§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR GEORGE LEWIS moved that this Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. SELWYN
said, that he could not but express his surprise that the House should be asked to give a second reading to a Bill of such importance, without one word in explanation being tendered by the right hon. Baronet, the Home Secretary, who had introduced the measure. The course which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman cast upon him the duty of explaining the provisions of the Bill as well as of stating the objections to it. The Bill was called "A Bill to amend the Acts relating to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Act concerning the Management of Episcopal and Capitular Estates in England;" and any hon. Member looking merely at that title could have very little idea of what the principle of the Bill was, what was its intention, or what its effect would be; but any one taking the trouble to examine the Bill, and having a sufficient practical knowledge of the subject, would discover that its real object was to vest in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners all the real estates both of the Bishops and the cathedral Chapters and to convert them into mere stipendiaries of the Commission. His objections to the Bill might be summed up in three words—centralization, compensation, and confiscation. By the second clause of the Bill the estates of the Bishops, and by the sixth clause the lands of all the cathedral churches, were absolutely vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. It was material to explain to the House the circumstances under which the Bill was brought before them. A meeting of deputies from the cathedral churches of the kingdom was held in December, 1858, in the Jerusalem Chapter Boom. Resolutions were drawn up by the deputies embodying their opinion of the changes necessary to the management of their estates and the application of any surplus. These resolutions were forwarded to the Home Secretary for the time being. Matters remained in that state until June 1859, when a deputation from the same body, consisting of the Dean of St. Paul's, Lord John Thynne, and 2088 a Canon of Ely, waited upon the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Estcourt), who was then Home Secretary. The deputation laid their recommendations before the right hon. Gentleman, and he suggested a course which would have prevented any hostile discussion. He said he would lay the proposals of the deputation before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and see what observations they had to make; and when the whole case was before him, having regard also to the interests of lessees and the local claims on the revenues of the Chapters, he would see whether a Bill could not be introduced that should do justice to all parties. Parliament, however, was dissolved, and the first vote of the new House of Commons displaced the Government of the Earl of Derby. The deputation of the cathedral churches assumed that the new Secretary of State (Sir G. C. Lewis) would be inclined to deal with the matter in the same spirit as his predecessor, and in an interview in February in the present year they submitted their proposals to the right hon. Gentleman. The answer they received was that the matter would be taken into consideration and that the deputation should hear from him. They had, however, heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman, and he had now introduced a Bill in diametrical opposition to their propositions, amounting, in fact, to a confiscation of their estates. It might be supposed that the proposals of the deputation were of so selfish a character that they deserved the reception they had met with, but of this the House should judge. Their first proposal, which they desired might be taken as the basis of future legislation, was that in no case and under no circumstances should the income of any dean or canon be capable of any increase. They proposed secondly that—as Parliament had thought fit to suspend some of the canonries in each cathedral and to give the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the right to receive an aliquot part of the income of the estates—a partition should take place, and that the Commissioners should take such portion of the estates as represented the proportion of the income to which the Commissioners were now entitled under the existing law. They proposed, in the third place, that in any arrangement provision should be made for spiritual destitution, both in the neighbourhood of the cathedral churches and of the estates from which their income was derived. The House would agree with him that these proposals 2089 contained nothing unreasonable, and were at least deserving of candid consideration. In the present state of the case the right hon. Gentleman ought to do one of two things—either to bring the question back again to the position in which it stood when the right hon. Member for Wiltshire was in office, or withdraw the Bill. If he would do neither he (Mr. Selwyn) must explain the objections he entertained to the Bill. These objections were, as he had stated, three, and were based on the grounds of centralization, compensation, and confiscation. With regard to centralization, vast estates would be vested in the Board of Commissioners in London. Now, the leading Members on both sides of the House had frequently vied with each other in denouncing the principle of centralization. The centralization usually objected to was that of powers such as those relating to highways and sewers, the objections to which were not nearly so forcible as those which applied to the centralization of landed estates situate in different parts of the kingdom. The destruction of local sympathies and interests arising out of the tie of landlord and tenant was involved in such a Bill. A Committee of the other House of Parliament, comprising Lord St. Leonards, Lord Brougham, the Duke of Buccleugh, Lord Lonsdale, and Lord Over-stone, had before them a few years ago a proposal to create a general trustee company to manage estates. That Committee thought it would be so detrimental to the public interests to allow large landed estates to become vested in one central body that they rejected the measure. The long association which had existed between the episcopal and capitular bodies, as landlords on the one hand and their tenants on the other, was to be broken by this Bill and the property was to be transferred to a central body in London. As a proof of the extent to which this disruption of local ties and local sympathies had already gone, he might refer to the Appendix to the last Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, for the year ending November 1, 1859, p. 114, in which it was stated that the estates already vested in the Commissioners "are very numerous and situated in nearly every county, which adds materially to the difficulty and expense of management." It was there also stated that the annual receipts of the estates vested in the Commissioners amounted to no less than £173,556. He asked the House whether it was advisable to extend this 2090 centralization, and to add to the duties of the Commissioners the management of all the estates of the Bishops and the cathedral churches? He contended that a Government board of officials was the worst body in which to lodge such a power. He would admit that the Government had been fortunate in the selection of Ecclesiastical Commissioners; they were gentlemen of the highest character, and who had taken a leading and honourable part in the debates of both Houses of Parliament. This eminence, however, carried with it a corresponding disadvantage, because the Commissioners had neither leisure nor opportunity to attend to the details of the management of their vast estates. The result had been, as was proved in evidence before the Committee of this House, that the management of the affairs of the Commission had fallen into the hands of subordinate officials, and that the Commission had simply walked in the path chalked out for them. He disclaimed attributing any blame to any single Member, but it was necessary to investigate the history of the Commission in order to see what the results had been of the centralizing system on which it was conducted. In 1848 a Committee of the House of Commons reported that several of the accounts, those of the architect, surveyor, solicitors, &c, were unsettled, and all the payments were made on account, and it appeared by a subsequent Report that there was brought back to credit on settlement of account with solicitors, architects and surveyors in one year, 1849, £36,192. An Act was therefore passed in 1850 by which the Commissioners were required to render annually to both Houses of the Legislature an abstract of their accounts, and it was further provided that the accounts should be audited by some one appointed by the Treasury. It appeared, however, from the reports of the Commissioners themselves, that from the passing of the Act to the present day no such audit had taken place. For some time the balance-sheet of the Commission was signed by Mr. Morgan, who, although in himself thoroughly competent for the task, was not an independent official appointed by another department, but the actuary of the Board. During the last three years, however, not even a pretence of audit had been made. To save appearances, therefore, a short time ago a Committee of the Treasury was appointed to investigate the accounts and proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commis- 2091 sioners. One could not, of course, expect to find any serious blame imputed to the Commission by a Committee so full of official sympathy and fellow-feeling; yet they were obliged, while asserting that considerable improvement had taken place in the manner of keeping the accounts, to admit that there had been no substantial audit at all. When examined before a Committee of the House of Lords in 1858, Mr. Chalk, the Secretary of the Commission, in reply to a question of Lord Ravens-worth, confessed that he did not understand their accounts, as they were intelligible only to a professional actuary, which he was not. Yet, obscure and complicated as was their system of accounts, it was proposed in the Bill to treat the Commissioners as model accountants, and that the authorities of cathedral churches should be bound to follow their method. The accounts of cathedral churches referred, of course, to the maintenance of the services and fabrics of the churches, the support of educational and charitable institutions, the augmentation of livings, and so on. By the 18th section of the Bill it was provided that the Estates Committee of the Commission should be entitled to require from every Chapter information in detail as to any of their accounts, and to object to any payment out of the income or funds of such Chapter; and if the Chapter did not withdraw the item objected to, the matter in dispute was to be referred to arbitration, for the expenses of which no provision was made. The Commissioners would thus practically be empowered to dictate to each cathedral church in what manner it should dispose of its funds. There could be no question that the management of estates scattered throughout the country by a central body, such as the Commission, was enormously expensive. In the Report of last year the expenses of management were divided into a great number of accounts and items. At page 83 appeared the following charges:—"Official establishment expenses, £10,776; legal expenses, £1,315; surveyor's and actuary's charges, £855; architect's charges, £414." At p. 85—"Legal expenses, £3,415; surveyors and other charges in respect of valuation, sale, &c, £2,981; architect, £77." At p. 86—"Legal expenses, £468; surveyor, £21; architect £1 1s." At p. 87—"Legal expenses, £6,629; surveyor, £6,205; architect, £88." At p. 91, under the head "Summary of rental accounts from receivers, &c," the 2092 charges of management, agency, &c, were set down as £10,335. The simple expenses of management—excluding, of course, rates, taxes, and tithe out charges—therefore amounted to no less than £43,583 15s. 8d., In striking contrast to the liberal disbursement for management was the amount of subscriptions and donations to church and school funds—£404 11s. 10d.p. 91. The House might also contrast the grants made by the Commissioners for the permanent augmentation of benefices which amounted to £52,600, while the annual payment in respect of new districts was £36,400, making together a sum of £89,000, or little more than double the sum that was spent in management. Excessive as was the present cost of conducting the affairs of the Commission, it would be considerably increased by the passing of this Bill, because additional duties would be thrown upon the officials, and their remuneration would, as was frankly admitted, have to be proportionably increased. The Committee of the Treasury, in their Report, p. 120, stated that the establishment which was required for the efficient working of the office was as follows:—Secretary, assistant-secretary, accountant, chief clerk of correspondence, registrar, book-keeper, two first-class clerks, 10 second-class clerks, 10 third-class clerks (senior division), 10 third-class clerks (junior division), and 8 supernumeraries—in all 46 persons. That was the staff which was indefinitely though very largely to be increased if the present measure passed. With respect to the management of property a curious incident was stated in the last Report, which strikingly illustrated the losses which were occasioned by the system of centralization. In 1848 the Commissioners purchased a house and