§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, he objected to all exemptions as bad. They were now confined to clergymen within their own parishes, but the Bill sought to extend them to all ministers being pastors of congregations. There was obscurity in the language of the measure which would lead to great litigation; and, rather than extend the exemptions from toll in the manner proposed, it would be better to sweep them away altogether. He would therefore move, as an Amendment, that the Speaker leave the chair that day six months.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee,
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that since the exemption was originally established, division had occurred in the religious community in Scotland, and he thought ministers of all denominations ought now to be put on an equality in that matter with the ministers of the established church. Such a course was in accordance with the intentions of the House in all recent legislation.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, he believed that the Bill would extend the existing exemption from 1,000 or 1,100 persons to about three times that number. Indeed, if they were to go upon the principle that persons who were useful but not rich should enjoy the immunity, they could not consistently refuse it to country doctors, country lawyers, butchers, bakers, and even many landed proprietors. The way to put all denominations on an equal footing was to abolish the exemption entirely. The Bill would place Dissenting ministers in a better position than the clergy of the Establishment, because the latter were exempt from toll in their own parishes only, whereas the former would be exempt in perhaps six contiguous parishes. It was, moreover, very difficult in Soctland to define what a minister was. The desire to preach and to hear sermons was something quite pecu- 126 liar to the place; indeed, there was nothing like it on this side of the Tweed. Noblemen and other laymen were sometimes seen suddenly to emerge from the ranks, to leap into the pulpit, and practise there for a certain time, and, after being to all intents and purposes "ministers to a congregation," they withdrew into a more retired position.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, that as a trustee of a Scotch turnpike-road, he might observe that since the introduction of railways it was very difficult for turnpike trustees to pay their way, and he must therefore orotest, on behalf of the many poor persons interested in such investments, against the invasion of their property by undue exemptions. In Scotland there was a great rage for amateur preaching, and there was some fear that many persons would take to that vocation in order to avoid paying toll.
§ MR. MURE
said, he might have agreed in the opinion of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) if the question of exemption were raised for the first time. But they found an Act of Parliament in existence granting the exemption to clergymen, and doubts had arisen as to the right construction of that Act: it having been held in some cases that the exemption already extended to Roman Catholic clergymen and Dissenting ministers in common with the clergy of the established church, and in other cases that it was strictly confined to the latter. The Bill was intended to remove that uncertainty, and if any Amendment were required in its terms, it could be made in Committee.
§ MR. W. LESLIE
said, he concurred in thinking that there ought to be no exemptions of the kind, but he should maintain that if they were to be extended to Dissenting ministers, they should also, in fairness, be conferred upon that most useful and meritorious class, country medical practitioners. Therefore, if they went into Committee, he should certainly move a clause to that effect.
§ MAJOR CUMMING BRUCE
said, he thought that the exemptions were altogether wrong, and that the measure, under the guise of only removing doubts, sought to extend a vicious principle.
§ MR. DUNLOP
observed, that the Bill had a twofold object; first to explain, and next to extend an Act of William IV. Doubts had arisen through the use of the word "clergyman," which had been decided sometimes to apply to a Dissenting 127 minister, and sometimes not. The confines of a Dissenting congregation were not generally coterminous, with those of a parish; but he was willing to introduce a clause limiting the exemption of a Dissenting minister to within so many miles of his church. There could be no difficulty in restricting the immunity to ministers actually in charge of a particular congregation. If the opponents of the Bill succeeded in rejecting it, he trusted, they would, in consistency, bring in a measure for doing away with the existing exemption.
§ MR. STEUART
said, he could confirm what had fallen from the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Urquhart), as to the injury inflicted upon turnpike trusts by these exemptions, and hoped that the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) would him self introduce a Bill to abolish them. If the existing exemption were to be extended to travelling preachers and to medical men an equal claim might be put in on behalf of that useful class—the cow-doctors.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 61; Noes 86: Majority 25.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.