§ LORD DARYNGTON
My Lords, I beg to move, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly Powers Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure, 1923, he presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent. Having been invited to move this Resolution, I do so with some reluctance. Although I have lived in the diocese of Winchester for more than twenty years I am sorry that the Motion has not fallen into worthier hands to be proposed by someone with a much longer knowledge of your Lordships' House.
This is, to a great extent, a constitutional question, because this Measure has already passed the Ecclesiastical Committee and the House of Commons. The present diocese of Winchester is a very large one and extends from Bournemouth to Epsom, including the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands. It has a population of approximately 1,500,000 people. The proposal is to divide the diocese so that there will be three new dioceses; one to be the Bishopric of Winchester, another the Bishopric of Guildford, and the third the Bishopric of Portsmouth. If your Lordships will look at the Schedule, you will see that the Bishopric of Portsmouth is to consist of the archdeaconry of the Isle of Wight, the rural deaneries of Portsmouth, Alverstoke, Havant, Petersfield (except the ecclesiastical parishes of Grayshott and Headley), and Bishops 112 Waltham (except the ecclesiastical parishes of Bishopstoke, Bursledon, East-leigh, Fair Oak, and Hedge End), and the ecclesiastical parish of Blackmoor. The Bishopric of Guildford is to consist of the archdeanery of Surrey and the ecclesiastical parishes of Aldershot, Aldershot Holy Trinity, Ash with Ash Vale, Cove, Crondall, Crookham, Ewshott, Farnborough, Farnborough St. Mark, Fleet, Hawley, Minley, Yateley Grayshott and Headley. The diocese of Winchester will consist of the remainder, and it will be the largest of the three.
There has been a certain amount of opposition to this Measure, and I should like, in the first place, to deal with a letter written by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Durham, and his observations on the question of Suffragan Bishops. I will not deal with the question he raises in relation to the Ecclesiastical Committee because I see the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, the Chairman of that Committee, is in his place and no doubt he will deal with that point himself. The right rev. Prelate suggested that it might be just as well to appoint a number of Suffragan Bishops instead of making these new dioceses. So far as the people of a diocese are concerned, they do not look upon a Suffragan Bishop in the same way as they do upon the Diocesan Bishop. They make no promise of obedience to him, he has no jurisdiction: and although it will be impossible to find any better Suffragans in the whole country than there are in the diocese of Winchester at the present time, I feel certain that the religious activity of the diocese will be increased if this Measure is carried into effect.
The right rev. Prelate also referred to the size of various dioceses in this country. If we take into consideration the population of the various dioceses a very curious position arises. One hundred years ago dioceses were larger than they are to-day. But one hundred years ago the population of England was only 9 millions: now it is something like 36 millions, and if the ratio of population is taken there would to-day be 108 Bishops. As a matter of fact, there are only thirty-eight. The late Bishop of Winchester, for whom this House always had a great regard, believed fully in this Measure. Not only is that so, but the vast majority of those 113 who are connected with Church life in the diocese of Winchester believe that this measure will bring about closer intercourse between the Bishop and his people. I would also remind your Lordships that the Enabling Act was passed in order that the Church should have an opportunity of passing a Measure such as this.
I should like to tell you what has taken place in the last twelve years in regard to this question; it will show that the Church in the Winchester diocese has shown very definitely that she is desirous that this Measure should be passed. In 1912 the Diocesan Conference affirmed the necessity for division. In 1914 a Committee reported in favour of division, though not necessarily in favour of this particular division. Then the war came. In 1920 the Diocesan Conference unanimously appointed a new Committee, and in 1921 the Diocesan Conference passed the scheme almost unanimously. There were only six dissentients. In 1922, the Diocesan Conference passed the scheme again almost unanimously; there were only five dissentients. Then the National Assembly sent this Measure to the New Sees Committee, and that Committee also unanimously supported the scheme. In 1923 the question was put before the rural deaneries again; nineteen voted for it, one against, while eight did not pass any resolution. After that the Measure, having been passed by the Ecclesiastical Committee, went to the House of Commons and now comes before your Lordships' House to-day.
I will be as brief as I can, but I want to put before you one or two reasons why I think it is necessary to carry this Bill. In the first place, it is quite impossible for any Bishop, however capable, to deal with such a large number of clergy as there are in the Winchester diocese and to become known to them; and it is very important indeed that a Bishop should have an opportunity of knowing his clergy and the clergy of knowing the Bishop. Another question which is of great importance—it will not appeal to every one in this House, but it will appeal to any one who has an accurate knowledge of the geography of the diocese of Winchester—is the train service. It is practically impossible for any one to go from Epsom to Winchester without taking a very large amount of time for 114 a busy man. It is impossible for him to go there at all without taking up a whole day. From Cranleigh to Winchester is only about 45 miles in a straight line, but it is impossible to get there before eleven o'clock in the morning. This does away, to a great extent, with diocesan life, and thwarts corporate life in the diocese. These new dioceses are arranged in such a way as to make it possible for a man to visit the Cathedral town and take a living interest in the work to which he is attached.
It will be quite possible for noble Lords to find a certain number of arguments against this scheme, but to get any proposal of this kind, which affects so many interests, through this House unanimously, without finding any opposition, would be almost a miracle. One of the chief arguments used against the scheme is based on the question of the stipends. and I should like, if your Lordships will bear with me for a moment, to say one or two words in regard to that point. I am not dealing with all its details because to do so would take too long. The stipends proposed under this Measure for the Winchester diocese are as follows—and I may add that I was on the Committee which dealt with this matter. In Winchester the proposed maximum personal stipend of the Bishop is £4,000; the minimum, £3,000; and official expenses, £1,500. In Portsmouth the maximum personal stipend is £2,500; the minimum, £2,000; and official expenses, £1,000. In Guildford the maximum personal stipend is £2,500; the minimum, £2,000; and official expenses, £750. There has been a good deal of criticism with regard to this question. It has been said that it would be impossible to find the necessary money, but personally I do not think that there would be any great difficulty with regard to the matter. It is perfectly true that the Guildford diocese would be richer than the Portsmouth diocese, but if the proper means were used I believe the money could be found
In any case, it will be acknowledged by your Lordships that if this division took place the Bishops would have much more time to read and to think, and to lead missionary movements in their various dioceses, than they have to-day, and this would have a material effect upon the work done by the clergy themselves. If the Bishop takes part in a missionary 115 movement, he has a considerable effect upon the action of the incumbent of any particular parish. It is natural, of course, that everyone who has been to Winchester, who knows Winchester Cathedral and the glorious traditions of Winchester, should feel very deeply the severing of the tie, but the reasons which I am giving are, I think, sufficient to show that the majority of people connected with Church affairs in the Winchester diocese believe that even this sacrifice is necessary. It has been suggested that the new diocese of Surrey would be too small, but I would point out that, although it is rather small, it would be bigger than Ely or Gloucester.
But the greatest difficulty with which those who are interested in the Measure have had to contend has been the opposition of people in the Isle of Wight. I must say, speaking for myself, that it is a very natural opposition, because, looking at it not altogether from a religious point of view, one would naturally prefer to be attached to Winchester than to Portsmouth. But it must not be supposed for a moment that the people of the Isle of Wight are in any sense unanimously opposed to this Measure. In fact, a large population, as represented by the rural deaneries in the Isle of Wight, is in favour of it. It is quite impossible now for any one living in the Isle of Wight to come to diocesan meetings at Winchester without great trouble, and I may add that the General Purposes Committee of the diocese of Winchester has never, so far as I know, had the attendance of any person from the Isle of Wight who has been appointed a member of that Committee.
So far as Portsmouth is concerned, Portsmouth also has an illustrious past. It is a great town: not a very rich one, but. at the same time, it could hardly be called a town that is full of poverty. The only way out of the difficulty, from the point of view of the Isle of Wight, would be to make the Island a diocese in itself, but such a diocese would be too small. I should like to point out to your Lordships, if I may speak of myself for a moment, that I was for many years secretary of the Winchester Diocesan Fund for a certain district in Surrey, and consequently understand this work, and that in 1921, in the area of the proposed diocese of Portsmouth, more money 116 was sent to that fund through a parochial quota than was granted to the parishes of Portsmouth, which shows that, so far as Portsmouth is concerned, the town is willing to do its part.
