§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Amendment, moved by the Earl of Northbrook on Wednesday, July 2, to the Motion of Lord Daryngton, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly Powers Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure, 1923, be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent—namely, That in the opinion of this House it is inexpedient that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent at the present time.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, the debate which we are resuming has raised much larger issues than those of the mere geographical boundaries of a new diocese, or dioceses. One of these is the general question of the expediency of large or small dioceses, and I shall lake leave to say a few words about that before I sit down. The other question is the yet larger one of the basis of the constitutional method of legislating in Church matters. It might seem that this was not necessarily involved in that which we are doing to-night, but it is inevitable that I should deal with the question, because I am forced into it by the fact that in the last speech to which we listened when we last debated this Measure the Bishop of Durham developed an argument upon that point in very considerable detail, and his brilliant speech must, I think, have interested other members of the House, whether they agreed with it or not, as closely as it interested me. The Bishop of Durham's pungent and effective oratory adds to our debates a new feature. On that occasion, he developed, not for the first time, a vigorous attack upon the constitutional system which was inaugurated a few years ago and which, in my view, must be supported as the essential mode, in present circumstances, by which the Church can do its work properly and well.
Am I mistaken in saying that if we had gone to a Division after the peroration of my right rev. brother, the Bishop of Durham, many of your Lordships would have voted with him and against this Resolution, not because they had satisfied themselves as to the demerits of the proposed division of the diocese of Winchester, 554 but because he had shown them his dislike, and made them share that dislike, of the whole system of ecclesiastical legislation to-day, which he, described and denounced in his own vivid way? Your Lordships will remember that he called upon the House in solemn tones—I will quote his words—to exercise its great and responsible task of guarding the rights of the English people and the English Church against narrow and mistaken proposals from the National Assembly.These brave words raised an issue which far transcends in importance the details of this particular Measure. His speech was a challenge to the whole principle of constitutional action which was inaugurated and adopted by Parliament four years ago, and which is closely concerned with the Measure which is now before us on the Resolution proposed by Lord Daryngton. The Bishop of Durham's speech was clear and strong. It calls for a frank reply, and I am sure that it is time that such a reply was given, because undoubtedly the words which he spoke are awakening, as they must awaken, very considerable interest in the country. I desire to say something in regard to them.
The Bishop of Durham's contention, as I understand it and he is never obscure, so I am sure that we all do understand it—is roughly this: You did wrong when you tampered with the ancient system of ecclesiastical legislation which practically left all to Parliament; every Bill ought, as was the case years ago, to be introduced in Parliament, debated in Parliament, carried through Committee in each House of Parliament, and to receive Parliamentary sanction, and Parliamentary sanction alone, before it becomes law. Only thus can you preserve—such was his argument—the national character of the Church, and to allow an Assembly of Churchmen, even though they be preponderantly lay, to have a voice which shall preliminarily decide what the Church wants in a particular matter, and then to submit it to Parliament for a "Yea" or "Nay," and that alone, is all wrong; and a Measure which has not been before Parliament in all its details is suspect, just because it comes through an ecclesiastical channel from an ecclesiastical source. I think I am not wrong in saying that this represents with perfect fairness the Bishop of Durham's contention. It is a 555 contention which is well worth considering, and he is one who is completely entitled to bring it before us.
I would like to say at once that to the abstract principle which underlies that contention as to the position of a national Church in national life, I take no exception at all. I agree with him, as an abstract principle, that, with needed safeguards—and there are safeguards which everyone would agree to be needed—legislation ought, if this can properly be done, to be carried through by Parliament and become law in the ordinary way when we are dealing with the national Church. I am not in the least hostile to that. The idea of the national Church, which is dear to the Bishop of Durham, is dear to me also, and had the conditions in Parliament to-day been those that prevailed a century ago I should myself, though I know that I should have lost the support of many of my friends, take no exception to the arguments that were used and to the suggestion as to how we ought to act.
But we are not dealing with abstract principles; we are dealing with concrete facts—with the facts of 1924 and not with the facts of a hundred years ago, or even sixty years ago. These concrete facts would, as things stand now, render the working of that principle which I have tried to enunciate simply impossible, whether you liked it or not. It could not work. The House of Commons in these present days would not, if it could, give attention to all the details of such Bills as we want to see become law, and it could not, if it would. That it could not, if it would, is perhaps the important point, because it is literally impossible, according to the unanimous opinion of all those with whom for many years I have been in touch in these matters, to carry detailed ecclesiastical Measures through Parliament at this present time, Measures which, because there is some little opposition to them, must involve a great deal of time. It is out of the question, for neither the time nor the attention is to be had.
I am speaking, not from theory, but from knowledge. I have now been a Bishop for thirty-three years, and during the earlier part of that time and, indeed, until very recently, I was familiar with the battles which took place time after 556 time to get through Parliament Bills which everybody wanted, except the smallest handful, but to which Parliament could not from the nature of the case give the time or the attention that was necessary. It was not once or twice, but constantly, that such endeavours were thwarted, though not by hostility on the part either of the Government or of Parliament. I have found no hostility of that horrid kind in the matter, nor have I found any Government among all the various Governments of which I have had experience which could be called hostile to the Church in any sense at all. But I think I may say that the unanimous opinion of all leaders in Parliamentary life—and I see some of them sitting before me now-—was that such a procedure had become quite impossible. You must either, they declared, get some new system into vogue, or be satisfied with things as they are, or have disestablishment and a clean sweep of Church legislation altogether. There was no other way of doing it.
We found it possible, unexpectedly to many, to bring about a process by which we should have Bills considered by an ecclesiastical assembly preponderantly lay, and then laid before Parliament after having gone through an elaborate procedure to bring them in a right way before Parliament, and then an ultimate decision on the part of the House of Lords and House of Commons respectively. It is of no use for those who share the Bishop of Durham's views to cast a longing gaze upon former arrangements. The glamour of such arguments as were heard from the right rev. Bishop of Durham does not give to those arguments either fairness or cogency. Look at the facts. The new system has been in vogue for four years. During that time twelve Measures have received the Royal Assent. All of these Measures, by common consent, were wanted. They were not Measures which an ecclesiastical clique wished to force upon a reluctant Church; they were Measures which the Church desired, but which we knew it would be impossible to get through without some such procedure as we inaugurated and have followed since.
Take the Measure which has transformed our system with regard to ecclesiastical dilapidations. We have been discussing that subject so long as I can remember, but have never been able 557 to get forward with it, because we knew that ultimately there would come a time when we should require to get a Measure through the House of Commons with all its details and that if, as was to be expected, there was some appreciable opposition, it would be impossible to pass such a Measure. It is a Measure of fifty-three clauses, some of great detail. It was argued and discussed fully in the National Church Assembly and ultimately practical agreement was obtained. The Measure came to Parliament through the processes that are necessary, and the Royal Assent was given to it a little time ago. Thus, our difficulties in that respect—I will not say are ended but are relieved, to a degree that I hardly ever expected to see realised.
Then take another Measure, the Union of Benefices Measure. It contains forty-four clauses, full of intricacies and detail, upon which considerable difference of opinion existed, but a general concensus on a large scale, all practically one way. You would never, in all probability, have got those clauses considered in the House of Commons, but we have got that Measure, and it is a considerable gain. Again, there is the Measure which abolishes, after a time, the sale of advowsons. Year after year a Measure of that kind was brought into the House of Commons, and small opposition sufficed always to prevent its passing and to prevent the bringing about of a change which everybody wanted under proper conditions. At last we have it. The Bishop of Durham and his friends say: "Your system is all wrong," but there has not come from them one shred or shadow of suggestion as to how they would bring about the changes which they agree with us in desiring. They make no suggestions as to how it is to be done, and is it reasonable to come down here and merely state objections, many of them quite obvious, without offering a scintilla or scrap of suggestion as to what would be a better plan? I ask your Lordships not to be carried away by the eloquence of such a speech as we listened to the other day, into believing that, somehow or other, we are doing an undesirable thing by carrying into effect what is proposed by the National Assembly.
