HC Deb 07 May 1888 vol 325 cc1543-64

(Mr. Secretary Stanhope, Mr. Raikes, Mr. Stuart-Wortley.)


Order for Third Reading read (Queen's Consent and Prince of Wales's Consent, as Duke of Cornwall), signified.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Secretary Stanhope.)

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central) ,

in rising to move that the Bill be re-committed, in order, in Committee, to move the following new clauses:— The Commissioners, before giving their assent to the sale of any land under this Act, shall require the incumbent to issue public notice in the parish of the intended sale in such manner as they shall think fit, and they shall receive and consider objections from any ratepayer of the parish, and if any ten ratepayers of the parish shall ask for a public inquiry as to the expediency of such sale, they shall direct inquiry in such manner as they shall think fit. With a view to affording greater facilities for the acquisition of land in small parcels by cottagers, labourers, and others under Clause 8 of this Act, the Land Commissioners may, by agreement with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, frame a scheme for payment in such cases of three-fourths or less of the purchase money, with interest at the rate of three and a half per centum per annum, in equal annual instalments spread over a period of not more than thirty-five years; and they may make it a condition of their approval of the sale of any land under this Act, that it shall be sold in parcels subject to such payment; and in the case of such sales the Ecclesiastical Commissioners shall collect and receive the annual instalments, and shall pay so much of them as represents interest to the persons entitled to the same, and shall invest the residue representing the payment of capital as directed by Clause 4 of this Act. The Land Commissioners shall present an annual Return to Parliament of the sales effected under this Act, specifying in what cases land has been offered or sold in small parcels to cottagers, labourers, and others, said, he owed some apology to the House for attempting to move his Amendments at this stage; but the fact was that the Bill had slipped through to its present stage without his noticing it. The right hon. Gentleman (sir. E. Stanhope) who had charge of it had made no statement in introducing it nor on the second reading. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did not complain of that. All he said was that the measure had reached its present stage without any remarks being made either by the Government or anyone else; and, secondly, he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was not aware of its contents, and he believed many others were in the same condition in that respect as himself. The Bill, he would frankly admit, was a very important one, for it would enable the sale to take place of some and possibly of all the glebe lands in the country; and considering that these consisted of something like £600,000 acres, valued at £1,000,000 per annum, it was obvious that the Bill would produce an important effect. The objects of the measure were two-fold—in the first place, to relieve the clergy in many parts of the country where the depression in agriculture had been severe; and, in the second place, of a very serious burden in respect of their glebes. He believed that in many parts of the country, where the clergy were dependent wholly or in part on their glebes, they had during the past three or four years found themselves extremely embarrassed through the agricultural depression. They had either been unable to let their glebes without making serious reductions of rent, or they had been compelled to take them and farm them themselves, which was a thing many clergy were without the means to do. Another object of the Bill was to facilitate the acquisition of glebe lands by labourers and others of that class. Lord Salisbury not long ago made a speech on the Land Question in which he said it was the intention of the Government to facilitate land of this kind getting into the hands of labourers and artizans. That was an object they all very much wished for, and he believed that the object of bringing about a sale of glebe lands during a time of depression was that they might be sold in small lots with a view to their getting into the hands of artizans and labourers. But if the state of depression was such that no good rents could be obtained from the glebes, the same consideration must not be lost sight of when they contemplated the sale of the glebes for agricultural purposes. He believed, however, that if the glebes could be broken up into small parcels, so as to fall into the hands of agricultural labourers, it would be possible to get a fair price for them. The two motives, therefore, went together, and he was sure the House and the country would desire to relieve the clergy from the difficulty in which they found themselves; and, on the other hand, that it was a good opportunity to enable land of this kind to pass into the hands of agricultural labourers, so as to form a larger class of small owners than now existed in the agricultural districts. To the Bill, as it at present stood, he took two objections. In the first place, it appeared to him that it contemplated the sale of these glebe lands being only to the interest of the incumbents, the Bishops, and the Land Commission. A sale might take place with the consent of the incumbent, the Bishop, and the Land Commission, without any of the people in the parish being aware of what was going to be done. That seemed to him unsatisfactory. To his mind the sale of glebe lands was a matter of public interest, and the people of a parish, he thought, ought to be informed of what was intended. In his opinion nothing should take place without public notice, and if required there should be public inquiry on the part of the Land Commission in the parish as to whether the sale of the glebe land was desirable, and also whether the provision enabling the Land Commission to break up glebe lands into small parcels, so that labourers might have an opportunity of becoming possessors, was being properly carried out. He agreed with the proposal that the land should be broken up into small parcels, with a view to labourers and others becoming purchasers; but he was afraid that this provision would have very little effect, unless some arrangement was made in the Bill by which a portion of the purchase money would be left on mortgage, and the payment spread over a period of years. He, therefore, proposed to re-commit the Bill for three purposes. In the first place, to introduce a clause providing that due and proper notice should be given in the parish of a proposed sale to enable a certain number of ratepayers to require of the Land Commission that any inquiry should be held if they thought it necessary; secondly, for enabling the Land Commission to arrange a plan with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under which three-fourths of the purchase money might be allowed to remain on mortgage to be repaid in instalments over a period of not more than 35 years. He proposed that the interest payable should be 3½ per cent per annum, and the payment of capital and interest was to be made by equal instalments within 35 years. There was a precedent for this in the action the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were now taking with regard to a great deal of their land. They were selling and had sold a considerable portion of their landed property in Wales and elsewhere to the tenants thereof, and had left a large portion of the purchase money on mortgage, payable by instalments in the manner he was now proposing. The principle, therefore, which he asked the Government to assent to was adopted by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and he, therefore, thought the Government would have no difficulty in carrying it out. All he could say was that he believed unless some facilities of this kind were given to the labourers they would never be able to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill. As his Amendment was in accordance with the provisions of the Bill, and particularly with that clause which directed the Land Commissioners to break the glebe lands up into parcels with a view to selling them to agricultural labourers and others of that class, he ventured to express a hope that the Government would accede to his proposal and allow the Bill to be re-committed for the purpose of inserting clauses to this effect. The last clause was one which would direct the Land Commission to lay before Parliament an annual Return showing the number of sales they had effected under the Act, and also specifying in what cases they had offered the land to labourers in parcels under Clause 8 of the Bill. He could only again say that these three clauses he suggested were not opposed to the Bill in any shape, but were intended to carry out its principles and objects with which, so far as he was concerned, he thoroughly concurred. He should be extremely sorry if the glebes throughout the country were sold without an opportunity being afforded to the labourers for obtaining land in parcels suitable for cultivation by them, and he would only further say that if the Bill passed as it now stood the effect would be that the glebes would only be sold to the large land proprietors in the district, and the object of Clause 8 would not be effected.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now read the third time," and add the words "re-committed in respect of Three New Clauses."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.")

