§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Liverpool City Churches Act, 1897 (Amendment) Measure, 1938, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, I know that your Lordships are anxious to proceed to other business and I will deal as shortly as I can with the Measure which I have to ask your Lordships to allow to be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The facts are very simple. They are contained in the Explanatory Memorandum submitted to the Ecclesiastical Committee by the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly. Briefly they are that before the passing of the Liverpool City Churches Act, 1897, the Corporation of Liverpool were 128 authorised or liable to maintain and repair the fabric of various Churches in Liverpool and to discharge other responsibilities in connection with them. A similar liability in respect of certain churches rested upon the churchwardens of the Parish of Liverpool. By the Act it was provided that the Corporation and the churchwardens of Liverpool should commute these liabilities by the payment of certain sums. The greater part was to be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or to Queen Anne's Bounty to be held by them upon trusts specifically defined by the Act in favour of various Liverpool Churches. The balance was to be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and carried to a separate account called the Building and Endowment Fund, which was to be used in the discretion of the Commissioners towards the building and endowment of any new churches to be erected in the City of Liverpool.
§ By a subsequent Act the powers of the Commissioners were extended to making grants for the purchase of sites for new churches as well as for the building and endowment of churches, but all these churches and sites were within the boundaries of the City of Liverpool. Recently and inevitably great building operations have taken place in that City, particularly the latest Corporation housing scheme, and these extend outside the boundaries of the City. The Bishop of Liverpool is naturally and rightly anxious to make spiritual provision for the population thus removed from the City of Liverpool and has been concerned in the building of two new parish churches for which the sites have already been selected but, although these churches may serve districts partly within and partly without the City, the districts themselves and the sites are outside the City boundaries. The object of the Measure is to enable the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to make grants from this Building and Endowment Fund for the building and endowment of churches and the purchase of sites not only in but also near to the City of Liverpool.
There is no question as to the advantage of this Measure. The Ecclesiastical Committee in their Report say that:
From the public point of view, there is little doubt as to the desirability of the Measure.
It is quite uncontroversial. The City Council of Liverpool, the only parties who have any remaining interest, have passed a resolution approving of the Measure. But it is only right that I should call attention to an observation in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee—namely, an observation raising the question whether if this had been a Parliamentary Bill it would not have been treated as a Private Bill rather than a Public Bill and as to the propriety of a Measure taking the place of a Private Bill. Some time ago the noble Earl, the Chairman of Committees in this House, was good enough to call my attention to this point. I have had an interview with him and with the Chairman of Ways and Means in another place, and as a result I asked the Legislative Committee of the Assembly to arrange a conference with the Parliamentary authorities as to future procedure in the case of Measures of this kind, Measures which had they been Bills would probably have been regarded as Private Bills. I have every hope that some satisfactory procedure will be arranged for the future especially securing the rights of full publicity by advertisement and of appeal such as would have been and are provided under Private Bill Legislation.
By this particular Measure no private rights are affected. The only parties interested are the City Council of Liverpool, who, as I have already mentioned, are in favour of the Measure. This Measure only extends the scope of the existing discretion of the Ecclesiastical Commission. I might add that there is now no need for sites within the City of Liverpool, but there is pressing need for churches and sites outside the limits of the borough. I hope there will be no de lay in enabling the Bishop of Liverpool to carry out his plans for the good of the people in these large housing estates and that your Lordships may be willing to agree that this Measure should be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The Report of the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee ends by saying:
Apart from the above considerations"—
that is, on the question of a Private Bill—
the Committee considered that the Measure does not affect prejudicially the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects, and that it is expedient that it should be allowed to proceed.
With regard to those considerations, I
venture to hope that your Lordships will be content with the assurance I have given that a conference will immediately take place to arrange a satisfactory procedure in the future. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Liverpool City Churches Act, 1897 (Amendment) Measure. 1938, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, the most reverend Primate has explained the little difficulty that has arisen and I need not detain your Lordships for more than a moment. The Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee has shown that in certain cases there may be difficulty in securing to any person who may possibly be affected by a Measure the same opportunities as those which they enjoy under Private Bill procedure. I think there is no doubt that if this Measure had been introduced as a Bill it would have been subject to the Private Bill Standing Orders and would have been proceeded with as a Private Bill. As the most reverend Primate has informed you he was good enough to arrange with the Chairman of Ways and Means and myself for a conference whereby it is hoped that arrangements may be reached which will not involve us in any possible difficulty in future cases. For that I would like to say how grateful I feel towards him. I do not think I need say more, except, of course, that I have no intention of raising any difficulty with regard to this Measure, which I fully recognise has been accepted by everybody concerned. So far as this particular case is concerned nobody can possibly suggest that any hardship has been caused to anybody whatever. If all Measures were like this there would be no difficulty, but possibly we may have more complicated ones in the future.
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME
My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I rise to make some criticisms of this Measure, because the most reverend Primate has always shown me so much kindness that I would not wish to differ from him. This and the other Measures were on the Order Paper for discussion last Thursday, but they only appeared there overnight. I am glad that it was agreed 131 to postpone discussion of them, because obviously if the discussion had taken place last Thursday insufficient time would have been given for the consideration of the proposals. I should like to point out that there would certainly be a protest if ordinary Bills were taken at such short notice. It has to be remembered that every Bill has to go through various stages in this House, whereas these Ecclesiastical Measures only have one stage, at which they can either be approved or rejected.
As regards the Liverpool City Churches Measure I feel that the remarks in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee raise a matter of considerable importance, and I should like to read to you some of them in full. Paragraphs 3 and 4 say:From the public point of view there is little doubt as to the desirability of the Measure. The City Council of Liverpool has passed a resolution approving the amendment of the law which is proposed by the Measure. It is clear, however, that the Measure alters in terms the conditions under which the Fund is at present held.The Committee are of opinion that if these proposals were presented to Parliament in the form of a Bill, it would be treated as a Private Bill and not as a Public Bill, and they do not think that Measures of that character should, as a general practice, be dealt with through the present procedure of the Enabling Act. If in any case it is thought proper that the procedure should be adopted, then the Committee are of opinion that appropriate provisions in Private Bill procedure, such as giving to the public full notice by advertising in the Press, should be adopted. They understand that in this case this course has not been taken.Apart from the above considerations the Committee consider that the Measure does not affect the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects, and that it is expedient that it should be allowed to proceed."Expedient" is not a very pleasant word, and if I may use strong language in the presence of so many Bishops, I think that the observations of the Committee damn the Measure with faint praise. I think it rather weak of the Committee to set what appears to me a rather dangerous precedent, but as they have seen fit to acquiesce in the Measure, I do not propose to move its rejection, although I refrain from doing so with some misgivings, because once a precedent has been set it is easy to put up as good a case in other instances.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I entirely 132 agree with my noble friend that if we had proposed to take this Measure last Wednesday (not Thursday) as originally intended, the time would have been too short, and I therefore entirely acquiesced, at some inconvenience, in giving your Lordships a full week to digest this Measure. The noble Viscount has only read a portion of the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which I myself read. He will have noticed that I said I quite agreed that in future there should be some reconsideration of procedure in this matter. As to the use of the word "expedient" at the close of the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I can only say that is the word universally used in every case by the Ecclesiastical Committee when it desires that a Measure should go forward.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.