From 28th APRIL to 29th APRIL, 1926.239
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Roberts, Mr. Samuel (Chairman)
*Birchall, Major (Leeds, N. E.)
*Blundell, Mr. (Ormskirk)
Bourne, Captain (Oxford)
*Brass, Captain (Clitheroe)
Broad, Mr. (Edmonton)
Cape, Mr. (Workington)
Cayzer, Sir Herbert (Portsmouth, South)
Cazalet, Captain (Chippenham)
*Connolly, Mr. (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
Cooper, Mr. Duff (Oldham)
Crookshank, Captain (Gainsborough)
Davies, Dr. Vernon (Royton)
*Doyle, Sir Nicholas Grattan (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Everard, Mr. (Melton)
*Goff, Sir Park (Yorks, N. Riding, Cleveland)
*Hacking, Captain (Chorley)
Hamilton, Sir Robert (Orkney and Shetland)
Henderson, Captain Robert (Henley)
*Herbert, Mr. Dennis (Watford)
*Hope, Captain Arthur (Warwick, Nuneaton)
Huntingfield, Lord (Eye)
Jacob, Mr. (East Toxteth)
Jones, Mr. Haydn (Merioneth)
*Jones, Mr. John (West Ham, Silvertown)
*Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander (Hull, Central)
Knox, Sir Alfred (Wycombe)
Makins, Brigadier-General (Knutsford)
Paling, Mr. (Doncaster)
Peto, Mr. Basil (Barnstaple)
Ruggles-Brise, Major (Maldon)
*Russell, Mr. (Tynemouth)
*Sexton, Mr. (St. Helens)
Shiels, Dr. (Edinburgh, E.)
*Slesser, Sir Henry (Leeds, S. E.)
Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander (Lanark, N.)
*Stuart, Lord Colum Crichton- (Chester, Northwich)
Thurtle, Mr. (Shoreditch)
White, Lieut.-Colonel (Southport)
Whiteley, Mr. (Durham, Blaydon)
Williams, Commander Charles (Torquay)
Williams, Mr. Herbert (Reading)
Williams, Mr. John (Carmarthenshire, Llanelly)
Wilson, Mr. Robert (Durham, Jarrow)
Wood, Mr. Crompton (Bridgwater)
Yerburgh, Major (Dorset, S.)
* Added in respect of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill.—28th April, 1926.
Sir J. HORSBRUGH-PORTER, Committee Clerks.
Mr. EDENBOROUGH, Committee Clerks.240 241 STANDING COMMITTEE A Wednesday, 28th April, 1926.
[Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS in the Chair.]
The enactments specified in the Schedule to this Act (being enactments affecting the civil and religious liberties of His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects) are hereby repealed to the extent mentioned in the said Schedule.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Captain Hacking): I should be glad if you would allow me to avail myself of this opportunity of stating the position of the Government in regard to this Bill. I think it is common knowledge that about twelve months ago when a somewhat similar Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, the Government did not look upon the Bill with favour. I need not go into all the reasons, but one reason was because time could not be found for a full discussion of the Bill on Second Reading in the House of Commons. That opinion of the Government still holds good until they have had an opportunity of reconsideration of this Bill. Such opportunity has not yet been found. I need not dwell upon the great amount of business of very great importance which is before the Cabinet at the present time, and has been before them for some time. The fact remains that they have not yet had an opportunity of reconsideration of this Bill. Such being the case, the opinion which they formed twelve months ago upon the Bill then introduced, still holds good. The Cabinet I understand, are meeting at eleven-thirty to-day, when I hope they may be able to come to a decision on this Bill. In the meantime the Committee have two courses open to them. The 242 first course open to the Committee is to adjourn until such time as the Cabinet have come to a decision, and the second course is to continue discussion of the Bill in Committee, without the assistance of the Government. In the latter case it would be invidious for me to take any further part in the proceedings. I am entirely in the hands of the Committee, but I thought it was only courteous to them that I should come here this morning and make an announcement, in order that they may be able to make up their minds whether they should adjourn or continue the discussion of the Bill. It may be that the Committee will determine to take the latter course and continue the discussion in the hope and in the possible belief that any action they may take will subsequently meet with the approval of the Government. Perhaps the Committee will now come to their decision.