Question proposed, "That the words 'now read the third time,' stand part of the Question."

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

said, that he could not complain of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had brought this matter under the notice of the House, seeing that he had expressed a cordial approval of the principle of the Bill. So far from complaining of the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. E. Stanhope) was very glad to have any suggestions which would make the Bill more workable. He would point out that there was already in the Bill a clause for preferential sale of glebe lands in small lots, and that there was an absolute condition that where practicable the Commissioners should offer the whole or some part of such lands for sale in small lots; and so far he and the right hon. Gentleman were in harmony. But on the specific proposals of the right hon. Gentleman he was afraid they must part company. It was true that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners sold their land in small lots, and allowed the purchase money to be spread over 30 years; but they were selling their own land, and could afford to wait for the money. The incumbent, however, was frequently in immediate want of his for the purpose of a prompt investment of the whole, yet, under the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who were to collect the annual instalments and interest, were only to give the incumbent the latter and keep the former until the whole 30 instalments had been paid.


said, he was quite misunderstood. He suggested that the Commissioners should receive the yearly payment, pay over the interest to the incumbent or the person entitled to receive it, and invest that portion of the yearly portion in the same manner directed under the Bill to apply the whole purchase money.


said, that emphasized the objection he took. Then the incumbent would be kept out of the money for 30 years.


