§ "(1) On the date of Disestablishment every cathedral and ecclesiastical corporation in Wales or Monmouthshire, whether sole or aggregate, shall be dissolved. (2) After the date of Disestablishment no Bishop of the Church in Wales shall be summoned to, or be qualified to sit, in the House of Lords as such. Provided that every person who is at the passing of this Act a Bishop, Dean, or Archdeacon of the Church in Wales, shall during his life enjoy the same title and precedence as if this Act had not passed. (3) Writs of Summons shall he issued to Bishops not disqualified by this enactment for sitting in the House of Lords as if the Bishops so disqualified had vacated their seats."
§ *MR W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said he proposed by his two Amendments taken together to provide for the continuance of ecclesiastical corporations till the representative body desired that they should be terminated. He supposed he would receive the stereotyped answer that the clause was copied 1206 from the Irish Church Bill. That was the answer they had hitherto received when any question had arisen as to displacing or taking away the privileges of the Church. But as it was never used in favour of the Church, they fairly expected some more logical reason for adopting it in this case. In the first place, the privilege of being a corporation, sole or aggregate, was one that did no harm to any one who did not possess it, and it was a matter of convenience (perhaps considerably so) to those who did. Some hon. Members might not be familiar with the legal incidents of a corporation sole, and if he might be allowed, he would read a short passage from a work of great authority with which those who studied and practised the law were familiar. In Blackstone's "Commentaries,'' Vol. 1, page 448, dealing with ecclesiastical corporations, it was said:—The necessity, or, at least, use, of this institution will be very apparent if we consider the case of a parson of a church. At the original endowment of parish churches, the freehold of the church, the churchyard, the parsonage house, the glebe, and the tithes of the parish were vested in the then parson by the bounty of the donor as a temporal recompense to him for his spiritual care of the inhabitants, and with intent that the same emoluments should ever afterwards continue as a recompense for the same care. But how was this to be effected? The freehold was vested in the parson; and if we suppose it vested in his natural capacity, on his death it might descend to his heir, and would be liable to his debts and incumbrances; or, at best, the heir might be compellable, at some trouble and expense, to convey these rights to the succeeding incumbent.Then Blackstone went on to say on the subject:—The law, therefore, has wisely ordained that the parson quatenus parson shall never die any more than the sovereign by making him and his successors a Corporation. By which means all the original rights of the parsonage are preserved entire to the successor, for the present incumbent and his predecessor who lived seven centuries ago are in law one and the same person, and what was given to the one was given to the other also.He ventured to say that if the continued existence of these Corporations did no harm, they ought not to be summarily put an end to. It might, perhaps, be said that if the whole of the Church property was to be taken away, there would be no good in continuing these Corporations, because there would be no Church property for them to hold. But it was 1207 quite possible that the Bill might be so amended as to leave to particular parishes property given to them specifically, but whatever became of the Church property now in existence, fresh property might be given to particular parishes which the old Corporations would most conveniently hold.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. H. H. ASQUITH, Fife, E.) rose to order. The hon. and learned Member was discussing the subject of private benefactions, which were not dealt with by the clause now before the Committee.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said hon. Members were entitled to point out what would be the effect of the dissolution of these Corporations.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, that what he was about to point out was that property might remain which it would be impolitic to take away from particular parishes, and that therefore the Corporations ought to be allowed to remain for the purpose of ownership.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that that was exactly what he complained of. They were not discussing the question of private benefactions which might be given subsequently to the Church, but whether these Corporations should be dissolved.
The hon. and learned Member is clearly out of order in discussing the subject of private benefactions upon this clause.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, that the property in the parish churches could not be omitted from consideration, and it was evident that it was the intention of the Government that they should continue to be used for the purposes of the Church as at present. He maintained that on this ground alone there was great convenience in permitting the Church Corporations to continue to exist if the Church so desired. If the Church was not to be treated as a wrong-doer, why should they deprive the clergy of the Church of their ancient right of succession. He begged to move the first Amendment which stood upon the Paper in his name, that was to say, to leave out the words "on the date of" in order to insert "notwithstanding."
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that on the part of the Government he certainly could not assent to the Amendment which had just been moved by the hon. and 1208 learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Tomlinson). The language of the clause was almost identical with that of the Irish Church Act. The hon. and learned Gentleman had suggested that the dissolution of these Church Corporations in some way or other might deprive the Church, not of property, but of a convenient mode of managing its property. The Bill had amply provided for that, because whatever property would remain in the Church would rest in the Representative Body, which would have exactly the same powers of holding property as the present Corporations did except that they would hold it upon certain specific terms—namely, for the purposes of the Church.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that this Amendment involved a matter of great importance. He did not think that it was desirable that they should follow implicitly, not to say servilely, the language of the Irish Church Act. Indeed, the experience which they had had of the Irish Church Act justified the hon. and learned Member in moving this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) appeared to think that all objections were met when he said that the clause was almost identical in language with a similar clause in the Irish Church Act. He very much doubted whether the Representative Body could hold the Church property in the same way in which it was held by the existing Corporations.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that this was his own view of the matter. He could not understand what principle was involved in the policy which the right hon. Gentleman was now endeavouring to carry out. He hoped that the matter would be further considered, as a great many Members on the Opposition side of the House deemed this policy of dissolving the Church Corporations as an unnecessary interference with the status of the Church.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, that he thought that that was a favourable opportunity for him to repeat the question which he had put to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) early in the afternoon, 1209 and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would now be able to give him an answer to it. He wished to know what would be the condition of affairs as regarded marriage after this Bill became law. Speaking on the Irish Church Bill, Sir Roundell Palmer said that by the marriage law of Ireland a clergyman of the Church of Ireland could not perform the marriage ceremony unless the banns had been published or a licence granted, the whole law on this matter proceeding on a footing which would be put an end to if the clause in question came into operation. On that occasion the Attorney General replied that it was intended to bring in a separate measure on this subject.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
I understand that my hon. Friend is referring to the observations made by Sir Roundell Palmer, in the Committee of the House of Commons, on a clause in the Irish Bill precisely identical to the clause of the present Bill.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The fact that an irrelevant discussion was permitted in the Committee on the Irish Church Bill is no reason why it should be permitted now.
§ *SR F. S. POWELL
Is it not competent for me to argue that inconvenience would arise should this sub-section become law?
