HC Deb 27 June 1836 vol 34 cc972-83

On the order of the day for the third reading of the Commutation of Tithes England Bill, having been read,

Lord John Russell

said, that in moving that the Bill be read a third time, he should state to the House that he meant to propose the introduction of the clauses which he had referred to on a former occasion. One of them was on the subject of coppice wood, the value of which he proposed to estimate according to the average value of the years 1834, 1835, and 1836. This was in conformity with the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth. The other clause gave a power to the occupier of the land to deduct the amount of rent-charge he should have paid, from the owner of the land. Having explained the nature of the clauses, the noble Lord concluded by moving the third reading of the Bill.

Sir Robert Peel

was anxious to say a few words on the general question as to whether this Bill should be read a third time or not. In the anterior part of the Session he had introduced a Bill, the provisions of which were identical with the Bill he had introduced last year, when he had the honour of being a Minister of the Crown. The object of that Bill was to facilitate the voluntary commutation of tithes. He slated that the principle of a compulsory commutation might be made the subject of a future Bill, when the experience of voluntary commutation would have suggested the most equitable principles on which compulsory commutation might be applied. He still preferred the Bill he had himself introduced, to the Bill of the noble Lord. He felt great difficulty in determining without the experience of voluntary commutation, and without the advantage of minute local inquiry—he felt great difficulty in determining the principle upon which compulsory commutation should be forced upon the country, consistent with justice, and to the satisfaction of all parties. The question, however, which he had to ask himself was, whether, now that there was a prospect of their coming to an arrangement on this great and complicated question, he would incur the responsibility of attempting to defeat this Bill? The Bill proceeded upon the principles of his (Sir R. Peel's) Bill, as far as voluntary commutation was concerned. It proposed to effect it for a limited period, through the intervention of Commissioners. His own Bill proposed that two of these Commissioners should be appointed by the Crown, and the other by the highest representative of the interests of the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and on this point the noble Lord had adopted his suggestion. This Bill gave till October, 1837, for the purpose of voluntary commutation. This Bill, did away with 75l. and 65l. as a maximum and a minimum, and proposed instead the amount of tithe taken in kind for the seven years preceding 1835, and that the sum paid should rule the future payments. That arrangement was still open to this objection—that where there had been great forbearance on the part of the tithe-owner, he would permanently suffer, and where there had been greater rigour, and extreme rights had been exacted, there he would gain, and the permanent rent-charge would be governed on that principle. There was to be sure, a power of relaxation to the amount of twenty per cent., and to that extent the parties would have an opportunity of mitigating the severity of the Bill. He found that the Bill had arrived at this stage without any division being taken against it. He hoped, sitting there in an assembly of landlords, that he need not conceal that his object was to protect the interests of the Church. He considered the Church the weaker party; he considered that the great majority of the House were interested in this question, and therefore he felt specially bound to take care that the interests of the Church were attended to. He did not find that there was on the part of the Church any decided objection to the principles of this Bill. None of those hon. Gentlemen who more particularly watched over the interests of the Church materially dissented from the principles of the Bill. Amongst the tithe-owners and the tithe-payers, there was an impression and he believed a similar impression prevailed amongst the public generally, that this question should be settled on a satisfactory principle. There was a general concurrence of all parties in the House in favour of the settlement of this question, and it appeared that they were now approaching to an agreement on amicable principles. Under these circumstances, considering the little difference there was between this Bill and his, the question for him to consider was, whether he should press upon the House the adoption of his measure, to which he doubted that the assent of the House would be given, or whether he should give up his opposition to this Bill. He thought he was consulting the interests of the Church in acceding to the third reading of this Bill, as it appeared to him to be the general wish of the House to come to a settlement on this long-agitated question, and he felt that the longer they suffered this agitation to continue, the longer interval of time that was suffered to elapse before it was settled, the greater would be the difficulties of the ultimate settlement, and it might not be so perfectly settled to the advantage of the Church. Retaining, therefore, his preference for his own measure, thinking that a voluntary commutation would suggest the means of a more just application of the compulsory principle—still, not finding on the part of those more immediately interested any very strong expression of dissent, he was unwilling to interrupt the progress of the House towards the present experiment.

