Teitl Casgliad: Carmarthen weekly reporter
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IWELSH CHUROH BILL
WELSH CHUROH BILL. I LORD HUGH CECIL WANTS PEACE. I In the House of Commons on Monday, j The Home Secretary (Sir John Simon) moved that the Order for the second reading of the Weisli Church (Potponement) Bill be discharged and that the Bill be withdrawn. He reminded the House the Welsh Church Act was passed under the Parliament Act and re- ceived the Royal Assent on the 18th Septem- ber last year. By the terms of the Act the date of Disestablishment could not be less than six months after the passing of the Act, and could not be more than twelve months after the Act. They were now in the period defined by the Act in which the date of Disestablish- ment had to be fixed. At the Kamj time as the passing of the Act. the Suspensory Act H'-o received the Hoyal Assent, and hy that Act the date which was the latest under the Welsh Act wns made the earliest date at which the date of Disestablishment could be fixed. By the Suspensory Act the date was post- poned as a minimum of twelve months from the 18th September. 1914. There was a tur- ther provision that if at the end of these twelve months the present war had not ended then the date of Disestablishment might be postponed until such later date, not later than the end of the war. as might be fixed by Order iu Council. A the time that measure was passed what was contemplated was that if the war con- tinued an Order in Council might be made postponing the date of Disestablishment to thfe enq of the war. In March last, in place of that proposal, another suggestion was made, and was presented to Parliament In another pace by the Government, which went by the name of the Welsh Church (Postpone- ment) Bill, the terms of which were well known t() the House. The object of it was to avoid doifiestic controversy in time of war. Some weeks ago the Prime Minister was asked by Mr Cave what steps were going to be taken, and the Prime Minister then said 1 that inquiries were being made in different quarters affected by the Bill. He was asked to make those inquiries, and he had taken care to secure that lie got from both the Welsh Liberal members and from the opponents of the Welsh Church Act definite answers to his inquiries. As a. resutt it had become clear that the Postponement Bill would not receive support in all quarters, and inasmuch as con- troversy was altogether against the public interest at the present time lie put himself in communication with the Under-Secretary lor Foreign Affairs (Lord R. Cecil), who, in his turn, had been in communication with tlie | leaders of the Church in Wales. The noble Lord told him he was authorised on their behalf to say that in the circumstances they did not desire to press the Government to pass the Postponement Bill. Tlie proposal which -j the Government now made was one therefore which was not opposed in either of the quar- ters particularly and specially interested. The Government contemplated as an a!u r- nat've the making oi an Order in Council under the Suspensory Act postponing the date of Disestablishment until the end of the war, however distant that date might be. That Order in Council would be made as an Executive Act, while the Pastponement Bill would not be proceeded with. He urged the House to adopt this course hy common consent with the one and only object of dealing with the matter so as not to inflict any unfair hardship on any section, and to avoid domes- tic controversy in the midst of a great war. Lord R. Cecil said that, so far as he was personally concerned, he should offer no oppo- sit,ion to the motion (Cries of You cannot.") He came to that conclusion after consulting his friends in the House and the leaders of the Church in Wales. In order, however, to avoid misconception and misrepresentation it was necessary for lrin to explain fully the reasons which had induced them to come to that con- clusion. He should be as careful as lie could to avoid any provocative statement. The House would remember that the Bill was in- troduced as the result of a complete Parlia- mentary bargain, but hon. members who had not been consulted developed strong opposi- tion to the proposal. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Munitions, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer did their best to persuade Welsh members to abandon their opposition, but the Welsh members would not agree to do so. If the leaders of the Welsh Church had pressed the Government to adhere to their undertaking in spite of the opposition they would have had to face an angry debate, and the discussion would have exhibited deep felt differences of opinion, so deeply felt that j they could not be concealed even during the present war. He must say that he looked upon the prospect with great disfavour, amounting almost to dismay, lie did not realise until lie occupied the offict, lie now held how closely discussions in that House and in the Press were watched not only by our enemies but also hy neutral nations. That had been brought home to him very strongly in the last few weeks. He did not take a despondent view of our position. On the con- trary he was convinced that the final victory in the war must be on our side. He was not one of those whobebeved. as he gathered that a certain portion of the Press believed, that pessimism was a patriotic duty (hear. hear). But he did feel that internal dissension was one that every patriotic man ought to avoid if possible. If that was true in March it was not less true at the present time. There was another consideration. He thought very strongly on loth March that a 9. considerable postponement beyond the end )f the year was an act of justice to the Welsh Church, and that it was unfair and unjust to ask them in the middle of a great war to hurry through the necessary preparations for a great change. He thought so still, but there was this to be said, that the appear- ances of a long war were much more evident now than they were then, and obviously the longer the war lasted the less force there was in the consideration. Churchmen never attached much importance to the financial clauses of the Welsh Church Act, and the clauses were not mentioned in the demands they put forw ard. Jn view of all