HC Deb 21 May 1867 vol 187 cc895-7

rose to call attention to the mode in which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have dealt with the claims of the Non-Capitular Members of Cathedral and Collegiate Churches to increased stipends; and to move for Copies of the Questions which have lately been issued by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the Non-Capitular Members of Cathedral and Collegiate Churches and the Replies thereto. The Cathedral foundations were of two kinds—the old, existing before the Reformation, and the new, established after that period. In the year 1864 an Act was passed by which the minor corporations of the old cathedrals were enabled to surrender their estates to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for commutation payments. Last year a clause was introduced in a Bill, empowering the Commissioners to deal with the claims of members of the new cathedrals; and in June a number of such claims were preferred. Some of the claimants, to their great surprise, found that no action had been taken with respect to their claims until February last. A few months ago a Committee was formed to investigate those claims, and certain Queries were sent out; but he understood that no steps were to be taken in the matter until all the answers had been received and all the claims had been investigated. Now very great injustice would arise from the adoption of that course. He anticipated that his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Mowbray) would answer him by saying that this was a large question, and that nothing could be done until the whole matter had been investigated. But if his right hon. Friend would refer to the 18th section of the Act, he would find that power was given to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, where there were surplus revenues at their disposal. In some of these cases there was no surplus; but where there were such sums, and the claims were of a pressing nature, they ought to be taken into consideration at once. In some cases no inquiry at all was necessary, for the matter was fully before the House. He would take the case of Carlisle, respecting which a correspondence had taken place between Mr. Livingston, one of the minor canons, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; that case had been established by evidence taken before a Committee of this House, by Returns, and by public correspondence; but it appeared from the last letter, written in 1865, the Commissioners had declined to take any action. The case of the minor canons of Carlisle was one of peculiar hardship. Some few years ago the Dean and Chapter surrendered their estates for a commutation payment of £5,800 a year, and then reduced the number of minor canons to two, giving them only £150 a year each, without residence, or allowance for residence. Now, his right hon. Friend must be well aware that two minor canons were quite insufficient for the discharge of the duties which they were required to perform. It had hitherto been the opinion of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that these questions could not be dealt with except through the Chapter; but having heard that the Dean and Chapter of Westminster were about to surrender their estates to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and that a scheme was in course of preparation, and knowing that the non-capitular members of that foundation, and especially the chorister boys, were anxious their interests should be protected, he wrote to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, asking them whether they would take care that under the new scheme the boys should receive payment in accordance with the spirit of the statutes; but the Commissioners replied that any action which might be taken on the subject would be independent of the transaction then pending with the Dean and Chapter. Now that answer was in direct contradiction of the letter which had been addressed to Mr. Livingston, and so opposed to all the previous policy of the Ecclesiastical Commission, that he was anxious to have some: distinct declaration on the subject as regarded the future. Under all the circumstances he hoped the Government would grant the papers, and do justice in the best and most speedy manner.


supported the Motion. There were other cathedral cities besides Carlisle that were specially interested in this question. He desired to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mowbray) to the case of Peterborough Cathedral. He had received a letter from one of the minor canons, pointing out the miserable stipends they received. He believed that the authorities did not like to have old minor canons, whom they regarded as an inconvenience; but they ought to remember that old age must be an inconvenience to those canons.


said, he had no hesitation in acceding to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Bentinck), although he could not quite understand his hon. Friend's complaint. His hon. Friend had gone back to the year 1840; but the question in the case really arose on the construction of the Act passed last Session, which was wholly of a discretionary character. That Act had not received the Royal assent till almost the last moment of the Session; and as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were in the habit of separating in the month of August for their vacation, it could not be considered by them till November, when they resumed their meetings; but the episcopal members of the Board did not attend at that season of the year; so that it had been necessary to postpone action till February. The question was a large one, and affected all the cathedrals in England; but his hon. Friend might depend upon it that the Commissioners would continue to give it their most careful consideration.


believed that the minor canons of Carlisle had a very good claim on the funds, and the right hon. Gentleman had not shown any reason why they should not receive a share of the money. He thought that the clergy connected with a cathedral had the first claim on money which arose out of the cathedral property. The income of the minor canons was very small, and he could bear testimony to the satisfactory manner in which they discharged their duties. He hoped some alteration in their position would be speedily effected.

Motion agreed to.

Copies ordered, "of the Questions which have lately been issued by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the Non-Capitular Members of Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, and the replies thereto."—(Mr. Bentinck.)