§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. ROBERT PHILLIMORE
* Sir, I rise to introduce to the House a question of grave importance, and of no mean difficulty; and, upon many accounts, I could have wished that the discharge of such a task had been entrusted to abler hands than mine. But, I may truly say, that if the bestowal of much pains upon the subject, added to an earnest and heartfelt conviction of the justice of the cause which I have undertaken to advocate may, in some degree, compensate for other deficiencies, of which I am sincerely conscious, then, Sir, I am not without apology for the position in which I find myself.
I have to submit to the House that the present system of parochial rating practically inflicts a grievous injury upon a particular portion of Her Majesty's subjects,—that this injury has been the unintentional result of recent legislation,—that it is continually increasing,—that it has been for some years admitted and condemned by the highest and most impartial Authorities,—that it remains, nevertheless, to this hour, unredressed.
And, Sir, if I can in this debate sustain, by argument and proof, these propositions, I shall not, I am certain, invoke in vain the succour of Parliament. Nor will that succour be the less readily afforded, because this particular portion of my fellow-subjects who have principally sustained this injury happened to be the parochial clergy of the Church of England. I should, indeed, be loth to believe that any difference of religious creed, which may exist among the Members of this House, will interfere, by a mean and unworthy jealousy, to prevent the doing of justice to any other religious body of their fellow-subjects. I am about to ask for no privilege—no favour—but for simple, long-delayed justice to a body of men, who are, to say the least, second to none in their claim upon the gratitude of the country.
Sir, the grievance is, that the rent-charge, which represents the ancient tithe, has, since the passing of the Parochial 139 Assessment Act, been subjected to an excessive amount of rating, and especially poor's-rate, scandalously and notoriously disproportionate to the amount to which other hereditaments are assessed.
This is my first proposition, and, in order to establish it, I must make a great demand upon the indulgence of the House. I must review the history of the legislation upon the subject. I must call the attention of the House to judicial decisions, to the circulars of Poor-Law Commissioners, and especially to two Reports; one upon Local Taxation, in 1843, by the Poor-Law Commissioners;—another upon parochial assessment, by the House of Lords, in 1850, and to the evidence taken before it.
I must begin as far back as the statute 43rd Elizabeth, c. 2. That statute in general terms imposed the rate "upon every inhabitant parson, vicar and other, and upon every occupier of lands, houses, tithes impropriate, propriations of tithes, coal mines, or saleable underwoods."
Under this statute a practice sprung up of rating the hereditaments not according to an estimate of their net annual value— a rule introduced by a later statute—but according to a just proportion of relative liabilities. It is very important that the House should bear this in mind, as it will appear that the injury done to the tithe-owner has mainly resulted from the fact that the principle of the new law has been in practice applied to the tithe-owner, while that of the old law has been continued with respect to the occupiers of other hereditaments. It is important to observe, that, under the statute of Elizabeth, the mode of assessing the poor-rate became, and has continued to be, the pattern for the assessment of other rates.
The rule of law with respect to assessment, on the principle of relative liabilities, was thus stated, in the year 1830, by the Court of Queen's Bench, in a case which obtained great notoriety—the King v. Joddrell, (l Barn. &c. 403.) The Court said—The second objection was, that the farmer's share of profit ought to have been rated, or, which is the same thing, the appellant should have been rated proportionally less. Of the whole of the annual profits, or value of land, a part belongs to the landlord in the shape of rent, and part to the tenant; and whenever a rate is according to the rack-rent (the usual and most convenient mode), it is, in effect, a rate on a part of the profit only. It must, therefore, in the next place, be ascertained what proportion the rent bears to the annual profit or value, and that will show in what 140 proportion all other property ought to be rated. If, for instance, the rent is one-half or two-thirds of the total annual profit or value of land, the rate on all other property should be on a half or two-thirds of its annual value.The statute of Elizabeth remained unchanged for about two centuries and a half.
In the year 1834, the present Poor Law Act, (4 & 5 Wm. IV., c. 76) was passed; and in the year 1836, the Tithe Commutation Act (6 & 7 Wm. IV., c. 71) was passed, and it contained this important clause upon the subject now in debate.Tithe commutation rent-charge shall be subject to all Parliamentary, Parochial and County, and other rates, charges, and assessments, in like manner as the tithes commuted for such rent charge have theretofore been subject.The effect of this statute, which, perhaps, under all circumstances, was a wise compact between the Church and the State, was, nevertheless, first to give the tithe-owner a sum less than two-thirds, according to some estimates, of the actual value of tithes at the time of commutation; secondly, to deprive the tithe-owner of any share in the increased profits of the future improvements in, or enclosures of land.
In the very same year, namely, 1836, the present Parochial Assessment Act (6 & 7 Wm. IV., c. 96) was passed, containing the following enactments—Sect. 1. "Whereas it is desirable to establish one uniform mode of rating, for the relief of the poor throughout England and Wales, and to lessen the cost of appeal against an unfair rate, be it enacted, that from and after such period, not being earlier than the twenty-first day of March next, after the passing of this Act, as the Poor Law Commissioners shall, by any order under their seal of office, direct, no rate for the relief of the poor in England and Wales shall be allowed by any justices, or be of any force, which shall not be made upon an estimate of the net value of the several hereditaments rated thereunto; that is to say,Of the rent at which the same might reasonably be expected to let from year to year, free of all usual tenants' rates and taxes, and tithe-commutation rent-charge, if any, and deducting there from the probable average annual cost of the repairs, insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain them in a state to command such rent.But the tithe-owner becoming alarmed lest the just operation of these two Statutes—namely, the Tithe Commutation Act, and the Parochial Assessment Act—should place him in a comparatively unfair position with respect to future assessments, procured the insertion into the Parochial Assessment Act of the following proviso. 141Provided always that nothing herein contained shall be construed to alter or affect the principles or different relative liabilities (if any), according to which different kinds of hereditaments are now, by law, rateable.The intention of this proviso is clearly manifest from the following extract from a letter of the Poor Law Commissioners, dated September 19, 1837.As the profits of the farmer will not be rated under the Parochial Assessment Act, the tithe-owner would appear to be entitled to a deduction proportionate to that profit.[Mr. BOUVERIE: That was before the Queen v. Capel.] I am perfectly aware of that. I will mention that case in due order of date. And now I must draw the attention of the House to an important decision bearing upon the question of rating, delivered in 1839. It was the case of the Queen v. Lumsdaine. In that case Mr. Justice Littledale said—The statute 43 Eliz. c. 2, s. 1, embraces two classes of persons subject to taxation; occupiers of real property, and inhabitants in respect of personal property. Hitherto rates upon the latter class had been in practice confined to stock-in-trade and shipping; but on future occasions other kinds of personal property may perhaps be rated and be held rateable. The provisions of this Act apply only to the former class of rateable objects, and leave the second at large as before. There is nothing that amounts to a repeal of the law on this head, nor can the Act be considered as a declaratory one.Here, the House will see, therefore, is a distinct judicial declaration that stock-in-trade is rateable under the new law. The bearing of this upon the subject in debate will presently appear.
