HC Deb 03 March 1880 vol 251 cc274-8

MR. PLUNKET moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend "The Irish Church Act, 1869," and to provide further compensation to certain persons being priests and deacons of the late Established Church of Ireland.


said, he did not think it was reasonable for the hon. and learned Member to expect that leave should be given to introduce the Bill without some explanation of its provisions. He should feel inclined to oppose the Motion unless some such explanation was offered.


said, he did not make any statement, because it was practically the same Bill which he had an opportunity of explaining to the House last year, and which was then printed and circulated. He had another reason, and that was the very unusual course pursued, under such circumstances, by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), of putting down a Notice of opposition to the introduction of this Bill. The Bill did not in any way challenge or reverse the policy of the Act of 1869, or confer any endowment on the Irish Church. It simply sought to deal with the cases of certain individual clergymen, who had been subjected to a serious wrong under the provisions of that Act. It proposed that curates and incumbents who had thus suffered should receive compensation. Those men, whose case he stood there to advocate, had suffered a very serious and grievous personal wrong—as great as any personal wrong could be—and this Bill simply proposed to do an act of justice and of charity to them. It was right to explain that the clergy of the Irish Church who had joined it subsequent to the time when the Act of 1869 came into force would receive no advantage whatever under its provisions. The principle of the Bill had already been approved by many hon. Members sitting on both sides of the House; and he thought it a very serious thing that English Members should show a disposition to oppose or talk out a measure of this nature, the object of which was to repair great personal injury done to men who, when they joined the Irish Church, thought it "within the range of practical politics" that they would be sure of a small but decent livelihood, and of the means of respectably supporting their families. This Bill would simply enable them to bring their claims before the Commissioners of the Irish Church Fund, out of which the Government had already devoted large sums for the purpose of developing Intermediate and University Education in Ireland, and recently for the purpose of relieving distress in that country. For several reasons he did not resist the Government proposal to appropriate the Church Surplus to these objects; but he thought there could be no objection to a small portion of the surplus—say, £200,000 or £300,000—being now applied to the purposes to which he had referred. He could not help again saying that he regretted that hon. Members, before his Bill had been printed and circulated, should have undertaken to oppose it. It was necessary, in order to relieve hardship of the greatest severity—but, certainly, unintentional severity—consequent on the passing of the Act of 1869; and, as a matter of fair play and justice, he hoped to be allowed the opportunity on another occasion of laying the case fully before the House.


said, he did not think the House should refuse to extend to the hon. and learned Gentleman the usual courtesy of allowing him to introduce his Bill; but he gave him Notice that there was no promise thereby implied on his part to support, directly or indirectly, the second reading of the Bill. He was thoroughly aware of the facts of the case, and also of the circumstances under which it was proposed to relieve a number of the clergy of the Disestablished Church of Ireland. When the Belief of Distress (Ireland) Bill was before the House, he pointed out that it would be a waste of the Surplus Fund to devote it to any such purpose; and he was afraid that if it were encroached upon for the purposes of this Bill it would be still further wasted.


also urged that the House should allow the Bill to be introduced; but he thought its provisions would need careful scrutiny.


thought that if the eases of those clergy who had suffered from the disestablishment of the Church had been brought before the House in a Resolution instead of in a Bill, as intended, the House would be much more desirous of acting generously to those men who had sustained injury; but his opinion was that, in the majority of cases, they had received no serious injury. It was most unusual to oppose a Bill on its first reading; and he hoped, therefore, the hon. and learned Member's Bill would be allowed to be read.


thought that the hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill was an ornament to the House, and a fair opponent ought to be allowed to have it read a first time. At the same time, he did not remember that the hon. and learned Member, who now showed such solicitude for the Irish disestablished clergy, had ever stood up in the interests of those poor unfortunate military officers who, on the plea of making openings for the advancement of officers in the Army, had been dismissed the Service, and had their professional hopes destroyed, without compensation for their losses, though done for the efficiency of others, in order to secure such a flow of promotion as would maintain the Army in a state of efficiency. He hoped that in future the hon. and learned Member would be found supporting the claims of those officers, who were quite as much entitled to compensation as those clergymen who had already been liberally rewarded.


said, he did not agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Gal way (Major Nolan), when he said that the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin was entitled to have his Bill read a first time without any explanation of any sort. He had no wish to prevent the hon. and learned Member from proceeding with his Bill; but he wished to point out that the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway were not based upon precedents of that House.


protested against the doctrine that a Member was guilty of any discourtesy in opposing a Bill on the first reading. He did not wish to oppose the Bill; but as his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had a Notice of opposition to it on the Paper he thought some explanation of its objects was advisable.


desired to impress on his hon. and learned Friend that if this Bill should reach another stage it would be desirable that he should place before the House some more definite statement than he had done. For his part, he did not feel in a position to say that he would oppose the Bill on the next stage, because he was aware that a large number of persons in Ireland thought they had a grievance in this matter, and they referred especially to some fund which they said belonged, rightly to them, but which, in the confusion of Disestablishment, was laid hold of, and they had never been able to recover it.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend "The Irish Church Act, 1869," and to provide further compensation to certain persons being priests and deacons of the late Established Church of Ireland, ordered to be brought in by Mr. PLUNKET, Sir ARTHUR GUINNESS, Mr. MAURICE BROOKS, Mr. EWART, and Mr. KAVANAGH.

Bill presented, and road the first time. [Bill 100.]