HC Deb 18 July 1855 vol 139 cc1024-8

Order for Committee read.


said, that, considering the state of the public business, and the impossibility of carrying the Bill to a successful termination during the present Session, he did not feel justified in taking up any further portion of the time of the House; he would beg, therefore, to move that the Order for the House to go into Committee be discharged. The House would, perhaps, permit him to make one or two observations connected with his reasons for taking that course. In the first place, however, he wished to correct a statement made by him on moving the second reading of the Bill. On that occasion he stated that the incomes of certain Chapters were of a certain amount, while the sums expended by those Chapters in charities were of another certain amount. In those instances he committed the error of stating the gross income instead of the net. He had since received communications which would enable him to correct the error. In 1852 the gross income of the Chapter of Winchester Cathedral was 22,878l., the net income was 18,085l., and the grants for charities, &c., amounted to 1,036l. The gross income of the Chapter of Ely was 16,214l., the net average income for the last seven years was 11,766l.; the grants for charities, &c., averaged for the last seven years about 600l. The gross amount of income of Canterbury Cathedral, for 1852, was 25,211l., the net income was 20,972l., and the amount of the grants was 1,306l. The gross amount of income of Durham Cathedral was 57,801l., the net income was 47,304l., the average amount of annual grants for the last seven years was about 2,000l. The gross amount of income of Westminster was 30,657l., the net was 24,696l., the average amount of annual grants was about 700l. After the second reading of the Bill he was requested not to go into Committee until after the Cathedral Commissioners should have made their Report. He complied with the wish of the House in that respect; although he had, at the same time, felt fully persuaded that the Report of that Commission would not throw any practical light on the provisions of the Bill: and, in confirmation of the accuracy of that opinion, he appealed to the result, that Report being now before the House. But the delay thus occasioned was the principal cause of his now being unable to proceed with the Bill in Committee. There appeared to him to be, however, one essential fault in that Report—namely, that it was exclusively confined to the interests of the cathedral establishments, passing over altogether every consideration connected with the parochial interests of the country. That Report proposed to take those funds which Parliament had already set apart for the purpose of augmenting small benefices, and apply them to capitular purposes. However important those capitular institutions might be, they ought not to be dealt with to the exclusion of other, and, he believed, infinitely more important interests connected with the Church. With regard to the body in whom it was proposed to invest the administration of the estates under the Bill, he must own that he did not, on consideration, believe that it was of sufficient strength to undertake the larger duties which would be confided to it. That was a point which deserved the most serious attention of the House. It would be most impolitic and unwise for the House to proceed with a measure of such importance until it should be clearly ascertained that the body to whom those duties were to be entrusted was suitably constituted for that purpose. Neither could he conceal from his mind that exception might be fairly taken to the expenses likely to be incurred by the plan at present proposed; and, altogether, he was of opinion that the Commission, as at present constituted, did not possess that confidence on the part of the public which a body entrusted with such important duties as his Bill would create ought to possess. The Commission ought to be put on such a basis, and to be constituted in such a form, as should ensure to it the confidence of the country. He hoped, therefore, that during the recess Her Majesty's Government would take into their most serious consideration a matter having, as it had, the closest bearing upon the best interests of the country, and that they would be prepared with a plan next Session by which the whole subject might be brought under discussion, and such a Commission be constituted as should be fully competent to perform the important duties required of them. He begged to offer his best thanks to the House for the assistance which had been afforded to him in his efforts to bring the measure to its present stage, and would conclude by moving that the Order of the Day for going into Committee be discharged.


said, he thought the noble Marquess had exercised a wise discretion in having determined not to proceed further with the Bill that Session, considering the many important Amendments of which notice had been given, and which, if discussed, would have afforded very little chance of the measure obtaining the assent of Parliament before the prorogation. Under the circumstances, he would not say a word on the subject of the Bill itself, but he entirely concurred in what had fallen from the noble Marquess as to the importance of maturely considering the constitution of the body to whom was to be intrusted the discharge of the onerous duties which such a measure would impose. He believed that the Church Commission of 1851 had been productive of the most beneficial results. If the Bill had been proceeded with, and these new duties had been imposed upon that Commission, it would have been matter for consideration whether they would be able to perform those additional duties in a satisfactory manner. The subject, undoubtedly, was worthy of the attention of the Government during the recess, and the House should have an opportunity of making every possible inquiry into the operation of the Church Commissioners, and into the principles on which they had proceeded in the administration of ecclesiastical property. There were other measures having a bearing on the same subject, such as the Church Building Act, and the Act relating to the subdivision of parishes. It might be a question whether the duties created by those Acts might not be placed in one and the same body; but it would be wrong to impose them on the Ecclesiastical Church Commission without some revision of that body being first made.


said, he was glad to hear the right hon. Baronet intimate that a Commission of inquiry ought to be instituted into the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commission. He must, however, take exception to one remark which fell from his noble Friend (the Marquess of Blandford). He could not agree with the opinion which his noble Friend had expressed that the Report of the Cathedral Commission had thrown no new light upon the subject which the Bill of his noble Friend embraced.


said, he trusted that when the noble Marquess again introduced his Bill he would make some provision for protecting the rights of the lessees under the Church.


said, he was glad that the noble Lord had, for that Session at least, withdrawn the Bill, to which he (Mr. Pellatt) entertained the strongest objections. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had, in his opinion, betrayed their trusts by taking Queen Ann's Bounty, which was intended for the benefit of the working clergy, and appropriating it to the building of bishops' palaces.


said, that as the noble Lord had determined to withdraw the Bill, he thought it was very inconvenient to continue the discussion.


said, he considered that the noble Lord had made an unfair attack upon the Report of the Cathedral Commission, and he should be sorry that the observation of the noble Lord should go forth to the country without any counter-statement. That Report had, at all events, established one important fact—namely, that the parochial institutions and episcopal institutions of the country were not at variance, but were in harmony with each other.

Order of the Day for going into Committee discharged.