Mr. DENNIS HERBERT: The Committee will be very grateful for the statement made by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department in regard to the rather unfortunate circumstances affecting this Bill. The promoters of the Bill recognise most fully the difficulties of the Government at the present time, and we do not want to make any complaint against the Government in regard to this Bill. I am given to understand—I cannot give this as official information, but I have good reason to believe it—that there were two points to which the Government were distinctly hostile in connection with the Bill presented last year. One point was that the Bill included in the relief the Office of Lord Chancellor. The present Bill does not do so. That alteration was made for the express purpose of disarming opposition. There is, however, an Amendment on the Paper to include the Lord Chancellor in the Bill. That is an Amendment which I have good reason to think will receive a very considerable measure of support. The other point with which I believe the Government are not satisfied in the Bill in its present form is, that it would apply to Northern Ireland. The Committee will realise that the position of Northern Ireland in a matter of this kind is a very serious one, and perhaps it would be hardly right for this Parliament, at any rate by a Private Member's Bill, to interfere with this particular matter as far as 243 Northern Ireland is concerned. I believe that the Government of Northern Ireland have intimated in some way or other that they do not wish a Bill of this kind to affect Northern Ireland. In these circumstances, I have put down an Amendment to meet that point, and I hope the Committee will accept it. I think the promoters of the Bill generally, and those who support the Amendment to include the Lord Chancellor, would prefer that the Lord Chancellor should be left out rather than the Bill should be lost, I am quite prepared, and I think my hon. Friends will support me in this, to say that if that Amendment to include the Lord Chancellor should be carried in this Committee, and the Government afterwards find that Amendment to be objectionable, then, in order to save the Bill, and to meet the wishes of the Government, the promoters of the Bill would be prepared to allow that part of the Bill to be negatived on the Report stage. In these circumstances, and hoping and believing that the Bill generally has the support of the Government, as undoubtedly it has an extraordinarily large support in the House of Commons, I hope the Government will not think that we are in any way discourteous or doing otherwise than trying to facilitate business if we go on with the Committee stage of the Bill to-day. I would suggest that we should take that course. At the same time I wish to put on record our gratitude to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office for what he has said. We understand his position and the position of the Government in regard to the matter. I am the more inclined to ask the Committee to go on with the Bill, because one can hardly suppose that if we meet the Government on particular points of the kind I have indicated, they ask the Committee to go on with the Bill, leave to bring in which was given in a very full House, without a single "No" being shouted, and the Second Reading of which was carried under circumstances into which I need not go in detail, namely, the Second Reading was given the first time that the Bill was called in the House after eleven o'clock.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: I thought my hon. and learned Friend (Sir 244 Henry Slesser) was going to speak. I have consulted my friends, and we agree that it is better to go on with the Bill. Speaking for those of my friends who are in the House in all too few numbers, there is not one of us who does not support the whole principle of the Bill, and will help it in any way we possibly can. If that assurance is of any service to the Government in making up their minds on the Bill, they can be assured that there will be no block from our side of the House. In regard to the question of the Lord Chancellor, I should like to say something when it comes forward. I should also like to say a few words in regard to the Amendment affecting Northern Ireland.
Sir HENRY SLESSER: I wished to hear my hon. and gallant Friend's views before I expressed my opinion, because I happen to be one of the movers of the Amendment to include the office of Lord Chancellor. I agree that it would be very much better to go on with the Committee this morning. I propose, when the time comes, to proceed with my Amendment. I think it would be wise to test the opinion of this Committee on that point. It may well be that when the Government are considering the Bill as a whole, the opinion of this Committee, one way or the other, might be useful to them in coming to a final conclusion. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Herbert) that if necessary the matter could be reconsidered on Report. As far as this stage is concerned, I think it would be useful for the Government to know the view of the Committee on this particular Amendment.