Now I come to the year 1840, and to the decision of the Queen's Bench in the case of the Queen v. Capel, which I promised the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Poor Law Board, to notice in its proper place. The effect of that decision was to reject the proviso in the Parochial Assessment Act as unintelligible and inoperative; the Judges refused to take any cognisance of the history of the introduction of that proviso; and pronounced that the practice of rating according to relative liabilities was illegal, and that all property must now be rated upon an estimate of its net annual value.
That case has, I think, been very much misinterpreted, and not clearly understood, but it certainly took away from the tithe-owner the benefit of a proviso upon which he had relied as a security from illegal assessment.
142 Shortly after this decision, on the 16th of September, 1840, the Poor Law Commissioners—one of whom was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—put forth a circular in which they expounded the law as follows:—The estimate of the net annual value—is formed on the supposed rent which might be realised by the letting of rateable hereditaments. This will entitle the tithe-owner to an advantage which the Commissioners believe he has not in all cases had the benefit of. The rent which a tenant would consent to pay for the rent-charge, supposing the rent-charge to be let, would obviously be a sum which would remunerate him for the trouble of collection, and insure him against all risks of loss of rent-charge itself, and of loss of interest occasioned by the obligation to advance rent, and by occasional delays in recovering the rent-charge; and against all incidental expenses incurred in enforcing his rights.The compensation of the tenant taking those risks will obviously exceed the payment which the tithe-owner would make to an agent or collector, who incurs no risks, and is not bound to insure and pay to the tithe-owner a certain fixed sum at fixed times. To the benefit invoked in this distinction, the Commissioners consider the tithe-owners to be clearly entitled, by the express terms of the definition of net annual value in the Parochial Assessment Act.Now, Sir, on the 18th of June, 1840—there was introduced into Parliament, one of those annual Acts, specimens, I think of very sorry legislation, by which stock-in-trade was exempted from liability to being rated; and which annual Act, in spite of the promise given at the time that the question should speedily be dealt with in a permanent and satisfactory manner, has been renewed continually for sixteen years, up to the present time.
Mr. Speaker, I beg to be understood as not expressing any disapprobation of the public policy and expediency of according this exemption to stock-in-trade. I am bound to say that I believe the rating of this kind of property would be found to be impracticable; but I contend that the operation of this exemption was injurious to the tithe-owner in a much greater degree than to the owner of any other hereditament. And in order to support this proposition, I will read an extract to the House from the evidence of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, given before the Lords' Committee in 1850, Upon this point.There is a serious mistake (he says) which persons often commit with reference to the rate-ability of stock-in-trade. They take the whole stock-in-trade of the country as one aggregate, and from that they infer the great relief that would result if it were rated. But if a rate were 143 imposed upon stock-in-trade (we will assume that the ambiguity of the present law could be got over, and that such a rate might be levied upon stock-in-trade), the effect of that rate would be to give very little relief to the agricultural interest; and for this reason, that stock-in-trade is, for the most part, collected in the town parishes. It would materially alter the relations of the payments made by different occupiers of houses within those parishes, but it would have very little effect upon the occupiers of agricultural land in rural parishes. Take, for example, any ordinary rural parish; there is scarce any stock-in-trade in it. The stock-in-trade, giving the expression the largest acceptation that can be given to it, merely consists of a few shops in a village, if there be a village in the parish, the stock-in-trade in which is of an extremely limited value. There is perhaps a blacksmith's forge and perhaps a carpenter's tools which might be rated. This would be the whole amount which would be brought within the rate as stock-in-trade in such a parish. Now, such is the ordinary case of rural parishes. The greater number of rural parishes have no town in them, nor even a considerable village. The occupiers of agricultural land in rural parishes of that description would derive no sort of benefit from the rate being imposed upon stock-in-trade in Oxford Street, or in the Strand, or in Liverpool or Manchester; the whole of the relief which would be derived from the imposition of a rate upon stock-in-trade in a town parish would go to the occupiers of houses not being traders in that parish.Mr. Lewis is asked—Supposing that the stock-in-trade of tenants was rated, would it not make a great difference to the tithe-owner?Unquestionably the tithe-owner in a rural parish would derive benefit from rating the farmer's stock; he is just one of those persons who would derive benefit from rating the farmer's stock. In a rural parish the stock of a farmer is much more considerable than the stock of an artisan or tradesman; and, therefore, if that stock were held to be rateable, which it has never been hitherto, or if it were made rateable, no doubt considerable advantage would accrue to the tithe-owner.And, Sir, as this is the first citation which I have made from this Report, it may be convenient to remind the House, that this Committee of the Lords was appointed in the Session of 1850. In that year Lord Portman obtained a Committee on the laws relating to parochial assessments. The Committee consisted of—
144 This Committee was, as the House will see, composed of eminent and distinguished persons; but it would be impossible to contend that it was constituted in any manner to favour the claims of the clerical tithe-owner.
Lord PORTMAN in the Chair. Lord Camoys. Earl of Hardwicke. Lord Wodehouse. Earl of Malmesbury. Lord Lilford. Earl of Chichester. Lord Redesdale. Earl of Stradbroke. Lord Wharncliffe. Earl of Yarborough. Lord Ashburton. Earl of Lovelace. Lord Hatherton. Viscount Sidney. Lord Vivian. Bishop of London. Lord Overstone. Bishop of St. Asaph. Marq. of Lansdowne. Earl of Lonsdale. Earl of Minto. Bishop of Manchester. Earl Fortescue. Bishop of Oxford.
To resume the thread of my argument as to the injury done to the tithe-owner, by successive leigislation, as well as by successive judicial decisions since the Tithe Commutation Act, I say that this stock-in-trade exemption is one of the various instances in which, while every other class of Her Majesty's subjects have been relieved, the tithe-owner has had his burdens increased and his income diminished.
