House Of Lords
Thursday, 15th July, 1926.
The House met at a quarter past four of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
The Earl of Gainsborough—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.
Mental Deficiency Hl
My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to amend certain enactments relating to mental defectives, and to move that it be read a first time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Viscount Gage.)
On Question, Bill read 1a , and to be printed.
Pontefract Corporation Bill
Read 3a and passed.
Markets And Fairs (Weighing Of Cattle) Bill Hl
Returned from the Commons, agreed to.
Land Drainage Bill Hl
Returned from the Commons, agreed to, with Amendments.
Pier And Harbour Provisional Order Bill
Read 3a (according to Order), and passed.
Edinburgh Corporation (Streets, Buildings And Sewers) Order Confirmation Bill Hl
Read 3a (according to Order), and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Business Of The House
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I do not propose to trouble your Lordships by repeating the observations which I made yesterday evening, but, as I promised I would do, I put upon the Paper a Motion to suspend the Standing Orders and to promote the Boards of Guardians (Default) Bill to the first place upon the Order Paper, which, as your Lordships are aware from what passed yesterday, cannot be done by the ipse dixit of the Government, but can only be done by a Resolution of the House. It is understood that, if your Lordships see fit to accept this Motion, we should expect, upon the Motion that the House should resolve itself into Committee on the Bill, a discussion to take place which I may broadly call a Second Reading discussion, if any noble Lord wishes it. That is not an innovation in our practice. I have in my many years' experience in the House very often helped to use, or rather shared in using, that stage as a substitute for, or a supplement to, the Second Reading discussion. One of the great advantages of your Lordships' House is that there are so many opportunities which, in our elastic procedure, can be used for these purposes. Therefore, that will be quite understood and I am sure that no noble Lord sitting in any quarter of your Lordships' House will contest the practice. I beg to move.
Moved, That Standing Orders Nos. XXI. and XXXIX. be considered in order to their being suspended for this day's sitting for the purpose of giving precedence over other Orders of the Day to the Committee Stage of the Boards of Guardians (Default) Bill and in order to take the Bill through its remaining stages.—( The Marquess of Salisbury.)
My Lords, I think it is very desirable that at this stage some protest should be made against the action of His Majesty's Government in connection with this matter. Since the noble Marquess made his statement last night I gather from the Order Paper that a Royal Commission is to be held this evening in order to give the Royal Assent to this particular measure. The action of His Majesty's Government is a greater disappointment because for the last two years or so, during which the noble Marquess the Leader of the House has been in charge of our proceedings, there has not generally been such a flagrant example of denying your Lordships' House the opportunity of taking part in the legislation of Parliament as is afforded this afternoon. It is more particularly to be regretted because the experience of noble Lords in this matter enables them to take part particularly well in the discussion of a measure of this kind. They have great experience of local government and they are able to provide your Lordships with arguments in favour of, or against, a particular course.There is less excuse, as I cannot help feeling that His Majesty's Government might have been able to foresee the date upon which they proposed to bring this measure before your Lordships' House. The Royal Commission and the Royal Assent seem to be necessary to-day. That should not have been discovered last night, nor earlier in the week; it should have been discovered a fortnight or at any rate a week ago; and this Bill should have been presented to your Lordships in proper time for its consideration. It looks to me like a relapse into the bad old days when your Lordships were not given a proper opportunity of considering these measures. It is a return to the system of single-chamber government which I always understood was one of the particular systems most disliked by noble Lords opposite. In this case it really is a denial of any opportunity to this House of making Amendments in the Bill. If an Amendment were made by your Lordships the Bill would then have to be returned to another place. The Amendment made would have to be agreed to and the Bill would have to be returned to this House before the hour of seven o'clock when the Royal Commission is to meet to give the Royal Assent to the measure. I regret it particularly in this case because I sympathise with the object of the Bill. I recognise the difficulty in which His Majesty's Government were placed. I sympathise with the principle of the Bill, but I think that further safeguards are obviously necessary. Safeguards are introduced in regard to one particular, but not in regard to another particular in the Bill and there is an obvious Amendment which ought to be introduced in your Lordships' House. However, it is no use suggest- ing anything of this kind and, speaking for myself and I think for my noble friends, we shall refuse to take any further part in the proceedings on this measure.
THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I cannot pass over the observations of the noble Earl without some reply. I do not complain of his remarks in any way. I have very often shared the point of view which he has expressed. I think it is fair to say that if the Government have made any error in respect of this Bill it has not been made in your Lordships' House. It is from excess of patience. They hoped against hope that perhaps this particular local authority would have seen its duty so clearly as to conform to what is the law. They extended to the local authority every kind of patience that your Lordships would, I believe, encourage. In administration it is not good to be too brisk. It is better, when there are difficulties, to overcome them by tact, patience and negotiation rather than to crush them, and that is the effort the Government have made. But they put the matter off a little too long and when the particular local authority turned out to be un-repentent there was only one thing to be done—to use the weapon, the heavy weapon, of legislation.Having put it off so long, no doubt the effect was that the Bill only reached your Lordships very late in the day. I very much regret it and I agree with the noble Earl that it does amount to a denial to this House of a proper opportunity of criticising the Bill. I was a little bit encouraged by a remark he let fall that in the main he agreed with it and I almost hope that may be the general opinion in your Lordships' House. It is possible there may be one or two critics, but I almost believe that even in their hearts they must realise that something of this kind is absolutely necessary if administration in this local authority is not to come to an end. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl and his friends will realise that we do not intend as a general rule to make a practice of denying your Lordships the opportunity of thoroughly discussing these measures and for this occasion, in view of the great emergency, I hope he will extend to us his forgiveness.
My Lords, I waited to hear what the noble Marquess, the Lord Privy Seal, would say say about this and I listened to him with great attention. I agree that this is an urgent Bill. I agree that the situation which confronts the Government is a difficult one. Of course, it ought to have been dealt with long ago by a reform of the Poor Law, under which this question would not have arisen. But that has not been done and I think that is really the best excuse the Government have for dealing with these matters in the way of isolated cases. Unfortunately, their Bill is perfectly general in terms and applies to every board of guardians throughout England. But I pass that by, to make the observation that there is one thing the noble Marquess did not tell us: that is why the Bill should have been placed on the Paper in such circumstances and at such a time that it should have been impossible for this House to discuss it even very briefly. After all, this is July 15 and we have at least a fortnight. One would have thought that this Bill might have been taken in the ordinary course. I know that the matter is urgent, but there were days on which it could have been taken. Now, we have to settle what, after all, is a question of very great importance at the shortest notice and in the shortest compass. Well, I am not going to push that to extremes. At the same time I ask the noble Marquess to realise that it is no use telling us that this is only a particular occasion which there is no intention of repeating. The question is, whether the particular occasion is one in which his action is justified.
On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.
Boards Of Guardians (Default) Bill
Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
THIS UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (THE EARL OF ONSLOW)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill. As your Lordships will remember, my noble friend, the noble Marquess who leads the House, promised that the discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill should take place on the Motion to go into Committee. I venture, therefore, to make the speech I should have delivered to your Lordships in moving the Second Heading last night had there been time. As your Lordships will see it is a short Bill, but it is a Hill of some importance. It has been described as a Bill which raises fundamental questions of local government and the relations of Parliament towards local authorities. No one would be disposed to controvert such a statement, but, in addition to that, it has been said that the proposals which are contained in this Bill are of a novel character, that there are in the Bill proposals for which there is no adequate precedent, and that those proposals tend to destroy local government and trench severely upon the rights and duties of local authorities, and, therefore, upon the rights of local government electors.I venture to deny this second proposition entirely. This Bill does not trench upon the independence of local authorities. On the contrary, the principle which this Bill contains is one that has been maintained in legislation connected with local government on many previous occasions for many years. It is, indeed, a principle which must be maintained if you are going to continue the very wide powers which are possessed by local authorities. If you are to give local authorities these wide powers—and I am sure no member of your Lordships' House would wish to curtail them; indeed, modern legislation has extended them very widely—there must be some means of seeing that a particular local authority which does not carry out its duties satisfactorily is brought into line with the vast majority of the local authorities which do perform their duties satisfactorily and carry out their difficult and important tasks in a manner which justifies their selection by local electors. I could call your Lordships' attention to Acts which show that there is nothing new in the principle of this Bill. There is, for instance, the Act of 1870, which set up school boards. Under Section 63 of that Act similar powers to these were granted to the Committee of the Privy Council, which was in charge of education at that time, to enable it to deal with any school board which was in default. When the Act of 1870 was repealed similar powers were conferred upon the Board of Education, enabling them to put pressure upon local education authorities to carry out their duties. Over fifty years ago, therefore, this precedent was introduced. It may have existed in former Acts, but as to that I am not able to speak. Then we come to the great Public Health Act of 1875. Under selection 299 similar powers to those in this Bill were given to the Local Government Board to enable them to see that the duty of a local authority was carried out. Coming to move modern times we have the Housing Act of 1919, which is now consolidated in the Housing Act of 1925. In that we find that legislation goes even further, for the Minister is given power to act in the place of a defaulting authority. These are Acts actually on the Statute Book. We see again, in 1923 and 1925, that Bills were introduced by members of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong that went even further than this. Their suggestion was that power should be given to the Government to act in place of a local authority which may have defaulted. I think I may fairly say, then, that there is really no new precedent in this Bill and that the principle which it enshrines is to be found in several other very important Statutes that have been in existence for a considerable period. The object of this Bill is to provide for the administration of poor relief in a union where the guardians have ceased to perform their functions, or are acting in a manner which may render them unable to discharge them. In such, a case the Bill gives power to the Minister of Health to appoint a body of persons to carry out the duties which the guardians have failed to perform and to carry on the administration of the union. The noble and learned Viscount opposite referred to the question of Poor Law reform and said that it had been deferred for a large number of years. Perhaps many Governments, including that of which the noble and learned Viscount himself was a member, may have had opportunities for passing Poor Law reform but were unable to carry out any reform. I think your Lordships are well aware that His Majesty's present Government have taken up the matter practically. The Government propose to introduce next year a general measure of Poor Law reform under which Poor Law guardians will be abolished and their functions transferred to other authorities. In view of the fact that it is proposed to bring in such a measure next year your Lordships might consider that at any rate an attempt might be made to carry on under the present system for another year without a Bill of this kind. But circumstances have arisen—and those circumstances have already been mentioned this afternoon in your Lordships' House by Leaders of all three Parties—which have rendered absolutely necessary the introduction of a measure of this kind, which provides for the possibility of immediate action. The union which has rendered this Bill necessary, as has been mentioned several