§ MR. AYRTON
, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to appropriate a portion of the income from the Finsbury Estate of the suppressed Stall of Finsbury for the relief of the spiritual destitution in the metropolis, said, that many years ago the Ecclesiastical Commission was set up to watch over the application of the surplus funds of the Church and to provide for the religious necessities of the people. Since then great progress had no doubt been made in carrying out the objects for which the Commission was established; and, while a great amount of property had been vested in the Commission, some consideration had been extended to the claims of the places in which that property was situated. But the case of the metropolis presented peculiar features, which had not hitherto been taken into view in dealing with that matter. In respect to the country at large, local claims were sufficiently recognized when the interests of the particular parish in which ecclesiastical property was situated were provided for by the Commissioners; whereas, as regarded the metropolis ecclesiastical property was situated where there might be the greatest affluence, while on the other hand great spiritual destitution existed in other parts of the town where there happened to be no ecclesiastical property. The consequence was that the most destitute districts of London derived very little benefit from the great amount of ecclesiastical endowments existing in the metropolis, and which were from time to time transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commission. A most remarkable example of that was presented by the endowments of the suppressed stall of Finsbury. Many years ago the property of the stall was leased to the corporation of London. The estate then consisted of a tract of land of comparatively small value; but now houses of a high class had been built upon it, and it produced a revenue of about £50,000 per annum. At present the corporation of London received five-sixths of that revenue, and the other sixth was paid over to the Ecclesiastical Coramis- 1071 sioners. But the next year the lease would expire, and the £50,000 would pass to the Commissioners. If that were to take place without the intervention of the House, the revenue, instead of being made subvervient to the recognized necessities of the metropolis, would be appropriated to Church endowments in all parts of the country. Before parting with revenue which had been derived exclusively from the increased population of the metropolis, the spiritual necessities of the metropolis ought to be properly provided for. He desired by the Bill he sought to introduce to secure the application of one-half of the particular revenues to which he referred to metropolitan purposes. He desired to guard against all abuses, and he therefore proposed that the fund to be formed should be appropriated to the payment of "missionary curates," who would devote themselves to spiritual ministrations among the poorer classes of the community. Grants would be made upon suggestions or schemes submitted from time to time by the Bishop of the diocese, provided the concurrence of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was also given to whatever proposals were made. The remuneration required for curates of the metropolis would be higher than in the country, and he fixed it at £200 per year. He further proposed that the Bishop should have power to remove the curates, and that they should only receive their salaries on producing annually a certificate from the Bishop as a guarantee that they were faithfully discharging their appointed duties. He trusted that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would not oppose the Bill through any official ideas which were sometimes prevalent among them; but that they would consider the present as a special case requiring peculiar treatment. He desired to bring the influence of the Church to bear upon the great masses of the metropolitan population who were at present neglected, and he saw no better means of effecting this object than by the appointment of curates such as he had suggested.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the object of the Bill was a very good one, being to provide for the spiritual wants of portions of the metropolis otherwise unprovided for. It would, however, be necessary for the Government to look into the principle, not only of the Bill, but of the Ecclesiastical Commission Act, the object of which was to form a common fund for the general benefit of the whole country. If special claims on that common fund were to be 1072 made some inconvenience might result. There ought to be a full discussion of the measure, and he hoped that the hon. and learned Member would put it down for a day on which such discussion could be had. He might remind the hon. Gentleman that a clause had been introduced into the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' Act giving the Commissioners power to provide additional curates in places where the population was dense; and it struck him as more advisable that the object should be effected by a general measure applicable to the whole country, rather than to a particular portion of the metropolis.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the Government would not oppose the introduction of the Bill, the object of which was one of great importance. They would, however, reserve to themselves the consideration of its provision at a future stage. He might mention that a similar case had occurred with regard to the appropriation of two stalls at Windsor to the Military Knights of Windsor and the endowment of the parish church. But great care was requisite in legislating upon a subject of this nature.
In answer to a suggestion that the Bill, being a Bill concerning religion, ought to originate in a Committee of the Whole House,
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
said, that the Bill only affected the temporalities of the Church, and that, therefore, it was not necessary for him to leave the Chair.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill to appropriate a portion of the income of the Estate lately belonging to the Prebend of Finsbury, in the Cathedral of Saint Paul, London, for the relief of spiritual destitution in the Metropolis, ordered to be brought in by Mr. AYRTON and Mr. LOCKE.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 97.]