§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURYrose to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Benefices (Purchase of Rights of Patronage) Measure, 1933, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The most rev. Primate said: My Lords, this Measure has already passed the scrutiny 3 of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament representing both Houses and it has also passed the House of Commons. It rests with your Lordships to decide finally whether or not it shall become law. In view of the discussions in the Church Assembly, and in another place, I am afraid that this Measure cannot be described as uncontroversial. I must, therefore, trouble your Lordships with some account of its history, of its general objects and also of the objections to which it has given rise. The system of private patronage is deeply rooted in the history, traditions and character of the Church of England. Rightly exercised, that is to say, with due regard to the fitness of the clergyman presented and the rights and wishes of the parishioners, it has brought many benefits. It has secured freedom for the clergy from exclusively official patronage, it has prevented the undesirable isolation of dioceses, and it has secured variety of movement and type which has been for the good both of the Church and the Ministry. But it can only be defended, I am sure your Lordships will all agree, if the right of patronage is regarded less as a proprietary right than as a trust to be exercised for the good of the parish.
§ Unfortunately, it has become customary for the advowson, the right of patronage in any particular parish, to be regarded as a matter of bargain and sale. I cannot believe that anyone in his heart can regard such a system as satisfactory, and accordingly, in 1924, a Measure received the Royal Assent which provided that after a certain time all advowsons should become unsaleable; that is to say, after the occurrence in each benefice of the next two presentations. Thus, gradually but certainly the system of bargain and sale of advowsons will come to an end. There are many who have wished that it could have been dealt with in more drastic fashion. Sir Thomas Inskip and others proposed in the Church Assembly, after the Measure of 1924 had received Royal Assent, that at once all advowsons should be declared unsaleable, but the Church Assembly thought that it was inequitable that persons should be deprived of rights which had been so recently recognised both by the Church Assembly and by Parliament, and that it was reasonable that patrons should The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury 4 have adequate compensation. I mention this because it shows that the Church Assembly has always tried to pay special regard to the rights of patrons.
§ The passage of the Measure of 1924, declaring all advowsons unsaleable after the next two presentations, was followed by consequences unexpected and, in many ways, unfortunate. There seems little doubt that the sale of advowsons very rapidly increased. Patrons were eager to sell, and were advised to sell, while their proprietary rights had still some financial value, and there can be no doubt the opportunity was used very largely to secure advowsons for party purposes and for party trusts. Certainly it is noteworthy that transfers rose from 86 in 1922 to 107 in 1924, 132 in 1925, and 200 in 1929. Those were, indeed, not all sales—some were gifts—but there is good reason to believe that the traffic in advowsons was greatly stimulated, and certainly, as I have said, the opportunity was used to acquire advowsons for party purposes.
§ What are called party trusts, my Lords, have already secured, I think, an undesirable amount of patronage in the Church of England. Rather more than 1,000 benefices are now within the control of these party trusts. They represent both of the main parties in the Church of England, though preponderatingly one. If I may give an illustration, and use the customary labels, within the period which is to be covered by this Measure 27 transfers were made to Anglo-Catholic trusts and 263 to Evangelical trusts. I have no desire whatsoever to make any general attack upon party trusts. Some are administered with the greatest possible conscientiousness. If I may select one for honourable mention it is because it is the oldest—the Simeon Trust. I have always found that the trustees exercised their rights not only with the highest motives but also, within the limits of their trust, in the most considerate and fair-minded way. But at their best these party trusts have two defects. In the first place, unlike private or official trustees or patrons, they are perpetual. They cannot change. The result is that certain types of teaching and worship often without regard to the traditions, wishes and customs of the parish, are fixed and that for all 5 time. In the second place, these party trusts involve, necessarily, more concern for the opinions which they represent than for the wishes or interests of the parishioners. These unfortunate results are aggravated when the right of patronage, often without their knowledge, can be transferred over the heads of the parishioners expressly in order to secure the fixing of a certain type of teaching and worship upon the parish.
§ I may mention one illustration of the difficulties and dangers which confront us at the present time. Quite recently one particular individual, who appears to have large financial resources, has acquired the patronage, for himself or for trusts which he controls, of no fewer than 203 benefices in the Church of England. These undesirable transfers have been rendered more easy by the complete secrecy with which for a long time they could be carried out. The parishioners suddenly awoke to the fact that, unknown to them, the patronage of their church had been transferred to persons whom they did not desire and whose opinions they did not share. That evil of secrecy was dealt with by a Measure which passed your Lordships' House and received the Royal Assent in 1930. It is noteworthy that the number of transfers immediately dropped from 200 in 1929 to ninety-font in 1930, and to forty-seven in 1931. But that most useful Measure is really ineffective for the purpose with which this Measure deals. In the first place, it cannot in the least remedy the grievance of parishioners which fell upon them before the Measure of 1930 was passed; and in the second place it still makes it possible for the grievance to continue, because, even though under this Measure for preventing secrecy full notice of a transfer has to be given to the parochial church council through the Bishop, it is open to the patron to whom the advowson has been transferred to ignore any protest that may be made and to continue to exercise his patronage.