times, is the Union of West Ham. Before I go into the matter any further I should like to say, quite frankly, that the Union of West Ham is in a very peculiar position compared with the vast majority of Poor Law unions throughout the country. Most of it is situated within the area of what is called Greater London—that is to say, the area which was dealt with by the Royal Commission over which my noble friend Lord Ullswater presided some years ago. This Union has a population of over three-quarters of a million—I think the exact figure is 765,000—and it includes very large districts, such as the two County Boroughs of East and West Ham and the urban districts of Waltham-stow (which I believe itself has a population of nearly a quarter of a million), Leyton, Woodford and Wanstead. West Ham lies, as your Lordships are aware, adjacent to another Union in regard to which there have been difficulties of this kind and that Union is the Poplar Union. But West Ham is in a very different position from Poplar and it is at a disadvantage as compared with Poplar. West Ham lies outside the area of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. Your Lordships may, possibly, be aware that about five or six years ago I had the honour to introduce a Bill into your Lordships' House dealing with the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. That was in 1921. Before 1921 the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund only dealt with indoor relief, but by that Act, which was passed by your Lordships, the fund was extended to out-relief. Under that Act Poplar benefited in 1921 by a relief to its rates of 2s. 4d. in the pound for the half year. Obviously that is a material assistance to a union not meeting its liabilities. But West Ham, unfortunately for it and for its guardians, does not enjoy this benefit and it has been obliged to apply to the Ministry of Health, under the manner which is laid down, for money to assist it in carrying out its duties. The Poor Rate at West Ham is perhaps high. It is 9s. is the £—4s. 6d. for the half year—and the Guardians of West Ham say, doubtless with truth, that this 9s. is the greatest amount that the area can bear. I should say that 9s. is only the Poor Rate. It is not the total rate. The total rate is, I think, 24s in the £. Again, they may say that West Ham is a very poor area and it has a low assessment per head of the population. That is true. The assessment is £4 5s., I think, compared with £6 10s. throughout England and Wales and compared with an assessable value in Kensington of £14 10s. That is an additional difficulty. Further, there is a considerable amount of unemployment in West. Ham, and it is unemployment of a difficult character to deal with because a large number of the inhabitants of West Ham gain their livelihood by casual labour at the docks. That adds to the difficulties which present themselves in West Ham. I have done my best to be perfectly fair to West Ham and the undoubted difficulties with which they are confronted, but, as we all admit these difficulties, we must all admit that in order to deal with them great skill, care and economy in administration are essential. If the Board of Guardians at West Ham had exercised strict care, economy and skill in administration, and if they had seen that relief was properly given and given only to those really entitled to it, there would have been no need for this Bill. This Bill proposes that the people whom the Minister shall appoint to carry out the duties of the Guardians in West Ham, or in any other Union where difficulties of the same kind may arise, shall carry them out and meet the difficulties which exist with the skill, care and economy which I have mentioned. It does not do anything more than that. It makes no change in the law, only in the personality of the administrators of the law. If the people who take the place of the Guardians cannot carry out their finance by means of the rates they, of course, will have to borrow money from the Ministry of Health. The point about the West Ham Guardians is that they have failed in their administration. For a number of years they have gone to the Ministry and borrowed a certain amount of money, in accordance with the powers of the Ministry for the time being, in order that they may carry out their duties. That has been spread over a long time now. They have been granted very considerable loans. The amount of their indebtedness now is £2,400,000. Recently they applied for a further £425,000 and that is where the breaking point came. In a few moments I will, with your Lordships' permission, go a little further into detail as regards the inefficiency of the administration, but for the moment. I will ask your Lordships to assume that the administration of the Guardians—in, as I have said, difficult conditions—was not of a nature to justify the Ministry of Health in placing a further charge upon the taxpayer. Of course, when the Guardians borrow money in this manner with the consent of the Ministry of Health, they borrow it from the Exchequer, and if they borrow more than the rates can finance then it practically means bankruptcy and the whole charge falls upon the taxpayer. In these circumstances there are three courses which are possible to conceive. The first one would be to say, "No, we will not lend any more; we decline to lend the Guardians any more." Such a course would be obviously impossible. It would mean that no relief of any kind could be given, and the people who would suffer would not be the people who are getting out-relief to which they are not entitled or more out-relief than they are entitled to, but people who are genuinely and properly entitled to out-relief, of whom there are many in West Ham. They would be the people to suffer, not the people who, although getting relief, are able to do without it. Such a course would be impossible. The next course would be to grant the request and lend this £425,000 and let them go on. That is to say, they would be lent more money than they could pos- sibly repay, and thereby a very heavy charge would be placed upon the general body of taxpayers. If that course had been followed, I think that ultimately any Government would have been obliged to take a course analogous to the one proposed, because if a very heavy charge had been placed upon the taxpayer and the taxpayer had been made to carry the debt, he would very naturally ask that some sort of control over the expenditure should be given him and that his money should not be allowed to be spent by a body over whom he had no authority whatever. There is a third course—and that is the one we propose to follow—to substitute for the Guardians of West Ham, or any other board which may act in a like manner, persons who can carry out the administration in accordance with the law and give right and proper relief to those who are entitled to it in accordance with the manner that is pursued by the vast majority—I may say the overwhelming majority—of the boards of guardians throughout the country. They should, at the same time, effect such economies as may be reasonably possible and place the finances of the Union upon a really sound footing. It may be said perhaps—it has been said—that the West Ham Guardians have done all they possibly could, and that it is not their fault; that in a poor district like theirs, with high charges for relief, they could not do anything else but were obliged to borrow all this money from the Government. It may be said that if you pass this Bill, and put anybody else in their place, exactly the same thing will happen and the other persons who have to administer the finances of the Union will not find themselves any better off than the Guardians. That remains to be proved. I think the information which we have received from West Ham shows that the administration of the Union can be improved, and improved very considerably indeed. I should like in the first place to quote to you a statement made by Mr. Killip at a meeting of the Guardians. I may explain that Mr. Killip is vice-chairman of the Board of Guardians, and I think I am not doing him an injustice in saying that he is perhaps one of the more extreme members of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. This is what he says—
Again, he says—"Some of the things that have been done in the name of the West Ham Guardians—well, the least we can do is to be ashamed of them. When you are elected to the Guardians you do not go there to give out-relief as though you were giving away handbills. … We have been landed in this position by people who have entirely abused their membership of the Board of Guardians."
That shows, at any rate, that criticism of the Board is not confined to any political Party. I think my noble friend Earl Beauchamp approves of this Bill. I gather that he considers that the administration of West Ham is not up to the level of administration of other boards of guardians. There has been plenty of criticism from members of the Party to which I belong, and I have said Mr. Killip belongs to the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. I think we may say, therefore, that the general view is that the administration of West Ham does not by any means come up to the high level which is so marked in other Poor Law unions throughout the country. Our opinion is based not only on the general experience of the Ministry of Health of the administration of Poor Law guardians, but also on the definite report of the Auditor. It has been said, I know, that the Auditor's report only refers to a certain number of cases. That is perfectly true. He does not give a schedule of all cases in which extravagance may have occurred, but he gives typical cases and examples of the more extreme extravagance in administration. I should like to see for a moment what is the general result of the Auditor's report, dealing with the administration not only of West Ham but of other unions. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with figures, but I fear that I must quote one or two. In West Ham persons receiving Poor Law relief on May 1 numbered 919 per ten thousand throughout the Union, as compared with 481 per ten thousand in London and 248 in Birmingham. I have admitted fully that West Ham is a necessitous area, but there are other such areas, such as Middlesbrough, where there is a great deal of unemployment and much distress, and in Middlesbrough the figure is 598 per ten thousand, as compared with 919 in West Ham. It seems clear from these figures that something is to be desired in the administration of relief in West Ham. Then again, it does not seem that proper care has been taken in West Ham to ensure that relief has been given in accordance with the demand for relief. There has been a tendency to work to a scale. The tendency has been that anybody in receipt of relief may receive the maximum scale, and so it has been pushed up till everybody seems to be receiving one scale, whatever the circumstances of the case may be. I think it is fairly clear, therefore, that the circumstances of each case have not been sufficiently explored by those who are obliged to do so. The greatest extravagance has occurred, I think, in cases where people have been in receipt of relief who are not entitled to it, and where people have received, as I say, the full scale of relief when they are entitled to relief only at a lesser scale. Indeed, according to the report, there are families in receipt of relief who, with the other income that they may have, make up something like £5, £6 or £7 a week, which is clearly more than the general run of income of families who are not in receipt of out-relief at all. There is another practice which seems to be very undesirable, and that is the practice of considering single men over 18, living at home or with their families, as single applicants and giving them the full scale, or very nearly the full scale, of relief. This brings the total in West Ham above the maximum scale of 55s. laid down in the relief scale. And there are many cases in which it seems that relief has been given where it does not appear to have been necessary at all if proper care in administration had been shown and the whole circumstances of the case properly examined. I want to make it quite clear that what has happened is this. Whatever may be the reasons, the Board of Guardians of West Ham are in such a position that they cannot carry on relief by means of the rates and that shortly they will have borrowed more money—if they have not already done so—than they can possibly ever repay. The inevitable consequence, if these things continue, must be that the cost of relief will fall upon the taxpayers. The only chance that the taxpayers will not be saddled with this expenditure, over which they have no control, is provided by this Bill, which, in West Ham or in any other union—I do not single out West Ham particularly—makes it possible to reform the administration and put the finances of the union on a solid footing. I hope very much that this Bill will be only a temporary measure, that the general reform of the Poor Law will take place next year and that by that general reform such cases as this will be rendered impossible. But some immediate action is absolutely necessary and something must be done to prevent the development of the state of affairs in regard to the taxpayer that I have described. I think the only way of doing it is by this measure, and accordingly I trust that your Lordships will pass this Bill."It is my honest opinion that our present position is due to the fact, not that we are giving what is in the opinion of the Ministry an extravagant scale of relief, but that individual members of the Board have completely forgotten their duty as guardians, and have been usurping that of the relieving officers."
Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( The Earl of Onslow.)
EARL DE LA WARR
My Lords, the noble Earl, in urging your Lordships to accept this Bill, has called on certain precedents. He reminded us particularly of precedents under the Housing Acts of recent years. But is he really quite sure that it is fair to do so? I think he will find, on looking into the matter, that the discretion of the Minister is permitted only after due public local inquiry, whereas in this Bill we are asked to give to the Minister absolute power, without any conditions whatsoever, to supersede any board of guardians which in his opinion has ceased to operate as he thinks fit. The noble Earl really admitted in his speech the reason why he has introduced this Bill, and in doing so I think he altogether failed to make out a case for the passage of the Bill into law. He has based the whole of his case on the particular circumstances that are in exist-once to-day in West Ham.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
And in any other union where similar conditions might arise. I point out West Ham as an example.
