§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I beg to move,That, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, he presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent.In moving this Motion, I am conscious that I am undertaking a very heavy task. I have against me the great authority, so justly respected in this House, of the Corporation of London, and I have also a very large body of artistic and archaelogical opinion, highly respectable because of the talents of the persons who hold those opinions, against me. I feel that I should be altogether daunted in encountering such opposition were I not persuaded that that opposition is founded upon a profound misunderstanding and misinterpretation, which has both misled the Corporation and those artistic societies, and has made them the unwitting means of misleading others. I will briefly deal with the objections that this matter should not come before the House under the provisions of the Enabling Act. The Corporation has raised that issue, and 674 they raised it in the first instance before the Ecclesiastical Committee. There is no doubt at all, I think, that Parliament contemplated such matters as the City Churches being dealt with under the Enabling Act. It so happened in the discussion of an Amendment, one of several which were moved on the Report stage, that I myself, in resisting the Amendment, which expressed that very kind of objection which is taken to the consideration of this Measure—an Amendment excluding certain things because they concern persons who are not members of the Church of England—I pointed out that, in dealing with Church matters, you could not take them out of the life of the community entirely so as to make them absolutely separate, but that you might have to deal incidentally with things that affect other people. By way of illustration I said, "Suppose we deal, as I hope we are to deal, with the City Churches." As a matter of fact, Parliament was fully informed and fully recognised that this was one of the matters to be dealt with under the Enabling Act. The Parliamentary vote then was for the erection of the Ecclesiastical Committee, one of whose principal duties it is to decide what questions can and cannot be reasonably dealt with under the Act. The Ecclesiastical Committee, of course, considered that question, as they are bound to do in any case in respect of this Measure, and they considered it with all the greater care because it was drawn to their attention by the Corporation of London. Anyone can read the Report, which can be obtained in the Vote Office. It says:It has been contended that the Measure was ultra vires. In the opinion of the Ecclesiastical Committee the Measure concerns the Church of England within the meaning of the Church of England (Powers) Act, 1919, and is therefore one which the Church Assembly has power to promote under that Act.It has been further maintained that the Measure, in so far as it operates upon persons unconnected with the Church of England, affects the constitutional rights' of those persons within the meaning of the Act.Whilst not expressing a decided view as to whether this is so or not, the Committee are of opinion that those rights are not affected in such a way as to make the passage of this Measure inexpedient.As regards both the petitions above alluded to, in so far as they represent that 675 the Measure is one likely to result in the disposal or demofition of buildings of architectural or historical importance, the Committee desire to express their view that the alteration effected by the Measure in the procedure for sanctioning schemes of union and disposal is not likely to have this result. On the contrary, their view is that in some respects the safeguards for the preservation of such buildings are more satisfactory under the Measure than under the existing law.They go on to argue that the Union of Benefices Measure, 1923, has already been considered and adopted by Parliament, and that it is a Measure of similar content, or rather of similar subject, to the Measure now under consideration.
§ Sir HARRY FOSTER
I am sorry to interrupt the Noble Lord. Will he not inform the House that there was a First Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee? Is it not a fact that there was a First Report of the Committee, in which they said that in face of the opposition of the Corporation of the City of London they could not treat this Measure as if it did not affect in a serious degree the constitutional rights of the community generally?
§ Lord H. CECIL
The reason for the first Report was that the Committee did not see their way at first to hear the Corporation before coming to a decision. On further consideration, they came, very wisely I think, to the conclusion that the Corporation stands in so peculiar a position that they should hear it. I shall not succeed, I know, in recommending this Measure to the House if I cannot do two things: first, meet the positive objections that have been made to it; and, secondly, I shall not succeed unless I can convince the House that the Measure has not the purposes and intentions that it is supposed to have, because, however completely you answer a particular objection and show that this or that has not the significance which it is supposed to have, people only fall back, when they are in the suspicious mood, upon fancying that there is a "catch" somewhere, and that the case really cannot be so strong as it seems to be. Therefore, I will say one word about how the Measure arose. It arose out of the very familiar difficulty that the City of London has gradually lost its Sunday population until it has now only about 12,000 resident inhabitants on Sunday. 676 It has still 47 parishes and Churches, with all the organisations of parochial Churches. Naturally that is a matter to be dealt with.
In the closing months of the War and the period immediately following the War we encountered a very considerable body of opinion which said, "By what right do you come to us asking for money for the extension of your churches and church objects and the like when you have here a great number of churches wholly superfluous for the purpose because of their excessive number, which are not of great architectural or artistic value. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] At any rate that is what was said. On one side the Bishop was pressed to destroy a certain number of Churches—a definite number was not mentioned—and the general question was raised that those sites ought to be sold. On the other side there was the great body of artistic opinion—I don't know if they were supported by the Corporation—a great body of opinion strongly opposed to the removal of any Church.
Accordingly the Bishop appointed a Commission to inquire into this question, and that Commission brought in a Report, with which I did not agree, which proposed a very large reduction in the number of the churches. That was the Phillimore Report. As I foresaw, that Report was at once condemned by almost everybody whose support was necessary, and it was quite clear that nothing of the kind could possibly be carried out. I want to make it clear that my point of view was not the point of view of the Phillimore Report and it is not now. I will read a few words from the dissenting Memorandum which I wrote:I can hardly believe that all these churches marked for destruction in the Report could be destroyed without serious artistic loss. Such churches as St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary's, Alderman-bury, for example, I should call it barbarous to pull down.Again, I said,I must add that I think the removal of a church and the desecration of its site is in itself a great evil.and yet I am the author of this Measure, and in spite of what I have said I still recommend this Measure to the House. I afterwards moved in the Church Assembly for a Committee to inquire into the matter and recommend the introduc- 677 tion of a Measure if they thought fit, and they did. They said in recommending it:The Committee was set up with a strictly limited reference. We were not to inquire into the merits of the controversy about the City churches, or the question of the removal of some of them, but simply to frame machinery by which if and when it seemed desirable benefices in the Metropolis might be united and churches removed under proper safeguards, and we recommend the introduction of the accompanying Measure, which we believe will provide machinery by which all questions relating to the Union of Benefices and the removal of churches in the central area of the Metropolis may be carefully investigated and wisely decided.That was the point. It was not desired to destroy churches or to prejudge the issue in any way whatever, but it was our desire to have a proper investigation and a wise decision under abundant safeguards.