piece of land at Stapleton, near Bristol, for £11,000, and had since expended on the same property £11,897, making a total outlay of £22,897. On the 25th of February last, however, an Order in Council was issued authorizing them to sell the property in question to the Merchant Venturers of Bristol for £12,000; so that, putting out of the question all expenses of management, there was a direct loss on the transaction of £10,897. How many grants to schools, poor livings, or new districts had thus been sacrificed! He did not attribute any blame to the Commissioners, but such incidents were inevitable as long as the management of estates was intrusted to a body which could not possess any local knowledge of 2093 them. He would now direct the attention of the House to the manner in which the estates already vested in the Commission had been acquired. The 36th Clause of the Bill was as follows:—And whereas by schemes prepared by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and orders issued by Her Majesty in Council ratifying the same, arrangements have been made for the transfer by certain bishops and other ecclesiastical corporations, aggregate and sole, of the whole or parts of the estates, stocks, moneys, and property belonging to their respective sees, dignities, or offices to the said Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in lieu of or by way of substitution for sums in gross or fixed annual sums paid or to be paid to or provided for such bishops and other corporations respectively, and considerable parts of the estates, stocks, moneys, and property so acquired by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have been sold, exchanged, and otherwise dealt with by them; and whereas doubts are entertained whether such arrangements were in all cases authorized by the Acts in pursuance whereof such schemes purport to have been prepared; all such arrangements as aforesaid shall be and be deemed to have been good, valid, and effectual, and any similar arrangement which may in like manner be hereafter made.It was superfluous to comment on such a clause as that. Had any private Member introduced a Bill drawn up in such a manner they might rely upon it that the Home Secretary would not have lost the opportunity of delivering his favourite denunciation of "ill-digested measures couched in unintelligible language." In the Acts of Parliament by which the Commission was constituted, and endowed with various powers, provision was made for the disposal of portions of property belonging to Chapters or Bishops, in case they found it convenient or necessary to take such a step for the purposes of those Acts. But, had it ever been intended that either Bishops or Chapters should have power to transfer bodily the whole of their property to the Commissioners, some trace of such an intention would be found in the legislation of the country. He maintained that no Act could be cited to justify such a transaction, and that without the sanction of Parliament it was altogether unlawful for any Corporation so to transfer its whole possessions. This did not rest on his own opinion merely, for on the 25th of July, 1857, a case was heard before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in which the legality of a transfer of all the estates of the See of London to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was questioned; and the decision, after a long argument between the hon. and learned Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Rolt) and Mr. Roun- 2094 dell Palmer, was that such a proceeding was completely ultra vires of the Bishop and the Commissioners. This Bill proposed to supersede that decision of the Committee of Privy Council, a tribunal which possessed the respect not merely of the legal profession but of the country generally, and to render all "similar arrangements good, valid, and effectual." He thought he had established his objection to the Bill on the ground of centralization. He had shown how the Commissioners had disobeyed the injunctions of Parliament, how they had neglected audit, how they had kept their accounts, how great their expenses were, how they had acquired and how they had dealt with their property, and how now they attempted to force a recognition and legalisation of their blunders upon Parliament. He then came to his second head—namely, compensation—and he thought he could show as egregious a failure under this head as in the case of centralization. His first objection to the Bill was that it proposed compensation in its worst and most mischievous form. At present the estates were generally managed by the chapter clerks, who possessed thorough local knowledge of all the details of the property under their charge. The Bill proposed that these gentlemen should be superseded, and that they should receive compensation for the loss of their situations. But from what fund was the compensation to be drawn? Was it not from the funds that were devoted to the diminution of spiritual destitution, the spread of religious education, and other charitable purposes? It was said, no doubt, in defence of the measure, that other estates would be given in return for those which were taken. But what earnest had they ever had that such a bargain would be carried out? In what case had restitution ever yet been made? He was justly alarmed:Quia me vestigia terrent,O mnia te adversum spectantia, nulla retrorsum.The management of the estates was to be transferred from the chapter clerks to the officials in Whitehall Place, and the former were to receive compensation. But if other estates were to be given in return for those which were taken, then the chapter clerks would be reinstated, and would have to make themselves acquainted with those other estates; and those who had managed them before would, in their turn, require compensation, so that there would he compensation twice over. His third objection 2095 to the measure was on the ground of confiscation. The 6th Clause provided—Whenever and so soon as the payments which the Commissioners may be liable to make, under the provisions of any order or orders of Her Majesty in Council, for regulating the income of any member or members of an ecclesiastical corporation aggregate, or for providing such compensation for diminution of income as is hereinafter mentioned, shall, either alone or in addition to the portions or shares of and in the divisible corporate revenues of such corporation to which the Commissioners are or may become entitled, pursuant to the provisions of any Act of Parliament or order in Council, amount or be equal to three-fourth parts of the divisible income of such corporation, all the lands, hereditaments, and emoluments of or belonging to such corporation (except all rights of patronage and presentation, the cathedral or collegiate church and the precincts thereof, and the residences of the deans and canons, minor canons, lay clerks, officers, and servants, and any lands or hereditaments used for the purposes of a college or school under the government of the chapter, or connected with the cathedral or collegiate church), shall become vested absolutely in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the purposes and subject to the provisions applicable to other hereditaments vested in the said Commissioners; and in the meantime, and until an endowment has been assigned to such Chapter in manner hereinafter directed, the Commissioners shall pay to such Chapter such annual or Other sums of money as may be necessary to defray the expenses connected with the cathedral establishment, as mentioned in the schedule hereto, and to provide the incomes of the deans and canons; and the income to be so provided for the holder of any deanery or canonry shall be that which the holder of such deanery or canonry would have received if this Act had not been passed, or such income shall have been fixed by order in council for members of such Chapter thereafter to be appointed, at the option of the holder of such canonry.When the Ecclesiastical Commissioners received three-fourths of the income the whole lands were to be vested absolutely in them; but how was any one to ascertain when that time had arrived? The House would see that this was not a matter of trifling importance, for the title to the Whole of the lands would depend upon Correctly ascertaining the proper time when the property was to be transferred from its present possessors to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Questions would arise as to the validity of every such transfer. In the simplest case, as if a tenant held over, the question in whom was the fee-simple vested must depend on the prior question, whether the time had arrived when the estates were vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and a court of justice, in order to arrive at a decision, must necessarily take all the 2096 accounts to ascertain precisely the whole divisible income of the Chapter, and what was the proportion to which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were entitled. It would be almost impossible to take such accounts, and he mentioned this as an instance to show the carelessness with which the Bill was framed, and the utterly impracticable character of its provisions. He did not flatter himself that with the best explanation which it was in his power to give he could make it intelligible to gentlemen who had not before studied and made themselves acquainted with the details; but a measure of this importance ought to be intelligible to every man, and every hon. Member ought to be able to see what were the main objects proposed, and the manner in which that which was proposed was to be carried into execution. It was almost if not entirely impossible to arrive at a clear understanding upon this part of the subject, and it would be equally difficult for a court of justice to determine the long series of questions to which the Bill, if it passed in its present shape, must give rise. He need scarcely add that every question would be litigated at the expense of funds which were already insufficient for the purposes to which they ought to be devoted. He begged the House to consider for a moment what were the estates which were thus proposed to be transferred, and for that purpose, to make it less complicated, he would take the instance of one cathedral church which was most intimately associated with the University which he had the honour to represent—the cathedral church of Ely. It formerly consisted of a dean and eight canons, but two of the canonries had been suspended; and, after providing for the maintenance of the church, for the performance of Divine service, for education, maintenance of poor people, and other charitable and religious objects, which were pointed out in the charter, the surplus income was divisible into certain proportions, viz., two-tenths to the dean, one-tenth to each of the six canons, and two-tenths to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in respect to the two suspended canonries. Two of the canonries were attached to professorships in the University of Cambridge, and these being the purposes to which the income was applied, he entreated the House not to be led away by any argument which supposed that there was any contention between the cathedral church on the one hand and parishes and new districts on the other. 2097 Parliament decided nearly twenty years ago what proportion of the funds of cathedral churches should be allotted to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and this Bill did not propose to deal with that matter at all. It was a Bill for the management of the estates, and not to suspend any more canonries. The House would therefore not be led away by any argument based upon assertions of the higher importance of providing for the cure of souls when compared with that of maintaining the present number of canons. He asked the House to consider what were the real purposes for which, by charter, these incomes were provided, and as an illustration he would read an extract from the charter of the cathedral church of Ely, although in the translation it was impossible to preserve the terse and vigorous diction of the original:—That Christ's Holy Gospel may be diligently preached, and the sacraments rightly administered by learned and grave men, who, after the example of the primitive Church, may assist the bishop as his presbytery in all weightier matters, that the youth of the realm may be trained up in sound learning, the old and infirm, especially old soldiers, may be suitably provided for, and that thence all other works of every kind of piety and charity may flow forth abundantly to all the neighbouring places to the glory of Almighty God, and the common advantage and happiness of the people.Cætera omnis generis pietatis officia in omnia vicina loca longe late que dimarent.He had heard with some astonishment that it was the intention of those hon. Members who advocated local claims to vote for the second reading of this Bill on the ground that it made provision for local claims; but he would ask the representatives of these "vicina loca" whether, if they drew a clause for themselves, they could put more strongly than in the charter he had referred to the right to have local claims attended to out of the revenues of the cathedral churches? If the present members of those bodies were unmindful of that right, the visitor had a control over them; and if the charter was found to be inapplicable to existing circumstances, power was reserved to the Crown in the charter of remodelling it, and all the rules under it, as the exigencies of the time might require. He asked, then, the advocates of local claims whether they were prepared to abandon the chartered right which they now possessed, with a power of appealing to the visitor and to the Crown, for the sake of a Bill which did not recognize their right at all, or at any rate only gave the Commissioners 2098 a permissive power to attend to local claims if they pleased. As to the chance of receiving any benefit under the permissive powers given by the Bill to the Commissioners, he would appeal to the evidence of Mr. Chalk before the House of Lords in 1858:—But do you not think it would be well that the Commissioners, when owners in possession of a manor or land which they hold merely as trustees for the especial benefit of the Church, might properly be bound to appropriate the proceeds of such property in sufficiently endowing the cure of the locality before they dispose of such means in other directions?