But the great argument which I put before your Lordships this afternoon—an argument which, to my mind, overwhelms all other arguments—is based upon the opinion of Dr. Talbot, the late Bishop of Winchester. He said, in a speech addressed to the National Assembly, that he had gone to Winchester with no strong prepossessions in favour of division, but he had found that what Lord Selborne and others had told him about the slender connection between the Bishop and the smaller country parishes was perfectly true, although this had been mitigated by the admirable Suffragans who had worked with him. What had convinced him, at the end of two or three years, and had made him into an ardent supporter of division, was, he said, that he had seen that the diocese of Winchester as an organic body was too large and unwieldy to have a real organic life, and he supported the Measure which is before you to-day.
It may be said that one of the great difficulties in regard to this question is that of finance, and that if the Measure is passed a great deal more money will be required, whereas, if the difficulties were overcome by appointing Suffragans instead of Diocesan Bishops, and in other ways, it would not cost so much. But I should like to point out that, if these smaller dioceses are made, the laity will be far more inclined to work and to help financially than they would otherwise be. This has been shown in the case of Durham. Bishop Lightfoot wrote, in 1886:—In nothing has the wisdom of dividing the See of Durham been more conspicuously indicated than in its financial results.I wish just to put two reasons, in conclusion. I am not dealing with many of the details of the Measure, but the two reasons which I place before your Lordships this afternoon are these. In the first place, the diocese has shown overwhelmingly that it is in favour of this Measure, the National Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of it, the Ecclesiastical Committee has unanimously passed it and the House of Commons has approved it. In the second place, the Enabling Act was passed in order that 117 the Church might have such a power as this within reasonable limits. I appeal to your Lordships to pass this Resolution, feeling absolutely sure that, if it is passed, the religious activity of the community will be increased.
§ Moved, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly Powers Act, 1919. this House do direct that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure, 1923, be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent.—(Lord Daryngton.)
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK had given Notice to move, as an Amendment, to leave out all words after "That" for the purpose of inserting "in the opinion of this House it is inexpedient that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure he presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent at the present time."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I very much regret to find myself in disagreement with the noble Lord who has commended this Measure to your Lordships in so very clear and so very moderate a speech. I am particularly sorry that I should find myself differing from a scheme for the division of the diocese of Winchester which was approved by Bishop Talbot, for whom I and everyone in the diocese had the greatest esteem, and indeed veneration, and also that I should differ from my noble friend Lord Selborne, for whose opinion I always have the greatest regard. But as I, in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant of the County, and Sir Codfrey Baring, Chairman of the County Council of the Isle of Wight, presented to the Ecclesiastical Committee a statement of our reasons for opposing the Measure, I feel that. I cannot allow this Measure to pass through your Lordships' House without making some protest on behalf of a very large number of Churchmen in the diocese who disapprove of this scheme, although I may say for myself, and for them, that: we have the good of the Church in the diocese as sincerely at heart as have the promoters of the Measure.
§ Lord Daryngton speaks on this matter with very great authority. The noble Lord, as we know, has taken for many years a very great interest in Church matters. He occupies the responsible position of Vice-Chairman of the House of Laity of the Church Assembly; he is a member of the Winchester Diocesan Conference, although 118 I do not know that he has taken a very active part in the meetings of the Conference: and, as a resident in Surrey, he has naturally much greater knowledge of the feelings of Churchmen in the Surrey part of the diocese, and especially in the neighbourhood in which he lives, than I can possibly possess.
§ It is within my recollection that two members of your Lordships' House, one being the Lord lieutenant of Surrey, Lord Ashcombe, and the other Lord Midleton, addressed a letter to Bishop Talbot which was read by him at the Conference in May. 1923, which did not give me the impression that there existed very great enthusiasm in the County of Surrey for this Measure. What they say in the letter is that they are reluctant to be severed from the historic see of Winchester, but are willing to contemplate the sacrifice if any arrangement can be made for the general good of the Church; and they go on to say—and this, I think, is of importance—that they are only prepared to do this on the understanding that a complete scheme, including the establishment of the Portsmouth diocese, is carried out.
I will also remind your Lordships that one of the most distinguished members of this House, whose absence from his place here we all greatly deplore—I refer to Lord Rosebery—some little time ago expressed his views of the division of the diocese. It was in a letter which appeared in The Times of April 18, 1923, and as that letter expresses the opinions of many churchmen in Hampshire; as well as in Surrey, and does so in much better terms than I can possibly command, I would venture to read the letter to your Lordships. What Lord Rosebery said, in answer to a friend, was:—
You ask me what I, as a layman in Winchester diocese for the last forty years, think of the proposed sub-division. I am entirely against it, and so is everybody with whom I come in contact. We do not wish for the sub-division of our ancient and venerable diocese; nor do I see what special object would be gained, as Suffragan Bishops are adequate to "11 the spiritual functions of Diocesan Bishops, which, after all, are the most important part of the work. But I am afraid I go a step further. What the Church wants is not more Bishops, but more worshippers, and I do not believe that a multiplication of Diocesan Bishops would supply this want. It seems to me that those who oppose the dismemberment of the diocese should make themselves heard.
§ I offer no opinion on the general policy of large, as compared with small, dioceses. I admit that it may be desirable in certain circumstances to subdivide large dioceses. I agree with what Lord Daryngton said just now—namely, that if a Bishopric or diocese grows to such a size that the Bishop can no longer keep in touch with the whole number of his clergy, then it might be desirable to divide the Bishopric; and Lord Daryngton points out that at the present time the Bishop of Winchester cannot keep in direct touch with all the clergy of his diocese. I do not doubt this, and one of the strong arguments in favour of the scheme is the large increase in the population of the diocese. That is perfectly true, but when we come, to the number of clergy, that number has not increased. On the contrary, I should say that probably the number of clergy has diminished, because so many livings have been merged together.
§ Then the noble Lord spoke of the great difficulties of travelling in the present day. He instanced, for example, the difficulty in going from Epsom to Winchester. I am not speaking from personal experience, but I understand that the people of Winchester find no difficulty in going to Epsom. Nor does this argument take into account the advent of the motor car. Surely, when it comes to travelling over a large area, the present-day difficulties are negligible as compared with those of twenty or thirty years ago. I can go back so far as to remember Bishop Wilberforce. He used to travel over the whole of the area, and his difficulties roust have been infinitely greater than those which exist at present. I think that the time is approaching when some readjustment of the area of the Winchester diocese may become desirable, but what I feel is that the scheme that is embodied in the present Measure is a most unsatisfactory one.
§ However that may be, I hope your Lordships will agree with me that a proposal to split up the ancient and historic diocese of Winchester into three Bishoprics, which will be among the smallest in England, is a proposal which can only be justified by the most urgent necessity. I hope also that you will agree that it is not a merely local matter on which we should accept the decision of the Diocesan Conference—that it is not 120 only a matter of domestic reform of the Church, to be decided by the Church Assembly, but that this Measure really opens up much wider and more important issues, affecting not only Churchmen but the general community, and large questions of policy on which your Lordships are entitled to exercise that power, authority and control which is expressly conferred upon you by the Act of 1919.
§ I suggest that it would be a dangerous doctrine to assume that all Measures passed by the General Assembly and approved by the Ecclesiastical Committee should, as a matter of course, be presented to His Majesty to receive the Royal Assent. On that subject I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the opinion that was very clearly and forcibly expressed by the most rev. Primate, when he was speaking in your Lordships' House on the Union of Benefices Measure on June 4 last. He said that he recognised the right, privilege and duty of the Houses of Parliament to exercise absolute freedom of judgment on the final rejection or acceptance of Measures which come before it from the Church Assembly and. for good reasons, to depart from conclusions that others have reached.