The Bishop of Durham said that we should find the country was quite uninterested in this matter, and that the 558 number of people who claimed to exercise and who recorded their votes is exceedingly small. I wonder what the Bishop of Durham expected after four years. We have now, and I repeat the statement, at least three and a half million people who have claimed to exercise, and are exercising when necessary, the votes which are theirs as what we call parochial electors, and that has come about within the space of four years. But the Bishop of Durham says that they do not vote; that the people who do are small in number, and return the same men; and that the whole thing is a more or less conventional procedure. Now, may we not look round and see how things stand in other elections which are not ecclesiastical at all? I will not, take political elections, where orators set themselves to secure the support of their followers, and where the country is more or less divide" into particular groups, bound to a particular policy and to particular lines of handling it. Such elections do not in the least correspond with what happens in the peaceful atmosphere of ecclesiastical legislation.
But take our county councils. Will the Bishop of Durham, or anybody who agrees with him, look and see the amount of voting which is now exercised in county council elections in rural areas? They will find, if the ordinary information that reaches me is correct, that it is extraordinarily small, and that although there the impetus to vote is stimulated by the fact that the rates may depend upon the result of the elections, yet you will find how extraordinarily slack, to use the Bishop of Durham's word, is the voting or activity shown by voters even when they are thus practically concerned. I find that at the elections a few years ago throughout. England seven out of every eight seats were uncontested. What was the amount of voting recorded when seven out of every eight seats were uncontested, and the vast proportion of the electorate did not exercise the vote at all? If the Bishop of Durham will compare those figures with the figures which we have reached after four years, I think he will find that he may take heart of courage after all, and come to the conclusion that things are not quite so black as he thinks they are.
There is nothing in these ecclesiastical elections to create excitement or to stir 559 up feelings strongly, and people refrain from voting because they are satisfied in the ordinary way that things are going rightly. Unless things arise to split the Church into parties, I believe we shall go on for a long time with a comparatively small number of people voting, not because people are apathetic but because they are satisfied that things are going smoothly and well. I repeat that our system is in its infancy, and that a thing like this takes time. I find, on looking at a speech by one who has studied this subject, that it is estimated that it takes thirteen or fourteen years to get people throughout the country to understand a new system, and to take their part in it. There is nothing in regard to our Church legislation which would force the average citizen into the arena of controversy, and therefore it takes a good long time before we get anything like the number of those entitled to take part in these elections to do all that I should desire to see them do. I apologise to your Lordships for troubling you with this, but I think it is not unimportant. We ought to have these facts before us in order to meet a challenge which I emphatically meet this afternoon—the challenge that the Bishop of Durham brought the other day. He said:…the Enabling Act, it cannot be disputed, failed to commend itself to the general body of parishioners in the country.I believe the very contrary to be the fact, and I repeat once more that you must remember we are still in our infancy in the whole matter.
Now, I come to the Measure itself. The Measure which you are asked to approve is one for the division of the diocese of Winchester into three parts, two being new dioceses, and one the present diocese of Winchester in its essence. It would not be honest on my part were I to say that the detailed proposals as to the division seem to me wholly satisfactory, or that they are capable of defying criticism. I do not think they are. They are not wholly satisfactory, and they do not defy criticism. But I can criticise, though I cannot construct. I am in that respect like the Bishop of Durham. I have not an alternative that I can definitely give you as something which I believe would be a better arrangement for dividing an overgrown diocese. I have not got it, and I do not see my way to it 560 very clearly. I therefore give my support to the proposals that are before us, although I feel that, as in most human things, somebody might easily be raised up who would give us a better scheme, or show us a more excellent way of doing it.
But the criticism of it has been perfectly clearly and exceedingly trenchantly expressed, not by the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Norwich alone, but by the lay members of your Lordship's House, some belonging to the diocese of Winchester, and some outside it. You have heard the worst that can be said against the division. Some of the arguments used against it are, in my opinion, quite unreasonable, some are unfair, some are irrelevant, some of them are sound, and I am very far from disregarding them. On the other hand, you have to realise, as I certainly do, the immense strength of the competent and well-informed opinion which, time after time, has been expressed in favour of this Measure. I think it is true to say, and it has already been said, that no single organised body, entitled and called upon to speak officially on this subject, has, after discussion, withheld its ultimate support from the scheme, or, at least, it has done nothing more than in some cases to ask for delay and for further consideration. Such delay and consideration have been given, in accordance with those requests. The matter has been hanging over for years because of that delay.
The proposals have been three times before the Diocesan Conference of the existing diocese, a body of clergy and laity in which, by our present constitution, the laity must predominate. On each of those three occasions the Conference has, after full discussion, supported, with almost unanimous approval, the plan which, in its main features, is the plan before you to-day. In the great Church Assembly the matter came up for formal debate. The Measure was very fully discussed in January, 1923. On that occasion I, as President of the Assembly, and as a former Bishop of Winchester, felt my responsibility very gravely, and I ventured to ask the Assembly not at that moment to come to a vote upon the matter, but to refer it back to the large committee which was considering this matter, and which we intended to 561 strengthen—and did strengthen—by the addition of other members from outside, who would he able to throw light independently, and with a fresh eye perhaps, upon a difficult problem. I did that in view of the criticisms which had been made, many of which appeared to me then, and appear to me still, to be exceedingly weighty. This enlarged committee, by nineteen votes against mine, gave a considered decision in favour of the scheme. That was not a committee of the diocese of Winchester, but a committee of men qualified to look into the whole question, both from inside and outside the diocese.
The report of that committee came back from the Assembly a year ago, on July 11, 1923, and the Assembly finally approved it after a very full discussion. The report of that discussion occupies forty closely printed pages, and I emphasise that in order to show how fully the thing was ventilated in the Assembly as a whole. In so acting, the Assembly had before it—and it undoubtedly carried great weight—the important fact that a few weeks earlier the Diocesan Conference, to whom the matter had been referred in the way I have suggested, with all the objections marshalled before it, approved the Measure, not by, as I had expected, a considerable majority, but by what?—by 232 votes against 14. That was the total muster of those who could be found in the Diocesan Conference to vote against the scheme as it then came back.
Unless we are to regard the whole plan of constitutional action by Diocesan Conferences and by the Church Assembly as an unreality, and almost a farce, the continuous, thoughtful, and almost unanimous decisions of all these bodies must, to say the least, carry great weight. The matter is certainly not wholly local. It does concern the Church as a whole, and the country as a whole, but it is primarily of a local character in the very large sense of the word "local." I am very far, however, from regarding it as a mere local question. I will go so far as this. If any scheme were in our judgment vitally wrong in its fundamental principles no local opinion, however strong, ought to justify us in giving a vote in its favour. But I, wonder whether there is any one who would say that in this question there are such large fundamental objections on 562 principle to be found as would justify a vote against the Measure. Everybody agrees that some dioceses ought to be divided. We agreed to divide the Manchester diocese by a Measure which passed through this House last week, and nobody challenges the fact, that that diocese practically must be divided.
The whole thing becomes a matter of degree. Opinions will differ as to where the dividing line between the desirable and the undesirable should be drawn, but everybody agrees that it is a matter of degree and that opinions must be formed in each particular case. I am a believer in large dioceses, and not small dioceses. I have always held that opinion. I have argued it again and again, and I based it largely on the careful opinion, made public years ago, by one whom, in this kind of matter, I should take to be one of the most thoughtful leaders we have over had, Archbishop Benson. The Bishop of Norwich, the other night, quoted Archbishop Benson's advocacy of large dioceses as an argument against this proposal, as though he had ever said or thought that the argument in favour of large dioceses as against small ones was an argument against all division. Any one who would refer to the words as quoted by the Bishop of Norwich the other day will see how carefully guarded they are. There are, many of your Lordships who, like myself, are familiar with Archbishop Benson's work, not in the last years of his life only, but in his Truro days. Time after time in the Truro diocese he expressed his approval of its separation from the diocese of Exeter. Therefore it is hardly conclusive, to quote the general opinion of Archbishop Benson as though it settled the matter. I share the Archbishop's opinion as to the principle of the matter, hut it comes, as I have said, to be a question of degree.