Commander WILLIAMS: I am not sure that by proceeding with the Committee to-day we shall really hasten the proceedings on the Bill. If we adjourned for a week or a fortnight or a shorter time, that would be reasonable. The Committee appreciate very much the extradordinary openness with which the representative of the Home Office put his position to day. His difficulties are obvious to all of us. It is much better to be perfectly frank on these matters. I want to see thin Bill go through. If we deal with the question of the Lord Chancellor to-day and we have to deal with it again on the Report Stage, it must be fairly obvious—at any rate it is to my understanding—that there 245 will be a subject of considerable discussion on the Report stage. In that case it will not be easy for the powers-that-be to find time for the Bill on the Report stage. Would it not be better to adjourn now, to ascertain the view of the Government and then proceed with the Committee stage and finish the proceedings here? We should then know exactly where we are as far as the views of the Government are concerned. The Bill could then go down to the House and there would be no reason for rediscussing the question of the Lord Chancellor. As a supporter of the Bill I feel that it would be the best course to wait until we know where the Government stand in the matter before we proceed. Then the Report stage of the Bill would be quite simple, and we should be able to get the Bill through quickly. That view is worth consideration. The Under-Secretary for the Home Office said that he would soon know what was the Government position in regard to the Bill. When we know that, we can deal with the particular point affecting the Lord Chancellor, one way or the other, and there will be no necessity to return to it on the Report stage.
Captain CROOKSHANK: I support the view expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) that the Committee do now adjourn, and I beg to move, "That the Committee do now adjourn." It would be waste of time for so many hon. Members to come here to discuss a Bill absolutely in the air. Although it is true what my hon. Friend the Member for Watford said, that there was no dissent in the House when the Bill was introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule, it is well known that treatment meted out to Bills so introduced is not necessarily representative of the feeling of the House, either at that moment or at any other time. It seems to me that in regard to a Bill which deals with many millions of people in this country—the Roman Catholic community is very large—and which, if we are to discuss the Amendments, raises constitutional matters of the very highest importance, we should be absolutely wasting our time if we proceed to discuss it without any kind of expression of opinion from any Member of the Government. The Under-Secretary for the Home Office has made his position 246 perfectly clear. If we spend the whole morning discussing the Bill and then we find that the Government has such very deeply rooted objections that they will take measures which are in their power to see that the Bill does not come up for adequate discussion on the Report stage, we shall have wasted our time. We had better adjourn until such time as we can have some expression of the views of the Government. On these grounds, that the Bill deals with such a vast number of people, that its introduction under the Ten Minutes Rule did not afford a real opportunity for expression of opinion, and that the Bill raises important constitutional matters, I move the adjournment.
Lieut.-Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE: As a strong supporter of the Bill, I think we ought to continue the discussion to-day. Although the Under Secretary for the Home Office said that the Cabinet would consider this matter to-day. I have known cases, and I think every Member of the Committee must be aware of them, where it was understood and even promised that a certain matter should be considered at a Cabinet meeting, but owing to pressure of business the matter was not considered. If we delay we shall lose much valuable time which might end in the Bill not being taken at all.
Mr. BASIL PETO: I support the view expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southport (Lieut.-Colonel White). We have had no guidance from the Under Secretary for the Home Office as to what course would be for the convenience of the Government. I do not complain of that for a moment, but he has not indicated any desire on the part of the Government that this Committee should not consider the business for which it was summoned. As the promoter of the Bill is in favour of proceeding to-day and as the Leaders of both Opposition parties are in favour of proceeding, I think we should be guided by what they wish and what they believe to be in the interests of the Bill. I cannot see any answer to the opinion that the consideration of the Bill to-day in Committee might be—I will not put it any higher than that—of assistance to the Government in arriving at a decision, because it will show the opinion of a representative Committee on the Bill as a whole, and also on the vital Amendment respecting 247 the Lord Chancellor, which is to be moved by the hon. and learned Member for S. E. Leeds (Sir H. Slesser). Therefore, I think we ought to proceed.
