HL Deb 17 May 1927 vol 67 cc269-88

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill to which I invite the consideration of Parliament is of an unusual character. It is an ecclesiastical Bill and the religious body with whose affairs it deals is the Anglican community in India. The initiative which has produced this Bill did not proceed from Government, but from the responsible authority of the Anglican Church in India, acting, it is understood, with the entire approval of the highest Anglican authorities in this country, and the reasons which prompted them to recommend this change have been fully explained during the past three years in the Provincial Council and the diocesan councils of the Church of England in India and the National Assembly in this country. They have been the subject of a very general discussion both in the Press in India and at home.

The Church authorities are the authoritative exponents of these reasons, but since Government must of necessity take its share in the proposed change it becomes my duty to attempt some brief exposition of them. The Church of England in India does not, as things are to-day, govern itself, but it is in the eyes of the law merely a portion of the Church of England, separated from the rest by six thousand miles. The Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England applies to it even though it is completely unrepresented in this country in the National Assembly and the Houses of Convocation. The position of the Church of England in India is this because of its origins; because, to go back a century, English people, or their descendants—numbering well under 100,000 at that period—formed the overwhelming majority of the Church of England in India, and that majority contained a very large number of men and women whose residence in India was only temporary. To-day, however, the total number of adherents in India to the Anglican Communion is over half a million, with the number still increasing. Of those half million roughly one-fifth are British, the balance being represented by Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians.

It is urged by those who have supported this Measure that the time has come when this Indian Church should be free to organise itself and to develop along its own lines as a voluntary society legally entitled to manage its own affairs on the basis of what is termed "consensual compact," a phrase which I did not invent but can understand, and to take its place in that world-wide communion of federated Churches to which the Anglican Churches in the self-governing Dominions, Japan and China already belong. If it be asked what is the main legal impediment to the Church of England in India itself giving effect to its wishes, the answer is to be found in certain sections of that part of the Government of India Act, Part X, which is headed "Ecclesiastical Establishment."

To mention only Section 115 of the Act, it will be seen from it that the Bishops of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay exercise within their respective dioceses such episcopal functions and such ecclesiastical jurisdiction for the superintendence and good government of the ministers of the Church of England therein as His Majesty may by Letters Patent direct, and, further, that the Bishop of Calcutta is the Metropolitan Bishop in India, "subject nevertheless"—to quote the words of the subsection—"to the general superintendence and revision of the Archbishop of Canterbury." The Church of England in India cannot become self-governing unless this section, as well as some others, to which I need not perhaps make reference, are repealed. Neither can it do so if the Letters Patent of the three Bishops remain in full force, since they contain instructions that the Bishops should administer their offices according to the Ecclesiastical Laws of the Church of England. The Church authorities were therefore obliged to come to Government to effect the necessary changes in the law.

Besides the legal question, there is an administrative and financial one, arising out of the fact that, from the earliest times, the East India Company used regularly to supply chaplains and churches for its servants in the East. The Charter granted to the New Company by William III in 1698 definitely established this practice, and as it is of considerable historical interest a few lines of it may here be, quoted: And We do hereby further will and appoint, That the said Company hereby established, and their Successors, shall constantly maintain a Minister and Schoolmaster in the Island of St. Helena, when the said Island shall come into the Hands or Possession of the same Company, and also One Minister in every Garrison and superior Factory, which the same Company or their Successors shall have in the said East-Indies, or other the Parts within the Limits aforesaid; and shall also in such Garrison and Factories respectively provide or set apart a decent and convenient Place for Divine Service only; and shall also take a Chaplain on board every Ship which shall be sent by the same Company to the said East-Indies, or other the Parts within the Limits aforesaid, which shall be of the Burthen of Five Hundred Tons or upwards, for such Voyage; the Salary of which Chaplain shall commence from the Time that such Ship shall depart from England; And moreover, that no such Minister shall be sent by the same Company to the said East-Indies, or other the Parts within the Limits aforesaid, until he shall have been first approved of or by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Bishop of London for the Time being; all of which said Ministers to be sent shall be entertained from Time to Time with all due Respect. It is in continuation of this practice that Government maintains to-day an estab- lishment, as it is termed, of Anglican chaplains paid from Indian Revenues, of which the sanctioned strength, after a recent reduction due to the smaller number of British troops in India and considerations of economy, is 138.

