702 STANDING COMMITTEE E Wednesday, 26th November, 1919

[MR. TURTON in the Chair.]

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND (POWERS) BILL [LORDS].
[OFFICIAL REPORT.] CLAUSE 3.
—Measures passed by Church Assembly to be submitted to Ecclesiastical 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.

Debate resumed on Amendment [25th November]: In Sub-section (6) to leave out the word "including" and to insert instead thereof the word "excluding."—[Sir S. Adkins.]

Question again proposed, "That the word 'including' stand part of the Clause."

Sir R. ADKINS: I hope that this particular part of the matter may considerably be shortened. With that object I would ask leave while speaking technically to these words to refer to the next Amendment standing in my name which was drafted to meet the wishes of hon. Friends opposite, who said that they thought the constitution was an internal matter which should be subject to modification by this short Parliamentary procedure. To meet that view we have put down an Amendment to leave out the words "including this Act" and to insert instead thereof the words "not including this Act but including the constitution referred to in Section 1, subsection (1) of this Act." The effect of that would be that the constitution could be modified under the procedure of this Bill, but the Parliamentary procedure itself could not. The constitution in this sense may very well be argued to include not merely the constitution referred to in Clause 1 but certain matters in Clause 3 which refer to the Legislative Committee, in other words the internal 703 machinery. If there are any other words which my noble Friend would suggest to safeguard that and yet carry out what is the object of this Amendment, to reserve to Parliament the full procedure of the alteration of unusual procedure of this Bill, we should be anxious to hear such words. I invite you, Sir, to allow one of my hon. Friends opposite to give any alternative words which they may be prepared to suggest.

The CHAIRMAN: The Committee will agree that it is convenient that the whole matter should be discussed now.

Viscount WOLMER: I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. When I was dealing with his previous Amendment I admitted that there was a distinction between the constitution of the Church Assembly, and matters of ecclesiastical reform which might be held to be entirely within the proper sphere of the representations which the Church Assembly will be entitled under this Bill to make to Parliament, and the Parliamentary procedure itself. Hon. Members opposite have expressed a very earnest desire that the Parliamentary procedure of this enabling Bill should not be alterable by the same procedure. I had said in reply to that that there was ample precedent for us asking that such should be the case, but I also said and I repeat that when those Churchmen who are anxious to get through Church Reform brought forward this Bill we never contemplated in our wildest dreams that the Bill should be used for the purpose of altering Parliamentary procedure. If hon. Gentlemen opposite think that there is any danger of the Church Assembly, in connivance with the temporary majority of both Houses of Parliament, trying to diminish the safeguard which we have already accepted under this Bill, then I should certainly be anxious to go to the fullest possible extent in agreeing to any words that they might be assured on that point. My hon. Friend since our last meeting has put down an alternative Amendment in which he seeks to include the constitution referred to in Clause 1 as one of the subjects on which the Church Assembly could approach Parliament. I have consulted the best Parliamentary draftsman I could interview on the subject, and he is definitely of opinion that that would not be the best way of effecting the object which my hon. Friend has in view, because the constitution is not only referred to in Clause 1, but is also referred to in Clause 3, through the Church 704 Assembly and the Legislative Committee, and he has given it as his opinion that the only way in which this provision can be carried out without hampering the Church Assembly in approaching Parliament in regard to the details of its own constitution would be by the insertion of the following words at the end of Clause 3: "Provided that this measure shall not make any alteration in the composition or powers or duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee or in the procedure in Parliament prescribed by Section four of this Act." If these words would satisfy my hon. Friend I should be prepared to agree to their insertion, and to ask the Committee to do the same, but this represents almost the practical limits of concession on our part. We feel that it is a very dangerous thing to encumber the Bill with barbed wire. However carefully provisos are drafted, they sometimes have very inconvenient effects later on. We are anxious in every possible way to avoid any bitterness or hostilities between ourselves and my hon. Friend opposite, not because we doubt that there is a substantial majority in the House for the Enabling Bill as it was originally introduced, but because it seems to us to be a matter of Christian duty that all friction, if possible, should be avoided. Therefore at all times we have been willing to go to the utmost limits we could in order to meet those who feel strongly on some of these points.

Sir R. ADKINS: I am sure that every member of the Committee, whatever be his point of view as to these high and difficult subjects, will appreciate the spirit and temper of my noble Friend's remark. But I would point out that when dealing with other denominations you are not exhausting the aspects of this Bill which have to be borne in mind. Rightly or wrongly the Amendments which some of us have put down have been conceived much more from what we believe to be the point of view of general citizenship and the rights of the public as to the National Church and its procedure than from the point of view of any religious denomination. The difficulty of the Bill, as with all Ecclesiastical Bills, with regard to the National Church, is to harmonize and facilitate the due spiritual working of that institution with the actual safeguarding of the rights of His Majesty's subjects. Therefore I must not be taken as speaking merely for another group of 705 persons who have varying religious opinions but as a citizen from the citizens' point of view in reference to their rights and duties. We are most anxious to meet my hon. Friends opposite as far as we can. Frankly Parliamentary draftsmen differ. The Parliamentary draftsman has not yet been discovered who has had a recognised claim to infallibility. We prefer our Amendment to that. We are not asking for it as barbed wire but as a guarantee that that which is intended to help the Church in its internal working should be limited to the sphere of internal working so far as possible. I should be willing to move the noble Lord's words, instead of the next Amendment in my name, which I understand he and his friends would support.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: At the end of the Clause, add the words "Provided that a measure shall not make any alteration in the composition or powers or duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee or in the procedure in Parliament prescribed by Section four of this Act."—[Sir R. Adkins.]