Mr. Hume

was also very anxious to see a settlement of this question. The right hon. Baronet was perfectly right in stating, that if a settlement of this question were not come to now, and if agitation were allowed to continue, the Church would be the sufferer. He did not rise to oppose the third reading of the Bill, but he must say, that if the two clauses proposed by the noble Lord were allowed to be inserted, the agitation would only begin. He entreated the noble Lord to reconsider this question with respect to market-gardeners and hop-grounds. If such lands were brought in under the special exceptions, the Bill would meet with general approbation, and would put an end to agitation. After the Bill had been read a third time, he should feel it his duty to take the sense of the House against the 37th and 38th Clauses, in the hope that extraordinary tithes levied on all species of property would be provided for under the 35th Clause.

Mr. Warburton

had, too, like the right hon. Member for Tamworth, a plan of his own, but he would not bring it forward for discussion, as he feared it would not lead at present to any practical result. He did not despair, however, and at no distant time, to see tithes totally abolished, the Church provided for out of the Consolidated Fund, and the Corn Laws abolished. This was the only way in which the question could be finally and satisfactorily adjusted.

Sir Robert Inglis

said, that, notwithstanding the resistance to tithes in Ireland, their payment was now enforced by the power of the law, and he should be sorry to think that law would not have the same power in England. He objected to the basis of the commutation, as not being a fair one. In a recent period, as contrasted with the present, the produce of the land was as four to seven. If tithe, then, was, as he firmly believed it to be, the first lien on the land, why should the owner of such property be so unfairly dealt with? If a proposition like the present had been made formerly, in what condition would the Church be now? There was a case in point, which would serve to illustrate his argument. There was a parish which paid 5l. 10s. for its tithes, by agreement, in 1707. It was afterwards raised to 24l., and, by a subsequent agreement, to 120l. This might be a particular case. He did not know whether it might be paralleled, but if there were many cases even approaching to it, they were such as should be provided against. There should be a progressive prosperity in Church property as well as in every other, or else in the course of two generations the relative positions of the clergy of the Church and the other classes of the community would be exceedingly different from what it was at present. He would not, however, object to the third reading of the Bill, as any further opposition that he should offer, would be only a waste of the time of the House.

Mr. Benett

said, that he had been Strongly in favour of the present Bill, and should have continued so but for the clauses which had been lately introduced, to which he could not consent, because he considered that by them a vicious principle would be embodied in the Bill, the tendency of which would be to perpetuate tithes for ever. He contended that the clauses were defective, inasmuch as it would be difficult to decide what was garden and what agricultural produce. There were other defects which he might also notice, but, at the same time, he was bound to say that he approved of the compulsory part of the Bill. He thought it very creditable on the part of the Church that no petitions from that quarter had been presented against the measure, and before he sat down, he could not but express a hope that some alterations would be made in the 36th and 37th Clauses of the Bill, so as to render them less obscure, and more in conformity with the principle upon which it was founded.

Mr. Parrott

owned, that he also had entertained objections to the Bill when it was first introduced, but they had all vanished during its progress through the House. The Bill was as fair to all parties as it could be made.

Lord Ebrington

congratulated both his noble Friend and the House generally on the prospect of bringing this most important question to a final and satisfactory conclusion. He considered that the Bill now under discussion was calculated to effect more real benefit than any other measure upon the subject of Tithe Commutation which had been introduced for years; and as regarded the Church, he must say, that its warmest friends had good cause to congratulate themselves, not only on the passing of the Bill, but on the calm and tranquil manner in which the discussions upon it had taken place. The agricultural interest would also have cause of congratulation in the final adjustment of the question, and he considered that the Government by whom it was introduced were entitled to the thanks of the country.

