§ (1.) Subject to the charges and encumbrances and interests saved by this Act, the Welsh Commissioners shall, save as otherwise provided by this Act, by order vest the property transferred to them by this Act as follows:—
- (a.) They shall, on the request of the representative body, vest in that body all churches, not being cathedral churches, and all parsonage houses;
- (b.) They shall vest the burial ground and glebe of any ecclesiastical parish.—
- (i.) In the case of a rural parish, in the Parish Council of the parish, or, if there is no Parish Council, in the chairman and overseers of the parish; and
- (ii.) In any other case, in the council of any county borough or urban district comprising the parish;
- (c.) They shall vest any tithe rent-charge in the County Council of the county in which the land out of which the tithe-rent charge issues is situate.
§ (2.) Every church, parsonage house, burial ground, and the glebe vested under this section shall be held subject to all existing public and private rights with respect thereto."
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan) moved an Amendment to Clause 6 reserving "all public chapels and chapels-of-ease" to the representative Church body. There were some buildings within the scope of the Bill which were not within the category of churches and chapels-of-ease should be included with churches. He was following the precedent of the Irish Church Act in the matter.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH. Fife, E.)
accepted the Amendment.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University),
in the absence of Sir R. WEBSTER, moved to further amend the clause so that "cathedral churches" might include—all school houses belonging thereto or used in connection therewith, together with any land occupied with such school housesThis would extend to school houses built on the glebe or adjoining the churchyard, and the land on which they were built.
§ MR. ASQUITH
agreed that cathedral schools which were part of the capitular Establishment should be included with "cathedrals." But the vast majority of schools could not be said to belong to the Church. They were not vested in the incumbent, but in trustees 1467 The words "used in connection therewith" would bring in every school used in connection with the Church, even schools built by the National Society and other bodies, and they would be transferring to the representative body property which never belonged to the Church. He could not accept the Amendment in its present shape.
§ MR. A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, the Amendment was in accordance with Clause 25, Subsection 5, of the Irish Church Act. There were buildings of an older kind than those referred to which belonged to the Church, and were used in connection with the Church. Some words should be inserted to make it plain that these churches should go to the representative body. The objection the Home Secretary had stated did not apply in the case of Ireland, and he did not see why it should in the case of Wales.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, the objection of the Home Secretary seemed to be valid with regard to school houses built by the National Society and other corporations. No one would desire that schools vested according to the rules of the National Society should be dealt with in this Bill. On the other hand, he knew there were cases in England where there were schools antecedent in date to the system of vesting adopted by the National Society which had been used in connection with the Church and built on the glebe for Sunday schools and other purposes. He thought the Home Secretary would agree that if there were such cases in Wales these buildings should pass with the churches. He thought it would be better if the hon. and learned Member would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment, in order that the Government might frame one which would indicate their view as to the extent to which the Bill should operate.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he had not in his mind at the moment the particular details of the Irish Act, but if the hon. Member would withdraw his Amendment he would draw up a new one, which he thought would meet the point. He thought that the hon. Gentleman's Amendment went far beyond the necessities of the case. He quite agreed that 1468 where there was a school-house in connection with the church that ought to pass to the Representative Body, and he would go even further, and say that every school-house that was vested in any ecclesiastical corporation ought to pass also. The language of the Amendment, however, was dangerously vague, and therefore he thought that it would be better that the hon. Gentleman should withdraw it, at all events for the present. He would undertake to consider afterwards any case that might be brought within the spirit, if not within the words, of the Amendment.
MR. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk and Malton)
said, that there were a great many of the national schools which did not belong to the Church. If they left in the words "belonging to the Church," they would be doing all they possibly could under this clause to define what schools should pass to the representative body.
§ *SIR FRANCIS POWELL
referred to the 30th section of the Irish Church Act, which contained the provision on which the Amendment was based. In the case of the great majority of the national schools the clergyman was a trustee, and was usually the manager. Some amendment was required in conformity with the general provisions of the Irish Act.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he thought that the hon. Member for York had made a very good point—namely, that the Committee were only dealing now with the property which, under the earlier clauses of the Bill, had already been transferred to the Welsh Commissioners. No doubt that removed a great deal of the objection he had to the Amendment. He, therefore, was disposed to accept the Amendment, at all events provisionally, without binding himself not to introduce further Amendments with regard to it at a future stage.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. LAURENCE F. HARDY (Kent, Ashford) moved to amend the clause by inserting after "cathedral churches" in line 22, the words "ecclesiastical residences." It almost followed that the Government having accepted the previous Amendment, should accept the present one. He should like to know whether 1469 the right hon. Gentleman would regard what was considered to be the curtilage of an ecclesiastical residence in the same light as if it were the close of a cathedral.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
said, that he would accept the Amendment for the moment, and that they could put the matter right when they came to the definition clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
MR. LAURENCE HARDY moved the following Amendment:—
Clause 6, page 3, line 23, after 'houses,' insert 'and all buildings, orchards, gardens, and curtilages pertaining thereto.'
He did so because he wished to get some information from the Government as to what they considered should go with the parsonage house.
§ MR. ASQUITH
suggested, that the more appropriate place to expand the definition would be in the definition clause rather than in the place proposed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)moved in line 23, at end, to insert—
''and, further, they shall determine what annual sum may reasonably be required to maintain and keep in proper repair and condition each such church and ecclesiastical residence; and such sums shall be charged upon the church temporalities hitherto belonging to the ecclesiastical parish or cathedral corporation as the case may be, and shall be paid to the representative body.
This Amendment, he said, raised the question both in respect to cathedrals and ordinary churches. He would try and look at this question for a moment from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite; of course, from his own point of view, the churches, the cathedrals, and the endowments also belonged to the Church of England in Wales.
The Government had evidently felt that the churches themselves in which a particular worship, according to a particular form, and under particular doctrines and ritual, had been conducted, had acquired a sacred and particular character which would make it impossible to treat them as other property was treated by this Bill. Whether the feeling to which this concession was made was called sentiment or something higher, it must be respected. The Government shrank from handing the buildings over to a purely secular body like the Parish or County Council. They also had evidently thought that some of the churches were monuments of such special interest that they ought to be treated from a specially generous point of view; consequently in the Bill as it stood, the Government practically reserved a certain sum of money to keep in repair the great cathedral churches. It was quite clear that the Government could not allow the churches and cathedrals to fall into disrepair and ruin; and if they handed them over to the representative body it followed that they ought to hand over a sufficient sum of money to keep the churches in proper repair, so that they might be handed down to our children as monuments of the religious zeal of their grandfathers. There was a legal difficulty in connection with this subject. Were the Government sure that the representative body would be allowed by law to permit these churches and cathedrals to fall into disrepair? It was quite clear that if they were compelled by law to keep them in repair, the representative body established an equitable claim to a sum of money for that purpose. He had consulted a well-known work on ecclesiastical law by Dr. Phillimore on this subject. He would call the Committee's attention to the words of Sub-section 2 of this clause—
Every Church, parsonage house, burial ground, and glebe vested under this section shall be held subject to all existing public and private rights with respect thereto.
They had had the right hon. Gentleman's direct authority for the proposi-that the existing rights also implied the performance of the existing obligations. What were the existing obligations in connection with the repairing of the
Church, which were to be maintained? He found, in the work to which he had referred—
By the canon law the repairs of the Church belong to him who receives the fourth part of the tithe.
