§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration."—(Sir Sydney Waterlow.)1503
§ MR. T. CAVE
said, the House was good enough to allow him yesterday to explain why he took the liberty of opposing this Bill in its present stage, and of objecting to its being read a third time. He would, therefore, not trespass on the time of the House by making any further reference to the facts of the case, except to explain why it was he was anxious the Bill should not be allowed to proceed. He was a Member of the Select Committee which considered the Bill upstairs. He knew nothing of the facts of the case whatever until he went into the Committee. The Committee were equally divided, both in reference to the Preamble of the Bill, and in regard to each of the important clauses, and both the Preamble and the clauses were carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. In order to make himself understood, it was necessary that he should explain, in a very few words, that it was by a Statute passed in 1545, that St. Bartholomew's Hospital became the lay impropriators of Christ Church, Newgate Street, and that, under that Statute, they have the right to demand tithes at the rate of 2s. 9d. in the pound. In consideration, however, or in part consideration of these tithes, St. Bartholomew's Hospital was bound to keep in repair the parish church.
§ Message to attend the Lords Commissioners;—
§ The House went; — and being returned;—
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now taken into Consideration."
§ MR. T. CAVE
said, that when the Speaker was called to the other House, he was just remarking that, by a Statute of 1545, St. Bartholomew's Hospital had authority to levy tithes at the rate of 2s. 9d. in the pound; and they were bound, in part consideration of the receipt of these tithes, to keep in repair the parish church. They did repair the parish church until the time of the Great Fire of London; but ever since that fire, they had ceased to repair it. He believed that his hon. Friend the junior Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) would tell the House that, in 1504 his opinion, they were only bound to repair the chancel, and not the church, and that they had repaired the chancel from that time to the present. In 1872, St. Bartholomew's Hospital raised a claim to levy this sum of 2s. 9d. in the pound, although they had accepted an equivalent of 1⅛d. for about two centuries. The parish of Christchurch resisted this claim, and they did so on the following grounds:—First, because they considered the payment of £200 a-year, which they had made for two centuries, as a customary payment; secondly, because the 2s. 9d. leviable on yearly rents was imposed when the rents were principally ground rents, and a sum of money was paid in the shape of a fine for the renewal of the lease, the fines being greater in amount than the rents themselves. Among the resisting petitioners —and he begged particularly the attention of the House to this fact—among the petitioners who resisted the litigation of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, were the firm of Messrs. Tylor, the brass-founders of Newgate Street, and, in addition, the trustees of Christ's Hospital. Messrs. Tylor were all powerful people in the parish of Christchurch. They were greatly trusted by their fellow-parishioners. They permitted themselves to come to the front in respect of this litigation, and, acting in conjunction with Christ's Hospital, the parishioners trusted them, and believed they would not feel at liberty to accept any compromise on their own account without the consent of the parishioners generally, and those who were joined with them in paying the costs of the litigation. The facts of the case, however, as it appeared to him, did not justify that confidence. St. Bartholomew's Hospital, having perhaps reason to fear the strength and force of the resistance offered to them by a firm like Messrs. Tylor, and a powerful corporate body like Christ's Hospital, made attempts to "square," and did, in fact, "square" those representative bodies, as he would venture to call them. They "squared" them in this way—They told the petitioners that they had the right to claim from them the rate of 2s. 9d. in the pound, but that they were ready to enter into a compromise for the payment of 6d. in the pound at once, the sum gradually rising to about 1s. at the end of 10 years. That was the arrangement 1505 which was to be made as a compromise. But how did the House think St. Bartholomew's Hospital settled with Messrs. Tylor? Messrs. Tylor were a strong and powerful firm, and were not easily to be set aside. St. Bartholomew's Hospital, therefore, found it convenient to settle with Messrs. Tylor for the payment of 6d. in the pound for ever. With Christ's Hospital, they entered into a compromise still more extraordinary and still more immoral. The House would find, if they referred to the Bill, that there was a clause inserted in it—Clause 13—which put outside the parish limits all ground which might become afterwards chargeable with these rates. This was done by a process scarcely honest. He dared say his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone would put another construction on the matter; but it certainly did seem to him (Mr. T. Cave) to be a transaction which he could designate by no other name than dishonest. They agreed to regard land and buildings as being outside the parish, when, in point of fact, they were within it, and. to let off a powerful and wealthy Corporation like Christ's Hospital with the small additional payment of £100 a-year. Now, it had long