HC Deb 11 February 1841 vol 56 cc534-6

On the motion of Mr. Pigott, that the Tithe Compositions (Ireland) Bill be read a second time,

Mr. Shaw

said, that he would take that opportunity of shortly alluding to what was considered a ground of strong complaint on the part of the Irish clergy with respect to the tithe. The Irish clergy had been exposed to very unnecessary delay and loss, in consequence of the mode in which the Tithe Act had been carried into effect. When the bill passed in 1838, the clergy had one-fourth of their income taken from them. This he admitted was a question of amount; for he admitted that they gained an advantage in having the payment of tithes transferred from the tenant to the landlord; he, therefore, did not complain on this account. He had, however, all along contended that the 100,000l. which had been subtracted from the amount guaranteed by the Million Act, had been most unjustly abstracted—he would not say unlawfully, because it had been done by Act of Parliament. Under the Million Act of 1833, the Irish clergy had already received 640,000l., when in 1836,100,000l. of the balance was appropriated by Act of Parliament to the uses of the public works in Ireland. He admitted that the balance of 360,000l., under the Million Act, was not at that time applicable to the payment of the clergy arrears, because that act had been so far carried out; but, in 1838, when the Rent Charge Act passed, the balance of the million was made applicable to that purpose. The amount then appropriated was, however, only 260,000l. and the clergy consented, for the sake of peace, to accept it on the faith of a decla- ration of Lord Melbourne's in the other House, to the effect that the amount which the clergy would altogether receive, under the Million Act, would be 70 per cent, upon their whole claims. They had, however, received only 6s. 10d. in the pound, or 33 per cent., out of 70 per cent., yet they were exposed to additional taxation, on account of the Poor-laws; and, also, to the enforcement of the Crown claims to quit rents, and the instalments due on glebes and glebe-houses, the Government alleging as a reason for enforcing these claims, that the question of tithes was settled. Under these circumstances, he put it to the Government whether they would not consider the case of the Irish clergy, and remember that the sum of 100,000l., to which he had referred, had been appropriated to a temporary purpose only during the period when it was not applicable to the purpose for which it was originally voted by the Legislature. The original object of the Million Act had been resumed by the act of 1838, and he thought the Government should consider the claim of the clergy to have the sum of 100,000l. appropriated to the payment of their arrears.

Mr. Pigott

reminded the right hon. Gentleman, that in the act of 1838 the sum of 240.000l. was specifically stated as the amount of balance to be applied to the payment of the arrears. The matter was considered as closed by that act. This was not the first time the right hon. Gentleman had mooted the question to the House, and he had been answered by the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland. In the absence of that noble Lord, he must decline entering more into detail on the subject. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman had said as to the proceedings of Government against those in arrear, he would inform the House that the Government had been reluctant to proceed until actually compelled, in order to avoid putting parties to useless expense, and that they had at first proceeded in the inferior courts, where a sum of 11,000l. had been recovered, which was about to be distributed. At the next sittings of the Court of Chancery in Ireland he was about to proceed against defaulters.

Mr. Shaw

explained that he had never meant to put the claim of the Irish clergy to the 100,000l. as a matter of right, though he certainly thought that they were equitably entitled to the full benefit of the Million Act.

Bill read a second time.