§ Thus it is that the grievance with which this Measure tries to deal is still active. I will give only one illustration out of many, and I select it for these reasons. It has occurred since the Measure abolishing secrecy was passed in 1930, it deals with the transfer of patronage to what may be called an Anglo-Catholic trust, and therefore shows that this Measure 6 makes no sort of discrimination among ecclesiastical parties, and it illustrates as well as any other the grievance with which this Measure tries to deal. Here you have a parish which for generations has been accustomed to a very moderate type of worship. Suddenly it finds that the patronage of its church has been transferred to a trust with whose opinions it does not agree. It made a most courteous protest to the patron who had made this transfer. The protest was quite unavailing, and the parish knows that quite certainly when the next vacancy occurs a type of ministry, of teaching and worship, will be imposed upon it which is alien to all its traditions, and with which it does not agree. This is the grievance that the Measure which I now ask your Lordships to approve seeks to remedy.
§ I may put its object very shortly. It is this, that where the parishioners so acutely feel the grievance of such a transfer of patronage to patrons whom they do not desire they have the right through their parochial church council to repurchase the advowson, that is to say, to acquire the right of patronage, and to transfer it in turn, not to themselves but to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. That is a Board constituted by a Measure to which your Lordships quite recently gave your approval, representing the whole diocese, and the fact that the advowson, if repurchased, must be handed over—not kept, but handed over—to the Diocesan Board of Patronage, is a further guarantee of the sincerity and disinterestedness of the parishoners.
§ I think it would be well for me to state at once the limitations and safeguards which are imposed upon this right of repurchase by the parochial church council. In the first place, there is a limit of time, that is to say, the Measure only operates between the date when the Measure of 1924 became operative and when all these unexpected results took place and the time when the two next vacancies in each particular parish occur. There are many who have said: Why not fix an earlier date? Why not deal with the grievances which parishioners may have felt before 1924? But the Church Assembly thought it was only equitable to fix some limit and that it was reasonable that the limit should be the date when these unexpected results of the legislation passed in 1924 took place. In the second place, 7 your Lordships will notice that the parishioners have to be so acutely concerned with the transfer of this patronage that they are willing to raise the funds to secure its repurchase. I admit that I think that the instances in which this will be done will be comparatively few, and will only arise in very exceptional circumstances, but the necessity of raising this money is some proof that care will be taken that the right of repurchase is not lightly demanded.
§ In the third place, if the right of repurchase is acquired as I have explained, the patronage of the benefice must be handed over to the Diocesan Board of Patronage constituted as I have described. In the fourth place, it is not enough that the parochial church council should pass a resolution desiring to repurchase the advowson. That resolution must be confirmed by a special and extraordinary meeting of what is called the parochial church meeting; that is to say, of all those whose names are on the electoral roll. In other words, the desire of the parochial church council must be backed up by the approval of all those who have shown sufficient interest in the life of the church in their parish to have their names put upon the electoral roll. These four safeguards, I think, sufficiently show that every care has been taken to see that this right which it is proposed to confer by this Measure will not be lightly exercised.
§ Having ventured to make these explanations, I do not think it is necessary that I should trouble your Lordships by going through the Measure in detail. Clause 1 deals simply with definitions. Clause 2 is the governing clause of the Measure, and lays down the right of repurchase in the given circumstances, and the conditions under which it must be exercised. Clause 3 makes provision for the negotiations which must result, and for a further reference of any purchase price to arbitration in the event of the parties not agreeing. I may add that the arbitrators are to be taken from a panel of three, appointed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who are very familiar with all these matters, with the consent of the Lord Chancellor. Clause 4 deals with the case when a vacancy may occur before the transfer of the repurchased advowson to the Board of Patronage has been completed. Clause 5 deals in a necessarily complicated way with the rather difficult The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. 8 situation which occurs where there is a patron of a principal benefice and there are also ancillary benefices to which that patron by virtue of his office has the right of patronage. The sixth Clause passes outside the immediate purpose of the Measure and lays down a useful condition for all transfers—namely, that in the register of transfers in every case a note of the price (if any) that has been paid for the interest transfered should be inserted. The seventh, eighth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth Clauses are purely formal dealing with questions of notice, conveyances, commencement, title, and extent. The ninth Clause deserves passing notice because it exempts from the operation of the Measure all patronage which is in the hands of the Crown or of Ecclesiastical Corporations, or any right of patronage sold on the occasion of the last transfer in conjunction with any estate of not less than 100 acres situated in the parish in which the benefice is situated and belonging to the same owner as the right of patronage.