I come now to the last instance of legislation of this class. In 1846 the Corn Laws were repealed. I mean to offer no observation upon the general question of that most important change in the public policy of this country. But I am entitled to make this remark with reference to the subject now before the House, that the effect was to occasion a fall of ten per cent (according to a fair calculation) upon the tithe rent-charge, which had been settled—the House will remember—upon the averages of corn produce. And, Sir, I appeal with confidence to the recollection both of the House and the country, as to the conduct of the clergy on this occasion; with the full knowledge that the main source of their subsistence was about to be seriously diminished, but being told, and believing at the same time, that the food of the poor was about to be made cheaper and more abundant, they steadily refused, in spite of the strongest temptations to interfere, in any way to impede the course of legislation in either Houses of Parliament, upon the subject of the repeal of the corn laws; and by such conduct they have earned for themselves an enduring title to the gratitude of their fellow-countrymen, and surely have also established a claim to have the remainder of their income protected from the grievous injustice of unequal assessment. To obtain which relief I must add, they have had recourse to no unworthy arts of agitation, but have thrown themselve, like loyal and faithful subjects, upon the justice of the Imperial Parliament. They asked for justice, not for favour. I trust, nay, I am sure, Sir, that they will not be disappointed in the response which Parliament will give.
I have now laid before the House all the statutes—all the judicial decisions— 145 all the poor-law circulars, which materially affect the question in debate. I am anxious in the next place to demonstrate the injury which the practical working of the new system has, contrary to the intention of the Legislature, inflicted upon the tithe-owner. The parish rate, Sir, comprehends all assessable value, whether it arise from hereditaments of land, or hereditaments of rent-charge. It was the theory of the Parochial Assessment Act that all hereditaments should be rated on the estimate of their net annual value. My complaint is, that, in practice, the rent-charge—which, be it always remembered, is the principal source from which the maintenance of the clergy is derived—has never been so rated. I appeal to the Report itself of the Lords' Committee, in 1850, which resolved—1. That the principle of the Act 6 & 7 Wm. IV. c. 96, which requires that every person shall be rated on the net annual value of the real property, in respect of which he is rated, is imperfectly carried out in practice; that, for the purpose of providing a remedy for the inequality and injustice arising from the general practice, it is expedient to adopt measures for assimilating the practice to the principle of the law.10. That the tithe commutation rent-charge is generally assessed on the known full value thereof, while the assessment on other property is made on an estimated value. That the rates on the tithe rent-charge are charged in an unequal proportion, to the injury of the owner thereof, whenever the other property is not assessed at the full value thereof. That the rent-charge, like other property, should be assessed on the rent which a tenant would pay for it. That from the value of the tithe commutation rent-charge no special deduction to which other property is not entitled should be made.I perceive that the amount of difference to the injury of the tithe-owner has been estimated by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer as ranging itself between thirty and forty per cent.
That opinion will be found in the Report on Local Taxation in 1843. And, in 1850, the same high authority thus gives his evidence before the Lords' Committee:—Are you aware what the actual practice has been in rural parishes, as to rating with reference to the tithe?I am aware that, before the Tithe Commutation Act, the practice as to rating tithe varied considerably. In some cases, the rate upon the tithe was paid by the occupier, and no rate at all was imposed upon the clergyman. There is no doubt that the Tithe Commutation Act has operated very considerably to the disadvantage of the tithe-owner with respect to rating. It has acted injuriously to the tithe-owner in this manner—it has exhibited the entire amount of his tithe in a public and authentic form; and, therefore, the tithe commutation being known and 146 ascertained, the overseer has put down the tithe-owner in the rate-book at that full amount; but, being himself generally a farmer, he rates other farmers in the parish at an amount less than the net annual value. That practice certainly gives to occupiers of land within the parish an advantage, in comparison with the tithe-owner. He puts the tithe-owner, we may say, at a hundred per cent.; and he puts the occupiers of lands and houses at eighty per cent., or at eighty-five or ninety per cent., and perhaps, sometimes, at a less amount; but, at all events, he generally contrives to rate other species of property below the full net letting value. It is in this manner that the present system is detrimental in its working to the tithe-owner; and, as I conceive, the tithe-owner has a legitimate ground of complaint as to the working of the existing law, I may state, that one of the objects which the Bill—which is now before the House of Commons—has in view, is as far as possible to secure a uniform rating of all species of property up to the full value. I need not tell the Committee that any attempt to secure the rating of property up to its full value is extremely difficult; there is always an unwillingness to set down the full value of anything, from an apprehension that it will lead to increased taxation; there is a constant struggle to keep the assessment below its full value, partly with reference to other classes of property in the same parish, and partly with reference to the county-rate; because, if one parish can keep down its rating below that of another parish, although it may be rated fairly as between all persons in the parish, it gains in the county-rate, if other parishes are rated up to the full value. Therefore there is a constant disposition to keep the assessment for local rates below the full value; and one of the objects which this Bill has in view is as far as possible to secure a uniform rating up to the real value of the rateable hereditament. As far as that object would be attained, there is no doubt that the practical injustice of which the tithe-owner now reasonably complains would be remedied.In these concluding observations, the Chancellor of the Exchequer alludes to a Bill introduced into the House in 1850 by the present Home Secretary and himself, contemporaneously with which the Lords' Committee sat.
Sir, I have received an immense number of letters from clergymen, all, more or less, tending to expose the cruel injustice of the present working of the law.
I will not detain the attention of the House by reading them, but I must remark that those who talk about "wealthy parsons" and "fat livings," are little aware of the straggling poverty which is the lot of many of our parochial clergy.
It is not known, as it should be, that the average value of the livings in the English Church is nearly £100 per year less than that of the preferments in the Established Church of Scotland; the truth is, that the average value of livings in England is little above £150 per year, 147 while that of the Scotch preferments is rather above £250.
