[MR. TURTON in the Chair.]
(1) Every measure passed by the Church Assembly shall be submitted by the Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee, together with such comments and explanations as the Legislative Committee may deem it expedient or be directed by the Church Assembly to add.
(2) The Ecclesiastical Committee shall thereupon consider the measure so submitted to it, and may, at any time during such consideration, either of its own motion or at the request of the Legislative Committee, invite the Legislative Committee to a conference to discuss the provisions thereof, and thereupon a conference of the two committees shall be held accordingly.
(3) After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to His Majesty stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects.
(4) The Ecclesiastical Committee shall communicate its report in draft to the Legislative Committee, but shall not present it to His Majesty until the Legislative Committee signify its desire that it should be so presented.
(5) At any time before the presentation of the report to His Majesty the Legislative Committee may, either on its own motion or by direction of the Church Assembly, withdraw a measure from further consideration by the Ecclesiastical Committee; but the Legislative Committee shall have no power to vary a measure of the Church Assembly either before or after conference with the Eclesiastical Committee.
(6) A measure passed in accordance with this Act may relate to any matter concerning the Church of England, and may extend to the amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament, including this Act.669
Sir HOWELL DAVIES: I beg to move, in Sub-section (3) to leave out the words "His Majesty" ["thereon to His Majesty"] and to insert instead thereof the word "Parliament". I think this Amendment is really one that is contingent upon what was carried yesterday.
Viscount WOLMER: This Amendment, and the two others immediately following it, are consequential Amendments on what was agreed to yesterday. A good deal of exception was taken in another place and outside Parliament to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council reporting to His Majesty and not to Parliament. The only reason why the Bill was so drafted was the technical one that the Privy Council cannot report to anyone except His Majesty, but now that we have eliminated the Privy Council, it is obviously more convenient that the report should be made to Parliament. Therefore, the first three Amendments on the Order Paper are merely drafting Amendments. The same Amendment occurs later on the Paper on Clause 4, but there a point of substance is raised, and I think my hon. Friends will see that the alteration there is not necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendments made: In Subsection (4) leave out the words "His Majesty" and insert instead thereof the word "Parliament".
In Sub-section (5) leave out the words "His Majesty" and insert instead thereof the word "Parliament".—[Sir H. Davies.]
Major BARNES: I beg to move, in Subsection (6) after the word "matter" to insert the word "exclusively". I am anxious at the outset to remove, if possible, any little prejudice that might perhaps be imported into the consideration of the Amendment by the Act that it is moved by myself and supported by my hon. Friend (Mr. Broad), who took a leading part on the Second Reading in moving the rejection of the Billl I am comparatively new to the House, but I believe sometimes the course is pursued, if one fails on Second Reading to get what one wants, to attempt to get it in Committee by moving Amendments which will defeat the object of the Bill. I hope the Committee will accept my assurance that there is no such view in my mind or that of my hon. Friend. So far as 670 the Bill is concerned, our opposition to it is over. We took the view of the House; we got it; and we accept it. We are quite prepared to admit that this Bill, as it stands now, undoubtedly has the sympathy of the House, and if it has not the active sympathy of the country, at least there is no real opposition in the country to it. We accept entirely that position, and it is not our desire to move any Amendments that would in any kind of way defeat the decision to which the House has come. We have only this one Amendment on the Paper, which we think is a point of substance. Whatever view the Committee takes of it, it is some-thing which ought in the interests of the Bill, and in the interests of the House, to receive full and careful consideration. We believe that it does express the intention of those who promoted the Bill, and we believe it does express the intention of the House in accepting it. So far as I understand the Bill, the object of it is to secure self-government—I think that is the popular phrase used—for the Church; in other words, to enable the Church to manage its own affairs, and it is that presentation of the Bill which has secured the sympathy of the House and country. What does this Bill do? It is an extraordinarily interesting constitutional step that has been taken, and, so far as the form is concerned, one with which I am not at all out of sympathy. For the first time, I believe, in this country, we are establishing, side by side with Parliament, another body with very considerable powers with reference to the initiation of legislation—not full powers but subject to Parliament, and, after what was done yesterday, subject to very considerable Parliamentary control. I should like to say that my whole attitude towards this Bill has been very considerably modified and affected by the way in which yesterday the Amendments of my hon. Friends were accepted and dealt with. The promoters of this Bill have given every evidence that they are desirous of doing nothing which should appear to be more than they are entitled to do. That is what the Bill does. It is establishing a body in this country which is going to have very considerable powers in initiating legislation and in carrying it forward to a very considerable degree. The effect of the Bill is that Parliament is going to hand over to this body the consideration of a considerable group of questions which, up to the present, has been within the purview and under the control of Parliament. This is an age in 671 which devolution is in the air, and in which it is contemplated to set up a good many legislative bodies. It is perfectly clear that, in taking that course, one of the most vital things to bear in mind is a definition of the kind of matters which are being transferred or delegated by the supreme body to the one which it is setting up. So far as I understand, the intention of this Bill is to secure that matters concerning the Church of England should be dealt with by the National Assembly. The Bill as it stands would completely fulfil its object if there were only two groups of questions which could arise, that is to say, questions which, on the one hand, concern the Church of England, and questions which, on the other hand, do not concern the Church of England. If the thing were as simple as that, if there were just those two groups of questions, then there would be no need for the Amendments to be put down, and no need for the consideration which we are bound to give to them this morning. But the thing is not as simple as that. In addition to those two classes of questions, there is a third group of questions, and probably a very considerable group, which does concern the Church of England and also has a wider concern, and concerns those of us in the country who are not in the Church of England. I am not going to give any particular application to this point. I want to deal with the matter more on the lines of abstract constitutional principles. What we have to consider is whether we intend in this Bill, not only to give the National Assembly the power to deal with matters affecting the Church of England only, but also power to deal with questions which affect the whole country, because they also affect members of the Church of England as members of the Church of England. That is the real point we have to decide, because there are very important questions which perhaps will affect the Church of England and also those who are not in communion with that body. I cannot think that it was intended by the promoters of the Bill to secure powers to deal with that group of questions. If I am mistaken in that, it would be a good thing to get their intentions expressed more clearly. I may be wrong on this point—I was certainly wrong in the view I took on Second Reading, so far as the House was concerned—but I do not think that it was the intention of the House to give power to the National Assembly to deal with this wide group of 672 questions. There are good reasons why this power should not be given. What is expected to happen is that while Parliament is not precluded from dealing with matters concerning the Church of England, yet matters exclusively affecting the Church of England would not be likely to be raised in an Act of Parliament. It would be felt that those matters should be left to the National Assembly to raise. I cannot conceive that Parliament would agree that the National Assembly should have exclusive power to raise questions which have a wider application than their effect upon the Church of England. If that follows, we should have certain classes of questions which might be raised, on the one hand, in the National Assembly and, on the other hand, in Parliament. I cannot believe that that is a position in which it would be in the interests of the National Assembly for them to be put. If that were the position, we might get a clash between the National Assembly and Parliament, and do the very thing which the promoters of the Bill want to avoid—that is, arouse conflict and friction which would be detrimental to the National Assembly. I do not think that this Amendment can affect what I have always understood to be the real driving force behind this Bill—it would not affect questions of doctrine or discipline. As far as the spiritual freedom of the Church is concerned, this Amendment would not limit it in any way.
