§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. FAGAN
said, he was quite aware how hopeless it was in an expiring Parliament to carry through a measure of this kind; but he was anxious to obtain the sanction of the House and of the Government to the principle of the Bill, in order that at length, after an arduous struggle, he might be able to announce that he had succeeded in getting rid of one of the most obnoxious imposts it was possible to conceive, and thus bring back a message of peace to his constituents. The late Sir Robert Peel, on the occasion of his proposing the endowment of Maynooth, said that he was about "to send a message of peace to Ireland." But how much more would the announcement of the abolition of this tax called ministers' money be a message of peace to Ireland, when it was recollected that it was a tax levied upon the Catholic community of the country—when it was recollected that there was a strong feeling even amongst the Catholics 2413 of Ireland in favour of the abolition of the grant to Maynooth altogether, as their religion would be thereby protected against those annual exhibitions of malignity such as had been witnessed the other evening on the part of a noble Earl the leader of the Conservative party in another place. And here he would ask some hon. Friends of his whom he saw sitting upon the benches opposite, whether it was right or just that, merely for the purpose of opposing the Government of the day, they should continue to support the Conservative party in the face of such denunciations of the Catholic religion upon the part of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby)? If the noble Lord at the head of the Government consented to the second reading of the Bill, he would pacify the mind of Ireland upon a subject which, next to the question of tenant right, most interested the people of that country. The noble Lord was likely to have a strong majority in the next Session of Parliament, because of the talent and energy which he had exhibited in the late war. Still there was no doubt that many would get into the new Parliament under the cry of supporting him who would be "Derbyites" in disguise. The noble Lord, therefore, might one of these days want the support of the Irish Liberal Members, and so let him not repel the feeling that was growing up in Ireland in his favour, by refusing to do justice in this matter. There was no reason why the tax should not be abolished at once—for, as regarded any danger from interfering with church property, Sir John Young had cut the ground already from under that objection by abolishing the tax upon all houses under the value of £10. It was evident there were abundant funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to provide for the abolition of the tax, for they had paid over no less than £21,000 to those who were entitled to the receipts of the tax, and that without having been repaid a single penny by the terms on which it was leviable; and, notwithstanding that, they had expended considerably more than an average amount upon the repairing and building of churches. The hon. Member for Edinburgh had on the paper a notice of an Amendment to include in this Bill a some what similar tax payable at Edinburgh and Montrose. He entreated his hon. Friend not to press his Amendment, for by so doing he might risk the passing of this Bill. He hoped, therefore, to hear that, without any "ifs or ands," that the Government 2414 were prepared to accept the principle of his Bill. He would now move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
said, that on a previous occasion when this question was before the House it was said that this tax was a remnant of the penal laws; but it was much worse, it was a renewal of them. To show the irregularities in the incidence of the tax, the hon. Member stated that the sum raised from Clonmel, which was but a very small town, was £241 per annum; Kilkenny, which was a much larger place, paid only £307 per annum: and Limerick, which was a more considerable town than both these put together, but £310 per annum. He earnestly hoped that in the next Parliament the Government would themselves introduce a measure for the settlement of this question.