Now the various committees, conferences and Assemblies which have considered this matter have all been led in the end to the same conclusion. They support this scheme with all its difficulties, and I do not want to minimise the fact that the difficulties are great. Your Lordships will remember that the proposal before us is permissive and not compulsory. If the diocese does not want to do this thing it need not do it. We are not laying down an enactment that it 563 must do this, but we give it the power to do it. The support which is thus given to the principle does not. I venture to say, relieve your Lordships of responsibility in the matter. You cannot evade that responsibility. You must exercise to some extent your own judgment as to what it is right to do. But in forming that judgment you will, I am persuaded, give adequate weight to the record of opinions formulated time after time by committees, conferences and Assemblies in the v, ay I have described. That goes, surely, towards the formation of an opinion as to how a vote ought to be given. If your Lordships are convinced that the thing is so wrong that it cannot be tolerated you will vote against it, but it will be a thoughtful, deliberate act based on the evidence which you have weighed. I do not think you will vote against it. I am prepared to give my vote to the request that the Royal Assent may be given to the Measure.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
My Lords, I should like to he allowed before the debate goes further to refer as briefly as I can to another matter which arises out of the speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham; I mean his observations upon the practice of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. I am as sorry as your Lordships can be that the right rev. Prelate cannot, as he told me, be here to-day, but he knows well that his observations must be answered. Indeed, I do not see how an answer can be avoided. Your Lordships, of course, are deeply interested in the practice and efficiency of the Committee which you partly form. If the Committee is not doing its duty it is high time that your Lordships should know it. If it is doing its duty, then it ought to be free from any kind of stricture.
I have had the honour to be Chairman of that Committee from its formation to the present time, with a short interval during which I occupied the Woolsack, and I think I know as well as any one living what is the practice of that Committee. Two points are made, I understand, by the right rev. Prelate and his friends. First, they hint that the Committee is swayed by those of its members who are also members of the National Assembly. I do not believe that to be the fact. There are a few members of the Ecclesiastical Committee who are 564 members of the National Assembly, and they form a very useful link between the two bodies in enabling us to know what has passed in that Assembly. But they do not always agree with one another. As a matter of fact, the great majority of the Committee are like myself—they are not, and never have been, members of the Assembly—and I am sure they exercise in all matters an independent judgment.
The second stricture which is made and is more serious is that the Committee do not fully examine the Measures brought before them. Now I know that is not the case. Our position is somewhat different from that of other Committees of your Lordships' House. We have no power to amend a Measure. We have to consider it and report upon it favourably or unfavourably, as we think fit to Parliament, but we have no power to amend it. That being the position of the Committee, we always make it a practice to examine a Measure thoroughly from end to end, and with that view Measures are always circulated before the Committee meets. I have spent hours reading and considering Measures, and I believe the same is true of other members of the Committee, When a Measure is brought up for consideration we pay attention, as the Statute directs, to the effect of the Measure upon the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects. But we do not stop there. We make it a practice to examine every Measure upon its merits. If the principle is wrong, or if the defects in drafting appear to be so serious that it would be better that the Measure should not go through, we draft our Report accordingly.
Then this special procedure is laid upon us. We have, in the first instance, to frame a draft Report. We are to give a copy of that draft Report to the Legislative Committee of the Assembly, and they then have a chance of withdrawing the Measures altogether. If they do not do that, the Report is presented to Parliament, and the Measure takes whatever fate awaits it in the two Houses. I want to add that upon every occasion the Report of the Committee over which I preside has been adopted; that is to say, in those cases where we have reported unfavourably upon a Measure that Measure has been withdrawn and has disappeared. In every case where the Committee have reported favourably upon 565 a Measure it has been adopted by Parliament practically without dissent. I think that fact alone is enough to indicate to your Lordships that some care is taken by the Committee in framing their Reports.
Now, let me say a few words about the present Measure and the manner in which it, was dealt with. The same course was followed in this case as in all other cases. One right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of Worcester, whom I am sorry not to see in his place, took the trouble to write to the newspapers to say that he had noticed that the Report upon this Measure bore the same date as the Reports upon five other Measures. He inferred that they were all considered and dealt with on the same day and that none of them, therefore, had sufficient time given to its consideration. The right rev. Prelate foil into a ludicrous error. The date upon the Report is not the date of its consideration by the Committee; it is simply the date on which it is made to Parliament. It happens that all these six Measures were reported to Parliament on the same day; but they were by no means discussed on the same day.
What happened in regard to this particular Winchester Measure is this. It came up for discussion on one day and was discussed on that day by both sides. The consideration of it was then adjourned to a future day, which was specially fixed for the purpose of considering this Measure and only one other Measure which also was of importance. Upon the second day, at the adjourned discussion, this Measure was again considered, and I think I am entitled to say that one speech had a considerable effect upon the result. A distinguished member of your Lordships' House, who, until then, had been known to be an opponent of this scheme, said that having regard to the strong feeling in the diocese in its favour and to the decision of the Assembly, he did not propose to persist in his opposition but would support the recommendation of the Measure to Parliament. The result of the discussion was that the Committee, without dissent, agreed to the Report which your Lordships have and which declares it to be expedient that the Measure should become law.
A great deal has been made of one paragraph of the Report in which the Committee lay weight upon the decision 566 of the National Assembly in favour of this Measure, and it has been suggested that this paragraph means that we gave no independent consideration to the merits of the question. If that is the meaning which the paragraph conveys, I am afraid it is very badly drawn because that certainly was not the meaning which the Committee intended to convey We were dealing in that paragraph only with the memorial against the Measure which had been sent to us by the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, and others. That memorial, which had been circulated among the Committee before the meeting, laid stress upon local feeling, and also upon the question of Church management in connection with the formation of a new Bishopric. Our feeling was that upon those; matters, upon questions of Church administration, what I might call the staffing of the Chinch, more weight was to be attached to the views of the National Assembly thoroughly considered, than to the views only of certain inhabitants of this particular diocese. That is the whole meaning of the paragraph, and in that sense I certainly am of the same view to-day. I think we were right, in attaching great weight to the opinion of the Assembly, and to the other facts which we had before us showing the opinion in the diocese itself.
I am not going to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes upon the merits of the Measure; indeed, but for the speech which was made, I would willingly have kept silence, but as it is suggested that the members of the Committee have formed no independent opinion on the matter, I want to say as clearly as I can that I hope this Measure will receive the assent of your Lordships' House. I know something about it. My home was originally in the diocese of Winchester. It was transferred, first, to the diocese of Rochester, and then to the diocese of Southwark, and I do not think we suffered by either of those changes, because we had the guidance of a Bishop of our own, and a Bishop who had a diocese of manageable size. But I have followed the discussions about Winchester. I know that for many years this matter has been a burning one among all those interested in Church matters in the diocese, and at long last a solution has been found which commends itself to the overwhelming majority of Church people in the diocese. It is proposed to divide 567 this great Bishopric into three, to set up a Surrey Bishopric (which I know will be able to conduct its affairs efficiently), to set up a diocese in which Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight will no doubt dominate—and I am sure that diocese will very quickly increase both in population and in power—and to leave the residue of Winchester, which everybody admits is large enough to be a diocese by itself, to be the third unit.
That proposal may not satisfy everyone. It does not satisfy everyone, but at all events it is a workable proposal. The new dioceses cannot be formed unless the people are sufficiently interested in the scheme to provide the funds necessary for that purpose. Until they do that the Measure cannot take effect. We have an astonishing consensus of opinion in its favour, not only the overwhelming vote in the Diocesan Conference, to which the most rev. Primate referred, but the fact that of the twenty-five rural deaneries all but three have expressed their opinion in its favour. You have the approval of the most rev. Primate himself, of the right rev. Prelate the present Bishop of Winchester, who, in a moving speech, commended the Measure to your Lordships' House, and the strong support of that devoted Churchman Bishop Talbot, who, in a letter which your Lordships may have seen to-day, goes so far as to say that the rejection of this Measure would undo a great part of his life's work in Winchester. I think that is putting the matter too high, because nothing could undo the great work which he did in the diocese of Winchester and elsewhere. But at all events the expression shows how strongly he holds his conviction upon this matter.