But he gets the interest.


Yes; the interest. He did not think the suggestion could be entertained. The machinery was most cumbrous, and he could not assent to the proposal. As to the first clause (notice to be given of the intended sale) of the right hon. Gentleman, although not prepared to accept it, he should undertake that before the Bill passed through the House of Lords words should be inserted providing that public notice should be given.


said, he felt so strongly on this matter that, unless they relieved the labourers from paying the whole of the money and spread it over a considerable period, he should go to a Division on the third reading.


said, he thought it would require but a very slight extension of the machinery of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to enable them to carry out the avowed object of the Bill, and that which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had in view.

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

said, that as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. E. Stanhope) showed a disposition to treat the suggestions which had been offered with a great deal of courteous fairness—if the right hon. Gentleman would permit him to say so—he (Mr. Bradlaugh) would ask the right hon. Gentleman if it would not be possible to extend the concession he had made with regard to that portion of the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) dealing with the subject of the issue of notices? He (Mr. Bradlaugh) quite felt that they could not expect to have the Amendments accepted exactly as proposed. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were persons who dealt with large sums of money, and surely it would not be impossible, before the Bill left the other House, to introduce some words which would make it possible to provide machinery by which an incumbent could have the purchase money for his land when he was in need of it for some special investment. It seemed to him (Mr. Bradlaugh) that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford was not made in a spirit of hostility, but in a spirit of a desire to carry out the object of the measure. He would put it to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether it would not be possible to give extended operation to the spirit of the 2nd clause, as he had undertaken to do in the case of the 1st clause?


said, he should be glad to consider whether it would be possible to do what the hon. Member for Northampton proposed; but, at any rate, he could not accept the present Amendment.


here rose—


The right hon. Gentleman has already twice spoken.

MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (remaining seated, with head covered)

Might I appeal to the Government, as they have made a concession in this matter, to allow the Bill to be re-committed, in order that the points in question might be there discussed?


No; I cannot agree to that.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 100; Noes 57: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 95.)

Main Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," again proposed.


said, that after the refusal of the Government to re-commit the Bill he should feel it his duty to vote against the measure. He should do so with some regret, because he approved the general idea of the Bill; but he was satisfied that an otherwise most valuable portion of the measure would be perfectly futile, and would never be carried into effect, unless some such proposal as he had suggested were adopted for spreading the payment of the purchase money over a term of years.


said, he thought it somewhat remarkable that because the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevere) was not able to carry out a particular method for the sale of those lands in small plots, therefore the right hon. Gentleman should object to the Bill altogether. The Government desired that those lands should be sold in small plots, and he had no hesitation in saying that he believed that measure in many parts of the country would not only enable them to be sold in small plots, but would lead to their being acquired by labourers.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

