§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
MR. CAYLEY moved the following proviso—
Provided always, that in computing the due regard to be paid to the just and reasonable claims of the present holders of lands under lease or otherwise, arising from the long-continued practice of renewal, the basis of compensation shall be that laid down by the Episcopal and Capitular Revenues Commissioners in their Report of 1850; and, where that may not be applicable, to the recommendations laid down in the Lords' Report on the same subject in 1851.
The Committee would remember that in 1849 the whole question of church property was referred to a Commission of which the Earl of Harrow by was chairman, and which was constituted of gentlemen whose impartiality was unimpeachable. They made their Report in 1850. The conclusion to which they arrived was, that the lessees were entitled to considerable compensation, and a basis on which such compensation should be given was laid down. It was the recommendation of that Commission that he wished substantially to incorporate in the proviso he had moved. The lessees complained that the basis was vague and indefinite, and he on their behalf now asked that a more specific arrangement might be made. The object, therefore, was to define more clearly the mode in which the damages, so to speak, to be awarded to the lessees in consequence of the interference of Parliament should be assessed.
§ MR. LASLETT
opposed the clause, on the ground that he would not consent to fritter away the property of the Church. He considered that the leaseholders and copyholders had already obtained a very great boon by the system of enfranchisement. The Church Estates Commissioners had behaved in the most fair and equitable manner, and he would venture to say that every man who had enfranchised his estates under the Commissioners had found that their value had been increased from 10 to 20 per cent. There was no evi- 1217 dente to show that any interference with the property of the Church was necessary, and he asked the Committee whether they were prepared to give millions of money in the form of compensation to individuals who were not entitled to it? If any claims to compensation were set up, let those claims be decided by the courts of common law, but he for one could not consent to see the property of the Church frittered away in the manner in which it would be dissipated if the clause of the hon. Member for North Yorkshire should be adopted. The Bill was at present a permissive measure, and he objected to the proposed clause because it would render the Bill a compulsory measure.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, He should support the proviso on the ground that Parliament had already altered the relative position of lessors and lessees greatly to the disadvantage of the latter, unless some further consideration were shown them. The object of the clause was to define the manner in which the rights of lessees should be considered, and to afford clearer instructions to the Commissioners with regard to the mode of maintaining those rights. The great question was, whether the Commissioners had really and fairly carried out the intentions of Parliament? He contended that they had not. He complained that the Commissioners had adopted a scale of tables which was decidedly unfavourable to the annuitants, instead of basing their arrangements upon tables which bad been adopted by the Government in other cases, and which were much more fair to both parties. He considered that it was for the interest of the Church that the lessees should be fairly dealt with, and should receive a fair compensation. There was an existing right on the part of the lessees arising from a practice of renewal which had existed for three centuries, and that right ought to be recognised and fairly valued in the arrangements which were made for renewals. He must say that he thought the Church Commissioners had mistaken the duty which Parliament had imposed upon them. It appeared to him that they considered that they were only Commissioners for the Church, whereas Parliament intended them to act for both parties. He thought the Commissioners had acted upon a wrong principle, and he hoped that to prevent their proceeding in the same course the Committee would assent to this clause.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, it was proposed 1218 to revert to the recommendations of the Commission which had been embodied in a Bill that was brought forward in the other House of Parliament, and referred to a Select Committee. The parties who then opposed the Bill were the lessees themselves, who objected to it as imposing a permanent charge on their estates; but on the fullest consideration the House of Lords came to a different conclusion, and adopted the system at present in force, and under which in three years property to the value of several millions had been enfranchised. If they were prepared to go back to the system of having a large rent-charge imposed instead of permanent enfranchisement, they must enter into some more detailed regulations than could possibly be effected under a Bill which there remained but a short time to dispose of. He thought, therefore, they should not hesitate on the present occasion to reject the proviso.