These chaplains minister both to the civil and military populations within their charges, but roughly 98 are intended primarily for ministration to troops and 40 for civil duties with other British-born servants of the Crown in India. Besides supplying these chaplains, Government has continued to maintain, and to-day maintains, a number of churches in various parts of India. Therefore on this account also—the provision by Government of chaplains and churches—it was necessary that the Church authorities should invite the co-operation of Government, since the Church in India would be unable to fulfil its historical obligations towards the military and official Anglican community if at the moment of attaining self-government it were deprived of the financial and other assistance which had always been received from Government. Lord Reading's Government very fully appreciated this fact, and they disclaimed in the clearest possible terms any intention to make the aspirations of the Church of England in India to become self-governing the occasion for discontinuing or curtailing their expenditure on that Church. That was a wise and statesmanlike attitude, and one which might be expected to commend itself not merely to Indian Christians but to Indians generally, having regard to the appreciation which Indians are known to attach to the religious, as distinct from the material, side of life.

From the first, Government for their own part were anxious not simply to be spectators of a development so interesting, but to render any reasonable assistance within their power to further the change denoted by the Indian Church Measure. The only point as to which they felt it necessary to become assured was that the change towards self-government did really commend itself to the Anglican community. That assurance they received when it became known that the Provincial Council and every diocesan council of the Anglican Church in India had signified their approval of the policy, and that responsible authorities in this country, including, it need hardly he said, his Grace the most reverend Primate—by whose advice on such a matter I must be so largely guided—believed that this policy was right.

The principle of a self-governing Church being once accepted, the legislation by which it is proposed to give effect to it is two-fold; and, of course, it in no wise purports to "establish," in any special sense of the term, the Anglican Church India, that land of so many religions. There is, first of all, a draft Measure which it is hoped to pass under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, commonly called the Enabling Act. This mainly concerns the self-government of the Indian Church, with provisions enabling it to bring into being its "General Council" and written "constitution" after a date when the legal union between the Church of England and the Church of England in India is dissolved. This date will actually be such day not less than two years or more than three years after the coming into operation of the Measure as the Governor-General of India in Council, at the request of the General Council of the self-governing Church, shall fix. The draft Measure was introduced to the National Assembly by order of the House of Bishops on the 2nd March last; it will come before Parliament in due course in the same way as any other Measure under the Enabling Act, but in order that it may be available for the immediate information of Parliament it has been separately presented as a Command Paper.

Secondly, in addition to the draft Measure, there is the Parliamentary Bill now under consideration. The Bill is a necessary counterpart supplementary to the draft Measure, and Clause 2, in particular, will deserve notice, since it repeals, from the date of severance, certain sections of the Government of India Act, including the subsection already quoted, as to the general superintendence and revision of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The clause also clears the way for the future appointment of Bishops in accordance with the constitution of the self-governing Church, instead of after a procedure necessitating a submission to the Crown. These are important objects of the Bill, but it deals also with certain special interests of Government, the formal protection of which Govern- ment is bound to secure, however clear may be the intention of the Church authorities in India themselves of their own motion to recognise and provide for them in the written "constitution" to be adopted by the self-governing Indian Church.

One of these special interests of Government is that, when the Church of England as such ceases to exist in India, British-born servants of the Crown, including the British Army, should not be deprived of the Church of England services to which they have been accustomed—in other words, that the chaplains paid for by Government, and the churches maintained or repaired by Government, should continue to be available for the purpose for which they were intended. Another is that the Government chaplains themselves, while they may reasonably be required, as they are at present required, to receive a licence from the Bishop of their diocese—a point as to which his Grace the most rev. Primate was naturally specially consulted—should be ensured equitable treatment. The third special interest is that the needs of the British troops in India should be met no less satisfactorily than heretofore; and the fourth is that, in regard to property, the beneficiaries of trusts should be protected in their rights.

The difficulty that presented itself was how to reconcile the safeguarding of all these special interests of Government with the freedom of a self-governing Church, and the manner in which it is proposed to deal with and overcome it is to be gathered from the Bill, read with the draft Indian Church Statutory Rules, included in the Command Paper, which will be issued under Clause 5 of the Bill by the Government of India, with the sanction of the Secretary of State in Council and with the concurrence of the Bishop of Calcutta. These draft Rules have been elaborated after the fullest consideration with the Church authorities and personal consultation with the Metropolitan and the Bishop of Bombay. They are intended and are believed to represent a complete and balanced scheme, though it is not of course desired to exclude any necessary minor amendments that might be decided upon before the Rules are actually issued or any changes or modifications which time may show to be necessary after their issue has taken place.