been known that it had been in the contemplation of Christ's Hospital to take the boys now under their charge in Newgate Street into the country, and to convert the large space of ground belonging to them, in the parish of Christchurch, into building ground, from which they would receive a very large and important rent-roll. The result of this transaction would be that any tradesmen taking shops belonging to Christ's Hospital would have an immense advantage over all other tradesmen in the neighbourhood who happened to live outside the limits of Christ's Hospital. Such tradesmen would be handicapped against the tradesmen who lived on premises which belonged to Christ's Hospital. The opposing petitioners found themselves to be sold by these two compromises. At the same time, they considered that it would be impossible to continue the litigation further, without the assistance of these two powerful parties, and they agreed to come to a compromise with St. Bartholomew's Hospital on their own account. They were afraid that if they did not effect a compromise, they would be held liable for the payment of the full rate of 1506 2s. 9d. in the pound, and, as a matter of fact, a compromise was settled between a large number of parishioners—but not those who were now opposing the further progress of this Bill—and St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the terms of the compromise being that the parish should pay a rate immediately which would realize £1,100 a-year, that this sum should be gradually increased to £1,600, or nearly 500 per cent at the end of five years, and ultimately to £2,200 a-year at the end of a further period of five years, at which sum it was to remain in perpetuity. This compromise was submitted to the Master of the Rolls, who made some very significant remarks when it came before him. He did not disguise his anger and contempt—for that, practically, was the interpretation to be put upon the statements made by the Master of the Rolls—he did not disguise his feeling in regard to the great injustice of a great Corporation seeking, after the lapse of two centuries, to tax, for their own purposes, upon so enormously increased a scale, the whole of the parish which, unfortunately, was placed at their mercy. Perhaps, he (Mr. T. Cave) might be allowed to read one remark which was made by the Master of the Rolls. The learned Judge said, in fact—"What things are done in the name of charity!" and then went on to say that unless St. Bartholomew's Hospital accepted a reasonable compromise, he thought legislation would be necessary in order to protect the parishioners from the consequences. In regard to the Bill which was at present before the House, it had been introduced into Parliament in order to give legality to this compromise. He was a Member of the Select Committee which sat upon the Bill upstairs. The Committee listened with full attention to all the statements that were laid before them, and, after hearing the case, the Committee-room was cleared, in order that the question might be discussed between the Members of the Committee as to whether or not the Preamble of the Bill should be passed. In the end, it was only passed, after strenuous opposition of one-half of the Members of the Committee, by the casting vote of the Chairman. In the same way the important clauses of the Bill were passed, each clause being carried by the casting vote of the Chairman. The Chairman himself frequently 1507 used the argument which had been employed by counsel, that if the Committee did not pass the Bill in the shape in which it was asked for, the promoters would not take it all, but would go on with their litigation. This argument was urged upon the Committee by the Chairman, and he believed that it had considerable weight and influence with his hon. Colleagues, who permitted the Bill to pass. He was now going to ask the House to refuse to permit the Bill to take a stage to-day, simply on the following grounds:—First, he wanted to give to the dissentent petitioners a little longer time to consider the compromise —namely, until next Session. He believed that if an interval of this kind took place, the parties interested would be able to arrive at a fairer compromise than that which was contained in the present measure, and he made the Motion, which he had placed upon the Paper, in order to afford them an opportunity of doing so. St. Bartholomew's Hospital had agreed to settle with Messrs. Tylor at the rate of 6d. in the pound. If they would settle with all the parishioners on the same terms, he should not have a word to say. Surely they ought to be treated all alike? Surely a wealthy man ought not to be let off with 6d., while others, who were not in an equally favourable position, were required to pay 1s. He believed that a compromise on these terms would entitle St. Bartholomew's Hospital to about £800 a-year, and the petitioners who opposed the Bill were quite willing to accept a compromise for the payment of £800 a-year. If that were done, the House would not be further troubled on the matter. He had been told that the arrangement made with Messrs. Tylor had been broken off, and that Messrs. Tylor were willing to come into the same arrangement as the rest of the parishioners. He believed that that was not true, and his reason for believing so was derived from certain statements which had been drawn up and placed in his hands; but which, unfortunately, he was not at liberty to use on the present occasion. He might add that such a proposal had never been made in that House before, as to give the force of legality to an attempt to raise a rate, after a lapse