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Blundell F. N.||Jacob, A. E.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
This Act may be cited as the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1926.
Mr. HERBERT: I beg to move, at the end of the Clause to add the words, "and shall not apply to Northern Ireland." I have already referred to this Amendment so that I need say very little about it. The effect of it is merely to exclude Northern Ireland from the Bill. I have reason to suppose that the Government of Northern Ireland wish that Northern Ireland should be excluded, and in those circumstances I think the Committee, realising the peculiar position of Northern Ireland in regard to religious questions, and the mixing up of religious questions and political questions, will feel that it would hardly be right that we should include Northern Ireland. I omitted to notice that a small consequential Amendment will be necessary in the Schedule, but that can be dealt with later.
Commander WILLIAMS: Before we pass this Amendment I should like to point out that we have had no explanation, really, as to why it should be done. We realise the position of Northern Ireland, and it is usual in a great many Bills to exclude Northern Ireland. What I would like to point out is, that this is the sort of example which we are always getting in Committee, where Bills are loosely worded and loosely drawn in some cases. The Bills come to Committee and their vital parts are not brought in until Amendments are moved. I strongly deprecate the fact that on these occasions Amendments which are of vital import-248
Question put, "That the Committee do now adjourn."
The Committee divided. Ayes, 6; Noes, 14.
ance, are brought up here, when they might easily have been considered and put in the original draft of the Bill. We do not want to discuss this subject at length. We agree that it is far better that the Bill should go through quickly, but I did want to make this point of protest. I know that the promoter of the Bill has great legal capacity, and I suggest to him that it would be wiser, on the whole, if legal gentlemen who sit down to draw up Bills would make up their minds what they want in the Bill, insert it, and bring in the Bill in a complete form, instead of wasting the time of the Committee in making it necessary to bring forward vital Amendments which could have been dealt with in a simple manner in the original draft of the Bill.
Mr. BLUNDELL: The remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Torquay, which put some slight reflection upon my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Herbert), should have been addressed to me, because my hon. Friend has very kindly taken over the Bill which I introduced in 1924 and again in 1925. My hon. and gallant Friend suggested that the promoters of the Bill should make up their minds before-hand as to what they want. My mind was made up when I introduced the Bill, and the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford was also made up. We wished to extend the benefits of this Bill to the Catholics of Northern Ireland just as much as to the Catholics in this country. The matter stands on rather a different footing when we understand that an intimation has been received from the Government of Northern Ireland that they do not wish this Bill to be applicable 249 in that country. I regret very much that that should be the case; but in the circumstances I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford. We should not really be conferring any advantage on the Catholics of Northern Ireland if we were to throw a bone of contention between them and their Protestant fellow countrymen. It is solely on that account that I support the Amendment, and not on the ground that we do not think in equity that this Bill ought equally to apply to Northern Ireland.
Sir H. SLESSER: The hon. and gallant Member for Torquay is a little unfair to the draftsman of the Bill. The Bill is perfectly clear in its terms. The amendment moved by the hon. member for Watford, with a reference to Northern Ireland makes it absolutely clear. The Bill in its present form applies to Northern Ireland. It is a question of policy. The drafting is perfect. Therefore, most of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member were not to the point. When we come to the question of policy may I say, and my colleagues agree with me, that in the circumstances it would be unwise to proceed to force this Measure upon Northern Ireland. The legislature of Northern Ireland has power, if it wishes, to relieve anybody of religious disability. There is provision in the Irish Act that they may not discriminate adversely against any class of person on account of their religious belief, but that cannot be construed to mean removing discriminations. When the time comes, and I hope it will come soon, when it is found expedient in Northern Ireland to pass legislation similar to this Bill, they can do it. In these circumstances it would be wise to accept the Amendment.