—I think that any liability on the Commissioners as landlords should be placed on a footing precisely similar to that attaching to ordinary landlords; of its proper measure and degree I should think the noblemen or gentlemen who may be responsible for the administration of the affairs of such a Commission would form a better judgment, if unfettered, than any rule which it would be possible for the Legislature to enact, seeing indeed to what diverse circumstances such rule would have to be applied. But if you propose to make the requirement of a local appropriation of the proceeds of all property vested in them a primary function of the Board, it seems to me that you are going in direct opposition to the principle which originated, and which supports the institution of the common fund.One of the noble Lords, observing that Mr. Chalk was reading, and not speaking, the answer, said that probably the answer had been prepared with care, and was the result of much deliberation, and Mr. Chalk said that although not authorized by the Commissioners, the answer expressed their deliberate opinion, and that the Commissioners constantly acted upon that view. The advocates of local claims had then to choose between the right which they at present possessed, and the simple option of having those claims considered by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and he thought that upon reflection they would support the Motion for the rejection of the Bill. It might be said that the cathedral functionaries had been unmindful of their duties, and had not made sufficient provision for the increase of livings, from which they derived considerable emoluments in the shape of tithes; but his answer was that the blame should be cast on those in whom the right of patronage was vested. If patrons disposed of important offices for family or political reasons, the responsibility for the consequences must rest upon them, and not on those who had been improperly placed in them. He admitted that there had been times of apathy which all must lament, but the day of sinecures, pluralities, and 2099 non-residence had passed away, and they might just as well destroy the parochial system on account of such former abuses, as visit on the present Members of cathedral churches the faults of their predecessors. Let them be reformed if necessary, but let not their property be confiscated. That was so well expressed in a petition which he had had the honour to present from the cathedral church of Westminster that the House would pardon him for reading a short passage. That important body said:—These capitular institutions of the country require to receive progressive expansion and improvement, as is exemplified by the expenditure for the extra evening services in the Abbey and other legitimate demands which are continually increasing, and to fix a limit would not merely be to wrong those bodies, but the sacred interests which are dependent upon them.There was hardly a Chapter which had not similar claims upon them, and, according to this Bill, they were to be reduced to the position of stipendiaries, to have a fixed sum allotted, and to have nothing left out of which to meet these great and continually increasing demands. With respect to the prejudicial manner in which it would affect the members of cathedral churches themselves, as well as the sacred interests of which they were the guardians, the same petitioners said:—By the operation of this measure your petitioners will be reduced to the position of stipendiaries and a precedent be made which will weaken the foundations and peril the safety of all capitular institutions.He thought the House would be disposed to agree that unless there was something almost amounting to necessity it was not just to reduce these persons from their present position of independence as owners of landed estates to the position of stipendiaries. It was an essential part of the independence of the Church that they should be owners of these estates, and if it had ever been intended that they should be dependant on the Crown there would have been some trace to be found of that intention in the original foundation of these churches. But as the House was aware, the greater portion of the estates which belonged to cathedral churches were derived from Royal foundations and from the gifts of private individuals. The Sovereigns might easily have made the deans and canons mere stipendiaries, but, instead of granting them a varied or fixed stipend, they conferred upon them the estates of 2100 which they had ever since been the undoubted and lawful possessors. With respect to private individuals the case was much stronger, because they found the chapters, as corporations, already in possession of other estates, and in many instances, no doubt, not only regard to the corporation and the interests committed to its care, but to the estate itself, had actuated private individuals in making a devise or grant which increased the corporate property. Could it be doubted what any one of those individuals would have said if he had been told that the power of managing the property and the property also would be transferred from that body, of which he perhaps was a corporate member, to a Government Board in London, with no local sympathies and no local knowledge, and not bound to treat the tenants of the estate in the same manner in which for years, he might almost say for centuries, they had been treated? He thought that history taught them that the invasion of the rights of corporations was a sign of bad times present, and of worse evils to follow. It was true that the Emperor of the French had set an example in this respect, but they all knew with what indignation his project for taking the property of all charitable institutions into his hands and paying stipends in return was received, and how the terms "spoliation" and "confiscation" were applied to it. The proposal in this Bill was in substance and principle precisely the same. It might be said that it was very unreasonable to complain of the transfer of estates from those bodies to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners because the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were much better able to manage them, and would be sure to realize much larger incomes. But if it was to be put on that principle he wanted to know where they were to stop. Why should not they take away all the property of colleges and universities, and, as the Emperor of the French proposed, the property of all charities? Why should they not take away the real property of the parochial clergy? Some of the holders had their powers impaired by sickness, and, in the case of a corporation sole, there would be much more reason in the argument that a body in Whitehall Place would manage the property better than when it was applied to the wholesale transfer of the property of Corporations aggregate to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. And why should they stop within the pale of the Church 2101 itself? Why not extend the benefit of this principle to the Dissenting communities, many of which were become venerable by age and important from the vast-ness of their possessions? Of course such propositions could not be entertained for a moment, but if the principle were adopted they would be perfectly consistent, and the transfer of property in one case would be quite as justifiable as in the other. The Bill not only applied to the Chapters but to the office of visitor, and he asked upon what possible ground were the powers and authority of the visitor, which had been exercised for a great number of years, to be transferred, and whether it was consistent with the proper dignity and position of the Deans and Chapters that they should have to come like suitors to a Board in Whitehall Place, or some subordinate officials of that Board, instead of to the Bishop of the diocese or to the Crown, for the purpose of determining how the important trusts which were confided to them ought to be administered. With regard to the power of remodelling the charters it might be said that the Crown was not willing to exercise it against the will of the present holders of stalls; but the present holders of stalls were quite willing that the charters should be remodelled and be made applicable to the circumstances of the present time. The petition which had been presented to the Queen from the Cathedral Church of Ely fully dealt with this question:—The importance of the purposes to which so large a portion of the capitular revenues have been already diverted, and to which it is proposed to divert still more, is fully recognized, and your petitioners are firmly persuaded that those objects will be accomplished by the capitular bodies themselves, in conjunction with the Bishop and clergy of their respective dioceses. Your Majesty's Petitioners therefore humbly pray, First, That your Majesty may be graciously pleased to take the requisite measures for giving to the Cathedral Church of Ely a new code of statutes.Thus, they had these very bodies coming to the responsible advisors of the Crown, and saying they were willing that any necessary reform should be introduced, and praying that if their charter were not according to the spirit of the time, and did not allow them to provide for the spiritual destitution which unfortunately existed, it might be remodelled, and that in all things they would submit themselves to the pleasure and discretion of the Crown. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary ought to have vouchsafed some 2102 answer to this petition, and to have considered whether the statutes could not have been made suitable to the circumstances of the present time. The proposal had been laid before him and his predecessors, but had remained unnoticed, and this Bill was now introduced to transfer the whole property to the Commissioners. He trusted the House would not be led away by any erroneous supposition that there was anything in the views and wishes of the Chapters which was in the least degree antagonistic to the desire to make the fullest possible provision for the spiritual wants of the people. It was with that object that they had proposed that the Crown should exercise the power of re-modelling the statutes, and that the Ecclesiastial Commissioners should receive that fair share of the produce of the estates—one-fifth—to which, under the existing law they were entitled. If they found a rule of law, and a practice founded on it, which had existed for centuries without complaint and without any attempt at alteration, they might feel assured that the rule and practice were consistent with justice, with the Constitution, and with the best interests of the people. They found such a rule in the law of partition, which provided that where two persons or corporations had a right to undivided shares in the same estate, either one should have the power of saying, "This is an inconvenient mode of enjoying the property, and I shall insist on having it severed, so that the portion representing my interest may be allotted to mo, and the portion representing your interest may be allotted to you." Instead of all this cumbrous and expensive machinery of transferring and re-transferring estates, he proposed that that simple law should be applied to the present case. It was not a question whether more canonries should be suspended, or whether the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should receive a larger proportion. The amount had been fixed, and he proposed that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should keep their part and leave to the Chapters theirs, and that no question of account should be left open between them. The laborious process which was involved in the Bill would be avoided by adopting this simple and easy plan. But the proposition in the present measure was, because they were entitled to one-fifth of those estates the remaining four-fifths should be absolutely vested in the Commissioners also. Nothing could be more unjust or more mon- 2103 strous. With respect to the income of members of the Chapter, they were willing to consent to any measure, however stringent, which would prevent the possibility of any future increase, and they proposed that any additional income should be applied, in the first instance, in the manner in which the charter directed, under the supervision of the visitor and under the supreme control of the Crown. If any new administration was considered to be necessary they might avoid the evils of centralization and compensation by the creation of a local or diocesan Board, in whom local sympathies and local knowledge, so necessary to the existence of proper relations between landlord and tenant, would be preserved. It would be very easy to establish such a body if necessary, and it would be productive of less evil than vesting everything in the power of this all-devouring Commission. He wished