§ MR. MEAGHER
said, he could not coincide in the criticisms of his hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Fagan) regarding the Parliamentary career of certain Members from Ireland occupying seats on that (the Opposition) side of the House. His hon. Friend would understand his meaning when he said that he had just been "blarneying" the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He (Mr. Meagher) could offer the noble Lord much more cogent reasons for abolishing the tax than those suggested by his hon. Friend. The provincial towns that were affected by the tax returned ten Members to Parliament, whilst they influenced the return of ten county Members in addition. Now, be would submit that it was worth the while of the Government to consider whether they would make friends or enemies of those constituencies. He was glad to find they were likely to have the support of Members from Scotland in their effort to abolish the tax, and those hon. Gentlemen might rest assured that their success would be followed by the abolition of the "annuity tax" in Scotland.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that although the second reading of the Bill on the present occasion could lead to no practical result, yet he was ready to redeem the pledge he gave on the introduction of the measure, that when it came on for second reading he would state what were the intentions of the Government in reference to this subject. Every one who had at all attended to the discussions that had taken 2415 place in Parliament upon the question must know that it was beset with difficulties. Within his experience of the House—and it was now of nearly 20 years' duration—the subject had been perpetually before them. A Committee was appointed in 1847 to consider the question, and it included most of the prominent Members from Ireland. Mr. Shell was chairman; Mr. John Young served on it, as did both the Members for the University of Dublin, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Somerville), then Member for Drogheda; the two Members for the City of Dublin, as well as his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Fagan), and his colleague. That inquiry showed how great and deep was the discontent, not alone of those who paid the tax, but especially of the established clergy, to whom the tax was paid. In fact, it was given in evidence that many of those gentlemen refrained from collecting the tax although their whole income was derived from it. After a very protracted inquiry the Committe reported to Parliament that the tax ought to be abolished, and that for the future the payment of the clergy ought to devolve upon the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. That recommendation, however, was of no effect, and subsequently a Bill was introduced by the Government which was passed, by the title of "Sir John Young's Act," and which, it was hoped, would set the question at rest. The main Amendments which that measure contained were these:—In the first place, in order to remove a great deal of discontent connected with the operation of the law towards the poorer class of householders, the Bill enacted that all houses below the value of £10 should be exempted from the tax; secondly, householders would be allowed to commute the tax for 14 years' purchase; and, thirdly, the clergy were to be paid, in the first instance, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, a deduction of 25 per cent. upon the amount due to each being made. In addition to that—and it seemed to him to be the most important and beneficial change effected by the new Act,—the clergy were for the future relieved of the odium of collecting the tax, and it was thrown altogether upon the corporation of Ireland. If the corporations collected the tax, well and good; but if they failed to collect it, it then became a debt due to the Crown, and the payment was to be compelled by the Executive. 2416 Such were the provisions of the Act which it was hoped would have set this question at rest. It was notorious, however, that it had failed in every particular. And first, as to the exemption of houses under the value of £10, it turned out that the relief given by the Bill was merely nominal, for already, in consequence of the extreme insignificance of the sums leviable off that class of houses, the clergy had renounced their claim in that direction rather than incur the odium of exacting their rights. Then, again, no one was found to take advantage of the power to redeem the tax for 14 years' purchase; it had been reported to him by the collector of the tax in Dublin, that only one individual in all Ireland had availed himself of the powers of the Act. Again, although the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were to be refunded their disbursements to the clergy by the several corporations, yet it soon became evident that not a single corporation would levy the tax to repay them; indeed, during the last recess the corporations of the seven cities had waited upon him, at Dublin Castle, and they stated in very temperate language that they had come to the unanimous resolution not to levy one shilling of the tax. And it should be recollected that while formerly the tax was collected on behalf of Protestants by members of the Protestant Church, the duty now devolved upon those who were not necessarily members of the Establishment, and who would have to compel their Roman Catholic neighbours to pay that which they themselves had refused to pay. The consequence was, that not a shilling of the tax was collected, and the Government was compelled to institute legal proceedings against the corporations. They tried the question, in the first instance, with the corporation of Cork—for in that city the largest proportion of the tax was leviable—intending, as soon as they got judgment against Cork, to proceed against the remaining corporations. Well, the Government having obtained judgment in its favour, the corporation of Cork gave notice of appeal, not merely to the Court of Error in Dublin, but likewise to the House of Lords, so that they were advised two years would probably elapse before they could obtain any results from their verdict, by which time four years' collection would be due; besides having to fight the battle over again with the other corporations. And then, too, some of the corporations had no property, so that the 2417 Government would have to proceed against the individual members of the corporations, some of whom told them frankly that their persons were at the disposal of their prosecutors, but that they would undergo any amount of martyrdom rather than pay the tax. The House would agree with him that was a state of things which ought not to be allowed to last. The question, therefore, had been under the consideration of the Government during the recess, and they had come very much to see their way as to the course to be pursued. Various modes of dealing with the subject had been suggested. In the first place, it had been proposed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should in their own persons seek the enforcement of their rights in the courts of law, and thereby the Government would be