HC Deb 05 June 1890 vol 345 cc71-138

Order for Committee read.

(5.40.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

The Instruction I have to move is based on the general principle that if by a measure of this description you confer certain tangible benefits on tithe owners, you are bound, as an act of justice and as compensation, to confer benefits of a corresponding nature on the payers of tithe, especially if it can be shown that certain grievances, certain hardships, arc suffered by individual payers. After consultation with you, Sir, I am to some extent restricted in the scope of what it w as my intention to say, and I shall confine myself to two specific points, the question of corn averages, a most important question in the whole subject of revision, and another portion of the question which in a few minutes it will be my duty to explain, and my endeavour to devise a remedy for when we are dealing with the special rateable value clauses. My Instruction does not in any way affect the theory of tithe, whether we regard it as National property or not. If it is regarded as national property there is the more reason why the Instruction should be carried, for if it can be shown that tithe presses with unfairness upon particular individuals, although it can be shown that the nation has a certain property in the tithe or, as the President of the Board of Trade said, a reversionary interest, yet it cannot be said that a national right must needs be an individual wrong. There is no reason why the nation should exact more than it is entitled to. Crown lands may be regarded as national property, the rents going to what may be described as national purposes, yet, in bad times, and when seasons are unfavourable, those rents may be and are reduced, but by that reduction the right of the State to the rent of Crown lands is in no way impaired. So also with tithe; if Parliament decides that in certain cases the amount of tithe should be raised, should be increased or reduced, the decision of Parliament in no way affects the theory of tithe itself. The Instruction deals with one particular and specific point, that is, in the Bill before the House you endeavour to re-open the settlement of 1836; it is the bounden duty of the House not to re-open that settlement in the interest of one party only, especially bearing in mind the conditions upon which the Settlement of 1836 was based. Opinions in reference to that Settlement, at the time it was arrived at, were expressed on both sides of the House in the strongest manner by Lord J. Russell, as well as Sir Robert Peel, that one of the objects in view in the Settlement was to remove restrictions under which agriculture was placed. If it can be shown that, owing to errors made in that settlement, owing to imperfect realisation of the conditions then existing, or which might afterwards arise, mistakes were made on considerations left out of sight; if, owing to such oversights, it can be shown that those interested in agriculture—landlords, farmers, or labourers—have suffered, and are suffering, owing to the existing state of the Tithe Law, as fixed in 1836, then it seems to me there is a clear case, on the showing of those who endeavoured to bring about a settlement, that there should be a revision of the whole question in the interest of all the parties to the settlement, not of one party only. If we look at the conditions of the Settlement of 1836, we find two conditions that do not now exist; there were high prices and cheap labour; these were the dominant features of the situation then, but exactly the reverse is the position now. Not only has a great diminution in prices taken place since that date, but we have no reason to suppose, although there may be temporary revivals in agriculture, there will ever be any reversion to anything approaching the prices that ruled in 1836. The fall has been due not to the action of Parliament but to the opening of new methods of transit, especially since 1846, when the price of wheat was 56s. a quarter. Wheat now realises less than half that price, and with the imports from the United States, from Russia, and, above all, from India, and with each successive year bringing improvements in the means of transport, there is no reason to suppose that for any considerable time prices will ever ha higher. Temporary or accidental causes may bring about a rise, but we cannot expect it will be permanent. That being the case, how do we find the condition of agriculture affected by this very serious burden imposed upon the land? If we look at the condition of agriculture now, and compare it with what it was, we see the great changes brought about by economic and other causes during the last 50 years. It is only a few years ago Sir James Caird declared—and I suppose he will be considered an authority upon agricultural matters—that it would require £10,000,000 to make the land as clean now as it was 50 years ago. This is a serious condition of things, affecting not only owners and occupiers, but all connected directly or indirectly with the cultivation of the soil. Above all, it affects that class we all desire to see more numerous, the class of yeoman farmers, once the pride of England. One thing is perfectly certain, this class can never become so numerous as once they were, unless this heavy burden is lightened. With the fall in the price of produce the cost of labour has increased, a condition of things exactly the reverse under which the Settlement of 1836 was arrived at. Even in 1836 there was a considerable body of opinion in the country which declared that the Settlement was in the interest of tithe owners rather than of tithepayers, and reference to the Debates of that time show that the opinion found expression both among Members of the Conservative Party as well as among the Whigs, and one of the most remarkable expressions of opinion in that direction came from that Radical among Radicals, Joseph Hume, one of the last men who would have been disposed to fritter away any tithe which he regarded as national property. On more than one occasion Joseph Hume declared that no good Bill could be enacted until the Corn Laws were repealed, for they had given land and its produce an artificial value, and, anticipating the repeal of the Corn Laws, he declared that great injury would be inflicted on owners until the value of the tithe was fixed much lower than it was by the Bill then before the House. The only importance of this opinion is as coming from such a Radical Member, who might have been expected to express a view of quite a different character. It shows most clearly that even then there was an opinion that the Act of 1836 was an imperfect settlement, in the interest of the tithe owners, and not of the tithepayer. In individual cases we find that hardships are very severe indeed. As a Member from the Eastern Counties, I can speak feelingly, because a quarter of the whole tithe in England is paid in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Kent. These counties pay £1,000,000 out of the whole £4,000,000. The grievance is not confined to this part of England; it is spread over a large area; it exists largely in Wales; it is to be found in Berks, Dorset, and other parts of the Kingdom; but I think representatives from the Eastern Counties are especially entitled to urge this grievance and to seek redress, and we claim that if the Settlement of 1836 is re-opened it should not be in the interest of one party only. Let me give the result of calculations that have been made in reference to Berkshire. Here is a computation referring to 26 farms in that county, and these farms comprise 13,000 acres. The rent derived from these 13,000 acres is £2,500, but the amount of tithe derived is £3,000. Can it be conceived that it is consistent with equity, though it may be in accordance with actual law, that a tithe 1–10th should actually become 11–6fch, that is to say, that for every 5s. of rent there should be paid 6s. in tithe? It appears to me to be a monstrous state of things, and all the more so if we look at what the tithe was really intended to be. I do not want to enter into any disquisition as to the meaning of the tithe, but etymologically it means 1–10th of the produce, and what is more it was not intended to be 1–10th of the produce developed by artificial means, but 1–10th of the produce nature actually gives; it was not intended to include 1–10th of the produce brought about by artificial means, artificial manures, and the application of all capital. You might as well exact tithe from ship owners and others engaged in industrial pursuits. Surely in the beginning it was intended that the tithe should be 1–10th of Nature's yield. As a matter of fact, it is very much the reverse of this. Experiments carried out by Sir John Lawes show the difference between the natural and the artificial produce. Sir John Lawes, by the experiments upon his model farm, has shown conclusively that in the case of wheat the natural produce is eight or nine bushels to the acre, whereas, as a matter of fact, the average yield obtained is 28 or 30 bushels. The difference between eight bushels and 28 is due to the application of capital under modern conditions of farming, and so far as the tithe as the tenth of Nature's gift is concerned, should not be taken into account. I do not dwell on that; my contention is that the settlement of 1836 presses un- fairly in many cases, and in this revision a more equitable distribution of the burden is called for. From the theological conception of the tithe, it maybe shown the tithe should be less. I do not endorse that view, but I take it that those who adopt the high theological ground of tithe should logically follow it out. We find in the countries I have mentioned, and elsewhere, there are these grievances, but in what way does the Bill meet them? All it does is to transfer payments from tenants to owners.


The hon. Member must address himself to the specific Instruction and matters cognate thereto.


I simply, Sir, wish to point out that my objection is based on the ground that in the Bill certain advantages are conferred upon owners of tithe, and that we are bound in duty and equity to confer corresponding advantages to payers of tithes.


The hon. Member's remarks were rather relative to a Second Reading Debate than to the specific points of his Instruction.


The only means of redress for the grievances I complain of, the specific points for the relief of land owners, tenants, yeomen, and labourers, would be in dealing with the question of corn averages, and bringing about some solution of the difficulty by some special arrangement in relation to the special rateable value clauses. The only way in which relief can be given to the tithepayer, in addition to the revision of the corn averages, is by introducing some means whereby he could obtain redress in (he County Court, or before some other tribunal. The specific manner in which this, in our opinion, should be carried out it would be our duty to indicate by Amendments in Committee in the event of this Instruction being accepted. With regard to corn averages, that is a question upon which the House has been able to express its opinion, partly in Debate itself and partly through Committees. The question of corn averages has been the subject of a Committee's Report, and there is no adequate reason for not dealing with the question in a Bill which revises the Settlement of 1836. Of course, corn averages is a much older question than the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, and but for the question of tithe the question of corn averages would have but little interest for people in the rural districts. The question of tithes and the question of corn averages are inseparable, and Chambers of Agriculture all over the country have passed resolutions with reference to the latter question. One of the most serious grievances of the tithepayers would be removed if the question of corn averages were dealt with. I will not endeavour now to deal with all the grievances that arise from the present method of taking the average. There arises the question of the cost of transit, and another grievance arises from the fact that whereas in former times when prices were high a farmer sent all his corn to market, and the average was taken over all qualities, he now sends only the very best samples, and upon the corn which fetches the highest price the average is taken. Again, there are grievances connected with the practice of taking a septennial average. I admit the objections to an annual assessment, but I do not see any valid reason why it should not be possible to take a triennial average. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will give us some explanation why it is impossible to deal with this question in the Bill, which, in the opinion of a large portion of the Committee and of many witnesses who gave evidence before that Committee, is closely and indissolubly connected with the question of tithe, and cannot be left out in a solution of the great problem raised. Last year there were Amendments proposed by the Government which seemed to go in the same direction as my Instruction indicates. The Amendments proposed by the Attorney General then showed some intention towards a certain amount of fairness as between tithe owners and tithepayers. I do not say they quite met the fair demands of the situation, but they offered far more than can be effected under the special rateable value clauses of the present Bill. One of the Amendments last year provided that the Court might, upon being satisfied on evidence, make an order for remission of tithe charge, and prevent the total amount exceeding the proceeds from the land. This covered a certain portion of the ground occupied by my Instruction, but I look through the Bill in vain for anything having a like result. The rateable clauses will, in the opinion of those most competent to judge, prove inoperative in this regard. The new rent will, after the passing of this Bill, be simply the old rent, plus the amount paid as tithe rent-charge, and upon this will be computed the new special rateable value. It is practically impossible in 999 cases in a thousand for the tithe rent-charge, under the circumstances, to exceed the special rateable value. Therefore, to that extent, unless the clauses are amended, they will not meet the necessities of the case, and certainly will not do so to the extent of the proposals in the amended Bill of last year. On these grounds I move the Instruction of which I have given notice, and I have only been able to specify two points, for I am afraid I should not be in order if I went beyond. In moving the Instruction, I wish to point out that it is in no way an attack upon the general principle and theory of tithes; it merely implies that the question should not be dealt with in the interests of one party only. I do not mean to say that tithe owners have not suffered, but I say the question should be looked at as a whole, and the interests of all connected with agriculture should be regarded in these new proposals. Looking at the historical origin of the Act of 1836, and the conditions that have since arisen, I say it is high time to revise the Settlement, and in doing so to hold the balance equally between all parties.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to provide for an equitable revision of tithes, in accordance with the altered conditions of agriculture."—(Mr. F. S. Stevenson.)

(6.10.) MR. ARTHUR WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)

It becomes my duty to second the Motion, you, Sir, having, as I understand, given your ruling to the effect that the terms of the Motion I have put upon the Paper are included in the Motion of my hon. Friend. Let me say at once, as expressing the view of the people of Wales, that we have not the least wish to fritter away the tithe, or to deal with it in such a way that there shall be a permanent reduction in it as a national property, the reduction passing into the hands of land owners. The people look to see this permanent property pass under the control of County Councils, and are not less jealous of its preservation than other members of the community. With this reservation, I certainly concur in the terms of the Resolution. The bargain of 1836 has been broken. The present Government have, within the past two years, made several attempts to break the Settlement of 1836; and the Welsh people are entitled to say, if this Settlement is to be broken, that it should be done with a due regard to every interest concerned, and by an equitable re-arrangement of the whole scheme. I do net suggest the direction in which you should proceed, but it is obvious to those who have given but a superficial study to this complicated subject, and perhaps I can claim no more, that if the bargain of 1836 once becomes to be tampered with, that involves a re-adjustment of it as a whole. Such is the scope and object of this Instruction. If you are going to transfer to landowners the immediate and primary duty no doubt intended by the Act of 1836 to pay tithe to the tithe owners making it compulsory, then surely you are invading the fundamental principle of the Act of 1836, and I hope we shall find before the Committee has finished its labours, as we have found Session after Session, that you have not approached the question in a thorough and statesmanlike manner, and if on either side Members are true to their obligations it will be found that no ingenious draftsmanship can evade the futile, unjust, and altogether unsatisfactory character of the Bill as it now stands. I will not trouble the House by again traversing the ground I went over last year, but I wish to show that support to the Instruction is quite consistent with the principle of keeping this great national property intact. We wish to relieve the undue pressure of the burden on the struggling farmer. However it may appear on the face of the Bill as the result of the transfer of payment from tenant to owner, the fluctuating value must press eventually upon the tenant, for he will have to pay the tithe in his rent. Take a small tenant farmer in Wales—I am within the mark when I say that, even assuming that the object and motive of the Bill to be what they appear—there will still, as the Bill stands, be a pressure upon the tenant, because he will not have that claim to an abatement of rent, which I am glad to say he now gets in bad times, in proportion to the amount of his rent, because the tithe will still have to be paid. When we come to deal with the clauses referring to special rateable value, I think I shall be able to show that whatever is done for the relief of the landlord, the tenant farmer will get precious little out of that provision of the Bill. I showed last Session that, taking the whole of Wales, the due proportion of relief to tenant farmers should be £30,000 a year. That does not mean a loss to the country; it simply means the proportion of fall or rise in proportion to the condition of agriculture. Perhaps a single figure will have as much influence as long argument, and I have no wish to occupy time. If a fair reduction were made in the tithe rent-charge throughout the Kingdom, that would, amount to nearly £500,000, and to that extent would tenant farmers in various parts of the country be relieved. I ask hon. Members on either side to act up to their convictions in this matter and to support the Instruction and reasonable claim made by my hon. Friend.