to say one word with regard to the lessees, because he was told that the advocates of their interests considered that the Bill would be of advantage to them. The property which they were anxious to have protected was nothing more than this—that for a long series of years they had been tenderly and liberally dealt with by the ecclesiastical bodies, and the habit had grown up of not exacting from them by way of rent or fine the full value of the property they possessed. Something like tenant right had been created, which the Chapters had recognized; and it was the continued recognition of that right which the lessees desired to secure. There was no provision for the recognition either of local claims or of tenant right in the Bill. Only a voluntary power was given to the Commissioners, and if they did not exercise it the lessees would be exchanging their old landlords, whose liberality had given rise to the very claim they now urged, for the tender mercies of the Commissioners, without the slightest guarantee that their claim would be recognized. The Report itself declared the importance of maintaining that kindly sympathy between landlord and tenant which was of great consequence to their well-being, particularly in country districts, where the greater proportion of the estates of these cathedral Chapters were situated; and it was amusing to observe the manner in which it was attempted to be supplied. It would be found that they recommended that two or three of the paid Commissioners should from time to time visit all these estates. That proposal raised 2104 an agreeable picture of some noble Lord or right hon. Gentleman released from his duties in Whitehall Place or the Houses of Parliament, after going the round of his own estate, beginning to visit all these other estates scattered over every part of the country. No doubt such visits would be very agreeable to those who paid and to those who received them, and might, perhaps, relieve the lands from the pheasants, partridges, and hares with which they were encumbered; but it could scarcely be supposed that they were likely to supply that local sympathy, and if they liked, those local prejudices which the intimate relationship between landlord and tenant developed, and which the Report admitted it was so necessary to maintain. He ought to apologize for the great length of time he had occupied, but the necessity having been cast on him by the manner in which the Bill had been proposed of citing both sides of the case to the House, he had had to tell them both what the measure was, and also why it ought not to be passed into a law. He trusted he had succeeded in showing to the House that it was based on a principle which involved centralization and compensation in their worst form, and the confiscation, not merely of local interests, but of the interests of the members of these corporate bodies, sacrificing their dignity and position, and also the rights of the visitor, and the power of the Crown. Seasonable, fair, and just proposals had been made on the part of these bodies, and he would urge the House to assist him in placing matters on the same footing which they occupied when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt) was Secretary of State for the Home Department, and when it was promised that those proposals should be fairly considered, objections stated, and the interests of all parties duly preserved. For these reasons, if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary did not withdraw the Bill, he should feel compelled to persevere in the Amendment of which he had given notice—that the Bill be read a Second Time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ALDERMAN COPELAND
said, he should have great pleasure in seconding 2105 the Amendment. He had looked through the accounts of the Commissioners, and not being able to make anything of them he had put them in the hands of some persons in his employment conversant with accounts, and from their examination it appeared that, in the years from 1853 to 1859 inclusive, the surveyors' and architects' charge relating both to income and capital amounted to £58,883, the legal expenses relating both to capital and income for the same period amounted to £60,313. The expenses of the staff were £52,305, making a grand total of £171,503. In the same space £574,280 had been spent in the augmentation of livings, £36,051 in the augmentation of archdeaconries, and about £200,000 was also expended for the augmentation of Sees and Chapters, making-altogether £810,000, so that the working expenses amounted to 20 per cent of the amount actually dealt with by the Commissioners. This was a state of things which ought not to be permitted to continue, and he hoped, therefore, that the Government would withdraw the Bill and institute next Session a searching inquiry into the manner in which the Commission was carried on. A recent return showed a staff of fifty-seven clerks, who, without the paid Commission, cost £8,675 a year, with nine clerks not salaried as per return from the Commissioners dated July 27, 1859. It was impossible that any Government could long support the Commission upon its present extravagant scale.
§ MR. FREELAND
Sir, however much we may differ as to the merits of the Bill before us, or in the objects which we may have in view, we shall all, I think, agree in the extreme importance of arriving, as speedily as possible, at some definite and practical result with respect to the vexed question which this Bill involves. I earnestly entreat the House to consider well the present position of this question, and the mode in which it has been dealt with. So far back as 1839 a Select Committee of this House urged on Parliament the extreme importance of an early settlement.They cannot," say the Committee, "close their Report without recommending that the Legislature will direct its attention as soon as possible to the settlement of this important question; as at present, since the publication of the First Report of the Church Commissioners, and the discussion of the subject in Parliament, such is the state of uncertainty among the Church lessees that they find considerable difficulty in selling or borrowing money on their property, and all improvement is suspended to the injury of both essers and lessees.2106 Since the year 1836 we have had, I am afraid to say, how many Ecclesiastical Commission Acts and Ecclesiastical Commission Bills. This Bill itself, since 1857, with various Amendments and modifications, has been brought annually under the notice of the House; and yet, Sir, with regard to those vexed questions which it involves, with regard to those great interests of property which have been disturbed by piecemeal, and incomplete enactments, Parliament has still to legislate. If this Bill pass, as, perhaps, it is best that it should pass, with modifications and Amendments, it will be only a step in a certain direction and not a settlement. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University has argued this question chiefly as one between the Chapters and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Well, that shows the expediency of a division of the subject which I took the liberty of suggesting last year to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department. There should have been at least two Bills, if not more: an Episcopal and Capitular Estates Bill and a Lessees Clauses Bill. My hon. and learned Friend has ranged his objections to the Bill under three heads:—Centralization, compensation, and confiscation. Through his arguments on the two latter heads, I will not follow him; but, on the subject of centralization, he has appealed especially to Members on this side of the House, and, therefore, I feel called upon to say a few words respecting it. To centralization, I object, on general principles, as much as any one. Yet, if it be necessary, in order to carry out a system of general enfranchisement, and in order that the interests of the lessees may be dealt with on one uniform plan, to have Church property placed in the hands of a central Board—to that sort of intermediate centralization I have no objection. My hon. and learned Friend has said a great deal about the Chapters, and about the wrongs done to them and their property. I shall leave the care of them in his hands. I feel bound to say, however, that in many of their proceedings, in connection with this subject, with which I have become acquainted, they have looked very much to their own interests and very little to those of the lessees. My hon. and learned Friend has spoken at length on the keeping of accounts and the management of property by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Surely, these are matters which may 2107 very well be dealt with by a separate Bill. The greater the amount of property which you place in their hands, the more important will it become that Parliament should see that the accounts are duly kept, and that the property is well looked after. I shall now, if the House will permit me, offer a few observations on this question, as it affects the interests of the lessees. I owe my seat in this House to my connection with this question, more than to any other cause, and I am anxious, as far as I can, to contribute to a settlement of it. It is, I think, a great misfortune that the course pursued in Ireland with reference to Church leasehold estates was not from the first pursued here. In Ireland questions similar to those raised by this Bill were raised and dealt with satisfactorily by a single measure. And why? Because Parliament passed a measure for the compulsory enfranchisement of Church lease-hold estates in Ireland. I am anxious to allude particularly to the Irish Act, because I think that it might be followed, not to the letter, but in its general spirit, with great advantage as regards this oountry. The Irish Church Temporalities Act was passed in 1833. That Act distinctly gave to Irish church lessees a statutory right to call for enfranchisement in every instance. It recognized and even put a money value on the lessee's benefit of renewal. Lord Derby, then Mr. Stanley, said, in words which contained the pith and marrow of the question, that as the motives which had influenced the Bishop could not exist in an undying Board there was a necessity to give an entire security to the holders of Bishops' leases by enabling them to purchase them in perpetuity. As long as the Government stop short of that which Lord Derby recommended in the case of Ireland, as long as they stop short of compulsory enfranchisement, their Bills will operate unequally where claims are equal, and they will, therefore, be to that extent unjust. If the House will favour me with its attention for a few moments I will endeavour to make my meaning clear. The claims of the lessees arise from that practice of renewal which has continued for more than two centuries. These claims have been recognized by Acts of Parliament and by the Reports of Committees of the Houses of Lords and Commons. I am anxious to read an extract from the Report of a Committee of the House of Lords, no farther back than 1851, because it states clearly 2108 and with the weight of an authority that would not belong to words of mine, the position and claims of Church lessees:It cannot be denied," say the Committee, "that the lessees, with comparatively few exceptions, have had de facto, for more than two centuries the advantage of renewals on favourable terms, which, although differing in different dioceses, and gradually increased at different times in different dioceses, have been for considerable periods of time uniform in the same diocese, and the long continuance of this practice, rendered almost inevitable by the temporary nature of the lessor's interest already alluded to, has created in the lessees an expectation of renewal sufficiently definite to be treated as between third parties as approaching to a certainty. Leases of this description in consequence of this expectation of renewal have in various parts of the country sold at a considerably higher value, as compared with the fee, than would have been the case had not such expectation existed, and have also become the subject not only of mortgage, but of settlement and devise, with limitations to children and their posterity, indicating a strong impression of the certainty of their continuance, and under the like impression permanent improvements have been made by the lessees on this description of property. … In defining the terms of enfranchisement and surrender, it is advisable, and it would be in accordance with the usual course of legislation, that any injury sustained by either party through the alteration of their relative position by legislative interference be considered and compensated.Such then is the position of the lessees, their claims having all the same origin are all similar or equal. But, according to the present system, one lessee applies to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for enfranchisement, and he gets it with a beneficial allowance in the nature of a compensation. Another with the same claims applies to them and meets with a refusal. His lease is run out and the property is taken away from him. The same thing happens with respect to Bishops and Chapters. One Bishop enfranchises; another, the Bishop of St. Asaph, I am told, refuses enfranchisements. One Chapter enfranchises—I see from a Return moved for by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields—that the Chapter of Durham enfranchises to a great extent. Another Chapter, that of Lincoln, I am told, refuses all enfranchisements; and why? because they do not like the manner in which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would