§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [27th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months,"—(Mr. Picton,)—instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *(5.7.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Maldon)
As this question is one of considerable importance to the constituency which I represent, I hope the House will excuse me if I trespass upon its attention for a somewhat longer time than usual, inasmuch as I desire to review the history of the tithes question before I come to the criticisms I have to make—I hope in a thoroughly independent spirit—on the provisions of the Bill which, is now before the House. This Bill is by no means the same Bill which was before the House last Session. The hon. Baronet the Member for Horsham (Sir W. Barttelot), said last night that I must of course support this Bill because it contains certain provisions for which I contended last Session, and I cannot but feel the force of that remark. At the same time I must say that this Bill takes entirely different ground in regard to other provisions. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire last night attacked the Bill from a religious point of view, but, as far as I am concerned, I shall deal with the measure entirely from an agricultural point of view. The hon. Mem- 193 ber for Lanark stated that the Bill would confer no benefit on the tenant farmers. That is a statement with which I cannot agree, and as to which I shall have something further to say at a later period. In order that I may push home the points I wish to make, it will be necessary for me to remind the House of the position of the tithes question prior to the passing of the Commutation Act of 1836. At that period a great deal of irritation had grown up between tithepayers and tithe owners. As long as tithe was collected in kind, it was only natural that continual disputes should arise. It had even occurred that a farmer who was bound to contribute one-tenth of the produce of his land to the clergyman, had sent his flock of ewes on to another farm at the lambing season. That led up to a state of things somewhat similar to that observable now in some parts of England—namely, irritation between the tithe owner and the tithepayer. Every hon. Member on this side of the House agrees that the irritation is to be regretted, and that the Government in bringing the Bill before the House hope to remove every reasonable grievance and cause of irritation. Another reason for the passing of the Act in 1836 was to prevent the tithe owner from participating in the increased production of the land, owing to the increased capital and extra science the farmer brought to bear on the cultivation of the soil. The repeal of the Corn Laws after the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act seriously affected the interests of tithepayers. That was the time when the question of tithe ought to have been taken up by Parliament. I can hardly imagine how the landowners allowed such a change to take place without re-opening the tithe question. Possibly the reason might have been that the advocates of Free Trade told the people of England, and especially the farmers, that the change would not, to any great extent, interfere with the farming interest. It will be in the memory of hon. Members that Mr. Cobden and others, who fought so vigorously the battle of Free Trade, told the landlords and farmers of England over and over again that they would always have the natural protection for their corn produce, which was consequent on the cost of transit upon the 194 corn shipped to this country by foreigners competing with us in our own markets. At that time, this doctrine was regarded as sound and reliable, and it is only of late years that we have found how mistaken was the view thus put before the country. But it may be asked how any relief from foreign competition could be expected from a Tithe Bill. It should be recollected that the scheme of the Commutation Act settled the matter on more than one base. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had said, that there was a field or farm apportionment which could not be re-opened, because the data upon which it was calculated were gone. This first base was derived from a consideration of what the tithes had been worth on the average, of seven years to the Tithe Receivers. That was the first basis of the legislation introduced by the Commutation Act. The next step was to take an imaginary hundred pounds' worth of tithe, made up of equal quantities of wheat, barley, and oats, and the price of that imaginary hundred pounds' worth was to increase and decrease, as the market prices fluctuated. Why was that barometer set up? I maintain that it was for the sole purpose of showing the capability of the land from which the crops were derived, for paying in the future larger or less sums of money as tithe. For years that barometer worked well; there was very little grumbling, and when the tithe payer and tithe owner met, it was very often over a good bottle of wine. There was no ill-feeling between the two. But then came the time when the barometer ceased to do the work for which it was set up, when it registered the tithes at from 8 to 10 and 12 per cent. above par, while the tithepayer felt that he was paying a sum of money which was not the produce of his business, but was eating into the very capital with which he carried on his business. An hon. Member last night said rather than do anything unfair to the tithe owner he would suffer ruin. I do not come here to ask the House of Commons to save me and my brother yeomen from ruin, if they can only do that by being unfair to the tithe owner; but if the barometer set up has ceased to do the work for which 195 it was intended, I claim the right to ask the House to put something in the place of the barometer, that will act in a fair and equitable manner between the two parties. Last night we heard a great deal of the grievances of the clergy in Wales, and I sympathise with them very deeply. We have heard also that the tithepayers in Wales have a grievance. If so, I sympathise with the farmers there. When it is asked that the law should be strengthened to insist on the payment of a legal debt, I must say that I have no objection to that proposal. But if any step of that sort is taken, to my mind it is a re-opening of the settlement of 1836. If you re-open the settlement of 1836 for one purpose, then I say you must also listen to the demand to open it still wider for another. Last year the Bill brought in by the Government merely seemed to recognise that there was a grievance coming from the tithe owners, but there was no recognition of the grievance of the tithepayer. I then contended that if we re-opened the settlement of 1836 for the benefit of the tithe owners, we must also, at least, go a little further, and say that the landlord should be the person who actually handed over the cash to the tithe owner. The Government, I am glad to say, have adopted that principle, and it is, therefore, impossible for me to be very hostile to the Bill. I will pass to another provision. I contended also last Session that there must be some recognition of those cases where the tithe is greater than the rent. The proposal of the present Bill is that where the tithe is in excess of the rateable value, the landlord shall get redress. My objection to the proposal is this. Very rarely are farms of 300, 400, 500, and 600 acres assessed so low as I consider they ought to be. The reason is that there are wheels within wheels. Yeoman farmers owning land of that description consider the advisability of trying to get their assessment knocked down to the lowest point. In the first place, lowering the assessment would have the effect of raising the poundage which is levied from that assessment. And then, again, farms of this description are frequently mortgaged; and it is not to the interests of these men, farming their land 196 under these conditions, to, using an old phrase, "cry stinking fish" of their own farms too loudly, because that would open the eyes of the mortgagees, and the probability is that, within a very short time, they would receive a letter from the solicitor to the mortgagee asking for a cheque in reduction of the mortgage. When you come to such a state of things as we have in the eastern counties it is very serious. I can say, without hesitation, speaking of the agricultural land of Essex, that the tithe is very nearly half the income derived from that land by the landlord. The barometer I have spoken of must have worked badly when such a state of things has arisen in a county close up to the very suburbs of this great Metropolis. To be a settlement for any length of time the Bill must contain provisions recognising the altered state of things I have alluded to. I am convinced that if the rateable value clause was not written with actual clerical ink, if there be such a commodity, there was a tithe owner not far away when the clause was drafted. That clause will not get the Government out of the difficulty. A good many intricate questions and complications will crop up, and if I have an opportunity in Committee I shall ask the Government whether the Assessment Committees, when making out the assessment of agricultural property for this purpose, will be directed to divide the assessment under two specific heads—one being the value they put on the land and the other being the value they put on the houses and buildings. I hope I am not making a speech that is unduly—I must not say hostile but independent. It is only right I should be frank and fair with the Government. I must acknowledge that they have behaved most handsomely to me. I have not had the slightest pressure put upon me. I am, therefore, enjoying my independence, and when the Bill gets in Committee I shall raise the point to which I have just alluded. In equity, the tithe owner has never had an atom of property in the bricks or wood of which the buildings are composed. ["Hear, hear!"] I am very glad to find I am in that opinion supported by Tory Members, for they, like Caesar's wife, are beyond suspicion. There is no suspicion as to their idea of rights of property. If we are to be treated fairly on the point, if we 197 are told that it will be admissible to deduct the rateable value of the buildings, I shall begin to look much more favourably upon this clause, which is an innovation from the Bill of last Session. Now, one of the Tithe Bills of the Government proposed to give 5 per cent. to the tithe payer in consideration of the strengthening of the law for the benefit of the tithe owner. There seemed something very fair about that proposition, because in a re-opening of the settlement of 1836 for the benefit of the tithe owner, there ought to be given a quid pro quo for the tithe payer. I trust that question will be raised in Committee. I now pass to the redemption clauses. In them we have taken up entirely new ground. It is to the redemption principle that I look for a fair settlement of this very difficult question, and the Bill goes so far in its scope that if it can only be hammered into a reasonable shape when it gets into Committee, it may possibly meet the case from the agricultural point of view. Last night the President of the Board of Trade said the redemption scheme provided in the present Act of Parliament was a dead letter, and I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentlemen that for all practical purposes it has been a dead letter What do the redemption clauses in this Bill do for us? Up to 20s. there is machinery that may possibly be operative, but directly you get beyond that amount we find what, to my mind, will be a complete blank. First of all, before you can move a step the tithe owner and the tithe payer have to meet and agree that they will go in for redemption. I can imagine that, under certain circumstances, they may be able to do that, but that will not advance them much, because they have also to agree what the terms of the redemption are to be. Is there any probability that under existing circumstances any large number of tithe owners and tithe payers will be abie to agree as to the number of years' pruchase and so on? It must be borne in mind that the clerical tithe owner has only a life interest. I know some of them talk about being the Trustees of the Church, and I have no doubt when they say so they speak perfectly conscientiously. There are exceptions, but the great majority of English landlords have met these depressed times in a spirit of fairness that will do them 198 credit as long as the name English landlord lasts. Knowing what has been done by the ordinary landlord, some farmers have approached their landlord No. 2, the clerical tithe owner. In a few cases landlord No. 2 has given a little remission, but I know cases in which the clerical tithe owner has said to the farmer asking for a remission, "My good fellow, I should be only too delighted to give you a remission. It is true I can afford it, for I have got other property, and I should like very much indeed to do what you want, but I cannot do it because I look on tithe as a sort of trust, and it would be unfair to those clergy who have not private property if I were to do it." If these redemption clauses are to be more than dead letters, there must be some pressure brought to bear to bring the two parties together. What the pressure is to be I leave to the Government. [An hon. MEMBER: What would you do?] I am asked by a hon. Gentleman, who is a barrister, what I would propose. I do not think it is fair to ask a yeoman farmer to explain fully on the spur of the moment what sort of a scheme should be adopted. Briefly, I should say there should be some time allowed for redemption, I think it would be well if redemption, when made upon the application of the landlord, were compulsory within a certain number of years from the passing of the Act. I believe that if redemption were made upon fair terms the tithe owner or, I would prefer to say the Church, would derive a great deal of benefit and become a far stronger and more efficient institution for good. Now, the hon. Member for Lanarkshire stated last night that the tenant will get no benefit whatever from the proposed change. I know that theoretically the landlord pays the tithe now, but the tenant has always had to bear the brunt of all disputes as to whether the tithe averages were being properly taken. He will no longer be interested as tenant farmer in anything of that sort, and in that respect he will experience certain relief. I have heard, and I think there is a great deal in it, that if the Bill passes the tenant will benefit by a possible re-arrangement with his landlord. It has been suggested that in many parts of the country land being so unpopular tenants 199 will derive advantage from a new bargain, that is to say, he will not contract in the new arrangement or agreement to give the landlord exactly the same amount extra in rent that the landlord will take upon himself by way of tithe. I believe it is very likely that that will happen in many parts of the country. At any rate no tenant's cow or hay stack can be restrained upon, and he would have no thought as to corn averages and the like. I thank the House for having listened to me so patiently, and I have now only to express the hope that the Bill will be read a second time without a Division. My reason for expressing that hope is that I think the promise of the President of the Board of Trade that all Amendments will be considered with an open mind is one upon which we can thoroughly rely. I believe the Bill can be so amended that it would facilitate fair arrangements of the nature I am pleading for, strengthen the law where it requires strengthening, and give relief where relief can be fairly demanded.