EARL DE LA WARR
I am sorry if I speak rather slowly. I was just going to add "and other necessitous areas."
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
Not necessitous areas. They need not be necessitous.
EARL DE LA WARR
I think the noble Earl will admit that it is far more likely to occur in the case of necessitous areas than in the case of any other—
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
I admit that.
EARL DE LA WARR
and that in the past disputes have arisen only in connection with necessitous areas. I think it is fair to assume, therefore, that it is unlikely that this procedure will be changed. I noticed that the noble Earl was particularly careful, as was the Minister of Health in another place, not to mention that the Board of Guardians in West Ham were Labour men, that there is a Labour majority on the Guardians. Unfortunately, his restraint has not been followed by his own Press, the Conservative Press. They have made the occurrences in West Ham the excuse for the most scurrilous propaganda against the Labour Party, and in doing so they have neglected altogether the true facts of the situation. They have not even mentioned that the situation was beginning to arise before there was a Labour majority on the Guardians in West Ham, and that the debt was already beginning to pile up. Conditions there were too strong for the Guardians, to whatever particular Party they might belong. I challenge the noble Earl and the Minister of Health to send down their most efficient administrator to West Ham and then to come back in six months, or a year, and say that he has been able to effect any very real change in the local budget.Of course, it is perfectly possible to argue that some members of the Guardians, living as they are under the conditions that exist in West Ham, seeing around them all the poverty and distress, may have been carried away—that their hearts were too soft—but I am not so sure that the noble Earl, whoever he sends down to West Ham, will not find that any reasonable, decent-minded man who goes down there will act very much as the Guardians have done. But what is the next body in the list that was given by the Minister of Health to the House of Commons in the order of the size of its debts? You find that Sheffield is the next worst area to West Ham—Sheffield, which has never had a Labour or Socialist majority. I am putting this not merely from a Party point of view, not merely to justify the Party to which I belong, although I intend to do so, but in order to reinforce my point that no matter whom you put in these areas they are going to be compelled, by the conditions and situation with which they are faced, to pile up debt after debt with the Ministry of Health, until the nation is prepared to undertake its full responsibilities in the reform of the Poor Law and in the maintenance of the unemployed. On this point of the maintenance of the unemployed, the noble Earl who spoke for the Government has already informed your Lordships that we have in West Ham an enormous number of unemployed, of a particular type for whom it is especially hard to find employment. Can the noble Earl really assure us that the Government during their last two years of office, have done everything in their power to assist this type of area, by seeing that the nation did pay for its unemployed? I want to assert the exact opposite, and to say that the whole policy of the Government during the last two years has been such as to accentuate the very problem with which the noble Lord is attempting to deal in this Bill, to-day. But why? For a very simple reason. It was, I think, over a year ago that the Government introduced their Unemployment Insurance. Act, and I remember that at the time I spoke, and was very severely rated afterwards for what I said by the noble Viscount, Lord Ceil of Chelwood. I said that the policy of the Government was such that by decreasing the drain on the Unemployment Insurance Fund they were going to increase the dram on the local rates. In justification of that remark I will ask your Lordships' permission to read a short extract from the Poor Law Officers' Journal. It has nothing to do with the Labour Party, or with politics. What does it say? It says:—
Further on it says:—"The unemployment figures of the Ministry of Labour (the General Strike excluded) are decreasing at the rate of 125,000 a year in England and Wales. The Poor Law figures have increased at the rate of over 250,000. In other words, we have once more ample confirmation of the fact that the Treasury, that is to say, the taxpayer, is gaining at the expense of the ratepayer."
such a one as is West Ham—"The black spots, the necessitous areas"—
If, in opposing this Bill, we were asked what we would do instead, we would say first of all that we would reverse that policy of the Government, and we would stop making the problem of these necessitous areas still mores grave. We would go further than that, and we would say that unemployment is a national burden and must be borne by the nation. The need, or so-called need, for this Bill has arisen simply and solely because we have not as yet recognised that vital principle. Until we do recognise that principle we are going on having what we call necessitous areas, and the process which these necessitous areas are going through, of getting blacker and blacker, is bound to continue with us. It is all very well saying to the West Ham Guardians, or to any other body of guardians: "Do as we tell you." We know it is not really going to help. The noble Earl really admitted as much. It cannot help because that policy of increasing local burdens for the benefit of the national Exchequer is continuing. It may be useful propaganda against Socialist boards of guardians, but I submit to noble Lords on the Government Bench that it is an extremely dangerous policy to adopt, to say that when there is a Labour board of guardians, which is forced by circumstances over which it has no control to carry out a policy of which the Minister of Health disapproves, then Parliament is going to give to the Minister of Health power to supersede that board of guardians. We in this Party have to use a good deal of our energies in working against a certain Party which has nothing to do with us, but which is very anxious to join us—the Communist Party. What is the case they put up? They say this: "It is no good you people—meaning us—thinking you are going to attain your end by constitutional means, because the moment you are able to get hold of the Constitution, or a part of the Constitution in the case of the guardians, you will find that that part of the Constitution will be changed." That is exactly what has happened. My Lords, we hold that the policy contained in this Bill is ineffective and dangerous, dangerous in its constitutional bearings, most dangerous, and we therefore intend to oppose the Bill, and hope that your Lordships will not allow it to pass through this House."are getting steadily blacker."
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I should like to apologise to the noble Earl opposite for having interrupted him when he mentioned necessitous areas, but of course he is quite right. Difficulties of this sort are bound to arise in necessitous areas more than in others, but it is not an absolute necessity that they should arise. He said that he thought that the system of appeals introduced into other Acts against the Minister before he takes power to substitute others for existing local authorities should be introduced into this Bill. If that had been done and the matter had been subject to legal proceedings, and even an appeal to your Lordships' House, the delay would rob the Bill of any efficiency, and that is why it has been drawn in the manner it has been.The noble Earl seemed also to think that this Bill was an attack upon the Party to which he belonged. I thought I had made it clear that it seemed to us that there was a general consensus of opinion, including the opinion of the vice-chairman of the Board of Guardians of West Ham, who is a member of the Party to which the noble Earl belongs, that the administration was not satisfactory. Then he said, as I thought he would do, that nobody else would do any better. That remains to be seen. If under the Bill the Minister of Health should send some other people to take the place of the Board of Guardians and they did not do any better then of course the Bill would have failed, but that is a matter which has to be proved. Anyway, some measure will have to be taken to protect the taxpayer until the measure for Poor Law reform is introduced, which we trust will happen next year. Then, the noble Earl asked me if the Government had done all they could do to relieve unemployment. I would answer that we have done everything that we thought possible for that purpose, and indeed it is proved by the fact that until recent events unemployment was steadily on the decrease. I trust that your Lordships will pass this Bill. I think it is the only measure that can be taken in the circumstances to relieve this trouble in West Ham and in other similar unions, if any exist.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly:
[The EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
Bill reported without amendment.
Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended), Bill read 3a and passed.
Sale Of Food (Weights And Measures) Bill Hl
Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, this Bill originates in your Lordships' House. It is based on the recommendation of the Food Council, presided over by a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Bradbury. It follows very closely, and with few exceptions only, the Report of that Council on short weight and measure in the sale of food. Legislation of the nature contemplated by the Food Council has been recommended or supported by the County Councils Association, by the Association of Municipal Corporations, and by different individual county and municipal local authorities, including, particularly, the London County Council. The Incorporated Society of Inspectors of Weights and Measures and the Parliamentary Committee of the Co-operative Congress were consulted by the Food Council and expressed their approval of legislation being framed upon these lines, and the main principles of the Bill have also, I believe, been approved by different trade associations. So that this Bill comes before your Lordships with a good deal of qualified and instructed support.There are at the present moment no legislative enactments applicable through the whole of Great Britain preventing short weight and measure in the sale of foodstuffs, except in the case of tea and bread. There does not seem to be any general requirement that goods, though nominally sold by weight and measure, shall actually be weighed and measured. Under the existing law it is an offence to use in trade any unstamped instruments, weights or measures, or, where the appliances are themselves correct, to commit wilful fraud in their use. But in practice it has been found exceedingly difficult to obtain any conviction under this head, because it is very nearly essential that the inspector or the other expert witness shall have witnessed the fraud in the manipulation of the apparatus. The giving of a quantity less than that demanded or represented to be supplied is not generally speaking a statutory offence, and such remedies as may exist are under the Merchandise Marks Act or at Common Law. These put an individual complainant to an amount of trouble which is entirely disproportionate to the sum involved, and really are quite impossible and impracticable for the smaller consumer. There has been for some time a good deal of complaint as to the practice of giving short weight or measure in the sale of foodstuffs, and this practice has been made easier by the use of prepacked foods, and the necessity for some strengthening of the law has been pressed upon the Board of Trade by the County Councils Association and the Association of Municipal Corporations. The Food Council, after taking a great deal of evidence and after a very exhaustive inquiry, came to the conclusion that, though these malpractices are certainly not generally prevalent in the retail food trade, yet they occur with sufficient frequency to render some action necessary particularly in the interest of the poorer class of consumers. They think also that such action would be supported by a majority of the reputable traders. Objections that have been taken have rather been directed towards points of detail than to the general principle of the Bill itself. Great difficulties have been exerienced in trying to apply, or in considering how to apply, the measure to wholesale dealings in agricultural and horticultural products, and these have been in general temporarily excluded from the operation of the Bill, though there are in Clause 10 some provisions that in certain eventualities may bring such dealings within its purview. I will give a very short account of the different clauses of the Bill, because I think it may assist your Lordships when we come to deal with them in Committee. Clause 1 makes it an offence to give short weight, measure, or number in the sale of any foodstuffs. Clause 2 prescribes that markings of weight or measure on pre-packed articles shall be deemed to refer to net weight or measure, unless otherwise specified. Clause 3 prohibits misrepresentation of weight, measure or number by any means whatever, and Clause 4 prescribes that certain scheduled articles of common consumption shall be sold exclusively by net weight. When sold in packets they are to be made up in certain definite quantities and unless they are made up on the premises where they are retailed they must be marked with a statement of their net weight at the time of packing or at the time of importation. The articles may, however, be