Let me now come to the next question—what can be done under the old Act of 1860, and what can be done under the Measure; and, again, what are the safeguards against the unwise use of the Act of 1860, and what are the safeguards against the unwise use of this Measure? What can you do? Under the Act of 1860 you can unite two or more contiguous benefices. That you can do by a scheme, which is first framed by a Commission consisting of two members appointed by the Corporation, two appointed by the Bishop, and one appointed by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's—the majority being, therefore, appointed by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's and the Bishop. If you do unite those parishes, the scheme can also recommend the removal of any church that is made superfluous by that union. The principal safeguard against that being unwisely done is that you have to obtain the consent of the vestry, as it was then, or the church council, as it now is. Then the draft scheme would go on to the Ecclesiastical Commission, and, if the Commission were friendly as to its details, to the Privy Council. The Privy Council could hear objections in connection with parochial rights and so on, and either recommended or did not recommend an Order in Council confirming the scheme.
It will be observed that under that Act you cannot do two things which very much need doing. You cannot make any 678 general reorganisation of the city, because you have to carry every point with the consent of the vestries, so that you cannot have a general amalgamation of parishes, because any one parish might throw you over and object, in which case the whole scheme would fall to the ground. If you are to have a comprehensive treatment of the union of benefices, you must have a wider scheme. There is another thing which you cannot do, and which ought to be done; you cannot assign the churches you retain to other purpose than the ordinary parochial purposes of a parish church. Both of these things can be done under this Measure. You can have a wide and large reorganisation, reducing the benefices of the parishes of the city to some reasonably small number, and you can assign any church to some purpose other than the ordinary parochial purpose, being a religious purpose approved by the Bishop of the diocese. If you are going to retain the churches, and not to pull them down, this fast power is really essential. Obviously, you do not need 47 churches for the ordinary parochial purposes of a population which is now no more than 12,000, and you want to assign them to various religious purposes. Mr. Clayton, a City incumbent connected with admirable work, who is justly honoured for his great spiritual work, has a belief that all the churches can be utilised for good religions work. I am not sure whether he does not, as remarkable men so often do, think that, having himself a great spiritual genius, it is possible to multiply indefinitely work like his. I am afraid, however, that it would be a long time before we get many people of his great capacity. At any rate, in order to carry out any programme of that kind, you must have power to assign churches to purposes other than the ordinary parochial purposes of a parish church. You cannot do that under the existing Act.
Then as to safeguards. The Measure, which, with certain differences, closely resembles the Act, has a Commission too—a Commission giving very much greater safeguards towards the piont of view of those who criticise the Measure than are given by the Act. Whereas the majority of the Commission under the Act is appointed by the Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, 679 under this Measure not one single Commissioner is chosen by the Bishop of London. The Commission issues under his hand and seal, and in that sense, of course, which deceives some people, he makes the appointment, but he acts purely mechanically. The nomination is not placed in his hands, but in the hands of two Commissioners of the Corporation, two members of the Committee of the London Diocesan Conference and the Lord Chancellor. Therefore a majority of the Commission must always be persons appointed by secular authority, perfectly independent of the Bishop, and, so far as the two members of the Corporation are concerned, under the influence of the Corporation that appoints them.
The second safeguard is that from the very opening of the matter the whole transaction is surrounded by publicity, to a much greater degree than attaches to the proceedings under the Act, because at the very outset, if you are going to touch the Church you must send a notice to the Royal Fine Art Commission and they make an inquiry and send a report as to its value. When people suppose that this is a conspiracy to destroy the churches, one trembles for the reason of mankind. Who is plotting to destroy the churches? There is a provision by which the most influential artistic authorities in the country have their attention called to the proposed destruction at the very earliest moment. If you went along a street and saw someone trying to get into the door of a building and you were in doubt whether he was a burglar or a householder who had host his latchkey, key whether he was an honest or a dishonest person, would you not he greatly reassured if the first thing he did was to call the assistance of a policeman in getting into the door? That is the analogy of the scrutiny that is invited from the Royal Fine Art Commission. Of course the purpose is not in the least to trample upon public opinion, but if these churches are really of first class, or even considerable artistic value, there is no intention of destroying them. By all means let the artistic value be publicly announced and fully weighed and gauged, and if it turns out that they are really of this great value no church can possibly be destroyed under this Measure. Nothing 680 that is really valuable can be taken away because the safeguards are so elaborate.
Then publicity is further secured because notice has to be sent to a whole cataract of artistic and other societies who are invited to object if they have any objection. The list is stupendous. In case of the removal of a church, notice has to be given to the patron and incumbent of any benefice affected by the scheme, the churchwardens, and parochial church council of any parish, the Common Council of the City of London. They are to be given notice if it is only a union of benefices if for removing a church, also to the Commissioners of Works, the Ancient Monuments Board, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Royal Fine Art Commission, the Central Committee for the Protection of Churches as well as the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of the Church of England and the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Conference. Does that suggest to you a conspiracy? Is that how a conspirator would behave? Does a conspirator, desirous of a great and far-reaching destruction of churches, usually publicly invite the attention of the people who he knows will most disapprove of it?
Is it not perfectly manifest that the purpose is to get a decision which conforms to wise, moderate public opinion, including the public opinion expressed by these societies. That, of course, is the purpose. If hon. Members followed my account of how the thing originated, they will see that that is natural enough The purpose of the Measure is to relieve the Bishop of the invidious position of standing between two conflicting bodies of opinion, and to be placed instead in full touch with the general public opinion of reasonable people: on one side, those who are interested in the Church and its religious aspect, and on the other side, though not necessarily from the point of view of opposition, that great body of artistic and archaelogical opinion which is naturally and reasonably interested. The purpose was and is to decide all these questions ratioNaily and broadly in accordance with moderate and rational public opinion, and so long as moderate and rational public opinion is against destruction, no church will be destroyed. 681 This machinery is intended to respond to public opinion. Every part of it is constructed in order that public opinion may prevail. There is not the slightest desire to shirk the issue or to trick or manoeuvre so that public opinion does not get its proper weight. The whole purpose is that the matter may be raised to a position in which the winds of public opinion may operate, and a decision may be come to which will be a decision of which all reasonable and moderate opinion will approve.
