HC Deb 02 August 1833 vol 20 cc285-90

The Order of the Day for taking into consideration the Amendments of the Lords to the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Bill having been read,

Lord Althorp

rose and said, that though the House of Lords had made some Amendments to the Bill, which he certainly did not think improvements, yet, as the principle of the measure remained unaffected, he thought it his duty to recommend the House of Commons to agree to them. A vast number of the Amendments were merely verbal; but of the substantive Amendments, one of the greatest consequence was that by which power was given in certain cases to allow a stipend to a curate for performing duties in a benefice which had been suspended. There was another Amendment of a substantive nature, which he was far from thinking an improvement to the Bill. It would be recollected that the House of Commons passed the Bill, with a provision that no church should be built in any parish in Ireland unless one-fifth of the money necessary to complete it was previously subscribed. To this clause the Lords had made an Amendment, leaving it to the discretion of the Commissioners to decide whether any Church should be built or not, even though no part of the money necessary for its erection should have been raised. This, he repeated, he thought no improvement to the Bill; for in his opinion it was desirable that a certain proportion of the money should be subscribed beforehand, on purpose that it might be seen that a real desire prevailed for the erection of a new Church. Yet he trusted that the Commissioners, to whose discretion the matter was now left would not sanction the building of a church in any parish where it was not desired; and he should not therefore propose that this Amendment of the Lords should be rejected. Another Amendment had been made to the Bill, with respect to which much difference of opinion prevailed in the House of Lords, but which he considered of less importance than those he had before mentioned; he alluded to the amendment which effected an alteration in the clause empowering the Commissioners to suspend appointments in benefices where duty had not been performed for the last three years. As the Bill left the House of Commons, it was provided that the Commissioners should have the disposal of the revenues of the suspended livings, for the purpose of applying them to any Church purpose, as well in the parish the appointment to which had been suspended, as in other parishes. The Amendment made very little difference in this provision indeed. By it the Commissioners were directed to apply the proceeds to the parish in which the appointment was suspended, unless they thought it advisable not to do so. This Amendment certainly did not appear to him to make any very material alteration in the clause; and though he did not approve of it, because he thought it might as well not have been proposed, yet he did not consider it to be one with respect to which the House of Commons ought to express any difference of opinion with the House of Lords. There was another Amendment of some importance, to which he desired to call the attention of the House. It empowered the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin to appoint to ten of the suspended livings. The clause, however, did not appear to be drawn up in a very clear way; because it first of all stated, that the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin should have the appointments, but if they disagreed as to the mode in which the livings ought o be disposed of, the patronage should vest in the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of the University of Dublin; and it then went on to say, that the Archbishop of Armagh should have the first appointment. He did not think the meaning of the clause very clear; but he believed that it was the intention of the Lords that, in the event of the two Archbishops not agreeing, the presentation should lapse to the Bishop in whose diocess the living was situated, and he should therefore propose an Amendment to that effect. The noble Lord then moved that the Amendments of the Lords be read a first time.

Motion agreed to.

On the question, that the Amendments be read a second time,

Mr. O'Connell

did not think the Lords had made the Bill much worse than it was before they received it. It was a delusion to suppose that the people of Ireland would be satisfied with the Bill; the reform which they wanted was, that the burthens imposed on them might be lessened. It had been said, that only one sixteenth of the Irish people professed the faith of the Established Church. That, perhaps, was an exaggerated calculation; but supposing that one-eighth belonged to the establishment, was it not a grievous anomaly that the other seven-eights should be taxed for their advantage? The Protestants were said to have shown an alacrity in paying tithes. Now, how stood the fact? In the Protestant county of Armagh the arrear of tithes amounted to 29,000l., and in the Catholic county of Kerry the arrears were only 11,000l. He thought the Bill, as sent down from the Lords, exhibited a curious sample of the hereditary wisdom of the other branch of the Legislature. He protested against its being considered in any other light than as the first instalment of the debt due to the people of Ireland; and he hoped that in the course of next Session a more efficient measure would be passed. It was not his intention to divide the House against the Amendments.

