HC Deb 14 August 1846 vol 88 cc708-11

wished to put a question to the right hon. Home Secretary on a subject of considerable importance. It might be in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen, that in 1843 and 1844 Bills were introduced into that House with reference to ecclesiastical courts, and that those Bills contained clauses for the abolition of all peculiars. Those measures, after much discussion, were eventually lost. He (Mr. Newdegate) understood, during the last spring, that an Order in Council appeared in, the Gazette, abolishing the peculiars in six dioceses in England. He was greatly surprised at the announcement, and he wrote to the Bishop of London, in whose diocese a peculiar which had long belonged to his family was situated, to inquire whether those peculiars were to be abolished. The right rev. Prelate favoured him with an answer, stating that the Act for establishing the Ecclesiastical Commission contained a clause under which the Commissioners were empowered to recommend to Her Majesty in Council measures for regulating the internal affairs of the different dioceses, and for abolishing peculiars; that the Commissioners had recommended the abolition of certain peculiars in the diocese to which he (Mr. Newdegate) had referred; and that the Order in Council had consequently been issued. Now this was a very hard case upon those to whom the peculiars belonged. Under the operations of this law, he would be dispossessed of property which had been in his family since the reign of Edward III., and upon which he had expended some thousands of pounds in order to render it worthy of the sacred purposes to which it was devoted. He was confident that if an examination had been made into the conduct of that peculiar by his father, by himself, and by their predecessors, no just reason could be shown for the treatment to which it seemed they were to be subjected. The possessors of these peculiars were, it appeared, to be relieved from the ownership of the property, and from the responsibility of managing it; and by the Order in Council issued by Her Majesty, at the recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the parish to which he had referred, which contained more than 1,600 inhabitants, would be left with the miserable provision of something like 25l. a year for spiritual purposes. He would, therefore, ask the right hon. Home Secretary upon what grounds the Ecclesiastical Commissioners recommended that Her Majesty should, by Order in Council, enact that all parishes, places, churches, chapels, the whole clergy, and others, Her Majesty's subjects, situate within, in possession of, subject to, or connected with, any peculiar or exempt jurisdiction, extending over any parish or place within the diocese of Canterbury, London, Winchester, Chichester, Lincoln, and Rochester, should, after the 1st of January, 1846, be respectively under, or subject to, the respective bishops and archdeacons of the above-named diocese, whereby all such peculiar or exempt jurisdictions have been abolished? Also whether previous to the above recommendation the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had examined into the particular circumstances of each parish, place, church, chapel, and of each clergyman, or other person, Her Majesty's subject, as affected by the above Order in Council? Also whether the Ecclesiastical Commissioners engaged, at the time of making the above recommendation, to take, or have since taken, or are about to take, any measures for supplying the deficiency of spiritual superintendence and service to which the inhabitants of the above parishes and places, and the congregations of the above churches and chapels, may be exposed in consequence of the removal of the personal liability to provide spiritual superintendence and service, from which the late holders of the above peculiar or exempt jurisdictions have been relieved by the operation of the same order, which has deprived them of their property, rights, and interest in the above peculiar or exempt jurisdictions? Also why Her Majesty's late Government, after having twice introduced Bills into this House for the abolition of the above peculiar or exempt jurisdictions, ultimately advised Her Majesty to deal with the property, rights, and interests of those who were possessed of, or were connected with them, by Order in Council?


said, the hon. Gentleman had given him notice of these questions, and he was, therefore, enabled to state the law under which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had acted, and the effect of the scheme they had prepared, which had received the approval of Her Majesty in Council. By the 6th and 7th Victoria, c. 77, see. 10, power was given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to prepare schemes for placing peculiars under the jurisdiction of the bishops of the dioceses in which they were respectively situated. Those schemes, however, had no effect in law until they were sanctioned by the Queen in Council. The 20th section of the Act to which he had referred contained a proviso that no Order in Council for sanctioning any such scheme should, until the expiration of a year after its issue, affect the jurisdiction of any Ecclesiastical Court. The powers thus conferred upon the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had been exercised with regard to many dioceses; but he thought the hon. Gentleman was mistaken as to the effect of those powers. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the effect of the Orders in Council to which he had alluded, was co-extensive with the effect that would have been produced had the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill been passed. That Bill would have abolished peculiars altogether, including the rights of the patrons and officers. The effect of the Orders in Council was merely to place the incumbents under the spiritual superintendence of the bishops of the dioceses in which their cures were situated, and did not at all affect the rights of the patrons, or of any persons holding office under the peculiars. He might add that all the Orders in Council which had been issued under this Act had been laid before Parliament. The last question of the hon. Gentleman was, why the Government, after having twice introduced Bills for the abolition of peculiar jurisdictions, had advised Her Majesty to interfere with the property and rights of those who were possessed of those peculiars, by Order in Council? He (Sir G. Grey) could assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government had no control over the matter. The law placed the power in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and these matters did not come at all under the cognizance of the Government.