HL Deb 10 July 1919 vol 35 cc425-75

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

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

The EARL OF KINTORE in the Chair.

Clause 1:


1. In this Act—

  1. (1) "The National Assembly of the Church of England" (hereinafter called "the Church Assembly") means the Assembly constituted in accordance with the constitution set forth in the Appendix to the Addresses presented to His Majesty by the Convocations of Canterbury and York on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen, and laid before both Houses of Parliament by His Majesty's command;
  2. 426
  3. (2) "The Constitution" means the Constitution of the Church Assembly set forth in the Appendix to the Addresses presented by the Convocations of Canterbury and York to His Majesty as aforesaid;
  4. (3) "The Legislative Committee" means the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution;
  5. (4) "The Ecclesiastical Committee" means the Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council established as provided in section two of this Act;
  6. (5) "Measure" means a legislative measure intended to receive the Royal Assent and to have effect as an Act of Parliament in accordance with the provisions of this Act.


My Lords, there are a large number of Amendments on the Paper, but I think the document is a more formidable one in appearance than it is in fact, because if your Lordships will examine it in detail you will see that no less than thirteen pages of it are really one Amendment which will be discussed presumably en bloc. I am very anxious to recognise, as regards the Amendment on the part of my noble and learned friend Lord Haldane, and the Amendments on the part of other noble Lords, the friendly character of those Amendments in relation to their purpose—that is, in endeavouring to get a good Bill. There is no Amendment which seems to me to be intended for what may be called the wrecking of the Bill, and I accept in the most grateful way the aid which is intended to be given to us towards bringing about a Bill which will produce the result we want.

At the same time some of these Amendments, it appears to me, would defeat the character of what we want, and in regard to them it will be impossible for us to give way. There are some Amendments—those particularly standing in the name of my noble and learned friend Lord Finlay—which seem to me to belong to a different category, and which, so far as I am able to judge—no doubt they will be explained to us—are entitled to very favourable consideration at our hands. I realise to the full that it is the duty of the constitutional experts in this House to safeguard what may be called the State side of this question against undesirable or dangerous action on the part of the Church. I recognise that to the full, and welcome any aid that can be given to us to do what we are as anxious as they are to secure—namely, that no action that we take on the Church's behalf shall be of a character to be dangerous to the State or to the proper connection between the Church and the State. I wanted to say those words on going into Committee, and then I shall be prepared to deal with the matters as they arise.


What the right rev. Primate has said is very relevant to the stage which we have reached. I have put down an Amendment which is in the spirit of what he said—to postpone the consideration of. Clause 1 till we have considered the substantive clause which follows. The purpose of that is this. Clause 1 consists simply of definitions, and it is almost impossible to discuss questions of principle on definitions. Therefore the convenient and usual course is to take Clause 1 when substantive matters have been dealt with.

Now I come to those substantive matters, and I wish to say at once that I acknowledge the spirit in which the most rev. Primate has spoken, and for my part I desire to respond. If it is possible to meet us on certain points of substance then we cease to be critics and become friends of the Bill, I hope, in this House and hereafter. I said in the debate on the Second Reading that the case, so far as I am concerned, against the Bill is a constitutional case, and does not depend in any way on want of recognition of the necessity of the Church getting certain means of reform. Therefore it comes to points of more or less detail as to the means by which reforms are to be got, and I propose simply to enumerate these to your Lordships at this moment in order the more easily to enable you to follow the Amendments.

The first is the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council. Some of us have strong feelings against that. We should propose to omit that from the Bill. The second is to substitute the Secretary of State in its place. The third would be that the Order in Council to be laid on the Table of Parliament should be affirmatively approved. The fourth is that there should be no Royal Assent to the Orders in Council, but that is I think a mere technical matter; and the fifth is that we do not like giving statutory recognition of something that is withdrawn from the power of Parliament, and there fore we wish to schedule the constitution. I do not mean that there may not be some means of getting over the difficulty, but that will stand until we come to discuss the point. I merely mention that to say that there are these five points of principle, and if it is possible to meet us our attitude will be a friendly one.


I have a very brief observation to make, which it might be not inconvenient that I should make now. I intimated to your Lordships on the Second Reading that all the members of the Government would vote according to their individual feelings upon this Bill, but I desire to state very shortly the course which I propose to take, and which I know commands the assent at least of some of my friends. This, I think, must be recognised, that if our debates upon this Bill and such progress as this Bill is granted by your Lordships are to bear any useful result elsewhere, the Bill must leave your Lordships' House in a form which satisfies its promoters that it is such a Bill as they are prepared to accept and to value. If the Bill leaves this House in a shape which no longer commands the support of the very earliest men who have promoted and constructed it, it is of no value at all to the promoters, or the Government, or the House of Commons. It is not worth wasting any further time upon it.

I therefore desire very strongly that the Bill should leave the House in a shape, however modified, which still convinces its promoters that it is worth continuing to contend for in another place. And while I very much hope that the promoters will be able, as indeed was indicated in the speech of the most rev. Primate, to accept some of the Amendments which I regard as fundamental, I do not propose myself to vote for any Amendment which is resisted by the promoters of the Bill. I take that course for the reason that I have given, and I anticipate that the Government will treat the Bill as it emerges from your Lordships' House somewhat in the following way.

I imagine, and I hope, that the Bill in its then shape will be carefully examined, and that the Government will then reach, as it must reach, a conclusion as to whether it is a Bill for which, in all the circumstances of the case, they can find facilities and time in another place. But the point which I emphasise is this. It is not, the least good the Government wasting time in considering whether they will give facilities for a Bill with which even its promoters are no longer content. Therefore I myself, as I have said, shall vote for no Amendment which is resisted by the promoters, while I express the hope that the promoters will go to the uttermost length of concession which they feel themselves able to make without sacrificing that unity which is a condition precedent to the success of the Bill.


Your Lordships will have listened with satisfaction to the noble and learned Lord, because he has borne testimony to the deep earnestness with which this Bill has been initiated and drafted. It is impossible to exaggerate the deepness of the sense of responsibility' under which the Assembly of the Church as it at present exists has worked in order to frame this Bill. Every line and every word of it has been deeply and earnestly weighed. There are, of course, parts of it which are held to be so vital that, though of course we are entirely in the hands of the House and of another place, it would not be worth the while of the promoters to go on with the Bill if they were not safeguarded. It is only candid for us to say that, and I am quite sure your Lordships will realise the deep sense of responsibility under which I speak when I say it. It does not mean that those of us who are interested in this Bill are not prepared to accept Amendments. Of course, that is the high office of your Lordships, and there are many parts of the Bill which are certainly, as far as we are concerned, susceptible of amendment, and on which we should be very glad to accept whatever decision your Lordships may make.

The most rev. Primate has already indicated the sort of topics on which we are every much in your Lordships' hands, but we feel that an immense truth lies behind the observations of the noble and learned Lord that there are departments in these high matters which touch the spiritual convictions of a great number of most earnest people, and in regal d to which, if they are dealt with in a way which those who have earnestly considered and framed this Bill cannot approve, the Bill would not longer command any support from ourselves. Those, I hope, are not matters upon which we shall be put to the test. On the other matters we are entirely in your Lordships' hands.


I move to postpone Clause 1 until after the consideration of the Schedules.

Amendment moved— Postpone the consideration of Clause 1 until after the consideration of the Schedules.—(Viscount Haldane.)


I accept this as a matter of facilitating business, and not in any way as committing those who accept it to the consequent results.


I think that what the noble and learned Viscount has said is right, and, for drafting considerations as well as in order to consider the Bill fairly, his proposal is of advantage.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2:

Establishment of an Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council.

2.—(l) There shall be a Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council styled" The Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council."

(2) The Ecclesiastical Committee shall consist of such members of the Privy Council, not exceeding twenty-live in all, as His Majesty from time to time may think fit to appoint in that behalf.

(3) The powers and duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee may be exercised and discharged by any twelve members thereof.

VISCOUNT HALDANE moved to leave out Clause 2. The noble and learned Viscount said: The first observation I have to make is that this cannot be an Amendment, which, as far as I can see, would come within the category to which the noble Marquess alluded a few moments ago. It is a mere matter of machinery. As I understand the purpose of this Bill, it is to enable the Church to get its domestic legislation through Parliament quickly; and as a step to this end there was introduced a conception of an Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council to advise the Sovereign in place of the Ministers responsible to Parliament who normally advised him. That is a proposal to which, speaking for myself, I have a profound repugnance; not on any ground that concerns the Church particularly, but because such a set of advice to the Sovereign is something totally unknown to the Constitution and inconsistent with its principles. The Sovereign of this country can do no wrong; as Blackstone even puts it, he is not supposed ever to think wrongly; and to make that good he has been provided with a body of advisers who are responsible to Parliament for everything he does. To introduce advisers who are not responsible to Parliament is to go counter to the whole foundation of our Constitution; and how this clause originally got into the Bill it is difficult for me to imagine.

If Clause 2 goes out, then the question arises, What shall take its place? I shall later suggest to your Lordships that the normal and constitutional substitute for this body would be a Minister of the Crown, a Secretary of State—the Secretary of State for the Home Department normally—who would consult his colleagues in the Cabinet, and with their assent lay the measures which are brought before him on the Table of Parliament. If that course is taken we get rid altogether of this introduction of a new body of advisers for the Crown, amounting, it seems to me as a constitutional lawyer, to little less than a constitutional outrage. Such a body can I think do very little good. I confess I am not reconciled much more to the proposal in the amended form in which my noble and learned friend Lord Finlay proposes to put it; because he, but in somewhat more moderate language, proposes that this Ecclesiastical Committee shall give advice to the Sovereign in the shape of making a Report containing information for his guidance. That is advice. No one has any title to approach the Crown with any suggestions about the conduct of public business except the Ministers of the Crown in some shape or form. Therefore the only consistent course to take is to move to omit Clause 2, which I now do.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 2.—(Viscount Haldane.)