So long as the hon. Member confines himself to the clause he will be in order. I was merely pointing out to him that the point he raised with regard to the Irish Marriage Law does not seem to me to apply to this particular Amendment.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
hoped he would have some information on the subject. He did not think the Government was alive to the great importance of the change which they had inaugurated. After the experience they had had in the case of the Irish Church Bill they ought to be quite sure that the continuity of the Corporations was maintained; there was not only the question, of property, there was the question of the performance of duties which at one stage or another must be discussed.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said the Amendment raised a very important question, namely, whether the Church Corporations should remain notwithstanding the Disestablishment of the Church. He could understand the Government thinking it necessary to dissolve these Corporations if the alternative were that the Corporations were to remain for all times and to interfere with the proper working of the new Church Body But that was not the purport of the Amendment. Ample libe[...]y was left to the Church in the future to dissolve these Corporations where they thought it necessary, and it was an unnecessary hampering of the ordinary arrangements of the Church that these Corporations should be suddenly and by a stroke of the pen dissolved. Why should they not wait and see how the new Church Body worked; and if it was found by the authorities of the Church that it was desirable that these Corporations should be dissolved he would not then be opposed to that course.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY (Preston)
said the Home Secretary, instead of replying to the reasonable arguments addressed to him, thought it sufficient to say that such and such a clause was in the Irish Act. They had a right to ask what was the connection between Disestablishment and Disendowment and the dissolution of these Corporations. He failed to see any connection whatever. He was not sure that there were not Nonconformist and Roman Catholic Corporations; and they ought to have an assurance that no such Corporations existed in the case of other religious communities in Wales before they were asked to do away with the privilege now enjoyed by the Church. After all it was merely the privilege of being able to hand property down from time to time without having to pay the cost of conveyance from one trustee to another. The dissolution of the Corporations would prejudice the Church in Wales. It would create the presumption that the Disestablished Church would not be allowed to create Corporations; and the right hon. Gentleman had provided no means in the Bill for the creation of such Corporations. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the property of the Church had been assigned to particular purposes under the Bill. But it was 1211 quite possible that when the House reached the clause assigning it they might choose to assign some of it to those parochial and cathedral purposes to which it was devoted at the present time. If they did, why should the Corporations not continue? Again, every encouragement should be given to pious donors to make contributions to the Disestablished Church. But there were a good many benefactors who would not be inclined to contribute to a Church in which there were no Corporations.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said the hon. Member who had just spoken had paid very little attention to what he had said. Otherwise he would not have accused him of relying simply on the precedent of the Irish Church Act, because he endeavoured to explain what was the meaning of the proposal in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman did not appear himself to be very familiar with the law. Every parson in Wales was a Corporation, and the great bulk of the Corporations dealt with were not bodies like the Cathedral Chapters, but the ordinary parish clergymen in Wales. These clergymen were under the Bill to cease to hold the endowments which they at present possessed, and therefore the sole reason for the continuance of the Corporations disappeared. The hon. Gentleman surmised that other religious bodies possessed Corporations. He should be extremely surprised if any instance of the kind could be produced.
§ *MR. A. S. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
pointed out that by Clause 5 private benefactions given since 1703 were retained, and were to be handed over to the Commissioners and a representative body, but by Clause 15 the representative body need not come into existence. It only "may" come into existence. But even if it came into existence, then almost for certain it would not come into existence for some time after the date of Disestablishment. Unless, therefore, these corporations were maintained, who, he asked, was to hold private benefactions between the date of Disestablishment and the formation of a representative body; or if the representative body was not formed at all, who was to keep the benefactions for all time? If the Amendment was adopted, those corporations would continue, and the benefactions could be 1212 handed over by the Commissioners to the existing corporations.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the whole property of the Church was transferred to the Commissioners from the moment of Disestablishment. There was, therefore, no lacuna, and the Commissioners would hold the property until a representative body was constituted. So long as any existing interest remained, the property attached to that interest must go on being paid to the holder of the benefice; the interest which the representative body had in the property was rather reversionary than a present benefit. In that state of facts, where it was so much to the interest of the Church to constitute a representative body to succeed to this property he thought that they need not entertain the idea that the Church would neglect the precaution.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said he was not dealing with an existing interest, but with private benefactions since 1703. But an interval might occur between the date of Disestablishment and the formation of the representative body. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend that the Commissioners were to withhold this money for the use of the Church during any interval between Disestablishment and the formation of a representative body?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the Commissioners would have the money in their hands, and they would keep it in their hands until the Church constituted a Trust for its acceptance.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
hoped that his hon. Friend would go to a Division, because they could not rest satisfied with the explanation of the Home Secretary. There might be a lacuna between Disestablishment and the formation of a representative body, and there might be great delay in the formation of the latter. Why add insult to injury by dissolving corporations? It was quite an unnecessary severity. The maintenance of these corporations was necessary—first, because they were the relic of an old Church, and second, because there was a very good reason for saying that their maintenance was essential for the administration of the property of the Church during the interregnum which must ensue.
MR. R. U. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
put this case to 1213 the Home Secretary. In the interregnum which might or must ensue between the Disestablishment and the formation of a, representative body, a lay donor was desirous to endow a parish with money of his own. In the olden times he would have endowed it in the name of the rector of the parish; but if this Bill was passed, during the most important time of the Disestablished and Disendowed Church, the rector of the parish and the parish itself would be absolutely unable to hold property which was left to him or to it during the interregnum. In the case of the Irish Church there were many instances where donors disliked leaving their money for the parish in which they were interested in the hands of a representative body, because they did not feel perfectly certain that that body might not join the particular parish with another. In. that case could a parish hold property safely?
§ MR. ASQUITH
did not think that the point raised presented any serious difficulty. If there should be a lacuna in point of time between the date of Disestablishment and the constitution of a representative body, it would be open to any donor who wished to benefit a particular parish or district to create a Trust, and vest the benefactions in trustees until the date when a representative body should be constituted and the Trust handed over to them. That was the machinery which other religious communities adopted.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 167; Noes, 186.—(Division List No. 78).
§ MR. G. C. T. HARTLEY (Islington, N.) moved to amend the clause by omitting from page 1, line 15, the words "cathedral arid," his object being that the corporations of the four Welsh cathedrals should not be dissolved. This was a reasonable proposition, and would not interfere with the spirit of the measure under consideration. It might, perhaps, be urged by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) that the clause was copied from that in the Irish Church Act, but he would point out, in answer to such a plea, that in dealing with the Irish Church they were doing away with a body which was largely a self-contained institution, whereas now they were asked to do 1214 away with a part of the Church of England which was in Wales. These were institutions with which the Church of England was very strongly connected, and it seemed to him to be a matter of course that they should not do away with the corporate position of the cathedrals. It was true that the corporate power of the cathedrals might not be a matter of very great importance in the eyes of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but it was a practical point of very great importance to the Church. He pressed the matter not for financial reasons, but in consideration of the religious spirit and sentiment of the people. A very strong feeling had existed for many years among the people in regard to the cathedrals. At one time some of the cathedrals were in a miserable state of dilapidation; but by dint of great energy, to a very large extent exhibited by the Welsh themselves, they had been restored, and were now regarded as monuments of the life and power and vigour of the Church in Wales. That being the case, he thought it would be a gratuitous injury to the Church to abolish the corporate capacity of the cathedrals. If the cathedrals were to be carried on in future as they had been in the past—and Clause 7 of the Bill distinctly stated that they were to be—it was absolutely necessary that the Dean and Chapter, and all persons and things connected with them should continue on precisely the same corporate conditions as at present. Otherwise he failed to see how the cathedrals could occupy the same position or fulfil the same purposes as hitherto. It might be said that some arrangement would be I made under Clause 15 for carrying on the cathedrals. Much difficulty would probably ensue in making any such arrangement, but whatever arrangement was made under that clause the practical result must be that the cathedrals would be ultimately reinstated as corporations in some form or other. