HC Deb 13 July 1831 vol 4 cc1190-2
Mr. John Campbell

presented a Petition from the Owners and Occupiers of land, in Dellicar and Docker, and in Kirkby-in-Kendal, for some amendment in the present system of levying tithes. They stated, that lately a demand, for the first time had been made upon them for tithe in kind; and 220 notices had been served of the intention of the interested parties to enforce its collection. The prayer of the petition was, that the House would fix some reasonable time, beyond which, if tithe in kind be not demanded, its collection would not be enforced. He hoped the noble Lord (Althorp) would give his attention to this subject.

Mr. J. Wood

supported the petition. He had also another to present, with a similar prayer, and which stated, that 222 Suits in Chancery had been commenced for tithes in one parish, which tithes had not been demanded for a long time. He was afraid this would not be a singular case, and that the parish of Kirkby-in-Kendal would not be the only one where such claims would be levied. Church property and tithes were not included in the Act which made a lapse of sixty years a bar to the claims of real property, and it was a notorious fact, that these 222 Suits in Chancery were instituted to revive a claim for tithes in kind, which had not been demanded for a long period. The petitioners said, that they had no desire to interfere with legal demands, but that, in 1824, this claim, before unheard of, was first made. A certain modus had been previously paid for a long time, and the petitioners added, that from the great lapse of time, it would be exceedingly difficult; and in some cases impossible to make out the identity of the different pieces of land on which the claim was made. The petition concluded by praying, that there might be some reasonable period fixed by law, beyond which no claim for tithe in kind could be made. If some law of this nature were not soon passed, there would be not only 200, but 200,000 suits instituted, which would have the effect of doing away with those modusses which had been of great public advantage, by making land easy of transfer. Public sales had been advertised, and many purchases of land made, as being tithe free, on the security of those modusses; and if some measure were not speedily taken to prevent the revival of these antiquated claims, it would lead to endless disputes, and tend materially to bring religion itself into disrepute.

Sir Edward Sugden

agreed entirely with some part of what had been said by his hon. and learned friend. He thought there ought to be some legal measure introduced to limit these claims; but at the same time he strongly deprecated the introduction, in a petition of this kind, of any reference to particular cases which were as yet sub judice, and in which he believed a decree had been pronounced. He was counsel in the case, although he did not recollect on which side. His objection to this petition was, that, as the petitioners sought a general remedy, they should not have referred to any particular case, or thrown imputations upon individuals. It would appear from the statements of the petition, that it was the college to which these tithes belonged, which had made the claim; whereas, in this, as in many other similar cases, the property was in lessees over whom the College had no power, and those parties having purchased it, the College could not be fairly charged with these acts. He disapproved of the practice of referring to particular cases in general petitions, but was prepared to support the rights of the people, and say, that the general remedy they sought for in the case ought to be granted.

Mr. John Campbell

begged to remark, that he believed, that no intention whatever existed of throwing any imputation on the College. The case put by his hon. and learned friend, however, strongly illustrated the necessity of some legal measure to compel the lessees of tithes, as well as the proprietors, to conduct themselves with fairness and liberality. He must also observe, that although this defect in the law respecting modusses was the only subject before the House, yet this was not the only part of the system that required a remedy.

Petition to be printed.