Mr. H. Curteis

thought, that the Bill ought to be thankfully received by those parts of the country where low tithes existed; but sure he was, that as regarded the landowners of his part of the country it would not be received as a been at all, because it went to fix a portion of the tithe unjustly as regarded the owners of the soil. At the same time he thought the Government deserved the thanks of the country for bringing the measure to this point. He could not, however, allow this Bill to go up to the other House, without saying that he felt very doubtful as a landlord at that moment, whether he should rejoice or regret if the measure was lost. As regarded the present, he would rather have it lost; but looking to the future, and to the interests of those who would hereafter stand in the situation he occupied, he thought it might be better to take the Bill as it stood, rather than refuse it. He did not wish the measure to go up to the other House, without stating his opinion as to whether it was a been to the landowners or not.

Mr. Baines

considered, that if anybody of men were indebted to his Majesty's Ministers for having brought forward the present measure more than any other, it was the clergy of the Established Church. He called upon hon. Members to show him any measure that had passed in any age which had conferred so great a benefit on the clergy. When tithes were taken in kind by the clergy, they were looked upon as the fleeces, rather than as the protectors of their flocks. It had been said, and it was cited as a friendly feeling on the part of the clergy towards the present measure, that the clergy had not come forward and petitioned against the measure. All he could say on that subject was, that he was sure that it would be received as a been by the Church. Neither had the Dissenters petitioned against it; and when the discussion of their claims came on, he was satisfied the clergy would manifest similar feelings to those which had been displayed by the Dissenters in reference to this subject.

Captain Pechell

was glad that the Bill had been brought to its present stage, as he had no doubt of its effecting a great deal of good. He hoped, however, that the tithe on fish would be reconsidered, and that Government would send a Commission into Norfolk and Cornwall to institute an inquiry with regard to the state of the fisheries in those places.

Lord John Russell

agreed with the gallant Officer, that the tithe on fish ought to be made the subject of further inquiry. He fully concurred in what had fallen from several hon. Members in the course of the discussion, that, whether the present Bill affected the interests of the clergy or the landholders, there was no question whatever but that it was one of a roost import- ant description. Such was the opinion of his Majesty's Government when the measure was first introduced, and he could not agree with the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) that the compulsory part of the Bill ought to have been omitted. On the contrary, his own opinion was, that a Bill on this subject ought to be compulsory, and that its utility would chiefly depend upon its being so. He was happy to find that so much unanimity prevailed with regard to the measure, a result which was the more gratifying, when he reflected that so many hon. Members were intimately connected with the Tithe Question, and entertained, of course, different views with regard to it. He had, however, anticipated such a result when he introduced the Bill, and he rejoiced to find, that his expectation had not been disappointed. The measure had been discussed throughout with a spirit of fairness and moderation which was equally creditable to Members on both sides of the House, and party and political feelings seemed to have been wholly set aside in considering the measure. By that wise and temperate course, his Majesty's Government had been enabled to bring the Bill to its present stage, and he could not let the present opportunity pass without congratulating the House on the satisfactory result of the measure. He considered that the Bill afforded a fair foundation for an honest and equitable adjustment of the Tithe Question on the principle of commutation, and he fully agreed with those hon. Members who had borne testimony to the manner in which this Bill had been viewed by the clergy, and he must say, from his own experience, that the clergy of this country had in most instances in which the question of Tithes had been raised, evinced the greatest moderation and forbearance. They had not interposed any objections to the present measure, and he would say, that had the clergy required for themselves what the hon. Member for the University of Oxford appeared disposed to insist upon for them, his Majesty's Government would, no doubt, have felt it extremely difficult to have brought the present measure to a satisfactory settlement. The Dissenters had also acted with great and praiseworthy forbearance as regarded the measure, which he was quite sure would ultimately tend to the benefit both of the landed interest and the clergy.

Bill read a third time.

Lord J. Russell

brought up some clauses, which were agreed to.

Lord J. Russell

brought up a clause, which related to the mode of distraining on the rent-charge for the recovery of rates. Upon this a division took place:—Ayes 107; Noes 39;—Majority for the Clause 68.