The terms of the Motion of the hon. Member are very wide. I was curious when I saw the Instruction on the Paper to know in what way it was to be carried out. When the hon. Member came to consider what that Instruction really involves, he must have been frightened at the figure he had created. The hon. Gentleman has not attempted to make a speech in support of the Instruction itself: he has devoted his remarks mainly to other objects. There were, however, certain survivals in the speech that led me to think the hon. Member had intended something much larger when he placed this Instruction on the Paper. The hon. Member said he wanted a large and comprehensive re-arrangement so that the tithe should press less hardly on individuals and be more equally distributed than it is at present. Consequently, he must have had in his mini not merely a reduction of tithe in cases of hardship, but also an increase in the tithe where the land on which it is levied has increased in value since the tithe rent-charge was fixed. I do not think, however, that any lion. Member would seriously propose a measure for increasing the tithe in defiance of the principle of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. I think that what the hon. Gentleman really wants is some method of dealing with what are known as "hard cases" Indeed, the hon. Gentleman suggested two definite ways in which that subject might be dealt with. First of all, he referred to the question of corn averages. That may be considered under two aspects. In the first place, there is the question whether the average should be taken over seven years or over three years or even a less extended term. To my mind, it is a matter of comparatively small importance what number of years is fixed. There is this advantage in a septennial average, namely, that it makes the payment less fluctuating, and that is an advantage to both parties in the end. I believe it would require no Instruction whatever for the Committee on this Bill to introduce, if they should think fit, a clause substituting a triennial for a septennial average. Consequently, I turn to the mode of making the Returns from which the averages are taken. That is a complicated subject. It was considered two years ago by a Select Committee, which reported against any change in the existing system in the direction that the hon. Member desires. It was proposed by several witnesses that unmarketed corn should be taken into calculation in estimating prices, but I confess I do not see how this is to be done. It is not merely a question of tail or inferior corn, for many farmers prefer to use their best corn for their stock, because it pays them better to do so than to send it to market at the prices they would obtain. Some witnesses also proposed that only first hand sales should be taken into calculation. But if either of these proposals were adopted, it would amount to such a re-opening of the system that the tithe owner would have a right to ask that it should be also considered whether the average should not be taken from the prices of other agricultural produce besides wheat, barley, and oats. The system of taking wheat' barley, and oats in equal proportion was adopted in 1836, because it was considered that a less fluctuating average would be thus obtained than by giving a greater preponderance to any one of the three kinds of grain. Certainly, it has been proved by experience that that view was correct. That is my reply to that part of the observations of hon. Gentlemen opposite relating to corn averages. Now, let me go on to the second topic as to which hon. Gentlemen desire to see some change. The hon. Member for Suffolk said he wanted to see some more practical solution of the difficulty of dealing with those "hard cases" to which, he referred—cases where the value of land has deteriorated, since 1836, more than the value of the tithe. He wanted to see some more satisfactory solution of the case than is to be found in the special rateable value clauses— something more in the nature of the net profit proposal comprised in the Amendment placed on the Paper by the Attorney General last year. But I may say there is actually an Amendment on the Paper now, in the name of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire, to substitute a calculation of net profits for rateable value. I apprehend that it is unnecessary, therefore, for any Instruction to be moved in order to permit such an Amendment as is desired by the hon. Member to be brought forward. I would submit to the hon. Member for Suffolk that this matter could be debated under the powers the Committee at present possess. Again, there is an Amendment on the Paper suggesting that not the whole of the special rateable value should be considered, but that the tithe should' never exceed a certain proportion of it— half, or something of that kind. I do not wish the House to think that I cannot defend the proposals of the Bill as preferable to any of the suggestions brought forward; all I maintain now is that it will be competent for hon. Members to raise in Committee any question they please as to substituting a calculation of net profits for a special rateable value. So far, therefore, as this proposal is concerned, the Instruction is entirely unnecessary, and I trust the House will not be put to the trouble of a Division.

(6.35.) MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)

The object of the Instruction is, as I suppose, to meet the case of tithepayers who may he in any way injured by the Bill, and I desire to support it because I consider that the interest of the tithepayer has been decidedly neglected by the Government. If I had had any doubts as to the necessity of doing so on this occasion, they would have been entirely dispelled by the speech of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade, because he twitted the Mover and Seconder of this Instruction with inconsistency, and said that no one would be bold enough to propose a general revision of tithes. Why, Sir, as I understand the Bill, that is exactly what the Government propose on the present occasion. They propose in this measure a general alteration of the Act of i836 in the interest of the tithe owner, and of the tithe owner only.


What I said was, that no one would be bold enough to propose an increase of the tithe.


I accept the right hon. Baronet's statement, but certainly, at the time, I must have misunderstood him. In arguing the case of the corn averages the right hon. Baronet went on to say that if certain proposals made before the Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member as well as himself, had been carried, the result would have been to reduce the value of the tithe owner's property; and from that he went on to say that the tithe owner would, of necessity, have demanded that the whole question of corn averages should be inquired into. That I take to be the position taken up to-day with regard to the Bill of the Government. They have broken the Act of 1836 in the interests of the tithe owners, and have entirely neglected the interests of the tithepayers. Therefore, if I had had any doubts as to the value of the Instruction of my hon. Friend, they would have been entirely removed by the speech of the right hon. Baronet. I will endeavour, as far as possible, to keep within your ruling, Sir; but it is difficult to support the Instruction without pointing out the evils of the Bill which it is desired to get rid of. I agree—and I am sure hon. Members on this side generally agree—that tithe is national property though not in the sense in which the President of the Board of Trade referred to it in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. I have heard a good deal said about frittering away the tithe, and I am certain that the hon. Member for South Glamorganshire, for moving the Instruction, will be accused of a desire to fritter away the tithe. For my part, I am as little anxious to fritter away the tithe as anyone in the Kingdom, and it is for that reason that I support the Instruction of my hon. Friend. There can be no better means of frittering away tithe than doing away with it altogether, and that must come about in the future unless some such Instruction as this is agreed to. It is well-known that where high prices for corn prevail much heath land is broken up and made arable. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 caught these poorer lands such as have been referred to in the Eastern Counties, and threw upon them the burden of an excessive tithe. Either that excessive tithe must be removed from the land or it will be allowed to go out of cultivation, as it is now doing in many instances. I will not weary the House by referring to those instances where land is so fully tithed that it is impossible to cultivate it with profit. But I would appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially to country gentlemen and the friends of the farmers, to support my hon. Friend's Motion for another reason: and that is, that it was laid down in 1836 that one of the reasons why the Tithe Commutation Act of that date was passed was that there should be nothing to prevent capital being invested in land. There is not a single country gentleman or Member representing an agricultural constituency here who will not agree that in many cases tithe is paid out of the capital that has been brought into the land since the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. The object which those who support this Instruction have in view is the same as that of a Petition which was presented to the House in August, 1885, by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman presented it, not as Member for Lincolnshire, but in virtue of the justly respected position which he holds in the agricultural world. That Petition advocated the repeal of the Tithe Commutation Act—the sacred covenant which the Instruction of my hon. Friend is supposed to attack. I hope that the rig-lit hon. Gentleman still maintains the opinions professed by him in the capacity in which he presented that Petition. I think that, as the Board of Agriculture is very much mixed up with the working of this Bill, the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the President of that Board (Mr. Chaplin) will be of extreme value to the House, and I trust we shall have an opportunity of hearing them this evening. The Prime Minister, a few years ago, speaking of the re-valuation of tithe, stated that the revision could not be maintained by the Tory Party, because it was a matter of confiscation. I grant it would be a matter of confiscation if it could be proved that tithe rent-charge is in the form of a mortgage. It is not in the form of a mortgage. There has been no principal sum lent on which interest is paid. On the other hand, the principle of revision has always been regarded as pertaining to tithes. Before the Act of 1836 Nature herself made the adjustment, because when the crops were poor it is obvious no tithe could be obtained from the land. The principle was certainly admitted by the Act of 1836 in reference to the fluctuation in the septennial averages. I cannot, therefore, see that if this Instruction were carried out it would in any way injure the tithe rent-charge or go beyond the Act of 1836. I believe that in Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk alone something like one-fifth of the whole tithe is paid, and it is therefore natural that we Eastern Counties Representatives should endeavour to force what we consider the just claims of our constituents in the House. All we ask for is a fair tithe, and that fair tithe would, in my opinion, be secured by the adoption of this Instruction.

(6.48.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)

This Instruction is proposed on the ground that the present law is inequitable. I should like to ask to whom is the law inequitable? I am bound to say that, as far as the present Bill is concerned, the charge cannot be sustained that it is inequitable to the farmer. The elaborate provisions of Clause 2 are very skilfully designed to prevent the extreme hardship to farmers to which attention has been called. Under that clause it would be quite impossible for the legitimate profit of the farmer to be touched for tithe rent-charge. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has declared that by the Act of 1836 the principle that tithe was adjustable was recognised by Parliament. Under that Act, certainly, the tithe was adjusted; but it was adjusted once for all, and it was intended that it should ever afterwards remain fixed. It would be perfectly easy, by quotations from the speeches of Lord John Russell and others to prove that this was the intention at the time. The only variation permitted was with reference to the corn averages, and this was allowed, because it was thought that a much more fixed and constant income would be given to the clery by consenting to such a variation. I should like to read a single quotation from the Report of the Poor Law Board in 1843, signed by Sir G. Cornwall Lewis, who was, I think, in Parliament at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act. The Report says— It was quite clearly understood at that time that there was to be assured to the tithe owners an income as nearly as possible equivalent in real value to their then revenue, to be rendered by the provisions as to averages, independent, as far as possible, even of the fluctuations in the value of money. With this assurance of a certain revenue, the tithe owner abandoned his prospect of increased revenue from improving cultivation and rising prices of produce. I do not believe that the tithe rent-charge was more than 60 per cent, of the gross value of the tithe when the Act of 1836 was passed. It has been said that, since the passage of the Act of 1836, Free Trade has been established, and that, as, the result, the price of corn has greatly diminished. I should, however, be surprised to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, if they are nothing else, are Free Traders, assert that the farmers have suffered, and the land has suffered, by the repeal of the Corn Laws. I should very gravely doubt whether the profit made by the landed interest, since the repeal of the Corn Laws, did not exceed any loss they may have sustained owing to the decrease in the price of corn. I claim to be a Free Trader myself, and I have every reason to believe that what I say on this point is perfectly accurate. I should like to make one other quotation. The name of Sir James Caird has been referred to, and I should like to quote one sentence from the evidence given by him before a Committee which sat in 1881. He was asked— Do you adhere to what you said, that if the old right of participation had continued with regard to tithe the annual income of the Church would now have been £2,000,000 greater than it is, and the whole of the difference has gone? Sir James Caird answered: "So far as I know, I do not know where else the difference can have gone." So that positively, according to Sir James Caird, the tithe in 1881 would have been half as much again if the Act had not passed and the extra profit had gone into the pockets of the landowners. I do not believe the landowners are sufficiently dishonest to want to break the bargain made in their favour; but there are certain persons who wish to still further diminish the income of the clergy and still further enrich the landed interest. I cannot admit that the present law or the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would be in the least inequitable except to the owners of tithe. Having regard to the considerations I have tried to place before the House, we cannot look at any Amendment which is designed either by altered methods of taxing the corn averages or in any other way to diminish revenue which has already been diminished too far. This must be the position held by the vast body of Members on the other side of the House. They tell us that tithe is national property, and they will not see it frittered away. That being so, they arc obviously bound to vote with my right hon. Friend against this Instruction.