deal with any money which might be paid for such enfranchisements. That, however, is purely a matter between them and the Commissioners, and is not a reason why they should punish the lessees. Unless, therefore, you pass a compulsory Act, lessees whose claims are equal will meet with 2109 unequal treatment and possibly with gross injustice. No doubt, in order to do justice to the property of the Church, it might be necessary to make the claims of the lessees, in certain cases, the subject of special reference and arbitration. That, however, is a difficulty that might easily be dealt with, and is not an answer to the arguments in favour of compulsory enfranchisement. If the House will allow me I will say what I think would be a fair settlement. I would make it compulsory on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and on Ecclesiastical Corporations sole and aggregate, in contemplation of a change, substituting rack rentals for beneficial leases, subject to fines and reserved rents, to offer to Church lessees the option of three things conjointly:—1, To buy the reversions on arbitration; or 2. To sell their present intererests to the reversioners on arbitration; or 3. To hold ther present leases until they are run out. The reversioners should, in the latter event, be empowered to sell the reversions either now or at a future day to strangers. That I venture to think would be an equitable settlement. However, as some difference of opinion prevails on the question of compulsory enfranchisement, it may be better that it should be raised and dealt with by a separate Bill. Before I state my next objections, I must express a hope that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department will make certain concessions in Committee. If I did not believe that he would do so, I should not vote for the second reading of the Bill. My next objection refers not so much to the proposed new system of letting Church leasehold properties after their re-transfer as permanent estates to ecclesiastical corporations sole or aggregate, as to the political consequences that may flow from such new system. According to the old system of leasing Church property, the lessees were virtually the owners, subject to renewal, fines, and reserved rents. They were at all events politically independent. But according to the new system it is proposed that these properties shall be let on lease at rack rent, or from year to year. That may be a good system in a mere proprietary point of view, but in a political point of view what will be the consequences? A portion of this property is situated in or near cathedral towns which are also Parliamentary boroughs. If these properties are be to let by Bishops, and Deans, and Chapters, from year to year—if the land is 2110 to be subdivided and let as accommodation land in the immediate neighbourhood of these cathedral towns, they will some of them become, I had almost said, the mere nomination boroughs of the clergy. ["Oh! oh!" from two or three Members of the Opposition.] Well, perhaps in a literal sense the expression may be too strong. I only mean it to be applied in a figurative sense, and not offensively or unkindly. I represent a cathedral town, and see clearly how these arrangements might operate. At all events, they would give to the clergy an amount of political influence which they do not now possess. I entreat the House, and hon. Gentlemen opposite as friends of the Church, not to allow Church property to become the object of political jealousy. Then, again, if you take from Ecclesiastical Corporations their present, and give them new permanent estates, why should these be in the neighbourhood of towns where they stop all building operations? My next objection is to that part of the Bill which inflicts on a certain class of leaseholders a statutory determination of their tenure in 1884, except in cases in which the Commissioners may consent to enfranchisements. If it be the object of this Bill, which is chiefly an enabling Bill, to facilitate enfranchisements, it seems a strange thing to say to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, "If you choose to enfranchise property before 1884, you must do so on certain conditions favourable to the lessees; but if you do not enfranchise it before 1884, after that you shall have the property discharged from those conditions." That objection, however, and the objection arising from the non-admission of leaseholders for lives to benefits corresponding to those conferred in certain cases on leaseholders for years, we shall, I hope, see removed in Committee. The last objection, which I shall notice now, arises from the omission of an arbitration clause as applicable to enfranchisements of building ground and house property. A Select Committee of this House, in 1856, recommended the insertion of the clause in question. Mr. Smith, the able surveyor to the Commissioners, calculates that this clause involves a sum of £800,000, that being the amount which represents the difference between his mode of valuing the reversions of Church house property and that contended for by the lessees. No wonder he does not like arbitration! It is, however, a monstrous thing that the opinion of one surveyor to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners 2111 should induce the Commissioners and Government in this Bill to set aside the recommendation of one of the ablest Committees that this House, I believe, has ever nominated. That Committee produced three blue-books, or, at all events, three Reports. It comprised the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, my right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Shields. Not only did they recommend the adoption of this clause, but it was inserted in 1857 in the Bill which bore on the back of it the name of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. I shall certainly move its re-insertion in Committee, and I hope that in so doing I shall have the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, whom I see opposite. I have alluded to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but I hope that through one channel or another my words may reach him. I am anxious to make an earnest appeal to him. It is, that he will bestow a fraction of his time—which no man is better able when he pleases to make conducive to important practical ends—on a consideration of the question of compulsory Church leasehold enfranchisement. Sure I am that by a measure such as that which I have ventured to point out he would relieve lessees from the uncertainties of a capricious system; that he would give to the cause of agricultural development, and to those building operations which feed the sons of toil, an impetus of which he little dreams. In those wretched dwellings of the labouring poor, which are an eyesore and a disgrace to many of our cathedral towns, and in which the tenure is a barrier to all improvement, he would cause the light and blessings of reproductive labour in a wise philanthropy to shine. As regards the mode of dealing with the Church and its lessees I shall conclude by quoting the words of a witty and thoughtful divine:—To create a general impression of justice, if it be not what common honesty requires from any Ministry, is what common sense points out to them—it is strength and duration—it is the only power which is worth having. In the struggle of parties it gives victory, and is remembered, and goes down to other times.2112 As to the present Bill it is, perhaps, difficult to say what is best to be done; but believing that the necessary Amendments may be made in Committee, I do not consider it right to oppose its being read a second time.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge at the outset of the copious exposition of his objections to this Bill passed some censure on me for not having offered any observations in explanation of the Bill when I moved the second reading. Hon. Gentlemen will agree, I think, that it is a venial sin in any Member of this House to abstain from addressing any detailed observations to it, but in this case I might defend myself by saying that, inasmuch as I saw the hon. and learned Gentleman had given notice of an Amendment, I thought it very probable that I might be called on to say something in reply to his Amendment, and I was unwilling, therefore, to take up the time of the House by speaking twice. That is not the only reason why I did not trouble the House at the beginning of the debate. This Bill originated in a Committee of this House, of which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) was the Chairman—a Committee which was appointed in consequence of a pressure on the House in a sense quite different from that which seems to animate them at present—namely, a jealousy of the facilities afforded under the existing law with regard to the enlargement of the revenues of Church dignitaries. That Committee investigated the subject very carefully and made certain recommendations, upon which a Bill was framed. It was introduced into this House the following Session; it passed through this House, but at so late a period that it was impossible to obtain the assent of the other House to it. In the following Session a Bill, identical in substance, was introduced into the other House. It was there referred to a Select Committee, which examined into it fully; and it then passed the House of Lords and came down here, but again at too late a period to become law. That is the history of this Bill. It is substantially the same as the two previous Bills, and being aware that it had received the assent of both Houses, and had passed through Select Committees of both Houses, I assumed that its provisions were known to hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in the subject, and that it was unnecessary for me to enter into any de- 2113 tailed explanation of it. It appears to me, moreover, that if the House is prepared to proceed in the way of the policy which has already been adopted, and is in operation in reference to these matters, this is not a Bill for a rambling debate on the second reading; but a Bill to be debated in Committee. Those who were Members of this House some years ago will remember that we were in the habit of hearing long speeches from the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) as to the abuse of the power of the Bishops in regard to the property of their Sees, He met with a good deal of support on both sides of the House; other Gentlemen took the same views, and the fooling of Parliament was distinctly in favour of the system which the hon. and learned Gentleman calls a system of confiscation and centralization—the system of vesting Church lands in the hands of Commissioners, and of making the Bishops and high dignitaries of the Church stipendiaries on the fund to be secured by the management of that Commission. Such was the policy in which the present system of legislation originated, and such was the policy on which it has been maintained up to the present time. It is very well to call it confiscation, centralization, or any other odious name; but it was the deliberate policy of Parliament at that time that there should be a limit placed to the incomes of the high dignitaries of the Church, that they should not go on increasing with the increased value of Church lands, that power should be given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners both with respect to Bishops and Deans and Chapters to enter into voluntary agreements with those persons and bodies to receive from them the transfer of their lands. That transfer has been voluntarily made in the case of a number of Sees and of a number of Deans and Chapters, and it is the legitimate consequence of the policy of the existing law. There is no doubt that this Bill proposes to carry that policy still further. It is a policy which has been recognized by existing Acts, though of course it is competent for the House to stop in that course, and say we will not make any further advance in that direction. I have thought it my duty to bring this Bill before the House, though it is not my Bill, be it observed, but the Bill of the Committees of this House and the other House of Parliament, and it is a Bill which has been passed by both Houses. It is a fair subject for consideration, whether you 2114 should advance further in that direction; in my own opinion it is desirable to make that advance; and I believe that was the general feeling of the House some years ago. It is possible that that feeling may have undergone a change, and that the House may wish to arrest or even to retrace its course in the policy which it has hitherto pursued. It is a question of general policy; it is not for the Government to decide upon it, it is a question for the decision of Parliament. When the hon. and learned Member talks about confiscation and taking property away from the Chapters to place it in the hands of the Commission, no doubt in a certain sense he correctly represented part of the Bill; but he entirely omitted to call the attention of the House to another part, which provides that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners shall restore those lands to the Deans and Chapters when the proper time arrives. Although, therefore, it may be confiscation in the first instance, yet, nevertheless, it is distinctly provided by the 8th clause that land producing an income equal in value to that which the Chapter are entitled to receive shall be restored to them as soon as it is convenient. Therefore I think it, would but have been fair of the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he heaped so many sins on the head of this Bill, to mention this clause.
