§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. LEATHAM (Huddersfield)
Mr. Speaker—Sir, I can hardly rise to move the second reading of this Bill without congratulating my hon. Friends whose names are upon the back of it, and, indeed, all who condemn the traffic in livings, upon the progress which this question has made in public opinion. Those of us who have devoted a good deal of attention to this question for many years, and have made efforts to rouse and fix the public conscience with regard to it, may, I think, find a good deal of gratification in the fact that it has at last entered upon a stage where the main facts upon which we have insisted are admitted, and there is no great difference of opinion with regard to the remedies to be applied. I remember that so lately as 1884, when this Bill was last before the House, I thought it still necessary to meet the contention of no less a Church Reformer than the Bishop of Peterborough, who had as- 990 serted that a wide distinction in principle was to be drawn between the sale of an advowson and the sale of a next presentation. It is a great satisfaction to me to find, from his Lordship's contribution to a recent number of The National Review, that the right rev. Prelate is now of opinion that it is as necessary to stop the sale of advowsons as it is that of next presentations. In fact, in nine cases out often, no moral distinction whatever can be drawn between the sale of an advowson and of a next presentation; because, in nine cases out of ten, the motive of the purchaser is the same in either case—he buys the advowson with an eye to the next presentation and to a particular nominee; while the motive of the vendor in either case is identical—namely, to turn his trust into money. And it is a fortunate circumstance that this moral distinction cannot be drawn, otherwise we should despair of putting an end to the traffic, which has always been chiefly a traffic not in next presentations, but in advowsons. Now, Sir, I do not think it necessary any longer to take up the time of the House by a recapitulation of the main facts upon which this whole proposal is based—they are universally admitted—I mean the magnitude and rascality of the traffic; its demoralizing effect upon both patrons and clergy, and especially upon those who are both clergymen and patrons; the outrage upon congregations; the prodigious scandal; and the injury to the interests of the Church and of religion itself. Although we had all these facts at our command 12 or 13 years ago, we approached the consideration of this question at that time under this crushing disadvantage—that it appeared to be regarded with indifference by Churchmen themselves. In view of that apparent apathy on the one hand, and these facts on the other, I think any Church Reformer might have been excused if he arrived at the conclusion—which I confess I did—that the traffic in livings was so built into the system of an Establishment that they must both stand or fall together. So long as I leant to that opinion I received the enthusiastic support of hon. Friends who sit near me, and who have distinguished themselves by their hostility to the principle of an Establishment. But now that I am able to take a more cheerful view, and to propose amendments of the 991 law which will, I hope, put an end to these scandalous proceedings, I do not find nearly so much enthusiasm among my hon. Friends; indeed, when the Bill was last under discussion, some of them went the length of voting against it. Now, my hon. Friends must forgive me when I say that I have some difficulty in understanding their position. They say that they cannot pose as Church Reformers. Well, but surely they do not desire that the Church should remain as full as possible of abuses, in order that it may be brought down by the very weight of the abuses itself. ["No, no!"] My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) indignantly says "No!" But the human conscience is wonderfully subtle; and when we dislike an Institution we easily find excellent reasons for refusing to do it any good. Sir, I think that it is impossible for any Member of Parliament thus to shirk the responsibilities which devolve upon him at his election. When he is returned to this House he accepts the charge of all the Public Institutions in the country, whether he thinks well of them or not. He may desire to see some of them removed, and he is at liberty to urge their removal from his place in Parliament; but so long as they exist he is bound to see that they are made as beneficent, or as innocuous, as possible. When, therefore, Church Reforms are pressed upon us for acceptance or rejection, it is impossible for us to stand aside and say—"I am a Reformer in everything except upon ecclesiastical questions; I am a Member of Parliament in every sense, except so far as relates to my share in the control of the State's great provision for religion." You cannot cut and carve your duties in that fashion. You must either accept them all, and discharge them all, or renounce them all; and it is on this ground, because hon. Gentlemen admit that the Bill before the House will augment the usefulness of the Church, or, at any rate, if they will have it so, abate the harm which it is doing, that I claim for it the support of my hon. Friends. And now, Sir, what is this Bill? It is really a Bill to prohibit the marketing of advowsons. It contains, no doubt, clauses for other purposes; but they are all subordinate to that part of the Bill which deals with advowsons. Resignation bonds are done 992 away with, the sale of next presentations is prohibited, and donatives are turned into presentative benefices; but these are provisions which must form part of any Bill for the amendment of the Patronage Laws, and there is no reason to believe that they will be resisted by anyone. They find a place in this Bill as a matter of course; and I shall not take up the time of the House in discussing them. Let us rather discuss the Bill itself, which is only an important measure at all in so far as it deals with advowsons. Now, the House is aware that this question has not reached its present, which I believe to be its final stage, without a good deal of discussion. We had several debates in the two last Parliaments upon the traffic in livings; and it was not until I had tested the opinion of the House by Resolutions that I had the honour of first bringing in this Bill. It was read a second time the year before last by a large majority and referred to a Select Committee, along with the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope). That Committee was a thoroughly representative one. It consisted of 17 Members; it was presided over by my right hon. Friend—whose loss we all so much deplore—the late Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and it went very patiently through both Bills, with this result—that it reported in favour of all their main provisions. That portion of the Bill of my right hon. Friend which I may term distinctive has been embodied, I believe, in the measure which has been introduced in "another place" by the Archbishops. Otherwise, with the full consent of my right hon. Friend, it would have been included in this Bill; for my right hon. Friend and myself are in no kind of way antagonistic in our proposals. I think that my right hon. Friend will allow me to say that we have each accepted each other's Bills; and if, in the exercise of his discretion, he should move what is distinctive of his Bill in the form of clauses in Committee I shall certainly not offer any opposition. Now, though the Select Committee reported in favour of all the main provisions of my Bill as it stood in 1884, it naturally suggested Amendments in matters of detail, all of which are to be found in the Bill now before the House, with 993 one solitary exception, to which I will refer immediately. The Bill provides that henceforth all sales of advowsons shall be void, unless the sale be made to some person possessing or acquiring in the parish itself, or an adjoining pariah, or in both, property of an equal annual value with that of the benefice, or to some public patron or set of trustees not having power of sale, or to the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty under the provisions of the Bill. The Bill, therefore, absolutely puts an end to what is usually called the traffic in livings, with all its clandestine proceedings, touting agents, and so forth; but it does not prevent an advowson from passing with an estate by sale; it does not prevent a patron who is bent upon selling his advowson, or compelled to do so, from meeting with a purchaser; indeed, it rather facilitates such sales, because it provides a purchaser who must buy, in the person of Queen Anne's Bounty, only it limits the amount to be paid by the Board to a maximum of five years' purchase of the value of the living, Queen Anne's Bounty either paying for the advowson outright from moneys at their disposal, or recouping themselves by a charge to be levied on the living, and spread over a number of years, the charge to take effect after the next vacancy. I said, a moment ago, that there was one recommendation of the Committee which I was unable to adopt. It relates to the disposal of the patronage of livings so bought. As the Bill originally stood, this was to go to the Crown. The Committee proposed that it should go to Patronage Boards, to be created in every diocese. Unfortunately, no such Boards are at present in existence. I think that it is no part of our duty, in bringing in a Bill to prohibit the traffic in livings, to provide these Boards; but that their creation should have an Act of Parliament to itself, especially as there appears to be no small difference of opinion as to what the constitution of these Boards should be. But we are most anxious, as far as possible, to meet the wishes of the Committee, one of the recommendations of which was that the churchwardens of the parish, for the time being, should be associated with the Patronage Board in the presentation to the living. What we, therefore, propose is that, pending the creation of such Boards, the patronage should rest 994 with the Ordinary and the churchwardens