§ *(5.56.) SIR H. VIVIAN (Swansea District)
I think the Government will be convinced by the speech to which we have just listened that they have a very thorny path to follow: that in Committee very serious questions will arise. The hon. Gentleman has said that the reduction in respect to buildings upon farms must lead to a very large reduction in the amount payable for tithe. Once I had the buildings on certain farms of mine valued and I was perfectly amazed at the value set upon them. If buildings are not, as I believe they are not, subject to tithe, they undoubtedly enter into account in the fixing of the rent, and, if you are to assess the value of the tithe upon the rent, you must make very large reduction indeed in respect to the value of the buildings. That alone will largely diminish the income which the owners of tithe will be entitled to. Now, it is admitted that if the Bill is not aimed at Wales it is introduced in view of certain events in Wales. I always regret disturbances, like those which have occurred in some parts of Wales, but it must be borne in mind that the action which was taken by tithepayers in Wales was intended as a protest against the injustice of the tax they were called upon to pay. They had no desire, and they have no desire, to refuse payment of any just and proper tax. Their 200 object simply was to protest in the most stern and solemn manner against the appropriation of the tax they were required to pay. This Bill proposes that the tax shall be placed upon the shoulders of the landlords instead of upon those of the tenants. That does not relieve the tenant from the payment. He will be bound to pay more rent to his landlord; and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gray) has just said it is quite certain that a very large addition, if not the whole amount of tithe, will be added to the rent. It may be, and I hope it will be, that, in many cases, landlords will take a more just view of the position than the owners of tithe have up to this time taken. I believe that they will do so, and that will only prove how wrong has been the position of those who have owned tithe up to this time. If, as he believes, in the future landlords will make a considerable reduction in respect to extra rent they have put upon their tenants then that must be, indeed, a condemnation of the course taken hitherto by owners of tithe. I doubt whether rents are too high now; they may be in certain cases, but, at all events, what they will have to consider is whether money paid in respect of tithe is too high, and if they admit deductions from that, that is a distinct condemnation of those who heretofore received these rents. Undoubtedly the machinery will not be so direct as it has been heretofore. I am not so sure that we may not have again the question arising as to the payment of tithe in Wales. There are, happily, many small free-holders in Wales, and few of them are members of the Church of England. They will be called upon to pay tithe in the future as in the past, and it is quite possible that even this Bill will not prevent a recurrence of those lamentable actions which have taken place in Wales on some occasions. The landowners may object to pay the tithe, and it is evident the machinery of the Bill is far more complicated than that hitherto used. Is there anything more odious than the idea of a Receiver being appointed to be the manager of any man's farm? That may mean absolute ruin to the tenant, and is more likely to be so than anything he has encountered up to the present time. The grievance will not be removed. The tenants, though not so directly subject to 201 the payment of tithe, still will be as sensible as now that the sweat of their brows will go in payment of tithe, and to that they have a conscientious objection. That is the position of tenants in Wales. Bear in mind it is a question of conscience. I am old enough to remember when we had long and acrimonious debates in this House on the subject of Church rates, and at that time one of the most peace-loving Bodies in the community (the Quakers) refused to pay these rates, and in those long and often acrimonious debates, which few Members remember, it was said that Church rates would never be abolished, that it was a thing not to be contemplated. But after these debates there came a time when Church rates were abolished, and I ask are the fabrics of the Church of England in a worse position than before the rates were abolished? I say at no time have the fabrics of our Church been in so magnificent a condition, and why? Because we have to rely on the voluntary system. Of all others there can be no question the voluntary system is the most healthy to rely upon. The prophecies that the fabrics of our churches would fall into decay have all been falsified, and our churches now are the glory and splendour of our country. Well, but the Church has lost its hold upon Welshmen, and that owing to the grievous misuse of its high privileges for a great number of years. It is now something like 1,100 years since the old British Church passed away and was absorbed by the Romish Church. During that lengthened period it is no exaggeration to say Church matters have been in a scandalous condition in the Principality of Wales. During the Romish times, so far as I can read history, the position was a bad one, and it became worse after the Reformation. Nepotism prevailed to the largest extent, and men were sent to minister to the spiritual wants of the Welsh people who had no feeling of sympathy for the people and could not even express themselves in the language of the Welsh people, and by these men the great emoluments of the Church were absorbed. For very many years this led to a condition of things most deplorable, and out of this condition of things the present position of the Church of England in Wales has grown. Stupor prevailed, I will not say irreligion 202 prevailed, but at any rate history shows that a scandalous condition of things prevailed in the Church. The whole revival of the strong religious feeling in Wales began with the Methodist revival at the beginning of the century, and long after that the Church remained in its terrible state of stupor, from the effects of which it has never recovered. I was very much surprised yesterday to hear the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Reed), who has studied this question very deeply, take to task my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Glamorgan (Mr. Evans), whose excellent maiden speech has shown his possession of an ability, and a power in addressing the House, which, I am quite sure, will make him a brilliant Member of it. I was astonished, I say, to hear the hon. Member take my hon. Friend to task for referring to the tripartite division of tithe. I understood the hon. Member to say that no such thing ever existed, that there was no historical warrant for saying that a tripartite division of tithe existed in this country at all. Well, I admit that there is no absolute proof, and doubtless this proof has been lost in the mists of ages. But in that very excellent work, Ancient Facts and Fictions, Lord Selborne quotes from an old document of Ethelred's time, about 1014, which runs thus:—Respecting tithe the king and his witan (or Parliament) have chosen and agreed that one third part of the tithe which belongs to the Church shall go to the reparation of the Church, the second part to the servants of God, and the third part to God's poor and needy ones in thraldom.Doubts of the authenticity have, I know, been thrown upon this document, but it appears to me to bear evidence of truth on the face of it. There you have tripartite division, and what has become of that division? We hear no more of it, the whole is applied to the maintenance of the clergy, and we are accused of sacrilege, or something very much approaching that, for suggesting that it might be applied to other purposes. Lord Selborne, upon the question how it was that the whole of the tithe became appropriated to parish purposes, saysThere was certainly no such general appropriation of tithe to parish church made by any law ever enacted in England, though the laws of Ethelred gave to certain churches on private 203 estates a third of the whole tithe. As to how the third passed into the whole there is not, so far as I know, so much as a canon of any Council or decree of any Pope in the nature of a legislative enactment to explain.When so great an authority as Lord Selborne cannot explain how the Church became possessed of the whole of the tithe, I think I may say the evidence is lost. Nobody can explain it, or make out a real title to it. I suppose the title is one of prescription. No law or canon gives that title. The hon. Member for East Bradford used the word "British," and, properly speaking, that should refer to Wales only. Great Britain, we know, is a term including the whole of the kingdom, but certainly the British are the Welsh. The Welsh were not conquered until 1284, but the same arrangements existed in the whole Church, for the same Authority governed all the Christian Church. In 777 the ancient British Church was absorbed into the Romish Church. The ecclesiastics at Rome thenceforth governed the whole of the Church of Great Britain although Wales had not been conquered by the Saxons Kings. This is ancient history and, perhaps, I owe an apology for referring to it. I should not have done so but that my hon. Friend (Mr. Evans) was challenged on the point by the hon. Member for East Bradford. It is quite evident that the latter had not paid sufficient attention to the historical question to animadvert on the statement of my hon. Friend. I have a very long experience of Wales. I have been in touch with Welsh feeling through my connection with one of the largest Welsh constituencies for 33 years. For 27 years I represented the largest constituency in the Principality, and for six years I have represented one of the largest. I do not look at Wales from Shropshire through a telescope. I am in constant touch with the people among whom I was bred and born, and I tell yon very distinctly that the Church has lost its hold upon the people of Wales. The people of Wales have provided for their own places of religious worship. If they had not done so there would in the great County of Glamorgan have been a state of religious destitution, for the Church is so fettered that it could not meet the growing wants of an increasing population. You have a paro- 204 chial system, which of all others is the worst and most restricted in regard to increased church accommodation. You have the incumbent of the parish who can come down upon any one who desires to build a church, and insist upon his right to prevent it. But Free Trade has prevailed, thank God, in providing other places of worship. It is unnecessary to quote the enormous sums of money which have been expended by Welsh. Nonconformists in erecting and maintaining their own places of religious worship. There are no people in the world so deeply religious as the Welsh people. On the first growth of a village, with the first few houses, they erect a place of public worship, and this they do out of their own hard-earned savings. And yet you still call upon them to pay a further portion of those savings for the maintenance of a Church with which they have nothing in common. This is a grave and grievous wrong, and their refusal to do so is a protest against this wrong. They are a law-abiding, law-loving people, and this I say with perfect certainty. There is, I think, only one other Member of the House who can say he has addressed an assembly of 10,000 Welsh colliers on a mountain side. My hon. Friend the Member for the Rhondda Division stood with me and addressed 10,000 Welsh colliers on a Welsh mountain side more than once. On one occasion I remember addressing them on the question of reform of the House of Lords, and I remember well saying to them—"Now, you are a thoroughly loyal people; give three cheers for the Queen," and every man of them responded heartily. They were very excited about the position of the House of Lords; but I say no more loyal people exist within this realm. But do not try their patience too far; do not put too great a strain upon these law-abiding people. The unanimous cry of Welshmen is for redress of this grievance. Do not attempt to impose new fetters, and seek to rivet this Church upon the people more tightly. The existence of, the Church as a Welsh institution cannot be defended, and only by meeting the just demands of the people is to disendow the Church of England in Wales. I have quoted the case of the Church rates, and I would refer to the Irish Church. Have you not been com- 205 pelled to do justice to Ireland in regard to the great anomaly which existed there? Even to a greater degree the anomaly exists in Wales, and you refuse to redress this grievance, and endeavour to rivet the fetters more tightly. Do not continue such a policy. The cry of Wales is for Disestablishment; you cannot by such a Bill as this repress this cry; you will render it more bitter.
§ (6.23.) VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
The hon. Baronet has just told us that he does not look at Wales through a telescope, and I must admit I think he looks at it much more closely, and from the point of view of one who studies the suffrages of Welsh electors with a view to his next return to Parliament. I confess I am surprised at the part Welsh Members have taken in this debate, because, as has been well remarked, it is the condition of things in Wales which has brought this question to a crisis and made legislation necessary. We have been told that the refusal of Welsh people to pay tithe is due to religious motives. I should be loth to say anything against the religious convictions of the Welsh people; and I firmly believe they are a religious and godly people. But I cannot attribute the excesses that have taken place in Wales to religion and philanthropy. I have paid close attention to this anti-tithe agitation, and I have not the least doubt of the lengths the people may be induced to go by a misguided sense of religion and right. There is an instance I do not think has been quoted, of a clergyman newly appointed to an incumbency in Wales, a man of blameless character, against whom nothing could be said. He arrived in his parish suffering under a very serious domestic affliction, and no sooner had he arrived than there was a universal refusal of tithe. The poor incumbent became poorer and poorer; the members of his family suffered acutely from want of nourishment; two of his daughters died; and he was reduced to the last verge of poverty. In this condition, he one day received a hamper and thought that at last some of his parishioners had taken pity upon his unhappy condition. Upon opening the hamper, instead of sorely-needed food, he found it tilled with nameless filth, and the message, "Here is food for you." These are the things that have taken 206 place, and will continue, unless a stop is put to them. If you tell me that such excesses arise from the depth of religious convictions then all I can say is: I would not give twopence for religious feeling that prompted such an action as this. The hon. Baronet tells us, as others have told us, that the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England in Wales is the proper remedy for the present state of things. But there is now a Unionist Government in power, which will not think of introducing such legislation as this, and that Government will continue in power for, at any rate, another three years, and perhaps many years longer. What does the hon. Baronet propose should be done in the meanwhile? Does he propose that the tithepayers should keep the tithe in their pockets? If not, he must be a party to some legislation to force them to pay it. The non-payment of tithe must have a most demoralising effect on the Welsh people. But this Bill does not deal with Wales alone, and I desire to refer to the speech that has been delivered by the hon. Member for the Maldon Division, whore presents a part of England which has suffered most acutely from the agricultural depression of recent years. The hon. Member committed himself to the assertion that the corn averages which govern the payment of tithe would establish a sort of test of the fertility of the soil.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
I apologise to my hon. Friend and adopt his correction, though I cannot assent to the statement. Corn averages were established because it was thought, at the time, that corn was more fixed in value than any other commodity. It might have been fixed on a money basis, but it was thought that the value of gold would vary more than that of corn. That having been the means by which the tithe has been fixed, let us see whether, on the whole, it has worked fairly? I find that, calculating the average of years to the present day, and taking the years altogether, as, near as possible £100 is paid for what was fixed at £100 at the time of commutation. In the present year, and during the last 207 few years, of course, it has sunk far below that value, but, taking it all round, the tithe owner has got that which he bargained for at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act. I do not think, in the face of this fact, that there is reason to make any change in the law on the ground that the tithe owner gets too much. Let us look at the other side of the case. Docs the landowner get the same or more or less than at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act? I will not go into figures, but I will venture to say that, taking the titheable land of England as a whole—of course, Essex is an exception—the landowner has got at least two-thirds more than he had at the time of the passing of the Act, and, therefore, it is not fair to say that he has been prejudiced to the advantage of the tithe owner. The tithe owner has got what he contracted to get, and the landowner has obtained a great deal more. In those circumstances I cannot see that there is any case whatever for a revision of the tithe commutation, and I venture to say that the present Bill is not designed to effect any such revision. The settlement of 1836 is respected by the Bill. I know it is sometimes said that the Bill is a re-opening of that settlement, but I cannot see that a measure designed like this one, to make people pay that which they legally owe, and to enable the tithe owner to more easily recover his debt, is one which re-opens the Tithe Commutation Act. Will the House bear with me a moment whilst I give an illustration? I happen to know a very populous town in the North of England, which is near a great city—within five miles of it. In that town, owing to its proximity to the city, there are no County Court sittings, and I have been concerned lately in trying to persuade Her Majesty's Government—that is to say, the Lord Chancellor—to have County Court sittings in that town. The reason I did this is, because it is found that the creditors in the town in which I am interested are prejudiced by the necessity of having to go five miles away to the city where the County Court sittings are held, in order to get judgment against their debtors. I am informed that so much is this difficulty felt that it positively, in a very serious degree, prejudices the recovery of small debts. 208 Now, supposing the Lord Chancellor grants our request, and agrees that County Court sittings shall be held in this town, the immediate result will be that every small debt there will be more valuable to the creditor. Will the debtor be able to go to the creditor and say, "When I incurred this debt to you I thought I had to go to a town five miles off before it could be enforced against me? Now I find the debt can be enforced in a much easier way. It is not right that you should have all the benefit of the altered arrangements, and seeing that you can enforce the debt with much greater facility than you could before, I claim some remission." No doubt that case is a ridiculous one. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] But it happens to be so obvious that even hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House can see what I mean. That instance shows very well that the method of recovery of debt has nothing to do with the amount really due, and that if it is found—as it has been found—that it is difficult for the tithe owner, who has the first charge on the produce of the land, to recover his debt, it is a fair and legitimate thing for Parliament to alter the method of recovery without being accused of reopening the settlement of 1836, and being called on to reduce the debt due. I said at the opening of these few remarks that I had great sympathy with the Counties of Essex and Berkshire, and these counties which have felt so deeply the agricultural distress. Well, the Government have evidently felt that too, and in the Bill they have presented to the House they have considered—as I think, very properly and in a very generous manner—some of the difficulties these distressed counties feel. For instance, there is the important provision that in cases where the rateable value is less than the tithe a remission shall be made to the tithepayer as against the tithe owner. That, under the circumstances, is a generous concession, and it should be fully recognised as such. It is a concession because on a great number of properties the landlords will pay, although they do not get a sufficient rental. It is said that in cases of that kind, the landlords will charge a rent which the tenants will refuse to pay, and the land will go out of cultivation, as the landlords will have to take the land 209 into their own hands, and will find it impracticable to make use of it. If the tithe exceeded the rent there would be no remedy for the tithe owner. But in the great majority of cases there will be a hope that in better years it will be possible to make a profit, and the land will not be allowed to go out of cultivation. I think the landowner should receive assistance in this case, but it should be a concession from the tithe owner. In many cases where the tithe is found to be in excess of the rent the reason is that at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act the landowners wore allowed to apportion the tithe on their properties as they pleased, and they put it on as few farms as possible. Naturally, on those farms the pressure has been felt more than elsewhere; but because the landowner has chosen to put the whole of the tithe on a few farms, is that any reason why, 50 years afterwards, the tithe owner should be called on to suffer loss? That argument no doubt tends to show that the provision in the Government Bill is not fair to the tithe owner. But I think that, under present circumstances, and certainly in view of the difficulties which land is being placed in in the distressed counties, the tithe owner ought to be willing to make some concession in that direction. Let it be understood, however, that these are concessions, and substantial concessions; and many of us think that, having gone that far, we should not be called upon to go further in giving up the tithe owner's rights. Let us look at this thing from a common sense point of view. Hon. Members opposite are not so anxious to relieve the land of tithe as they are anxious to make the tithe question a running sore in order to facilitate their efforts to bring about the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the National Church. But hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House will fight to the death against that object. I say frankly that there is no question in the whole field of politics on which I would not rather make concession than on the question of the endowment of the National Church. That being so, those who strive for Disestablishment will have to look forward to many years of bitter struggle before they meet with success, even if they are ever successful. Are they prepared to allow the tithe 210 question during these years of struggle to remain in its present state? They must consent to legislation of some kind with respect to it, and therefore I would urge them, on grounds of fairness and morality, to give a cordial support to this honest endeavour on the part of the Government to provide a machinery under which, without friction, the tithe may be fairly, honestly, and readily paid to the Church of England, as she has a right to expect, whether in England or in Wales.