Viscount WOLMER: I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for the way in which he has presented this Amendment. I am afraid that he has not appreciated the complexity of this question. If it were as simple as he supposes, there would not be any need for this Bill at all. If we could divide Church reform measures into categories of those which exclusively concern the Church of England and those which do not then we should not be coming to Parliament to ask for this elaborate machinery for scrutiny by Parliament of matters which exclusively concern the Church of England. We should then go out-and-out for the same liberty that the Church of Scotland have. Let us consider what Church reforms could be carried if this Amendment were inserted. Take the case of advowsons, the whole question of patronage, which, in my humble opinion, is in very urgent need of reform. It is impossible to say that patronage is a matter that exclusively concerns the Church of England. From the Middle Ages it has boon ruled that it is a matter of property 673 and common law. It is common knowledge that the gift of livings is possessed by individuals who have no connection with the Church of England at all. This Amendment would cut out all possibility of carrying any patronage reform under the procedure of the Enabling Bill. Take another matter which concerns intimately the details of Church administration:—the creation of a new diocese. Perhaps the hon. Member would say that that is a matter which exclusively concerns the Church of England, but if you create a new diocese you create a new Bishop and that Bishop will one day, in rotation, sit in the House of Lords. Therefore that affects Parliament itself. So it is with every branch of Church administration. You find that it is interwoven with the affairs of the State and the rights of citizens who are not members of the Church of England are touched on in practically every measure. For that reason we have always been anxious, and we have shown in this Committee that we are anxious, to make Parliamentary control a reality. We admit to the full the necessity of Parliament being able to scrutinise, examine and form an opinion on all proposals submitted to it by the Church Assembly. Our attitude is this: Make that measure of scrutiny, examination and decision adequate, but do not fetter the Church by vague words of this sort, which will prove of infinite complexity in years to come. For that reason the promoters of this Bill could not accept the Amendment.
Sir R. ADKINS: I devoutly hope that the Committee, even under the momentary emotional pressure from my noble Friend, will not divide at this point, because this is the most convenient Amendment on which to discuss what, as has been accurately said both by my hon. Friend (Major Barnes) and by my noble Friend, is a very complex question. There is a famous saying of John Selden: "Few things are decided upon the aye or no." When my hon. Friend points out many things which affect the Church of England in a sense but which affect other aspects of national life to a greater degree, that is a very strong argument for some regulating words. I go a long way with my noble Friends in appreciating the extreme difficulty of finding a word or words which will be absolutely fair and equitable in a singularly complex situation, but I do hope that the promoters of the Bill are not going to meet this suggestion or any other suggestion that may be made on these lines merely with a blank non possumus. It is 674 really not in the interest of the Church itself or of the country that you should leave this Clause in the extraordinarily vague way in which it is phrased in the Bill. Are we not absolutely agreed at this stage that those matters which are fundamentally and overwhelmingly Church of England matters should come under the procedure of this Bill, but, on the other hand, that we should be very careful, and Parliament and the country should be very careful, not to use this quite exceptional procedure of this Bill in respect to matters which, though they affect the Church of England, affect as much, or even more, the nation in other respects? In view of possible discussions, which are inevitable and, I hope, reasonable, on following Amendments, which tend to exclude from the purview of this Bill certain Acts of Parliament and certain categories of Acts of Parliament, I hope that I may be allowed to refer to them very briefly, not because one wants to speak twice on them, but as illustrations. We have obviously matters like the Burial Acts or the marriage laws which affect the Church of England very greatly but also affect all His Majesty's subjects as His Majesty's subjects and independently of the religious beliefs and ecclesiastical affinities of His Majesty's subjects. Therefore if you leave this Clause so phrased that any matter concerning the Church of England—and really there are very few matters in one form or other which do not affect the Church of England—may be brought under this exceptional procedure, I submit that it is a burden on my noble and hon. Friends who are responsible for this Bill to provide against all ambiguity or uncertainty in the scope of its application. If this Amendment were rejected and other Amendments were rejected and these words stand as they are in the Bill, you are thereby bringing about a very wide feeling of uncertainty as to what kind of legislation can properly be described as a matter concerning the Church of England, and if you leave one of the most important Clauses of a Bill like this in a position of uncertainty you are facilitating most unwelcome controversies in the future. You are certain to have things, quite honestly and with the best motives, proposed, which appear to other sections of the community not to be covered by these words. You are, in fact, laying out a positive tilt-yard of controversy by the vagueness and wideness of the words in the Bill. I hope I may ask those hon. Members who are most 675 properly anxious that the Bill should pass in its most useful form to direct their attention to see whether they have any alternative suggestions to make which shall clarify and, in the proper sense of the word, limit the operations of this particular Sub-section. The argument against the word "exclusively," as I understand my noble Friend, is that it may limit too much, say, the question of patronage. Those of us who are familiar with the law know that the law with regard to patronage has been ruled to be common law and not ecclesiastical law in some of its aspects. Obviously, a thing like patronage of the cure of souls is primarily and predominantly a matter concerning the Church. [Hon. Members: "Not exclusively."] I am quite aware of the words I selected, and I selected them on purpose. I am pointing out that there is a class of matter which primarily and predominantly affects the Church of England, and its bearing on other interests than those of the Church is subordinate. That may be used, as, of course, it is by my noble Friend, with his usual dialectical skill, as an argument against the word "exclusively," but in using it as an argument against "exclusively," you are admitting the words "primarily and predominantly," and if you do not like "exclusively," will you suggest other words which correspond to the facts? We want to get matters which are primarily and predominantly Church of England matters within the Bill; at any rate we are not opposing that, but if you have no limiting words, you can say quite truly that other matters, like the marriage laws, for instance, affect the Church of England—and we know the quite genuine acuteness of feeling which arises in connection with certain aspects of the marriage laws—but it would be intolerable that by the short-circuiting of this Bill, and on a purely ecclesiastical and Church of England basis, the marriage laws of the country should be altered. If they are to be altered, let them be altered in full Parliament by the ordinary Parliamentary machinery. If you say "exclusively" is too wide, will you of your courtesy suggest something less wide? Is it not in the interests of the Church and of the country that this special method of Parliamentary procedure should apply only to those things in which the Church of England aspect is really the ruling aspect and should not apply to those matters which may indeed affect the Church, but which are in a wider sense national and universal in their incidence and interest, and in the concern which they awaken? This is not the 676 kind of Committee in which we are going to spend either time or energy, I trust, in fighting for one particular phrase against another. We put this down in order to raise this question: Can you not devise some words, in which we would most willingly cooperate, which would delimit with more precision than the present Bill between those matters which are on the whole and in their essence matters of the Church of England and those which are on the whole and in their essence civil matters that affect the whole of the community?