(7.0.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)

I wish, in the first place, to say a word or two in reference to the speech which has just been made by the noble Lord. I may as well say frankly and honestly that there were not six words in that speech with which I was able to agree. The noble Lord told us, on the authority of Sir James Caird, that tithe owners had given up £2,000,000 annually, or rather had lost it, by the bargain of 1836. I have never seen that statement proved, though I have read it over and over again; and I am sure the noble Lord will forgive me for saying that he did not attempt to prove it. What we want to get the House of Commons and the country to realise is the terribly bad position of those landlords and yeomen farmers in the Eastern Counties and other parts of England where tithe rent-charge frequently represents either the whole, or nearly the whole, annual income from the land. I am glad that, in spite of some of the articles we have seen in Radical papers, there are Members on the opposite side of the House who are willing that the difficulties I refer to should be fairly recognised provided that we do not touch the corpus of the tithe itself. On this condition I believe they will listen to reasonable proposals for the temporary relief of those extreme cases to which attention is being called? and I hope that before the Bill is passed we may make it a measure that will not only be acceptable to the tithe owners but fair to the tithepayers. I wish to draw the attention of the noble Lord (Viscount Cranborne) to the fact that if the law as it existed before the passing of the Tithe Act of 1836 had now been in operation, it would have been perfectly unnecessary for me to be now taking up the time of the House in trying to drive home the extreme grievances of the tenant farmers. If that Act were now in operation I could—not by cutting off my nose to spite my face or vice versâ, but in a rational way—prevent the tithe owner from getting money from the laud at all. Before the passing of the Commutation Act the tithe owner had a tenth of the corn and a tenth of the lambs and calves born on the farm, but he had no share whatever in the stock bought and placed on the farm. A farmer could, therefore, lay his arable lands down for grass, and had the Act of 1836 not been passed tens of thousands of acres of land in Essex that have not made one son in late years out of corn production would have been laid down for grass. We could have so manipulated our farming operations that the tithe would have been nil. How about that great sum of money which the tithe owners have lost by the bargain of 1836? This land has been paying 5s. or 6s. per acre in tithe during these years of depression, and I hope that when we touch a certain point in Committee the House will look at the subject in a fair and equitable manner. As long as it is not pro- posed to touch the corpus of the tithe I am sanguine we shall get some relief, if it is only of a temporary nature, for these extraordinary cases. One word in reference to what is called the corn averages. I regret that the President of the Board of Trade has skated so lightly over that question. That is a very important question, and I think it would be well if the House were asked to deal with it in this Bill. I was one of the Committee who inquired into the question, and I know perfectly well that a majority of that Committee did not seem very much inclined to recommend any great re-opening of the corn average question. But I know there were practical men on the Committer who most anxiously desired a re-opening of the question; and I know there are thousands of agriculturists in the country who think that the tithe question will never be satisfactorily or fairly settled until that part of the subject is re-opened. It is an undoubted fact that about the period of the passing of the Commutation Act there was sold a great deal of cheap corn, which is now consumed at home. That class of corn does not now, therefore, have the effect of lowering the market price as it ought to have. Years ago, before our villages wore flooded with foreign corn, the inferior corn was of great marketable value. When there was a bad harvest nearly all the wheat had to go to market, but now there is a different state of things. Only the finest description of wheat is now thought fit to make into flour. With regard to the question of re-sale, it is a fact that corn is now sold 10 times over as compared with the number of times it was sold 40 or 50 years ago. At that time it was a matter of great expense for the middleman to travel about from market to market, whereas it is entirely different now; and a great deal is done in the way of re-sale, and as re-sales go on naturally the price of the corn keeps increasing. The farmer sells it to a dealer, who sells it to a third person, who "bulks" it, and then sails a large quantity at Mark Lane; and each time the corn is sold the price finds its way into the corn average, which is thus made higher than the price which the farmer gets for his corn. The question of the corn average is, no doubt, a difficult one, and I do not wonder that the President of the Board of Trade would gladly escape the difficult task of reopening it; but it is a question that ought to be settled in a statesmanlike way. However, if I talked for half an hour longer on the subject I do not suppose I should get any nearer the point I am driving at. I think the corn average question ought to be taken into consideration before the Bill is finally disposed of, and if there is a Division on the question I shall have much pleasure in voting for the Instruction. Of course, what I am aiming at is to get relief. I am trying to whittle down the tithe temporarily, and in a fair way, in those particularly hard cases upon which I have already touched to-night.

(7.18.) MR. H. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)

I am almost ashamed to address the House after the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne), because if he is right I must be entirely wrong. As I understand it, it is the tithe owner and not the tithe-payer who is re opening this question. I do not know whether it will be a surprise to the noble Lord to hear that if you add 4 per cent, whenever the tithe has been above par since the Commutation Act, and if you deduct 4 per cent, whenever it has been below par, you find that the tithe owner has for every £100 of tithe received £220. From that it does not seem that the tithe owner has lost. On the contrary, I believe the tithe owner has benefited enormously by the Commutation Act. The gross produce of agriculture at the present time is greater than at the time of the commutation; but in agriculture, as in other industries, with a larger produce the profits are now smaller, and I infer that if the tithe owner were to come down and demand one-tenth of the whole produce there would be such an outcry in the country that he would get nothing at all. As to the question of corn averages, I think the President of the Board of Trade admits that there is some little grievance. He tells us it is difficult to re-arrange the corn average. I dare say it is, and, from my point of view, it is not actually necessary to re-arrange it. I think the Government might strike an average, as it were, and say, "We will give you 5 or 10 or 20 per cent, reduction." I think the matter could easily be met by some concession being made on the principle of a general average. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that the tithepayer must remember that if the tithe were taken on beef and wool in addition to corn, the tithepayer would suffer very much. I am well aware of that; but it does seem to me that if the tithepayers cannot afford to pay tithe on corn, which has fallen so much in value, they could not pay it on wool and beef. That, I think, points to the conclusion that the tithe owners are getting more than they really ought to have. But the point I am most anxious about is the enormous loss the tithepayers have incurred by the Commutation Act in the matter of rates. When the Commutation Act was passed the old Poor Law had only just been abolished, and at that time rates were in some cases 18s. and 20s. in the £1. What the tithe owner was to receive was based on the price of corn for the last seven years, and then the amount of rates payable by him for the future was added. In the Library are the Reports of the Tithe Commissioners. In one column one sees the tithe for compensation, and in the next the amount added for rates. In some cases where the amount of tithe was £500, one sees that £300 was added in order to enable the tithe owner to pay the rates in future. I have two instances here. One is that of a parish in Norfolk. In that instance, the tithe was £215, and the addition was £123, to enable the tithe owner to pay the poor rate, which was then 11s. 6d. in the £1. Last year the rate was only 2s. Id., so that the tithepayer has to pay this enormous sum of £123 instead of £22. In the case of a parish in Hampshire, the tithe was £128, and to this £102 was added for rates. At that time the rates were 16s. in the £1; last year the rate was only 2s. 7d., making £16 instead of £102. I maintain that the tithepayers have a right to come to the Government and demand justice in this respect. The tithe owner should only receive precisely what he is called upon to pay in the way of rates, besides a fair amount of tithe. This would be a great relief in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. Where the tithe is found to be so oppressive is just where the poor rates are so enormously high. I quite agree that the tithe owner must live; but the tithe owner must not live upon one class of the community only. If the Government neglect the case of the tithepayer they will be neglecting the best interests of the Church, because nothing adds more to the agitation against the Established Church than the idea that people are called upon to pay an unjust amount of tithe to the clergy of the Church of England. I hope that the Government will agree to the Instruction before the House.

(7.28.) MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devonshire, Ashburton)

I understand the scope of this Instruction is now confined very much to the question of the grievances of the agricultural classes in respect to corn averages, and it is to that one point I propose to address myself. The President of the Board of Trade spoke just now of the Committee which sat two years ago, of which I had the honour to be a member, and which was appointed to deal with this question. The President of the Board of Trade has a very convenient memory with regard to what took place before the Committee. Before that Committee there was a universal complaint from farmers and agriculturists of the manner in which corn averages are taken. Then the right hon. Gentleman forgot to refer to the fact that, although our recommendations were small, nevertheless they were distinct on this point, that the provisions of the Act of 1882 should be more vigilantly enforced. Ample evidence came before the Committee to show that the officials charged with taking the corn averages did not fulfil their duty. And the Return obtained by the hon. Member for Shropshire, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware, shows that in many markets these averages are struck on an amount of dealing which is perfectly ridiculous, probably not more than 10 per cent, of the whole amount of dealing in some special eases. This is a cause of complaint in almost every agricultural meeting. Farmers feel most deeply upon this and other grievances. The method of taking corn averages is by no means a new question. It was dealt with by the Agricultural Commission, who reported in 1882. Of that Commission the Minister of Agriculture, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the President of the Local Government Board were members. The Commissioners recommended that the tithe rent-charge should be a fixed sum, and that it should be paid by the landlord, and that every facility should be given for its redemption. In the Bill which the Government have introduced there is no attempt whatever to deal with the first and most important of these recommendations, and the grievances of the tithepayer are left entirely untouched. There is one special grievance which has not been mentioned. It is this: that the price upon which the corn average is taken is not the price which the farmer receives. I know that in my part of the country it is the practice of the farmers to sell their corn in the autumn at a low price to the agents who go round the country They sell it in order to get the money to pay their rent. That corn is sold in the market at an enhanced price. The consequence is the farmer has to pay more than his fair share under the present system of taking averages. The price also, it should be noticed, includes the cost of transit, warehousing, insurance, and merchant's profits. None of these things are part of the produce of the soil, and, as we all know, this additional cost was never contemplated by the tithe-payer when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, and I say they are manifestly unjust. For my part, I sincerely rejoice at the Government proposal, that landlords are in future to pay the tithe, because, if it passes, the tithe will have to be paid by the landlord out of his own pocket. When the landlord pays the money himself, and becomes aware of these grievances, he will begin to inquire to what purposes this tithe is applied, and he will find that it is applied to the purpose of the Established Church. I am confident that nothing which has been done, even by the Liberation Society, is more likely to bring about a speedy consideration of the question of the Disestablishment of the Church than this Bill. I disclaim any desire whatever to whittle down the tax. All I ask for on the part of the tithepayers is justice in the method of levying it. Whether the tithe is applied to the purposes of the Church or to secular purposes, or whether it is to be applied to education, are not at all questions before us; but of this I am confident, that to whatever purpose the tithe is applied, unless it is levied justly and fairly, so long will it be a subject of grievance on the part of the tithepayer. And those gentlemen who are anxious to keep up the value of tithe, for whatever purpose it may be, cannot do better than assist us in endeavouring to secure that that tithe shall be levied justly and fairly, and then I am confident that tithe property will be perfectly safe.

(7.40.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Oswestry, Shropshire)

I am sure we must all be willing that the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite, that this question should be dealt with in a scrupulous spirit of fairness, should be followed. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade put this crucial question to lion. Members, and not one of them attempted to reply toit—"Are you prepared to have such a revision of tithe rent-charge as will relieve those who are paying too much, and put an adequate portion of the burden on those who are paying too little?" A large amount of land in this country has risen enormously in rental since the Commutation Act. No one has ventured to propose that such land should be revalued, and that a higher tithe rent-charge should be put upon it. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment made this startling assertion. He said that all the produce of the farm since the Tithe Commutation Act was passed has fallen in value, and, therefore, that the owners of the land have a claim for a reduction of tithe rent-charge. Corn, it so happens, is the only produce of the farm which has fallen. Hay and straw have gone up very much. Meat has gone up 44 per cent.; dairy produce 40 per cent.; potatoes 50 per cent. I quote from Mulhal's book upon agricultural prices. The position of the tithe rent owner has been prejudiced since the passing of the Commutation Act, while the position of the landowner has become better. In 1836 the rents on titheable land were calculated at £33,000,000, and the tithe rent-charge was fixed at £4,200,000. Now rents are £45,000,000, and the tithe rent-charge is £3,200,000—a decrease of 22 per cent. But we must look still further at the equity of the case between the landowner and the tithe rent-charge owner. At the time of the Commutation Act, Daniel Whittle Harvey, a great authority, said the enactment would put £4,000,000 into the pockets of the landowner. We know that the gross tithe was then £6,400,000, and that £2,400,000 was instantly-placed in the pockets of the landowners as the difference between the gross and net value of the tithe, all that vast sum went at once into the landowner's pocket. And since that time, as has been pointed out by quotations from Sir James Caird, the landlords have received £2,000,000 a year, which they would not have had if the old system of participation had continued, and a tithe of the produce had been taken by the tithe owner. The consequence is, that the landowner has, through the Commutation Act, profited to the amount of £4,400,000 a year at the expense of the tithe owner. With regard to the question of property, one-fourth of the tithe rent-charge is in the hands of lay holders, and must not be regarded as ecclesiastical property. We are not considering a clerical question to-day. Now, with regard to the re-assessment of the tithe rent-charge, in certain cases it must be remembered that the owner under the Commutation Act had a right to limit the tithe rent-charge to particular parts of his property, so as to relieve other portions of his estate; he had a discretion in allocating the tithe rent-charge pretty much as he liked, and so in a great many cases it is found that the land is heavily tithed in some places and very lightly tithed in others; yet it is now argued that, although this arrangement was made by his own action, the land owner is to receive relief in the case of the heavier tithe without any adequate increase being put upon the land that has been lightly tithed. The lion. Member below me has said that a deduction of 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, ought to be made all round. Does the hon. Member know what that really means? It means that £200,000 a year on the commutation value shall be handed over to the land owner, or if we capitalise the £200,000 a year that a capital value of somethinglike £6,000,000, on consideration of this measure of justice being allowed to pass, shall be paid to him. I, for one, repudiate such a suggestion, and I say that the land owners generally do not claim so inordinate an amount as the condition of passingan act of justice A good dealhas been said about corn averages, and, although I do not wish to go much into detail on this question, I desire to point out how some of the suggestions made before the Corn Average Committee would raise, and not lower, the averages. We find that oats form a very small portion of the Returns compared to what are sold, and it is in evidence that if the Returns of oats were properly made the tithe rent-charge would be considerably raised. Again, it was suggested that we should not take the market price, but rather the value of the corn on the farms. But there are two objections to this: the first is that if the farm value were taken that would not be the market price, and the tithe rent-charges were commuted into the market price of corn; and the other is, that the best corn is not sent into the market. The best corn is the seed corn, and that corn never comes into the calculation. Mr. Pell, who is a good authority, informed us that if the seed corn were taken into the averages, the tithe rent-charge would be very largely increased. Therefore, those who desire that the whole of the corn produced in England should be taken into consideration in striking the averages, and not merely the corn sold in the market, are making a proposal that would raise the corn average instead of lowering it. These are some of the reasons why it seems to me to be impossible to accept the Instruction of the hon. Member opposite. Nevertheless, I should have no hesitation in welcoming, if it could be carried out, a re-consideration of the whole question, and I am satisfied that the tithe rent-charge owners would be able to make out so strong ease in their own favour, that a Parliament would be obliged, as a simple matter of justice, to raise, by a very considerable percentage, the amount of the tithe rent-charge throughout the Kingdom.