of two centuries, which amounted to 10, 20, and 30 times the amount of the original rate, and this 1508 without the slightest notice to the parishioners. The House would see that the owners of real property, having this claim forced upon them, would find the value of their property depreciated by 10, 15, or 20 per cent. If such a thing were to occur in regard to the actual value of a large landed estate, he ventured to say that the House would hear a great deal about it. When the Bill was last before the House, the Chairman of Ways and Means told the House that he found it his duty to vote for the Bill; but he made it tolerably clear that he did not approve of it. There was another reason why he (Mr. T. Cave) asked the House to refuse the Bill, and it was that there was no recorded instance of an Act being passed, after a fixed payment had been made for more than 200 years, which multiplied that payment, by a compromise, to 10 times the sum originally levied. He could not believe that the House would consent to sanction such a compromise. An arrangement of this nature did appear to him to he most unfair, and he could not help thinking that the treatment of the parishioners of this parish under the Bill was most unworthy of a great Corporation like St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He begged to move that the Bill, as amended, be taken into consideration that day three months, and he might add that he should trouble the House to divide upon the Motion.
§ 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. Thomas Cave.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word ' now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GREGORY
remarked, that before expressing his views in regard to the Bill, he was anxious to state that he had no interest whatever in the measure, and had nothing whatever to do with the property that would be affected by the Bill. His only object in rising was to put the case as fairly as he could for the consideration of the Bill by the House. It appeared to him that the case itself was a very short and simple one. He did not at all question the accuracy of the details which had been entered into by the hon. Member for 1509 Barnstaple, because he knew nothing of the circumstances that were laid before the Committee upstairs. He dared say that they would be explained by hon. Members who were Members of the Committee. What he wished to speak upon was the general ground, and the general principles of the Bill, and he would ask the House to consider what would be the result if they rejected it. Now, he thought that anyone who referred to the statement of the case before the Master of the Rolls must be satisfied that he would have decided against the parishioners who were sued for the recovery of those tithes, provided the case had gone on to its conclusion. He told the plaintiffs that that would have been his course in regard to the case; but he added that if he could find any principle of law that would enable him to decide against them, he certainly should. These words, used by the sitting Judge, might be taken as an assurance that there was no principle of law which enabled him to decide against the plaintiff, and the House might pretty fairly assume that so far as the judgment of the Master of the Bolls was concerned, it would have been in favour of the claim of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Gregory) went upon the principle that the plaintiffs were right in their contention that they had a right to obtain what they asked for; and that if the case went on, there must be a decree for the full payment of the demand made by St. Bartholomew's Hospital up to 2s. 9d. in the pound. Now, what was the alternative? The alternative was provided by the Bill now before the House. By means of that Bill, the plaintiff, instead of enforcing their claims to 2s. 9d. in the pound, proposed to make a compromise which would ultimately amount to the levy of a rate of 1s. in the pound, reduced by particular circumstances to about 10d., or less than one-third of what they were entitled to claim. At present, the suit in Chancery stood over until Michaelmas Term. It would be heard again at the Michaelmas Sittings, and the Master of the Rolls would then be asked to pronounce his judgment. The learned Judge had already intimated what that judgment would be, and there could be no doubt that the litigation would end in a decree enforcing the full claim to the rate of 1510 2s. 9d. in the pound. Under these circumstances, he asked if it would not be much better to accept the Bill now before the House, especially as it had already undergone the consideration of two Committees, one of the House of Commons, and one appointed by "another place." There was just one other point he was anxious to mention. The Statute, which permitted composition in the matter of tithes, could not apply to this particular case; but by it the Legislature had certainly sanctioned the principle of composition, and he ventured to say that that was, in reality, the principle adopted in the present instance. The House must also bear in mind this fact, that the parishioners who opposed the Bill were very few in number, and that the great majority of them had abstained from any opposition, and were satisfied with the Bill as it stood. He believed there was no doubt of the accuracy of this proposition. Even the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill did not pretend to represent any great body of the parishioners interested in the matter. Upon these grounds, he felt bound to oppose the Amendment, and to vote for the passing of the Bill.