That was, to the rector, and not to the parishioner; that was the original provision of the canon law, and that the Government were conscious that there was some little difficulty was proved by Clause 25, by which they took especial care to prevent any responsibility as to repair falling upon the County Council in respect of the tithe which they had received. The burden of repairing the church had been transferred from the rector to the parishioner, but this had been very much modified since compulsory Church rates were abolished, and now that the parishioners were relieved of that burden, the obligation of repairing the church, he contended, rested with the rector. As regarded the chancel there was no such obligation. He would assume that as the edifice itself was transferred to the Representative Body it was upon that body that these obligations would fall. When they looked at the authority they found that there was an obligation probably as to the whole Church, and certainly in respect of the chancel; therefore, the obligation of repair was maintained, and yet it was refused to give any money to the churches. The argument which he had submitted to the Committee was two-fold in character. He submitted it on sentimental grounds, and also on legal grounds. On the former grounds he urged that if the maintenance and repair of the cathedrals and churches were left to the representative body, and if it were of importance to the public interest that the cathedrals should be kept in repair, then it followed that sufficient money should be provided for the purpose. Also, from the legal point of view, if the obligation of keeping the cathedrals and churches in repair were thrown upon the representative body then, as an equitable part of the sentimental claim, sufficient funds should be given to enable them to fulfil that obligation.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
desired information on two points arising out of the observations made by the noble Lord, who had assumed that the 1472 canon law would still apply to the disestablished Church. He confessed he should have thought it would not apply. He wished to know first, therefore, whether the canon law would still apply to the Welsh Church after it was disestablished. Another point which bore more directly on the question under consideration was that of the repairing of the chancels, arid seeing that the tithes of the lay rector were not affected by the Bill he wished to know whether the repair of the chancels of the churches would not in future fall upon the lay rector as in the past?
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GEORGE RUSSELL, North Beds)
said, he would direct the attention of the hon. Member for Preston to the rules and regulations laid down in the 14th Clause, which provided that, until and unless they were altered by the representative body, the present articles, doctrines, discipline, and ordinances of the Church would remain as at present. With regard to the lay rector, his obligation to keep up the chancel would remain unaffected by the present legislation. As to the speech of the noble Lord, certain difficulties arose in dealing with the fabrics of the parish churches and cathedrals, and in adopting the course they had taken they chose what they believed to be the best and most suitable plan. All would agree that it would be intolerable to apply sacred buildings to other than sacred uses, and he had never heard the contrary stated by any member of the Liberation Society, or by any extreme Nonconformist. It was another question whether a particular church should be used by only one particular religious body, and he had heard it suggested that, under certain circumstances, the sacred fabric might, on certain days of the week, and at certain hours of the day, be open to different forms of Christian worship. That would not be an unprecedented arrangement, for it already obtained in churches abroad and in the Royal Chapel between St. James's Palace and Marl-borough House, and also in the metropolitan cathedral of Canterbury; but it was a plan which would be vehemently repudiated by Gentlemen opposite. With regard to the parish churches, the Government had decided that they 1473 should be used not only for sacred purposes, but alone by the church which had hitherto had the enjoyment of them. In the case of the cathedrals, not only the religious but the historic sentiment arose in an especial way, and there was also the grave question of repairs. A great deal was to be said for the plan originally proposed by the Government, having regard to the cost of maintaining those great fabrics in proper order, and they thought they were offering most favourable terms to the Church when they allowed her the right of pre-emption—the first claim to the use of the buildings—and provided that the burden of maintenance should be cast on the public resources. The contention of the noble Lord was that not only the cathedrals but also the parish churches should be retained for the exclusive use of the Disestablished Church, and be maintained and kept in repair out of what they might now call public funds. [Opposition cries of "No!"] On the hypothesis that the Bill became an Act of Parliament, the funds must be regarded as public, for they would have passed out of the hands in which they had hitherto been into other hands, for secular purposes applicable to the whole community. It seemed to him to be an inconsistency—he had almost said a preposterous proposal—to contend that the buildings should be retained for the exclusive use of one particular form of religious worship, no longer the established religion of the country, and at the same time should be kept in repair out of what would have become a fund applicable to public, secular, and general uses. Supposing Parliament decided that the corpus of the Church property should be appropriated to secular purposes, the proposal of the noble Lord would be pro tanto a re-endowment of the Church and a disendowment of the State—a taking away from the State, or the community at large, irrespective of creed, with one hand what had been just given with the other; a taking back the corpus of the Church property which had been assigned to secular purposes for the maintenance of every parish church and cathedral in Wales. The noble Lord and other hon. Members had again and again referred to the deep sentiments they entertained with regard 1474 to those buildings, and they were sentiments which he shared. If they held those sentiments strongly, whether from association with the Church or from a feeling of national patriotism, surely they should not shrink from the possibility of having to pay for their indulgence. ["Hear, hear."] It was not a case for nicely calculating whether the cost would be more or less. If they were convinced that they had a moral claim to the use of those sacred buildings, if they thought it would be an injury for them to be assigned to other purposes, or to see persons of other denominations worshipping within their walls, surely that exclusive attitude of mind ought to lead them to the conclusion that the buildings should be kept in repair and proper order exclusively out of their own resources, and not out of moneys which Parliament had already assigned to the use of the whole community irrespective of any particular creed. He did not think that the noble Lord would find, in the long run, that the danger of the churches falling into disrepair would be so great as he appeared to think. In the Irish Church Debate, the Member for Midlothian, who had at first proposed that the Irish Church body should enter into a contract with the State to keep in repair all the cathedrals and parish churches, receded from that proposition, because, he said, that the mere acceptance of those buildings for the use of the disestablished Church carried with it the moral obligation to keep them in repair. When they saw the immense sums of money spent in times past and the large amounts that were always forthcoming for restoration purposes, the much smaller sum that would be needed to keep in repair these places, once restored, would be forthcoming when wanted. They might, he thought, rely on the liberality of Churchmen to do this, and to make good any sum that might be wanting for that object.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
said, he did not think the answer of the Under Secretary would be considered satisfactory. The hon. Gentleman had referred to Clause 14, but he had not, apparently, read the very first words in Clause 14, which provided that the existing ecclesiastical law in Wales and Monmouthshire should 1475 from the date of Disestablishment, cease to exist as law, but should subsist as contract. It was quite true that Clause 14 went on to provide that that law might be re-established, so that the obligation to repair the churches would come to this—that if Churchmen wanted the churches to be repaired they could do it themselves. The other point raised was about the lay rectors who had to repair the chancels of churches and who, at the present day, could be forced to do so. The lay rector was not a popular person, but the most unpopular lay rector was one who was not a member of the Church and who was not resident in Wales.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, that as he understood the end of the clause, it seemed to be enforceable in the temporal courts upon any property.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
pointed out that the clause was not binding upon anyone except members of the Church, and he did not see how the temporal court was going to enforce its decision where the clause was not binding. Looking at the matter from the point of view of a conscientious lay rector who wished to do his duty, the obligation upon him would be to go on repairing the chancel when the body of the Church had gone entirely or had fallen into disuse. That would surely be "ploughing the sands." In conclusion, he thought some better provision should be made for repairing chancels as well as churches.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, that he was sure that it was the wish of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) to make any arrangement which would be consistent with common sense. The case just put had, no doubt, occurred. But a pious lay rector so repairing a chancel night, in doing so, be meeting the needs of a diminished and impoverished parish.