Sir R. ADKINS: I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to add the words "or in the Burials Acts, or the laws relating to marriage and divorce." I am not including in this Amendment the Act of Uniformity. It is quite obvious that in some particulars it would be necessary, from the point of view of those responsible for the Bill, that the Church Assembly, working under this procedure, should have power to alter parts of that great Act—such matters as affect the services of the Church and some of their routine procedure. On the other hand, the Act of Uniformity is the Act of Parliament which at present regulates those who are in certain senses members of the Church and those who are not, and has drawn lines which have persisted in English life for 250 years. Many of us feel that a great organic Statute like that ought not to be altered in any other way as regards its organic features than by ordinary Parliamentary procedure, and that has been at the back of various Amendments moved last time and now. I hope between now and Report that those responsible for this Bill may be able to devise, or consider sympathetically some words which would not fetter the purely internal work of the Church of England under this procedure, but would at the same time prevent great 706 organic Statutes of this kind from being dealt with in any other than the ordinary Parliamentary way. That has been the object behind the various alternative Amendments which have been moved, not to destroy or even to impair the rights and powers of internal adjustment which were put in the forefront of the Bill, both in public exposition and in the Debate on the Second Reading, but to see that that shall not be carried to a point which affects very important matters—the rights of the King, the rights of Parliament and the rights of matters like the Act of Uniformity in its larger respects. I hope that between now and Report some approximation may be obtained between the two views. The other matters here are on a different footing. It is perfectly true that the Burials Acts incidentally affect Churchmen, but they affect citizens as citizens primarily, and the Marriage Acts affect all citizens. My hon. Friend interpreted this as indicating hostility to the avowed objects of the Bill, but it is to express the conviction which some of us hold very strongly that when you are dealing with subjects which only incidentally affect one section of the public but primarily affect the whole community, those measures should not be dealt with under this special procedure. It is obvious that this class of legislation affects all people, whatever their opinions. It does not affect them because of their special opinions, but affects them as citizens who, sooner or later, have to be buried or cremated, and many of whom exercise their undoubted freedom of choice in getting married. Therefore these problems, which are primarily civic, ought not to be dealt with under this specialised procedure. I hope those who take the opposite view will accept our assurance that it is not to injure the professed objects of the Bill, but it is to say that matters which are overwhelmingly civic in character and are or may be universal in application should be dealt with by ordinary Parliamentary procedure.

Sir E. BEAUCHAMP: I am very glad my hon. Friend is not moving the exclusion of the Act of Uniformity, but I am afraid, notwithstanding that, that we can hardly accept this Amendment. It is a great pity to put in any words excluding any Act of Parliament. Let me come to the actual proposal with regard to the Burials Acts. I find there is a large number of them. They deal with mortuaries, cemeteries and all manner of things. I cannot see what particular reason there can be for excluding these Acts. Certainly 707 they do not affect entirely or exclusively the Church of England. There are very likely certain provisions in these Acts which concern the Church of England, and we under this Bill can only deal with things which concern the Church of England, so that if there are any things in the Burial Acts which concern the Church of England I see no reason whatever why they should be excluded. With regard to marriage and divorce, I do not quite understand what the fears of my hon. Friend are with regard to any alteration in the laws relating to marriage and divorce. I suppose they do not expect that the Church Assembly would bring forward any measure which would render divorce more easy or which would have any effect in destroying the sanctity of the marriage tie. What is it they fear? My hon. Friend gives no reason whatever for not being allowed to deal with the marriage and divorce laws.

Sir R. ADKINS: I wanted to be short I could talk about that for a long time. For instance, with regard to marriages, there are certain officials, clergymen and others, who have responsibility with regard to the celebration of marriages which in certain cases may desire to be altered from the Church point of view, but if you touch the marriage laws it is impossible to touch them in a way which deals only with one particular grievance or without raising the general question. Similarly with regard to the divorce laws, on which very sincere and deep-seated opinions are held as to their modification, our point is that if that is raised at all it ought to be raised in the ordinary way as part of the whole subject and not raised on that part of the subject which is interesting to and specially concerns the Church of England as such.

Sir E. BEAUCHAMP: I understand the point of view with regard to the civic side of the marriage and divorce laws, but I do not quite understand yet what my hon. Friend really anticipates the Church Assembly will do with regard to the marriage and divorce laws. They would not come forward to relax in any way the divorce laws and make divorce more easy.

Mr. PURCHASE: You might make it more difficult, which is bad from the civic point of view.

Viscount WOLMER: I should like to see it more difficult.

Sir R. ADKINS: Then do it in the regular way.

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Sir E. BEAUCHAMP: We certainly should not come forward to destroy in any way the sanctity of the marriage tie. I am afraid my hon. Friends seem to be haunted with some fear that directly this Bill is passed the Church Assembly will shower down upon the House of Commons innumerable measures infringing in some degree, perhaps, the rights of citizenship. That fear is quite chimerical. I do not think they need apprehend anything of that kind. The duty of the Church will be to set its own house in order and then, supposing they did introduce something which was repugnant to Parliament, Parliament has the last word and would not pass the Bill. We have extended the safeguards which are in the Bill in order to meet the views of the Free Churches especially, therefore I think we might be content with the safeguards which are contained in the Bill.

Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS: I am sorry that the hon. Members do not seem inclined to accept the Amendment, because it seems to me that they have not realised the danger which ordinary citizens feel may lurk in the Clause as it stands. Take, for instance, the Burials Acts. There are a great many people connected with the Church of England who would probably wish to pass a law taking away the right which was conceded, after great struggles years ago, to Nonconformists to have their own religious services in the national burial grounds. If such a proposal is to be made, we think it ought to be made in the ordinary way through Parliament, so that everybody should have the opportunity of critising it, whereas the danger of this Bill is that the whole thing might be short-circuited, and that it might be passed some day when there was a Committee of Lords and Commons very strongly of that colour which is inclined to what some think are the Church of England interests. The same thing would apply to the laws of divorce and marriage. There might be a Bill presented to Parliament prohibiting marriage with a deceased wife's sister or prohibiting any divorce, and we know that many Churchmen would like to see divorce altogether abolished. If such proposals are to be made, they ought to be made in the ordinary way through Parliament, and not short-circuited with the chance of their being passed in a hurry under this Bill.

Lord HUGH CECIL: I hope the Committee will not accept this Amendment, for I think it is obvious that you could not prohibit the whole law of marriage, because you might want to alter the wording of the 709 marriage service, for instance—a good many people do—or you might want to alter the Canons of the Church relating to the law of marriage. Similarly, the Burials Acts are a vast code of laws, many of which touch purely ecclesiastical matters like the consecration of a burial ground or something of that kind. Therefore, it would not be possible to exclude great masses of the law from the operation of the Bill. Let me urge upon the hon. Members opposite that the safeguards of the Bill must be trusted. You cannot escape from trusting them. If you are going to assume that, first, the Joint Parliamentary Committee and afterwards the two Houses of Parliament are not to be trusted to safeguard the rights of Free Churchmen or of citizens in respect to Church legislation or to keep the Church Assembly within what are plainly and obviously its proper limits, excluding it from interfering with the ordinary law of divorce for ordinary citizens, or from the law of burial as affecting Non-conformists, then those who hold that view ought to have voted against the Second Reading of the whole Bill. For example, it would be. possible to re-enact the Statute Be hœretico comburendo. It is to be anticipated that such a proposal would attract a great deal of remark while it went through the Church Assembly, and probably would not be unanimously agreed to even there. When it came before the Committee they would comment on it, and ultimately the Houses of Parliament would probably unite for once in dissenting from it. We rely on exactly the same safeguards in respect to an invasion of the rights of Free Churchmen in reference to churchyards. We imagine that such an attempted invasion would. at once excite great attention throughout the country when it was brought before the Church Assembly, and those of us who know the Church are confident that any such proposal would be rejected in the Church Assembly by all three Houses. Even if hon. Members do not believe that, it would be very severely commented on by the Committee, and certainly would be rejected by either one or both Houses of Parliament. You must trust somebody, otherwise you can make no change in the law at all. We propose that you should trust your Committee, which is, let me say, your Committee, and not ours, the Committee you like, and not the Committee we like. You must trust the Houses of Parliament to safeguard the liberty of the subject. For what other purpose does Parliament exist? Therefore we cannot accept this Amendment, which really would hamper the reasonable working of the 710 Bill, merely for fear of dangers which are amply safeguarded against in the procedure of the Bill.