§ It is only right that I should indicate to your Lordships some of the objections which have been raised against the Measure which I have tried as shortly as I could to describe. The first is that this is a case of retrospective legislation. In a sense it must be admitted that that is true; that is to say, the Measure would deprive persons of the exercise of rights which they have legally acquired; but there are many cases of similar expropriations familiar to your Lordships when the passing of an Act of Parliament has resulted in unexpected abuses which it is desirable to put right or when the public advantage is, greatly concerned. I think it may well be maintained that in this case the result of the legislation of 1924 was unexpected. It did give rise to abuses which ought, if possible, to be put right. In this case, most certainly, the whole object of the Measure is to secure the common good and rights of the parishioners. I do not think your Lordships will be deterred from giving approval to this Measure because in some degree it is retrospective in its character; and here I would point out that the Measure passed the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament presided over by a very eminent Judge who was a member of your Lordships' House, and that Committee, you will remember, is expressly 9 charged to safeguard the constitutional rights of his Majesty's subjects. I do not think they would have allowed this Measure to pass if they felt that this particular objection to its retrospective character could be seriously entertained.
§ In the second place it is urged that it is unjust that a right of this kind should be given when the transfer of patronage has been by way of gift and not of purchase. But your Lordships will at once see that the grievance of the parishioners is not a whit lessened, though its incidence may be less odious, if it has occurred through gift rather than through patronage. The Church Assembly felt it was quite impossible to discriminate between gift and purchase, though if it be true, as has been alleged that it will be, that the receipt of purchase money for the repurchase will be unacceptable to trustees who are precluded by their trust from the purchase of advowsons, the Church Assembly thought it would be equitable that compensation should at any rate be offered.
§ In the third place it has been contended that the parishioners have already a sufficient remedy in the Measure which was passed in 1931 giving to the parishioners some voice in the selection of their pastor. Your Lordships will remember that that Measure entitled the parishioners to object to a particular nominee if he seemed to be unsuitable and to require, before he could be presented, the consent of the Bishop; and, in another place, much importance was attached to this fact, that the grievance with which this Measure deals is not real and can be dealt with under this particular Measure of 1931. But, my Lords, the difficulty is this, that a party trust is obliged by the terms of the trust to nominate a clergyman of a particular type. They cannot nominate anyone else. Even if the delay secured by this Patronage Measure of 1931 were to result in a more considered nomination being made, the trustees, as I have explained, must go on making nominations of clergy of the same type, and it would be quite impossible for the Bishop to go on objecting over and over again to persons of a character which the trust is itself obliged to secure. Therefore there is no sufficient remedy for this grievance in that particular Measure.10
§ Lastly, it has been said that the parochial church council and the Diocesan Board of Patronage cannot be regarded as truly representative of the parishioners. Than the parochial church councils, my Lords, who else could be more representative of the parishioners? They have been constituted by law as the body that does and must be taken to represent the parishioners, and if it be reasonable to say that the parochial church council does not represent the parishioners, it would be equally reasonable to contend that the House of Commons does not represent the country because some of its members—a majority of its members—do not share the opinions of some of the electors, or because a number of the members were elected by a percentage of votes regarded as unsatisfactory. I am a little weary of these objections to the representative character of the parochial church councils. In so far as they do not truly represent the whole of the parishioners, the fault lies with the parishioners who do not take the trouble to exercise their votes. In this case may I remind your Lordships that any resolution of the parochial church council must be confirmed by a special resolution of the parochial church meeting; that is to say, by a meeting of all those who have shown sufficient interest in the life of their parish to have their names enrolled on the electoral roll, and I do not think any others in such a matter as this need be considered. As to the Diocesan Boards of Patronage, I submit that no body could be more representative. The Board consists of ten persons, five clergymen and five laymen, and they are elected on the principle of proportional representation, precisely in order that every section of thought in the diocese should be represented.
§ So, my Lords, I recall you to the main issue which your Lordships have to determine. If you think there is something wrong, some real grievance, if a parish find, very often in the past unknown to itself and over its head, that the patronage of its church—its own spiritual character—had been transferred to persons who were obliged to appoint ministers of a particular type, alien to the traditions and the wishes of the parish, then I think that is a grievance which calls for some remedy. It may be, as I have admitted, that the cases in which 11 the rights proposed to be given by this Measure are used will be few; but, if there be grievances, then, whether the cases be many or few, they are, I submit, entitled to a remedy, and I hope that your Lordships will think that this particular Measure provides some remedy in a reasonable and equitable manner. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Benefices (Purchase of Rights of Patronage) Measure, 1933, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, it is always an unpleasant task to rise in one's place to oppose some plea which has been presented by the most rev. Primate. He holds a position in our affections, in our regard and in our respect that certainly, I for one, speaking I think as one who shares his friendship, would be very reluctant indeed not at once to accede to what he asks. But I rise this afternoon somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly finding myself compelled to present the opposite view to your Lordships, and I am going to ask you not to disfigure the Statute Book by passing this Measure. I can give my reasons very shortly indeed. The most rev. Primate, in a speech which was full of charm and happily expressed, deal with the matter as if he was presenting a Measure to deal with a pressing difficulty and grievance prospectively, as if something had occurred which now required to be put right. It is quite true that in his observations towards the end he told your Lordships that this Measure was retrospective. I will deal with that factor in a moment. Only this afternoon and until it was related by the most rev. Primate, I had not the faintest idea of what the genesis of this Measure was. I knew that a great friend of mine, Sir Thomas Inskip, had opposed the Measure in the House of Commons, and he had spoken to me about it, but I had not any idea of what the genesis of the Measure was. It does not, however, take a lawyer very long to see that the Measure is conceived and focussed upon some specific incident that has already happened. That is made clear. I think the most rev. Primate admitted that the probability is that the The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.