§ SIR DONALD MACFARLANE (Argyllshire)
said, that no sooner had the sentiment in regard to the cathedrals been conceded and the cathedrals given to the Church, than the Opposition raised the question of re-endowment to a limited extent. He wanted to make a practical suggestion to the noble Lord who moved this Amendment. There was a Christian body in this country who built those cathedrals and who would be happy to take them over without any endowment.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, that by Clause 3 these cathedrals were to be handed over to the Welsh Commissioners, and the Commissioners were subsequently to hand them over to the Church body. He desired to know who was going to repair them in the interval. In the Irish Church Act, a provision was made by Clause 49, but he could find no provision at all of that sort in the present Bill, putting aside the larger question raised by his noble Friend. He hardly liked to argue with the Under Secretary on ecclesiastical law, but in a learned work by Dr. Phillimore it was laid down that the chancel should be repaired by the rector and vicars who were to contribute a proportion. He did not care whether it was to be the rector or vicars, but what he wanted to know was, what was to be the state of affairs after the passing of the Act, arid before the churches were handed over to the Church body. A very serious obligation might be laid upon the incumbent of a Welsh church, unless it were made perfectly clear that the obligation for these repairs should not lie upon him in the future. They had been told that it was absurd to believe that money would not be forthcoming after the passing of this Act, seeing the vast sums which had been subscribed by Churchmen hitherto. He would, however, point out that after this Bill should have become law an enormous obligation would be placed upon Churchmen to pay the clergy; and they would also have the obligation, which at present existed, of maintaining the voluntary school. Was it sensible, he asked, to suppose that, after the Government had taken from the Church £250,000 a year, the same amount of money as hitherto would be available for other purposes? Such a position was quite untenable. All he asked was that the churches and cathedrals being given to the representative body, there should also be given to them, out of money now belonging to the Church, a sufficient sum to keep the buildings in repair. He must say he had never heard a more reasonable request. Hon. Members opposite talked a great deal of their respect for cathedrals. Was their pride in cathedrals going to cease now that the Church was unable to keep them in 1477 repair? The hon. Member for Argyll-shire described the Amendment as a proposal for re-endowment. But they were not asking national money, they were only asking for a small part of the money which by the Bill would be taken from the Church. And this proposal was already in the Bill. He therefore earnestly hoped the Government would consent to the addition of some words which would make it possible for Church people to keep these churches and cathedrals in proper repair.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, he did not think the churches would fall into disrepair whatever happened. But that was not the point. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to deal justly by the Church. He proposed to place the representative body in the place of the Welsh Commissioners. The Welsh Commissioners were originally to have the cathedrals, and were to provide for the reparation and upkeep of the cathedrals out of the tithe rent-charge which came, into their possession. All that was asked was that the representative body should be placed in the same position with regard to funds. Under the Bill public rights in the cathedrals and churches would be maintained. The people would have free access to them, whether they belonged to the Anglican Communion or not. Therefore the Church would still remain the National Church, and it was reasonable to ask that her property, which was said to be public property, should be devoted to the maintenance of these buildings, which were for the use of the whole people. They were not asking for anything to which they had not a perfect right, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would do well to deal in this matter with a rather more generous hand in regard to the ecclesiastical funds which he was now taking away from the Church.
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
asked whether it was intended that those churches which happened to have ecclesiastical impropriators of tithe should be in a less favourable position than those which had lay impropriators. Was it generous treatment of the Church to say, when they were taking away the bulk of her property, that the additional 1478 obligation should be put upon her impoverished resources of maintaining and repairing the churches?
§ *MR. TALBOT
said, that while they did not undervalue the concessions which had been made, they could not but feel that the proposition of the Government was one of the most unreasonable that was ever submitted to Parliament. The Government proposed to take away from the most ancient institution in the country the bulk of its property, and at the same time they said that part of that property should be left in the hands of the body which had so long enjoyed it. But whilst these ancient buildings, which everybody in the House on all sides professed to honour and respect, were left to the Disestablished and Disendowed Church, they were told that as to the maintenance of these buildings, though the Church had hitherto enjoyed funds for the purpose, it would enjoy them no longer. That was the plain fact put in the language of common sense. All that was said in support of that proposition was that the Church could not have both the churches and the money to repair them. Why not? It was not the money of the State, but money originally contributed for the very purpose of repairing these churches. He did not know whether it was in order to refer to what one saw in the public prints, but it struck him as important to see that morning that a very eminent Member of the House had reconsidered his position with regard to this Bill. He did not know whether it was owing to the beneficent influence of the right hon. Member for Midlothian that they had been met with some concessions lately. They were glad of the concessions from whatever motives they were given, but he could not help thinking that if they had the right hon. Gentleman amongst them to-day, a very different tone would have been adopted towards the very reasonable proposition put before the Committee by his noble Friend. There was no money left to the Church for such a purpose, and he did not know where the persons were to be found who were going, in the future, to repair the churches and the cathedrals. The money could not be obtained from the landowners of Wales unless they were 1479 very unlike the landowners of England, they were already overburdened with heavy demands, and it seemed to him that a time must surely come when private individuals could not undertake to bear the expense of repairing these ancient buildings, because as the churches must be repaired annually, private persons, even those who had contributed already to the restoration of churches, could not go on putting their hands into their pockets to defray the expense. Reasonable men who looked at the question of the churches and cathedrals in a reasonable way—as part of the ancient inheritance of the country—would, apart from politics, say that, having given the buildings to Churchmen, money to repair the fabrics should also be given. Could not the Government at any rate go some way to meet Churchmen by giving some assistance to buildings founded before a certain date?
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, he had listened to the speech of the Under Secretary for the Home Department with pleasure. It was felt that the view of the question taken by the hon. Gentleman was from the same standpoint as that of Churchmen—a belief in the sacred character of the buildings, and a desire that they should be maintained consistently with their sacred character. But this was not the view taken by Nonconformists generally. He hoped that the Committee had not heard the last word of Her Majesty's Government on this matter in the speech of the Under Secretary. The hon. Member said that cathedrals and churches when handed over to the Representative Body without any provision for their maintenance would, nevertheless, be maintained, as they all desired to see them maintained. That might be so. By great personal efforts the ministers of the Church might collect sufficient means in England and Wales to maintain the churches and cathedrals without endowments, but that work could only be achieved at the cost of time and means diverted to that purpose from their proper spiritual work; and in that case the Church would be the poorer for the change. Hon. Members opposite said that the Church was allowed to retain the cathedrals and the churches; and that being so, they thought that it was too much to ask that public money should also be 1480 given to maintain them: let the churches and cathedrals be maintained as the Nonconformists maintained their chapels. But the Bill itself did not place cathedrals and churches in future, although handed over to the representative body precisely on the same footing as chapels belonging to Nonconformists. There was Subsection 2, towards the end of the clause, of which the Committee had received no explanation. It said—Every church, parsonage house, burial ground, and glebe vested under this section shall be held subject to all existing public and private rights with respect thereto.What did that mean? It must in some way or other retain for the people generally, whether or not members of the congregation, represented in the representative body to which those cathedrals and churches would hereafter belong, some kind of rights with regard to churches such as were not possessed by the public with regard to any private Nonconformist chapel. If the Government were going to hand over the cathedrals and churches to the representative body, saddled with the entire obligation to maintain them, he said that they had no right whatever to reserve any kind of public right over them. The Government in the Bill had not proposed to allow anything from the funds of the disendowed Church to the maintenance of churches or parsonage houses, but they had proposed to do so with regard to cathedrals. Why, then, were they to recede from that proposition because of the change they had made the previous evening? It was purely a concession of sentiment. An opinion had been widely entertained by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, that by reserving the legal estate in the cathedrals to the Welsh Commissioners, and allowing the use of them to the Church body in future, something was being reserved from the Church, so that the Church body in reality would not be considered as solely entitled to any rights over the cathedrals. The right hon. Gentleman in announcing his concession, dispelled that idea. He said that the Government had intended and were willing to alter the words of the Bill to provide that the Welsh Commissioners should simply hold the cathedrals in trust for the Church 1481 Body, and the Church Body should be the only persons to whom any rights should be conceded over them. Then the change was purely a legal change—a concession of sentiment without any legal difference in the position. If that were so, and if when the Government was giving in that way the sole and complete rights to the Church Body over the cathedrals, they had intended at the same time to impose the liability of maintaining the buildings on the Welsh Commissioners out of the funds of the disendowed Church, why should they now relieve the Welsh Commissioners of that liability? He thought from the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman expressed the previous evening, that he was by no means indisposed to adhere to some extent to the proposals of the Bill with reference to the maintenance of cathedrals; but he asked now why were the Government justified by the change they made with regard to cathedrals in departing from their own proposition on this matter? What they had proposed was really a wasteful manner of maintaining the cathedrals. If they handed over a comparatively small sum, assessed by some independent authority, to the representative body for the maintenance of the cathedrals, the representative body would maintain the cathedrals better and more cheaply than the Welsh Commissioners could under the proposals of the Bill. He asked Her Majesty's Government to treat the Church party in this matter with that generosity about which they were always talking, and to stand by their own proposition so far as to secure the proper maintenance and repair of fabrics in the future.