HC Deb 16 May 1817 vol 36 cc683-5

On the motion for the House to go into a committee on this bill,

Mr. Babington

objected to the general principles of the bill, on the ground that it would hot answer the great end intended by it. It did not adequately provide for the evil of non-residence, and still left the clergy at the mercy of the informers. He took a view of the number of non-residents for a series of years, and said he was happy to find that the number of residents had materially increased within the last year. He regretted that the bill had no clause to promote residence; but he must leave the remedy to abler hands: he could not say that he had any hope from the bill before the House as to the general principle.

Sir William Scott

defended the bill, which he thought preferable to the law enacted in 1803. That law was, no doubt, founded upon a proposition which he had the honour to submit to the House, and which he brought forward multa gemens. He felt, however, that some measure was necessary to enforce the residence of the clergy; but the law enacted was very materially different from that which he proposed,—for having to contend with the liberal on the one hand, and with the rigid and the austere on the other, he was compelled to accede to a law, full of such restrictions as to give encouragement to informers who harassed the clergy. From such a system every considerate, candid man must feel the propriety of releasing that meritorious body, and that being one of the objects of this bill, it had his approbation. Another object of the bill being to augment the power of the bishops, he felt it entitled to his support, because the church establishment of this country being an episcopal religion, ought of course to be placed under the control of the episcopacy. For who were more proper to enforce the residence of the clergy than the bishops, who were the best judges upon the subject, especially in directing the change of a system which had been tolerated for three centuries? As to pluralities, when it was considered that several livings did not exceed 50l. a year, any indiscriminate objection to the system could not be consistently maintained.

Lord Ebrington

objected to the bill, first, because it proposed to confer upon the bishops the power of enforcing the residence of the clergy, while those bishops themselves were frequently nonresident—while, indeed, one bishop in Wales never resided upon his diocese as all (the bishop of Llandaff); secondly, because the bishops being so often nonresident had no opportunity of acquiring a competent knowledge of the qualifications of the clergy: and thirdly, because the arbitrary power which this bill proposed to create was but too likely to lead to great illiberality and injustice.

A member stated, that the reason for the non-residence of the Welch bishop alluded to was, that he had no palace on his diocese.

The House resolved into the committee, and after a conversation between Messrs. M. Sutton, C. W. Wynn, Phillimore, Bathurst, Vernon, Davenport, W. Smith, lord Palmerston, lord Milton, sir J. Nicholl, and colonel Wood, the House divided upon the clause for allowing the clergy to farm. The numbers were—For the clause, 38; againstit, 35: Majority, 3. On the clause for allowing a clergyman to farm 50 acres, without any licence from the bishop, an amendment was moved for substituting 100 acres, and the gallery was cleared for a division; but during the exclusion of strangers, the blank was filled up with "80 acres."

The House then resumed.