Then you have a large majority in the National Assembly, and you have a large majority in the House of Commons. I think that if, in face of all these expressions of opinion, your Lordships are persuaded by some theoretical view as to increasing or not increasing the number of Bishoprics, or even by some local sentiment, which I entirely respect—if, for such reasons, your Lordships are persuaded to reject this Measure you will take a great responsibility, and you may inflict serious injury not only upon the diocese of Winchester but even upon the Church itself. I hold strongly that the right, and reasonable course is to pass the Motion.
§ LORD WRENBURY
My Lords, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee-before which this Measure came, I desire to add a few words to those which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, has just spoken. In the course of this debate criticisms have been passed upon the conduct of the Ecclesiastical Committee in regard to the affairs which have come before them. It appears to me that those criticisms are based upon a forgetfulness of that which I understand to have been the policy of the Enabling Act. The facts were that legislation was from time to time wanted relating to Church matters, and that the pressure upon the time of Parliament was such that those Measures never could, as the most rev. Primate has just said, really command the attention which they deserved. In those circumstances this very peculiar method of legislation was devised. It was remitted to certain bodies, the Diocesan Conference and the National Assembly, to initiate Measures which would have been Bills if they had been brought in in this House, or the other House of Parliament. They were to initiate Measures, and those Measures were to come before the Ecclesiastical Committee, which could not amend them in any way. It must either approve or disapprove them.
The policy of that Act, as it seems to me, was this. If a matter is one which affects the Church, and the Church only (so far as that expression can be used at all), it is primarily for the Church to determine it, and Parliament will pay the greatest possible respect to the conclusions at which the Church arrives in those Assemblies. I regard our duty upon the Ecclesiastical Committee to be this: to see what is the, opinion expressed in the Church Assemblies which the Act recognises, and, unless we find that there is some objection to the Measure in the sense that it interferes with the rights of others of His Majesty's subjects (which is a matter that we have primarily to consider), or if, for some reason or other, some paramount reason, it ought not to be adopted, our duty is to say, "The Church has considered this Act, has come to conclusions upon it, and prima facie, unless we find some good reason to the contrary, it is not for us to find fault with what they have done." Of course, the matter must be decided by Parliament in the last instance. Parliament must interfere if the circumstances require it. 569 But the policy of the Act was, primarily, to let the Church determine it; and when the Church has determined it, we ought to regard their conclusions upon it with the greatest respect. It is from that point of view that we regarded this Measure.
Having regard to what had taken place, and to the figures which were brought before us, I suggested before this Committee that if we were going to do anything adversely to the Measure, the only thing we could do would be to hear evidence on one side and the other. That would have been a very long affair, and if we had heard evidence as to the relative efficiency of a huge Bishopric and a small Bishopric I do not know that we should have been the best judges as regards that. Or we might have heard evidence in regard to geographical position. All that, however, had been considered in the different Assemblies before which it had come, and the Committee-did not think it was desirable to take evidence. In the result I agreed with that We considered the Measure in detail, and upon the principles which I have indicated we considered that this was a Measure which ought to go forward to Parliament with a view to its adoption.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am probably not the only member of your Lordships' House who, during the progress of this discussion, has asked himself somewhat anxiously which way it would be his duty to vote. I desire, in the fewest possible words, to slate the reasons which have led me to make up my mind to support Lord Daryngton's Motion. I have approached the consideration of this subject without any prejudice, unfettered by any territorial connections or by any Parliamentary pledges. If I have a prejudice it is probably a prejudice which you would find in most people who are no longer young; a reluctance to see old and time-honoured arrangements altered or materially changed.
But I have to consider the arguments which are brought forward for and against this proposal. They seem to me to fall into two categories. There are the arguments which are founded upon sentiment and tradition; and there are the arguments which are based upon a stratum of 570 solid fact. I should never, particularly in a case of this kind, treat lightly arguments based upon sentiment and tradition, and there is probably no case in which considerations of that kind weigh more, and justly weigh more, than when you have to deal with a proposal to alter boundaries and areas, and transfer people from the area to which they have belonged all their lives to a different area. I remember a story which used to be told many years ago, an apocryphal story, of an American lady whose home was on the border that divided two States. A readjustment of boundaries was made and she found herself one day transferred from a State which had a great record for salubrity to a State which was less salubrious and where the death rate was much higher. The story goes on to say that the poor lady then and there took to her bed and died. Obviously, it is an apocryphal story, but it is not altogether a bad story as a parable in a case of this sort.
I am, however, much more impressed by arguments based on what I have called a solid foundation of fact, and I think the argument of that kind which weighs most with me is the argument founded upon the ordnance map The ordnance map is one of the few things in which one can really believe implicitly. One may have doubts about the Thirty-nine Articles, or the Standing Orders of the House of Lords; but about the ordnance map there is no doubt. And when I look, at the vast area for which the Bishop of Winchester is now responsible it comes home to me that no right rev. Prelate, however energetic, however able-bodied, however extensively you equip him with an army of motor oars and with chauffeurs who are prepared to have their licences endorsed again and again, can deal adequately with an area so vast and unwieldy. That is to say, it is impossible for him to do it if you are to postulate that it is the duty of a Bishop to maintain what has been well called the personal touch with the clergy and laity of his diocese.
We were all impressed by the extremely eloquent speech delivered by the Bishop of Durham the other evening. I gathered that the right rev. Prelate does not quite agree with myself and those who believe in the necessity for a close personal touch between a Bishop and the clergy and laity of his diocese. Your Lordships will 571 remember that the right rev. Prelate gave us an eloquent description of the disastrous results of setting up what he called "petty dioceses." That is the expression he used, and he objected to petty dioceses more particularly because—these are his words—What is the position of an incumbent in these petty dioceses which it is proposed to create? He cannot call his soul his own; she is always within reach of his Diocesan—I need not develop it further.What the Bishop of Durham objects to is precisely the personal touch which we all want so much to establish.
I respect the right rev. Prelate because he practises what he preaches. I do not think any one will say that he is a Prelate who cannot call his soul his own. It seems to me to be very much his own, and I should say that, whoever possessed it, it is certainly not under the control of his brethren on the Episcopal Bench. I, at any rate, remain convinced that this new territorial re-arrangement, which may have its faults—no re-arrangement of this kind can be so perfect as not to be, open to criticism at some point—is infinitely better than the vast, unwieldy area which has now been condemned by almost everyone who has been officially concerned with it.
That is one argument based upon solid fact. Let me mention another. This proposal, which may be an imperfect proposal, comes up to us based upon a great body of opinion. It is the articulate, unambiguous, and deliberate, voice of the diocese, so far as the diocese has any opportunity of expressing its views. I do not think that can be seriously gainsaid. It is in evidence that the scheme is the result of a long period of gestation. I think we have been told that for twelve years the matter has been before the diocese. It is not a hastily snatched decision. It has been before the rural deaneries, before Diocesan Conferences, before the Ecclesiastical Committee and before the National Church Assembly. Finally, it comes up to us with the approval of the House of Commons, and backed by the right rev. Prelate who now presides over the See of Winchester, and who recommended, it to us in a speech remarkable. I thought, for its temperate and cogent tone.