Lord HUGH CECIL: I think the hon. Member has hardly appreciated the difficulty which has been the theme of his own comment, and, if I may say so, with the less excuse, because he and his friends are constantly adverting in other connections to what is really the kernel of the difficulty. They often tell us that in respect to an Established Church you cannot say that the affairs of the Church are only of concern to the members of the Church, that it is of the very nature of the Establishment that all the citizens of the country are interested in the Church.
Sir R. ADKINS: That is an argument against this Bill.
Lord HUGH CECIL: It is no doubt an argument against the whole principle of the Bill. It has often been pointed out that there is a difficulty in the way of the Bill which no one dreams of denying, and I will explain the method by which we think that difficulty is fairly dealt with. The Establishment is not, of course, a definite act or a precise relation. It is emphatically an intertwining in all sorts of intricate ways between the Church and the nation. Mr. Gladstone, I believe, is credited with the statement that the Disestablishment of the Church of England would raise problems so intricate as to pass the wit of man. It certainly would be a most difficult and intricate matter, because you would have to detach at all those points where the organisation or the life of the Church is in law intertwined with the life and organisation of the nation. How are you to deal with that? Hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "If you provide, as this Bill does, a shorter method of legislation in respect to matters concerning the Church, there is this abuse which might happen, that because the affairs of the Church are intertwined with the affairs of the nation, this shorter way of legislating might 677 be adopted in things which are fairly considered affairs of the nation, and not distinctively affairs of the Church." My hon. Friend's way of dealing with it is to attempt a definition, to attempt to draw a line, and to say, "Things on this side are Church matters, and things on that side are national matters." I am quite confident that that is impossible; that if you took anyone here, say, an expert in ecclesiastical law, he could point out a hundred cases in which that line would become impossible. My hon. Friend suggests words which would be utterly vague. Take the case of the reform of patronage, that is to say, reforming the law regarding the sale of advowsons. Is that a matter primarily and predominantly of interest to the Church, or is it primarily and predominantly a matter of interest to the patron? A Jew patron, perhaps, has a right to a patronage which he has bought himself, and he might very reasonably say that from his point of view the loss of money or the loss of the amenity of nominating to a parish was the primary and predominant thing which interested him in respect to the change of the law. Who could say he was wrong, and, moreover, who is to decide? You would have to set up a tribunal to do that. The framers of the Bill were quite sensible of the theoretic difficulty which has been propounded, but they thought the right way to meet it was to make the safeguard of Parliamentary control sufficiently strong to prevent any abuse. You must trust somebody, and we say you must trust Parliament. We propounded in the original form of the Bill a Privy Council Committee, strong in legal ability, which was, amongst other things, to do this work of pointing out to Parliament if in any respect the rights of the nation were being overstepped. For that reason an Amendment was accepted in the House of Lords in Clause 3, which says: "After considering the measure, the Ecclesiastical Committee shall draft a report thereon to His Majesty, stating the nature and legal effect of the measure and their views as to its expediency, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects." That was precisely intended to meet the case in question. You have a Committee now, not with my approval, which you think you can trust, and you must trust that Committee to point out to Parliament if in any respect the rights of the nation are intruded upon, and then it is for Parliament to reject. In the last resort, of course, you must trust Parliament to be the guardian 678 of the rights of the nation. I think there hangs round the hon. Member's mind, though he disclaims it repeatedly and, no doubt, with perfect sincerity, the thought that somehow or another Parliament will not have the control when the measure comes before it. I say that if you have a Committee which inspects a measure thoroughly, and which has it as its duty to draw attention to all the legal aspects of the matter and to point out if in any degree the rights of the nation are infringed under it, and then you have the majority of the House of Commons formally approving of that measure, then you have complete Parliamentary control. I am always afraid of sliding back from the control of the majority of the House of Commons, which we cheerfully submit to and indeed uphold, to the control of small bodies who want to interfere with what is the will of the State and equally the will of the Church. I do not believe in any of these Amendments which exclude particular things. You cannot do that without spreading the whole of your ground with barbed wire and tripping up Church Reform at every turn. You will have to set up some authority who is to judge, either the ordinary courts or some special tribunal, to determine when these particular exclusions are broken. We want to have the easy passage of uncontroversial reforms, and, as I have often said, although hon. Members seem to continue not to believe it, the vast mass of these reforms are uncontroversial and the few matters which are matters of controversy will be publicly debated in the National Church Assembly, will be of perfect notoriety. There is no more danger of a controversial Church matter slipping through Parliament unnoticed or intruding unawares, as it were, on the rights of Nonconformists than there is of the moon falling out of the sky. It would attract universal remark. Let me entreat hon. Members, not out of apprehensions which are really quite mythical, to try to prevent the efficiency of this measure by putting barbed wire all over our ground so that we shall always be tripping up over some legal exclusion unforeseen by the hon. Members who put down Amendments. We have made the general safeguards against abuse as strong as even the hon. Members wish them to be. The House of Lords had already enormously strengthened them from the original draft of the Bill, and what more can we do to meet hon. Members except sacrifice the efficiency of our plan? That is what I earnestly hope the Committee will never consent to do.679
Mr. BROAD: I think it is well to go back for a moment and consider the pleas that have been advanced with respect to this Bill in order to commend it to Parliament and to the nation. The pleas that have been urged, and the speeches made by the Archbishop in another place and by the hon. Baronet who moved the Second Reading in the House of Commons, and also those of the two noble Lords here yesterday, all referred to measures that distinctively related to the Church of England. They want this Bill because there are certain domestic reforms that do not concern the rest of the country or the general body of citizens, but concern the Church alone. That was the plea urged yesterday about advowsons, and there are other questions. We want to have something in the Bill that clearly defines its scope. This Clause as drafted is very subtle and very vague. The end of it refers to the amendment or repeal in whole or in part of any Act of Parliament. I know it may be said that it only refers to matters concerning the Church of England, but the conjunction "and" comes after that, and there is an interpretation which might easily be given that the very wide powers here conferred on the National Assembly of introducing measures that may amend or annul any Act of Parliament do not simply concern only the Church of England, but also other sections of the community. The noble Lord has referred to the safeguard, but we want to have particular safeguards here, and we want, if possible, to eliminate any possibility of future friction and contention. I was delighted yesterday with the good feeling manifested in this Committee and the result of the Debate. That is most promising for the future of the measures to be introduced in the Church of England in days to come. We want a continuance of that. We are not taking up our position as Free Churchmen but as citizens, and we want to have those ample and proper safeguards which we think should be here inserted. We want the Clause to be made perfectly clear; we are not pressing for the word "exclusively" if that seems too definite, but let it be clearly understood that measures primarily concerning the Church of England will meet our case, but when you have these wide powers and when the noble Lord opposite insists upon a non possumus, and a retention of these wide powers it raises a suspicion in our minds that there are ulterior objects, and that the peace and goodwill we have established will pass away, and large matters will be raised which will cause contention in the nation. 680 We have good feeling here, but if I may judge from the resolutions sent from the great Free Church parties, and from many clergymen and public citizens in this country, there is a very strong feeling in the nation with respect to this Bill. Let us try to allay these suspicions. Let us maintain the good feeling here, and let it go outside, and let us try to enter upon a new era of peace and goodwill. We are all anxious to help the Church to carry on her work efficiently, but at the same time let us have these safeguards that will prevent temptations in days to come. The noble Lord opposite referred to partisanship ten years ago and hinted that ten years hence the same thing might arise. Let us now try to eliminate that which may be the cause of the raising of such controversies in the future. I think this matter would be better dealt with in the next Amendment which refers to Acts of Parliament exclusively or primarily concerning the Church of England. I think that will meet the case, and then we shall feel that we have a safeguard which will prevent our liberties being attacked in days to come.