It will be seen from Clause 9 of the Bill that the existing practice of appointing Government chaplains and maintaining churches at Government expense will not be affected by it, and, in the view of His Majesty's Government, the special interests to which reference has been made are fully safeguarded by the arrangements contemplated. That the British-born servants of the Crown in India, including the British Army, will not be deprived of the Church of England services to which they are accustomed is made clear by several of the draft Rules, for example by Rule 15, which lays down that the Maintained Churches, a list of which is to be kept up under the Bill, "shall be available for the services of the Church of England as contained in any Book of Common Prayer from time to time authorised in England."

As regards the Government chaplains, they are ensured equitable treatment in regard to such matters as the refusal of a licence, posting to their stations, proceedings before an Ecclesiastical Court, and so on. They were represented on the Provincial Council and the diocesan councils in India which gave approval to a draft Measure, and there is every reason to believe that as a body they will identify themselves naturally with the new arrangements if the draft Measure is passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England and endorsed by Parliament. As regards the needs of the British troops in India, they are dealt with fully in the draft Bill and Rules, and the assent of the Army Council has been obtained to the legislation. The Bill also makes suitable arrangements in regard to the rather complicated question of Church property, and secures that the beneficiaries of trusts should be protected in their rights.

Every confidence is felt by those most competent to give me advice on such matters that the draft Rules will be worked after issue smoothly and in full harmony by Government and the Indian Church, but by way of caution provision is made in the draft Rules themselves for arbitration in stated circumstances by his Grace the Primate or some person appointed by him, or, if he should fail to make such appointment, a person appointed by the Government of India and the Bishop of Calcutta; and draft Rule 29 even contemplates the Archbishop's intervention in the manner, and with the consequences, therein described. Draft Rule 30 provides that Government may make special arrangements with the aid of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the military Maintained Churches, if it gives five years' notice at any time to the Bishop of Calcutta. Finally, the Bill provides, by Clause 4, that if the Indian Church at any time ceases to be in communion with the Church of England, Government shall be at liberty to resume complete control of all or any of the Maintained Churches. This is an extreme instance of the caution which has actuated Government, so that no contingency, however improbable it may be in the judgment of the Church authorities, should be unprovided for.

In regard to the whole matter of this legislation the attitude of Government has been from the first that it ought to receive their support if there was general agreement, reasonably understood, of all the authorities and persons who were concerned. The words "reasonably understood" are a qualification which I found it necessary to introduce, since absolute agreement in any religious matter of this kind is scarcely to be expected, and no doubt it does honour to men's consciences that such should be the case, but general agreement reasonably understood is held to have been attained, and His Majesty's Government commend the legislation to Parliament in the belief not merely that it is fully justified on its merits, but that Government would incur reproach if it blocked the way to a reform as to which the Anglican community—in India and in this country, Indians and Europeans—appear with few dissentients to be substantially agreed.

I need add only one observation. The Measure cannot engage the attention of the Church Assembly until July, but I have been assured by many persons qualified on behalf of the Church to give me advice upon this matter, and by others fully equipped with the practice and customs of your Lordships, that this is no sufficient reason for postponing the opportunity of our Parliamentary consideration of this matter and of eliciting the advice and opinions of your Lordships. Unless therefore your Lordships, which I do not anticipate, took a different view, I should propose to the House that the Bill should pass in its ordinary course through all its stages in your Lordships' House, and it is hoped that if a peaceful lull should happily occur in the proceedings of another place, it may be possible that in the autumn the Measure may be there dealt with. I fear I have taken too much of your Lordships' time, but the Bill with which I have been dealing is one of great historical and spiritual interest, and I commend it to your Lordships' consideration. I move that it be now read a second time.

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


My Lords, owing to the rather peculiar conditions which, as the noble Earl has just explained, surround the introduction, of this Bill—the peculiarity is indicated in the words of the Preamble—it may be right that I should at once, and in immediate supplement of the words of the noble Earl, explain a little more fully what from the Church standpoint is required and show perhaps what is the actual character of the change that this Bill proposes. It is a little different from what it might appear to be to an uninformed reader at a first glance at the printed Measure. The Bill speaks of the dissolution of the legal union between the Church of England and the Church of England in India and an observer ignorant of the facts might interpret that as meaning something of the nature of a breach between the Home Church and the Indian Church. It is very important therefore to point out at once that instead of that the very contrary is the case. The change we want to bring about is one which will in the larger sense consolidate and make more natural the position of the Church in India as a part of the Anglican Communion throughout the world of which the Church of England is the home title and indeed is the popular designation in many parts of the King's Dominions overseas.

