HC Deb 28 February 1855 vol 136 cc2032-59

Order for Second Reading read.


said, that in requesting the House to agree to the second reading of the Bill, he need not remind hon. Members how important the measure was, how many interests it affected, how wide was its scope, and how serious the results, either for good or evil, which would arise form it. He would, first of all, advert to some remarks which he had heard objecting that the present time, when the country was engaged in an arduous and perilous contest, was not the most fitting occasion for considering a measure of this nature. In his opinion, the present was peculiarly the time when it behoved them to set their house in order, to attend to the spiritual interests of the nation, and to endeavour to bring down the favour of God upon the people of this country. He was not now, for the first time, asking the House to agree to the second reading of this measure, for he had already twice before this introduced a Bill for these purposes. In the first instance he had introduced a Bill, the second reading of which was not pressed, owing to the lateness of the Session; in the second, the House had gone so far as to sanction the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time. The present measure was not in material points different as regarded its principle from those which he had previously brought forward. In the first instance, of course the principle was new, the proposals were in some degree so startling, and of so wide a scope, that it was scarcely to be expected that the House would agree to them at once; in the second instance he had a further advantage, for the House had readily consented to the principle of the Bill by a majority of nearly two to one in favour of the second reading. At the present time he had the further advantage, that he was not introducing a new or ill-digested scheme, but one which, whatever its faults were, it was confessed provided a remedy for evils of acknowledged magnitude and admitted existence. That these evils did exist, he should be able to show to the House by ample testimony. He would, in the first place, read the opinion of one of the most remarkable men belonging to the House, who in experience of Parliamentary matters had no equal, who had been Prime Minister of this country, who had been a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and consequently had an intimate acquaintance with the details of the subject now under consideration. He was alluding to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) the late Member for the City of London, who said— I consider the main intention of the Bill, which, by giving to the t lurch Estates Commission the administration of the property from which the income of the bishops is derived, is very sound in principle, and one which will tend not only to the improvement of the property, but will be more becoming than the present system to the dignity of the bishops, and will give them the means necessary to the discharge of their duties, which are becoming more and more extensive every day in their respective dioceses, And at a subsequent stage the noble Lord also observed— It is obvious that a person coming into possession of an hereditary estate may make provision for the management of that estate, and may sacrifice his income for some years to improve it for the subsequent benefit of himself and his successors, knowing that his children will in the end reap the advantage; but for a bishop to sacrifice his income when, perhaps, the enjoyment of his bishopric may not extend beyond four or five years, is, perhaps, too much to expect. I think, therefore, that the giving of a fixed income, to be paid by the Commissioners who shall have the management of the lands, is so great an improvement upon the present system that on account of that provision alone, if the question were one of affirming or denying the principle of the Bill, I should be prepared to give my vote in favour of it. He (the Marquess of Blandford) would now endeavour to show, in as brief and succinct a way as he could, what the specific evils were which the Bill proposed to remedy, and what amount of positive good they would be able to acquire by passing a measure like the present one. He would also endeavour to show that it was necessary that there should be some change—he did not say what change—and if he could prove this necessity he should confidently call upon the House to agree to the principle of a measure which had for its object the provision of a remedy, however insufficient, for acknowledged evils. It was admitted that the present state of things was not in all respects a satisfactory one. The property was not managed as it ought to be; complaints had been urged in a variety of directions, and a great deal of intensified feeling and odium had resulted in consequence to the Church; and he should endeavour to show how the existing state of things rendered some change absolutely necessary. He believed that a solemn duty rested on that House to take into their consideration any measure likely to promote the extension of the Established Church—of that Church which had been committed to their care from generation to generation, and which, whatever were its faults, had been the source of sonic of the greatest blessings which the country enjoyed. It was as much the duty of that House to do this as it would be a dereliction of their duty to neglect the nationality of the Church of England, or to cease to consider it in its true position. He saw there was a notice on the books that it was the intention of the lion. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. H. G. Liddell) to oppose the Bill. He (the Marquess of Blandford) gave the hon. Member full credit for the best intentions, but thought he little knew how much evil he was entailing upon the Church, and what injury he might be bringing upon its best interests, when lie did not confine himself to proposing amendments in Committee, but was delaying the passing of a measure for another year by opposing the principle of the Bill. If the hon. Member would undertake to bring in a better Bill than this, and move that both Bills should be referred to a Select Committee, he (the Marquess of Blandford), looking at the magnitude of the question, would be prepared to accede to that offer. But he must deprecate such a vague Motion as that of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, which would have the effect of postponing the measure for another year, and which was not consistent with the importance of the subject or the sacred character of the interests at stake. It had been objected to the Bill that it would, by centralising the management of the capitular property, render the title to it insecure, and bring all the evils of a centralised management with accumulated force upon ecclesiastical property, while another objection was, that the Commissioners did not consider local claims as they ought: these, he was well aware, ought to be considered, but he thought that the local interests would be better consulted by this measure than they were at present. It was not in his power last year, when this objection was made, to refer to the Report of the Cathedral Commission, which was not at that time a public document, but he would now show from that Report what course bad been pursued by the Chapters. He did not wish to cast unnecessary blame upon capitular institutions, but he was only stating a well known and well recognised fact when he said that capitular institutions had been most backward in providing for the necessary augmentation in the spiritual wants of the places where their property lay. He would cite a few instances of what capitular bodies had been in the habit of giving out of their large resources towards the real wants of the Church. He found that the revenues of the Chapter of Canterbury were 25,000l. a year, and that out of that sum 71l. a year was given in augmentation of vicarages connected with the property, and 1,306l. for schools and other charitable purposes. The revenues of the Chapter of Durham were 57,000l., or rather nearly 58,000l. a year, and there was an increased ratio in their grants, but not at all commensurate with the enlarged amount of their income. The provision made by the Chapter of Durham for the augmentation of vicarages was 2,075l. a year, and for schools about the same amount; in all about 4,000l. out of nearly 60,000l. The revenues of the Chapter of Winchester were 22,000l. per annum, out of which only 400 a year was granted in augmentation of vicarages, and 1,000l. a year to charities. The revenues of the Chapter of Ely were 16,000l. a year, out of which only 62l. a year was given to vicarages, and 407l. to schools and charities. The Chapter of Westminster had an income of 30,000l., of which only 474l. was given to the vicars, and 426l/ to local charities. It had been said that a Commission was now sitting, and that it was not right to proceed with a measure of this nature when that Commission was considering the subject. There might or there might not be truth in that statement, but he was inclined to believe that this Bill had been properly introduced. In the first place, it dealt with a subject which was not adapted to the consideration of that Commission. It dealt with episcopal as well as capitular property, and Parliament had always treated the two matters as proper to be dealt with together, but that Commission would only consider capitular interests. Another reason for proceeding with this measure was that the subject had been fully considered already. A Commission had been issued, of which the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary was perfectly