12 Measure would not often be put into operation.
We are now told that what has happened is that some 227 or 250, or it may be more advowsons have changed hands since the date to which this Measure goes back, July 1, 1924, and apparently have been passed over, some to one trust and some to another, and it is because these advowsons have changed hands in the course of that nine years that this Measure has been introduced. It is therefore to deal with, and is focussed upon, what is considered to be a particular disadvantageous practice. Now, if I remember rightly—and here I may be corrected—I think there are altogether something like 12,000 or 13,000 parishes which would come within the ambit of this Measure, and we have to deal, therefore, from the point of view of this Measure, with the transfer of the patronage in a very small percentage of the advowsons that can be brought within it. What does the Measure do? It is supposed to be passed in the interests of the parishioners, but what have the parishioners in it except this, to provide the money with which to buy the advowson, and when they have bought the advowson hand it over to a Board of Patronage? Having provided the money, they have nothing else whatever to do.
The Measure is retrospective. I suppose it is a cardinal principle, not often broken, that all legislation should be prospective. I think in this House that has been observed and preserved constantly, and a very strong case has got to be made to alter what has already been done. Suppose this Measure had been introduced by, let us say, some member of the Party with which Lord Parmoor acts. Suppose that Party had introduced a Measure to rip open the past for nine years, and to break up and to alter what had been done in the course of that period. Do you think as many lawn sleeves would have been here to support a Measure coming from those Benches? Surely not. The truth is this, that it is to overcome the purchases or gifts which have taken place in the course of the last nine years. Why gifts? Supposing the advowson has been given to one body or to another body, why should you rip open that transaction? In the case of many gifts, by a process of law to which I need not advert, those who 13 have been the donors have taken care to protect the advowson from the possibility of being sold again. Yet now, at the instance apparently of the parishioners, the ultimate destination to which these advowsons have passed is to be altered by this retrospective legislation; and, for a particular purpose, focussed upon particular incidents which some party in the Church dislikes, this Measure is now presented to your Lordships.
It is a remarkable fact that His Majesty's right of Patronage vested in or exercised by His Majesty does not come within this Measure. Why not? It might well be that in the exercise of the rights of patronage that duty might fall into the hands of a person holding one set of views or another set of views, and it might be very important that the rights of parishioners should be safeguarded, but those who were responsible for this Measure have not found it possible to secure the adhesion of the Crown to the Measure at all. I have dealt with the question of the gifts, and there have been these purchases. I can understand the most rev. Primate presenting this Measure with a view to the future and saying: "We have found that in the course of nine years all that we thought was effective has proved ineffective; we must take further safeguards; we must deal with the future"; but if he will allow me to say so he has not indicated any serious reason why your Lordships should go back on the unwritten law—which is often more cogent than the written law, for there are some things that a man cannot do—and make this Measure retrospective.
To say that this is passed in the interests of parishioners is to my mind to misrepresent the whole Measure. We have been told—the most rev. Primate opened his speech by saying so—that the bargaining and sale of these advowsons is distasteful to us all, but we are now to go back and to have a bargain and sale of an advowson at the instance of the parishioners themselves. Apparently the sale of an advowson is all right for certain purposes, if it goes in a certain direction, but it is not right if it is used for another purpose. Shortly put, this Measure is one which offends the ordinary canons which are applied to a Measure in this House. It will not be largely used—it is not very important from that point of view—but I think it is 14 a Measure which will stand on the Statute Book as a monument of ill-conceived and, I will say, prejudiced legislation. It is unfortunate that it should have the authority of the Church and still more that it should have the authority of an assembly of Christian people. For these reasons I hope that your Lordships will not pass this Measure and I hope that some will be prepared to go into the Lobby against it.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I only intervene because it so happens that I have some personal and actual knowledge of the way some such things have taken place as those against which the Measure is directed. My noble and learned friend Lord Hanworth has said that there are only 250 cases which will come within the purview of the Measure. I am told that he is mistaken, and that it is upwards of a thousand, but I do not attach a great deal of importance to that because in my view whether the number is great or small cases similar to one which I shall be able to explain to your Lordships ought not to be allowed to occur.
My noble and learned friend rested a great deal of his argument on the thesis that this is a retrospective Measure. I have a little difficulty in understanding that argument. If you are going forcibly to buy any property it may be said that that is a retrospective measure. Of course it is. You are going to buy something which up to that time belonged to somebody else. In that sense every Bill which provides for compulsory purchase is retrospective, since it is proposed compulsorily to purchase property which up to that time belonged to somebody else. It is only in that sense that this is a retrospective measure. It is only retrospective because it is proposed compulsorily to purchase these particular advowsons in the circumstances indicated. I cannot see myself that that has anything to do with the ordinary meaning of retrospective legislation, which I understand to mean penalising somebody who had done something which was lawful up to that time, penalising him after the event. There is no question here of penalising anybody at all. The only question is whether certain transactions, which I think everybody in this House will agree ought not to have occurred, should be liable to be set aside by the parish involved in the transference.