§ *(6.45.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
In the few observations I purpose addressing to the House I would disentangle the Bill from all its verbiage and ask the House to have regard to its main principles. Under the Commutation Act the produce of the land only is liable, and the tithe is only levied in a certain manner on the occupier; but under the present Bill a great change will take place, both in regard to liability and process by the tithe owner. If the landlord does not pay the tithe a Receiver will be put in, and he, the landlord, will become a tenant to the Receiver, who becomes not only Receiver and landlord, but manager also. Then the tithe is to take priority of all other payments, except quit rent. All these are enormous advantages to give to the titheowner, and yet there is nothing on the other side to balance them. The whole Commutation Act of 53 years ago is torn to pieces in giving the tithe owner these advantages. In Clause 4 of this Bill the tithe owner is empowered to take the whole of the produce of the land, and divide it as he likes; that is to say, if there happens to be more than one tithe owner they can divide the tithe as they like amongst themselves. The tithe owner, however, is saved the odium of being the collector, and actually the landowner and occupier are bound to advance the money to the tithe owner to pay his local rates and taxes. We heard the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade express how deeply he respected contracts and former precedents, but here we have the arrangement made in the extraordinary Tithe Redemption Bill, passed only a year or two ago, upset and the contracts made between landlord and tenant broken. Over and over again we have heard how 211 difficult it is for landlords and tenants to make bargains, and how, when they are made, they ought to be respected. The tithe owner has his taxes paid for him in advance, and yet we have nothing on the other side to set against this extraordinary advantage. I have only to-day received a letter from an eminent land agent who has been long engaged in the buying and selling of tithes, and who has been consulted by an ex-Prime Minister on the subject. He—the land agent—says the Bill is a poorly disguised attempt to increase the value of tithe at the expense of the landowner, but that the tenant farmers are too intelligent not to see that the merging of the tithe in the rent is only a device to remove the odium of collecting tithe from the shoulders of the parson. He adds that the provisions of the Bill will add 10 years' purchase to the market value of tithe rent-charge by raising it from 15 to 25 years' purchase. Then we come to the Redemption Clause. That clause only applies where the tithe is under 20s. Directly you come to a case where it is over 20s. redemption is optional, because a joint application is necessary. Suppose a young clergyman comes into an incumbency, the tithes on which amount to £500 a year, and asks his solicitor for advice. The solicitor would say, "You must be a very foolish man to have the tithe redeemed. You must take into consideration what the tithe rent-charge would be worth at 25 years' purchase. You collect it directly from the landed proprietor, and you have the best security. The landed proprietor pays your local rates and taxes in advance. You are a young man, and by the time you have lived in the parish for 30 or 40 years it will be very difficult to prove what the value of the tithe was before this Bill passed. If the redemption takes place then you will get double what you would get now." That is what the solicitor would say, and a very sensible and reasonable thing it would be to say. Personally, I am both a tithepayer and a tithe owner. My predecessors in title, who purchased the tithe rent-charge from the Crown, it having formed a portion of the estate of that unfortunate nobleman, Lord Derwentwater, never spent a farthing on the land, on which the tithe was charged, nor have I done so, as the 212 land does not belong to me. In my view the tithe owner in England stands in the same position as a bad Irish landlord who does nothing at all to improve the land, and the tithepayer is in the same position as a tenant in Ireland who has made all the improvements. Within the last 50 years two-thirds of Great Britain has been drained, land has been manured, and waste land brought under cultivation. All has been done by the tenant and the landowner, the tithe owner never spending a farthing. This Bill may well be compared with that relating to the purchase of land in Ireland, and we may well ask: Why should we be so generous to Irish landlords who have neglected their duty, and adopt a policy of spoliation towards English landowners who have done their duty to the best of their ability? I do not see why Clause 9 should require that the redemption for the price named should be "for the permanent benefit of the benefice." It would be enough to ensure that the redemption should not be detrimental to the benefice. With regard to the Receiver, I would ask the House to consider for a moment what would be the position of a Receiver in a small country village. Could a more ingenious plan be devised for getting up hot blood and provoking riot than putting in a Receiver to manage a farm and collect the parson's tithe? Then in Clause 12 the Bill goes on to provide that "if the owner fails to perform such duty," etc., not only he, but his executors and administrators, shall be liable to pay any subsequent owner of the land, or any part thereof, all expenses incurred by such owner in respect of tithe redemption. I never heard of such a clause: it is a punishment clause of unlimited duration. Again, Clause 13 empowers the Board of Agriculture to put a mortgage on the land. All recent legislation has been in the direction of trying to free the land, and thereby to reduce the law costs in land sales; therefore I say that this proposal is a step in the wrong direction. I can only see two courses open to us. Either we must repeal the Commutation Act altogether and find out the present real commercial value of the tithe and start on a fresh basis, or if the Government are determined to get rid of the tithes let them bring in a compulsory clause, providing for redemption at 15 213 years' purchase, the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the necessary money on the same terms as are offered to the Irish tenants, namely, at 4 per cent. for 49 years. As to the proceeds of the sale, one-third should go to the Church, one-third be devoted to educational purposes, and one-third should go in reduction of the rates. I think that, without doubt, the Church has improperly absorbed the whole of the tithe. As a member of the Church I blushed to hear Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite declare that clergymen of the Church of England in Wales had, with their families, been on the very verge of starvation. What were their congregations doing to allow their ministers to starve in consequence of this tithe difficulty?
§ (7.8.) MR. T. LEWIS (Anglesey)
It is now being generally acknowledged that the occasion of promoting this Bill was the tithe agitation in Wales. As I have spent my whole life among the tithepayers in that country, I have had every opportunity of knowing their opinion and feelings upon the tithe question, and I can assure the House that the passing of this Bill will not, in any degree, pacify or satisfy them. Hitherto, the relations between tenants and landlords in Wales have been most amicable, but I am afraid if this Bill is passed, necessitating in many cases the re-adjustment of rents, it will occasion much irritation and ill-feeling. Indeed, it does not seem likely to give satisfaction to any class in the Principality—neither the farmers nor the landowners. A few months ago, in consequence of the general rumour that the forthcoming Tithe Bill would throw the payment of tithes on the landlord, a number of influential landowners from the adjacent counties, met at Rhyl, in North Wales, to consider the subject; and the result of their deliberation was to pass a resolution to the effect that no such Bill was required for Wales, but that what was wanted was a Bill to expel, cheaply and effectually, all lazy and troublesome clergy from their ministerial office. And I firmly believe that that is the opinion of a large number of other landowners who were absent. As to the tithepayers, this Bill will not satisfy them, because, though the landlord in the first instance is made responsible for its payment, yet the farmers well know 214 that it will finally fall upon them. It is well that the House should know that no Tithe Bill will give satisfaction to the very great majority of the Welsh farmers, except a Bill to devote the tithe to national purposes; as long as the tithe is used for the support of a small religious sect, the agitation and dissatisfaction will continue. It is not against the payment of tithes that the Welsh farmers object, but against its application. After all the efforts and sacrifices made by Nonconformists during the last 150 years to support religious instruction in Wales, which was almost wholly neglected by the Church, surely they deserve better treatment than to be saddled, in addition, with these proposed extra County Court expenses. Lord Aberdare declared some time agoThat religion would have disappeared from the country had it not been for the exertions of the Nonconformists.The late Dean of Bangor, speaking of the enormous numerical preponderance of Nonconformists, said—Statistical apologists will hint that these Nonconformists exist only on paper. Paper adherents do not give money. The Welsh Nonconformists give far more than £300,000 a year.Also he added—The Church in Wales has lost five-sixths of the Welsh-speaking people, and her strength survives among the English-speaking upper and upper middle class.In the County of Anglesey, which I have the honour to represent, there are several parishes where none but the clergyman, the clerk, and their families attend the church, while most of the inhabitants go to chapels. It is not, therefore, so very strange that the Nonconformist farmers object to pay tithes, seeing that they receive no benefit whatever for their money. I do, therefore, hope that this House will reject the Bill.
§ (7.15.) SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)
I desire to offer a few remarks to the House on this subject. The question of tithes has been for a long period before Parliament, and various Bills have been introduced dealing with it, but of all those Bills none have dealt so completely and fully with it as the measure before us, and certainly none of them have seemed to have anything like the general acceptance which this measure has found. I think 215 that the Government deserve credit for taking up and dealing with the question, for it is not a popular one. They have been told that they cannot touch it without raising many difficult and anxious questions which might really lead them into trouble, but they have acted in accordance with their high sense of duty. In that action they have, no doubt, been stimulated by the state of things which existed in Wales, and which I am amazed that hon. Gentleman opposite seem to contemplate with very little concern—I refer to the non-payment of tithes legally due to an amount so great as was mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade. It is extraordinary that the non-payment of £10,000 out of £38,000 should be regarded as a light matter, particularly when the legal obligation to pay has existed for so very long a time. Another factor which has, no doubt, had its influence with the Government is to be found in the sufferings of the Welsh clergy, who undertook their duties in the belief that the law would secure to them that which they were legally entitled to, though no more. And there is also before the Government this even stronger point—the refusal to meet legal obligations, such as tithe, though it may be treated with equanimity by those who do not suffer, yet is likely to be very contagious; and when once it is found that legal obligations of one sort can be avoided, it is very probable that the same thing will be attempted with regard to other obligations, with the result that the foundations of society will be disturbed, and law and order be shaken very considerably. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has stated that the measure will not satisfy the tithepayers of Wales. I do not suppose it will, because the Welsh tithepayers welcome the tithe agitation as helping them in their efforts to obtain the Disestablishment of the Church. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Front Opposition Bench yesterday (Mr. Osborne Morgan) stated that they did not want a measure to improve the collection of tithes, but one to deal with its distribution. No doubt some hon. Gentlemen opposite and we who sit on these Benches are not likely to agree on the matter, and I do not suppose that those hon. Gentlemen can expect that a Bill likely to please 216 them would be introduced by the present Government. But the means by which it is sought to enforce the law having been found incapable of application in a country where there is not much sympathy with the law in that particular respect, it becomes clear to the Government that something must be done to amend that law, for the sake of their reputation and to put matters straight. In England there has been very little agitation, comparatively, but still there have been grumblings, and, from time to time, pressure has been brought to bear upon the tithe owner to make a furthur reduction. But I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Maldon Division of Essex was rather hard on the clergy just now when he spoke of them as buttoning up their pockets and declaring that though they would be glad to make a reduction, yet for the sake of their order they could not do so. The hon. Member quite left out of sight the fact that there has already been a reduction of 22 per cent., which the clergy have had to bear, and are bearing without complaint, and it seems to mo most unreasonable and unfair to ascribe their unwillingness to put in force the unpopular remedy of distraint to anything else than kindness of heart; neither is it fair to ask them to make further reductions As I said before, the Government were pledged to deal with this matter, and have had the courage of their opinions. They have, no doubt, also avoided some of the blots which were certainly to be found in previous Bills, and especially that one which made the tithepayer personally responsible for the tithe. Now it is made quite clear that he is only liable for that which he gets from the titheable land itself, and that, I think, will remove one serious objection which has been felt to previous attempts at legislation on this subject. Then there is the question of re-valuation. Disappointment has been expressed because the Bill does not, beyond the fixing of a new rateable value, give any further power of re-valuation. No doubt, in some few counties—I am happy to say not in very many—the present settlement presses very hardly upon agriculturalists indeed; but we must remember that a bargain was made in 1836, and if we are to re-open that bargain because one party suffers, it would be necessary 217 to re-open the question altogether, and to give benefits to the tithe owner in cases where the land has increased in value, as it no doubt has done in many parts of the country. If that is done, and tithe should be reduced in certain parts of the country, we introduce a principle which it was the boast that the settlement of 1836 had effected, namely, the abolition of growing tithes. Therefore, it seems to me very clear that there is a hardship where the value of the laud has fallen more than the 22 per cent. reduction in the tithe, but such cases as that can only be met by the 2nd clause of this Bill, which is an honest attempt to deal with the difficulty. Again, if we reopen the question of tithe averages we shall be confronted with a very difficult problem, because there are other articles besides wheat, such as wool and hay, which have risen in value. We might, perhaps, have hoped that more would have been done in the way of redemption, but it is possible that some amendment in that direction may be devised in Committee. The whole question is, however, surrounded with difficulties, because each party puts the price very much higher or very much lower than the other, according to the point of view from which he looks at it. I particularly rejoice to see that compulsory redemption is enforced in the case of building land, for it has in the past been the cause of considerable trouble and annoyance. We must realise that anything we can do will be sure to meet with the opposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who find this tithe grievance a lever for pressing forward the Disestablishment proposals, about which they are so anxious. It has been said that the tithepayers object to pay this tithe because they disapprove of it and it goes against their consciences. I do not quite see the force of that argument, because they do not refuse to pay the tithe altogether; they only refuse to pay unless a reduction is granted. In the times of the agitation against Church rates those who objected to the rates refused to pay them on principle, but this question of a conscience which can be satisfied with a reduction of 5 per cent. I cannot understand. A further redaction of 5 per cent. for collection has been spoken of, but when we remember how very great the fall in the value of 218 tithe has been—22 per cent.—it cannot be right to ask the clergy to submit to a further reduction of 5 per cent. on their already attenuated incomes, more especially as there are already so many cases in which the tithe is paid by the landlord. I do trust we shall be able to bring this question to a satisfactory settlement, and I think we on these Benches should be unworthy of our position of supporters of law and order, and of the National Church, if we did not persevere in the attempt, not to give that Church any fresh advantages, but to preserve those rights which have belonged to her for so many years.
