HC Deb 06 April 1826 vol 15 cc94-5
Mr. Secretary Peel

rose to move for leave to bring in a bill to remedy the inconveniences arising from the present state of the county of Durham, with regard to the appointment of its High Sheriff. That office was held for life, in the county of Durham, by the nomination of the Bishop; and in consequence of the death of that prelate, and from there being as yet no successor possessed of the power to appoint his officers, the whole business of the county was at a stand. No juries could be summoned, no sessions could be held, no public business of any kind could be transacted, unless some measure was adopted to render those officers still legally capable of executing the duties assigned to them. For that purpose, he proposed that the sheriff and other officers should be empowered by a bill, which he trusted the House would enable him to pass through its stages with the least possible delay, to continue in the situations they now hold for six months from the present time. He was not however prepared to say, that, after the termination of that period, he would consent to leave the office of High Sheriff of the populous and important county of Durham to revert to the same state, with respect to its appointment and duration, as before the death of the late prelate. He saw no sufficient reason why that high office should be held at the pleasure of the bishop, nor why the gentlemen of the county of Durham should not be compelled, like the gentlemen of the other counties of England, to serve in their turn when regularly presented for that purpose. There was no bishop at present; but he conceived it to be a matter worthy of serious consideration, whether three names should not be presented every year to the future bishop, and whether he should not be compelled to select from that number, the person who was to perform the duties for the usual period. The right hon. gentleman then moved, "That leave be given to bring in a bill, to remedy the inconveniences in the administration of justice, arising from the present vacancy of the see of Durham, and for preventing the like in future."

Mr. Hume

approved of the proposal for assimilating the practice in counties, in the appointment of sheriffs, but he wished to take that opportunity of putting it to the right hon. Secretary, whether it would not be expedient to make some alteration in the revenues of the bishop of Durham. All the world acknowledged the income of that person was much too large, and he conceived there was no reflection cast upon the church of England more poignant or more just, than the lamentable disproportion in the incomes of its servants. Thousands were left poor to swell the revenue of one or two overwhelming rich, and he thought the present would be a noble opportunity to commence a reformation of errors, to cast aside abuses, and, by reducing the salary of the bishop, clear the way for freeing the church of England from the imputations thrown out against it for the inequality of the incomes allotted to its ministers. The right hon. gentleman had, to his infinite honour, been the proposer of many improvements, and he could not avoid throwing out a suggestion of that kind at the present moment, that the right hon. gentleman might have the credit of taking it upon himself now; for he might be assured, that the time would come when such a reformation must take place, in spite of all opposition, and when the incomes of the dignitaries of the church of England would be reduced to a sum, bearing a juster relation to that received by their fellow-labourers, and the whole body be thereby rendered more respectable and more useful.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.