HC Deb 25 July 1861 vol 164 cc1543-6

said, that he rose to move for the Return of which he had given notice relating to Ecclesiastical Registries. It divided itself into three parts —first, as to the state of the registries, many of which in 1832 were reported to be in a very dangerous condition; secondly, as to their subordinate officers—their names and qualifications; and thirdly, as to the total number of fees received by all ecclesiastical officers. The registrars were bound to have their tables of fees hung up in the Courts, and, therefore, there ought to be no difficulty in producing that part of the Return, Many of these Gentlemen were in the enjoyment of sinecures of £1,200 a year, and there was something astounding in the insolence of their refusal to give a return of their fees without being paid out of the public purse for their trouble in doing so. The information was necessary to enable the House to understand the abuses in the ecclesiastical system; and, by refusing to furnish it, the Home Secretary appeared to be shielding improper practices.

The hon. Member concluded by moving for the Returns respecting— Every Ecclesiastical Registry in England and Wales, stating in what town situated; whether in a private house or a public building, and whether such house or building is fireproof; if not fireproof, whether the books and documents are kept in fireproof safes; if not, how kept. Of the names, places of residence, dates of appointment, by whom appointed, professions, whether if clergymen, and what appointments they hold; and if any other occupation what employment of the following officers:—Registrar; Deputy Registrar; Apparitor; Sealkeeper; Chancellor or Vicar General, Commissary, or Official; Surrogates; Proctors; Advocates resident in the diocese; Copy of Table of Fees; and, of the total number of Fees received respectively. Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "That there be laid before this House," &c.


said, the hon. Gentleman had used a singular argument for calling for these Returns, because he seemed to be already in possession of a large part of the information for which he asked. The hon. Member reproached him for wishing to suppress valuable information; but the truth was that the information was not already in existence, or the hon. Gentleman would be most welcome to it. To obtain it it would be necessary to call upon the officers of the Ecclesiastical Courts under the Bishops to go through a great deal of labour in drawing up what would amount to an exceedingly elaborate report. An effort was made by the Home Office last year to procure this mass of information, when remonstrances were sent in as to the impossibility of obtaining it unless the persons employed for the purpose were remunerated for their trouble.

Not having any funds at his command for such an object the matter had rested in abeyance up to this time. The ordinary course when so voluminous a mass of information was sought was for the hon. Gentleman who desired to have it to move for a Committee, or even propose an Address to the Crown for a Commission. Again, if the House chose to make an order upon each officer of these Courts requiring him to furnish the information, no doubt that order would be compulsory; whereas the Crown could only call upon him to do it upon his allegiance, and could not enforce the performance of the duty. The Government, therefore, could not agree to the hon. Gentleman's Motion.


asked whether the right hon. Baronet would give the permission of the Government to the appointment of a Committee next year?


said, he could only reply that if the hon. Gentleman would make a Motion for a Committee next year no doubt the House would give it their consideration.


said, he thought it rather unfair to put such a question to the right hon. Baronet in his present dubious state, he now being half at peace and half at war. His successor at the Home Office would be the proper person to give a pledge on the subject. At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman should remember that the Returns he objected to had been given in the case of Ireland; and why, therefore, were they not to have justice to England?


said, he must protest against its being supposed that it was in the power of any Government to grant a Committee. All that the Government could do was to listen to any Motion that was made on the subject. It was the privilege of the House itself to appoint Committees, although hon. Gentlemen were too much in the habit of allowing the Government to assume that function.


suggested that instead of moving an Address to the Crown, the hon. Member (Mr. Seymour) should move for an order of the House for the production of these Returns.


said, that having sat on the Committee which investigated the subject eleven years before, he could promise the hon. Member who made the Motion a great deal of valuable information, not to say amusement, if he would take the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary or Secretary at War—one could hardly tell which—and move the revival of that Committee.

Question, "That the words proposed to left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.