If there is any objection, it goes to the Metropolitan Benefices Board. That Board have had already an earlier opportunity of expressing if they chose criticism of the outlined proposals at the very beginning. I notice that that is a provision which excites the darkest suspicion. It was put in for a perfectly rational reason. It was put in so that if it was perfectly clear that the proposals were inadmissible, no time should be lost. In criminal proceedings there is, in addition to the trial before the jury in Court, a grand jury who deliberate upon the case and who may reject any indictment which is absolutely groundless. In order that the Board may know any views which they want to give to the Bishop about the proposals, that they may know the artistic aspects, which they do not always know unless they are properly put before them, and that they may be thoroughly well informed on those artistic aspects, they will refer to the Royal Fine Arts Corn mission. In their own body of 35 members there are a number of artistic capacity. The Metropolitan Benefices Board is intended to express the main characteristic view of the Measure, as representing the opinion of the moderate, reasonable, enlightened and instructed people whose opinion is sought to determine these matters. Of the members of the Board, nine are to be appointed by the Standing Committees of the Diocesan Conferences, five by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, and four by the Archbishop of Canterbury—these are people I suppose who are most suspected—two by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
Here I should like to refer to the amazing misstatements in that tissue of unreliable misrepresentations which appears in the "Times" this morning: the most amazing statement which ever appeared in a respectable newspaper. 682 In some important respects it makes positive misstatements. For example, it states that the Bishop is to appoint the Commission. That is not so. Imagine the conduct of a great newspaper on a matter of this kind deliberately misstating a principal safeguard of a Measure which they are attacking. It would seem as if journalists seem to lose all sense of honour and to stoop to any trick, however base, to encompass the object they have in view. In addition to those members who are open to suspicion, and assuming that the critics will not accept the bona fides of the Archbishop of Canterbury's nominees, the rest are all persons who, I think, ought to appeal to hon. Members who criticise the Bill. One is to be appointed by the First Commissioners of Works, one by the Central Committee for the Protection of Churches, one by the Royal Fine Arts Commission, one by the Royal Academy of Arts, one by the Royal Institute of British Architects, one by the Society of Antiquaries of London, one by the University of London, one by the Ruri-decanal Conference of the East City, one by the Ruri-decanal Conference of the West City, one by the churchwardens of the churches of the City of London, four by the Corporation of the City of London and one by the London County Council Fifteen members out of this body of 35 members are people decidedly biased against the destruction of churches, and as far as I am able to judge not one of the other members are in the least biased in favour of the destruction of churches. Certainly, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Standing Committee of the National Assembly are not church breakers by profession, and the idea that the Archbishop of Canterbury will send out four resofute chaplains, who do not stick at trifles, is absurd.
I want hon. Members to see how immense is the weight given to those who are likely to be against the destruction of any church. There are 15 people who are probably much more keen than any of the other members against the destruction of any church, and we can see how they will attempt to bring within their number some of the other people who are appointed by indeterminate bodies who may not have any strong 683 opinion one way or the other. They have only to convince three out of the other 20 to get themselves an absolute majority. I want hon. Members to conceive the position as it is. Is it not possible that these members, who are armed with the Report of the Fine Arts Commission, these 15 persons who have artistic capacities themselves, will not be able to convince three persons out of the other 20 that the scheme ought to be rejected, if it really is an unreasonable scheme? Short of giving the whole control into the hands of the Corporation of the City of London, could they have more weight and a more important position than they have under this Measure? They appoint two members out of five in the first Commission, and four other members in the larger Board, I ask, why do they dislike this Measure which gives them much more power over these schemes than they have under the Act of 1860? Why should they discuss a Measure which greatly adds to the strength, of their position, and which I should have thought reassured them as to the danger of any step which is taken under it?
The only safeguard that is lost is the parochial church council. That appears to be a body of great confidence now, and yet those who rely upon it say in the same breath, "Why, under the Act of 1860, you destroy 21 churches. What more do you want?" That is not what we want. We do not want to destroy churches; we want the wisest decision, which is quite a different thing. And if the parochial church councils are to be trusted, how came they to consent to those 21 churches being destroyed. The truth is, that if the influence is strong against the destruction of churches, the parochial church council will reject the scheme, and so, of course, equally, will the bodies whom it is proposed to set up. When you have public opinion on that side there is no danger, but, supposing it takes a turn, what confidence have you in the parochial church council? They are very small bodies, not the least representative of the wider church life, and there are 47 different ones, so small and so diminutive are the parishes of the City of London. How can it be wise to entrust our national treasures to bodies who will not be the wisest judges, who will not be able to give an artistic 684 or well-informed judgment on such questions as these? Artistic societies, like the Corporation, are in a very much better position under the Measure. They have full publicity and other advantages which they have not under the existing Act. Why should they he suspicious when they are so much better off?
Of course, the reason is always the same reason. People start with the theory that this is a Measure to carry out a wholesale destruction of churches, or something like it. As long as they believe that, they are naturally not impressed by any safeguards, however elaborate. You may pile council upon council and tribunal upon tribunal, but they think there is some artifice behind it, some dark ingenuity behind the apparently pleasing machinery of the Measure. That is the belief. There are also the expressions in the weighty memorial laid before the House by the Corporation, repeated in articles all over the country. There are two suspicions. One of them is that there is the intention of the Metropolitan Benefices Board to cut short all deliberations by a decision in favour of the scheme and that by it everybody will be bound. That, of course, is the very opposite of the intention. The intention really is to bring to an end discussion on a scheme that is quite impossible, in order that no time or money may be wasted upon it. And, too, the purpose is that there should be some body which can scrutinise each scheme. This Measure produces a comprehensive scheme. The incumbents of the City, who at first looked at it with very considerable suspicion, became convinced that the Metropolitan Benefices Board was a great gain. So much for that suspicion. This was put in as a safeguard to protect churches, to cut short an unwise attack. It is turned upside down by fantastic suspicion and is supposed to be part of a plot. The other suspicion arises out of the most commonplace routine phrase which I put into the Measure, for I am responsible for the Measure and every part of it; it is altogether my Measure. The words are that when the Commission has rejected a scheme it shall not prevent the Bishop appointing a fresh Commission to consider the matter afresh, if he thinks it wise. The purpose of that is perfectly natural and genuine. It appeared to me as not unreasonable and not unlikely 685 that in a very complicated matter—the union of benefices is a very complicated matter—some oversight might be made which was not merely an oversight but one which ought to be put right. The Commission holding the inquiry might say, "You never saw that," or there might be some temporary objection of a respected incumbent. It might be necessary to consider that objection. It is of the very nature of oversights that you cannot foresee them. It was only common prudence to provide for putting the matter afresh in a reasonable way, but this most harmless, routine provision for avoiding oversights is turned into more "plot." It is actually believed by the Corporation and many other people that it is intended that the Bishop should bring up over and over again the same proposals until, through weariness, the Lord Chancellor and the Corporation have to give in, not because they are convinced, but because again and again the Bishop brings up the same old proposals and they get tired of meeting the same arguments.
§ Lord H. CECIL
The reason for it is that the first inquiry would cover the ground and would show whether there really was an objection, and the second inquiry would deal with all the objections which probably would be found out in the earlier stages. We put in five years there as a concession to reassure people; but are we to imagine an insane Bishop of London endeavouring to make the Lord Chancellor change his mind because the same thing is brought up again and again and again? Are there Lord Chancellors like that? I will not ask whether there are Bishops of London like that, because I know it is part of this strange disease that obsesses people's minds that there is nothing they will not believe about the Bishop. Can we imagine a Lord Chancellor like that or a Corporation like that? Do they change their mind in this way, on a great controversial matter of this kind, in which they have taken up a particular view? According to this nightmare theory they will do so if it is brought up again and again. The whole thing is fantastic. It is a dream. Nothing of the kind was ever meant to happen or could possibly happen. A bishop would never behave in such an 686 insane fashion, and, if he did, he would not gain anything by it, because the Chancellor and the Corporation would act in exactly the same way as before.