List of the AYES.
Adam, Sir C. Lynch, A. H.
Ainsworth, P. Maher, J.
Alston, R. Marshall, W.
Baldwin, Dr. Marsland, H.
Baring, F. T. Moreton, hon. A. H.
Barnard, E. G. Mosley, Sir O.
Barry, G. S. Mullins, F. W.
Bennett, J. Murray, rt. hon. F. A.
Bentinck, Lord G. North, F.
Bernal, R. O'Connell, D.
Bewes, T. O'Connell, M.
Biddulph, R. Oliphant, L.
Blamire, W: O'Loghlin, M.
Blunt, Sir C. Parker, J.
Brabazon, Sir W. Parrott, J.
Brocklehurst, J. Pease, J.
Brotherton, J. Pechell, Captain
Buller, E. Pendarves E. W. W.
Burton, H. Potter, R.
Camphell, Sir J. Poyntz, W. S.
Cave, R. O. Price, Sir R.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Childers, J. W. Roche, W.
Clayton, Sir W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Clive, E. B. Rooper, J. B.
Collier, J. Rundle, J.
Crawley, S. Russell, Lord J.
Curteis, H. B. Seale, Col.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. Sharpe, Gen.
C. T. Smith, B.
Dillwyn, L. W. Spry, Sir S. T.
Donkin, Sir R. Stewart, P. M.
Duncombe, T. Strickland, Sir G.
Elphinstone, H. Talbot, J. H.
Ewart, W. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Fergusson, rt. hon. Thompson, Col.
R. C. Thornely, T.
Folkes, Sir W. Trelawny, Sir W.
Fort, John Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Goring, Harry Dent Turner, W.
Grattan, H. Tynte, J. K.
Guest, Josiah John Villiers, C. P.
Gully, John Wakley, T.
Hastie, Archibald Walker, C. A.
Hawkins, John H. Warburton, H.
Hector, Cornthw. J. Williams, Wm.
Hodges, T. L. Williams, W. A.
Howard, hon. Edward Wilson, H.
Howard, Philip Henry Wilmington, Sir T.
Hume, Joseph Wood, C.
Johnstone, J. J. Wrightson, W. B.
Knox, hon. J. J. Wrottesley, Sir J.
Lennard, T. B. Hay, Sir J. L.
Lister, Ellis C. Stanley, E, J,
List of the NOES.
Alsager, Captain Inglis, Sir R. H.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Irton, S.
Bailey, J. Knatchbull, right hon.
Bramston, T. W. Sir E.
Brownrigg, S. Law, hon. C. E.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Lawson, A.
Calcraft, J. H. Meynell, Capt.
Chichester, A. Palmer, G.
Compton, H. C. Peel, E.
Curteis, E. B. Price, R.
Duncombe, hon. A. Pringle, A.
East, J. B. Pusey, P.
Forbes, W. Rushbrooke, Col.
Gordon, hon. W. Scourfield, W. H.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sheppard, T.
Goulburn, Mr. Serg. Sibthorpe, Col.
Halford, H. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
Halse, J. York, E. T.
Henniker, Lord
Hogg, J. W. Greene, Mr.
Jackson, Mr. Sergeant Ross, Mr.
Mr. Hume

moved that the two Clauses 37 and 38, which had been added to the Bill since it was first printed, being a provision for the charge of hop-grounds and market-gardens, should be rejected. He considered that the retention of these clauses would break into the principle of the Bill, that they would keep the door open to irritation and altercation, whereas the question ought to be settled at once and for ever.

Mr. Benett

seconded the motion. This provision would place landlords in a worse situation than before. He had expected that the Bill would make a complete commutation of tithes; instead of which, unless those clauses were struck out, it would be a mischievous measure.

Mr. Hodges

defended the clauses. There were only three modes; one was the abolition of tithe on market-gardens and hop-cultivation; but this would insure the rejection of the Bill in another place: the second was that proposed; and the only other course was the clauses as they stood. There would be no hardship in paying a few shillings per acre on hop-grounds, and as to market-gardens, there could be no difficulty in distinguishing who were market-gardeners.