cognisant, and in which Lord Harrowby had taken considerable interest, and that Commission went fully into the details of the question as to how the property should be managed. They reported their conclusion to the House, but that conclusion had not been acted upon, and no legislation followed their Report; and to wait for the Report of the present Commission would be merely to delay the passing of a useful measure. He believed that this measure had met with a large amount of public sympathy, and that it was now brought forward in such a tangible shape that it might fairly be considered in Committee. An objection was last year urged to this measure that the claims of the Dissenters were not fully considered, and that no measure should be taken with respect to the Church until those claims had been considered. Now, whatever the claims of the Dissenters might be, he wished to put forward fairly and boldly what he considered the claims of the Established Church, and in his opinion the House of Commons was a very proper arena for discussing the question. He did not object to the claims of Dissenters being urged on the one side, and the claims of the Church of England being urged on the other. He was sure the Church would not suffer by the discussion, and if it were rubbed, it would only become the brighter by being rubbed. A Church founded on the prescription of centuries was not likely to be overthrown by non- conforming bodies, to whom it was the policy of the country to give complete toleration. A great deal had been said about the reform of the Church, and the necessity of remedying the abuses which exist in her. If that necessity existed, and if the Church was to be reformed, it was the duty of those who were her reformers to set about the work; but if they were indifferent to the subject, and unwilling to introduce salutary changes, was it to be urged against the Church that these abuses were still in existence? The question of church extension was a most important matter, and this could nut take take place without the necessary means for augmenting poor livings, creating new parishes, and providing endowments. These means were not likely to be obtained except by such an administration of the property of the Church as would make her revenues sufficient to accomplish these important objects. Another important consideration was, the character of the ministers of the Church. They ought to be without reproach, but so long as they had the management of property there must be collisions between them and their tenants, and all those various contingencies involved in the management of property, whose tendency would be to render them liable to reflections upon their characters. The aim of the Legislature ought to be, in the first place, to render incomes adequate and secure; and, in the second place, to render them easy of collection, and to place the fee of the property on such a basis that the management should not interfere with the security necessary to attach it for ever to its proper purposes. The measure which he had introduced was not new in principle, and was rendered necessary by former Acts. An inquiry was instituted into ecclesiastical matters in 1835, and the object of that inquiry was to consider generally the state of the Established Church, the amount of spiritual destitution, the amounts of the incomes of the bishops, and the anomalies that were supposed to require a remedy at the hands of the Legislature. The inquiries of that Commission showed the inequality of the episcopal incomes and the vast amount of spiritual destitution in the country, and the Ecclesiastical Commission was instituted as a permanent Commission, to carry out the objects recommended by the Commissioners of 1835. He would briefly call the attention of the house to the history of that Commission. The labours of that Commission divided themselves into two periods. The first went down to about 1850, and the second dated from that period up to the present time. In the first period of the Commission it was thought desirable to limit the bishops' incomes. Some of these incomes were found to be much too large, and others much too small, and the course of proceeding adopted was to charge the richer sees with fixed payments, and to make them over to the poorer sees. The charge placed on the richer sees was 41,500l. This was done by the Act of the 6 & 7 Will. IV., passed in 1836. The system, however, was not a perfect one. Its defects were these. In order to leave a certain amount of interest to induce the bishop to manage properly the property, a fixed charge was placed upon it, and the residue was to belong to the bishop; but the incomes were very much underestimated, and, in some cases, where improvements were made, more than double the allotted income was enjoyed by the bishop. Another evil left untouched was this, that the management of the estate was still thrown on the bishop. This sum of 41.500l. the bishops themselves had the labour of securing and paying over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the same period. Other changes of a most important nature were introduced, relating to the chapters. By the 3 & 4 Vict., c. 113, passed in 1840, 360 prebends were suppressed and their property was vested in the Commissioners. A large number of canonries were also suspended, and their proceeds were likewise directed to be paid over to the Commissioners. Other provisions were made, but the legislation which then took place was so incomplete that some further change in the law was rendered absolutely necessary. There was now a joint interest in the property between the chapters and the Commissioners, owing to their being entitled to the proceeds of the suspended canonries. There was also a joint interest and ownership conferred by the limitation of the incomes of other canonries. The Commissioners had also the power to receive the improved value of certain estates. Now, although this joint ownership existed, the Commissioners had no voice or power in the management of the property vested in them. The first duty of Parliament was to give them such power over the property as to enable them to administer it to the best advantage. He now wished to call the attention of the House to the common fund which was formed for the purpose of providing for the spiritual wants of the country. Now, it was found at that time that 145,000l. was necessary to raise the incomes of livings under public patronage; and that 131,000l. was required to raise those under private patronage. For that purpose, and in order to provide for the spiritual wants of the community, what was termed the common fund had been established; and if a fund of that character were required twenty years ago, of how much more importance must it be at the present moment? Now, he would ask what was the state of the case at present? He would just mention two parishes in the metropolis as instances of the amount of destitution which prevailed. In the parish of Clerkenwell, in 1817, the population was 30,000. In 1854, it amounted to 64,000. In 1817, there were 29,000 persons unprovided with church accommodation. In 1854, the number so unprovided was 58,000, although the number of sittings had been increased from 1,400 to 5,805. In 1817, the population of the parish of Bethnal Green was 33,000. In 1854, it had increased to 90,193. The number of persons unprovided with sittings in 1817, was 31,800. In 1854, the number destitute of accommodation was 75,342. The accommodation had been increased from 1,200 to 14,851 sittings; and, in saying this, however, he did not wish to ignore the exertions which had been made during that time by the nonconforming communities, who had supplied a vast amount of spiritual aid which the Church was unable to afford. He now came to what he termed the second period of the Ecclesiastical Commission, commencing in 1850. In consequence of an inquiry before a Committee of that House into the mode in which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had administered their property, a law was passed for the purpose of providing for the administration of the large property vested in them in the best and most serviceable manner for the country. The Estates Commissioners were appointed, consisting of three lay Commissioners and two of the Members of the Ecclesiastical Commission, constituting a kind of imperium in imperio, for the management of the estates, and they were directed to report annually to Parliament. The next change effected was with respect to the episcopal incomes. The object of Parliament was to limit the incomes of the bishops. Those incomes had not been limited, because the property had yielded more than double what Parliament considered would be the residue. A new mode was adopted, and he would now describe the objectionable nature of the present law. By an Order in Council, in 1851, it was enacted that the future incomes of the bishops should be fixed at 152,000l. a year, and the bishops were directed to deliver a half-yearly account of their receipts to the Commissioners, and by as much as they exceeded the sum fixed by Parliament for the see, so much was to be paid over to the Commissioners as the balance. There was a condition attached to that mode of proceeding which rendered it one of the most humiliating arrangements ever adopted respecting the bishops' incomes, for so little confidence was placed in the episcopal body that when any one of the bishops making his return was found to have received a fine which equalled or exceeded the amount of his half year's income, the Commissioners had the power to take the whole of the fine into their own hands, and to pay him the balance; and if any fine was to be received