It can hardly be necessary for me to remind your Lordships that we are all impressed by the fact of the immense changes which have taken place in the constitution and the character of the whole of the Anglican Communion since the days when the Church of England in India was constituted ecclesiastically and legally about a century ago. The Church of England, if we use the popular term, or if we speak more accurately the Anglican Communion, is now, of course, a great federal body divided into more or less independent and yet federated parts throughout the world. In Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa and elsewhere Provinces, under an arrangement which was unknown to the Church a century ago, have come into being. The unity is complete and it is harmonious. And in addition to what has happened in our own Dominions the great Anglican Church in the United States, known as the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, has its own life and organisation, united in the very closest fellowship with the Church of England here at home. The Archbishopric of Canterbury is by common consent regarded as the centre of that vast organisation and in the overseas provinces I have referred to, although the Archbishop of Canterbury possesses no jurisdiction whatever, his Primacy in the large sense of the word is recognised.

It is seen in an object lesson which recurs at intervals. Once in every ten years every Bishop throughout the Communion, whether belonging to what we describe as our Colonies and Dominions overseas, or to the Church of the United States, or to the great missionary regions quite outside His Majesty's Dominions or the jurisdiction of the United States, the mission fields of the world, are invited to London. The number is large. On the last occasion, in 1920, 250 Bishops attended and in all probability the number may be greater still when, three years hence, another such gathering takes place. The attendance at these conferences marks the close fellowship which exists and which in practice presents no features of difficulty, although the ecclesiastical independence of the various Provinces is quite universally recognised.

One branch only of our Church, the Province of India and Ceylon under the headship of its Metropolitan, the Bishop of Calcutta, is at present hampered by legislative enactments which have never been changed and which are now in many respects out of date. By certain clauses of the Government of India Act and by the wording of the Letters Patent given to some of the Bishops of the older sees in India who are nominated by the Crown, the Church of England in India is constituted simply as an extension of the Church of England into India and consequently the Church of England in India is technically at this moment bound by the laws and regulations of the Church of England; although, as the noble and learned Earl has just pointed out, it has no representation in the Church of England's legislative assemblies and the special conditions of India are by no means necessarily considered when we at home have handled or amended the Church of England laws. It would have been very difficult to do so. This results in real confusion. It is not a mere technical matter; it results in practical confusion.

For example, certain Bishops in India are told by their Letters Patent to administer "the Ecclesiastical Law of England," but they cannot do it. In present conditions the Ecclesiastical Law of England is quite inapplicable to many Indian facts. May I take two simple but rather patent examples. We have altered our rules in many respects as regards English parishes and the way of control and the matter of jurisdiction and many other things in the parish life, and the rules as thus altered are entirely out of touch with administrative details in India, although they professedly, too, are governed by the same existing Ecclesiastical Law. Or again, 100 years ago there was constituted in India a court of appeal for ecclesiastical causes. It was called the Court of Commissioners Delegate, but an insoluble problem would be presented did occasion arise for calling that court into action because at this moment it could not be assembled as most, if not all, of the officials who [...] officio constituted the court have ceased to exist. There are no such persons. That kind of thing is an anomaly which ought not to continue to stand upon the record either of the Church at home or of the constitution of the Church of England in India.

There are many other respects in which the Church rules—enforceable if you like, certainly definitely prescribed at home—are technically inapplicable in India. That applies to questions of marriage. The hours within which a marriage can be celebrated in this country are inapplicable in India owing to climatic reasons. It is desired that the hours should be different, and they are in practice made different; but, technically, that is a breach of the law. Or again, the condition of residence on the part of the parties to a marriage cannot be applied in India, with the constant locomotion of those concerned, in the same way as it is applicable in England. Those are prosaic and commonplace, but palpable, examples of the need of some re-statement and reconstruction of the existing law.

