HC Deb 04 May 1837 vol 38 cc530-9
Mr. Baines

rose to make his promised motion with respect to the First Fruits. The ground on which he rested that motion was, that at present those funds were grossly misapplied, and he hoped to be able to show that a reform, and an important reform too, was called for in their administration. The first fruits were as ancient as tithes. In the year 1290, a valuation was made of livings for the purpose of ascertaining the value of first fruits and tenths, and the consequence was, it was recorded that the first fruits and tenths were of the full value of the livings of that day. At the time of the Reformation—in the reign of Henry 8th—these funds came into the possession of the State, were applied to the uses of the State, and at that time also amounted to the full value of all the livings. At that time, therefore, and at all preceding periods, the amount of the revenue, instead of being extremely small and insignificant, as at the present day, was of a very large and important description. He did not wish to weary the House by entering into unnecessary details; but he held in his hand the directions given by Henry 8th, for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of first fruits and tenths; and at that period, as he had already stated, the sum amounted to the full value of all the livings. So that, supposing a bishop to enjoy a living of 1,000/. a-year, it was necessary that he should pay to the First Fruits-office the full amount of that sum for the first year, and for every succeeding year one-tenth of it. In this state the law continued until the time of Philip and Mary, when the act of Henry 8th was repealed; but the very first act of Elizabeth was to re-enact the law, and with so much strictness that the full amount of the livings under the valuation of Henry 8th continued to be collected and paid during the whole of her reign, and down to the time of Queen Anne. In the reign of the last-named sovereign a statute was passed which would be remembered long in this country, and which entitled the name of Anne to great veneration and respect—he meant the statute known generally under the name of Queen Anne's bounty, by virtue of which the first fruits theretofore applied to the uses of the State were transferred to the support of the poorer clergy. How far the obligations impesed by that act had been discharged he should prove to the House by reading a very short statement, the object of which was to shew, that instead of the first fruits and tenths being applied, as was originally intended to the full amount of the livings, they had been applied only in such a manner as to leave the. poorer clergy of the country in a state, pf the most deplorable destitution; and it was the object of the motion with which he should conclude to endeavour to place the poorer clergy upon such a footing as should enable them to enjoy the. full benefit that the statute of Anne intended them to enjoy. He found

An account of the sums pf money paid on each induction for First Fruits into the fund for the augmentation of the maintenance of the livings of the Poor Clergy by the Archbishops and Bishops of England and Wales, and of the real annual value of the revenues of the Archiepiscopal and Episcopal Sees, as returned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners appointed by his Majesty to inquire into ecclesiastical revenues in England and Wales dated in 1835.
Archbishops and Bishops. Net Annual Value of Sees as returned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Amount paid as first Fruits rated in the King's Bench.
The Archbishop of Canterbury £19,182 £2,682
The Archbishop of York 12,629 449
The Bishop of Carlisle 2,213 478
The Bishop of Chichester 4,229 609
The Bishop of Exeter 2,713 450
The Bishop of Hereford 2,616 691
The Bishop of Richfield and Coventry 3,923 503
The Bishop of Llandaff 924 139
The Bishop of Norwich 5,395 834
The Bishop of Peterborough 3,100 373
The Bishop of Rochester 1,450 322
The Bishop of St. David's 1,897 383
The Bishop of Salisbury 3,939 1,246
The Bishop of Bangor 4,464 118
The Bishop of Bristol 3,351 294
The Bishop of Worcester 6,569 929
The Bishop of Lincoln 4,542 828
The Bishop of Oxford 2,648 343
The Bishop of St. Asaph 6,301 168
The Bishop of Bath and Wells 5,946 479
The Bishop of Gloucester 2,282 283
The Bishop of Chester 3,261 378
The Bishop of Winchester 11,151 3,873
The Bishop of Ely 11,105 1,921
The Bishop of London 13,929 900
The Bishop of Durham 19,066 1,638