Major BIRCHALL: The last speaker appealed to us to meet him in the interests of peace. I think we should respond to that, but it should be remembered that this is our Bill, and we can hardly be called upon in the interests of peace to amend our own Bill. Surely it is open to those who oppose this measure to suggest the Amendments they would like made. They, have suggested this Amendment to insert the word "exclusively," and we are discussing that exclusively. [An hon. Member: "Predominantly."] It is hardly true that we are doing so, but we should be doing so, and that word has already been torn to ribbons by the opponents of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Major Barnes) said he did not desire to apply his remarks, and I think he was wise not to do so, because he would have found at once that he had got into difficulties. This is not the first time an effort has been made to define the measures with which an Assembly may deal, and it was found that it could not be done. A draftsman is not omnipotent, and no draftsman has yet been found capable of dealing satisfactorily with such a question as this. It was suggested by the Hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) that the words were ambiguous as they stand, but they are 681 far less ambiguous than the words "primarily and predominantly." What could be more ambiguous than the latter phrase? To say that a National Assembly may deal with all matters concerning the Church of England is far less ambiguous than the words "primarily and predominantly," which would be a boon to the legal profession who would have to interpret them in future. I think it is better to lay down very wide powers, as is done in other Acts of Parliament, and then provide the most perfect safeguard that you can possibly have. Let us compare the province of the Church and the State as two adjoining properties of which the actual boundary is not delimited. Is it wiser to delimit the boundary inch by inch or yard by yard or to say, "We will provide adequate safeguards against trespass and leave the delimitation to the future to decide"? It is more states-menlike to leave the question as it is in the Bill and provide a safeguard. If that safeguard is not sufficient alter it. We have accepted the safeguard suggested by the opponents of the measure, and having accepted it let us leave it to work. If it is not satisfactory, then no amount of delimitation or exclusion will be satisfactory. I submit that, having accepted a safeguard and a satisfactory one, we should leave the Bill as it stands. I have before me a copy of the Bishoprics Act of 1878, because I desire to try to find a case as equal as possible to the present one, and that Act contains more than one section, not by any manner of means slightly connected, but having a strong connection with the State. I appeal to the Committee to accept the Clause as it stands.
Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: I think the difference between us is one more of definition than of abject. I think the movers of the Amendment coincide entirely with the promoters, and we have no opposition. I am sincerely desirous of doing everything to assist, and certainly not to oppose, the Church in seeking the right to govern its own internal affairs. It is from that point of view that I look at this question. If it be a matter of definition rather than object that divides our discussion, then the speeches of the two noble Lords opposite may be claimed in support of an Amendment worded more accurately to attain on behalf of all of us the object in view than the word "exclusively" or the words suggested a little time ago might be. The difficulty is that our Church friends tell us that they simply seek to attain self-government in their own 682 affairs. We say that we are heartily with them in that, but we go further and say that there are questions that you cannot accurately define as strictly Church questions which go beyond the interest, responsibilities and membership of the Church and trench upon the interests and responsibilities of the citizens of the nation. That leads rather to one conclusion: You must give powers under this Bill to deal with the rights and responsibilities of those who are citizens as well as those who are members of the Established Church. You must either give that power to this new authority or you must find some definition that will keep to the object we have in view. Personally I am actuated by the desire to render all the assistance in my power, and I would be quite willing not to support the Amendment if we could find a way, whether by a new Clause or a further Amendment to this Clause, which would have the effect of protecting the rights of parishioners now existing, whether members or non-members of the Church of England, in such matters as charities for local purposes and not solely Church purposes, to the burial laws, the marriage laws, and existing Statutes affecting the rights of others and those who are not members of the Church, and what the definite provisions as to the powers of vestries are to be in the future. I think if we could find common ground in that way we might avoid the difficulty.
Viscount WOLMER: I hope hon. Members will try and think of some suitable form of words, and I can assure them we shall consider them most sympathetically. I have tried to do this myself, and I know how difficult it is. With regard to the form of words now proposed it is impossible to accept them.
Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: That is a discouragement to our attempting it.
Mr. T. LEWIS: I hope hon. Members will realise that this Amendment is brought forward in no spirit of hostility to this Bill. On the other hand, it is designedly framed in order that the passage of this Bill might be expedited. I confess that the way in which the sponsors of the Bill have met us is rather disappointing. After all, is not the sole reason for this Bill the fact, or the alleged fact, that there are crying and immediate and urgent grievances in the Church itself which call for redress? I should imagine that those matters are perfectly well known and capable of precise definition, and so far it ought to 683 be possible to include some phraseology which would embrace those matters, and at the same time exclude those we want to keep outside the Bill altogether. The words of this measure are astonishingly wide. I would invite the attention of the two noble Lords to this point. Could they possibly make the wording of the Bill wider than it is? I do not think any form of words could widen the scope of this Sub-section. We ask if they will give us a form of words which at any rate to some extent will narrow the present ambit of this proposal. The noble Lord the Member for Oxford University remarked that Mr. Gladstone said that the Disestablishment of the Church of England would be a task to pass the wit of man. I refuse to believe that to devise a form of words suitable to this purpose is beyond the wit of the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, who, we all know, is a master of precise English, and I do very sincerely feel that to insert some such form of words here now would prevent endless disputation later on, because, after all, a. very good deal hangs upon this question. Take the words as they stand. I am perfectly sure the noble Lord himself would say, knowing as we do the views he holds on these matters, that there are very few things indeed that are outside the purview of the Church of England. Questions ranging from the League of Nations to Premium Bonds all, in some way or another, impinge upon the functions of the National Church. But if we are to take that very wide view of the functions of the Church, then this Bill is not going to end trouble, but is going to be the beginning of trouble, and I am sure they would serve their own ends best, and promote peace best, if they would help us out of the difficulty we are in. it. is not a difficulty created for any obstructionist purpose. It is one we felt immediately the draft of the Bill came into our hands, and I would very earnestly appeal to the noble Lords to try to devise some form of words which would be acceptable to the Committee as a whole. Yesterday the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University complained, in anticipation, that if we set up some such Committee as we accepted yesterday, the result would be that Members would be placed upon it who would take very little interest in these matters. I hope he will not think me unfair if I retort by saying that we do feel on this side of the Committee that he does not show that amount of interest in our difficulties which we would expect from those who are very anxious to see the smooth passage of this Bill into law. 684 Our whole object is to avoid future controversy. As the Bill stands, there is no limit to the amount of controversy to which this Bill will lead, and if some such form of words, or word, as we have indicated can be put in, as I am sure they can, then that will limit the possible controversy that can arise. It is no use saying that these matters are not controversial. The ideas of the noble Lords about controversy are not the ideas of any others. What they might regard as matters of mathematical certitude would be highly speculative for others, and, therefore, to prevent the seeds of controversy being sown anew in an Act of Parliament, I would earnestly appeal to them to try to help us now, or at a latter stage, in this very difficult and intricate point, our object being to bring about sectarian peace and a retrenchment of those bitter controversies that have been persisted in so long.
