HC Deb 21 April 1823 vol 8 cc1132-4

On the motion of Mr. Goulburn, for going into a committee on this bill,

Mr. Spring Rice

said, he gave every degree of credit to the government for their efforts to remove the ill feeling which at present existed between the clergy and the population of Ireland, and he would afford them every assistance in his power to render the measure before the House efficient. He thought, however, that against the bill as at present formed, certain objections might be advanced, which, if they were not removed, would disappoint the hopes of those for whose benefit it was intended. When this subject was formerly discussed, it was said, that individuals could not see their way through a proposition for the commutation of tithes; and they were told, that to speak of apportioning a fair and just income to the clergy of Ireland, was a vain waste of words. If, however, when his hon. friend (Mr. Hume) made a proposition on that point, due attention had been paid to it, they would not have been called upon, as was now the case, to legislate under such discouraging increased difficulties. With respect to commutation and composition, two circumstances were to be considered—whether the matter was left open for arrangement to both parties, or whether it was confined only to one of them? Last year they had been told, that a compulsory adjustment would not be listened to for a moment; but, in a bill now in progress through parliament (the Commutation bill), he was glad to find that principle was recognized. Not that he believed it would be found necessary to recur frequently to the compulsory clause; because he thought both parties would discover it to be their interest to come to an agreement as speedily as possible. With respect to the bill now before the House, he must say, that if the secretary for Ireland supposed that he could, under the existing state of affairs, call on parishes and their incumbents, to meet together amicably, he supposed that which was not likely to be realized; because it was asking them to come to an understanding at a moment when they were under the influence of passion and irritation. The true principle on which a measure for the commutation of tithes should proceed was, to look to that which the clergy actually received, to that which was tangible, and could be dealt with; whereas, the proposed measure went to give them indemnity for that which they might claim, but which, in fact, they never received. If they took the receipts of the clergy as the measure of commutation, they would lay hold of that which could be distinctly estimated; but, if they went by what the clergy claimed, they would be bound by no line, and it would be impossible to say what equivalent it would be proper to grant. He would put it to the gentlemen of Connaught, where tithe of potatoe was not paid, but where it might be claimed, whether they would grant to the clergy a commutation for that tithe which they did not receive? Anxiously a wishing to make this bill as efficient as possible, he would throw out a few words, as to the course of proceeding which he thought ought to be pursued. He feared that in a bill of this description, which was altogether a bill of detail, it was next to impossible to reduce it to such a shape as would make it work well in its ordinary passage through the House. He, therefore, wished that it should be investigated in a committee above stairs, and be there viewed in all its provisions by men of all sides and parties. By this means it might be made agreeable to the government of Ireland, and moulded into a peace-offering to that distracted country.

Mr. Goulburn

was of opinion that a bill involving such important interests could be more efficiently discussed in a com- mittee of the whole House thank in a committee above stairs, as the discussion would be conducted in a more regular and orderly manner; while all who were interested, and no others, were likely to attend. He would prefer it also to a select committee, as a limited number might not contain all those who were competent to assist and elucidate the question.

Mr. V. Fitzgerald and col. Barry

argued in favour of referring the consideration of the measure to a committee above stairs; while sir J. Newport, Mr. Peel, sir H. Parnell, and col. Trench were of opinion that it could be more effectually discussed in a committee of the whole House.

Mr. Hume

said, that if his motion of last year had been adopted, the committee would now have nearly gone through their labours, and probably established, instead of the present system, a general fund for the payment, not only of the Protestant but of the Catholic clergy of Ireland. The time was not far distant when they must resort to such a plan. The present system was full of hardship and injustice, and led to many scenes of outrage. As the bill was before them, he thought it might be more advantageously discussed in a committee of the whole House than above stairs.

Mr. W. Smith

coincided with what had fallen from his hon. friend, and contended for that full inquiry into the system of tithes in Ireland; for the purpose of ascertaining some of the sources of those dreadful evils which afflicted that unhappy country.

The bill was ordered to be committed on Friday.