I want to say only a word with regard to what my noble and learned friend has said as to the function of the Ecclesiastical Committee, to which he objects, advising His Majesty—as he said the Bill is worded—to give or to withhold his assent. The Amendment which stands in my name, to which my noble and learned friend has referred, would entirely remove that.


I have explained that giving advice is just as bad from my point of view as advising as to assent.


I really cannot accept that for a body of experts to be appointed to report on this particular matter. The Report is made to His Majesty, but that is not in the slightest degree usurping the functions of His Majesty's Ministers with regard to advising the Crown. They state the facts which have been brought before them; they state the reasons which lead them to form a favourable or unfavourable opinion of the matter, and its effects; and they take into account how it would affect the constitutional rights of all sections of His Majesty's subjects. I submit to the House that if this Amendment be adopted every reason for striking out the Ecclesastical Committee goes. They are a body qualified to advise on all the merits of a matter of this kind, and they report. Their Report is laid before both Houses of Parliament. Then, by a subsequent Amendment, I propose that the measure should not go forward unless each House of Parliament presents an Address to the Crown in favour of the Royal Assent being given. I would therefore ask my noble and learned friend in these circumstances to recognise that these objections to the Ecclesiastical Committee will be met by the adoption of the Amendment which stands in my name.


Surely there can be no constitutional objection whatever if the Amendment of the noble Viscount is adopted when we come to page 3, between lines 5 to 7. Not only is there no constitutional objection to advice being given by a Committee of the Privy Council, but it is a main constitutional doctrine that the Privy Council gives advice to His Majesty on a great variety of topics. Whether that advice is accepted and acted upon brings in the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, which is an entirely different thing altogether. But there is hardly a topic, I think, on which from time to time the Committee of the Privy Council does not advise His Majesty. It is nothing to do with the question of Ministerial responsibility.

I think the words as they originally stood might have been open to some misapprehension. Those words were— …advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given to it That is the proposal brought forward from the Church Assembly. But the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay, proposes to put in these words— stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects. There can be no topics on which it would be more valuable to get the advice of the Privy Council than upon those topics. It is right that the advice should be given, and there is no interference with the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility.


I confess that I am not quite clear as to what the purpose of Lord Finlay's Amendment is, even after the explanation of the two noble and learned Lords. What is the objection to naming some Minister through whom the advice is to be given? There are, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, has pointed out, various Committees of the Privy Council in existence, but they are not spoken of, so far as I know, in any case as advising the Crown. They always act through some Department—usually, I presume, through the Lord President; or as was suggested by my noble and learned friend Lord Haldane, the Home Secretary might be brought in as he is specially concerned with many kindred functions. Is there supposed to be some special purpose, something that adds in some way to the dignity of the Church, in expressing the functions of this Committee in these particular terms, which differ so far as I know from any other terms that are used in an Act of Parliament? There must be, one would think, some reason for making the most rev. Primate and the two noble and learned Lords adhere to this particular form, and I confess that I should very much like to know what it is and what the real objection is to introducing the Minister in the manner suggested by toy noble and learned friend.


Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to explain. I do not propose to go into the high technical arguments as to what the position of the Privy Council is. For my part, I confess I was astounded to hear that it was an unheard-of thing that the Privy Council should give advice to the Sovereign. I thought that that was what they existed for, and, if I have read English history aright, they have done it over and over again. Indeed the noble and learned Lord himself sits almost every day on a Committee of the Privy Council—I mean the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—which advises the Sovereign.


The Sovereign in Council.


Very well. That does not appear to me to be a very important distinction. I do not propose to go into the constitutional point. I think what your Lordships are interested in is the reason of this proposal. The promoters of this Bill desire, and the very essence of the proposal is, that, in order that essential Church legislation should be properly passed into law, there should be a shortened procedure. I know there is some doubt as to the form in which the full assent of Parliament should be signified, and I am quite certain that we shall be very ready to consider any proposal which has for its object the emphasising of the full discussion in Parliament of what may be submitted. But I do not deal with that point.

We are intent, as the whole House is intent, on creating a shortened procedure, but, if that shortened procedure is to be safe and proper, the measures submitted to Parliament might to be properly weighed, properly considered and properly discussed. The procedure which the promoters propose is this—that as soon as the Church Assembly, through its Committee, has arrived at its conclusions, and before the matter is submitted to Parliament, the suggested Bill should go to a very important and absolutely impartial Committee of experts, who should look into the proposal and see whether, in point of fact, it is open to any objection from the point of view of the general rights of His Majesty's subjects or from that, of any technical consideration of which they may be masters. For that purpose you want an expert Committee, and a Committee which deserves and obtains the full confidence of public opinion and of Parliament. The promoters have looked where I think they ought to have looked—to the members of His Majesty's Privy Council—to furnish such a body. It is not suggested that they should be advocates of the Church in any sense—the Committee may contain the noble and learned Lord himself—but the members should know the whole history of Constitutional law and the history of the law which concerns the relations between the Church and the State, as well as of the various matters Which it is important to safeguard in the interests of His Majesty's subjects at large. The Privy Council contains such men. It contains all the men who are the greatest in that respect which the Kingdom can produce. Therefore, the promoters thought that out of that body could be created a Committee which should do this very work.

It is not safe to let things go straight before Parliament without having them properly sifted first. The noble and learned Lord is unduly suspicious. This proposal has not been made in the interests of the Church. It has been made in the interests of the State, and it has been made because the promoters of the Bill are anxious that every proposal should be properly digested, well examined and well discussed, before it is submitted to Parliament. Then, when it comes before Parliament, the shortened procedure is safe. Your Lordships may think that the purely negative procedure when the Bill comes before Parliament is not safe. You may think, -with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay, that it would be wiser in every case to have a positive Resolution of both Houses of Parliament. If your Lordships think so, I am quite sure that we shall be willing to accept your view. But even that is not sufficient unless the thing is properly digested first.

It is because we are so anxious that it should not be thought that there is a hole and corner arrangement, or that the Church authorities can, by the Assembly of the Church, smuggle proposals through Parliament or that any such charge of that kind should be made, that the promoters of the Bill have provided this purely impartial Committee of experts to go through the Bill and see that it complies with all the necessary exigencies of the case before it is submitted to Parliament. It is a perfectly honest proposal—made in the interests, not of the Church (except in so far as the Church is part of the whole community), but in the interests of the State—with which the suspicious nature of the noble and learned Viscount finds such fault. Let him have a little more faith. Let him have a little more faith in us and believe that those of us who are really in earnest to produce good legislation, are not intent on some cunning device to evade the responsibility of Parliament.


I have also on the Paper an Amendment to leave out Clause 2, but the grounds upon which I move that are different, as a matter of fact. I leave the constitutional question in the hands of the noble and learned Lord and of the other noble and learned Lords who take a different view. My view is this—that this interposition of the Committee of the Privy Council is an unnecessary and tiresome proceeding. I do not see why you should bring in this Committee at all. What you want to know is the mind of the Church. I will admit, for the sake of argument, that the proposed way of obtaining that mind is satisfactory. Having got it, I cannot see that you want anything else except the mind of Parliament, and I do not see why you should invent a new Committee which, in essence, is a novel proceeding in relation to legislation which is to be laid before Parliament. I simply move the Clause out as being, in my opinion, unnecessary. I would much rather that the proceeding should be a simpler one than what is now being considered and that you should give in specified classes of cases—in the very large number of cases (I would hardly call minor cases, because they may include cases of great importance)—the proper signification of the mind of the Church as to what is desired. That should be put in the form of an Order in Council and then laid before Parliament with proper safeguards when the mind of Parliament is directed to it, without having to go through the whole process that obtains in ordinary legislation


As, in the debate on the Second Reading, I expressed doubt as to the policy of this proposal of creating a special Committee, and as this Amendment raises the whole question of whether it should be allowed to intervene or not, it seems to me that I cannot altogether remain silent in this debate. I disagree with the view expressed by the noble and learned Viscount (Lord Haldane) that because you give access to the Sovereign to this Committee, you thereby compel the Sovereign—or almost, so far as you constitutionally can, compel the Sovereign—to accept any advice that is tendered by such Committee. In any case, if that were the effect of the Bill it could be easily cleared up and removed by an Amendment, and I have put down an Amendment which would have that purpose.

My second ground for objection to the intervention of this Committee is that if the measures of the Church Assembly should require some kind of imprimatur you are for that purpose setting up this Committee as a satisfactory substitute (if I may say so) for such civil authorities as you have already in existence. I do not think (and I said so on the Second Reading) that it is a very politic way of approaching the House of Commons, namely, to tell them that they are not a civil authority of such high influence and capacity as this Committee, however independent and however skilled the men you are proposing to appoint.


Perhaps as an old Registrar of the Privy Council I may venture to say a few words, not on the constitutional question, but on the point as to whether Clause 2 would work. May I take this point? "The Ecclesiastical Committee shall consist of such members of the Privy Council, not exceeding 25 in all, as His Majesty from time to time may think fit to appoint in that behalf." You have to select twenty-five men. Who? We all know that polities rule. Suppossing the Ministry of the day happened to be anti-Church of England, however unwittingly or unwillingly, the appointment of the Privy Councillors would be tinged (human nature being human nature) with political feelings. But supposing that difficulty is got over—it takes a lot of getting over; it is a fence which will take a lot of jumping unless you are going to hit time top bar—the second point is, how long is the appointment to last? There is nothing in this clause which determines that. Is it for life, or is it for a term? That is a very important point, because here again comes in the political element. Governments change. You may get twenty-five men who are very consonant with the feeling of the original appointers but who become out of sympathy and out of harmony.

Are you certain that you are going to get sufficient knowledge? I speak here with bated breath, but there are Privy Councillors and Privy Councillors. You are going to introduce this body between the Church and Parliament. It will not be a merely perfunctory job that has to be performed. It must be performed by men with knowledge and judgment, of unbiassed mind and the skilled legal mind. Are you going to have twenty-five lawyers? You will not find them on the Privy Council. It is a long time since I was Registrar, in fact when the noble and learned Viscount first came and argued before the Privy Council I was Registrar then. Men have come and gone since my day; men have risen up who had not been heard of. If you are to have this body at all—I grieve to say I voted against the Second Reading of the Bill—are you really going to pitchfork twenty-five members of the Privy Council into an office of this kind? It will not work, it will not be fair; it will not give satisfaction. It is not going to give permanent satisfaction, and you are not going to get the work done properly.