§ MR. MULLINGS
contended that the right hon. Gentleman had not said anything to destroy the force of the principle for which the hon. Member for Yorkshire contended. He was sure that every Member of that House was willing to give the Church its due; but he thought the tenant was entitled to consideration also, and he was of opinion that his claims had not been treated upon a fair principle.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that no doubt these lessees were under Act of Parliament; but it was quite competent for the Legislature to say, even at this great distance of time, that, having regard to the value of lives, great errors had been made in the manner of conferring those leases, and that those errors should now be corrected. The hon. Member for Yorkshire now contended that the lessees had not been fairly treated in this matter. That was a question which had been very much discussed, and be could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) should think that the Report of the Lords' Committee should be exclusively followed, and that no other terms than those specified in their Report should be adopted. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Cayley) said that due regard had not been paid to lessees, and that their terms should be allowed. He should be sorry to make this Bill other than a voluntary Bill, and thought that the hon. Member would improve the clause by striking out the word "shall," and inserting words giving the Commissioners a discretion as to whether 1219 they should follow the recommendations in the Report of the Commission.
MR. J. A. SMITH
was most grateful to the hon. Member for Yorkshire for his proposition, which he trusted would be heartily accepted by the House. As to the system, the real nature of which he should be sorry to characterise as he regarded it, which the Church had formerly pursued, of valuing their own interest at 3 per cent and charging the lessees 5 per cent, it had received its deathblow under the evidence of the late Bishop of Lincoln.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, he was quite ready to adopt the noble Lord's suggestion, and to substitute for the term "Shall," the words "may, at the discretion and with the approval of the Church Estates Commissioners."
§ Provision, as amended, agreed to.
§ MR. CAYLEY
then moved the following proviso—Provided always, that in all computations in any way dependent on the duration of lives, the expectation of life shall be calculated at the rate of 3l. Cs. 8d. per centum; and, so far as such rate can be applied, according to the data on which the life tables are founded which were appended to and published in the 12th annual Report of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England, and such computation shall be made thereby at a uniform rate of interest.
§ MR. GOULBURN
objected to the framing of any computations of this important nature upon any other than the most authoritative tables; as to the tables proposed, there were no means before him of estimating their value, for they were not in the library of the House.
§ MR. CAYLEY
assured the Committee that he had been actuated by no other motive in selecting the Registrar General's tables than that the statistics in that department afforded, in his opinion, the fairest data for all parties concerned as to the general life of the country. In point of fact, Mr. Farr's were rather more favourable to the Church than to the lessees.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that, as to the general propriety of the principle, that the exploded Carlisle tables should not be acted upon for these computations, that was clearly expedient; but, on the other hand, he was of opinion that the proviso now under consideration would not furnish anything like a workable rule. It was very difficult to decide what tables would be most applicable for the purpose, and he conceived that the best course 1220 would be for the hon. Gentleman to leave this point for further consideration, and to bring up an amended clause on the Report. He should himself be most ready to afford his best assistance to the hon. Gentleman in devising a rule on the subject.
§ MR. CAYLEY
would gladly avail himself of the hon. and learned Gentleman's offer, and postpone the proviso accordingly.
§ Proviso postponed.
§ MR. HENLEY
remarked that it was important that the same set of tables should be taken for basis which had been used by the parties themselves in entering into existing contracts, otherwise they would run the risk of selling a life on one valuation, and buying it on another.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
then moved clauses relative to the investment and application of the moneys which are to be paid into the Bank of England under the 6th section of the Act; also in respect of purchases and exchanges; also in respect to the apportionment of moneys between the Church Estates Commissioners and Ecclesiastical Corporations and to the application thereof, which were agreed to without discussion.