§ (7.30.) COLONEL W. CORNWALLIS WEST (Denbigh, W.)
This question has been argued by hon. Members sitting on this (the Opposition) side of the House as if it were purely a matter of Welsh opinion, and my hon. Colleagues from Wales have taken a somewhat provincial and narrow-minded view of the subject. I have been sojourning during the last few weeks among those who are deeply interested in the tithes question, and I have been much surprised at some of the stories I have heard. I look on this Tithes Bill not only as a measure relating to the Principality of Wales, and directed against the Disestablishment of the Church, but as one closely related to the agricultural interest all over the country. What is it we find? We find that in the County of Norfolk the tithes are greater than in the entire Principality of Wales, and I think the people of that county have quite as much interest in this Bill, if not more, than the whole population of the Principality. I think that this Bill will, as far as I can judge of it, bring about a better condition of things as regards the agricultural interest in England. I intend to support the Second Rending of the Bill, and, in doing so, I may be allowed to say that I consider the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in introducing it was most courteous and conciliatory, especially when we remember that he told the House that any recommendations emanating from this side would, so long as they did not touch the principle of the Bill, receive the careful attention of the Government. I believe that if the Bill is read a second time this evening we shall be able in Committee 219 to introduce such changes as will, at least, settle the question for a certain time to come. The main principle of the Bill is one of which no one will deny the importance—it is to transfer from the shoulders of the tenant farmer to those of the owner the liability for the payment of tithes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby last year said he regarded this as the proper principle to act upon, and I think so too. But we are told that if the landlords are to pay the tithes they will take care that the tenants shall repay them in the rent. Well, Sir, I for one will take the chances of this. I believe the tenant fanners of Wales are honest men, and that the greater portion of them will not attempt to shirk the responsibility they undertook when they entered into possession of their farms. It is very unfortunate that this question in Wales has got entangled with the question of religion. After all, tithes must be paid, and I think my Welsh Colleagues are inconsistent in opposing the Bill, because it will make tithes a much better property. They ought rather to support the Bill, because they may utilise the tithe in time to come for other purposes, and this Bill will give a better security to the tithe owner whenever it may be required for those national purposes of which we hear so much. I conceive also that the redemption of the tithe is the second great principle of the Bill; and it is one I have always advocated. I do hope and trust that Her Majesty's Government may see their way to put the redemption on easier terms. I cannot understand why, when Consols are as low as they are now, we should he asked to pay 4 per cent., and in my opinion the redemption scheme can be carried out on a plan much less expensive to the landowners than that which is proposed by the Bill. I have always considered that the incidence of tithes is certainly unfair; but, on the other hand, I see the difficulty there is in re-opening the settlement of 1836; at the same time I have always thought that before the Government touched this question perhaps the wisest course to have pursued would have been to appoint a Royal Commission to visit every county, and to consider the condition in which certain counties are placed by reason of the changed condition of agriculture throughout the whole 220 country. I can hardly conceive that the English public are aware of the frightful condition of some of the farms on which the tithe at the present moment is actually more than the rental. I think that the substitution of the County Court for the present system of distress is a proposal which cannot fail to meet the views of all hon. Members, and that the carrying out of this plan would conduce to the peace and the happiness of the country. We know that there are those who wish to keep up a state of things, which we all deplore, for particular purposes of their own, and I trust that their wings will he clipped and that it will be impossible to have again such an agitation as we have had in my country. I think the more sensible and rational of the Welsh farmers will feel that the settlement of the tithe question ought to put aside all further agitation in regard to Disestablishment, and that the effect of this measure will be to preserve the tithe not only for the Church in Wales, but for any future purpose of a national character.
§ *(7.40.) MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)
I desire, Sir, to state what I believe to be the opinion of the great majority of my constituents on the subject now before the House. I am astonished at some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, especially so as he is one of the Representatives of the Principality. He has complained that the Welsh Members have treated this matter from a provincial point of view; but if by that he meant a Welsh point of view, I could understand his argument, because this is strictly a Welsh question. The hon. Member also spoke of the Bill being of great service to the agricultural interest. If so, I would be pleased, though I doubt it; but the Bill ought to be confined to England. The Bill proposes to shift the burden of the present payment of tithe from the tithepayer to the landlord, and neither in that nor in the redemption clauses, Dot in the new method of recovery in lieu of the old form of distress, will it meet with anything but the strongest objection on the part of the Welsh people. The new form of recovery is nothing but an attempt to coerce the Welsh people to pay a tithe which they object to pay so long as the impost is 221 applied to its present purposes. The proposal to shift the payment is something thrown out with a view to the conciliation of the English farmer, but I hope the English farmer will not be deluded by proposals so fictitious. The Welsh farmer has been taught, and knows quite well, that if the landlord pays the tithe he will exact an equivalent from the tenant in the shape of increased rent. With regard to the redemption clauses the bulk of the Welsh Members are opposed to them altogether. We believe that under them tithes will be frittered away, and that by subsequent alienation they will be lost sight of altogether. We recognise tithes to be national property, and are anxious to keep them intact and apply them to national purposes, educational and otherwise. To that extent the farmer would be relieved, because what he pays in tithes he knows he will be saved in rates. As to the alleged right to the tithe for the purposes of the Established Church, I hold that what Parliament has a right to make Parliament has also a right to unmake. By shifting the burden from one shoulder to the other, you do not remove it. And if you insist upon doing this, then, I think, in all fairness, we may ask you to confer extended jurisdiction upon the County Court, so that the rents of the tenants may be [judicially' revised, as their rents will most assuredly be consequently increased. In recent years many large estates have been put into the market, and hundreds of tenant farmers have purchased their holdings, and are now freeholders. These men are chiefly Nonconformists, and they will as stoutly oppose the payment of tithe in the future as in the past until fairly appropriated. Then you will simply put in a number of Receivers of the County Court, and in that way practically confiscate their holdings. What is the object of the now method of recovery? I take it that it is to assist the Welsh clergy to recover their tithes. Had it not been for the case of the Welsh clergy I think the other questions that have been raised in this Bill would have been referred to a Royal Commission. Will this Bill have the effect of assisting the Welsh clergy? I think it will have the opposite effect, and that it will only accentuate the differences and further embitter the 222 feelings which already exist. Distress is at present levied upon the goods of the farmer, while the person of the parson is removed from the scene of action. The bailiffs and emergency men do the disagreeable work of collection. But under this Bill you make the clerical tithe owner a plaintiff in the County Court, where he will be sure to attract the attention of the industrial classes, who will be amazed at the strange spectacle of a minister of religion in a Court of Law demanding his pound of flesh from needy men who object, not to the payment of tithe, but to its misapplication. This new jurisdiction which you seek to confer upon the County Court will overweight its machinery and throw it out of gear. Already, there are complaints as to the bailiffs of County Courts not being able to do their duty in the matter of executions following judgment. Besides, solicitors and counsel will be employed, and such will be the legal paraphernalia, that to recover £5 of tithes it may easily be that £10, £15, or £20 will be expended in costs. I am glad the Government do not seek to re-introduce the penal powers which appeared in their last Bill. I do not say this with a view to encourage them to insert powers of that kind. I do not suppose that any Government would venture to imprison men who refused payment of tithes on conscientious grounds; but I say that without imprisonment clauses the Bill will be a dead letter. The County Court process is a double-edged weapon, and I think that while it will wound the victim, it will also wound the hand that strikes.
§ *(7.50.) MR. BEADEL (Chelmsford)
Mr. Speaker, it is a mistake to suppose that any Bill would satisfy hon. Members opposite unless it abolished tithes altogether. The Bill is for the purpose of amending difficulties which have arisen under the Act of 1836—an Act which was passed for changing that which was an uncertainty into a certainty. It created a rent charge as certain as any charge which might be made on private property, subject only to septennial averages of corn. I should have been glad if the Government had not touched that measure at all, but the necessity has arisen from the terrible state of agricultural depression. If hon. Members would 223 study the agricultural question they would realise the importance of putting it in a better position. They would take steps to cause the produce of the land to be worth more than the cost of production; would confer a great amount of good upon the whole nation, and overcome crotchets which exist in the minds of many. Unfortunately, there are thousands of acres which if absolutely tithe free the cost of production would exceed the value of the produce. That proceeds from only one cause; and, I think if the President of the Board of Trade were to take the Minister of Agriculture into his confidence, a remedy could be found. The President of the Board of Trade is taking a very wise and prudent step in trying to minimise the evils of the tithe system and in endeavouring to prevent the question cropping up again within short periods. I have always acted upon the principle that the tithe should be paid directly by the landlord, and that the clerical tithe owner should not be placed in the position of having to dun his parishioners for his daily bread. Therefore, I welcome the proposal which changes the payment from the tenant to payment by the landlord. With regard to redemption, I think it is bettor to get rid of small sums. I remember the time when tithe was 12 per cent. above par, and when it was paid with the greatest pleasure in the world; but now that it is 22 per cent. below par nobody likes to pay it at all. There is clearly something wrong in our system. I realise the true cause, and if hon. Members would take care not to allow articles to be sent into this country to compete with our produce, they would confer an enormous benefit on the community; you would hear no more of the tithe rent-charge difficulty, and you would find the National Church of this country in a very happy and contented state. (7.55.)