§ The noble Lord who moved the Measure spoke of the history of the diocese. The diocese of Winchester is one of the oldest in the country, dating from the year 600, I believe, and, besides the two Archbishoprics, it has been, with the diocese of London and that of Durham, one of the three great Bishoprics in England the Bishops of which sit by right in your Lordships' House. The See of Winchester has played an important part, not only in the history of the Church, but in the history of this country. It has had a splendid succession of Bishops, who have spoken with great weight and great authority, not only on Church matters but on national matters, and who, for many centuries, have resided in Farnham Castle. Many people in Hampshire and not Churchmen only, are very proud of our ancient diocese and of its traditions, and opposed to a Measure which must inevitably change the great position the diocese and Bishops have held in the past. That may be said to be merely a matter of sentiment, but in such matters sentiment cannot be disregarded.121
§ There is another tiling which, in our opinion, will greatly affect the character of the proposed new Winchester diocese. It is not included in the Measure; it is a matter of administration. I find that in an appeal for support of the Measure which was issued last year with the consent and approval of the Bishops, and which was signed by my noble friend Lord Silborne and twenty members of the Church Conference, it is proposed that, although the residence of the Bishop shall still be somewhere in Winchester, the business of the diocese shall not in future be transacted in the Cathedral City, but at Southampton, and I presume the Diocesan Conference will also be held there. Why? In order to suit the con venience of persons who live in Southampton and the health resort of Bournemouth. The supporters of this Measure tell us that they are of opinion that it will in no way affect the status and the prestige of the diocese or of its Bishop. I do not agree with that. I cannot believe that the Bishop of Winchester, with a reduced diocese, with an income that will be smaller than that of most Bishops in England, and living, not in Farnham Castle, but at some address, probably No. 5 or 6 in the Close at Winchester, can maintain that eminent position which has always been held by his predecessors in the diocese. Surely, if this Measure is passed the glory has departed from the ancient, historic diocese of Winchester.
§ I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Daryngton, has said, that this Measure has come up to your Lordships' House in a perfectly constitutional manner. It has been passed by the Diocesan Conference, I admit, by large majorities, on three separate occasions. It has been passed by the Church Assembly, it has been approved by the Ecclesiastical Committee, though mainly, as I understand, not on the merits of the scheme, but on the ground that it does not affect the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects. I may, perhaps, point out that the feeling of the Church Assembly in favour of this Measure was not quite so unanimous as the noble Lord represented. Nine members of the Committee who were appointed to report on the Measure were opposed to it. The Dean of Westminster, who, for eight years, was our esteemed and respected Bishop of Winchester, moved an amendment very 122 similar to that which I have put on the Paper—for the postponement of the consideration of the Measure—and he had the support of the Archdeacon of Huddersfield, who ministered for fourteen years in the Diocese, and for a considerable part of that time at Portsea, and therefore was able to speak from personal knowledge of the proposed Portsmouth diocese.
§ And, although the Bishop of Winchester voted for the Measure, he took the earliest opportunity of explaining, on the occasion of his enthronement at Winchester and in his first message to the clergy of the diocese, which was published in our Diocesan Chronicle, that he had voted for the Measure against the majority of his brother Bishops, not on the merits of the scheme, because he had never up till then had the opportunity of considering them, but on the general ground that a diocese of the size of Winchester ought to be divided He added that the division of the diocese was such a very vital and very difficult problem that he must ask for one year before he could come to a considered judgment on the matter. I do not know whether I can claim that that expression of the right rev. Prelate is rather an argument in favour of the Amendment that I have put on the Paper, because, if he required that time to come to a conclusion, it is only reasonable that I should ask, not for one year, but for a shorter and more reasonable period, to consider the matter before we take the final, irrevocable step of sending this Measure forthwith to His Majesty to receive the Royal Assent. Undoubtedly, the Church Assembly was very greatly impressed by that decision and the fact of the great majorities by which this Measure had been passed by the Diocesan Conference, and the result was that the Dean of Westminster's Motion was eventually defeated by 239 votes to 125. I admit that was a considerable majority, but it was not an overwhelming majority.
§ The noble Lord pointed out that this question of the division of the diocese had been considered by the Diocesan Conference ever since 1912. I have no doubt that that is perfectly true. It is also true that in 1914 a committee, of which Lord Tennyson was chairman, made a report that a division was necessary, and they put out a tentative scheme. But I think it is only fair to add that they also stated 123 in their report that public opinion in Hampshire was not ripe for the division of the diocese.
THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
For the division of the County? I thank my noble friend for the correction; I thought it was the other way round. However that may be, I do not think it makes very much difference. The actual scheme of the division which is embodied in this Measure is the outcome of the report of the committee that was appointed by the Diocesan Conference in October, 1920. We do not go back beyond that. The report of that committee was presented, after consideration of the matter, on May 24, 1921. It was recommended to the Conference mainly on the ground that a division of the diocese was long overdue, and that after very careful consideration they considered that though, no doubt, objections could be raised to it, the scheme was the best one they could produce. The Conference was so impressed by the argument—which I think was rather a dangerous one—that the division was overdue, that it was necessary that something should be done as, soon as possible, and that this was the best scheme that could be put before them, that, as nobody was able to get up and put forward a better one, they decided by a large majority and after a very short discussion, lasting, I believe, about an hour and a half, to accept the scheme.
Subsequently, they agreed, not without some opposition, that it should be submitted to the ruridecanal conferences and the parochial Church councils for their opinion. But I cannot help thinking that those bodies were placed in a somewhat difficult position. Here was a Measure which had been agreed to by the Diocesan Conference by an enormous majority, and approved and recommended by the Bishop of the diocese, and it was extremely difficult for any parochial Church council to put themselves in opposition to it. It seems to me very unfortunate that the diocese was not consulted and its opinion obtained before the Conference agreed to the Measure as a whole. As the Conference in 1921 swallowed the whole thing it is not a matter of much surprise that it was agreed to in 1922, and again in 1923, by 124 large majorities. I admit that on the last occasion the scheme was adopted by 232 votes to 14. I might point out at the same time that there are 440 members of the Conference and that only 232 clergy and laity together voted in favour of the Measure. I agree also that the decision of the Diocesan Conference is to be taken as the official expression of the opinion of the diocese, but, as Bishop Talbot once reminded the Conference, such an Assembly is apt, very naturally, to exaggerate its own importance and to think, quite rightly, that it is representative, but it does not realise of how much it is unrepresentative.
As Chairman of the County Council and through my connection with many other matters of county business, I come frequently into touch with a very considerable number of persons in the County. Many of them are members of the Church of England, and I can assure your Lordships without the slightest exaggeration that, with the exception of a certain number who are enthusiastically in favour of the scheme and who. I think. I could count on the fingers of my hands. I can find extremely few who are really in favour of this Measure. I thought my experience might he an exceptional one. Therefore, I wrote to a friend of mine, a very prominent Churchman, who has very generously assisted not only the Church but charitable objects throughout the County. He lives in a part of the County which is distant from me and I asked him what his experience was. He tells me that nearly all the laymen that he comes across for miles round his residence think as he does—that there is no need for a division at present, considering the more pressing claims of other matters in the diocese.
With regard to public expressions of opinion on this question, I may mention that in the Isle of Wight, at a representative meeting held in Newport, in December. 1921 only one layman voted for the division of the diocese: that a petition against the division was signed by 5,000 Churchmen, and that the rural deaneries in the Island opposed the scheme by a very large majority. The other day I received a letter from Lord Tennyson, who, as your Lordships will remember, was Chairman of one of the first Committees to be appointed. He writes under date June 27, to say that 125 he regrets that he is not well enough to support my Amendment to-day. He has continuously opposed the proposed division of the diocese of Winchester. As Deputy-Governor of the Isle of Wight, he can assure me that the great majority of the Isle of Wight Churchmen are at the present time against the proposed division. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more about the conditions in the Isle of Wight, because, in the letter which was issued in support of the Measure, it was frankly admitted that the great majority of the laity and a large number of clergy in the Isle of Wight were opposed to the division.
As to the feeling in those parts of Hampshire which are proposed to be included in the diocese of Portsmouth, I may tell your Lordships that forty-two per cent, of the beneficed clergy in the Portsmouth area signed a memorial against the Measure; that the important deanery of Bishops Waltham rejected it by twenty-six votes to two: and that it was passed in the deanery of Havant by a majority of five. I think, therefore, that I am entitled to claim that the majority by which the Measure was passed in the Diocesan Conference does not in any way correctly represent the feeling of the majority of Church people throughout the whole of the County.