of the value of more than 100l., the Commissioners were to determine the nature of the renewal and the amount of the fine. He wished now to draw the attention of the House to another question. If any increase was to be expected in the value of the property, it would render it more than ever important that the Commissioners should have the power of dealing with it as they thought best, in order to raise it to its full improvement value. Now, what was the actual interest of the Commissioners in the property held by them jointly with the capitular bodies? Originally there were 149 canonries in the cathedrals. The number suspended was sixty-five. The total annual revenue of the capitular bodies on the average of seven years was 295,984l. By the process of enfranchisement the entire property would be brought into fee, and one-half of that would come to the Church. Taking the sums received in fines as one-fourth of the entire annual value, the entire value of the property would be 1,183,936l., to about one-half of which, 591,968l., the Church would become entitled, the other half going into the hands of the lessees. The interest of the Commissioners in that property amounted to four-tenths, nearly 200,000. Supposing there should be no change in the law, the result would be that, their interest having proportionately increased, there would still be no proper control over that portion to which they were entitled. In order to remedy the present state of things, two plans might be proposed. Either the entire management of the property might be vested in the Commissioners, as he had proposed last year, or, as was proposed by the Members of the Episcopal Revenues Commission, it might be temporarily put into their hands for the purpose of giving to each Ecclesiastical corporation an amount of income necessary to supply both see and chapter, and the remainder to be vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Now, in his Bill he proposed to unite the two systems. He proposed that with regard to episcopal property there should be no change front the principle of the former measure—that its management should be absolutely vested in the Commissioners, also that the management of the entire of the property should be transferred to the Estates Commissioners, in order that the process of enfranchisement, with all fairness to the lessees, should be carried on as expeditiously as possible, he proposed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should enter into an agreement with each bishop for the payment of the sum necessary to supply the income of his see. With regard to the chapters, he proposed that after a period sufficient in the estimation of Parliament to bring the property out of its leasehold tenure by means of its enfranchisement into rack rent tenure, the chapters should have a sufficient portion of the real estate handed back to yield the income which would be necessary to defray the charges of the cathedral, and thenceforth remain under their management, subject to certain limitations and restrictions imposed under the Ecclesiastical Commission. He would next proceed briefly to state the reasons which induced him to make that change. He should, in the first place, observe that taking the fairest and the most extensive view he was able to take of that subject, he could not help thinking that it would be better to effect an entire transference of the management of that property. He believed that such an arrangement would be the most consonant with the character of the duties of capitular bodies. But he could not conceal from himself that the chapters themselves were strongly opposed to such a change, and he was aware that if he were to attempt to carry it into effect he would be met—and perhaps successfully met—by appeals against the adoption of the principle of centralisation. He should also admit that there was an important difference between the relations of bishops and of chapters to the property which they held. A chapter was a body corporate, and its interest in the due management of its property was sustained and perpetuated; while the interest of a corporation sole, such as a bishop, in ecclesiastical property, was limited to the individual. In dealing with the chapters he had followed the precedent that had already been adopted by the chapters of York and of Carlisle, which had handed over the entire amount of their property to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in order that it might be brought into a state of rack-rent value. Another point to which he wished to direct the attention of the House, was the misapprehension which existed in die minds of some hon. Members that the provisions of that Bill would injuriously affect the interests of lessees. If it were carried into effect the entire management of the property would be vested in the Estates Commissioners, who were at present, by the Enfranchisement Act, the parties that must approve any contract that might be made between the chapter and the lessees. By the operation of the Bill then before the House, any lessee desirous of enfranchising would go at once to the Estates Commissioners; and he contended that there was nothing in the Bill at variance with those very proper provisions inserted in the Enfranchisement Act of last Session. He believed that under the arrangement which he proposed the interests of lessees would not only not be prejudiced, but would even be better attended to than they were under the existing system, which had not prevented the process of enfranchisement from being extremely slow. He had thus endeavoured, as briefly and as clearly as he could, to go through the details of that most intricate subject, and to point out to the House what he believed to be the evils of the existing system, as well as the means by which he proposed to remedy those evils. In conclusion, he had only urgently to beg the House to assent to the second reading of the Bill, and thus again to affirm its principle, fur he believed that by adopting it they would confer a lasting benefit on the Church, a lasting blessing on the nation, and a proportionate advantage on mankind at large.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, that while giving the fullest credit to the noble Lord for the exertions he had made and the time he had devoted to the subject which he had brought so frequently before the notice of the House, he still felt it to be his conscientious duty to give his most strenuous opposition to the Bill, and to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. It was his conviction that the principle of the Bill was opposed to the whole tenour of our cathedral institutions and was highly dangerous to the integrity of those institutions. The noble Lord appeared to have changed the opinion he entertained not long ago on the propriety of legislating upon this subject, for in the Report of the Commissioners on Cathedral Institutions, published last year, there were these words:— Although we are well persuaded that great benefits might accrue from judicious reforms being introduced into these institutions, yet we feel that great prejudices may arise from premature legislation on the subject. To that Report the name of the noble Lord was appended. The noble Lord might contend that this measure was neither dangerous nor premature, but there were high legal authorities who believed that they discovered great discrepancies and great contradictions in the Bill; the noble Lord, therefore, was not entitled to regard it as a very carefully considered measure. The House, he considered, had a right to know whether the noble Lord had brought forward the measure with the sanction of his brother Commissioners. If not, he thought the course which the noble Lord had taken was most unparliamentary. If, indeed, the noble Lord possessed peculiar sources of information, not open to the other Commissioners, then the House ought to be informed what those sources of intelligence were, that they might be able to form a judgment as to their real value. In coming to the consideration of the measure itself, no one could fail to be struck with that feature in it which was becoming so prominent in almost every Act of recent legislation—he meant, the centralising character of the Bill. But was public opinion so satisfied with the result, he might say the failure, which had already attended the attempt to infuse the centralising principle into other measures, as for the House at once to accept a measure of such gigantic centralisation as that of vesting the whole Church property of this country at once and for ever in one board. The Bill sought to give greater powers to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Now, when he alluded to that Commission, he must observe that the country had had eighteen years' experience of its operation, and, great as were the advantages derived from its management, he was bound to tell the House that, as far as the diocese with which he was connected was concerned, great dissatisfaction prevailed in the minds both of the clergy and the laity as to the mode in which the powers of the Commissioners had been exercised. Large sums had been paid over both from the estates of the See and from the estates of the chapter —in the first case a sum amounting to more than 200,000l., and in the second to nearly 100,000l.