572 The question, then, which I have to ask myself is whether I have any right, as a member of this House, to set myself against a proposal that comes to us backed by such a weight of opinion as this. I do not think that I have. I do not think that we have the right to reject this Measure because it may contain minor imperfections. I do not, think that we have a right to reject it because we are told, as we are told to-day, that some of those who are responsible for it really did not quite understand the matter, or that they took merely a fitful interest in it, or that they were not unanimous, or that they did not really represent the opinion of the people of the diocese. Upon none of those grounds do I conceive that we have any right to object to a Measure which comes before us in such circumstances, and I shall, therefore, without any misgivings, give my vote in favour of Lord Daryngton's Motion.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I desire to say a very few words, not as representing the Government, but as a Church layman, and as putting Church matters before all others in my life's work. I was Chairman of the old House of Laymen and was one of those who initiated the movement which eventuated in the Enabling Act. We had various Committees, lasting in the aggregate more than a hundred days, and, as your Lordships are aware, when the Enabling Bill was discussed in this House it was supported by representatives of all Parties, and was not in any sense a Party measure. Since the Act was passed, and up to a very recent date, I had the honour to be Chairman of the House of Laity. I need not again relate the enormous success that has followed from the passing of the Act in enabling matters of vital importance to Church life and Church organisation to have legislative sanction, but I should like to say one word regarding the position of the Enabling Act as it appears to me.
Perhaps the leading idea of those who promoted this Act was that Church laymen should have their fair share of authority in Church matters. That, at any rate, was the consideration that affected me more than any other. For the first time, under the Enabling Act, the Church laity are entitled in an authorised way to express their opinion upon Church matters of vital importance 573 to them. What is the result of that? I want to put it quite shortly. The National Assembly, constituted as it now is, is really the spokesman, if I may use that expression, between Church and State. It is the authoritative body through which the State can be informed of the real wishes of the Church. That, is exactly how the matter stands. The authority of the wishes of the Church does not, of course, go outside matters of real Church interest or Church organisation, but no one doubts that the question whether a Bishopric is to be divided or to be maintained as it is at present is wholly a question of Church organisation. No other interest is involved beside that of Church organisation, and such demands as this are based upon the desire of all Churchmen that Church life may be supervised and carried on in any particular diocese in the most effective manner.
The first question that arises, therefore, is whether this House, after learning from an authoritative source what the wishes of the Church are in the matter, is going to disregard those wishes and reject such a Measure as this. That is really, to my mind, the first issue, and the great issue. It is clear, I think, that the Act did not contemplate rejection in those circumstances. It is, of course, obviously within the power of the House to reject a Measure of this kind if it so desires. When the. Enabling Act was passed it was thought, in the first instance, that Parliamentary and secular interests could be best protected by a Committee of the Privy Council, and when the Enabling Bill was introduced into this House the position now occupied by the Ecclesiastical Committee was to have been occupied by a Committee of the Privy Council. A great change was made for the better, and, instead of having the Privy Council which, I am sure, would not have operated well—I admit that I was not personally in favour of it—we have one of the strongest Joint Committees of the two Houses that you can possibly imagine. It is appointed For the duration of a Session by the Lord Chancellor in this House and by the Speaker in the other Rouse, and the whole intention of that Committee is that the secular side of Church legislation shall be thoroughly thrashed out by an authoritative body upon which both Houses of Parliament 574 must, from its constitution, be able to place great reliance. That is how the facts stand.
A suggestion was made—I do not want to refer to the Lord Bishop of Durham personally in any way—that the Ecclesiastical Committee, under the authority of the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Cave, had in some way not fulfilled their duty; in other words, that they had not really thrashed out the questions which, under the Enabling Act, were committed to their care. That suggestion, which appeared to me to be the only real suggestion directed against this Measure, has surely been entirely dissipated by the speech of the noble and learned Viscount opposite and by the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wrenbury. It is obvious that the Committee not only fulfil their duty, but fulfil it with the greatest care. I am cognisant of the care which they exercise. I was very anxious to get a Church Measure passed giving a parochial church council greater powers in regard to the presentation of an incumbent whom they would not desire to have. That was negatived by the Ecclesiastical Committee. Like every person biassed in favour of his own proposal, I did not like that, but I want to say that every Churchman who has the advantages which have been given by the Enabling Act ought to be loyal to its provisions. It never occurred to me to question the view of the Ecclesiastical Committee because it did not happen to be in accordance with my own.
I can perfectly understand that those who are not Churchmen may take an adverse attitude upon a question of this kind. But how about Churchmen? After years of trouble, after years of disappointment regarding the passing of Church measures through either House of Parliament, they have received a special privilege through the Enabling Act. Surely they ought not to act in a spirit of disloyalty towards the privileges which they have been granted. It was their case that these matters should be decided by the Church, subject to an appeal, in a matter of real principle, to this House or to the House of Commons. There is no such question here. This proposal has been passed by the House of Commons, I think without a Division.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I beg your Lordship's, pardon; it was passed after a Division, it comes to your Lordships' House as expressing the wishes of the Church through the National Assembly, and I certainly ask everyone who has the same love of loyalty to the Church as I have to support Lord Daryngton, and not to be carried away by theoretical considerations which, in my opinion, have no foundation whatever. The answer to them is. I think, that so long as the proposal concerns matters of Church organisation we are not concerned to re-open again and again the principle of an Act passed some years ago.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, something has been said by my noble friend behind me as to the views of those not locally connected with the question, and I think he has rather congratulated himself that he was so far impartial in the matter. I do not wish to labour the point just taken by Lord Parmoor, although I could bear perhaps as vigorous testimony as anybody in support of what fell from the most rev. Primate as regards the lamentable obstruction which Measures connected with the Church have encountered in another place during the many years that I sat there, for reasons in most cases wholly unconnected with the subject-matter of the Bill.
I would wish to say, however, something on behalf of the laity specially affected in the County of Surrey by this Measure, and I think we particularly sympathise with what has been called the sentimental reasons brought forward. Indeed, I think Lord Northbrook has been extremely adroit in selecting as the day for discussion of this Measure the day which is connected with the anniversary of the greatest Bishop, perhaps, who ever held the See of Winchester, St. Swithin. I do not think a greater appeal could be made to us on the ground of sentiment than to think that on this anniversary we are likely to terminate not only our connection with that distinguished See, but also hear the death knell of the preservation of Farnham Castle, which has been for six or seven centuries the residence of the Bishops of Winchester.
You can, however, carry sentiment too far. I was struck with that fact when we heard the remark of the Bishop of Durham, on which I feel bound to comment, that we "have already heard to demonstration that the great body 576 of the laity in the diocese of Winchester are opposed to this Measure." It is a very strong statement, but it is not only the Episcopal Bench that can rise to the height of a strong statement. The Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, when addressing the recent Diocesan Conference, rose to a flight of fancy which even the Bishop of Durham failed to emulate, because he told the Diocesan Conference that the Churchmen of the Isle of Wight were so vehement on this matter that if severed com pulsorily from the See of Winchester the majority of them would become Nonconformists. I do not know whether that announcement, coming from so grave a quarter as the gallant general, was more creditable to their attachment to the diocese or to their attachment to the Church of their ancestors.
Now, I do not deny that there is the greatest, misgiving on the part of a large number of the laity of the diocese, and how could it be otherwise? We have been ruled over spiritually for these many centuries always by one of the most distinguished Prelates of the Church. What shall we get now? The smallest diocese almost in England, and one of the least important, if you cut off Surrey. It will have the appointment either of a man of note, who before he has been with us for a couple of years will be promoted to a more important diocese, or, if we fail to get a man of that distinction, we shall be saddled with him for the whole of his episcopal life. In any case he will not have that entourage of canons and others whom he can use to assist the poorer clergy and relieve them, and to form a buffer between himself and those smaller appointments which may be in a small diocese as great a charge upon his time as are the ordinary duties of a Bishop in a larger diocese. We have not in. Guildford any church adapted to be a pro-Cathedral, nor has there been any disposition up to the present to make any sacrifice of land, or otherwise to assist this new development of the Church.
