HL Deb 28 July 1927 vol 68 cc950-4

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY rose to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House to direct that the Indian Church Measure, 1927, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The most rev. Primate said: My Lords, in accordance with the Resolution that has just been passel altering the order of business, it devolves upon me, with a view to facilitating the rather difficult task of getting through at the same time a Bill concerning the Indian Church and a Measure regarding the same subject and covering largely the same ground, though regarded from a different standpoint, to say a few words about the Resolution regarding the Indian Church Measure. I apologise to your Lordships for doing so at this moment in the Session, and for doing so necessarily at short notice. This was not the fault of anybody, because the National Church Assembly could not meet until the earlier part of the present month. Its report had to go before its own Legislative Committee, that Committee had to report to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament and the Ecclesiastical Committee then had to report back to the Legislative Committee, so that it is only recently that the matter has reached a stage which enabled it to go forward.

But it is important, as the noble Earl, the Secretary of State for India, will probably tell your Lordships in a few moments, that it should be possible to regard this Measure as something that has passed. It has passed, as I can show your Lordships, with absolute and unprecedented unanimity through the Church authority that is invoked to give effect to it. The Measure in all its parts has now been through the Church Assembly, and the Church Assembly has passed it on to your Lordships. On the occasion of the Second Reading of the Indian Church Bill it was laid upon me to speak somewhat fully on the subject and at a length which, I am afraid, was rather wearisome. I hope I made it quite clear that it was necessary as a matter of principle that the National Church Assembly should have this matter before it and that the matter could not be settled entirely by Parliament alone. The object of allowing this subject to be dealt with by the Church of England through its representatives apart from Parliament was in the first place to show that the new arrangement whereby the Church of England in England and the Church of England in India should be separated in their legal position one from the other, and the laws should no longer apply in India which are applicable here, represented a friendly attitude on the part of the Church of England; and it was thought necessary that the representatives of the Church here should express their views upon it. It might have been that a severance thus effected was a breach which would be disliked. The very contrary was the case. The petition that the severance should take place emanated from India., and it has come to the Church in England, which has considered it with the greatest possible care and has agreed to it, as I have said, with absolute and I think unprecedented unanimity—certainly unprecedented on such a subject, because it was a matter bristling with detail and requiring very careful consideration. The surprising thing was that there was no opposition.

I want to make it clear that our action in so passing it was designed to show, in the first place, that the severance is a mutual act of both sides and that it was agreed that it was in the public interest that it should take place. It was also necessary, in considering this matter, to recognise the difference of the present position in India of the members of the Church of England from that which obtained a hundred years ago. The whole position has changed since then, both in regard to numbers and in many other ways. I may remind your Lordships of some figures which summarise this change. A hundred years ago there were, roughly, 73,000 members of the Church of England in India, and of those I think only ten per cent, were Indians, the rest being English, or Eurasians of English parentage, or at any rate not Indians pure and simple. There are now 540,000 members of the Church of England in India and, instead of only ten per cent, being Indians, 72 per cent, are Indians, so that an enormous preponderance of Indians must be taken into account in addition to the increase in the membership of the Church, and it is most important that provision should be made to enable the affairs of the Church to be worked smoothly under those entirely new conditions. Obviously the Church in England, which has so much to do with this matter, had to have its say. It has expressed its view without a dissentient voice.

A third consideration was that it was our great object by this Measure to bring about a uniformity of conditions in regard to the Church outside England—reasonable uniformity (it is not absolute)—or similarity of conditions between the Church overseas in India and the Church, say, in Australia or Canada, or other Dominion of the Crown overseas. We are now part of a great body of Churches, with their own provinces and their own rules, and we want the Church in India to find itself in a similar position to the Church in Australia or in Canada, where English people are subject to Church rule, but Church rule over which they themselves have control. It was very desirable that these matters should be discussed by the Church as a Church, and in our Representative Assembly they have been discussed, and once more I say this Measure has been passed with absolute unanimity. It went through the Legislative Committee of the Assembly to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, and their Report is in your Lordships' hands to-day.

You will see that after going into points, and describing what the nature of the Committee is, the Committee report:— The Committee is of opinion that, while there is no objection to the substance of what is proposed, the Measure involves a large question of policy. They think that it is expedient that this should be considered and decided upon by Parliament. That is to say, we see nothing unfair or unconstitutional or unreasonable in the proposals, but consider that the whole question of whether such severance as the Measure contemplates is desirable is a matter of policy for Parliament. I hope, after the many arguments which have been used, both from the Church and State point of view, in favour of this change, the answer of Parliament will be to pass this Resolution here and in another place—that the answer may be "Yes" as regards the question which the Ecclesiastical Committee has put in our hands to decide. Without hesitation I ask your Lordships to pass this Resolution, asking that the Royal Assent be given to this Measure.

Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Indian Church Measure, 1927, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)


My Lords, three Motions stand on the Paper in the name of His Grace the Primate, and the first is the substantial Motion, which requires decision. The others deal with technical matters. On the first Motion, which is a matter of substance, I have no hesitation, on behalf of the Government, in earnestly advising your Lordships to accept the Motion which the Primate has made. The responsibility which the Church of England discharges for that great and growing Anglican Church in India, which is its child, is a very great one. The authorities of the Church in England have taken the view that the development of the Church in India will be more fruitful of the purposes which they share with that Church, if these reforms are accepted by Parliament and become part of the law of the land. It will indeed be wrong if, where a degree of unanimity so singular has been reached by a number of earnest and pious men, to whom the stewardship of these affairs has been committed, Parliament were to decline to implement their views, and I, with the responsibility which I have to Parliament for Indian affairs, have no hesitation in advising your Lordships to accept the authority of the advice which is offered to us.


My Lords, these matters require to be looked into from an even wider point of view than Indian affairs, but, speaking for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that the explanations given by the most rev. Primate appear to me to be quite satisfactory. The matter is essentially one of which the Church can judge better than those outside it, and no constitutional question of any importance is raised. Therefore, for my part, I hope that the Resolution moved by the most rev. Primate will be accepted. If, indeed, the work of the Enabling Act were always confined to matters so purely domestic, and interfering so little with public arrangements, I for one should regard it with less apprehension than I certainly have regarded it in the past, and I hope that that spirit will be adhered to under the wise guidance of the most rev. Primate. When we come to the matter of the Prayer Book that is a different matter, and I observe that the most rev. Primate, on this occasion, has confined himself carefully to that about which there should be but little controversy. I trust that when we come to the Measure to which I allude we shall have ample warning, and that the Leader of the House will see to it that a copy of the amended Prayer Book, to which we are supposed to give assent, is circulated with our Papers. I think it is worth the expense, so that we may consider it, and not give a somewhat blind judgment as we sometimes have to do, as, for instance, on the East Anglian Electricity Bill. I repeat that I have no objection to the Resolution.


My Lords, the matter of the revised Prayer Book has already been brought to my notice, and I think the noble and learned Viscount may rely upon it that, before the House is called upon to consider it, there will be a supply of the revised Prayer Book for noble Lords. I might add that for a very small sum any noble Lord can already supply himself with one.




I can say, from my experience, at any bookseller's.


Then I am assured. Can the noble Earl say the sum?


Two shillings.

On Question, Motion agreed to.