—and they complained that the amount expended in the diocese had been anything but in due proportion to the requirements of that large and important district of the country. He did not deny for one moment that the Church estates might be capable of being placed under a better system of management than that pursued for many years past, and that they might be rendered more productive. He would also admit that a better system than that which had an undue regard for the life interest of the possessor might be adopted. He believed that that system had been obstructive of improvement, and injurious to the interests both of the possessor and of the tenant, but it was no easy matter rapidly to change customs which from immemorial usage had grown into law, and, whatever system of management might be pursued, he hoped that that confidence, or rather that tie of good faith which had so long connected the Church and its lessees, might not be unjustly or violently severed. If the House was of opinion that ecclesiastical persons were unfit to manage their estates, he would say, at least, let the ecclesiastical bodies have a voice in the application of the funds arising from those estates. Surely those persons were better able to ascertain and appreciate the requirements of the places in which they lived than any noble Lord or hon. Member sitting at a board in London. But then came the difficulty—how were they to enable those ecclesiastical bodies to have a voice in the application of those funds? The noble Lord said, "Do not come down to this House and oppose my Bill unless you have some sort of proposition to make as a substitute for it." Well, he had a proposition to make which emanated from the ecclesiastical bodies themselves. This House had received some valuable suggestions from almost every chapter in the country. Let the funds be administered through the medium of local boards constituted of the clergy of the diocese, and if those persons were distrusted and there was any want of confidence in their character, then let the lay element be infused into the board. He did not say that such a plan might not be open to grave objections and that it would not require careful consideration, but it appeared to him to be a practical scheme, and the only one that would do justice to all interests. He did not deny that episcopal estates were capable of improvement, or that advantage had not already been derived from the establishment of the common fund; but do not make that fund the first mortgage on the ecclesiastical estates. Such a course would be entirely in contradiction to the whole state and tenour of our cathedral statutes. It might be urged that those statutes were framed to meet the requirements of ages back, and were not suited to the manners and customs of the present time. But he begged to observe that improvements and alterations had already been made in those statutes. He did not deny that abuses had existed in the administration of the Church funds, but many of those abuses had been already corrected; nor did he think there was much reason to apprehend that those abuses would again be found to prevail. Nobody would be so bold as to deny that the ecclesiastical bodies were the rightful and legal guardians, not only of the spiritual interests of the Church, but also of the temporal wants of its adherents; but this Bill went to deprive them of the means of promoting the social condition and wellbeing of their flocks. It deprived them of the most powerful instrument they had of relieving the necessities of their respective districts. True it was the Bill professed to make certain duties incumbent upon the Commissioners. He had no doubt, if the Bill passed in its present form, that all existing rights would be preserved, that the cathedrals would he kept in repair, and that those various payments would continue to be made which were now sanctioned, so long as the Commissioners in their discretion thought it right to do so. But what security was there that the future wants, arising from the increased wealth and increased population of the country, would receive due consideration? It was not difficult to understand that, adopt what system of management they pleased, the amount of the wants of the country would increase almost in proportion to the increase of wealth. Every mine that was opened, every railway that was constructed, every acre of land that was built upon for establishing manufactures, and every measure taken to advance commerce, must tend to swell the population of the districts in which those things took place, and that population would unquestionably have a paramount claim on these funds. Who, too, was the arbitrator to decide whether due consideration would be given to the spiritual requirements of the people? Where were they to appeal if that consideration were not shown? That was a very old phrase—"due consideration shall be shown." In every Commission appointed to investigate the complicated case of Church leases, it was always said that "due consideration should he had to long existing rights;" but it was only last year that this House, after some difficulty, put a meaning on those words. He had already said that great discontent existed as to the mode in which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had administered the fund intrusted to them. The noble Lord bad referred to the state of the population of this metropolis; he would refer to the increase of the population in the diocese with which he was connected. The average rate of increase of the population in the counties in England and Wales, from 1850 to 1851, was 141 persons in every 10,000; but the average increase in Durham was 193, and in Northumberland 117. The increase of the population in Durham in the ten years from 1841 to 1851 was 26 per cent, exactly double that of England and Wales, and, with the exception of a part of Kent, it was the highest rate of increase registered in the Census of 1851. The next remarkable fact was, that the deficiency of church accommodation in Durham was as formidable as the increase of the population, and was found to be most deplorable in the large towns. In Durham 47,944, and in Northumberland 33,570 additional sittings were required to provide for 58 per cent of the population. In the Newcastle district the additional sittings required to provide for those not accommodated by any religious body were no less than 20,692. In Chester-le-Street, 4,608. In Gateshead, Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, and Tynemouth, 38,812 persons were without the means of attendance at any form of religious worship. The effect of this rapid increase of population, of the high rate of wages, crowded dwellings, deficiency of church accommodation, and of school accommodation, was a remarkable increase of crime, a still greater increase of juvenile profligacy, and the prevalence of infidelity. In Newcastle, juvenile crime was increasing four times as fast as the population, and in thirteen years had doubled in amount. With regard to school accommodation, the statistics of the Rev. J. D. Stewart, the Government Inspector of Schools, gave this result:—In thirty-two collieries in Durham the population in 1851 was 51,588, giving a school-going population, between the ages of four and fourteen, of rather more than 12,136 children. The accommodation amounted to a provision for only 2,982. The average school attendance was 2,123. Of this number only 632 were above ten years of age—146 boys, 108 girls, 378, sex not given. This statement showed that there were 10,013 children who were receiving no education whatever. It might be said, why, when the chapter had such large sums at its disposal, should so great an amount of destitution prevail? The amount expended by the chapter of Durham for spiritual purposes, during the last eleven years, was 36,000l., besides grants in aid of curates amounting to 2501. a year; for education 3651. a year; donations to diocesan charities and livings augmented prospectively by cession of property now in lease, amounting to 4,603l. per annum. if any hon. Gentleman who heard him give expression to the views he entertained on this subject should suppose that he did so from some personal interest, all he could say in reply to that suspicion was that he was conscientiously endeavouring to advocate the great principle, that the property of the different dioceses of the Church of England was not general property, but was property applicable in the first instance to the wants of the respective dioceses. Then, they ought not to lose sight of the fact that these ecclesiastical institutions were founded for the spread of learning, of sound religious doctrine, and of theological knowledge in the neighbourhood where the institutions were themselves established. Nor ought they to forget that they were also intended for the dispensation of charity in their respective neighbourhoods, and that the revenues of the chapters up to this time had been so applied. When he remembered how much had been done to cut down the incomes of the dignitaries of the Church he had hoped that legislation had reached its limits in that direction. The danger of carrying a rigid economy to the extent which some proposed was, that they would not be able to retain the services of men eminent for their piety, learning, and talent in the higher offices of the Church. Surely the spiritual labourer was worthy of his hire; and yet while circumstances were every day increasing his duties, they were making fresh attacks upon his estate. An undue economy might prove itself to be as prejudicial to the interests of the Church as a shortsighted policy of retrenchment had already proved itself prejudicial to the State. In conclusion, he objected to the Bill of the noble Lord, because he believed it was fraught with danger to the Church as well as to its property, and that it might hereafter be used as a stepping stone by unscrupulous persons to take away the right of the Church to that property altogether; he, therefore, begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