Beyond that again I am bound to state what has really been the reason for these misgivings. It is not as if you were making a Bishopric of Surrey. You are carving out a small part of Surrey and adding to it a small part of Hampshire. You are leaving Croydon still attached to Canterbury, with which it has no local connection of any sort or kind. You are 577 placing us, a diocese with about 400,000 inhabitants, side by side with Southwark, with its 2,500,000 inhabitants, which cannot remain a permanent arrangement under one Bishop. Those, taken together, are grave objections, and I do not hesitate to say that it is small cause for wonder that there should be a certain apathy on the part of the laity to the change; but it is a much greater cause of wonder to me that the difficulties, I was going to say impossibilities, of the present position have been realised to such an extent that there is practically no organised opposition to this movement at all, and, as Lord Selborne said the other day, every recognised authority which has been consulted about the Bill has in twelve years given its adhesion to it. I was appointed Chairman of a Committee to see whether we could work this large diocese by Suffragan Bishops. I was strongly in favour of that change, but no help was found in the diocese for in. In the same way we made an appeal to the Bishop of Southwark to surrender part of his diocese, but he hung on to it with the tenacity of a man who has got a charge which he does not mean to abandon. You will not find that we, the laity in Surrey connected with the diocese, are opposed to the change.
If your Lordships will spare me a few moments I will put the matter as succinctly as I can. A Bishop is not in a position to be in touch with the whole of his diocese. A Bishop whose house is 28 miles from his cathedral town, who is about 40 miles from his two chief towns, who is 45 miles from one end of the diocese and an equal distance from the other, is quite unable to be in touch with this vast population. The Bishop of Durham spoke about motor omnibuses. But what is the use of talking to a clergyman, or a layman if he is badly off, about a motor omnibus? It will take him to one train, he must then go to another station and change trains, and then, after waiting for an hour, he goes on to a third station, and finally he arrives exhausted at Farnham Castle after four or five hours of travelling. The diocese is beyond the possibility of being traversed by the Bishop as he would wish to cover it at this moment. It is a great loss to us to be separated from Winchester Cathedral. But when one comes to reflect upon it, I, like many thousands in the diocese of the right rev. Prelate, if I 578 desire to worship at a Cathedral, am far nearer to St. Paul's Cathedral than I am to Winchester Cathedral. And, what is more, with regard to Surrey, almost every important County function and University meeting is held in London.
That is the second reason and now I come to the third. This is a matter on which the Bench of Bishops are always silent, and I sincerely hope they will pardon me for embarking upon it. I desired, like all my friends, to preserve Farnham Castle with its extraordinary traditions—traditions not only of interest to enthusiasts but of influence on the spiritual life of the whole diocese. There are many men who have told me that the week they spent there for their ordination, under whichever Bishop it was, had made the greatest mark upon them and upon their ministry of any event in their lives. The whole position of a place like Farnham Castle can be justified, but in one respect it is almost impossible to defend it. Probably every noble Lord who is listening to me to-night knows what it is to have a very large country house. In Farnham the Bishop has a house which has got miles of carpet, I am almost right in saying acres of roof, hundreds of yards of old walls. The expenditure is such that it is practically impossible to meet it except by one who has a very large income indeed. Farnham has also a park, which we are enabled by the Bill to dispose of, if we desire, and a great deal of it could be disposed of without in the slightest degree affecting the amenities of the house for whatever purpose it may be used in future.
What is the position of the Bishop financially? Winchester, like Durham and London—especially Durham—was a Prince-Bishopric in old days. Before the Act by which all these Sees were equalised about fifty years ago the emoluments of that See, in the lifetime of many here present, amounted in one year to £40,000. That was, reduced by the Ecclesiastical Commission to £7,000, and at present, owing to the action of rates and taxes, it is down to £4,000. To a vicar who is carrying on with great difficulty, as, alas! too many of them are, on a pittance of £200 or £300 a year, £4,000 seems a princely allowance for a Bishop. But those of your Lordships who know the cost of upkeep of any place on the most meagre and careful scale—the actual 579 wages which have to be paid, and so on—will know how far that sum goes. I can speak from knowledge, and I do not believe there is a member of this House who has ever run a place on such careful lines as the last two Bishops of Winchester have run Farnham. When those expenses are paid, when you have allowed for the most meagre household expenses, for the enormous cost of keeping up the heating and warming of a large building, for the upkeep of a motor car, for all the subscriptions in a vast diocese like this, what becomes of an income of £4,000?
I am speaking now from knowledge, and not merely from belief. If by any chance, in any particular year, there comes a storm or a prolonged illness, or a rise of wages or expenditure such as we have so often seen, the carefully husbanded small surplus becomes a deficit, and the man who does not bring private means to his See is absolutely unable to meet that deficit. Is it wise to call upon a man, every moment of whose time is occupied with public and spiritual work, to go through the heart-rending trouble of striving to make an income fit a place for which it is wholly unfitted, and being actually coerced by what should be the advantages of his position? I cannot believe it.
Lastly, the Bishop of Durham drew a distinction between the feelings of the present Bishop in regard to this change and those which have been expressed by the most rev. Primate and by Bishop Ryle, who succeeded him. He suggested to your Lordships that, if they were able to deal with this vast diocese, there was no reason why other men equally devout and equally devoted, should not be able to do the same. When the most rev. Primate presided over us in the diocese of Winchester, Hampshire alone had about 650,000 inhabitants. Hampshire alone to-day has somewhere about 1,000,000: that is, without regard to the Isle of Wight, and without regard to Surrey. Bishop Talbot, writing in The Times to-day, made a statement which filled me with horror—namely, that he had been told on the best authority that within twenty years the population of Surrey would have doubled and its income halved. What happened? Following on the most rev. Primate came Dr. Ryle who, after a few years, found himself 580 compelled to seek quieter work, because it was impossible for him to manage the great work of this diocese. Bishop Talbot came there with an open mind, and he came to the same conclusion as the right rev. Prelate who now represents Winchester. That being so. I think that we laity are bound to feel, whether we like this particular change or not, that the time has come when these things can no longer go on as they have gone on for the last six hundred years. We must make up our minds to a change.
Having said this—and as no doubt it is known to some members of the Bench of Bishops that some of us in Surrey are not enamoured of this particular scheme—I will make an appeal to the most rev. Primate. This Bill represents the best that the diocese could do by itself. I have already said that in this Measure we are not dealing with the obvious defects of other and neighbouring dioceses. I appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Bishops of London, Southwark and Winchester, that in justice to those of us who have accepted this change most reluctantly and are not satisfied that this is the only possible alternative, they will examine the whole condition of the southern dioceses and consider whether some arrangement which will be of advantage to all those dioceses of the Church cannot be made which will be larger, more comprehensive and more permanent than that which is embodied in the Measure. That I am bound to ask on behalf of the laity of Surrey.
After the examination which this Bill has gone through for the last twelve years and the fact that a change is not only imminent but should be set on foot at the earliest possible opportunity, with the enabling power to deal with Farnham Castle, to make arrangements for the Bishop (on the assumption that he remains Bishop of Winchester) still holding a great national position and being still so endowed that his position shall not be altered in this House or in the country, I say with great conviction that I hope your Lordships will not refuse to accept the Measure, but will not only take the best course for the diocese but for the Church at large by supporting the National Assembly in the attempt they have made to deal with a difficulty which cannot longer be set aside.
§ LORD CHARNWOOD
My Lords, I listened very gladly indeed to some of the concluding remarks of the noble Earl, but I am not at all sure whether the suggestion he has made is one to which effect can be given in the debate in which your Lordships are now engaged. Since I do not see how practical effect can immediately be given to what he has suggested, I am bound to lay before your Lordships a few of the real reasons which, so far as I can gather, have actually induced serious people to plead for yet a few more years of patience before this particular division of the diocese of Winchester is stereotyped. I rise with very great reluctance. I was born and bred almost under the shadow of Winchester Cathedral, but I left that diocese many years ago and I hate to come here and oppose friends of mine whom I respect and who still belong to the Winchester diocese.
