HC Deb 21 April 1882 vol 268 cc1086-97

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


resuming, said, he had been explaining to the House before the interruption took place that, under the present Bill, it was proposed that the Trustees of the Liverpool Bishopric Fund should purchase the advowson of the Vicarage of the parish of Walton for the sum of £30,000; and he was pointing out the sources from which it was proposed to raise from the Vicarage the income of the Bishop of Liverpool to the sum of £4,200 a-year, and to devote any surplus to the spiritual wants of the parish of Walton. He had also endeavoured to show that if the spiritual wants of the parish were to depend upon this surplus, the spiritual wants of the parish of Walton would come off very badly indeed. The present income of the Bishopric was £3,200, and there would hereafter be a permanent addition of £300 a-year. The money raised as an Endowment Fund was at present invested in Liverpool Dock Bonds for 50 years, at 4 per cent; but from that amount must be deducted the sum of £1,200 a-year, being the interest upon the proposed purchase money of the Vicarage of Walton at 4 per cent. This would leave the income of the Bishopric outside the parish of Walton at £2,300 a-year, and to make up that sum to a total of £4,200 a-year it was clear that £1,900 a-year must be taken from the income of the Vicarage of Walton. That income, on the authority of one of the chief promoters of the Bill, was, at the present moment, only £1,500 a-year; but, in 1887, it would reach £2,900, owing to certain building leases beginning to pay. But the House would see that, for the next five years, the income would actually fall short of the income considered necessary for the Bishopric by the sum of £400 a-year; and seeing that, even after that date, two-thirds of the income were to be given to the Bishop and only one-third to the spiritual wants of the parish of Walton, it certainly did seem that this was simply a scheme to save the pockets of the rich parishioners of Walton and Liverpool by robbing the poor of what ought to be devoted to their spiritual requirements. He also objected to the Bill because it proposed to intrust the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with functions which Parliament never intended them to perform—namely, the sanctioning of trafficking in Church livings, in the first instance, and the commission of an act of simony in the second. He could not help reflecting how, in the palmy days of Canon Ryle, the suggestion of such a transaction would have been followed by scathing articles in The Rock newspaper. Yet the whole matter appeared to have received the approval of Bishop Ryle, of Liverpool. The object of the present Bill was to deprive the parishioners of some £2,000 a-year, without an attempt being made, as far as he knew, to consult their wishes and feelings on this important subject. If for no other reason than this, he thought the second reading of the Bill ought to be postponed until next Session. It might be quite possible that the co-existence of a Vicar and a Rector in this parish was desirable. He did not profess to understand questions of ecclesiastical policy, and, therefore, he would express no opinion upon that matter; but why, when the Bishop of Liverpool was already in the enjoyment of an income of £3,200 a-year, with a retrospective income of £3,500 a-year, besides a residence worth £500 a-year, the income hitherto devoted to the maintenance of the clergy and to meeting those wants, the neglect of which had hitherto been so deeply deplored by the very Bishop who now proposed to annex these funds for his own use, he was at a loss to understand. He hoped the House would refuse to give a second reading to the Bill, if only for the purpose of enabling zealous Churchmen to bring in a better Bill, dealing with the parish of Walton as the parish of Roch-dale was dealt with some time ago, and to devote the whole of the funds of the Vicarage to the provision of those churches which the Bishop of Liverpool declared to be so greatly needed in the parish of Walton. Such a proposition would certainly receive his hearty support. He had no doubt that the owner of the advowson would be as willing to sell for this better purpose as for the ecclesiastical job which the present Bill proposed to perpetrate. If not, and it was still found desirable to purchase the advowson of the Vicarage, let the income derived from the purchase go towards the reduction of the rates of the City of Liverpool, which city, he be- lieved, once formed part of the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, and from which a large sum of money was now annually taken for the purpose of maintaining Corporation churches up and down Liverpool in districts from which the population had long since been withdrawn. In his opinion, this Bill ought never to have been brought in as a Private Bill at all; and he regretted to say that it appeared to be only too easy to smuggle Private Bills through the House, unknown to anybody except the officers of the House and one or two individual Members. He should have thought that any measure so deeply affecting the National Church would have been of interest, not only to every Member of the House, but to the public generally. Bills which proposed to job away a large sum of public money ought to be dealt with by the whole House, and not by the hole-and-corner method of a Private Bill. He thought the time had arrived when something should be done to secure that copies of all Private Bills should be delivered to Members with the ordinary Votes of the day, so that all of them might know what proposals they contained. He begged now to move, as an Amendment to the second reading of the Bill, that it be read a second time on that day six months.