Mr. GREEN: I do not understand the opposition of some of the hon. Members to this Clause. It is not in the least proposed, supposing the Church Assembly could deal with questions relating to marriage or divorce, that it would deal with them so far as they regard members of religious communities other than the Established Church, or people who are merely ordinary citizens and not members of any religious communion at all. Obviously the Church Assembly would only deal with matters of marriage and divorce so far as they relate to members of the Church of England, and I think it a little unreasonable for those who are not members of the Church of England to try to prevent the Church Assembly dealing with these questions except in the ordinary way through Parliament.

Mr. S. WALSH: It seemed to me when we agreed upon the Joint Committee, which, so far as I can understand it, thoroughly safeguards the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects, that there we really had got the pith of the whole thing, but it seems that there is still an idea of danger lurking in the subsequent paragraphs. Remember that in the place of His Majesty we put in Parliament, and Parliament is constantly repeated in the Bill, and we have really safeguarded the Constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects. The appeal is made on the ground of citizenship. Citizenship and Constitutional rights are practically identical terms, and if we have this safeguard what more can be asked? The idea is, first of all, that the Joint Committee will be biassed or wrong in its representations and that Parliament itself will then fall asleep and allow that bias to obtain, and thus, with Parliament asleep and a biassed Committee, all Kinds of possible horrors might arise. There can surely be no justification for such an idea. These can be only excluding terms, limiting the usefulness of this great organisation on matters peculiarly and entirely affecting itself. I say these few words, because I did not wish to give a vote without some reasons for so doing. There is nothing but the greatest goodwill amongst all these Christian denominations. Many of us have, perhaps, lifelong friendships with people in both houses; they are not hostile camps at all. Inasmuch as the constitutional rights of all His Majesty's subjects are safeguarded in the previous paragraph, it seems 711 to me quite unnecessary to accept this Amendment.

Mr. SEDDON: I have listened carefully and patiently, and I want to make a gentle protest against the assumption of the Movers of the Amendment that they are speaking entirely for the Free Churchmen of this country. I claim to have an equal right to speak for them, as they have, and having listened carefully I think they have created a bogey in their own minds, that they are chasing a will-of-the-wisp, and that the supporters of this Bill have gone to very great lengths. I quite agree with the noble Lord that having put Parliament in, there are three checks—the Ecclesiastical Committee that has to be set up, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords—and if we are not able to trust that threefold check we might as well give up discussing the matter altogether. I hope those who are responsible for resisting this Amendment will persist in their attitude, because I am convinced they will have with them the broad-minded Free Churchmen in the country.

Mr. LAW: As a strong supporter of this Bill, and as one who, I hope, approaches it with a liberal mind, I can quite follow my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) in his desire to put every possible safeguard into the Bill, perhaps the more so because I represent a neighbouring constituency to that which he represents, but at the same time I see no necessity for the insertion of this Amendment. It has been said more than once that there will be ample opportunities in Parliament to safeguard the constitutional rights of the people. In this connection may I draw attention to the words of my hon. Friend on the first day of our proceedings in Committee. He then said, according to the Official Report of the proceedings in Committee, in reference to the proposal to substitute a Committee of each House for the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council: "I would very respectfully say to those Members who are chiefly responsible for this Bill that very great importance is attached by many people in the country for whom we are speaking, to this proposal, not in the least because we think if this proposal were embodied it would facilitate any weakening of the objects of the promoters, but because we believe it would combine real facilities for the objects of the Bill with satisfying widespread feeling and doubt. We believe that this is the only way in which the authority of Parliament and the constitutional traditions of our country can be combined with facilitating that swift method of legislation for which 712 there is so much to be said, and which is the object of the procedure laid down in the Bill." Therefore, any proposals relating to burials or marriages, if they were at all seen to be in the least detrimental to the Nonconformist body, would be at once removed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. I think there is ample reason, in the circumstances, for not pressing the Amendment, and if it is taken to a Division, I shall be obliged to resist it.

Sir HOWELL DAVIES: I do not believe for one moment that those who support the Bill and those whom they represent would be at all likely to interfere with any privileges at present enjoyed by citizens, but I think we have a right to call the attention of the Church Assembly to some alterations which might subsequently be made by other Assemblies than the first Assembly established under the Act, subjects which we regard as belonging more largely to citizens than to Churchmen. Therefore, I think we are justified in bringing the matter forward. We have done our duty in calling attention to these facts, and the statements we have made will be a permanent record that we had these fears in our minds, and I think after the expressions of opinion we have made we need hardly carry the matter any further.