relieved from a false position. But that would only be placing the Commissioners in a worse position than they were actually in, inasmuch as they would thereby be saddled with the fresh burden of a protracted litigation. It was next proposed that the Government should take upon itself the collection of the tax; but that would not place things in a better position than before the passing of Sir John Young's Act, when the Government only avoided defeat on this question by bringing in a Bill of their own, the introduction of which they barely carried by a majority of 15. Here, however, another plan presented itself, by which the tax should be entirely got rid of as an ecclesiastical impost. There were certain hospitals in Dublin which were supported by an annual Vote from Parliament of £16,000, and about which his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Cowan) knew something; that was a Vote which was carried each year with considerable difficulty; and, therefore, it was suggested that as the chief objection to the tax was a conscientious objection, the Government would be justified in raising it as a tax for the support of the Dublin hospitals. There were many Protestants in Dublin who had no objection to paying ministers' money, and, therefore, it was felt that the tax ought not to be redeemed altogether. That proposal met with a great deal of consideration at the hands of the Government, and he confessed he regarded it with favour himself; the more especially as the great bulk of the tax was levied in Dublin, where those hospitals were. But it raised a question with which 2418 the House was familiar—namely, the "appropriation question," that was to say whether they ought to take away the funds of the Established Church, and apply them to other purposes. Now it was quite evident that this last plan could never be carried into effect without the concurrence of Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, and he was afraid that with that concurrence it would not meet; neither with the concurrence of the heads of the Established Church: since, therefore, it could not be carried into effect without the concurrence of all parties, it obviously had little chance of success. Well, another arrangement proposed was that the Government should step in and redeem the tax at a rate somewhat lower than that allowed in Sir John Young's Act—namely, at ten years' purchase—and that they should be repaid by the several corporations within a period of years. However it was considered that that proposal, so far from diminishing the burden and mitigating the opposition it provoked, would probably have the effect of increasing both. All these propositions had in turn been examined by the Government, and each was found to be of such a nature as held out no hope of its receiving the assent of Parliament. The Bill now before the House, on the other hand, would totally abolish the tax, in accordance with the report of the Select Committee. That Committee reported that there was no new principle involved in throwing the payment of the clergy on the fund of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The 3 & 4 Wm. IV., c. 37, contained this provision:—And be it further enacted that in all parishes end places where, in virtue of any law, statute, or custom, provision may heretofore have been made, by vestry or other assessment, for the maintenance of any curate, lecturer, clerk, or other minister or assistant in the celebration of divine worship, such provision or assessment shall from and after the passing of this Act wholly cease and determine; and it shall and may be lawful for the said Commissioners under this Act, by and out of the proceeds of the said annual tax, and the other funds as aforesaid by this Act vested in them, to provide for all such purposes in such manner and proportions as to them shall seem fitting.Thus, in other parts of Ireland, where under a special Act of Parliament the clergy had been paid by such assessments, the Church Temporalities Act abolished those assessments and threw the payment of the clergy on the Ecclesiastical Commission. The Select Committee expressed its conviction that the 2419 funds of the Commission would so far increase as to leave a margin out of which these payments could be made. He held in his hand a Return of the receipts and expenditure of the Ecclesiastical Commission from the date of its commencement up to the present time, and, upon looking upon that Return, he was bound to say that all the predictions of the Committee had been fully borne out. In 1848, when the Reports were laid upon the table, the income of the Ecclesiastical Commission amounted to £98,000. In 1856 it had increased to £146,000. In every year during a certain period there appeared to be a balance in the Bank, after all disbursements. In one year the balance was as high as £77,000. He found in the last year that the payments made on account of ministers' money were £12,000, which, if added to previous payments, made the amount £21,000. Of these moneys only £4,000 had been repaid, leaving a balance of £17,000 of the advances and allowances made to the clergy. In 1856 there were £12,853 invested by the Ecclesiastical Commission, and a balance of £5,563 in the Bank. So far, then as the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission went, there appeared to be a good margin for the amount to be paid which was claimed as ministers' money. But by some economical arrangements the income of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might be largely increased. The question had been brought under the consideration of the Government whether, by a better system of management, those funds could not be largely increased? On the 13th of February last, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin, to be laid before the Irish Ecclesiastical Commission, indicating the opinion of the Government that steps might be taken to render the property of the Commissioners still more productive by improved management. In this letter his Excellency stated:—The Government are inclined to think that they might have recourse to the method which has been twice adopted with great advantage in respect to the parallel Ecclesiastical Commission in England, by instituting an inquiry before a Committee of the House of Commons, with a view to consider whether any more economical or profitable system of operations could be effected. Of course it would be most agreeable to Her Majesty's Ministers if they could carry with them the concurrence of the Commissioners themselves in this design. Permit me to add that, as a discussion in the House may be expected almost immediately, it would be an additional 2420 favour that any answer to this letter should be given with the least possible delay.The most rev. Prelate replied in a week afterwards, stating that a special Board was summoned to take the matter into consideration. From the circumstances which had since occurred in the affairs of the country, no time had been afforded for determining that part of the question. This was the position in which the question stood when Parliament met and the hon. Gentleman's Bill was introduced; and it was now incumbent