of the parish. We think that we shall thus arrive at a representation of parish opinion on the one hand, and of ecclesiastical preferences and experience upon the other. Now, there are one or two points in this scheme with regard to which I think the House will expect a word of explanation. One is why Queen Anne's Bounty has been selected as the medium for these transactions. This is in consequence of their being actually engaged in many analogous transactions, and also of the very detailed and explicit evidence given by Mr. Aston, the Treasurer and Secretary, before the Lords' Committee on Patronage. Mr. Aston stated very fully why he thought the Board perfectly well qualified to undertake transactions of this character; and I must beg to refer hon. Members to the evidence itself. The only other point which I think it is necessary for me to explain is the limitation of compensation to patrons selling to Queen Anne's Bounty to a sum not exceeding five years' net revenue of the benefice. I can readily understand that some little difference of opinion may arise as to the propriety of this exact figure—indeed, there was some difference of opinion in the Committee—but I think that a little consideration will convince the House that in fixing five years we are not far beside the mark. The sum which is paid for an advowson now, with immediate possession, in evasion of the law, is sometimes, perhaps, as much as 10 years' net annual value. But, then, a sale cannot always be effected, or anything like it; and the money value of advowsons is enormously and improperly enhanced by our present mode of dealing with them. Not only is the market an open market, no regard whatever being had to the claims and wishes of congregations, but the advowson is hawked about and advertised by touting agents, some of whom candidly admit that the great bulk of these transactions are absolutely illegal. The sum asked, for an advowson, then, is enhanced by stripping the sale of all the conditions which would surround it if the thing sold were regarded as it ought to be—as a trust, with privileges attached; while, on the other hand, the net sum receivable by patrons is diminished by the expenses of sale 995 and the agent's charges, among which we must reckon hush money, for people will not take part in illegal and, perhaps, criminal transactions without its being made well worth their while to do so. Indeed, some of these agents have been shown to be convicted criminals themselves, who defy the law, for there is no class of business carried on anywhere which is more shameless than the traffic in livings; and in assessing the value of an advowson it is no part of our duty to take as our standard what a thing may fetch when a total disregard of what is right and legal is brought to bear to raise the price. Sir, I wish that the circumstances of the case would permit of my asking the House to put an end, once and for ever, to the sale of a spiritual trust. Unfortunately, this is impossible. For centuries livings have been sold like sheep. They have entered into every kind of covenant and every kind of settlement. They have been mortgaged again and again. The lawyers have treated them as so much saleable property; but all along an inalienable condition has attached to them—they have never altogether lost their character as spiritual trusts. One object of this Bill is to attempt to assign their relative values to these conflicting elements, to define how much is still the property of the public, and how much has practically lapsed into the pocket of the trustee, and, in cases in which the trustee demands as much as he can get, by paying off the trustee for ever to purify the trust. Now, the Bill practically declares that an advowson is as much a spiritual trust as it is a marketable privilege. In the worst of times there has been always enough in the Statute Book to warn these speculators that the public conscience might, at any moment, awake and demand the restitution of much of that for which they have paid. The law has never permitted the sale of a vacant benefice. Since the time of Queen Anne it has never permitted a clerk to purchase a next presentation for himself. If patronage were mere property these limitations would never have existed; and in offering the selling patron, now that the public conscience is awake, half the maximum value of his advowson, we are, in my opinion, dealing fairly and justly by him, and are making a real and large concession to that prin- 996 ciple of our legislation which deals generously with those whom a higher phase of public morality overtakes and a sterner sense of duty and of decency finds in its path. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Leatham.)
§ MR. RAIKES (Cambridge University)
said, he felt bound to express his acknowledgment of the moderate and temperate speech in which the hon. Member had moved the second reading of this Bill. He was sure that if other Gentlemen who held the same views as to Church Establishment would adopt the same tone in dealing with Church questions they would be likely to arrive at a much easier and better solution of them in that House than they were in former years. He thought, on the whole, having regard to the peculiar nature of an advowson, that the limitations proposed in this Bill were reasonable and safe. An advowson, doubtless, was to be regarded as a spiritual trust; but it had also something of the nature of property, and it was from this mixed character that difficulties had arisen—from the combination of the character of a property and a spiritual trust. It was impossible, therefore, to deal with this question from any point of view which regarded it solely from one of these standpoints. Although he considered the limitations reasonable which were imposed upon the sale of advowsons by this Bill, he was bound to confess that his objections had not been removed to the second part of the Bill, which dealt with the sale of next presentations. He believed that he was in a minority in expressing the opinion; but he did not himself think that it was desirable to put an end to the transferability of next presentations, and he was convinced that it was impossible. He felt satisfied that whatever provision was made against the practice, the ingenuity of the lawyers would enable them to get round it. As long as one person had a commodity of which he wished to dispose and which another person wished to get, he did not believe that it was in the power of any Act of Parliament to absolutely prohibit such a thing. It appeared to him that supposing that this Bill became 997 law there would be nothing to prevent the parties effecting their object by means of a fictitious loan, to be repaid the day after the presentee's induction by the person who had practically purchased the presentation. In his opinion what was wanted in regard to the sale of next presentations was rather regulation than complete prohibition, such, for instance, as the establishment of a registry, and also the conferring of certain powers upon the Bishop of the diocese to interfere in such transactions as might appear to him to be unsatisfactory. He was entirely in favour of putting an end to the scandals of the present system of dealing with next presentations, such as their sale by action, and their being advertised in the newspapers; but he could not see why certain persons having the right of conferring the next presentation should not be allowed to transfer it where the person to whom it was granted was approved of by the Bishop. He was anxious to put the sale of next presentations under restriction and regulation; but he could not see that the cause of the Church would be advanced by establishing a hard-and-fast line stereotyping the existing system of patronage, and not allowing to it that ease and elasticity which had hitherto, in no small degree, conduced to its popularity. To take the case of a purchaser. In this country there was a large class of men who had risen from the middle classes and acquired large fortunes, and who were anxious in every way to make a good use of their wealth. Such men, it might be, had sons whom they wished to place in the Church. Accordingly they looked out to obtain the next presentation to some living whereby the young man might be enabled to enter upon a beneficial and successful career. Such men could not do so unless, by some means or other, they were enabled to acquire a next presentation. Now, the Bill proposed to prevent that sort of transaction. If the House was going in future to prevent persons coming into the Church who were possessed of private fortunes, it would deprive many a parish of advantages derived from the fact that the vicar or rector was a person with private means which he was willing to spend for the benefit of his parish. He could not but think that the House would do well to pause before accept- 998 ing, in deference to a cry however well-meaning, the total prohibition which the Bill proposed upon the sale of next presentations; and, for himself, he would endeavour to introduce clauses in the direction he had indicated. Moreover, he had grave objections to the provision enabling the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, if they should become the purchasers, to charge the price paid to the patron on the revenues of the parish. He should strenuously resist that proposal. He could conceive nothing more inconsistent with what had been defined as the spiritual view of the question than that the patron should be recouped out of the scanty income of the incumbent, and out of the provision for the spiritual wants of a parish. If that clause was retained, it would militate very seriously against the success of the measure. While reserving a more detailed examination of the Bill to a later stage, he found it impossible to assent, without a protest, to the second reading. He was convinced that the more the question was looked at the more the House would appreciate how far it had been clouded by much prejudice, much misrepresentation, and much confusion of thought existing out-of-doors. He hoped, however, that by means of some more carefully considered measure some steps would be taken to abate an evil which all deplored.
