§ If Her Majesty Queen Mary shall, after becoming Regent, be reconciled to or hold communion with the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Roman Catholic religion, or shall marry a person profess- 1536 ing the Roman Catholic religion, or shall cease to reside in or absent herself otherwise than temporarily from the United Kingdom, Her Majesty shall no longer be guardian and Regent; and all the powers and authorities which she may have derived under or by virtue of this Act shall thenceforth cease and determine.1537
§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to move to leave out the words, "be reconciled to or hold communion with the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Roman Catholic religion, or shall marry a person professing the Roman Catholic religion, or shall."
I should like to protest against including words in the Clause which will prevent the Regent from becoming a Roman Catholic if she thinks fit to do so. I am as sincerely attached to the Protestant religion as any Member of this House. I have been a Protestant all my life, and I hope I always shall be, but I cannot for the life of me understand how Protestantism is going to be advanced by putting these restrictions on a person in the position of Regent. The success of Protestantism depends on the extent to which we adhere to our principles and give free liberty of conscience to everybody else. That is the keynote of the Protestant religion, and it seems to me to be absurd to try to maintain Protestantism by intolerant methods. In my judgment the Regent, and, so far as that is concerned, the Sovereign himself, ought to have precisely the same right as every other citizen to profess that which they feel in their own conscience as accurate. I believe that the position of Protestants in this country when enactments of this nature were originally passed was different from that in which they are now. In the old days the King was able to dismiss the Government and to appoint unqualified people in order to carry out his own arbitrary designs. We have got beyond all this now, and I believe if we had absolute equality it would be a good thing for the Protestant religion throughout the country. I understand that the words which I propose to leave out of the Clause are really superfluous. The same provision is contained in the Catholic Emancipation Act. In that Act there is a Clause which provides for preventing the Regent becoming a Roman Catholic, and part of the Clause prohibits the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland becoming a Roman Catholic. The Liberal party have pledged themselves to abolish that Clause. They pledged themselves during Mr. Gladstone's time in the 1886 Parliament, and I would really suggest to the Government that we have now reached a stage of civilisation when we ought not to re-enact any of those old tests, but stand fast by what I believe to be the right principle of 1538 Liberalism, namely, that there shall be complete civil and religious liberty accorded to everyone in the country.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
I am sure that everyone will agree with the principles of toleration expressed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Holt), and will sympathise with him in his desire to accord liberty of conscience. At the same time, I do not feel that the Government will be expected to adopt in their fullest interpretation and freest spirit the views he has put forward, and to sweep away the whole of the long and not inglorious history of the country in this matter. It is unquestionable that a very great body of opinion in this country views with extreme apprehension the accession, if it were possible under the law, of a Roman Catholic Sovereign to the Throne of these realms. The Protestant Succession is protected by Statutes of the most serious character, and it is maintained strongly by the provisions of Acts of Parliament passed by this House. We have recently taken, or are about to take, steps to rid our procedure of language, which has been held to be offensive to the members of the Roman Catholic faith. But the Government are not at all prepared to place themselves in opposition to the whole structure which has grown up for centuries, and by which the Protestant Succession to the Throne is safeguarded, as we would do, by leaving out the words which my hon. Friend proposes to omit from this Bill. If it is the will of Parliament, as it undoubtedly is at the present time the law of the land, that the Sovereign of these Realms must be in communication with the Church of England as by law established, then it equally follows—and, indeed, it follows all the more—that the Regent also who is to guide the mind and convictions of the young Sovereign who is a minor should not be in communion with the Church of Rome. In those circumstances, while not in any way disputing the broad general view which my hon. Friend has brought forward, the Government do not at all feel able to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. LUTTRELL
I would ask whether the Government can accept a portion of my hon. Friend's proposal if they cannot accept the whole of it, and omit from the Clause the words whereby the Regent is prevented as Regent from joining the Church of Rome. We who agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Holt) have heard the 1539 answer of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the Amendment as proposed, and we will not press the Government further on that point. I myself think that there ought to be no disqualification at all, but I accept the right hon. Gentleman's reply in so far as it relates to the whole of the Amendment. At the same time, I would ask whether the Government could not accept the Amendment in the modified form which I suggest. Supposing the Regent wished to marry a member of the Church of Rome, I do not think that marriage would prevent her from remaining a member of the Church of England. A good many Protestants in this country marry Roman Catholics, and, nevertheless, both parties remain Protestants and Catholics as before. I think we might well say that the Regent should be allowed if she wished to marry a Roman Catholic, and therefore I would suggest the omission of the words "or shall marry a person professing the Roman Catholic religion."
