HC Deb 17 June 1886 vol 306 cc1703-4

asked the Secretary to the Board of Trade, What is the amount of the balance remaining in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from the million and a-half fund voted by Parliament in 1815 and 1824 for building churches; whether the Commissioners now use this balance solely for the purpose of making "nominal" grants, which are often not paid, to persons building churches under the Church Building Acts in order to bring churches so aided under the provisions of the pew renting sections of those Acts whereby as many as four-fifths of the seats may be let, and only one-fifth let free for the use of the general body of the parishioners; whether it is the fact that but for this arrangement pew rents could only be legally levied, in the case of churches in public patronage, under the provisions of the Blandford Act of 1856, whereby half the seats and those as advantageously situated as the rented ones, must be free; and, whether the Commissioners are prepared to expend the balance of the fund in substantial grants towards the building of churches the purpose for which the money was originally voted by Parliament?

THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD (Mr. C. T. D. ACLAND) (Cornwall, Launceston)

The balance of the moneys referred to by the noble Lord may be said to amount to about £8,000. The Commissioners use this money—not solely, but partly—for making in aid of the erection of churches small grants which the persons building and promoting those churches desire to obtain for the purpose specified. The pew rent provisions of the Blandford Act of 1856 are confined—comparatively speaking—to a very limited class of cases, in all of which there has been or must be provided a substantial permanent endowment. This is not the case with respect to ordinary Church Building Act churches. According to a recent Resolution of the Board, the Commissioners have determined that they will not sanction any scales of pew rents based on future grants of the character referred to, unless the proportion of free to rented sittings is at least equal both as regards number and quality. The Commissioners have no intention of making any change in their established practice in this respect. I understand that the noble Lord's ideas, both as to the non-payment of grants voted, and as to there being any necessity under the Church Building Act to leave the particular proportion of one-fifth of the sittings free, are based on misapprehension.