Major BARNES: It is very clear that we on this side are voices crying in the wilderness, and we are not likely to make this way straight or what we are desirous of making it, but I do think that something can be said in support of what my hon. and learned Friend has done. Those opposing this Amendment are relying entirely for their arguments upon the safeguards which are in the Bill giving a Committee of Parliament control over measures. It is only just to my hon. and learned Friend to point out that those safeguards would not have been in the Bill at all if it had not been for his action. The Bill, as presented to this Committee, did not contain them, and I am quite sure he cannot regret the action he has taken in introducing them, and I do not think hon. Members opposite regret their action in accepting them. But the fact does remain that, if there are any safeguards in the Bill at the present time, they are due to the course which has been followed by hon. Members on this side. We do seem to be in lather an extraordinary 713 position in this Committee. All the rules seem to be reversed. The Conservatives apparently are on this side, and the revolutionaries are on the other side. What is being done under this Billl, as has already been pointed out, is to set up a body of an entirely new type in this country and to invest them with very considerable powers. Hon. Members in charge of this Bill did realise that those powers required some limitation when they introduce into Sub-section (6) of Clause 3 the words "concerning the Church of England". That was a limitation which they themselves put upon the matters which might be raised in the National Assembly. We endeavoured to widen that, and it was not accepted. Now we are endeavouring in this Amendment to secure that one or two specific matters should be excluded. Apparently our efforts in that direction are not to be successful, but they are efforts we are perfectly entitled to make. I would make this last observation. It must be a matter of congratulation to everybody that the general passage of this Bill has been a very smooth one, and I am quite sure hon. Members opposite who wish this Bill to pass smoothly, and without opposition, will admit that they are under a very considerable obligation, not to myself at all, but to my hon. and learned Friend and his associates, who have done all that they could to secure that this Bill should pass in such a form to meet with general acceptance outside the House. I want to make one observation on that. It has been suggested that there is unreasonable suspicion lurking in the minds of the hon. and learned Gentleman and those associated with him in this Amendment. If in the mind of so reasonable a person as my hon. and learned Friend and in the minds of his associates there is this feeling, I suggest that it is very good ground for believing that that feeling will be found outside this House to a very much larger extent. Without any real sacrifice on the part of the promoters of the Bill, they might have done a great deal to allay that feeling and to insure that the National Assembly should start its work with the almost entire good-will of the country, if they had accepted this Amendment.

Sir W. SEAGER: I should like to add a few words in support of the Amendment. I have the honour and privilege to be associated with a Church having a very close connection with the mother Church, and I should be the last to cripple her or interfere 714 with her free functions. In this Amendment there is some desire to safeguard the rights of those who may not be. in close communion with the Church, and I should like to support the view of my hon. and learned Friend that, with regard to the Burials Acts, nothing should be done in any way to interfere with the desire of the ordinary citizen to be buried in the parish churchyard. It will be agreed that that is highly necessary and important. After the spirit of goodwill which has existed in the Committee between those who brought in the Bill and those who have sought to amend it and make it more useful, I am sure that spirit will continue, and they will find some way of meeting our desire.

Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: I support the Amendment, and I think there are substantial grounds for adhering to it, even to the extent of going to a Division. I am, however, influenced by the desire to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in the Committee if possible, and I would like to call attention to an Amendment which I have lower down on the Paper.

The CHAIRMAN: The hon. Member will have an opportunity of discussing that later.

Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: I am not going to discuss that now, but perhaps you will give me, as a matter of grace, a little latitude for a moment. My Amendment is based very much on the same foundation as the present one, but it affects citizens only in their rights, and does not affect one Church as against another. I would suggest that, if our friends on the other side would be prepared to accept my Amendment, I should be prepared for one, and would try to influence my friends here, to withdraw the Amendment now before the Committee upon the assurance that—not necessarily in the exact words of my Amendment, but to attain the same object—an Amendment should be inserted.

Major BIRCHALL: I hope the Committee will shortly come to a decision. After all, we are discussing, with different applications, the question as to whether this National Assembly is to be given wide general powers, or, as the alternative, whether it is to be given, not wide, but particular powers with reference to particular parts of existing Acts of Parliament. It is a matter of general principle and 715 application rather than a matter of detailed reference to certain Acts of Parliament. As there is a difference of opinion, I would urge the Committee to come to a decision upon the general question. It is quite obvious, from what we have heard this morning, that the Movers of the Amendment are not prepared to support the words of their Amendment referring to certain Acts, because they have already admitted that each of those Acts contains various Sections which relate solely to Church matters. We have an instance in the Amendment just referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite, in which he introduces still further subjects which may or may not deal partly with Church matters and partly with civic matters. Therefore, I would urge the Committee to come to a decision as to which method of procedure they prefer, and abide by that decision.

Mr. BARRAND: I only wish to make an observation with reference to the argument that adequate safeguards exist under the Bill. Every argument used on that point suggests that the safeguards in the Bill would justify the short circuit method of legislation applied to every form of legislation in this country. We know perfectly well that the House of Commons and the country will not stand it.

Sir R. ADKINS: I am very grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Birchall) for the very clear way in which he put the matter. There is this genuine division between us as to whether there should be included everything which in any way touches the Church, or whether there should be specific exclusions. The Amendent referred to by my hon. Friend for South Leeds (Sir W. Middlebrook), although it contains exclusions, does not do so in connection with any particular Act of Parliament. One remark of the hon. Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Green), I thought was very helpful. He Said this was only intended to deal with matters exclusively affecting the Church of England. I think that better words than those in the Bill could be found between now and Report, and, in order to keep the issue open, I propose to go to a Division, not in hostility to the avowed object of the Bill, but so that the matter may be kept open with a view to finding suitable words.

Question put, "That those words be there added.'

The Committee divided: Ayes, 10; Noes, 31.

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Division No. 1.] AYES
Adkins, Sir Ryland Edwards, Major John Seager, Sir William
Barnes, Major Lewis, Mr. T. A. Williams, Mr. Aneurin
Barrand, Mr. Middlebrook, Sir William Yeo, Sir Alfred
Davies, Sir William Howell
NOES
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Grundy, Mr. Oman, Mr.
Bell, Mr. James Hailwood, Mr. Perring, Mr.
Birchall, Major Hennessy, Major Raw, Lieut.-Col.
Brown, Captain Hunter, General Sir Archibald Remer, Mr.
Casey, Mr. Kelley, Major Richardson, Mr. Robert
Cecil, Mr. Evelyn Law, Mr. Alfred Seddon, Mr.
Cecil, Lord Hugh McLaren, Mr. Robert Short, Mr.
Coats, Sir Stuart Moore, Major-Gen. Sir Newton Tootill, Mr.
Farquharson, Major Nall, Major Walsh, Mr. Stephen
Glyn, Major Newman, Sir Robert Wolmer, Viscount
Green, Mr. Joseph

Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: I beg to move, after the words last inserted, to add the words "Notwithstanding anything in this Act no legislation shall be introduced under this Act which shall affect existing rights of parishioners in the parish vestries, or in the election of churchwardens, or in the matter of parish charities." After the discussion we have had, I do not think I need take up much time with this Amendment, beyond saying that it relates almost exclusively to the civic rights of citizens, and is even more important than that which has gone before.