May I say a word about what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Daryngton, with regard to the administration of the diocese? As the noble Lord reminded your Lordships, the diocese is at present administered by a Bishop and two Suffragan Bishops. So far as I am aware, there has been no complaint of the way in which the diocese is now administered. In fact, my noble friend Lord Selborne assured the Church Assembly that the diocese was well administered He paid a high and well-merited tribute to the excellent manner in which the Suffragan Bishops carried out their duties. He considered, however, that the work might be better done. I agree with my noble friend in that. I know of no work in the country which might not be better done.
But when my noble friend goes on to say that he considers that the only way of ensuring that the work will be better done is by the foundation of two new Bishopric I entirely disagree with him. We have the highest respect for the clergy and for the Episcopacy. We recognise that a Bishop has powers, privileges and 126 authorities which a Suffragan Bishop does not possess, but it is a perfectly reasonable supposition to make, and it is quite possible, that if this Measure is passed, the present Suffragan Bishop of Southampton will be made Bishop of Portsmouth and the present Suffragan Bishop of Guildford will be made Bishop of Guildford. Many of us doubt very much whether, if you die that, you would find that the work of the Church was so greatly stimulated as many of the promoters of this Measure would lead us to expect that it might be.
Again, some of us also venture to doubt whether the present moment is a very opportune one for attempting to raise over £100,000 to endow this scheme, and whether the good of the Church might not be better promoted by expenditure in other directions. The chief need of the diocese at the present moment is not so much more Bishops as more clergy—better qualified, more energetic and more active parochial clergy. I saw a letter in The Times to-day which stated—I do not know with what truth, but it seems to have been written by a person who had some knowledge of the subject—that recently 400 clergy had been ordained while 900 had died. I am told there is now a shortage of 4,000 curates in the country. I can speak from personal experience of the enormous difficulty there is in finding a curate at the present time, and when you do succeed in finding one, he may not be at all the sort of man you desire. I can assure your Lordships that we have had great anxiety in procuring curates for the parish in which I live.
The right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Winchester recently called attention to the great need at the present time of endeavouring to attract a good class of candidate, men who had wide experience of the world and possessed University degrees. How can you expect to attract, or obtain, the class of man whom the right rev. Prelate had in mind if you are not going to offer him what in these days is called a living wage? There are many livings in Hampshire where the stipend is really not as much as the salary of a schoolmistress of an elementary school containing forty children. I know a great deal has been done in the diocese during recent years to obtain more adequate remuneration for the underpaid 127 parochial clergy, and with considerable success, and I sincerely hope that further sums will be raised for that purpose. I dare say some of your Lordships have had the experience of trying to obtain money with that object, and have found that there are not many people who are inclined to give large amounts in the way of contributions to improve the stipends of the poorer clergy.
I regret very much to detain your Lordships for so long a time, but I felt it my duty to call your attention to the very strong feeling against the proposed division of the diocese which, as a fact, does exist among a very large number of Church people throughout the diocese, and to the strenuous opposition to the proposal that exists to-day in the Isle of Wight and in other parts of Hampshire. Personally, I cannot believe that to force through a Measure in the face of such opposition as this—and the opposition, I believe, is increasing rather than diminishing—can have the desired result of strengthening the work of the Church in the diocese. Moreover, I am informed that there is no precedent for the formation of a new Bishopric against the strenuous opposition of those who would be affected by it.
I am not asking your Lordships to reject the Measure; all I am asking you to do is to say that more time should be allowed for consideration of it before it is presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. There can be no matter of urgency. Before the two Bishoprics can be founded the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have to certify that the endowment fund is sufficient to provide the income required for the new dioceses. The amount required is £l06,000, and at the present moment, according to a statement in another place the other day, barely one-fifth of that amount has yet been either paid or promised A very considerable period, therefore, must elapse before it can be possible for the full amount to be raised, and there can be no particular object in endeavouring to force through this Measure now.
I find it an exceedingly unpleasant task to move this Amendment. I can assure your Lordships that I have done it not in any spirit of obstruction, but because I am convinced that in the circumstances of the present time delay is the wisest course in the best interests of 128 the Church and of the diocese, and because I believe that if reasonable time is given for further investigation, inquiry and consultation with leading Church people it might be possible, under the wise guidance which I know we can expect from the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of Winchester, to arrive at some arrangement which I will not go so far as to say would please everybody but at any rate would be generally acceptable to Church people throughout the whole of the district. I beg to move.
Leave out all words after ("That") and insert ("in the opinion of this House it is inexpedient that the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent at the present time ").—(The Earl of Northbrook.)
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I intervene in this debate, for I find myself in a somewhat difficult position. It is true, as the noble Earl has just said, that when I came into the diocese of Winchester, six months ago, I asked for a year in which to think over this great and grave question, and form a considered judgment upon it. I find myself compelled by circumstances—precisely these circumstances—to form what I may venture to call an interim judgment, and I feel that for me, as Bishop, to remain silent would be unworthy of the position I hold.
For twelve years discussions have been going on, attempted solutions have been suggested, and now at last a scheme has been adopted. I have had nothing to do with the process. I have no responsibility for the decision reached, and I am, not unnaturally perhaps, disposed to look upon the whole thing with a critical eye. The policy of forming smaller dioceses has a great deal to commend it, but it should be pursued with great caution and circumspection. I look around at the diocese of Winchester, and I look at this scheme. I feel that I am compelled to show my hand at once; and I must vote for it. I trust your Lordships will do the same. Division, as has been pointed out already, is absolutely necessary. It is quite impossible for any Bishop, with the best will in the world and with the best health, to deal with the diocese as it is, stretching, as it does, from Epsom to the Channel 129 Islands on the one hand, and from villages just outside Newbury to places within easy reach of Chichester on the other.
Church ideals and Church life have changed a good deal in the last few years; so have also, I think, ideals of the Episcopacy. It is not untrue to say that in the eighteenth century, and also in the nineteenth century, the ideal of a Bishop was that he was the ecclesiastical chief magnate of the county or district, the chief pastor beloved of his people; but that ideal is not always compatible with the physical points of view of time and distance. In these days there are few things more important in our Church life than the personal touch between the Bishop of the diocese and his clergy and people. I went to the diocese of Winchester with some seven years' experience of another diocese of almost the same number of parishes. I admit that the motor car has made some difference, but a lightning visit paid by the Bishop in his motor car is not really a visit. He gains no real knowledge of either priest or people. When I was Bishop of Peterborough I altered that method by proceeding on foot from village to village, staying a night in each village, thereby making an attempt to get to know both clergy and people. But I was only able to go through a comparatively small part of that great diocese, and if I undertake the same process in Winchester the same experience will undoubtedly await me.
The efficiency of the Church in these days depends as much on the power of the Bishop to get to know his clergy and the clergy to know the Bishop as on any other factor which can be mentioned. The power of leadership depends on this. A Bishop's greatest power is that of moral suasion, of encouragement, of condemnation, and I submit that no Bishop can adequately encourage and inspire, or rebuke, men whom he does not really know and who have had no chance of getting to know him. In the proposed new dioceses of Guildford and Ports-month, there will be respectively 240 clergy in the one and 269 in the other—not an inadequate number for the energetic Bishops of these dioceses. I have always been impressed with the argument against small dioceses: yet the proposed new dioceses will be larger in population than the dioceses of Truro, 130 Ely or Hereford, and the diocese of Portsmouth will be larger than these together with that of Carlisle.
The reason, however, which moves me to ask you to approve this scheme is what I will call the constitutional reason. This scheme has passed through all its stages, except this one. It has been scrutinised by ruridecanal conferences, and by Diocesan Conferences. It has been passed by the Church Assembly, by the Ecclesiastical Committee, and also by another place, and I ask myself whether I have any real right as Bishop, after such approval has been given and after such prolonged investigation, to assert my opinion as against that of the diocese. I ask your Lordships to consider whether there are objections so great, so pressing and so vital, as to justify the extreme step of rejecting a Measure at the twelfth hour, which has been approved by considerable majorities by every tribunal which has considered it.