§ MR. SELWYN
I did call attention to it, and I said the provision never had been carried out, and I did not think it ever would be.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
I did not hear that part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, and beg his pardon for misrepresenting him; but I cannot understand how it can be argued against a clause that it will never be carried into operation. It is a mere supposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and is distinctly opposed to the system on which the Bill is founded, which never contemplated the permanent retention of the lauds by the Commission. If it can be shown that the Commissioners have not fulfilled their trust, that is a fail-objection to the Bill; but it is not correct to say that the Bill proposes permanently to confiscate the landed property of the Church. Most of the other objections which have been raised against the Bill are such as may be most conveniently discussed in Committee. The hon. Gentleman referred to the clause which gives compensation to the chapter clerks. Hitherto it has been the practice where voluntary 2115 transfers have been made to give compensation to the chapter clerks, who did not receive salaries, but were paid by fees upon leases, and, of course, they lose their fees when the Ecclesiastical Commission takes possession of the estates. This clause is put in in the interest of the chapter clerks, to make the compensation compulsory, which has always been usual. It is a matter in which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are not interested at all. With regard to the 36th clause, I understand that has been put in in deference to the scruples of some persons, who have raised doubts as to the validity of the titles acquired under certain arrangements which have been made. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners do not share in those doubts, and were not at all anxious to have it inserted in the Bill, and if it is thought desirable I shall be quite ready to omit it in Committee. As I have said before, this Bill has already received the assent of each House of Parliament, it has passed through Committees of each House, and it is a continuation of former legislation on the subject; but if the House is of opinion that the system should remain where it is, and that this additional legislation should not take place, let it pronounce its opinion accordingly. I am quite prepared to acquiesce in whatever opinion it may pronounce, but I shall certainly move the second reading, believing it to be founded on correct policy, and to be carrying out that policy judiciously and safely. The staple of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was occupied not in objections to the second reading of the Bill, but by an attack on the Ecclesiastical Commission, on the policy on which it is founded, and on its proceedings under its existing constitution. I can only say if the hon. and learned Gentleman's views are to prevail, if it is thought that to make Bishops and Deans and Chapters stipendiaries of a fund derived from Church property is inconsistent with the character of the Established Church, the proper course for the hon. and learned Member to pursue is to bring in a Bill to repeal the Acts under which the Ecclesiastical Commission is constituted, to dissolve the Commission, to restore the estates to the Bishops and the Chapters, and to unweave the web which has been woven so carefully by Parliament for so long a series of years. It is only prejudicing the debate upon this Bill to divert the attention of the House from the real merits of the case, and to make the discussion of the Bill, which is 2116 nothing more than a collection of provisions carrying out the spirit of former legislation, the occasion of an attack on the policy of the Ecclesiastical Commission. The hon. and learned Member complained of the manner in which the accounts of the Commissioners are kept, and he thinks they ought to be presented in a form which everybody could understand in a moment. That is a dictum which I have often heard delivered in this House, not merely with regard to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' accounts, but in regard to the accounts of the public revenue generally. We know how many attempts have been made to simplify them, and we know, too, that notwithstanding the efforts of a succession of Chancellors of the Exchequer it has been found extremely difficult to present anything so complicated as the accounts of the public revenue in a form which "any one could understand in a moment" to use the hon. Gentleman's words. With respect to the accounts of the Ecclesiastical Commission my information leads me to say that they are at present in a very perfect state, and that they are kept in such a form that any person conversant with accounts, and capable of going through a long series of accounts referring to a vast quantity of property and complicated operations connected with that property, would be able to follow without difficulty any operation which he desired to trace, and would be able to check all the accounts relating to it. It is nevertheless true, that it does require some special knowledge in order to go through complicated accounts of this sort; but I maintain—and I believe it will be found, on investigation—that the accounts of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are kept in a most satisfactory manner, and that, if it were desired to submit them to any competent accountant, or to any person capable of investigating such statements of figures, they would be found to convey all the information which accounts ought to supply. As for presenting them in a popular form, in such a form as would enable any hon. Member to understand them by a few moments' casual attention, that I believe will be found an insoluble problem. I have now stated the grounds on which I think the House ought to read this Bill a second time and to allow the clauses to be considered in Committee. The House will collect from my statement that I am perfectly ready to listen to any objections that may be made or to any proposals which may be brought forward for 2117 the improvement of this Bill. I am quite ready to give my best assistance for the improvement of the present system under which the Ecclesiastical Commission is managed; but if the House now takes a different view, if they think that the Commission is founded on an erroneous principle, if they wish to follow what must call a retrograde course, and to facilitate the restoration of the former system under which all lands were in the personal management of Bishops and Deans and Chapters, with unlimited incomes, then let them refuse to consider this Bill. Let them begin by throwing out this Bill, and we cannot expect then that matters will stop there—we cannot expect that a merely stationary policy will be adopted; we must look for the introduction of a retrograde measure which will repeal the essential parts of that system which a few years ago both Houses of Parliament were all but unanimous in considering a great improvement on previous legislation.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman had made a very inadequate defence of his silence on moving the second reading of the Bill. He need not have been disquieted by the expectation of having to reply to the Amendment, and therefore being obliged to speak twice, for the Ecclesiastical Commission had another representative in the House in the person of the hon. Member for West Kent (Mr. Deedes), who would have explained the grounds on which the Commissioners supported this Bill. He therefore thought the Government were bound, in the first instance, to state to the House the grounds on which they brought forward this measure. Although he had his attention for some years directed to the consideration of the question, and although he was one of the Committee which sat in 1856, yet he confessed that the shape in which the present Bill came before them was so complicated, that he found it difficult to determine what course of action he ought to pursue in regard to it. He should certainly feel it to be his duty to endeavour to have considerable Amendments made in Committee, but he did not think he could take upon himself the responsibility of saying "no" to the second reading, and thereby stopping all further legislation for the present Session on this subject, after so many Committees, and so many attempts at dealing with matters on which legislation was urgently required. As to the accounts of the Ecclesiastical Commis- 2118 sioners, it was true the right hon. Gentleman talked about the impossibility of the accounts being presented in such a form that hon. Members would understand them with a few moments' casual attention; but that was not what was asked for; all that was wanted was that they should be intelligible. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Copeland), was not unused to accounts, and yet he could make nothing of them, and the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge, with all his acuteness, could not understand them. Nay, even Mr. Chalk, the Secretary to the Commission, in his evidence before the Select Committee, confessed that he could not understand them himself. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge had much understated his case against the Commissioners, for in his calculations he had omitted a large sum which had been spent by them in farm buildings, improvements, and drainage. At first sight it might seem as though this expenditure was for the good of the estates, but the question was one which bore very forcibly on the system of management pursued by the Commissioners. Evidence had been brought under the notice of the Committee of 1856 to show that the expenditure by the Commissioners was not satisfactory. One witness sent by the Commissioners themselves proved an expenditure on one farm of £1,600, where an expenditure of £638 would have been sufficient to put everything in a proper state of repair. In another case there was an expenditure of £6,000 or £7,000 on farm buildings and improvements. The people in "Whitehall Place were responsible for this, and he was not for giving them further power. In seven years their office expenses had increased from £4,000 to £14,000 a year. In 1853 these expenses were £4,175; in 1854 and 1855 about the same; in 1856, £5,745; in 1857, £7,592; in 1858, £8,575; in 1859, £10,766; and he found that in 1860 the Treasury sanctioned a scale of expenditure to the amount of £14,060. While agreeing with his hon. and learned Friend that there were some very objectionable clauses in the Bill, there were others which he could not consent to negative. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had observed that the Bill was substantially the same as that which came down from the Lords in 1858; but he (Mr. Mowbray) must observe that in some of its clauses it differed from that Bill very 2119 materially. Some of its clauses went to increase the powers of the Whitehall Place gentlemen; and in one of them there was this statement—that "due provision may, if the Commissioners think fit, be made for the spiritual wants" of the localities where their property was situated. Now, one great complaint which was urged against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was, that they swept large sums of money into the Common Fund and dealt with them without any reference to the quarter from which they were derived. He, for one, had no desire to be left in the matter to the tender mercies of Whitehall Place, and instead of providing that due consideration "may," if the Commissioners thought fit, be given to the wants of the locality whence the tithes proceeded, he should wish the provision to that effect to assume an obligatory character. His hon. and learned Friend had observed that he was unwilling to surrender the rights which he and those who agreed with him now enjoyed; but what rights did they really enjoy, or could they enjoy, while such a system as that which prevailed in Whitehall Place continued? As a further illustration of the expenditure of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, he would observe that during the eleven years, from 1847 to 1858 they had received a sum of £421,110 from the diocese of Durham. During the same period they expended a sum of £75,000; in addition to which they had made certain compulsory payments to the amount of £21,583, so that the excess of their receipts over the expenditure from the diocese for that period of eleven years was no less than £324,516. At the present moment the episcopal property of the diocese yielded about £20,000 a year, the capitular £35,000—making a total of £55,000 per annum, exclusive of the £324,516 to which he had already referred as the excess of income over expenditure for the eleven years ending in 1858, and the funds so acquired they claimed the right under the existing law to appropriate to the spiritual wants of any portion of the kingdom. It might have been contended that the diocese of Durham was very rich and possessed adequate funds to meet its own necessities. Now, that was a point to which he was anxious for a moment to advert. There was, he found, only one county in England and Wales—Glamorgan—in which the increase of population had of late years been as great as in Durham, and a Committee of the other House of 2120 Parliament had reported that no counties in the kingdom were so badly provided with church accommodation as both Durham and Northumberland. The hon. and learned Member the University has also alluded to the liberality of the Commissioners. Now, their rental was, he believed, £218,000, and his hon. and learned Friend admitted it to be £173,000. He found on inquiry that they had contributed to church and school funds the munificent sum of £404, or about a halfpenny in the pound on their rental. What had they done in the formation of new church districts? The population of Newcastle, South Shields, Tynemouth, Sunderland, and Gateshead, amounted altogether to 264,000 souls, and yet they had created only eight now districts there, and but one district existed for every 11,200 of the population, instead of one for every 5,000, which was the rate in the large towns of Lancashire. He thought, then, it was time for Parliament to interfere, and place some check on their caprice. Now, as he found this Bill did so to some extent, he was prepared to give it his support. On the question of lessees there was as much need for legislation as on any other point. There had been Committees of both Houses on this matter—there had been communications from lessees in all parts of the kingdom. He believed that the proposition of the Bill in this respect was just and equitable; it embraced the Resolution of a Committee which was adopted after much discussion and by mutual consent in the Committee of 1856, and on this ground also he would support the Bill. The conclusion to which he came was this—that the Government had mixed up too many questions in the Bill and had got into difficulty against which it had been especially warned. He regretted that dealings with Deans and Chapters, the expensive management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the questions connected with leases, had all been included in one Bill. It was very probable the whole Bill would be wrecked by the opposition raised to some parts of it. He hoped, therefore, that even now the Home Secretary would withdraw the Bill and recast it, dividing its provisions into three separate measures. The questions were very important, and legislation on them was imperatively demanded; but if the Government wished to have the credit of passing any measure this Session it must recast the present Bill.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, he entertained grave doubts whether a Bill so complicated as the present could pass in the present Session. Yet he should be sorry by any vote of his to throw obstacles in its way. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary told them that he was not the absolute parent of this Bill, that it embodied the Resolutions of two Committees; but notwithstanding this he doubted whether he had acted wisely in embracing so many points in one Bill. It was a serious question whether the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had used the power now in their hands so wisely as to justify an extension of it. He could confirm the statements made by the right hon. Member for Durham, that there were great complaints in that diocese of the utter indifference shown by these Commissioners to the claims of those districts whence the greater portion of their revenues was derived. At present only a small portion of the large revenue derived from that county was given to the relief of districts there. It was true that some constraint was put upon the Commissioners by this Bill, but lie feared it was so vague and undecided that in practice it would be found of little use. The Bill only gave the Commissioners a permissive power in respect of those claims, and hitherto such permissive powers had been but little regarded. He was grateful, however, for the recognition of the rights of localities made by this Bill as far as it went, and would therefore support the second reading. He also thought that the provisions in the Bill with respect to lessees possessed a certain value, though something more decided still was required. As it stood the Bill would place the lessees in a different position from that they had held for two centuries; and was prejudicial to interests that had been long recognized by the country and the Legislature. Then it was proposed to give compensation to certain officers. He should like to have some distinct statement of what that compensation was to be; he looked with great distrust on the subject of compensations. The case of the proctors and the immense compensations given to them must be in the recollection of the House. Before it assented to that proposal the House ought to know what was the amount of the compensation, or claims of an exaggerated character would be made, and then it would be too late to refuse them. He was the more in favour of being specific 2122 in the provisions of the Bill, because he had not such confidence in the Commissioners as to leave much to their discretion. He thought there was much that was censurable in their conduct; the expenses of their staff were out of all proportion to their services, and there was much in their conduct that required explanation. On the whole, as some legislation was necessary, he would support the second reading though he was far from giving his support to all its clauses. If time had permitted, he would have recommended that the Bill should be divided into distinct portions.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the great peculiarity of the debate had been that the objections to the Bill on principle had been urged with singular clearness, while all who supported the second reading did so with the hope that the measure would be cut to pieces in Committee. That was not a satisfactory mode of dealing with any Bill, but especially so with a measure that involved some of the deepest problems with respect to Church property. The noble Lord (Lord Harry Vane) rather undervalued the measure. He himself should be prepared to vote against it, even on the grounds urged in its support; but still more on the general principles it involved. The main principle of the Bill was, that the powers of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were not sufficient and ought to be greatly increased; and not only that, but that the Commission itself should be rendered perpetual and immortal, and ultimately have the whole management of the Church property of the country, which would be vested in the all but irresponsible Commission sitting in London. This was the principle of the Bill, and this would be its ultimate result. He thought that a Government Bill, only read for a second time on a Wednesday in the beginning of June, was not likely to get into Committee time enough for much Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) told them he washed his hands of all connection with the parentage of the Bill; and he believed the right hon. Gentleman knew very little of the ultimate objects of those who wore its framers. But he said that some fifteen years ago great attacks were made on certain Bishops of the Church by Lord Llanover and the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman); that this Bill carried out the views of those Gentlemen, and that it would be a retrograde step if the House did not agree to the Bill. 2123 Why, if there was wanting any proof that there was little or nothing in the denunciations of these Gentlemen, it would be found in the fact that the right hon. Member for Stroud had not, if he Lord John Manners could believe the evidence of his own eyes, been in the House during the debate. He denied, however, that the House was at all bound by the sentiments expressed by these Gentlemen fifteen years ago. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the Bill carried out the recommendations of the Committee of 1856. But was that so? He utterly denied that it was so; take, for instance, the 5th Clause: on July 8, 1856, it was proposed in the Select Committee, "that, upon the avoidance of any See, the sufficiency of the estates of such See shall be subject to revision;" and that Resolution was rejected by nine to four: yet the 5th Clause gives effect to that rejected proposal. Then the right hon. Gentleman took exception to the language of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge, who said this was a measure of confiscation. He (Lord John Manners) contended that it was nothing else. The 5th Clause enacted that on the avoidance of any See the property of that See should be revised by the Commission. That was perpetuating an expensive Commission just for the pleasure of ascertaining whether the Bishop should receive £5,000 or £5,100. His belief was that the object of the framers of the Bill was to render the personal holding of the Church property by Bishops and Chapters so odious that they would be forced to throw it into the hands of the Commission. Wow, who were the parties into whose hands this enormous property was to be entrusted? How had they managed the property already entrusted to them? The right hon. Gentleman was too wise to commit himself to the defence of the way in which the Commissioners had kept their accounts. He only said that whatever they might have been in times past, he was informed they were now in a satisfactory condition. Who had given him the information? And if the information were true, if the accounts were satisfactory now, he asked were they audited? and if they were, who audited them? He believed they had not been audited, and that they never would be audited, and he asked the House if they would entrust further power and a larger amount of property into the hands of a body who had allowed their accounts to 2124 fall into such a discreditable condition? He had never heard a proposal of so extraordinary a character so weakly defended. The right hon. Gentleman, the reputed father of the Bill, had disowned its parentage, and upon the grounds stated he felt himself bound to give his most cordial support to the Amendment, and as the right hon. Gentleman said he would not press the measure against the wish of the House, he might bring in a Continuance Bill. [Sir GEORGE LEWIS: There is no need of a Continuance Bill.] He was very glad to hear that. He hoped, therefore, the Bill would be withdrawn, and that the right hon. Gentleman would take time to make himself acquainted with the wants of the diocese of Durham, as well as the other dioceses, and then next Session introduce a Bill that would meet the views of all parties.