these con- siderations and of the relative unimportance of the Bill as compared with the war, at the request of the Home Secretary he consulted the leaders of the Church in Wales, and they. taking a patriotic view of their duties, had < decided that they would, if the Government; thought it right that the Bill should be with- drawn. submit to that decision. He wanted to make two things perfectly clear. He de- sired to state in the clearest way possible in his judgment, and in the judgment of those whom he had consulted, no question of a bleach of faith by the Government arose. He hoped that notliing he had said would suggest that any Mich thing was in their minds. It was not in his mind. That was not the time for him to criticise the attitude of the Welsh members. Whatever lie had said he should not bring into condemnation the attitude of the Government, because, so far as he knew, they were perfectly ready and willing, if'they had been pressed, to fulfil the undertaking they gave. Further, lie was authorised by the leaders of- li:,s party to Fay that, in acquiescing in the course proposed, it must be. clearly understood that their views nn + "t; qucstio-t Oi the W elsh Church had undergone no change, and that the pledges they had given in connection with it were still binding on them (hear. hear). He hoped that would he understood in the country. H was bound to add this, that if hereafter it became neces- sary to proceed with the controversy he did not think their position would be weakened because of the action they were taking that day. but. on the contrary, it would be stronger and that the course being taken that day would not operate in favour ct those who desired Disestablishment. The engagement into which he and Irs friends entered as the price of this B-ll. that they would not within a certain period seek to alter or repeal the main measure, of course- disappeared altoge- ther. He earnestly hoped and echoed stronsr- ly the desire epxressed by Sir H. Roberts that even now an agreement on this great ques- tion might lie arrived at. He could not con- ceive that the two points of view were incom- patible. He sometimes in his most sanguine moments thought that some agreement might be arr.ved at. It would be profoundly dis- gusting if, a.tter all they were going through of misery and pain and grief of war, the re- presentatives of the two Christian bodies were to retjirn to the struggle. Surely some method' of peace could be arrived nt. Now was the time. Xow was the occasion, when for the moment they had forgotten the bitterness of party controversy. Now was the moment for the two sides to come together, and he per- sonally hoped that nothing he had said would do anything to hinder that blessed consumma- tion (cheers). Mr Asquith faid that perhaps the matter would have West been left where it had been left by the observations of Lord R. Cecil, whose zeal and whose consistent and able ad- vocacy of the interests of the Church in Wales ) they all recognised and appreciated. But he had risen for the purpose of asking hia 'hon. friends to restrain their natural flow of language and to altow the motion to b adop- ted without further controversy. He should y that lie fully recognised without reserve or qualification admirable spirit in which those who represented the interests of the Welsli Church in this matter had acted. They were entitled to insist upon the prosecu- tion of this B ll. and they were bound to give it all the support in tliclr power to enable it to-pass into law. But. at the came time, he should point out that the w'hdrawal of the Bill did release them from the voluntary undertaking not to take any Parliamentary movement in the d:rection ot repeal. It was only fair that it should be recognised. He would not go into the calculation, Jess or more, because it was never desirable when they ha.d arrived at a compromise and agree- ment in which all parties to their great honour and credit, had agreed to acquiesce. It would be most unfortunate that they should rip what both sides had done to see who had gained and who had lost more by the tran- saction. He wanted simply to say cn behalf of the Government and he believed of the Hou'-e at large and the country, that they believed the proposal now made and accepted in the het"sphit both by his hon. friends, who had fought so long and so hard tor Dis- establishment. and by representatives of the Church, was dictated solely, not by any sacri- fice or surrender of principle, but by a common desire to subordinate domestic controversy n the face of the great emergencies with which the country was faced and in the facing of which they were absolutely united. He thought that that was a most admirable illus- tration of the spiri which now animated the 'country. He trusted that no jarring note would be uttered that day. but that the House would agree to acquiesce in the course pro- posed with unanimity, and lie was certain when they came hack to look upon it they would be glad that that cour>e had been adopted. Mr Ellis Griffith assured tilt, Prime Minister that he would not say one word of controversy He only rose to. protest against the attack that bnd been made on the Welsh members. He w a,s not going to defend them, but he did not want the debate to end in silence, as if fhev acquiesced in the attack. He protested against the charge that they had acted in an unpatriotic way. They acted in the only possible way for them. It was not they who introduced controversial legislation. All they did was to resist controversial legislation that was sought to be mposed on them. Sir A. Griffith Boscawen promised not to say anything controversial (laughter). He did not desire to go into the past action of the Welsh members. He merely ea;d this, speaking as one who had been fighting the. question for many years, he thought-lie and his friends had been badly treated. ("Oh"). But he was quite prepared to submit to what had been proposed from the other side. They all retained absolute freedom hereafter to make whatever proposals they thought right with regard to the question. Air Ellis Davies stated that the undertaking of the Marquis of Crewe in another place was the basis oi their opposition to the Bill. The motion was then agreed to.
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