(7.52.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)

I believe I am representing the opinion of the great majority of the Welsh Members when I say that they sympathise with this Instruction. We do this in an honest and sincere way, because we are not so greatly affected and interested as England is in this matter. The anomalies, which form a grave feature of this tithe question, and which are touched by this Instruction, are bad enough in Wales, but are less felt in the Principality than in other parts of the Kingdom. Nevertheless, Wales is in sympathy with this Instruction, because we feel that we are responsible for the introduction of this measure—that if it were not for Wales there would have been no Bill of this nature now before the House; so it is we who are the unfortunate cause of the stereotyping, and giving further sanction in life to the worst anomalies of tithe, and so bringing upon the English farmers of the Eastern Counties a grievous injury which they had done nothing to provoke or deserve. It is on this ground our goodwill is given to this Instruction. The fact is, that the Government of the farmers' friends love the Welsh clergy better than they do the English agriculturists, and that is the main reason why they are endeavouring to carry this measure. We Welsh Members feel that we are bound to vote for this Instruction, because unless it be carried the measure is one that will aggravate the situation in Wales, without redressing the crying grievances in England. The Welsh people are lovers of justice, and they believe it to be a most unreasonable thing to attempt to make a tithe measure a measure of police, without, at the same time, touching any of the admitted inequalities and inequities in the incidence of tithe, even though Wales suffers, comparatively speaking, less than England from such inequalities. At the same time, Welshmen cannot favour a deliberate attempt to whittle away the property in tithe, such as that which the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray) frankly avowed.


I only said temporarily.


I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman make that correction, because there is necessarily a great difference in principle between a mere temporary abatement, such as a fair landlord might make under exceptional circumstances in rent, and any fixed reduction of a general character. We do not propose that the national property in tithe should be managed on principles less reasonable and just than the property of private individuals. But I fear that the feeling we have on the subject of tithe extends far beyond the scope of this Instruction, and we earnestly hoped for opportunities of expressing our opinion in some other Instructions upon the Paper which express our particular views. Rumours have reached us which are unfavourable to our hopes in this direction. This will not affect the opposition which the Welsh Members feel it to be their duty to offer to this Bill at every stage and on every possible opportunity. We support this Instruction because we feel that the Government are sharpening the law, adding fresh terrors to it, and creating new and unheard-of liabilities by a measure for the collection of tithe in Wales without touching even with their little finger the most extravagant and intolerable grievances in the incidence of tithe The passing into law of the Bill as it stands would simply have the effect of creating further and more extended trouble in Wales, and in causing that trouble, in all probability, to extend into England; and all this even without that scant measure of compensation and redress of anomalies for the agricultural interest which might at least have been looked for from the framers of the Bill, who have arrogated to themselves so unjustly the special title of the Farmers' Friends.

(7.58.) MR. H. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

I desire to offer only a very few observations, and will not detain the House more than a moment or two in so doing. I believe it is only by a re-valuation that the ultimate solution of this problem can be arrived at. I could not support the Instruction on the ground on which it has been moved, because the effect of it would be to wreck this Bill, and perhaps the Government also; but inasmuch as I understand that, according to the ruling of the Chair, the Instruction will apply only to a revision of the corn averages, I should be inclined to support it upon that understanding.

(8.0.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

I think there ought to be some modification of the settlement of 1836. We find that in many cases the burden of the tithe is so great that it is driving the land out of cultivation. I hold that it is absolutely necessary there should be some re- arrangement. We are told that the rearrangement would only affect a few tenants. But supposing that the present system, instead of injuriously affecting a few tenants affected the entire community, it would be at once felt that, in the interests of public order, a re-settlement was absolutely necessary. If the settlement arrived at has operated in particular cases so as to ruin certain agriculturists, surely in regard to such cases a necessity is made out for revision. There is another reason why I feel it almost impossible to vote against this Instruction; and it is that if this Bill is passed in its present form, as it possibly may be, those who are now suffering any hardships with respect to tithe will be able to obtain no redress. The only opportunity of securing such redress is by taking advantage of this Bill; and if that chance is allowed to go by, another opportunity is not likely again to occur; and, therefore, I feel it impossible to vote against any Instruction which will afford an opportunity of extending the scope of the Bill in the interests of those who are now suffering hardships from the incidence of the tithe. In supporting this Instruction we are simply giving an opportunity of discussing in Committee these grievances; we are not pledging ourselves to the adoption of any particular policy in regard to them. With regard to the question of corn averages I cannot altogether agree with what fell from the hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex. He pointed out with considerable force that, owing to the immense reduction in the price of corn, only the best corn now goes to market. That is so; but, on the other hand, the corn could be quite as profitably used on the farm. Again, at the time of the Tithe Commutation Act, the inferior as well as the best corn was readily sold on the market, whereas only the best corn is now sold. As to the question of re-sales, I quite agree that very often these resales are brought under consideration in fixing the average price, and some corn may be sold over and over again in the markets from which the Returns are made. But that fact in itself does not prove the necessity of a revision of the system. It is necessary to prove that this state of things did not exist at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act. The hon. Member for the Launceston Division has made a very different point. He has pointed out that the best corn is not now sent to market, as it is used as seed corn. But that does not affect the question at all: I believe that at the time the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, the best corn was not sent to market, and that the averages were fixed on the value of the corn that was sent. The hon. Member for the Oswestry Division has suggested that the reduction of 5 per cent, for the purposes of collection amounts in the aggregate to £200,000 a year, and that the capital value is something like £2,000,000. But if, as he suggests, that is a large sum for the clergy to be called upon to pay, surely it is an equally large amount to take out of the pockets of starving farmers who are absolutely unable to make any profit whatsoever out of the land. I think that that argument was a very weak one indeed.


I think that the time has now arrived when we may take a Division and make some progress. I have been challenged with regard to a Petition I have presented to the House on this subject, but, without referring in any way to the terms of the prayer of that Petition, I repudiate any responsibility for it. It is the common practice of Members to present Petitions, with the prayers of which they do not in any way identify themselves. One of my hon. Friends has spoken of the great hardships of tenant farmers under the present condition of agriculture, and has expressed his regret that there should be nothing to relieve their condition in the present Bill. I cannot help thinking that, as far as the tenant farmers of this country are concerned, their position is greatly exaggerated. Nobody denies that there has been a long period of agricultural depression; bat, then, the rents of farmers have been reduced, and in any cases where the tenants paid tithe, the first representation to the landlord on the question of reduction of rent always has been that he should pay the tithe himself. I speak with some personal experience on this matter. It is true I admit, that there may be considerable hardship in the present state of things as regards landowners and yeomen who cultivate their own lands, but I confess I am not able to follow my hon. Friends in the methods by which they propose to relieve them from the difficulties under which they labour at present. By adopting the proposed Instruction I doubt very much whether they will not be biking a step which, so far from lightening those difficulties, will have a precisely opposite effect. If the question of corn averages be re-opened in one direction against the tithe owner, surely it will be somewhat difficult, with fairness, to refuse to listen to appeals in other directions which may be in favour of the tithe owner. I admit that, if the calculation were made upon wheat alone, the position of the tithe payer would be considerably benefited. If wheat alone at the present moment had been taken, the £100 of tithe rent-charge in 1836 would now be worth £59 13s. Supposing, on the other hand, it had been based on meat alone, the £100 tithe rent-charge in 1836 would now be £133. Supposing wheat and meat had been taken together, the tithe then would be £96 6s., as compared with £78 10s., the actual average at the present time. Or it might be taken upon wheat, meat, and barley and oats as well, and the position then would be that it would be worth £93 6s. instead (of £78 10s. These are matters which deserve very serious consideration. Moreover, the Instruction is so wide in its terms that it is not confined by any means to corn averages, and I submit it is a question which hon. Gentlemen should consider whether they may not rather be defeating instead of helping the very interest they desire to support by voting for the Instruction now under the consideration of the House.

(8.50.) MR. C. ACLAND (Cornwall, Launceston)

I think the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House ought not to be left without reply. I under stood him to say there was great reason for those who called for a revision of tithe to be cautious in the extent to which they urged their claim; and I gathered from what he said that it might be proved, especially from figures which he brought before us, which are interesting no doubt, and very applicable, that the result of the revision of tithe might be that the tithe payers generally through the country might suffer very considerably by a general revision of tithe all round. Very likely that might be true; but what the right hon. Gentleman did not do was this: he entirely failed, as far as I can gather, to prove that, if a revision of tithe took place in the direction asked for by Members representing the East of England, such a revision would entitle the tithe owners in other parts of England to claim that the assessment of tithes should be revised in their favour. The claim was pressed upon the House with very strong argument, very good reason, and in a moderate manner by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Instruction, and also by the hon. Member for Essex, and by the hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, the Member for Maldon. I understand their point to be this: that the condition of agriculture at present prevailing in districts represented by them are so widely different from what they were at the time when the tithe assessment was originally made, that they would have a fair claim for a revision. The President of the Board of Trade, in his speech introducing the Bill, I think, admitted that tithe is national property. If that admission holds good, I think it will be at once allowed that, supposing we can prove that the amount claimed in the shape of tithe from agricultural produce is unduly large in any part of England, the claim ought to be moderated. Undoubtedly, if there prevail a lasting and continued sense of unfairness, a sense that the settlement under which tithe payers are holding their farms or estates is unfair, an expression of that feeling is certain to find voice in this House, sooner or later, to obtain redress. I contend that, while the hon. Gentlemen who have already spoken, representing districts in the East of England, are in a position to make out their case, and are able to tell us that the conditions of agriculture have so much changed since the year 1836, that they are entitled to a remission of the tithe in the interest of the tithepayer rather than the tithe owner, members from other parts of England, certainly I from the West, should be prepared to say that we can hold out our case as tithepayers as against the tithe owners, and we can resist any claim urged by the tithe owner in favour of a revision of tithe in his interest. Undoubtedly, at the time when the assessment of old tithe was made under the Act of 1836, corn, the staple product of the Eastern Counties of England, and, of course, of certain other districts, was a much more important commodity in the English market than it is now. The production of corn by the English farmer was a very much more important part of agriculture, and the amount produced by him was very much larger than it is now. It may be that in other parts of England the same or any similar change has not taken place in agriculture. I think such change would have to be proved before it could be said that the tithe owner had a fair claim to revision in his interest of the assessment of the tithe. A great deal has been said about the subject of corn averages. I must confess that, for my part, I am unable to take the view which has been expressed with reference to corn averages by some Members who have supported this Instruction. I was a Member of the Committee which sat some years ago, and I quite concurred in the recommendation that the law with regard to the taking of corn averages ought to be more strictly enforced. I believe, myself, that the arrangements under which the averages are taken is an equitable arrangement if it is carried out properly, and no change, so far as I can make out, was advocated, or even suggested, by any of the witnesses who came before that Committee which would materially alter the position of the tithepayer. As I understand, the actual state of the facts is this: In the year 1836, when the assessment had to be made before the commutation of tithe, some adequate measure of the purchasing value of a sum of money, which was to represent the tithe for the future, had to be found, and that was found in the corn averages which were at that time, and had been long before, taken in several different market towns of England. I believe that a great deal of the complaint that has been alluded to by the hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex, and some others, that the corn averages do not fairly represent what the tithe ought to be is grounded on the misapprehension that it is designed to take tithe of corn and not tithe of general produce. Every parish assessed itself upon its own general produce, whether the produce was corn or agricultural produce of many kinds; and, although the assessment was felt to be a compromise, it was only to be variable according to the septennial average. If you claim that tithe ought to be revised in the interest of the tithe owner in other districts than corn districts you have to prove that the condition of agriculture in those other districts has so changed since the parishes assessed themselves that the assessment does not hold good. I am not prepared to admit that the condition of agriculture in those districts has changed. It is only in the corn producing districts of England, I believe, that a revision of the tithe will have any serious effect. I do not wish to see the tithes, as national property, whittled away; but if they are to be the source of perpetual grievance, I do not think the House will be prepared to long resist demands clearly made for a revision such as will lead to the contented payment of what has been called a tax. I think it is an open question whether the measure of the purchasing value of the tithe fixed in 1836 still remains the best possible measure, and whether other articles of produce besides corn ought not to be included in the framing of a, measure of value. Undoubtedly, in 1836T corn was the staple of the agricultural markets of England. That has now ceased to be the case, and you now have increasing amounts of dairy produce coming into the markets every year. To arrive at the real purchasing value of the tithe I think it is right that we should go carefully into the question of whether we cannot arrive at a more equitable and less variable system by taking into consideration other articles of produce. I think the Instruction which has been moved covers that ground; and as we are dealing with the tithe, I think the opportunity is a fitting one, and I shall support the Instruction. I am not anxious for a general revision of the tithe, but I am content to support the claims of those Members who represent the losing districts, and who say that they should be placed in a more fair position than that they at present occupy.