Commander WILLIAMS: I did not wish to pass any aspersion on my hon. Friend opposite. It is the last thing in the world I should wish to do, but it did look as if we were going to pass this Amendment without any sort of discussion, and I do not see any use in Committees unless you do discuss these questions. I fully realise the hon. Member has brought in this Amendment with the desire to smooth the passage of the Measure, and I do not wish in any way to make any imputation upon the hon. Gentleman. He has introduced this Bill at a time when the Liberal Party is rather dormant, but it is up to some of 250 us to see that in all these matters we really know exactly where we stand. I thank my hon. Friend opposite very sincerely for the way in which he has explained this most important Amendment.
Colonel Sir ALEXANDER SPROT: It occurs to me there is hardly any argument which could be advanced for excluding Northern Ireland which would not also apply to the exclusion of Scotland. The conditions are extremely similar in certain parts of Scotland, at any rate, from the point of view of the questions we are now discussing, to those in Northern Ireland
Mr. HERBERT: They have no separate Parliament.
Sir A. SPROT: It is true we have no separate Parliament. That is, of course, the difference. On the other hand, we have not had any opportunity of finding out the views of the people of Scotland as to whether they desire to have this legislation passed or not. If I may take such a step, I would like to move an Amendment to the Amendment, after the word "to," to insert the words "Scotland or."
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: On a point of Order. I think that is too late, as we have passed that point.
Commander WILLIAMS: My hon. and gallant Friend could put in the words after the word "Ireland."
Sir A. SPROT: I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "to," to insert the words "Scotland or."
Commander WILLIAMS: I represent a part of England, but surely we cannot possibly do what the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes. It is an Amend to an Amendment which, to my understanding, is entirely out of place at the present time. I am not attacking my hon and gallant Friend, but, after all, on these questions, we have to consider the point of view of including Scotland and Wales Northern Ireland is entirely different, as it has its own Legislature, and we ought not to interfere too much with other Legislatures. But Scotland has not got it, and does not want it, and probably will not want it. You might equally as well bring up Wales and discuss the whole of that question. I think we ought to oppose the Amendment to the Amend- 251 ment, on the principle that it is rather going outside the scope of the original Amendment.
Captain CROOKSHANK: Does not this show how difficult it is, when we get an Amendment to an Amendment, without any idea as to what are the views of Scotland on this subject? The hon. and gallant Gentleman admitted quite frankly he did not know. There is no one here, as I pointed out earlier, to speak for the Government. We do not know whether the Scottish Office has or has not any views on the subject. There is no one here to speak, I believe, for Northern Ireland. We do not know whether the Northern Irish Government have or have not any views beyond those put unofficially forward by the Mover of the Amendment. It seems that we are getting more and more in a fog.
Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY: There is the name of a Scottish Member on the back of the Bill—one of your own party.
Captain CROOKSHANK: But not on the Amendment. I am suggesting that we should have some kind of opinion, if we can get hold of it, and, unfortunately, we cannot at the present moment, because the hon. and gallant Member who was here earlier has left, and, therefore, cannot possibly give us any information on the subject. If it be a good Bill—and, of course, this is not the time to discuss that—then it seems very hard that Scotland should be excluded. If, on the other hand, it is a bad Bill, it is a good thing to exclude Scotland from its provisions. But the point again is, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, that we want to know exactly where we stand in this matter. The Roman Catholic community in. Scotland is very large, and it may have very strong views on the subject. Perhaps one of the Movers of the Bill can give us further details on the Amendment to the Amendment.
Sir ROBERT HAMILTON: I think, having regard to what has fallen from the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, it is rather desirable that we should have the views of the Scottish Office on this matter. I must, however, demur from the remarks of the hon. Member opposite, when he said the 252 opinion of Scotland was much the same as that of Northern Ireland on this matter.
Sir A. SPROT: I said a certain part of Scotland.
Sir R. HAMILTON: I would only remind my hon. Friend that there is some Liberal opinion left in Scotland, and I think we should find that the opinion in Scotland on his subject is probably more liberal than we should find it in Northern Ireland. However, I think it most desirable that we should have some definite opinion from the Scottish Office as to how this matter is to be regarded—whether this Bill is to be made applicable or not. It seems a very large matter of policy for an Amendment like this to be moved at the last moment excluding Scotland from the application of the Bill. For that reason, I am rather inclined to change my opinion, which I held just now, that we should continue the discussion. I think it rather enforces the argument put forward before that the Committee should adjourn.