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the proposition put forward by the noble Lord with regard to cathedrals, about which the Committee was going to divide, was that every Church and parsonage house in Wales should be maintained out of the funds taken from the endowed Church.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that at any rate the proposal was that every Church in Wales, after the date of Disestablishment, should share in a fund which was to be set aside and charged on the temporalities of the disendowed Church. The 1482 right hon. Baronet had said very little in support of that proposition, and of all the claims put forward on behalf of the disestablished Church this was one of the most extravagant. For the purposes if public policy the Government was going to disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales, and was giving up to the Representative Body the whole of the Church fabrics to vest absolutely in them, and they were told that they were behaving in an ungenerous way because they did not also set aside, from the funds to be devoted to public purposes, a large annual contribution for the repair and maintenance of those churches over which the Representative Body would have absolute control. A rather unfortunate appeal had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. The Government were, often being told that the proposals in this Bill, compared with the Act of 1869, were ungracious and grudging. In the Irish Church Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian proposed that the churches should be handed over to the Representative Body only on the condition that they undertook to maintain them in repair, and that if they did not perform that obligation, they were not to have them at all. It was quite true that in Committee his right hon. Friend abandoned that position and handed over the churches without the obligation to maintain them, but at the same time he said that he was satisfied that it would be a matter of honour with the Representative Body to undertake the obligation. It was never suggested that the Irish Commissioners should bear the cost of maintenance and repair. At present the obligation to repair churches was a purely voluntary obligation. In some cases the rector was responsible for the repair of the chancel, but as regarded the body of the Church, at common law the liability lay upon the parishioners and could be enforced by a Church rate. Parliament, however, abolished Church rates some time ago, and since then the obligation to repair the Church had been a voluntary obligation, and no fund out of the temporalities of the Church had been set aside for the purpose. It was not 1483 as if any of the funds to be taken had been earmarked to such an obligation.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, he knew that in several cases where the Ecclesiastical Commissioners held the tithe, they were under an obligation to repair the chancel. If their property was taken for secular purposes that liability would be gone.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he was not dealing with the question of the chancel, which was generally an obligation against the rector. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that, in so far as any of these funds had been hitherto devoted to repairing the chancel to any extent, they would be lost to the church: but he referred particularly to the repair of the body of the church, and none of the funds that were being taken had ever been charged with that. This appeal was made rather on the ground of generosity than on any claim in strict justice to a fund of this kind. Then, again, he must point out that, much as the scheme of Disendowment in the Bill had been criticised on the ground that it was unfair to the Church, yet this obligation would be a very much easier one for the Church to bear under the scheme of the Government than under any other, because under the scheme of the Government Disendowment would take place gradually and for a long time to come in the average parish, the existing provision for the spiritual wants of the parish would remain as it was, and an interval would be given to the Church to go on gradually accumulating a fund for this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman said—and this, he thought, was the only argument he used based on a strict consideration of justice—that under Subsection 2 every church, parsonage house, burial ground, and glebe would be held subject to all existing public and private rights; and he asked him whether that meant that after the Church was disestablished, the public would have the right to resort to the services, and, if so, whether a claim for contribution towards the maintenance of the fabric might be claimed against them? There were private rights of an important kind exercised in the churches, but the only public right he knew of in the Church was the one the right hon. Gentleman had referred to. If it was the wish of those who spoke on behalf of the Church 1484 that that public right should no longer exist, if they desired that the Church should be placed on the same footing as any dissenting chapel, and that the clergy should have the power of locking out anybody they might not desire to see at the services, he should not stand in their way. He did not think, however, that that view was likely to be put forward; but as the Government had pledged themselves that the Church should be on precisely the same footing as regarded privilege as any dissenting body, if the Church claimed a right to exclude from its services, that claim ought to be acceded to. If the friends of the Church did not choose to prefer that claim, if they were quite willing that anyone should resort to the churches for legitimate purposes, then he did not think that the argument had any foundation. With regard to cathedrals, he had offered to keep the freehold in them in the Welsh Commissioners, with an accompanying burden to repair them; but that offer was refused. If the freehold were transferred to the Commissioners, the duty to maintain should be referred also; but if the Church said that absolute and complete control should go to the Church body, then he thought it was fair that the burden of maintenance should go with it. There was one other point raised by the hon. Member for Tunbridge, who commented on the fact that there was no provision made for the interim period. He thought that provision ought to be made for that. The criticisms that had been passed on the provisions of the Bill with reference to the obligation to repair chancels deserved consideration, and his attention would be given to the point.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
thought the tone and attitude of the Home Secretary and the Under Secretary, on whom the practical conduct and defence of the Bill devolved, were matters of interest and importance to those who followed the course of the Debates on this Bill. He wished he could congratulate the country on the tone and attitude so taken by those two distinguished Gentlemen, because he did not think they tended to conciliation and the good management of the Bill. And he must differentiate considerably between these two Gentlemen, for it 1485 seemed unfortunate that the Under Secretary, who constantly protested his love for the Church, and his desire not to injure her but to do her good, while robbing and spoiling the Church, still managed to convey the impression that he really was not at all indisposed to injure her, and that nothing gave him more enjoyment than to give his Church thrust after thrust under the veil of consistent love and loyalty to her. One observed the same tone in the hon. Gentleman's utterances with regard to the land, with which he had an hereditary connection. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as a rule confined himself to taking a determined, consistent, and intelligible attitude of dislike to the Church, and was determined, at all hazards, to carry this Bill through as a political necessity. Under the circumstances under which Party warfare was waged at the present time they (the Opposition) had to meet him as well as they could, and fight him in a similar spirit. The right hon. Gentleman did not often make very serious mistakes in tact, but in his last speech he most emphatically made an unfortunate departure from his general attitude. He was pleased to jibe and jeer at the Church Party on the question of whether they would or would not assert the right, which he allowed to be theirs, to have made over to them absolutely the power of closing their churches to all whom they did not wish to see within them. Such a remark would not redound either to the right hon. Gentleman's personal reputation or to the spirit in which the Bill would be considered out of doors, or conducted in that House. What they as Churchmen most ardently desired was—that the doors of their churches should be constantly and widely opened, and the more folks they could get to be interested in those churches, whether as national monuments or whether as seats of religious teaching or religious education, the better they would be pleased. There was not the slightest desire on the part of any single Churchman in that House or out of it to do anything in the direction of narrowing the interest in their churches or forbidding any person to enter them, or feeling any interest in all the purposes for which the churches were instituted and maintained. Therefore it 1486 did not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to make any innuendo such as that. If the Church were to assume an attitude of generosity and public-mindedness towards the nation at large, was it not fair that the nation should adopt a similar attitude towards the Church in return? He had noticed that several hon. Gentlemen—and especially the Under Secretary for the Home Department—had laid great stress on the fact that the generosity of the supporters of the Church ought to be quite sufficient to provide all the funds that were wanted for the future maintenance of cathedrals and churches, and they had based that argument mainly on the historical fact that in past times money had been forthcoming to create and erect these buildings in the first instance. But was it not fair to point out that those who in past times gave so much money for the erection or creation of cathedrals and churches were, to a certain extent, instigated to do so by the knowledge that there was in existence a constant fund for the maintenance of these cathedrals and churches? Was it not in accordance with