Viscount WOLMER: With great respect to my hon. Friend, I think this is really the same question over again. If the safeguards contained in this Bill are not adequate, then the whole Bill ought to be condemned. If they are adequate, then it would be worse than foolish to exclude these subjects, especially with such vague words, from the scope of matters on which the Church Assembly can make representations to Parliament. Suppose some measure of the Church Assembly were carried which conferred greater powers than exist on the vestry at the present moment. At present the vestry has practically no powers at all. It is nothing but a debating society, and consequently is very slightly attended. If this Amendment be carried we could not improve the status of the vestry. We could not carry out any reform in regard to the election of the churchwardens, which is often a farce. It might be contended that in a particular Bill regarding some parish the rights of parishioners in that parish were affected in connection with some trumpery little Act in regard to some parish charity, of which there has been a considerable number during the last few years, and the Bill might be ruled out of order. It is because you cannot insert wide words of undefined meaning, such as are contained

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in this Amendment, without setting traps for yourself in the future that I desire very earnestly to oppose this Amendment. I do not believe that it would increase by one iota the safeguards which Free Churchmen enjoy under this Bill, and probably it would impede some useful legislation. In this connection the supporters of the Bill have declared publicly that that Bill does not affect the rights of parishioners or vestries. That is perfectly true. It does not affect the rights of parishioners to attend the parish church or to be married or buried or to attend the vestry. All these things will-continue after this Bill passes, just as before, absolutely unimpaired, unless Parliament decrees otherwise. If Parliament decrees otherwise, then that is a matter which involves no change in our present constitution. The only question at issue is whether a subject which affects the rights of parishioners in regard to the vestries is a proper one on which the Church Assembly can make representations to Parliament. On that point I submit that the safeguards of the Bill are more than ample to prevent any injustice being done to any section of the community.

Sir H. DAVIES: My hon. Friends opposite constantly refer to us as Free Churchmen. I am not a party to this discussion as a Free Churchman. I have the greatest sympathy with the Church of England, though I am a Wesleyan Methodist. The only interest which I take in the Bill is the interest of a citizen. I am quite disposed to believe that if the new Assembly made proposals to Parliament which would interfere with the rights of citizens a Bill to amend this Bill would very soon be carried in Parliament. Having put our views before the Committee and got them on record, I should advise my hon. Friends not to press this Amendment. We have made our protest and we shall watch very 718 carefully to see that no rights which we enjoy at present are interfered with. If they are, there will be a very strong agitation in this country that this Bill should be amended.

Sir R. ADKINS: If my hon. Friend goes, as I trust he will, to a Division, I shall vote with him if I were the only man in the Committee to do so, because this rests on an entirely different footing from any of the previous questions. This is not a question of a particular Act of Parliament. This is really implied in the pledges given during the passage of the Bill and in the statement made in public before the Bill was introduced. We were told with great force, and by no one more than the noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) that this Bill did not affect the rights of English citizens, and attention was called to the fact that the rights of all English citizens in vestries and similar parochial matters were unaffected. If that had not been the case the Bill would have had a very different reception in the House of Commons and the Division on the Second Reading would have been very different. If it is really meant that the Bill itself does not affect those rights, but provides a short and convenient method by which they may he affected, then that really, though it is perfectly sincere in its intention, is a very devious method of going to work. What we feel is that the experiment of this Bill, with which we have real sympathy, that the spiritual work of the Church of England should be facilitated by those who are most concerned with it, is one thing, but that the rights of parishioners in the vestry and in the choice of churchwardens, who really represent the whole parish in the National Church, should be affected or be liable to be affected by a special method of Parliamentary procedure is a matter against which we respectfully protest. The impression given to me and many others in this House and outside was that these matters were outside the purview of the Bill altogether. I understood that support was asked for on that ground and that what we were concerned with was the internal working and the working on the religious and spiritual lines, and that view was accepted, but I ask the Committee in regard to this to accept this Amendment. All we say is that if you want to alter the present rights of parishioners in the vestry, in parish charities and in the election of churchwardens, do it in the ordinary way in Parliament by a Bill of the ordinary type. 719 Do it, in other words, in the very way in which this Bill itself has been brought in and is going rapidly through all its stages. I hope that no one will imagine that, because two Amendments running have been moved, one of which went to a Division and was beaten and the other of which will go to a Division, therefore there is the slightest change of attitude in reference to the Bill and its object. This is one specific point to which I attach the greatest importance. I assure the promoters of the Bill that if they would accept this and make it quite clear that the rights of every parishioner are left unaffected, and will not be attempted to be affected by this special procedure, it will greatly strengthen goodwill towards this Bill, and sympathy with the effort to help the spiritual work of the Church of England will be increased if they do not attempt to modify the difficult constitutional position which is embodied in the rights of parishioners.

Lord H. CECIL: It is only right to acknowledge the very conciliatory tone in which the hon. Member has spoken. We do not suppose for a moment that in pressing the points which he thinks conscientiously he is bound to press he is acting in an improper way. He could not do otherwise than act in accordance with what are his sincere convictions, but there is nothing to which the ordinary Church laity, who are anxious for this Bill, look forward with more hope than a reform of the parochial constitution of the Church of England. I am far from saying that it is an easy thing from anyone's point of view to carry out parochial re-organisation and to help the Church laity to a more assured position with respect to religious matters in their parish. An Amendment of this kind would simply shut the door on all that great side of Church Reform. Rights of parishioners and the question of churchwardens are so hound up with all the ordinary ecclesiastical machinery of the Church and with its most spiritual aspects that it would be quite impossible, if this Amendment were adopted, to carry out that great part of Church Reform which is more desired by the laity than any other part of Church Reform at the present moment.

Mr. REMER: May I add, with reference to the special desire which every one of us who wishes for Church Reforms has got, that one of the first things which we do want, without interfering in any way with the civil rights of anyone, is to make some reform in the matter of vestries? The vestries have come down to us almost from the Middle 720 Ages, and are out of date. I remember that in my very young days I attended a vestry meeting. I found that the question arose as to who were entitled to vote. The vicar of the parish, who is now the Bishop of Warrington, went to a great deal of trouble to find out who were entitled to vote, and eventually be found out that the people entitled to vote were those who paid the poor rate. We then proceeded to produce a list of people who were entitled to vote in that particular parish for the election of churchwardens, and they included people of the most extraordinary kind, people who were not at all fitted to vote for the election of churchwardens and to attend the vestry meeting, and others were not on who ought to have been on. Therefore, while I appreciate to the full what our Free Church friends have done for this Bill, I must oppose them on this particular point.

Mr. BARRAND: The argument of the hon. Member who has just spoken is the strongest possible argument in support of this Amendment. He suggested that on examining the list of those who are entitled at present to take part in vestry meetings on certain occasions there are many who are unsuitable for the purpose. It is quite certain therefore that the proposals for reforming the Church which the noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil) is most anxious to carry will have the effect of interfering with the rights of those who are at present entitled to vote, and we who represent, not a particular Church, but our constituents, must oppose anything which will interfere with the existing rights of those people.