§ MR. RYLANDS (Burnley)
said, he must confess that down to a few years ago he had held the opinion, still held by many Gentlemen in the House, that the House of Commons was not a desirable Body to deal with questions connected with the constitution and organization of the Church. On that ground he had rather been indisposed to join in any action which would seem to imply that, in the judgment of the House, the Church itself was not the best Body to deal with all such questions. But he had altered his opinion. He was unable any longer to take the responsibility of resisting measures which would have the effect of extending the usefulness of that great Religious Body in the country, because of the idea that if they refused to reform the Church they would force on the question of its Disestablishment. When the matter was carefully looked into, no hon. Gentleman could feel that, occupying the position of a Member of 999 Parliament, he could evade the responsibility which pressed upon him in connection with the Church. The Disestablishment of the Church might be more or less remote. There was no doubt it was in the air; but whenever it came it would produce a great wrench in the social arrangements of the country. He would, therefore, urge upon Churchmen as well as Dissenters that, in view of that great change which he believed would come, it was the interest both of members of the Church and of those in favour of Disestablishment to promote the reform of the Church, so that when the change did come it would produce the least possible friction and division among the different classes of the community. The Church, since it could not reform itself, was bound to come to the House of Commons. He could not imagine a greater bondage than that a great spiritual Body should be fastened in bondage under laws which it did not make, and which it could not improve or reform. It was a spiritual Body in a cast-iron frame which it could not get rid of. It being generally admitted, in the Church and out, that the sale of livings was a gross scandal, he asked whether Dissenters had a right to refuse reform in that direction, and to decline to put a stop to a system which was offensive to the community, which interfered with the spiritual life of the Church, and which tended to bring discredit on religion? With regard to the evil there was a general consensus of opinion. He spoke as a Churchman, but his sympathies were by no means confined to the Church. He might say that he was a Churchman among Nonconformists and a Nonconformist among Churchmen. Both Nonconformists and Churchmen ought to look with favour on any measures, so long as the Church was established, which could increase its efficiency and usefulness. He was glad that his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had no idea of dividing the House against the Bill, although he objected to some of its provisions. The Bill was drawn almost entirely on the lines of the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1884, which, although it embraced every shade of opinion, was almost unanimous in its general conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to approve, on the 1000 whole, the provisions of the Bill regarding advowsons, though he took exception to the regulations respecting the number of years' purchase and the instalments and term within which the purchase money was to be paid. But it was impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that the sale of advowsons was now carried on in circumstances widely different from those which formerly prevailed. The public conscience had been touched. People could not go into this nefarious traffic without feeling that their hands were not clean; and at the sale of presentations there was a reduction of value. Many persons wholly disapproved the system. Some would say that no compensation at all ought to be paid, just as there was a protest against the payment of over-regulation prices for commissions in the Army. But they ought to deal with the question as a fact, and deal reasonably with the existing state of things. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) seemed to think there was something almost un-Christian in that the instalments should be made chargeable on the benefice; but he (Mr. Rylands) could not see the point of that objection. The right hon. Gentleman also said that they could not enforce a law to prevent the sale of next presentations, for the ingenuity of lawyers could always devise a means whereby when a man had something which he wanted to sell, and which another was willing to buy, the transaction could be carried through. He recognized the difficulty; but he still believed that if they passed a law absolutely stopping next presentations, the immediate effect would be that they would have no more scandalous sales by auction or advertisements in papers, while such legislation would be a serious impediment to sales by private arrangement, because the parties engaging in such transactions would do so in the full knowledge that these transactions had been declared illegal. No doubt, in any case, the wisdom of Parliament would find means of preventing such an abuse. He was altogether in favour of putting a check on the imposition of unsuitable clergymen upon a parish, and this purpose the Bill would in a considerable degree effect; and he hoped, therefore, that the Bill would meet with the concurrence of the House.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD (London)
, who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—That no measure for the Amendment of the exercise of Church Patronage can be satisfactory which does not require in every diocese a registry of advowsons in which every advowson must be registered, and a Board of Patronage empowered to buy advowsons and soil them to approved purchasers, to accept and acquire the patronage of existing benefices, and receive benefactions to assist poor benefices and endow new ones, prohibit the sale of future advowsons except to Diocesan Boards, empower the Bishop to reject a presentee less than three years in priests' orders, or more than seventy years of age, or disqualified by moral delinquency, by bodily or mental infirmity, who is incumbered by debt, or unprovided with sufficient satisfactory testimonials, and provide time to the parishioners to submit objections to the Bishop,said, he had listened with great interest to the ton. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), and hoped that the wise and patriotic sentiments which they had expressed would be adopted generally on the Benches opposite. He had no objection to Nonconformists taking part in the discussion of Church questions, as the Church was a National Institution and in intimate connection with the Crown. He thanked the hon. Member for Huddersfield for the part he had taken in bringing this question before the House. He could not agree, however, with the hon. Member for Burnley that the Bill was altogether founded on the recommendations of the Committee of 1884. That description would better apply to the Bill of the right hon. Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope). The first Bill on the subject was introduced by the Bishop of Peterborough. That Bill, however, failed to obtain the support of Gentlemen opposite, and was thrown out. If it had been passed there would not have been any necessity to legislate further for the reform of the abuses of the Church. He was sorry to find the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) threw the sale of advowsons and of next presentations into the same category. There was a marked distinction between the two processes. When a patron sold a presentation, he derived from that exercise of his trust a pecuniary advantage; and the purchaser, if directly or indirectly the next presentee, was enabled to apply the revenue of the benefice to the pay- 1002 ment of the price. When a patron sold the advowson he transferred the trust to another patron, who might exercise it equally well, the revenue remaining unaffected. He strongly objected to the charge proposed to be laid on the living in order to repay the price of the advowson. It would be an injury to the clergyman and to the parish that such an abrasion of its revenues should be permitted. No doubt advowsons might be bought and sold for the same purposes as next presentations usually were; but that would be an abuse of the law; and all laws were subject to abuse and evasion. He did not, therefore, think that the sale of advowsons should be absolutely prohibited. Patrons might die, and advowsons be sold with the rest of the property, and there must be a patron for every living. The hon. Member for Huddersfield proposed that Queen Anne's Bounty should in general be made the patron of livings. But he did not think that the Queen Anne's Bounty Commissioners would be suitable patrons, as they were a very miscellaneous body, with no fixed or permanent character. It would not be difficult to appoint Diocesan Boards as the patrons of livings in each diocese. Suitable men would easily be found conversant with the requirements of each locality. With respect to the sale of advowsons, it was said that the present holders were, as a body, men of unimpeachable character, and that many of them were clergymen. No doubt that was so; and he would, therefore, be prepared to allow them to be sold once, and when that sale had been effected to bring the advowson fully under the provisions of the Act. In regard to the financial question, he differed from his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, and considered that the financial question was a large one, and that the incumbrance on the living would be a heavy one, even if the instalments were to extend over 30 years. For instance, a living of £300 a-year, if bought of the patron at five years' purchase, would cost £1,500; and to raise that price upon the living would require an annual charge of £50 a-year. The views which he (Mr. Hubbard) had placed before the House had met with so favourable a reception, that he was now enabled to withdraw the Amendment which he had proposed.