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he had no desire to injure the Church or to offend the sentiments of Churchmen. In those circumstances, bearing in mind the veneration with which the cathedrals were regarded by Church-people and Dissenters alike, and that they were looked upon as evidences of the power and vitality of the Church by the people 1215 generally, the right hon. Gentleman would surely see that little advantage was to be gained by pressing this severe provision on the Church in Wales. He therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Amendment. There might be an idea on the part of some persons that ultimately a great change would be made in respect to the cathedrals—that the time would come when they might be used for the purposes of all denominations. But it could not be reasonably supposed that that would ever be allowed, and it would be in direct contradiction to the words of Clause 7 of the present Bill. The desire on all hands was so strong that the four cathedrals in question should be left as they were, and justice and argument were so completely in favour of it, that he earnestly hoped the desire of the Church in this matter, at least, would be acceded to. For those reasons he begged to move the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, it was important in dealing with the Amendment to bear in mind that the question of the future use or the future ownership of the cathedrals was not involved in the clause then under discussion. It would be quite open to hon. Members after the clause was carried to raise the whole question on subsequent clauses. The sole question the Committee had now to consider was whether, having already resolved that the Ecclesiastical Corporations in Wales should be disestablished, the cathedral bodies should be exempted from the scope of the Bill. He thought they should not. It was quite possible for a cathedral to be carried on by its Dean and Chapter and other officers without their being constituted a corporation. There were cathedrals already so carried on. The legal instrument of a corporation, therefore, was not essential to the management of a cathedral as at present; and he saw no reason whatever, if the Church in Wales was disestablished, why a privilege or distinctive feature should be continued to the cathedrals which was not shared by the other religious communities. Moreover, the retention by the cathedrals of their corporate capacity could be, for no practical purpose, of advantage to the Church. Under those circumstances he could not assent to the Amendment.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he entirely agreed that it was not necessary then to raise the question whether the property in the cathedrals should in future be vested in the Commissioners, as the Bill proposed, or in the Church itself. That point might be dealt with subsequently. Of course, if it was eventually decided by the Committee that the property in the cathedrals should remain with the Church, then the arguments for the Amendment of his hon. Friend would be much stronger than ever. There was a point to which he thought the Home Secretary had not given sufficient attention. The cathedrals had always been vested in the Dean and Chapter. They had had a separate ecclesiastical existence. They had been in a different position to that of any other ecclesiastical corporation within the Church—more independent of the Diocesan—and it was a position which could not fairly be called one of privilege, as regarded other religious bodies. If, then, the cathedrals were to be held by the Church, it was a matter of considerable importance whether they should be vested in the Chapter as a separate corporation or in the Church at large. To continue the existence of Cathedral Chapters as separate Corporations would be a continuance of the most ancient tradition of the Church. He thought it was a matter which the right hon. Gentleman might fairly concede. Other religious bodies in Wales or England had Corporations within them of a similar character to that which these Chapters would assume if the amendment of his hon. friend were carried. He did not pretend to say that it was a matter to which he attached vital importance, and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman attached vital importance to it either. It only referred to four places in the whole of Wales, where there were four very ancient institutions round which a great deal of ecclesiastical sentiment lingered, and that sentiment would be gratified if the right hon. Gentleman would make this concession.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, the right hon. Gentleman treated the cathedrals in an exceptional manner, and if he had been logical 1217 he would have given them over to the Welsh Commissioners to deal with. He had given the whole use of the Cathedrals to the Church, and the Bill promised a certain sum of money to keep them in repair, therefore no fault could be found with his hon. friend's desire to make the treatment of a Cathedral Corporation exceptional. The actual every-day work of the Cathedrals must be carried on by some subordinate authority or other. That subordinate authority would probably not consent to a simple individual having the power. Therefore it was reasonable to suppose that the devolution of the authority of the representative body would be to a body of men differing, except in status, in no way from the existing Cathedral Chapter.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
asked why they should not preserve not only the Cathedrals, but the great bodies which had control over them.
*MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, there was some slight misunderstanding on the part of the noble Lord, who had been arguing as if they were going to do away with Deans and Chapters. They contended that the Deans and Chapters should continue after the passing of the Bill to occupy a similar position to that now occupied by the Dean and Chapter of Truro, or the Provost and Chapter of the Roman Catholic See of Westminster. It was not intended to interfere with these officers, or their rights or dignities, or their power to order the Cathedral Services, it was only intended that they should cease to exist as Corporations. Sentiment was an element which had to be considered, but there was not much sentiment about the legal meaning of a Corporation. It was, in fact, a legal matter. There was no service more orderly than that of the Cathedral Church of Truro, where the body was voluntary, and was not a Corporation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the speech of the hon. Gentleman was not consistent with the argument advanced by the Home Secretary, whose objection to the Amendment was, that if it were carried, one of the existing privileges of the Church, which distinguished it from Nonconformist bodies, would be left to them, and that therefore complete religious equality would not be attained. The hon. Gentleman said there was no 1218 sentiment connected with a Corporation neither did the power of a Corporation give any substantial privilege to the Church.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
asked, if the argument touched neither sentime nor practice, what did it touch? If nnoentiment attached to Corporations, why on earth did the Government object to the amendment?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said the right honourable Gentleman, in his somewhat microscopical dialectics, professed to have discovered a difference between his honourable Friend and himself. He entirely subscribed to what his honourable Friend had said, and could see no inconsistency in doing so. A chapter had a certain status which enabled it to hold property by perpetual succession, and that was a legal status which might be described as a privilege peculiar to these Corporations. On the other hand, his honourable Friend was perfectly right in saying that it did not confer any privilege on the Chapter in the larger sense of the term privilege, meaning something of advantage to an institution in carrying on its work. The Church parted with nothing that gave it any substantial assistance in carrying on its work when these Chapters ceased to be incorporated.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he rose to support the Amendment. He believed there were several colleges in Wales, some for the training of ministers and others for educational purposes, and he should be surprised to be told that none of these were incorporated. And if they were incorporated why was it more invidious that cathedrals should be incorporated than that these institutions should be? They denied that this was an offensive privilege because they believed it was enjoyed by others.
§ *MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN (Montgomeryshire)
said, there were only three colleges in Wales which were incorporated, all of a lay character, and by the charters in connection with which the study of theology was expressly excluded. There was another incorporated college of a theological character, namely, Lampeter College, which was 1219 in point of fact, purely a Church of England college. None of the colleges for the training of Nonconformist ministers were incorporated at all.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, that surely the statement of the lion. Member gave force to the contention of those who supported this Amendment. They had it from the hon. Member that Lampeter College, being a college of the Church of England in Wales, was incorporated. If that were so why not allow these cathedrals to be incorporated?
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
asked whether Lampeter College would come within the interpretation applying to Ecclesiastical Corporations?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that Lampeter College was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1828. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners then transferred to the college the lands that were vested in them in connection with the Cathedral of St. David's. His impression was that Lampeter College did not come within the Bill, as it came within the definition of a private benefaction, and was not an ecclesiastical corporation.
VISCOUNT CRAN BORNE
But surely, Mr. Chairman, private benefactions are confined to benefactions of private individuals, whilst Lampeter College was endowed from funds belonging to one of the Chapters?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he only wished to refer to the point which had been put by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who had asked whether under this term "ecclesiastical corporation" Lampeter College would be included.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, Lampeter College was not an ecclesiastical corporation at all, and if the property of the college were, under the third clause of this Bill, vested in the Welsh Commissioners it would be transferred to them only subject to existing interests. As it was a Corporation it lived for ever, and as the Welsh Commissioners would only obtain a reversionary interest subject to all existing interests their interest would be absolutely inappreciable The college would not, therefore, be affected in the least degree.
§ MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
remarked, that it was satisfactory to find that at any rate there was one institution connected with the Church of England in Wales which the Goverment did not intend to sacrifice. He thought, however, it was unfortunate that the Government, having made up their minds that they must preserve the use of the cathedrals in Wales for the Church, which was now in possession of them, should not have yielded the shadow as well as the substance, and should not have reserved the cathedrals to the corporations, in whose possession they now were. Surely they might have gone as far as this in deference to the sentiment which, he conceived, was just as legitimate when it existed in members of the Church of England as the corresponding sentiment when it existed in the breast of persons who did not belong, but were actively opposed to that Church.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
, in supporting the Amendment, said, that probably of all the sentiments aroused by this Bill, the sentiment relating to the cathedrals was among the strongest; and the injury done to the cause of the Church by this matter of the cathedrals would, he ventured to say, never be forgotten by Churchmen in England. The right hon. Gentleman must, therefore, not be surprised if they persisted in pushing this Amendment to a Division. Though he should be anxious to take the right hon. Gentleman at his word, yet considering that he was the author of the Bill containing subsequent clauses relating to these cathedrals, which they regarded as being needlessly wanton and cruel—
Order, order. The hon. Baronet cannot now discuss or describe subsequent clauses in that way.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
would not repeat the expression. Though these subsequent clauses had been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman in conciliatory terms—
I want to point out that the hon. Baronet cannot discuss these clauses at the present time.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, that notwithstanding the conciliatory expressions of the right hon. Gentleman, it would be necessary, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, to press this Amendment to a Division. 1221 The Under Secretary for the Home Department informed the Committee that one essential part of these corporations would remain, namely, the Dean and Chapter, but not in a corporate capacity. That they should remain in their corporate capacity, however, was essential to the due performance, of their duties; if they were shorn of that capacity, it would deprive them of much of their usefulness and efficiency. There were various reasons why they wished to omit cathedrals from the clause. They were anxious to maintain them because they were connected with some of the most sacred and venerable associations which cluster around the Church in Wales.
§ MR. R. W. HANBURY
could not help thinking that the Home Secretary, in the reasons he had given against the Amendment, the sentiment on the part of the Nonconformists of Wales against any vestige of privilege being allowed to exist which had no place in connection with Nonconformist Ecclesiastical Bodies, had done gross injustice to the Nonconformists of Wales. To begin with, it was by no means clear that the Nonconformist bodies had not exactly the same privileges, and the Home Secretary had guarded himself against making the general assertion that no such corporation existed.
§ MR. HANBURY
But that is not sufficient ground—"to the best of my knowledge"—for the assertion. The whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman rested upon an assumption which he was not able to prove. He did not believe there was this extreme jealousy on the part of the Nonconformists of Wales against the cathedrals. What an absurdity it was to sweep away these corporate bodies when it was quite possible, after the Church was disestablished, for the new representative body to set them on their legs again. There were many respects in which the Cathedral Corporations differed from corporations sole in the parishes. If there were any portion of the Church in Wales with which the Nonconformists had shown their sympathy, it had been the cathedrals. A large amount of the money spent on the restoration of these cathedrals in the 1222 last 10 or 20 years had come from Nonconformists themselves, who regarded the cathedrals, and rightly, as great national monuments. He believed, therefore, the Welsh Members entirely misrepresented the views of the people of Wales in this matter.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)
appealed to the Home Secretary to reconsider his decision. He should have thought there was no Nonconformist in the House who would refuse the Church this little concession, seeing they were going to take away their Establishment and their money.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 135; Noes, 85.—(Division List No. 79.)
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.) moved to omit the word "ecclesiastical" as describing the corporations to be dissolved. He would like to point out that the ecclesiastical corporations were practically the oldest corporations in the county. They were older than Parliament itself. They had not been created in any form or shape by the State, but were created by rich and generous donors when Christianity was originally introduced into this country. Hon. Members who supported the Bill seemed to think that those ecclesiastical establishments were solely Church created. They were nothing of the sort. They were founded by the funds and donations of pious people in the early days of the Church, and the State had no more right to do away, at one fell swoop, with those ecclesiastical corporations, than it had to do away with secular corporations. He strongly opposed the notion, that because at the present moment it was asserted there was a majority of the people of Wales against the Church of England, Parliament should disestablish the ecclesiastical corporations also in that part of the country. He thought it was a great and grave mistake to destroy those important ecclesiastical corporations which had been for so long a time doing beneficent work for the people of Wales and the United Kingdom. The clause practically meant the destruction of the whole machinery of the parochial system in Wales, which was doing such excellent service to the people and especially to the poor. That was a system under which any man could go to the Church and 1223 claim the services of the Church without money or price.
Order, order! The hon. Member is now going beyond the limits of his Amendment. The question is solely with regard to the dissolution of those corporations.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, he would point out, with all respect, that the dissolution of those corporations would mean the loss by the corporations of the funds by which at the present time they were able to carry on their beneficent parochial work. There was, besides, no proposal to put in the place of those corporations any body that would carry on their great and good and useful work. He therefore asked the Committee to omit the words "and ecclesiastical" from the clause.
*MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, there appeared to be some misconception in the mind of the hon. Gentleman as to the effect of the words he proposed to omit from the clause. One would gather from his observations that they would do away with the parochial system and would meddle with Church property. With regard to Church property, it was dealt with by Clause 3, and did not arise here, and with respect to the parochial system, the clause did not propose to interfere with the present organisation of the Church or with the incumbents of parishes in the administration of their parochial duties. The word "corporation" was used in the clause in what he might call its legal sense. The Committee had just decided to do away with cathedrals as aggregate, corporations, and if the Amendment were carried the incumbents as corporations sole, would be allowed to continue The Home Secretary had stated the reasons which made the Government unwilling to continue the attribute of corporation, in its legal sense, to any part of the Welsh Church, and having rejected it in the case of cathedrals, it could hardly be expected that the Government would retain it in relation to parish churches.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said, that apart from the property confiscated by the Bill there was a considerable amount of property still remaining, which in all fairness and reasonableness ought to be allowed to remain in the hands of persons who now, as corporations sole, 1224 administered it for the benefit of the particular parishes to which it was given. There were no ministrations for the poor but the ministrations of the Church, and it was the duty of the opponents of this Bill to persist in opposing provisions which would in great part deprive the poor of those ministrations.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
pointed out that the clause provided for one of the very things the promoters of the Bill said they wished to get rid of. The Bill provided for the creation of representative bodies with powers of continuous life—the very thing that was objected to in regard to Cathedral bodies. How did the Home Secretary reconcile these facts? He might cut these Gordian knots in the Division Lobby, but let him reconcile them in Debate. The Home Secretary said he did not wish to interfere with the parochial system of the Church of England. The best way to preserve it would be by legal form. Let Parliament take every atom of property from these corporations, but let them remain as they were—the form by which the future munificence and benefactions of Churchmen might be devoted for the advantage of parishioners. He appealed to the President of the Board of Trade, who was very precise as to the terms he used in such matters, to define what he meant by the word "ecclesiastical." What was the difference in the term as applied to the association of religious men who belonged to the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and those who belonged to the Catholic Church according to the Roman use, or the Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, and others. If he could not differentiate the use of the term, he would appeal to him to accept this Amendment, and remove a word of indefinite value from an Act of Parliament. The Under Secretary at the Home Office desired, above all things, that the existing organisation of the Church should not be interfered with. It would not be interfered with by the preservation of these corporations. If their present status was taken away from them they were suspended, as it were, and an Act of Attainder was passed against them, and Parliament would consider hereafter what punishment or penalties were to be inflicted. Hon. Members opposite did not care two pins about destroying 1225 the status of the Church. What they wanted to do was to take her money. Then why not preserve these corporations in their present legal form and promote the desire preferred by the Government not to interfere with the continuous life of the Church?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