There is one letter, however, which I have in my hand, and which I will read to the House. The writer says:—The aggregate of the land in this parish, exclusive of glebe land and houses, contributes, when a rate of one shilling in the pound is struck, £47 3s. 10d. My rent charge, which is paid by the respective owners of all this land, will this year contribute £12 8s.Thus, a nominal tithe of the produce of the land, is compelled to bear a quarter of the burden borne by the land arising from local taxation.The injustice in my case is caused by the irregularity of assessment of land and rent-charge respectively, the rent-charge being assessed at its full rateable value, and the land being considerably under assessed.I know of one instance, in which land which is let at 30s. per acre is assessed at 17s. per acre.It may be said that there is a legal remedy for this grievance. I answer that there is a nominal remedy, but virtually there is none. What is the remedy? A valuation of the land; an appeal to petty sessions; a further appeal to quarter sessions; a war between parson and people, and a ruinous expense. Twice I have asked for a moderate relief, and I have been met with violence and a combined opposition. It is a case of one against many—the one weak, the many strong.I hold in my hand a synopsis of cases, showing the great injustice at present done to the parochial clergy, and I will lay one or two of those cases before the House. In one case, the gross rent-charge was £238 10s.—the value of the house and glebe was £26 5s., making a total of £264 15s.—the outgoings in ratio amounted to £185 12s. 4.d., which included £26 12s. 4d. for poor-rates, so that the net income of the clergyman was only £79 2s. 8d. In another case, out of an income of £84 9s. 11d., the poor-rate amounted to £12 3s. 9d.
This variance between the theory and the practice of the law, and the impossibility of working the principle of estimating the net annual value has received a remarkable legislative recognition. The Property Tax Act of 1842 sactioned the practice against the law; for it is enacted by 5 &6 Vict. c. 35, s. 64, rule No. 11:2.—"Where the said rate shall be made throughout by such pound-rate on any proportionate part of the annual valne as aforesaid, the proportion thereof shall be observed as in the said rate, but the assessment thereon to be made under this Act shall be made at the same sums respectively as they would have been estimated at if the said rate had been made on the full amount of such annual value.Mr. Speaker, my second proposition is, that the present legal remedy is costly, 148 uncertain, and odious—so much so, as to be practically inapplicable—to be, in fact, no remedy at all.
In the first place, if a clergyman he over-rated he must prove the fact, not as formerly, by showing a relative inequality, but by showing that his neighbours are under-rated, by probing and laying bare the private affairs of those with whom he is in daily intercourse, and with whom it ought to be his principal object to live in uninterrupted harmony. Upon this point, also, I can call the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a witness. He says—It is to be remembered, that anything in the nature of an appeal against an assessment or rating is always troublesome, and is generally expensive and odious. That latter circumstance has great influence upon the clergy; it is an unpleasant task for a clergyman, in general, to appeal against a parish rate; he does not wish to enter into litigation with his parishioners, he wishes to retain his influence over them, undisturbed by contests about pecuniary interests; and I believe, in the majority of cases, from very proper and generous feelings, he restrains himself from appealing against rates, even though they are not equal rates. As far as possible, therefore, I think some public authority ought to step in, and save individuals from the responsibility of objecting to an unfair rate; and, as far as possible, the rate should be made, by a public authority, an equal one.Mr. Willis, the eminent solicitor, whose evidence is well worthy the attention of the House, expresses his opinion upon the difficulty and expense of the appeal, as follows:—Will you be kind enough to state to the Committee what that difficulty is?"—"The difficulty is this, every one who appeals, is bound to state the grounds of his appeal; he may allege that he is over-rated. If he states that he is over-rated per se, the fact may not turn out to be so; it may not appear in the abstract that he is over-rated; therefore, appealing per se, he might fail; but he may go on, and he may say, 'I am over-rated compared with A, B, or C,' and then, if he were to show that he is rated at the full sum for which his tithes will let, or for which his lands will let, and that others are rated at two-thirds only, I do not know, in the present state of the law, under the Parochial Assessment Act, whether the result would not be to quash that rate; I am not sure that it could be amended, because the law is that no rate shall 'be of any force,' unless it is made in a given manner; and if you show that it is not made in such a manner, I am afraid the result must be not to get the rate amended, and so do justice by the appellant, but simply to quash that rate; I have felt that difficulty, and on the part of the clergy I need not say that it is a most formidable one. But even if it should be thought that the rate could be amended, it could only be amended as to the individuals with whom I compare myself whom I make parties to the appeal. I am bound to give notice to all to whose rating 149 I object, and the amendment of the rate would be confined to those cases. Where one general principle pervades the rate, it is perfectly obvious that such amendment would not effect the object I have in view—the obtaining of a correct assessment in this parish; it would only make it pro tanto less objectionable. If, however, I give notice that the whole rate is void, upon, the ground that it is not made in conformity with the provisions of the law, I must then show that the whole rate is bad, at least, I must have so many cases of undue rating as to induce the tribunal to infer that the whole is bad, that the erroneous principle pervades the whole rate, and then it would be quashed. I need not state, I think, how difficult it would be for an appellant to do this, to select his cases, and to bring the evidence that would be needful before the tribunal to which he resorts.I have in my hands, Sir, a letter from a clergyman who did prosecute his appeal, and who succeeded in showing that his neighbour was assessed at too low a valuation, but who found that the consequences of pursuing his success to a practical result, would be so expensive and so odious that he abandoned his triumph as soon as he obtained it.
I have many other letters from clergymen upon the same subject—the burthen of them all is to show that the parish priest is placed in this dilemma—either he must resort to a remedy which indisposes his parishioners to receive his ministrations, or he must submit to be deprived of a portion of his maintenance which he can often but ill spare. Sir, I rejoice to say that with few exceptions, they have adopted the latter alternative. All the more necessary therefore it is that Parliament should interfere to protect those whom it has unintentionally injured, and who are, practically speaking, unable to protect themselves.
Sir, my third proposition is—that the tithe commutation rent-charge having been fixed upon the principle of giving an uninproveable hereditament to the titheowner—the commutation having been settled by adding to an agreed net annual value the taxes then in existence—that this compact between the State and the Church has been violated. First, by imposing any new taxes at all upon this rent-charge. Secondly, by imposing taxes, having the improvement of property for their object, upon an unimproveable hereditament. Again, Sir, I refer to the testimony of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1843 and 1850.
It must not be forgotten that the burdens imposed by the law upon the clergy 150 are by no means their only burdens. Their voluntary burdens are necessarily very great; they are in continual contact with suffering and want, and there is a continual demand upon their limited means of als-giving. Nor is this all: I heard the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, say the other night, in answer to a statement of the large amount of voluntary subscriptions, by which education was promoted in this country, that much which was called voluntary was not so, inasmuch as the large subscriptions come from the clergy, who derived their incomes from the State. Well, Sir, I fully acknowledge the truth of this observation, with respect to the amount voluntarily subscribed by the parochial clergy, arid I claim the fact as an additional argument, if any were needed, for doing them justice—I do not ask for favour—as to the compulsory taxes imposed upon them.
