HC Deb 01 April 1844 vol 73 cc1739-41
Mr. French

rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the Church Temporalities in Ireland according to the notice he had given. At that late hour he should not trespass on the House with any lengthened statement. The Measure he sought to bring under their consideration had been sent him by an influential body of the Church tenants in Ireland, with an intimation that the provisions contained in it were not likely to be objected to by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The House was aware that by the 3d and 4th William IV., c. 37—an Act brought in by the noble Lord, at present Secretary for the Colonies—the number of Bishops in Ireland were prospectively reduced, and their properties, as they died off, vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who were empowered to grant to the Church tenants, on certain conditions, a perpetuity in their holdings; these conditions were, subjecting themselves to an annual rent, equal to the rent and renewal fine paid by them on the average of the last preceding seven years, and the payment of a sum of money equal to about three years of their beneficial interests. The Church tenants had availed themselves of these provisions to a great extent—converted their leasehold into perpetuity, and paid, as purchase money, upwards of a million of money to the Commissioners. The lands thus granted in perpetuity were subject, therefore, to an annual rent equal to one-fifth of the beneficial interest vested in, and payable quarterly to the Commissioners, who had no power, no matter what price the tenant might be willing to pay for it, to dispose of this head-rent. The object of the present Bill, was to give them such a power: it was merely permission to empower them to sell the chiefages vested in themselves, at the highest rate of purchase they could obtain—subject, however, to the approval of the Lord Lieutenant in Council, and to vest the sums of money so obtained in fee simple lands for the same uses and purposes as the head-rents were applicable. This change was desirable for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, as by it their income, now insufficient. would be much increased. Originally their annual charges were calculated at 70,000l. a year. A return lately laid before the House showed that this estimate was much too low, as their present expenses amounted to 97,000l. annually, and they report from the limited state of their funds, they had been obliged to postpone several cases of rebuilding and enlargement of Churches of a very urgent nature. Independent of perpetuity sales, their income was 27,000l. a year short of this expenditure. The Commissioners owed to the Board of Works, 60,000l., which it was most desirable should be paid off. It would be the interests of the tenants to purchase these chiefages, even should they pay fancy prices for them. They would then, with perfect security, be enabled to spend their capital on the improvement of these estates hitherto so neglected. The Law professed, in express terms, to grant them the fee simple and inheritance of their lands. For this they had paid large sums of money, and this they had not got. A fee-farm grant, subject to a rent of one-fifth of the estimated value of the lands, had been conveyed to them, for the non-payment of which, they were, by the Clauses of the 3d and 4th William IV., c. 37, liable to ejectment, in which case, the large sums paid for the miscalled fee simple and inheritance of the lands, would be lost to their families. Under this Bill the value of Church property would not be diminished, nor its security impaired; and he could not anticipate any fair or reasonable objection to its introduction. Let it be printed, and submitted, during the recess, to the consideration of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the heads of the Churches, on consultation with whom, he trusted Her Majesty's Government would decide on offering no opposition to a Measure from which much benefit and no evil could result. Mr. French explained the tithe-rent charges related merely to those parishes which, from divine service not having been performed in them for several years, had become vested in the Commissioners, and concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Lord Eliot

had great doubt as to the expediency of the Bill; but upon the understanding that by consenting to its introduction, the Government was not to be considered as expressing any opinion in its favour, he should offer no opposition.

Mr. Shaw

had great objection to the Bill being read a first time at that late hour, and in the absence of the right hon. the Home Secretary.

Mr. F. French,

said he believed there was no objection to the introduction of the Bill on the part of the right hon. the Home Secretary.

Leave given to bring in the Bill.

House resumed. Resolution to be reported. Committee to sit again.

House Adjourned at one o'clock.