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I am not surprised that the Government are unwilling to accept this Amendment, I only rise to ask the Solicitor-General some questions affecting the meaning of the Clause. The Regent, being a descendant of George III., is not able to marry anyone without the consent of the Sovereign. How can this consent of the Sovereign be given in the circumstances of the case? Being under age, could the Sovereign give consent, or would the Regent herself be in a position to give consent? There is no provision for dealing with the case. The second point is the point which has been often called attention to by historians, that this Clause, no more than the Bill of Rights itself, makes no provision for dealing with the case if the Regent did become a Roman Catholic. What would happen if she did? What would be the position of Parliament and of the State under such circumstances? Nobody knows how the Bill of Rights could be enforced. The Sovereign could go on and it would be impossible, short of a revolutionary measure, to enforce what is desired. The truth is that Parliament is really trying to do something by this Clause which lies beyond the power of the Legislature. I recognise that feeling is very strong on the subject and that it is not worth while pressing for the exclusion of the Clause, but it is worth while mentioning the matter if only for the sake of 1540 educating the public. This Clause is an attempt to do something which the machinery of legislation has no power to do. The only thing you can do in the case of extreme misgovernment is, that Parliament can, in the future as in the past, declare the Throne vacant. All provisions saying that the Sovereign is not to be a Roman Catholic and that he is not to do this or that are essentially vague.
§ Mr. JEREMIAH MacVEAGH
I think the decision announced by the Home Secretary is a matter for regret. If he had availed himself of the opportunity of showing readiness to drop a large part of the Clause, I think he would have interpreted the true sense of the House. The Government is at present engaged in the excellent work of endeavouring to effect a constitutional change in the matter of the Oath, which is offensive to twelve millions of His Majesty's subjects in the Empire. The Home Secretary said that if it was the law that the Sovereign must be in communion with the Church of England, and that the Regent must be in communion with the Church of England, then it is all the more necessary that this Clause should remain; but this Clause does not say that the Sovereign shall be a member of the Church of England. It does say that, "if Her Majesty Queen Mary shall, after becoming Regent, be reconciled to or hold communion with the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the Roman Catholic religon, or shall marry a person professing the Roman Catholic religion," certain penalties shall follow. The Committee will observe there is nothing there penalising any other denomination except the Catholics. The Sovereign has a perfect right to become a Mahomedan or a Wesleyan Methodist, or a Jew, or to proclaim that she has no religion at all, and there is nothing in this Clause to prevent it. This Clause is a relic of the days when bigotry ran rampant throughout the land. I think the best sense of the House and of the whole country will be cordially with the Government if they decide to remove the Clause.
§ Mr. BELLOC
The English people are attached to the idea that the Throne or the Regent for the time being shall be professedly and openly a member of the national Church of England. I think it is equally true that of the increasing power of what would be in their eyes a menace to the future of the Catholic Church they have no conception at all. I think if you 1541 will go to any of the great artisan constituencies, with the exception of a certain amount of anti-Irish feeling, due to friction between the two races, any definite specific hatred in the matter has disappeared from among the masses of the people. Whether it will reappear I do not know. When the Noble Lord said that he did not wonder at the decision of the Government, I think he was exaggerating the opinion of the University of Oxford. A body less in touch with the English people I cannot conceive. I have no doubt he is representing the feelings of the curates and schoolmasters, but I am certain that in supporting this Amendment I shall be representing my Constituents, not only those Liberals who sent me here, but the overwhelming majority of them.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I intend to support the Declaration Bill, but I shall not support the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite. The two things are absolutely different. The Declaration Bill deals with matter which is offensive to the Roman Catholic Church. This is a different thing altogether. Surely the hon. Member (Mr. MacVeagh) below the Gangway cannot say that it is offensive that the Sovereign of this realm shall not be a member of the Roman Cathoilc Church.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
What I suggested was that you should put in all the other denominations—Mahomedans, Jews, Turks, and all the rest—and say that the Sovereign shall not belong to any of them.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