Mr. HAILWOOD: The last speaker speaks for the people of England according to his remarks, and he appears to have the idea that, no matter what faith they belong to, they are equally desirous of interfering with some one else's business. It is news to me that they have the right to interfere in the vestries of the Church of England. I do not belong to the Church of England and I am not a Non-conformist and I certainly have no desire to interfere in regard to the spiritual welfare of the Church. But there are some people who seem to think they have a perfect right to interfere with other people's business in this way. It seems to me that if I want beef for my dinner some of these Nonconformist friends of ours think they ought to have the right to order me to have mutton, and I have a strong ob- 721 jection to that. With regard to this Amendment it is quite evident that the people who want to interfere are people who do not profess the faith of the Church of England. We ought to be united here in trying to get a better spiritual life into any Church, no matter what the Church might be, and I am convinced that the members of the Church of England are the best judges as to the way in which it should be run. It behoves the people who are moving these Amendments to be guarded in their remarks, and I think they would be well advised not to press their views in such an extreme manner, because I am convinced that when the measure is passed the Church of England will have a renewed life, and will be the cause of much good, not only for the Church of England but for the nation itself,

Mr. R. McLAREN: I speak as a Scottish member and as a Scottish Presbyterian. This Bill has my hearty support. Anything which will tend to help the spiritual welfare of any Church will always command my respect and support. I am rather at a loss to know, between the two sides, which way I should vote. Someone has said that certain rights exist for parishioners and vestries and churchwardens. I should be the very last to take away from these people the rights they certainly have, but on the other hand, if it is proved that these vestries are of no use but on the contrary are a hindrance to the spiritual well-being of the Church, I should certainly say "get rid of them as soon as you can." We have it from one hon. Member that really the vestries are of very little use, and that people are on them who ought not to be on them, and that people who ought to be on them are not on them. That is very unsatisfactory. At the same time I am alive to the fact that in the election of these people we ought to take great care. It will never do for us to interfere largely with the opinions of people who have as good a right as we have to say what is best for them. I understand that the principal object of the Bill is to remedy some of the scandalous proceedings that take place in connection with advowsons and other things. I have a strong objection to any such thing as selling these things. That is my principal object in supporting the Bill, because once you get rid of these scandals there is a future for the Church of England such as she never had in the days gone past. We all recognise that we ought to support whatever is for the good of the people who acknowledge Almighty God by all the means in our power. I should 722 like to be told what happens in connection with the election of church-wardens, because on that will depend very much how I give my vote. I should like to vote for spiritual freedom for the Church.

Mr. WILLIAMS: I do not claim to speak in the name of Nonconformists. I have no right to do so. It has been assumed by an hon. Member that all those who have spoken here speak in the name of Nonconformists. Another hon. Member said he did not wish to interfere with other people's business. That raises the question whether the Church is the nation's Church. In this Clause parish charities are concerned. No one can say they are exclusively the affair of those who hold a particular form of doctrine. They belong to the whole of the parishioners. We need some such words as these to make sure that the civil rights of parishioners are not interfered with by legislation proposed under this Bill. If those rights are to be interfered with they ought to be interfered with by an Act of Parliament passed in the ordinary way. That is all that we ask. We are most anxious that the Church of England should have complete power to develop its spiritual rights and get rid of internal trouble, but we cannot accept the argument, "Give us power to do just what we like, because we do not intend to do wrong." That is an argument which is perpetually brought before Parliament and which ought always be rejected. I shall vote for the Amendment, and if it is not carried now I hope words will be proposed on the Report stage which will safeguard the rights of the parishioners, while at the same time giving the Church of England full power to deal with parish vestries and parish organisation from the point of view which the noble Lord mentioned. We are all perfectly sympathetic with the desire of the Church to introduce any reforms of that kind, but we claim that there should be safeguards against interference with civil liberties.

Division No. 2.] AYES
Adkins, Sir Ryland Barrand, Mr. Seager, Sir William
Barnes, Major Lewis, Mr. T. A. Williams, Mr. Aneurin
NOES
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Glyn, Major Oman, Mr.
Bell, Mr. James Green, Mr. Joseph Perring, Mr.
Birchall, Major Grundy, Mr. Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel
Brown, Captain Hailwood, Mr. Remer, Mr.
Casey, Mr. Hennessy, Major Seddon, Mr.
Cecil, Mr. Evelyn Hunter, General Sir Archibald Tootill, Mr.
Cecil, Lord Hugh Moore, Major-Gen. Sir Newton Walsh, Mr. Stephen
Coats, Sir Stuart Nall, Major Wheler, Major
Edwards, Major John Newman, Sir Robert Wolmer, Viscount
Farquharson, Major
723

Sir W. MIDDLEBROOK: I am greatly surprised at the attitude taken by the supporters of the Bill in regard to the Amendment. It may be due to the fact that I have not used sufficiently clear language to convey to their minds the idea I had in submitting the Amendment. My sole object is to preserve the rights of citizens in regard to all civil matters dealt with by the vestries. I do not consider that this Amendment would to any extent of importance affect the position of vestries in regard to ecclesiastical matters as distinguished from civil. The one great part of this Bill that I warmly and enthusiastically accept is the position of responsibility and power it is going to give to the laity of the Church. I believe that laymen have authority and power in the Church which I am connected to a very much greater extent than the laity have in the Church of England. I have been impressed by what the noble Lord has said that the effect of this Amendment would be to weaken the position of the laymen, which I should deplore. I adhere fully to my own views as regards the necessity for this Amendment, and statements in the House of Commons and the House of Lords led me to believe that it would have been accepted, though the words might require to be varied, without hesitation by the supporters of the Bill. I am extremely anxious to avoid taking a course which would cause injury. If this goes to a Division I shall not vote, reserving my right to raise the question in other forms and in other words later on, but I hardly feel justified in asking permission to withdraw the Amendment because thereby I should prevent those who feel that it is an occasion when they wish to exercise their votes from doing so.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 6; Noes, 28.

724

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

CLAUSE 4.
—(Procedure on measures reported on by the Ecclesiastical Committee.)

"When the Ecclesiastical Committee shall have reported to His Majesty on any measure submitted by the Legislative Committee, the report, together with the text of such measure, shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament forthwith, if Parliament be then sitting, or, if not, then immediately after the next meeting of Parliament, and thereupon, on an Address from each House of Parliament asking that such measure should be presented to His Majesty, such measure shall be presented to His Majesty, and shall have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto in the same manner as to Acts of Parliament."