I am opposed to Lord Daryngton's Motion upon grounds which differ somewhat from those which the Bishop of Durham put before your Lordships. Having regard to one part of the bold, able and on the whole convincing speech which the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham made, I dissent altogether from the view which he then expressed of the National Assembly. Whatever doubts I once had of the wisdom of creating that Assembly have been dispelled, I am hound to confess, by experience of the Assembly. I regard it with the very highest respect from having observed it at close quarters. But it remains a young Assembly, inheriting an enormous accumulation of business that ought to have been got through years ago and doing its work under a great many difficulties, with a recital of which I will not detain your Lordships at this hour. If your Lordships are going to take the line which I think speech after speech has suggested to you this afternoon—the line that you wash your hands of these ecclesiastical questions and that if this young Assembly, pursuing its difficult way, should by chance take a precipitate step you are not going to pass that step in review—I sincerely believe that your Lordships will do a very serious injury to the prospects and future of the Assembly.
Other Measures for the division of dioceses have come before Parliament and have met with universal consent. 582 Can your Lordships imagine for a moment that it is for light cause that the Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, the Chairman of Quarter Sessions, the Chairmen of the two County Councils come here asking you to stay your hands? It has been said, I believe, that they are not men who generally occupy themselves with ecclesiastical politics in their districts. To my mind, that very fact, if it be a fact, strengthens the conviction that there must be some grave cause moving them to come forward as representatives of their neighbourhoods and ask for delay in regard to this Measure.
May I briefly summarise the arguments which were put forward in the National Assembly in regard to this Measure, and which I have carefully re-read? The argument for the Measure may, I think, be put briefly thus. Admittedly the diocese of Winchester, like some other dioceses, is larger than it ought to be. Responsible people locally concerned with the Church have been earnestly endeavouring for years to frame a scheme for its division. This is the best scheme that they can frame. They present it saying that they can do no better: are you going to stand in their way and brush their work aside? That is a very powerful argument, and it cannot be wondered at that it should have swayed the Church Assembly and determined, as I believe it did, their vote. But I would ask your Lordships to observe what it is that this argument leaves out of account. It leaves out of account altogether the question of the working of the new dioceses which are to be separated from Winchester and the question of the effect upon adjacent dioceses. I venture to say that it left out of account the actual state of the most authoritative opinion that has been expressed so far upon an exceedingly complex and difficult question.
What has actually been said in the Assembly on the other side? I think it is fair to say that the authority of the right rev. Prelate the late Bishop of Winchester and the opinions of his local advisers in the diocese for years carried the day in the Assembly. What were the arguments that have been brought forward on the other side? Think for a moment of the new diocese of Portsmouth, which your Lordships are invited to create. It consists of two main elements. There is the Isle of Wight, and the Isle 583 of Wight, it is admitted I think, is opposed to this Measure. It is said that the Isle of Wight is a somewhat slack member of the diocese of Winchester. It is suggested that it will actually be a hostile member of the new diocese of Portsmouth. Then I turn to Portsmouth. I am merely summarising what I read in these debates; I am not making statements of my own. What I gather in regard to Portsmouth is that from the Church point of view—for brevity I may put it, perhaps, too highly—Portsmouth is rather a mission district than a possible centre of light and leading to a new diocese. Therefore it has been urged on that side that you are creating a particularly bad new administrative area for the Church.
I ought to have said that I respect the opinion of the great mass of the diocese of Winchester very much. But I reflect thus: How does it affect them? The Bishop of Winchester is to gain by this Measure a diocese which he can efficiently administer. The central portion, which will remain as his diocese, is to gain the more efficient services of an able Bishop. But as to the new diocese of Portsmouth, I have already indicated the objection that is raised, and I now pass to the diocese of Surrey. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, has already alluded to one criticism that may be passed on this proposal. Let me put to your Lordships another. The diocese of Guildford, it may well be, will be content with this Measure. It will, as I understand, be a favoured portion of the County of Surrey, inhabited in the main by well-to-do people, among whom there are very few of the stray sheep of the Church. It will be a compact well-to-do diocese, easy to administer. But adjacent to it, what have you got? The diocese of Southwark, on the Surrey side of London, once a portion of the diocese of Winchester—the Surrey side of London, which now forms the heart-breaking diocese of Southwark. You also have the district of Croydon, uneasily, as I understand, attached for historic reasons to the diocese of Canterbury.
As I am told, the growth of population upon the Surrey side of the Thames is bound in the course of a very few years to create a very important question as to Church administration upon that side of the Thames. I am told that conditions are very rapidly changing. It was urged, 584 I think, in the Assembly that there is every possible reason to wait two or three years in order that this question shall be satisfactorily settled. It is said that by stepping in now' and forming the diocese of Surrey you are prejudicing, and prejudicing very gravely, the solution of the important problem that must be upon you in a very few years. Those are the arguments which, I understand, have been urged against this Measure. Heaven forbid that I should profess to be able to balance between them, but this is what strikes me.
These are not questions upon which, after all, a Diocesan Conference of Winchester, or even the Assembly, speak really with the very fullest authority. The judgment to which I should bow down upon questions of this kind is that of Bishops, and not Bishops alone but those who have had much practical experience of diocesan administration, and also those who are very intimately acquainted with the districts affected by this Measure. I hope I shall not say anything which will be considered unfair. I have alluded to the late Bishop of Winchester, whose authority we regard not only with veneration but with affection. There is the present Bishop of Winchester, of whom I speak with great respect, but who has been Bishop for only six months, and who, I must say, has been placed in this matter in what seems to me a most cruel position. There are two living former Bishops of Winchester, in whose time this problem was plainly visible on the horizon. There is also, of course, the most rev. Primate, who has addressed your Lordships this afternoon with great candour and great justice to all parties in his joint position as a former Bishop of Winchester and as the Chairman of the National Assembly which has passed this Measure. He will perfectly understand my motives, I am sure, if I say nothing whatever about his speech beyond making this remark. Any solution of this difficult question which came before us as originated by him, or came before us on its merits having him as its sponsor, would, I am certain, meet with no opposition whatever in your Lordships' House or from any other body of sensible men. There is another living ex-Bishop of Winchester, a man of great experience, in Bishop Ryle, now Dean of Westminster. He was a protagonist of the opposition to this Measure in the Assembly, and, 585 as I understand his position, he passionately pleads for a little further delay—a delay of a few years—until the whole question of Church administration in that part of England can be thrashed out, and a mature scheme arrived at.
There are other voices which I am bound to say one would have liked to hear upon this matter. There belong to your Lordships' House two former Vicars of Portsea, the most important parish affected by this Bill—the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York, and the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. They are placed, I recognise, in a position of difficulty, but one would like to know what their judgment on this matter is, because they must have formed one. Speaking of those two ecclesiastics I say frankly that I feel convinced that if their great authority could be quoted in favour of this particular scheme it would have been quoted to your Lordships. I think it would be unfair if I were to mention other members of the Episcopal Bench, some of whom cannot be here, but I think your Lordships ought to entertain grave doubts whether this Measure, although it is approved by majorities in Assemblies and Committees, really comes before you with the considered approval of individuals who are experts on the question and best qualified to advise your Lordships in the matter.
I hope that in my desire to be brief I have said nothing in the least unfair. It seems to me that in these circumstances common sense points to a little further delay, a little further reconsideration, of this difficult question. I know that delay must be most irksome to men who have given their minds to the subject; but it if not vital. I come from a diocese which is territorially as hard to work as the diocese of Winchester, and I really can assure your Lordships that the life and work of the Church in the diocese of Lichfield does not die because it happens to be too large for perfect administration. No terrible injury will be incurred by delay, but there is real danger by pressing this Measure forward now.
Let me, in conclusion, say this. As a member of the National Assembly, who joined it with some hesitation but who has become a great admirer of, and loyally attached to it, I believe that they are taking in this case a precipitate step 586 which, in the course of a few years, they themselves may reglet, may shudder at. If your Lordships are going to take the view that in such matters as this you are to say: "We wash our hands of it; it is your affair and your responsibility, and we will not presume to criticise any decision you have arrived at, or insist on delay and reconsideration "—if your Lordships are going to be governed by considerations of that kind, you will do a very cruel wrong to the progress, respect and estimation, of a young and promising Assembly.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
My Lords, my excuse for intervening at this late hour is that I am wholeheartedly in favour of this Measure. I think I have an unique experience in this House. I was Bishop of a diocese which in one sense was very small, but which, in fact, was of an area twice the size of England. The number of clergy in its was small, 120. For four years I have been Bishop of a diocese which is about the size which it is now proposed to make the new diocese of Winchester.