remarked that, having regard to what the Government had said with regard to the Cathedrals, they could scarcely expect them to accept the omission of these words. So he advised his hon. Friend to be satisfied with the protest he had made.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. HANBURY moved to amend the Clause by inserting after "Corporation" the words "of the Church in Wales." He said the Amendment was not moved in the interests of the Church, but on behalf of those who were the cause and origin of this Bill. It was moved entirely in the interests of Nonconformists, and of the Roman Catholics, and other religious bodies in Wales. He and his hon. Colleague represented a greater number of Roman Catholics than any other Members of the House, and it was quite possible, and even probable, that if the words which he proposed to insert were not inserted, some of the privileges of the Roman Catholic Church would be interfered with. He should have thought that the Home Secretary, while attacking the rights of the Church of England, would see that he was safeguarding those of other communities. But he was unable to express an opinion whether there were any ecclesiastical corporations belonging to religious communities which would be affected by this Sub-section. More or less irresponsible Members below the Gangway said there were none; but they required something more definite than that casual opinion, and the farthest the Home Secretary was prepared to go was to say that, as far as he knew, there were no ecclesiastical corporations except those belonging to the Church of England. If hon. Members opposite did not care to have these words inserted in their own interest they, ought at any rate to agree to the Amendment in the interest of another strong body, the 1226 Roman Catholics. There was no evidence that no such corporation as he contemplated did not exist, and, therefore for that reason alone he was entitled to have these words inserted. But there were other grounds besides the mere want of information on the part of the Home Secretary. The very looseness of the language of the clause was sufficient justification for the desire to define it as closely as possible. What was meant by "ecclesiastical corporation"? There was no definition "of ecclesiastical" in the Bill. What evidence there was went to prove that other communions besides the Church of England would be affected. In the definition clause, great pains were taken to define the word "ecclesiastical" when it occurred in connection with any other substantive. For instance, "ecclesiastical office," "ecclesiastical person," "ecclesiastical residence" were carefully defined. Again, there was no definition of "corporation." "Corporation" was a word which might be applied very loosely. It might mean a corporation by charter, or under the Companies' Act or some recent Act. If the word "corporation" was one of such large and different meaning, as he believed it was, there was all the more necessity for some definition. It might be to the interest of the supporters of the Church to let the Bill do as much mischief as possible, but as a matter of fact they did not wish the Bill to be a complete absurdity. He wanted to protect other ecclesiastical communities. He represented a large number of Roman Catholics, and did not want to see their case jeopardised by loose words.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he distinctly stated that he moved the Amendment in the interest of Roman Catholics, a large number of whom he represented.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that unless his recollection deceived him the hon. Member referred several times to the Nonconformists. The hon. Member asked why they did not define the word "Corporation." The Government assumed the 1227 House, and those who would have to interpret the Act, would have some knowledge, not only of legal language, but of the ordinary meaning of terms. They, therefore, did not define the words "Cathedral," "Bishop," and "Church," and they believed every lawyer and nearly every layman would understand what was meant by "Corporation." He could not conceive the slightest use of the Amendment. The Bill was one for Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England in Wales and Monmouthshire, and therefore it could not operate upon anything except the Church of England. The hon. Member had not given any instance of any corporation, whether existing for the benefit of Nonconformists or Roman Catholics, which these words could affect, and if there were such corporations the Bill would not affect them. This particular Clause said:On the date of Disestablishment every Cathedral and Ecclesiastical Corporation in Wales or Monmouthshire, whether sole or aggregate, shall be dissolved.He put it to the Committee with some confidence, that there was nothing in the words which could operate upon any corporation, except one belonging to the Church of England in Wales. In their view, therefore, the Amendment was wholly superfluous, and in the interest of drafting and common sense they could not accept it.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman thought that by speeches such as he had just made he would promote the passing of the Bill, he was greatly mistaken. A more unworthy answer to a very fair speech had never been made. The right hon. Gentleman talked about drafting and common sense. If the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to bring his great mind down to the level of those who were dealing with the Bill he might have shown there was common sense and drafting involved in the arguments addressed to him. They were dealing with twelve counties immediately to the westward of the English counties. Take the case of an Ecclesiastical college, which had nothing to do with the actual dioceses of Wales, and yet happened to be locally situate in Monmouthshire. It was absurd to say the present words of 1228 the Clause would not disestablish the college. Would the right hon. Gentleman accept the words:Any Ecclesiastical Corporation connected with the Church in Wales.There were similar words in Clause 1. On the question of drafting he might point out that in Clause 1 it was said:The Church of England, so far as it is established by law in Wales or Monmouthshire (in this Act roferred to as the Church in Wales).What was the common argument which was properly used by lawyers and judges when they found in two consecutive sections phrases at variance? It was seen that the Church in Wales was that which was referred to as the Church disestablished, but that was abandoned when Ecclesiastical corporations were dealt with, then it was that the words: "In Wales or Monmouthshire" were used. The consequence was that if there should by chance be an Ecclesiastical corporation which happened to be locally situated across the imaginary boundary, it would be disestablished. The boundary was to be fixed by the Commissioners. This was not an Amendment put forward for the purpose of occupying time, but it was one intended to make the Bill read logically. "An Ecclesiastical corporation in Wales or Monmouthshire" would not be construed as being "An Ecclesiastical corporation of the Church in Wales or Monmouthshire," and he did not think the Solicitor General would controvert that statement. No one could suggest that the Amendments would do any harm, and therefore what possible exception could be taken to them?
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD,) York
said, that nothing could have been further from the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), than to have treated this subject in a manner calculated to give offence to hon. Members opposite, and he regretted that the feelings of his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir R. Webster) should have apparently-been somewhat ruffled at the right hon. Gentlemen's observations. Had not his honourable and learned Friend made a direct personal appeal to him upon the point in question, he should certainly not have taken any 1229 part in the debate upon this Amendment. In answer to the appeal of his hon. and learned Friend, all he could say was that, as regarded the protection to be given to the various other I religious denominations, he was perfectly satisfied with the words as they stood in the Clause, which were amply sufficient to effect that object. They were all agreed in intention on the point, and it certainly did not appear to him that it was necessary that the words in the Clause should be altered in order to carry out that intention. He fully recognised the intention with which the Amendment had been moved, but he could only repeat that he was perfectly with the wording of the Clause as it stood in the Bill.
§ *SIR M. HICKS BEACH
said, that when lawyers in that House differed as to the meaning of words in a Clause, the other Members of the Committee were bound to decide upon the meaning for themselves. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor General, had said that it did not matter whether the words in the Amendment were inserted in the Clause or not. The hon. and learned Gentleman had expressed his opinion that the words were wholly unnecessary to effect the object upon which all parties were agreed, namely, that the various other religious denominations in Wales and Monmouthshire should be protected from the provisions of the Bill, but his hon. and learned Friend (Sir Richard Webster) who, upon a legal question of this kind, was at least as high an authority as the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor General, had said that the words of the Amendment would make a material difference in the meaning of the clause. The right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, could at once put an end to the discussion by allowing the words of the Amendment to be inserted in the clause.