If you will do this, if you feel you must have this body—and Heaven forbid I should say a word against the broadminded leaders of the Church, who I know want this Bill from their very consciences, and want it to be a real, moving, and living thing which is to do the work necessary—then it must be the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They are, at any rate, we all know (I saw their proceedings day by day) a body which will command confidence. It has also the requisite knowledge. If the members of the Judicial Committee are summoned carefully, as they would be for work of this kind (they only attend on summons) the Lord Chancellor of the day would summon them according to their knowledge. He would not summon people who might have every knowledge except ecclesiastical knowledge. He would summon people who understood and who knew. Then you would get confidence, and the committee would work. If the promoters of the Bill must have this committee let them have the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and not these twenty-five highly eminent men who would never all be fit for work of this kind; perhaps very few of them.


Hitherto I have been under the impression that the members of the Privy Council, now I believe nearly 200 in number, did contain on the whole the best men in time United Kingdom, and it was left to the late Registrar of that body, the noble Lord, to tell us that it is so inferior that it is not possible to select twenty-five men out of 200 who are capable of fulfilling the functions designed for them by the framers of this Bill.


The noble Earl will pardon me. I did not say "inferior," but inferior in legal knowledge.


This is not only a question of legal knowledge; it is a question of legal knowledge, political experience, intelligence, and common sense, and I am prepared to take the verdict of your Lordships' House between myself and the noble Lord as to whether twenty-five such men cannot be found in the Privy Council. It is quite true that no particulars are given as to the method and term of the appointment of these members of the Privy Council. The reason is that we thought it was a proper matter to leave for the settlement of His Majesty on the advice of his Prime Minister. If your Lordships think that we should insert greater particulars in this Bill as to the length, the period, for which they should be appointed I shall be very glad, so far as I can speak for myself and my friends, to be guided by your Lordships' judgment. But of course the person who will advice His Majesty from time to time as to these appointments is the Prime Minister for the time being, and I altogether dissent from the attitude which the noble Lord has just taken up. I, and here I speak for all those in the Representative Church Council who have been connected with the framing of this measure, was willing to trust the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to advice His Majesty honestly in this matter. We entertain no suspicion of political gerrymandering, and so far as we are concerned we do not wish to fetter his discretion in the slightest degree.

Now I come to the argument of my noble friend Lord Muir Mackenzie, who wishes to strike out this clause altogether, and who says that the interposition of this Ecclesiastical Committee is unnecessary, and, I think he would say, on the whole to be deprecated. That may be the view which will commend itself to your Lordships, but I hope not. I do not want to repeat at length what I ventured to say on the subject on the Second Reading, but I do want to say that the intention of the framers of this Bill is exactly expressed in the Amendment that is on the paper in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Viscount Finlay. I will venture, if I am not out of order, to allude to that now, because I can make my meaning so much clearer if I am allowed to do so. The noble and learned Lord (Viscount Haldane) who moved the rejection of this Bill on the Second Reading thought that by the words we had used, speaking of the advice tendered by this Committee to His Majesty, we were infringing the constitution and doing something which constitutionally was very wrong.

I told the noble and learned Lord and the House that, whether that was so or not, we who were laymen were wholly innocent in the matter, because the words had been chosen by the legal advisers, and I ventured to say what our meaning was. The noble and learned Lord (Viscount Finlay) has exactly understood what I tried to convey, because if you reject this Amendment of Lord Muir Mackenzie he is going to move at page 3, lines 5 to 7, after the words "After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a Report thereon to His Majesty" to leave out the words "advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given to it, and stating the reasons for such advice" and to insert other words, so that the subsection will then run— (3) After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to His Majesty, stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency especially with relation to the constitutional rights all of His Majesty's subjects. Now, that expresses exactly our intention in introducing into the machinery of this Bill the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council. With the utmost good-will and honest intention in the world it is surely highly probable that in dealing with the Ecclesiastical laws of the country as they exist at present the Church Assembly may fail to notice the full effect of some change which they may wish to propose to Parliament. We felt that, if we wished the measures proposed by the Church Assembly to acquire a good reputation with Parliament for their moderation and their strict respect for the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects, we should wish to have these proposals pass the test of a body whose judgment could not be impugned or whose adequacy for the task could not be questioned, and we invented, if I may use that term, this Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council, so that when a measure comes before Parliament it may come accompanied by a Report telling the Cabinet, Parliament, the Public and the Press the full legal and ultimate effect of every measure proposed by the Church Assembly, and especially what the effect is going to be on the rights of His Majesty's subjects as citizens of the Realm.

I do not admit that that same effect can be produced by the method of Order in Council, or by a reference only to the Home Secretary. When the Ecclesiastical Committee has reported the Home Secretary would have that Report before him, and he will no doubt find that Report of the greatest assistance to himself in advising the Cabinet what advice they should tender to Parliament in respect of the proposed measure, and ultimately in respect of the advice which they would tender to the Crown. I submit that this Report on a measure laid before Parliament by the Ecclesiastical Committee will have this great advantage, that a measure so coming before the House of Commons Or before your Lordships' House will be accompanied by a Report which will make it better understood and its full effect better understood than any other class of measure coming before either House. If that is not a safeguard for the rights of the subject I do not know what is and I trust that your Lordships will reject the Motion of my noble friend to reject this Clause, because, with my great anxiety that the measures of the Church Assembly should be such as to command the confidence of Parliament, I believe the institution of this machinery will be of the greatest value gradually to assist the Church Assembly in its methods of dealing with proposed legislation, and also that no better device can be found for enabling the whole public of England to understand what is proposed by a measure. If the Amendment proposed by Lord Finlay is accepted no question can arise of the advice tendered by the Privy Council to His Majesty. It is only a Report—a Report which is laid before Parliament—and on that Report the Cabinet and Parliament will come to their decision as to the lines which they will take. For these reasons I very much hope that your Lordships will allow this clause to stand.


May I say a word on this matter, and not on the, technical question of the Privy Council or the Home Secretary? I understand that the Amendment which comes later in the name of Lord Finlay is accepted, but I think we cannot practically discuss the omission of this clause without dealing with subsequent paragraphs dealing with the same matter. I quite feel that the Amendment of the noble and learned Lord, Viscount Finlay, removes any suggestion that there is a power behind the Throne which is not a responsible Minister of the Crown, advising the Crown. So far I agree, and if the promoters of this Bill attach great importance to this subsection I do not think that it is of such vital importance that we should stand in their way.

Lord Finlay's Amendment emphasises that this body is not specially to report on the legal aspect. It is to approach the matter from the legal and the constitutional point of view. I cannot help feeling that a committee which may consist of twenty-five and is not to meet with less than twelve is a large and unwieldy committee. I think that if you had a committee like the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, men trained in law and judgment, that would probably be the best kind of body to report on this matter. There would be more responsibility in a small committee like that, and it would probably go into it much more thoroughly and would give a greater sense of confidence not only to the Church but to the people who are as much entitled to know as the Church what is going on.

With regard to subsections 3, 4, 5 and 6 I would make this comment by way of anticipation. I think that after this committee, which is in the nature of a judicial committee rather than of a scratch committee of twenty-five, has reported to His Majesty, there ought to be a provision that the Home Secretary or Some One on behalf of His Majesty should pass it on to Parliament. After the Committee has reported there may be details which will require to be amended. I think it is fair that the Church should have the criticism—not destructive criticism but ameliorative criticism—and should be able perhaps to reconsider their position. The matter might then be sent again to this Committee of the Privy Council. I think that is quite fair. Whatever happens, I think that after it has gone back and been returned again by this Committee of the Privy Council, it ought to be presented to Parliament by a responsible Minister of the Crown, and not be flung on the Table with nobody responsible for it. That, however, will come up for discussion later, but I thought it better to deal with the whole of this question at once.


Before your Lordships come to a decision on the question whether the clause should stand part of the Bill, I wish once more earnestly to represent to you what you are asked to do. It is not often that in this House great changes of a revolutionary character as regards the Constitution are initiated, but this is an occasion on which such a change is proposed. We have had a multitude of references to matters that are irrelevant to the real point. It is not a question of how this body is to be appointed. It will no doubt be appointed by the Prime Minister of the day, and it may continue to do its work after he has ceased to be Prime Minister, and thereby cause difficulties. But that is nothing. The point is that by Statute you are authorising this committee of the Privy Council to tender advice to the Sovereign.




I will make that good in a moment, if the noble Earl will be patient. The Bill as it stood, of course, does that. The Committee is to advise that the Royal Assent is to be given. I suppose that was found too outrageous, because it is evident now—


It was never intended.


There it is in the Bill. The noble Earl seems to think that what was in his mind is a substitute for what is put down in his Bill.


The mind of other lawyers than yourself.


That may be or may not be, but I am taking in this House the words that a noble Earl has used, and the words he used in the Bill as it originally stood were that the Committee of the Privy Council were to report to His Majesty advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given. I am a plain person and deal with plain language, and I have only to say that if the noble Earl makes himself responsible for language of the kind he must take the responsibility. He cannot ride off by saying he has had some legal advice or other. He certainly had not from Lord Finlay, nor have I heard support for it from Lord Parmoor. Lord Finlay is letting him gently down.

The situation that we stand in is this. We are asked to take Lord Finlay's Amendment instead of what is in the Bill. When I turn to the noble and learned Viscount's Amendment it is not much better from my point of view. It is not so outrageous, but it is not right to propose that a report is to be made directly to the Sovereign stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and the views of the Ecclesastical Committee as to its expediency, especially with relation generally to the rights of all His Majesty's subjects. That is tendering direct advice to the Sovereign. Noble Lords who sit here seem to think there is some right on the part of persons because they are Privy Councillors to tender advice to the Sovereign. There is no such right.


