§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ On Question, Bill read 3a.852
§ Clause 2:
§ Establishment of an Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council.
§ 2.—(1) There shall be a Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council styled "The Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council."
§ (2) The Ecclesiastical Committee shall consist of such members of the Privy Council, not exceeding twenty-five in all, as His Majesty from time to time may think fit to appoint in that behalf.
§ (3) The powers and duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee may be exercised and discharged by any twelve members thereof.
§ VISCOUNT ESHER moved to add to subsection (2) of Clause 2 "the tenure of the office to be for ten years."
§ The noble Viscount said: As the Bill stands the members appointed to the Ecclesiastical Committee will be, presumably, appointed for life. There are obvious objections to that with which I need not trouble your Lordships. I agree with what fell from the Marquess of Salisbury the other night, that the Prime Minister of the day can be trusted to make these appointments, but even he cannot ensure that after several years they may not become out of touch when dealing with matters of high moment. It is partially with a view of meeting that difficulty that I move the Amendment.
Clause 2, page 2, line 28, after ("behalf") insert ("the tenure of the office to be for ten years").—(Viscount Esher.)
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The Amendment is, I think an improvement, and I am quite prepared to accept it.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
May I draw attention to one point. I wonder why it is thought that these appointments will be for life? The Ecclesiastical Committee is to consist of such members of the Privy Council, not exceeding twenty-five in all, as His Majesty from time to time may think fit to appoint. What His Majesty may do His Majesty may undo; and he could take people off the Ecclesiastical Committee. They hold their tenure of office at the will of the Sovereign. Now my noble friend proposes that they should hold office for ten years, and you may get an Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council who are wholly at variance with the policy of the Government of the day. There might be a strong Non-conformist Committee, and the 853 noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, might succeed to Government in which he would have to exercise functions subject to the interference of that Non-Conformist Committee of the Privy Council. I should think, on the whole, it is much better the Amendment was not pressed.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
I agree with what the noble and learned Viscount has said. I thought the object of this Bill was that this Committee were appointed from time to time by the Rime Minister, and that they represented the Ministry. I hope this clause, which is introduced with a view of shortening that tenure but which has the effect, of giving them a lengthened tenure, will not be adopted. I think the Bill much better as it stands.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
I expressed great doubts from the first as to the. desirability of this Committee at ail, but I am afraid unless something is done it will get into a slate like the Canadian Senate (in which tile appointments are made actually for life) and the practice will grow up that these appointments will be practically for life because it will always be an ungracious proceeding for any Minister to advise the removal of any Privy Councillor. We shall be faced with the same evil which you have in Canada, that when a Ministry has been in office for a long tine and there conies a change of Ministry you find the Committee, or Senate as it may be, composed in such a way as to be in almost permanent disagreement with the representative Ministry of the day. Perhaps ten years is too long, and it may possibly be better to insert such words as "who shall hold office during pleasure."
§ LORD WITTENHAM
At an early stage I ventured to argue that it would have been better to have had the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. However, that idea did not go far, and we have now to consider the Bill as it is. For my part I. think it would be much better to leave it as it is, because, as the noble and learned Lord has just pointed out, under the clause as it stands there is the power to appoint from time to time. These words are so wide that I should have thought that on each occasion it would have been open to His Majesty in Council, on the advice of Ministers, to appoint such Privy Councillors as shall be thought fit. I do not suppose there will be a flood of cases 854 coming forward, and is it not much better that Privy Councillors should be summoned according to the virtue or necessity of the particular case; but here, if the Amendment is accepted, you are going to have a cast-iron Committee for ten years. As the noble and learned Lord pointed out circumstances and policy may change, and the Committee ought to be sufficiently elastic to conform itself to the feelings of the day.
May I ask whether it- is perfectly clear that, under the Bill as it stands, any member of the Ecclesiastical Committee may be removed by His Majesty from that Committee without removing him from the Privy Council altogether.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I have not the smallest doubt about it. This is a mere Committee of the Privy Council. There are numbers of Committees of the Privy Council appointed from time to time. The Sovereign has power to nominate any member of the Privy Council, and they hold office during pleasure.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
In the debates on the Second Reading, and in Committee, a great variety of views were expressed as to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council. Some noble Lords did not hold the view just expressed by the noble and learned Viscount. They said that, the effect of the clause as it stood was to make a member of the Privy Council who was a member of this Committee a member of it for life. The exactly contrary view was expressed by other noble Lords, who said that it would be in the power of the Prime Minister to nominate a different, Committee for every measure that came up for consideration, or that it would be in the power of a Prime Minister who held the views of the noble and learned Lord behind me, to remove all the members of the Committee and put in a Committee such as he could entirely trust; or that if Lord Salisbury came into office next year he might repeat the same process. It was because this conflict, of criticism disturbed the mind of the noble Lord that he put down this Amendment. The first Ecclesiastical Committee will be appointed by His Majesty on the recommendation of the Prime Minister for the time being. Every member would be appointed for ten years Members of the 855 Privy Council are not immortal, and vacancies will occur from time to time. Each vacancy will be filled up on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, but no man will hold office for more than ten years.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.