§ (8.32.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (8.35.) MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
I was very much struck and amused by the remark of the hon. Member for Denbigh (Colonel West) that the introduction of this Bill would bring peace to Wales. It seems strange to me that anyone should entertain the idea that the introduction of the process of 224 the County Court into tithe collection will bring peace to any part of the country, much less to Wales. I was also very much amused by the statement of the noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division (Viscount Cranborne) that he and his Party were fighting this question of tithe on this ground—that they mean to fight to the death the question of Church and State. He and his Party have fought to the death a good many questions, and they have always been worsted. They fought to the death against reform, against the abolition of slavery, against Free Trade, against Nonconformists having any social or political position, and they have been worsted in all the fights; and they will be worsted in the fight in which they are now engaged. Then I was amused at the noble Lord saying he depended upon the Unionist majority to defend the Church Establishment, because the present Unionist majority numbers amongst its ranks those who have said the most bitter things against the State Church, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) for instance. I listened with attention to the speech of my right hon. Colleague (Sir M. Hicks Beach) in which he introduced the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman admitted in his earlier sentences that the subject was difficult and complicated. I entirely agree with him, but I cannot see that the Bill grapples with the difficulties or unravels the complications. There are three Parties to be considered in this matter; and my complaint is that the Bill, as Tory legislation generally does, only takes one Party into view. I contend that tithe property is national property devoted for the time being to the interests of a sect, but the time will assuredly come when the nation will appropriate it to something more national than a sect. Last night the noble Lord the Member for the Petersfield Division (Viscount Wolmer) spoke very pathetically against meddling with the tithe question in any tinkering way, and he reminded us that in the settlement of 1836 the nation lost two millions sterling at least. His argument was that we must do what we can to strengthen the position of the property, but I maintain that this interference with the tithe question to-day is going to lead to a good 225 deal of frittering away of this national property. Hon. Gentlemen opposite profess to love the clergy. It is quite evident that they love themselves, because the burthen of all their speeches on this measure has been, a considerable reduction of the sum to be paid. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen that in the settlement of the tithe question at the Reformation, more than 25 per cent. of the tithe got lost by being appropriated not to the clergy, but to the landed interest of the country. The whole of this discussion goes to show that the great object the landed sections of the House have in view is to lessen the burden which presses upon them. I am a large tithepayer, but I do not want a Bill that will lessen the amount I have to pay. What I desire is that the payment should be diverted to some great national purposes; and I will not join hon. Gentlemen opposite in the endeavour to lessen the value of tithe in order to suit their own selfish purposes. Now, one of the Government's great boasts is that they are the farmers' friends. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) was exceedingly candid last night when he asked why should the farmers have any relief. I say because the Government and the Conservative Party have always assured the farmer that they are the men who are looking after his interest. Here is a Tithe Bill, and I can find nothing in the Bill that will to any appreciable extent benefit the farmer. I find that the collection of tithe is to be brought under the same operation of law as rent, and the new process of collection will cost him four or five times as much as the old process. If the farmer does not get any more practical relief than this Bill gives him he will get very little. The next party in the question are the clergy, and I admit the Bill does something for them. An hon. Gentleman has said the Bill will increase the value of tithe from 15 to 25 per cent. I can hardly agree with that; but if that is so the measure will benefit the clergy at the expense of the nation, and therefore ought to be fought tooth-and-nail. Then I have been struck with another thing. The Government and the Party opposite are always pleading the sacredness of contracts. Contracts are always sacred when they want to get something out of the bargain. There 226 was a sacred contract made in 1836. Part of that contract was that you should not collect tithe except upon the crops that grow on the particular land that is titheable. But this Bill alters the whole thing. Where is the sacredness of contract? Where are your religious ideas of contract? I am aware that the Welsh clergy are labouring under considerable difficulty, but the difficulty arises from the fact that they depend upon what is not voluntary, but exacted. The President of the Board of Trade, when he was introducing the Bill, seemed to regard the Church and Christianity as synonymous terms. The greatest triumphs of Christianity were made in the early centuries, when tithes, if paid at all, were paid as voluntary offerings. Nowadays the clergy are always telling us that we are to have more in Heaven than on earth; but I find that when we come to anything like tithe, they think quite as much about earth as anything else. The President of the Board of Trade referred pathetically to the poverty of the clergy in Wales. Is it not a disgrace to a Church so wealthy, to a landed aristocracy so rich—and generally the aristocracy are members of the Church—that the clergy are so poor? Did it not strike the right hon. Gentleman that, when he was speaking of the poverty of the Welsh clergy, he was condemning his own Church and Party, in a way I should be ashamed to do? Then it is said we are trying to evade a just debt. It strikes me that comes with bad grace, considering that it is hurled at people who are supporting their own system of religion, and ask for nothing. We do not want to get rid of the payment of tithe at all, but we want to put tithe into a path where it will promote the best interests of the country. The farmers ought to know that no relief to any appreciable extent will come to them by the lessening of tithe. We want to get them relief by appropriating tithe in such a way as will save their pockets in other directions. I contend there is no confiscation in that, because, of the original tithe, as much belonged to the poor as to the clergy. How the clergy have got hold of it is rather singular to me. Some of us maintain that tithe ought to be appropriated to the relief of the poor. That would relieve the poor rate and would be a practical way of 227 helping the farmers. This is about the only country in the world in which there is tithe. There are two things you have never been able to transplant to any of our Colonies—a State Church and the present landed system of this country—and depend upon it, when a system cannot be transplanted, it is doomed. As you could not transplant a State Church to America and the Colonies, you will not be able to keep it here very long. And there is quite as much Christianity in the Colonies and America, where there is no State Church, as there is in this country. Then get rid of the idea that tithe has anything to do with the religion of the country. Let us clear our minds of cant and humbug. Let us recognise the fact that this is simply an attempt to keep the property of the nation in the hands of a few people. I am told that our arguments are based upon opposition to the Church. I have no opposition to the Church as a religious institution. I hope I have a solemn belief that the future of our country, as indeed the future of the world, depends upon the promotion of Christianity; but, on the other hand, I believe nothing has kept Christianity back so much as tithes and Church rates, which you have endeavoured to prop up. I venture to warn the Government that in endeavouring to tinker with great questions like this they are endangering the very object they have at heart. The noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division said you have three years to live. The country is beginning to find you out, and only want an opportunity to put you to rout. [Mr. ADDISON: Hear, hear.] I think that, much as we value the presence of the hon. Gentleman who sits by the vote of the Mayor, we shall be without it after the next election. In conclusion, I have only to say that if the Government deal with the question at all, I wish they would deal with it in a generous spirit to the farmer, in a just spirit to the nation, and in a statesmanlike spirit to us all. They have only had regard for the clergy, and by that they will, I hope, deprive themselves of a good deal of support from the farmers. We certainly shall let the farmers know who their friends are, and who it is who come here under the pretence of being their friends, and then support a Tithe Bill 228 which carries them into the County Court and heaps far more costs upon them in the collection of tithe than ever before.
§ *(8.55.) MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
There is a notice of Motion on the Paper in my name, but I am not anxious to move it on account of the very conciliatory speech we listened to last night from the President of the Board of Trade. The debate seems to have taken a triangular form. There are those who are anxious to do away with tithe in connection with the Church. There are those who are anxious to give to the full, and, in my opinion, more than the full, to the tithe owner; and, lastly, there are those who think, as I do, that some compromise ought to be made in the matter. I am very well satisfied with the Bill in many respects. I am very pleased that the landlords are to pay the tithe in future, because I am quite certain from my experience of tenant farmers, and it is considerable, that it is the wish of the tenant-farmers of the country that they should be relieved from the payment of tithe. Again, I welcome the arrangement for the recovery of tithe, because I think it will save a great deal of unpleasantness. I do not believe for a moment that the Government intend that the Receiver or the manager is to become a farm bailiff, and take the management of the farm out of the hands of the farmer. The Receiver will simply receive the rents which otherwise would go to the landlord. That is a very fair proposal, and one which I think will save a great deal of trouble. But when I come to the question as between tithe owner and tithepayer, I am very much opposed to the Bill, because whatever hon. Members may say, this is a re-opening of the settlement under the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836, and it is a re-opening of it in two ways. In the first place, you are making what was permissive under that Bill compulsory as regards payment of tithe by landlords, and you are substituting recovery by seizing the rents from recovery by distraint. The noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division (Viscount Cranborne) told us that we have no right to complain, and he gave us instances of certain debtors in a town where there is no County Court. He 229 said those debtors would have no right to complain if a County Court was set in motion in that town. But that is not the question at all. As I view the matter, there was a special contract arrived at in 1836 between the tithe owner and the tithepayer. On the one hand, it was settled how the payment should be made, and on what that payment should be based. On the other hand, it was settled that there should be certain specified modes of recovery. That seems to be a widely different thing to the instance given by the noble Lord. I object to this re-opening of the settlement of the Tithe Commutation Act, 1836, on behalf of one party only to the bargain. I think if the settlement is re-opened at all, it should be reopened in the interest of both parties. I may say the Government have re-opened it on a remarkably tender point in regard to tithepayers. We do not object to pay tithe. English yeomen and landlords have never objected to it, but what we do say is that the amount of it we are asked to pay is unduly, improperly high; and we think that before the Government give tithe owners greater power for collecting their debt, it is their bounden duty to take care that the amount recoverable is not more than can justly be claimed. It is quite useless for the Government to think that by merely shifting the burden from the tenant to the landlord they can escape all further difficulty. In Wales, we are told, the payment of tithe is objected to from religious motives, but I am not at all disposed to credit that statement. I do not think it is entirely the case, and I should not have sympathy with the Welsh people if it was the case. That a man should decline to pay from religious motives is a strange motive to put forward; it is about on a par with a Liberal politician declining to pay taxes when a Tory Government is in office. I do not think it is the case. I have read the evidence as to the origin of the tithe riots in Wales, and the reason almost universally given was that farmers objected to the tithe because, instead of being a tenth, it was in many cases a quarter or even a half. We have had tithe troubles in Hampshire, and and there I believe the troubles arose with the landowners. The Bill itself, I think, points to the fact that too much 230 tithe is demanded, because we find in the Bill a clause making provision for a re-adjustment in those cases where the tithe exceeds the amount, the whole of the profit derived from the cultivation of the land. I cannot understand how anybody can suppose a man can come, and asking for a so-called tenth, have a right to claim more than the whole. Tithe is a misnomer in many cases. It is certain that tithepayers are suffering from an injustice, and the Bill proposes to stereotype and perpetuate this injustice, and, therefore, I think that tithepayers have a right to ask the House for some concession before they pass this Bill. It is all very well for hon. Members to twit the landlords upon the wish to pay less, but would not any man object to pay more than he would be properly required to pay? We do not ask to pay less for any other reason than that we think an unjust demand is made upon us. Then, I should like to call the attention of the Government to the effect upon agriculture of the present system of tithe collection and tithe paying. You have in Hampshire, in Essex, in Berkshire, and in many parts of the country, tithes exceeding in amount the value of the profits derived from the cultivation of the lands upon which the tithe is levied. And what does this mean? It means that the landlords are unable or unwilling to lay out a single farthing in repairs on buildings, or in keeping the property in proper order; that you have tenants discouraged from cultivation, and the land grows worse instead of better; and it necessarily follows that labourers lose employment, and so the Church grows more and more unpopular, being considered the primary cause of the trouble. This in itself should be a reason to induce the Government to make considerable concessions, especially in cases where we have the tithe equalling or exceeding the whole of the profits derived from cultivation. We are asked to suppose that the clause, providing that tithe owners shall have no greater claim than the amount of the profits is a concession to tithepayers; but it is impossible under this Bill that it should be arranged otherwise, for the Bill proposes that the new way of recovery of tithe shall be seizing on the rent or profits, and it is perfectly clear that the tithe owner could not recover 231 more than the rent, so it is a necessary consequence of the method of recovery proposed, and I do not consider it is a concession to tithepayers; and if it is so considered, it is not sufficient. I think that where the tithe exceeds the whole of the profit, a much more considerable concession may justly be asked. The point I wish to make is this: it is perfectly clear that if the tithe has become more than the whole, that the machinery for ascertaining the amount of tithe due must be out of order. I will not go into the whole question of corn averages; but I should like to point out that, under the present system, the lower corn falls the more faulty becomes the machinery. In the Tithe Commutation Act it is provided that the amount of tithe payable shall be calculated on the average price of British-grown corn sold in certain markets. When wheat is at 50s. a quarter, then farmers send two or throe qualities of corn to market, and the average is taken over the whole; but when wheat falls to 28s., the farmer only sends his best sample, not offering the second and third qualities; so that when the tithepayer can least afford to pay it, the tithe is high, being calculated not on the value of the whole crop, but on the value of the picked samples which alone are sent to market. Here, I think, we have a grievance that deserves inquiry. I daresay we shall be told it is impossible to re-open the whole question of tithe and corn averages, but that is not the point. The lathe owners say, "alter our method of recovery," and while we acquiesce in that, we say alter also the Act in another detail on our behalf. We do not ask to have the whole basis of corn averages altered; we ask merely for an alteration of the present system of ascertaining the value of British-grown corn. If that is done, I am certain the tithe will be lowered considerably, and we shall escape from the difficulty of having land where the tithe exceeds the profit. We shall be reminded of the difficulties, and that a Committee have reported on the almost impossibility of interfering with the corn averages. It may be so; and if it is so, and the Government wish to shirk the difficult and almost impossible task, then we ask them to extend to tithepayers some advantage in the Redemption Clauses of the Bill. As I understand these clauses, they are at present absolutely unworkable 232 and impracticable. I do not think you will find a single instance of a tithe owner or payer of tithe exceeding £1 redeeming under the terms offered in the Bill. We know that the clergy especially are very hard hit. They have a very small income, and I believe they might honestly say they could not afford any further reduction in that income. This means, according to the Government proposals, that the tithepayer would have to offer them such a sum for their tithe as at 3½ per cent. would equal their present income. This would amount to 28½ years' purchase, and the tithepayers are offered this at 4¼ per cent. If you work this out it amounts to this—that the tithepayer for 50 years will be called upon to pay 23 per cent. in excess of the sum now paid to the tithe owner. It is quite clear that no tithepayer in his senses would ask the tithe owner to agree to redemption on these terms. I cannot help thinking that under these Redemption Clauses the Government have an opportunity of making a considerable concession to tithepayers, and I trust from what the President of the Board of Trade has said that they will take advantage of the opportunity. If they do so, they will have the gratitude of the whole tithepaying community and of the whole agricultural interest, and, what I believe they will value more, the support of an united party, in which my vote will be included.