Now, Sir, what is the conclusion from these premises! That for this acknowledged and demonstrated injustice, which is continually increasing—which is really eating up the incomes of the poorer clergy—the Legislature is bound to find a remedy.
Sir, the remedies for this wrong appear to me to be of two kinds—one of which proposes to itself an alteration of the whole mode of parochial assessment. Such a scheme was to have been propounded by the Secretary for the Home Department, in 1850; and he brought in a Bill with this object, but it never travelled beyond the first reading. Why, I do not know, but I imagine that it must have been on account of the unpopularity of its scheme, which was supposed to have been founded on a principle of centralisation and of interference with local management.
I offer no opinion upon the wisdom of such a scheme; but of two things I am certain, first, that no individual independent Member could introduce it with the slightest chance of success; secondly, that it was abandoned by the Government.
The other kind of remedy proceeds upon the principle recognised—as I have shown—by the Property Tax—of admitting and endeavouring to counterbalance the injustice, by allowing certain deductions, by way of compensation, to the tithe-owner, before his rent-charge be rated.
It appears to me that, if exact justice cannot be done, yet the balance may be equitably redressed upon this principle. 151 Before I explain the details of my Bill, let me remind the House of the amount of abortive legislation upon this subject.
It will be remembered the Parochial Assessment Act passed in 1836; the first attempt at Amendment was by yourself, Mr. Speaker, and Sir E. Knatchbull in 1838; the second by Mr. P. Scrope and Mr. Hawes, in 1840; the third by Mr. Hodges and Mr. Wrightson, in 1841; the fourth by Mr. Cornewall Lewis and Sir George Grey, in 1850; and the fifth, which an hon. Member has just put into my hand, by Mr. Peto and Mr. Hadfield, in 1854.
Such have been the attempts at legislation—but the tithe-owner remains without redress. Let me conclude with the authority of my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Member for the University of Oxford, who I have the happiness to know supports the principles of my measure. In 1852, he said—But, Sir, the clergy have a real grievance at this moment. It is admitted by all authorities—Professor Jones, Mr. Cornewall Lewis, and every man who has examined the subject of local rating, will tell you—that the clergy suffer cruelly by being rated for local taxation upon their gross incomes. Now, I would rather redress that grievance than grant them a new and exceptional privilege.And now, Sir, thanking the House most heartily for the indulgent and remarkable attention with which they have honoured me, and assuring them that had I not taken all the pains in my power to master a very complicated and difficult subject, I should not have presumed to address them at such length—I will briefly mention the principal features of the Bill of which I have now the honour to ask for a second reading. The greater part of the first and second clauses is declaratory; and such has been the discrepancy of practice in various parts of England, that a plain legislative statement even of the deductions, which may now be claimed by law, would be a considerable boon to the clergy. After reciting these, I proceed to propose new deductions, and—First, the land tax; and, surely, it is contrary to every sound principle of finance to tax a man upon a tax. Secondly, the stipend of a curate, whenever one is employed. In some instances, the Legislature compels a curate to be kept—but I extend the exemption to all cases in which one is employed, whether his employment be compulsory or not; and on this principle, that the criterion of 152 the rate is the lettable value of the property rated—if the rent-charge of a living to which a curate was attached was rented, would not the payment of the curate be deducted from the rent of the rent-charge? Take the case of a sequestrated living. The ordinary is bound to tell the sequestrated, his ecclesiastical bailiff, first to defray the expenses of maintaining the parsonage house, and of serving the cure, and then to let the remaining rent-charge.
Thirdly, I propose to allow the deduction of payments made to Queen Anne's Bounty, that is, payments made for a loan, by obtaining which the predecessor perhaps of the present incumbent has enlarged or rebuilt the parsonage house. It is sometimes said that the case is analogous to a mortgage on the estate of a tenant for life, but there is a manifest fallacy in this argument. A lay tenant for life can let his house, and while, perhaps, he is living in Italy pay off his mortgage; but a clergyman is bound to reside in a house, perhaps, too large for him, and to the building of which he has been no party. It seems only fair, then, that this exemption should be allowed.
The third clause corrects what is admitted to have been a mistake in the schedule of the former Act, and by the insertion of additional columns prevents the recurrence of a mistake which has frequently caused rateable value to be placed under the column of gross estimated rental.
The fourth clause provides that the rent-charge shall not be subject to the payment of rates and taxes imposed since the commutation of tithes. I have already entered at length into a defence of this provision.
The fifth clause renders it compulsory on justices, before allowing the rate, to inquire into the accuracy thereof, and imposes a penalty upon overseers who make a false declaration.
I have been informed that this clause is much opposed by gentlemen who discharge the office of magistrates in their counties, and I perceive at this moment that this information is likely to be correct. All that I would say upon the subject now is, that the clause forms no part of the principle of the Bill.
The last clause provides that valuation lists shall be open to inspection.
And now, Sir, I will sit down with the expression of my hope that no objections to the details of this measure will prevent 153 the House from going into Committee upon the merits of the principle which it contains.
I do most earnestly trust that the House will not, by refusing to give a second reading to this Bill, that is by rejecting its principle, refuse to entertain the claim of justice which is preferred to it by the tithe-owner, and especially by the parochial clergy, or show that it is indifferent to their long and patient suffering.