seconded the Amendment, and in doing so he said it was his strong opinion that the House ought upon this occasion to deal in a decided manner with the Bill brought forward by the noble Lord, and not act as it had done when the Bill was before the House on previous occasions—give their assent to the principle which it involved, and then take no further step in the matter. It was his opinion that a Bill of this nature ought only to be brought forward by the Government, and should not be left in the hands of any private individual. It was his opinion that, if this Bill were passed, we should have an institution in the State possessed of the most gigantic and tyrannical powers. The law in its present state was characterised by the greatest confusion. They had already connected with the Church Ecclesiastical Commissioners, Cathedral Commissioners, and he did not know how many other Commissioners. If there was to be a body to exercise powers such as were contemplated by this Bill, it ought to be one of the most solemn and responsible kind, and properly represented in that House. Besides, the Bill did not define the powers of the Ecclesiastical or Church Estates Commissioners. It just took the existing Commissioners as they were, and put the whole property of the Church into the hands of those gentlemen for the time being. He (Mr. Headlam) represented a large town in the north of England (Newcastle-upon-Tyne), where the incomes of the clergy were utterly disproportionate to the duties they had to discharge, and to the spiritual wants of the population; and yet that town was situated in one of the richest dioceses in the kingdom, that of Durham. He knew, however, that the people in that part of the country would much sooner submit to the evils they knew of, and take their chance of getting what they could from the existing system, than allow the whole property of the Church to go into the hands of a central body in London, and stand their chance of getting what they could from them. If the House came to the conclusion to invest the property, as provided by the Bill, in the hands of Commissioners for a certain limited time only, the same evils might recur when it returned to the management of the existing corporations. The House should either leave the management of the property to the Church, subject to certain restrictions and regulations, or put it entirely into the hands of a body of Commissioners; which latter, he thought, would be the better plan, provided it had proper regard to local interests.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he deprecated this Bill being further proceeded with at this particular time. His great objection to the measure was, that they should introduce any novel legislation at all after the subject had undergone a full examination last year, and a Bill had been passed on the subject for a limited time, with the view to encourage voluntary treaties between the holders of church property and their ecclesiastical landlords. The great mass of the leaseholders in the country and also the ecclesiastical bodies felt the utmost repugnance to renew a discussion on this subject year after year, and to depart from the provisions of a Bill which was maturely considered, for the purpose of entering upon novel legislation, even if it could be said that that legislation was in itself meritorious. Before the parties interested could become familiar with the machinery of the Bill of last year, by proceeding with the measure of the noble Marquess they would be distracted from the consideration of a remedy which Parliament had already given them. A petition from the Chapter of Lichfield, which reflected the general feeling of the parties interested in this question, expressed emphatically the kind of consternation they were under by being called away from the management of their property under the Bill of last year to the consideration of the measure now introduced by the noble Lord. He would take that opportunity of stating how the present Bill was likely to affect the community which he represented. The whole town of Shields contained a population of from 28,000 to 30,000, including seamen; and a great part of the property there, and especially the manufactories, was built on ground held under church leases. The manufacturers there were gentlemen of large capital and great intelligence, and understood their own interests; but the mass of the persons who occupied church leasehold property in Shields was composed of men who, by their own industry, perseverance, and good conduct, had raised themselves to positions of comparative comfort and independence, and they deserved the consideration of that House. There were about 700 independent leaseholders in Shields, and it could not be expected that these men could be continually going to a solicitor to inquire the meaning of a new Act of Parliament affecting their interests. He took also another objection to the Bill, which was, that it was quite impossible that any central board could have that personal interest in the social and ecclesiastical condition of a district from which the revenues were derived which was so essentially desirable.