(9.7.) MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)

Unless better arguments against this Instruction can be given than some of those which we have heard from the Benches opposite, I shall certainly vote for it; but I must guard myself and my constituency as to future action, especially having regard to the light in which the subject is regarded in Wales. The speech of the Minister for Agriculture I look upon as holding out to us a most tempting inducement to support the Instruction, because, unless I misunderstand him, he said that it was well within the bounds of reasonable probability that if the corn averages were re-opened the general average of the paid on corn would be likely to be increased. It is well-known that the Welsh Liberal Members—who are nearly the whole of the Members from Wales—and the Welsh people look upon tithe as national property, and think that every effort should be made to conserve it, and, therefore, they desire to do all they can to prevent anything —whether Instruction, Amendment, or Bill—which would have a tendency to fritter it away or diminish its entire value. Whilst reserving to myself the fullest liberty of action in the event of future legislation, I cannot help thinking that if there are hardships in some districts, it would be unjust to refuse to recognise, by voting for the Instruction, that those cases should be dealt with in some way. The Mover has framed the Instruction widely, having confidence in the after-action of the Committee, and so desires to leave it unfettered; while, at the same time, be gives a general sketch of the existence of those grievances which call for alleviation. There are two classes on whom these grievances are said to press. One class is the landowners, though I confess I am not particularly concerned with their special hardships, which are more than compensated for by the benefits Providence has conferred upon them; but if there is a grievance in their case which would come continually before the House it ought to be dealt with. The other class is that of yeomen and tenant farmers, and in their case I cannot but feel that any hardship they may meet with under the present system is a fair and proper subject for the consideration of the Committee. I rose simply to express the grounds upon which I think it right to support the Instruction, and to say that I would not do so if I thought its effect would be to bring about a permanent diminution of the tithe property, which I hops later on will be made available for purposes more strictly national, in the broad sense of the word, than at present is the case.

(9.14.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

I desire to point out what would be the effect of the carrying of the Instruction. We should obstruct the passage of the Bill in order to provide for a general revision of tithe, and although the tithe would be reduced in a few hard cases in Essex, Sussex, and Berkshire, and in very few instances in Hampshire, yet in the great majority of cases it would be increased, and those who are interested in agriculture ought to be warned that in this way great hardship would be caused in the North and in the Midlands. On some corn land the tithe is exceptionally high, but on grass land it is exceptionally low, and if the tithe is re-adjusted in the one case, it will have to be re-adjusted in the other. At the time of the Tithe Commutation Act, corn land was the best land in England, and grass land was not worth so much, and in the present day, as a consequence, a great deal of grass land which lets at £3 an acre only pays 1s. an acre in tithe. If we are to have an equitable revision of tithe it will only be fair if we reduce the tithe in the corn-growing counties, like Essex, we should raise it in those counties where 1s. tithe is paid as against £3 rent. I do not see how we could have an equitable revision unless something of that kind were done. I would remind the House that the actual tithe is not such a large amount as appears to be generally assumed. Throughout the whole of England and Wales the commutation value of the tithe was only about £4,000,000, and within the last seven years it has been reduced to a little over £3,000,000 by means of the septennial averages. Every £100 of tithe has decreased since 1883 from £100 to £78, a very large decrease. The rateable value of agricultural property in England and Wales has been estimated at £140,000,000, and, therefore, the tithe of £3,000,000 cannot be considered to be a very great burden, although I admit that there are individual cases of hardship. But if the hon. Member who moves the Instruction wishes to remove those hard cases where the tithe exceeds the rateable value, let him turn his attention to the second clause of the Bill. I believe that clause will be practically useless, and that, though it appears to give a certain remission, there are no instances where it will take effect; and I maintain that if the hon. Gentleman opposite wishes to give any relief to the struggling agriculturalist in Essex and elsewhere, he should support some Amendment by means of which, when the tithe exceeds the rateable value of the land, part of it may be remitted. I think that would be an intelligible course, and one which would give relief to the struggling agriculturalist. I would also point out that although at present grass land in England is very valuable, and corn land does not pay, yet In 30 or 40 years the whole system may be changed and reversed. We may not have so much corn imported, and our corn land may rise in value, and then we should want another revision of the tithe. Then the whole of this agitation would be repeated, and another change would take place. I think there is no finality about this proposal, and though I am an agriculturalist myself, I shall vote against any general provision for re-opening the question in this way. As to the septennial averages, I would not do away with that system at present, seeing that we are now getting into the years of low prices. In the interest of all agriculturalists I would say, "Now that we are getting to low years let us keep to septennial averages." The hon. Member for Suffolk has proposed this Instruction as though it would be a great boon to agriculturalists generally; but I, for one agriculturalist, believe that it would prove quite the reverse.

(9.20.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

As a Representative of a Midland County Division I may, perhaps, be permitted to take part in this discussion. The hon. Member for Hampshire has referred to the result of carrying this Instruction, and has urged that it would be fatal to the Bill. I imagine the result would be to initiate something like the course adopted under the Local Government Act, by which Commissioners were appointed to deal with the relations of funds between boroughs and counties. Obviously the whole question of revision would be one to be dealt with by Commissioners in the most careful way, and with the assistance of experts; but to meet the Motion by a contention of that character is, I think, unreasonable. All on this side of the House are agreed in supporting the principle that tithe is essentially a local property. [Opposition cries of "No."] We all agree that it is a National property, but we think it should be devoted to local uses. That is one of the reasons why I impress on the House the desirability of not passing this bald and immature measure without considering the whole question of the incidence of tithe and the division of tithe among localities. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture dealt with the Debate as if this were a very trivial matter. I would refer very briefly to the portion of his speech in which he resented the reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. H. Gardner) to the well-known Petition presented by the right hon. Gentleman to the House in 1885. Of course, no man of sense would pin the President of the Board of Agriculture to all the statements of a Petition handed in in his name. But, although the right hon. Gentleman denies responsibility for the Petition, he did not repudiate its propositions. Those propositions, though they relate to a period six years ago, are of weight even now, when agriculture is beginning to raise itself in some sort from the depression to which it has so long been subjected. I will just quote these words of the Petition:— That when in 1836 the tithe of the produce was commuted into a charge upon the land the circumstances of food-producing were altogether different from the present; that English corn was then protected by a duty on foreign corn," but "on the other hand, the cost of agricultural labour has very greatly increased since 1836, and tithe owners, in consequence of the commutation, escape the payment of an additional 50 to 100 per cent, on the expense of getting the 10th part of the produce from the field through the various necessary processes to market. But the passage to which I would draw special attention is the following:— That many instances can be given of land being now let at a gross rent of the value of the tithe rent-charge only, while many thousands of acres are out of cultivation altogether, and the large number of working men formerly employed thereon have been driven away to increase the crowds of destitute poor in our towns; that it is, therefore, necessary, in order to ensure the continual production of food in England, that this Act should he repealed, and a re-valuation made. I venture to say that these propositions will hardly be denied by the President of the Board of Agriculture before his constituents in the Sleaford Division. I do not know whether this Instruction has been subjected to the fiery eloquence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as one or two of the Instructions on the Allotments Bill did. I do not understand that we on this side of the House are charged with raising a question which is either irrelevant to the important Bill we are discussing or a subject which will not have to be dealt with at some future time. Although the origin of the Bill has been attributed to the heavy burden of the tithe in Wales being resented on religious grounds by the Welsh Dissenters, this should not be viewed merely as a Welsh question. The question is one which materially affects the agricultural interests in English counties, and it ought to be dealt with also from that point of view. While, as a Radical Member, I, of course, hold most strongly that tithe is national property, I do not agree with some of my hon. Friends that on that account the quantity of the tithe should be absolutely unalterable. Whether we are to have a Tithe Fund for the maintenance of ecclesiastical establishments, or whether it is to be applied to other purposes in the future, the question whether the incidence of the tithe is fair and just in relation to agricultural produce is an essential one which cannot be shirked, but must be honestly faced in considering whether it is a national property, which the nation can legally enforce and retain. It is also desirable to consider how far it is consistent with public interest, and the interests of a great industry in the country, that a share of the value of the products of that industry should be impounded for any special purpose, ecclesiastical or secular, which is too large for that industry to bear. The contrast in the prices of the special articles on which tithe is taken between now and 1836 is very striking. I do not at all agree with the hon. Member for Hampshire that if we go in for revision, it will mean the putting on of tithe in places where it has been fixed at a specially low figure, nor do I agree with the President of the Board of Trade, who, in his speech on the SECOND READING, contended that if we enter upon anything like revision it will be necessary or just that tithe should be placed on other articles than it is placed at present. In the Debate on the Second Reading the President of the Board of Trade said that if the value of the land was more than 22 per cent, the tithe would really represent a heavier burden on the land owner and the agricultural interest than could be borne. In his evidence before the Committee on Trade and Agriculture Sir James Caird said that the fall in the income of the landowners of the country varied in different districts from 25 to 60 per cent.; and of course every one familiar with agriculture knows that the highest losses have been just in those counties where the burden of the tithe is greatest. According to Sir James Caird, the occupiers have lost more than 60 per cent.; he put the annual loss to the landowners at £20,000,000, and the loss to the tenants at another £20,000,000. What was one of the main objects of the Bill of 1836? Sir Robert Peel said the object was to get a fixed money payment in lieu of tithe, and thus put an end to the discouragement to agricultural improvement. It is important that we should keep in view whether the maintenance of tithe is really not in some counties operating to produce just the result which Sir Robert Peel said the Bill of 183b was intended to do away with. It was recently held by Vice-Chancellor Bacon that the Act of 1836 did not alter the essential character of the tithe, which was a right to receive a proportionate share of the produce of the land. We may be told that this difficulty is met by the Government proposal with regard to the special rateable value. If the Government had adhered to and amplified the proposal by the Attorney General last year when the Tithe Bill was in its most critical position—in the agonies of death, in fact—parhaps we might have got some substantial relief. The Amendments of the Attorney General would have gone far towards creating a Land Arbitration Court—a body which should bring the question of rent and tithe into an equitable relation to the quantity and the value of the produce of the land. I venture to say that the proposals with regard to the special rateable value are absolutely illusory, and will give no practical relief to the agricultural interest. I may be told that this is not a tenant's question, but I maintain that it is perfectly analogous to the question of agricultural improvements. In those counties where the tithe is high its amount operates to prevent generous landlords from giving such a revision of rent as they would otherwise grant. It also operates to check unduly the return of a share of the rent in the form of those first-class improvements which are needed by agriculturists all over the country. I will simply refer, in conclusion, to what I said in the first instance, namely, that this Instruction is not an impracticable suggestion. It is rather a suggestion of a most practicable character. If the President of the Local Government Board were here he would remember the long and anxious Debates on the Local Government Bill with regard to the financial adjustments of that measure. I contend that this is an exactlyanalogous question. Those who are acquainted with agriculture know that the tithe is a hindrance and a check to agricultural improvement. It is, however, a question of profound difficulty, and one which requires the most careful handling by experts. It is just such a question as that which was finally referred to the Commissioners under the Local Government Act. Holding these views I most heartily support the Instruction which has been moved by my hon. Friend.

(9.42.) SIR F. FITZ WYGRAM (Hampshire, Fareham)

I cannot see any need for re-valuation, nor can I see any great difficulty in settling the matter on a fair basis. Tithe has always represented a certain percentage of the annual value of the land. In some cases it was high, in some cases it was low—in some cases it was very low. What I would suggest would be that at the present day tithe should be taken at the same percentage on the present annual value of the land, as ascertained by the rent, as it bore to the value of the land in 1836. That seems to me a perfectly fair proposal.