§ *(9.12.) MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
As a Welsh Member, I am deeply interested in this matter, and what I have to say will be from a Welsh point of view. There is a total distinction between the Welsh and the English view. With English Members in the main this has been a question of property, and this has been exemplified in the interesting speech to which we have just listened; but in Wales we regard the question from a wholly different standpoint, and it is well the House should understand that the vast majority of the Welsh people regard this as matter of conscience and religious principle. I quite admit that, mingled with this, there are other motives; agricultural depression and other elements have played a part, but undoubtedly the principal element is the religious principle, and those who fail to acknowledge this will fail to understand the strong feeling of the 233 Welsh people. There is no doubt that the main object of the Bill is to rivet the tithe permanently upon the people in the interest of the Church of England. The greater part of the Bill is to render tithe safer than before, to make it more secure, and, so far as may be, to perpetuate it as the property of the Church of England as by law established. This is why the Bill is so unpopular in Wales, and why Welsh Liberal Members find it impossible to acquiesce in it. It is altogether too late for any legislative changes to reconcile the Welsh people to that Church. English Members may not be aware of the scandals attached to tithe appropriation in Wales in the past, and if I refer for a few moments to past history it is to explain the deeply-rooted aversion of the Welsh people to the present system by law established. A large proportion of the Welsh tithe was literally stolen from the country by Henry VIII. and his descendants, and given to Court favourites, sold again by them, and as lay property has been handed down to the present day to owners who have no residential or any other connection with the Principality. These facts have been burned into the memories of the Welsh people. Another large portion of the tithe was alienated by the Bishops, sold or set a part for the endowment of their families, and so it has come to pass that a great portion of the tithe has ceased to perform any ecclesiastical function or to be of any use whatever to the Principality. I am sure the Postmaster General will bear me out in this. To show the truth of my observation, I would remind the House that in 1836, when the Tithe Commutation Act was passed, the amount of Welsh tithe was £280,000, and of this amount £67,000 a year belonged to clerical impropriators nonresident in Wales; £61,000 to lay impropriators scattered over the country; £8,000 to schools and colleges; and only £137,000 belonged to the parochial clergy. But let it be remembered that a large number of the parochial clergy were absentees, their posts were sinecures, and the duties were discharged by miserably paid curates. So, of the whole of the tithe collected in Wales at the time of the Tithe Commutation Act, only a third went to the working clergy of Wales. Can the House conceive a greater abuse? There is only one comparison lean make, 234 and that is the way in which the revenues of the Irish Church were formerly distributed. The Welsh and the Irish Churches were conspicuous examples of ecclesiastical corruption, and each succeeded in alienating the feelings of the people. One illustration of the extent of the abuse of ecclesiastical management is furnished in the fact that in 1830 it was computed that in the See of St. Asaph, a poor diocese, no less than £27,000 a year was absorbed by the Bishop and his immediate relations, sons mostly, who had been preferred to all the rich livings in the diocese, and the entire working clergy of the diocese only received £18,000 a year. There was a state of things in which the parochial clergy were aliens in blood and language from the great bulk of the people; the ceremonies of the Church—such as baptism, confirmation and marriage—being performed in English and translated int.) Welsh by an interpreter at the Bishop's or clergyman's elbow. Need we wonder that the great bulk of the people became Nonconformists and that the Church of England stank in the nostrils of the people. Wales became absolutely alienated from the Church of England, and it is wholly impossible now to alter this condition of feeling. I do not say these abuses exist now. A great many Acts of Parliament have been passed to improve this state of things, and the most flagrant abuses have been removed; but even in the present year of the total tithe collected in Wales—£300,000—still, 37 per cent. is appropriated to lay purposes and only 63 per cent. to the local clergy. Contrast the action of the Ecclesiastical Authorities in Wales with that of the Nonconformists who, out of small earnings, have built 3,000 chapels, and maintain their religion at a cost of £300,000 or £400,000 a year, and it will be seen that the religious life of the people has flowed through channels outside the Church of England. No doubt there has been a considerable revival of the Church in late years, and the Establishment is in a much healthier condition than it has been in for the last century; yet, still, it cannot be denied that Nonconformity has made the Welsh people the most religious in Europe. This I assert without fear of contradiction. How can a people with such a history acquiesce in the payment of tithe to the Church of England? It 235 is wholly impossible. It never can be held that the tithe has any sacredness in the minds of the Welsh people. The Welsh people do not regard tithe as enjoined by the teachings of the Christian religion; their interpretation of the New Testament leads them to believe the tithe is no part of the Christian dispensation. To them it is a Jewish institution, and derives its existence in our time from the darkest ages in the history of the Church. They do not regard it as in any sense a divine institution, and it is impossible that it should have in their minds that sacred or semi-sacred character it has in the minds of many English members. We must bear these facts in mind in forming our judgment. It is impossible that we can legislate for Wales in this matter as we can for England, where apparently the majority of the people acquiesce in the payment of tithe and its application to the Church of England. The Welsh nation never can be satisfied until tithe is made national property. We must treat Wales as a nationality, and that is the foundation of the whole question. Wales has a separate nationality in history, language, blood, and ideas; and if you wish to have a peaceable and settled Wales, a source of strength to the whole Kingdom, you must satisfy this deep national longing. You do not understand how deep the feeling is; the great mass of the people are possessed by it; and, until you recognise this and grant religious equality, you will have ever recurring troubles in Wales. Pass what Bill you like now, you will come no nearer to a settlement of the question. Agitation will follow agitation, and trouble succeed trouble, and the demand for Home Rule will increase. Now, I put it to this Unionist Government, who wish to discourage Home Rule agitation, if they wish to weaken the desire for Home Rule in Wales, let them grant Disestablishment and the nationalisation of the tithe. Do this, and you will take the heart out of the Home Rule movement; refuse this, and you stimulate a movement against what you conceive to be the best interests of the kingdom. I believe the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Raikes) knows the truth of this. He lives in Flintshire, and knows the feeling there. He knows that if you refuse this the agitation will 236 increase and Members will be returned for Wales of more and more advanced opinions. I hold comparatively moderate views. I do not wish to see a needless multiplication of Legislatures; but to bind our peoples together there is only one way, and that is to recognise the national desire and deal with each part of the country in a manner suited to its national traditions and deeply-seated convictions. Then in Wales you will have the most contented and peaceable part of the United Kingdom. If you refuse this you prepare for yourselves and for the Legislature of the future greater difficulties to deal with. We do not wish to see things carried to extremes; we do not wish to see a very radical solution; we would rather see things solved in a moderate and reasonable way, and therefore we ask and hope for some expression of sympathy for the reasonable representations of the Welsh people.
§ *(9.30.) SIR JOHN DORINGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)
It is very much to be regretted that the hon. Member, like others, should have entered the region of Disestablishment and other questions altogether foreign to the objects of the Bill. There have been statements made on the Church Question and arguments based on these statements which should not be allowed to pass unanswered. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Hussey Vivian) alluded to the origin of tithe, and quoted Lord Selborne as apparently in favour of the idea of a tripartite division of tithe. The hon. Member for Bristol seemed also to say there was this tripartite division, and that there was a special allocation for the poor. But I know something of the matter, having made a special investigation of it some years ago, and I will ask the House, not to take my opinion, but to hear what Lord Selborne has said on the subject. He quotes a tract published by the Liberation Society, called The Case for Disestablishment. The author of the tract says of the tripartite division:—(1) In all early laws about tithes it is clearly laid down that the poor were to have a share. (2) That at first the division into four parts, and after a while into three parts, prevailed here. (3) That later on when tithes were not so freely given away, and a law was passed to compel them, the same plan was insisted on, and the poor still had their share. (4) That this was before the time of Parlia- 237 ments, but when Parliaments made laws upon the subject their rights were preserved. (5) That nobody seems to know how or when the poor lost their legal claim to a share of the tithes.Of these statements," Lord Selborne says, "there is but one to which that degree of respect is due, which may be accorded to all opinions which have been the subject of honest controversy among learned men, namely, that which relates to the division of tithes, in a remote age, into parts, of which one was for the poor; but it is necessary for those who maintain that opinion to show by historical evidence that at some time or other in England any such practice did in fact prevail, and this has never been, and never can be, done. It is absolutely unfounded.The idea arises simply from the practice of foreign Churches, which was never introduced into England. In some dioceses of French, Spanish, and some other Churches the division was into three only of those parts, the Bishop taking no share. The hon. Baronet the Member for Swansea (Sir H. Vivian) has spoken of the mysterious origin of tithes; but there is no mystery about it if the historic documents are investigated. The original gifts of tithes exist by hundreds in our public libraries, especially gifts by the owners of manors and parishes in this country. Thus you have the origin of tithes, and this explanation is probably quite sufficient for the purposes of this discussion. I think the Government deserve great credit for the way in which they have brought in the Bill, and the provisions which they have included for the collection and possible redemption of tithe. It is assumed that whilst the tenants have been in the habit of paying the tithes, it was not the intention of the Act of 1836 that they should pay them. But if that were not the intention it was the necessary consequence of the provisions in that Act for the recovery of tithe. The remedy is against the tenant and not against the landlord, so that it is much more to the interest of the tenant to pay than to leave the payment to the landlord. Where the tenants are willing to trust the landlords it is more convenient that the landlord should pay, and my own practice has been to take all the tithes into my own hands. But there is a drawback. What is the effect of the landlord taking this course? During bad years the tenants, paying a fixed rent, while the tithe is regularly descending, give a constantly 238 increasing rental to the landlord, because he pays a less tithe; but when the years are prosperous the tithes go up, and the landlord loses by that, and has no advantage from the increased prosperity of the land. So that in order to make things fair we should have to return to the exploded practice of corn rents. I think it desirable to make the change proposed by the Bill, namely, that the landlord should pay the tithe. Reference has been made to the provision of the 2nd clause with regard to the special rate. I look on that as the happiest provision of the Bill. It provides a means of discerning whether the tithe and the value of the land are in accordance with one another; and the valuation is placed in the hands of those who are sure, in their own interests, to see that the value is as high as it ought to be. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade alluded to grievances which undoubtedly prevail, and which, I think, demand a larger recognition from the Government than they seem inclined at the present moment to afford. With reference to what fell from the hon. Member for Bristol with regard to the landlords putting the money into their own pockets, I repudiate that insinuation altogether; but I would ask for a remedy, because it is an injury to the Church that these cases of hardship should occur. They are numerous in some counties, but rare in others, and form no large proportion of the total amount of tithe raised in England; but so long as they exist they are a scandal, and some way of dealing with them is needed. This opinion has not been formed without due consideration of the subject, nor without other opinions backing up my own. The question was discussed by a Diocesan Conference in my county two years ago, and a Special Committee was constituted, containing nearly all the dignitaries of the diocese—archdeacons, canons, and parochial clergy, as well as squires and landlords. The Committee came to the conclusion that, as a whole, the tithe system had worked well since 1836, and did not require any alteration except in regard to the hard cases, and that, with regard to the hard cases where the tithe is out of all proportion to the rental value of the land, some remedy was demanded, which should be 239 applied subject to revision—that is, that you should not apply a final settlement to any reduction you might make. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade has said it is impossible to have any re-valuation, and I quite agree in that; but where the tithe exceeds one-half of the whole valuation of the land, or amounts even to the full value, that is certainly not what was intended when the Act of 1836 was passed. That was intended to be a final Act, on the supposition that the conditions of life then prevailing would continue, and that the produce of the soil of England would remain the same as it was then. One object was to stop any further increase of the tithe consequent upon agricultural improvements, so that the door should be closed against a rise, and equally closed against a fall. But owing to the fall which has taken place in the prices of produce, it has become impossible to realise the rates in respect of which the land was valued. Tillage has largely disappeared, and the land has gone back from a considerable rental to the poor and inferior prices of pasturage, in many cases amounting only to 3s., 4s., and 5s. per acre. In such cases the tithe becomes an absurdity; certainly it is an offence against public sentiment. It is a transfer of the estate from the landowner to the tithe owner. Well, under the provisions of the 2nd sub-section of the 1st clause, I think it quite practicable to apply a remedy under equitable conditions to all concerned. Perhaps I may point out that, as I read the 2nd subsection, there can be no question, whatever a Superior Court might say, the Inferior Court having before it such a case might remit not only the excess beyond the whole value of the land, but the whole tithe itself. This was not probably the intention of the draftsman, nor is it desirable to go as far as that. I would propose that instead, as the 2nd sub-section provides, of persons whose tithe was in excess of the whole special rateable value being alone allowed to go into Court for redress, a much lower figure should be taken—say, even one-half of the special rateable value—and redress should be granted for one year. Thus, in the present circumstances, a just and fair arrangement would be arrived at which would not prejudice a revision in the 240 years when farming would again become a profitable industry in England.
