§ MR. STEVENSON
, in rising to call attention to the continued dead-lock in the administration of the estates of the Dean and Chapter of Durham, and to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether he is prepared to take any steps to put an end to the present anomalous position of the Durham Capitular Estates which had passed from the control of the Dean and Chapter, but not into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and to enable the intentions of Parliament to be fulfilled with regard to the enfranchisement of leasehold interests and the endowment of benefices, said, the Church Estates Commissioners had sanctioned the enfranchisement of upwards of 600 leasehold interests in the property of the Dean and Chapter, and the rateable value of South Shields had increased 70 per cent as a consequence. But this beneficial system had been entirely arrested for the last three years, and a complete dead-lock had ensued. No doubt while negotiations were pending it was necessary that some time should elapse during which no dealings with this property should take place; but a most unreasonable delay had taken place, and it was now quite time that there should be some alteration. He knew that, contrary to the intention of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, much of this delay had been caused by the presentation of a Petition to the Privy Council, against the scheme of the Commissioners, from a number of lessees. It had been suggested that he should use his influence to induce the with- 1118 drawal of the Petition; but he must have some means supplied to him of using to advantage whatever influence he might possess, and he should be glad if the Commissioners could hold out a prospect of so equitably and liberally dealing with these estates as to remove the objections of the Petitioners. The renewal of their leases had been stopped for two years, and the owners of leasehold estates, which had been in their families for generations, were brought face to face with an extinction of their interests and were denied the opportunity of enfranchisement which Parliament intended. The delay was causing great individual loss, while it prevented public improvements, and was injurious to the Church.
understood that the hon. Gentleman did not blame the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in this matter. The delay arose, not from any want of attention on their parts, but from the fact that the lessees had delayed to put in their case. However, since his attention had been called to the matter he had inquired into it and had learnt that every effort would be made to remove the evils which were complained of. He trusted that that assurance would satisfy his hon. Friend.