It is said that great position attaches to the Corporation in this matter by reason of the fact that many of these churches are the product of the coal dues in the reign of Charles II. It was a noble act of munificence when the churches were so built, and I deeply honour the memory of that age which at that expense and bearing the burden of the coal dues did this great service to the cause of religion. But I do not think that because a gift has been given the benefactor is for ever entitled to regulate the use of the gift. If I, as a middle-aged bachelor, have on certain occasions made wedding presents to some of my friends, I do not afterwards regulate the use to which they may put those presents. But if it is not a matter of strict right, hut of generous consideration, as such it appeals to me very strongly. I want to do two things. I want first to give the Corporation of London an honourable and important place—as they are given in this Measure—in the determination of these matters. Short of giving them absolute power, I could not do more for them. If they, being in the right, cannot convince the Lord Chancellor's representative, I do not understand why we should put any confidence in Lord Chancellors for any purpose whatever in the future. The Corporation are given a place of great dignity to which on this historical account and on many others they are entitled.
The second thing is I want to have the same sort of religious piety now, the same care for the religious well-being of the people of London, as our ancestors had. That involves a new consideration, namely, the claim of the great populations, without any churches at all, which are now rising up by the hundred thousand in other areas of London. So we shall best honour the recollection of their munificence. People cannot believe there should be opposition against a thing which really deserves it so little. Therefore they think again and again with renewed suspicion that there must be a catch somewhere. There must be some trap or trick behind it. I am the author of the Measure. It is my plan. It was my plan because I took a view, which is neither the view of those who want 687 to destroy a great number of churches, nor of those who think it is not even worthy inquiry whether a single church should be removed.
I take a more reasonable and moderate view which is expressed in the Measure. I lay it now before the House. A friend of mine, the distinguished incumbent of St. Michael's, says he is in favour of the Measure, because it will he less easy to remove a church under it than under the existing law. Sir Lewis Dibdin is not a believer in the Measure himself, because he thinks it so safeguards the position that there will he nothing done under it. That, to me, is no argument against it. I want to get the question amicably and reasonably settled so as to allay distrust. That shall be my last word, and I ask the House to consider this.
I do not complain of any person who is in his heart and conscience convinced that the true, interest of religion and the Church are injured—I do not ask him if he really believes the great precious works of architectural interest are to be destroyed—I do not complain that such a one should duly consider the purport of the Measure and come to the conclusion that it is his duty to oppose it. The Measure was first introduced in February, 1923. That was after the preliminary Committee. In 1923 it was reported with Amendments. In July, 1924, it was again reported with Amendments. In November, 1924, it was again reported with further Amendments, revised for the third time by the Assembly, and finally approved. All this trouble has been taken; all this thought has been spent in order to get a wise solution for the whole of public opinion. By all means let it he rejected if it can be rejected by well informed people on conscientious grounds, but let us he reminded by the City churches themselves that there is something very important behind all this. I respect and share the veneration that Members feel for the ancient fabrics of the churches themselves. There is, however, something more precious than the fabric, and that is the spirit of the religion which it expresses. It is for the sake of doing good to the Church, and not for the sake of destroying churches, that all this trouble has been taken and all this labour spent. We have tried to 688 do what will honestly have regard to the feelings of all sorts of people, including the new population arising up outside. We are trying to save money on the churches without destroying a single church. £23,000 a year can be saved by reorganisation. All this we have done in order that the cause of the Church and its religion may be promoted. Do not, like a nurse brushing aside with callous indifference the card house of a child, throw down all the labour that has been expended, but respect it for the sake of the labour that has been put into it, and because of the cause of religion to which it has been dedicated.
§ Colonel Sir VANSITTART BOWATER
I desire to oppose the Motion. This Measure has been on the Order Paper of this House on several occasions, and we know and believe that the reason why it was not brought forward before the House at the end of the Summer Session was that the Noble Lord who has introduced the Measure to-day did not like the atmosphere of the House and felt perfectly certain that he would lose the day. I think, after the very feeble effort to convince—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—I mean the feeble case presented, not the feeble way in which it was presented, because I appreciated the very able way in which the Noble Lord did present it. I should have said the feeble case that he had to present, and that is, that these churches should be taken away from the City of London. The Noble Lord told us—and I think the more he spoke the more feeble the case appeared to be—that they do not wish to destroy these churches. Then why bring in the Bill? They had ample power under the 1860 Act, and they acted upon it, and they have already had no fewer than 21 churches under it. The Noble Lord said that these churches under this Measure would be more protected than they have been before. We, in the City of London, and all the architectural and archaeofogical societies do not want any more protection than we have, and we are prepared to do the same as we have done before under the 1860 Act. He said there were five Commissions appointed, two being by the Corporation, one by the Lord Chancellor, and two by another body, but he omitted to tell us or he laid very little stress upon it, that if the Bishop 689 himself did not agree with their findings, he could appoint another Com-mission.
§ Sir V. BOWATER
The Measure says:If the Commission report to the bishop that it is undesirable that a scheme under this Measure should he framed, no further proceedings shall be taken in pursuance of the report; but without prejudice to the appointment of another Commission under this Measure in respect to the same proposals, if the bishop shall think the appointment of such Commission desirable.He could go on doing that ad infinitum. It is all very well to say: "Would the Bishop do it?" Of course he would, if he wanted the churches.
§ Sir V. BOWATER
The object of this Measure is to pull down these City churches and sell the sites. If that is done, it is nothing less than confiscation in its worst form. These churches were built immediately after the fire by money provided by the citizens, nine-tenths by the Coal Tax and one-tenth by Voluntary contributions, and those churches are standing monuments in the history of the City of London. They are visited by thousands of foreigners who come to the City year by year, and I had the privilege and pleasure only a few days ago of presenting a petition signed by nearly 10,000 people who actually go into these churches and use them regularly—not signed by people who are outside the churches, but by those who actually use them, and yet the Noble Lord says these churches are little used, if ever, and he wants to bring in about the night population. What has the night population got to do with the churches in the City?
Does the Noble Lord think that people should only go to church on a Sunday? In the City, churches are used five or six days out of the seven, and many of them seven days a week. If we were going on that argument we might ask how many churches outside the City of London are used other than on the Sunday and, possibly, Wednesday evening. Is that any argument why these fine old City buildings, erected by eminent architects, 690 such as Sir Christopher Wren and others, should be sold for filthy lucre? The Noble Lord went on to say that these churches would be used, possibly, for other purposes. That is not the idea at all. If that were the only idea they had, why so anxious to get this Measure through? The only reason they have is to endeavour to pull these churches down, and sell them to get the money to spend elsewhere.