Major BARNES: I should be very glad indeed to concede the point raised by my hon. Friend, and to agree to either the word "primarily" or the word "predominantly" or both words in place of this Amendment, but there has been no disposition to meet us on that point, and therefore I am afraid I must take this matter to a Division. Whatever may be the result of that Division, the discussion has served a very useful purpose. It has shown the width of the field in which this Bill will operate. It has been said by the hon. Gentleman opposite, who has credited me with wisdom, if nothing else, that there is hardly a question that could be raised in the National Assembly that would not affect the rights of citizens other than those of the Church of England. It is very' well that we should know what is before us, that matters are going to be raised in the National Assembly which are far outside questions purely concerning the Church of England. The noble Lord the Member for Oxford University made some remarks on this matter which I freely confess almost converted me to his point of view, and as he pointed out the safeguard under Subsection (3) at the moment it seemed to me there was a great deal in it. But really what is the situation that will exist now? He pointed out that the real safeguard we have got is that if measures of this kind are raised and passed in the National Assembly, a Parliamentary Committee will consider them, and consider them in relation to the constitutional rights of all citizens. What a situation is going to be created under that 685 process! It means that measures are going to be debated publicly, with all the elements of controversy that will rise about them, in the National Assembly, and will be passed through the National Assembly, and, when all that is done, will then come before the body which is to decide whether they are measures which should go forward or not. That does not seem to me the kind of situation we want to create. That is going to bring about the sort of thing which I should have thought everyone supporting this Bill would want to avoid, a position which may easily become one of very acute irritation between a powerful body such as the National Assembly—because it will be a powerful body—and this House. I cannot conceive for a moment that that is the kind of situation which to any member of this Committee would appear a desirable one. These words are limiting words, and the noble Lord did raise a real difficulty when he asked, who is going to decide on their interpretation? I quite agree that is a real difficulty. What I would suggest to the noble Lord is this: As he says, someone must decide. This National Assembly, whatever may be our views about it on this side, undoubtedly will have the guidance of some of the ablest minds in this country. It will be under the guidance of the great statesmen of the Church, and, as I said on the Second Reading, and repeat now, there never has been in the history of the country a body of men amongst whom there have been those able to give better advice to the country than the Episcopal Bench. If words of this sort were inserted they might be expected to give advice to the National Church of as competent a character as could come from any quarter. It would be a very much better situation if, before measures were raised in the National Assembly, and went through all the process of discussion and were passed, they could be stayed and prevented, than that, after they became the registered conviction and desire of the National Assembly, they should then come before a Committee of this House and be turned down. That is not a situation, I think, which anyone can view with equanimity.
Sir ROBERT NEWMAN: I do think that it would be a most unfortunate thing if we had a Division at this moment. We want to get this Bill through before Christmas. We want it not only passed through, but with the consent, as far as possible, of all parties. The noble Viscount and the noble Lord who sits behind him, who 686 happen to be more or less in control of this Bill, are, I am quite sure, perfectly anxious to fall in with the suggestion made by the hon. and gallant Member who has proposed this Amendment. The difficulty is to find a definition to meet these two sides of the case. We have no desire, and I am perfectly sure the noble Lord in charge of this Bill has no desire, to encroach upon the legitimate rights of Nonconformists or any other religious body in this country. It would be an absolutely unscrupulous thing if we did. I am inclined to think some of the hon. Members who favour this Amendment have an idea that what is called the Church Party really want to do something beyond the intention of this Bill—that we want to encroach, as it were, upon the liberties and rights of other bodies. The Marriage Laws and various other questions have been mentioned. The suggestion I would venture to make, I hope with no impertinence, is, whether it would not be possible to allow this Clause to stand as it is, and that between now and the Report stage the noble Lords should confer with the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins), if I may make the suggestion, and really see whether some phraseology cannot be chosen to overcome, if possible, some of the great difficulties which the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University sees at the present moment. I agree with the noble Lord in not being able to see a very clear way out of the difficulty, but there are much wiser heads than mine, and I should be sorry if, in the hurry of the moment, when the Bill is going through so amicably, and there is so friendly a spirit, we should run any risk of a Division to-day which would make the further stages of the Bill less easy. Might I suggest this as one who takes some interest in the Church of England? If the noble Lords meet the hon. Member for Middleton, or the mover of the Amendment or anyone else, and could not come to any conclusion as to better phraseology, we should not be any worse off, but if we go to a Division now, and if this Amendment is thrown out, I have not the least doubt it will be raised again on Report, perhaps in a less friendly spirit. We all agree that we do not want to encroach on the legitimate rights of any other body or community in this country, but the difficulty is to find the right phraseology. Between now and the Report stage, with the assistance of ecclesiastical lawyers of the highest standing, it might be possible to get out of the difficulty.
Sir R. ADKINS: To the appeal of my hon. Friend I warmly respond, and I hope 687 it may meet with a general response. May I point out the position we are in? Of course, we are always dialectical about "exclusively" and "predominantly" and so on, and it is amusing and inexpensive, and one was perfectly conscious of all that when one was a party to it being put down, but one wanted to raise the general question as to whether any limiting words could be inserted. If the Committee take the view of the noble Lord, there can be no limiting words, but, from whatever point of view we approach this, hon. Members like my hon. Friend and myself would be extremely thankful if we could arrive at some reasonable words of limitation which would have the effect of this going forward without any Division, and this Clause, at any rate, being an agreed Clause. What occurs to me is this—of course, we are not signing contracts, but only thinking aloud in the hope of saying something which may be helpful—the remaining Amendments on this Clause raise certain very specific matters. There is the very important question on constitutional grounds as to whether this Bill itself is, or is not, modified by what I may respectfully call the short-circuit method under this Bill. That is raised in a specific Amendment. Obviously the arguments for and against that are not the same as those against general limitation or any limitation. There is another Amendment which refers to the Act of Uniformity, the Burials Act and the laws relating to marriage and divorce.
The CHAIRMAN: I would point out that the hon. and learned Member has also handed in a manuscript Amendment.