§ LORD ALFRED HERVEY
seconded the Motion. He said the position of the clergy, scattered as they were about the country, made it impossible for them to exercise much pressure in defence of their claims: and even if they could they were not the men to take up a cause of a merely personal nature, that was one reason why he advocated the measure. The provisions which had been applied to houses and lands had been greatly neglected in the case of rent-charges, which it was not usual to let, and which, therefore, were not properly valued, but the same principle ought to apply to both. The rent-charge ought to be rated according to the estimated value, and not according to the gross value. The recommendation of the Poor Law Commissioners to this effect had been totally disregarded. Other properties were rated at less than their estimated value, often at two-thirds less, while the rent-charge was estimated at its full value. That had the effect materially of raising the rate on the rent-charge, so that when other property paid 1s., the rent-charge paid 1s. 6d. No doubt by the Parochial Assessment Act an appeal had been provided for the incumbent, but it required a voluntary movement, and a direct appeal to those who were interested in keeping up the present system. Out of 15,000 parishes in England, 11,000 were without any valuation, and the valuation of the remaining 4,000 had been very imperfectly taken. The Poor Law Commissioners had stated that farms were often rated at one-half of their real value, and the injustice thus done to the tithe-owner was often not less than thirty per cent. Various proposals had been made to meet the evil—one was that twenty per cent should be deducted from the rent-charge. That proceeding would be to place the clergymen in an invidious position, and to make it appear that he was rated at less than his neighbours. The Poor Law Commissioners had recommended a fresh valuation of assessed property; but that would excite great alarm and opposition 154 throughout the country. It was a fact of his own knowledge that clergymen of £400 a year paid £100 in rates and taxes. There were, besides, the charities, life insurance, and other expenses necessary to his position; and he thus had very little left for his own benefit. The clergy asked for no advantage that was not enjoyed by the other classes of the community. He, therefore, appealed with confidence to the House to allow the Bill to be read a second time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. BOUVERIE
said, as far as the grievance complained of was concerned, he apprehended it was indisputable. It was admitted on all hands that the practical working of the system of assessment had resulted in an inequality, and therefore in injustice with respect to its dealings with the parochial clergy. So far he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tavistock, but he could not approve the remedy which was proposed to remove that grievance. The state of the law on the question was this: Tithes, by the Statute of Elizabeth, were subject to poor rates. In early times a portion of the tithes was appropriated to the maintenance of the poor. There was a division of the tithes, in olden time, into three or four portions, one of which was the patrimony of the poor. Therefore, when the Statute of Elizabeth made tithes contribute to the poor rate, it involved no new principle, it was only continuing a charge to which the clergy were liable at Common Law. Tithes being subject to poor rates, the question had always been upon what principle that rate should be assessed. The Courts of Law had recognised at all times only one principle—namely, that all property subject to the poor rate should be taxed equally. The tithe-owner, in common with the owner of every other species of property, was to be rated according to the great principle of parochial assessment, namely, the value of the property as it would let to a tenant. The principle established in the Parochial Assessment Act was no new principle; it merely declared the principle which had been established by a long course of decisions, that the value of the property taxed should be taken to be that for which it could be let, the tenant paying all rates, taxes, and charges. When that Act was passing through the House of Lords the 155 Archbishop of Canterbury expressly moved that tithes should be exempted from its operation, but that proposal was altogether repudiated, and the result was the adoption of a proviso proposed by the Duke of Richmond, that there should be no alteration of the law with respect to the rating of tithes and other kinds of property. Then came the Tithe Commutation Act, converting tithes into a rent-charge. The amount of tithes bad hitherto been uncertain for the purposes of rating, but now the amount became a well known and constant quantity. That was the source of the grievance of which complaint was made, because the tithe-owner's rent was known, but the land-owner's rent was not known; and those whose duty it was to make the assessment reduced the amount of assessment of the land-owner, while they assessed to the full value the owner of the rent-charge. That was a serious grievance, and his hon. and learned Friend by his Bill proposed to remedy it. Now, what was the amount of property to which this grievance applied? He (Mr. Bouverie), of course, in an argument of this nature, put aside all consideration of the hardship which might be inflicted on the parochial clergy, as such. They must not be influenced by their sympathies for the clergy; what it was their duty to guard against was, whether in this or any other form of taxation, that no injustice was done. He could, if required, make out a good case of sympathy in favour of small landowners. The amount of property to be thus exceptionally dealt with was £4,050,000. That portion of it which belonged to the clergy was 2,411,000; the remainder, amounting to 1,639,000, was the property of lay impropriators, schools, colleges, lessees, and others, to none of whom could the complaint of a personal grievance apply. His hon. and learned Friend would, he trusted, permit him to defend the consistency of the opinion given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman had quoted that right hon. Gentleman as an authority in favour of this Bill, but he thought that his hon. and learned Friend was altogether mistaken on that point. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked whether it was his opinion, if the Parochial Assessment Act were strictly carried out, there would be any injustice done between the tithe-owner and the land-owner, and he answered "No," and that he thought if the Bill had been carried 156 into effect the injustice complained of would never have arisen. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say, "I am not aware of any other disadvantage to which the tithe-owner is subject than this, that his cards are shown, whereas the cards of the other ratepayers are not shown." And he added that all other occupiers should be compelled to show the annual value of their land in such a way as to ensure equality of assessment. That was the remedy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. R. Phillimore) suggested a different mode of meeting the evil which did not appear to him (Mr. Bouverie) to be adequate to the purpose desired. By the second clause of the Bill it was proposed to deduct charges for collection, the usual tenant's rates and taxes, all ecclesiastical dues, and the repairs of the chancel and church. The law, as it now stood, allowed all those deductions. It was also proposed to deduct the land-tax, the stipends of curates, and the charges paid under Queen Anne's Bounty. The land-tax was a landlord's tax, it was not deducted in estimating the rateable value of land, and there was no reason why the tithe-owner should be placed, in a different position from the owners of other property subject to poor rate. With regard to the stipends for curates, a large proportion of curates were kept in towns, where the grievance did not exist, and as to those clergymen who did not choose to perform their duties personally, they had no claim whatever. With regard to the payments under Queen Anne's Bounty, it would be a very large estimate to say that twenty per cent of new incumbents' houses had been recently built throughout the country, in respect of which alone those payments were due, and therefore a deduction on that ground would he no consolation to the eighty per cent of the clergy who were not subject to the charge. As to the alternative of making the assessment on two-thirds or four-fifths of the tithe commutation rent-charge, the same temptation would exist to induce those who made the rate to lower unfairly the estimate of other property as existed now, and no remedy would be afforded for the grievance of which the parochial clergy complained. He could not agree that the tithe commutation was a bargain made by the State with the clergy, and