(9.43.) MR. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)

As I moved for the Committee on Corn Averages and have been Chairman of the Committee I wish to state my impression of the question. I believe the present system of corn averag-es, owing to the re-sales, raises the value of the averages 3 per cent, beyond the average price at which the farmers sell their grain. I was struck with the fact that no return whatever was made from the Birmingham. Corn Market. I went there and found about 200 dealers and only two farmers. The dealers declined to make a return of corn sales because they were unanimously of opinion that the re-sales raised the average of tithe 3 per cent., in which, from the evidence laid before the Committee, I agreed. At the same time I wish to qualify that statement with the opinion that the 3 per cent, is not maintained now. The curious result of this Committee has been to largely increase the amount of corn returned; as this large amount is owing to re-sales, returned six times over in Mark Lane alone, the result is that the market appears to be so flooded with grain that the price is knocked down, and the average consequently is depreciated. I wish to draw attention to the fact that revision of tithe is supposed to be both the law and the practice in Ireland at the present day, as far as lay tithe is concerned. I have instances from the Landlords' Association of tithes being revised this year, but as I am informed an appeal is pending on the subject, it is not clear exactly what the law is. Instead of introducing other products of land into the averages, as is the Scotch system, I would advise making the tithe a fixed charge, as was done in Ireland. Then the fixed charge is made at 75, which the Landlords' Association now complain of as too high. I was struck at the omission in the speech of the President of the Board of Agriculture to the often quoted remark of his distinguished Colleague, Sir James Caird, as to the £2,000,000 he said the landlords have profited by the tithe commutation. I think that so great a mistake could hardly have been made by any man on the question. He must have included the growing tithe, which was excluded by the Act of 1836. I challenged Sir James Caird on the subject at a meeting of the Central farmers' Club in this Metropolis. It might be unfair to state from recollection his reply, but I well remember he said that remark was made many years ago, and he also referred to the statements he had made as to the landlords having lost £50,000,000 by agricultural depression. I feel we ought to have this Instruction more clearly defined. If it means that the corn averages are taken incorrectly, then I cannot oppose it. If, however, it is an Instruction in favour of a general revision, then my duty to my constituents obliges me to oppose it. I sympathise with the men in the Eastern Counties, and thoroughly understand that every Eastern County Member wishes for a revision of tithe, but if there is a general re-valuation, the consequence will undoubtedly be that whilst the tithe in the Eastern Counties will go down, the tithes in the Midland district will go up. The farmers in the Midlands wish things to remain as they are. I would suggest, however, that if a universal average is taken, the road to it should be gradual, that there should be a tithe taken on a six years produce, then On five, then on four, then on three.

(9.50.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

I desire to offer a few observations on this very important question. We have heard a great deal to-night with regard to the present state of agriculture, and no one can deny that many of the statements made have shown that in certain classes of land the tithe now charged is much higher in comparison than it was formerly. The great question for the right hon. Gentleman to consider is whether it is fair, in the altered circumstances of the present day, that things should remain as they were settled under very different circumstances in the year 1836. We all remember that up to the year 1835, when the new Poor Law was passed, the poor rate was enormously high, and that the tithe was calculated accordingly. The poor rate at this present moment is very low in comparison, and that is a circumstance which has been up to the present time very much in favour of the tithe owner, much more so than of the tithepayer. Then I would say one other thing, and it is this, there can be no doubt that the alteration which took place consequent upon the repeal of the Corn Laws has changed the whole circumstances of the case. No doubt there were causes which prevented us feeling that for very many years. All the wars which took place during that particular time maintained the price of corn far higher that it would have been if Free Trade had come into play at the moment it passed. I am not going further into that question. We know exactly what did happen and the position which it has left us in. If it has been beneficial to the country and detrimental to agriculture, surely the agricultural interests have some right to ask that their case should be taken into careful consideration. There was a remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex (Mr. Gray) which I should not like to pass by unnoticed. The hon. Gentleman stated very clearly, and I think very accurately, that if things had gone on without the commutation of tithes in 1836, since the year 1879 little or no tithe, considering the cost of collection, would have been collected on a certain class of land. That is a serious question, which I am quite sure will commend itself to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) stated that the tithe owner has lost by the improvements in land something like £2,000,000 sterling a year. The real meaning of the Act of 1836 was to encourage the laying out of money upon land, so that land should not be kept back by the tithe upon it, and the increase and improvement in value, therefore, only follows out that which was intended by the Act. The enormous amount laid out in buildings and cottages and making other improvements has greatly improved the condition of the people in this country, and these are circumstances which ought to be taken into account. When my noble Friend stated that £2,000,000 sterling had been lost to the tithe owner, I can only reply that it has been a great gain to the country—the money laid out in the improvement of agriculture has done much for the improvement of the condition of the agricultural classes. I have only one word more to say, and that is to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. He very carefully pointed out certain clauses in the Bill which he thought would materially alleviate the sufferings of certain districts now very much distressed. I ask him to go one step further, and say that he will be prepared to give some support to those Amendments which have been placed upon the Paper. I have asked many clergymen—I have even asked a Bishop—and they have one and all said that they think that, under the circumstances in which it is proposed that these clauses should act, there is a grievous hardship which ought to be remedied. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will see his way to put in fair and reasonable Amendments, Amendments which will be reasonable, not only to the tithepayer, but also to the tithe owner, believing as I do that if we came to a fair and reasonable settlement now it may last for many years to come, which I hope and believe would be for the best interests of the Church.

(9.56.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

There has been in the Debate an amount of novelty which is positively charming and refreshing. During the years I have had the honour of a seat in the House, I have heard one unvarying wail from hon. Gentlemen opposite with respect to the condition of agriculture. Whether it has been a question of Imperial taxation or of local taxation, whether it has been the imposition of succession duty or the adjustment of rates, we have been told everything must be regulated and considered in the light of the extraordinary depression which the agricultural interests have suffered during the last ten years. We have been told that rents have gone down, that farmers' profits have ceased, and that no industry in this country has suffered so much as agriculture. But to-night a change has come over the spirit of our dream. It is necessary to support a Conservative Government in a measure of this description, and we have had one hon. Member after another rising to prove that, instead of a great depression of agriculture, there has been very great prosperity, and that if any re-adjustment takes place in agricultural burdens based upon the produce of the land, that re-adjustment will result in those burdens being materially increased. I do not believe that agriculture has been or is a profitable industry at the present time. The figures go the other way. When we are told that any revision of this question will result in a large increase of the burden upon the tithepayer, we are compelled to turn to the very hard figures in the statistical abstract to see whether the rent-roll of England has increased during the last few years. I take it there is no more correct test than Schedule B. That shows exactly the profits of the land which are assessed for the purpose of the Income Tax. For 1880, those represented the sum of £69,383,000,inroundfigures£69,000,000. In 1888—we have not the Official Returns for 1889, but I take the figures from the statement in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget — that amount had gone down to £61,817,000, that is to say, that in the course of the interval there was a decrease in the annual rental of agricultural land in the country of something like 12 per cent.; therefore we reject at once the allegation of the noble Lord that there has been such a great increase in the value of agricultural property that it would have to be taken into account in any re-opening of the tithe question. But we have not only to deal with the general rental of the country, and I will give the House a few figures to illustrate what is going on in a large portion of the kingdom with regard to this matter. The document from which I quota is a Return in reference to 26 farms in the counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Berkshire, and I will give only one or two cases in each county. In the case of a farm in Wiltshire the rental 50 years ago, when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, was £530, and the tithe rent-charge was commuted at £76 3s. 11d. To-day the rent of that farm is £124. On a farm in Hampshire the tithe rent-charge, which only is given in this case, is £122, and the rent today is £125. In a case in Berkshire, where the tithe rent-charge is £75, the rent at present is nothing. In the same county there is another case where the tithe rent-charge is £166, and the rent is now £200. I maintain, therefore, that there has been a material change for the worse during the past 50 years. The question has been asked whether Members on this side of the House are prepared to do justice in this matter—whether, regarding tithe as a national property, they do not desire to do an injustice in order to improve that national property. I repudiate the suggestion. Tithe, like all other national property, should be dealt with justly. All we ask is that if the question is to be re-opened it should be regarded as a whole in a spirit of equity and justice all round. The object of the instruction proposed is that when the House goes into Committee on the Bill, the hands of hon. Members should not be fettered in dealing with any Amendment that may be moved, in order to render the settlement of the question more equitable by the Chairman being compelled to rule that, technically, such an Amendment is outside the four corners of the Bill. Voting for the Instruction pledges a Member to nothing more than this, that when the House goes into Committee our hands shall be absolutely unfettered, and we shall be free to deal equitably with the whole question. The right hon. Gentleman says he would be able to defend his position, and that he has no objection to alter the time for taking the corn averages, but all we ask is that we shall be free to deal with all the questions that arise. Who has re-opened this question of the settlement of 1836? It has not been re-opened on the Liberal side of the House. It has not been re-opened by the tithepayer. But when the tithe owner comes to Parliament and to the Government and complains of his position under the settlement of 1836, and says that it presses unfairly on one party to the bargain, then we on this side of the House claim that the question should be re-opened all round, if it is to be re-opened at all. The noble Lord says there was a great sacrifice made by tithe owners in 1836, to the extent, I think he said, of 40 per cent. But let me quote an extract from a very able speech made on the occasion by Mr. Charles Buller, an eminent Member of the Liberal Party. He was dealing with this very question in reference to the sacrifice of a certain part of the tithe, and he contended that it ought to be a much larger sacrifice than Lord John Russell proposed— It would be doing an injustice to the tithe owner to take from him more than was to be given up to him, but it would be equally unjust to make the tithepayer pay more than he ought. Attention had not been sufficiently directed to the cost of collection. That is of the old tithe, which, if it remained, would now leave nothing to be received. Mr. Buller further said— In the West of England the cost of collection amounted to 20 per cent., and to show the-House how the system operated, he referred to a case tried before Lord Tenterden in the King's Bench, in which, through the non-carrying away of the tithe in the form of early I potatoes, the produce became spoiled by exposure to weather. Lord Tenterden held that, however great the loss and inconvenience, it must be submitted to by the tithe owner; that he must be in attendance to take the tithe, though doing so might cost him ten times the value of the tithe itself. Then Mr. Buller went on to give illustrations in reference to the cost of collecting every tenth of eggs, milk, and other perishable produce; but the point of the argument is, that the commutation of tithe into money payment in lieu of payment in kind is an enormous boon to the tithe owner, for which there has been no such compensation as the noble Lord alluded to. One of the main terms of the settlement of 1836 is that there shall be no personal liability by anybody for the payment of tithe. That is clearly and unmistakably embodied in the Act of Parliament. It is one of the terms of the bargain that the tithe, whatever it may amount to, shall be simply a charge upon the produce of the land, not on the land itself, for there is no charge on the land, and that there shall be no personal liability. But the Government now propose to alter this—to alter one of the main terms of that bargain. We on this side of the House, however, do not contest this point now. What we say is, let it be shown in Committee that there is a good case for the alteration, and let the right be given hon. Members to con- sider, at the same time, all the other terms of the settlement. If hon. Members opposite open the question of the mode of recovery, we on this side have the right to re-open the question of the amount to be recovered. It is impossible to forget that since 1836 there has been a vital change made by the Legislature, which affects the position of both the tithe owner and the titbepayer. The figures I have quoted and the practical knowledge of every Member of the House prove to demonstration that the repeal of the Corn Laws has completely altered the conditions under which the bargain of 1836 was made. The agricultural rental value of England has been reduced in consequence of the justly free competition with other countries in reference to produce. It is not worth while to discuss that point now, if hon. Members opposite accept the position that the repeal of the Corn Laws made no difference in this respect. I do not wish to press the argument; but if the position of land cultivation has been affected, then I say the position of the joint receivers of rent should be affected also. If, as is the fact, land which 40 or 50 years ago produced 30s. an acre, and paid a tithe of 3s., now produces only 10s. an acre, and yet still pays the same amount of tithe, the fact, of course, materially alters the proportion between the two, and this is a matter into which the Committee should have power to inquire. Why should the man who receives the 30s. rent have to submit to a reduction to 10s. and the receiver of 3s. have no reduction imposed upon him? Then look at the totally different position of the rates. Mention has been made of rates before the Tithes Act having been 18s. in the £1, but if hon. Members will turn to the Debates quoted in Mr. Walpole's History of England, they will find that in some instances the poor rate exceeded the rental, and there is an instance in the Vale of Aylesbury where the rate was equal to 30s. an acre. Here is very considerable reason for dealing with the question as a whole. The argument on which I rest my support of the Instruction is that the Government are re-opening the settlement of 1836 in the interests exclusively of the tithe owner. The Instruction asks that in Committee there should be power to re-open the question in the interests of the tithepayer. We shall then be able to look at the question all round and see where it can be dealt with more fairly. If the supporters of the Instruction are wrong, they can be met by fair argument; if they are right, they will have the opportunity of making such alterations in the law as may seem desirable.

(10.16.) MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)

The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House spoke of re-opening the settlement of 1836 in a very light manner; but the right hon. Gentleman surely must know that the passing of this Instruction would make it absolutely impossible for the Committee to deal with the Bill in the present Session, or even for any Committee to deal with it in a whole Session. I deny that there is anything- in the Bill before the House which re-opens the settlement of 1836. ["Oh!"] The Bill simply proposes to give certain remedies. Its main object is to enable the tithe to be collected. Hon. Members will say that that is for the benefit of the tithe owner. Yes, but the right existed before, and it is the business of the Government and the Legislature to provide a means of enforcing that right. Here is a body of persons who have had rights which they are unable to enforce because there are conspiracies and combinations to resist the law. The expense thus entailed upon the tithe owner makes the tithe not worth the cost of collection, and hon. Members seem to think that it is the right of the tithepayer to put the tithe owner in that difficulty. In such a case it is the duty of the Legislature to step in. Under the present Bill the Settlement of 1836 remains intact, and all that the Bill proposes to do is to enforce the authority of the law. Some of the cases cited, where the tithes exceed the rent, seem very hard; but that is the result of the Act of 1836, which allowed the landowners to apportion the amount of tithe payable within each parish among themselves. The 33rd section of the Act of 1836 provides that, in the settlement of value, and in determining the principle on which tithe should be fixed, the decision shall be with the land owners. By the 58th section the amount of tithe in the parish is ascertained, and then the land owners determine the apportionment among themselves. Say, for instance, that in the parish of Hampstead the total amount of tithe is £1,000. The land owners, in meeting, agree to the apportionment of this, and they have power to exempt certain lands from the burden. What was the result? Owners of large estates took the opportunity of agreeing among themselves, and in practice freed large portions of their estates from tithe, placing the whole charge on the remainder. I do not want to make a personal allusion; but I may mention, by way of illustration, that I happened to be interested, as Trustee, in a small plot of land or allotment of something like half an acre, and this bears the whole tithe of a large estate of 150 acres. The Legislature gave land owners this power of settlement, and where they did not exercise that power the Land Tax Commissioners did it, the safeguard to tithe owners being that the land should be at least three times the value of the tithe secured upon it. In the result land owners and tithe owners became dual owners, and ascertained their respective shares by agreement among themselves. Incidentally other matters are introduced; but the object of the Bill is to provide for the collection of tithe. The Bill, while leaving the settlement of 1836 untouched, deals with a crying evil which is a disgrace to any Government, and I hope the House will reject the Instruction, which would kill the Bill by Amendments which it would be impossible to pass.