made up in any desired quantity if they are weighed in the presence of the purchaser and delivered to him forthwith or if they are accompanied on delivery by a statement of their net weight. Clauses 5, 6 and 7 prescribe the general conditions to be observed on the sale of butchers' meat, bread and milk respectively. Clause 5 provides that butchers' meat shall be retailed exclusively by net weight and, unless weighed in the presence of the purchaser and immediately delivered to him shall be accompanied by a statement of such net weight. Clause 6, in conjunction with the subsequent clauses of a general nature, incorporates the provisions of the existing Sale of Food Order in respect of bread, with certain modifications which have been introduced after agreement with the Scottish Office. The clause provides that bread shall be sold, except where supplied by contract under certain specified conditions, exclusively by net weight and in loaves weighing one pound or an integral number of pounds. Fancy bread, as it is called, and loaves of twelve ounces or less are exempted, and the conditions are laid down as to the methods of weighing or inspecting the bread. Clause 7 confines the retail sale of milk, except dried or condensed milk, to quantities of half a pint or multiples of half a pint. But Clause 8 exempts from the provisions of Clauses 4, 5, 6 and 7 food sold for consumption on the premises or sold in the small quantities denned in Clause 14 as "petty amounts." Clause 9 empowers the Board of Trade to make Regulations for the purpose of adding to or varying the list of articles scheduled to be sold only under the special conditions mentioned above with or without the modification of such conditions, and also prescribes the manner in which indications of net weight shall be marked on packages. These Regulations will be subject to the approval of Parliament and will not come into force until six months after they are made. Clause 10 empowers the Ministry of Agriculture, after consultation with the Board of Trade, to make Regulations prescribing the units of sale to be employed in whole- sale transactions in fruit, vegetables and so on, and fixing the dimensions of containers that can be used for the purpose. Pending the issue of these Regulations the provisions of the Act will not apply to finch transactions unless there is actual representation of weight, measure or number. Clause 11 confers on inspectors of weights and measures the powers of inspection and entry and purchase necessary for the execution of the powers conferred by the Bill on the local weights and measures authorities, with particular reference to the inspection of pre-packed articles. Clause 12 lays down the penalties and Clause 13 safeguards traders from prosecution in respect of deficiencies due to causes beyond their control, such as the unauthorised acts of servants and bona fide mistakes or accidents, and generally safeguards them against vexatious prosecutions of any kind. It applies also to defence by warranty, and provides time limits for the institution of proceedings and the notification thereof. Clause 14 defines the expressions used in the Bill or limits their application, and Clause 15 provides that the Act shall be construed as one with the Weights and Measures Acts. The effect of this is that the local administration of the Act will rest with the local weights and measures authorities. The clause provides also that there shall be a period of grace of not less than six months in respect of the provisions relating to pre-packed articles. As to the schedules, the First Schedule sets out, as your Lordships will see, a list, beginning with bacon and ending with potatoes, of the articles required by Clause 4 to be sold by net weight. The Second Schedule sets out the safeguarding provisions in respect to defence by warranty which are applied by Clause 13, and the Third Schedule deals with the enactments to be repealed. That, very shortly, is a summary of the detailed provisions of the Bill. I should like to make one or two remarks about points in which the Bill differs from the advice given by the Food Council. First of all, jam and marmalade, owing I believe to considerable technical difficulties which connot at present be met, are excluded for the time being from the schedule of articles which are only to be sold by net weight. Then, as regards pre-packed goods, they are allowed to be sold in net quantities of twelve ounces, which was not to be permitted under the advice of the Food Council. I believe this change was largely made owing to the considerable trade in packed peas which were generally sold in packets of twelve ounces or so, and it was felt that it would be impossible to give this special privilege of being sold in twelve ounce packets to packed peas and not to other articles of a like nature. Under other provisions of the Bill the packets would bear a clear indication of the net contents. I have already mentioned in reference to fruit and vegetables that wholesale transactions are excluded from the operations of the Bill for the time being. The Ministry of Agriculture, of course, will have power under Clause 10 to make Regulations prescribing the units of sale that may be adopted. There are only two other points which may call for some detailed criticism when we come to the Committee stage. One is in regard to what is known as Scotch fancy bread. I understand that this article is sold in units of 1 lb. 12 ozs. and that, though it is called fancy bread, some 30 to 50 per cent. of the usual household consumption is in this fancy bread. It is urged that this trade is a long established one and that it would be much disturbed by the laying down of units of 1 lb. and 2 lbs. There have been many representations from the local authorities insisting that there should be no exception in the case of this particular class of fancy bread and, therefore, we propose in this case to follow the advice of the Food Council. One point remains, and that is as regards selling sugar by net weight. There is some fear among the makers of the heavier paper bags that then trade would be a good deal dis- turbed because, under these provisions, it may be more difficult for the traders to use these heavy paper bags. That has been very carefully considered by the Board of Trade and they have come to the conclusion that on the whole it is better to follow the advice of the Food Council. They find it very difficult to advise another proposal that has been made, that these paper bags should be standardised. Your Lordships will see that there is a good deal of detail in the Bill which may, and no doubt will, be examined on Committee stage, but I do not think your Lordships will find it difficult to give this Bill a Second Reading.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a — ( Viscount Peel.)
My Lords, there is one small point to which I should like to direct the noble Viscount's attention. We are all glad to see him back and, possibly owing to his absence, he may not have observed this point. I am proposing to suggest an Amendment on the Committee stage of this Bill, in Clause 12, which deals with penalties. I dare say this matter has come to the attention of the noble Viscount, but I thought I would make certain and call his attention to it now. The Amendment is to the effect that the conviction should be posted in the shop of the offending tradesman. I will not enter into the merits of it now, but I think it will be a proposal well worthy of discussion by your Lordships. It will be a case of making the punishment fit the crime. No doubt, when the time comes, the noble Viscount will be able to give us the views of the Government on the matter.
My Lords, I ought to tell the noble Viscount that, although I have no objection to make to the Bill, there is one Amendment that I myself, or one of my noble friends, will propose to move, and that is in regard to the application of this measure to Scotland. It is a matter which has been considered by one or two Committees, and one at any rate, the one presided over by my noble friend Lord Rathcreedan, reported against including Scotland in this Bill. I do not propose to go into it now, because it is obviously a Committee point. I mention it in order that the noble Viscount may know that an Amendment is impending.
May I ask the noble Earl this? Is he directing himself solely to the point about fancy bread, or is it his intention to leave out Scotland generally?
No; it is the question of fancy bread.
My Lords, as I was Chairman of an Interdepartmental Committee which dealt with the whole question I should like to appeal to the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill to accept one small Amendment. Perhaps he may be able to do so when the Bill goes into Committee. If it is made it will make the Bill entirely acceptable to Scotland. I may point out that we had called before our Committee experts in the bakery business from all over the kingdom and one fact stood out prominently: that was the admirable manner in which the bakery trade is managed throughout Scotland. It was evident that it is managed in a manner far better than is the case in any other part of Great Britain. For generations it has been the custom in Scotland to sell bread at 1 lb. 12 oz., that being the standard loaf of ordinary bread. No less than 75 per cent. of the product is in this form. The other 25 per cent. is in what is known as fancy bread, this fancy bread consisting of what is known either as the tinned loaf, the Vienna loaf or crusty bread. Therefore the public is amply protected and they are perfectly satisfied. I need scarcely toll noble Lords that when either a Scotsman or a Scotswoman has made a bargain and that bargain is acceptable to them the chances are a hundred to one that the bargain is a good one.All that Scotland demands is to be left alone. They find that the present system answers admirably and the proof is that between 1917 and 1921, when food control did introduce this matter, the immediate effect upon the fancy trade was a fall of 33 per cent., showing that the people in Scotland did not approve of the change which this Bill is to bring about. Again, the co-operative societies throughout the whole of Scotland are strongly in favour of things being left as they are. Another matter was this. To standardise bread at one point would be detrimental to the bakery trade in Scotland. I will not enter into detail, but all their bake ovens, utensils and so forth have been put up on the basis of producing this particular bread, and if you make this alteration you will inevitably throw a great expense upon the bakery trade because they will have to scrap much of their machinery and utensils. The result will be not only a rise in the price of fancy bread but in the price of all bread throughout Scotland. Therefore it will be seen that this is a matter of importance. The only objection that I have heard raised is that it might occasion some difficulty to the inspectors. I do not think there is any difficulty whatever because, even to those who are not accustomed to deal with bread, the differences in shape, in size and the general appearance of the so-called fancy bread are such that it is easily recognisable. I wish to appeal to the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill to introduce—though it may be a matter for Committee—the following slight Amendment, which would meet the views of Scotland: In Clause 14, subsection 3, after the words "similar character," add the words "which alternatively, may be weighed at one pound and three-quarters." The result of that small Amendment, which the noble Viscount might easily introduce before the Bill goes into Committee, would meet with the entire satisfaction of the bakery trade in Scotland and of the general public.
My Lords, I think even in the elastic procedure of this House we rarely deal on Second Reading with Committee Amendments. We do not, I think, take the Committee Stage before the Second Reading, but I am very much obliged for the observations made by the noble Lord. I only wish to say this, that although he and the noble Earl have both spoken about Scotch fancy bread, not a single Scotsman has got up and objected to this Bill and they are very well represented in your Lordships' House. I do not know why the cudgels on behalf of the Scotch fancy bread are taken up by two Englishmen.I do not want to deal with the details at this stage, but I am not quite sure from the evidence before me that the Scottish housewife is really so capable of making a good bargain as she has been represented to be. There is a good deal of evidence to show from samples that have been taken, that the 1 lb. 12 oz. loaf of fancy bread does not weigh anything like 1 lb. 12 oz., but in fact sometimes weighs as little as 1 lb. 6 oz. That seems to contradict the noble Lord's evidence. The only other point he mentioned was this. He said it would please the whole of Scotland if I accepted his Amendment. All I can say is that a great many municipalities in Scotland have strongly pressed this question of the standardisation of fancy bread. I do not know what evidence the noble Lord can bring forward, but I think his statement that the whole of Scotland would be gratified is perhaps rather a large one in the circumstances.
VISCOUNT YOUNGER OF LECKIE
My Lords, I should like to repair the omission mentioned by the noble Viscount and to say as a Scottish Peer that in Scotland we do want this change, and I hope it may be made.
My Lords, the noble Lord said there was no information that they did want it. When the conference of the Scottish Co-operative Societies assembled in Glasgow on March 27 they unanimously pressed for it.
On Question, Rill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
University Of London Bill Hl
Read 3a (according to Order): Privilege Amendment made: Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.