§ MR. C. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)
said, that the contention of the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment was that the words he proposed to insert would have the effect of protecting the Catholics in Wales and Monmouthshire. It was a noticeable fact that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Richard Webster) did not adopt that argument. As far as his information on the subject 1230 went, no Catholics in Wales or Monmouthshire imagined for a moment that their interests would be endangered by the provisions of this Bill, and therefore, in his opinion, the Amendment was unnecessary and uncalled for.
§ *MR. T. BUCKNILL (Surrey, Epsom)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, appeared to have forgotten that the Government had given a definition of the words "Cathedral Corporation." In that case, why did they now refuse to define the words "Ecclesiastical Corporation"? The object that the Committee must keep in view was to make this Bill as plain as possible in order that it might be easily intelligible to those who had to construe it. He was certain that a court of law would have much difficulty in explaining the meaning of the words "Ecclesiastical Corporations" unless they were defined in the Bill. It appeared to him that the Government were merely wasting the time of the Committee in refusing to accept this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, he thought that considerable risk would be run by allowing the words of the Clause to remain unamended. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had said that the Clause did not bear the precise meaning that the Government desired should attach to it, and the right hon. Gentleman had now an opportunity of amending the clause so that it should bear the meaning which the Government desired to give it. Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary who was himself a lawyer was in doubt as to the meaning of the Clause that meaning could not be quite as clear as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General thought it was. He thought the same definition should be given in the Bill of the meaning of the words in question. Why should not the right hon. Gentleman accept the words? No one on the Ministerial Bench had shown that they could do any harm. They were framed on the words already included in Clause I., and were manifestedly wanted, because "Cathedral Corporation" was already defined. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to get the Bill through in reasonable time, he would do well to accept Amendments against which there was nothing to be said.
§ MR. E. W. BYRNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said, that in the definition clause "Cathedral Corporation" was denned with admirable precision. Amongst other things it included the Dean and Chapter, which "Ecclesiastical Corporation" did not include. A definition for "Ecclesiastical Corporation" being wanted, he followed the reference of the right hon. Member for Denbighshire to "Wharton Law's Lexicon," and from that he learnt that "Ecclesiastical Corporation" meant Bishops, Deans, Parsons, and Vicars. Did the clause mean then that every Bishop, Parson and Dean was to be dissolved? That was ridiculous. An ecclesiastical corporation might be a corporation having operations over the whole of the United Kingdom, and yet situated in Wales or Monmouthshire. Then the words "of the Church in Wales" were precisely the words which were wanted, because they confined the dissolution to Wales and Monmouthshire.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
said, that it had been shown how the Bishop might be dissolved. Was he right or wrong in supposing that the Archbishop of Canterbury was the head of all ecclesiastical corporations in Wales? And if he was, was he to be dissolved too, or was he the only ecclesiastical person who was not to be dissolved? Again, if so, on what grounds?
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Waltham-stow had introduced a comic element into the discussion which was hardly appropriate. There could be no doubt, as the hon. and learned Gentle man knew perfectly well, about the meaning of the words in point of law The word "dissolved" applied to "corporation," and the words "sole or aggregate" exhausted the categories of corporations. The hon. and learned Member's criticism was not serious. The only real point was that raised by the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight, who suggested, surmised o conjectured that there might be a possibility of such a thing as an ecclesiastical corporation situated in Wales geographically, but belonging not to the Church in Wales, but to the Church in England No instances of such an ecclesiastical corporation had been cited, but to put an 1232 end to the discussion, which seemed to him to be purely academic, he would agree to insert the words "of the Church in Wales," provided, of course, that the words "in Wales or Monmouthshire" were allowed to follow. What hon. Gentlemen opposite contended for was the intention of the clause and the effect f the clause.
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that he was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's concession. If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to be in the House when the Amendment was Moved, and had replied instead of the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Bryce) the matter could have been settled half an hour earlier.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid) rose to Move the addition of the words "of England" after the word "Church."
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
said, that if the Home Secretary would look back to the first section he would find that it was unnecessary to have the words "or Monmouthshire" here, as in;hat section the Church in Wales was described as including Monmouthshire.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY Moved to add the words "as far as they are established by law," after the word "aggregate." The meaning of the Amendment was that these Corporations should simply be dissolved so far as they had any advantage under the present system of establishment. If the Church when disestablished was to be in every way in the same position as any Nonconformist body, there could be no possible reason for objecting to the Amendment. If it were adopted, the clause would provide that cathedral and ecclesiastical corporations in Wales and Monmouthshire should be dissolved so far as they were established by law, but that they should continue to act for al practical purposes in connection with the Church as a body of religious persons and that they should act as they did a present until some constitution and regulations were framed as he proposed to provide in Clause 15. If it were the 1233 right hon. Gentleman's desire that no unnecessary hardship or injury should be done to the Church in Wales, he might fairly accept the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the words which the hon. Member proposed to insert were quite unnecessary and were pure surplusage. They had already defined the subject-matter with which they were dealing as "the Church so far as it is established by law." It was the Church and not the individual corporation that was established by law, and the words of the Amendment as applicable to the corporations had absolutely no meaning. He, therefore, could not accept the Amendment.
§ MR. BARTLEY
protested strongly against this manner of treating serious Amendments. Instead of using any argument the right hon. Gentleman simply gave a stereotyped answer. He had much better say at once that he was going to guillotine the whole of the Amendments and pass the Bill as it stood.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the Amendment was based on the fact that there was no definition of the words "established by law." These words had been borrowed entirely from the Irish Act, though the cases of Ireland and Wales were entirely different. The object of the Amendment was to insure that the members of these corporations after the Church was disestablished would have exactly the same privileges as were granted by law to members of other religious communities.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, this was a matter that should be pressed upon the Government. They wanted this proviso to be inserted, in order to place the Corporations on precisely the same equality with Nonconformist bodies. The Amendment was a very reasonable one.
§ *SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, he did not see how this clause would read if the words of his hon. Friend were inserted. He hoped that he would not go to a Division.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, his object was that those cathedrals and ecclesiastical corporations should be treated in every sense like a Nonconformist body.
§ MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
hoped his hon. Friend would go to a Division. The Home Secretary 1234 had not shown that there would be any danger or difficulty created if those words were inserted.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, the words would be absolutely inappropriate. How could a corporation be partly dissolved and not dissolved? The words of the hon. Member had no sense whatever, and the Government would not consent to their insertion.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
joined in the appeal to the hon. Member not to divide the Committee, believing that it would be unwise to insert these words.
§ MR. BARTLEY
read from the Irish Church Act, and showed that the words complained of were actually part of that statute. In these circumstances he preferred to take his own course, and to divide the Committee.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 131; Noes, 198.—(Division List, No. 80.)