said, it must be remembered that this Bill passed the second reading without any discussion whatever. The Bill dealt with a vast amount of public property; he did not call it—as his right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) did—quasi-public property, for it was absolutely public property now diverted from national ecclesiastical purposes—it was as truly national property as any property in the ownership of the State. He would like to know whether the Government and those in charge of the Bill had given the House and the country any information as to the extent of this property, the number and acreage of these glebes? What had been put forward as a reason for this revolutionary proposal of the State dispossessing itself—dismantling itself—of an immense amount of real property? They were told that the income arising from glebes had been much reduced, and that the clergy found themselves much impoverished by the fall in rents and the non-letting of these glebes. That might be so, and, no doubt, was so; but, for his part, he thought it was an extraordinary proposal that on the initiative of a single beneficiary in each parish the nation should allow itself to be dispossessed of property amounting to thousands of plots in different parts of the country. He confessed that regard ought to be had to the position of the clergy; but if they were suffering, they were suffering in common with the rest of the community, and he failed to see what advantage was coming to them by the plan which was now being pushed through the House by the Government. What would happen? These globes and plots of land were to be sold, the amount to be passed over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and a fixed rate of interest was to come from the investment in that way. But if the income was reduced, so would the capital value of these lands be reduced; and, if so, there would be a reduced amount passed to the credit of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, from which 2¾ per cent, if the money were invested in Consols, would arise. Then, it seemed to him that the clergy of the country, as beneficiaries for the time being, would not be in a very improved condition—that was to say, it would be as much for their interest to take the value of the land at the moment. But if the House were agreed that these estates ought to be sold, clearly it was to the advantage of the community that the best possible price should be obtained; and if proper care was not taken to insure the obtaining of the highest possible price, there was a dereliction of duty on the part of someone concerned, and national property was being thrown away and wasted. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had indicated a way in which the best possible price could be obtained for these lands, and that was by widening the area of competition. If the agricultural labourer was assisted in the way suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, the probability was that 20, 30, or 40 per cent more would be obtained for the lands than would be obtained under the Bill, owing to the slovenly and careless way in which it was drawn. Suppose the globe was in the centre, or formed a contiguous part of a very large property, it would fall into the hands of the adjoining owner for a very low price—indeed, competition would be almost out of the question. He thought that his right hon. Friend was perfectly justified in bringing his proposal before the House, and that he was further justified in doing so seeing that these securities had not been taken by the Government, who seemed to have charge of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in attempting to arrest the further progress of the Bill, and await an opportunity when the proposal could be placed before Parliament with all the advantages to the agricultural labourer and to those who might want to possess themselves of small areas of land of the facilities indicated by his right hon. Friend. If this had been an estate of a landowner that had to be sold—if it had been the estate of an Irish landowner, for instance—they would have had it publicly offered on the freest possible terms, to enable the tenant to buy land, and to give, it might be, an extravagant price for it. He wanted to know why the same precedent had not been closely followed in this case? Surely the agricultural labourers of this country were not in such a flourishing condition that—The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War smiled; he did not know what there was to smile at, except that the right hon. Gentleman had a supreme contempt for the interests of agriculture.


said, he was smiling because it was obvious that the hon. Gentleman had not read the Bill.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman happened to be mistaken, for he had not only read the Bill, but he had closely studied its provisions; and he did not hesitate to say that if similar advantages and similar publicity and similar facilities had been given to the English agricultural labourer as would have been given in the case of the sale of an Irish estate in the interests of the landlord, they would have had a much better chance of making the most of this property. These glebe lands were of the greatest interest to the parishes in which they happened to be situated, and he considered that if advertised without the publicity which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), by the clauses he had put on the Paper, sought to introduce, the most had not been done or attempted in girder to do what would have been done in every other case, and that was to give the greatest and widest possible publicity, so as to obtain the highest possible price for the land. He should be most happy to give his support to his right hon. Friend if he went to a Division.


said, he fancied there was some slight misapprehension either on his part or on the part of other hon. Members as to what the Government were prepared to do. If it was possible to avoid a hostile Division on the third reading of the Bill, on which there was so much concurrence of opinion, it was well that they should do so. As to one point, he thought there was no doubt, and that was that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. E. Stanhope) in charge of the Bill consented that in "another place" there should be words introduced, so as to secure that notice should be required. Then he thought—but it appeared that there was some difference of opinion on the point—the right hon. Gentleman also admitted that there was some force in what he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had said in regard to the possibility of some arrangement with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners when the incumbent needed the corpus of the money for any of the purposes specified in the sub-sections of Clause 4, and he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say further that he would consider whether anything could be introduced before the Bill became law which would meet that point, so that there should be a means for the labourer to purchase and pay by instalments, and yet that provision should be made for the incumbent who needed the body of the money for the purposes set forth in the subsections of Clause 4. If he happened to be right in that, he did not think that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) would be so necessary on the third reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman's view was that no concession at all was made by the Government upon the point. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would make the matter clear.


said, he did not give any pledge at all but the Government would consider whether means could be devised for facilitating the acquisition of the land by labourers.

MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

said, the extraordinary doctrine advanced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Ming-worth) had not been laid down in the House for the first time to-night. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be one of those politicians who repeated fallacies until they imagined they were the truth. The hon. Gentleman was never tired of speaking of this as national property. As a matter of fact, the property had never been given to the nation; it had never been bequeathed to the nation; in fact, it was in no sense national property. It was, no doubt, Church property, held for the benefit of the nation, just as the Church existed for the benefit of the nation. [Ironical cheers.] That was his (Mr. J. G. Talbot's) own conviction, and hon. Gentlemen could not expect to shake him in it. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Illingworth), in his zeal for this extraordinary fallacy, sought to stop the passage of a very innocent and useful Bill at its very last stage, and he seemed to think that because what he called national property was not to be put up to a sort of national auction they were not dealing with glebe lands in a right way. One of its objects was to benefit the unfortunate present occupants of these glebes, whose sufferings were exceptionally great, and certainly not a matter to be laughed out of court in that House or anywhere else.


said, he expressed his sympathy with the sufferings of the clergy, but went on to say that they were only suffering with the rest of the community.


said, that they were suffering in excess of the greater part of the community. He knew from his own experience that that was so, but he was not there to plead in formâ pauperis on behalf of the clergy, although he maintained they were suffering in a most unparalleled degree, considering the position they were bound to occupy. The Bill provided that the lands might be taken out of the hands of the clergy and put into the hands of persons who could farm them properly and satisfactorily. It was said that these lands ought to be put into the hands of labourers. He did not object to labourers having them if they liked, but labourers could no more profitably occupy them than anybody else—they could only do so if they had capital. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget that in order to occupy land profitably people must have capital to work it. How were labourers to find capital to work this land? That was part of the subject which he thought hon. Gentlemen had never really faced. He thought land should be as much as possible occupied by every class of the community; but he main- tamed that to imagine that agricultural labourers could profitably occupy considerable portions of land was one of those extraordinary fallacies which could only proceed from an urban point of view. In order to cultivate land they must have capital, and labourers, as a rule, had not capital. To say that this land should be specially devoted to cultivation by labourers was one of the doctrines well fitted for the platform and the newspaper article; but was not a doctrine which any practical man would seriously defend.

MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)

said, he did not wish to interfere in the quarrel between the hon. Member for the Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) and his hon. Friend the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). Indeed, he could not conceive any political question, and probably still less any ecclesiastical question, on which those two hon. Gentlemen could agree. But he was bound to say that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University was not right in imputing to his hon. Friend the Member for West Bradford any disposition to make light of the loss felt by the occupants of glebe lands in late years. What the hon. Gentleman said was that the clergy had suffered, though not more than other members of the community, and he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) was bound to say, from his observation, that the principal difference between the owners of land and other portions of the community of late years bad been that while all had suffered, probably those engaged in trade and commerce had suffered to an even greater extent; but they had not been so disposed to have recourse to Parliament, cap in hand, seeking relief as those who owned land. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University evidently did not much believe in the passing of any portion of these glebe lands into the hands of labourers, for, he said, labourers had not capital enough to work it. The hon. Gentleman could hardly have read the Bill which he was supporting, because it assumed they possessed capital enough to pay the whole purchase money at once. What his right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) wished to do was to make it possible for labourers to acquire land by easing the purchase as much as could be. But he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) rose to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (Mr. E. Stanhope) to make clear what he thought was still a little in doubt. What they wanted to know was whether his (Mr. E. Stanhope's) engagement to consider what might be done in the interests of labourers extended to both the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre)—namely, to the question of notice, and also to the question of payment by instalments, or did it only refer to the question of notice?


said, he thought he made the point perfectly clear. He undertook to put a clause into the Bill during its passage through the House of Lords dealing with the question of notice; in regard to the other question, he only said it was a matter to which they would give their consideration.


said, that, as he understood the question, all the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) desired was that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should have the same power to deal with these glebe lands as they had in respect to lands already in their possession. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill treated the incumbent as though he were the personal proprietor of the land and wanted money. As a matter of fact, the incumbent had only a species of life interest, and could get nothing for himself, except the interest on the money when invested; and it was immaterial, so long as the principal was safe, whether the purchase money was invested in the purchased land or in Government Stock if the interest payable was equal. He would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would, between this and the time when the Bill reached "another place," undertake to consider whether he could not place some machinery in the Bill providing that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should deal with this land in the same way as they dealt hitherto with other lands in their possession?

MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)

said, it was through no seeking of his own that he found himself, upon the first occasion on which he had ventured to take more than a barely formal part in the discussions of the House, in conflict with his Colleagues in the representation of Bradford. He often found himself in opposition to the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), and especially so with regard to the hon. Gentleman's peculiar views as to the tenure of Church property. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had, however, pointedly replied to one portion of the hon. Gentleman's observations; but there was another portion of them to which reference ought to be made. The hon. Member had spoken of the State dispossessing itself of property. He (Mr. Byron Reed) had searched in vain for any element of State ownership of either glebe land or the other endowments held by the clergy of the Church. He was aware that State ownership was the theory of the Liberation Society, and he was aware that the hon. Gentleman who represented the Liberation Society in that House was of opinion that all Church property should speedily be brought into national possession. But this Bill was simply a Bill for providing for the speedy, easy, and convenient sale of lands which at the present time were not fully remunerative to the clergy who held them, and for the investment of the money arising from their sale for the benefit of the clergy, in whose hands the lands were at present, and for whose advantage they were by their original donors intended to exist. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had referred to the question of allotments for agricultural labourers, and another hon. Gentleman—the Member for South Monaghan (Sir Joseph M'Kenna)—appeared to share with him a false impression as to the scope of the Bill. He (Mr. Byron Reed) found that Clause 8 distinctly provided that glebe lands dealt with by the Bill should be offered for sale in small parcels, not only to individual labourers, but to Sanitary Authorities, who obtained by the Act of last year power to deal with land for allotment purposes, and this, he thought, altogether disposed of the objection that the labourers were unable to purchase these lands for cultivation. He ventured to think that the House generally would be of opinion that the opposition to this Bill was the opposition which was always met with from certain quarters of the House when any measure of Church reform came up for discussion. There were hon. Members of the House who were nominally friends of the Church, and who were, in name, anxious and zealous for Church reform, but who exhibited their friendship and manifested their zeal by opposing even the humblest and simplest and most unpretentious measure for giving scope and latitude to Church operations. But while they could not expect for a moment that the Bill of the Government now before the House would please right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, they had every reason to believe that it would be approved by the clergy, for whose interest in the main it was conceived; that it would be approved by the great majority of the laity in the country for whose ultimate benefit its provisions were laid down; and that it would in a very few minutes from now be accepted by a majority of the House of Commons.

MR. PICTON (Leicester)