But there are more important things than that. The immense increase in the number of members of the Church of England in India necessitates now the appointment, if the work is to be properly done, of many more Bishops than were needed a hundred years ago, but we cannot legally divide the older dioceses because their boundaries are fixed by legal enactment, and it would require legal enactment technically to alter those boundaries, and place them in the position by which the holders of the office which governs within those areas are at present regulated. We meet that difficulty by the Bishops of Calcutta and Madras giving commissions to certain Bishops to administer portions of their wide dioceses and to do it, not as suffragans but as independent diocesan Bishops, with diocesan organisation. But that arrangement, though essential for meeting our difficulties, is extra-legal, and is not technically recognised by the Government. It is an anomalous condition which ought to come to an end as speedily as possible. It would be quite easy to multiply examples of the sort of difficulties which exist, but I do not think it is necessary.

The Bill now before your Lordships meets these difficulties by breaking through the existing legal complications and restrictions. Besides these things there are a great many more ecclesiastical details as regards Church administration which require complete remodelling if they are to correspond with modern conditions, largely changed during the century which has passed since the Church was legally established in India. To expound those details would not be difficult but it would be, I think, out of place at this stage in our proceedings with regard to the Bill. It may quite naturally be asked why, if a change is so necessary, it was not made many years ago, and the answer is that apart from other considerations it was impossible to expect from Parliament sitting here in Westminster the time that would have been required for dealing in detail with ecclesiastical problems which would have required and do require now detailed, minute ecclesiastical consideration.

Eight years ago we passed here, to my great satisfaction, the Act popularly known as the Enabling Act and Parliament, though its ultimate sanction was retained and is potent to-day, was relieved of the claim upon its time for details of purely ecclesiastical legislation. These are now transacted in the National Church Assembly and ultimately, of course, submitted en bloc to Parliament. Accordingly we have in that Assembly a Measure already provided. It lies now upon the Table of your Lordships' House as a separate Paper. It was introduced into the National Assembly of the Church of England a couple of months ago or more and it came before us on the unanimous—I would ask your Lordships to note this—unanimous request of the whole Indian episcopacy who drew up the draft form which they would like the Measure to assume and submitted it to us in England for our consideration in detail. The Assembly has not yet gone over the details, but it has considered carefully the Petition and the draft Measure which was placed upon it.

Last February, as I think the noble Earl said, the Assembly passed unanimously a Resolution—not a very common thing—and it was in these terms:— That the Assembly, impressed by the weight and importance of the Petition presented by the Indian Bishops, is prepared to give consideration to a Measure framed upon the lines of the draft Measure referred to in that Petition. Wisely, the Assembly did not commit itself to accept all the proposals, but practically it has gone through them and no objections were raised, at the outset at all events, to anything that it contains. Unless I am very widely mistaken we shall pass that Measure through the Assembly without the slightest difficulty and I believe it will be passed, in all probability, unanimously. I do not wish to dogmatise, but I think it will certainly be passed through the Assembly without the slightest difficulty when the Assembly meets at the beginning of July. It may be asked why we could not wait until then to go forward with the Bill now on the Table. It does matter greatly that this thing should go forward, and if you were to wait until after the Assembly has done what it is quite certain to do in July, it would be practically impossible to go forward until next Session of Parliament with the Bill which ought to run concurrently with the Measure.

The Bill and the Measure take two aspects of the same question—the legal one and the technical ecclesiastical details, which, while I will not say they are quite unsuited for any Parliamentary discussion, would require a very great deal of Parliamentary time if they were to be fully discussed. They are absolutely suited for the consideration of the Assembly, which will go through in detail the Measure as drafted in India and presented unanimously to us and considered at this moment in prima facie form by the Assembly as one which ought to go forward. I do not enter into the details of the Measure. So far as they bear upon the clauses of the Bill they can be referred to and explained in Committee. What I imagine your Lordships desire to-day is to be satisfied that the change proposed is necessary, and that it will not be detrimental to the members of the Church of England or, to put it otherwise, to British members of the Indian Church, or to English men and women resident in India who desire that they should retain the privileges and the services to which they have been accustomed.

We have to take great care that no detriment comes to those interests and those desires, and the very utmost care has been taken to safeguard that principle. The really fundamental change which has occurred—the noble Earl has already referred to it—is the immense access of membership to the Church in India from among the people of India itself. That is constantly forgotten in England, or under-rated in its magnitude. In the year 1813, more than a century ago, when the legislation took place, the total members of the Church were about 73,000. Of that number 10,000 or thereabouts were natives of India. At the Census taken a few years ago the members of the Church, instead of being 73,000, were, in round figures, 533,000. Of this total about 108,000 were British, 37,000 Anglo-Indians and—I beg your Lordships to notice this—not less than 387,000 were Indian Christians. The change is gigantic. The number of the Indian Christians is to-day increasing very rapidly. A few years have passed since the Census and I am assured that the Indian Christians to-day number fully 400,000. To put it in another way, of the Church in India 72.6 per cent. are now Indian, 20.4 European and 7 per cent. Anglo-Indian.