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he had listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City (Mr. Hubbard). Although he did not oppose the second reading, a great deal would have to be said on its future stages. The financial question was undoubtedly extremely difficult. He was speaking entirely for himself, as the question of Church Reform was one on which it was not likely that the Government, in the present Session, would have any proposals to make. He was, therefore, speaking on his own personal responsibility only. The question of the sale of advowsons and next presentations was only a small part of the great question of Church Reform, to which, sooner or later, Parliament would have to address itself. He said that without reference to the great question of Disestablishment, on which his opinion was well known. The existing abuses in the Church were patent to everybody who had studied the question; and their reform, especially with regard to the income of the Church, was an extremely difficult one. There was no great difficulty in dealing with the incomes of the Bishops and of the Deans and Chapters. Great improvement in that respect had already been effected, and the incomes of these dignitaries had, to a large extent, been equalized and adjusted in a satisfactory manner. It would be remembered that 50 years ago, while some of the bishoprics were worth £25,000 a-year, others were not worth more than as many hundreds. A like reform had been effected in the case of Deans and Chapters. That reform was comparatively easy, because the appointments lay either with the Crown, or, in the case of Canonries, sometimes with the Bishops; whereas other ecclesiastical patronage was in many different hands. How was it that the living in one parish, containing only a few hundred inhabitants, was worth £2,000 a-year, while the living in another, containing as many thousand inhabitants, was worth only £200? How was it that such a state of things had been rendered possible? The reason was to be sought in the fact that the patronage of large livings was pecuniarily valuable, and that changes in the constitution of such livings could not be effected without the consent of the patrons. The result was that as long as the livings of the Church of England, whether advow- 1004 sons or next presentations, could be sold, a satisfactory state of things could not be brought about. To secure effective reforms the consent of the patrons must be dispensed with; and it could not be dispensed with as long as they retained a valuable pecuniary interest in the livings. The conclusion to be drawn was that the sale of livings ought to be done away with altogether; there was no middle course. A more thorough reform than the Bill would effect was desirable. A good deal of difference of opinion seemed to exist as to the manner in which next presentations and advowsons were to be rendered unsaleable; but, whatever the difference of opinion might be, he trusted that the present discussion was the beginning of a struggle which should end in the complete abolition of the sale of livings—nothing short of that would be satisfactory. The present occasion might be looked upon as the beginning of a struggle like that which ended in the abolition of the system of purchase in the Army. A proper division of the income of the Church would never be assured until the question of the pecuniary value of the right of sale should no longer be a question of interest to the patron. He was anxious to admit that the Bill contained provisions of considerable value—such, for example, as the provision for doing away with resignation bonds, which at present led to great abuses. He did not regard with approval the proposal to charge the compensation payable in respect of a living upon the living itself, for the effect would be to reduce materially for a number of years the incomes derivable from poor livings. He should like to see a system introduced under which it would be possible, equitably and reasonably, to make unsaleable what was now the saleable property of a patron, a certain option being given to him, so that he could not say that he had been unfairly treated by Parliament in respect to his vested interest. He believed that if such a system were established only a small number of patrons would relinquish their patronage, for the great mass of patrons did not look upon the question as a monetary one, and would gladly hold their patronage without the privilege of sale. He should be sorry to see the rights of such patrons as relinquished their patronage transferred to the Ordinary and the churchwardens. The patronage ought to be transferred 1005 to those who really represented the parish, as in Scotland under recent legislation. In conclusion, he would say that he felt very strongly on the subject, and he was confident that before long the Legislature must carry out an effective reform with respect to Church temporalities. Though he approved the Bill as a step towards the improvement of the existing state of things, he could not regard it as likely to be final.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said, he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman, while expressing general approval of the Bill, should have said so much that was likely to ruin its chances of passing. Holding that many of the provisions of the measure were highly desirable, he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have put obstacles in the way of its progress. Unlike the Home Secretary, he was not prepared to wait until they were ready to deal with the whole subject of Church Reform before dealing with a reform which was complete in itself. The growth of public opinion on the subject of patronage was remarkable. There was a general agreement that the system of Church patronage ought to be amended, and the members of the Church of England earnestly desired to get rid without delay of abuses which they could not defend. It was very remarkable to notice what the House of Laymen had done on this subject. Though there was nothing from which the general opinion of the clergy upon the matter could be gathered, the House of Laymen had arrived at a general consensus of opinion that steps ought to be taken to deal with it. As regarded the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) and himself there certainly was no jealousy whatever. He had himself been one of those Members who had endeavoured to contribute towards the settlement of the question by introducing Bills on several occasions. The hon. Member had, unfortunately, left out of his Bill a large portion of the recommendations of the Select Committee which had reported on this subject. Those recommendations were practically unanimously carried by that Committee, and he thought it was desirable that they should have been embodied in the hon. Member's Bill. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten that some time ago that House, with the assent of the House of Lords, had passed a Bill for 1006 the abolition of next presentations, and public opinion had greatly advanced since then. With some of the provisions of the Bill he certainly agreed. He thought all would desire to see donatives and resignation bonds done away with; and he believed the House would not be one moment in advance of public opinion if the possibility of selling the right to the next presentation were abolished. As to the question of the sale of advowsons, though he did not admit that the distinction between the sale of an advowson and the next presentation could be maintained, he was anxious that the question should be dealt with, and a large limit put upon their sale. But the difficulties which surrounded the question were quite enough to shipwreck the Bill of a private Member. As to the recommendation that there should be given to patrons, in return for the abandonment of their interests, a certain compensation, he totally failed to understand the nature of that recommendation; but he was bound to say that he concurred altogether with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and several speakers on his own side of the House that such compensation ought not to be made a charge upon the living. He earnestly hoped the House would unanimously read the Bill a second time; and he wished to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to be in too great a hurry to take the Committee stage, but that he would wait until they had seen the measure which there was reason to believe would shortly be introduced in the House of Lords. For his part, he desired in Committee to move Amendments embodying certain of the recommendations of the Select Committee to which he had referred; but he should endeavour to act with the hon. Member in carrying a measure which might be practical, and would have the effect of removing a scandal which, in his opinion, was dangerous to the interests of the Church.
