HC Deb 12 April 1808 vol 11 cc54-5
The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

after narrating the proceedings of both houses, relative to the former bills on this subject, stated, that as the house seemed to be of opinion generally, that the condition of the Curates of this country was such as required amelioration, he should now move for leave to bring in a Bill for that purpose. He should propose that, in most cases, those gentlemen should have a salary equal to one-fifth of that of the beneficed clergyman; but that, in no case, it should exceed 250l. per annum. With respect to the apportionment of those salaries to curates which were to be below that maximum, he confessed, that he had rather that the mandate should have been peremptory on the bishops, than that they should have an option; but he found, upon inquiry, that the majority of the most weighty opinions was in favour of the proposition for giving a discretionary power to the bishops, fie had therefore conceded to the weight of those opinions, and given such a discretion in the bill. If the measure should meet the approbation of his right hon. friend (Mr. Foster), he believed a similar bill would be brought in for Ireland. In the present bill, he had to inform the house that he had also made a provision similar to that which had been lately made by a right hon. friend of his, namely, a provision for the residence of the clergy. He concluded with moving, "That leave be given to bring in a bill for making more effectual provision for the maintenance of Stipendiary Curates, and for their residence on their cures."

Lord Porchester

reprobated in strong terms the principle and real object of this bill, the most unconstitutional that was ever submitted to the consideration of parliament. He was astonished that the right hon. mover should think of persevering in such a measure, after being thrice defeated in his attempt at carrying it into a law. It was not with the amelioration which it proposed in the condition of the subordinate clergy, nor with the alledged purpose of enforcing the residence of clergymen in their respective parishes, that he had any inclination to find fault. His hostility was directed against the monstrous and unconstitutional power which it gave to the bishops over the rectors in their respective dioceses, a power which subjected the property of every rector to be invaded or mulcted, without any proof of improper conduct, merely at the caprice or whim of his bishop. The noble lord concluded by observing, that he feared the right hon. mover was in this measure the organ of a secret influence behind the altar, as formidable and as designing as that which was now ascertained to exist behind the throne. Its object was to introduce into the church establishment a system of rigorous puritanism, the unfailing source of unconquerable bigotry and rancorous persecution.

Mr. Babington

defended the bill, as calculated to produce two desirable effects, namely, an increase of comfort, to the active curate, and the advantage of a resident, clergyman to the parish.

Mr. Creevey

coincided with his noble friend, and declared his determination to oppose the bill in every stage. He designated it, if operative, as an act of plunder on the property of the rector, and if inefficient, one carried under false pretences through the legislature.

Sir Ralph Milbanke

thought, injustice, that a liberal compensation should be made to the curate, proportioned to the duties performed, and to the receipts of the living. Where they amounted to 500l. per annum, he thought 100l. a year but a fair allowance.

Dr. Laurence

considered the bill as an innovation, and said he would take another opportunity of stating his objections fully on this subject.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

replied to the objections advanced against the measure, and enforced the necessity of going into a committee, when the opposers of the bill would have an opportunity of submitting their various amendments and modifications.—After some brief observations from Mr. Tierney and Mr. Windham, leave was granted to bring in the Bill, under an implied undertaking that its principle was to be fully discussed on the committal of it.