We had in this House the Sheriffs of the City of London, and they represent the most democratic Corporation in this country or any other country. That Corporation is elected annually, and not, like most other boroughs and cities, every three years, so that they actually represent the citizens of London. They did not come here lightly, but they came here voicing the views of the citizens of this City to protect those churches, and I sincerely hope this House will show in no unmeasured voice that we are not going to have these churches sold, and I finish by saying, Hands off the City churches!
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
The hon. Member who has just addressed the House has given us, I think, considerably less reasons, or attempted reasons, for rejecting this Measure than have appeared in the Press. In the newspapers all kinds of arguments have been used, and dangers suggested, which might be calculated to deflect the judgment of hon. Members in this House, but I quite appreciate that no Member in this House is moved by anything which is written in a newspaper. I was rather interested in the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) saying that the newspapers had misrepresented him on this occasion. If he were to sit above the Gangway on this side of the House, he would find that the experience which he has suffered from the "Times" was not a matter which happened perhaps once a year, or perhaps once a century. It was continual and constant. I would remind him also, that when he complains, as he rightly complains, that he is said to have the purpose of destroying the City churches, we are accused in season and out of season falsely of having the purpose of destroying the Constitution. Therefore, we can appreciate the feeling which the hon. Member has when these false accusations are made against him.
691 If I may deal with the actual arguments which have been put before us by the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir V. Bowater), his sole objection, as I understand, to this Measure is that the Bishop has power under the Measure, as he says, to appoint another Commission, when one Commission has not reported satisfactorily. What is actually the position with regard to the power of the Bishop? As has already been pointed out, the Bishop does not select the Commission at all. Only in the most technical and formal sense can the Commission be said to be appointed by him. What the Measure says is that the actual appointments are to be made by certain persons who are stated in the Measure, and this particular paragraph, to which so much exception is taken, says:If the Commission report to the Bishop that it is undesirable that a scheme under this Measure should be framed, no further proceedings shall he taken in pursuance of the report;That is the first thing. The Bishop cannot go on at that time. Then it goes on to saybut without prejudice to the appointment of another Commission under this Measure …if the Bishop shall think the appointment of such Commission desirable.That, I submit, is a common form. When you say that if a particular Commission reports in a certain way no further proceedings shall be taken, unless you save yourselves by giving the power subsequently to appoint another Commission, you would never be able, to all eternity to proceed with the matter at all. It is simply a technical, formal saving of the right to go into the matter again.
The point might have some weight if the Bishop himself selected the members of the Commission, but it has already been pointed out, and the Member for the City of London has not disputed it, that the Bishop does not select the members of the Commission at all. What reason is there for assuming that, when a Commission has already reported against a scheme and the Bishop again seeks to have a Commission set up, the people whose advice has been neglected and rejected will not appoint exactly the same people again as were appointed in the first instance? If a Commission reports against a scheme and the Bishop goes to the same appointing 692 authorities and says, "I ask you to appoint another Commission," is it likely that the very appointing authorities who have been rejected and flouted will appoint another Commission to please the Bishop? If the only arguments which can be brought against this scheme are derived from a strained interpretation of this paragraph, I think some people in this House see plots and conspiracies in the most unlikely and impossible places. There is nothing in that particular paragraph which can be said to suggest that the Bishop can appoint one Commission after another until he gets one which he desires, and the insistence which is placed upon this paragraph shows the weakness of their case.
It is because they are protected at every conceivable point, because they have the protection of the Benefices Board, because they have the protection of this Commission, because they have the protection of the Fine Arts Commission, and, finally, an appeal to the Privy Council—it is because, if they dealt with the Measure on its merits, they would have to admit that on every point, historically and archaeofogically, these churches are protected, that, I suppose, they must have got some lawyer—and a very inferior lawyer—to look through this Measure, and have said to him, "Is there anything there where there is not perfect protection?" And the lawyer, having looked at paragraph 8, said to them, "You will find there that in spite of the fact that the Commission has turned down the scheme, there is power to appoint another Commission." That right further to appoint is common, I believe, to every such provision, is found in every similar Measure and by-law—that where proceedings shall not be taken on a Commission's Report that shall not prejudice the setting up of another Commission. Otherwise, as I was saying, you could not till the end of time proceed with the matter, and that obviously cannot be the intention of the Measure.
That is the only matter with which the hon. Member for the City of London has dealt in arguing the case. I happen to be a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee who, in common with others, took the responsibility of recommending this Measure to the House. It was urged 693 that this Measure interfered with the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects, and that this was not an appropriate subject for legislation by the Church Assembly. There is one decisive argument against the contention that this is beyond the power of the National Assembly. This House itself, in 1923, passed a Union of Benefices Measure, which applies to the whole of the rest of England outside London, which gives power to unite benefices and pull down and appropriate churches. Therefore, this House and another place decided in 1923 that a Measure which has for its object the pulling down and setting up of churches outside London was an appropriate Measure to be passed. No objection, so far as I know, was ever taken to it. There are other Measures which were allowed to go through this House, without any question, which affect the rights of patrons and other persons more than they are affected by this Measure.
May I deal with the more general point against the Measure that, if it does nothing to facilitate the destruction of churches, why is it being proceeded with at all? That has already been dealt with, and I would like to emphasise what has been said. First of all, the principle of uniting benefices and dealing with churches is already the law outside London, under the Benefices Act, 1919, and the Benefices Measure, 1923. With all respect to the Corporation of London, there are churches of historical and archaeofogical interest outside London, and churches may be pulled down there, under the Measure of 1923, without any reference to Fine Arts Commission, to any artistic society to any architectural society or to a commission not appointed by the Bishop. In London we have the Benefices Act, 1860, and it is conceded that over 20 churches have been pulled down under that Act. If you are concerned to look to the historical interest of the churches, then the patrons and vestry are not the proper body to decide on these churches. If there is really a plot to exclude the intervention of the Fine Arts Commissioners or any of the other learned and historical societies, who are given power under this Measure, the existing Benefices Act, 1860, excludes 694 these bodies and simply puts the matter into the uninstructed hands of the patrons and vestry. The vestry may be-anybody. It may be a number of caretakers in the district and the patron may be anybody. If the hon. Member opposite is so concerned to save the churches of historic value a provision which says that you are to report to the Fine Arts Commission and notify all the societies interested is surely a greater safeguard for the churches than going to the patron and the vestry.
