HC Deb 18 July 1838 vol 44 cc302-8

On the motion for going into Committee on the Parochial Assessments Bill,

Mr. Goulburn

said, that the title of this Bill had so little reference to its clauses, that it would not be competent for any Member to introduce it into Committee. He thought it would, therefore, be better, that the bill should be allowed to drop.

Mr. Shaw Lefevre

said, that as doubts had arisen as to the purpose of the bill, he would move as an amendment, the insertion of the words "declare and enact" in each clause.

Mr. Goulburn

said, that bringing in a bill in the manner in which that bill had been introduced, was a total perversion of the constitutional practice of the House. He felt it was a point on which the House ought to be jealous, and he hoped, that some remedy would be found by the hon. Gentleman opposite.

The Speaker

said, it was certainly the general rule, that a declaratory bill should not also be an enacting one; but he thought, that if any doubt existed on the subject, the mistake could be remedied by an instruction to the Committee.

The Attorney General

said, that he did not feel the weight of the right hon. Gentleman's objection, as the mistake to which he alluded was merely technical, and could he easily remedied.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he had felt it his duty to make the objection, not with the view of throwing an obstacle in the way of a bill of which he disapproved on other grounds, but because he thought it of importance that the House should adhere to those rules which had so long governed their forms of proceeding. He would now say a few words as to the general principle of the measure, which he considered as one of great injustice. It was a bill which, if passed in its present form, would alter the mode of rating property in parishes. The principle of the law of rating had always been, that it was to press equally on property, but this bill would depart from that principle, for in some cases it would make the rating on the whole profit derived from the produce of the land, while in others it would be made only on a portion of such profits. This was most unjust in principle, and in its application to many individuals, to the clergy, and to the owners of capital invested in railroads, canals, and many other species of property which were totally distinct from the profits of the lessor. In an act which had passed the Legislature for encouraging the commutation of tithes, the clergy were invited to take a rent-charge on land instead, which rent-charge would be subject to the same rating as when the property was tithe in the hands of the incumbent. But the effect of this bill would be to increase the amount of the rate on the rent-charge far beyond what it ever had been on the tithe. This he considered an act of gross injustice. One clergyman who had been rated on the one-fourth of his tithes, would now be rated on two-thirds of the rent-charge, which had been given in lieu of them, though he had been assured, that his rating on the rent-charge would not exceed that on the amount previously received as tithe. The difference between the present and the former rating would be 43l. beyond the former amount. In another case, in Shropshire, a clergyman, whose whole income from his living did not exceed 150l., and from which he had to pay a curate, would, if this bill were to pass, have an increase on his rating of 20l. a-year. The remark of the Gentleman from whom he had this statement was, that should this bill of Mr. Shaw Lefevre pass, he doubted whether that Gentleman's servant would be satisfied with the income which would then remain to this clergyman. He thought it would be highly indiscreet in the House, without inquiry, without information or discussion On the subject, to pass this measure at the present advanced period of the Session, and he begged to conclude by moving, "That further proceedings on the bill be postponed to that day three months."

Mr. C. Wood

contended that it would be great injustice to delay the passing of a measure so imperatively called for, and so much affecting the interests of all parties.

Sir R. Inglis

supported the amendment, because he thought it was a measure that would put into the pockets of the landholders a large sum of money that belonged properly to the tithe owners.

Mr. Darby

was convinced that the principle of the bill was a right one, and did not think that the land-owners should first pay for the rent which they received, and afterwards for the profits of their tenants. If the land-owner and tithe-owner were charged on the rent which they received, justice would be done.

Mr. Lefevre

explained, that where tithe-owners had been more indulgently rated hitherto, this bill would not produce any result of which they need be afraid.

Mr. Bruges

said, that the House, in legislating on this subject, ought to consider the rent-charge as so much tithe, and then the question would be, supposing the tithe to be let, what sum was it likely to obtain? Upon that sum it was, that the assessment ought to be made, and it would not be fair to place the tithe-owner in a worse situation with regard to assessment than the landlord. As it was impossible to allow the law to remain in its present state, and as the bill, if properly worded, might prove beneficial, he should vote for the Committee.