§ Loan JOHN RUSSELL
also moved the following clause—The proviso contained in the first section of the said recited Act, with reference to the sale or exchange of tithes or tithe rent-charges, or land or hereditaments allotted or assigned in lieu of tithes, shall be and the same is hereby repealed; and all the moneys so paid or to be paid over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England under the foregoing provision which may have been produced by the sale, purchase, or exchange of tithes or tithe rent-charges, or land or hereditaments assigned or allotted in lieu of tithes, which formed part of the endowment of any ecclesiastical corporation prior to the passing of the said Act, shall be subject to the provisions relating to local claims which are contained in the 67th section of the Act passed in the third and fourth years of Her Majesty's reign, chap. 113. And in every case in which any money shall as aforesaid be paid over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England in respect of surplus, the last-mentioned Commissioners shall, in the annual Report to be next thereafter made by them to the Secretary of State, specify the period at which at the time of the settlement of the terms of the sale, purchase, or exchange in respect of which such payment was made, it was estimated that any and every previously subsisting lease or grant of the tithes or land thereby dealt with would have expired.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
proposed, as an Amendment, to leave out all the words after "exchange of," and insert—Any lands, tithes, or hereditaments whatso- 1221 ever which formed part of the endowment of any ecclesiastical corporation prior to the passing of the said Act shall be subject to the following proviso—that in any application and expenditure of the said moneys due consideration shall be had of the spiritual wants and circumstances of the places in which such lands or hereditaments shall be situated, or such tithes shall have theretofore arisen, anything in any Act contained to the contrary notwithstanding.The hon. Gentleman observed that it was calculated that within ten years after the passing of the Act of 1840 not less than 200,000l. had been subtracted from the diocese of Durham, and applied to the purposes of the Act in other parts of England. He knew it had been said that the spiritual wants of the diocese of Durham were not so pressing as those of other dioceses, and on this ground the appropriation of the revenues of the see of Durham to which he had alluded had been justified; but he thought it could be easily shown that the spiritual necessities of that diocese fully equalled those of any other district. Even if that were not the case, however, he thought it was only a matter of justice that revenues arising within a particular diocese should be applied to the purposes of that diocese, so far as they were needed. During the ten years subsequent to 1840 the increase of population within the diocese of Durham had been double the increase that had taken place in any other similar district throughout England and Wales. The want of church accommodation in five of the principal towns of the diocese—Gateshead, Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, and Tynemouth—was so great that independently of the sittings provided by all the religious bodies in those towns, no less than 38,000 additional sittings were required. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would take into consideration the operation of the Act of 1840, and that the alienation of the revenues of the diocese of Durham would not be continued.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he must object to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, because its adoption would subvert all the principles established by the various Acts with respect to the Ecclesiastical Commission. When the Commission first reported, in 1835, it was proposed that attention should be paid to the spiritual wants of various parts of the country, and the West Riding of Yorkshire and other extensive districts were pointed out, where the number of churches was utterly disproportioned to the population. But, beyond 1222 this, the first proposal of the Commissioners was, that sums should be contributed from the revenues of certain sees, and especially from that of Durham, to furnish an addition to the revenues of other sees, which were then only eked out by preferments held in commendam. They had proceeded upon the general principle that the superfluous funds of one district should be taken to supply the wants of other districts, and in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in Cheshire, and in Lancashire, where there was not sufficient provision for the spiritual wants of the people, funds had thus been provided for the establishment of new districts. The hon. Member now proposed to subvert that principle in regard to Durham; but if subverted in one case it must be subverted in all. In 1840, in accordance with the Report of the Commission, an exception was made with respect to tithes, and it was provided that regard should be had, in the appropriation of the funds, to the wants of the districts in which the tithes arose. He thought it might fairly be said that those tithes were given for the especial purposes of the parishes in which they were collected; but the same could not be said in respect to certain lands, the property of the Church, the produce of which might be applied to ecclesiastical purposes in other districts. It had, therefore, been laid down in the first Report that the property of the Church in one district might properly be applied to relieve the spiritual wants of another district. He could not agree to the Amendment; but he thought that the attention of Parliament should be directed more closely than had hitherto been the case to the appropriation of these funds. He considered that they should have a more specific account than had hitherto been afforded of the appropriation of the funds, and ascertain that they were really applied for the advantage of populous places where considerable spiritual destitution existed. He did not think that the diocese of Durham had bad much reason to complain, for he found that 19,000l. had been appropriated to that diocese for the augmentation of livings, 7,500l. for the endowment of new parishes, and 2,300l. for the building of parsonage houses, besides donations to the Durham University. He did not think the diocese of Durham had been neglected, but he conceived that the House should have returns placed before it which would show the general disposition of the funds.
considered that the attention of Parliament must speedily be called to the necessity of providing for the spiritual wants of the diocese of Durham from the funds which were now drawn from that diocese and applied to other districts.
§ Amendment withdrawn; original clause agreed to.
§ MR. APSLEY PELLATT
moved—That so much of the 11th section of the said recited Act as excepts the dean and canons of the cathedral church of Christ in Oxford from the operation thereof shall be repealed.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
explained that, if the dean and canons of Christ Church were subjected to the operation of the Act, they would be invested with powers in direct violation of the trusts upon which they held certain property, and on that account they had been exempted from its operation.
§ Motion negatived.
§ Other clauses moved and agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported.
§ House in Committee of Supply.