But I was endeavouring to follow the advice of the Prime Minister, and discuss the matter in a serious manner. There is no fear of the Regent becoming either a Mahomedan or a Jew.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I think there is a very strong feeling in the country that the Sovereign should be a member of the Church of England—the National Church of the country.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think it is necessary. There is no danger of the Sovereign or the Regent embracing any other religion except that of the Church of England, unless she embraces that of 1542 the Roman Catholic Church. I was very glad to hear the Home Secretary, for the first time for the last three or four years, having some regard to the past. He told us he looked back upon the centuries which have gone, and hesitated to destroy the work these centuries have made. The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) astonished me. He thinks this Amendment ought to be carried, and yet he gets up and says, because the Government will not have it, there is nothing more to be said. Unless the hon. Member shows some more courage he will never carry any opinion whatever. He will get no Amendment and no consideration unless he says, "These are my opinions, and I believe I am right and my conscience goes against my party loyalty." If he takes that course he will become a person of considerable reputation. This is a very serious question. All that is stated is that the Regent or the Sovereign shall be a member of the Church of England.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Well, if we are to have an Amendment, let us have one to that effect. But do not let the inference remain that the House of Commons and people of the country do not object to the Sovereign being a member of the Roman Catholic Church. That would be a very serious admission to make, and I hope the Committee will adhere to the decision of the Government.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I repudiate any idea of intolerance in this matter. I do not think that the Roman Catholics can say that they have not received in this country the widest measure of tolerance. But why should you single out this particular religion? I hope I may put what I believe is in the minds of the great multitude of people without any offence. I do not know if Members of the House have read Mr. Gladstone's pamphlet on the Vatican Creed in relation to civil religion. Mr. Gladstone will not be called an intolerant man. What does he point out in that excellent pamphlet? In the early days, before Catholic Emancipation, the great objection taken to Catholic Emancipation, which he says had swayed the mind of such a tolerant and large-minded 1543 man as Sir Robert Peel, was that Catholics could not give an undivided allegiance to the Sovereign. Then we find, if we read the history of these times, the most ample assurances are given. If you read what Bishop Doyle says; he says, "What have we to do with Popes? We have nothing whatever to do with them." And the Irish heirarchy said that the doctrine of Papal infallibility had nothing to do with them, and that it was not binding upon their conscience. What followed? In 1870 we had the Vatican Decree, and now, said Mr. Gladstone, rightly or wrongly, no one can be a member of that Church without putting his civil allegiance wholly into the hands of another person, because we have this in the Vatican Decree of Papal infallibility, that the Pope, when he speaks ex cathedra is infallible. And what, says Mr. Gladstone, is ex cathedra He said that there is only one man who can say that, and that is the Pope himself. The seal is in his drawer, and he keeps the key. It only refers to matters of faith and morals. But, says Mr. Gladstone, if you can show me a rag or a tatter of human life which does not come under human morals, then it must be such a rag or tatter that we may disregard it entirely. Therefore, rightly or wrongly, there is that belief on the part of multitudes that they do think that the civil allegiance of Catholics must be in all matters of faith and morals not with the Sovereign here, but with the Sovereign beyond the seas. That is the principal objection which sways the minds of a great many Englishmen in this direction.
§ Mr. MacVEAGH
Might I remind my hon. Friend that he himself does not follow his own Sovereign in matters of faith?
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
But in matters of civil allegiance, which is a different thing. If the hon. Member will read the pamphlet to which I allude, he will see that Mr. Gladstone expressly deals with that, and he says that, in the matter of civil allegiance, that allegiance must be given in all matters of faith and morals, not to the Sovereign of this country, but to the Sovereign over the water. Therefore it is, I think, that we should all greatly object to see a Roman Catholic Sovereign or Regent of this country. It is not on religious grounds—and I hope that I shall not be accused of intolerance—but because the political objection does sway, rightly or wrongly, multitudes of my com- 1544 patriots; and for that reason we cannot vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I may venture to appeal to the House not to be drawn into a discussion upon grave and serious matters which, although in order to a certain extent upon the consideration of this Amendment, really carry us far beyond any intention or purpose which the House can correctly bring into the discussion. If it be proposed to examine and test the foundations on which the Act of Succession reposes, that would properly be done by dealing with the Act of Settlement and other great measures of that character. But it is not proposed to do that. No one contemplates any attempt to alter or affect that historic legislation at all, and while such Acts remain in force it is merely carrying out their purpose in a subsidiary form to put such a Clause as this into the Bill. And I do trust that we shall not be drawn into any argument as to the basis of civil and religious liberty and all those other matters when we are simply considering a subsidiary measure for carrying into effect the bigger Acts of Parliament. With regard to what my hon. Friend behind asked as to whether the Government could not leave out the words "or shall marry a Roman Catholic" I do submit to the House, first of all, that that is even more improbable and remote, but it does seem to me, in view of the general tenour and character of our legislation on these subjects, that it would be right and proper that Parliament should be in a position to review the whole question of the Regency.