the rules of common sense and common understanding to think that such lavish sums would not have been given if those who gave them had not thought that in creating these cathedrals and churches they could rely on the funds which then existed to maintain them and keep them in order? What in the world could be more foolish than to create institutions, whether for charitable or religious purposes, with possibly a great flourish of trumpets at the moment, with regard to which was not arranged some permanent fund by which it could be maintained and carried on? With regard to cathedrals, there would be always forthcoming in this country, as long as there was maintained any of the national feeling and reverence which existed at present, a certain amount of money for the actual maintenance of the few cathedrals in Wales. But the same argument would hardly be of weight with regard to all the poor parish churches all through the districts of Wales which had no particular historical importance attached to them, and which had not very much attraction for any except those who were closely connected with them. The maintenance of these 1487 little parish churches had depended mainly and chiefly on the contribution of the classes in Wales on whom it had pleased the Government to lay the most extreme and extravagant burdens. They had been maintained chiefly by the generosity of the local landowner and the local gentry resident in the district, and that class the Government, by its recent Budget, had practically crushed out of the possibility of giving financial assistance, and taken it out of their power to do that which hitherto they had been anxious to do. Suppose it had been mooted that it would be wise to deal with their great Universities in the same way as they were dealing with the Established Church? Suppose, in time to come, some educational reformers were pleased to say the Universities were not carrying out the purposes for which they were instituted, and that they had better be nationalised; what an absurdity, what a ridiculous thing it would be to take credit to themselves for the making over of the fabric of the Universities, and yet deprive the Representative Body of any access to the funds on which the maintenance of the Universities depended. And if at any future time it was considered desirable to nationalise the hospitals, and to take away the funds they now had, what an absurd farce it would be to hand over the fabric of these institutions unless they handed over some of the funds by which they were maintained. The Government were doing an unpractical and an unjust thing in the action they were now taking. The right hon. Gentleman was going to hand over these cathedrals to a body representing the Church, but denied to that body a single penny of the money which he plundered and robbed the Church of. What might be the result if he handed over the cathedrals to the Representative Body, the cathedrals being national monuments, being historical monuments, being of national interest to the nation at large, and they fell into disrepair, and there were not forthcoming funds to maintain them? The result was this, that the cathedrals would be in danger of falling into absolute ruin. Either these national monuments must go to ruin, or the money must be forthcoming from other quarters. Did the Under Secretary look 1488 forward to a Bill at some future day placing the cathedrals on the basis of ancient monuments, in order that they might be maintained out of public funds, or did he think it would be better to let them fall into ruin as soon as possible, so as to sweep away the last trace of this most unfortunate action of the Government? Hon. Members had talked as if they who spoke on behalf of the Church were asking for free endowments. What they were asking was not for free endowments, but that, in the course of this great spoliation which was now being inflicted upon the Church, there should be retained with the fabric of the Church sufficient from the funds now belonging to her to keep these fabrics in ordinary and decent repair as they now stood. If they wished to increase the cathedrals in future, by all means let them pay for it, but that they should be allowed to maintain the cathedrals in the position in which they stood when they were arbitrarily taken away from them was surely not an unfair or an extravagant demand. The Government talked of the concession they had made, but it seemed to him it was rather unfair for them to plume themselves upon having made a concession when that concession was really one of primary advantage to themselves. It had been pointed out that if the Government were to apply their principle to any other public building or institution they would find there would be an overwhelming insistance on the part of the country that they should guarantee sufficient to maintain the building. He felt that he and his hon. Friends were justified in their appeal by every principle of common sense and fail play, and he declined altogether to associate himself with the demand for this concession on the ground of ordinary generosity, because he was quite certain that what they asked now was not a matter of ordinary generosity, but of elementary justice.
§ *MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottinghamshire, Mansfield)
said, that had the House chosen to adopt several of the Amendments already disposed of, and if it were willing to adopt the principle of other Amendments which yet stood on the Paper, it was evident the Bill, while being a measure disestablishing the 1489 Church, would, as a measure of disendowment, be a very small one indeed. Last night the request was made that the cathedrals should be handed over to the Disestablished Church, and that request was assented to by the Government. Then the suggestion was made that in addition funds should be provided in order to keep the buildings in repair,; that was to say, that these edifices, after being denationalised, should still be maintained out of national resources. Today it was sought to apply this extraordinary principle to the churches and parsonages. Yesterday hon. Gentlemen opposite were exuberant in their gratitude to the Government, but it seemed that now, as a result of reflection, they were somewhat uneasy, if not alarmed, at the consequences which necessarily followed. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had asked with great emphasis, why should the Government depart from the principle involved in Clause 7 of the Bill? The answer was because an important alteration had been made in Clause 6, and the abandonment of Clause 7 was a corollary of the Amendment of Clause 6. The nation, by the change effected last night, had abandoned all claim to the ownership of the cathedrals. The cathedrals, as well as the churches, were henceforth to be no longer national in their character, but they were to be placed on precisely the same footing as Nonconformist places of worship. Yet it was asked that these buildings should be placed in a position of superiority, as regarded pecuniary resources, over the Nonconformist places of worship. As regarded the churches, the position of Churchmen would be improved by the adoption of the Amendment of the noble Lord, because at present there was no fund availabble for the maintenance of the churches; they had to be kept in good condition by the contributions of those who worshipped in them. If this Amendment were adopted that would be no longer needed; because the worshippers would be able to fall back on the fund for which the Amendment provided. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Bristol had pleaded the inability of the Church to maintain these buildings. All Nonconformists maintained their places of worship without having recourse to any national 1490 fund. The plea of poverty could not reasonably be urged in this matter; indeed the right hon. Baronet in an earlier speech on this Bill spoke of the members of the Church of England as constituting the most wealthy, as well as the best educated, portion of the Welsh population. The whole objection to this Amendment could be stated in a sentence. The national character of these buildings had now been abandoned, the buildings would cease to be national, they would become denominational, and they must be treated as such, and those who acquired the rights of ownership must accept the consequential responsibilities.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
desired to put a question to the Solicitor General, because it had reference to the legal part of the argument which earlier in the day he addressed to the Committee, and which he thought had not been answered. He wished to know whether under the Bill there would not be an obligation upon the representative body to keep the chancels of the churches in repair. The representative body were going to hold the churches. One of the undoubted and indubitable public rights was that the chancels should be kept in repair by those who held the churches. The Home Secretary had, in answer to the very ingenious point raised by the hon. Member for Preston, promised he would provide in the Bill that in cases where there were lay rectors the obligation to repair the chancels should be maintained, and that the lay rectors should still, after Disestablishment, be obliged to maintain the chancels. There was a further difficulty which arose in respect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners held a great amount of tithe in Wales, but under the Bill as it now stood they would not be obliged to maintain the chancels. Why were the Commissioners to be put in a different position to the ordinary lay rector? It appeared to him tithe, at present enjoyed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, ought to remain subject to the obligation to repair the chancels exactly in the same way as tithe in the hands of the lay rector was under that obligation.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir FRANK LOCKWOOD, York)
thought the Home Secretary answered both the points 1491 raised by the noble Lord in the statement he made before the adjournment. As he understood the Sub-section (2) of this clause, every public and private right, so far as it was enforceable at present, should remain enforceable; but it had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Preston that the responsibility for the repairs of the chancel might be enforced only in a spiritual court. Inasmuch as under Clause 14 certain obligations were made enforceable in a spiritual court, it was pointed out that some provision ought to be made in order to continue the machinery. It seemed to him that an amendment of Clause 25 would meet the difficulty.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that it was in virtue of the possession of the great tithes that the owner of those tithes had to repair the chancel, whether he was an ecclesiastical officer or a layman. Now the Committee had the promise of the Solicitor General that the great tithes should not be released from this charge by the Bill, and the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested an Amendment of Clause 25. That was a very fair concession, and would go a long way to meet the difficulties of the case.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
asked whether the Committee was to understand that his hon. Friend had rightly interpreted the undertaking given by the Solicitor General.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said that, as far as the responsibility for the repair of the chancel was upon the lay rector, and the remedy for the enforcement of that responsibility was interfered with by the Bill, provision would be made hereafter to preserve the responsibility. That was what the Home Secretary had said, and was all that he could say.