said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed) endeavoured to minimize the importance of this subject by saying it was a matter which mainly concerned the clergy—that it was for their benefit and their advantage. But there were certain other people in the land greatly interested in this property besides the clergy, and he and others, as representing them, thought that they had a right at this stage to protest against the passage of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman said that Clause 8 provided all manner of facilities for the acquisition of land by cottagers, labourers, and others. Yes; but the authorities concerned were to— Satisfy themselves that such offer is not practicable without diminishing the price which can be obtained for the glebe land on a sale. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot), in common with the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Byron Reed), charged the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) with continually re-iterating the fallacy that Church land was national property. He (Mr. Picton) would like to know whether the Church was a sect or not, and was a sect distinct from the nation, or was it not? [Mr. BYRON REED: No.] The hon. Member said "No." It was, as had been said at any rate, the nation in an ecclesiastical aspect; it was simply the nation regarded from a religious point of view. Therefore, whatever land was said to belong to the Church belonged to the nation. Land was not held by the Church for its own interest, but it was held for the good of the surrounding population. What Churchman would say it was not held for the good of the whole population, and then, if the land was held for the good of the whole population, surely in these days of almost universal franchise the population had a right to say which use of the land would servo them? If they were of opinion that using land for the purpose of offering and extending allotments would be very much better than using land for the sake of supporting particular theological doctrines, the population of the country had a perfect right to say so. Hon. Gentlemen could not deny that it was held in the interests of the whole of the people—then the whole of the people had a right to say how best their interests would be served. The doctrine which had been stated by hon. Members opposite to be a fallacy, in the mouth of the hon. Member for West Bradford, had been consecrated as law by repeated Acts of Parliament. The Act for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church asserted that Church property was national property. On no other ground could the disendowment have possibly been effected. The principal basis of the Irish Church Act was that, after all living personal interests had been compensated, the residue was national property. They knew that Acts of Parliament could do anything; but Acts were supposed to proceed on a basis of justice, and that basis of justice was, in the case of the Irish Church property, that the property belonged to the whole nation. Besides that, Parliament was continually dealing with Church property; they had the endowments of one large Bishopric shared among other Bishoprics by Acts of Parliament; they had the property of a number of Corporations thrown into one mass and handed over to certain Commissioners to deal with as they might judge fit under the supervision of the Government of the day. What other property had they dealt with in such a way as this? The fact that they had dealt with this property in this way proved clearly that what was called Church property was regarded as fundamentally the property of the nation. He could not but profoundly regret that this Bill should have reached so late a stage; doubtless they, on the Opposition side of the House, had to blame themselves in part for that. But when it was remembered what a number of Committees they had to attend, and what an amount of Business had been rushed through the House during this exceedingly happy Session, he thought it need be no matter for surprise that this Bill had been a little overlooked. Still, he extremely regretted that it should have been so; for ho thought that one of the darkest blots on our history had been the want of conscience, the want of political conscience at any rate, on the part of Governments in dealing with the land of the country. The interests of classes, the interests of individuals, the interests of institutions, the interests of religious doctrines, had always been considered before the interests of the people at large, and he thought this was only a fresh illustration of the same line of action. As their Predecessors acted at the time of the Enclosure Acts, thinking nothing of the needs of the laborious population, but only of the interests of the owners, so they were acting now, thinking nothing of the needs of the labourers, but only of the convenience and pecuniary prosperity of the clergy. He did not wish to do anything to injure the clergy, far from it. He believed that those who held the same opinions as himself were among the warmest friends of the clergy; he did not wish to injure the clergy; but he maintained that the interests of the laborious population ought to be of even much more significance to them, and if the clergy were faithful to their vocation they would think so too. Therefore, although he felt it was impossible to make anything more than a protest at this stage of the Bill, he earnestly hoped that protest would be made by taking a Division.

MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)

said, he was glad the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was about to make a protest against the passing of this Bill, because he thought the people in rural parishes, and especially in the rural parishes of Wales, took a very great interest in two forms of public property—in glebe lands and Crown lands. In the case of this Glebe Land Bill, the Government was about to place this public property in much the same position as Crown property. Now, what was the objection to the present mode of dealing with Crown property, and with the sale of it? It was this—that when the labourer or the cottager attempted to buy any Crown land he was invariably refused, while he might find a few weeks afterwards that a whole mountain side had been sold surreptitiously to a large landowner, at whose mercy he would be placed. Much the same thing might happen in the case of glebe lands unless the Government promised to insert a clause in the Bill which would give public notice of any sale of glebe lands in any parish.


said, he had three times over pledged himself to put such a clause in the Bill when it reached the House of Lords.


said, he was glad the right hon. Gentleman could place such a simple trust in the House of Lords, for a similar promise in regard to the Mines Regulation Bill of last year was not carried out. He (Mr. T. E. Ellis) wished to make certain that in regard to this Bill, at any rate, they would be served in a better manner than the miners were in the Mines Regulation Bill. Now, if this clause were put into the Bill, he thought it would be insufficient, unless some provision were made by which a cottager or labourer could have access to the land by means of payments by instalments.