that the State had no right to subject it to new taxation. If the Legislature thought fit to impose 157 new taxes upon the tithe rent-charge the owners had no more right to complain than the owners of other property. When the tithes were commuted the tithe-owner was credited with the receipt of the gross sum yielded by his tithes. Since that time the charge for poor rate in this country had been diminished £1,500,000, and if impositions of another kind had been put upon the tithe-owner, of which he complained, he ought to give credit, on the other hand, for the benefit derived from the reduction of the poor rate. He willingly admitted the disinterested spirit which the clergy had exhibited on the repeal of the Corn Laws, which seriously threatened to lessen the value of their peculiar property; but he was glad to say, as yet, it had been productive of no practical loss to them. As to the assertion of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock, that the right of appeal was a mere mockery, the appeal given by the law now was no greater hardship upon clergymen than upon the hon. and learned Gentleman or any ratepayer who was overrated. There seemed to him to be no other possible mode of remedying the injustice than by giving an appeal, whereby, if in any one instance the rate could be shown to be unequal, it would be put straight. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could point out any practical means of facilitating appeals he would consider of it; but he must protest against clause 5 of the Bill, which constituted the justices, whose function now merely was to sign the rate, a Court of Appeal. It would be intolerable for justices to have to sit as a Court of Appeal every time a rate was allowed. He approached the subject with no prepossessions against the clergy, but he felt bound to point out that, while the clergy had an indisputable grievance which, he believed, might be remedied, the measure of the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock would not, in his opinion, afford any real remedy, and neither was it sound in principle. He was not prepared to object to the second reading of the Bill, but he had pretty clearly indicated what portions of it he should object to at a future stage.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he wished to inquire where the Chancellor of the Exchequer was. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman in the chair was unable to answer the question; but the right hon. Gentleman ought certainly to have been present. He was the highest 158 authority on the subject; he had spoken upon it, written upon it, and given evidence upon it; and his authority could be cited against the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Poor Law Board. Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had distinctly expressed an opinion in favour of the views of the hon. and learned Member who brought in the Bill. Yet the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie), though not objecting to the second reading of the Bill, had done his utmost to destroy it. He (Sir J. Pakington) had long felt the deep injustice which the clergy suffered from the present system of rating. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer here entered the House.] He was happy to see the right hon. Gentleman. He believed he might appeal to him against the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Bouverie), who had just spoken in opposition to this measure. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman were no answer whatever to the proposed measure. No doubt rating ought to be equal, and what the clergy complained of was, that they were not equally rated. That was the very grievance the Bill was brought in to remedy. The House was only asked to do an act of justice. Justice required that the clergy should be rated on a different principle. The case in the Queen's Bench, that the rule of rating under the Parochial Assessment Act applied to tithes, had been commented upon in a Report signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And the clergy complained that they were not really rated on the principle of that Act, but were assessed on different principles, from other ratepayers. They also complained that they paid on a different value from other ratepayers, especially considering that the stock-in-trade was exempted; and they complained of the effect of the fixed nature of their rent-charge. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board said the principle of law was, that all rating ought to be equal. He did not dispute that dictum, but, on the contrary, his argument for the Bill, as he had previously stated, was that the clergy were not equally rated. The House of Lords had expressed their opinion by Resolution, that the rent-charge ought to be assessed, not in the full value, but at the rate which a tenant would pay for it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the Report 159 of the Commission of which he was the most conspicuous member, estimated the difference in the rating of owners of tithes and owners of other property in many cases at twenty per cent, and in some 10,000 or 11,000 cases at thirty or forty per cent. He concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. E. Phillimore), that, practically, the remedy of appeal in the case of clergymen was worthless, and he found the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the same Report, making the same assertion. The Commissioners also said—We consider that the clerical tithe-owners have very just grounds of complaint as to the manner in which the rent-charge is valued in the majority of cases throughout England and Wales, and, therefore, are fully entitled to protection as effectual as can be devised against the evil.Those words were most conclusive as to the justness of the complaint and the necessity for protection. As to the objection of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bouverie) to the deductions for salaries of curates, he thought there was some weight in it; but that was a mere question of detail. He thought the measure, with some modifications, would deserve the sanction of the House.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he was glad that the President of the Poor Law Board had agreed to let the Bill go to a second reading, because it was admitted on all hands that the holders of tithe property were labouring under a grievance. He did not think the House had anything to do with the question whether this property was owned by rich or poor persons. The real question was, whether there was equality or inequality of taxation in regard to this description of property. The true principle was involved in the question, "If A were possessed of 100 acres of land, and B of a tithe rent-charge of £100 a year, what would C and D give for the rent of each? Let the House look at the items which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. Phillimore) gave by way of compensation. First, there was the curate, whose salary the hon. and learned Gentleman said ought to be deducted. But, suppose the Legislature divided the parish, and assigned a portion to the curate. The tithe rent-charge would then be divided with the parish, and the curate would pay one portion, being a district clergyman, and the incumbent the other portion. He did not see that this charge ought to be a deduction. Such a deduction would operate unequally; because, if a clergyman 160 did not keep a curate, the Bill provided no remedy for his admitted grievance. Money borrowed upon the tithe rent-charge for the building and repair of houses was another item. That was a mortgage, but it did not affect the generality of livings. The fourth clause of the Bill referred to additional charges which might be put on this particular species of property. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that a rent-charge was a fixed and unimprovable rent, and ought not to be subject to additional charges of any sort. But that argument cut both ways. Was the rent-charge to be a fixed quantity which was never to have another burden upon it? That, he considered, was very dangerous ground to take. It was true that a rent-charge was an unimprovable property, but it was certain of payment, and he thought that the gain in one part might very fairly be set against the loss in some other respects. The parochial assessment was generally a little below the rent; but in one case which had come under his observation it was considerably above the rent. He thought the owners of tithe rent-charge had a grievance to complain of; but he felt bound to say that the Bill would not, in his opinion, relieve it. The House, however, by agreeing to the second reading of the Bill would admit that there was a wrong to be remedied. What that remedy should be he would not undertake to say, although it would probably be found either in allowing a small per centage or in giving greater facilities of appeal.