on him to state the opinions of the Government. Considering, therefore, the condition in which the question now stood—considering that the payment of ministers' money was now practically made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—considering that the throwing upon that Commission, legally as well as practically, the payment of ministers' money, no new burden could be imposed upon it—considering, too, that the difficulty of collecting the tax was almost insurmountable—considering that the present state of the law gave rise to unpleasant discussions every year in that House; and with the knowledge of the abortive attempts that had been from time to time made to provide a legislative remedy for the evil, the Government had come to the conclusion that they did not see their way to proposing any practical remedy for the difficulty, except by adopting the suggestion of the Committee of 1847, and acquiescing in the spirit of the Motion made by his hon. Friend the Member for Cork, who was a member of the Committee alluded to. There was one course which he thought would be most discreditable to the Government to pursue—namely, that they should continue a struggle when they saw hope of its satisfactory termination—that they should thus encourage a continuance of litigation in the courts of law, and that they should pertinaciously continue a contest for a principle which it baffled all their attempts to enforce, and which, if persisted in, was only fraught with future animosity and strife. He confessed that the Government would shrink from resorting year after year to such imperfect and vague attempts at legislation to compel the payment of ministers' money. He thought that the Government would be placing themselves in a false position if they were obstinately to persevere in a course beset with such difficulties. In taking what he considered to be a wise, 2421 politic, and just course, he believed that they would be solving the difficulty in a manner that would be found satisfactory to all parties and inconvenient to none. That course carried with it a recommendation not the least valuable in the eyes of the Government—namely, that it was a conciliatory course. One of the results which would necessarily follow the adoption of a plan would be the removal from amongst them of that fruitful source of animosity and strife which the present vexatious system of collecting ministers' money occasioned, and the establishment of a measure in lieu thereof which was calculated to restore to Ireland a condition of peace and harmony, which it was the first duty of the Government to foster and promote.
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, although he deprecated a discussion involving such an important principle as was involved in the plan of the right hon. Gentleman in an expiring Parliament, and the making of any statement that partook rather of the character of an address to the constituencies than of a candid expression of principle in that House, he, nevertheless, thought it necessary to make a few observations in reply to the speech of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had no doubt felt that he had but discharged his duty in the declaration of those opinions which he had expressed. He (Mr. Hamilton) was willing to admit that the subject was one beset with great difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly made the most of those difficulties to which he had adverted; and had expatiated at some length upon the various modes by which those difficulties might be settled. Although the right hon. Gentleman had said truly no one of those plans was altogether free from difficulty, he (Mr. Hamilton) confessed he thought that the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman of remedying those difficulties, was the most objectionable that could, under the circumstances, be proposed. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman involved the abandonment of a most important principle. It was as impolitic as it was unjust, inasmuch as it involved the appropriation of the property of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman now proposed to subvert a principle which was recognised and confirmed by the Church Temporalities Act. The right hon. Gentleman adverted to the report of the Committee of 1847 which had sat upon this subject; but he omitted to in- 2422 form the House that that report was adopted by only a majority of one—that one being the casting voice of the late Mr. Sheil, who was the Chairman of the committee. The Report certainly recommended the abolition of ministers' money: but the right hon. gentleman also omitted to state that plans were proposed by the minority of that Committee which might have been satisfactorily carried out, and which were much more likely to settle the question than the Act of Sir John Young, or any measure of the character now proposed. Neither of those plans would have involved the abandonment of Church property. Now, all the difficulty might be remedied by amending the Act of Sir John Young. He wished to state the strong objections he entertained to the plan just shadowed out by the right hon. Gentleman. He objected to it because it gave to poisons, the owners of property in towns, an advantage to which they were not entitled. Those persons acquired their property subject to this charge of ministers' money; and the abolition of it now was contrary to every principle of justice or equity. The plan was nothing more or less than an appropriation of a certain amount of Church property. He also objected to the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, because it was subversive of the engagement entered into in the Church Temporalities Act. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a clause of that Act with the view of showing that curates were paid out of Church property; but he should recollect that that was a settlement of a question by compromise, that it was a concession upon all sides. If, then, a compromise were effected which involved the payment of curates out of Church property, he (Mr. Hamilton) submitted that that fact was rather an argument against the present proposition of the right hon. Gentleman than one in support of it. He, therefore, contended that the effect of such a measure as that enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman would be to disturb the settlement made by the Church Temporalities Act. It was part of the compromise or compact then entered into that ministers' money was to be retained. He therefore maintained that the proposed plan would not only give an unjust advantage to proprietors in certain towns, but it would also violate the compact made by the Church Temporalities Act. He did not wish to prolong this discussion, but only to enter his protest against the plan shadowed out by the right hon. Gentleman. It was quite idle to suppose 2423 that any results could follow from a question of this kind raised at such a period of the Session. He did not, therefore, mean to divide the House upon the matter; at the same time he was anxious to record his opinion of the plan by now moving that the Bill be read a second time that day three weeks.