15 There was one observation used by my noble and learned friend with which I should not altogether disagree. He said a strong case should be shown for the Measure. A strong case should be shown for any change in the law, and I agree that the promoters of this Measure must be able to show a strong case. I should have thought that the broad case put forward by the most rev. Primate was a strong case, and I should have thought that that condition would have been justified. But there was another observation of my noble and learned friend with which I entirely disagree. He said that this Measure was not really passed in the interest of the parishioners. It quite clearly is passed in the interest of the parishioners. It can only be set in motion by the parishioners and it cannot be set in motion unless they are prepared to put their hands into their pockets to find the necessary money. To say that it is not passed in the interest of the parishioners seems to me to be an abuse of language.
What my noble and learned friend really thinks is that there is not any serious grievance. That is the real point. Let me just tell the story of a parish of which I know every detail because I happen to live in the parish. It is a parish of a very rural character and it has a very beautiful little modern church, built some time ago by the late patron. From the time of the church being built the clergymen who have been appointed were of the type of what would be called moderate High Churchmen. It is not in any respect a ritualistic church. There has never been any extravagance of any sort or kind in it. The services have been perfectly moderate services which I think would not offend any member of your Lordships' House. I have known the parish more than thirty years. When I was there first there was a clergyman of that type, who was succeeded by another clergyman of the same type and by a third clergyman of the same type. Then, the patron having died, his son came of age—a young man who lived in the parish but as far as I know took very little special interest in the services of the church. He woke up one morning and decided, without communicating with anybody at all, without giving any single person in the parish the slightest opportunity of objecting, to sell this advowson to a party trust, Viscount Cecil of Chelwood.
16 committed to services of a character entirely different from the services which had hitherto been performed in the church. That occurred and nobody could object. Nobody could make the slightest resistance. The incumbent felt it very bitterly. I was not surprised at that. He was in bad health, but he hoped that something would happen to put the thing right—I do not know exactly what he hoped for—and he held on. But he was not able to take the services. He had to get first one man and then another to do the work.
It was most unsatisfactory and ultimately, after a year or two, he felt it impossible to go on and he did resign. The trust appointed a clergyman selected apparently only because he belonged to the school of thought which the trust was formed to advocate. He turned out to be of a most unsatisfactory character. He lasted in the parish for a few months—I forget the exact number—and then he was forced to resign because incidents occurred which I will not describe to your Lordships. Can anything be more shocking than a state of things of that kind? Can there be anything more outrageous than that a group of men who have merely the right conferred upon them by money should come down into a parish and buy up, without the knowledge of a single person in the parish and against the whole traditions of the parish, an advowson in order to force on that parish a minister entirely different from the class which hitherto existed there? It does seem to me a gross piece of spiritual oppression. I do not think that is too strong an expression. I am not sure whether this particular case will be dealt with by this Measure because it is so moderately framed and I am not sure that it extends to, the date at which these transactions occurred, but the illustration is perfect in my judgment and what has happened in this particular parish may have happened—I dare say it has—in other parishes.
If there were only one case in the whole country of this kind I think it would be right to accept a Measure put forward by the Church authorities in order to set right a gross injustice. There is no question of injury to pecuniary interests, which will be left in precisely the same position as if the advowson had not been purchased. The 17 only thing to be taken away is the right to force on a parish a type of clergyman which they have no reason to believe is satisfactory to that parish. I do not think it is possible to say that that is an improper thing to do. The precautions in the Measure are, it seems to me, ample to avoid any kind of injustice to those who have purchased these advowsons, and I cannot conceive on what ground your Lordships can exercise your right to veto the authorities of the Church who overwhelmingly desire this reform to be carried out. It appears that this is a case in which certain gentlemen—I am not referring to my noble friend—have been entirely misled by regarding this matter entirely as one of property. Technically, no doubt, an advowson is property, but I am sure that everyone in this House admits that it has not to be treated merely as such; it is a trust exercised by the patron for the benefit of the parishioners and can only be justified on that ground. It should be made clear that that trust is not to be exercised merely for forcing upon the parishioners a particular type of religious teaching. I do not think that those who are engaged in this rather doubtful practice are entitled to consideration, and I hope your Lordships will accept the Measure.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, the indignation of a country parish has been voiced by the noble Viscount and I should like to say something about what we feel in London. I woke up—I was going to say—to the enormity of what has been going on, quite suddenly. The whole of London experienced a shiver of surprise and horror at hearing that the famous living of Hampstead, with its three attendant livings, had been suddenly sold behind the backs of its parishioners. That was the first thing. Then I heard that the living of Whit-church was about to be treated in the same way, but fortunately in this case I was in time. A generous layman said: "I think we ought to save this living from this Protestant Trust." Because it is not against the Simeon Trust we are talking at all; there is the Church of England Patronage Trust (the Rev. Percy Warrington) which has bought nearly 290 livings in the last ten years. When I found that Whitchurch was going, this generous layman raised £900 and 18 did not hand it over to the party to which he belonged, but to the See of London—which I thought was broadminded. Then I heard that Brondesbury was to go. I said: "Do you want to be handed over to a trust"? So far from wanting to be handed over, they were horrified and raised £500, and we just saved that in time.