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, there were some deductions which were naturally just in themselves, but there was another class which the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock sought to adjust by means of compensation. Whether the remedy for the grievance under which the tithe-owner laboured was to be found in the Bill of the hon. and learned Member was a matter for discussion. The tithe rent-charge represented the right to take the tenth part of the produce of the land, but it was a different thing to rate property after all deductions had been made. The house of a clergyman, for instance, was quite out of the category of property. In dealing with a property representing only a share of any given property, taxation ought to be placed on a different footing. There were two distinct sets of reductions in the Bill, one to be supported on its own merits, the other founded on inequalities in the rating, and in considering the question 161 these matters ought to be taken into full consideration.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was his belief that the clerical tithe-owner was subject to a real and substantial grievance in the rating of these tithes, arising from the fact that the surveyor who made the rate was for the most part a farmer of the parish, whose assessment of the property of his own class was usually below the full value, while the value of the tithe commutation rent-charge, being publicly ascertained, was entered in the rate book at the entire value, and thus placed the clergyman at a disadvantage as compared with other parishioners. The House was aware that there was a double motive for thus assessing the property of the pariah. In the first place, if the rental of a farm were greater than the assessment, each parishioner was a gainer as compared with the tithe-owner, who was assessed at the full value. There was another advantage in a low assessment, in regard to the county-rate. If a rate of 4d. or 6d. in the pound were laid over the entire county, those parishes that were assessed at only 60 or 70 per cent of the value, paid a smaller percentage than those who were assessed at 80 or 90 per cent of their value. He was, therefore, of opinion that the House ought to remedy that grievance. But the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. Phillimore) did not propose to deal with this real grievance of over-assessment of some parishes and under-assessment of others. He established certain deductions, beginning with the amount of the salary and stipend of a curate. [Mr. R. PHILLIMOBE: The land tax.] Very possibly the tithe-owner might be entitled to deduction in that respect, but he would not, on the present occasion, enter into that question. The law regarded the tithe as property, and not as salary. If it were considered as property, and not as the remuneration for service, he could not see the equity of deducting the salary of a curate. If a person absented himself from his benefice the law compelled him to keep a curate during his absence; but in that case he exercised his own judgment as to his absence, and, therefore, could not be said to be compelled to keep a curate. The provision of the Bill upon that point was not, therefore, of particular value. More might be said in favour of the deductions on account of Queen Anne's Bounty, because a clergyman was merely a tenant for life of his 162 house—he could not dispose of it, as it was in the nature of an official residence, and he did not even stand in the same position with regard to it as an ordinary tenant for life. He was not aware that any objection could be made to that section of the Bill. With regard to the 4th clause he fully agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). He thought no distinction could be made between new charges and old charges, and there was no reason why this species of property should not be subjected to the same new charges as any other species. If the principle were admitted, why should it not include the increase of existing charges? In the case, for instance, of a police rate, separate from the county rate, the clause would be applicable, whereas if the police were charged upon an existing county rate it would be inapplicable. One argument used in favour of the tithe-owner was founded upon the abolition of the rating of stock-in-trade, but he could not see its force. In town parishes the tithe system altogether failed, because the tithe being the tenth part of the increment of the soil, there was no increment of the soil as the ground was covered with houses. But in ordinary cases the tithe-owner was the owner of the tithes of a rural district containing few shops and scarcely any stock-in-trade, and, therefore, practically he was not damnified by the disuse of the law for rating stock-in-trade. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) still retained the opinion he had formerly expressed as to the injustice under which the tithe-owner laboured by the existing law, and he thought the House ought to apply itself to the removal of that grievance, but he doubted whether it would be effectually remedied by the proposed measure.
said, he must beg to express his gratification at the general tone of the debate, and at the fairness with which gentlemen connected with land, and therefore interested in rating as many classes of ratepayers as possible, besides that to which they belonged, had admitted the grievance of which the tithe-owners complained, and endeavoured to facilitate its removal. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had discussed the subject with the fairness eminently characteristic of his mind, and his knowledge of it was no doubt greater than that of any other Member of the House; but, in order to illustrate the difficulties with 163 which his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. R. Phillimore) had had to contend in grappling with it, he must remind his right hon. Friend that some of the principles laid down in the Report signed by him went far towards supporting that 4th clause to which he was now opposed. He would respectfully press upon the House that, after the universal admission which had been made as to the existence of the grievance which was the subject of the Bill under consideration, it would not be altogether creditable to allow small difficulties of detail and small differences of opinion to prevent the application of a remedy to that grievance. They ought not to fold their arms and say, "Although the grievance is plain, palpable, and even scandalous, we cannot, on account of difficulties of detail, attempt to provide a remedy." It would be far better to apply a remedy which was open to some abstract objections than any longer to neglect the subject. Although the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) objected to some provisions of the Bill, he understood the right hon. Gentleman, and he likewise understood the Government, to pledge themselves, in voting for the second reading, that they would honestly endeavour to make the Bill as effectual a remedy as possible for admitted grievances. The first object of the Bill was to fix by law certain deductions to which the tithe-owner was entitled; its second object, and that which presented the greatest difficulty, was to counteract the effects of the inequality of assessments. With regard to the two modes of proceeding pointed out by the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire, he hardly thought it would be worth while to pass a Bill to improve the method of appeal, since the more elevated the character of a clergyman, and the greater his desire to maintain unbroken relations of amity with his parishioners, the greater would be his reluctance to resort to any appeal that could be provided. The general feeling of the House seemed to be favourable to a deduction on account of the parsonage house, as that house was not built for the enjoyment of the clergyman, but in order to fasten him to his duty. The question of a deduction on account of the salaries of curates was one of the greatest intricacy, and he should look for guidance upon it to the authority of practical men such as his hon. Colleague, and the right hon. Gentlemen, the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) and the right hon. Baronet the 164 Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). He would, therefore, venture to suggest to his hon. and learned Friend, to Her Majesty's Government, and to those Gentlemen that felt an interest in the measure, whether, upon the whole, it would not be most expedient to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, not for the purpose of taking evidence upon the subject, but for the purpose of closely and carefully considering in juxta-position the various remedies proposed to meet a grievance universally acknowledged. At all events he ventured to hope that the labours of his hon. and learned Friend, as well as the expression of opinion elicited that day, would not be unattended with beneficial fruits.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he wished to observe that the Parochial Assessment Act of 1836 was very much complained of. He would therefore give notice that when he Bill was in Committee he would move the insertion of clauses to remedy the evil, and removing the restriction which prevented persons from appealing to the Superior Courts without the permission of the magistrates.
§ Mr. WIGRAM
said, he was anxious merely to say that whether the law was theoretically right or theoretically wrong, it was admitted on all hands to inflict a great grievance upon a large class of the community. He would therefore suggest that Her Majesty's Government should apply itself to determine what was the proper remedy for the grievance, as it was quite hopeless for a private Member to expect to carry a measure through if he had to encounter at every turn objections on the part of the Government to the details of his Bill.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he would admit that the clergy had a great grievance to complain of under the present state of the law; but at the same time he was prepared to contend that the general system of rating was unjust. It was unjust as regarded the growers of raw produce throughout the country, which meant every occupier of land throughout England and Wales. Occupiers of land were rated in a way that no other employers of capital were; for they were rated according to their production, and according to the amount of industry which they brought to bear upon the working of the soil. He thought, therefore, that the whole question of rating should be grappled with.
said, he would advise the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. 165 Phillimore) to let the Bill be considered by a Select Committee, but not to hand it over to the Government, who had neglected to provide redress in the case of the clergy of Ireland, some time ago; it was, he thought, for the House itself to provide the remedy.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°.