Amendment made: Leave out the words "His Majesty" ["shall have reported to His Majesty"], and insert instead thereof the word "Parliament".—[Sir R. Adkins.]

Sir R. ADKINS: I beg to move, after the word "measure" ["asking that such measure"], to insert the words "or a part or parts of it". This is a proposal to articulate rather more carefully what may happen when measures under this Bill come before Parliament. As soon as this was put down the noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) put one down, which I do not accept as doing what my Amendment would do, but which bears on that point and is, I think, a great improvement on the Bill. I understand my noble Friend is prepared to move that, and that he will say that it only refers to the House of Commons, because the House of Lords are masters of their own procedure, but the idea is that in either House of Parliament two distinct subjects should not be yoked together. It would obviously in the end defeat the object of the Church and promote ill-feeling of a very permanent kind if, for instance, in one Bill a proposal for the compulsory use of the Athanasian Creed daily, were linked up with the amalgamation of two or more livings of a total value of a certain sum. I understand that is to meet that point, and while we do not alter the view we have held all along as to the detail power of Parliament being greater than the promoters conceive it should be, I do not propose in the circumstances to press my own Amendment.

Lord H. CECIL: It is certainly my intention to move the Amendment which I have 725 put down on the Paper after consultation with the hon. Member. As far as this House is concerned, we are satisfied with the wording as it now stands. We cannot, of course, bind the other House of Parliament, and as the hon. Members are probably aware the House of Lords is, in all questions resembling this, which is largely a question of order, in a very anomalous state. They have not got a Speaker with authority in such matters, and it would be for that House, therefore, to decide if they want to have this power, and, if so, in what shape, whether they want to entrust it to the House as a whole, or to a Committee, or to the Lord Chancellor. It is for them to decide, and we thought it better, therefore, to leave it in this shape.

Sir R. ADKINS: Without prejudice to anything which might arise on the Report stage, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord. H. CECIL: I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided that if, in respect to a measure laid before the House of Commons, the Speaker of that House shall be of opinion that the measure deals' with two or more-different subjects which might be more properly divided, the Speaker may divide the measure accordingly; and, if any measure be so divided, such part or parts of that measure only as may be specified by addresses from both Houses of Parliament (whether the addresses be identical in both Houses or not) shall be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent." The object is to prevent an evil resembling the evil of tacking on two subjects which are quite distinct, one very controversial and the other quite uncontroversial. I can mention an illustration. If you were dealing with clergy discipline, you might have a Bill dealing in one part of it with the discipline of immoral and drunken clergy, and in another part of it dealing with questions of ritual and heresy, the one part highly controversial and the other part not controversial. It might have quite distinct and unrelated machinery, so that it could be easily divided, and in that case Mr. Speaker would have the power to divide it. It is quite in analogy with Parliamentary procedure.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.

726
PROPOSED CLAUSE 1.
—(Definitions.)

"In this Act—

  • '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 Convocations of Canterbury and York on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and nineteen, and laid before both Houses of Parliament by His Majesty's command;
  • 'The Constitution' means the Constitution of the Church Assembly set forth in the Appendix to the Addresses presented by the Convocations of Canterbury and York to His Majesty as aforesaid;
  • 'The Legislative Committee' means the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution;
  • 'The Ecclesiastical Committee' means the Committee of His Majesty's Privy Council established as provided in section two of this Act;
  • 'Measure' means a legislative measure intended to receive the Royal Assent and to have effect as an Act of Parliament in accordance with the provisions of this Act."
  • Viscount WOLMER: I beg to move, in Sub-section (4), to leave out the words "of His Majesty's Privy Council". This is merely a drafting Amendment. We have altered the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Privy Council into an Ecclesiastical Committee as described in Clause 2, Subsection (2), and therefore I move in the Definition Clause that the Ecclesiastical Committee means "the Committee established as provided in Section two of this Act."

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

    The following proposed new Clause stood on the Papèr in the name of Mr. A. Williams: (Duration of Act).—"This Act shall not continue in force after the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, unless meanwhile the Legislative Committee shall have submitted to the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament a Bill, passed by the Church Assembly, amending the rules for the representation of the laity by omitting the provision which requires an elector to have declared that he is not a member of any religious body which is not in communion with the Church of England."

    The CHAIRMAN: The New Clause in the name of the hon. Member for the Consett 727 division of Durham (Mr. A. Williams) is not in my opinion in order. It is a suspensory Clause, but it is conditional, and it raises, if I may say so, almost by a sidewind, a question which is clearly out of order in any discussion in Committee upon this enabling Bill, namely, the constitution of the Church Assembly. The hon. Member will realise that the Bill does not create the Church Assembly, but only asks Parliament to confer certain powers upon it of initiating legislation in matters which require Parliamentary sanction. Of course, it would be quite in order for the hon. Member to bring up a new Clause purely of a suspensory character that the Act shall not continue in force after the 30th June, 1921, but with regard to the condition which he suggests, that is clearly out of order in any discussion on this Bill. If he can convince me that I am wrong in this ruling, I shall be the first person to accept that I am wrong and to give a different ruling.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: With all respect, if it were merely a sidewind, as you suggest, I should at once admit that your ruling was unimpeachable, and in fact I should not have put it down, but it is a great deal more than that. I told the House on Second Reading that I came down with the full intention of voting for the Second Reading of the Bill and that I was prevented from doing so solely by the fact that it was impossible to discuss the constitution of the Church Assembly. I should not be in order in discussing that now, but I do suggest that there are a great many people in the country in the same position as I am, who desire most earnestly to give the Church of England full power of reforming, but who do not think it right to destroy the national character of the Church. My Amendment amounts to this: I propose to say to the Church of England, "We will give you these powers for a limited period in order that you may, within that period, reconsider the question whether you decide to remain a National Church or to become one denomination of many." Therefore, I submit that my Clause is most important from the point of view of substance, that it is perfectly germane to the matter of this Bill, and that it is not in any sense getting round by a sidewind the inability, which I admit we have, of discussing the details of the constitution of the Church Assembly.

    The CHAIRMAN: I am afraid the hon. Member has said nothing to convince me that my ruling was wrong. May I say that I hope he does not object to my use of the 728 word "sidewind," because it was not meant in any wrong sense at all. I am clearly of opinion that this matter does not come within the scope of the Bill.

    Sir R. ADKINS: Do we understand that an Amendment or a new Clause limiting the time of the operation of the Bill is not in order on the Committee stage?

    The CHAIRMAN: That is entirely a question of fact. The condition I have got before me is the reform of the constitution of the Church Assembly, and the hon. Member must not pin me down to general terms. I can only deal with questions that are before me, and with regard to the question of amending the constitution of the Church Assembly, I am clearly of opinion that it is out of order. If the hon. Member desires to move an Amendment limiting it to the 30th June, 1921, he can do so.

