HL Deb 05 March 1918 vol 29 cc219-22

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have to make a formal Motion that the St. Olave's Church, Southwark, Bill be now read a second time. I can do so in almost a sentence, for into the questions of policy with regard to the altered conditions of City churches to-day it is not my province to enter. Nor, my Lords, if there was any opposition to the passage of the Bill would I be moving its Second Reading. So far from its being opposed, the preamble recites that the Prime Minister, on behalf of His Majesty (who is patron of the living), the Lord Bishop of the diocese, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the present rector of the parish all consent to the provisions of the Bill. The circumstances of the Bill are practically identical with the circumstances dealt with in, and its terms closely follow the terms of, several Acts of the same kind which I could mention.

The main purpose of the Bill is to give a power of sale of the old church of St. Olave, Southwark, and its site, as well as the burial ground and any foreshore rights belonging to the church, also the site of the old rectory and the existing rectory and its site, to the trustees whom the Bill names and appoints, to merge the existing parish into adjacent parishes, and to apply all moneys received from the sale of land, materials, and other properties under the Bill—subject, of course, to the necessary expenses—in the purchase of a site and in the building of a new church and rectory elsewhere in the diocese, subject to the Bishop's approval and consent, and in providing for an endowment of the new church and an increase of the emoluments of the rector and vicar of the parishes into which the parish of St. Olave is to be merged. The trustees are to pay to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the net proceeds of the rates levied by them under Acts of Parliament, and the Bill sets out the objects to which all such proceeds are to be applied. The right of patronage and presentation to the new church is vested in His Majesty. I think that is a fair summary of the contents of the Bill.

With regard to the notice given by the noble Viscount below the gangway of his intention to move an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill, I venture to make two observations. The first is that I think this House is usually reluctant to fetter its Committees with Instructions, which tie their hands in considering a Bill on its merits; and the second is that if Lord Bryce's proposed Instruction be carried in its present form it would, I think, go a considerable way to defeat the purposes of the Bill. The churchyard in question is small—only some 634 square yards in extent—but its site is a very valuable one, to say nothing of the foreshore rights. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a Second time.

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


My Lords, I rise to move that the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill be adjourned, and I suggest that a convenient day to which to adjourn it would be Thursday week. I make the suggestion for this reason. Those who are interested in the passage of the Bill are very desirous to enter upon reasonable negotiations with those concerned in the Instruction placed on the Paper by my noble friend Lord Bryce. It is quite true, as has been stated, that if that Instruction were made it would probably lead to the loss of the whole Bill, because the sum which might possibly be derived from the sale of the vacant site could not be obtained if the most important portion of that site—namely, the portion fronting on the river—were taken away under the conditions proposed. But I do not desire to pursue the matter further this afternoon, because I hope that negotiations will he carried forward, and perhaps the matter may be settled if your Lordships will allow the debate to be adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned—(Lord Parmoor.)

VISCOUNT BRYCE had given notice of his intention to move, after the Second Reading—

That it be an instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill shall be referred, to amend the Bill so as to provide that the disused burial ground, described as the churchyard, attached to the church (together with any foreshore of the River Thames attached or belonging thereto), shall be preserved unbuilt upon in compliance with Section 3 of the Disused Burial Grounds Act, 1884, with a view to its enjoyment by the public as an Open space, under the provisions of the Open Spaces Act, 1906 and to preserve access thereto from Tooley-street across the church site.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted to say that there is no wish on the part of those at whose instance I put down this Instruction, or on my own, to defeat the Bill, but that we regard the matter as being one of considerable importance. This is an attempt to over-ride, by a private Bill, the provisions of a public Statute passed as far back as the year 1884, amended in 1887, and confirmed by another public Act in 1906, under which these open spaces, arising from disused churchyards, have been kept for the enjoyment of the public, to the great benefit of the public, especially in crowded places. I have to observe, further, that the London County Council has petitioned against the Bill, and that the Bermondsey Borough Council has petitioned against it upon the same grounds as those which are set out in the Instruction standing in my name. We consider that a question of public policy of great gravity and magnitude is raised by this Bill, and that the point covered by the Instruction well deserves to be considered by your Lordships' House. I am perfectly ready to agree to the postponement suggested, and I hope on the day fixed to have an opportunity of stating at full length to your Lordships why, in the opinion of those who are most interested in the welfare of the people of London, the Instruction should be passed.


My Lords, may I venture to enforce the appeal which my two noble friends have made for the adjournment of this debate? The London County Council, as the noble Viscount has just told the House, has petitioned against the Bill, not exactly or only on the grounds contained in my noble friend's Instruction, but on somewhat wider grounds. I need not go into that at this moment, but I think, in the absence of the Lord Bishop of Southwark, and also of the most rev. Primate, who is naturally interested, it would be somewhat futile to proceed at this moment with the debate. I hope, therefore, that it will be deferred until the date that my noble friend suggests.


My Lords, I do not intend to go into this subject at length, because I agree that it is far better to adjourn the debate. At the same time I should like, as representing in this House for the moment three of the open spaces societies of London, to say that I do not think we can quite agree with all that the Lord Chairman has said with regard to the advantages of the Bill. We think that it would be a very great pity indeed to override the Act of Parliament, especially in a district so crowded as Bermondsey; also, as the particular site is one on the river, we shall never be able to get it again, and it is the only site in Bermondsey or in that part of London which looks upon the river. I reserve what I have to say until later, when the Bill comes on again.

On Question, debate adjourned until Thursday, March 14.