[Mr. ASQUITH entered the House at this point, and Mr. BALFOUR repeated the question which had been put to the Solicitor General.]
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that what his statement amounted to was this: Where the great tithes of a parish belonged to the lay rector, provided that the lay rector came within the 14th Clause, and was bound by contract to continue to do what he had done before, there would be no difficulty. But where the lay rector did not belong to the Church of England, and did not come within the 1492 clause, there was a lacuna in the Bill, and he undertook to make provision for it later on.
§ MR. BALFOUR
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, then, gave no assurance either with regard to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or to the County Councils. If the obligation to repair the chancel rested upon the representative body, and it was to be enforced, Parliament was bound to provide the representative body with the funds to meet the obligation. But if the obligation rested with the owner of the great tithes, then it was necessary to introduce a provision by which, not only the lay rector; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or the County Councils would be bound to fulfil the obligation. At a later stage the Committee must endeavour to carry out the principle to which the Government were really pledged. The Under Secretary for the Home Department had urged that it would be inconsistent with the principles of the Bill to take away the money of the Church with one hand and to give it back with the other for the repair of the churches. But there was an easier way of stating the proposal, which would not hurt the feelings of the hon. Gentleman so much. The only appeal that was made in regard to the parish churches was that the Government should carry their work of Disestablishment to something less than the full extreme. It was not pretended that if the principle of Disestablishment were accepted in its fullest extent any such provision as this could be logically deduced. But the Government were not compelled by their declarations, or by anything in the Bill, to drive their principles to an extreme. In this connection he would rather appeal to the good feeling of the Nonconformist bodies. For inevitable reasons—some architectural and some historical—there were circumstances connected with the parish churches which could in very few cases occur in respect to places where Nonconformists worshipped. That was no reflection on Nonconformists, and no praise to the Church; it was the statement of an historic fact. Further, the parish churches, in a large number of cases, from their size, from the character of their architecture, from their antiquity, cost much more to keep in repair than the more recently-erected buildings 1493 offering similar accommodation to a body of worshippers. Therefore, there was a peculiar burden thrown upon Churchmen in connection with these large and very ancient buildings which did not fall upon Nonconformist bodies. But he would quite admit that the case in regard to parish churches, except in respect of the chancels, was far weaker than, the case which could be made out for the cathedrals. In the case of the Irish Church Bill, as had been said, the question of a sustentation fund was raised by the Government, but was dropped after some discussion; and the right hon. Member for Midlothian, while refusing to give a maintenance fund, said that he trusted, as a matter of honour and obligation, on the Church body in Ireland, the maintenance of the cathedrals. That was quite true as a matter of historic narrative; but what was left out was that the disestablished Church in Ireland was set upon its new career with funds at its disposal for those purposes which the Welsh Church had not and could not have. Under these circumstances, they might well ask that the precedent of the Irish Church, which had been departed from against the Welsh Church, might for once be departed from in favour of the Welsh Church. The Home Secretary rested his whole case, with regard to cathedrals, upon the fact that he had made a concession, which he said carried with it, as a logical consequence, the obligation to bear the whole cost of maintenance; and he said that the reception of the concession he had made was not such as to encourage the making of further concessions. But what gratitude did they owe the Home Secretary for the concession he made last night if the principle he now laid down were to be maintained? As members of the English Church they felt that the sentiments of a great body of English and Welsh Churchmen were outraged by the proposal to take the cathedrals from them and leave it to the will of a lay, and possibly a hostile, body to determine whether Anglican services were to be continued within their walls.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that was not so; on the contrary, it was provided by the first Subsection of the 7th Clause that the cathedrals would continue to be used exclusively as they were used now.
§ MR. BALFOUR
continued that they lad not so read the clause, nor had they interpreted the earlier speeches of the Home Secretary as having that intention; but, waiving that point, let it be observed what was the meaning of the concession of which the Government were so proud. Under the Bill, as the Home Secretary now said, Nonconformists were not to have the right to use the cathedrals for my purpose to which they were not now applied. Therefore, so far as the Nonconformists were concerned, nothing was lost by the so-called concession of last night. They had given up nothing, they had made a concession which cost them nothing, and in exchange they had got a large amount of Church property by way of relief from taxation for the repair of the edifices. All that was asked was that this concession, for which there was a substantial consideration, should be made more complete. If the Government had held out the slightest hope of any further concession with respect to parish churches he should have advised his noble Friend to accept it; but they had held out no such hope. The case as to cathedrals appeared to be so clear that they would not be doing their duty if they failed to go into the lobby to express their views. As the late Prime Minister said in 1869, it was a matter of honour and obligation to keep up the cathedrals. No doubt Churchmen would honourably fulfil that obligation, at whatever sacrifice, but they could not forget that the Government, in making a concession which cost nothing deliberately threw upon the Welsh Church a burden which must tax its resources and cripple its usefulness.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, he had listened carefully to the Debate, and it appeared to him, as one who had supported the Second Reading of the Bill, that the reply of the Government to so much of the Amendment as dealt with the churches was certainly a very strong one, and on that point alone he should feel bound to support the Government; but he also held very strongly that the cathedrals stood in a very different position. He would almost say that justice—certainly anything like liberality towards the Church—required that, at all events, some adequate sum should be put aside for the purposes of maintenance of what, 1495 after all, were not merely religious buildings, but were public and national monuments. He understood the Government to give absolutely no hope that they would yield to the demand for maintenance even for the cathedrals, and, therefore, he should vote with the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that if the Government would express the slightest desire to respond to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition he should be glad to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, that in a parish with which he was connected there was a fabric fund, dating from the time of Elizabeth, for the repair and maintenance of the Church. He did not know whether any such fund existed in any parish in Wales; but, if there were one, would it be taken away from the local church by the Bill?
§ MR. ASQUITH
replied that he was not aware of the existence of any such fund in connection with a Welsh parish, but if there were any fund of that kind it would be fair that it should go with the parish church.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 171; Noes, 197.—(Division List, No. 133.)
MR. LAURENCE HARDY (Kent, S.) (for Mr. VICARY GIBBS) moved, after line 23, to insert—
They shall, on the request of the Representative Body, vest in that body all ecclesiastical residences, together with such portion of the glebe, if any, as is adjacent or near thereto, not exceeding 10 acres: Provided always, that if the Commissioners shall be of opinion that, for the convenient enjoyment of any ecclesiastical residence or by reason of the severance which would otherwise take place, an additional quantity of glebe should be so vested, they shall by order vest such additional land in the said body.
In the Irish Church Act 30 acres were allotted to the palaces, but only 10 acres to the glebe houses. In the present case it was proposed to adopt the same treatment for both sorts of ecclesiastical residences. The Committee should consider that they ought to vest some
definite proportion of land that served the parsonage houses and was the only connection between them and the church and churchyard. The shortest way for the clergyman to get from his house to the church was generally across the glebe, and if, under this Bill, the glebe was vested in a different, and, not improbably, a hostile authority, it might be very hard for the clergyman to take the shortest way from his house to the church in accordance with the custom which probably had prevailed for hundreds of years. The proposal which was carried in the case of the Irish Church seemed to him to be the most natural way of dealing with this question, and, without further words, he now moved the Amendment standing in the name of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that the first part of the Amendment on the Paper was, of course, now unnecessary, as the Committee had already vested in the representative body the ecclesiastical residences and parsonage houses. The hon. Gentleman had cited the precedent of the Irish Church Act, but the Amendment went far beyond that, for the hon. Gentleman proposed to impose a duty upon the Commissioners. The Government could not possibly assent to this. There was no precedent for it. But though the Government could not entertain the Amendment in its present form, yet, if apt words were chosen, they might go on giving the Commissioners similar powers as were conferred upon the Irish Commissioners under the Irish Church Act.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
apologised for not being present to move his Amendment, and said that it appeared to him that this was a very moderate and reasonable proposal, and quite in keeping with the undertaking which the Home Secretary gave to consider any proposals in favour of the Church in a generous spirit. No excessive demand was made by the Amendment, or one out of keeping with the principle of the Bill as the Home Secretary had laid it down.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, there was a point here which required consideration. The Bill proposed to give parsonages and ecclesiastical residences to the Church Body free of charge, whereas the Irish Act only gave them 1497 subject to the payment of ten times the annual value of the land on which they stood. Therefore, the Bill gave an advantage to the Welsh Church. But if the Home Secretary read Clause 28 of the Irish Church Act carefully he would see that, in addition to the parsonage house or ecclesiastical residence, it was incumbent upon the Commissioners to vest a further portion of the land in the representative body; provided, of course, the representative body paid for it. As the Bill now stood, it did not extend beyond the parsonage house and garden. There might be a small meadow occupied with the ecclesiastical residence, the possession of which was practically essential for access to the residence, but though the Parish Council might be perfectly willing, this could not, as the Bill now stood, be vested in the Church Representative Body, however much the Commissioners might desire it. This was really indefensible, for it would mean in many cases handing over ecclesiastical residences deprived of the necessary conveniences for their occupation. If this Amendment was not pressed to a Division, he should move the substitution for it of the clause in the Irish Church Act.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, this was an extraordinary proposal, which went far beyond what occurred to any one in relation to the Irish Church Act, but he was willing to consider it.
