HC Deb 01 June 1815 vol 31 cc577-9

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Bill "to exempt churches, chapels, and other places of religious worship from parochial rates," was recommitted.

Mr. Wrottesley

said, it was his intention to propose a clause, that no chapels which should be built hereafter, should be exempted from the payment of parochial rates, unless in every chapel a certain number of free seats were provided, proportioned to the size of the chapel.

General Thornton

was extremely averse to giving patronage to dissenters: he considered that the Bill would be injurious both to Church and State. He then moved to leave out the words 'meeting-houses,' and to insert in their stead, 'chapels according to the established religion.'

Mr. H. Martin

begged to know whether the hon. general meant that chapels not conforming to the established religion, should be subject to the payment of poor-rates?

General Thornton

said, he objected to the principle of the Bill, and would oppose it in every stage. He had a great dislike to the levelling system, and thought it improper to throw additional rates on parishes. The Bill was brought in by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but he hoped it was not a measure of administration. He was not for giving such encouragement to dissenters, by making the persons of the established church pay for the rates of meeting-houses. It would be much better to throw them on the public.

Mr. Martin

said, that if such were the sentiments of the hon. general, he ought to have opposed the introduction of the Bill.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

observed, that there never was an amendment more hostile to the principles of a Bill. He perfectly agreed with the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and thanked him for bringing the Bill forward. If the hon. general meant to make the Bill ridiculous, he was perfectly right in proposing his amendment; but he hoped he would stand single.

Mr. Protheroe

supported the Bill, as he thought it would remove a very galling distinction now subsisting between two classes of the community.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

defended the introduction of the Bill as relieving a number of meritorious individuals from considerable vexations, and by no means infringing upon any parochial privileged. At the same time he did not wish to be considered as giving any other weight to the measure than what it might justly derive from its own merits.

Mr. Davies Giddy

considered the Bill a matter of conciliation, and that it ought to be adopted. He observed, that the rates arising from places of worship were inconsiderable.

General Thornton

stated, that in one parish, that of St. George's, Hanover-square, the amount was 151l. 18s. 4d. He did not at all desire to infringe on the Toleration Act, but he thought this Bill extremely injurious to the established religion.

Mr. Bankes

observed, that as many chapels were built in the west end of the town, on speculation, and for the sake of profit, it was perfectly just to compel the payment of rates. If those parochial rates were not enforced, it would be putting so much the more money in the pockets of the proprietors. He thought that the clause to be introduced by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Wrottesley) respecting free seats, should not be prospective only, but also retrospective.

Mr. Serjeant Onslow

was a strong friend to the Established Church, but he could not look on this Bill in the light in which some gentlemen had viewed it. As to free seats, he perfectly agreed with the clause which the hon. member was about to propose.

General Thornton's amendment was then put, and rejected. Mr. Wrottesley then brought up his clause, which was carried. General Thornton next moved, that the words 'or for the gratuitous instruction of the poor,' should be omitted. After a few words from the Chancellor bf the Exchequer, Mr. Martin, and general Thornton, the motion was put, and negatived. The report was then brought up, and ordered to be taken into further consideration on Monday.