§ *(9.45.) MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)
I will preface the remarks I have to make on this Bill by saying that, not being a labourer or farmer, I do not pretend to understand the details of this measure, but being desirous of ascertaining what the farmers or the labourers have to say upon this subject, I have endeavoured to read what has appeared in relation to it in the Press, and that portion of the Press which is not at all times favourable to this side of the House. I also attended a few days ago a meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel, a meeting of farmers from different counties in England. I will quote what I then heard in reference to this measure—A Bill conceived entirely in the interest of the tithe owner, which will not redress any of the grievances of the lithe payers are suffering under a Coercion Bill to screw tithe out of unwilling payers, a sop to the Establishment at the expense of the land, and in Wales of something more than the land; a Bill which, failing to provide a proper means of revision and readjustment, added insult to injury, and perpetuated a state of things which it was impossible to bear.That is the judgment of the farmers of the Eastern Counties of England on this Bill; my own opinion is that it is a a Bill to give perpetual security to the increased incomes derived by the clergy under the Tithes Commutation Act. That meeting was composed of men who have been strict adherents to the policy of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. One of them said—They had not burnt parsons' homesteads, nor boycotted the Conservatives, but had followed them like sheep, and this was their reward.An hon. Gentleman opposite has said there is to be no distraint, and no imprisonment. I do not know how he arrives at that conclusion; but, according to my reading of the Bill, it provides both for distraint and imprisonment. [Cries of "No."] An hon. Member says "No." True, under this Bill a man cannot be sent to prison, and his land cannot be sold, but he will incur the same consequences by non-payment of the tithes and costs. With a Receiver in possession the landlord cannot distrain for rent, and the farmer will be in this happy position, he will be able to punish 241 the landlord and parson while asserting his own independence at the same time. But what else can be done? If it is proved that a man is able to pay, and refuses to do so, and a process is issued against him for contempt of the judgment of the Court, he may be sent to prison at once. If that is not imprisonment I do not know what else it is. When this sort of thing comes about we shall have friction between landlord and tenant, instead of friction which at present exists between the tenant and the parson. This is what appears to me to be the real outcome of Lord Salisbury's Bill. If I am not greatly mistaken you will find, especially in Wales, that the result will be to alienate from the Church not only the tenant, but probably the landlord as well. I see it stated in a paper called Land and Water (and I am of the same opinion) that—When the people recognise that the land of the country is to be farmed by County Court officials for the benefit of the clergy, and that the landlord is to be turned out of his inheritance for the sake of the parson a very formidable state of things will arise.Another statement was made at that meeting by one of the farmers opposed to the Bill, namely, as to the necessity of providing for re assessment of the basis of the tithe rent-charge. It was said that at the time of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 the average price of wheat was 7s. per bushel; an acre, of land producing 28 bushels. This would amount to £9 16s. per acre, which, after deducting £6 as the cost of production, left the farmer a net profit of £3 16s. 0d. as the average for the seven years preceding the Act of 1836. That was the basis on which the tithe rent-charge was then fixed, but through the abolition of protective duties the extension of railways in foreign countries, and the multiplication of the means of quick and cheap transit of corn from other parts of the world, the market prices in this country were greatly reduced. Now, supposing the home farmers were able, by the use of artificial manures and a system of high farming, to maintain a yield of 28 bushels per acre, how would the balance stand. Taking the average prices of the last six years he would only receive 4s. 242 per bushel, instead of 7s. as formerly; that would allow him £5 12. 0d. per acre, so with the cost of production being £6, there would be a loss per acre of 8s. Where, I ask, is the justice of compelling the farmer to pay the same amount on an article on which he is losing 8s. per acre as compared with his former profit of £3 16s. 0d.? The injustice of the case is at once demonstrated. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that this is the case of the farmer and labourer only, but, with due submission, I beg to think otherwise. Why, the farmer has been compelled in a large measure to give up the profitless task of wheat-growing; indeed, we are told that no less than three million acres of land which formerly produced wheat are now turned into pasture. What does this mean? It means keeping the ploughman, the labourer, and the harvest-men deprived of their healthy employment on the farms, and sending them to the large towns to swell the already large number of the unemployed. It means the driving of these men by hundreds into our mines, where they will be surrounded by dangers of which they have had no previous experience, and whereby they will be not only in jeopardy of their own lives, but the means of jeopardising the lives of other people. To pass this Bill without some provision for revision and re-adjustment on the basis upon which the tithe rent-charge is made would be, as was stated at the Westminster meeting, adding injury to insult, which has already been heaped upon the agriculturists of this country as a remedy. It is proposed to remove the direct payment of the tithes from the tenant to the landlord, but is that any real remedy for the grievance? I am afraid not, for the transfer will benefit no one but the parson and the tithe owner, whose interests are entirely opposed to those of the other parties. It is idle, therefore, to attempt to create the belief that this question will be satisfactorily settled by merely shifting the immediate payment of the tithe from the tenant to the landlord. The tithe is an impost which impedes the cultivation of the land, and affects all the interests connected with the land—landlord, farmer, and labourer. It discourages the landlord from investing 243 capital for any purpose connected with the land. Hence, the mere shifting of the burden of tithe will not afford the remedy which is demanded, for tithe has grown to an amount which is quite out of proportion to the amount that the land can bear. It is admitted that this debate is a Welsh debate, and the hon. member for East Bradford went so far as to say that it is the agitation in Wales which has created the necessity for this Bill. I know that the President of the Board of Trade smiled his acquiescence at the assertion that it was a Welsh debate. But I cannot see, Sir, why it was necessary for him to sing to us again the plaintive cadence of the poor starving clergy of Wales. Sir, if there is any disgrace at all in this matter it is that the richest Church in the world should allow its ministers to come before the world as applicants for the charity of mankind. I think ail these allusions to the sufferings of the Welsh clergy is the greatest possible disgrace to the Church and the Churchmen themselves—especially in Wales. For there you have on the one side almost all the rich and landed people who have, in addition, about £300,000 a year of religious endowments. Yet with the sufferings of the clergy of this favoured Church all the world is ringing. On the other hand, you have in that little country the great mass of the poor and the labouring classes. You have the miners and the farmers the puddlers and the shepherds, and the small shopkeepers in the villages, and all of them that are free holders have actually to pay out of their small revenues tithes for the maintenance of a rival Church. These people have to build their own chapels, and maintain their own ministers. And you never hear of their minister being starved. The hon. Member for Oswestry said that this is not the spontaneous action of the Welsh, but is a case got up by the minority and a few agitators. If that is true, what a wonderful illustration of what minorities and agitators can effect. But I deny the contention, Sir. Previous to the tithe agitation, the Welsh people sent to this House 34 Members, 28 of whom were pledged to the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the English Church. The 244 tithe agitation is pressing forward with incredible rapidity, and that the course taken by the clergy has given it a greater impetus nobody will deny. The Welsh poet says—Ergyd morthwyl yr arwerthwr,Werthodd geffyl ffarmio John,Drawodd gnul hen gloch angladdol,Eglwys traia y deyrnas hon.Gwerthi yd a gwair y bobl,Ceidwaid hedd yn rhoddi sen,Gwel'd y ffeirad yn yr hobl,Dyna ddaw a hi i ben.Yes, we have had very valuable assistance given by the minority and by the agitators. I do not pretend to know the origin of tithes, but this the Welsh people know, that it is used for purposes with which they have no sympathy. When in the reign of Henry IV. an Act was passsed providing that the Vicar should not be removable at the caprice of the proprietor, but was to be canonically instituted and inducted, he was to be sufficiently endowed for three purposes, "to do divine service, to inform the people, and to keep hospitality." That means divine service for the nation, not a few of the nation; and it means giving information to the nation in full and not in part; and it means hospitality, to whom if not for the poor? I contend that the tripartite arrangement is found in this Statute, although it is denied. For a very long time the vicar, Bishops, and parsons have disregarded the keeping of hospitality, as they consider it sufficiently maintained by keeping themselves, and giving such charity, if any, as they think fit to dispense among the poor of their own congregations. Tithes are the property of the nation, and are devoted to the National Church, maintained by law professedly for the advantage of the nation at large. The tithe, in our opinion, thus became national property. And when the nation was of one faith, their arrangement with respect to tithes was an intelligent one, and might have had the sanction of the national will, yet since that time a change has come over the spirit of the people. For years past the Church has not only failed but has neglected to do its duty in Wales. An article in a Bangor paper says the English services in the Welsh Cathedral bears the inobliterated stamp of the iron 245 arm. It gives interesting details regarding the services in the Bangor Cathedral. In the diocese of Bangor the Bishop receives an income of £4,200 per annum, and having sat upon his throne for 31 years he has drawn the enormous sum of £130,200. The second dignitary is the Dean; he holds a comfortable office for which he receives a handsome remuneration of £700 per annum, whilst the two Archdeacons, who are also well paid, conduct their services and deliver their charges in a language which is foreign to that spoken by the people. The Precentor, a person from Yorkshire, is also in receipt of good emolument; while the four Canons, who come to the city which affords them a pleasant change for three months every year, each receive £350 per annum for the amount of work they are called upon to do. To those may be added the ordinary and the minor Canons who are in receipt of £170 a year each, the total cost of upholding English services within Welsh Cathedrals reaches the enormous amount of £4,000 exclusive of the Diocesan. The condition of the cathedral churches in Wales is unique. The population of four Welsh cities is as follows:—Bangor, 10,000; St. Asaph's, 2,000; Llandaff, 800; and St. David's, including the island of Ramsey and several hamlets, a little over 2,000. This gives the total population of 14,800, or, say in round figures, 15,000; but it is to be remembered that not I per cent. of these people can avail themselves of the daily services conducted in these cathedrals. This being so, I would ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite of what good can these daily services in the cathedral of Bangor be to the Welshmen of Bethesda and the Welsh speaking population of the surrounding neighbourhood? Nevertheless the people have to pay this enormous sum of money for keeping up the services for the rich, while the poor are practically forgotten. I ask the House to contrast the position of Llandaff with its 800 people and Cardiff with its population of 80,000. Of what good are the services of Llandaff to the toiling people around? What good are they to the miners of Rhondda, or to the toilers among the hills and vales of Glamorganshire? So far as the adaptation of the Church system to the necessities of the people is concerned all 246 this money is entirely wasted. Not only has the Church failed in its ministrations, but it has neglected to do its duty to the people. There was a time when Wales stood in need of religious services and education. There was a time when one of our poets said that Wales was in "heathen darkness," and at that time the Church of England had a good opportunity of supplying the religious want that was then experienced. But it failed to do this. What does the Rev. W. Williams, of Pautycelyn, say?—Pan oedd Cymru gynt yn gorweddMewn annuwiol farwol hun,Heb na Phresperter na ffeiradNac un Esgob ar ddihun;Yn y gorwel tywyll du-dew,Pryd nad oedd y ffydd ond gwan,Pryd yr ofnent fyn'd i'r meusydd,Ac i'r lleoedd nad oedd Llan.Howel Harries'o DrefeccaFel yr Udgorn seiniai ma's,Weithiau o Sinai, weithiau o Seion,Addewidion nefol ras.This describes the time when Wales needed religious instruction, and the Church neglected the opportunity of imparting it. The Welsh nation in those days was similarly situated to the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, and the Levite coming along, looked at him and passed by on the other side, and loft him there to die. The priest, like the Levite priest of old, came, and saw, and passed along on the other side, and had it not been for Nonconformity in the character of the Good Samaritan journeying that way, and, taking compassion upon the people, bound up their wounds, poured oil and wins; upon them, set them on their beasts of burden and took care of them, the Welsh would have remained in the same position still. There the Welsh people would have been left until to-day for anything the English Church would have done for them had not the Church been moved by the fear of losing its emoluments. There is one point more to which I would refer. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade admitted last night that the tithes, like all other Church property, were paid for services rendered to the nation at large. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the Dean of Manchester, in a paper he read some time ago, said— 247We must be fundamental, we believe in the Holy Catholic Church, we accept history in England as fairly interpreting its claims. What can be accepted from the civil power, and undertaken by the civil power without damage to the Sovereign, we are still ready to accept and to undertake for the sake of the nation and not otherwise. We must make it clear to the nation that the duty of bringing the people of this kingdom to the kingdom of God and of Christ we have at heart, and neither position nor possession.The clergy of the English Church say that they do not receive the tithes for doing other work than that of promoting the Kingdom of God. But in Wales the Church represents less than one-sixth of the people, while there are many parishes in the Principality that receive no service at all from the Church clergy. This is the case in Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire. In a parish in Cardiganshire Mr. Griffiths Jones Penlan has been farming land for upwards of 20 years, on which he has paid £10 per annum for tithes, making a total of £200. During the whole of that period he has only been inside the church on one solitary occasion, namely, that of the funeral of his brother, which service is all he has ever received for his payment of £200. [A VOICE: More shame for him.] An hon. Member says "shame" because that person does not go to church, but what use would it be for him to go there, inasmuch as the service of the church is in a foreign tongue, which he, as a Welshman, is unable to understand. In this matter we are dealing with the Welsh-speaking people, and we are forcing upon them services in a foreign language, which they are incapable of understanding, and because they do not like to go to church to hear a service in a foreign tongue you cry "shame." This man is a deacon of a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel and pays every week his fair share towards the support of that chapel. He does not want your services, but still, though you have nothing to give him, you compel him to pay £200. In another case, in Carmarthenshire, the tithe payable in the parish is £78 per annum. There is a tiny church there, about the size of two wheelbarrows, and through the portal of that church there goes not a man, woman, or child from the beginning of January to the 248 end of December, and yet you compel the people of that parish to pay £78 a year in tithes. In another place, in Pembrokeshire, we find a small parish and a large farm, and of them you can say that the two are one. Mr. Gibbs, the occupier of that farm, pays somewhere about £50 a year in tithes, and there is not a church in the parish. How, under these circumstances, can you expect the Welsh people to continue loyal? Can you wonder for a moment that the Welsh people are opposing your Pill? It perpetuates a payment to the clergy for which they do nothing. Do you think this Bill is going to bring peace to Wales? I am afraid it will not. The Welsh people have been loyal to a degree. They are a peaceful nation, but I am afraid that if you force this measure upon them instead of bringing peace and goodwill to us you will bring something very different. You will create dissension. If you want us to be peaceful give us justice. It is impossible that lasting peace can exist unless it is based on justice; then, let me appeal to you to give us justice. Allow us to keep our money or give us something in return; we are poor and need the money for national purposes, and we protest against being asked to pay you these tithes without receiving value for them.
§ *(10.37.) MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I must say, Mr. Speaker, that from the tone of the hon. Member's remarks I should not have been surprised at his incurring your rebuke for a complaint that this debate has been exclusively carried on in the English language. If it is wrong to have religious services in English it is, surely, equally wrong to have debates in this House in that language. But the hon. Member, despite what he says in regard to the Welsh language, is willing to come here and take part in our deliberations in the language which is common to all Her Majesty's subjects. The lecturing the hon. Gentleman has given is only one illustration, as I venture to think, of the extraordinary manner in which this debate has wandered. It does not seem to me that this debate has really approached the kernel of the question, nor, from what I have heard from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, does it seem to me that they take a very serious view of the situa- 249 tion. It is a very curious thing that when one of the most important measures of the Session, which has been introduced by Her Majesty's Government, is under debate the leader of the Opposition is not present in his place If I were to draw any conclusion from the appearance of the House, and especially of the Bench opposite, it would be that the leaders of the Opposition have some difficulty in making up their minds. After all, this is a Bill which in its substance the right hon. Member for Derby said last year he would cordially support. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt will follow, and will tell the House what line he is going to take on this occasion. I shall not be surprised if the right hon. Gentleman says that, although he cannot approve the Bill in every particular, he will not advise his hon. Friends to oppose the Second Reading. Whether he says that or not, that seems to be the tone, indicated by their general demeanour, which the leaders of the Opposition have adopted. That is a reasonable view to take. I am bound to say, however, that on my own side of the House little animation has been displayed on the subject. [Ironical cheers.] Well, perhaps we cannot be animated on all subjects. We look on this from a business point of view. No doubt the hon. Member who has just spoken stirred his friends up to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, I might almost say romance. We have had the subject treated from every point of view—from that of the Welsh bard to that of the politician. But I look at this as a matter of justice. The tithe is the first charge on the land, but it has been, in many cases, more difficult to collect it than the rent. Those who support the Bill do not ask for any exceptional privileges for the tithe owners. All we ask is that until a change is made in the fundamental institutions of the country and the Church is disestablished and disendowed the rights of the tithe owners shall be secured. Surely that is not an unreasonable ground to take. It is the ground on which for some years past I have endeavoured to advocate a settlement of this question. This is the fourth year in which Her Majesty's present Government 250 have brought in a Tithe Bill. Introduced under happier auspices than any other measure of the same kind, this Bill bids fair to settle the question, and I should have thought, therefore, that the House of Commons would approach it in a business-like spirit, with the intention of seeing justice done between man and man—which intention and desire has always been the distinguishing characteristic of the British House of Commons. But this debate has degenerated into a Disestablishment debate. Why is that so? Simply, I suppose, because hon. Gentlemen cannot find an opportunity for bringing forward the question of Disestablishment legitimately, and seize upon this Bill as an excuse. And they are utterly irresponsible on this occasion, for they know that an adverse Vote will not injure their cause. When we come to look at the details of this Bill, surely they are such as will commend themselves to the common sense of this House. There is one concession made by the tithe owner which ought not to be lost sight of. At present if land is out of cultivation, two years of tithe arrears can be claimed when it again comes into cultivation. But if this Bill becomes law that claim will fall to the ground. Hon. Members who represent county constituencies will find it rather difficult to persuade their constituents that this Bill is not conceived in their interests, for no one can controvert the statement that it will remove a pressure from the tenant which has long weighed upon him in connection with the tithe rent-charge. It will remove a great deal of friction, and that must be a boon which the tenant farmers of this country will appreciate. Again, it should be remembered that the tithe rent-charge owner is the only person who pays rates upon his income. Living, as the clergy do, upon very narrow incomes, sometimes, I fear, on the very verge of privation, they find themselves called upon to pay rates upon their tithe rent-charge. This surely should be borne in mind when we are considering the re-adjustment of this question. One word as to the redemption clauses. I am glad that the Government have taken up that subject, though in what form they will carry it out may not yet be certain. If the Pre- 251 sident of the Board of Trade, however, can induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant money on easier terms so as to facilitate redemption he will be doing a great good; and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will, in any case, take care of the interests of the tithe rent-charge owners, from whom great concessions are demanded. I sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the care and attention which he has given to the subject, and I can promise from this side of the House, if not an absolutely unqualified, at any rate a very general support. The impression left by the debate is that the House has come to the conclusion that the subject ought to be taken out of the category of unsettled questions.