seconded the Amendment. He wished also to supply an omission made by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to have read the Report of the Committee very carelessly indeed, or with an eye to one particular object. The right hon. Gentleman said that the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission were quite sufficient to pay the ministers' money. If the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had read that Report in an impartial spirit he would have found that the funds of that Commission were not sufficient to meet the objects for which they were intended. There was a good reason for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners keeping a balance in hand—namely, the necessity of being provided for constantly occurring contingencies. Did the right hon. Gentleman recollect that in 1839 a great storm occurred which unroofed many of the churches of the country, and if the Eccleciastical Commissioners had not had a balance in hand they would have been unable to provide for the temporary repair of those churches. The right hon. Gentleman would, on further inquiry, find that the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission were not sufficient for the purposes for which they were given.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three weeks."
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said he believed that the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman would be regarded as a message of peace when it reached Ireland. At the same time, the Government did not really deserve much credit for the decision at which they had arrived. They had not given way until they were fairly driven to the wall and obliged to surrender. The right hon. Gentleman had alleged many excuses for the course which the Government were about to adopt, although one was quite sufficient. The fact was they could not collect this obnoxious tax, because every corporation in Ireland was determined to exhaust every possible means of escaping its payment. Nevertheless, the Government had done the right thing 2424 and done it well, and with a good grace, instead of tinkering and peddling with the question. The hon. Member for Cork had imputed unworthy motives to some Irish Members with whom he (Mr. Maguire) was connected in respect of the vote they gave the other night against Her Majesty's Minister. Now, at the close of that Parliament he took the liberty to say that he and the friends with whom he acted had never given a factious vote, or been deterred from deciding according to the strict merits of every Motion, irrespective of its effect upon any political party. They had voted Lord Derby out of office and Lord Aberdeen into it in 1853. They had displaced the Aberdeen Cabinet on the Motion for an inquiry into the Crimean disasters; and he asked was that a factious vote? They had also voted Lord Palmerston into office, and would be ready to vote him out again tomorrow if they were convinced that he was in the wrong. They would degrade their high position and compromise their personal honour if they voted black white and white black at the beck of any party. He had voted the other night with the hon. Member for the West Riding and the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford for no other reason than that they could not conscientiously say that the conduct of our representatives in China was consistent with the greatness of this country or with the religion which it professed; and if it were his good fortune to return to that House after the dissolution he should be animated by the same principles and the same sense of duty. He and his friends were independent of party, and cared neither for office nor for the blandishments of those who enjoyed it. They were ready to support the Government when it was in the right, and to crush it when in the wrong, no matter what might be the consequence either to themselves or to others.
§ MR. BLACK
said that he had intended to move an Amendment to the effect that two towns in Scotland, Edinburgh and Montrose, ought to be relieved from a similar burthen—that of the annuity tax, but he believed that he should not be in form. It might seem presumptuous on his part to oppose the opinions of the two Members for the University of Dublin; but they were wrong in their political economy. The tax did not fall on the landlord, but on the tenant. If you put a tax of 5s. upon a hat, it was not to be supposed that the hatter would pay it. He would have to make the customer pay him the tax as 2425 well as the cost of production and the ordinary profit of the trade, otherwise it would not be worth while for him to go on making hats. In the same way, if you put a tax on a house, the tenant paid it, and he was sure that in Scotland the tenant felt it as a payment out of his own pocket, as much as if they had left a tooth at the dentist's.