The Privy Council has a right of access to the Sovereign to tender advice.


But let him try to tender advice and see what a constitutional Sovereign will say. He will say "I must have a Minister present." There may be delightful social relations between members of the Privy Council and their Sovereign, but when it comes to advice of the kind I have indicated, we have the Lord Chancellor in his place and he will tell your Lordships, if the House desires more information, what the constitutional position is. The form of advice as to the business of a nation, and the conduct of the officers of the nation, including such business as this, can be only constitutionally tendered to the Soveriegn by a Minister of the Crown. If the noble and learned Viscount's Amendment proposed to tender the report of the Committee to a Secretary of State for communication to the Crown or if it were to be communicated through the President of the Council, that would be allowed, but it does not say so. Both in the Amendment and in the Bill as it stands, the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council is to approach the Sovereign directly and tender him advice which can only constitutionally be tendered by a Minister responsible to Parliament. These things have been laid down over and over again in books. Of course a hundred years ago it was different, and if the noble Earl were to look into Blackstone he might find things going far beyond what he has said, but they do not represent the practice, and it is not desirable that we should be associated with keeping alive views which may have been entertained a century ago but are not suitable to these democratic times.

It may be said that members of the Privy Council—the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council—tender advice to the Sovereign. Anybody who knows what the working of that committee is knows that it is a judicial body, and therefore gives its advice in a very special form of report; secondly it does not report to the Sovereign, but reports to the Sovereign in Council, and the judgment is given by the Sovereign in Council after considering in Council the report of this special committee. There are other committees of the Privy Council. I presided lately over a committee which sat to deal with the affairs

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 2 agreed to accordingly.

Clause 3:

Measures passed by Church Assembly to be submitted to Ecclesiastical Committee.

3.—(1) Every measure passed by the Church Assembly shall be submitted by the Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee,

of the Universities. We gave a report no doubt, but it went through the hands of the President of the Council. Always; and invariably when there is any matter of advice of this kind a Minister is brought in, and it will be an evil day for the Constitution if we begin to introduce in this House, in the year 1919, the doctrine that advice may be given to the Sovereign which is to influence his conduct when it may be different advice from that being given by the Minister responsible to Parliament.

On Question, whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 78; Not-Contents, 17.

Canterbury, L. Abp. Chilston, V. Emmott, L.
York, L. Abp. Esher, V. Erskine, L. [Teller.]
Finlay, V. Glenarthur, L.
Argyll, D. Hood, V. Harlech, L.
Wellington, D. Peel, V. Harris, L.
Hatherton, L.
Cambridge, M. Bangor, L. Bp. Kinnaird, L.
Camden, M. Bath and Wells, L. Bu. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Salisbury, M. Ely, L. Bp. Lambourne, L.
Gloucester, L. Bp. Manners, L.
Ancaster, E. Llandaff, L. Up. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Bathurst, K. London, L. Bp. Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Cavan, E. St. Albans, L. Bp. Newton, L.
Chichester, E. Southwell, L. Bp. Oranmore and Browne, L.
Dartmouth, K. Parmoor, L.
Eldon, E. Aberdare, L. Ranksborough, L.
Ferrers, E. Armstrong, L. Redesdale, L.
Grey, E. [Teller.] Avebury, L. Rotherham, L.
Harewood, E, Balfour, L. Sackville, L.
Howe, E. Barrymore, L. St. Levan, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Beresford of Metemmeh, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Morton, E. Boston, L. Sudeley, L.
Northbrook, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Sydenham, L.
Powis, E. Chalmers, L. Thurlow, L.
Sandwich, E. Clinton, L. Waleran, L.
Selborne, E. Cochrane of Cults, L. Wenlock, L.
Digby, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)
Chaplin, V. Dinevor, L. Wyfold, L.
Crewe, M. Askwith, L. Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]
Lincolnshire, M. Clwyd, L. Phillimore, L.
Colebrooke, L. Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)
Haldane, V. [Teller.] Denman, L.
Knollys, V. Desart, L. (E. Desart.) Templemore, L.
Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.) Wittenham, L.
Ashton of Hyde, L. Wrenbury, L.

together with such comments and explanations as the Legislative Committee may deem it expedient or be directed by the Church Assembly to add.

(2) The Ecclesiastical. Committee shall thereupon consider the measure so submitted to it, and may at any time during such consideration, either of its own motion or at the request of the Legislative Committee, invite the Legislative Committee to a conference to discuss the pro- visions thereof, and thereupon a conference of the two committees shall be held accordingly.

(3) After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to His Majesty, advising that the Royal Assent ought or ought not to be given to it, and stating the reasons for such advice.

(4) The Ecclesiastical Committee shall communicate its report in draft to the Legislative Committee, but shall not present it to His Majesty until the Legislative Committee signify its desire that it should be so presented.

(5) At any time before the presentation of the report to His Majesty the Legislative Committee may, either on its own motion or by direction of the Church Assembly, withdraw a measure from further consideration by the Ecclesiastical Committee; but the Legislative Committee shall have no power to vary a measure of the Church Assembly either before or after conference with the Ecclesiastical Committee.

(6) A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England, and may extend to the amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament, including this Act.

VISCOUNT HALDANE moved, in subsection (1), after "measure" to insert "conforming to the provisions appearing in the Schedule to this Act, and" and to leave out "shall" and insert "may." The noble and learned Viscount said: On this Amendment more important questions arise. This might be a mere form but for the reference to the word "Schedule." That raises what would have been one of my points later, but it may be convenient to discuss it now. We feel that in an Act of Parliament it is wrong to propose to constitute a body "in the manner set forth in identical terms in the Appendix attached to several Addresses." Parliament has no cognisance of what the appendices contain. When Parliament enacts a constitution it enacts it within the four corners of the Act of Parliament, and it enacts a Schedule in a Convenient case which contains the provisions of that constitution. But the Bill as it stands first of all sets out the constitution as a result of the work of the Committee, then it says that the National Assembly of the Church is to be the National Assembly with the constitution set forth in the two addresses. Some of us have Amendments down proposing that the constitution shall be scheduled; and on that Schedule there arise two points. First we say that the matter ought to come within the four corners of the Act of Parliament; that it is unheard-of to enact a constitution which does not appear within the Bill and which is the work of a body over whom Parliament has not direct control. The second point is that in what we propose to schedule there is one omission; we propose to leave out the exclusion of persons of other denominations from being recognised as members of the new body to the extent of being qualified electors.

Those are two points which are raised by the words here. As to the first, I have already stated the reason. If you are going to set up a constitution for the Church, set it up in your Statute, or in some form in which the document is a Parliamentary document; and if you take the course of scheduling it, as my Amendment proposes, then schedule it with the words omitted which exclude from the National Church every one who is connected with a denomination not in communion with it. I do not propose to argue that again, as I argued it on the Second Reading, and it has been the subject of much discussion. But your Lordships will readily understand that it is a matter about which a great many people feel very strongly, and it is our duty, therefore, to raise it.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 31, after ("measure") insert ("conforming to the provisions appearing in the Schedule to this Act, and") and leave out ("shall") and insert ("may").—(Viscount Haldane.)


I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for raising the issue thus early. He himself, in speaking on the Motion that the House go into Committee, pointed out that this was one of the matters fundamental to the principles of the Bill. I fully admit, of course, the measure of inconvenience attaching to a procedure by which Parliament generally is informed of the Assembly, to which it is proposed to give certain powers, by reference to another Paper. But I imagine there are not wanting precedents and analogies for that course, and it is one which must be considered with reference to the general character and purpose of this Bill.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships at any length, or to repeat what I said on this matter on the Motion for the Second Reading. I would only ask your Lordships to bear certain points in mind. The first is that this is not a Bill—I think the phrase escaped the noble and learned Viscount—to set up a constitution for the Church or a system of Representative Church Assemblies. These Assemblies exist at the present time; they are composed of the two Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York, which I need not again remind you have a place in the Constitution of this Realm, and they have already had added to them the Houses of Laymen elected by a system of election and franchise which has been in use now for some years. What is proposed by the; Bill is not that a new system of Assemblies should be set up, but that on a system of Representative Assemblies already existing—improved and modified in regard to the special purposes of this Bill—should be conferred the powers asked for in this Bill. It is in order that these existing Assemblies should be more fitted for the purpose which is intended by this Bill that the existing franchise has been widened, and that it is proposed by the Constitution prepared by the Church that there should be a legislative committee which would be the natural channel of communication between the National Assembly, so-called, and (it is suggested) a Committee of the Privy Council. But otherwise with these exceptions it must he, borne in mind that the Church already has its system of representative bodies. They are not being set up by this Bill; the Bill asks only that certain limited powers should be conferred upon them by Statute.

The second point which I think it is worth while we should remember is that the Church has need of such a system of Representative Assemblies for the conduct of its own internal affairs. The proposed National Assembly of the Church will not be dealing exclusively—possibly not even chiefly—with matters requiring legislation. It will be dealing with matters affecting public, questions on religion and morality; it will be dealing with matters of public importance about which it is I most desirable that there should be a joint gathering of the Convocations and of the Houses of Laity. It will be dealing increasingly with the most important questions of finance, of which I mentioned only one, on Second Reading—namely, pensions. It will be dealing continually with the vast and increasing missionary work of the Church, overseas, and with every sort of subject which concerns the vitality of the Church's own work at home in the national life. Therefore what is called in the Bill "the National Assembly of the Church of England" will be a body not exclusively—possibly not even primarily—concerned with matters which require legislation. It is from this: point of view that the provisions of the Constitution must be considered and interpreted for the double purpose of this Assembly—namely, the transaction of the Church's own internal business, and furnishing Parliament with an opportunity of knowing what is the mind of the Church on matters that require legislation.