These things made me look around. I found that this was going on all over England and that, behind the backs of parishioners, there were these efforts by an extreme Protestant Trust with its narrow-minded teaching about the Bible and matters of ritual. If any of your Lordships ask why we object I think the burning words of the noble Viscount who has just sat clown expresses what we feel. We feel that this is using the power of the purse to do what you cannot do by persuasion. A genial member of your Lordships' House who was a Mahomedan often had a sparring match with me, and if he were to persuade me to be a Mahomedan—which would certainly be made a feature in the evening newspapers—no one could object; but if he bought me over to his way of thinking we ought both to be turned out of your Lordships' House. How this money was obtained I do not know, but we object to this imposition of doctrines, which are rebelled against by the parishioners, through the power of the purse. I do not know whether all your Lordships realise what an enormous treasure the Church is to these people. Your Lordships have many interests, but often to these people their church is their only interest. These parishes are to-day miserable in their church life because they expect that when theréregimeof the present vicar is over some one will be imposed upon them. It seems to me that your Lordships might well take the view that this surreptitious way of proceeding is absolutely un-English.
With regard to the objections to the Measure, the retrospective objection has really nothing in it at all. We are commemorating this year what Wilberforce did in getting rid of slavery; that was retrospective. The same may be said of what Lord Shaftesbury did; and, at any rate, as Lord Hugh Cecil said in another place, here is a present grievance which is very keenly felt. It is also objected that this is a party Measure. Well, 19 Islington is the Mecca of Evangelicals. When the last vicar was appointed I received and welcomed him. If some Anglo-Catholic Trust had got hold of the living I should have been as indignant as I am about those who got hold of Hampstead. This is not a party Measure in that sense. The Anglo-Catholics are not allowed to buy livings. Occasionally one may be bought and given to them, but they are not allowed to buy. The most rev. Primate dealt with the objection that already grievances are removed by other Measures: that is not so.
I am prepared to pay a tribute to the way in which your Lordships exercise your private patronage. I have had thirty-two years experience of it. Private patrons in London have been most considerate and have generally consulted me. I am not in the least complaining about private patronage; the whole complaint lies in the misuse of party patronage. Then I might be asked why I did not vote for the Motion to abolish all sales of livings. May I put to your Lordships this illustration? If 200 horses were stolen from 200 stables, and then a Motion was passed that all those stables should be immediately shut, you would at once say: "No, let us first try and get a few horses back. What is the use of shutting the stable after the horse has been stolen." Realising how poor some of these parishes are, I am afraid very few of them will be able to get the money with which to buy back their freedom, but let us at least give an opportunity of gaining their freedom to the few who may be able to find the money. Surely, it is too late in the day to say that British subjects cannot come to the House of Lords and claim freedom because they are only a few. I have no desire to say anything against these trusts. They are controlled by men whose honesty and goodness are not questioned, but I am reminded of a somewhat cynical phrase used by a predecessor of mine, that—It is the province of the wise to correct the mistakes of the good.I ask the House of Lords to be wise men to-day.
§ LORD WARRINGTON OF CLYFFE
My Lords, but for the invitation of the most rev. Primate I should not have ventured to occupy any of your time by intervening in this discussion, but I think The Lord Bishop of London.
20 in the circumstances I am under a moral obligation so to do. I approach this question not as a partisan of either party in the Church, or as an advocate of any particular view. I approach it as one who by training and experience is accustomed to look on both sides of the question, and to see what can be said for each. I will deal with the issue. The issue before the House is, first, whether the interests of the parishioners in the case supposed are so important, and are so unfairly dealt with, that it is in the public interest that that grievance should be removed, and secondly, assuming that some action ought to be taken to remove it, whether sufficiently effective steps are taken to compensate materially those whose rights may be interfered with.
As to the suggestion that the Measure has a retrospective operation, I answer that of course it has. No Measure or Act of Parliament which deprives people of property already acquired and transfers it to somebody else, can be otherwise than retrospective; but Parliament has been accustomed to exercise its power of retrospective legislation in that sense wherever the public interests justify it. If some material advantage were to be gained by the public—a new railway or a new road or canal—would this House hesitate for a moment to put in force its retrospective power? Of course, taking due precaution for proper compensation in the case of pecuniary loss. I venture to say that if this matter is looked at dispassionately the grievance of the parishioners is such a serious one that Parliament is justified in interfering to remove it. The parishioners have no direct mode of influencing the way in which private patronage may be exercised. They may be, and in cases in which this Measure may be put into operation they will be, attached to some particular form of service, or some particular form of doctrine, generally in accordance with the views of one of the parties in the Church. They may find that the patronage has become vested in an individual or in a party trust which has pledged all its exercise in favour of one or other of the two parties. What are they to do? At present they can do nothing whatever. This Measure proposes to give to them the means of removing that grievance. It provides for that in two ways, and provides two classes of safeguard. In the first place, 21 that they shall show themselves sufficiently in earnest to be ready to provide the necessary compensation; and, secondly, by assuring that they are really earnest in their desire by making it necessary that the resolution of the comparatively small body called the parochial church council shall be confirmed by the much larger body, called specially for the purpose, of all those whose names appear on the electoral roll.