Union Of Benefices And Disposal Of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
had given Notice to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, the first thing I want to remove from your Lordships' mind is that this is a Bill for the destruction of a great many City churches. It is nothing of the kind. I myself have been lampooned in many magazines and newspapers on the subject, and your Lordships may have seen a picture of the Bishop of London, on the occasion of the bi-centenary of Wren, represented as saying: "Good old Wren, let's pull down one of his churches to commemorate his memory." There have been worse lampoons than that which have not come before the public eye. One is a picture of the Bishop of London leaning on a pick-axe drinking tea while the death beetle does its work.
I do not mind all this chaff in the least, I thoroughly enjoy it, but when a responsible newspaper like The Times seems to take the same view it really is time to protest. This Bill is a Bill for stopping the Bishop of London being an iconoclast. For myself it is the last thing I want to be. I love these City churches. I have restored many of them, I have opened them, and I would not have one of these monuments of beauty destroyed. There are a great many I could mention which we have restored at great cost and not always with help from the City. We have done that, and therefore I repeat that the idea that this is a Bill in any sense to bring about the wholesale pulling down of City churches is entirely wrong.
On the contrary, if your Lordships will look at the Bill, you will see that the Bishop of London is hampered at every turn by the terms of the Bill. For instance, he has to consult the Fine Art Commission before he starts on any pulling down of churches. Then you will find a grand jury referred to in Clause 2 of no fewer than thirty-five people, who have got to be consulted and who must agree with him before a single church is touched. Then there is a Commission which he used to appoint himself, or rather he appointed two members of the Commission and the Dean of St. Paul's appointed a Chairman. Now he will not appoint a single one of the five Commissioners. He will write the appointment of them, but he will not select one of them. Therefore I say this particular Bill, instead of being a Bill for pulling down a number of churches, is a bill to restrain the Bishop of London from being rash, foolish and iconoclastic.
Some City churches have been removed with advantage in the past. They had no architectural beauty. There was St. Martin Outwich, which was one of the most hideous churches and was removed some years ago. As the result there is now a church with £600 a year in poor Dalston and another church with £600 a year in poor Stepney. Then, instead of another church which was pulled down, we have St. Benet Fink, Tottenham, which is full of people, instead of an empty church in the City. We carried down the furniture and the name and the tradition. We have also St. Bartholomew's, Stamford Rill, instead of an empty City church, and St. Katherine's, Hammersmith, now represents that hideous church, St. Katherine Coleman. I had 200 communicants there when I visited it.
I want your Lordships to realise that this Bill really is a Bill for putting together the parishes of the City and so enabling us to deal with surplus incomes and surplus man power. If you read the Bill you will see that is the real object of it. Have your Lordships really considered what is called the scandal of the City? I have a memorandum written by a well-known City incumbent. He says that the population of the City in 1911 was 19,657, and in 1921 it was only 13,709, a decrease of 30 per cent. The number of parish churches was forty-six and the number of clergy over sixty. The estimated number of Church worshippers in the City, added to those who come from a distance, is between 2,000 and 2,500, all told. Now the incumbents' incomes, as estimated by a former City incumbent who is now the Bishop of Plymouth, are £34,398. Nearly £35,000 a year is being paid in respect of these churches. The total cost of maintaining these forty-six churches under the present system is reckoned at between £50,000 and £60,000 a year.
Therefore you have forty-six churches, over sixty clergy, over forty organists, choirs, vergers, cleaners, etc., employed at a yearly cost of between £50,000 and £60,000 to minister to 2,500 people. I am leaving out of consideration for the moment what is done on week-days. I am constantly preaching in the City and certainly we want a number of churches for people in the City. But do we want forty-six churches, forty-six organists, forty-six choirs, to minister to them? About a dozen churches would be sufficient. We can only make real use of about a dozen churches. I have had to break the law in the case of a man whose congregation has been one verger. I quite admit it, and one reason why I want this Bill is to put myself right. I have had to let off this man to do some good in another church. By law I should have kept him reading Matins and Evensong every Sunday for one verger. Is that a state of things that we want to keep going?
The men and women for whom the churches were built do not live in the City now. The people for whom they were built are in Dagenham, Tottenham and Edmonton. We want to carry the ministrations of the Church down to those places. It is there that the people now live for whom the churches were built. People there represent the old apprentices of the City. The urgency of the matter is that if you do not give people a church within ten years they do not want it in the next ten years. They have got accustomed to doing without it. I do not know whether your Lordships realise that in London we have built 260 churches in fifty years. We have not always been helped, as we might have been helped, by the City. We have to consider that the Bishop of Southwark, who may not have time to speak, and the Bishop of Chelmsford have to build twenty-five churches almost at once and do not know where to turn for the money. Even in our richer diocese I have been able to afford to build only one church during the seven years since the War. What I want your Lordships to realise is the enormous need of churches all round London for the very people who come up every day. That is the fact that we have to face. That really is my whole case for the Measure. I do not want to labour a point that must be obvious to everyone. This is not a Measure for pulling down City churches, except under the most tremendous restrictions. It is a Measure for putting parishes together and so saving £23,000 a year, which we ought to be able to do quite easily in this way.
Now I turn to the memorandum sent round by my friends in the City—and they are my friends. I see present my noble friend Lord Marshall, an excellent
friend of mine, who is no doubt going to oppose the Measure. I do not wonder that when someone read this memorandum he said: "I was going to oppose the Measure, but after reading the memorandum from the City I am going to support it, because its arguments are so utterly ineffective." I agree that the arguments of this memorandum are such as to force anyone to vote for the Measure. Let us take the second paragraph of the memorandum. It runs—
"The churches in the City of London cannot be regarded solely from the point of view of their use for purposes of Church services; they are national memorials of the antiquity which renders the City a magnet of attraction to the world at large."
I absolutely agree with that, and that is why we safeguard in every possible way the touching of every one of these memorials. We are not touching any of them until we have had a decision from the Royal Fine Art Commission. Before we deal with them at all we have to get the proposal through a grand jury of thirty-five people. I am surprised that those who drafted this memorandum did not realise that their third argument is completely knocked out by their second.
The third paragraph includes the following statement:—
"In the procedure thus laid down is contained provision whereby the inhabitants of the parish concerned are able to adopt or oppose the scheme by resolution in vestry, and one of the avowed objects of the present Measure is to remove this power from the inhabitants."
It is just because the second argument is true and that these are national memorials that you want something more than a local body of people who happen to live in a particular parish. We want to appeal to a great public conscience. All we do is to prefer a public responsible jury to a little handful of people, whipped up in the vestry in the place itself. I have not time to touch upon all the arguments of this memorandum because I hope that others are going to speak afterwards, but I should like to refer to the eighth paragraph, which says—
"The general effect of the proposed Measure is contrary to the principles laid down by Parliament.… and is in conflict with the fundamental principle of English law, which provides that rights shall not be taken away without due consideration of all interests concerned…."
We have tried in the most meticulous way to pay regard to all the interests concerned.
They go on to say, in the next paragraph—
"The City of London, through the medium of the City Parochial Charities, already contributes some £45,000 a year for general Church purposes."
I feel bound to say that they do not do so; the Corporation does not ever give a penny of that £45,000. These are very ancient charities which are equally divided between secular and purely church purposes. The memorandum goes on to say, in paragraph 12—
"Under the procedure laid down by the Measure any proposals for a scheme for dealing with a church or churches are to emanate from the Bishop and are to be recommended by a Commission appointed by him. The Metropolitan Benefices Board may, if it thinks fit, advise the Bishop as to any limitation or condition to be observed in respect of the proposals and as to the general use of churches in the City and the Commission is to have regard to the advice given by the Board."
That ought to be an argument upon the other side. My Commission, which I appoint but do not nominate, is to be guided by the Board: and that is because we do not want to pull down anything unless these thirty-five people say that we may.
Let me quote the only part of this memorandum which seems to me to be of any substance. I refer to the fourteenth paragraph, which says—
"Of the 30 ordinary members, 20 are to be appointed by ecclesiastical bodies, 2 by the City clergy, and 1 by the Churchwardens of the City; only 7 are to be appointed by bodies which are independent of clerical influence. The interests of the general body of citizens and ratepayers are only represented by 5 additional members to be appointed by the Corporation and the London County Council…. It is obviously undesirable that a large majority of the members of the Board should be nominated by clerical bodies who are materially interested in the eventual disposal of the funds to be derived from the scheme under consideration."
That means that whereas fifteen members are almost bound to be against any destruction, twenty are Church people who, if they all vote the same way, will be in a majority. We have tried to obtain as fair a body as we possibly could.
The final point that I put before your Lordships is that here is something that is a real scandal in the spiritual life of London. We have heard a good deal about West Ham, but what would have happened to that one and a-half million people of London if they had not had built for them 260 churches in the last 50 years? We need churches in these great, growing districts. They do more to keep order than any police in the world, and if you are going to leave this great City without spiritual help you are going to lay up a very heavy store for yourselves in time to come. This Measure has been very carefully worked out. I think it does justice to everyone and I hope that it will be agreed to by your Lordships' House.
Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Bishop of London.)
LORD MARSHALL OF CHIPSTEAD,
who had given Notice to move, That the Measure be not presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent, said: My Lords, on behalf of the Corporation of the City of London I have submitted to your Lordships a Petition praying that this Measure be not presented for the Royal Assent. I have listened with very great attention to the eloquent and, I venture to say, the ingenious speech of the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London, and I would say in reply that the powers in this Measure are such as to enable the National Church Assembly to deal with any and every church in the City of London, not excluding St. Paul's Cathedral. The Corporation, as the custodians of the City, feel very desirous that such powers as these should be exercised only by Parliament. I would point out that the Union of Benefices Measure, 1923, which duly passed this House and received the Royal Assent, while it authorised the disposal of surplus churches and property in England, expressly excepted those wholly or partially within the City of London. I think it is evident that the framers of that Measure had found strong reason for excepting the City from its operation, and apprehended that your Lordships would appreciate the exceptional position of the City of London and would not be likely to approve that Measure had it included the City.
The Corporation feels that all the powers that are required can be exer- cised under the Act of 1860, which allows any church to be dealt with under the powers of Parliament. The statement of the Corporation which has been circulated to your Lordships lays great stress on the attempt of the Church Assembly to include in the Measure powers which the Corporation feel amount to confiscation of property. Their contention is that, while Parliament conferred on the Church Assembly power to deal with matters domestic to the Church of England, it was not the intention of Parliament to give them the right to confiscate valuable property, of which the citizens are the beneficiaries if not technically the legal owners. The City churches have been built by citizens of all denominations, taxed for that purpose, and although the churches may be vested legally in the incumbents, this vesting is expressly subject to their use for Divine worship, and it is obvious that if churches are pulled down and the sites sold there can be no Divine worship therein. This Measure, therefore, constitutes a clear breach of trust, to which I earnestly hope your Lordships will not assent. The interests of the general body of citizens, who are clearly concerned in this matter, are only represented by five additional members, to be appointed by the Corporation and the London County Council, and of the thirty ordinary members of the Board twenty are to be appointed by ecclesiastical bodies, two by the City clergy, one by the churchwardens of the City, and only seven by bodies independent of clerical influence.