I am aware of the fact, which has been emphasised this afternoon, that there is some opposition in the diocese of Winchester, but I have never been able to discover any opposition worth speaking of which is based on other than the most honourable grounds of tradition and sentiment. I have never heard it suggested that the efficiency of the Church will be promoted by continuing the status quo, and the argument which fell from the noble Lord to-day that if this scheme is adopted the status of the diocese of Winchester and its historical prestige will be impaired leaves me entirely unmoved. I cannot think that the status of that diocese will depend on the number of its parishes, or on the number of clergy within its borders, or even on the Bishop.
The effect which will be produced on Church life in this diocese and also throughout the country if this Measure is rejected would be lamentable. The laity of the Church now claim, and have been accorded to our immeasurable advantage, a larger and more definite share in the government of the Church than they had once. Diocesan Conferences are now no longer debating societies. They are capable of real business and effective achievement, and the Church Assembly provides an effective opportunity for those who have a real interest in Church reform. With immense 131 care this Measure has been promoted and piloted up to its present stage. It has been so promoted at the cost of real sacrifice on the part of those who have been most enthusiastic in Church matters.
There are men in the diocese of Winchester who are cut to the heart at the prospect of severing their connection with the ancient and historic See, but who view that loss and sacrifice even with enthusiasm and are prepared to make it in order that the Church may thereby reach a higher degree of efficiency. Therefore, in view of all these circumstances—although I have no responsibility in reaching this decision and in one sense am still an outsider, yet in another sense I am, of course, the person most intimately concerned—I ask your Lordships to give your assent to this measure. Even though it may be criticised, even though it has drawbacks and is far from perfect, it will, as I believe, really increase the spiritual efficiency of the Church. And surely one of the chief interests of the nation is the spiritual welfare and wise administration of the Church which, for so many years, has tried to guide the nation in moral and spiritual things.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
My Lords, I rise at this moment in order to show that there is not complete unanimity on the Episcopal Bench on this matter, and that there is something to be said against the views so generously expressed by the Bishop of Winchester. It is clear to my mind, as I said in this House the other day, that it is desirable that all these measures which come to us from the Ecclesiastical Committee should be examined on their merits in this House, and that it is extremely undesirable, because we hear of a concatenation of authorities, Diocesan Conferences and so on, having come down in favour of a particular Measure, that we should hand over our rights to others and fail to exercise our own responsibility in such matters.
Let me say at once that I regard Parliament as being the trustees of a very-large number of people who worship in our churches and have a real stake in our national Church, but are not yet upon our electoral rolls. When these electoral rolls are quoted to us as deciding the question, I beg your Lordships to 132 remember that a very large number of those who are entitled to be upon the electoral rolls do not register their names there, and that there are a great number of people who, though not entitled to be upon the electoral roll, are baptised persons who worship in our churches and have a definite stake in our national Church. I may go on to say that I cannot think it wise to start by treating people as outcasts, if we are going to make our Church effective and turn people to an active churchmanship. We are wise to treat those who have not yet come within this new machinery as friends and as potential supporters.
The Church Assembly, of course, cannot recognise people like that, but your Lordships can, and I think that is one of the reasons why we are asked to say the last word after these matters have been discussed by the strictly and rigidly constituted Assemblies. The nation may very well have a view of matters that touch both the Church and the nation, and I believe that the erection of a new Bishopric is so large a matter that it does concern the nation as a whole, and is not a matter of mere local and diocesan administration. I have been surprised to find that no word was said by the noble Lord who introduced this Measure, of the Church of England. He spoke always of the diocese of Winchester, as if that were the only thing in which we were interested. But to say that so big a thing as the division into three parts of the diocese of Winchester is simply to depend upon the votes of those whose names are upon the electoral roll in that diocese appears to me to be a quite disproportionate view.
On the larger question, no one can deny that there is plenty of room for two opinions. Once, the cry was for dividing our big parishes. People know now that this would be a mistake, and it is no longer the cry that prevails. Do we want little men in little areas to do little work on a little scale? My own impression is that the archdeacons and the rural deans, who are thoroughly competent men, and, indeed, the parochial clergy too, are quite able to do the smaller pieces of work. If the Bishops try to do the work that is at present done by the archdeacons, two or three very unfortunate results will happen. One is that every petty little matter would come 133 under the Bishop's own observation, if he were Bishop of a very little diocese, and all sorts of small things that are better treated as small things, and passed out of existence as small things, would have a dignity given to them which they do not in the least merit, if they passed under the Bishop's eye. The rural deans and the archdeacons are quite able to advise the Bishop when it is time for him to bring his more commanding authority to bear upon the question, and I think that the Bishops should be in the larger position of men who can affect the righteousness of the whole nation. I cannot believe that it is the main work of the Bishops to get into touch in a small way with those people who are suitably dealt with by the rural deans.
Your Lordships will forgive my saying one word in passing. Though the Bishop of Winchester said that this was the main weak of a Bishop, I cannot help avowing here that I believe that the greatest work a Bishop can do for the diocese is in the power of prayer. But, passing that by, if the Bishops are to do this sort of thing, it is not the least use to divide the diocese by three; you must divide it by twenty. If the Bishop is to be known to everybody who lives in a parish, to be known by sight and possibly to grasp their hands in personal friendship, then division by three is neither here nor there. I beg your Lordships carefully to notice that point.
Is this a national affair, or is it a parochial affair, I remember being surprised in the Church Assembly when somebody got up and said that the diocese of Winchester wanted the Measure, and therefore that settled the question. That utterance was quite clear, but I could not bring myself to agree with it. I have no pleasure in opposing the view of the Church Assembly. Some men like to be found in opposition, but certainly I am not one of them. I can point out to your Lordships, however, that this view of the Church Assembly was a small and a parochial outlook, which entirely ignored any national interest and any inter-diocesan interest in this question. And I believe it is not in the least an un-Christian view to say that the county outlook should count.
Archbishop Benson was a great ecclesiastic, a man of modern times, and a great figure in Church life. He knew 134 more about these things, I suppose, than any one in this House to-day would pretend to know, and he wrote these very remarkable words, to which I ask your Lordships to pay attention:—I continued to press the Church to keep its diocesan centres very strong, not comminuting their resources, not reducing the size of the dioceses, so that the strong influence of each censes to radiate through all. Through this strong system, however short of its ideal, still an influence has been exercised within the Christian society, and by that society on all surrounding powers. Vigour and character were not in hand for so many posts of leaders."—He was referring to a time when Bishops were in parts very numerous—The old policy of England must he nowhere forgotten, that sub-division should cease before dioceses become too small for the influence of each to radiate through all. before the administration anywhere becomes so narrow as to represent only local patriotism.I believe that a paltry diocesanism may succeed to a discredited parochialism, and we must, I maintain, be very careful in this House, in a statesmanlike way, not to be led away by emotion before we have made quite sure that the plans laid before us represent a stable and a lasting attitude, something strong and coherent.
I do not know whether your Lordships have noticed—it is an interesting point to notice—that this cry for the multiplication of Bishops on this large scale is accompanied already by a desire to have new provinces. It is being felt, I suppose, that if we have these many Bishops, the Bishops will lose their position as the leaders of the Church of England, as a whole, and these new Archbishops must be called into being to do the work that can be efficiently done by the Bishops, if they are not too numerous. We do not want the Church of England to become a miscellany of dioceses, but to have its life as a whole to influence the whole nation. That is far easier to achieve if the number of areas is not too large, and the number of chief pastors is not made too great to carry much weight.
The mere growth of the population does not settle the question. I do not know-that there has been any great increase in the number of Judges, although the population of England has so largely increased. In other administrative areas it seems possible to carry on with practically 135 the same number of chief persons at the head of each department. I know we shall hear, later, touching remarks about the Bishop being the Father-in-God of his people, but it appears to me that that phrase, although touching and true, can be used in a very disproportionate way. I ask your Lordships to consider this question from both sides and to realise that a step taken now is a step which will be irrevocable. In some future day, when some better arrangement may be suggested, it will be too late to make any further alteration. I ask your Lordships also not to be led away by the view of the experts—the experts of the Diocesan Conference, the Church Assembly, and so on. The matter is not so deeply complicated that a man of ordinary judgment is not capable of forming a useful opinion on the whole subject.