said, he could not avoid adverting to the absence of the greater part of the Members of the Government from the Treasury bench, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) excepted, and to the disrespect which that showed to the House and to the measure under discussion. He should move the adjournment of the debate until it should suit the convenience of the Ministry to attend.


said, he thought the Motion of the hon. Member for adjourning the debate was unreasonable, seeing at this crisis that the time of the Members of the Government was better occupied than in attending a debate of this kind, and that in the earlier part of the discussion the leading Members of the Opposition were also absent from the House.


said, it was true, as his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry had suggested, that Her Majesty's Ministers were endeavouring to answer the question put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire the other night, "Who are we?" and, he believed, they were at this moment engaged in taking the necessary steps for completing the arrangements for the formation of a Government. The proposition made by the noble Lord the Member of Woodstock (the Marquess of Blandford) in the Bill of last Session was to take out of the hands of the ecclesiastical corporations, both sole and aggregate, the property now held by them for the purpose of making it more valuable and of applying it to more useful purposes. The alterations which the noble Lord proposed to make by the present Bill did not appear to him to be satisfactory. It was to this effect—that the property should, as originally proposed, be placed under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and that the Commissioners should afterwards return to the capitular bodies such an amount of property as would pay the charges of the Cathedral Establishments. He thought it better that the whole property should be placed under the management of one Commission. No doubt, the change which was contemplated to be made by this measure was a great one as regarded the property of the Church, and he (speaking as an individual) believed it would be productive of the most advantageous results. The object of his noble Friend was to make the property most useful to the Church, having at the same time due regard to the interests of the lessees. He believed every one would agree that the present management of church property was not in a satisfactory state. Nothing, indeed, could be more unsatisfactory than the manner in which some of the property belonging to the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's was managed. He (Sir B. Hall) would take as an instance that most valuable district in St. Pancras called Agar Town, which had been the subject of reports to this House, and had often been commented upon for the disgraceful state in which it was. It had lately passed into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and was now improving. The evil arose from the fact that there existed no authority to grant leases for terms sufficiently long to induce men of capital to expend money upon the property, by which its value would be largely increased. With respect to the interests of the lessees, he had no doubt they would be sufficiently regarded in any measure that might be passed. He begged to state to the House that it was the wish of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, approving as he did of its principle, that the Bill should now be read a second time; but he at the same time wished the noble Lord to postpone going into Committee on the Bill till such time as the Cathedral Commissioners might be able to inquire into its provisions, and make a report thereon to the House, and also enable the House to give that report due consideration.


