HC Deb 11 July 1851 vol 118 cc563-6

begged to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government the several questions, of which he had given notice, respecting the incomes of the bishops; and which were as follows:— The septennial period having arrived for the revision of episcopal incomes by the Ecclesiastical Commission, and it appearing by Parliamen- tary Paper No. 400, that during the last fourteen years the Bishop of Durham has received 79,658l. mnre than the income assigned to his see; and, during the last seven years, the Bishop of Chichester has received 1,230l. more than the sum assigned to his see as net income, and has taken from the Ecclesiastical Commission 4,550l. to make up an imaginary deficiency of income; the Bishop of St. David's 6,626l. more than the income assigned to his see, and has taken 11,200l. from the Commissioners; the Bishop of Oxford, in five years, has received 1,918l. surplus, and has taken 17,567l. from the same fund; the Bishop of Rochester, in four years, 2,279l. surplus, and 14,000l. from the same fund; the Bishop of Norwich, in seven years, has received 8,075l. more than the income assigned to his see; and the Bishop of Salisbury 6,972l., being a total of 27,100l. more than the incomes assigned to their several sees—to ask, 1st, Whether is is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose any legislative measures for obviating the inconvenience and occasional hardship resulting from the present uncertainty of episcopal incomes, and prevent the episcopal body from receiving a larger amount of income than the sum assigned to their sees; to ask, 2ndly, Whether the bishops who have received larger incomes than were assigned to their sees have paid the surplus over to the common fund, or whether they have retained it for their own uses? 3rdly, It appears by the Parliamentary Paper No. 400, that the Archbishop of York is indebted to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 2,317l.; the Bishop of Ely 9,242l.; the Bishop of St. Asaph (notwithstanding great deductions) 1,661l.; total 13,220l.: and it appears also by the Parliamentary Paper No. 153, the Ecclesiastical Commission have failed, by correspondence, to obtain the payment of those sums—to ask whether the Ecclesiastical Commission intend taking legal proceedings for the recovery of the sum due, and, if not, what course they propose to take in order that the Common Fund may not be deprived of the amount so long due, and so repeatedly demanded. 4thly, Whether it is true that the Bishop of Salisbury has intimated to the Ecclesiastical Commission, that he will surrender the property of his see to the Commissioners, and receive from them the income assigned to his see; and whether any other bishops, who had received more than the income assigned to their sees, have acted in a similar way?


said, the House must be aware that an Act of Parliament was passed several years ago, by which the bishops were required to pay over certain sums which were beyond the sums that were assigned as the proper income of their sees, and that other of the bishops were to receive certain sums which were proposed to make out the income of their sees. Such being the case, all those bishops who received from that time their bishoprics were under the provisions of the Act of Parliament. Lately, a Bill passed which provided another mode, namely, that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should make an arrangement by which the incomes of the bishops should neither exceed nor fall short of the sum assigned to them, and that was to take place from January 1848. With regard to these latter bishops, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had been considering, and were now considering, the means of carrying that provision and the law into effect, so that the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the other bishops who received their sees since January 1848, will receive exactly the income which Parliament had assigned to them. With regard to the other bishops, as to the propriety or justice of the arrangement, of course it was not a matter on which he was then called on to speak; but it was quite evident that those bishops who received their incomes under the provisions of the former Act had just as much right to them as any person had to an estate settled on him for life, and that there would be no more justice in Parliament interfering with those incomes than with any other private property. With regard to the facts, he believed that, generally speaking, the bishops who had received more than the sum assigned to them under the Act, had retained it according to their rights by law. At the same time, he should state that the Bishop of Durham was an exception, because he had paid over a larger sum than he was compelled to do. It had been supposed, that if he gave up 11,000l. a year, and surrendered an estate of 2,000l. a year, it would have reduced his income to 8,000l.; but he had paid to the Commissioners an additional sum of 8,766l., and he had also intimated to the Commissioners his intention to pay a sum of 3,000l. a year more than was specified by the Act, so long as he held the see. It should likewise be stated, that he succeeded a bishop whose income was 23,000l. or 24,000l. a year, and whose charities, and expenses in his diocese, including contributions to new churches, increasing the incomes of the poorer clergy and the like, were commensurate with it. Thus very considerable demands had been thrown upon the present bishop, and he had contributed no less a sum than 45,460l. in this way. The next question of the hon. Gentleman related to those bishops who were obliged, according to the Act, to pay over certain sums which it was supposed wsuld be in excess upon the incomes assigned to them. Those bishops, generally speaking, had complied with the law; but at the same time there were some who had received much less than it was expected, and the consequence had been, they had been unable to pay over the entire sum due from them. Thus the Bishop of Ely was indebted to a considerable amount to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; but at no time had he received more than the income which was assigned to him originally by the Commissioners, and by the Act of Parliament. The arrangement made by the Commissioners was certainly not to proceed by law against these prelates, but to inform them from time to time in what sum they were indebted, and request them to pay as soon as they could what was due. He believed that the Archbishop of York had already paid all he owed; and the Bishop of St. Asaph's had been for some time engaged in reducing his debt, which in a very short time would be paid off. There remained, therefore, only the case of the Bishop of Ely; and there was every reason to suppose that the Bishop of Ely, if he lived, would, from the emoluments of his see, be able to pay the sum due from him. The Commissioners, certainly, seeing that he did not receive the amount assigned him, had forborne pressing him, being quite convinced of his willingness to pay over the sum due when income would allow of it. The further question of the hon. Gentleman was with regard to the Bishop of Salisbury. He was the only bishop whom he (Lord John Russell) had seen since his hon. Friend had given notice of his Motion; and the right rev. Prelate had put into his hands a letter, which he had written in the month of February last, and in which he proposed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that his income should be in future that which had been assigned to his see by the Commission, namely, 5,000l. a year. The right rev. Prelate had therefore voluntarily come under the provisions of the Act of Parliament. The Commissioners had accepted the proposal, and in future he would receive a fixed income, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was by law under the Act. He (Lord J. Russell) did not know whether any other bishop had followed the example; but in the course of time all the sees would come under the operation of the Act of Parliament.