I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, has made out a clear case for postponement of action. I cannot say that I am against all diocesan division, and when a proposal comes for dividing the diocese of Southwell that will be one matter, but Winchester seems to me to be in a different position. Reference has been made, by way of illustration, to some of the small East Anglian dioceses, recently created, and in my opinion badly created. It is perfectly clear that the division adopted turned out badly for the generous Bishop who provided most of the money, for the manner of the division created in his case a petty little diocese with no strong centre, and in another ease one from which good Bishops, it seems, will always quickly be translated. It is the way of this House to meet one-sided enthusiasm with calm common sense, and it has been its privilege to take a wider and larger view and check ill-digested legislation. I ask your Lordships to exercise that privilege to-day.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Northbrook was good enough to say that he greatly regretted differing from me on this matter. I can assure your Lordships that it is quite impossible for Lord Northbrook to regret differing from me as much as I regret differing from him. If this was a matter of civil administration I should not desire to put my opinion against that of Lord Northbrook, because Lord Northbrook is Chairman of my County 136 Council, and it is not easy to express the debt which Hampshire owes to him for what he has done for us. I will, however, show you presently why, although I am prepared to follow him in matters connected with the civil administration of Hampshire, I am not prepared to follow him in matters connected with the ecclesiastical administration of Hampshire.
May I ask your Lordships to remember that there is no responsible authority in existence who denies that this diocese requires division? The only question is how should it be divided. In the case of Winchester it is admittedly a difficult thing to arrive at a wise decision in the matter of division. In a case like Southwell you have two Counties, Derby and Nottingham, and nothing is easier than to make them separate dioceses, but in Winchester we have Surrey, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, and the Channel Islands, and I am prepared to say, and I hope to prove to you, that it is not possible to make a satisfactory division without impairing the integrity of the County of Hampshire. Personally, I regret very much indeed that we have to advise your Lordships to accept a Measure which cuts Hampshire in two. I believe in the county unit for all possible purposes. I much prefer that the county and diocese should be the same unit, but there are obviously cases where the county cannot be the unit of the diocese. Yorkshire and Lancashire are eases in point. The question to-day is: Can Hampshire be a unit? Is it possible to take the Surrey part away from the diocese and leave Hampshire as a diocese?
I ask your Lordships also to remember that for thirteen years this matter has been discussed in the diocese of Winchester. My noble friend Lord Daryngton told you how repeatedly it had been before the Diocesan Conference, and how it had been affirmed and reaffirmed again by that conference, but it has also been discussed in the Hampshire Press, it has been discussed in the rural deaneries and also in the parishes. It has been discussed in almost every public body, except those devoted only to civil government, during all these years. I ask your Lordships to consider this: Why is it that during all these years these mutual friends of Lord Northbrook and myself who object to the scheme have been silent? They 137 have not joined in the discussion in the Press, or in the parishes, or in the rural deaneries.
Now I am coming to the most extraordinary fact of all. This has been discussed for twelve years in the Diocesan Conference. My noble friend Lord North-brook has been a member of the Diocesan Conference all those years, and on no single occasion did he criticise the scheme there. I believe that when, for the first time, he voted there last year it was the first time that Dr. Talbot, then Bishop of Winchester, knew that Lord North-brook had any criticism to make on the scheme at all. I submit that that was rather hard on Dr. Talbot. Here was the man of all others in the County whose opinion he would value, and only at the last moment did it come to his knowledge that Lord Northbrook had any criticism to offer on the scheme. And that is not the only thing. Lord Northbrook will be supported in this House by mutual friends of his and mine—Hampshire Peers. All those years every single one of those Peers has been a member of the Diocesan Conference, and not one of them has even come and criticised the scheme. In fact, it was not till this year that I knew that any one of these Hampshire Peers had any objection whatever to the scheme.
What is the real explanation of this? I do not say it is a matter of reproach to my noble friends. They have all been engaged in other work. In the compexity of modern pursuits it is quite impossible for every man to follow up every branch of activity. These friends of mine have been engaged in other and equally useful work, and it was not, till the scheme was on the point of accomplishment that they turned their attention to it. Then what happened? With a natural and very proper instinct of conservatism they disliked the change. That is the whole explanation. I know all these objectors, who are mutual friends of Lord Northbrook and myself. They are all excellent Conservatives, and they naturally dislike a change when they are confronted with it. But I cannot allow the same weight to the opinion of men who have never really seriously considered the question during all these twelve years, as to the opinion of men who, during these years, have been working at this question and considering 138 it. I submit that there is not the same weight of judgment in the two cases.
Let me put before your Lordships the extraordinary difficulty of the problem of the ecclesiastical administration of the diocese of Winchester, and let me compare that with the problem which my noble friend Lord Northbrook has to solve in administering the County. Lord Northbrook has nothing to do with Surrey; he has nothing to do with the Channel Islands. Now, we come to Hampshire. Lord Northbrook in the civil administration of Hampshire, has nothing to do with the Isle of Wight; he has nothing to do with the county borough of Portsmouth, or the county borough of Southampton, or the county borough of Bournemouth. The Bishop of Winchester has on his hands the ecclesiastical administration of the Isle of Wight, of Southampton, of Portsmouth, and of Bournemouth. He has to do with at least half a million more of population than has Lord Northbrook. And look how the two authorities are equipped, the civil and the ecclesiastical. Lord Northbrook has to go to Winchester There he finds a large staff in the County building. He devotes almost the whole of his life to the. County administration, but nearly all his work is done at Winchester. He hardly ever has to travel in the other parts of the County. The Bishop, on the other hand, has a small staff at Winchester. He hardly ever is at Winchester. He has to visit more than five hundred different parishes, and in every one of those parishes the Bishop has an officer and on the efficiency of those officers and on the Bishop's influence over those officers, the incumbents, really depends the spiritual efficiency of the diocese.
I constantly hear complaints from the very same friends who are now objecting to this scheme, saying: "Why does not the Bishop exercise more control over the parish clergy? Why does he not stop these illegal actions Why does he allow such and such a man, who is obvieusly unfit, to remain undisturbed in his parish? "I will tell you the reason why. Because it is perfectly impossible for one human being to keep that control and influence over five hundred parishes which the Bishop of Winchester is now called upon to do. Of course, not many of those clergy require what you would call control, 139 but some do. They all require sympathy and influence. The noble Earl says:" Yes, but the Bishop has a motor car. He can go and visit these parishes in his motor-car." I think the Bishop of Winchester has answered that already. Although the Bishop of Winchester has a motor-car, the clergy have no motor-cars, and cannot get to their Bishop, and it is just as necessary for the clergy to get to their Bishop as it is for the Bishop to get to the clergy.
I have watched this matter of ecclesiastical administration for over forty years. We have had a series of most devoted Bishops, assisted by devoted Suffragans, and yet I say without the least hesitation that the influence of the Bishop in the rural parishes of Hampshire is almost non-existent. The Bishop is, to the ordinary Hampshire villager, a legend, not an actual influence in his spiritual life. My noble friend said truly that what is wanted in the Church is more worshippers. It is just at this very moment, this critical moment in the life of the Church, when the influence of a Bishop is more wanted than it ever was before in the Hampshire villages. With the size of the diocese as it is now, that spiritual influence cannot exist, except as a mere casual and occasional touch. The Bishop cannot influence his clergy. He cannot govern his clergy as they require to be governed. He cannot spread his spiritual influence through the diocese because it is too large. Even Lord Northbrook says the diocese has to be divided. His objection is to this particular division. I do not say this division is perfect. What I do say is that it is the product of twelve years of thought and work. It is the product of the devoted work of the late Bishop, of his Suffragans, of his archdeacons, and of a large band of laity who have supported and worked with him. And I say that it holds the field.
If you tell me that the diocese of Winchester is going to be destroyed in its dignity and in its historical and national importance because it is reduced in size, I do not believe it. The diocese of Winchester once was far larger than it is to-day. At one time the diocese included the whole County of Surrey, as well as the whole of Hampshire. and the Channel Islands. But parts of Surrey have been taken away and given to Southwark, 140 Rochester, Canterbury. Will anybody say that the diocese of Winchester to-day is of less importance in the national life, or of less dignity than it was before those portions of Surrey were taken away from it? No, the dignity of the diocese depends, not on its geographical size, but on its history and on the character of its Bishops. If you took away the whole County of Kent and left only the City of Canterbury and the palace of Lambeth, does anybody mean to tell me that the prestige or the dignity of the Archbishopric of Canterbury would be diminished? I absolutely dispute that suggestion.