I am aware that the Ecclesiastical Committee has considered the constitutional side of the Measure, and that it considers it expedient—it does not say just—that the Measure should become law. Your Lordships may not, however, be aware, and I especially want to emphasise this fact, that out of thirty members constituting the Ecclesiastical Committee only thirteen found it convenient to be present when the Report was decided upon. The voting was nine in favour and four against, a majority of only five in favour of the Report. A further objection to this Measure is that if a scheme for disposal is put forward, and is adversely reported upon by the Metropolitan Benefices Board (whose office it is to consider such a scheme, with power to veto it) then that decision is not in any way final, for the Bishop has power to appoint Commission after Commission until a favourable report is obtained. In the City of London, to-day, there are some fifty churches remaining. Of these, nine were in existence before the Great Fire, and thirty-two were built by Sir Christopher Wren. I do not propose to labour the architectural side of the case, because a noble Lord will make a statement to the House on that aspect who is far better able to deal with it than I am.
The exceptional position of the City is this: The cluster of churches therein were all, or almost all, built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. These churches were built under two Acts of Parliament passed in 1667 and 1670, which imposed a coal tax of 1 s. and 3 s. respectively on every chaldron of coal entering the port of London, which was to be expended as to part on the rebuilding of the parish churches, and as to part on the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. When those Acts expired £265,000 was allocated to the rebuilding of parish churches and £88,000 to the rebuilding of St. Paul's. Your Lordships will realise that these sums were worth very much more than the same sums are to-day. They were levied on every hearth and furnace in the City, and being a compulsory tax it was borne by Nonconformists, Roman Catholics and Jews, as well as by members of the Church of England. Therefore we may claim in the City that we have a right to these churches and we ask your Lordships to let us retain our churches.
The question may be asked: "When is a church redundant?" It has been proved that City churches which used to be regarded in that category have, under the control, and I say this advisedly, of the right kind of man, become highly useful and active in the purposes for which they were established. The cure for so-called redundancy may be not demolition or removal but a proper employment of opportunity among the hundreds of thousands of City workers. What is at the end of all this? These sites are valuable sites. If disposed of they will fetch large sums of money. Those sums of money are to be expended outside the area of the City of London. A City church sold in a favourable market may permit of one or more churches being built elsewhere. That is, perhaps, an easy way of providing churches for the suburbs. Is it the best way? Is it the way that should be pressed by the Church of England? I venture to say, No! I am not an enemy of the Church of England, although I am a Free Churchman, and I am sure my right reverend friend the Lord Bishop will bear me out when I say that in all their work I am glad to have the privilege and opportunity of being associated; but I do say: "Leave to us in the City of London our monuments. Let them be monuments of our faith." If the City of London, if the Corporation of the City of London, ask in these material days for that help and that assistance, I hope that they will not appeal to your Lordships' House in vain. As the Corporation's spokesman on this occasion I ask your Lordships to say that it is inexpedient that the proposed Measure should be presented for the Royal Assent.
LORD HUNSDON OF HUNSDON
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships have listened with interest and respect to the views of the Corporation on this matter, so ably put before you by the noble Lord, but I should like to point out, with regard to the constitutional question which the noble Lord raised, that the Joint Ecclesiastical Committee have considered those things and reported against him. I imagine that your Lordships, like myself, will stand by the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I must say that I think your Lordships may have been slightly confused by the speech of the noble Lord with regard to the position, power and influence which the Corporation of London exercises, or would exercise, under this Measure. There is a small Committee of five, as the right rev. Prelate has told your Lordships, without whose approval nothing can be done, and the Corporation has the nomination of forty per cent. of that Committee. If the Corporation feel that they are not likely to get their way unless they have a stronger representation on that Committee I leave your Lordships to judge what strength their case has.The noble Lord has put forward many other arguments, but the motive—and it is a most respectable one—at the back of all these constitutional arguments and others is that the Corporation of London desire to protect the ancient monuments of the City. I have the greatest respect for that motive, and I am sure your Lordships have also. The only question, I think, that your Lordships have to decide to-night is whether the opponents of this Measure do not look at it from one point of view only, or, if they look at it from the general point of view, whether they really have a due sense of proportion, because, so far as I have read the opponents' views on this Measure, the interest, of the Church of England is almost entirely disregarded, and I submit that, in a matter of churches, the Church of England at least should have some consideration. As I think this matter really turns upon the question of ancient monuments I should like to inform your Lordships that my justification for addressing you to-night is that I was a member of the Committee presided over by Lord Phillimore which reported in 1919, and also that I visited and carefully examined every tingle City church. With the exception of the right rev. Prelate and myself, I think there are very few members of your Lordships' House who can say the same thing. I do not, of course, ask you on that account to accept my opinion of the City churches before that of any other person in this House or out of it who has examined the churches, but I think it might carry some weight as against those who have not done so. If I may continue in this egotistical manner, I am not an iconoclast. I have been interested in ecclesiastical architecture all my life, and I have just got that amount of education that visiting and examining beautiful things gives one. Of the City churches some are, if not unsurpassed, at all events splendid examples of archaeology and architecture, and of the more modern ones by Wren and his followers or contemporaries, some, such as, we will say, the spire of St. Mary-le-Bow is, in my opinion at least, unsurpassed as an architectural composition in any part of the world. With regard to St. Stephen's, Walbrook, I believe that Palladio, who, I suppose, knew something about Renaissance architecture, said that there were only two things that were worth coming back to England to see, and one was St. Stephen's, Walbrook. I cannot conceive anybody in his senses wishing to destroy monuments of that description, but among these—not forty- six but fifty-three—churches in the City some are of very slight, if any, architectural merit. That is a very strong expression to use, in view of the very influentially signed Memorial which we have all received to-day but which, I must say, has left me completely cold. These very well known experts, when they get together, will really say almost anything. I should be much more impressed by any one of these gentlemen—take Sir Reginald Blomfield, who is the greatest authority on Renaissance architecture in the country—I should be more impressed if Sir Reginald Blomfield told you: "I have visited and seen these churches, and I consider that there is not one of them which should be destroyed, for any reason whatever.' Then I should say we ought to take that into consideration. If your Lordships think I have expressed myself too strongly, perhaps I may read a paragraph in this document—
not some of the City churches but "the City churches," all of them—"We submit that the City churches"—
this is the gem—"are unique. …. architecturally in regard to their design. …."
I am speaking now of, we will say, a dozen of these churches whose merit is very slight architecturally, and if they are regarded by the inhabitants of London and by all the English-speaking race with affection I may quote the expression "Laudatur et alget"; which I may paraphrase by saying that they are regarded with affection and admiration by all the inhabitants of London and all the English-speaking race, but hardly a soul has seen them and hardly a soul even knows their names. That expression "the City churches" represents the tactics of the opponents of this Measure. I have followed this matter since 1899. I have read all the criticisms that I have seen, but never, except in one case, do they point to one single church which we condemn and say: "You ought not to condemn that church, for this reason." They talk of "the City churches" and speak in dithyrambic phrases about them. It is really not fair. The exception to which I referred is the note by Lord Hugh Cecil to the Report of the Phillimore Commission, in which he said that he considered that it would be barbarous to pull down St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary's, Aldermanbury. He may be perfectly right, I do not in the least say ho is not. But I went and stepped the distance between those two churches. It was thirty-seven of my paces. We will call it forty yards. They are in the same street. I took clown a map of the churches and I found that these two churches are surrounded by six other churches, the farthest away being less than 250 yards in a straight line. St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary's, Aldermanbury, may be, and I think are, of interest, and they may be of sufficient interest to preserve, but why do you make the Church of England preserve them? Why do you make the Church of England carry on what appears to the public as the scandal of having eight churches in a little circle which is about five hundred yards across? May I give another instance? I took the ordnance map and I measured an equilateral triangle 300 yards in length on each side. It is, that is to say, roughly nine acres, the size of a reasonably sized garden and it is bounded by Gracechurch Street on one side, King William Street on another, and Cornhill on the other (which faces the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England) and it is bisected almost exactly by Lombard Street, of which you have heard. In that nine acres, which, with hardly any exaggeration at all, I may call the financial centre of the world, there are six churches where one can do the work easily. I do not want to detain your Lordships but I should like to say that when I sat on the Committee I went very carefully into the question of finance. The result of my inquiry is not in the Report, but my estimate, with the help of a surveyor, was that the nett site value of the churches recommended for removal was about £1,500,000, and there was, of course, a very large saving of money and a certain amount of income to be derived from the emoluments of the churches proposed to be removed. Those things, of course, affected me. I thought that great good could be done with the money and with the income. But what affected me even more was the fact that, in the public view, the Church of England had ready to its hands £1,500,000 and a large income from these churches and yet there were insufficient spiritual advantages among masses of the population, and even worse that the country clergy, who, in my opinion at least and I think in the opinion of your Lordships, are a great asset to this country in every village throughout the land, should be in financial straits. These things rightly or wrongly affect the opinion of the public and weaken the power for good of the Church of England. It is for that reason that I ask your Lordships to support this Measure."they are regarded with affection not only by the inhabitants of London, but by all the English-speaking race, and that they should be hold as an inalienable trust for future generations."
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I take it that this Measure is substantially based upon the Report of the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillimore, in 1920. That impression is borne out by the speech just delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon, which in effect treats this Measure as though it were no more than a money measure to supplement the in comes of the clergy and to provide for the erection of structures elsewhere. Although the City of London is not mentioned in it the Measure is essentially a measure to destroy City churches.