It is plain that what is required of the electors is that they should be persons really and genuinely associated with the lift; and work of the Church. Your Lordships will remember what was pointed out before, I think, that a place upon the electoral roll can neither give nor withhold membership in the Church. Membership in the Church is a spiritual right, and whatever rights belong to parishioners are not affected by this Bill. But it is not unreasonable that the Church should expect that those who, by putting themselves on the electoral roll, claim to have an effective part in the management of the Church's own affairs should themselves be persons who are genuinely associated not so much with the life and work of other denominations as with the life and work of the Church in whose business they desire to take a part.

A particular point to which the noble, and learned Viscount called attention must be considered. The point is that since it is true there is this existing Assembly (improved for the purposes of this Bill), since it is true that the Church requires such a system of representative assemblies in doing its work, is it not reasonable to say these two things?—first, that the same body which, on other matters, is representing the Church should be the body through which the desires of the Church, in matters requiring legislation, should be conveyed to Parliament; and, secondly, that the provisions for the constitution of these representative assemblies—culminating in the National Assembly of the Church, whose function is to set forward the Church's own work and express its own desires—should be drawn up by the Church itself.

I think that it is the more reasonable because, as your Lordships will remember—though it is sometime, I think, forgotten—the powers which are to be conferred by this Bill, if it passes, upon the National Assembly, are not powers of legislation but only powers to initiate legislation. Here I venture to urge that the interests of the Church and Parliament are identical. What Parliament wants, for the purposes of this Bill, is to know, in regard to those measures submitted to it, whether they are desired after full discussion by those who represent the Church in its corporate capacity and in its corporate work. I would submit, therefore, that the function of Parliament is not to frame or to alter the constitution, but to decide whether or not that constitution, prepared by the Church, is such that Parliament is willing to give to the Assembly so created the limited powers that are proposed by this Bill. The object of the framers of the Bill was to give in this way full information to Parliament as to the nature and character of the assemblies to which it was asked to give these limited powers. I think the noble Lord, Lord Muir Mackenzie, in a later Amendment (if I may refer to it) is generous enough to suggest that the framing of the rules should be entirely left to the Church and that Parliament should not be in any way concerned with them. The promoters of the Bill felt that that was scarcely sufficiently taking Parliament into our confidence, and therefore the plan has been adopted by which Parliament is fully informed as to the character and constitution of the Assembly to which the Bill proposes to give these limited powers, so that it may be able to judge of the sufficiency of that Assembly for the purposes of the Bill.

Contemplate for a moment what may happen if the suggestion of the noble and learned Viscount were carried out, and this constitution—that is to say, all the rules which lead up to the election and constitution of parochial councils, ruridecanal conferences and diocesan conferences as well as the National Assembly—were put in a Schedule to this Bill. It would be to invite Amendments in either House of Parliament. Of course, I am aware that it might be possible by some ingenuity to get a substantial alteration of these provisions otherwise than by putting the constitution as a Schedule to the Bill. But if you put the constitution as a Schedule to the Bill you certainly invite the members of either House of Parliament to make Amendments which might go to the very root of the character and purpose of these representative assemblies.

I admit that the noble Viscount has himself been most sparing in the Amendments which he suggests to this constitution, if it appears as a Schedule in the Bill. I think he only suggests one or two drafting Amendments, limiting them to the two particular points to which he called attention. But it does not follow that members of the House of Commons would be equally sparing in their desires, and, if this Bill left this House with the constitution appended to it as a Schedule, it is almost certain that Members of Parliament in another place might proceed to put down Amendments which would go to the very root and purpose of these assemblies, and the consequence might emerge—I do not think it is unreasonable to say so—that the Bill might receive Amendments which would make the Representative Assemblies wholly different from what the Church desires them to be as they have to transact its own internal affairs. That, I think, is a consequence which is not contemplated by the members of your Lordships' House.

Then a difficult position would be created. Either the Church might be expected to accept the system of Representative Assemblies created for it in another place, or else there might be the almost impossible position that one representative body was transacting the normal affairs of the Church in its own interior life while another body was created in order that the desires of that same Church should be conveyed to Parliament. For these reasons, which I have only briefly summarised—they carry us very far—I hope that your Lordships will, at this early stage, record your willingness to allow the proposed constitution to remain as it is and not to be inserted as a schedule to this Bill. Inconvenience there may be, but I do not think that that inconvenience is to be weighed against the consequences which might follow if any other course were adopted. I beg your Lordships to believe that there is in this matter no kind of desire to assert any ecclesiastical pretensions, but merely to submit a proposal which, when it is considered in the light of existing facts and of the main purpose for which the National Assembly of the Church of England is desired, is reasonable and just.


We are all of us, I am sure, like the most rev. Primate who has just spoken and like my noble and learned friend, anxious not to repeat anything that we said on the Second Reading when this subject and the kindred subject on which my noble and learned friend touched, of the proposed Amendment to the Schedule, were fully dealt with; but I feel bound to say one or two words on the subject of my noble friend's Amendment. I most fully recognise the far greater convenience, from one point of view, of the course which the Bill as it stands proposes, and I need not assure the most rev. Primate that if the constitution of the Assembly is not subjected to discussion in Parliament we none of us suppose that it is due to any sinister motive on the part of the promoters of the Bill. There are no doubt those who hold that Parliament would in any case have no right, no moral claim, to touch on these questions at all, and that, I think, is a view which many others would be disposed to dispute; but I fully recognise the far greater convenience, from the point of view of the conduct of the Bill in Parliament, of the course that, is proposed.

But, looking at it as the most rev. Prelate did, with a view to the easier passage of the Bill in another place, I do not feel at all sure that its course will be accelerated by leaving the composition of the Assembly out of the Bill. So far as the internal affairs of the Church are concerned, and so far as provision for them is made in the proposals, I can hardly suppose that there would be any greater desire in another place than there is here to enter into discussions upon them.

The most rev. Primate must remember that even though the provisions do not appear in the Schedule it will always be open to anybody to propose Amendments to the Bill in the form of provisos to Clause 3, by which the discussions which he deprecates could be brought on in the House. For example. Assume that the noble and learned Viscount's Motion for the insertion of this Schedule is not carried, there is nothing whatever to prevent him at a later stage from moving an Amendment introducing the particular proviso with regard to the franchise for the parish councils which he foreshadowed in his speech. Therefore, I think it is a question whether in the long run time really would be saved by leaving this question of the constitution of the Assembly out of the Bill altogether. On the whole, although I recognise the inconvenience—and it is an inconvenience which is undoubtedly inherent in the position of the Church establishment, of subjecting all these matters, many of them purely domestic, to Parliamentary discussion—I think if the promoters of the Bill were frankly to accept the insertion of the scheme in the Schedule public opinion to some extent here, and to a much greater extent in another place, would be so far placated that there might be infinitely less discussion on disputed points than if the promoters simply saynon possumus when they are asked to make a change. There are inconveniences both ways, I frankly admit; but I hope the right rev. Bench will believe that I am quite honest in thinking from their point of view that in the long run it would be simpler and a more favourable course to accept the Amendment of my noble and learned friend.


My noble friend who leads the Opposition has stated with his usual complete fairness that this matter has its inconvenience whatever course is taken. It can only be a matter of opinion. The noble Marquess has stated his opinion, and perhaps your Lordships will allow me to state mine. This is not a scheme for a new constitution for the Church. That point has been made so clear by the most rev. Primate that I need not labour it. It is nothing whatever, in this aspect of the case, except a proposal that Parliament would allow the Church to tell Parliament in its own way what changes in the law it thinks necessary to enable it to do its work better. That is all it is. If Parliament does not think the machinery, the body proposed to voice the opinion of the Church, is adequate for the purpose, Parliament will reject this Bill, and would be perfectly entitled to do so. It would be a mere mockery for Parliament to say to the Church. "We agree to your proposal; you shall be allowed to tell us what changes in the law you desire; but we are not going to allow you to tell us that through the body which you think represents and knows your wishes and your needs, but through some other body framed by the noble and learned Viscount from Scotland."

That is the simple issue—whether Parliament, which contains absolute control over legislation and which is not asked to give the Church Assembly any power whatever to legislate, is to allow the Church to tell Parliament in its own way what it wants, or whether it is going to be told that it can only tell Parliament what it wants by another body than that which the Church truly thinks represents those who do its work, and which alone knows really where the shoe of old law pinches. That is the simple issue, and I hope that your Lordships will not accept the Amendment.


I must entirely traverse the statement made by the most rev. Primate and the noble Earl. They have both told your Lordships that this is not a new constitution for the Church. In my view it is an entirely new constitution. You have two Provinces in this country, York and Canterbury, who are independent of each other and who pass resolutions quite different from each other. You have the House of Laymen, an ecclesiastical caucus, a body which has no authority whatever. It has no more authority than the Church Congress when it meets, and it probably has not quite as much authority as a pan-Anglican synod; and we are told that this body is to be taken as representing all the adherents of the Church of England. There are, excluding Wales, which does not come under the Bill, about 32,000,000 people in this country, and about half of that number are probably over eighteen years of age. No doubt the Church of England would claim that they have a considerable majority of the people of this country as adherents, and if I give them half it would give them about 16,000,000 who were adherents.


If half are over eighteen years of age it would give 8,000,000.


Yes; and the lesser margin will suit my purpose. I would like to ask those who have been interested in these various organisations which have led up to this legislation how many people voted for the election to the House of Laymen? I do not know, and I have not the most remote idea, but I should be very much surprised if 200,000 people voted. It is said that there would be greater interest if you gave them this greater power. Would it be likely that 400,000 people would vote under this Bill if it became law? I do not know whether there will be any machinery to check those who enrol as parochial voters, but at any rate I am perfectly sure that the number who will take part in this will not really represent the earnest conviction and desire of supporters of the Church of England. And the nation, which while the Church remains established has a great interest in what is to be done in this Church, is to stand aside. In politics, are you to allow the Conservative caucus and the Liberal caucus to stand for the people of England? Because, in the words of the dramatist, Every little boy or girl born into this world alive, is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative. That, of course, is untrue, and it is a fact that an immense majority of those who adhere to the Church of England, not with a keen and violent fanaticism but with a moderate or temperate sympathy, practically do not know anything about the elections to this House of Laymen. It passes them by, and I believe that the great majority of the quiet adherents to the Church of England are very well satisfied with the way in which they have been treated by Parliament and the Government, and are not yearning for this spiritual independence. If they are, I am sure that they would not like a mere clique to settle things for them.