Then I come to the question of the Isle of Wight. I have the greatest sympathy with the people of the Isle of Wight who do not want to be severed from the diocese of Winchester, but I want to put this objection in its proper proportions. The Isle of Wight cannot be satisfied unless it has a Bishop of its own, or unless it stays connected with Winchester. It is too small to have a Bishop of its own, and I submit that it cannot be allowed to block the whole question of the division of the diocese of Winchester. It is not the fact, as my noble friend Lord Northbrook said, that there was no party in the Isle of Wight in favour of the division. On the contrary, the situation really is that the West Wight is attached to Southampton and the East Wight to Portsmouth, that the West Wight will not have anything to do with Portsmouth or the East Wight with Southampton.
But do not for one moment suppose that there is any affection in the Isle of Wight for Hampshire. There is a great attachment to the historical association with Winchester. But to show you how little love there is in the Isle of Wight for Hampshire, I may inform you that the Island has, in civil administration, cut itself off from Hampshire altogether. It has a County Council of its own. If you go into the Island you never hear anything about Hampshire, nor do they acknowledge their allegiance to or connection with Hampshire. Even when it came to having a battalion of the County Regiment in the Isle of Wight they were very careful to put it into a different uniform from that of the battalions in Hampshire.
I will not deal with the status of the Bishopric of Portsmouth and the Bishopric of Guildford, if formed, because 141 the Bishop of Winchester has done that, but I want to show what a very dignified Bishopric the rest of Hampshire would be if the diocese of Winchester were reconstituted. There is a population of over 600,000 and there are 315 benefices, which would form a splendid and homogeneous diocese of great dignity. Every possible alternative has been examined. Everybody who has come to the consideration of this question admits the necessity for the division, and I maintain that this scheme holds the field. What would be the result if your Lordships agreed to the Motion of the noble Earl? I ask your Lordships not to suppose for one moment that I do not admit that it is fully within the competence of this House to do as the noble Earl suggests. The whole object of the provision in the Enabling Act to which we assented was to give, the House of Lords and the House of Commons a control over Church legislation. Therefore, I am the last person in the world to cavil for one moment at the right of your Lordships to take any action which may seem good to you. But I ask your Lordships to consider what the result of the rejection of the Measure would be.
It would sterilise the work of thirteen years. It would put the £20,000 already contributed into a very ambiguous position. What could be done with that £20,000 already promised or collected? It would absolutely bring to an end the work of the Committee that has been appointed to raise the money. The noble Earl asks why more money has not been raised. The answer is because the appeal was only launched six months ago, when Dr. Talbot left his diocese. The Committee appointed to raise the money has never seriously got to work because it has been waiting for the Measure to pass through Parliament. The Committee felt that they really could not go to the diocese and ask parishes to work, as I believe they are prepared to do, to raise the money in the parishes, unless they were able to say: "Here is a scheme of which Parliament, as well as the Church Assembly, has approved." Therefore, not only would the acceptance of Lord North-brook's advice result in the sterilisation of the work of thirteen years and in making the position of the £20,000 already collected extremely difficult to determine, but it would put an end, and necessarily put an end, to all the efforts of the Committee that has been appointed. If your 142 Lordships pass this Measure that Committee will get to work to-morrow with the full assurance that in the course of no very long time the money will be collected.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, at this late period in the debate I will detain the House but for a very few minutes. It is my misfortune, as Bishop of Durham, that it is only on exceptional occasions that I can have the opportunity of taking part m the debates in this House, but this subject is one of such great importance and one upon which I think such considerable issues depend that, however shortly, I feel that I must address your Lordships. I should like to pursue in detail the remarks which fell from the Bishop of Winchester and the Earl of Selborne. I think the first thoughts of the Bishop of Winchester were wisest, and that if there had been more time for considering the matter he would have addressed your Lordships in different terms. I would ask your Lordships not to be unduly impressed by the vehement rhetoric of the noble. Earl, Lord Selborne. He tells us that if this ancient Bishopric were broken up and smaller Bishoprics substituted for it, the laity of those smaller Bishoprics would be satisfied and would not he troubled by the lawlessness which distresses them so much at present. Yet the most lawless diocese in England is one of the very smallest—Birmingham.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
This Measure comes before your Lordships' House with a Report by the Ecclesiastical Committee. I think I am not the only member of this House who found that Report very disconcerting because it gave no guidance whatever to the House. It did, indeed, in its closing paragraph, certify that in its judgment the Measure was expedient, but in the preceding paragraph it carefully explained that it exonerated itself from the obligation of considering those arguments which were designed to prove that it was inexpedient What was the object. I would ask the House, with which this Ecclesiastical Committee was created? I appeal to its authors, the Archbishop of York and the Earl of Selborne. The Archbishop of York told us that this 143 Ecclesiastical Committee was to be provided in order—that Parliament should not only have before it the considered desire and request of the Church "—I ask your Lordships to mark this—but also an independent scrutiny and examination by some competent body representing the interests of the State and of the nation.We have not had that.
The Earl of Selborne was good enough to speak much in the same way. He asked—What was the intention of the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council?and he said—Whether the scheme is good or whether the scheme is bad,"—that is, the scheme in the Enabling Act—it had no idea behind it whatever except this "—now mark this, my Lords—that no Measure proposed by the Church Assembly should go before Parliament without the keenest possible examination by the best intellects that could be found in the country.Where is that examination when we are told in this Report that, inasmuch as the objections urged against this Rill have been considered in the Church Assembly, therefore the Ecclesiastical Committee concluded that they could not usefully review the decision?
I say that is not what Parliament was led to expect from the Ecclesiastical Committee. They have left us on this difficult question without guidance. I want to say that, in the course of that debate, the most rev. Primate admitted that the electoral representation behind the Representative Church Council was too small to justify the confidence of the nation. He went on to express his hope, which I gather he still cherishes, that the electorate would be largely increased. That expectation has not matured. In point of fact, the Enabling Act, it cannot be disputed, failed to commend itself to the general body of parishioners in the country. I will give your Lordships very shortly evidence of that.
The most rev. Primate, rather optimistically I think, assured the Diocesan Conference the other day that 3,500,000 electors were now on the rolls. That 3,500,000 in a nation of 36,000,000 144 ought to be at least 22,000,000. I ask your Lordships to realise that those rolls are represented in the annual meetings which were designed to replace those old vestires that were pointed to, I am afraid, with scorn five years ago when this Enabling Act was passed. I am persuaded that the attendance at the new-meetings created by that Act was not greater than the attendance in the old vestries. I have been able to gather the facts relating to my own diocese. Out of 154,000 registered electors just over 8,000 attended the annual meetings, and those 8,000 elected just under 7,000 representatives. I believe it can be really and truly said that the number of electors who actually took part in creating the lay section of the National Assembly voted for themselves.
I pass rapidly forward and I ask: What was the number of the Winchester laity which had any share, even indirectly, in electing the Winchester representatives in the National Assembly? I believe it was a pitiable fraction. It is all very well for Lord Selborne to deal severely with them, to say they ought to come forward, and to ask why they do not seek election at the conference. I tell the noble Earl it is a matter of wisdom, in legislating, to estimate what is likely to be the result of the legislation which you pass, and anybody who reflects that the Church of England practically for four centuries has been organised as a national Church governed from the centre, will know that you cannot count upon the people readily and suddenly accepting a system based on an entirely different point of view. The National Assembly, unrepresentative as it is, may do very good work in preparing business when that business touches matters about which there is no serious division of opinion, such as is dealt with in many of the Measures that your Lordships have recently sent forward, but when questions are being dealt with about which there is an acute division of opinion, then I submit it is the duty of Parliament to ask what lies behind the Measures which come before it, how far they really represent the general body of the masses of English Church people, and how they affect the national life.