§ MR. PLIMSOLL
said, the hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. Gregory), who opposed the Amendment of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. T. Cave), appeared to have forgotten, or perhaps he did not know, that the Master of the Rolls, in intimating his opinion in support of the claim, also thought that the injustice would be so flagrant that there would be no difficulty in obtaining an Act of Parliament to repeal the Act under which the claim was made. The opponents of the Bill were ready to run all the risks of the rejection of the Bill, and to fight it in "another place." Now, nearly every Member of the House had property somewhere. Who could tell that there might not be some dormant Act of Parliament throe or four centuries old, which might be revived after the lapse of that number of years, and render the owners of property liable to pay a claim of 2s. 9d. in the pound? If such a thing were possible, it would be a very serious matter to the owners of property everywhere. He also believed that the Governors of Christ's Hospital were divided on this question themselves. When the House were 1511 divided on this subject, about 10 days ago, at his (Mr. Plimsoll's) instance, when he went into the Lobby, a much respected Member of the House came to him and said he was one of the Governors of the Hospital, but he was quite ashamed of the claim put forward by his colleagues in the name of charity; and he walked out of the House without dividing upon the Bill. He (Mr. Plimsoll) hoped the House, for the sake of justice, would not pass such a monstrous measure. He might add that upon the occasion he referred to, the hon. Tellers who told against him were both Governors of the Hospital.
§ MR. ALLCROFT
wished to say a word in regard to the statements which had been made upon the other side. The Governors of Christ's Hospital were charged with making an immoral bargain. Now, the bargain was that instead of paying £200 a-year they should pay in future £100 a-year more, and the terms made by them with St. Bartholomew's Hospital were that the Hospital should take off £200 a year from the amount collected in the parish. Therefore, whether the bargain was immoral or not, the parish of Christchurch did not suffer to the extent of a single penny in consequence of it. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. T. Cave) spoke of the area of Christ's Hospital being about to be used for building purposes, and that it would escape these rates. He wished to say that the area of Christ's Hospital was in three different parishes, and out of the portion of land on which the Hospital stood only a very small part of it was subject to this charge. But besides the area of Christ's Hospital on which the building stood, and in regard to which the compromise was made, they had extensive property in the parish which would be dealt with under the Bill in regard to rating exactly the same as the rest of the property in the parish. He had been induced to make these remarks, because he felt it right that he should correct some of the misstatements which had been made.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID
said, he knew nothing of the case until he heard it discussed in the House the other day; but he did think the matter bore a peculiar aspect. They found that under an Act of Parliament more than 300 years old, it was proposed by a charitable authority to increase the rates of the 1512 parish to an enormous extent. They were church rates in their origin, and. were used as church rates for the maintenance of the church for many years. Now, although church rates had been abolished, and no alteration had been made in the payment of these rates for more than 200 years, it was now endeavoured to make this heavy additional charge. There ought to have been some Statute of Limitations which should have barred these gentlemen long ago from making such a claim as this, and from attempting, in the name of charity, to tax a very large parish for purposes, which were in their origin church rate purposes, at a rate of nearly 500 per cent more than the parish had been in the habit of paying for 200 years. If that was not a very strong proceeding in these days, he did not know what a strong proceeding was. He would ask the House to look at it from another point of view. Persons might have acquired property in the parish in total ignorance of this liability. He had no connection with the City of London in any way, but he was astonished that the City should put up with a proceeding of this sort, because there might be other claims to be started hereafter, and he did not see where the thing was to terminate. He thought they ought not to pass a Bill which one of the Judges of the land said would sanction a claim which was a monstrous abuse of authority, and which, according to that Judge, would involve a payment which was unjust in its nature. He thought the right thing for the House to do was to say that this Bill must stand over for another year; and in the meantime they should call upon the authorities of St. Bartholomew's Hospital to consider well what they were doing in the name of charity, and not to explode a mine in the district in which they were situated, under an Act of Parliament 300 years old, after their predecessors had entered into an arrangement which had been carried out for more than 200 years. He thought the case of the Hospital was a very weak one, unless there was some technical flaw which would override the case of the opposition. He must say that of all matters such a matter as this ought not to be decided by the casting vote of the Chairman of a Committee of four. Under these circumstances, he thought 1513 that time should be given for the reconsideration of the question.