The hon. Gentleman is discussing clauses in respect of which the House has already divided. The hon. Gentleman is, therefore, not in Order in referring to those clauses.


said, he would, of course, bow to the decision of the Chair, and he only wished to call attention to the fact that, as it stood, Clause 8 was illusory, it was deceptive, and of no good whatever to the labourer or the cottager; it simply held out a hope in words. If these lands were to be really brought within reach of the labourer and cottager—that was to say, if the nominal aim of this Bill was to be carried out, the Government ought, in justice to the labourers and cottagers, insert a provision by which Clause 8 could be made of real value to the labourers and cottagers in our parishes. The only other remark he would like to make was that this property, as to which two or three hon. Members on the other side of the House had brought forward several subtleties as to its being ecclesiastical and Church property, was of great interest to the parishes and the nation, and that there was no property of which the nation and parishes ought to keep a firmer grip than of glebe lands.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

said, he desired to take note of a curious fact in connection with the debate. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), who seemed to have assumed the representation of the Church Militant, had just made a most unconstitutional declaration. Surely the right hon. Gentleman, in declaring that he would induce another House of Parliament, with which, presumably, he had no connection whatever, to do a certain thing, had overstepped the bounds of Ministerial authority. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) and others had always maintained that the House of Lords was only a kind of appanage of the Tory Party; and it really seemed that the right hon. Gentleman had no difficulty in asserting what another House of the Legislature would do. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the ease with which he disposed of "another place." He (Mr. T. M. Healy) also desired to take note of the fact that the Government, in bringing in this Bill, had laid down the proposition that land, as an investment, must necessarily be of less value than 2¾ per cents. The declaration of the Government amounted to this—that it would be of greater benefit to the clergy of the Church of England to have their money invested in 2¾ per cents than to have it invested in land. Such a declaration made by the Government on their responsibility and authority, and coming at the present time, when the question of agricultural depression was so frequently referred to in the House had peculiar force. He hoped the country would take note of the fact that instead of land being worth 25 years' purchase, it would be better, in the opinion of the Government, for the clergy of the Church of England to invest their money in what stockbrokers now called Goschens. [Mr. E. STANHOPE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head, but such was the im- pression he (Mr. T. M. Healy) had got from the way the Bill had been manœuvred. It was not proposed to dispossess the Church of its property; it was only proposed to convert it into a different class of property. If they converted an investment in real property into an investment in personalty, it followed, as a matter of fact, that they believed realty to be of less actuarial value for the purposes of investment than personalty. Having said this he only wished to make one further remark, and that was with regard to what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot). The hon. Gentleman had laid down the doctrine, which certainly was very startling to one who came from a country where the Church had been disestablished, that this property ought not to be dealt with as property owned by the nation. The hon. Member described the declaration of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) on that subject as a fallacy. But upon what other basis did this Bill proceed? What was the raison d'être of the Bill unless it proceeded on the supposition that this property was national property? Without doubt the property of the Church of Ireland was treated as national property, and now, because the hon. Member for West Bradford ventured to say that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander, and because he advocated that what was done in Ireland should be done in England, he was denounced a fallacious logician. The hon. Gentleman's remarks were based upon sound reason, upon precedent, and upon logic, and it would have been far better for the Government to have taken a different course with regard to this Bill than they had taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had acted wisely in the opposition he had offered to the Bill. The opposition he had offered to the Bill was founded upon good sense, and it was to be regretted that it was not taken at an earlier stage of the Bill.


said, that if he was distinctly to understand from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that when the Bill reached "another place" he would consider in a friendly spirit—in a more friendly spirit than he had considered his (Mr. Shaw Lefevre's) proposal—a proposal for facilitating the purchase of these glebe lands by labourers by spreading the payment of the purchase money over a term of years, he would not divide the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 74: Majority 42.—(Div. List, No. 96.)

Bill read the third time, and passed.