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The Prayer Book—Question

Volume 203: debated on Monday 8 August 1870

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said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, seeing that the Table of Lessons Bill has been withdrawn, Her Majesty's Government will consider the further Report of the Ritual Commission, with a view to seeing whether they cannot introduce a measure next Session to make such alterations in the Rubric as may be advisable?

Sir, Her Majesty's Government reluctantly abandoned the intention of prosecuting the Bill for amending the Prayer Book by the substitution of a new Table of Lessons, solely on the ground that they found unequivocal evidence that many hon. Members, well entitled to be heard on such a subject, and by no means confined to one section or party in this House, were disposed to object to our proceeding with such a Bill at the end of the Session, and likewise to contend that it was not desirable to deal with the Lectionary apart from the rest of the Prayer Book. Those allegations were of such a character that the Government felt it would be their duty to defer to them. The hon. Gentleman has stated that considerable inconvenience arises from a stagnation of the trade connected with the printing and binding of Prayer Books, and I am afraid I am not in a position to deny that such stagnation of the trade does exist. But the Question which he puts to me is a serious one—namely, whether we will consider the further Report of the Ritual Commission with the view of introducing, if possible, early next Session a Bill dealing with the whole subject of the Rubric. That is a most grave matter, and I am sorry to say it is totally impossible for the Government—which has not yet received the Report—to enter into any engagement whatever respecting it. The only thing which I, for one, have heard is, that the Commission has experienced extreme difficulty in dealing with the question, and that a considerable degree of diversity of opinion exhibited itself in the Commission. If that be so, it would be rash on the part of the Government even to hold language which at this stage might create an expectation that they would be able to deal with the question at a very early period. Upon a matter of this kind it would be ex- tremely difficult for the Government to enter, except when the way is prepared by a great union of opinion, otherwise they might do additional harm by raising serious and prolonged controversies.