Sir H. SLESSER: I am at a loss to understand really quite where we are. I thought this was a Parliament representing Scotland as well as England, and that when this Bill was presented to the Imperial Parliament, and went through the First and Second Reading, the consent given to this Bill downstairs must be taken to be the consent both of Scotland and of England. I am rather surprised that Members should seek to put Scotland in a subordinate position by taking it out of the Bill. I understand that Scotland is an equal part of Great Britain, and I think we ought to admit that every Bill which comes here is as much a Scottish Bill as an English Bill. This Bill is now in Committee. Not only is the Scottish Office not represented, but the Home Office is also not represented. I am one of those old-fashioned people who believe that we discuss better and more freely when the Government is not here. That, however, is another matter. At any rate, when we decided a few moments ago to proceed in the absence of the Home Office, we decided to proceed equally in the absence of the Scottish Office. The position is no different from what it was a few moments ago. I hope, therefore, we shall proceed, and the question with regard to Scotland can be raised later, on Report. For the moment, this Bill affects 253 Great Britain, and my new Clause dealing with the Lord Chancellor deals with an officer who exercises functions in both countries. He is the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, and throughout the whole construction of this Bill it is assumed that the law covers both countries. Northern Ireland is different, as it has its own legislation, but Scotland is as much a part of Great Britain as England, and the question raised therefore seems irrelevant from that point of view.
Mr. B. PETO: With regard to the Schedule, do all the Acts we have already repealed apply to Scotland?
Sir H. SLESSER: All of them, I think I am right in saying, except the Irish one.
Commander WILLIAMS: Some of these Acts are of Edward VI and Elizabeth. How are we to know what is the opinion of the Scottish legal authorities as to whether we have not left out half-a-dozen Acts? It is perfectly monstrous that we should be asked in this way to pass legislation at random, most excellently drawn up in every way, but which does raise a point that we do not really know where we are. With regard to what the Socialist Member said—
Sir H. SLESSER: The Labour Member.
Commander WILLIAMS: I do not think the hon. Gentleman could ever claim to be a manual labourer in any way, but I resent very strongly the remarks he made about my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton). After all, he belongs to a small party, and it was not very gallant to attack him in the way the hon. Gentleman did. If it had been realised that this Bill referred to Scotland, there would have been many more Scottish Members turning up. In the circumstances, I do not wish to adjourn the Committee now that we have had all this discussion of things that had to be discussed, but if any one were inclined to it, I should be rather inclined from my own point of view. I think, at any rate, part of a very excellent case has been made that we should have the Scottish Office represented here with their excellent legal people, so that we can deal with real legislation, and not piecemeal legislation, and know exactly what the Scottish people think on this matter.254
Mr. HERBERT: I hope my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) will not mind if I do not deal with the whole of his complaints. He gave us, a short time ago, a lengthy exposition of his views with regard to lawyers generally, and whether it is because it happens to be an unfortunate member of the lower branch of the legal profession who is in charge of this Bill, that he has so much to say on the subject, I do not know, but, at any rate, I will content myself, and I hope he will be satisfied with my assuring him, that as far as this Schedule is concerned, and as far as the question of the Bill affecting Scotland is concerned, the Schedule is absolutely correct, and the inclusion of Scotland in it does not in any way make anything wrong with that Schedule, or require any alteration in it. The one item in the Schedule which does not apply to Scotland is the one which appears on the face not to do so, because it is the one which applies to Ireland, and there will be a consequential Amendment, to be moved later on, if my Amendment to exclude Northern Ireland be carried. With regard to the question of Scotland generally, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has really answered my hon. and gallant Friend, but I can only say this about it, that as the original proposer of the Bill, I have received an immense amount of correspondence in connection with it, and I am perfectly certain that if Scottish Members as a whole endeavour to exclude Scotland from this Bill, they will not earn the gratitude of their countrymen as a whole. There is no doubt about it this is a Bill which not only has the sympathy, but has the very strong support of a very large majority of the people in both countries, and, if I may be allowed to do so in this connection, I would remind my hon. Friends who are talking about Scotland, that it is not merely a matter of repealing some of these ancient enactments which have fallen into disuse, but we are conferring a very real benefit, if we pass this Bill, upon the members of the Roman Catholic religion, and are removing from them a very great injustice from which they suffer at the present time, in view of the fact that they are unable to get certain exemptions from Income Tax, which members of every other religion, or no religion at all, 255 are able to do. In these circumstances, I sincerely hope my hon. and gallant Friend will not press his Amendment, and I am perfectly certain that between now and the Report stage he will find, if he makes inquiries, that he has no reason to raise the question again in the interests of his countrymen on the Report stage.