Therefore I feel that to make a document drawn up as a memorial not only the basis but the actual complete structure of legislation for the Church would be altogether wrong and altogether alien to the wishes of this moderate majority. Of course, I do not propose now to discuss the question whether you shall have a baptismal franchise, with a mere declaration that you are a member of the Church of England, or whether you should have safeguards. If it is made merely a question of reference to a Schedule that question will not arise; but I think it is very unwise, as I said on the Second Reading, to try to limit the people you induce to come in and take an interest in your affairs. I hold very strongly first, that this is a new departure, and that it is an entire fiction and fabrication to say that you are really giving additional powers to a body which exists already. It is a body which does not exist. Secondly, the body to which you want to entrust these powers is one elected by a very trifling number of the voters who claim to be supporters of the Church, and one which when it has these additional powers will remain a body elected by a trifling and insignificant number.


I could not let the speech of my noble friend pass without a word. He says that it is a fabrication to say that this body exists. I have presided over this body for thirteen years now. It is perfectly true that it did not have the powers which we desired it should possess, but to say that it is a fabrication, when we come to Parliament, to speak of it as an existing body is surely a stretch of language which my noble friend can hardly justify. The body exists. We have tried to widen its basis and help in every way to make it a stronger body, because we believe that with the changes which are proposed it will be better to strengthen the body which we now have, and which we have been using for years and through which we have expressed the views of the Church. That it has been elected by a comparatively small number is perfectly true, but that it will continue to be elected by a small number is I believe untrue, because with the new powers given to it people will find it more interesting, and therefore the constituency will be widened and strengthened in every possible way. To speak of it as a new body which we were now devising, and which did not already exist, is surely a stretch of imagination on the part of the noble Lord, and one which I trust your Lordships will not support.


I speak as a warm friend of the Bill, but on this point I have considerable doubts. I will not attempt to repeat what was said by my noble friend Lord Crewe, but the doubts running in my mind are on the lines of those which he uttered. I am satisfied with this Constitution as shown in the White Paper. I presume it could not be altered without coming to Parliament. That being the case I am quite satisfied. I do not personally want the Constitution to be in the Bill as a Schedule; but I am not quite sure what view may be taken on this matter in another place, and I should not like to see this Bill injured by showing any fear of putting the constitution of the Assembly as a Schedule in the Bill. I therefore venture to put a question to the Government on the matter. The Lord Chancellor told us at the commencement what was the attitude of the Government. I think, after what he said then, that it is only fair to ask whether the result of this Amendment would be likely to affect the view of the Government in supporting the Bill in another place?


The noble Lord has asked me a question to which I am not prepared to give him a definite answer, nor, I think, would he be of opinion on reflection that it would be really practicable for me to do so. The form in which the Bill ultimately emerges does not depend upon one Amendment but upon the cumulative effect and treatment of the Amendments by your Lordships in this House. I made it plain in an earlier speech that, not unnaturally, all the members of the Government did not agree in their views of this Bill. It has already been considered on one occasion by the Cabinet, and it will certainly be reconsidered in such form as it leaves your Lordships' House by the Cabinet and perhaps by a reconstituted Cabinet. I am not able to keep in touch with my colleagues on each Amendment, and in those circumstances it is obvious that I cannot answer the noble Lord's question.


I am to a certain extent in sympathy with the noble Viscount. I think it is inconvenient that the constitution is not in a Schedule in the Bill, but the noble Viscount has supplied the answer. He wants it scheduled in the Bill in order that he may tinker it, and those who promote the Bill do not intend that it shall be tinkered. The noble Viscount wants the Church to tell Parliament its mind, but he wants Parliament to tell the Church what is the Church so that the Church may tell Parliament its mind. That is what, as a Churchman, and as a member of your Lordships' House, I protest against being done.

This is a matter of taking the whole or leaving it altogether. Lord Sheffield, who supported the noble Viscount, used for this purpose a most unfortunate word. He kept talking of adherence to the Church of England. Now the word "adherence" occurs in a most remarkable Act of Parliament. I am not always for measuring the liberties of the Church of England by the liberties of the Church of Scotland, but if one may not use the argumentum ad hominem, one may use, I think, the argamentum ad Scotiam. There was a very important Act passed in 1874. After the Presbyterian Church of Scotland had been torn into two on the question of patronage, very late in the day an attempt was made to heal the rent by taking away by Act of Parliament the rights of lay patrons, and their rights having been taken away they were to be vested in somebody. They were vested in the congregations subject to such regulations as to conducting the elections and to making the appointments as may be framed. By whom? By Parliament? No, by the General Assembly of the Church. And then they came to define congregation. "The congregation shall mean and include communicants and such other adherents of the Church"—as who shall determine? As Parliament or as expressed in this Bill or in the schedule to this Bill? No, the words are, "such other adherents of the Church as the Kirk Session under regulations to be framed by the General Assembly or a commission thereof … may determine to be members of the congregation for the purposes of this Act." For the purpose of the Act of Parliament taking away the lay right of patronage in Scotland and giving it to the congregation, the congregation was to be allowed to determine or the Church was to be allowed to determine those who are its own adherents. Why should not the Church of England equally be able to determine who are its adherents?

On Question, Amendment negatived.

VISCOUNT HALDANE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out from "submitted" to the end of subsection (1), and to insert "to a Secretary of State." The noble Viscount said: This is an Amendment designed for the purpose of bringing M the Secretary of State.


That is settled.


The Secretary of State is brought in here. My Amendment is to leave out from "submitted" to the end of the section.


That would cut out the Legislative Committee.


You will have both so far as this goes. It is quite consistent. My object in bringing in the Secretary of State, even although his proceedings will be somewhat hampered by the introduction of the Ecclesiastical Committee is this. Your Lordships are invited by the noble Marquess—


May I, on a point of Order, call the noble Viscount's attention to this? His Amendment is not only to insert "the Secretary of State," but is to leave out the words to the end of the section which have instituted the Legislative Committee. The Legislative Committee has been passed. Is not what the noble Viscount is now doing inconsistent with what the House has already done?


It is a separate Amendment. Take the words of the Amendment to leave out from the word "submitted," the words "by the Legislative Committee to the Ecclesisatical Committee," and so on, and substitute "to a Secretary of State."


But this House has already determined that there is to be a Legislative Committee.


But this is a substantive and independent proposition. Any measure brought forward of this kind is to be submitted to the Secretary of State, and it raises a very great question of principle. The noble Marquess and the noble Earl near him have invited your Lordships to go down a rather dark constitutional alley where everything is obscure, and it is very desirable to see what company you are keeping as you go. The purpose of this Amendment is to bring in a constitutional policeman with his bull's eye lantern to provide that at an early stage there shall be the presence of the Secretary of State concerned to see what these proposed measures are, and whether they are of a constitutional character. The Secretary of State, as Lord Parmoor has already indicated, come in with somewhat truncated capacities, but still he is there as the constitutional policeman, and it is very valuable that we should have the illuminating light of his bull's eye lantern upon whatever goes on from the very earliest stage. I therefore move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 32, leave out from ("submitted") to the end of subsection (1) and insert ("to a Secretary of State").—(Viscount Haldane)


I am inclined to agree with the noble and learned Viscount that he is not strictly out of order. His Amendment does read and make English, but it is absolutely inconsistent with what we have already done, and I am quite sure that he will not seriously ask your Lordships' House to insert in the Bill a truncated Secretary of State. I cannot believe that a Secretary of State with truncated functions is what he would really recommend as the proper issue of the controversy between us. We discussed with perfect fairness, and I think with great equanimity on both sides, whether there should be this Committee of the Privy Council which should act in the way that has been described. Your Lordships' House, by a great majority, was good enough to approve the view which we put forward. I should have thought that the noble and learned Viscount would have accepted the decision of your Lordships' House, being, as he is, so very strong on constitutional practice. I should have thought he would realise that a decision of a great Assembly like your Lordships' House, recorded by a very large majority, must be accepted until another occasion offers itself to reverse it. We cannot, of course, accept the Amendment because it strikes out the very machinery which we intend the Privy Council to use in order to achieve the objects of the Bill. If we put the Privy Council in, it was in order that it should do something. Now the noble and learned Viscount proposes to leave out part of the essential words under which the machinery is to be employed. I am sure your Lordships will not support, such an Amendment.


I do not say that my noble and learned friend is strictly out of order, but when we have decided that the Ecclesiastical Committee is to be retained it is simply commonsense that it should be retained for some purpose. If it is not to do this, what is it to do? We should put ourselves in a most extraordinary position if, after having adopted the Ecclesiastical Committee, we should leave it in the air absolutely idle.


It was undoubtedly decided by your Lordships' House that there was to be an Ecclesiastical Committee composed of a certain number of members of the Privy Council, but your Lordships did not seem to think that body would be able to exercise any very useful or practical function. However, there it is; and what my noble friend suggests is that although the body exists it would clearly have to act always in concert with one of His Majesty's Ministers.


The Amendment strikes out the essential words.


I do not dispute that at a future stage it might be necessary to recast the provision, but I think that it is important to retain in some form or another the essential idea of Ministerial responsibility which is not retained, as I venture to think; by the Amendment of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Finlay, which presumably as we proceed will be accepted by your Lordships' House. The essence of my noble and learned friend's Amendment, which he is obliged to move, as he says, in a truncated form owing to the decisions which you have already reached, is the retention of that Ministerial responsibility, and I venture to think it should be retained.


My noble friend is really in error. To take him literally you would suppose it is necessary to make the Secretary of State responsible for every measure proposed by the Church Assembly. No Government would accept such a position at all. Where the responsibility of the Secretary of State collies in is this, in advising Parliament what line they should take on the proposal of the Church Assembly, and no one can deprive him of that function.