It may be said, "Why bother to pull down churches at all?" It has been part of the policy of this country for some years past for the spiritual needs of the parishes to unite superfluous benefices. The amount of money at the disposal of the Church to-day and the amount of support which it receives are not sufficient to justify all the benefices which have existed in the past. Under the powers given in 1923 and 1919 the principle of uniting benefices, and if necessary getting rid of superfluous churches, has now become a part of the ecclesiastical policy of this country, and it has proved of wise provision in the circumstances, because we have to cut our coat according to our cloth, and we cannot support so many benefices as could have been supported in the old days. Undoubtedly, if there be a number of churches of any historic value, this can he provided for; but, if on the other hand, there be greatly increasing need to build churches in those parishes which are springing up in the dioceses of London, Southwark, and Chelmsford, then we do establish a case for using the money to be obtained while carefully saving those historic and valueless churches, for having new churches in new areas where there are now no churches at all.
You have to balance the spiritual importance of the Church on the one hand, and the historic value on the other. I believe that the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) basin this Measure exactly balanced these two competing claims. He has had regard to both demands and, in the result, he has produced a Measure which has gone right through the National Assembly and has been considered at every point, and is believed to protect the historic value of the churches and not hamper the Church in realising money from churches 695 which have no value. The object is not to destroy churches, but to use Church money where it can best be used for Church purposes and at the same time protect any church of archaeofogical value. This Measure permits the transference of money to other parts of the Diocese where it is needed and it does not destroy or mutilate any church of historic value. I hope the House will, on consideration, come to the conclusion that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University has achieved that object and will give this Measure its support.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
It is with great regret that I find myself to-night in opposition to the Noble Lord who has introduced this Motion. I regret this because I so often find myself in agreement with him, and I regret it still more because of the amount of work which I know he has devoted to this Measure, and which, if this Resolution be not passed, will be temporarily wasted. I regret it, in the third place, because, if it became in any way a habit of this House to reject Measures which came down from the Church Assembly, we Should he taking up a position which would lead to the raising of very difficult problems for the future. I understand that this Measure was framed for the purpose of satisfying public opinion, which was nervous about the fate of City churches. The intention was to satisfy public opinion, and, unfortunately, that is exactly what it has not done. The Corporation of the City of London took the exceptional course of appearing here at the Bar to present a petition against the Measure, and I myself have been invited by a number of learned and artistic societies to oppose it on their behalf—on behalf, that is to say, of, among others, the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the National Trust, the Society of Antiquaries, and other influential bodies; and it surely is a matter deserving of grave consideration when influential bodies of that kind are dissatisfied with the proposals of the Measure we are considering.
I shall endeavour to cut as short as possible the remarks I wish to make, because I am afraid this Debate will go on till a late hour and I do not wish 696 unduly to prolong it. The main point I wish to emphasise is that there is a very easy and simple way of getting out of this difficulty. I myself, and, I daresay, most Members of this House, would be in sympathy with the general proposals of this Measure, apart from those that affect City churches. As to the union of benefices, I have no doubt that the majority of us would be happy to support any wise proposals that would have the effect of uniting benefices and liberating some of their salaries for religious purposes. Why, then, should we not have been satisfied with the perfectly simple procedure of applying to the Church Assembly and requesting the appointment of a Commission representative of the artistic, historical and monumental bodies in this country? Why should not such a committee have been brought together and asked to draw up a list of churches in the City of London which, in no circumstances whatever, should be sold or destroyed? The Noble Lord himself could probably do it many of us could do it: it would be perfectly easy to draw up a list of churches that are obviously of archaeofogical and monumental interest and importance. If a schedule of those churches were presented to Members of this House, with an expression of opinion that they should on no account at any time be sold or destroyed, I imagine that a Measure of that kind would pass through this House without the smallest difficulty.
The fact that, as the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) has said, country churches—through an oversight, as I would say, of this House—are liable to be pulled down and their sites sold, merely comes to my knowledge as a great misfortune. We do not want to use that as a precedent for carrying the same kind of thing into the City of London; rather should the danger that seems to us to impend over the City churches lead us to legislate for the protection also of the country churches. However that may be, our problem today is not that of the country churches but that of the City churches. The Noble Lord says, with reason, that there are a great many impediments in the Bill to the destruction of churches. There is an obstacle race with four very difficult obstacles to pass. There is no doubt that is true, but why have they not indicated 697 the churches which can never be destroyed? Why have they not agreed to produce such a list if it is not because they wish to keep the door open for the destruction of any church whatever in the City of London. If it was not for that, surely they would have given us this list and protected the churches for ever. But if this Measure is turned down to-night, I do not think it need cause any very great disturbance to the Church Assembly. They have only to meet our doubts about the particular churches. They have only to refer to the technical body of experts the decision as to which churches should be kept and which might possibly be destroyed, and I feel sure their Measure will receive our assent. I received to-day, as we all did, a certain paper headed "A reply to the Corporation of London," and I found in it these words:The storm about the City churches has just about as much reason behind it as the civic storm generated by the slogan, 'Greet is Diana of the Ephesians.'There is in the City of London another god besides Diana of the Ephesians. There is the great god Mammon, and it Is to Mammon, rather than Diana of the Ephesians that this Measure bends the knee. I trust we shall be wise enough to-night to defend these City churches against this destruction, which does not in fact threaten them with the powers that now exist, but we are legislating for the future, and who will say what change of public opinion might come? Who will say that the bishops, the Archbishops, the churchwardens and the other functionaries whose opinion is to be taken 100 years hence will have the same spirit that they have now? We wish to put these churches once and for all beyond the reach of the covetousness of anyone. We wish them to be set up once and for all as national monuments. If You go into the great cities of Islam, if you go to Cairo, Damascus or Bagdad, you will find numbers of mosques tumbling down and no longer used as places of worship. No one dreams of selling the site of a mosque. No one dreams of converting to lay uses a mosque which has once been set apart as a religious edifice. Why should we Christians be behind them in this matter? Once a niece of land has been consecrated for divine uses that has had a church erected upon it, it stands as an indication that the people of the City have other 698 views besides those of making money. They have other ideals, other aspirations. As you walk through a city like London and see these 47 churches still remaining—even in a street like Lombard Street, which is given up almost wholly to the business of life, the making of money, the running of commerce you find a church standing—it breaks the visible materialism of the City and it gives to, many just an indication, just a suggestion that there is something in the world finer and greater than mere commerce and industry. If for that purpose alone, I would have churches. Even though no longer used or not much used for worship, preserved in the heart of the cities of this country as witnesses to the existence of a higher life.