We are asked to postpone the proposal on the ground that the policy is unsound and the method bad We have been told that we are making dioceses which are too small, but if you have followed the proposal you will see that it cannot be said that the dioceses are too small if it is desirable for a Bishop to be what ho is supposed to be, an overseer of the work of the people who are working under him. There are half a million people in these dioceses, roughly, from 140 to 150 parishes and some 250 clergy, more in one case. It has been said that the Bishop would interfere continually. There are only 52 Sundays in the year, and if he is in one parish every week-end it will take him at least three years to get round his diocese and know his clergy and his people. And, after all, the incumbent will have three years to get over it.
Then we are asked to postpone it on the ground of tradition. But so far as I know no arguments have been brought forward to show that the English tradition is "large dioceses. Eleven hundred years ago this was a matter of dispute. The Venerable Bede had strong opinions on this question and urged that more dioceses should be created. The noble Lord who moved the Motion reminded us that one hundred years ago there were 587 twenty-two dioceses for a population of 9,000,000, and that now there are thirty-eight dioceses for 36,000,000 of population. There ought to be eighty-eight dioceses on the basis of one hundred years ago. It has been said that Suffragan Bishops can do the work. May I remind your Lordships once more that a Bishop is a good deal more than a mere administrator? We have been warned against the touching appeal that might be made of the Bishop as Father-in-God. That is not a question of a touching appeal, or sentiment: it is a fact. That is what the Bishop is there for, and the Report of the Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline in 1906 laid it down that the primary function of a Bishop in relation to his clergy should be that of a father. If he is to be a father surely you must give him a chance. Suffragans are rather like step-fathers, very good but not the real thing: and every parson in the diocese knows perfectly well that that is so.
May I, quite briefly, give you three reasons why I support the proposal? The greatest need to-day in Church and State is for the spirit of fellowship: to this sense of larger fellowship between all classes of the community the Church can make a real contribution if she is given a chance. If you make dioceses manageable then the Bishop can represent that larger fellowship by getting into closer personal touch with his clergy and people. We have been told that the motor car is the solution. I have driven my own car during the last four years over 50,000 miles on episcopal work, but you cannot, even with a motor car, get that close touch with clergy and people in a large diocese which is absolutely essential if you are going to make the work of the Church real and the spirit of fellowship real. The Church wants efficiency. You cannot criticise without first-hand knowledge. Clergy are human, and they resent, and quite rightly resent, criticism which comes from a Bishop who does not really know the work they are doing, the difficulties they are facing, and the problems they have to solve.
Objection has also been taken to the proposal from the financial point of view. Let me give you some figures. Wherever dioceses have been divided in the past, after the capital sum which is necessary 588 has been raised, the result financially has been quite wonderful. The diocese of Sheffield, before it was divided from the diocese of York, raised for diocesan purposes £1,700 a year. It is now raising £12,000 a year. Before the division it raised a sum of only about £8,000 a year for oversea work, and now it raises £17,000—more than twice the amount previously raised. Coventry, after half the old diocese has been taken away, now produces all that was produced by the old diocese before it was divided. It does seem to me that this argument against the Measure really falls to the ground. If we ask that the King should give his consent to this Measure—and as the Bishop of Norwich said, it is a matter which concerns not only the diocese of Winchester, but the whole of the Church of England—I believe that with a greater spirit of fellowship we shall have greater efficiency, and with greater efficiency greater financial support, and that this will be reflected not only in the life of this nation, but in every part of the world where the Church of England is working, whether it is amongst young nations in our own Dominions, or amongst child nations committed to our care, or amongst the older civilisations beyond the seas.
§ THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
My Lords, I beg to move that the debate, be adjourned until some day next week——
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I regret to say that I cannot agree to that Motion of my noble friend the Duke of Wellington. Lord Daryngton's Motion was put down for an early day in June—or was it May?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
It was then postponed, at the particular request of my noble friend, Lord Northbrook, and those who are opposing the Motion, until the date nearly a fortnight ago, when we debated it. The discussion was then adjourned until to-day, and I certainly understood that to-day we should at last come to a solution of this most vexed question. I deeply regret that my noble friend has not had an opportunity to put his case with all the fullness that he could wish, and I trust that your Lordships will consent to sit a little longer, so that those 589 who wish to speak against this Motion will be able to do so.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I wish to take the sense of your Lordships as to whether this debate is to be proceeded with or whether we should divide now.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I do not want to intervene in this debate except in the interests of your Lordships, but J do not think that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack quite understood the tenor of the speech of my noble friend Lord Selborne. He said that he was unwilling to accept an adjournment of the debate now, and, if the noble and learned Viscount puts the adjournment from the Woolsack, as no doubt he will, Lord
§ Selborne will no doubt resist it, but he has no desire to crush discussion in any way, and since there are apparently noble Lords who desire to speak in opposition to the Motion, by all means let them have an opportunity of doing so.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Since there is no procedure analogous to that in another place which will enable us to determine whether the Motion shall be taken at once, I can only go by the general sense of the House. I think it is your Lordships' pleasure that the Question should be put. If any noble Lord thinks it advisable, perhaps he will move the adjournment.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 70; Not-Contents, 60.591
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Portsmouth, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Powis, E.||Clwyd, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Selborne, E. [Teller.]||Daryngton, L. [Teller.]|
|de Mauley, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Cave, V.||Fairlie. L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Grenfell, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Chelmsford, V.||Joicey, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Cobham, V.||Kylsant, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Gladstone, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Halifax, V.||Manners, L.|
|Bath, M||Hambleden, V.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Milner, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Normanby, M.||Ullswater, V.||Olivier, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Phillimore, L.|
|Balfour, E.||London, L. Bp.||Plumer, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Winchester, L. Bp.||Riddell, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Aberdare, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Grey, E.||Arnold, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Biddulph, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Chalmers, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Chauning of Wellingborough, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Onslow, E.||Wharton, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Fitzwilliam, E.||Hood, V.|
|Wellington, D. [Teller.]||Harewood, E.||Lee of Fareham, V.|
|Iveagh, E.||Novar, V.|
|Exeter, M.||Leicester, E.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Malmesbury, E.||Norwich, L. Bp.|
|Morton, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Northbrook, E. [Teller.]||Askwith, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Scarbrough, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Strafford, E.||Basing, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Blyth, L.|
|Derby, E.||Churchill, V.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Carson, L.||Gainford, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Cawley, L.||Gisborough, L.|
|Charnwood, L.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Hastings, L.||Somerton, L. (E Normanton.)|
|Deramore, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Strachie, L.|
|Dynevor, L.||Knaresborough, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Ernle, L.||Leigh, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Erskine, L.||Lovel and Holland, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Wargrave, L.|
|Forester, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Wyfold, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Before your Lordships part with this subject I think it right to record a solemn protest against the omission of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to put the Motion for adjournment submitted by the Duke of Wellington. Had it been put I should have voted against that Motion, but the Motion was duly submitted that the debate be adjourned, and I desire to place upon record that it is not in the power of the Lord Chancellor to decline to put a Motion submitted by a noble Lord, and that it is the business of the Government or the Leader of the House—I do not know exactly who is the Leader now—to protect the privileges of your Lordships. I desire to place on record a solemn protest against the way in which the business has been conducted.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It was open to any of your Lordships to get up and insist, if it were desired that the Motion should be put. The noble Marquess had such opportunity as much as anybody else, and he did not avail himself of it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The obvious sense of the House was that we should go to a Division, but if he had desired the noble Marquess might very rightly have raised a point of order. In the course that I took I acted, as I always do, upon what I thought was the sense of the House.