§ SIR DENHAM NORREYS
thanked the hon. Member for his instructive essay on political economy, and suggested, as the foundation of a similar discourse, to be delivered in the new Parliament should the hon. Member be again returned, a passage in Hudibras, to the effect that the real value of anything was what it would fetch. In reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Maguire), he could only say that there were Members on this side of the House fully as independent as those on the same side with the hon. Member. He, like the hon. Gentleman, had voted against Lord Derby's Government and against Lord Aberdeen's Government, and he should be ready to vote against the present Government when it failed to bring forward such measures as he thought the interests of the country required. As regarded the proposal of the Government in respect of ministers' money, he contended that by acts of this kind more real good would be done for the Church than by maintaining in operation a tax most obnoxious to the religious feelings of a large body of the community.
§ MR. BEAMISH,
as a Protestant Member, thanked the Government most earnestly for the manner in which they had come forward that day to put an end to a tax, the operation of which was most injurious to the true interests of the Church. Many Protestant clergymen were most anxious that it should be done away with.
§ MR. COWAN
said nothing was more destructive to the peace of society, the estimation in which clergymen were held by their parishioners, and the spread of the Gospel itself, than the annuity tax had proved to be in Scotland. He admitted it to be strictly legal; but its existence was a perpetual source of irritation and vexation to the inhabitants of the two towns subjected to it, and many painful scenes had arisen from the enforcing it against persons who from conscientious motives refused, or from other causes were unable to pay it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It is most important as regards the despatch of busi- 2426 ness in this House that we should confine our discussions as much as possible to the immediate question before us. We are now discussing an Irish question, and, with all due deference to some hon. Members, we should not diverge from that to a Scotch question. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland has stated, Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accede to the measure of the hon. Member for Cork in respect to ministers' money in Ireland. Now, that question, in one respect at least, stands upon an entirely different ground to the annuity tax in Scotland. The ministers' money can be provided for out of the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission. That arrangement can make no difference in the existing state of things. The money has already been advanced by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and they find the greatest difficulty in recovering the amount from the towns that are liable to the impost. The annuity tax in Scotland is altogether differently situated. Now, all I wish to say is, I hope that my hon. Friends who represent that part of the United Kingdom will not consider that we have given any pledge in regard to that tax. It must be dealt with upon its own grounds and upon its own merits. The question of that tax is not at all involved in the decision upon this Irish question. I hope in the present stage of the Session it will not be considered necessary to discuss this question further.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
begged to inform the noble Lord that before the noble Lord's arrival in the House that day the Scotch Members were invited by hon. Members opposite to cooperate with the Irish Members in their efforts to get rid of this obnoxious tax. That was the reason which induced some of his hon. Friends near him to take part in the discussion. He hoped that the noble Lord, seeing the feeling that existed in respect to the injustice of such an impost, would be induced to turn his attention to the question of the annuity tax, which was extremely objectionable to the two towns of Scotland where it was collected.
§ MR. FAGAN
said he was sorry that any remarks of his should have been taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Maguire) as being intended to reflect 2427 on the honesty of his hon. Friend's motives for the political course which he had lately pursued. Certainly, when he had heard Lord Derby describe the Church to which he belonged as being "religiously corrupt and politically dangerous" it had annoyed him to think that hon. Members professing the same faith as himself should be giving a general support to that noble Lord's party. With regard to the course which the Government intended to take upon this Bill, he was convinced that it would be received as a message of peace in Ireland, and would give general satisfaction, not only to those who were affected by the tax, but throughout the country, because a great religious principle was involved in it.
§ MR. HENLEY
said he had not expected that there would be be any discussion on this Bill, and he thought his surprise at what had taken place would be shared by most Members. He could not exactly see the use of the statement which had been made by the Government, as far as the House was concerned. It might be very convenient for the Government to make such a statement on the eve of a dissolution, looking to the effect to be produced out of doors, but it was clear that the present Parliament could do nothing in the matter. It was a mere expression of an opinion to which no effect could be given.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said his right hon. Friend's statement had been made in fulfilment of a pledge given previously by him that he would explain what course the Government intended to pursue when the Bill came on for a second reading.
§ MR. HORSMAN
added that the correspondence which he had read contained a similar pledge on his part.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for this day three months.