I agree with very much of what the noble Earl has just said. I feel it is not the place now to put in an Amendment which, though technically in order, does stultify the previous clause; but I was very glad to hear the noble Earl say that in any case when the thing came to Parliament, it ought to come to Parliament through the conduit pipe of a Minister of the Crown.


I did not say that.


You did not use those exact words, but I think you said "advised by a Minister."


I said that Parliament would expect the Cabinet to give its advice on the Bill.


I do not think there is sufficient difference between us to dispute on that. If, before this scheme is laid before Parliament, Parliament would expect the Cabinet to express its opinion on the Bill the point would be met, and my noble friend's view would be supported when we come to Clause 4. With regard to that clause it is very likely all right in the draft as the Bill was originally framed, but it will not be all right after Lord Finlay's Amendment. I would suggest that some words should be added to the effect that after the Ecclesiastical Committee have drafted a report to His Majesty, His Majesty, if so advised, shall present the report, together with his recommendations thereon, to both Houses. If you put that in there you secure what the noble Earl assented to, that there should be some responsible Minister who would help to bring the thing before Parliament. I feel that if after Clause 4 an amendment like that is moved it will not at all shipwreck the machinery of the Advisory Committee, but it will still secure the obligation of Ministers of the Crown to take some responsibility for presenting the report to Parliament.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE moved, at the end of subsection (1), to insert "Provided that no measure shall be submitted to the Ecclesiastical Committee which would make any alteration in the Book of Common Prayer as by law prescribed to be used in Churches at the passing of this Act."

The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment because I wish with great sincerity to take every opportunity I can of placing every possible barrier in the way of those who wish (and I do not use the word in the offensive sense) to tamper with the Prayer Book. I thought I should never have got the opportunity of talking to so many Bishops all at once about a subject which is really to some of us very important indeed. I am sure the most rev. Primate and all members of your Lordships' House will agree with me that at all times, and especially in times of anxiety and bereavement, there are few consolations so profound as those words of the Prayer Book which have been hallowed to us by long association.

It would not have been necessary in my judgment to say anything about this had it not been for a speech which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillimore, made in support of this Bill, in which he used a sentence to the effect that it was desirable to bring the Prayer Book up-to-date. An utterance of that kind, coming from such a source, and from a supporter of the Bill whose earnestness and ability and sincerity no one can doubt, certainly caused me very grave misgivings. It was cheering to hear from the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Manchester, that the Upper House of the Convocation of York had been engaged for seventeen years in trying to alter the Prayer Book and apparently had not succeeded in doing anything very effectual so far. I hope it will be 1,700 years before they succeed in doing anything of the kind.

And I say this with real respect to the Bench of Bishops, but some of us have had occasion to complain. It is not only since the war that we have had a great many interpolations in the Prayer Book—I know that is a different thing from a special service—but even before the war when there was a strike on (I think the docker's strike in the year 1912 or 1913) we had some of the supplications taken out of the Litany, and special supplications were put into it. I heard them read, and I can give the church at which I heard them read in London. It is difficulty now to go through either the Morning Prayer or the Evening Prayer without an interpolation of some kind, and it is because I wish, with respect and sincerity, to enter a caveat against this spirit which would alter the Prayer Bock, as Lord Phillimore said, to bring it up-to-date, that I bring forward this Amendment. There is a certain spirit from which nothing nowadays seems to be quite sacred, even the ancient and hallowed liturgy of the nation, and I trust that this new body which is going to be set up by this Bill, or the old body which is going to be invested with new powers, will at any rate leave the Prayer Book alone.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 35, at end insert ("Provided that no measure shall be submitted to the Ecclesiastical Committee which would make any alteration in the Book of Common Prayer as by law prescribed to be used in Churches at the passing of this Act").—(Lord Willoughby de Broke.)


I thank the noble Lord for his speech. We always listen to him with the greatest possible pleasure, and I think that the tone and nature of the speech which he has made to-day adds to the pleasure with which we listen to him. At the same time I should be deceiving the House if I were to accept for a moment the proposition that we do not intend in any case to touch anything connected with the rubrics of Common Prayer.

One of the very reasons why we find the present position difficult is that in small matters, but matters which are neverthe less of practical importance, we want to facilitate sometimes an abbreviation, sometimes an adaptation of the existing form to slightly different circumstances, sometimes even the addition of extra Collects on particular occasions, such as the noble Lord has taken exception to. It is with the object of doing those things legally, instead of illegally, and being relieved from the responsibility of having done things for which the law gives us no sanction at present, and for which we could not get sanction without an elaborate process of going, to Parliament that we want to use—though we shall certainly use them most sparingly—the powers which this Bill would give us of altering, where the need requires, some things in the rubric of the Prayer Book.


I should like to thank the most rev. Primate for his courteous reply. I am extremely obliged for having got that statement from him, and as far as that goes the objection of brimming forward my Amendment is satisfied. But his Grace must recollect that, in view of the reply, that there may be others who may come who do not take the same view as to altering the Liturgy that he takes. It was with the desire of informing myself—I have had some correspondence with regard to this, and I have some support outside—that I put down my Amendment.


I agree as to the satisfactory nature of the reply of the Lord Archbishop to the appeal of my noble friend. But he pointed out that there may be other Archbishops and other Bishops in days to come who are not bound by that reply. However, what I want to ascertain from the promoters of the Bill is whether it would be necessary, as the Bill now stands, for the permission of Parliament to be obtained in any circumstances before anything of that kind is done.




If that is so, I think it is quite satisfactory.


There is no doubt that the permission of Parliament will be required.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

VISCOUNT FINLAY moved to leave out from "Majesty" to the end of subsection (3) and to insert "stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects."

The noble and learned Viscount said: This Amendment has been briefly referred to before. There has been, I think, an objection taken in many parts of the House that it is not desirable that the Ecclesiastical Committee should advise His Majesty as to what course he should take in assenting or not assenting to any measure, that this is for the constitutional advisers of His Majesty. I propose by my Amendment to get rid of those words about the Ecclesiastical Committee advising His Majesty. I do not think that any exception can be taken to the words I propose to insert. The Report when made will be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and it will supply them with valuable material when they come to consider whether they should address the Crown in favour of the measure being passed into law.

Amendment moved— Page 3, lines 5 to 7, leave out from ("Majesty") to the end of subsection (3) and insert ("stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects").—(Viscount Finlay.)


I am prepared to accept the Amendments


Your Lordships will, of course, do what you please. I must, however, repeat what I said before, that these words are not sufficient to prevent what is really a violation of the constitutional principle. I am not going to argue it again, but up till now it has been well established—there is Sir William Anson's book, and there are many other books at which your Lordships can look—that no one in the business of legislation or administration who is not a Minister responsible to Parliament can advise the Sovereign. The Sovereign is absolutely irresponsible. He can do no wrong; he acts on the advice of Ministers; and the way we secure that there is someone who can be brought to account is by seeing that these Ministers are responsible to Parliament. That is why no member of the Cabinet is ever allowed for long to be without a seat in one House or the other.

Your Lordships now propose to hand over these matters to a Committee of the Privy Council consisting of people who may not be members of Parliament at all; and we have no security for the observance of the Constitutional principle. It is not enough to say that the King's Ministers know; because these gentlemen, according to the Amendment of the noble and learned Viscount, may come between those Ministers and the King. They may give their views and their advice as to his constitutional rights, and as to the legal effect of the measure and so on, quite independent of Ministers. You are introducing into the Constitution a new body, and it is remarkable that in the year 1919 such a proposition should come from your Lordships' House.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MUIR MACKENZIE moved, in subsection (6), after "relate," to insert "to the organisation, discipline, including institution and removal, finance, union division or equalisation of benefices, dilapidations, or," and, after" concerning," to "insert" the internal administration of."

The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment and another a little later in order to try and express what seems to me to be to a great extent the effect of the debate on the Second Reading. We have heard many times that the intention was to get facilities of legislation for large numbers of useful things, and I think that it is better that those things should be stated than that it should be left simply to saying what are the intentions of the promoters of the Bill and what is likely to be done by the Assembly in future days. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Stuart of Wortley—who is not at the moment in the House—has drawn up a list by which he makes a distinction between the first class of subjects that I have mentioned and other larger subjects. If his list is better than mine, I should be very glad to see it put here instead of my list. But I submit as the principle of this first Amendment that it is desirable to state on the face of the Bill what are the real objects of the novel system of legislation that is proposed.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 20, after ("relate") insert ("to the organisation, discipline, including institution and removal, finance, union division or equalisation of benefices, dilapidations, or") and after ("concerning") insert ("the internal administration of").—(Lord Muir Mackenzie.)


I appreciate to the full the intention of the noble and learned Lord who has moved the Amendment, but I do feel that, with the safeguards we have provided, we must trust, first, to the representative Church Assembly, then to the Privy Council Committee, then to the Secretary of State and to Parliament, and we must leave discretion to the authorities to whom we have committed it rather than try just now to lay down—what would be an extraordinarily difficult thing to—an exact line as to what subjects could be dealt with or could not be dealt with. I cannot help thinking that we shall act wisely, for every reason, if we leave discretion to those bodies, which are quite sure to exercise it.


Does the noble Lord press his Amendment?


I will withdraw it, since I understand it is one of those Amendments not acceptable in any circumstances, and, therefore, one which would not fulfil the condition referred to by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor at the beginning of the debate.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MUIR MACKENZIE had on the Paper an Amendment in subsection (6) to leave out "including" and to insert "so as to bring it into accordance with," and, after the second "Act," to insert "but no such measure shall deal with questions of doctrine nor shall affect the right of the Crown in regard to appointments under the Great Seal in or connected with the Established Church, nor shall extend to any alteration in the constitution or function of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, nor shall modify in any other way the relation between Church and State."