It will be obvious to everyone that this entirely changes the situation and that the work of the Church becomes different in many respects from what it used to be. We retain and desire to retain to the full the standards of doctrine which have throughout been ours both in England and in India, and emphatically we desire to retain for the benefit of English churchmen in India the services they have been accustomed to and the ministry of the chaplains appointed by the Secretary of State and licensed by the Bishops of India. The Church of India takes over the Prayer Book of the Church of England. It will be the Service Book of the Church of India. I do not believe there is the smallest fear that after the change has taken place any British member of the Church of England will find himself or herself deprived of any existing rights. It is specifically enacted that they cannot be so deprived. The details of this will be made obvious to any of your Lordships who will study the Rules that are laid upon the Table, and if discussion arises in Committee any point There can be explained. It would be, I am sure, burdensome to detail them now.

The Assembly's Measure and the Bill are now before you. The Assembly's Measure is not yet for your consideration, though ultimately it will have to be assented to by this House should the Assembly pass it, as is certain. Taking them together, they provide safeguards of every kind, and in the last resort Should anything be done by the Church in India—and there are such foreshadowings on the part of a very few people—which seems to sever it from full communion and fellowship with the Church of England at home, appeal can, and indeed must, be made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is called upon to say whether or not such severance has taken place. If it be found that it has taken place, the Government have power to resume possession of the churches and to secure that the services carried on in them are such as the English congregations desire. That is provided, and rightly provided, but it is to suppose a state of matters the occurrence of which I believe to be absolutely out of the question.

I have given to your Lordships an outline of the matter as it presents itself from our Church standpoint and in supplement to what the Secretary of State has put before you as regards legal conditions and rights of property. In the old Act, as the Earl of Birkenhead reminded you, the Metropolitan of India was by a strange phrase placed under the "general superintendence and revision of the Archbishop of Canterbury." It is an odd phrase as regards an individual. What those words could have been made to mean had the question ever arisen in practice we do not know, for the power, whatever it be, has never been exercised. Anyhow, it will now come to an end. The Indian Church, if this Bill and the Measure which accompanies it pass, will become autonomous in the same sense as is the Church in Canada, or Australia, or South Africa. Within it the Government will still have patronage, so to speak, of the chaplaincies, and the Bishop cannot refuse a licence to a duly nominated chaplain except upon grounds which would justify a Bishop in England in refusing institution to a benefice. The Government have repeatedly stated that the Measure will make no difference in their usage and policy as regards chaplains. I say once more that the rights of what we may call English worshippers are carefully safeguarded, while the Church will have the power, and indeed the obligation, to consider also in the freer conditions under which it will move the needs of what are now the vast majority of its members, the Indian Christians.

I very earnestly hope that this Bill may be passed speedily into law. I am absolutely sure that it is right—right for the Church at home and in India, right for our Anglican Communion as a whole in its general administrative life, and right, abundantly right., for the people of India as well as for the English who are resi- dent there. I look forward myself with hope and expectation to a strengthening thereby of the Church's life in India and to preparation for the day when the advance of Christianity in India may put to shame even the great advance which is taking place to-day. I ask your Lordships with hope and confidence to give a Second Reading to the Bill.


My Lords, I am entirely in accord with what has been said by the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill and also with what has been said by his Grace the Archbishop. I had some knowledge in former days about these matters and I think it is from every point of view desirable that a Bill of this kind should be introduced, a Bill which, in effect, carries out disestablishment, as we should call it, or the separation of State and Church in India. I want, however, to say a word on a particular point. The statutory forms and Rules which have been referred to bath by the noble Earl and the most rev. Primate are all such as could be and must be dealt with in an ordinary Act of Parliament, dealing as it would have to deal with the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1910: I think that is the date. In regard to all other cases where similar questions have arisen they have been dealt with in the same way either by Acts of Parliament or Ordinances, both as regards conditions of disestablishment and also as regards the maintenance of these various churches as part of the Anglican Church or the Church of England. For instance, in 1845 in Ceylon, the Ordinance passed at that date carries out all the purposes which are now proposed to be carried out by this Act of Parliament.

