HC Deb 05 April 1824 vol 11 cc171-4

The Chancellor of the Exchequer having moved the order of the day for going into a committee on the Building of Churches acts,

Mr. Hume

wished to know, what was the nature of the resolution which the right hon. gentleman intended to propose.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the resolution was for granting 500,000l. to be paid into the hands of the commissioners appointed under the acts for building new churches, to be laid out by them, in further execution of the powers of the said acts.

Mr. Hume

complained, that no notice had been given of this vote which could have informed gentlemen of the nature of the proposition which it was the intention of the chancellor of the Exchequer to make. The invariable custom was, that an estimate should precede a grant; whereas, in this instance, there was no mention made of any sum of money, even in the notice of motion entered on the paper.

Mr. W. Courtenay

said, that the chancellor of the Exchequer had given notice of a resolution in the committee, and admitted that he had not given notice of any specific sum, but after his statement at the commencement of the session, and the notice of the present resolution, which was made a few nights ago, he put it to the House, whether the object of his resolution of to-night could be mistaken.

Mr. Hume

was so far from anticipating the nature of the resolution, that he really had been led by the secretary for foreign affairs to suppose, that the plan of building new churches was laid aside for the present, because the money was to be applied to the establishment of the new West-India churches.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, he was not aware of the nature of the proposition, and had been so far deceived by the explanation of the foreign secretary, that he had actually congratulated himself on being for the present rid of the discussion. He concurred with his hon. friend near him in considering this a most profligate mode of laying out the public money. He would be the last man to deny the people of England the means of worshipping according to the faith and discipline of the establishment. Wherever those means were now defective they ought to be fully provided; but not by extraordinary grants of the public money. It was his intention, if the chancellor of the Exchequer should persist in applying this "God-send" of money, to propose another plan, far more eligible in his opinion. He would propose to lay out the 500,000l. in buying up as many rotten boroughs as the money would purchase. He was not the inventor of the plan. The credit was due to Mr. Pitt: but it was a very good plan; and, unless he deceived himself, he could produce much better reasons in support of it, than the right hon. gentleman would be able to urge in favour of his new churches. If these churches were not to be built this year why should the House be called upon to vote the money.

Mr. J. Smith

did not like this mode of applying the public money in the present situation of the country. There were no petitions on the table in favour of building these churches. The public would subscribe towards building their own churches readily, if they could have any reasonable share of the control and appointment of the ministers. There were in many parts of the kingdom, the most scandalous struggles upon this subject. He did not profess to be accurately acquainted with the ecclesiastical law of presentations; but, if ministers could find a remedy for this part of the case, they need not come to parliament for grants of public money to build churches. The people would cheerfully tax themselves for that purpose. But how could the parliament apply money in this way, when they saw all around them thousands of unhappy wretches left to all the disorders and miseries attendant on an untaught condition. The first duty of every government was to provide instruction for its poor—a duty the execution of which would be more pleasing to the Almighty than the building of churches. To what better use could this money be applied than in furnishing the means of education to the poor of Ireland, a country torn with disorders for want of moral improvement and sound instruction? At any rate he would try this proposition against that of the right hon. gentleman in the committee.

Sir J. Newport

begged the House to notice a singular anomaly between the cases of Ireland and England. While the population of Ireland, composed five-sixths of Catholics, were taxed for the building as well as the repairing of churches for the one-sixth who were Protestant, the people of England, who were Protestants, were only called on to pay for the repairing of the churches, and the public at large were taxed for the building of them.

Mr. James

said, that a petition would shortly be presented to the House against this appropriation of the public money. No doubt there would be many more of a similar nature, particularly from the Dissenters, who entertained strong objections to a measure, in none of the benefits of which they were to participate. He therefore hoped the chancellor of the Exchequer would consent to postpone it for a short time.

Mr. Bennet

complained, that the estimates had only been in the hands of members eight hours, and that it was not reasonable to call on the House to come to a decision on a subject, respecting which they had so little information.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

regretted that the papers had not been delivered at an earlier period. He was, however, far from wishing to entrap the House into giving an opinion which they had not had due time to consider. Although, therefore, he had been desirous to explain to the committee the views he entertained on this subject, he would consent to its postponement until Friday.