HC Deb 24 July 1845 vol 82 cc1040-3
On the Motion of Sir James Graham

, that the Stock in Trade Bill be read a second time,

Sir R. Inglis

presented two petitions against the Bill; one from the deanery of Exeter, and the other from the clergy of Sussex. The hon. Baronet then proceeded to state, that the title of the Bill conveyed to hon. Members a very imperfect idea of its objects. He asked the attention of the House for a short time to a statement of the subject now under consideration. For five or six years the Bill had been annually renewed, which was making the law permanent, yet avoiding any discussion upon the subject in that House. If it were thought desirable that the law should be altered, let a Bill be introduced—let it be fully discussed, and let the law be settled upon a fair basis, and so avoid the great evil of suspending the operation of the law by more renewal Bills. The present state of the law pressed very heavily upon a class of men who were entitled to the kindest consideration of the House. It took a considerable portion of the income from those, than whom no body of men were more charitable in their several parishes; he meant the parochial clergy. Year after year he had allowed the annual Bills to pass without observation, upon the understanding that the subject should receive the consideration of the House. He had expected that some attempt would be made in the present Session to settle the question of rating of all kinds of property—a question which he admitted to be full of difficulties—and he had waited until last week, when the present Bill was introduced; he then saw there was no hope that Her Majesty's Government would take the matter into their own hands; and, therefore, he had determined to call the attention of the House to it. He trusted the right hon. Baronet would not allow the Session to terminate without giving an assurance that the subject should receive the attention of Her Majesty's Government during the recess, and that early next Session they would be prepared to introduce a Bill to define and settle the law, and prevent the continuance of a great and pressing grievance. Having performed a duty he felt incumbent upon him, he would not oppose the second reading of the present renewal Bill; but he sincerely trusted it would be the last of its kind upon that subject.

Sir J. Graham

agreed with the hon. Baronet that the subject was one of very considerable difficulty, and one of deep interest to that respectable class of men to whom he had more particularly alluded. The claim of the clergy to exemption from rating was founded upon two grounds, and there had been two different decisions upon the question in courts of law. The first case was that of "The King v. Jod- drell," wherein the decision of the Queen's Bench was in favour of the claim. That was in the year 1835; and about the same time, the Tithe Commutation Bill and the Rating of Property Bill were under consideration, and clauses were introduced into those Bills giving the clergy the benefit of that decision; but it was taken from them by a subsequent decision of another clause. The clergy, in his opinion, sustained no injury from the present state of the law, nor did they possess any claim other than that which belonged to them under the ancient law, when farmers were rateable only in proportion to their rents, and not in reference to their profits; and so far from the clergy being placed in a disadvantageous position in comparison with other ratepayers, they stood in exactly the same position as they did when the Tithe Commutation Act passed. He had said before that he thought the whole question of rating well worthy the attention of the Legislature. It appeared to him very doubtful whether the present parochial system of imposing the rate was the best that could be devised; and he thought it worthy of consideration whether some system not confined to such narrow limits, could not be adopted after mature deliberation. He thought, also, that it was desirable that there should be a better appeal against any inequality of rating. For any such inequality which might at present exist, there must be a general remedy; but he should deceive his hon. Friend if he held out to him any expectation of a special remedy in favour of the clergy.

Bill read a second time.