§ Order for Second Reading read.140
§ MR. PACKE
said, it was with great reluctance that he had come to the determination of withdrawing this Bill. He had been led to take that course not at all by any want of confidence in the measure, itself—for he had received from all parts of the kingdom strong testimony in favour of its principles, although there were objections to some of its details—but he had not been able to introduce it until after Easter, having fully believed, from what passed at the commencement of the Session, that the Government would have brought forward a Bill on the subject; and this was the first Wednesday he had been able to fix for the second reading. The late Sir Robert Peel had told Lord John Russell, in 1835, that the question was one of great importance, and that the Session ought not to pass without the introduction of some measure for its settlement. The different Governments have been nineteen years considering what measure to bring in, and there was now no Bill before the House on the subject but what he must call the "Church Destruction Bill" of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay). He had reason to hope that the noble Lord the late Member for London, if he had now been in his place, would have supported the principle of the Bill, although he had objected to some of its details, for the noble Lord bad said that the national Church ought to be supported by the nation. If the Bill had gone into Committee, he had intended to strike out all the clauses for the registration of Dissenters, which had been objected to as creating an invidious distinction between Churchmen and Dissenters. The subject was a very difficult one, no doubt, for in the great majority of instances, although conscience was the ostensible, reason, pocket was the real reason why the payment of church rates was objected to. The Session was too far advanced to render it probable that this Bill could be carried through both Houses this year, and he should, therefore, move that the order for the second reading be discharged; but he thought it due to those who had given him their confidence to state that, unless he received a satisfactory assurance from the Government that they would bring in a Bill upon the subject, he should himself introduce a measure on the principle of this at the commencement of the next Session.
§ SIR JOSHUA WALMSLEY
said, that 141 he had that day presented a petition from the Wesleyan Methodists of Leicester against church rates. There had been statements made to the effect that the Wesleyans as a body were not averse to church rates. He therefore, on the behalf of that portion of his constituents, repudiated and entered his protest against such statements.
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
said, he was surprised that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Packe) should have introduced a Bill which he must have known would not be acceptable to those for whose relief it was intended. He only hoped he would reconsider his determination to reintroduce the Bill next Session, and he also hoped that his impression, that the noble Lord the Lord President of the Council would have approved of this measure if he had been in his place, was wholly unauthorised. Those who, like himself, had supported the noble Lord for a long series of years, would feel extreme regret and disapprobation if they could believe that that impression was correct.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he had drawn a directly contrary inference from the noble Lord's speeches and conduct during a period of twenty-five years. He believed the noble Lord would have been entirely opposed to this measure, which, by creating and keeping alive an antagonistic feeling between Dissenters and members of die Church, would have produced the most mischievous results. If the hon. Member meant to omit those clauses which would establish the invidious distinction to which he had referred, he must introduce an entirely new measure, for those clauses were the very gist of the present Bill. Year after year the feeling against church rates had been growing stronger, and so it would continue to do until they had been entirely done away with.
Order for Second Reading read and discharged.