§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
*THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, this is a Bill in some respects of considerable importance, but it is one which we can hardly hope to Carry through Parliament during the present session, though I should be very glad indeed if it were found possible to do so. I am very anxious, however, that it should at any rate pass its Second Reading, in order that it may receive thorough consideration. The Bill deals with the Convocations of Canterbury and York, and it proposes to confer upon them the power of meeting together in a single session, of reforming their constitutions, and of amending the representation of the clergy. At present the Convocation of Canterbury certainly does not possess, and the Convocation of York can hardly be said to possess, a sufficient representation of the parochial clergy. In the former Convocation the parochial clergy are represented by only two representatives from each diocese, and very great dissatisfaction has been caused, inasmuch as they are greatly outnumbered by the official members, and by the representatives of the Cathedral Chapters. In the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury every Cathedral has a representative, every archdeacon and dean is a necessary member, but there are only two members to represent the whole of the parochial clergy of the diocese. The result is that the parochial clergy are completely outnumbered, and their voice is practically of no effect. It is felt by the Lower House itself that the parochial clergy should have more representation, and 218 it is proposed in this Bill to give power to amend the representation of the clergy. It is not a matter which concerns the power of the Convocations at all; it concerns only their relation to the Church at large, and the machinery by which that relation is made to work. I do not believe that there will be any really great objection to the proposal. It is at present a very serious inconvenience to the working of the Convocations that no canon can be passed for the whole country without going through the four Houses of each Convocation. Very great delay is caused thereby, and with very little reason. If the two Houses could meet together as one synod the proceedings would be considerably shortened. At present a matter may be delayed for several years which is capable of being settled in a short time if only the two Convocations could sit together. It would not add to their power in any way, but it would greatly add to their efficiency. It is not proposed in the slightest way to interfere with the power of the Crown. The Convocations had no power to make canons except with the consent of the Crown, and the canons passed by the Convocations under this Bill will be put before the Crown for confirmation, and will not be valid until confirmed. Thus the relation between Church and State is not touched. That the Church could go a good deal further in the way of reforming the Convocations if they had the power is true enough, and this Bill if it passes will certainly be followed by other proposals. But the Bill now before the House is limited, and except in the two respects mentioned no addition is made by the Bill to the powers of the Convocations. I believe that the Bill will greatly facilitate the work of the Convocations, and I hope the House will not be unwilling to give it a Second Reading.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
The provisions of the Bill are of such a simple and reasonable character that I have no doubt your Lordships will allow it to be read a second time. It is introduced merely for the purpose of securing the more convenient working 219 of a very ancient and very important institution. It is felt that if the Convocations could sit together, better conclusions would be arrived at, and more rapidly than is possible under the present state of things.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I think your Lordships will do wisely in allowing this Bill to be read a second time, reserving, of course, to yourselves the power of expressing an opinion at a later stage—either an opinion entirely adverse, or an opinion which shall involve certain alterations in detail—when you will have had a better opportunity of examining the nature of its provisions. I think the most reverend Prelates speak justly when they say that there is nothing on the surface of the Bill which can do any injury to our present polity or can interfere at all with the rights of the public or of the Crown; and therefore it seems to me that it would be quite reasonable to give it a Second Reading.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.