HC Deb 25 November 1830 vol 1 cc669-71
Mr. Wilks

moved for a return of the amount of Church-rates levied, and of mortuary and burial fees received, &c, by the various Churchwardens in England and Wales, and how expended, in the year 1830. The hon. Member expressed his surprise that such returns were not annually made to Parliament as they were of great importance. It was not generally known what immense sums were raised in the name of the Church of England. Some returns though inaccurate had formerly been made to the other House, and by them it appeared that very nearly a million a year was collected under the name of Church-rates. He hoped that there would be no objection to the motion.

Mr. Spring Rice

would not oppose it, but he hoped that notice had been given of the hon. Member's intention.

Mr. R. Inglis

said, that the returns in question could not be made out without immense labour on the part of those from whom they were required; that great expense would be incurred in procuring them, and that commensurate advantage would not be derived from them. He therefore recommended that the Motion should be withdrawn or he should oppose it.

Sir C. Wetherell

also opposed the Motion as being of no utility.

Mr. Hume

did not think that the labour would be so great, for accounts of such receipts and expenditure must be kept by the Churchwardens in the various parishes in the country; and if they were not kept, they ought to be kept.

Mr. G. Lamb

said, that there would be excessive difficulty, delay, and expense in procuring such returns. He believed too that no care could make them accurate. No less than 14,000 letters must be written. He had, otherwise, no objection to the Motion.

Mr. Warburton

supported the Motion, on the ground that it would be a warning to all Churchwardens and public officers to keep their accounts in a state for public inspection.

Mr. Goulburn

opposed the Motion, on account of the inconvenience and expense attendant upon the making out of such returns. It would make the House the auditor of all the parish accounts in the kingdom which was quite unnecessary as those accounts were already audited by those who were more interested in curtailing the expenditure. The returns would, he believed, be quite useless after causing an immense expense to procure them.

Mr. J. Wood

said, that one of the great grievances of which the people had to complain was, that in many instances their parochial affairs were managed by select self-elected vestries, and he therefore should support this Motion. Such returns would check the extortion of parish parliaments,

Sir R. Peel

did not understand that there was any unwillingness on the part of the Government to afford every information on this subject, but the present motion was resisted on the grounds of inconvenience and expense. He (Sir R. Peel) should have no objection if the hon. Member who had spoken last would move for the production of those parochial accounts in which he was personally interested—to wit, those of the town of Preston,—to give his assent to such a motion. He recommended the hon. Member who had moved for these returns to withdraw his motion for the present, and to endeavour by local inquiry to ascertain what might be the result of such returns, and whether they could be furnished at a moderate expense commensurate with the advantage to be derived from them. Such an inquiry should be made before they proceeded to incur an expense of at least 1,000l. or 2,000l.

Mr. T. P. Courtenay

concurred in the observations of his right hon. friend, and opposed the Motion.

Mr. Leader

said, that such information had been already obtained with regard to the parishes in Ireland, with little difficulty or expense, and he did not see why it might not be also obtained with respect to the English parishes. In the present state of the country no species of inquiry should be refused which would enable people to ascertain the amount and extent of their burthens.

Mr. Spring Rice

did not think that, without a suggestion of general abuse, they should go into a general inquiry. The returns which had been procured from Ireland had been obtained at very great expense, and they had been found almost totally useless for the objects which he (Mr. S. Rice) and others had in view when they were called for.

Mr. Wilks

said, he should withdraw his motion for the present. At the same time he was of opinion that the returns of such an expenditure as 700,000l. or 800,000l. a-year, which was the amount of the Church-rates, should be laid before Parliament and the country; and he was determined to take another opportunity again to bring forward this subject.