, and even public bodies. The Government Departments are, of course, cognisant of all Private Bills under your Lordships' Standing Orders. This Bill was deposited in the usual way in December last, and it reaches your Lordships in conjunction with some fifty or sixty other Private Bills.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed.




Read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.




Read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.