These were the first yearly payments made by the bishops after entering upon their sees—payments which, according to the Act of Henry 8th, ought, for the first year, to have been equal to the full amount of their livings; and for every successive year equal to one-tenth. But they had failed to pay either the full amount of their first fruits or of the tenths; for instead of contributing for the latter a

that the archbishops and bishop? instead of paying the full amount pf the. first fruits and tenths, paid now only in this proportion:—; the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose revenue, as stated by the report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, appointed to inquire into the revenues of the Church, amounted to 19,182l, instead of paying the whole of the sum for the first year to the Board of First Fruits, paid, only 2,682l. The following table shewed the actual incomes of the archbishops and bishops, and the sums paid by them respectively as first fruits:—

tenth of the full amount pf their incomes, they paid only a tenth of the diminutive sums he had mentioned. So that the poor clergy, of whose interests the bishops should be the guardians, were by these very bishops deprived of a great portion of the funds which ought to be applied to their support. He was prepared to admit, and he made the admission most readily, that some degree of doubt had been thrown upon this subject by an expression in the sixth section of the Act of Queen Anne, in which it was said, that the payment was to be made according to the rating as that rating had theretofore existed. He knew it was net always acceptable, either in that House or elsewhere, that there should be a defender of the poor clergy; but that was one of the motives by which he was actuated, because he knew that they were in a situation of great difficulty, and could not with propriety make their complaints known in that House. He thought it incumbent upon the House, therefore, whenever the subject was brought forward, to keep an open ear to the complaints of the poor clergy, and to give to them the credence to which they were entitled. Whilst he was upon this subject he would quote the real value of ten livings in the diocese of Chester, together with sums paid by them to the Board of First Fruits:—

Real Value. Sums paid.
Middleton Rectory £l,070 £36 3 11
Aldingham 1,092 39 9 2
Prestwich 1,230 46 4 9
Ashton-under-Line 1,407 26 13 4
Lancaster 1,709 41 0 0
Rochdale 1,730 11 4 9
Standish 1,874 45 16 8
Wigan 2,230 80 10 8
Winwick 3,616 102 9 9
Manchester Coll. Church 4,025 53 6 8
After that statement coupled with the previous statement in reference to the contributions made by the bishops, he hoped he should have for his motion the support pf the hon, Gentlemen opposite, who were so zealous for the interests of the poor clergy, and of the noble Lord, the Home, Secretary, whom, he had heard express the benevolent wish that every poor clergyman in the country should have a living at least equal to 150l, a-year; and which every poor clergyman certainly would have but for the mal-administration of these funds. He believed, indeed, that the first fruits and tenths, properly collected and properly applied, would not only afford a competence to all the clergy, but would furnish a considerable sum towards the erection of new churches where they were required, He begged to ask the House whether, supposing the value of livings had declined nine-tenths, the bishops and persons interested in the disposal of those livings would not have come down to Parliament, and made a. representation that it was unfitting to pay the first fruits and tenths according to the valuation of Henry 8th? Why, then, should they not now be compelled to pay according to the real value instead of the nominal value of livings. He appealed to the House and the country upon these facts, and he felt satisfied he should not make the appeal in vain. In this question he had no personal interest whatever. He took it up because he had no interest in it. If it had been taken up by a person of a different per? suasion, it might have been supposed that it was done for some particular purpose; but he stood in no such situation. He did not wish to make use of it for any sectarian or hostile purpose, but simply to raise the incomes of the poor clergy up to the standard they ought to attain, and to compel the higher clergy to pay their equitable proportion, as originally required by the statute. He had another paper in his hand which he begged to offer to the consideration of the House, because it placed this matter in a very strong point of view. It appeared from the Return of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that the revenues of the Church amounted to 3,507,591l. The Commissioners there stated:—
"The amount on which first fruits are payable, excluding the discharged livings, 2,450,000l.