said, after the explanation which had been given by the right hon. Baronet, he would withdraw his Amendment.


said, he should certainly oppose the withdrawal of the Amendment. He submitted that the debate should be adjourned, seeing that the House was not then in a condition to give the subject under discussion the consideration which it deserved. It had long been, and still was, his opinion that the acts and delinquencies of the dignitaries of the Church of England were a disgrace and scandal, not only to that Church itself, but to the country at large. He had heard it said that if transactions such as those to which those dignitaries were sometimes parties were carried on by any mercantile man in the City, he would not dare to show his face on the Stock Exchange. He would take the sense of the House whether they were then in a condition to legislate on this question.


said, the property of the Church as much belonged to the Church as did the property of any Member of that House belong to that Member; and he must say a more revolutionary speech he had never heard than that of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield). If they took away the title by which church property was held, he would ask whose property would be safe? He was prepared to vote for the second reading of this Bill, admitting that some change in the management of church property was necessary; but he objected to several of the clauses, by which he thought the interests of the lessees would be greatly prejudiced, and especially that which dealt with them as if they were simply annuitants.


said, he disclaimed doing anything by the Bill which would at all prejudice the interests of the lessees, and he asserted that no clause in it would fairly bear such an interpretation. He was ready to adopt the suggestion made on the part of the Government by the right hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall), and, if the Bill was now read a second time, to fix the Committee for Wednesday, the 23rd May.


said, "a revolutionary speech" might have been made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hadfield) in the eyes of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner); but if it was revolutionary, he was afraid the people of this country were in a state of revolution. He was satisfied, however, that the great body of the people agreed and acquiesced in the sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hadfield). In assenting to the second reading of this Bill, they affirmed its principle. His right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Health, not having much to do in that capacity, had taken the health of the Church under his care, and had recommended the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time. Now, he (Mr. T. Duncombe) opposed the second reading of the Bill of last Session, and he saw now no reason whatever for receding from that vote. He voted against it, because it went to bolster up a bad system. If they passed this Bill, the Church Establishment in its present bad state would remain long after them. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spooner) had asserted that church property was the property of the Church. That was one of the great objections which he (Mr. Duncombe) had to this Bill. He maintained that church property was public property; and the only thing that would make this Bill palatable to the people would be that church repairs should be paid out of the funds of the Church. If church property was the property of the Church, why did not the Church repair its property at its own expense, instead of taxing the people for that purpose? They might adjourn the debate if they liked; but if they went to a division now he would vote against the second reading of the Bill, because it would be consistent with the vote he gave on the second reading of the measure of last year.


said, he must complain that the two hon. Gentlemen behind him (Mr. Hadfield and Mr. Duncombe) had taken advantage of a technical proceeding of the House to prevent the further consideration of the Bill. They complained of abuses in the management of the church property, but he thought that was the conduct of men who rather wished to maintain than to reform abuses, and was not a fair way of opposing the Bill.


said, he had not the least objection to vote for the second reading of the Bill, being understood thereby that he only meant to affirm the principle of putting the management of the church property into a better state than it was at present. So far as he understood the Bill, it did not at all deal with the surplus of the property, but only with its administration. It was only natural that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), and those who thought with him, should seek to keep on a very convenient blister with regard to this subject. With respect to the provisions of the Bill, many of them would require great alterations. He did not at all enter into the alarm as to the lessees that seemed to have been taken. He thought their interests were pretty well guarded by this Bill, and that the property of the Church itself stood a great deal more risk than the property of the lessees. Guarding himself against being supposed to assent to the provisions in the Bill with respect to the general management of the estates, he was willing to give his assent to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he would admit that it was of importance that something should be done with reference to these estates, in order to place them under improved management. Upon that principle all were agreed. He believed they were at present in a most anomalous and unsatisfactory state, and so far as that went he was perfectly ready to acquiesce in the Bill of the noble Marquess. He decidedly objected, however, to handing over these estates to a London board. All the experience he had had of these central boards did not give him the least confidence in their management, and he viewed such a proposal with anxiety and alarm. The second objection he had to the measure was the putting all these funds into the melting pot of the Commissioners, and melting them down into one aggregate, to be dealt with as they thought proper. He did not think such an arrangement at all advisable. The inherent defect of the Bill was the dealing, by one sweeping measure, with property so detached and scattered over various parts of the country, and under varying circumstances. Why not give these local estates the power of improving and regulating their own affairs, and of appropriating the funds more judiciously with the sanction of a central board? He thought some scheme of that sort would remedy all the evils they at present complained of, and if the House divided on the Bill, he should certainly vote against it.


said, he did not think that assenting to a Bill, every feature and detail of which had been objected to, was a very wise or salutary proceeding on the part of that House. It was with the most unfeigned regret that he offered any objection to the proposition of the noble Marquess, for whose abilities and exertions upon this question he entertained the greatest respect. If he were only called upon to assent to the proposition that these estates had been grossly mismanaged, he should have no hesitation in supporting the noble Marquess; but he thought that to introduce one sweeping measure like this, without regard to local wants and exigencies, would not be conducive to the spiritual interest of the people, and would not advance the cause which the noble Marquess had at heart. The more prudent course would be to wait for the Report of the Commission now sitting before the House proceeded to enact a statute upon the subject, and then they would be in possession of more ample information, and the matter would be ripe for wise legislation. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe), that Churchmen ought to support their own Church, and Dissenters support theirs. If the House, however, went to a division he should vote against the second reading.


