HC Deb 21 July 1863 vol 172 cc1150-7

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Parties desirous of purchasing Advowsons to make an Offer to the Lord Chancellor stating Terms).


said, he wished to ask whether the Lord Chancellor was to have the power of selling vacant livings.


said, that would be a simoniacal transaction, and nothing in the Bill would enable it to be done. There was a clause in the Bill as it originally stood authorizing that to be done, but it had been struck out.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3 (More Offers than One may be received).


said, he desired to ask whether any future Lord Chancellor would be bound to carry out the Act, or whether it was only permissive.


said, the Bill was quite permissive in that respect.


said, he could not but complain that the Bill had been submitted to the House without sufficient information, and at a time of the Session when it could not be fairly considered.


said, he had given notice of an Amendment on Clause 2, and he had to apologize to the Committee for not having been present when the clause was passed. He would, however, move his Amendment on the clause under consideration. He regarded the Bill as a measure for promoting the worst abuses of the Church of England, and for promoting simony in its most objectionable form. Nothing could be more unfortunate for the Church of England than that livings should be held in private hands and bestowed for private ends. The object of the Bill, it was alleged, was to sell the advowsons to the principal landowner of the parish, but there were no indications in the Bill that such was the intention. It was a common thing to see advertisements of advowsons to be sold, and the parishioners had incumbents imposed upon them without having the slightest control of the matter. That was a fruitful cause of dissent. He proposed to limit the right of purchase to persons interested in the parish, and should therefore move an Amendment to leave out "desirous of purchasing any of the said advowsons," and insert "being an owner or occupier of land in the parish to which any of the said advowsons relate, desirous of purchasing the advowson of the living of such parish." If the Committee adopted his Amendment, security would be taken that the livings would not fall into the hands of speculators and jobbers in advowsons.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided the Lord Chancellor shall not accept an offer from any person other than a person being an owner or occupier of land in the parish to which any of the said advowsons relate."—(Mr. Ayrton.)


observed, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets had overlooked one most important object of the Bill. It was intended not much to divest the Lord Chancellor of Church patronage which it was inconvenient to bestow, as to augment livings now under £200 per annum—many far less than that amount, and which were a scandal to the Church. A great deal could be said for and against the sale of Church livings, but the right to sell that description of property existed by law; the sale would not be made under the Bill for mere gain, and the money would be returned to the Church, and would increase the endowment of the living sold, and thereby give the clergyman greater power properly to fulfil the duties of his position. If a restriction of this kind were to be imposed, it would be difficult to give effect to the Bill. It might be difficult to find a landowner in the parish who was willing to become the purchaser of the advowson, while a neigh- bouring landowner might have an interest in the parish, and might be desirous of augmenting the living by purchasing the advowson. Moreover, the Amendment would be no security that the purchasers should be members of the Church of England, and therefore the object of the hon. Gentleman would fail—namely, to keep the presentations in the hands of members of the Church.


said, he thought the Amendment unnecessary, as there would be no temptation to any one to buy livings of that character except for the purpose of augmenting the living. Besides, it would be easily defeated by the intending purchaser becoming an occupier of land in the parish for a short period.


observed, that it was an advantage that the patronage of large and populous livings should be in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, who exercised it under the influence of public opinion.


said, the object of the Bill was not to do away with the system of public patronage, but to augment small livings. The manner in which the Bill would be administered would appear in the returns which would be laid before Parliament, and it could not, therefore, be reasonably presumed that the Lord Chancellor would be disposed to throw away any living upon terms much less favourable to the Church than those which he ought to insist upon.


said, it was always held out that people interested in the parish were likely to buy these small advowsons, and he therefore thought that the principle of the Amendment was sound. Take a living worth £125, and suppose that it sold for £1,000, which, added to the endowment, would make an addition of £35 a year. Now, would it be more likely to benefit the Church to raise the value of such a living from £125 to £160, leaving it in private hands, or to maintain the patronage in the hands of responsible men like the Lord Chancellor? If the livings were not purchased by persons living in the parish, they could only be acquired from religious and spiritual motives. It was well known that there were trusts for buying up livings for incumbents of particular religious opinions. The only difficulty he felt in regard to the Amendment was that it would be inoperative. It provided that a living could only be bought by an owner or occupier in the particular parish; so that if a person wished to buy a living, he had only to rent a £5 occupation, and then he would be entitled as an "occupier." At the same time, he thought it would be desirable that the purchase of these advowsons should be confined to the owners of the parish in question or some neighbouring parish. If that were not done, those small livings would be purchased for jobbing purposes. He wished to know whether these advowsons were the property of the Crown. The preamble stated that the Lord Chancellor was entitled to nominate to these livings. If, however, they belonged to the Crown, the Committee ought to have some scruples about selling property belonging to the Crown; because if they once began to do that, he did not know where they might stop.


said, he would submit that the retention of the word "owner" in the Amendment, unless the meaning of the term were defined, would defeat the object of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, because under the Amendment the shareholders in a land society might become the purchasers, as they would be owners of land in the parish. He thought only such landowners should be allowed to purchase as were possessed of land at least to the value of the living.


thought it would be unwise to limit the operation of the clause to the extent that must be done if they were to define who were to be the purchasers. There were a great many people in a parish who might be interested in the Church who were not owners of land. He did not think there was any fear of much trafficking in these livings, as the Lord Chancellor was not obliged to accept the highest offer, and he would therefore select the most eligible purchaser.