Taking each induction at an average of fifteen years, the yearly payments of first fruits would be £166,266
The amount on which tenths are due is estimated at 2,600,000l., on which the annual tenths would be 260,000
Amount produced by first fruits and tenths annually, if paid upon the full amount 426,266
Amount actually paid for first fruits and tenths on an average of years 13,000
Paid less, than the full and entire amount (yearly) £413,266
These were facts that spoke to every man's mind—facts that could not fail, he imagined, to arrest public attention. There was another circumstance of which he complained in the administration of these funds—the want of economy. He complained that more than the whole revenue of the first fruits was absorbed to pay the expenses incident to its administration. He complained that the first fruits did not yield more than 4,000l, a-year; he complained that upwards of 5,000l. a-year were spent for the purpose of dis- tributing the first fruits according to the provisions of the benevolent statute of Anne. These were subjects that required to be brought under the consideration of Parliament; subjects to which great weight ought to be attached. A new valuation of Church lands and Church revenues having of late been made, he wished to know, why that valuation should not be acted upon in reference to first fruits, instead of the old and obsolete one upon which the statute of Anne was founded. The object of his motion was, to obtain a Committee to investigate the subject; and after the statement he had made, he thought the House would have no difficulty in acceding to that proposition. He should be disinclined in Committee to take any retrospective view of the subject. He would rather look forward than backward. He was not very much inclined to say, that those who had paid these small sums, instead of the larger sums which were due from them, should be subjected to litigation: he was only anxious that for the future more adequate payments should be made. His motion, therefore, would be so modified, as to apply only to the future. Before he sat down, however, he would just state the position in which the poor clergy stood. To show that this was not a motion without its proper use, he would state what were the revenues of the poorer clergy, as deduced from the Reports of the Commissioners on ecclesiastical revenues. There were eleven livings under 10l. a-year, nineteen under 20l., thirty-two under 30l, sixty-three under 40l., and 172 under 50l.—making an aggregate of 297 livings under 50l. a-year; and yet Queen Anne's bounty, a bounty for which she was extolled to the skies at the time she instituted it, had been in operation for 130 years. Then there were 350 livings under 60l. a-year, 307 under 70l., 254 under 80l., 352 under 90l., and 400 under 100l.—making an aggregate of livings betwixt 50l. and 100l. a-year, amounting to 1,628. Then there were livings from 100l. to 150l. a-year, amounting to 1,602; and there were livings from 150l. to 200l. a-year, amounting to 1,354. So that there were 4,882 livings, after Queen Anne's bounty had been in operation for 130 years, under the amount of 200l. a-year, exclusive of 5,230 curacies, averaging 81l. each, but many of them not amounting to 50l. each. He hoped that a case had been made out sufficiently strong to induce the House to consent to the Committee; and he hoped that the result of the investigation would be to increase the value of the small livings. For if the livings had only paid the tenths, and not a shilling had been paid for the first fruits, every one of these 4,882 livings would have been advanced to a sum exceeding 200/. a-year. It was high time, therefore, that some measure should be adopted upon this subject. It had been too long delayed, and he too, reproached himself for not having before brought it under the consideration of Parliament. But he hoped he had now-exhibited it in such a way as to arrest the attention of Parliament. He relied on the good feeling of the House to pass the resolution which he should submit to its consideration, leaving it, with perfect confidence, in its hands. He begged to move, that a Select Committee be appointed "to inquire whether the full amount of the first fruits and tenths have been paid by the several. persons who now are archbishops, and bishops, deans, canons, prebendaries, rectors, and vicars, in England and Wales, in respect of the several archbishoprics, bishoprics, deaneries, canonries,. prebends, rectories, and vicarages, which are now possessed or have been possessed, or how much less than the actual and full amount of such first fruits and tenths have been paid by them; and whether any and what proceedings should be taken to obtain the payment of the full value of the first fruits and tenths which shall hereafter become due, in respect of such archbishoprics, bishoprics, deaneries, canonries, prebends, rectories, and vicarages, or any of them."