§ MR. RAIKES
I must apologize to the House for rising to address it again on this subject. I have already addressed it at some length in regard to the history of this Bill. The hon. Baronet (Sir Julian Goldsmid) appears to be in a state of some confusion in regard to the objects of the measure. The hon. Baronet appears to me to object to the Bill, because he considers it to be an extension of the principles of church rates; and I think there are other hon. Members in this House who, having a strong aversion to anything like church rates, oppose the Bill on that ground. Now, so far as I understand the matter, the Bill has no reference to church rates whatever. The only question involved is one of property subject to tithe rates, and it does not involve the question of church rates in any shape or form. There is another point upon which the hon. Baronet seems to be mistaken. He appeared to think that the Master of the Rolls had stigmatized this Bill as a monstrous proceeding. Now, the object of this Bill is to put a stop to that proceeding which the Master of the Rolls stigmatized as monstrous.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID
I do not like to interrupt the hon. Member; but what I wanted to say was that the Master of the Rolls stigmatized the revival of a claim which had not been brought forward for 200 years as a monstrous proceeding, and adjourned the case, as I understand, in order that steps might be taken for getting rid of this claim altogether.
§ MR. RAIKES
I am glad that the hon. Member understands the matter rightly, but I think that the words he actually did use were the words which I have quoted. The Master of the Rolls, no doubt, used very strong terms in speaking of the claim which had been put forward, and as the hon. Member for Barn-staple (Mr. T. Cave) has referred to what I said the other day, I am bound to add that he has quoted me correctly. If I had been the arbitrator to whom the matter had been referred, I do not think that I should have decided in favour of the precise compromise which is embodied in the Bill. I do not stand here now as the apologist of the promoters for the course they have taken in the matter. I am satisfied 1514 that the House will not determine the issue from this point of view, but will regard it as a question of the interests of the parishioners in this particular parish. The London City Churches Act, which I quoted the other day, provides that this particular parish should have power to agree by a resolution of its vestry, to compromise any claims which might be got up in respect of tithes. The vestry have full powers given to them by that Act, and this Bill is, I believe, an outcome of an agreement of this kind. That is, I think, a matter on which there can be no doubt and no question. The claims put forward by St. Bartholomew's Hospital would amount, I am assured, to no less a sum than £7,000 a-year, chargeable upon the parish; whereas the arrangement come to by the vestry with the plaintiffs provides that the charge shall only be £1,100 a-year at present, rising to £1,600 a-year at the end of five years, and finally becoming a charge of £2,200 a-year. Therefore, it is quite clear, assuming that the claim of St. Bartholomew's Hospital is a good one in law, that the parish have made an exceedingly good bargain. Hon. Members who have spoken to-day appear to think that by opposing this Bill they would be rejecting the claim of St. Bartholomew's Hospital; whereas, in point of fact, by rejecting the Bill, they would probably saddle the parish with the full liability of £7,000 a-year instead of £1,100, £1,600, and £2,200, which is the full extent of the claim sanctioned by this measure. It must be borne in mind that the Master of the Rolls did not reject the demand made by the Hospital. The Master of the Rolls clearly indicated that however much he disliked the claim put forward, he was probably powerless to resist it, and if those opposing this measure have their way, and the Bill be rejected to-day, we shall only have to look forward to the imposition of the full amount of £7,000 a-year as the result of this endeavour to resist the imposition of £1,100 a-year. What has happened with regard to the Bill in this House? We are told that upstairs the Bill was carried only by the casting vote of the Chairman. I hardly think that much should be made of the precise proportion in which the Committee decided. The decision of the bare majority is the decision of the Committee, 1515 and as such is entitled to the respect of this House. The hon. Member for Barnstaple has shown us by his advocacy of the views of the opponents today, that they were well and ably represented upon the Committee. There is an additional reason why the promoters of the Bill should be entitled to some consideration at the hands of the House. The Bill has only reached this House very late in the Session. All the parties who had the right to be heard before the Committee had full opportunity of being heard; but the Committee decided in favour of the Bill, and in the ordinary course it would have been read a third time and passed through all its stages. My hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, however, interposed with a new clause on behalf of the Post Office, and the course taken to-day gives us an illustration of the effect of introducing now matter, which has not been brought before the Committee. If the House accept the Amendment, they will show that there is considerable uncertainty in decisions of the Committees upstairs, and will increase opposition to Private Bills in all their stages. I am sorry to detain the House so long on a Bill of this sort; but there has been something said in regard to Messrs. Tylor, who were opposed to the Bill, to which I am bound to refer. I am not in the confidence of Messrs. Tylor, and I am not entitled to make any statement on their behalf as to what induced them to withdraw their opposition to the measure; but I am assured by information that has reached me that the statement made by the hon. Member for Barnstaple as to the reason which induced them to withdraw their opposition is not correct. I think, however, that he said himself he understood the shadowy arrangement he referred to had been abrogated. The House must not therefore be led away by any notion that Messrs. Tylor have been "squared." Messrs. Tylor have boon treated, exactly the same as the rest of the parishioners, and I believe they are quite contented with their position.