This Measure implies a policy and indicates a method which, I submit, so far as the policy is concerned, is unsound, and so far as the method is concerned, 145 is bad: Let me gather my argument into three propositions. My first proposition is, that the policy of multiplying small Bishoprics is unsound, and that for five reasons. First of all, it is inconsistent with English tradition which, from the very beginning of our national history, has been a Church administered by large Bishoprics. There are two traditions in Christendom with respect to Bishoprics. There was the tradition of small Bishoprics which belonged to the great system of the Græco-Roman Empire, and which has a fictitious importance. From the time of St. Ignatius there was, outside the Roman Umpire, a tradition of large Bishoprics throughout the whole Teutonic, Scandinavian and Saxon spheres, and it is our tradition, and I am conservative enough to believe that you ought not to depart from it without very cogent reasons.
Secondly, this system has been tried and, I submit, it has been found unsatisfactory. Several of my fellow Bishops who are at the head of small dioceses will in private intercourse, though I suppose not in public declaration, admit freely that the smallness of their dioceses is a very great disadvantage. 1, like my brother of Norwich, have the honour of presiding over a truncated diocese, the great diocese of Durham. Bishop Light-foot's opinion has been referred to. If Bishop Lightfoot had been living to-day he would certainly say with me that it is a great misfortune that the diocese of Northumbria has ever been divided. I cannot develop this, because I must hasten forward.
Thirdly, the circumstances which once were needed to justify division no longer exist. Supercilious references have been made to the motor ear, but the motor car is a crucial factor. I am nearer to Newcastle than Bishop Lightfoot was to Durham, and in point of fact, with a motor car at our disposal—and, as Lord Selborne remarked, with the motor omnibus at the disposal of the clergy who cannot afford motor cars—it is possible for a Bishop to administer a much larger area than seemed to be possible forty years ago when this policy of dividing the-Bishoprics began.
Of course, much turns upon the conception of the Bishop's office. A very distinguished member of this Bench and of your Lordships' House, Bishop 146 Creighton, used to describe one conception of a Bishop's office compendiously as "blessing hassocks." I know what is meant; it is a broad and true summary of the theory that wants to bring the Bishop into every petty parochial function, which any rural dean could perform equally well. I prefer to take the view which Archbishop Benson took and which Bishop John Wordsworth of Salisbury took, that the English tradition is that of large Bishoprics, and that the large Bishopric tends to the general welfare of the diocese. But I must pass over this for there is so much I would like to say.
In the future more than ever we shall have to depend for our Bishops upon parochial incumbents. The fellowships in Oxford and Cambridge have been secularised. Even theological professorships in our Universities are passing into the hands of laymen so that the parochial incumbent is a source from which, in future, cur Bishops will have to be drawn. I hold that it is absolutely essential that our incumbents should be men in a position of real and independent importance in which initiative is required and strength of personality is valuable, and which, in fact, can be a proper preparation for the larger responsibilities of the Episcopate. What is the position of an incumbent in these petty dioceses which it is proposed to create? He cannot call his soul his own: he is always within reach of his Diocesan—I need not develop it further.
Take another matter, a still more cogent matter. Take the administration of public patronage, the patronage of the Bishop and the patronage of the dean and chapter. I submit, without any fear that I shall be contradicted by any competent authority, that it is a very great misfortune to have this patronage administered over too small an area. What is the result of division? In my own diocese all the rural cures were shut down in Newcastle and all the great industrial cures were shut down in Durham; and I am in the miserable position now of seeing my clergy grow old and sick, failing at their posts, and I have no suitable positions to which I can appoint them. For the administration of public patronage a large diocese is really desirable.
I pass to my second point. If the policy is sound, and I maintain it. is not, it is 147 not expedient to adopt it at the present time; and for two reasons. First, the great expenditure of money involved. In these difficult times we cannot afford to neglect the financial consideration. And why are we to be asked to adopt the most expensive method of meeting a difficulty which can be met and is, I maintain, adequately met by the cheaper method of using Suffragan Bishops, upon which so much scorn has been poured? It is also an unhappy fact that the numbers of working clergy are falling rapidly every year. Four hundred a year is the diminution for the last nine years, and so far as we can see there is no indication that in the near future there will be any improvement. Does it not strike you as rather an absurd proceeding that we should be multiplying Bishoprics when the numbers of the clergy are continually growing less?
When the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, spoke with so much decision about the impossibility of a large diocese being adequately managed by a Bishop, and the Bishop of Winchester also told us that it was absolutely impossible for any Bishop to administer the undivided diocese of Winchester, I reflected that we have amongst us two distinguished former Bishops of Winchester, both of whom administered the undivided diocese with great distinction and universal recognition, and who had none of these laboursaving and time-annihilating resources which are at the disposal of present-day Bishops. I appeal to the actual facts which we have ourselves witnessed, and I say that it is not true that a Bishop cannot administer a large diocese. On the contrary, although I have had only a very short experience, as a Bishop, six and a half years in two dioceses very different in type, I say with absolute conviction that the only thing for which a Bishop wants assistance is confirmations. There you have a physical limit beyond which he cannot go; and that problem will emerge in the smallest diocese. It is not the scale of the Bishopric which creates the difficulty.
My last point is this: Even if the policy were both sound and expedient, and I submit that it is neither sound nor expedient, the method proposed by this Bill is unsatisfactory. What are the opinions of these distinguished men, former Bishops of Winchester, the most rev. Primate, and the very rev. the Dean 148 of Westminster? We might have expected these distinguished men, with their bitter memories of overwork and undone duty weighing on their consciences, to have been in the forefront of the whole movement, the most enthusiastic, the most dogmatic, of the advocates of division. Unhappily, the most rev. Primate has exhibited a singular absence of enthusiasm, and as regards the Dean of Westminster I was at some pains the other day to pull him out of the Assembly in order to ask him for his views and make sure that I did not misrepresent him. He is against the scheme proposed in this Bill. He thinks that, ultimately, Winchester must be divided, but he is convinced that it would be a great mistake to divide it now because conditions in Surrey are changing very rapidly, and in a few years' time the whole position will be different from what it is to-day. His conclusion is that he desires that this Measure shall be rejected by this House. That is a faithful account, so far as I am aware, of what that distinguished ex-Bishop of Winchester thinks on this subject.
We have already heard to demonstration that the great body of the laity in the diocese of Winchester are opposed to this Measure. I know it is the fashion to draw a sharp distinction, as was done to-night by Lord Selborne, between the little section of people represented in the National Assembly and the great mass of the nation. I was brought up in a different school. I look at the Church as the great body of the baptised, and I still think that as the great mass of the English people are baptised members of the Church they are entitled to be so described and their wishes and interests are not lightly to be set aside.
The great importance of the Division in your Lordships' House—I do not know whether it will be taken to-night—is that this is the first instance of Parliament being asked to exercise its great and responsible task of guarding the rights of the English people and the English Church against narrow and mistaken proposals from the National Assembly. I ask this House, I entreat this House, to reject this Bill, and thus set a precedent which will have the most salutary effect on the future proceedings of the so-called National Assembly. There are other measures of a similar kind which will come before you. Only two days ago I 149 received notice of a proposal to divide the old Bishopric of Hereford. For twelve centuries it has remained substantially in its present form. It is one of the smallest Bishoprics, but even smallness is no proof against the movement to divide dioceses. I ask you to reject this Measure. If you do so, you will only be taking a course which will have the effect of postponing the issue for the present. There is no reason why this Measure should not come before your Lordships again next year. Even if you think that ultimately the Bishopric of Winchester must be divided, I ask you to reject this proposal now. This debate will at least direct attention to the situation created by the Enabling Act, and perhaps will have the effect of inducing the Ecclesiastical Committee to take what, I think, is a worthier and more responsible conception and interpretation of its functions.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate until Tuesday, July 15.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps the most rev. Primate would not name a day at this moment. I have nothing to do with the merits of the case, but it might be more for the convenience of the House.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
My Lords, may I say, in reference to the remarks of the noble Marquess, that I have ascertained from Lord Northbrook, who is the only noble Lord whom I have been able to approach, that July 15 would suit his convenience.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Certainly, but it was after trying to ascertain the general convenience of the House, that this date was adopted.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.