The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 59; Noes 31: Majority 28.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H, A. Langdale, hon. C.
Baines, E. Lemon, Sir C.
Bannerman, A. Lynch, A. H.
Barnard, E. G. Maule, hon. F.
Blake, M. J. Melgund, Viscount
Blake, W. J. Morris, D.
Brodie, W. B. Murray, J. A.
Bruges, W. H. Muskett, G. A.
Bryan, G. O'Brien, W. S.
Buller, E. Parker, J.
Campbell, Sir J. Pechell, Capt.
Chalmers, P. Philips, M.
Chute, W. L. W. Pryme, G.
Crawley, S. Redington, T. N.
Curry, W. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Dalmeny, Lord Salwey, Colonel
Darby, G. Smith, B.
Duckworth, S. Strutt, E.
Finch, F. Style, Sir C.
Gillon, W. D. Thornely, T.
Greene, T. Wallace, R.
Hall, Sir B. Warburton, H.
Handley, H. Ward, H. G.
Hawkins, J. H. White, A.
Hector, C. J. Williams, W. A.
Hindley, C. Wood, Sir M.
Hodges, T. L. Wood, G. W.
Hume, J. Wyse, T.
Hurst, R. H. TELLERS.
Hutton, R. Lefevre, S.
James, W. Wood, C.
List of the NOES.
Arbuthnott, H. Egerton, W. T.
Bagge, W. Fellowes, E.
Blackstone, W. Filmer, Sir E.
Blair, J. Freshfield, J. W.
Blandford, Marquess of Gladstone, W. E.
Goulburn, H.
Bramston, T. W. Grant, F. W.
Compton, H. C. Gimsditch, T.
Dalrymple, Sir A. Hope, hon. C.
Mackenzie, T. Tyrell, Sir J.
Palmer, G. Vere, Sir C. B.
Parker, M. Waddington, H.
Peel, Sir R. Wodehouse, E.
Polhill, F. Wood, Colonel T.
Praed, W. T.
Richards, R. TELLERS.
Rushbrooke, Col. Inglis, Sir R.
Tennent, J. E. Estcourt, T.

House in Committee.

On the first Clause,

Mr. Goulburn

said, that great injustice would be done were this clause carried into operation. There were many cases in which tithe had been commuted under the recent Act, and unless a clause was inserted in the bill applicable to those cases, a much higher rate would be imposed on the rent-charge than what had been formerly charged upon the tithe. Such a proceeding was highly improper and unjust, and he wished to know from the hon. Gentleman who had framed the bill, whether he would consent to the introduction of a clause protecting the interests of those who had commuted their tithes by an equitable adjustment into a rent-charge?

The Attorney General

said, that it was absolutely necessary that a measure of this kind should pass before the Tithe Commutation Act came into compulsory operation, but if the right hon. Gentleman would frame a clause protecting the individual cases to which he had alluded, he (the Attorney General) would support it.

Sir R. Peel

said, that it was not the duty of his right hon. Friend, but the duty of those who framed the bill to propose a clause to prevent the injustice of which his right hon. Friend had complained. He thought that they were proceeding to legislate on this subject with great precipitation, and he contended, that time ought to be afforded for more mature deliberation. The interests of the tithe-owner had not been sufficiently attended to, and if the time were allowed, an equitable arrangement might be effected in regard to the owners of tithe. He would not say, that a measure of this kind was not necessary, but rather than proceed without mature deliberation to legislate on a subject so important as the present, it would be better to suspend for a time the compulsory operation of the Tithe Commutation Act. Of the two evils, that, he thought, would be the least, for at present they were totally without information on this subject, while it was clear that great injustice would result from the operation of the bill if it were passed. The interests of the land-owner had been more attended to than the interests of the tithe-owner, and they might depend upon it, that if they, as land-owners, acted upon that principle, posterity would condemn their legislation. The interests of the Church would be seriously affected were this measure carried into operation. It would also alter the liabilities of property, and he therefore contended that time ought to be allowed for further consideration, as the House had not sufficient information to enable them to come to a sound decision on the subject.

Mr. C. Wood

said, that great injustice would be done if this measure were not passed.

Mr. E. Buller

considered a measure of this kind necessary; but he thought, that they were dealing with too much haste with the important question of the liability of property.

Colonel Wood

thought, the shortest way would be, to introduce a clause to exempt all future rent-charges from poor-rates; and at the same time make no additions to the tithe compositions for the rate. That would, he thought, settle the question of rating profits.

Mr. Aglionby

observed, that it was said that in many parts of England, the farmers had been living upon their capital, and that the yeomanry were gradually disappearing; but whether that was the case or not, there would be great difficulty in ascertaining the rate of profits of farmers; because, in many parts of this country, farmers did not keep books. As to the Tithe Commutation Act, the general feeling in the north and west of England, was not that the landowners received any great benefit from that act.

Sir R. H. Inglis

did not concur in the suggestion of his hon. and gallant Friend, but still he recommended the reconsideration of this subject to the hon. Member for Hampshire.

Sir E. Sugden

said, he had already stated, that he felt that the case of "The King v. Joddrell" was not law, and that the bill was right; but he voted against the bill, because it was very dangerous for that House, by legislation, to reverse the decisions of courts of justice; he was afraid it would become a precedent, to which they would hereafter find themselves bound to hold. But there was another objection; the bill appeared to him not at all adapted to meet the real difficulties of the case, and he thought it would be unwise to pass such a bill, because it must necessarily be inefficient. It was too late in the day to talk of rating profits.

The Solicitor General

concurred in the views stated by the hon. and learned Member for Cockermouth, and could not think that the bill would interfere with voluntary commutations, or with those compulsory commutations which would take effect in October next.

Clause agreed to. The House resumed, and the Bill was reported.