§ MR. T. CAVE
They were "squared" originally, and if the bargain has fallen through, it has not been from any unwillingness on their part. I may say most authoritatively that they are entirely malcontent with regard to the Bill.
§ MR. RAIKES
I believe that Messrs. Tylor are not so much opposed to the Bill as the hon. Gentleman seems to think. Then, again, with regard to Christ's Hospital. Very much has been made of that case; but all it amounts to is that a compromise has been effected whereby that Hospital, instead of paying £200 a-year, will in future pay £300 a-year. I believe the whole effect of this Bill will be to require Christ's Hospital to pay permanently £100 a-year more than they do at present, while the parish itself will be relieved to the extent of £300 a-year, in consequence of the bargain made by Christ's Hospital. That I think is not an unfair proposal, for it must be borne in mind that the large bulk of the property of Christ's Hospital, according to the statement of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Allcroft), who represents Christ's Hospital in the matter, is not within the parish of Christ-church at all. I confess that the matter is one of great difficulty. I think I have shown the House that, so far as I am concerned, I very much regret that such a claim should have been put forward by St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and that in consequence of the arrangement made by the parish, the House should be called upon to sanction such an arrangement. But I do not wish the House to run away with the impression that if they reject the Bill they will do good to the parish. It appears to me, on the contrary, that they will do a very considerable injury; and, considering that this Bill is the result of an agreement made between the plaintiffs in the suit on the one hand, and the parish on the other hand, I think it is undesirable, because a few Gentlemen happen to dissent from this arrangement, that the House should reject a measure which is the result of a general consensus of opinion among all the parties concerned.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
remarked, that a great deal that had been said by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees would meet the entire concurrence of the House; but there was one thing that had not been noticed. As he understood, everyone who brought an impartial judgment to bear upon the matter—the Master of the Rolls, his hon. Friend the Chairman of Committees, and everyone else—seemed to agree that the claim of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, if not immoral, was a 1517 most objectionable claim. In considering the matter, he started from that point, and the view presented was, that St. Bartholomew's Hospital having brought forward a most objectionable claim, regarded in a moral point of view, and one which that House ought to be the last to sanction, it was proposed that they should resist this immoral or objectionable claim, and they were asked by way of compromise to pass a Bill which provided that instead of receiving the whole £7,000 a-year, the Hospital should receive £2,200 a-year, after an interval of 10 years. The House was asked to take upon themselves the responsibility of accepting that compromise, and of giving to St. Bartholomew's Hospital a sum of £2,200 a-year at the end of 10 years. He was quite aware of the answer which the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees had given—that if they did not allow this compromise, it would be the worse for the parish. But, in the first place, there were parishioners who took a different view, and wished their legal rights to be determined. Under those circumstances, he thought it would be a strong measure to compel persons who were prepared to go to litigation to have a compromise, against their own will, forced upon them. There was another view in which the matter might be regarded. When the authorities of St. Bartholomew's Hospital received this sum, originally, it only amounted, in fact, to the sum of £200 a-year; but, by virtue of an old Statute recently discovered, it was found that the rate levied upon the rental value of the property would produce a much larger sum, the property itself being in a much different position at the present day from that which it occupied formerly. It was, however, felt that it would be a great injustice if the authorities of the Hospital were now to be allowed, at the end of 200 years, after having been willing to receive £200 a-year for the whole of that period, to raise the sum by virtue of an old and forgotten Statute to £7,000 a-year; and if the claim was endeavoured to be enforced, it would be the duty of the Legislature to step in and take that sum away from the Hospital. A lapse of 200 years might be fairly considered, from every proper point of view, to have got rid of vested rights. As it was by virtue of an. Act 1518 of Parliament that the Hospital made the claim, it was only just that Parliament should consider what their fair rights were. If the claim were considered to be an immoral claim, it would be the duty of the House to alter it. If the House rejected the Bill, it might be that the hon. Member for Sussex (Mr. Gregory) would be right in his supposition that the judgment of the Master of the Rolls would go against those who wished not to be bound by