§ MR. E. R. RUSSELL (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stanhope) had made a speech, on the whole, so liberal that he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have misapprehended the spirit of the speech of the I Home Secretary. Members on his side, and he believed many on the other side, sympathized with the Home Secretary's speech, because the right hon. Gentleman 1007 appeared to recognize the fact that any reform of the Church that went in the direction of this Bill would have to go considerably further, and that it would have to recognize the necessities of public opinion, which even this Bill very imperfectly acknowledged. He was very much struck by the contrast between two speeches which had been made on the opposite side of the House—two speeches which appeared to him to indicate a cleavage of opinion on that side of the House, which they knew existed among the friends of the Church, and which was most instructive to those who contemplated this subject from the point of view of Disestablishment. He referred to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Raikes) and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard). He appealed to the House whether the spirit of those two speeches was not almost in diametrical opposition—whether they did not find in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London a recognition of the spiritual necessities of this matter, which was totally absent from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University? He confessed that a speech of any friend of the Church, made in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University, left upon his mind a most depressing impression. What did he gather from that speech? He believed that anyone contemplating the position of Church matters at this day, if he had duly considered the tendencies of the time, would agree with him that to approach Church questions in the spirit which was shown in that speech was to doom themselves to the conclusion that the Church of England must go on, for the present at any rate, neither with any certainty that the best abilities of its ministers would be called out and recognized, and brought into play for the good of the community, nor with any certainty that the Church would have the smallest chance of adapting itself to the spiritual needs of the age. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University dropped by accident into a phrase in which a great deal was involved. He was speaking of the not uncommon position of a father who had a living to give away, and who turned his glances upon his sons, in order that he might 1008 select one as a recipient of that living; and he imagined that fond parent discovering amongst his children one who might receive the living but for the fact that he was, as the right hon. Gentleman tenderly expressed it, imperfectly qualified to take it. It was a fact well known in the history of this country that these imperfect qualifications had not, as a rule, stood in the way of appointments to the Church. The consequence was that the Church stood alone among professions, in that people found entrance into it without any sort of fitness for the position they took, and that their promotion when in it was entirely independent of the qualifications which they showed. There was no other profession in the world of which that was true, and it was a fact that must for ever stand, so long as the Church was unreformed, at any rate, in the way of the progress and benefit of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London showed a very different spirit, and he (Mr. E. R. Russell) took the liberty of assuring him that the spirit in which he regarded the Church was the spirit in which it was regarded by those who advocated Disestablishment. There was no feeling of hostility to the Church. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] That was undoubtedly a fact, and he ventured to say that in addressing audiences upon this subject there were many Members on that side of the House who had experienced that to which he testified. It would be an audacious proceeding if any man on that side of the House were to address any audience of Liberals in terms of disrespect towards the Established Church. Such a thing was never heard at Liberal meetings. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Opposition, and counter cheers.] He should be glad to receive instances to the contrary. He imagined that the cheers on his side came from men who knew the truth of what he said—men who had frequently addressed public meetings, and who had never deviated from the tone he had mentioned, and never found an audience which was unwilling to reciprocate that tone. The feeling which welled up from the audiences at these meetings in the utmost fulness and fervour was that a Church was unworthy of its name which could not in a spiritual manner perform spiritual functions; and no expression of that truth was ever uttered at Liberal meetings without immediately obtaining 1009 a great response. That was the spirit of done by the old millionaire when he the reform which was desired by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London; but when they had a speech in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University—who, by his hereditary connection as well as by his personal attachments, was a warm and sincere friend of the Church—when they had a speech from a man of that position and mind which was saturated from beginning to end with the vice of property—with the feeling that they would be acting dangerously if they severed the connection of property with the existence of the Established Church—then he said it was men who made speeches of that sort who wrote the letters of doom upon the Church of England. It was they who placed their Church in danger. There would be nothing on his side of the House but sympathy for those who were endeavouring to bring the Church of England into a right spiritual condition—into a condition, namely, of spiritual efficiency corresponding with the beliefs and the aspirations and the emotions of its members. They believed the Church would grow in strength and attachment with its people if that cardinal principle was held in view; and they on their side would never offer resistance to reforms which would tend in that direction, although they remained firm in the judgment that nothing but Disestablishment would eventually bring that desirable consummation to pass.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE (Cambridge University)
said, he must congratulate the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) on the spirit of their speeches, which showed a recognition of the Church in its spiritual capacity; and he was glad that the same spirit had, on the whole, been maintained throughout the debate. He was sorry, however, that the red herring had been drawn across their path by the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman objected that the Bill did not cover the whole ground of Church Reform. But it covered as much of it as could well be done on one occasion, and by one Bill. Then, what was meant by the equalization of ecclesiastical incomes? If it meant dividing the incomes of the Church as they stood among all the clergy it would be very like what was 1010 done by the old millionaire when the gave a franc apiece to the Communists who broke into his house and told them that was about what would be their share in a general scramble. What everyone would get from the Bishop down to the curate would be the equality of starvation. It was grossly unfair to keep out of the discussion the great fact of the process of systematically increasing ecclesiastical incomes which had been going on now for many years through the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They knew that the incomes of the clergy were every year being increased on a system earnestly, wisely, and most laboriously carried out. To ignore that fact was a thing which, as a Churchman, he most loudly raised his voice against. With regard to the Bill, there were some things in it of which he very much approved, while he must, in passing, say that he was old-fashioned enough not to be much shocked at the sale of next presentations. As a special subject of commendation he would select the provision by which an advowson was allowed to be bought by a man holding a moderate estate in the same or an adjoining parish. He believed that drew the line where it ought to be drawn. The man would have an elastic interest in the parish, and therefore was a fitting person to hold the patronage. The Bill, in a sort of nebulous way, dealt with a Board of Church Patronage, and such a Board seemed to have received the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. But if it was to be composed of officials in Church and State they might find the red tape spirit strong on it, and they would not get a spiritual man sent to the living. On the other hand, if they got a Board preponderatingly composed of spiritual elements, it would become the fighting ground of opposite doctrines and parties in the Church. In any case, there would be the risk of compromise. On the whole, this question of Church patronage would have to be looked at all round, and he would be glad if a solution could be found for a problem full of complications. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill, but hoped that ample time would be given in Committee for considering the difficult questions involved. It would be a great pity to lose this golden opportunity of effecting a reform which 1011 would be for the practical benefit of the Church.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON (Devon, South Molton)
said, he did not wish to put the House to the trouble of a division; but he could not support the Bill, because it asserted a principle which he believed to be absolutely wrong and unjustifiable—that a patron had a right to dispose for any money consideration whatever of a sacred spiritual trust. He, like many below the Gangway, had listened with great pleasure to the admirable speech of the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman, while saying that he would vote for the second reading, had delivered a strong speech against the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a matter which ought to be dealt with in a large way as a whole, argued against the right of the patron to dispose of livings, and went into the larger question of Church Reform, saying very justly that until they had destroyed the money interest of the patron in the trust they would never be able to deal effectually with any question of Church Reform. He (Viscount Lymington) objected to this subject being dealt with in a piecemeal form, and it was for that reason he opposed the present Bill. Suppose this Bill passed, which embodied the vicious principle that a patron had a right to sell the living, the patron of a living, say, of £1,200 a-year, from which there were few outgoings, but which for public grounds it was contemplated on the death of the existing incumbent to subdivide, might say—"As Parliament has recognized my right to appropriate the saleable value of the living, it must give me some compensation for the diminished value of that right. The patronage of £1,200 a-year is of infinitely more value than that of the several livings to be carved out of it." What was the position, speaking broadly, of the patrons of livings? Many of them were country squires, at present very necessitous. If they passed this Bill, one of its first effects would be that this class of patrons would go to the Governors of the Queen Anne's Bounty and make applications, and the result would be that Parliament would mortgage the salaries of the clergy and the welfare of the parishioners. He had stated what appeared to him to be very strong reasons 1012 against any legislation of this kind, believing that the only way in which the subject could be properly dealt with was for Parliament to declare that in future no sales of livings should be permitted. He had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), who seemed to sympathize with Liberal Members in their view of this matter. The right hon. Gentleman, however, made one qualification which appeared to be a very futile one. He would allow the patrons to sell once; but what good was there in allowing patrons to sell an article once which they could not dispose of? The only intelligible principle upon which the House could proceed in this matter with the view of a real reform of the Church was to say that in future no sales of Church patronage should be permitted. He was not anxious to press this question to a division unless he was supported by his hon. Friends; but he must protest against legislation of this kind, as being inimical to the highest, truest, and most spiritual interests of the Church.