§ MR. HAYES FISHER (Fulham) moved, in Clause 2, page 1, line 18, before the word "after," to insert "no Bishop of the Church of Wales appointed." He said the effect of the Amendment would be to insert words in the second sub-section of the clause limiting the disability of Bishops of the Welsh Church to sit in the House of Lords to those who were appointed after the passing of this Bill. The present Bishops, therefore, would, if the Amendment were carried, be entitled to retain their seats in the Upper House. He confessed that when he looked over the Amendments he was surprised at the extreme moderation of the Gentlemen with whom he acted, and was of opinion that the Bill ought to have provided—even if the Church of Wales were to be disestablished and disendowed—that the present Bishops should retain their representation of the Church in the House of Lords. There could be no doubt that this Bill was a gigantic inroad upon the Constitution. When it was remembered that the Bishops of the Church had held a place in our Parliaments from the earliest times, that they sat in the Saxon Witenagemot, and that Parliament had for so many centuries been composed of the Lords Spiritual as well as the Lords Temporal and the Commons, it was obvious that the exclusion of the Bishops of any part of the Church from the 1235 House of Lords was a serious inroad upon the Constitution. It might be worth while for hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider whether, in addition to despoiling an historic Church, it was wise also to so seriously invade, at the same time, an historic Constitution. There had been more than one attempt that night to invade the Constitution. When he was told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that Bishops should not be allowed to sit in the House of Lords, and when he was told by the eldest sons of Peers on that side of the House that they would not sit in the House of Lords, he began to wonder whether it would ever be necessary to bring either a Bill or a Resolution to abolish that august Assembly. Well, he thought that on this ground also he might argue his case, but as no Amendment had been put down on the general question of the representation in the House of Lords, he would not carry the point further, except to say that if he had his way in forming a representative Chamber—a second Chamber—in this country, instead of removing the Bishops from the House of Lords, he would retain them and give some equivalent representation to Nonconformists in that House. At least, it might be conceded that Bishops who already held seats in the House of Lords ought not to be deprived of the honour, dignity, and influence by this Bill. There were only four of them in the Church of Wales, and what he urged would, after all, be only a very small concession to make. Why should the Bishops of the Church of Wales be treated in the hard and exceptional way proposed? By the Bill compensation was granted to lay patrons and present holders of benefices, while the Bishops and Curates were granted no compensation at all—they were to be the only persons deprived of any position, dignity, or emolument without any compensation whatever for what the Bill took from them. It was unjust and cruel. It was a sentence of deprivation and disfranchisement. For their lives, at all events, and so long as they enjoyed their offices, the Bishops ought to be allowed to remain, as they were now representatives in the Lords. But he did not attach so much importance to the argument from the point of view of the Church interests of this country, as well as of Wales, which 1236 their Lordships sat in the House to defend. For the question might be seriously regarded from the point of view also of the interests of the Church in England. There might probably come a time in that period of transition from the present state of affairs to that condition of things which hon. Gentlemen opposite were attempting to set up under this Bill, when the Bishops would be sadly needed by those who belonged to the Church of England to defend the interests of that Church. It was the boast of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Church of England in Wales had scarcely any representation in that House; most of the Welsh Members were the implacable foes of the Church, and surely it was a very small concession that there should be at least four persons in another Chamber to look after the interests of that Church. In the future it might happen that these arrangements which the right hon. Gentleman thought so fair to the Church might be upset, and the very least they could do was that during the period of transition and the lives of the present Bishops they should be allowed to remain in the other Chamber. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite declared that the Bishops were to be no longer summoned to sit in Convocation; in what representative assembly then could they lift up their voices? If the Government believed in the strength of their own case they would make this small concession, especially if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had been sincere when he said, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, that the Government wished to promote the best interests of the Church. He concluded by moving the Amendment.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said, that where matters which were essential were concerned they had shown no want of respect, but this, of course, was a point which it would be absolutely impossible for them to concede. The proposition of the hon. Member was that Bishops of a Disestablished Church, which had ceased to have any connection with the State, and which would stand on precisely the same footing as all the Nonconformist bodies, were still for the term of their natural lives to sit in the House of Lords. By what title could the 1237 ministers of any Church in this country which had ceased to be a State Church claim any right to sit in either House of Parliament? He had never heard the doctrine of vested interests carried so far before. The hon. Member thought the presence of the Bishops in the other House was necessary in the interests of the Church; but he had been given to understand by hon. Members opposite that the Church of England and the Church of England in Wales were so indissolubly connected that it was imposssble to make any separation between them; and if that were so, the hon. Member's Amendment amounted to want of confidence in the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England, not to mention the temporal Members of the other Assembly, who might be trusted even by hon. Gentlemen opposite to watch over the interests of the Church. He thought the hon. Member might rest satisfied that the interests of the Church would be safe in the other House whatever the effect of this Bill would be, and it would certainly be inconsistent with the principle and object of the Bill to assent to a proposal admitting the Bishops of a Disestablished Church to be members of one of the branches of the Legislature of this country.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
described the Amendment as a good one, and also a modest one. They did not ask that all the Bishops of the Church in Wales should have the right to sit in the House of Lords, but they asked the right hon. Gentleman to carry out what he had stated to be a principle of this Bill, namely, that no individual's position should be made worse by the operation of this measure. The Home Secretary asked why should a Bishop of a Disestablished Church sit in the House of Lords when no representative of any Nonconformist body sat there? They might answer why should the rector of any parish continue to enjoy his endowment during his lifetime? All they asked was that the principle of vested interests in the Church should be maintained. This clause commenced by excluding, after Disestablishment, all Bishops from the House of Lords, and it went on to provide that after the passing of the Act any Bishop, Dean, or Archdeacon of the Church in Wales should 1238 continue to enjoy his title and precedence as if the Act had not passed. From that it was clear that the Government did not limit vested interests to pecuniary considerations. They included the question of title and precedence, and, having done that, why should they not include the absolute right a Bishop had to sit in the House of Lords? What was the good of title and precedence if not coupled with the power that a seat in the House of Lords gave? Some Members of the House of Commons, as they knew, would like the title and precedence without sitting in the House of Lords; but that feeling was not shared by the Bishops, and they had no right to prejudice the case by deciding that an existing Bishop at the time of the passing of this Act, might not go to the House of Lords if he wished to do so. If the Government adhered to the proposal as it stood in the Bill, they were breaking entirely through the principle they had already laid down, that no individual affected by the Act should be in a worse position than he was before the Act passed. As his hon. Friend had pointed out, it would be a great advantage to the Church during this transition period if the existing bishops should be allowed to go to the House of Lords. By Clause 14, it was clear that the Church in Wales and the Church of England remained, until the Representative Body decided to the contrary, one and the same Church. Even the jurisdiction of the Archbishop was to remain in force in the Church in Wales, unless he gave it up, or unless the Representative body so decided. Was it not right and proper that when the Government had broken up Convocation and destroyed the power of the Church in Wales to send a representative to that body which the rest of the Church enjoyed, that, at all events they should grant to the existing Bishops there right to still go to the House of Lords? The Representative Body, which came into existence by Clause 15, might decide to get rid of the Archbishop's jurisdiction. That Body, however, might not come into existence for some time after the date of Disestablishment. During that period it was most important that the Church should have some advocates with special knowledge in the House of Lords. It 1239 was in this transition period that the whole constitution of the Church would be settled, and he urged that the existing Bishops should at least have conferred upon them the right to sit in the House of Lords for the rest of their lives. On the principle of conserving existing interests, and what was useful and good to the Church, this ought to be granted. Why should these Bishops not sit in the House of Lords? He should like to ask the Home Secretary on what principles Bishops sat in the House of Lords at all at present. Very well; if they objected to the bishops in the House of Lords, let them say so, and bring in a Bill. According to the "Constitutions of Clarendon," it would be found that the Bishops were originally sent to the House of Lords, not as spiritual persons, but as tenants in fee to the Crown, and by virtue of the property they held. During the lives of present Bishops the Government did not propose to take away their property; therefore, they did not take away the principal ground on which the Bishops originally were summoned to the House of Lords. Consequently the original reason why they were sent there remained so long as they retained a vested interest in their property. Hon. Members opposite wanted to reform the House of Lords by a system of Life Peerages. But Bishops were practically Life Peers, and yet these were the very people whom the philosophic Radicals opposite wanted to strike out by this clause.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
