§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD MUIR MACKENZIE
My Lords, if I had supposed that this Bill would occupy much of your time or give rise to anything in the nature of debate, I should not have brought it before your Lordships' House. It is purely an administrative Bill. It has nothing to do with any question of Church policy or discipline or really any matter of public interest. I need not describe to your Lordships what Queen Anne's Bounty is, although certainly there are many people who have very quaint ideas about it. It is enough to say that the general business of Queen Anne's Bounty is to assist the smallest livings. When I say "livings," I refer to livings as 698 to which I am sure no working man nowadays would accept such a description.
If any of your Lordships have been good enough to read this Bill, you will be surprised probably that it should be necessary to deal in an Act of Parliament with such minutiœ, but it used formerly to be tier case, as your Lordships know, not only in the time of the good Queen Anne, to whom this Bounty is due, but for many years later, to insert in Bills the very most minute provisions as to administration. And so it has been with this Act. It is a most unfortunate thing, because it makes it almost impossible to reform in small things, as experience arises, the practice in an office. In fact, it really stereotypes red tape, and, even if the office itself is desirous of being reformed, the office feels unwilling to trouble Parliament with these very small affairs. That has been the case at Queen Anne's Bounty. I have taken part in Queen Anne's Bounty for about thirty years, and now I have ventured to bring forward these things which have been long desired in the office in the hope that an Act of Parliament may be passed to enable them to be attended to.
There is a short Memorandum prefixed to the Bill which is in your Lordships' hands, and, if you will allow me, I will read it. It says—This Bill is intended to simplify the formalities in connection with the granting of loans to the clergy under the Gilbert Acts—I dare say some of your Lordships do not know who Gilbert was. Thomas Gilbert was for about twenty-five years, I think, a member of the House of Commons. He was first of all Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. Then he was Member for Lichfield, and he became Chairman of Ways and Means. He was a man of great authority on local affairs in his time, and I believe he really was the author of the Grand Junction Canal. Roads and canals were things in which he took great interest. He brought in the first measure that deals with this particular part of the functions of Queen Anne's Bounty, and that Act has be enfollowed by various amending Acts. They have always been known by Queen Anne's Bounty and by the clergy as the Gilbert Acts. I will go on with the Memorandum—by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, who have had many years experience of the difficulties caused by the unnecessarily cumbrous formalities prescribed by an Act of the eighteenth century. 699 The proposed amendments of the law will effect a considerable saving of work, not only in the office of the Governors, but also on the part of the clergy, architects, solicitors, and others concerned.Your Lordships will observe that these are just the sort of things which are aggravated by the conditions now arising out of the war. The Bounty Office has suffered along with other Public Departments in that respect. They are carrying on the business as best they can in the absence of their colleagues and they have a record as patriotic, and I may say as sad, as that of the staff of any of the other Public Departments who on Thursday next will mourn their dead in a Service at the Abbey.
The object of this Bill is simply to allow Queen Anne's Bounty to manage its affairs in its own way. No doubt it might have been sufficient to say so, but it was thought that it would be better to set out in a Schedule the Regulations which it is proposed to make, so that your Lordships may see exactly what is proposed to take the place of the Statute, to give power under the Royal Sign Manual—which is the authority that has always been used in Queen Anne's Bounty—as occasion may arise, to amend these Regulations from time to time. I think it is quite sufficient to mention this much about the Bill to your Lordships. It is true that there are two or three other clauses, but I do not think that they raise questions of any different kind from those I have described, and if your Lordships wish to know any particulars about the clauses themselves I would suggest that any question might be asked in Committee, when I should be very happy to give your Lordships any information that can be desired. I beg leave to move that the Bill be now read a second time
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Muir Mackenzie.)
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I am not going to detain your Lordships on this matter. The noble and learned Lord who has moved the Second Reading of the Bill has behind hint all the episcopal authority. We are all in agreement in desiring to see these very simple business changes made, and we believe that it will be to the general advantage, most of all because of the difficulties which now arise when a benefice 700 is vacant. I hope your Lordships will agree to the Second Reading.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.