said, that the effect of the Amendment would be, that whatever bidding any owner in the parish might make above the minimum price, it must be accepted. The owners in the parish must be the buyers, and the property would thus be depreciated. A person might hold only a single freehold house in a parish, yet the Amendment would give him a pre ferential right to buy the living. It would be much better to have unlimited competition for the livings.


said, he knew a living whore the Lord Chancellor, who was the patron, had not been able to find a proper incumbent for the last hundred years. At present the living was under sequestration. Some time ago £800 was raised to increase the endowment, but it was not applied to the object it was raised for. The only landowner was himself, and he was not in a pecuniary position to purchase the advowson. Their only chance was that some rich manufacturer who took an interest in the church would purchase the advowson; but if the Amendment were carried, he did not see how they were to be relieved at all.


said, he held it to be of great importance to the Church that the patronage of livings should not be vested in any one class. The patronage of private persons was not the worst-bestowed of any in the Church. It must not be forgotten that the distribution of livings in the hands of the Lord Chancellor had always been very much influenced by political considerations. When he first entered that House an old and experienced Member of Parliament said to him, "It will be your business to watch carefully for any living vacant in your county that may be in the gift of the Lord Chancellor." He believed that no such living had yet become vacant, but his adviser was an old politician, who knew how these livings were disposed of. Of one thing, however, he was quite certain, and that was that the worst arrangement of all was when the incumbent was elected by the parishioners. He knew a parish where the quarrels engendered by one election were not forgotten till the next election came round. He thought that the motives of persons in buying advowsons should not be scanned too closely. Men acted from mixed motives. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Amendment.


said, that under the machinery of the Bill there would be great inducement to trafficking in these livings, because, suppose a living worth £100 a year were to be sold for £1,000, as that £1,000 would be applied to the augmentation of the living, its value would be proportionately increased immediately after the purchase. He would support the Amendment, suggesting, however, the omission of the word occupier, and that the area within which an owner might reside should extend beyond the parish.


said, some evils no doubt attended private patronage, but in the part of the country he was best acquainted with the cases which caused the most scandal were the Chancellor's livings. It would be a great evil if these livings got into the hands of corporations, for corporations, as they all knew, had no souls. They all agreed it would be a pity if facilities were given by the Bill for encouraging particular forms of belief.


said, he did not think there was much danger in the Bill causing a traffic in the livings, because the advowson of a living under £200 a year was hardly worth anything in the market. He considered that the Lord Chancellor might be trusted with the disposal of these livings without the proposed restriction.


said, he would suggest, that in order to prevent societies from purchasing livings with a view to propagate certain theological opinions, the power of purchasing should be limited to corporations legally empowered to hold advowsons.


said, a subsequent clause provided that no corporation should hold more than four livings at a time, a provision which would effectually prevent societies taking advantage of the Bill for the purpose of spreading their own peculiar opinions.


said, that a Bill had been brought in by the hon. and learned Solicitor General consolidating the law on the Church Building Acts, which had since been referred to a Select Committee, and had not since been heard of. He wished that that Bill had been before the House, as it would have enabled the Committee to discuss the clause before them with greater advantage. He did not wish to reflect upon private patronage, but the extent to which simony prevailed was notorious. He had no objection to the omission of the word "occupier," if the Committee would affirm the principle of his Amendment.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 45: Majority 28.

Clause agreed to; as was Clause 4.

Clause 5 (Purchasers may pay the Money into the Bank or in other Modes, with Consent of Lord Chancellor).


said, he wished to move an Amendment, empowering the purchaser of an advowson to pay for or satisfy the same by (among other modes) conveying tithe rentcharges arising within the parish of an equivalent yearly value. His object was to facilitate the restoration of the great tithes to the Church.

Amendment agreed to:—Clause agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 19 were also agreed to.

Clause 20 (Corporations may purchase these Advowsons).


said, he would move the insertion of words limiting the clause to corporations now entitled bylaw to hold Advowsons.


had no objection to the Amendment, if the words "and present to benefices" were added.


said, that the Bill attempted to restrict the number of livings held by any body of trustees to four. If, however, a body of five gentlemen wished to purchase livings under the Bill for the support of particular religious views, they could buy four livings each, making twenty; and four livings more as a body of trustees, making twenty-four in all.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 30 were also agreed to.

Clause 31 (Remuneration to Secretary of Presentations.


said, he would move that the clause be omitted. As he had himself filled the office of Secretary of the Presentations, he could speak with some knowledge of its duties. In 1852, when he filled the office under Lord Chancellor St. Leonards, the salary was paid by fees, and averaged £250 a year. The salary was afterwards increased by Sir J. Romilly's Act to £400. The duties of the secretary were to answer a few letters and look after the deeds connected with the livings. The office was, indeed, virtually a sinecure, and it was usually filled by some member of the Lord Chancellor's family. As the secretary had nothing to do but to answer a few letters and see to a few deeds, the present salary £400 a year was, he thought, quite enough.


said, that the office was then held by a gentleman of the bar of high attainments, who was not a member of the Lord Chancellor's family. As the secretary would have a considerable correspondence to conduct and a great deal of labour thrown upon him, although it might be only temporary, he hoped the Committee would agree to the clause.


said, he would remind the Committee that they had just passed a clause prohibiting the Lord Chancellor from augmenting any benefice, even in town parishes, to more than £400 a year; yet by the clause the Committee were asked to pay a secretary more than £400 a year, who was already abundantly remunerated by that sum.


said, he thought that no case had been made out for giving the Secretary of Presentations the additional salary. Perhaps his duties would be lessened by the Bill. At all events, he did not see why the Committee should give that officer a statuable share of the spoil.

Question put, "That the clause stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 24; Noes 37: Majority 13.

Clause struck out.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.