§ MR. INGHAM
said, he should be sorry if the House assented to the Amendment, as it would have the effect of defeating the only practicable mode of providing for the spiritual destitution of many populous places, while, at the same time, it offered abundant security for the endowments and dignity of ecclesiastical corporations and the stability of the Established Church. He admitted that many heavy charges had been brought against the Bill and against the Commissioners, but he thought these were altogether misplaced. The Commissioners were carrying out a system of confiscation with respect to the property of the Bishops. But where was the confiscation in relieving them of the trouble and unpopularity connected with the management of their estates, while, at the same time, the rents of these estates were reserved as the security of their revenues. When a landed gentleman improved the condition of his tenants, it was known that he did so out of his own income, while any improvement of the same kind by a Bishop was known to come from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; so that they gained no popularity by their concessions, while any pressure on their tenants brought them into an invidious collision with the persons amongst whom they lived. Again, many estates had been voluntarily resigned into the hands of the Commissioners. Four Bishops and four Chapters had done that of their own accord which the noble Lord described to be confiscation. That was the fourth Bill since 1851 which had dealt with the subject, and he thought the time had now arrived for legislation, in order 2125 that further agitation might be rendered unnecessary. As he had said, he believed the greater portion of the charges against it were unfounded, and for the rest he hoped the House would agree to meet them by Amendments in Committee.
§ MR. C. W. HOWARD
said, he resided in a diocese where, out of 259 livings, 128 were less than £100 a year, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that not only was there a feeling of opposition on the part of Deans and Chapters, so ably represented by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge, but throughout the country, particularly in the north of England, to the conduct of these Commissioners; and he, therefore, hoped the House would not consent to give them further powers. If, however, the Bill were committed, he should propose a clause for the augmentation of small livings.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he felt precluded, by the whole tone of the debate, from voting for the second reading of the Bill. Not a single Member of the House thoroughly approved of the measure, but as it was deemed necessary that something should be done, they seemed prepared to say—"Do something; no matter what it is you do." He protested against the adoption of such a principle, and he wished to express an opinion that the Bishops and Deans and Chapters would be greatly impeded in the performance of their duties if they were converted into stipendiaries of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The greatest doubts had been raised as to their administration; the House could not examine their accounts, and there was no solution of the difficulty, but the withdrawal or rejection of this Bill; because they did not believe that in its present form it could effect the object desired, and because investigation was necessary which the passing of such a measure would tend to bar.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he was sorry he could not give his support to the Amendment. Session after Session a Bill analagous to the Bill before them had been brought in, but no legislation had been accomplished. Two great interests were at stake in the matter—that of the lessees and another class, which cultivated and produced the wealth of the Church—both of which were left in a state of doubt and uncertainty. Considering the vast amount of property which was already under the control and management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, it was a question well 2126 deserving of the consideration of the House whether it would be expedient to increase the powers which were already possessed by the Commissioners. At the least Parliament should call on them to recognize and act on the obligations which attach to every landlord in the country, and which more especially attached to them as the trustees of Church Estates. A Committee of Inquiry on the whole subject of Church property sat in 1836, and that Committee recommended that local claims should be considered in the distribution of Church Revenues, but that had not yet been carried out. If the claims of the district were to be postponed until a large sum had been accumulated to endow the bishoprics, such a postponement was not justifiable. He believed, however, the difficulty arose not so much from the state of the law as from a rule which the Commission had made for themselves. What was that rule? As laid down by the Secretary himself it was this, that in making grants from the surplus fund in any given year, a sum not exceeding £1,000 might be given to meet an equal amount contributed in any particular locality, which just meant that the richest places should receive the grants, and the poorest be entirely overlooked. This was the principle on which the Educational Board acted; but it was altogether erroneous in reference to religious destitution. The rule worked disastrously in another way. Generally when a benefaction was sought, the first person applied to was the largest landed proprietor in the parish, and the proprietors were generally the donors in such cases, but in cases whore the Commissioners were the landed proprietors they said that they were precluded from making any benefaction, and there being no benefaction from others, no grant from the tithes was made for that parish. To show how this worked, he might state that in the diocese in which he lived the Commissioners were the largest proprietors of land in every parish but two, and yet in case alter case the Commissioners had not only not exercised their discretion, but had not made even the proper inquiries returning simply the answer, "no funds." He admitted that the Church Estates were well managed, that the drainage was good, and the farm buildings sufficient, but that was not the main function of the Commissioners, and they ought not to evade the responsibility which attached to all other owners of land. For these reasons he 2127 trusted that the House would legislate on this subject during the present Session.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, that as a member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and responsible, to a certain extent, for the management of the property committed to their care, he had thought it incumbent on him to listen attentively to the statements which might be made by the various hon. Members who might speak during the debate before he rose to address the House. He did not intend to go into a minute investigation of all the points which had been raised; nor did he think it incumbent on him to dictate to the House the course they ought to adopt in legislating on matters which might afterwards be placed in his hands to administer. He should, therefore, feel it his duty to confine his observations, in a great degree, to a notice of the comments which had been passed in the course of that discussion upon the conduct of the Commissioners. He did not complain of those comments; because he is well aware that as public men, intrusted with a very heavy responsibility, they must expect not to be able to give satisfaction alike to all. In many instances the interests were so different and complicated, it was almost impossible to reconcile them. It was most desirable that the House should point out the course they wished the Commissioners to follow in carrying out the law they were appointed to administer. His anxious desire had been to carry out the law as he believed it to exist, and as Parliament intended they should carry it out, guided at the same time by the indications of opinion given by Committees of both Houses of Parliament that sat on the subject. It had been said this Bill was not based on the recommendations of the different Committees. That there might be some slight variations, he did not deny; but it would be found those Committees did recommend that there should be a more decided declaration of opinion as to the law which the Commissioners had to carry out; and that declaration the measure before the House would supply. He should be sorry to continue a member of the Commission for one hour, if he did not carry out, to the best of his ability, those powers which the law gave; and in considering the various points, nothing was more painful than uncertainty as to the powers they possessed. It was in consequence of this, that the Commissioners were, to a certain extent, consenting parties to the introduc- 2128 tion of this Bill, which would render their powers more definite, and their action less liable to be misconstrued. It was said by his hon. Friend (Mr. Liddell) that local claims had not been listened to or granted; but the rule laid down was not an arbitrary one. It was intended to effect the greatest amount of good with the funds the Commissioners had at their disposal. If they gave Durham all it wanted, other places must suffer; for their funds were limited. The principle was, as far as possible, to make a grant to meet the benefactions offered in any district which were all fairly registered and impartially considered, a Committee being appointed to look into the cases, and where it was possible grants were made. If they were to give without requiring local benefactions, they would at once stop that flow of public benevolence which was now so extraordinary. This year they had a surplus of £80,000 strictly to augment poor livings all over the country, under the direction of the Act of Parliament, and to meet that, there were offers of benefactions to no less than £247,000; so that they had to select cases, owing to the very limited extent of the funds available as compared with the benefactions offered. If the Legislature thought fit to say that, previous to considering applications in that way, a certain sum should be given to places where there were no means of offering benefactions, he should be very glad; but hitherto the Commissioners had felt themselves bound to act on the principle he had stated. With respect to the alleged confiscation of property, in three instances estates had already been made over to Sees, representing the actual sum of money to which they were entitled by Act of Parliament; and in the case of Durham, the Bishop had requested the Commissioners to assume the management, inasmuch as he did not wish to undertake any concern of that kind. With Chapter property they would deal in the same way. Indeed, it was not to the interest of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to keep the Chapter property, but to hand it back as soon as possible. He deprecated as much as possible the Commission having to manage a property so large, that it was impossible for them to manage it well. He was rather inclined to think that if the Commission had accepted the proposition of one or two Chapters, they should not have had the opposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Selwyn.) In the course 2129 of the discussion attempts had been made to throw the blame of any want of success which had attended the working of the system on the officials employed under the Commissioners. But he repudiated any such apology for himself and his colleagues. They did not shrink from responsibility. It was said that the subordinate officials managed everything. He recognized readily and freely the great assistance they had received from men in the office, who were exceedingly well acquainted with business; but he repudiated altogether placing on their shoulders the responsibility which ought to belong to the Commissioners in the execution of duties which were of a very complicated and ill-defined character. With regard to the accounts, they were now in a much more satisfactory state than they had been; but he thought them capable of being put in a still better condition. With this view, the attention of the Commissioners, and especially the Treasurers, of whom he was one, had been turned to this matter. An auditor had been appointed, having been named by the Treasury; and there was every reason to believe that his audit would be sufficient, and lead to a more clear and satisfactory state of accounts than hitherto. With regard to the Stapleton estate, a mistake had I been committed. It turned out a bad purchase, and was re-sold at the loss mentioned; but he hoped that would not arise again. The greatest possible care was taken in every transaction relating to the sale or purchase of estates. The outlay of £3,000 included the official expenditure, 2130 commission of £4 per cent, and also the expenses attendant on the enfranchisement of large portions of the property. He trusted, with the continued confidence of the House, there would be no further cause of complaint; and that the whole of the immense business under the charge of the Commissioners would proceed more satisfactorily.
said, he thought the best course he could adopt was to move the adjournment of the Debate. Every one who heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge must have felt that a very grave question had been raised. He himself had come down to the House with very different impressions than he entertained at the present moment, and he was bound to say he waited with great anxiety to hear what his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Deedes) would say; but lie could not think he had answered the questions which had been raised in a manner that must be satisfactory to any one without further inquiry. It seemed therefore most advisable that the Debate should be adjourned, to give an opportunity to investigate the matter before coming to any decision which would have the effect of throwing a vast increase of power into the hands of Commissioners, whoso accounts certainly did not appear to be satisfactory even to his hon. Friend himself.
§ Debate adjourned till Wednesday 20th June.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before Six o'clock.