this compromise. There might be, for all he (Sir Henry James) could tell, a technical judgment of £7,000 a-year against them; but Parliament had the means of setting that matter right, and as one Committee had decided by acknowledging the compromise entered into, that £2,200 a-year was a proper sum to give to the Hospital, it might be the duty of some other Committee to determine what was a proper sum for the Hospital to receive, so that the Hospital might be saved from the disgrace of having it said—and it had been uncontradicted by any Governor present — that the claim put forward was an immoral claim, and a claim that ought not to be supported. It would be, he thought, an act of injustice to those of the parishioners who objected to the compromise, to pass the present Bill; and he, therefore, supported the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Barn-staple, which would afford time for the re-consideration of the matter, with the view of determining what was the proper sum St. Bartholomew's Hospital was entitled to receive.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
trusted that the House would bear with him for a few moments while he offered some reasons which, he thought, ought to induce the House not to reject the Bill. All would agree that some very strong language had been used against the Governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and the House ought to give those who represented the Governors an opportunity of saying what they had to say in respect of the course pursued. He would touch, for a moment, upon the last point raised by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James)—namely, that the Governors of the Hospital had been following an immoral and objectionable course in bringing their suit before the Master of the Rolls. But the Master of the Bolls ac- 1519 quitted them of all blame in the matter, and said that as trustees they were bound to obtain a legal decision upon the question. It was in consequence of the suggestion of the Master of the Rolls that the Governors had felt it right to introduce the present Bill. They were anxious in some way or other to have a compromise settled, as all they desired was to obtain a legal position, be that, as trustees, they might be able to take that which they were legally entitled to take. That was all that the Hospital desired. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. T. Cave) had charged them with having made an immoral arrangement with Messrs. Tylor. He wished to say, with regard to that charge, that those who looked through the Bill would see that although, in the first instance, it was proposed that Messrs. Tylor should, under a compromise, pay a fixed sum, instead of being placed on the same basis as Christ's Hospital, it was afterwards determined that they should be placed on the same footing as the rest of the parishioners, and they accepted that arrangement. There was, however, some reason why they should have been placed in an exceptional position. They had land which was not yet covered, and therefore it was felt that they might be dealt with exceptionally in the matter; but when the case came before the Master of the Rolls, they consented to be placed in the same position as the other parishioners. Therefore, as the Bill stood, no parishioner stood on a different footing from another, except the trustees of Christ's Hospital, for reasons which had already been explained to the House. A great deal had been said in regard to the view taken by the Master of the Rolls. He would not trouble the House with any expression of opinion of his own; but he would prefer to read the words of the Master of the Rolls himself. The case lasted throughout the whole of one day, and the plaintiffs naturally did the best they could to make out their case before the learned Judge. The Master of the Rolls intimated that he was clearly of opinion that his decree must go against the defendants — Messrs. Tylor and Phillips—two of the largest ratepayers, who had been selected to fight the battle on behalf of the parish. In consequence of this intimation, a meeting of the 1520 parishioners was called the same night, and at that meeting there was a unanimous vote that the compromise which had previously been suggested and discussed should be accepted. In order to show the view which the Master of the Rolls took, he (Sir Sydney Waterlow) would read some of the remarks made by the learned Judge during the hearing of the case—"The Master of the Rolls.—I will do this—if you will both agree on terms—that being the present condition of matters, I will make an absolute decree which shall bind both, that is, in the shape of a compromise.Mr. Chitty, who appeared for the Hospital, said—I do not know whether we can got the Bill through by consent. "Would your Lordship assist us in any way judicially in getting the Bill through?"The Master of the Rolls.