Lord John Russell

The motion of my hon. Friend rests, as I conceive, upon two grounds: the one is with respect to the full amount of first fruits and tenths which ought to be paid by the archbishops, bishops, and the rest of the clergy; and the other is, as to what shall be done in future with respect to the question of first fruits and tenths. I rather expected from some part of my hon. Friend's speech, that with respect to the former part of this question, he was not going to propose a Select Committee, to inquire into that part of the subject; but it seems that he now proposes to inquire, what is the full amount that ought to have been paid, although he does not intend to propose that, after ascertaining that amount, those who have paid the customary amount of first-fruits and tenths shall be obliged to pay the increased amount retrospectively. But he proposes that an inquiry shall be made as to what proceedings shall be taken with respect to the future. Such being the statement of my hon. Friend, I must observe, that the question of what shall be the full payment of first fruits and tenths, is merely a question as to what is due by law; and for that purpose, in order to ascertain that amount, it is certainly not necessary to have a Select Committee, unless, indeed, it shall be found, that there are very great doubts as to the construction of the statute. The words of the statute of Queen Anne, in the sixth section, say that the first fruits, as well as the tenths payable by the clergy, "should be paid according to such rates and proportions only as the same were usually rated and paid." Now, I conceive that, as a question of law, these words are quite decisive, and that they fix the certain rates and proportions which are to be paid from that time henceforth, by the persons liable to the payment of them; in the same way as the Land-tax Act of William 3rd ascertains and defines the proportions of land-tax to be paid in future. I am stating this as to what I apprehend to be the law upon the subject, if that question shall be raised; but I believe my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has no doubt whatever that that is the proper construction of the statute, and that, therefore, what has been paid by the archbishops, bishops, and the rest of the clergy, is that which was legally payable by them, and that no other sum can be required of them. I shall therefore say, as to the first part of the motion, that it certainly is not necessary, neither can it be proper, for the House of Commons to appoint a Select Committee, to inquire whether the person who has to pay the customary first fruits and tenths has paid the sum which is legally due. I do not think that there is ground enough shown by my hon. Friend to raise the presumption that the sum legally due has not been paid by those from whom it was due. Then, as to the second question which my hon. Friend has raised, namely, as to the condition of the poorer clergy—that, I conceive to be entirely distinct from the first. My hon. Friend has said, that the poorer clergy are very insufficiently provided for, and that it will be right that a larger sum should be paid in the nature of first fruits and tenths; and he further stated, that by such means a sum exceeding 100,000l. may be obtained from the payment of first fruits, and a sum of 350,000l. in the shape of tenths. Now, if that were a question of law, we should have nothing else to do than to enforce the law upon the subject; but, not being a question of law, I can look upon the proposition as no other than a proposition to raise a certain tax upon the clergy different from that to which they are now liable by law. With regard to the force of that proposition, I am not going to deny that my opinion is, that, among other modes of raising the incomes of very small livings in this country, I do think that a fair and rateable proportion to be paid by the clergy, would be one means not unadvisable to be taken. But, at the same time, I cannot found that payment upon the assumption that they are now legally liable to it. If I were to support any proposition for such a charge being imposed on the clergy, I could only support it upon the ground of its being advisable to lay such a tax upon them, as a tax to which they are not now liable, but which it were expedient upon general grounds of policy to impose on them. But that is a grave question, and one connected with the question of the revenues of the clergy, the increase of small livings, and the spiritual instruction of the people; but it is not, in my view of it, a question which ought to be referred to a Select Committee. If it be proper to impose such a tax on the clergy, let a motion, at the proper time, be made to that effect, and let the House deal with that motion as it shall seem fitting to them to do: but I cannot consider it at all useful, in order to assist such a motion, that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire whether such a tax ought to be imposed or not. With respect, then, to the question of law, it is clear and decided, that there is no need of a Select Committee to assist in ascertaining that point; and with respect to the question of policy, in imposing a tax on the clergy, it is not a fit subject for a Select Committee to inquire into. It may be a fit subject for consideration. I do not deny that it is a fit question for Parliament to entertain, but it is not one for deliberation or inquiry before a Select Committee. My hon. Friend has said, as another ground for a Select Committee, that the administration of these funds has been subject to great abuse. With respect to the general expense of the Boards alluded to, I believe there is a Select Committee already sitting; so that, with respect to the expense of the Board of Queen Anne's Bounty, and of the Office of First Fruits and Tenths, the House will soon have some information that will enable them to legislate, if necessary, upon that subject. But no specific abuse has been assigned, with regard to the payment of the first fruits and tenths. My hon. Friend has stated no specific grounds, or any fact to induce the House to believe that there has been any specific abuse. My own belief, if I were required to state it, in opposition to my hon. Friend, is, that the Board of Queen Anne's Bounty conducts its affairs With great integrity and great consideration for the wants of the poorer clergy; and that, although there have been great mistakes and errors in the former administration of that bounty, I do not think at present,—without saying it may not be improved in some particulars,—that there is a sufficient case of abuse made out to require the interposition of this House. Therefore, seeing that there is no sufficient ground to entertain any doubt as to the law upon the subject, and seeing that there is no foundation, in point of policy, to appoint a Select Committee on a question of this grave and solemn importance, I certainly must give my negative to the proposition before the House.

The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 171: Majority 108.