(10.30.) MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

When my hon. Friend the Member for the Eye Division moved this Instruction I felt some difficulty as to its real interpretation; but, after the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, I shall have no difficulty in voting for the Instruction, because, in common with other hon. Members, I am concerned in the protection of what is really a national estate. At the same time, we wish to do justice to the other interests affected. I do not wish to see any injury done to the clergy. I think a good case has been made out by my hon. Friend the Member for Eye on behalf of the agriculturists of the Eastern Counties, who, owing to certain circumstances which have occurred in recent years, have been placed in a peculiarly difficult position. I think that the Government have gone too far to justify them in now saying that the settlement of 1836 has not been reopened. Undoubtedly it has been re-opened. If there were no justification whatsoever for meddling with this question at a time when Parliament has its hands so full, and when the country is looking for legislation in other directions, the Government ought not to have included in this Bill so many contentious points. I say that this question has been re-opened in many important phases. An hon. Member has stated his belief that there can be no final settlement of this question unless the incidence of the tithe itself is re-considered. Many of us on this side of the House are of the same opinion, and we hold that if this Instruction is carried and if the Committee is left free to deal with this matter, we shall be able to take into consideration the hardships which are prevalent in corn-growing counties and to deal with the evils of under-assessment as well as of over-assessment. We understand the principle of the tithe to be simply 1-10th the produce of the soil. It may be that a great deal of the land in the Eastern Counties is not now yielding so much as it yielded in 1836; but, on the other hand, we should find that other parts of the country are paying much less than l-10th of the produce of the soil. This is a national estate, and if the landlords are to suffer in one direction, surely it is the duty of Parliament to see that a proper balance is maintained. I have observed that wherever the landlord class are suffering they have shown no disposition to fleece the clergy Now, I have no disposition to fleece the clergy or to whittle away a national estate. I should be very glad, indeed, if the Government, by the acceptance of this Instruction, enabled us to go into the whole question of the tithe with a view to effecting something like a permanent settlement. At present, what they are doing is giving no satisfaction to anyone, and I venture to say that the farmers and labourers will find means to give vent to their dissatisfaction at a suitable time at the polls. We want to see this national estate maintained where it is possible to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton has referred to the fact that the landowners of the country have suffered in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws. Of course, if he bases that statement upon the figures referring to the last eight or 10 years, he will find the statistics in his favour. But I do not hesitate to say that since the repeal of the Corn Laws land has been worth to the landowner a greater sum on the average of the years than it was in the corresponding period before the repeal. I propose to support this Instruction, because it will give the Committee an opportunity of dealing with these important questions, and I believe that if the Government will only give sufficient time to this subject, the result will be a settlement infinitely more satisfactory than can be the outcome of the Bill in its present form.

(10.36.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

I hope the Government will make some concession on the question of corn averages, because the system as it is now worked is unfair to the farmers of England. In Scotland, I admit, it is different; but so far as England is concerned, I am able to speak with some personal experience, as I represent a body which owns some of the worst land in England at the present time—land which, during the time of the French War, was devoted to the cultivation of wheat, but which is now going out of cultivation almost wholesale, and within a few hundred yards of the house in which I reside there are three farms which are not being cultivated. In certain parts of Essex nearly one-third of the land in the parishes is out of cultivation, and the value has been reduced to almost nil. I have in my mind at the present time a case in which a farm in my own neighbourhood was sold at a sum of £3 per acre. I am aware that a revision of the Corn Laws will not bring the land back to cultivation, but I think it will do something to remedy the present distress, and I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is no more eloquent advocate of Disestablishment than a derelict farm.

(10.38.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Harrow (Mr. Ambrose) that in England we have a dual proprietorship in land. But the whole of the improvements on the land have been always carried out by only one of those proprietors, namely, the landowner, while the tithe owner has absolutely done nothing. And where the Church have been sole owners of property they have allowed it to remain in the occupation of the harbourers of vice and immorality, as is instanced in the slums of Westminster and infamous houses of Portsmouth, so long as those properties remained in the hands of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster and Winchester respectively. In many cases, if it had not been for what has been done by the landowner, the value of the tithe would be absolutely nil. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has rather understated the case as to the effect of the depression of the value in land. The Income Tax Returns give a more favourable view of the depression of agriculture than is really the case, because in many cases landowners have given 30 or 40 per cent, reduction for some years, while they have gone on paying the same Income Tax. The case of the Eastern Counties has been referred to, but it is the same in the North of England; while in Oxfordshire I know of land which barely pays the tithe. It has been said by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Ambrose) that the Bill does not re-open the settlement of 1836; but if the Bill passes in its present state it will increase the value of the tithe enormously by altering the security, and no one knows better than the learned Member for Harrow that if you give a first-class security you are entitled to a corresponding lowering of the charge or interest. I think it is a, mistake on the part of Her Majesty's Government to be afraid to have this matter threshed out in Committee. There should be free and open discussion upon it, so that both sides may be heard. The hon. Member for Leicestershire has complained of the want of finality. Well, I have not been in Parliament long; but I fancy if there is to be finality in legislation, there is no need to have a Parliament at all. I have always believed that the object of Parliament is to revise, amend, and add to existing Statutes, and, therefore, I cannot endorse the complaint of my hon. Friend. This Act may have worked well for 54 years, but circumstances have now altogether changed, and I hold that the time has arrived for a re-consideration of the whole subject.

(10.45.) VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)

I have had the advantage of hearing not only speeches which have been delivered from both sides of the House, but also interjections by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and I think that those interjections have shown that there is a considerable difference of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleague the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton. I understand the right hon. Member for Derby to be in favour of preserving the corpus of the tithe while willing to consider whether, in some special cases, such as the Eastern Counties, a revision of tithe was required. On the other hand, I understand the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton to be in favour of a general revision of the tithe. I agree with the right hon. Member for Derby, and am opposed to anything like a general revision of the tithe, as proposed by this Instruction. The true reading of this Instruction is that there should be an equitable revision of all tithe, and any hon. Member who thinks that the corpus of the tithe can emerge unimpaired from such a revision must be living in a fool's paradise. It should be recollected that in a general revision of the tithe it would be impossible to increase the tithe on grassland, on account of the increased value of stock, while decreasing the tithe on the arable laud, because the only standard of the tithe is a corn average. The only result of such a revision would be that the corpus of the tithe would emerge in a shattered, meagre, and whittled condition. Is there any equitable claim for a general revision of tithe? For my part, while opposed to any general revision, I am perfectly ready to consider favourably any Amendment dealing specially with the Eastern Counties and similar eases. It is generally acknowledged that Sir James Caird is the leading agricultural expert, and we may take it from him that the gain by the Act of 1836 has been to the land owner, and until the hon. Member for Dorsetshire becomes an even greater authority, I think we are bound, in the absence of a contradiction from Sir James Caird, to accept that statement. Whether the tithe remains chiefly in possession of the Church, or is devoted in the future to other purposes, the attempt on the part of some land owners to re-open this question for their benefit is founded on no just basis, and is wholly unworthy of English gentlemen. Hon. Gentlemen around me may laugh, but it seems to me that a bargain by which the land owners have gained £2,000,000 per annum is not one which they have now any just right to try and re-open. In this denunciation I differentiate the case of the small yeomen—men who are struggling hard for their living—from the general mass of land owners. Their attitude, if not grounded on as good a case as some of them may think, is at any rate natural. In my view, any hon. Member who votes for this Instruction will vote in effect for whittling down the corpus of the tithe, and for that reason I shall oppose it to the utmost of my power.

(10.54.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

I was unable to decide which way I ought to vote until the speech of the President of the Board of Agriculture convinced me that I ought to vote for the Instruction. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to argue that the result of an equitable revision of the tithe would be that tithe which now stands at £78 would become £133. for my part I am anxious for the improvement of the value of the national property, and for that reason I shall vote for the Instruction. It cannot be denied that there are special cases of hardship, and the Instruction will relieve them without injuring the national property. I understand an equitable revision to be that where the tithe is too high it will be reduced, and that where it is too low it will be raised. Otherwise, there can be no sense in the phrase, "equitable revision."

(10.57.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

In this interesting Debate there have been many remarkable speeches, but the most remarkable has been that of the noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division of Lancashire. I cannot conceive that there could be any more valuable leaflet for distribution in the agricultural districts than the speech of that noble Lord. The lion, and gallant Member for Sussex has spoken with his usual plainness and frankness, and has told Her Majesty's Government that the Bill is one which nobody wants, and that, unless it is altered in a, very material manner, it will be extremely displeasing to himself and his constituents. The hon. Baronet also gave the Government the advice that I myself have tendered them, both in the last and the present Session, that they might have done better to leave the tithe question alone unless they are prepared to deal with it on a much larger scale. The noble Lord the Member for Darwen has spoken of the extreme immorality of disturbing the settlement of 1836. There is a good deal to be said for that view, but if that is the ground on which the Government stands, why have they brought in any Bill at all It would have been different if the Government had introduced a Bill merely to make the land owner directly liable for the tithe, as they have admitted him to be, although it is a liability he has shirked, and got out of, as he has out of every liability. Within the last 10 or 12 years there was a Bill passed in this House which provided that a farmer on leaving his farm should receive compensation for his improvements, but which, at the same time, enabled the land owner to get rid of that liability. The Government and their friends are very fond of these voluntary and permissive measures, and now they bring in a measure which, though professing to do so, fails to remove the liability from the occupier, who is just as liable as he was before. The fact is that it renders him liable under the name of rent instead of under the name of tithe, and the process is made far more drastic than before. I say that this Bill is one that seriously affects the position of all parties in relation to the tithe—it affects the position of the land owner and the position of the occupier, and, this being so, we ask that the Committee shall have power to review the whole question. Now, we are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that every one who votes for this Amendment will thereby pledge himself to a re-opening of the whole of the tithe question; and it is said that there is some difference on the matter between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton and myself. But in reality there is no difference whatever. I am in favour of preserving the corpus of the tithe and of making the necessary revision in cases of hardship, and that I understand to be the view of the right hon. Gentleman as well as the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray). It is also the view of my noble Friend behind me, who says he is quite ready to revise the tithe in particular cases where there is shown to be hardship. As I understand it, an equitable revision would be that where the tithe is too high it should be reduced, and where it is too low it should be raised, and it is on these grounds that I support this Instruction. The noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division of Lancashire (Viscount Cranborne), together with my Friend behind me, is extremely anxious in the interests of the tithe owners to re-open the tithe question. If there is to be a re-opening of the settlement of this question, the Committee will, at all events, have the power to redress existing injustice. My noble Friend is entirely mistaken in supposing that this Instruction aims at a general revision of tithes. All weask, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton has explained, is that the Committee in dealing with this question should have the power to redress any injustice it may come across, and those who vote against the Instruction will vote against the possibility of redressing the special cases of hardship which are found in different districts. That is the vote which hon. Gentlemen opposite are about to give on this subject. The Members for Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk intend to vote against the Instruction. They mean that the Committee which is about to deal with the tithe question should have no power to afford relief in these special cases. Take the case of North Hampshire, a county in which I have the pleasure to reside. The hon. Member for North Hampshire has said there are no cases of hardship in that county, which shows that he knows extremely little of the county he represents. The hon. Member for South Hampshire, who followed him, suggested a system for which something may be said, and which might come under this Instruction, and that is that we should have a percentage proportionate to the old percentage of 1836 applied to the new condition of things. My right lion. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton has referred to certain cases of hardship, but I would refer to one or two which I deem still more striking. In doing so I will confine myself to Hants. I have hero the case of a farm, the net rent of which is £5, and the tithe rent-charge £120. I ask the House, what does it think of the relation of the rental to the tithe rent-charge in such a case as that? Here is another case where the net rental is £50 and the tithe rent-charge £160, and another where the net rent is £20 and the tithe rent-charge £80. Are these cases in which it is thought that the tithe rent-charge bears the same relation to the land and the actual rent payable as was intended by the Legislature? Everybody knows it does not. You may say the settlement of 1836 was final, and, therefore, you will not re-open it, but you cannot say that logically, because you are now re-opening the question, and in doing so you ought to place the Committee in a position to redress these injustices. My noble Friend behind me said he wished to see these injustices redressed, and would be glad to see this done in Committee. How is he going to do this if the Committee are not so instructed? By objecting to this Instruction he is absolutely disabling himself from doing the very thing lie wants to do. One argument which struck me as new was used by an lion. Member, who pointed out that the tithe-payer is actually paying a large sum of money by way of a present to the tithe owner in consideration of the payment of the rate. That is to say, in addition to the tithe on the land there would be 16s. an acre given for the rate, which was really only 2s. or 3s. in the £1. He gave figures showing that as much as £120 a year had been given to the tithe owner in respect of rates which really only amounted to £20 a year, so that the tithe owner was receiving £100 a year in respect of rates he never paid at all. These are questions which are perfectly free to arise, and which we ought to be perfectly free to discuss. All we ask by this Instruction is that we may deal freely with these questions in Committee. But what is the line the Government, who profess to be the farmers' friends, arc taking? They say—"We are going to vote against this Instruction; we will debar the Committee from considering any question of injustice which may be proved, whether in Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, or elsewhere." I challenge the Attorney General, who will follow me, to say whether, without some such Instruction, it will be possible to redress the grievances I have referred to within the four corners of this Bill. If he cannot show this, the result will be that Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Berkshire, Hampshire, and other counties will have still to suffer the existing inequality of the tithe, and will be refused the means of obtaining justice. Regarding this Bill as guilty of special and unnecessary injustice to occupiers of land in respect of tithes, I say the injustice is greatly aggravated by debarring the Committee from the means of correcting existing inequalities. A general re-valuation of the tithes is not contemplated by this Amendment. It only enables the Committee to deal with injustice where it arises. Representatives of agricultural counties will take an immense responsibility on themselves in refusing to allow the Committee this power. It is said that the tithe is national property and we must not whittle it away. I have no desire to whittle it away, but I agree with the lion. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, that if it be national property it ought to be dealt with like all other national property, and if it has exemptions, privileges, or monopolies, which do not apply to other national property, it ought to be corrected in that respect. What has been the case in regard to the Crown estates and our national property One of the oldest demands of hon. Members opposite was, that the exemption of rates enjoyed by Crown lands in former times should be taken away. That was a fair demand, and the privilege enjoyed by the national property was corrected in that respect. Therefore, the argument that because this is national property it should not be freely and fairly dealt with, goes for nothing. It seems to me that the ease made out by my lion. Friend is unanswerable. No one has risen on the other side to say there are not districts in this country where the unequal operation of the tithe is unfair and unjust. Here, however, we have a Bill dealing with the tithe question, and yet lion. Members representing agricultural districts are about to refuse tins House the means of dealing with admitted injustice and redressing admitted inequalities. That seems tome a most extraordinary position. If, however, they insist on adopting it we cannot help it. We are not the farmers' friends, at least in that sense. What we say is this, If you propose to open the tithes question at all you ought to allow the whole question to be opened. If Amendments are proposed which are not fair and reasonable you may reject them, but do not preclude yourselves from considering Amendments of this description on the ground that they will admit proposals which are necessary to redress injustice and inequality, on which ground I, for one, give it my cordial support.