THE EARL OF SELBORNE
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
At any rate it is only in the City of London that the money, the £1,600,000 or £1,700,000 to which Lord Hunsdon referred, can be found. Lord Phillimore's Committee dealt entirely and solely with the City of London. It also outlined a large scheme of reform for arranging and re-arranging ecclesiastical duties there. Incidentally, it recommended certain churches within the City which ought to be destroyed and of which the sites ought to be sold. This Measure, so far as I can see, disregards the large measure of reform proposed by Lord Phillimore's Committee, and, as I say, though it does not mention the City of London, it applies to every church from Fulham to Walthamstow. Let us make no concealment about it; the only interest in this Measure is these churches in the City of London, and if that part of London was cut out the disposal of church sites would be entirely negligible. I, therefore, test this Bill by the Report of the Phillimore Committee.That Committee scheduled 19 churches which were recommended for removal. The Report is accompanied by a map, and in a thoughtful way the doomed churches are marked on Lord Phillimore's map by black spots. What are they? There is All Hallows, Lombard Street, which was built by Wren, and there are twelve more churches in the black spot list built by Wren. There is St. Dunstan in the West. Lord Hunsdon said that he doubted if hardly a soul had ever seen any of those churches. Does he apply that to St. Dunstan in the West? Of course not. St. Mary Woolnoth is in the condemned list. That church showed how great a man Nicholas Hawksmoor, the architect, was. He really deserves much credit for the, work attributed to Vanbrugh at Blenheim, at Oxford, at Castle Howard and elsewhere. As I say, St. Mary Woolnoth is one of the condemned churches and as to that church the Commission was equally divided and the recommendation for its removal was carried by the casting vote, of the Chairman, Lord Phillimore. There he sits, blithe, learned and debonair, and yet on his shoulders must rest the responsibility that as Chairman he voted for the destruction of this incomparable church. I should like to quote to your Lordships the list of these condemned churches. It will not take a moment. Even their fine resounding names are worthy of quotation. They are All Hallows, Lombard Street, All Hallows, London Wall, St. Botolph, Aldgate, St. Katherine Coleman,—the Church which the right rev. Prelate called a hideous place just now—St. Clement, Eastcheap, St. Dunstan in the East, St. Magnus the Martyr,—many of your Lordships must know that wonderful church by the water's edge down below London Bridge—St. Mary-at-Hill, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Michael, Cornhill, St. Alban, Wood Street, St. Anne and St. Agnes, St. Botolph, Aldersgate, St. Dunstan in the West—the Church that Lord Hunsdon says nobody ever sees—St. Mary, Aldermanbury, St. Michael Royal, St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, St. Stephen, Cole- man Street, and St. Vedast, except the tower Lord Phillimore and his friends thought to make a compromise, I suppose, by saying: "We will destroy the church, we will sell the site, but we will leave the tower as a memorial of the mutilation of the church." The worst of this list is that it is only an indication of what may occur and is by no means all that was contemplated by this Committee. If your Lordships refer to page 14 of the Report you will see that these words occur:
Those are ominous words, and in the actual turn of the phrase there is almost a ferocious eagerness for still further destruction. I can see nowhere in this Report any real regret shown that it should be necessary to make this clean sweep of City churches. They say, on page 7:"It is, indeed, possible that as time goes on, and with bettor rearrangement, even the number which we have left may be further reduced."
I submit to the House that this is a complete misapprehension and a complete misconception of the value and the nature, of the duty of these City churches. This is not a Money Bill. It ought not to be treated as a Money Bill. As for saying that the interest of the Church of England is entirely disregarded if this Bill is not accepted by your Lordships, I beg leave to offer to that view a most emphatic repudiation. These churches are said to be without any great architectural merit or special antiquarian associations. Lord Hunsdon has quoted the opinion of Lord Hugh Cecil on two of these churches. Lord Hugh Cecil mentions St. Mary, Aldermanbury, and St. Alban, Wood Street, and says, in a dissenting note to this Report, that he thinks it would be barbarous to pull them down. Those are two of the doomed churches. "Oh," says Lord Hunsdon, "I went there this morning. Those churches are only fifty yards apart." That is quite true. Are there too many masterpieces in the National Gallery? Are we too rich in statues in the British Museum? Are there too many banks in Lombard Street? The fact is that these historical monuments do get crowded into small areas. It is the same in the historic towns of the world, and most of all in London—at any rate more in London than in most towns—and the fact that there are two fine churches cheek by jowl in the City of London does not really affect me quite so much as it affects my noble friend Lord Hunsdon. Lord Hugh Cecil said it would be barbarous to destroy two of them. I must be frank with your Lordships. Lord Hugh Cecil now supports this Measure, but he appended to the Report of the Committee four years ago a crushing and drastic note of dissent, which applies equally to-day, to the effect that the scheme of reform should operate before the churches are destroyed. When the reforms are in operation, consider them and see if it really be necessary to destroy the churches. Destruction can then be considered. I think that is a very reasonable view to take. I return for a moment or two, with your Lordships' permission, to the value of these buildings as buildings. I know that the Committee is very scornful about it. The Lord Bishop of London was rather scornful about it. Let me at least say this of the City churches, that the church is at any rate the finest building in its street. Your Lordships will remember the very old story about the fashionable tailor in the Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg, who put over his shop: So-and-So "the best tailor in the world." Lower down the street his rival put over his shop front: "The best tailor in St. Petersburg." A tailor a little further on excelled them both by putting over his shop: "The best tailor in this street." Although these churches may not compare with Westminster Abbey or with St. Paul's, they are a precious heritage, partly for a reason not connected with their own special intrinsic merit, but largely because, as time goes on, these churches are becoming such rarities. Their value is enhanced by that very fact. A second-class church in the City of London to-day is worth more to us than a first-class church was worth to the city of London a century ago. And as time goes on these churches are disappearing regularly. Is there no facility for getting rid of churches now? Let me put this point. Under the present Act—that is the Act of 1860—no less than twenty City churches have been destroyed. That is to say, one City church has gone every third year. Is not that speed quick enough? I ask any of your Lordships who are mathematicians—perhaps I might put it to Lord Phillimore himself—how long would it take at that rate before all the remaining churches in the City of London disappear altogether? For sixty years, we have lost a church in the City of London every third year. I come now to a very important question, the most important point that issued from the speech of the right rev. Prelate. The Ecclesiastical Committee made a Report upon this Measure. I wish to read four or five lines from page 3, which refer to two Petitions against the Measure:—"We have gone carefully into the question of the architectural merits, the historical associations and the topographical advantages of the several churches, and we have come to the conclusion that those named in the list which follows might well be removed."
The right rev. Prelate went further and said: "This is a Bill to restrict the powers of the Bishop." May we compromise on that? Withdraw this Bill and let the destruction of these churches proceed upon the old constitutional method. I would rather incur that risk of losing one church in three years than the wholesale demolition, which I am afraid of, as recommended by the Phillimore Committee. I want to say this further. Public-opinion is changing very much on this question. Public opinion is assumng a very strong and decided attitude about the destruction of older buildings. The fact is our losses have been so great and have been so little realised while they were going on, that we are now only just beginning to estimate the real measure of our loss. I am glad that the attitude of the City is considered by Lord Hunsdon to arise from respectable motives. They realise their past losses and they shrink from these further assaults. I have no hesitation in saying that I think the Petition and the altitude adopted by the City of London in this matter are a splendid example of City patriotism. They know very well that the greatness of their historic City is at stake. The City of London is no longer a mere aggregation of counting-houses. To me, for one, at any rate, it is not a grievance in the least that there should be six churches in eight acres of which Lombard Street is the centre. I, and obviously the City of London too, value this evidence of the great past of the City. Mediæval London was swept away, was devastated by the Great Fire. These churches are memorials of our second Renaissance, the achievements and growth of the new City. Now I do not wish it to be said for a moment that I in the very least desire to hinder the bigger work of the Church of England. I do not. I sympathise deeply with the Diocesans of Greater London. They suddenly wake up to find that a huge town is in process of springing from the soil and in four or five years that town may be a place with an enormous population. The Church, indeed, has a very hard fight to maintain its position in such places. But I am going again, apropos of that, to quote some words from the remarkable Minority Report of Lord Hugh Cecil. He says it ought to be possible to raise sufficient funds in these places for a temporary church, and he goes on to say:"…. in so far as they represent that the Measure is one likely to result in the disposal or demolition of buildings of architectural or historical importance, the Committee desire to express their view that the alteration effected by the Measure in the procedure for sanctioning schemes of union and disposal is not likely to have this result. On the contrary, their view is that in some respects the safeguards for the preservation of such buildings are more satisfactory under this Measure than under the existing law."
There is really a profound truth underlying these remarks, and one is confident that, as in the past, notwithstanding the increased difficulties by which the rapid growth of London faces the Church authorities, the Church will be able to keep abreast of her responsibility and therefore that the operation of this Measure, which contemplates the destruction of historic churches in the City of London, should not be passed by your Lordships' House."Such a temporary church ought doubtless eventually to give place to a more permanent and more beautiful structure. But delay in building such a permanent church is not entirely mischievous. In some respects temporary buildings attract congregations better than more formal and beautiful edifices: and special value comes to be attached to a church which is long looked forward to, slowly provided for, and at last felt to be the achievement of much self-sacrifice and religious devotion."
THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, my noble friend, being the consummate artist he is, has made great play with the words "doomed churches." He has told you about the Report of Lord Phillimore's Committee, and he has made a speech with the general purpose and tenour of which all your Lordships will agree, whether they are supporters of this Measure or not. But I would ask your Lordships to observe that he has hardly said anything at all about the Measure itself. The question really which your Lordships have to decide is whether under the terms of this Measure there is any probability of any church being lost that ought to be saved. In the very few moments during which I shall address your Lordships I want to draw your attention particularly to that point, but before doing so I must, in my great respect for the Corporation of the City of London, allude to their argument that this Measure is ultra vires—that it goes beyond the intention of the Enabling Act.Can anybody seriously contend that the House of Commons has time to legislate about the union of benefices or the demolition of a church? Was it not exactly to enable the Church to tell Parliament what she wanted in these matters that the Enabling Act was passed? Was not the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament established for the very purpose of safeguarding the rights of Parliament and the powers of Parliament and the public interest? The Corporation pleaded this question of ultra vires before the Ecclesiastical Committee, and the Ecclesiastical Committee were not convinced by the argument. I really think that disposes altogether of the question that this Measure is in any sense ultra vires. I entirely agree with the Corporation in one thing. This is not a matter only for the Church of England, but neither is it a matter only for the Corporation of the City of London, nor is it only a matter for the Art world as championed by my noble friend. This is really a simple matter for the common sense of Parliament. It will be my endeavour to show your Lordships that you may quite safely give your sanction to this Measure. Everyone admits that there are too many separate churches and incumbents in the City for the needs of the population. This Measure makes the union of benefices easier, and far the most important part of this Measure is concerned with the union of benefices; that is to say, getting rid, not of the churches but of the clergymen. I ask your Lordships most particularly to note that point. Far the most important part of this Measure is that part which enables a great reduction to be made in the clergy of the City of London, which, without touching the fabric of the church in any way at all, frees the revenues which now go to pay incumbents who are not over-worked. That is far the most important part of the Measure and no serious objection is taken to it. As there is no hostility to that part of the Measure I merely note it and pass on. But in some cases the Bishop may want to go further. He may want to pull down a church and sell the site, and the whole struggle in this matter is between those who, like myself, think there is not the slightest danger of that power being abused and those who, like Lord Marshall and the Earl of Crawford, think there is such a danger. Your Lordships, if I may say so, are the jury who have to decide between them. Before I come to examine the machinery of the Bill, let me very briefly remind your Lordships why the Bishop may want to pull down a church and sell the site. It is not only that there is a need for churches elsewhere in his diocese. It is not only that there are vast populations springing up with no churches and that in the City of London you have churches with no population. It is not only that, but because again, again and again those who try to raise money for the Church are met with this criticism: "What do you mean by coming and asking us for fresh money when you have all these great reserves which you allow to go to waste?" Those who have the responsibility—and I Have had in part that responsibility—of trying to raise large sums for Church finance are continually met by that argument: "Do not come to us and ask us to give you subscriptions until you have shown that you are business men and can better use the funds already at your disposal." Every one agrees that no church of great artistic merit shall be pulled down. Does anybody deny, does my noble friend Lord Crawford deny, that there are some churches in the City that could be spared? He does not.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
What I said—if I am being challenged—was that I preferred running my risk once every third year, and having a case put up for a church to be destroyed, to the scheme proposed by this Bill.