Mr. Warburton

said, that there were 50,000 acres used in the cultivation of hops, and that the land employed as market-gardens might be taken at 10,000 acres. By allowing these clauses to remain they would be for the protection of the growers upon those lands, and render the whole of the lands which might be here- after applied to the cultivation of hops and market produce, liable to tithe, and so fritter away the principle of the Bill. That principle was this, that by taking on himself the payment of a fixed rent-charge, the cultivator might improve his land as he pleased, and do with it what he liked; these clauses went to impose a tax on the application of increased capital and industry to the cultivation of land. It was as absurd to require an increased tithe on land hereafter employed in the cultivation of hops and market-produce, as it would be to require an increased tithe upon all waste and pasture land, which might hereafter be applied to the growing of corn.

Sir R. Peel

observed, that the hon. Gentleman had himself shown that it was not necessarily as absurd to subject lands hereafter employed in the cultivation of hops and market-produce to an increased tithe, as it would be subject to hops, waste, and arable land which might be hereafter employed in the cultivation of corn, because he had himself stated that hop and garden grounds were of a special nature— there being, indeed, as he had said, only 50,000 acres of the one, and 10,000 acre of the other. He could not, therefore, contend that it was right to assimilate the two cases. It would be manifestly unjust towards that land which was now employed in the cultivation of hops and market-produce, and which consequently would pay tithe as such; if they allowed other land to be employed in the same species of cultivation, and get free from tithe, they would be, in fact, offering a positive premium on the application of unfit land to the cultivation of certain articles. He would not deny, that the arrangement proposed by these clauses was likely to occasion some inconvenience; but still he felt that it was more reconcilable to justice than any other which had been proposed on the opposite side of the House. No difficulty, he apprehended, could arise in regard to hop-grounds; nothing could be easier than to determine hereafter what was a hop-ground. But he admitted, that there was some difficulty in defining by law what should be hereafter considered as a market-garden. There might be land at the distance of twenty miles from a town, not coming under the designation of a market garden in the conventional interpretation of the term, and being cultivated as a field, but from which the owner might hereafter be enabled, under the system of communication by railroads, to pour into that town a large quantity of market-produce. However, he trusted much to the good sense of the Commissioners, and if difficulties were found to arise which they could not remove, Parliament might interfere hereafter.

Mr. Lennard

said, there were other cases in which it would be difficult to say whether fields did not come within the description of market-gardens. The clauses broke into the principle of the Bill; they would continue the exactions of tithe-owners, and perpetual disputes.

Sir Robert Price

supported the amendment. The clauses would introduce an ordinary charge and an extraordinary charge in the same parish on account of a single field considered as garden.

Colonel Thompson

could not vote for a Bill which, professing for its object the remedying the pressure on agriculture, perpetuated it in the case of hops and market-gardens.

Mr. Curteis

said, that if these clauses were struck out of the Bill it would oblige many persons to vote against it.

Lord John Russell

said, that these clauses, which had been complained of as but recently introduced, were not new, and he need only refer to the fact that they were ordered to be printed as far back as the 18th of May, and it was then the 27th of June. Upwards of a month had consequently elapsed since their principle had been divulged. He contended that the clauses in question were framed as much for the benefit of those classes who were subjected to the higher rent-charge, as of those who were liable to the smaller rate of charge. The hon. Member for Bridport had not supported the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex, but had come forward with an entirely new proposition. He trusted that the House would not, by rejecting the clauses, place the parties who were more immediately affected by its provisions in a position of such extreme risk as must inevitably be the case were the amendment to be agreed to. He did not see how those persons could be guarded from very considerable loss, unless by the preservation of these clauses, founded as they were upon the principle on which they were avowedly framed.

The House divided on Mr. Hume's motion—Ayes 39; Noes 153; —Majority 114.