§ Mr. DILLON
This discussion was not initiated from our benches or by the Catholics, but by a Liberal Member, and I will only say a few words in order to point out on behalf of my co-religionists that we do not see anything offensive in this Clause at all, nor do I see anything offensive in the slightest degree in the remarks of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Greenwood), who just now argued in favour of the Clause. I only direct your attention to the fact that the very singular argument he used, and used with perfect good faith, and not in the slightest degree offensively to any of us, was an argument against allowing us into Parliament at all and not in favour of this Clause. The argument was that a Catholic cannot be loyal to the Crown, that a Catholic cannot bear true civil allegiance to the Sovereign. There is no 1545 question about the Sovereign bearing allegiance to himself. Therefore the whole of his argument is absolutely wide of the issues that have been raised. I recognise, and I always recognise, that if the people of this country desire, as I believe they do desire, to have a Protestant Sovereign of the Church of England they have a perfect right to have one. It is not offensive to us so long as we are treated with perfectly fair play and toleration by the majority of people of this country so long as we remain subject to the Crown of England and that the majority of the, people of this country insist upon the Sovereign being a member of the Church of England. Therefore I only rose for the purpose of pointing out to hon. Members that they must not for a single moment confound the Debate that arose on this Clause with the Debate on the Declaration. There are totally different issues raised. I think myself if the Government were wise they would have dropped this Clause altogether or drafted it in another shape, namely, to the effect that the Sovereign must remain in communion with the Church of England. It appears to me absurd that in Acts of Parliament dealing with the Throne of England there should be this terror of the Pope always brought forward. It is to my mind humiliating to yourselves. It does not humiliate us. It rather compliments us, as if our Church were so formidable that England was continually shaking in her knees at the prospect of the Pope ruling over this country. We do not trouble about such laws, but it is humiliating for England that it should be continually passing Acts of Parliament to protect itself against the Pope. If it cannot maintain its liberties without these Clauses then it has no liberty at all. The Clause is really absurd and unnecessary, but for my part I hope that no Division will be taken on such a matter. It is really not a serious issue; the Clause is not offensive to us as Catholics; it is rather offensive to yourselves, and humiliating to the people of this country.
§ Mr. HOLT
With the Home Secretary and the hon. Baronet against me it is hopeless to have a Division and therefore I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment; but I would wish to say that there is nothing I feel more strongly than this, that there should be any provision as to professing or abstaining from professing any particular religion.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Before the Motion is withdrawn, I would like to point out 1546 how utterly unworkable this Clause is. The more you reflect how it is to be worked, the more absurd it becomes. It says that if the Regent be reconciled—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lord can speak about that on the Clause. The hon. Member desires leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 5 be added to the Bill."
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I thoroughly agree with what fell from the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). If this Clause is in a negative form and not in a positive form there would be great difficulty in working it. How can you prove whether the Regent has or has not been reconciled to the Church of Rome? You will get no evidence on that point at all, or if you do get evidence, before what tribunal are you going to establish it, and by what inquiries can you prove by rules of evidence that the Regent has joined the Church of Rome? It is obvious that difficulties of a serious character would arise. Will it be enough to show that the Regent, or possibly the spouse of the Regent, did say in conversation, "I think there is a great deal of truth in Roman Catholic doctrine." What does the profession amount to in law? So you can go through this Clause word by word and show that it has no legal significance. It has no significance which is provable in point of law, yet you propose to establish legal consequences of the utmost gravity on such a foundation. Obviously nothing can be done except on such a degree of public rumour and report as to leave no doubt about the matter, that the Regent could not deny it, and the thing could be established there and then. But in such a case Parliament could take action and you do not really require a provision of this kind unless you propose to enforce it against someone who is resisting your authority. If you want a Clause of this kind you should say, "shall join in communion with the Church of England." That is a definite thing which can be established regularly and with all authority, but all those provisions about being reconciled to the Roman Catholic religion are things that could not be proved without great difficulty, and on which Parliament could not act.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I quite agree with what the Home Secretary said, but I do not wish to keep silence in reference to 1547 the argument of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Greenwood) lest it should be said that it is not susceptible of an answer. I protest in the strongest manner against the implication that my allegiance to my Sovereign in civil matters depends upon anything but my own conscience. The arguments quoted by the hon. Member from Mr. Gladstone were all answered by Cardinal Newman at the time. I do not want to say more than that now or go in detail through all the arguments which he put forward, but if he wishes to continue the discussion in private I shall be delighted to explain my position more fully. With regard, however, to this Clause, the discussion is really one de minimis.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
What I spoke of was what was going on in the minds of a great many of my fellow countrymen. I did not say that I held these opinions myself. I am sure that the hon. Member's co-religionists are quite as loyal as my own.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I may say as a good Conservative that I think my civil allegiance is somewhat better. I thought that in what the hon. Member said he was expressing his own opinions.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.