§ Major KINDERSLEY
There are one or two general considerations which I wish to put forward in support of the Bill. I find myself in a somewhat peculiar position. I am supposed to be a person of somewhat strong conservative convictions. I have been a churchman, a practising churchman, the whole of-my life. I have been a churchwarden for 14 years and I have had charge of church work. Yet I find myself classed as an iconoclast; as a destroyer of churches. I have even been called Oliver Cromwell. I am only waiting for someone to call me Henry VIII and to tell me that I am going to put the proceeds into my own pocket. I want the House to consider what were the objects of our ancestors in building these churches and endowing them. Surely the object was to provide spiritual ministrations and opportunities for worship to those who then lived in that neighbourhood. I am quite sure that if our ancestors were here to-night they would be very surprised to find that such an acute controversy has, unhappily, arisen over those objects of their benefaction. I do not think that if they knew that the population which they intended to benefit by endowing these livings and building these churches had moved from the neighbourhood of those buildings, that they would be against such a re-arrangement of the parishes and of the endowments as would enable those endowments to be used to-day for the benefit of the people for whom they intended them, namely, the population who have moved away from the city and 699 out into the suburbs and other places, and who are to-day very largely without the ministrations which our forefathers intended them to have when they gave these churches and endowments. This would be their view, and but for the fact that these churches are undoubtedly some of the finest specimens of the architecture of their time, that would be the view of this House, and it is only when we come to the churches themselves that there is a difference of opinion. I consider that the protection of these churches under this measure is infinitely greater than the protection they have at present, and that is the reason why I am in favour of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide."] A building of historical importance and architectural beauty, the Bank of England, is to-day being reconstructed. Do we hear all this outcry about vandalism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"] It is perfectly true that there are not the same associations attaching to it as to some of the City Churches, but there is the same historic interest, and no protest has been raised against the re-construction of the Bank of England. In this case a great deal of prejudice has been aroused and I ask the House [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"] to remember that while it is right and proper that we should maintain the sepulchres of the past we should also have regard to the aims and purposes for which they were built. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide, divide!"]
§ Mr. AMMON
I think a voice from this side of the House should be heard on this Measure. The House always listens with great pleasure to the Noble Lord who moved the Second Reading, and one feels that the case for the Measure is considerably advantaged by his advocacy. Had it rested there the Vote which will be taken would have been different to what it is going to be. The right hon. and learned Member who followed the Noble Lord undid all that the Noble Lord had said. The Noble Lord said that there was no desire to pull down the churches, but my right hon. and learned Friend entered into an elaborate argument to show why they should be pulled down and for what purposes the proceeds would be devoted. This is not a new position for me to take up. As far back as 1919 I opposed this proposal when it first 700 appeared before the London County Council, which then came into the position as guardian of ancient monuments. An elaborate report was drawn up by the clerk to the County Council and the architect, pointing out the, tremendous historical and spiritual value these buildings had and that we could not afford to part with them; that their value could not be estimated in mere pounds, shillings and pence. I want to draw the attention of the House to a note to the original report made by the Noble Lord himself. It wants a little emphasis. The report was issued in 1919, and the note was as follows:I must add that the removal of churches and the desecration of these sites is in itself a great evil.Nothing can alter that point of view. What argument can be brought which would make the Noble Lord part from that position under any circumstances and take up the attitude that it is no longer a great evil? It is something of a commercial nature. We have had an instance of this in the comparison which has been made with the Bank of England. The Noble Lord in the same report said:The suggestion thrown out in the Report that some of these churches may be used for purposes not connected with the ordinary parochial ecclesiastical work seems to me to be very fruitful, and shall not be surprised if in the future such churches are often used for the purpose of these wider living problems.These churches are now used for these specific purposes, and to attack them in this way is not going to advance their spiritual condition. These churches should be retained regardless of creed or profession. Jews, Roman Catholics, Nonconformists and Anglicans all had to con-tribute to them. Therefore no particular denomination has any right to lay any particular claim to them. They belong to the community; they are part of our architectural legacy and are our great spiritual heritage. Over and above even that, one remembers that it has been said, by those who would destroy them, that the proceeds are to be used to develop work in other directions. Would it be unfair to point out that other denominations supply their own means of ministering to the spiritual wants of the people? Surely it is no credit to a great, wealthy and powerful religious denomination to come here and in effect admit that its followers and supporters are not 701 prepared to sacrifice themselves in order to meet their spiritual needs. I would paraphrase the words of the Noble Lord by saying, do not throw down these walls—these walls which are our heritage and have made a mute appeal to all generations, pointing away from those material things that largely possess and compass our lives. Rather should we, in these days of materialism, set aside mere finance, and leave nothing undone to preserve, as an appeal to this and succeeding generations, these monuments which speak in stone, and by their association with the higher aspirations of men point to something very much bigger than the sordid affairs of daily life.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
I apologise for making, at this hour, a further intrusion on the patience of the House. I would like to say at the outset how very distasteful it is to me to find myself, on this particular matter, in sharp disagreement with my Noble Friend, for there is no one who has a higher esteem than I have for the earnestness with which he always addresses the House on these subjects. It appears to me that the very natural impatience which the House has been showing for the last quarter of an hour—very natural at this hour of the night—only brings forcibly before us what strikes me so much with regard to this proposal, namely, the extremely unfortunate procedure which is imposed upon us by proposals of this sort. Here we have a Measure presented to us embodying very important principles and a very considerable mass of important detail, all of which is worthy of examination and discussion by this House; and yet it is only thrown at us when the ordinary business of the House has been brought to a close, and it is thrown at us in a form which leaves us no power to do anything except to take or leave it as a whole. We have no right to amend it in the smallest particular
That is the outcome of the procedure laid down by the Amending Act of 1919, a Measure which is an example of ill-considered legislation. It was passed immediately after the War, when the minds of the country and the House were engrossed by very different matters and the House was disposed to give its assent to almost any proposal that came from 702 an official source. The support of many of us was gained for that Measure by the assurance that nothing we were then doing would impair in the slightest degree the control of Parliament over legislation of this sort. Therefore, in considering this matter we may leave on one side any suggestion—I agree that my Noble Friend did not make any such suggestion, bat it has been made elsewhere—that Parliament will be in any way encroaching upon the autonomous powers conferred upon the Church or interfering in a matter with which Parliament is not properly concerned. I cannot help feeling that, in the circumstances which I have described, when there is no power of amendment, the House of Commons would be very ill-advised to pass the Measure. The Measure purports to be, and is, in essence, an Amendment of the Act of 1860. I listened in vain to my Noble Friend for some adequate reason to show us why that Act is insufficient for the purpose he has in view. He gave this reason, and this reason only—and it was a reasonable one as far as it went—that the Act of 1860 would not enable any comprehensive scheme to be made for a number of different parishes. I agree. I accept that reason. If my Noble Friend had been in a position to bring before the House a proposal for amending the Act in that particular, or if we were in a position to deal with the proposal now before us so as to restrict it to amending the Act in that particular, I should be among the supporters of my Noble Friend. But I find that in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee these words are used—The most important difference between this Measure and the Union of Benefices Act, 1860, is that in lieu of the consent which under that Act was required to any scheme from the vestry …and the patron of any parish affected, there is substituted the inquiry before, and the control of, the Metropolitan Benefices Board constituted under the Measure.That is what we are concerned with—the substitution of the Benefices Board for the consent of the Vestry. I do not think my Noble Friend gave us any sufficient reason for this very important legislation to effect that particular purpose, and that purpose alone, and it appears to me that there are a great many matters in this proposal which go far beyond that defininition of the purpose in view. T am not prepared to argue that a proposal for the 703 union of benefices in the City of London may not be necessary or very desirable, but why is it necessary to combine the union of benefices with unlimited powers for the destruction or removal of existing churches?