The noble Lord said: I would like to add a word with regard to this Amendment. I think, both from what has taken place in this House and also from what one has seen in the voluminous correspondence in all sorts of newspapers on the subject of the Bill, that fears are entertained as to certain greater subjects being at some time given what I suppose would be called the "advantage" of this simplified and rapid mode of procedure, and, as I said with regard to the former part of the clause, I think also here that it would be better to relieve those apprehensions by stating the things which I understand the most rev. Primate never expects to bring forward under this classification. My noble friend Lord Stuart of Wortley, as I said before, has drawn a distinction berween these two classes of things, and I venture to think it would be an improvement of the Bill, and give more prospect of its passing, if those things which are never likely to be dealt with under this form of legislation were excluded from the provisions of the Bill.


I cannot allow the noble Lord to be left under the impression that I have given an undertaking as to what can or what cannot come forward. The matter must be left open, but I have tried to show that the safeguards provided are adequate. I should be complicating matters for myself and my successors for the future if I allowed an impression of an extremely vague kind to go forward as to what matters were or were not included.


Does Lord Muir Mackenzie move?



Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4:

Procedure on measures reported on by the Ecclesiastical Committee.

4. When the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have reported to His Majesty on any measure presented by the Legislative Committee, the report, together with the text of such measure, shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within fourteen days, if Parliament be then sitting, or, if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament, and thereupon—

  1. (1) If the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have advised His Majesty to give His Royal Assent to the measure, then, unless within forty days either House of Parliament shall direct to the contrary, such measure shall be presented to His Majesty, and shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto.
  2. (2) If the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have advised His Majesty that the measure ought not to receive the Royal Assent, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon: Provided that if both Houses of Parliament within forty days so direct, such measure shall be 470 presented to His Majesty, and on the Royal Assent being signified thereto shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament.


Before Lord Finlay moves his Amendment, I should like to remind your Lordships that I indicated before that I thought that in Clause 4 was the proper place to secure the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I do not propose to move now, because I know that the House does not like Amendments which are not on the Paper, but I will move on Report. Apparently Lord Selborne and I did not understand each other, but I think I understood the most rev. Primate when he spoke just now in pointing out to the noble and learned Lord what the safeguards are. He said that, first, there was the Church body itself, then the Ecclesiastical Committee, then the Secretary of State, and then Parliament. If the most rev. Primate brings in the Secretary of State at this stage, I hope I shall have his support on Report if I move the insertion of words in Clause 4. The clause says— When the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have reported to His Majesty on any measure presented by the Legislative Committee the Report … shall— I shall propose there to insert "if His Majesty be so advised." That would meet the case.


I do not desire the noble Lord to understand that I was speaking M any formal or technical sense of the Secretary of State. We have heard that His Majesty's action in the matter must be done by a Minister, that matters must come before Parliament, and that the Government's voice must be through the Secretary of State. It was rather in that way, and not of the formal authority of the Secretary of State, that I spoke. The Secretary of State does come in indirectly, but not in a direct way.

VISCOUNT FINLAY moved to leave out all words from "If the Ecclesiastical Committee"—paragraph (1)—down to and including "contrary," and to insert "On an Address from each House of Parliament asking that such measure shall be presented to His Majesty." The noble and learned Viscount said: The object of this Amendment is to ensure that no measure reported by the Ecclesiastical Committee shall go forward and become law unless with the express sanction of both Houses of Parliament. As the Bill stands the earlier part of Clause 4 provides that any Report by the Ecclesiastical Committee shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and then the first paragraph goes on— If the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have advised His Majesty to give his Royal Assent to the measure, then, unless within forty clays either House of Parliament shall direct to the contrary, such measure shall be presented to His Majesty, and shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto. The earlier words of that part of the clause must go, because the Ecclesiastical Committee, with the Amendment your Lordships have already passed., does not advise His Majesty as to giving his Royal Assent to a measure, but merely reports the provisions of the measure and gives reasons for thinking it expedient or not expedient.

Then the next two lines of this branch of the clause seem to me to want amendment, because, as the clause stands, a measure might become law simply because Parliament has not the time to pass an Address against the Bill. I propose to strike out those words altogether and to substitute for them the words of my Amendment. That is to say, in order that such a measure should take effect as law, both Houses of Parliament must present Addresses to His Majesty asking that that should be done. I think it will be generally recognised that this ensures complete control for both Houses of Parliament, and I trust that with this safeguard the Bill may be regarded as generally acceptable.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 30, leave out from the beginning of the line to ("such") in line 33 and insert ("On an Address from each House of Parliament asking that such measure should be presented to His Majesty").—(Viscount Finlay.)


I am prepared to accept this Amendment, and I am anxious that it should be realised that in doing so we are doing something which is rather of a marked character. We are changing what we had originally proposed in a direction for which many noble Lords have asked. I am not prepared to say that it will be accepted with great enthusiasm outside by everybody for whom I speak, but I believe it to be right. I want to make it perfectly clear that in no sense whatever do we desire to get things through Parliament in some private or unrecognised manner or that they should slip through because there is no time to oppose them. But it will be realised I hope—and I venture to call the attention of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, to the fact when he is speaking as to what happened in this House—that we have made a very marked step in the direction of conceding what we understand to be the public wish because we think it is not unreasonable, though it does change materially what we had proposed. But we gladly accept it as it now stands.


I would only add one observation upon the speech of the most rev. Primate. It is undoubtedly true, whatever may be the fate of this Bill hereafter, whatever view may be taken of it in another place, that by accepting this Amendment the most rev. Primate is removing one of the greatest objections which was felt by those who were doubtful as to its effect. The result of accepting this Amendment is that unless Parliament, being fully informed of the proposals which have been brought forward, takes positive and affirmative action the Bill cannot become law. The most rev. Primate has gone a long way to satisfy those who are most deeply concerned to see that the supremacy of Parliament in these matters was maintained.


I merely desire to say one word in acknowledgment of the line which the most rev. Primate has taken on this matter. I think everybody, even those who are far more opposed to the whole purpose of the Bill than certainly I am, would agree that this makes a substantial and valuable change. How far all the critics of the Bill are likely to remain content without leaving Parliament some direct power to modify or amend the measures which come before them in this manner I am not able to say; but so far as this particular change goes, I desire cordially to acknowledge its acceptance by the promoters of the Bill.


Speaking as one much interested in the Bill, but who is not one of the Committee which framed it, I venture to express my regret that the most rev. Primate has felt himself forced to accept this proposal. I would wish plainly and frankly to say why. I regard the danger and difficulty to Church legislation to be the block in the House of Commons, and I am afraid, what with interposing this Ecclesiastical Committee, and what with the necessity of getting positive votes of approbation from each House, there will be very little beneficent legislation carried on under this Bill. It will remain a valuable statement of principle, and to that extent it will be useful. I take it that unless it is amended, as I hope it will be, in future years, it will not do very much good.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MUIR MACKENZIE had on the Paper an Amendment, in paragraph (1), to omit "advised His Majesty to give His Royal Assent to," and to insert "reported in favour of.'' The noble Lord said: This Amendment was part of my own attempt to deal with the subject which has just been dealt with on the Amendment of Viscount Finlay, and as I entirely agree with his proposal—may I congratulate the most rev. Primate on having accepted it?—I need scarcely say that neither this nor my subsequent Amendments will be moved.

VISCOUNT FINLAY moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential on what we have done.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 37, to line 5 on page 4, leave out subsection (2).—(Viscount Finlay.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

VISCOUNT HALDANE had an Amendment on the Paper to leave out Clause 4 and to insert as a new clause—

"Order in Council for giving effect to measures of the Church Assembly.

.—(1) If the Secretary of State certifies that a measure submitted to him under this Act relates exclusively to matters concerning the Church of England and that the measure is proper for submission to Parliament under the facilities conferred by this Act, His Majesty may, by Order in Council, make such provisions as may appear expedient for the purpose of giving effect to the measure.

"(2) Before any Order in Council under this Act is made notice of the proposal to make the Order, and of the place where copies of a draft of the Order can be obtained, shall be published in the London Gazette,' and in such other manner as the Secretary of State thinks best adapted for insuring publicity, and a draft of such Order shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament for not less than forty days on which each House is sitting.

"(3) No such Order shall take effect until both Houses by resolution have adopted the same, and shall take effect subject to any modifications and adaptations which may be agreed on by both Houses.

"(4) If any such Order is adopted, with or without such modifications or adaptations as are hereinbefore referred to, it shall have the force awl effect of an Act of Parliament.

"(5) Any such Order in Council may amend or repeal in whole or in part any Act of Parliament other than this Act.

"(6) Any such Order in Council may be revoked or varied by a subsequent Order in Council made in accordance with this Act."

The noble and learned Viscount said: This Amendment would not fit as the Bill now stands. Moreover, the concession which the most rev. Primate has made in accepting Viscount Finlay's Amendment certainly assists towards the object I had in view. I do not therefore move the Amendment.


I do not move my Amendment, which was to leave out Clause 4 and to insert a new clause.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5:

Short title.

5. This Act may be cited as the Church Assembly Enabling Act, 1919.

LORD MUIR MACKENZIE moved, after "Church," to insert "of England," and to leave out "Enabling" and insert "Powers" The noble Lord said: I venture to suggest to the most rev, Primate that it would be an improvement in the Short Title of the Bill to make it conform more to what is the Title on the outside of the Bill. To call it "The Church Assembly (Powers) Bill" is better than to call it by the name of "The Enabling Bill," which I have always thought; was an unfortunate expression. I think in the formal document it would be better to make this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 6, after ("Church") insert ("of England") and leave out ("Enabling") and insert ("Powers").—(Lord Muir Mackenzie.)


As far as I see, I have no objection to accepting the Amendment. At the same time I should like to be able to consider it at a later stage.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 1 (postponed from the beginning of the Committee stage):


Does the noble and learned Viscount move his Amendments to this clause?


No; they are all now disposed of by our decision on the main question. I do not move any of these Amendments.


Do you, Lord Muir Mackenzie, move those standing in your name?



Clause 1 agreed to.

The Amendments in the names of Viscount HALDANE and Lord MUIR MACKENZIE to the Title and the Preamble were similarly not moved.

Title and Preamble agreed to.

House resumed.


I propose to take the Report stage next Tuesday.

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