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

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


said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) that it was a somewhat strange proceeding that a proposal of this character should be brought before the House in the guise of a Private Bill. It was a Bill which dealt not only with the property of a National Institution, but with a subject which, in the judgment of all of them, was of infinitely higher importance—namely, the suppression of a sacred office in the National Church. It appeared that in the case of the parish of Walton there was a Rectory and a Vicarage, and the minds of some people there might be a little inconvenience in a possible clashing of authority, although there was no evidence that hitherto that had been the case, or that any difficulties had arisen between the Rector and the Vicar. But supposing that it was the case, or supposing that there was some infinitely weightier reason than a possible collision between the Rector and the Vicar, then he submitted to the House that in this, as in a number of other cases of the same character where the ecclesiastical functions had grown too large, there ought to be a subdivision of the district for spiritual purposes, and that separate jurisdiction should be given to these different ecclesiastical personages so as to prevent the possibility of a collision or clashing of duties hereafter. He thought the House would be acting wisely in rejecting the second reading of the Bill on this ground alone, seeing that it was dealing with the National Church and with a large national property. [Mr. WARTON: No! and other hon. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] He was delighted at the interruption, or that any doubt should be thrown upon the question whether the Institution they were discussing was a National Church, because he would infinitely prefer that there should be declared ignorance rather than concealed ignorance upon the question. No doubt, it was an interesting question whether the Established Church was a National Institution or not. He could only imagine that the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Warton) foresaw that there might be great inconvenience in making the admission, or he would not have ventured to interrupt him (Mr. Illingworth) by challenging his assertion that the Established Church of the country was as much a National Institution as the Army and Navy, because, if there were substantial grounds for saying that that was not the case, he (Mr. Illingworth) thought that Parliament and the country itself would very soon ask another and a very pertinent question—namely, why the affairs of one sect in the country were to be obtruded so persistently upon Parliament, instead of being settled out-of-doors like those of any other religious denomination. He held that the main distinction between a National Church and other religious Bodies was that the affairs of the latter were settled outside the walls of Parliament, while the affairs of a National Church were with propriety brought before Parliament, and settled nowhere else. He therefore ventured to think that, what- ever might be the legal form suggested by this procedure, there were very strong objections to dealing with the property and the affairs of a National Church in the form of a Private Bill. Before going further, he wished to ask this simple question—If it were justifiable, as an arrangement fitting to be arrived at by means of a Private Bill, to suppress a Vicarage for the care of souls, why might they not have a process for disestablishing and disendowing one-half of the parishes of the country by means of thousands of Private Bills? If it were proper and fitting that such a measure should be introduced in the one case, he certainly knew of no reason why the same process should not be carried out in all. If the Rector was willing to sell the living in one case, why should not other persons similarly situated dispose of their livings? The circumstances in the present case were somewhat curious. The Rector was the patron of the Vicarage of Walton, and he was the individual who was going to pocket this £28,000 or £30,000—certainly, a very anomalous transaction in connection with a Private Bill. He had no doubt there were many other patrons who would be very willing to sell the property they possessed upon similar terms—and without much regard to the danger of the suppression of the care of souls in the district where the transaction took place, seeing that no provision was made for supplying another living in the place of the one disposed of. What he desired now was to point out to the House, and through the House to the country, the danger there was, in a transaction of this very doubtful character, of suppressing altogether a public office for the cure of souls by means of a Private Bill, and through an arrangement between the patron and those who desired to obtain a benefit from the transaction. He hoped, before the debate was brought to a close, to find some hon. Member take part in it who was acknowledged by the House to be, in some sense, a special guardian of the interests and reputation of the National Church; and he was anxious to know whether any such hon. Member was prepared to come forward and justify this system of the sale of Church I patronage, and of associating with it a dignitary of the highest character in the National Church? If it was justifiable in one case that the patronage should be sold, then he wanted to know what justification there could be for the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope), by which the hon. Gentleman proposed to interfere with this system of the sale of patronage? He was aware that there had been Committees and Commissions, which had reported upon the evils to the National Church, and upon the mischief to religion generally, which arose from this mode of trafficking in sacred offices. They need not wonder at what took place among men who had no other object in view than finding investments for their money, when they found Rectors and Bishops of the Church of England indulging in this traffic themselves—or, at any rate, countenancing it. They had seen in that House during the present Session considerable anxiety shown lest the House should do some injury to religion by the admission of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh). He appealed to those hon. Gentlemen, who were, no doubt, very sincere, or, at any rate, very zealous, in their guardianship of religion, that they should go into the Lobby with his hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) against the second reading of this Bill; for he ventured to say that if the matter now before the House were to become as well known throughout the country as the celebrated case of the hon. Member for Northampton, infinitely greater injury would be done to religion and to the Established Church of the country than anything that would be done by the introduction of half-a-dozen Mr. Bradlaughs into the House. There were some incidents about this matter that he thought the House would probably like to have the details of. How was it that now-a-days ecclesiastical property could be brought so openly into the financial market that even so large a sum as £30,000 was ready to be given for it? He thought it was to be explained by the fact that the present Vicar was 85 years of age, and that, therefore, the Bishop of Liverpool would not be called upon to wait very long before he came into possession of any pecuniary advantage which the transaction might confer upon him. He was not there to say whether or not in regard to a Bishop it was necessary that he should live in a Palace; but he was willing to admit that if he did live in a Palace he must have a Princely income. No doubt there was, in the minds of Churchmen, a feeling that a Bishop should take his station among the wealthiest and the highest in the land. But when this Bishopric of Liverpool was established the public were given to understand that zealous and wealthy Episcopalians were going to provide the funds, and that there was not likely to be brought before the House of Commons a transaction of such a shameful character as the one they were now engaged in discussing, in order that the pockets of the wealthy West Lancashire gentry might not be further drawn on. As he understood the matter, the maximum sum fixed for the income of the Bishop of Liverpool was £4,200 a-year. Why, then, were they flagging in their energies in providing the stipulated amount? Had they a pastor who was not deserving of their confidence? That could scarcely be the case, for they all knew that Canon Ryle was a sincere, a zealous, and a very able Churchman; and, further, that, on becoming Bishop of Liverpool, he placed himself literally among the people there, in the confidence that they would do complete justice to him. The question now was, were they going to fail the Bishop of Liverpool? Were they going to ask the House to be parties to so gross a transaction as the buying of a living and the suppression of a cure of souls? It had already been shown by his hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) that there was already a largely-increasing population in the parish of Walton, for which no other ecclesiastical provision was made. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Illingworth) appealed with confidence to the House to reject the Bill. He was satisfied that if the House refused to read the Bill a second time, the vast majority of the people of this country—not only those connected with the Established Church, but those without her pale—would commend the course which the House would take.


