§ (Mr. Ayrton, Mr. Locke.)
§ SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ayrton.)
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that the object of the Bill was to apply the value of certain lands of the Finsbury Estate to fall in to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the benefit of the Metropolis only, whereas the rule had been to apply such funds for the benefit of the country at large. Another thing was that out of the common fund there were conditional grants for benefactions to the clergy in various parts of England, which required so large a sum as the interest on nearly £500,000. The third purpose of this common fund was to give unconditional grants to the clergy of poor parishes. At first they gave £300 a year wherever the population was over 10,000. Now, they gave it where the population was 5,500, and they hoped shortly to give it to those of 4,000. His learned Friend asked them to give a large amount derived from the Finsbury prebend to the metropolis only, and as the common fund was derived mainly from London and Durham, if claims of that kind were made they could only be granted at the expense of the rest 305 of the country, and moreover, London now received its full share of the benefit of the fund. If they anticipated the income for the purposes of one particular part of the country, they would recede instead of advance. One of the greatest benefits conferred by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was the increase of church teaching in the large and populous mining districts; and anything that would tend to interfere with that would be a great evil. His object was to treat the whole of the country with fairness and liberality, so as to supply the spiritual requirements of large and populous districts. He should not oppose the second reading, but on going into Committee he should be prepared more fully to enter into the subject.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, the feeling in London was that the Finsbury prebend should not be swallowed up by this omniferous Commission. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had no doubt done their best to meet the spiritual requirements of the people; but they were obliterating the whole local administration of property. There was a great feeling in favour of making this an exception for London purposes. The Bill would no doubt require some alteration in detail when in Committee, but he gave the scheme his unqualified approval.
§ MR. SELWYN
said, the Bill was inconsistent with the Report of the two Committees that had inquired into the subject. He agreed with the hon. Member for Stoke that it was impossible to deny that great benefits had been conferred by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but that was not the question. It was argued as if they had created the funds by which that good was done, but that was a mistake. The Select Committee, which included four of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1863, reported that the Ecclesiastical Commission as constituted was objectionable, and also the funds being administered by one central body. It was shown before the Committee that if there were more local associations in every diocese for the administration of their own affairs persons living in the locality would more readily make voluntary contributions to meet spiritual destitution than contribute to a general fund. There was a great objection to this centralization. He wished to put an end to the great centralizing incubus which had grown up, and that the principle of local associations carrying on their own affairs be set in motion. He protested against the present 306 system being continued longer than necessary. The Bill was inconsistent with the Report of the Committee. He should not, however, oppose the second reading, but suggested its amendment by the adoption of the recommendations of the Committee.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
believed that if local bodies were established as suggested throughout the country, they would find it extremely difficult to distribute those funds from which, in the hands of the Commissioners, so much benefit had been derived. He thought the proposal that the whole of the funds to which the Bill related should be confined to the dioceses of London decidedly objectionable, and although he should not oppose the second reading of the Bill, the Government would deem it to be their duty to move the insertion in it of various Amendments when it went into Committee.
§ MR. POWELL
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would lay on the table of the House on an early day the Amendments which he meant to propose. He must add that, having some experience of the working of the common fund in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the rural districts, he felt deeply grateful to them for all that they had accomplished, and would resist to the utmost of his power any proposal which would have the effect of interrupting the growth of that fund.
§ Bill read a second time and committed for To-morrow.