HC Deb 24 February 1868 vol 194 cc280-3

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to abolish the Annuity Tax, or Ministers' Money, in the parish of Canongate, within Edinburgh, and to make other provisions respecting the stipend of the Minister in that parish, I and of the Ministers in the city parishes said, he understood that the usual courtesy would be extended to him on that occasion, and that no opposition would be offered to the introduction of the Bill. He would not therefore take up the time of the House by making any statement in reference to the details of the measure he introduced. He would merely take that opportunity of saying, in one sentence, that the Bill he now asked leave to bring in had been modified considerably from that of last year; and that he hoped that when the Bill was printed, and hon. Members had made themselves acquainted with its contents, those who opposed the Bill of last year would be induced to give the present Bill their hearty support. The Bill had now been approved by twenty-eight members of the Magistracy and Town Council of Edinburgh—only six having voted against it. The hon. Member concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.


seconded the Motion.


said, he did not rise to oppose the introduction of the Bill; but he must express his astonishment, after what took place last Session, when the Bill introduced by the hon. Member was thrown out, after considerable debate in the House, that he should now propose to bring in a measure nearly identical in character with that which he formerly proposed. Last year, immediately after the rejection of that Bill, the hon. Member for Edinburgh introduced a second measure to abolish the municipal rate of a Id. in the pound, imposed by the Act of 1860, as a compensation to the city creditors in lieu of seat rents handed over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. That was a right and proper thing to do, if it were generally admitted that the city's funds were in such a state that they could well afford to do without the Id., but he (Sir Graham Montgomery) contended that the proper course for the hon. Member to pursue now was to bring in a Bill to abolish the 3d. police rate or clerieopolice tax as it was sometimes called, which was very much complained of in regard to the city of Edinburgh, and more especially as he thought it would be found on inquiry that they already had a surplus fund, which could be devoted to the purpose to which the 3d.. tax was at present applied. He did think it would be much fairer to all parties if, instead of attempting to upset the settlement come to in 1860 by an Act to be passed this Session, the hon. Member would propose to abolish the rate which was so much objected to; and he understood the Corporation of the City of Edinburgh were quite in a position to do without it. He did trust the House would not consent to any meddling with the Bonds of Annuity which were imposed by the Act of 1860 upon the city of Edinburgh, and which Bonds of Annuity were a security to the ministers of the Church for the payment of their stipends. Considering everything that took place on the last occasion on which the Bill was introduced, he trusted the House would not consent to any proposition of that nature. With regard to the Annuity Tax on the Canongate, which he admitted at that moment might be considered as a small grievance, it was to be remembered that the whole amount of that tax was only £250 a year. It used to be levied at the rate of 10d.. in the pound. It was now only levied at the rate of 3d.. The Session before last, a Bill, which lie had the honour of introducing, was passed reducing that tax from 10d. to 3d., and in passing which, he must confess, he was to a great extent assisted by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, and was much indebted to him for that assistance. Having, however, had the honour of carrying that Bill through Parliament, and constituting, as it did in his opinion, a settlement of the question as regarded the Canongate, he must confess he should be very much opposed to disturbing the two settlements to which he had alluded—namely, the settlement under the Act of 1860, and that of the Session before last with respect to the Canongate; for he believed that most, if not all, of the parties who were concerned in the matter generally understood that that measure was to be a settlement of the question. He did say, then, that it was not right that the hon. Member should attempt, Session after Session, to legislate in the manner he now proposed in regard to that question.


said, he might, perhaps, be permitted to say a word in explanation of the objection made by the hon. Baronet. His speech had shown the inconvenience of discussing a Bill with the provisions of which he must be necessarily unacquainted, since it had not yet been printed. If the hon. Baronet had waited until the Bill had been printed and in the hands of Members, he would have found that one of the clauses proposed to reduce the 3d.. rate, to effect which object the hon. Baronet had recommended him to ask for leave to introduce a Bill. The hon. Baronet was in error in supposing that lie (Mr. M'Laren) was at all instrumental in having laid on the 1d.. municipal rate in 1860. On the contrary, he was one of the 14,000 petitioners against that rate being laid on; and it was carried through the House in spite of the strenuous opposition of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, whom he had now the honour to represent. Again, as to the Annuity Tax Bill of last year, the hon. Baronet had himself furnished the strongest argument for its repeal; for, if a direct tax, levied in a parish containing 12,000 inhabitants, produced only £250 a-year, surely no better reason could be advanced for abolishing so pitiful a tax for the support of the Church, and which was the cause of much annoyance to persons who did not belong to the Church: for in that parish a very large proportion of the inhabitants were Roman Catholics. It was one of the poorest parishes in the city, and he said it was as unjust to levy £300 as it was to levy £3,000, so far as the principle was concerned. No doubt he was very willing the Session before last to assist in reducing the rate from l0d.. to 3d.; but, at the same time, he informed the right hon. Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) who had charge of the Bill, that although he assented to that measure as an instalment, it should not prevent him from endeavouring to obtain the repeal of the whole tax during the present or any future Session; and the Lord Advocate said that he quite understood that to be his (Mr. M'Laren's) position. He thought those facts were all that it was necessary for him to state until he asked the House to read the Bill a second time; and he hoped meanwhile that the hon. Baronet, when he had seen the clauses of the measure, would be much better pleased with it than he now seemed to be. He would tell him that if he should feel disposed to appeal to the Town Council of Edinburgh for information in regard to the question of finance, he would find that his information was altogether erroneous, and that no such adequate surplus as he had referred to, at the present moment, existed.


remarked that this was another instance of the evil from which they had suffered on the preceding evening, by which the time of the House was taken up in prematurely discussing measures with the particulars of which they were unacquainted.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to abolish the Annuity Tax, or Ministers' Money, in the parish of Canongate, within Edinburgh, and to make other provisions respecting the stipend of the Minister in that parish, and of the Ministers in the city parishes, ordered to be brought in by Mr. M'LAREN, Mr. MILLER, and Mr. CRUM EWING.