(11.20.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman I shall not neglect the challenge which he has, with great courtesy, given to me, but I shall deal with the particular point. Certainly it would be a great injustice to the supporters of Her Majesty's Government if we left them to vote on the merits of this question under the impression that they would do so on the lines indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman is under a complete misapprehension as to what the real provisions of the Bill are. But I must allude to a very important question which was dealt with in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman.


I have not been absent.


I do not meau absent in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman is not master of the Debate, but I believe he was absent while this particular point was being dealt with.


I was only absent five minutes.


I am extremely sorry I referred to the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure we are all glad that he has been here the whole time. It was said by hon. Members sitting behind me that if the Instruction simply enabled the question of corn averages to be gone into they should vote for it. If that be the real meaning of the Instruction it is quite impossible that it could have been moved by the hon. Member opposite. There stand on the Paper, in the names of the hon. Member for the Ashburton Division and of the hon. Member for Glamorganshire, two Instructions which distinctly raise the question of re-adjusting the method of taking the tithe rent-charge averages. Instead of these Instructions, the hon. Member has moved an Instruction which, as has been pointed out more than once, would enable the right hon. Gentleman opposite to submit any Amendments he wished in Committee. There would be nothing to prevent Amendments being put down to raise the whole question. Let me explain to my hon. Friends behind me exactly the position. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton did not in any way blink the point that the question of an equitable revision would be open to the House what then, conies of the suggestion that we are only voting for an Instruction to deal with corn averages and the method of taking them? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton did not suggest that it 'would be in any way so limited. I understand the hon. Members for Maldon and Dorsetshire to say that if a Division is to be taken solely on the question of corn averages they would vote for the Instruction. But I would point out that if this instruction were passed it would enable hon. Members to smother the Bill with Amendments, involving questions of the greatest difficulty, and which could only be adjusted, by an expenditure of time which is not at our disposal this Session, or in any one Session. The Government are not unwilling to deal with the question of corn averages, but this Instruction goes a great deal further than the narrow grounds on which lion. Members behind me are willing to support it. I may add that the Government are willing to afford temporary relief in cases of hardship. If the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Derby had time to consider the Amendments on the Paper—he has time to write letters to the newspapers—in would see that these cases of hardship are dealt with by these Amendments. These Amendments we are fully prepared to consider on their merits, and we believe they go far to meet the equities of the cases referred to by the lion. Member for Wolverhampton. Where the produce or rental value of the land has fallen so low that it has no proper relation to tithe, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent temporary relief being given. We are prepared to consider suggestions upon the question of corn averages, and I go further, and say that we are prepared to consider any definite or practical scheme that may be submitted. Five or six suggestions have been, made in a tentative way, but no definite or practical scheme has yet been put forward. Her Majesty's Government are ready to give effect to any such scheme by practical legislation as soon as it can be devised. But I protest that if this Instruction is passed it will enable lion. Members to load the Bill with an unlimited number of Amendments, each one of them raising the Mover's own view of what is to be an equitable revision of the Settlement of 1836, and which would bring about a result which some lion. Members would not be unwilling to see, namely, that it would be impossible to pass the Bill in the present year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby challenged me to show that this Bill would enable the House to deal with special cases of hardship; and he went so far as to say—"I am sorry that he pledged his great Parliamentary reputation so high;"—that every body who voted against this Instruction would be voting against the possibility of the House dealing with these cases of hardship. Sometimes, when I read the speeches of the right hon. Gen- leman—and I read them all—I think that his imagination plays a very considerable part in the representation which he gives of the schemes of Her Majesty's Government. I do not think that it is meant unfairly, but I do say this, that lie trusts very Largely to his imagination. I have not time to argue this point at length. The right hon. Gentleman said, three or four times, positively and distinctly that to vote against the Instruction would preclude the Committee from dealing with cases of hardship. Is he aware that the Bill proposes that the tithe shall be reduced in cases where the standard, it may be of the rent or of the produce, has been ascertained to be less than the tithe? There are Amendments on the Paper which propose that if the rental or profit value, however it be ascertained, is below a certain figure, the tithe will be reduced one-half, or down to that figure. The right hon. Gentleman may shake his head; but I challenge him to put an Amendment on the Paper, or to object, when Mr. Courtney is in the Chair, that any Amendment in that direction is out of order. I am justified, I think, in telling hon. Members that they need not be afraid of its being said that they are precluding themselves from going into these cases of hardship. I would again point out that, unless the right hon. Gentleman is able to take the Bill and show that these cases of hardship cannot be dealt with in Committee, the assertion the right hon. Gentleman has made, but which he has not endeavoured to support by argument, should scarcely have been made in the House. Both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby and the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton said that this Bill re-opens the settlement of 1836. I cannot understand gentlemen with logical minds and legal knowledge putting such an argument before the House. The settlement of 1836 provided that instead of l-10fch of the produce there should be a rent-charge fluctuating in amount with the fluctuations in the price of wheat, barley, and oats, and that it should be paid by the landowner. I pass by the customary and somewhat threadbare attack on landowners in general to which we have been treated to-night, and will only say that the other prin- ciple involved in the settlement of 1836 was, that whatever might be the improvement in the land the tithe owner should never receive more than this rent-charge. I will not discuss whether that was an equitable assessment or not; but I do not think any hon. Member will suggest that I have not fairly stated the points in the settlement of 1836. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby says the Government have ripped up that, settlement. I listened with astonishment, and waited to hear in what respect they have done so. The right hon. Gentleman asserted the Government have imposed a personal liability on the occupier. I will assert they have imposed no such liability; but I will not stop to bandy words on that, because my right hon. Friend has said that the Government are willing to insert words to prevent any such result being brought about. Have the Government done nothing to relieve the bard cases I They have proposed that the actual rent shall be reduced in certain cases. By the clauses of the Bill they have attempted to reduce the burden in certain cases where it is thought to press hardly. The hon. Member for North Hants thinks the standard we have set up will not be satisfactory—that our relief will not go far enough; but whether he is right or we are right we have by the clauses attempted to reduce the burden in hard cases. Will any hon. Member who is willing to deal fairly with my position be good enough to suggest to mo what part of the settlement of 1836 is ripped up? It is provided that the owner shall be the only person responsible. The clause reserving existing contracts is a mere incident which appears in every Act of Parliament of the kind, and has nothing to do with the main scope of the Bill. In all future contracts the owner and not the occupier will have to pay the tithe. In that respect we are absolutely carrying out the settlement of 1836. Again, we have given no increased value of any sort or any kind by this Bill to the tithe owner, except that involved in the settlement of 1836. Lastly, in the cases in which we have given relief we have given it to the occupier and not to the owner. All the steps we have taken have been steps to redress the evil felt by the persons who have paid the tithe, and in no way to give any increased value, either in amount or security, beyond the Act of 1836 to those who receive the tithe. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman cannot now reply to my speech; but these questions will come up over and over again in the course of the discussion on the clauses of the Bill, and I will respectfully, but firmly, challenge the right hon. Gentleman to point out then in what respect I am wrong when I say the Bill does not break up the settlement of 1836. I trust that I have made my meaning clear. I will only assort again that this Instruction is not necessary for the purpose of enabling relief to be given in cases of hardship.

(11.38.) SIR H. VIVIAN rose to address the House.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

(11.40.) The House divided:—Ayes 238; Noes 197.—(Div. List, No. 117.)

Question put accordingly.

(11.55.) The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 240.—(Div. List, No. 118.)

(12.8.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask, as a matter of order, whether it is not now necessary to go on to the next Order, as the time for contested business is passed.


I was about to take the House into counsel upon an entirely new point which has arisen. The position is this: There arc several other Instructions on the Paper. If there were no other Instructions down on the Paper I should have to leave the Chair without Question put. There are a number of Instructions down; but I regret to inform the hon. Members, in whose names the other Instructions stand, that they are not in order. Some of them have been anticipated, and others are beyond the scope of the Bill. Under these circumstances, strictly and technically, I should leave the Chair and allow the proceedings to be completed as they originated before 12 o'clock. I do not, however, wish to do so without the full concurrence of the House, the occasion being a perfectly new one. I am not going to insist upon any technicality. I am disposed to take the House fully into my confidence. I shall not leave the Chair if the House objects to my doing so.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

Would not discussion on the subject constitute opposed business?


The House will observe that there is no question before the House on the assumption that these Instructions are out of order. Of course, I know very well that it is possible some Instructions may be put down which may be in order. If hon. Members wish me to state specifically and categorically why the Instructions arc out of order I will do so. [Cries of "Yes," and "No, no!"] Probably, the House will not think it necessary that T should do that. I shall only leave the Chair, as I say, after that explanation, with the concurrence of the House. I have no personal feeling, I need not say.

MR. P. STANHOPE (Wednesbury)

Am I to understand that, in consequence of your ruling, it is open to any Member to object to your leaving the Chair?


No objection can be taken technically; but it is a new point which has arisen, and, as I have said before, I have stated it to the House as fully and as fairly as I could. I cannot say there is a technical rule, but I do not wish to put the House to any inconvenience. The Instructions, as a matter of fact, are out of order. There is 1:0 question, therefore, before the House, and, technically, I say, I should be obliged to leave the Chair, and think myself entitled to leave the Chair without Question put; but, if the House objects, the Debate must stand over.


Under the circumstances of your recent ruling, and considering the fact that there are many hon. Friends of mine who would like, perhaps, to put in order the Instructions they have at present on the Paper, I shall, with great respect to the Chair, take what formal course may be necessary to raise an objection to your leaving the Chair.


I shall not leave the Chair unless the House generally wishes me to do so. Perhaps the House will be kind enough to express an opinion. [Cries of "No, no," and "Yes, yes."]

MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

Speaking, as I think I may do, on behalf of the Welsh Members, and without wishing to take advantage of any technical objection, all I can say is that we desire most certainly that you, Sir, should not leave the Chair.

MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)

Will it not be in order to move that the House should proceed to the other Orders of the Day?


I think I am precluded from putting any question that I expressly leave the Chair. It would be better that I should not leave the Chair.


I do not rise to make any observations, because it is perfectly clear, from the statement which you, Sir, have made, that unless you saw clearly that it was the unanimous feeling of the House you would not think it right to leave the Chair. I did not rise, because T thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby would give utterance to some expression of opinion on the matter; but clearly, unless there is some more unanimous feeling than we are acquainted with at present, you would not think it right m the circumstances to leave the Chair. Perhaps I may add that we shall put the Bill down as the first Order this day.

It being after Midnight, Further Proceeding on going into Committee stood adjourned.

Further Proceeding to be resumed to-morrow.