If those two bodies desire to put the Measure into operation, then I think it has been sufficiently shown that the grievance is one which ought to be, if possible, removed. If the Measure is looked at, it will be seen that the most meticulous care has been taken by those who framed it to see that the utmost justice is done in the way in which the compensation is to be ascertained. Nobody, I think, will raise any objection to the details of the Measure in that respect. If that is so, then I think that the issue which I have suggested to your Lordships is one which ought to be answered in favour of the passing of this Measure. There is one other matter which I think I ought to refer to, because some stress was laid upon it by my noble friend Lord Hanworth; and that is that the transfer which is to take place is not to be to the parishioners themselves. I venture to say that that is one of the great merits of the Measure—that the advowson is not to be transferred to the parishioners themselves but to a body established by Parliament, and so chosen as to be likely to exercise in the most impartial manner possible and with all necessary wisdom the private patronage which will be transferred to it. I think that is a positive merit in the Measure. I hope your Lordships will by your vote say that you decide on the issue which I have put to the House in the sense which I have suggested.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, I had not intended to say any word upon this Measure, but after the speech which has been delivered by the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London, I feel impelled to do so. I am not ashamed to stand up in your Lordships' House and to say that I am a Protestant. I do not know whether the right rev. Prelate would consider me a fanatic. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, but I hope 22 that I take a broad view on these matters. I am not prepared to defend the purchase of advowsons behind the backs of the parishioners, nor am I prepared to go into the legal question as to whether this is retrospective legislation or not. All I want to do is to point out the way in which we are going. This is one further step in putting the whole of patronage into the hands of the Episcopate. Last year your Lordships passed a Measure under which Diocesan Patronage Boards were set up. On the face of it it appeared to put a very large amount of control into the hands of the laity, and there appeared to be a majority of laymen on those Boards. But if your Lordships had examined that Measure further—unfortunately I was not in the country at the time—you would have found that there are officially there the Bishop of the diocese and the archdeacon of that part of the area, making a majority of ecclesiastical members on those Boards of Patronage.
What are you doing this evening? You are saying that when a parish chooses to raise the money to buy a living back it can only do one thing. It can only hand it over to that Diocesan Board of Patronage, and the door opens one way and one way only. There is no possibility of a, parish buying back that patronage from the Diocesan Board and placing it elsewhere. I have no doubt I shall be told that, of course, every Bishop does his utmost to put the man he considers most suitable into an incumbency. I am sorry to say that is not the view of the Church universally. I know of a case—I am obviously not going to mention names—where a Low Churchman told me that his parish benefice had been bought by a certain trust, I gather in the same line of view as his parishioners. He was told by his Bishop that, in view of that having happened, he would certainly not move him from that parish, as he had no intention whatever of the trust having the chance to nominate a successor until the last moment possible. And the general feeling among those of Low Church mind is that there are many dioceses in which, once the Diocesan Board gets the nomination, that nomination will no longer be as Protestant or as Low Church as it has been.
What is a parish to do? In the particular case in which I have been for- 23 tunately concerned at this moment, I have been trying to find a successor in a parish. The first thing I did was to consult the Bishop of the diocese. I knew that he would give me good advice. But I am not prepared to do so in every case, and I know that there are others who take my view. What are they to do? They may say that the views of the parish are in accordance with either the High or the Low Church view that unfortunately prevails to-day in the Church. Supposing those parishioners were to say: "There is going to be, or there has been, a change of Bishops. His views are not the same as his predecessor's were; we should like to ensure that the succession in the parish is the same as it has been in the past. We should like to purchase back the patronage from the Diocesan Board and lodge it in the hands of such-and-such a society." It cannot be done. Under this Measure, once a living becomes the property of the Board of Patronage there it remains for ever; and I submit to your Lordships that to allow a door to open one way and one way only is not a very wise thing to do.