I do not propose at this late hour to deal with the question from the point of view of either the artistic or the archaeofogical argument, though I think, so far as I am able to form a judgment, that on both those grounds the very strongest possible case may be made against the proposal of my Noble Friend, but there are other considerations, some of which I do not think have been mentioned in this discussion, which I should like to bring to the attention of the House before, at this late hour, it is called upon to come to a very important decision. These City churches, the destruction of which, after all, whatever my Noble Friend may say, is empowered by this proposal, are not the exclusive property of the ecclesiastical authorities. I quite agree that in a very special sense the Church holds these particular fabrics as a trustee. The City Corporation, which has appeared at the Bar of the House and by one of its representatives in this House this evening, has taken a very definite stand against the proposals with regard to these City churches. The City Corporation represents the larger interests, outside the strictly ecclesiastical interests, which are involved in any question concerning the future of these churches, and it is at least a remarkable circumstance that the Corporation of the City of London, which by tradition and by general repute is concerned exclusively or almost exclusively with purely commercial developments, can have no commercial motive for desiring to preserve the fabrics of these churches. Therefore, I think the Corporation of the City of London, representing the City in the largest sense, and in a more general sense than do any of the ecclesiastical organisations, is entitled to he heard with respect on a matter of this sort by the House of Commons.
Bet it does not rest there. It so happens, as, I think, has been pointed out by some previous speaker, that these churches in point of fact were built, not by the property of the Church, not by the 704 "pious founder," not, as many and probably the majority of the parochial churches of the country were built, out of contributions from pious donors—these City churches, most of which arose after the Great Fire, were built by public money. Therefore, even supposing that my Noble Friend, and those who act with him, could make out a case for the removal of these churches, and for the turning into money of their valuable sites, I say distinctly that the Church has no right to that money, and that, consequently, this proposal, which deliberately appropriates that money definitely to church purposes, ought to be resisted on that ground, and on that ground alone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I am very sorry that we should have to Debate this question at this hour. It is really nobody's fault, and there is no use in hon. Members showing impatience, because we have to discuss this matter from both sides.
I freely admit that a good many of the objections which I have made to this proposal are what, in this House, we ordinarily call Committee points. If we were discussing this as a Bill on Second Reading, with a Committee stage and a Report stage to follow, I should certainly reserve what, I admit, are comparatively minor points, to a later stage. But, unfortunately, we cannot amend this Measure. We have no Committee stage to follow; therefore, if we do not bring forward any of these minor points now, the House will have no opportunity of considering them, and it may be found subsequently that we have hastily given our assent to legislation to which there are very grave objections. My Noble Friend, in enumerating the so-called safeguards against abuses of this legislation, laid great emphasis upon the Commission to be appointed by the Bishop under Section 3 of the Measure. I would like to call the attention of hon. Members to that provision. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed" and "Divide!"] We cannot divide yet. The Benefices Board may give advice to the Bishop, and, according to Sub-section (3),The bishop shall communicate the advice given to him t; the Board to the Commission when it is appointed, who shall have regard thereto.What in the world do these words, "who shall have regard thereto," mean? 705 Either the Commission is to act upon the views of the Board or it is not. Of course, any Commission would have regard to the views of an important body like the Metropolitan Benefices Board, but the only thing that is really of importance to us, who have to legislate, is to know whether, having paid regard to these views, they are to prevail or not. I quite understand how important it is that we should come to a decision. [HON, MEMBERS: "Divide, Divide!"]There are two things which I merely mention as examples of the sort of matters which are to be found in this proposal on which we are called upon in this hasty manner to decide. One is that the question of patronage is thrown into the melting pot in this Measure. There is also another matter which will involve very grave con-sequences; that is, the provision to which I will call the attention of the House—
§ the question of human remains. These are examples of a great number of Committee points which are involved in this proposal, and I certainly think the House will have very grave cause to repent of its haste if it should support the Motion of my Noble Friend.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
Question put accordingly,
That, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for 'Royal Assent.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 124.707
|Division No. 504.]||AYES.||[12.4 a.m.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Lane Fox, col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Loder, J. de V.||Stuart, Crichton, Lord C.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||McLean, Major A.||Trevelyan, Ht. Hon. C. P.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Dalton, Hugh||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wolmer, viscount|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Guest. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd. Henley)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Major Kindersley and Lieut.-|
|Colonel Sir George Courthope.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Edwards, C, (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Albery, Irving James||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, weston-s.-M.)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Kinloeh-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Fenby, T.D.||Lindley, F. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Forrest, W.||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Balniel, Lord||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gardner, J. P.||MacIntyre, Ian|
|Barr, J.||Gates, Percy||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John|
|Batey, Joseph||Gower, Sir Robert||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grace, John||Margesson, Captain D,|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Graham, Frederick F. (Cumb'ld., N.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W||Grotrian, H. Brent||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hall, Vice-Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Nicholson, 0. (Westminster]|
|Burman, J. B.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Plrsf'ld.)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Butler. Sir Geoffrey||Hayday, Arthur||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hayes, John Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Potts, John S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Clayton, G. C.||Herbert Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cochrane. Commander Hon. A. D.||Hills, Major John Walter||Purcell, A. A.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Remer, J. R.|
|Craik. Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Remnant, sir James|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Holland, Sir Arthur||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Rice, sir Frederick|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, s.)||Hurd, Percy A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Hutchison, G. A.Clark(Midl'n & P'hi's)||Rye. F. G.|
|Dunnico, H.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Saklatvala, Shapurjt|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Jacob, A. E.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wallace, Captain D. E.||wise, Sir Fredric|
|Sandon, Lord||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Savery, S. S.||Watson, Sir F, (Pudsey and Otley)||Woodcock. Colonel H. C.|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe||Wells, S. R.|
|Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)||Mr. Edward Grenfell and Sir|
|Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||Thomas Vansittart Bowater.|
|Tinne, J. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
Question, "That the Question be now put," and agreed to.
§ The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Thursday evening, Mr.708
§ SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Twelve Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.