List of the NOES.
Adam, Sir C. Grosvenor, Lord It.
Agnew, Sir A. Hale, R. B.
Alsager, Captain Hamilton, G. A.
Alston, R. Hawkins, J. H.
Angerstein, J. Hay, Sir J.
Anson, hon. Col. Hay, Sir A. L,
Astley, Sir J. Henniker, Lord
Bagshaw, J. Hodges, T. L.
Bailey, J. Hogg, J. W.
Baines, E. Howard, P. H.
Baring, F. T. Hurst, R. H.
Baring, H. B. Inglis, Sir It, H
Beckett, rt. hn. Sir J. Johnstone, J. J. H.
Biddulph, R. Johnston, A.
Bish, T. Jones, T.
Blamire, W. Knatchbull, right hon.
Boiling, W. Sir E.
Bowes, J. Knox, hon. J. J.
Bramston, T. W. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Brownrigg, S. Lambton, H.
Buller, E. Lawson, A.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Lefevre, C. S.
Burton, H. Lefroy, A.
Buxton, T. F. Lemon, Sir C.
Calcraft, J. H. Lincoln, Earl of
Cavendish, hon. C. Longfield, R.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Lowther, hon. Col.
Chalmers, P. Lushington, C.
Chichester, A. Maher, J.
Childers, J. W. Manners, Lord C. S.
Clayton, Sir W. Marshall, Wm.
Clerk, Sir G. Moreton, hon. A. H.
Clive, hon. R. H. Morpeth, Lord Visct.
Codrington, C. W. Morrison, J.
Colborne, N. W. R. Mosley, Sir O.
Cole, Lord Viscount Moslyn, hon. E.
Compton H. C. Mullins, F. W.
Cripps, J. North, F,
Curteis, H. B. Oliphant, L.
Curteis, E. B. O'Loghlin, M.
Dalmeny, Lord Palmer, G.
Dillwyn, L. W. Parker, J.
Donkin, Sir R. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Duffield, T. Pendarves, W. W.
Dunlop, J. Pigot, R.
East, J. B. Pinney, W.
Eaton, R. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Egerton, Lord F. Ponsonby, hon. W.
Elwes, J. P. Poyntz, W. S.
Etwall, R. Price, Sir R.
Fazakerley, J. N. Price, R.
Ferguson, G. Pringle, A.
Fergusson right hon. Pusey, P.
R. C. Rice, right hon.
Fitzsimon, N. Robarts, A. W.
Folkes, Sir W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Forster, C. S. Rooper, J. B.
Gladstone, T. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Gladstone, W. E. Russell, Lord J.
Gordon, R. Scott, J. W.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Sharpe, General
Goulburn, Mr. Serg. Shaw, right hon. F.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Sheppard, T.
Greene, T. Sibthorp, Colonel
Grey, Sir G. Smith, R. V.
Grimston, hon. E. H. Smith, B.
Steuart, R Wilkins, W.
Strickland. Sir G. Williams, W. A.
Talbot, J. H. Williamson, Sir H.
Thompson, right hon. Wilson, H.
C. P. Winnington, Sir T.
Tooke, W. Wood, C.
Townley, H. G. Wrightson, W. B.
Tynte, J. K. Wynn, right hon. C.
Tyrrell, Sir J. T. W.
Vesey, hon. T. Yorke, E. T.
Vivian, J. H. TELLERS.
Vivian, J.E.
Wigney, I. N. Maule, hon. F.
Wilbraham, G. Stanley, E. J.
List of the AYES.
Attwood, T. Lennard, T. B.
Bainbridge, E. T. Lister, E. C.
Bewes, T. Marsland, T.
Blake, M. J. Pease, J.
Blunt, Sir C. Potter, R.
Bowring, Dr. Rundle, J,
Bridgeman, H. Ruthven, E.
Brotherton, J, Seale, Colonel
Browne, R. D. Thompson, Colonel
Collier, J. Thornely, T.
D'Eyncourt, right Trelawny, Sir W.
hon. C. T. Tulk, C. A.
Duncombe, T. Wakley, T.
Elphinstone, H. Wallace, R.
Evans, G. Warburton, H.
Ewart, W. Wason, B.
Goring, H. D. Williams, W.
Gully, J. Wrottesley, Sir J.
Hawes, B.
Hector, C. J. TELLERS.
Hindley, C. Hume, Mr.
Kemp, T. R. Benett, Mr.

Bill passed.