said, that while they all admitted that after Disestablishment future Bishops must be excluded from the House of Lords, yet he contended that the present Bishops should remain there as a question of privilege. Now, the Home Secretary asked by what right were the Bishops to be in the House of Lords? His reply was—By the right of possession. By remaining there they would be of use to the Church in Wales. The Home Secretary very naturally said that the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England could look after the interests of the Church in Wales. Of course they would, to the best of their local knowledge; but they could not have the local 1240 knowledge necessary for guarding the interests of the Disestablished Church, and that local knowledge would be possessed by the prelates who, he contended, ought to remain there for the rest of their lives at all events. Their presence was peculiarly necessary during the interregnum. In the official and administrative world in which he had moved all his life, he had seen great and sweeping changes, in other countries besides this country of England, and in every case there always had been a saving clause for present incumbents. In the whole of his recollection he could not recall a case in which present incumbents had been so satisfied as the Welsh Bishops would be by the clause he was anxious to see amended. He would say to the Home Secretary as the great woodman—"Woodman, spare these trees at least." The prelates to whom the Amendment applied were very distinguished men. The Bishop of St. Asaph, to mention one out of the four, was one of the lights of the Church and one of the luminaries of the age. He was held in the highest respect and esteem of everyone sitting on the Opposition Benches, and to exclude him from the House of Lords would be a national detriment and a great loss to that Assembly. It was melancholy to reflect that the effects of this clause would be to silence that right reverend prelate's voice in the Parliament of this country.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE
wished to say a few words in support of the Amendment. The proposal of the Government was not to reduce the number of bishops in the House of Lords by four. Their plan was to turn out of the House of Lords the four Welsh bishops who by virtue of the occupancy of Welsh sees were now Members of that House, and to introduce in their places four new Bishops from among the English Bishops. He would draw attention to the extraordinary drafting of the subsection with which they were dealing. It said—After the date of Disestablishment no bishop of the Church in Wales shall be summoned to or be qualified to sit in the House of Lords as such;and then came a proviso, which was larger in its area than the sub-section 1241 to which it was annexed. That provisoran—Provided that every person who is at the passing of this Act a bishop, dean, or archdeacon of the Church in Wales, shall during his life enjoy the same title and precedence as if this Act had not been passed.That was the clumsiest proviso ever inserted in any Bill.
§ SIR E. CLARKE
pointed out that the proviso applied to "bishops, deans, and archdeacons," and was attached to words which referred to Bishops only. The proviso provided for the retention of the Bishops' titles and precedence, whilst the clause abolished their dignity altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there was no excuse for having the Bishops in the House of Lords because they would represent anybody But there was a precedent for the course which the supporters of the Amendment proposed. Provision was made some years ago for the addition to the House of Lords of certain Lords of Appeal, who were to hold the position during life of Lords of Parliament, and a Lord of Appeal might now be appointed, and might in a short time, say two years, resign his position as Lord of Appeal, and yet, during the remainder of his life, he would continue to be a Lord of Parliament. This was not a question of reducing the number of Bishops in the House of Lords. He must take the scheme of the Government altogether if he took it at all, and he supposed they would adhere as strongly to the proposal in Sub-section 3 that four new English Bishops should be allowed to sit, as they would to the proposal to exclude the Welsh Bishops. He thought it would be more reasonable that the four Welsh Bishops should continue to be Lords of Parliament until the end of their lives. He did not admit that there was any anomaly in the matter at all. Surely it was absolutely right, by the illustration he had given of the Lords of Appeal, who when they ceased to be Judges remained Lords of Appeal, if by the authority of Parliament the established position of these bishops was put an end to, they should be allowed to remain in the position of 1242 Councillors of the nation. The Government might wait until they died before they introduced four new English bishops into the House of Lords. He hoped a Division would be taken on the Amendment.
*MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
said, that the proposal of the Amendment would retain a serious inequality in a measure which professed to be based on religious equality. Hon. Members opposite had spoken solely in the interest of the Church. He wished to say a word in the interest of the Welsh people. There were 31 representatives of Wales in that House who supported Liberal measures, and when those measures reached the other House they were very often mutilated or defeated by the four Welsh bishops. Anyone who had observed the Divisions in the Local Government Act in the other House would find that was the case. It would be a great grievance to the Welsh people if these right reverend Gentlemen should continue to sit in the other House and misrepresent the opinions of the Welsh people. It would be good for the bishops and good for the Church if none of the bishops occupied seats in the House of Lords, but it would be an extraordinary anomaly if the Welsh bishops should be retained in that House. He was glad to see that two hon. Members opposite intended to propose the omission of Sub-section 3. He thought it would be felt generally that the excission of that part of the Bill would be a considerable improvement.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he had never heard a speech breathing so entirely of the illiberality of Liberalism. The hon. Gentleman desired to get rid of the Welsh bishops from the House of Lords because they did not vote with him, just in the same way as he would get rid of every Member of the House of Commons who voted against him. This question ought not to be fought on such mean arguments, but on arguments of a higher and broader character. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary know that the bishops sat in the House of Lords long before the words "establishment by law" were ever heard of? The term Establishment which the right hon. Gentleman had used as the main groundwork of his argument, only came into use in 1243 1700, and the bishops had sat in the House of Lords as Counsellors for a very much longer time than that. The reason why the bishops were summoned to the House of Lords was because they were barons. In a Bill brought in for other purposes, it was proposed to deal with the manner in which persons should be called to the House of Lords. He was not sure whether it was not beyond the sphere of their business and duty to consider the question how peers should be called to the House of Lords. At all events it was clear that the old constitutional idea was this—once a peer always a peer—and that a man called to the House of Lords should not be removed after having once become a peer. The late Solicitor General had adduced the strongest argument with regard to members of his own profession, arguing that when a Law Lord was called to the House of Lords he remained a Peer of Parliament for the rest of his life. It seemed to be suggested that those who were only life peers were useless members of the House of Lords. In the old days, it was when Bishops were in opposition to the King that they had the greatest power. It was Stephen Langton lead the barons who extorted Magna Charta from King John; and the Bishop of St. Asaph was one of the seven Bishops who were sent to the Tower. He asked the Committee to adhere to the constitutional rule that when a peer was called to Parliament he remained a peer all the days of his life. He asked the Committee to omit this clause and not in any way to prejudge a question on which he differed from some of his friends with regard to the House of Lords. The simple question before them was, whether the most constitutional way of dealing with Bishops who had been called to Parliament was not to leave them Peers of Parliament for the rest of their lives.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
said the real reason why the Welsh Bishops were to be excluded from the House of Lords was that they had done their duty there 1244 and had stood by the Church. Education schemes prepared by the Charity Commissioners became law if they lay unchallenged on the Table of either House for forty days. The Welsh Bishops had called attention to the fact that some of these schemes, relating to Church Schools supported by Church Funds, deprived those schools of their distinctive character by preventing the use in them of the formularies of the Church. On that ground they had successfully opposed those schemes and secured the modification of them, and that was the chief ground for wishing to get rid of the Welsh Bishops.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 153; Noes, 191.—(Division List No. 81.)