I am quite sure that the hon. Member who has just sat down has really not studied this question, and that he cannot be at all aware of the wants of the particular locality of which he has been speaking. We are extremely grateful to him, as a Nonconformist Member of this House, for the interest he apparently takes in the welfare of the Established Church. ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] I say that quite sincerely, although probably there are some hon. Gentlemen who do not echo the sentiment. There are, however, a great number of persons who do take a very sincere interest in the welfare of this parish, who have gone very closely into the question, and who know the "ins" and "outs" of the whole matter; and they, having the best means of judging, have come to a distinctly opposite conclusion to that at which the hon. Member has arrived. I must say I think their opinion is entitled to very considerable weight. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) seems to have forgotten a very important circumstance in the case. It is quite true that there is a Rector of Walton, and a Vicar of Walton, and the Vicarage of Walton and the Advowson of Walton belong to the Vicar, and nobody can interfere with his right to them. If the Vicar and his family choose to keep the Vicarage in perpetuity they can do so, and he cannot be called upon to perform any further duties than he has hitherto performed; nor can he be called upon to sell the advowson, nor to divide the two livings for the benefit of the parish of Walton, as the hon. Member seems to think would be the case in the event of a vacancy arising. Therefore, it is altogether out of the power of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners or of Parliament to make any alteration in the state of things which now exists. In the parish of Walton there is a Rector with a very considerable income, and if this Bill passes that income will be increased, because certain fees will be handed over to him. The Vicarage is to be sold, and part of the proceeds are to be devoted to the benefit of the Rector. Therefore, the position of the Rector will be improved by the sale, and, with the improvement of the position of the Rector, so also will his power to provide for the spiritual wants of the parish be increased. I now come to the question, what is to be done with the Vicarage? It happens that those persons who have looked into the matter have been able to make an arrangement with the Vicar under which he is willing to sell the advowson of the Vicarage for a certain amount of money—I believe £28,000.


Is it not the Rector who is the patron, and not the Vicar?