    NEW CLAUSE.
    —(Duration of Act.)

    "This Act shall not continue in force after the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and twenty-two."—[Mr. A. Williams.]

    Brought up, and read the first time.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time." It has been suggested to me that 1921, which leaves 18 months, is rather a short period, and I am quite willing to meet that. I think the Church has now definitely to make up its mind whether it is to continue to be a National Church, the Church of the whole of the people of this country, or whether it is to be one denomination among many. If it is only one denomination among many, then I am certain that Disestablishment is not very far off. Personally, I have only the most kindly feeling towards the Church in which I was born and baptized, and though I do not claim to be exactly a member of it now, for reasons which I need not go into, I have the most kindly feeling towards the Church, and I have always desired that its final relations to the State and the other denominations should be based upon a reunion of the Christian people of this country. I am quite clear that if the Bill goes through as it is now, that will be made very unlikely and that there will be a very great cry in this country for the Disestablishment of the Church. I should not be in order in discussing fully the proposed constitution of the House of Laity, but I think I shall 729 be in order in saying that it only represents a very limited section of the laity of this country.

    Viscount WOLMER: No, no!

    Mr. WILLIAMS: If it is only going to represent a very limited section, then the Church becomes one denomination among many, and its days as a National Church are numbered. That I most earnestly deprecate. I do not desire that at all; I desire its development so as to become the Church of the whole country, a really free Church in every sense of the word, in a free State, but if the leaders of the Church are determined to become a denomination, nobody can prevent them. I therefore propose that this Bill should be reconsidered at the end of two and a half years, in order that the Church of England during that time may have taken very seriously into consideration the question whether it is prepared to recognise as laity all the baptized people in this country or whether it is determined to restrict the laity by a new and artificial test which would reduce the Church to being one denomination among many.

    Lord H. CECIL: I did not rise to a point of order when my hon. Friend opposite was speaking, out of courtesy to him, but, except that by the indulgence of the Committee, I think almost everything he said was out of order, because he was really discussing a proposal which has already been ruled out of order by the Chair. That is not a course that is legitimate. The Clause as it now stands is nothing but a proposal that we should have the trouble of passing all over again in the year 1922 this Bill, which has occupied a large amount of Parliamentary time. I do not think that is a proposition which can be seriously maintained. The argument which the hon. Gentleman put forward was that this Bill should be changed, in effect, from a Bill containing powers which you have ruled to be within its true scope and purpose, into a Bill for compelling the Church Assembly to exercise its powers in a particular way, which is obviously quite a different thing, and outside the scope of the Bill. I know that to enter into a discussion on the point would be out of order, but I may say in a sentence that we are not changing the character or status of members of the Church of England in the least. All we are doing is to say that certain members of the Church of England shall have certain powers in approaching Parliament.

    730

    Sir R. ADKINS: I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw this Clause, having raised it. There appeared on the Paper something which would have raised a discussion on what is well known as the disabling clauses, as to which there is a good deal of feeling in the country and in various quarters. That having been ruled out of order, it really resolves itself into a question of time limit. Having ventilated this, which is an important matter, I hope my hon. Friend will not take the Clause to a Division or proceed further with it now. May I say here that I am afraid I have consumed more time of the Committee than any other individual? Therefore, from the point of view of—shall I say—an alleged criminal, I wish to acknowledge the utmost courtesy with which those not similarly tarred have treated me.

    Mr. WILLIAMS: I do not desire to press the Clause to a Division, but I would like to call attention to the words of the noble Lord that this Bill really restricts the rights of certain members of the Church of England, and gives special rights to certain members of the Church of England. That seems to give away the whole case.

    Lord H. CECIL: It does not restrict anyone.

    Maj.-Gen. Sir N. MOORE: I think the noble Lord might give a little information with regard to the franchise of the people who elect the National Assembly.

    Lord H. CECIL: I should not be in order. Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn. Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported to the House.

    731

    VOTE OF THANKS TO THE CHAIRMAN.

    Viscount WOLMER: I would like to express thanks to you, Mr. Turton, on behalf of the whole Committee—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"]—for the splendid way in which you have presided over these most interesting, and, I think I may venture to say, most significant debates. I do not think that anybody, ten years ago, would have thought it would have been possible for us to have discussed a subject of this sort with so much friendliness and so much genuine desire on all sides to help, as we have succeeded in doing, I sincerely hope that, even if my hon. Friends opposite are not satisfied entirely in regard to the present form of the Bill, its actual operation, when it becomes law, as I hope it now will, will prove to them that their fears are entirely unfounded. I would like to thank them personally for the very considerate way in which they have treated the promoters of the Bill throughout the course of these discussions.

    The CHAIRMAN: I am very much obliged to Viscount Wolmer for the very kind reference he has made to me. It has, indeed, been a labour of love to preside over this Committee. The toleration and the good feeling that have been shown on both sides are too splendid for words. It may not be generally known that it is my duty on Sundays to occupy the pulpit, I am a lay preacher, and, sitting here, it has occurred to me that I cannot preach from a better text next Sunday than "Let brotherly love continue."

    The Committee rose at ten minutes before one o'clock.

    732

    THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—

    Turton, Mr. (Chairman)

    Adkins, Sir Ryland

    Barnes, Major

    Barrand, Mr.

    Beauchamp, Sir Edward

    Bell, Mr. James

    Birchall, Major

    Brown, Captain

    Casey, Mr.

    Cecil, Mr. Evelyn

    Cecil, Lord Hugh

    Coats, Sir Stuart

    Davies, Sir William Howell

    Edwards, Major John

    Farquharson, Major

    Glyn, Major

    Green, Mr. Joseph

    Grundy, Mr.

    Hailwood, Mr.

    Hennessy, Major

    Hunter, General Sir Archibald

    Kelley, Major

    Law, Mr. Alfred

    Lewis, Mr. T. A.

    McLaren, Mr. Robert

    Middlebrook, Sir William

    Moore, Major-Gen. Sir Newton

    Nall, Major

    Newman, Sir Robert

    Oman, Mr.

    Perring, Mr.

    Purchase, Mr.

    Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel

    Remer, Mr.

    Richardson, Mr. Robert

    Seager, Sir William

    Seddon, Mr.

    Short, Mr.

    Tootill, Mr.

    Walsh, Mr. Stephen

    Wheler, Major

    Williams, Mr. Aneurin

    Wolmer, Viscount

    Yeo, Sir Alfred

    733