HL Deb 04 December 1952 vol 179 cc778-9

4.6 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH rose to move to resolve, That the Scheme for effecting the union of the benefices and parishes of Barton Hill, Saint Luke, and Barton Hill, Christ Church, in the diocese of Bristol, and for authorising the demolition and sale of the site and materials of Christ Church, Barton Hill, which was laid before Parliament on the 4th November, 1952, be not submitted to Her Majesty in Council. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I should like to say at once that it is with great regret that I find it encumbent upon me to raise this question. I have now been a Parliamentarian for something like thirty years, and I do not think any of my old colleagues will remember any occasion before when I had to raise a question of this kind. This question is connected with the government of a church in the diocese of Bristol, a great church of which I am no longer a member. I am well aware that the legislation under which the Church is connected with the State, while still acting as a self-governing body, is, in the words of an old friend of mine, "a hybrid measure." The powers which are given to the Church under the Union of Benefices Measure are so great that when that Measure was passing through Parliament in 1924 (when there was a minority Labour Government in office) it was not surprising that the old enactment was reintroduced in order to give the right to raise in Parliament what was described as the destruction of churches.

In regard to the union of the parishes of St. Luke and St. Gabriel in Bristol, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will remember that a Scheme was laid before Parliament dealing with five Bristol parishes. Before that Scheme became operative, the matter was raised with the noble and learned Lord last April, and an undertaking was given that there would be no question of putting the Scheme into operation until there had been an opportunity of considering a further Scheme which had been prepared in regard to another part of the area of these parishes. As my reasons for bringing this matter before your Lordships are largely personal, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I give some personal details.

One of the two churches to be destroyed, situated in what I would call the outer central area of Bristol, was the church in which I was baptised as an infant. It was a great church in a great working-class area. My grandfather, a humble working man, was Sunday school superintendent at that church: he was at one time vicar's warden, and at another time parish warden. The old church had a great influence on my early life in difficult and very poor days. One of my most treasured possessions to-day is an inscribed copy of the Bible which was presented to me on my leaving Bristol for work some forty-eight years ago by the Reverend Griffiths Matthews. He was a great preacher and a great Protestant, with whom I had many conferences but from whom I was unable to accept, on conscientious grounds, the Catechism. Like many other like-thinking men and women on such a matter, I therefore went where I could find satisfaction for the first four verses of the sixth Chapter of Romans. I commend them to noble Lords and right reverend Prelates who sit in this House.

With a little private study on their own they will discover the reason why, on reading those four verses, I could not accept the Catechism. I think you will find that very interesting. I should like to say that I have never been wholly divorced from the working-class area in which I was brought up. It is a great area, and there are a lot of people there whom I still know.

My Lords, I break off here to say that I understand the time has arrived for a statement to be made in this House at the same time as it is being made in another place. If that is convenient, I will gladly give way.


If the noble Viscount does not mind giving way, it will enable the Minister of Defence to get on with his other work.