Yes; the Rector is the patron, and he is willing to sell the avowson of the Vicarage for the sum, I believe, of £28,000. Then, what is to be done with the proceeds of the sale of this living? Where is the money to come from? The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) seems to think that by this proceeding we shall save the pockets of the rich men of Lancashire. We shall do nothing of the kind. The men of Lancashire have established the Bishopric of Liverpool under the sanction of an Act of Parliament. They have subscribed a certain income. But the Act says that the Bishop may have a larger income, up to £4,200 a-year. What is now proposed by this Bill is to give part of the money subscribed for this purpose to the purchase of the advowson of the Vicarage of Walton, and so to apply the income of the advowson as to be able, out of the proceeds of the purchase, to raise the income of the Bishopric of Liverpool to the full extent of the £4,200 a-year provided by the Act, and which is in no way too large a sum, considering the enormous calls the Bishop will have upon him in such a diocese. Moreover, in a short time the provisions of the Bill will enable more than £1,000 a-year to be available for the benefit of the parish of Walton, in such a manner as the Ecclesiastical Commissioners may think fit. Not only will the See of Liverpool be greatly improved and increased in value, but the parish of Walton itself will derive an advantage which, under the existing arrangements, it is impossible for it to obtain so long as this Vicarage is not sold. I have no wish to take up the time of the House by making any lengthened statement of my own, and I have stated the facts of the case as shortly as I can. It must be remembered that in the present state of things you cannot compel the sale of the Vicarage at all. You must either leave things to remain as they are, or else carry out this arrangement. I believe I have shown that the proposed arrangement will be beneficial, not only to the See of Liverpool, but eventually to the interests of the inhabitants of the parish of Walton themselves. The hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Caine) confesses that he knows nothing about the circumstances of the case. It so happens that the Bill has been advertised in all the local papers and elsewhere, and it is a remarkable fact that not a single Petition has been presented by an inhabitant of Walton against the passing of the measure. Surely, the local people are those best able to form an opinion as to the merits of a Bill of this character. It is not, as the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) described, a Bill for the suppression of a living. There will always be a living in the parish of Walton. The Rectory will remain; and the passing of this Bill will, as I have already said, not only benefit the See of Liverpool, but it will make more adequate provision for the wants of the parish of Walton.


asked how, if the Vicarage was got rid of, it could be said that a living for the cure of souls had not been suppressed?


The Rector has the same cure of souls as the Vicar; both livings are enjoyed by the same person, and the Rector will still remain.


Some of my hon. Friends have raised an objection to this Bill, which I think ought to be clearly explained to the House. They say they consider that a Bill of this character ought to have been a Public and not a Private Bill. Now, I think that this is a mistake on their parts, and that it would not have been possible to bring it in as a Public Bill. It deals with an advowson which has a beneficial value. The advowson belongs to the Rector, and it is vested in him. This Bill, therefore, is practically an Estate Bill, and as an Estate Bill it must be brought before both Houses of Parliament in the form of a Private Bill. Some confusion did exist in my own mind in regard to the effect of the Bill, until I made an inquiry both from the promoters and from the opponents as to the circumstances of the case. I find that there is no suppression of the cure of souls at all. There is only a single church in which there is a co-ordinate Vicar and a Rector, and each of them has the same charge of the cure of souls in the district church to which they are attached. The church is not to be suppressed by this Bill; but it will be continued with a much larger sum available for its support, so that the Rector can employ more curates to discharge the duties connected with the church. Without this Estate Bill there would be no surplus funds for the promotion of ecclesiastical purposes in the parish; but under the provisions of this measure there will be about £1,000 a-year available for the extension of church accommodation and the appointment of additional curates within the district. It is, as I have said, simply an Estate Bill, which takes a sum of £28,000 out of the subscriptions now invested at 3¾ per cent, and invests the same £28,000 in an estate which will pay 5½ per cent. I have looked into the matter very carefully. I believe that the measure has been properly introduced as a Private Bill, and, as it is quite regular in form, I think the second reading ought to receive the support of the House.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Lyon Playfair) would explain whether the Bill did not sanction the suppression of a living and the sale of the income to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, for the purposes of the Bishopric of Liverpool Endowment Fund?


I have already explained that the Bill does not in reality suppress any church.


wished to say one word in regard to the statement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross). There appeared to him (Mr. Cropper) to be a mistake in regard to the whole of the matter. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) seemed to think that there was an endeavour on the part of the promoters of the Bill to do something unfair, and something that was antagonistic to the ordinary course of procedure in regard to Church livings. But the statement of the right hon. Gentleman put the matter quite plain. If this sum of £28,000 was not expended in the way proposed, the living might be simply sold in the open market, and neither the See of Liverpool nor the parish of Walton would derive any advantage from it whatever. The whole case simply resolved itself into a matter whereby a large and valuable living would be divided without the slightest harm to anybody, and to the general advantage. He disliked the sale of Church patronage as much as anybody; but he certainly felt inclined to regard this as an exceptional case. At any rate, it would prevent the recurrence of the scandal which, in many men's eyes, was attached to the sale of livings, as this advowson could now never again come into the market. Instead of the proposed arrangement being, as the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) said, a disgrace to the City of Liverpool, he thought it would be of great advantage to Liverpool, and to the parish of Walton also. He should, therefore, give his vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 160; Noes 76: Majority 84.—(Div. List, No. 67.)

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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