Sir A. SPROT: I think this Bill has come forward very quietly indeed. A great many people have never heard of it. I must confess, personally, I had not heard of it at all until I began to receive letters, and I had to go to my hon. Friend here for some information about it. I do not think it has attracted any attention in the Press, certainly not in the Scottish Press, or amongst the constituencies.
Mr. HERBERT: May I tell my hon. and gallant Friend that I have already got a moderate-sized press-cutting book absolutely full of notices of this Bill, including Scottish papers, Indian papers, American papers, Australian and New Zealand papers, and I have received letters as well from all those Dominions.
Sir A. SPROT: My hon. Friend and I do not quite agree on the point. It has been my impression that this Bill has been, to use a slang expression, rather slipped through the House without attracting very much notice. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY: It was brought forward under the Ten Minutes' Rule.
Sir A. SPROT: I think that is an argument in favour of some caution and some delay, and, although the Committee have already rejected a Motion for the Adjournment, the reasons for that appear to me to be stronger than they were since we began this discussion. I would like to reply to my compatriot opposite. I referred to certain portions of Lanarkshire and the West of Scotland, where the conditions are almost exactly similar to those in Northern Ireland, where you have large Orange Lodges and that sort of thing existing in just as great force as they do in Ulster. That was the drift of my remark.
Mr. BLUNDELL: In reply to what my hon. and gallant Friend said as to this Bill being slipped through without much 256 notice being taken of it, I am afraid that must be due rather to his inattention to public business than to inaction on the part of the promoters. I do not say that in any disrespectful spirit, as he well knows. But, far from trying to slip this Bill through, those of us who have promoted it in the House have done our best to advertise it in the best possible way. As my hon. Friend has said, his Press-cutting book is full of notices from all parts of the world, and I have seen all these notices. In order to try to advertise this Bill a little more fully, I raised the subject on the Debate on the Address, and stated there that I was doing so because I wished the House to know that we were about to introduce this Bill again, and I invited any hon. Member who had any feelings about the Bill to raise the matter then on the Debate on the Address. No one then raised any objection of any sort to it, and the only reference to it was one of approval, and the statement that this Bill ought to have been passed long ago. In order further to advertise the fact, instead of presenting the Bill in the ordinary way, my hon. Friend introduced it under the Ten Minutes' rule, and did his best to give it as much advertisement as possible. Considering it is a Private Member's Bill, I think it has received more notice in the Press than is usually afforded to Private Members' Bills, and certainly, as far as Scotland is concerned, I am sure there has been quite as much notice taken of it in Scotland as in England and Wales. That is to say, every Catholic body of any importance has considered it and passed resolutions in favour of it, and very large numbers of them have written to their Members of Parliament inviting them to support the Bill. Far from having any reason for concealing this Bill, or any provision in it, or trying to slip the Bill through, we have every reason and every inducement to make it as public as possible, because I am quite certain, that once Members of this House realise the Statutes that still oppress their Roman Catholic fellow-citizens in this country, they will be only too anxious to take the earliest possible opportunity to remove them, and I am quite certain that what I have said applies to my hon. and gallant Friend as much as to anyone else.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment, put, and negatived.257
Question, "That the words 'and shall not apply to Northern Ireland' be there added," put, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any Act, no subject of His Majesty shall be disqualified for holding the office of Lord High Chancellor, Lord Keeper, or Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal of Great Britain on account of his religious belief.