Mr. Hume

could assure the hon. and learned Member that the people of England were as little satisfied with' the Bill as the people of Ireland, They looked upon it as an abortion of Church Reform. After having abolished sinecures in the army and navy, were they to allow sinecures to exist in the Church? It was their duty to consider Church property as public property, and every shilling of that property, beyond what was necessary to provide the means of worship to the Protestants of Ireland, ought to be applied to the benefit of the State. He considered that the Bill as it now stood was not adequate to the wants of the State; that it would not conciliate the Irish; nor satisfy the people of England, because they had expected a much larger and more efficient reform at the hands of the Government; and he thought that the only available point about the measure was, that it affected the principles which were supposed to govern the appropriation of Church property, by showing, that the House of Commons were disposed to take upon themselves to interfere in its distribution. After diluting the measure of Reform, it was found that the diluted draught would not go down, and he hoped to see a real and substantial measure hereafter; until which object was attained, it was useless to look forward to reforms in other branches of the State which equally required them.

Lord Ebrington

said, that although he did not think that the Bill, as it was at present, was a good specimen of legislatorial wisdom, yet he did not agree with the hon. member for Middlesex that it would be so utterly worthless and inefficacious as he had represented it. He thought that the alterations in the Bill either in this or the other House of Parliament (although as he had said, they did not meet his entire approbation) did not affect materially any of those benefits proposed by it when first brought forward. He should certainly vote for the Amendments.

Mr. Harvey

said, that if he had been one of those who were of opinion that the revenues of the Irish Church ought to be exclusively devoted to its support and maintenance, he could not have supported this Bill, which he conceived had been brought forward on the principle that all revenues not absolutely wanted for such maintenance should be devoted to more urgent purposes. If, however, he rightly interpreted the sentiments of some noble Lords and hon. Members, he would declare them to be, that when certain sums were devoted to the use of a church, they must remain exclusively devoted to that service, notwithstanding that the duties of that Church might subsequently have diminished in even a greater proportion than the funds for its support had increased. That, at least, was the principle recognised in our Courts of Justice, and it would be a matter of indifference in such cases that there might be, for the support of a Church in Ireland, but one clergyman, one clerk, and no Protestant, to attend public worship; still the revenues of that Church would remain its exclusive property. If that was the principle which had been acted upon by those to whom he had referred in relation to this Church Reform in Ireland, what, he would ask, would the people of England have to look forward to? The only course for them would be to consider this Bill in the light of a precedent. He hoped that this measure would be considered only as a precedent, and that it would be followed up by petitions from all the sects in the country praying to be exonerated from the payment of rates for a Church from which they dissented.

Mr. Finn

said, although the Vestry-cess was abolished, yet that Ireland was still 190,000l. worse than before, calculating the expense to which she would be put by her share of the 20,000,000l., the expense of collecting tithes, and the expense of the military.

Lord Althorp

then proposed a verbal amendment to one of the clauses, the effect of which he had previously stated.

Dr. Lushington

said, that this question of this verbal Amendment might easily be got rid of, if they would adopt his advice, and omit the clause altogether. This clause supposed what did not seem to him very probable—that the two Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin would differ about the disposal of their patronage. If, however, that should be so, he could not for the life of him conceive why the difference between two Archbishops as to the fitness of a clergyman to be presented to a living, should be decided by his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland. In his opinion, such a case ought to be allowed to vest the right of presentation for that time in the Bishop of the diocess.

Mr. Shaw

said, that as he had originally mentioned this clause to the noble Lord, and other Members of the Government while the Bill was in progress through the House of Commons, although he had not actually proposed the clause there, he could explain why the patronage of these ten benefices was arranged differently from that of the ordinary college advowsons. It was considered that as the provision was introduced in a Bill which was a Church measure, and professed at least to be for the benefit of the Church, it was reasonable to allow the heads of the Church to make the selection of the fellows to be appointed from the entire body of fellows, rather than that the option should be left to each in rotation of their seniority, as was the case with the present advowsons, by which there would be no necessity of choosing those for parochial ministers who had been subjected during the greater portion of their lives to collegiate discipline and habits. He was surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not deemed it unworthy of his talents and sagacity to have indulged in the observations he had made in reference to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland. The hon. and learned Gentleman must have been aware that the appointment was given not to his Royal Highness personally, but to the Chancellor of the University for the time being—in the event too of a very improbable contingency—that of the Primate and the Archbishop of Dublin disagreeing, and even then only when the Vice-Chancellor happened to be one of the Archbishops.

Lords Amendments agreed to.