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, he thought that the speech to which the House had just listened was not a hopeful sign that the settlement of this question would be grappled with in a proper spirit. He trusted, however, that the tone assumed by the noble Lord would not be imitated. For his own part, he heartily supported the second reading of the Bill. Two years ago he had the honour of serving on a Committee appointed to deal with this subject, and presided over by the deceased statesman, Mr. Forster, whose loss they all deplored. Nothing was more satisfactory to those who represented the interests of the Church of England on that Committee than the open and kindly way in which they were met by Gentlemen representing the Nonconformist Bodies. The Committee nearly arrived at a solution of this difficult question; but, unfortunately, the time of the year when they reported was not favourable to this kind of legislation. The Report of the Committee was presented in July, and owing to the nature of the Business which occupied Parliament subsequently they found themselves unable to proceed further. It ought not, however, to be difficult for 1013 the House in its corporate capacity to settle the question. There were two reasons advanced against the Bill by hon. Members opposite. First, that it did not go far enough; and, secondly, that, in the words of the noble Lord, it recognized a vicious principle. As to the first objection, he had to say that personally he was willing to take what he could get. He was not anxious that Church matters should be so often brought before the notice of the House; but, questions of this kind having been brought forward for discussion, the House must deal with them in the manner most conducive to the interests of the Church. Coupling this Bill, therefore, with the Amendments suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), he thought a very satisfactory solution of this particular and most difficult part of what was called Church Reform was submitted to them. The objection raised by the noble Lord had their sympathies; but it must, at the same time, be remembered that they were not dealing with the sacred functions themselves, but with the right of nominating a person ordained to those functions to discharge the ministerial duties. They contended, therefore, that, the right of presentation hitherto having been a matter of contract, and the right to present having hitherto been a saleable right, it was unfair by a stroke of the pen to take it away without, as the House had always done in the case of vested interests, compensating the persons thus deprived. The manner of arriving at this compensation was undoubtedly a matter of great difficulty. He recognized the difficulty of charging it on the benefice, and he was unable to suggest an alternative; but it certainly was not a question to be disposed of in an off-hand manner, or one to be set aside as unworthy of consideration, because it had something of the vice of property about it. He protested against the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope) with regard to the right of sale to the next presentation. Owing to the scandals which had cropped up in the Church from time to time on this point, he urged that the right of sale to the next presentation ought to be abolished. While 1014 he admitted that the Bill contained many salutary enactments, he hoped, at the same time, that the hon. Member for Huddersfield would agree to the suggestion urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Horncastle Division of Lincolnshire. By establishing a register, in which transactions could be enrolled, the risk of abuse would be diminished. The Bishops ought to have the right to prohibit the presentation of persons either too young or too old, or disqualified by incapacity of any kind, either mental or physical. Within due limits, also, the rights of the parishioners ought to be extended. He desired to see the opportunity given to the parishioners to state their objections to the presentation to any living in order to guard against improper appointments being made. By such reforms it was hoped to make the Church more worthy and more able to discharge its high and sacred functions, while, at the same time, not sacrificing any of those which he believed to be fundamental to her constitution.
§ MR. ALBERT GREY (Northumberland, Tyneside)
said, he must congratulate the House on the excellent tone which had pervaded this debate; the sympathetic tone of the admirable and eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Russell) had been specially gratifying and satisfactory to him. He was also pleased to hear the declaration of the Home Secretary that the time was not far distant when the Government of the day must take up the question of Church Reform in a broad and comprehensive manner; and he could not understand the regrets expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite at that declaration, because such a declaration ought to be matter of congratulation to them. He did not intend to detain the House very long with what he had to say; but he wished to make one very short remark upon the Bill itself. In his opinion, the Bill did not attack the real evil which lay at the bottom of the question. The real evil was not whether hon. Members who sat on that side of the House should be able to sell to hon. Gentlemen who sat on the other side of it any patronage they might happen to possess, but whether anybody, no matter who, should have unfettered and absolute right of placing in a particular parish anyone as a 1015 clergyman whom he might choose, however obnoxious the appointment might be to the overwhelming majority of the parishioners at large. That was the real evil. It did not matter to the parishioner whether "A" or "B" had the power of appointing to their particular parish; but it did matter whether any person, qualified or not, could be appointed whether they liked it or not. If they wished to get rid of the abuses and scandals which were at present seen in connection with the disposal of the patronage of the Church of England, they must provide means to secure that the interests of the parishioners should be properly regarded and respected. It would be better that the present practice of sale should continue to be allowed, provided that the patron were compelled to consult the wishes of the parishioners, than that the sale of livings should be prohibited and the patron still be permitted to appoint an incumbent obnoxious to the parishioners. He did not wish, for his part, to put himself in opposition to what appeared to be the general sense of the House, and on that ground, therefore, he should not oppose the second reading of the Bill; but there was so much in it that was objectionable that he must enter his protest now against it, and he gave Notice that on the Motion for going into Committee he would move an Amendment giving parishioners the power of rejecting the compulsory putting over them of a priest or pastor whom they considered not equal to the work that he had to do. If they gave the parishioners that right of veto he did not believe that the saleable value of an advowson would be worth one year's purchase. Accordingly, when this Bill came up again, and the Motion was made that the Speaker leave the Chair, he would move that it be an Instruction to the Committee to insert clauses to enable the parishioners to protect their rights and secure that they should have the power of veto on the appointment of any minister who, in their opinion, might be unsuitable to their parish. He considered it his duty to make this protest, and was obliged to the House for the indulgence they had given him to enable him to do so so.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I hope the House will allow me during a very few moments to occupy its attention, inasmuch as I have for many years taken 1016 great interest in this subject. As a contrast has been drawn between my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hubbard) sitting below me, I may be allowed, in the first place, to say that I hope I am not wanting either in the respect due to the political position of my right hon. Friend, or in personal friendship towards him, when I declare that the opinions he holds on this subject are regarded with concern by friends of the Church, and by those who ordinarily work with him—indeed, I may say for myself, they are looked upon with painful regret. I believe that the sympathies of the great body of Churchmen in this country are with my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), and I feel convinced that, as time goes on and years multiply, that sympathy will increase in a large and most marked degree. Having said so much, I now venture to congratulate the friends of the Church—and may I not say the House of Commons, too—upon the friendly tone towards it which has characterized this discussion. I care not whether hon. Members look forward to Disestablishment, or to a continuance of the Church in her present position; but there has been exhibited today a desire to extend the usefulness of the Church of England, which I believe will be a source of strength to that Church. There has been in the Church during the last few years a marked increase of the spirit of reform, and also a growth of spiritual life; and I cannot help regarding the language which has been used by hon. Members in this debate as a tone of reciprocity and of sympathy with the Church in both those respects. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House at any length on this occasion; but I feel that the friends of the Church of England are deeply indebted to hon. Members opposite for the speeches they have made and for the Bill they have introduced. We cannot hope at once or by one Statute to get rid of all the evils which cling round the system of patronage; it is, at least, something to get rid of a portion of those evils. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Lymington) contended, in the course of his interesting speech, that the passing of this Bill would confirm the position of patronage, and give a 1017 new sanction to the sale of patronage. For my part, I cannot see that this Bill would have any such effect. The rights of sale are enforceable in any Court, and the effect of the measure would not be to give any new sanction whatever to them. Its effect would, on the contrary, be to limit the exercise of rights sanctioned by law. It is a great deal to get rid of the evils appertaining to the sales of presentations, and a very great benefit indeed to abolish now and henceforth the mischief arising from donatives. Some hon. Members on the other side of the House have made allusion to the spiritual action of the Church of England as contrasted with her secular position. I hope they will allow me, speaking of Nonconformists with the respect which I honestly feel, to say that in the work of preaching the Gospel to the people there must, under any circumstances, necessarily be a secular element. The places of worship are themselves of a secular character; the material fabric is essentially secular, and must be held under the law in any country. And when you withdraw any number of gentlemen from the ordinary pursuits of common life and prevent them from following a profession of gain, you are bound in some mode or another to make secular provision for them and their families, in order that they may maintain themselves in a position of becoming dignity. That is a remark common to the Church of England and to all Nonconformist Bodies. The chief reason why I rose, however, was to express an earnest hope that before the Bill leaves this House it will have embodied in it either the clauses suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope), or some even stronger clauses with regard to unfit persons. An hon. Member who spoke from the other side of the House made some reference to this subject. I have sufficient acquaintance with the work of the Church to know what extraordinary care is taken in the selection of persons for ordination. There will be some disappointments, no doubt, when you are dealing with men at such an early stage of life; but these disappointments ought not to be thrown in the face of the Episcopal Bench. That, however, which I regard as the most important of the whole of the matters involved in this question is that 1018 of the unfitness of the clergy. It is a comparatively small matter who nominates to a living; the question which really affects the welfare of the parish and the parishioners is that of the fitness of the clergyman when he is appointed; and I do hope that in the Committee stage of this Bill clauses will be inserted certainly not less strong, probably stronger, than the clauses which have been suggested by my right hon. Friend. I happen to have known in my experience the most lamentable cases of persons being appointed to livings the duties of which they were clearly unfit to discharge. The unfitness may be divided into two classes. In the first place, the clergyman may be naturally incompetent to perform any of the spiritual duties which will be intrusted to him; and, in the next place, the unfitness may really be an unfitness for carrying out the duties connected with that particular parish. The first class will be dealt with by this Bill; and if any approach is made towards abolishing the second class, I, for one, shall greatly rejoice. As to placing a charge upon livings, I must say that the livings now are poor enough, and the sorrows and poverty of the clergy are sufficient; and although I recognize many of the evils belonging to patronage, I think you might well bear those evils a little longer if the only alternative is to place a charge on the livings. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), as a statistician, has quoted figures sufficiently on this subject, and I shall not endeavour further to elaborate the point. I sincerely hope that those provisions will be expunged from the Bill, and that some other mode will be found for compensating patrons if further provision prove to be necessary. There is one further point on which I wish to make a few observations. There are now provisions in the Church Buildings Act whereby, if a person or persons erect a church, he or they may have the patronage of that church. I believe that arrangement has caused the erection of many churches, and has given rise to much parish work of a most excellent class. I hope the Bill will be amended in such a manner, if amendment be necessary, that these arrangements may continue. I believe that if they do not continue great heart burnings 1019 will arise, and great impediments will be thrown in the way of the work of the Church of England. If a church is built in an existing parish, the patronage belongs to the rector or vicar. The rector or the vicar is not always the most fit person to exercise this patronage; and it is by the arrangement to which I have alluded that patronage is taken out of the hands of the rector or vicar and placed in those of the persons who erect the church, and who thus give a strong guarantee of the deep interest they take in the parish. I thank the House for having allowed me to make these few observations. I am conscious that I have touched only the fringe of the question; but I do not wish to say more than is necessary to explain the particular point for the mention of which I rose.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, he regretted that the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) should have found it necessary to impute objectionable motives on the part of those who believed that Disestablishment was the only cure for the evils from which the Church suffered. He believed the Preamble of the Bill, that the sale of livings was a great scandal, and injuriously affected religion generally. This was the only instance to which they could point in which great public offices were sold and bartered in so discreditable a manner. In the case of the much inferior Services of the Army, Parliament had long ago been compelled by public opinion to get quit of the scandal of the purchase of commissions, and he believed that a stronger public opinion would yet arise to put an end to the great public scandal now under consideration. A distinction used to be maintained between the sale of a next presentation and the sale of the advowson itself; but he ventured to say that in principle and in nefariousness there was no difference between them. So far as the House was concerned now, with the two extraordinary exceptions of the right hon. Members for the University of Cambridge, there was absolute unanimity as to the scandal of the sale of either next presentations or of advowsons. There never had been, so far as he had observed, any opposition in that House to the advancement of this question. It had been in the other House, as the Bishop of Peterborough well 1020 knew, that the rights of property had been so strenuously maintained as to make it impossible for that eminent Prelate to secure the slightest advance; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) insinuated that opposition was likely to arise from those who advocated Disestablishment, he would ask him to notice where the cause of delay really lay. The Peers owned a great proportion of the livings, and when the Bishop of Peterborough attempted to deal with the question in the most cautious and even timid manner he could not obtain their sanction. The difficulty in the way of providing a remedy for the present scandal was almost insuperable. Almost every Member who had spoken on this Bill had a desire to alter some part of the scheme. His conviction was that there was no radical remedy possible except through Disestablishment. What his hon. Friend was attempting to do was to reconcile incompatibles, and he would fail, as all other reformers had failed who sought to go on the same lines. He would ask, if they took away the patronage from the present unsuitable and incompetent patrons, where were they to lodge it? Parliament would not be content to put this very important power in the hands of the Ordinary, or the churchwardens, elected as they were at present. The hon. Member for Northumberland had suggested some strong representative Board; but he thought the great majority of Churchmen would infinitely prefer to have the Church disestablished. [Cries of "No" and "Never!"] He was speaking of what he had seen in most of the utterances of earnest and genuine sons of the Church. If the suggestion were made to them that the management of their Church as a spiritual and religious institute should be given to a Board selected by all the parishioners, they would infinitely prefer that the Church should be disestablished, and that they should manage it themselves. There was a craving by many Churchmen for a more direct control; but so long as the Church was a National Institution they could not expect to have exclusive power over it. Then came the question whether Parliament should recognize any money right whatever in patronage, and what should be the compensation? He held that there was no moral right for 1021 compensation? If the principle of compensation was to be admitted, he wanted to know where his hon. Friend (Mr. Leatham) would find himself? The hon. Gentleman laid down an arbitrary amount; but he did not see that he had any more right to rob a man of 10s. than of a sovereign. If the patron was entitled to compensation at all, he was entitled to full compensation. An important question had been raised as to where the money was to come from. His hon. Friend was going to rob Peter to pay Paul; but if his plan was not adopted, he was entitled to ask what was the alternative? When the Irish Church was disestablished the Prime Minister found means for compensation, and means would be found when Disestablishment took place in England; but until that time came hon. Members should rest assured that Parliament would not provide other ecclesiastical funds. He was profoundly of the conviction that it would be impossible for the Episcopalian Church to do the full work of which it was capable until it was freed from the trammels of the State. At the same time, he had never entertained anything but the most friendly feeling towards the Church as a religious institution; and he was not aware of anyone who acted with him in these matters who did not wish for the spiritual prosperity of that Church. He was highly gratified with the course the discussion had taken, and he thanked the Home Secretary for having pointed out the lines upon which reform must go.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