List of the AYES.
Attwood. T. Lister, E. C.
Bernard, E. G. Lushiagton, C.
Bewes, T. M'Leod, R.
Blake, M. J. Martin, T.
Bodkin, J. J. Morrison, J.
Bowring, Dr. Musgrave, Sir R.
Bridgeman, H. O'Connell, M.
Brocklehurst, J. Parrott, J.
Brotherton, J. Pattison, J.
Buller, E. Pease, J.
Bulwer, H. L. Philips, M.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Pryme, G.
Cayley, E. S. Ramsbottom, J.
Chalmers, P. Rippon, C.
Codrington, Admiral Rundle, J.
Collier, J. Scholefield, J.
Collins, W. Stanley, W. O.
Crawford, W. S. Stuart, Lord J.
Duncombe, T. Thornley, T.
Etwall, R. Tooke, W.
Evans, G. Turner, W.
Fenton, J. Villiers, G. P.
Fielden, J. Wakley, T.
Fort, J. Warburton, H.
Grote, George Wason, R.
Hastie, A. Whalley, Sir S.
Heathcoat, J. Wilbraham, G.
Hector, C. J. Wilks, J.
Hoskins, K. Williams, W.
Humphery, J. Williams, Sir J.
Hutt, William TELLERS.
Jervis, J. Aglionby, H. A.
List of the NOES.
Agnew, Sir A. Harcoutt, G. S.
Alsager, Captain Hardy, J.
Ashley, Viscount Hawkes, T.
Balfour, T. Hay, Sir A. L.
Barclay, D Heathcote, G. J.
Baring, T. Henniker, Lord
Barneby, J. Herbert, Hon. S.
Bateson, Sir R. Hogg, J. W.
Beckett, rt. hon. Sir J. Houstoun, G.
Bell, M. Howard, R.
Bethell, R. Howick, Viscount
Blackburne, I. Hughes, W. H.
Blackstone, W. S. Hurst, R. H.
Bonham, R. F. Jackson, Serjeant
Borthwick, P. Ingham, R.
Bowles, G. R. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Bramston, T. W. Johnstone, Sir J.
Bruen, Colonel Johnston, A.
Bruen, F. Jones, W.
Campbell, Sir H. Jones, T.
Campbell, Sir J. Irton, S.
Chandos, Marquess of Kearsley, J. H.
Charlton, E. L. King, E. B.
Chichester, J. P. B. Knatchbull, rt. hon. Sir E.
Chichester, A.
Chisholm, A. W. Labouchere, rt. hn. H.
Clerk, Sir G. Law, hon. C. E.
Codrington, G. W. Lawson, A.
Cole, hon. A. H. Lefevre, Charles S.
Cole, Viscount Lefroy, rt. hon. T.
Compton, H. C. Lennox, Lord George
Copeland, W. T. Lennox, Lord Arthur
Curteis, H. S. Leveson, Lord
Dalmeny, Lord Lewis, D.
Darlington, Earl of Lincoln, Earl of
Dillwyn, L. W. Long, W.
Dowdeswell, W. Longfield, R.
Duffield, T. Lopes, Sir R.
Duncombe, hon. W. Lowther, Colonel
Eaton, R. J. Lowther, J. H.
Egerton, Sir P. Lygon, hon. General
Elley, Sir J. Mackenzie, T.
Elwes, J. P. Mahon, Viscount
Estcourt, T. Maunsell, T. P.
Estcourt, T. Miles, W.
Farrand, R. Mordaunt, Sir J.
Fector, J. M. Morpeth, Viscount
Feilden, W. Mosley, Sir O.
Fergus, J. Neeld, J.
Fergusson, rt. hn. R. C. Nicholl, J.
Finch, G. Ord, W.
Fitzroy, Lord C. Packe, C. W.
Fitzroy, hon. H. Parker, J.
Folkes, Sir W. Parry, Sir L. P. J.
Forbes, W. Pechell, Captain
Forster, C. S. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Geary, Sir W. Perceval, Colonel
Gore, O. Pigot, R.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Plumptre, J. P.
Goulburn, Serjeant Polhill, F.
Greene, T. Ponsonby, hon. J.
Grey, Sir G. Poulter, J.
Hale, R. B. Praed, W. M.
Halford, H. Price, S. G.
Halse, J. Pusey, P.
Reid, Sir J. R. Talfourd, Sergeant
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Trevor, hon. A.
Richards, J. Twiss, H.
Richards, R. Tyrrell, Sir J. T.
Rickford, W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. Verner, Colonel
Ross, G. Vernon, G. H.
Rushbrooke, Colonel Vesey, hon. T.
Russell, G. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Russell, Lord J. Walpole, Lord
Russell, Lord C. Whitmore, T. C.
Ryle, J. Wilbraham, hon. B.
Scourfield, W. H. Williams, R.
Seymour, Lord Wilson, H.
Shaw, rt. hon. F. Wood, Colonel T.
Sheppard, T. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Shirley, E. J. Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.
Sibthorp, Colonel Young, G. F.
Somerset, Lord G. Young, Sir W.
Stanley, E. J.
Stanley, E. TELLERS.
Strutt, E. Smith, V.
Sturt, H. C. Steuart, R.