These are days when democracy demands very full rights. Are we quite wise to put more and more power into the hands of individuals?—individuals whom we respect, Bishops who are not appointed by the democracy, who are not appointed even by Church Courts, and who may have views very different from the views of those in the district. Is it wise that they should bring into their hands more and more power to appoint incumbents to parishes, and perhaps to impose a view of religious duties somewhat different from those which have prevailed before? I submit to your Lordships that this is a Measure, though perhaps not a very large one, which goes one step further in putting more power into the hands of the Bishops, and that it is neither in the interest of the Church nor of the nation that we should go far in that direction.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate. In the remarks which I ask your Lordships to allow me to address to you I am not speaking as Lord Chancellor, I am not speaking as a member of the Government, I am only giving you my personal opinion as a member of the House for what it is Earl Stanhope. 24 worth. Let me say at once that I do not propose to go into the large question of Church patronage here. This is only a very limited Measure. When the question of Church patronage arises in this House I hope I shall be here in order to tell your Lordships my view of the matter. But this, as I have said, is a limited Measure. A great historian and philosopher once said that you cannot argue from the character of a corporation to the character of the individuals who compose it, and, oddly enough, the late Mr. Lecky, who was the author of that sentiment, said that this applied above all to ecclesiastical corporations. With regard to these party trusts I have not a word to say against the individuals who compose them. I will make bold to tell your Lordships that the individuals who compose them are in my view just as anxious to do the best thing for England—which is the most important matter—just as anxious to do the best thing for the national Church as I am, and I dare say most of them are far better men.
But we are not for the moment considering the question of individuals, we are considering the question of party trusts. Personally I regret that there should be party trusts in the Church. They may be all very well in the State, but they lead to unfortunate divisions in the Church. Supposing any one of your Lordships were in this position, that you had in your jurisdiction some 600 livings, and that you had from time to time to appoint twenty, thirty, or forty incumbents in the course of a year. What would you do? Now I know what any one of your Lordships would do. You would first of all make inquiries as to the character of the parish. You would ask the churchwardens:What have been the services ordinarily held during the late incumbency—(a) on Sundays? (b) on weekdays?You would ask:
"How frequent and at what hours are the Celebrations of Holy Communion?
Is there a choir?
Has a curate been employed, and, if so, for what reason?"
You would ask what was the population.
You would also ask as to theChurchmanship, and Ceremonial, namely, use of incense, ornate or linen vestments, altar lights, coloured stoles, 25 mixed chalice and wafer bread, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, auricular confession, evening Communion service.And when you had addressed these articles of inquiry to the churchwardens, and you had received the answers from the parish, what would you do? There is not a single man whom I have the honour of addressing who would not do his best to find the best man for that parish apart from anybody.
Is it to be thought that there is a single man in this House who, having ascertained whether a parish was a High Church parish or what is called a central parish or a Low Church parish, would appoint a High Churchman to a Low Church parish? Is there a single one of your Lordships who would appoint a Low Churchman to a High Church? I do not care who you are, whether you are members of the Church of England, whether you are Nonconformists, or whether you belong to the great Jewish race, every one of you could be trusted to do the right thing. Is it so with the party trust? What are they obliged to do? My Lords, let me repeat that remark of Mr. Lecky, that you cannot argue from the character of a corporation to the character of the individuals who compose it. It is because we have had unfortunate examples that we want to get some slight remedy, to make a better state of things. I suppose that nearly every one of your Lordships this morning read inThe Timesthat case of a parish in Truro diocese where
§ the Bishop went down yesterday to try to compose the differences. My Lords, one of the saddest things in England is an empty church or an empty chapel. Very often it is because the wrong man has been appointed there that you have an empty church or you have an empty chapel.
§ This is a small Measure to ask your Lordships to pass. I am only arguing the principle of it. I am not arguing against the men who compose these party trusts. Retrospective? Why, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, showed, every time you take land for a railway line it is retrospective action. This is no more retrospective than hundreds and hundreds of other cases. Robbery? Why, compensation is to be paid. Some day we may argue here the question of Patronage Boards, but I do ask your Lordships to pass this small Measure to remedy what may be a crying injustice in many parishes, and which, if you do not pass it, may lead to the churches of those parishes being emptied. I never sail under false colours, I hope. I am a High Churchman, and I should regret to see any High Church trust entrusted with appointing incumbents to a parish. I object to these trusts because once you get a party trust you have the power of the party whip, and that is the difficulty you are being asked to remedy.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 65; Not-Contents, 21.27
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Bridgeman, V.||Daryngton, L.|
|Burnham, V.||de Clifford, L.|
|Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Cecil of Chelwood, V.||De Ramsey, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Dynevor, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Esher, V.||Ebbisham, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Ernle, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Goschen, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donough-more.)||Gladstone of Hawarden, L.|
|Bath, M.||Heneage, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Mersey, V.||Hutchison of Montrose, L.|
|Ullswater, V.||Irwin, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward.)||Mamhead, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Ely, L.Bp.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Cranbrook, E.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Merrivale, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Leicester, L. Bp.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Grey, E. [Teller.]||London, L. Bp.||Moyne, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Oxford, L. Bp.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Lucan, E.||Rochester, L. Bp.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||St. Albans, L. Bp.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Stanmore, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Aberdare, L.||Stratheona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Addington, L.|
|Selborne, E. [Teller.]||Arnold, L.||Warrington of Clyffe, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Bayford, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Boston, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Hailsham, V.||Gisborough, L.|
|Hanworth, L. [Teller.]|
|Macclesfield, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Morton, E.||Brabourne, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Carson, L.||Marks, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Danesfort, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Dickinson, L.||Templemore, L. [Teller.]|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.