HC Deb 21 May 1874 vol 219 cc614-5

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to the proceedings of the Irish Representative Body, in relation to the process of commuting and compounding; whether it is true, as stated in the "Belfast News Letter," of Saturday, May 9, that "between advances and composition nearly £2,000,000 sterling has been paid to clergymen who are carrying out this process;" whether any similar sum has been paid to Presbyterian Ministers; and, whether he will consent to obtain and lay upon the Table of the House, a Return of the payments made under this process, and of the names, livings, and residences of clergymen who have commuted and compounded?


Sir, the Irish Church Representative Body is a body elected by the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church. It is incorporated by Charter, under the provisions of the Irish Church Act—I think the 22nd section. It is an independent body, and is not in any way responsible to Parliament. With regard to the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman as to the advances and composition, amounting to a large sum, which has been paid to those who are carrying on this process, the only connection that subsists between Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Church Fund is, I think, confined to one section of the Irish Church Disabilities Act, and that is, I think, Section 23. That regulates that certain payments are to take place. But after the Commissioners under that Act pay to each annuitant the value of his annuity all responsibility on their part ceases, and it is in the power of the Irish Church Representative Body to make any arrangement with these annuitants which may be considered desirable, either by way of composition and commutation or otherwise. With respect to the further inquiry of the hon. Gentleman whether the Irish Church Commissioners paid any sum by way of commutation to the Presbyterian Ministers, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will see upon reflection it would be impossible for the Commissioners, in making payments to the Irish Church Body, to include in that any sum that would be received in the way of commutation by Presbyterians; but if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the Irish Church Act he will find in one section—I think Section 39—the special provisions that were made with regard to the commutation which may be effected by Presbyterian Ministers. If the hon. Member will pardon the suggestion, I would say that all information with respect to the Irish Church Body may be most conveniently obtained by referring to the Report of that Body, which gives all the particulars connected with their transactions. I do not see any objection to giving the Return asked for, if it is in our power to give it; perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to make the inquiry.