MR. GRANT LAWSON
objected to the phrase which the Home Secretary had used during the discussion, "giving to the Church." This was not a matter of giving to the Church, but preventing what she had from being taken away. If the Bill were left as it stood, gardens attached to residences might be considerably extended. [Laughter.] A far-sighted vicar might lay down a garden path from the house to the Church, and so secure under the head of garden his road to the Church, for whatever could be made "garden" would remain with the 1498 Church. If the Amendment were altered to three acres, the Government might be willing to reserve three acres on which to graze a cow. [Laughter.]
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the hon. Gentleman suggested a development of clerical ingenuity which it might be necessary to provide against. He was willing to consider the proposal of the right hon. Baronet (Sir M. Hicks-Beach), but would not pledge himself to the details of it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH moved the insertion of the section from the Irish Church Act which gave power to the Commissioners to convey to the Church Representative Body such portions of glebe not exceeding ten acres, or in the case of a see house 30 acres, as might be necessary for the more convenient enjoyment of the parsonage or see house. The language of the Irish Church Act on this subject appeared to him to be absolutely fair and he was surprised that in drawing up the present clause the right hon. Gentleman should have departed from that definite language. Look at the position in which the Welsh Commissioners would be placed under the provisions of the clause as they stood in the Bill. However willing they might be to do so, they would be precluded from devoting a single rood of land to the purposes indicated by the Amendment, or from selling any portion of the land vested in them to the Church authorities. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment which would introduce into this Bill provisions which had worked satisfactorily in Ireland, and which it might reasonably be anticipated would work equally satisfactorily in Wales. He, of course, had no desire that more land than could conveniently be employed for the purposes indicated in the Amendment should be transferred, and he did 1499 not think that the provisions embodied in the Amendment would operate in such a way as to deprive the parish of land that it might require for its purposes.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he thought it rather unfortunate that an Amendment of this importance should have come up for discussion without being placed upon the Paper. The right hon. Baronet opposite proposed to transfer bodily into this clause a high subsection taken from the Irish Church Act. He thought that it would be better if the right hon. Baronet withdrew his Amendment for the present and would bring it up again in the form of a new clause.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, that, after what the right hon. Gentleman had said, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment and would bring up a new clause embodying its provisions at a later stage. He, therefore, asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, it would be better if the provisions of the Amendment were embodied in a separate clause which might be inserted in a later part of the Bill. He need scarcely remind the right hon. Baronet that it did not necessarily follow that what was right in the case of Ireland would be right in the case of Wales. He had no objection whatever to the principle of the Amendment, but he thought that it would be better if the right hon. Baronet now withdrew it for the purpose of reintroducing it in another form.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. W. F. LAWRENCE moved, at the end of line 23, to insert the words "and any fund or endowment specially allocated to the maintenance of the fabrics thereof."
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that he was not quite sure whether the phraseology of the Amendment was sufficiently accurate. There might be some doubt as to 1500 the exact meaning of the words "specifically allocated." Allocated by whom? He had no objection to the principle of the Amendment as far as it provided that funds or endowments which were given expressly for the maintenance of the fabric of the Church should go to the Representative Body. Subject to a possible alteration in the language of the Amendment, he would accept it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
SIR R. WEBSTER Moved, after line 23, to insert—
Where any church was in use at the time of the passing of this Act and no application in respect thereof is made by the Representative Body within twelve calendar months of the date of Disestablishment, and such church was erected at the private expense of any person, the Welsh Commissioners shall, on the application of the person who erected such church, if alive, or of his representatives if he died since the year 1800, by order vest such church in the applicant or applicants, or in such person as he or they may direct.
He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment, which merely followed the precedent of the Irish Church Act. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman preferred that he should do so he would withdraw the Amendment, and would bring it up as a separate clause.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that if the Amendment were to be accepted he might as well accept it now, and it could be transposed to its proper place subsequently. He had no objection to the principle of the Amendment, seeing that it only applied to what might be termed derelict churches, which the Representative Body did not see fit to ask for.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
desired to move the omission of Sub-section (b). The sub-section directed the Commissioners to vest the burial grounds and glebes transferred to them in Parish Councils in rural districts, and in any other case 1501 in the council of the county borough or urban district comprising the parish. The Parish Council was not qualified to carry out properly the important and complicated duties of a burial board. He appealed to anyone who had had experience of the working of these Parish Councils to say whether rural Parish Councils were at all fit to exercise the function of burial boards. He thought they would make Parish Councils very bad for the purpose for which they were appointed, and would also make very bad burial boards. They had not the knowledge, the power of spending money, or the professional assistance necessary. The duties of a burial board were often complicated, and its functions were far too important and technical to be adequately discharged by Parish Councils.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
said, that as a matter of fact in the rural districts he supposed that only a very small percentage of the Parish Councils had ever adopted the Burial Acts; there might be councils in populous parts of the country which had done, but very few Parish Councils in the rural districts were competent or qualified to fulfil the functions of a burial board. This clause, however, thrust those functions upon the Parish Council of every Welsh parish. The Government proposed that these burial grounds in urban districts were to be transferred to the District Council, and in the case of the county borough to the Municipal Council. In the case of some urban districts which were not municipal boroughs there were burial boards already. It followed, therefore, that in the urban districts which were not municipal boroughs there would be two conflicting burial authorities, the old burial board elected under the Burial Act, and the District Council, upon whom certain of these "active" burial grounds would be thrust by the operation of this Bill. 1502 This would have a very mischievous effect. The glebe was also to be vested in Parish Councils. He could not conceive a more inconvenient course than that which had been adopted. He could imagine that there would be Parish Councils which would be very much perplexed by having a piece of land thrust upon them; they would not know what to do with it, and it might fall into the hands of agents or designing persons. To give a piece of land in a remote parish to a County Council was the most inconvenient use they could put it to. He did not think in the case of municipal corporations there would be very much glebe; most of the glebe would be in rural districts. But even in the case of municipal corporations and urban districts, there was no provision made in the Bill for the purposes to which it was to be applied. His object in moving this Amendment was to give the Committee an opportunity of discussing as a whole the plan of the Government of vesting part of the funds of the Welsh Church in local bodies. The scheme was a crude one, and ought not to be adopted.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, this sub-section, the omission of which the right hon. Gentleman had moved, was confined to two subject-matters, the vesting of the burial ground and the vesting of the glebe; and he did not apprehend that it would be in order to go beyond the questions which arose in connection with those matters. It seemed to them, both as to glebe and burial grounds, that primâ facie, the parish was the body ultimately and directly concerned, and that therefore, now that local government had been given to every parish, the parish was the natural and proper instrument for the administration of this class of property. That was the general principle on which their scheme proceeded. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the rural parish councils would be inadequate to discharge the duty of burial boards, but that was not the view taken in the legislation of 1894. The Burial 1503 Acts did not apply except by adoption, subject to the important limitation that where, as not infrequently happened, the churchyard was closed by the Secretary of State on the ground that it was full, there was a practical necessity for the adoption of the Burial Acts. He did not think it was at all an unreasonable proposal that they should vest burial grounds in the Parish Councils. He was unaware of any evidence showing indisposition on the part of the parish councils to undertake the duties of the burial boards. From his own experience of last year he should have thought that in a considerable number of rural parishes in the country the parish councils were now the burials boards, or discharged the duties of those boards. In the case of urban districts which were not municipal boroughs he did not think the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman apprehended would arise. The law now was that in urban districts the councils might, by resolution, substitute themselves for the burial boards acting in such districts. That was provided in the Local Government Act of 1894, and therefore any conflict between the district council and the burial board in the district had already been provided for by the Legislature. Another point which the right hon. Gentleman brought forward related to cases in which the glebe belonging to one parish was situated in another parish, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that this was a matter well deserving of consideration. Such cases, however, were not of an ordinary character. There certainly were cases in which the glebe was situated outside the parish to which it belonged, but he was disposed to think they were much more numerous in Wales than in England. There were very few, if any, cases of glebes belonging to Welsh churches situated in England, but in Wales there were a not inconsiderable number of glebes belonging to one parish in a county that were situated in a parish of another county, or in another 1504 part of the same county. He admitted that such a state of things might lead to inconvenience unless it was provided for, and therefore, that it might not be well to lay down a hard-and-fast rule, it might be necessary to provide in cases of that kind that power should be given to the parish council in whose parish the glebe was situated to take over, on payment, the glebe from the parish which at present enjoyed it. It would not be difficult to arrange machinery for that purpose, and, in order to prevent the manifest inconvenience and probable difficulties that would otherwise arise. After all, those were very exceptional cases, though no doubt there was a sufficient number in Wales to make some provision necessary to meet them. The only other point raised was as to the purposes to which the glebe would be applied by the parish councils. Those purposes were denned in the schedule of the Bill, and he apprehended that the objects to which they would be most commonly applied were labourers' dwellings and allotments. But it would be more convenient to consider that question when Clause 9 was reached. On those grounds he hoped the Committee would agree that, so far as the two classes of property in question were concerned, the parish council was the authority in which they ought to be vested.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said, he was glad to hear that the Home Secretary was ready to further consider those cases in Wales in which the glebe belonging to one parish was situated in another parish. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman was willing to accept an Amendment, or some form of words, which would enable the glebe to be vested in the council in whose parish the land was situated.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
Quite so, on payment. But what would happen in the case of a glebe which was attached and reserved to a Welsh benefice, and which was now situated in England? 1505 Was that glebe to be vested in the parish council in England where it was situated?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he was under the impression that there were only two or three such cases of the kind at the very utmost in existence.
§ MR. ASQUITH
As regards these, I do not see why the very same principle I have stated should not apply to them.
§ MR. J. L. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
wished to ask the Home Secretary whether his proposal to vest the burial grounds or churchyards in the parish councils was not in direct antagonism to the provisions of the Local Government Act of last year? By the 6th Clause of this Act divers matters were transferred to the parish council, but all matters which "related to the affairs of the Church" were expressly excepted. When that Act was before the House the present Secretary for India admitted that the freehold of the churchyard was vested in the incumbent, and that the control of the churchyard was one of the affairs of the Church. Therefore, while in the Act of 1894 the Legislature, at the instance of the present Government, had expressly excluded the churchyards from the care and control of the parish council, the same Government were now proposing to hand them over to those bodies.
§ SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, S.)
said, it was perfectly competent for the Parish Councils created by the Act of last year to take upon themselves the duties of the burial boards. In fact, in a very large number of cases in Wales the scheme proposed by the Bill was already in operation. In the vast majority of cases the Parish Councils had undertaken the duties of the burial boards, and had carried them out advantageously and without complaint. As to the rural districts, he did not think any difficulty would arise in respect to them.
§ MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon)
said, he was prepared to accept the view that the parish burial-ground should be vested in the parish council if it was safe to do so. The difficulty that occurred to him was that in many parishes, especially in out-of-the-way parishes, it might happen that the burial grounds would not be properly attended to, and would be allowed to fall into disrepair. They knew that in previous times burial grounds in such localities had been allowed to fall into such a state as to become a scandal. When he referred to the point on the previous day he was deferred to an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the matter, but having consulted that Amendment he held that it did not fully meet the point. Nor did the Bill do so, and he thought some provision was necessary to ensure that under the new bodies the burial grounds should be properly cared for. He would therefore ask the Home Secretary whether he could not insert words in the clause which would make it the clear and positive duty of the Parish Councils to keep the burial grounds in decent condition and order.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, that yesterday the Committee decided that burial-grounds, so far as they were not actually disused, should not be vested in the Church body, and also that the glebe should not be vested in a Central Council. But, of course, he objected to their being taken away from the Church at all. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman promised that he would insert provisions which would vest disused burial grounds in the Representative Church Body. He wished to know when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to move that Amendment?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he found that the purpose was sufficiently served by the introductory words, "Save as afterwards provided by this Act." He thought having that saving, it would be more convenient to introduce this provision with respect to disused burial 1507 grounds, either as part of, or as supplementary to the clause of which he had given notice, dealing with burial grounds in general.
§ MR. EDWARD HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, that the glebe produced revenue just in the same way as the tithe rent-charge, and if the rent charge was retained by the County Council the glebe might have to go to that body also. He hoped that the Amendment might be withdrawn, in order that they might proceed to deal first of all with burial grounds, then with the tithe rent-charge, and then with glebes.
§ MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS
asked what was the precise meaning to be attached to the phrase "ecclesiastical" parish, because in England the phrase had a special meaning. Some of the civil parishes in England were divided for ecclesiastical purposes; and the words in the clause would seem to limit the enactment instead of applying it to any parish.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, his hon. Friend need be under no misapprehension. These words had been very carefuily considered, and if they did not use the word "ecclesiastical" here they would be in a very great difficulty, because an ecclesiastical parish was very often part of a civil parish. By using the word "ecclesiastical" they covered the case both of divided and undivided civil parishes.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
asked what was meant by an unused burial-ground, because a portion of every burial ground was unused. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he did not propose to take away any burial-ground provided by private benefaction. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman when, in determining that matter, he would agree that the clause should operate in cases where a burial-ground was provided out of the rates, but that where a burial-ground had not been provided out of the rates it should be 1508 regarded as having been provided by private benefaction.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that by an unused burial-ground he meant a burial-ground which had become wholly disused. Otherwise they would have burial-grounds constantly shifting their ownership. With regard to the other question, the whole clause was subject to the general limitations of Clause 5 as to private benefactions. Burial-grounds would not stand on a different footing from any other class of property in that respect, and they would be entitled to the presumption that where the origin of a benefaction given since 1682 was unknown, it was presumed to be a private benefaction.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
observed, in reference to what had been said by the hon. Member for Maldon, that the Secretary of State's power to control a local authority was a general power. It was not a power to control the everyday use of a burial ground, but only the power to lay down general rules. If they were going to entrust this great power to Parish Councils, they ought to take care to see that it was properly exercised.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, he did not share the apprehension felt in some quarters as to the misuse or neglect of churchyards by Parish Councils. They had found that Burial Boards had been anxious to discharge their duties in a spirit of mutual consideration with regard to the susceptibilities of all classes and sects, so desirable in all cases of this kind.
§ Question put, "That the words 'They shall vest' stand part of the clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 205; Noes 191.—(Division List, No. 134.)
§ And, it being half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.