THE EARL OF SELBORNE
That was not my question. I asked if the noble Earl would deny that there are some churches—opinion may differ as to which —that have not sufficient artistic merit to make their retention a matter of national necessity. I say that nobody really asserts that. My noble friend asks why the present machinery is not sufficient, and Lord Marshall has put the same question. It is because this is not a parochial question but a national question. The inhabitants of a parish in vestry are a very small handful of people and really are not a fit body to decide whether a church in the City shall be pulled down or not.I come to the actual machinery of the Measure. The Bishop has to move, and he gives notice in respect of some particular church to the Royal Fine Art Commission and to the Metropolitan Benefices Board. Having given that notice he appoints a Commission, but he does not nominate the members of that Commission. I want your Lordships, if you will bear with me, to give particular attention to the importance and the composition of this Commission, because everything really turns upon its competence and independence. The Commission consists of five persons, of whom two are nominated by the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Conference of the diocese affected—that is, by the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Conference of London in a case where the Bishop of London is concerned—two are appointed by the Common Council, that is by the Corporation of the City of London, and the fifth, who must be the Chairman, is appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Is that a Church body, an ecclesiastical body? The Corporation has half, the diocese has half, and the Chairman, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, has the casting vote. Can your Lordships conceive a more independent or more impartial tribunal? Without the recommendation of that Commission nothing can be done. Unless that Commission recommend that the scheme proceed, the Bishop can do nothing more. "But," say my noble friends and the critics of the Measure, "the Bishop can again bring the matter forward, and he will bring it forward, again and again until at last he gets a Commission that will recommend the demolition of the church." What a travesty! What an absurd picture! Even if the Bishop of London were so unreasonable or so absurd, is he likely to get his way by such methods as that? Are the two members of the Committee appointed by the Corporation of the City of London likely to change their minds because the Bishop plagues them again and again on the same subject? Is the Chairman of the Commission, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, likely to be so weak-minded that he will give way altogether, not because he is convinced but merely because the Bishop of London, like the importunate widow, has come to him so often with the same question? The idea of the Bishop raising the same question about the same church again and again is perfectly absurd. When once the Commission has turned a proposal down, of course the Bishop is not likely to revive that proposal for a considerable time. But it would be quite unreasonable to say that, because it had been turned down once, he should never be able to move in the matter again. I ask your Lordships, therefore, to note how tremendously strong is the safeguard of this Commission and its constitution. What happens if the Commission recommend that the proposal go forward? If the Commission so recommend, then the Bishop asks the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to frame a scheme, and when the scheme is framed he has to give notice of the fact to an immense number of public bodies—in fact, to everybody who by any possibility can be interested in the matter. If your Lordships will turn to the Second Schedule of the Measure you will see that every possible body that could be interested in the Measure is to receive notice of the proposed scheme. If any one of those interests object, then the scheme stands referred to the Metropolitan Benefices Board and, if the Metropolitan Benefices Board does not support the scheme, the scheme is stopped. Accordingly, even if the scheme passes the Commission it can be stopped by the Metropolitan Benefices Board. My noble friend says that the Metropolitan Benefices Board is an ecclesiastical body. That is a perfectly absurd description of it. Out of thirty-five members only nine are appointed by the dioceses interested, five are appointed by bodies specially interested in ancient buildings and art, seven are appointed by bodies immediately connected with the City and fourteen members are independent. It is perfectly absurd to say that this is in any sense a body wholly under the control of the Bishop or of those who wish to have a church demolished. Accordingly the sole question that your Lordships have to consider—admitting, as we all do, on the one hand the great artistic merit of the hereditary possession of the City churches and on the other hand the great necessity that exists for the Church to economise her finances and the fact that some of these churches are not of equal merit with others—is whether the provisions of this Measure are good and secure for seeing that a reasonable course is taken. My only fear is that the provisions are so drastic to prevent a church being pulled down that ought not to be pulled down that a church that ought to be pulled down will not be pulled down. There are beautiful churches elsewhere than in the City of London and the machinery for dealing with them is far less safeguarded than in this Measure, though nobody made any objection when the proposals for dealing with them came forward. Accordingly I would contend that this Measure, which is not the Report of Lord Phillimore's Committee but the result of many years' careful work and of much consideration by Committees, is worthy of your support. I think I have made out my case that the safeguards are sufficient, that the demand for the reduction of clergymen is very urgent and that there ought to be some better machinery than at present to deal with the very rare occasions when a church itself ought to be removed.
LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned till Monday next.
Moved, That the debate be now adjourned till Monday next.—( Lord Banbury of Southam.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Ecclesiastical Commissioners Measure, 1926
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I beg to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. I am sorry to bring your Lordships for a moment or two only from the poetic and interesting down to the prosaic and, I am afraid, quite uninteresting proposal which I have to make. This Measure is entirely uncontroversial and refers simply to the internal work and finance of the Ecclesiastical Commission. They are empowered by the Measure to increase the augmentation of salaries of Archdeacons from £200 to £300, to pay certain funds towards the maintenance of certain Bishoprics, and they are allowed to pay the costs, in certain cases of litigation incurred by a Bishop on moral matters, in which it would be very unfair that he should bear all the costs of proceedings instituted in the public interest.They are further empowered to subsidise certain of the ancient buildings of England occupied by Bishops, the upkeep of which it is impossible for Bishops, as things now stand, to bear entirely at their own cost. It is perhaps indelicate to refer to it, but the most important of these is Lambeth Palace. It is impossible for these vast buildings to be maintained by the Bishops, as they are at present, without serious risk of their falling into decay. These are practically the provisions of this little Measure, which is supported by the Ecclesiastical Committee, who ask your Lordships to consent to it. A Resolution has already been passed by the House of Commons, and I ask your Lordships to resolve in the terms that I have mentioned. Of course, I could give a great many more facts if required, but I think it is quite undesirable I should do so now. I beg to move.
Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Measure. 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
First Fruits And Tenths Measure, 1926
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I beg now to move to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the First Fruits and Tenths Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. Again I have to ask you to listen for a moment to what is a purely non-contentious, but I am afraid prosaic and very uninteresting, Measure. There exist in England to-day, out of the long past, what are known as first fruits and tenths, which are levied in a most haphazard way, as it turns out, upon the benefices, some richer and some poorer, and which go into the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or Queen Anne's Bounty, for purposes which are now being provided for in other ways. All that this Measure provides is that the existing arrangements, which are quite out of date and which work exceedingly badly, should be amalgamated in the larger scheme, which will prevent any harm coming to any incumbent who forfeits what has been supposed to be his gain out of the products of his ecclesiastical first fruits and tenths. Further, Queen Anne's Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners make good any difference arising between the old and the new systems. It is entirely an ecclesiastical matter, and I venture to ask your Lordships, in accordance with the approval given to it by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, to assent to this Resolution, which has already passed the House of Commons.
Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the First Fruits and Tenths Measure, 1926, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
acquainted the House that he had received from the Senior Registrar in Bankruptcy a certificate that Harold James Selborne Baron Terrington was adjudicated a bankrupt on the 12th day of July, 1926.
Middlesbrough Corporation Bill
Reported, with Amendments.
Croydon Gas Order, 1926
Special Order proposed to be made on the application of the Croydon Gas Company:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
North Middlesex Gas Order, 1926
Special Order proposed to be made on the application of the North Middlesex Gas Company:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
Bungay Electricity Special Order, 1926
Special Order in respect of the urban district of Bungay, in the Administrative County of East Suffolk:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
Dodworth, Thurlestone And District Electricity Special Order, 1926
Special Order in respect of the urban districts of Denby and Cumberworth, Dodworth, Gunthwaite and Ingbirchworth, Hoylandswaine, Shelley, Shepley, Stocksbridge and Thurlestone, and parts of the rural districts of Barnsley and Penistone, all in the West Riding of the County of York:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
Plympton St Mary Rural District Electricity Special Order, 1926
Special Order in respect of the rural district of Plympton St. Mary, in the County of Devon:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
Queensbury And District Electricity Special Order, 1926
Special Order in respect of the urban districts of Denholme, Queensbury, Shelf and Sonthowram, all in the West Riding of the County of York:
Laid before the House (pursuant to Act) and referred to the Special Orders Committee.
Post Office (Sites) Bill
Reported, without amendment, and recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday next.
House adjourned during pleasure.
The following Bills, and Measures passed according to the provisions of Section four of the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, received the Royal Assent:
- Secretaries of State,
- Re-election of Ministers,
- Boards of Guardians (Default),
- Markets and Fairs (Weighing of Cattle),
- Land Drainage Provisional Order Confirmation (No. 1),
- Provisional Order (Marriages) Confirmation (No. 2),
- North Berwick Burgh Extension Order Confirmation,
- Pier and Harbour Order Confirmation,
- Falmouth Docks,
- Bermondsey Borough Council (Street Trading),
- Mid-Nottinghamshire Joint Railways,
- Rhymney Valley Water,
- Shoreham Harbour,
- Bethlem Hospital,
- Trent Falls Improvement,
- Port of London,
- Pontefract Corporation,
- Ecclesiastical Commissioners Measure,
- First Fruits and Tenths Measure.
House adjourned during pleasure.
House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.