—Yes; I will say this, that I think the compromise is not—as at present advised—at the disadvantage of the parishioners. I will not give a final opinion. I will say this much for you to help you through with the Bill, not intending to give a final opinion. . . . . I think it is a reasonable offer. The defendant now agreeing to withdraw all opposition to the Bill, and if the Bill passes each side to pay their own costs and let the thing stand over to the first cause day in November. . . . And if there is any difficulty with the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords, you may say, according to my present— not final opinion—but according to my present view, the arrangement is, in point of law, an advantageous one to the parishioners. . . . . . . It is perfectly well understood. I will tell you what I will do—I will let the cause stand over to the first cause day in next Sittings, Michaelmas Sittings, of course, with liberty to either party to apply. If there is anything you want from me I shall be most happy to assist you.He wished to call especial attention to the last two sentences—"Mr. Chitty.—And your Lordship thinks the arrangement is proper for us also? We are a Charity."The Master of the Rolls.—I have no doubt about that, Mr. Chitty; I will express that in any terms you think fit.The Governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital had throughout been guided in this matter by their legal advisers, and were fully justified in attempting to get a decision upon it in a Court of Law. Under the City Tithes Act, passed some years ago, the several parishes were authorized to commute their tithes by arrangement with the owners; and by a comparison with what had been done in similar cases, the present compromise 1521 would be seen to be a very fair one. Besides, by Act of Parliament, the ratepayers were bound by the majority of the Vestry; and the longer a settlement was delayed the worse would be the compromise, because the larger would be the sum with which a compromise must then begin.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
did not think anyone would blame the trustees for acting as they had done. They were told they had a legal right to this money; and it would have been difficult for them to avoid attempting to obtain what that legal right gave them. But it seemed to him that that legal right was, in fact, an actual wrong. It was an attempt to revive a claim which had been dormant for more than 200 years; and he could not help thinking that hon. Members who had spoken in support of the Bill now before the House—and even the Chairman of Ways and Means himself—had forgotten for the moment that they were addressing a Legislative Body. The House of Commons was not merely an interpreter of the law, but a maker and a reformer of the law; and if it were the case—as seemed to be admitted—that this was an unjust claim, it was the business of the House, when the subject was brought clearly before it, to set matters right. He was informed that if the Bill were now rejected the course of litigation might go on; but they must remember that the Master of the Rolls had given a very strong hint to Parliament, in saying that this was a case for legislation. That being so, it would be a strong measure to refuse the wish of even two or three parishioners; and he could not see, and had not hoard, any reason why the Legisture should not prevent an injustice being committed, and endeavour to effect a reform in the law.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, he desired to explain the course which he intended to take with reference to the Bill, in view of the period of the Session at which the House had now arrived. It seemed to him that what Parliament ought to avoid doing was to bind unwilling parties to a compromise, from which, if they were prepared to litigate on their own behalf, they might escape as individuals. He understood that the suit which was raised in this case was instituted by a few parishioners, who took up the cudgels, so to speak, nomi- 1522 nally for the rest; but under circumstances which did not really bind the others as to the result. If the Bill now under discussion were to pass, the hands of those who were concerned in this matter would be undoubtedly tied, and they would be debarred from disputing by litigation this extraordinary claim. At an earlier period of the Session he should have been disposed to move the re-committal of the measure, in order to have secured, if possible, that it should not have been allowed to operate upon unwilling ratepayers; but there was now no time for taking that course. The Bill was, no doubt, a reasonable one as regarded those who were prepared to be bound by it, but it was not reasonable in relation to those who were not so prepared; and unless the supporters of the measure were ready to suggest some way of escape from the difficulty, he must vote against the third reading of the Bill. At the same time, he might be allowed to say that, individually, he believed it was a foolish thing on the part of a minority of the ratepayers to oppose the proposed compromise. But if those ratepayers were prepared to litigate on their own behalf rather than submit to the arrangement, it was no part of the duty of the House to thrust down their throats that which was unwelcome to them.
said, he regarded the Bill as unjust and extortionate. He had no belief in compromises. The matter might be compromised, apparently, to-day; but there was no reason why, at some future period, the £7,000 should not again be demanded. Having no faith in such an arrangement as that now suggested, he should also vote against the Bill.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 78: Majority 7.—(Div. List, No. 252.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Bill put off for three months.