But at that time, of course, there was no Enabling Act and the point which I think requires further consideration is this: Has the Enabling Act really anything to do with the conditions of the Chinch of England in India? I was present at all the discussions which took place in the preliminary stages of the Enabling Bill but it never occurred to me that it did not contain the same territorial limit as applies to all Acts of Parliament, unless there is something in the text or something special which gives an extra-territorial authority. When I was still a member of the Church Assembly—and indeed Chairman, as I was, of the House of Laity—this very point was submitted to me. Of course I could do no more than express my own opinion, but that was a very decided one, that when a Church such as the Church in India is disestablished it should be entirely independent of any power which could be exercised over it by the Enabling Act and should be a voluntary association. That has been the case, I think, whenever a Church has been disestablished.

I do not want to give any decisive opinion upon this point, although the noble Earl referred to it, but your Lordships will be aware that the point is of great general importance. It is a point which will have to be determined by the Ecclesiastical Committee, because the Ecclesiastical Committee have to give their views as to the expediency of a Measure and especially its relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects. The question here is: Are His Majesty's subjects in India subject to the provisions of the Enabling Act? I should have thought certainly not. They have no representation in the Assembly, which comes from our parochial councils and our diocesan conferences so far as the laity are concerned. The Bishops, of course, will be an independent body, entirely independent from the Bishops here. So will the clergy be in every way entirely independent of the clergy here. I do not mean to suggest that there will be any breach of continuity, but what I do suggest is that the Enabling Act has not interfered, and was not intended to interfere, with complete liberty on all those matters to which the most rev. Primate has referred as regards future arrangements in this particular Church. I do not desire to do more than to indicate the doubt which I feel and which will have to be solved by the Ecclesiastical Committee.

So far as the Bill is concerned it is complete in itself. It will leave the Church in India in the position of a voluntary association, which, to my mind, is the right relationship. It ought to have absolute freedom, and there is no risk of breaking communion with the Anglican Church in this country, as the most rev. Primate has shown in the case of other Churches which were constituted or disestablished long before the Enabling Act was passed. As the noble Earl will know, the general principle is that an Act only operates within what was the United Kingdom, because Wales is already outside for this purpose and Scotland was never included. I hope that this matter will be very closely considered from the point of view of freedom. I regard complete freedom of organisation as a great blessing for a religious body and I do not like the idea that it can be interfered with, either in the first instance or at any later stage, by another organisation on which it is not represented and before which it has no power of expressing its view. I heartily support the Second Reading of this Bill, and hope that it may pass into law, subject to the view of the Ecclesiastical Committee upon the particular matter to which I have called attention.


My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt any noble Lord who wishes to speak, but perhaps I may be allowed to deal with the point that the noble and learned Lord has raised. I agree that it is just debatable—I do not think that I share his impression—whether the ambit of the Act covers a case of this kind. I think that I take a different view from the noble and learned Lord, but, after all, a very competent Committee has to decide upon this matter, and my only reason for not troubling your Lordships with it was that it is in very good hands.


My Lords, I am sure that Your Lordships will have listened with enormous interest to the full statements of the noble Earl and of the most rev. Primate and that there will be no question regarding the substance of the Bill. But, having been trained in assemblies perhaps less liberal in their procedure than your Lordships' House, I have been thrown into some consternation by the proposal to recite in the Preamble of this Bill that something has happened which has not happened and to refer to a Measure as having been passed which, as the most rev. Primate has told us, has not even been considered by the Ecclesiastical Committee or the National Assembly. I should like to put it to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House whether it is in accordance with the traditions of this House, and whether it is expedient that it should be a tradition of this House, that we should pass Acts referring to Measures which have not been passed and as to which we have no absolute demonstration that they will be passed, but only an assurance from a very good authority that he believes that they will be passed. My point is clear and is quite a small one. I wish to put it to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House.


My Lords, in these matters it does not do to be too technical. The real object is to get the business through, so long as we are quite sure of the agreement and the knowledge of both Houses of Parliament, and I would like to remind the noble Lord that the Measure itself is subject to the control of Parliament.


Not to alteration.


It does not pass except with the consent of Parliament, and therefore your Lordships' House retains in its power complete control as to what the Measure will ultimately be. I do not think that any difficulty will arise but, if the noble Lord presses me, I will take care to consider the matter carefully before the Bill passes out of your Lordships' hands.


Before the Bill passes, I think it should be considered.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.