HC Deb 04 June 1872 vol 211 cc1219-22

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


, in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months, said, the Bill provided for the case of a Bishop resigning his bishopric, and also of a Bishop who from mental infirmity had become unable to perform the duties of his office. In the case of resignation the Bishop was to receive either a third of his salary or £2,000 a-year; whichever of those sums was the larger. There were 28 Archbishops and Bishops, one of whom received £15,000 a-year, two £10,000, one £8,000, one £7,000, one £5,500, eight £5,000, seven £4,500, and six £4,200 a-year. He apprehended that the same principle was applicable to Bishops as to other officials; and it appeared to him that if they were to have legislation of a permanent character to provide for a Bishop not able to discharge the duties of his office, there ought to be some provision for the purpose of securing that the public should have an efficient person to perform the duties for which that person was paid. There should be some provision that in case of incompetency the Bishop should be made to resign, instead of having it left to his own will and pleasure. He would ask, did it answer to hold out a bribe to an official to induce him to resign? The bribe was insufficient, because the truth was, that persons in office who had attained a considerable age would be rarely found willing to admit that they were incapable of discharging their duties. Another portion of the Bill was also unsound and vicious in principle—he referred to that part which provided that when a Bishop resigned the successor appointed to him should not receive the whole of the episcopal income fixed for that diocese, but should defray a charge out of that income for the benefit of the late holder of the office. That principle, although it had been acted upon in the Army here and in India was an unsound one. The scheme in the Bill was that, in case of resignation from age or physical or mental infirmity, provision was to be made for the Bishop's successor by paying him £2,000 a-year, or one-third of the income of the retiring Bishop. It was said as a reason for a large allowance to Bishops, that they had great claims upon them for social status, charities, and on other accounts; but there would be all those claims upon the new Bishop with the smaller income, whilst the previous Bishop retiring into private life would have no demands upon him beyond those of an ordinary clergyman. In the case of the retirement of ordinary incumbents of livings there was a different rule to be adopted from that which prevailed in the case of Bishops and Deans. For an ordinary incumbent to retire with an annuity he must have been seven years an incumbent, and, practically, the Bishops had some power to force an incapacitated incumbent to resign. Again, in case any Archbishop of Canterbury became subject to permanent mental infirmity, the new Archbishop would receive only £4,000 a-year, while the committee of the estate of the retiring Archbishop would receive £11,000 as an accumulating fund for the benefit of the family. Surely that would not be just. Bishops had large allowances, and therefore it was in their power to make provision for old age and incapacity. The statute, which had hitherto been only temporary, it was now proposed to make permanent, and therefore it behoved them to see that it it was a sound one. He believed that the sound principle was that Bishops, as well as other public servants, when they were unable to perform their duties should be got rid of and other persons appointed in their stead. The public interests required that the country should pay only for work done. Pay and work should be commensurate, and it was no part of the duty of the public to provide in old age for a person who received sufficient pay while he was in the public service to make that provision for himself. He hoped the House would consider the case of retirements generally. There was a Bill now before the House to increase the superannuation allowances to retiring Colonial Governors. The whole subject should be investigated, for they were now spending to an enormous extent on ineffective services in every Department.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Dickinson.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


observed that if his hon. Friend objected to the details of the measure the proper place to deal with that measure would be in Committee; or if he thought that the present was not a convenient time to consider those details, then the proper course would be not to move the rejection of the Bill, but simply that it should be a Bill to continue the existing measure for a term of years, instead of making a permanent arrangement. He agreed with his hon. Friend that some of the details now or at a future time might receive further consideration, though he did not agree precisely with all the remarks which had been made. He should also be quite willing either to try to improve the details of the Bill, or, if the hands of Parliament were too full just now, he was perfectly willing to make the present Bill simply one for continuing the existing law for three, five, or seven years. The case of Bishops was not, however, to be dealt with in the lump along with those of Colonial Governors and other Civil servants. It was distinguished by a multitude of specialities from the case of Civil servants, and nothing would be gained by the endeavour to mix together things which were entirely and absolutely heterogeneous. Nor did he agree that a Bishop was to be considered as a person whose duty it was to lay by large sums out of his income with a view to provide for his old age. He believed it was the practice of Bishops to insure their lives, with a view to some provision for their families. But it would not have a good moral effect upon the position or influence of Bishops to set forth on the authority of this House, the doctrine that it was their business to make considerable reservations, independent of a provision for their families, in order to lay by for themselves in their old age. It was true that no fewer than five cases had been or would have been brought under this Bill had not death supervened; but although it was that accumulation of particular cases which brought home to the mind of Parliament the necessity for a provision of this kind, it was obvious, apart from those cases, that something must be done. The administrative duties of the Bishops had of late years undergone an enormous increase. The episcopal office was now a more laborious one than it used to be; and it must be expected that, if dioceses were to be efficiently administered, cases would from time to time occur in which, through the weight of duty and of years, it would be necessary to provide for the resignations of Bishops. He submitted that there was no necessity for taking the judgment of the House as to whether this Bill should or should not go forward. The only question was whether an attempt should be made to improve its details, or whether its operation should be limited.


said, he thought that a case had been made out by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Dickinson), and that, as the Bill was imperfect, and was admitted to be so by the Prime Minister, it ought not to be pushed on to the detriment of other important measures. He could not conceive why a difference should be made between Bishops and Deans. Was it that Deans consumed more than Bishops? There was no urgent necessity for legislating on the subject. He thought that Bishops, Deans, and Incumbents should all be dealt with in the same manner.

And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate was adjourned till this day.

And it being now Seven of the Clock, the House suspended its Sitting.

The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the Clock.