Sir R. ADKINS: I am very much obliged. I have also handed in an Amendment, which through a misunderstanding is not on the Paper, to exclude from the purview the Royal Prerogative with regard to the appointment to bishoprics and deaneries. Though these are not Nonconformist questions, they are questions in reference to civil rights and what I may call the national constitution of the Church of England as distinguished from its discipline and doctrine, as to which we are not seeking in this Clause to intervene. The suggestions made by the hon. Member for South Leeds (Sir W. Middlebrook) are very important. I understand that the noble Lord gave a friendly negative rather than a hostile negative. He would if he could, but he could not. That is obviously the kind of thing 688 which may be removed by some conference on the subject. Therefore I was wondering if my hon. Friend withdrew his Amendment and we discussed these other Amendments in what remains of this morning and then had an opportunity of discussing the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds we might not arrive at an understanding.
Lord H. CECIL: Let us dispose of one Amendment at a time.
Sir R. ADKINS: What I am suggesting is that this Amendment should be withdrawn at this stage on that understanding, because I do think the fewer Divisions we have the better, and it would have a very considerable effect upon the character of the Report stage. That is the last ditch in which persons who feel obliged to fight a Bill can fight, and if it has taught us nothing else, the war has taught us a great deal about the fortification of ditches. Therefore perhaps the Committee would allow us to withdraw this Amendment now, on the understanding that we discuss the other matters now, and that between now and next Wednesday the matters raised by my hon. Friends which are very important may be discussed.
Viscount WOLMER: I am ready to meet my hon. Friends in any discussion of a friendly character on these matters. I have done so before and am ready to do so again.
Major BARNES: On that understanding I do not take it any further. I am very anxious not to introduce any element of discord and I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sir R. ADKINS: I beg to move, in Subsection (6), after the word "England," to insert the words "other than the Royal Prerogative in respect to the appointment to bishoprics and deaneries." This is a matter in which one school of thought in the Church is even more interested than perhaps Nonconformists. The point is not who is interested in it, but any alteration in the appointment of bishops and deans in the Church of England would, of course, have a very far-reaching effect upon the position and administration of the Church of England as a National Church, 689 and what is suggested in this Amendment is that it is not right or desirable that a great organic change of this kind, which certainly affects the Church, but affects it very much on the national side, should be dealt with under the procedure of this Bill. I hope that it will not be understood that those of us who make suggestions of this kind are in any way trying to interfere or forecast the future. All we say is that where you have a very special form of Parliamentary procedure with, you are told in infinite repetition, the maintenance of Parliamentary control—which has no meaning unless it is dealt with by Parliamentary discussion and a detailed Parliamentary examination of the Bill—that method ought not to apply to a thing of that extreme constitutional importance. It would lead to more controversy and not less. I am quite aware that anything affecting the Royal Prerogative can only be dealt with by Parliament on receipt of a Royal Message that His Majesty is willing. My point is that, even if that is done, that does not in any way minimise the grave constitutional consequence of such proposals. Proposals of such grave constitutional consequence ought to be discussed in the ordinary way in Parliament and not be discussed by this truncated method.
Viscount WOLMER: My hon. Friend will forgive me if I speak very plainly on this Amendment, because I feel very warmly about it indeed. This Amendment is not meant to be, but it amounts to what we used to call a wrecking Amendment, for the reason that it implies distrust of the whole Bill. If you do not believe that your National Assembly is thoroughly representative of the Church of England and is competent to approach Parliament, then it was your duty to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. My hon. Friend did not do that. He was good enough to give us his support. If you do not believe that the Parliamentary safeguards set up are adequate, then strengthen them; or If you believe that the whole system is bad, then oppose the Bill. But to say that on subjects intimately concerning the Church of England as such the Church of England is not to be allowed to deal with them under this Bill cuts at the very root of the whole Bill. I am not aware that any proposal in regard to this particular question is likely to be brought forward in the near future. That is not the point. The point is that the Church of England should have the right to approach Parliament in regard to Crown patronage of bishops.690
Sir R. ADKINS: In this particular way.
Viscount WOLMER: If this is not a suitable way to discuss this question, then it is not a suitable way to discuss any question. This is a test question as to whether you believe that the plan put up in this Bill is a really honest plan or merely a camouflaged plan. That is why I feel so strongly about this point. One word about the machinery provided by this Bill. My hon. Friend talks, and continually talks, as if we were trying to get Church reforms through under this Bill by some truncated method, what be calls a short cut—something to minimise Parliamentary control. I absolutely deny that this Bill does anything of the sort. My Parliamentary experience is not nearly so long as that of my hon. Friend, but it is quite long enough to know how Ecclesiastical Bills are passed when they are passed in an ordinary Parliament. I have taken part in proceedings under which one Bishopric Bill and seven Nonconformist Chapel Bills were passed through their Second Reading at three in the morning. Then all the Members who had put down notices of rejection of those Bills were absent, and had not the slightest idea that they were coming on. At seven o'clock in the evening of the same day those Bills went through Committee and Report and Third Reading. They went to the House of Lords next day. The House of Lords suspended all Standing Orders, and the Bills went through all stages in the House of Lords in a quarter of an hour. That is how eight Ecclesiastical Bills were passed on the 3rd August, 1913, and I had a considerable part in doing it. It was a thoroughly discreditable proceeding which convinced me of the necessity of this Bill. There is no Parliamentary control or anything like it. It is the inevitable result of years and years of congestion. The situation became so intolerable that men on both sides said, "Let us cut the Gordian knot and get these measures through some way or other." That sort of thing is absolutely impossible under the procedure of this Bill. Everything receives the most careful discussion. It has to pass all three Houses of the Church Assembly. First the Church Assembly sits in public and all the proceedings are reported in the Press. People write to the "Times" for and against, and then it goes through a wide sifting of public discussion before it ever reaches Parliament. Then it goes before this Committee which we set up yesterday in order to meet and reas- 691 sure my hon. Friends opposite. I do not think that it is as good a Committee as the other one, but if we can do anything to increase their confidence in the Bill without destroying the value of the Bill we have always been anxious to do so. So everything which comes from the Church Assembly will be most minutely scrutinised before it is presented to Parliament. Then it is presented to both Houses of Parliament, and the Committee is of course specially directed in Sub-section (3) of this Clause to point out how any proposal affects Nonconformists and people who do not belong to the Church of England. Then it requires a positive vote from both Houses of Parliament. If you are going to start excluding this, that, or the other from that procedure, then you can only justify those exclusions by contending that the procedure is inadequate and wrong. For that reason I cannot accept this Amendment or the other Amendments which my hon. Friends have put down. Either our Parliamentary machinery is safe, honest, above-board and adequate, or else it is not. If you believe that it is not and you think that it is incapable of improvement, then it is your duty to vote against the Bill. But to pick up subjects on which my hon. Friends may have a particularly strong view, and as to which they would like to say that the Church is not to approach Parliament it is not reasonable. Suppose that my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman) were to put down an Amendment to say a proposal concerning the Athanasian Creed, which was proposed by the Church Assembly to Parliament, or that the prerogatives of Bishops must not be interfered with by any Bill passed under this procedure, there is no end to the number of subjects you could raise for the exclusion of anything on which any particular person happens to have particularly strong views. Therefore I earnestly appeal to hon. Members opposite not to press Amendments of this sort.
Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: There is justification to be found for the Amendment in the fact that the duties of the Bishops are not exclusively ecclesiastical. The simple fact that they have many of them to sit in the House of Lords, that they there vote upon every question coming before Parliament, supports the view of the Amendment. However, personally, I feel that it is not a subject upon which there is exceptionally strong ground for supporting the Amendment. I believe it is justified, and other 692 reasons than that which I have given might be given for it, but we have all been proclaiming our spirit of conciliation and our desire to show the sincerity of that spirit, and from that point of view only, whilst not abandoning the grounds of argument in support of it, I would appeal to the mover of the Amendment whether he would not agree that on our side we shall not pursue the matter further.
Sir R. ADKINS: I have not a word of complaint or even of criticism of the temperature of my noble Friend's speech or phraseology. I conceived it to be my duty to raise this, because I know it is a matter which, quite apart from any friends with whom I am working in this matter is almost certain to be raised on Report, so I thought it in the public interest that it should be raised here. It has elicited from my noble Friend a statement which is of great value. I admit this is a matter which does affect the Church predominantly, and therefore is on a quite different footing from the other Amendments, which I regret the noble Viscount has decided to oppose before hearing the arguments for them. I wish to avoid Divisions if possible, and therefore I would ask leave to withdraw this Amendment, although I cannot bind anyone, not even myself, on the Report stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Major BARNES: I beg to move, in Subsection (6), after the word "Parliament," to insert the words "concerning the Church of England". If this be opposed, I shall be very interested to hear the grounds upon which opposition is offered.
Viscount WOLMER: I think I can show my hon. Friend that this is not going to get him very much farther, for who is to decide whether the Act of Parliament does concern the Church or not? There are thousands of Acts of Parliament that touch on Church subjects and are on the border line. I will give my hon. Friend one example that was brought to my notice a few months ago, and that is the Government of India Act. The Church of India cannot authorise any service for catechumens, or missionary services, officially, because they are not found in the Book of Common Prayer. That is provided for in the Government of India Act, and the Synod of the Church 693 of India are anxious to promote a Bill in Parliament enabling them to modify the Book of Common Prayer where it is not suitable for mission services. That is surely a matter which vitally concerns the Church of England and which the Church ought to have a right to make a formal representation to Parliament about. It is a purely spiritual question. In any ordinary condition of affairs it would be quite impossible to find the time to get an ordinary Bill through dealing with such a matter. There are a great many matters of that sort, and if you put in the words "concerning the Church of England" they either mean nothing or they mean something. If they mean nothing, it is no good putting them in, and if they mean something, then they are really rows of barbed wire, as my noble Friend would call them. They will only give you trouble in future years. We cannot limit the power of Parliament. Under this scheme it is not the Church Assembly that makes laws, but Parliament, and therefore Parliament has the right to amend or repeal any Act of Parliament, and to try to limit the authority of Parliament is an impossibility.
Major BARNES: My great desire is to accommodate myself in any kind of way to the views of the noble Viscount. I have conceived such an admiration for the way in which he has conducted all the proceedings that have led up to the introduction of this Bill, and such a respect for him after the sound drubbing I got in the House on the Second Reading, that I would like to agree with him on every point I could, but I find it a little difficult to do it here, because if one introduces new limiting words into this Clause he objects, and if one introduces the words that he has already brought in, he still objects. The words I ask to put in are already in the Clause after the word "matter", and I want them put in after the word "Parliament" as well, and it seems to me that the same difficulty that he has suggested applies to the one as to the other. If it is difficult to decide as to what Act of Parliament concerns the Church of England, the same difficulty must also arise in deciding what matter concerns the Church of England. I do not know whether this Clause has been drafted in the same way as some of the Clauses in Government Bills are drafted. We were told the other day in the House of Commons by, I think, the President of the Board of Trade, that he did not know how a certain Clause got into a Bill, but that the 694 draftsman had put it in. That is what may have happened here, although I think that is hardly in consonance with the way in which the Bill has been carried on. I do not think the noble Viscount has put up a valid objection to the introduction of these words, and I would suggest to him that I think his opposition to them tends to give a little colour to the feeling that he is rather uncompromising. Here are words which cannot be said to import any other considerations into the Clause than those which are already in and which, I think, as far as the operation would go, would be simply to carry out the meaning of the Clause as it stands.
Sir R. ADKINS: May I support the Amendment? The phrasing of the Clause is a little unusual. It relates to any matter concerning the Church of England and may extend to the amendment or repeal of any Act of Parliament. I can well imagine one authority saying that is governed by the original phrase "concerning the Church of England," and another authority saying it is not, because of the words "and may extend." I fully accept the point that the Church of England is concerned in many things which are not primarily ecclesiastical, but if you put it in here either it is surplusage, which I think my noble Friends consider it is, or it is, what we attach importance to, pointing out that it can only amend or repeal an Act of Parliament which concerns the Church of England. There are obviously crowds of Acts which have no more to do with the Church than with Chinese musical instruments. As a practitioner in the law courts, I think a tribunal of any kind would rather welcome the repetition of the words as making the meaning perfectly clear, and I therefore hope the Amendment will be accepted.
Lord H. CECIL: I think I can convince my hon. Friend that this would be a mistake even from his own point of view. If the measure does relate to a matter concerning the Church of England, the Act of Parliament that it amends or repeals must also relate to a matter concerning the Church of England. Then evidently the Act of Parliament would be an Act of Parliament concerning the Church of England, otherwise the thing could not happen at all. It is always dangerous, as my noble Friend has pointed out, to put in a phrase which means nothing, because foolish people think you must moan something, and there is a 695 meaning which I am sure my hon. Friend does not wish it to bear. My noble Friend gave the illustration of the Government of India Act. That is an Act which everybody might say was non-ecclesiastical, and if these words were put in, some people would say you must mean something by putting in the words in that connection, and therefore they must relate, say, to the Act of Uniformity.
Sir R. ADKINS: I do not agree with your analysis.
Major BARNES: I will not press the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sir R. ADKINS: I beg to move, in Subsection (6), to leave out the word "including" and to insert instead thereof the word "excluding." This point is on a different footing, and I hope the Committee will be able to give full consideration to it. It is as to whether this Bill itself ought to be altered by this special procedure. I earnestly ask the promoters of the Bill to consider whether they cannot accept the Amendment. This is a matter of very great importance. You, bring in for a special purpose an entirely novel method of Parliamentary procedure. Is it right that that novel method should itself be further modified by such novel method? It is surely right that this Bill, when it becomes law, as it will, should have a perfectly fair trial, but if it is sought still further to alter Parliamentary procedure in an unusual and up to this time a unique way, it is surely fair that that alteration should be done by the regular and normal Parliamentary procedure. I think I am violating no confidence if I say that I understand that some of my noble and hon. Friends feel slightly differently with regard to the two parts of the Bill, as it were, with regard to the recitals in the Preamble and the references in the first Clause to what is called, for convenience' sake, the constitution of the Church Assembly, and so on, and I think the things are in some respects on a different footing. What I am primarily concerned with is that the unique Parliamentary machinery under this Bill should not be liable to alteration under this machinery. If you are going to alter it, if you are going to have any other change, supposing you were going to have no Committee of both Houses, for instance, supposing the Amend- 696 ment of my noble Friend on dividing things were desired to be altered in the future. Surely it is fair that that should be done in the regular course of Parliamentary procedure. This is not intended to hinder or obstruct, but it is in accord with the spirit of our Constitution, and I ask the noble Lords opposite to see whether they can to some degree meet what I am moving. I ask that this point should be carefully considered, because it is quite different from excluding particular measures or given definitions. It is a matter of Parliamentary procedure. Many hon. Members have experienced a great deal of heartburning, which was not confined to any section of opinion, as to altering time-honoured Parliamentary procedure either hurriedly or gradually. It is obvious that this Bill is going to pass as regards its machinery substantially in its present form, and I think that we should lay down that that machinery ought not to be altered except by the full process of Parliament in the same way as the Bill itself was originally passed.