said, he also objected to the Bill, for he had not heard one single hon. Member who had not raised some objections to it. The details had been objected to—they had not been assented to by the Government, and they were nevertheless asked to give their assent to the second reading. Under the circumstances he thought his noble Friend ought to consent to postpone the Bill. It was said that before the 23rd of May they would have the Report of the Commissioners before them, but if that Report did not agree with the provisions of the Bill, then the House would have committed itself to the principle of a Bill which could not be carried into effect. He admitted that the present Bill was very much improved by the change in the preamble and the introduction of the 13th clause; but with all these improvements the principle of the Bill was, that all episcopal and capitular property should be fused into one fund, and distributed by a London board, without reference to local wants or necessities. To that he would decidedly object. He did not think that system of centralisation would be found to work well. Had the Ecclesiastical Commissioners so discharged their functions as to have obtained the sanction and approval of the country? From what passed in that House last year, when the subject was before them, he did not think even the Church Estates Commissioners had obtained the confidence of the country any more than the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. On these grounds he should record his vote against the second reading of the measure, while, at the same time, he would give his noble Friend all the credit he was entitled to for a sincere desire to improve the management of this property.


said, he thought his noble Friend must have been much gratified at all the praises and all the credit he had received for his laudable efforts and intentions, but he thought his noble Friend would have been much better pleased if some of those hon. Friends of his had suggested a means of rendering the measure practicable and carrying it out. The Bill had received the sanction of the House last Session, and his noble Friend had stated that he was prepared to agree to the amendments that had been suggested. He thought it was quite inconsistent in the Dissenters in that House making objections to a measure for the improvement of these estates. The abuses of the present system were acknowledged; the Bill was intended to remedy these abuses, and he hoped the House would not stultify themselves now by rejecting a measure which they had on a former occasion sanctioned.


said, he felt called upon to oppose the Bill. It was looked on with great suspicion by a large portion of the constituencies of the metropolitan boroughs. Although the old machinery for the management of these estates was so bad, that proposed by the Bill was not better. In the borough of Southwark there was a small property of forty acres belonging to the diocese of Winchester, and from the disgraceful way in which it was managed it was a nuisance and an injury to the neighbourhood. These estates ought to be sold under the provisions of the Land Clauses Acts, and the money applied to the purpose of education. The Bill was an attempt to perpetuate the aristocratic influence in the Church. The country had suffered enough from the predominance of aristocratic elements in the army and other departments, and would not allow this attempt to tinker them up to succeed.


said, he also should oppose the Bill. The only remedy for these evils that would satisfy the country would be to sell the entire of the church property, and invest the proceeds in the funds; there would then be no room for mismanagement, and the land would get into the hands of parties who would cultivate it properly.


said, he felt himself bound to oppose the second reading, as no regard was had in it to the local necessities of the place from which the property had come. He objected also to placing all this property in the hands of a central board, and he thought the rights of the lessees, which had been entirely overlooked, were entitled to some consideration. It was high time that the question was settled, but this measure would not effect it, as every one of its details were considered objectionable.


said, he was inclined to support the Bill, in so far as its object was to make the property of the Church of England more available for the purposes to which it ought to be devoted than it now was. He would vote for the second reading if the only principle to be affirmed was, that the management of the revenues of the Church ought to be transferred into other hands, to be made more available for the purposes to which they ought to be applied; but the noble Marquess went further, and specified the exact way in which he proposed to attain these objects. He thought it was not a proper time for an individual Member to take up a subject of so much importance. At that moment they scarcely had a Government, or, at least, the Government was not fully crystallised, but was still in a state of solution. If the House went to a division on the question of adjournment, he would vote for the adjournment. He objected to the particular scheme proposed by the noble Marquess for the management of these estates. The errors and abuses already existing were owing to the misconduct of the persons charged with the administration of those revenues; and yet the noble Lord proposed to hand them over to a board that would be principally composed of those very persons—namely, the bishops and dignitaries of the Church of England, who had been described to the House as having been guilty of gross breach of trust. It was a usual habit with them to capitalise the income of the Church, in order to apply it to their own particular purpose; and they forestalled not only their own incomes, but, in many instances, those of their successors for their own individual objects. The property ought not to be placed in the hands of persons who were stated to have been guilty of malversation of funds and breach of trust. He also objected to the proposed scheme because he thought any surplus revenue arising from those sources ought to be devoted to the extinction of church rates. When a proposition to that effect was brought forward by Lord Monteagle, it was said that the surplus was an imaginary one which would never exist; it now appeared that under proper management there would be a surplus, and his objection to the scheme of the noble Marquess was, that he laid hands on his surplus, and turned it aside from a proper application.


said, that, although differing with the principle of the Bill, as proposing to give the distribution of this property to a central body, he would give his vote against the second reading; but, under the circumstances, he did not object, in deference to the noble Lord, to vote for its postponement until the Report of the Government Commission was laid before the House.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 102: Majority 31.


said, he might now move the adjournment of the House, but, acting on the advice of friends, he refrained from doing so, and would allow the question to go to a division on the Motion of the hon. Member for South Northumberland, that the Bill should be read a second time that day six months.


said, the House were asked to agree to the second reading on the distinct pledge that the House should not go into Committee until after the Cathedral Commission should have made its Report.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 66: Majority 36.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Wednesday, 23rd May.

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