(2) So much of Section twelve of the Roman Catholic Relief Act, 1829, as is contained between the words "nor to enable" to "Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal of Great Britain," both inclusive, is hereby repealed.
(3) In case any of the said offices shall be held by any person who is a Roman Catholic any right of presentation to any ecclesiastical benefice belonging to such office shall, while the office shall be so held as aforesaid, devolve upon and be exercised by such person as His Majesty by sign manual may appoint to exercise the same, and in default of such appointment the right of such presentation shall devolve upon and be exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.—[Sir H. Slesser.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Sir H. SLESSER: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." This Clause is one of very considerable importance, and I am sure the Committee will bear with me if I develop the argument in its favour not at a great, but at some little length. One would fairly assume, I think, in the first place, that in the present state of public opinion in this country, the assumption would readily be made by everybody that, as Cromwell said, many years ago, in choosing a man for an office, his fitness for that office, and not his religious opinion, should be the first consideration. Generally speaking, unless the opponents of this Clause could show any real, valid reason why this particular office of Lord High Chancellor or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal should be treated differently from any other office, I think the trend of public opinion to-day would be in favour of not excluding a man from an office, to which he was otherwise qualified, merely on the ground that he was a Roman Catholic. There has been a case within recent years of a very noted Roman Catholic lawyer who 258 subsequently became Lord Chief Justice, and who, no doubt, would have become Lord Chancellor but for this particular exclusion. Although the other provisions of this Bill are important, we are really dealing here with what I conceive to be a really great injustice. As has been said, there are well over 1,000,000 Catholic subjects of His Majesty in the Realm. There are a considerable number of Catholics, very able men, practising at the Bar, and no one can suggest that they are not in every way as loyal and as good subjects of His Majesty as persons holding any other religious belief. Therefore, one starts with that position, and I hope to show the Committee, as shortly as I can, that there really is no case at all existing at the present day for excluding these people from the office of Lord Chancellor. First of all, before I deal with the legal accident—because it really is to-day a legal accident that they are excluded at all—may I deal with two arguments which are frequently addressed to this point? The first has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Herbert), on the Motion for leave to introduce this Bill, namely, the argument that the Lord Chancellor is the keeper of the King's conscience. Of course, such an argument has only to be considered to be refuted. It was dug out by Lord Thurlow in the reign of George III, for purely political purposes in connection with the Catholic Emancipation Act of that time, and before that time had laid completely dormant from the time of the Reformation. As a matter of fact, technically, as far as I can discover, it never had any meaning at all.
Commander WILLIAMS: May I call your attention, Mr. Roberts, to the fact that there is not a quorum present?
The CHAIRMAN: As my attention has been drawn to the fact, I have no alternative but to suspend the proceedings. To what date would it be convenient for the Committee to adjourn?
Commander WILLIAMS: May I suggest that we adjourn until next week?
Mr. HERBERT: I do not know why the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests next week, rather than earlier. I do not 259 know whether he has the question of the Government in his mind, but he is aware, if he has been listening to what has been said, that the intention of the Government was to consider this matter to-day. In these circumstances, there should be no objection to meeting to-morrow.260
The CHAIRMAN: I think there seems to be no serious objection to meeting to-morrow. We will therefore adjourn until 11 o'clock to-morrow.
The Committee adjourned at Three Minutes before Twelve O'clock until To-morrow (Thursday), at Eleven o'Clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Roberts, Mr. Samuel (Chairman)
Cooper, Mr. Duff
Davies, Dr. Vernon
Hamilton, Sir Robert
Herbert, Mr. Dennis
Jones, Mr. Haydn
Peto, Mr. Basil
Slesser, Sir Henry
Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Stuart, Lord Colum Crichton-
Williams, Commander Charles
Williams, Mr. John
Wilson, Mr. Robert