I hope, Sir, that the House will be allowed to arrive at a decision on this Bill under consideration. I wish to caution the House, as an old friend of Church Reform, against supposing that the discussion which has taken place on this Bill augurs well for the success of Church Reform. I am afraid that those of us who are Church Reformers now, as we have been in the past, will always have to face the old enemy, employing his old methods and using the same weapons. We must not be surprised if it is not intended that this Bill should have operative action if it be passed into law, of which, perhaps, there is a great deal of doubt. I deplore the attitude of the Government with regard to this Bill. If not one of non possumus, it is almost one of silence. It has been represented 1022 that that attitude is not entirely unfriendly; but the Home Secretary, in the remarks which he made, took care to explain that he spoke personally his own opinion rather than gave expression to the views of the Government. If a Liberal Government has not the energy to deal with this portion of Church Reform now before the House, I want to know how we are to expect them to deal with the whole question when it comes up for settlement? My opinion is that the larger you make the proposals for Church Reform the greater are the risks that you run in not having them dealt with. The hon. Member for Bradford, who has just spoken, said that the Bill before the House could lead but to one result, and that was to Disestablishment of the Church of England. If that be so, and seeing that that is what the hon. Member desires to see, he ought to stand aside and let us do his own work for him. But the hon. Member had not always been of that opinion, or rather this has not always been his plea. I have been compelled to hear his remarks in favour of Church Reform time after time; but he has not ventured to advance any proposals of reform of his own in spite of the friendly professions towards the Church, which he never fails to proclaim in this House. I wish to guard myself against its being supposed that I accept the declaration which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey) with regard to the exercise of patronage. I do not think that the patronage of the State should be set aside for a system that would make it possible that a minority in a parish—say, at an Easter vestry, or at a meeting in the nature of a vestry—should be able to drag up for discussion the past life and past circumstances of a presentee with a view of arriving at a conclusion for a living, especially as only ex parte statements would be made as to his character at such meetings. I say that this would not be fair to a man who would afterwards have to remain for his lifetime in a parish as its pastor. That is what is meant by the direct veto which is contained in this Bill. Nevertheless, I am disposed to support the Bill, because I feel that it will tend to the extinction of an indefensible principle, the principle of private patronage. Private ownership in a living means the right to 1023 alienate, the right to alienate involves the right of sale, and the right of sale cannot be restricted by Act of Parliament from being possibly exercised in a corrupt manner. On this ground alone I would support it. But I support it on the further ground that in Committee it may very well be amended in its details, especially in reference to the exercise of future patronage. It should be vested directly in the parishioners in conjunction with the ecclesiastical heads of the Church. I would not vest the patronage in lay or episcopal hands solely. I am sensible of the arguments against increasing the ecclesiastical patronage of the hierarchy; but I would like to ask the hon. Member for Bradford and his Friends, supposing they do succeed in disestablishing the Church, and supposing the Church under their kind advice, did remodel her constitution, who would exercise the right of presentation? Clearly either the parishioners or the hierarchy, or both. That alone, I think, is a good reason for maintaining a friendly attitude towards this Bill. I wish to reserve to myself any proposal as to the cost of sale of the future profits in a living. As Secretary of the Royal Commission, I know that the number of such cases are, proportionately, extremely small; and, although the cases where the law would operate would be few, still it would operate often enough to prevent corrupt use of the right of sale. I do not think that the question of compensation will be one which it will be very difficult to deal with; and if the proposal is that the Church should practically purify herself out of her own endowments, I think, perhaps, Churchmen may see that that is a preferable proposition to that that the Church should be purified by the help of funds voluntarily contributed by her own members. In conclusion, I can assure the hon. Member for Bradford that the friends of the Church will continue their endeavours for her reform, in spite of the opposition of those whose sole and avowed object is the despoiling of her revenues and the destruction of her powers of usefulness; and I hope that the Bill will be read a second time, and that in future stages it will receive better assistance from the Government than the rather unfriendly pronouncement of the Home Secretary has offered.
§ MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottingham, S.)
said, he was able to speak more favourably of the Bill than some hon. Members had. He could support it on the ground that he wished to remove a reproach from the Church of England, diminishing its usefulness and hindering its work. It was apparent to those who had watched the debate on the Bill that the chief opposition to the measure had come from those who called themselves the friends of the Church, and who sat on the Opposition side of the House. If the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill had listened to the whole of the debate, he must have felt that the most damaging criticisms to which it had been subjected had come from the friends of the Church, and not from its supposed opponents. He (Mr. Carvell Williams) did not know what might be the hon. Member for Huddersfield's opinion on the point; but it was certain that if the Bill ever came out of Committee it would be in a very different form from that which it now presented, and the mutilation to which it was destined to be subjected would be performed by those who professed to be the friends of the Established Church. He could not understand how any man, no matter to what branch of the Christian Church he might belong, could wish for the maintenance of the present system one hour longer than it was necessary to maintain it. One reason why he looked with favour upon the Bill—though it was not one for which he could hope to have the sympathy of hon. Gentlemen opposite—was because he looked upon the measure as a little piece of Disestablishment. When the time came for Disestablishment, it would be found that one of the greatest difficulties to, be encountered would be the question of Disendowment. The Legislature would then have to deal with two classes—the clergy and the patrons of the Established Church. Now, the Bill, whether hon. Members opposite knew it or not, anticipated that difficulty, by proposing to disestablish many of the patrons in advance. The Home Secretary insisted that one reason why the sale of Church livings should be prohibited was that it would be far more easy, in the case of Disestablishment, to redistribute the revenues of the Church than now. He (Mr. Carvell Williams) thought the efforts of the Bill would be far more reaching 1025 than the right hon. Gentleman supposed. At present there was a very considerable number of persons pecuniarily interested in maintaining the Established Church, and among these the patrons of livings occupied a prominent place. It was not unnatural to suppose that those men, when no longer bound by such interests, would in the future be less zealous in the support of the Church than they had been in the past. He did not seek to conceal that the Bill contained serious defects; because, while it professed to be based on a certain principle, it did not go far enough in applying that principle. There was nothing about spiritual trust in the clauses of the Bill. On the contrary, there was nothing in the Bill but "property, property, property." The sale of advowsons had been referred to, and the practice could not be defended. Not very long ago, he would remind the House, a Racing Company bought a site near Leicester because they wished to have a racecourse. Connected with the property they purchased was a living, which was now in the possession of the Company, and if the Bill of his hon. Friend should pass, that Company, or whoever might own the property, would have the power of deciding who should discharge the functions appertaining to the living. Now, he saw no reason why a landlord should be more competent to choose a minister than a rich minister or a lawyer; but in any case it would be absolutely in the power of the owner to make the selection, no matter how unsuitable might be the person chosen. There was one other point to which he would briefly refer. The Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty played a very important part in connection with the measure. His hon. Friend said he did not see in whose hands the powers could better be put. He (Mr. Carvell Williams) confessed to his own imcompetency to express an opinion on the point. He did not know who the Governors were. He doubted if there were many persons in that House who did. The Act of Parliament constituting the Board made it a Corporation consisting of the Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Master of the Rolls, the Attorney General and Solicitor General, the Lord Lieutenants of Counties, and the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of London. Five of 1026 these Governors might form a quorum; and there was this suggestive addition, that three, at least, of the quorum should be Archbishops and Bishops. He confessed that before giving larger powers to those who constituted such a body he should like to know how often they met, and whether, in fact, the Board was not, for practical purposes, the secretary and officials. He should like to ask the Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) or the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler) how far either of them was responsible for the management of the Board. He had no doubt that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill was conscious that the Bill contained grave defects, and that he would admit that it was impossible for him to go further in the direction he was moving. The fact, however, was that the difficulties which the hon. Member desired to obviate never would be fully met so long as they had to deal with the Church as an Established Institution of the country. The Church of Ireland bore the very same reproach and encountered the same difficulties; but the difficulties were solved when that Church was disestablished. So it would be with the Church of England and not before. The Church must first be liberated, and then, and not till then, would it be completely purified.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, he thought that the promoters of the Bill might be fairly satisfied with the debate which had taken place upon it, and which marked a great advance in the position of the question. He was sorry the question had been made a Disestablishment debate by some hon. Members. He had heard many expressions of liberality used by the opponents of the Church towards the members of the Church, and he wished that these expressions of feeling were universally carried into practice. He also regretted that his hon. Friend (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) had thrown cold water on the Bill. The views of the friends of the Church were hardly the views which had been expressed on the Front Opposition Bench. He desired to support the Bill; but he could not help thinking that the measure required amendments in some respects, for it ignored the existence both of the Bishop and of the parishioners, and introduced the cumbrous machinery 1027 of Queen Anne's Bounty Board, which was altogether unsuited to the work proposed to be entrusted to it.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday next.