Viscount WOLMER: The hon. Member for Newcastle (Major Barnes) said that I was showing myself a little bit uncompromising, but I can assure him that that is the very reverse of my attitude. Furthermore, I do not think he really ought to say that after what happened yesterday, when we cordially agreed, although with some misgivings, to the whole of Clause 2 being turned inside out to meet the views of hon. Members opposite. We are willing to do that every time if we feel that the future usefulness of the Bill is not going to be ruined thereby. The hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) has introduced this Amendment, and he spoke of it as if it were a clear constitutional principle and a simple matter. This Amendment, which he says is so simple and reasonable, really presents the most formidable difficulties. The Amendment is to leave out the word "including" and to insert the word "excluding." If this Amendment were passed nothing in this Bill could be touched under the procedure of the Enabling Bill itself. If hon. Members will look at Clause 1, Subsection (1), they will find these words: (1) "The National Assembly of the Church of England (herein-after called 'the Church Assembly') means the Assembly constituted in accordance with the constitution set forth in the Appendix to the Addresses presented to His Majesty by the 697 Convocations of Canterbury and York on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen." Therefore if this Amendment were carried the Church Assembly would not have the right to approach Parliament in regard to the alteration of a single item in its own constitution. The Church Assembly has no right to approach Parliament in any other way. That is one of our great difficulties. Church legislation under ordinary circumstances can only be introduced on the initiation of a private Member, and as matters now stand the Church Assembly has no power to amend its own constitution. That constitution is a very long and complicated matter, and it is riveted to the Bill by the Sub-section I have read. If the Church Assembly wanted to alter its constitution in any item it would have to come to Parliament and ask for the consent of Parliament to a modification of that constitution. Surely my hon. Friend opposite will agree that that at any rate is a matter in regard to which the Church Assembly ought to be able to come to the House of Commons. They may say, for instance, "We have found that our rules for convening a parochial Church meeting or for the holding of diocesan conferences are very inconvenient in a certain respect and we must have the constitution amended in this, that, or another way." It is not reasonable to say that a proposal of that sort must pass through all the stages of an ordinary Act of Parliament. If you could select a matter which does almost exclusively concern the Church of England it would be such a matter as that. This Amendment, as it is drafted, would make it impossible for us to do some of the things that may be very necessary and to which there can be no reasonable objection. Therefore I could not possibly agree to the Amendment in this form. My hon. Friend says there is a distinction between the Parliamentary part of the Bill and the constitution of the Church Assembly. I think there is a distinction, but I would remind my hon. Friend, whose great point is that an organic measure of this sort should not be changed under its own procedure, that the last organic measure passed by Parliament, which commands his approval, namely, the Parliament Act, was so specially framed that it can be altered under its own procedure.
Sir R. ADKINS: That was absolutely necessary to its possible working, but it is not so here.698
Viscount WOLMER: That depends what view you take of the Parliament Act. I remember pressing very hard that the Parliament Act should not be amended by the Parliament Act itself, and the Government resisted my proposal, and I think my hon. Friend (Sir R. Adkins) voted with the Government; therefore he is not entitled to claim this as a sacrosanct constitution.
Sir R. ADKINS: I am entitled to claim your sympathy in preventing a previous violation being repeated.
Viscount WOLMER: I will not go into that, but it seems to me to be a case of "evil communications corrupting good mariners." If the hon. Member can bring up his proposal in a different form, I will certainly consider from that point of view. I cannot say any more than that, because I have tried very hard to draft some of these Amendments to meet my hon. Friends, and I have found it impossible to disentangle some of the difficulties.
The CHAIRMAN: I think the Committee will now agree that it will be convenient for us to adjourn.
Lord H. CECIL: May we not proceed to the end of Clause 3?
Sir R. ADKINS: I have a great deal to say on this Clause. If between now and next Wednesday we can find a form of words to which we can agree, let us try to do so, and then, without any lengthy Debate, we may be able to dispose of this Amendment. I am not trying to prolong the discussion of the Bill unduly. The same remark also applies to the matters raised by the hon. Member for South Leeds (Sir W. Middle- 699 brook), as to which my noble Friend indicated that they were worth consideration. If we are allowed to stop at this stage—I think I can speak also for my hon. Friends—it will not be used to indulge in any prolonged discussion upon anything connected with this Clause next Wednesday. I might say that, if necessary, in the interests of the Bill, my hon. Friends and myself would not mind sitting on Wednesday afternoon, but I do earnestly ask that we may be allowed, between now and next Wednesday to consider what arises on the last line of this Clause.
Lord H. CECIL: If my hon. Friend attaches importance to this matter I do not want to press him. I do not accuse him of obstructing the Bill. If my hon. Friend can find words that will confine his proposal to the Bill, he might be doing a thing which would be very convenient. The only two things that could possibly be affected are the procedure itself before the House and the procedure before the Committee, and they are only matters of detail and do not arouse any vehement controversy. I am afraid you would only be stereotyping a particular mechanism, because the Government would not be able to give time for the Bill.
Viscount WOLMER: I believe we have passed Clause 3 as far as the word "Parliament" in Sub-section (6).
The CHAIRMAN: Yes; that is so. The Question I shall put is, "That the word 'including' stand part of the Clause." I take it there is an understanding that the Committee stage of the Bill will be concluded on Thursday, if possible.
Committee adjourned at One of the Clock until Wednesday, November 26th, at Eleven o'clock.700
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Turton, Mr. (Chairman)
Adkins, Sir Ryland
Beauchamp, Sir Edward
Cecil, Mr. Evelyn
Cecil, Lord Hugh
Coats, Sir Stuart
Coote, Captain Colin
Davies, Sir William Howell
Edwards, Major John
Green, Mr. Joseph
Hanson, Sir Charles
Hunter, General Sir Archibald
Law, Mr. Alfred
Lewis, Mr. T. A.
Middlebrook, Sir William
Newman, Sir Robert
Randles, Sir John
Richardson, Mr. Robert
Smith, Mr. W.
Walsh, Mr. Stephen