HC Deb 27 June 1889 vol 337 cc877-8
MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeenshire, E.)

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, is it the case that, when the Church of England in Trinidad was disestablished, the redistribution of the ecclesiastical grant in 1871 was clearly based on the principle that "the grant of public money made in aid of the maintenance of Christian worship" prior to that date, amounting to £10,435 annually, should be the permanent limit of the ecclesiastical grant, and that any portion of this amount, declined by any of the religious bodies, should not be handed over to the other denominations, but "applied to the general service of the Colony"; was the express understanding that the grant payable to each communion, as determined on this basis—namely, that that was "the whole sum which thereafter would be issued to it, and that no extra votes would thereafter be granted to any religious body whatever"; is it the case that various departures from this settlement have been made and extra votes granted, and, among others, the sum of £500 annually to the Church of England, and of £100 to the Wesleyan Church; so that the public revenue of Trinidad has, since 1871, been taxed for ecclesiastical purposes to an amount of more than £18,000 in excess of the proper ecclesiastical grant, taking into account the refusal of certain denominations to accept of any grant; and, if this be so, will the Government give instructions that the original agreement shall in future be adhered to?


The answer to the first paragraph of the hon. Member's question is in the affirmative. As regards the second paragraph, it was contemplated in 1871 that the ecclesiastical grant should eventually be apportioned among the several Christian communities in proportion to the number of members of each communion to be ascertained by a census; and that as between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England the redistribution should be effected gradually on the lapsing of the salaries of the ministers of the latter Church who were then in receipt of salaries from the Government. Except for the purpose of correcting the due proportions of the grant, it was not then intended that any extra votes should be granted to any religious body. Departures have been made from the arrangement of 1871. The grant to the Roman Catholic Church was raised in 1872 to the amount of what was estimated to be its proper proportion, without waiting until funds should become available by the falling in of the Church of England salaries. No religious census has been taken, and recently additional annual grants of £500 to the Church of England and £100 to the Wesleyans have been made as a temporary arrangement until the census which is proposed to be taken in 1891. The revenue of Trinidad has since 1871 been taxed for ecclesiastical purposes to a considerable amount beyond what was contemplated at the time. Her Majesty's Government propose that the ecclesiastical grants shall be revised after the census of 1891, but in the meantime they do not propose to interfere with the existing arrangements."