§ (10.50.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has found fault with us for not being sufficiently impressed with the magnitude and importance of this Bill, and he complained that I was absent when the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill made his statement. I am very proud that the hon. Gentleman thought it worth while to notice my absence; but there was also absent, apparently, a far more important person when this great measure affecting the tithe was opened to the House, and that was the representative of the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot). Therefore, if he will permit me to return the compliment, I will express my extreme surprise that the hon. Gentleman should have chosen that particular moment to absent himself. He has talked of the unanimous tone which has characterised the whole of the debate on the opposite side of the House. The hon. Member must have singular conceptions of what constitutes unanimity. I have listened to every speech made to-night; but if the hon. Gentleman is of opinion that the speeches made by the Members for Maldon (Mr. Gray), West Dorset (Mr. Farquharson), and the Tewkesbury Division of Gloucester (Sir J. Dorington), were speeches unanimously in favour of the proposals of the Government, I entirely differ from him. There was not one single provision of the Bill which the hon. Member for Maldon did not condemn in a very strong manner.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Well, there is one clause which the hon. Member did not altogether condemn. I will do justice to that clause presently. I have to apologise for not having been present yesterday. The fact is I was usefully employed elsewhere. My absence from the opening of the debate was due to no desire to shirk this discussion, or to escape from whatever responsibility might belong to me in respect of this measure. The hon Member for Oswestry (Mr. Stanley Leighton) has said quite truly that I have expressed approbation of any Bill which proposed to do the following things: First, to put the payment of the tithe upon the landlord; secondly, to bring about an abolition of distress; and thirdly, to obtain a reduction of the tithe if the land required it. I entirely agree, and if this Bill contained those provisions, or anything like them, I should be perfectly prepared, however much I might differ on the details, to support it. But, in my opinion, it contains none of them. This Bill does not put the payment upon the landowner and discharge the tenant. Of course you are not speaking of the case where the landowner now pays the tithe, but of the case where the occupier bears the burden. I venture to affirm that where the tenant now pays the tithe under contract with the landlord, this Bill does not discharge him from that payment. He will have to pay it exactly the same, though you may call it by another name. And with regard to the owner who is likewise the occupier there is naturally no pretence that he receives any discharge. Now, I want this to be examined most carefully, because I want the occupiers of this country to see to what extent they get any relief at all under this Bill. You say the Bill abolishes distress. I absolutely deny that it abolishes distress on any occupier whatever against whom it now operates. Not only this, but it introduces distress under circumstances which will make it a much greater burden. It leaves distress in every case where it now exists and makes it far more burdensome and costly than at present. I ask any hon. Gentleman to look at Clause 6, 253 Sub-section 2, of the Bill. On the whole, in England I should say, it is the more ordinary case for the tenant to contract to pay the tithe, and that is the case dealt with under this sub-section. In that case the tenant of the land—Shall owe in addition to and as part of his rent, such sum in each year as the owner has paid in respect of the tithe rent-charge.He is not relieved of the tithe rent-charge in any way. The landlord has paid the tithe, and he conies down on the tenant and levies upon him in place of the parson. The tithe under the name of rent will be exactly the same thing as the man paid before this Bill was introduced. How then is that man relieved? Take a case in which a tenant pays £100 rent for his farm and the tithe rent-charge is £50. At present the tenant pays £100 rent to his landlord and £50 to the parson. Under this Bill the landlord will pay the £50 to the parson, and he will come down upon the tenant and demand that £50. Calling it rent does not make it different; it is tithe just as it was before. What is the relief then? The only difference is that the landlord levies instead of the parson, and as the agent of the parson. Now, I have said that distress is not done away with. Supposing that tenant says to his landlord, "No, I will pay you the £100, but I will not pay the £50 of tithe which you have paid on my behalf "just as he might have said to the parson, "I will not pay the £50." The only remedy the parson would have would he distress upon the land. But what is the situation of the tenant-farmer now? He is liable, not only for that which can only be levied by distress out of the land, but as you have by this Bill constituted it rent due to the landlord, the remedies against the tenant are the same remedies as those which the landlord has for rent. But that is not all. It becomes a debt which can be sued for; it becomes a personal obligation which affects the whole property and person of the occupier; you can have executions not only against the land, but against the whole property of the tenant; ay, and in the last resource you can have ejectment for non-payment of this sum of money, which really is tithe. I say that so far from relieving the occupying farmer you place upon him a threefold burden; you 254 create against him two remedies for levying this sum of money to which he was not liable before. He is liable to tithe as a debt for winch, after judgment, he may be sent to prison, and you have made him liable to ejectment. A nice position this, in which to place the Nonconformists of Wales. You create against the tenant remedies of a most oppressive character to which he is not now subjected. That is the case of the tenant under contract to pay tithe at present; it will be screwed out of him as before. Now, let me ask the attention of the House to a matter of the gravest importance, and one which ought to be thoroughly understood in the country. Look at the condition of the small holder who is owner and occupier of his own land. In my mind, that is a class of the community that requires the greatest protection at the hands of this House. He is dealt with in Clause 3, Sub-section 2, which says—Where the owner of the lands is also the occupier, he shall, on the appointment of the Receiver become tenant to the Receiver in like manner as if he had attorned tenant to him as owner, and the sum ordered to be paid were the rent payable to the Receiver as such owner.I ask the House to listen to this and to consider the case of a man of this class, so numerous in Wales, who refuses to pay tithe. In what position does this Bill place him? He is made tenant to the Receiver. Who is the Receiver? He is the agent of the parson, he is the tithe collector—what used to be called in Ireland the tithe proctor—and you positively take this freeholder and, in order to collect the tithe, make him tenant to the tithe collector. Is this going' to bring peace to Wales? A more monstrous outrage I never heard of. [Ministerial laughter.] Yes, you may laugh at these small freeholders, but you will soon laugh at the wrong side of your mouth, I think. If you make the small freeholders in England and Wales tenants to the tithe collector, you will find that your tithe, and the objects for which it is collected, will disappear very rapidly. Under this clause the tithe collector will have all the rights of the landlord, and amongst them, of course, the power of distress. What becomes, then, of the pretence that you do away with distress? The very first remedy that will be applied under 255 this clause is distress. The freeholder, being tenant to the Receiver, is subject also to an action and to judgment and consequences of judgment. This clause says—Where the owner of the lands is also the occupier he shall, on the appointment of the Receiver, become tenant to the Receiver in like manner as if he had attorned tenant to him.There is no attempt to define the conditions of this tenancy, and whether they are to contain a provision for re-entry is not stated, but whether there is to be a provision for re-entry or not, if the man is made tenant to the tithe-collector he can be turned out of his tenancy at any time. It comes to this, that you make the small freeholder the tenant of the parson in order that the latter may recover the tithe. To suppose that you are going to bring peace to Wales by legislation of this character, to my mind, passes beyond the limits of absurdity. In Clause 3 you deal with the non-occupying landowner, and whilst you have created a personal liability in the case of the occupier, you take very good care that the landowner shall have no personal liability whatever. Throughout this Bill your extreme regard for the interests of the landowner and your extreme his regard of the interests of the occupier are conspicuous. In the first section of Clause 3 a landowner not being an occupier is protected in this way:—An order under this Act shall not be executed personally against the owner.But there is no provision that an order shall not be executed personally against the occupier; in fact, it is to be executed personally against the occupier. Therefore, whilst you have provided that the owner shall not be personally liable,Nor by sale of the lands nor by any process of law other than that provided by this Act,you give no such protection to the occupier. Why then does the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division (Mr. Stanley Leighton) claim my vote for this Bill? It violates every principle which he asks me to support. He may, perhaps, say that some of the Amendments which were inserted by the Attorney General at the eleventh hour last Session were open to the same objection. That is perfectly true. I must confess that when those clauses were flashed 256 upon us all of a sudden by the Attorney General, I did not realise that this was the case. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] No, and I venture to say that at the time nobody realised it. It is rather remarkable that even in this debate no one has yet drawn attention to the consequence of making a man liable for rent in this manner, and to how entirely it changes the aspect of the question when you do that which is the keystone of this Bill, convert tithe rent-charge into a rent liability. If it be a reproach to me that I did not realise that these consequences would have followed from the proposals made last year, I accept the censure that may be passed upon me. I do not believe the Government realised what they were doing. I believe they thought they were giving relief to the tenant, whereas they were really imposing upon him a great burden. I also approved, as the hon. Member for Oswestry says, of the reduction of the tithe rent-charge. When the hon. and learned Attorney General produced his new clauses to the House last year, there was one which I fixed upon at the time as most valuable. That was the clause for the constitution of the County Court as a Land Court to revise the tithes, and now that clause has disappeared altogether. It is remarkable that the President of the Board of Trade denounced that clause and its principle in his speech yesterday. The Government are not fortunate with their Tithe Bills. They have introduced four, and they have all miscarried. Last Session they introduced a measure which was so knocked to pieces that they were obliged to change its whole scope, and now one of the very Amendments which they then proposed is condemned by the President of the Board of Trade. That Amendment said—The Court, on being satisfied by evidence that it is just, shall make such order for the remission of part of the sum claimed as will prevent the total sum of the tithe rent-charge from exceeding the annual sum which, under all the circumstances of the case, may reasonably be taken to have been the net profit of the land.That is something like a remission of tithe. Net profit was the principle of that measure. If there was no net profit the whole sum could be remitted and 257 the amount so remitted could not be recovered. But all that has gone, and the Amendment proposed by the Attorney General, I suppose with the sanction of the Cabinet, carrying that principle into effect has altogether disappeared. And what have we in its place? We have this extraordinary affair called the special rateable value. I should have thought the farmers of England had been bothered enough with rateable value already without being introduced to a new rateable value. This is an entirely new departure from the proposal of the Attorney General last year, and I am not pledged to support anything entirely different from that. This is not the Bill I am pledged to support. In my belief this is nothing but a re-opening of the settlement of 1836. In my opinion, the claim of hon. Gentlemen opposite and on this side of the House for a fair and equitable revision of the position of the tithepayers is one that cannot and ought not to be resisted. I am glad that hon. Members behind me will take the opinion of the House about going into Committee upon the question whether there ought not to be a revision of the tithe. I think Her Majesty's Government must perceive from the speeches which have been made from their own Benches the largeness of the undertaking they have entered upon. The alterations demanded by the hon. Member for the Maldon Division (Mr. Gray) and the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Farquharson) are alterations of the whole fabric of the Bill. As to the Redemption Clauses, they have been condemned past all redemption by the speakers who sit behind me. There was no epithet of contempt which the hon. Member for West Dorset did not heap upon them. He said that under the terms fixed by this Bill no man in his senses would redeem, except it was in the case of small building property. Unless the Government intend to keep us sitting till September I should advise them to withdraw the redemption clauses. They are of no use to anybody; they are utterly unworkable, and I do not think they could ever be hammered into a workable measure. In dealing with property of this character, where the value is to be determined by bargain between the tithe owner 258 and the tithepayer, I can conceive no worse Body to preside over that bargain than the Board of Agriculture—it is the most unfit body that could be chosen. As the hon. Member for West Dorset said, the person who would negotiate on behalf of Church property would be merely the life tenant. The life tenant is not the proper person to deal in bargains with respect to that description of property, and if the redemptions are carried out the very worst Body to remain Trustees of that description of national property is the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In their whole framework the redemption clauses are to be condemned. I confess I see but one merit in this Bill, and that is, that it professes to transfer the burden of tithes from the tenant to the landowner. But in its present shape it does not do so at all. As long as you leave the tithe upon the land you cannot help interfering with the tenant, because the occupier is the person from whom the tithe is to be collected. You have no hesitation in making the occupier personally responsible, and you have done so, but you have not made the landowner personally responsible. In all these respects it appears to me that the Bill entirely fails to accomplish the objects you professed in our discussion last August. It does not relieve the tenant by transferring the burden of liability to the landlord, and it does not abolish distress. It keeps up distress in every case where it at present exists, and it does not provide anything adequate to meet the other evils of an action against the tenant and dismissal from his holding. Nor does it provide anything adequate for the revision of the tithe. Under these circumstances I confess I see extremely little in this Bill that should make it worth adopting, and certainly nothing that promises a settlement of the tithe question. Throughout this discussion I have endeavoured to conform to the invitation of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot), and to discuss the matter quite apart from the question of the appropriation of tithe. I have said nothing with regard to disestablishment, although I have my own opinion on it. I have looked at the question only from the point of view of the effect the Bill will have on the occupier of land in England, which, I think, will be most pre- 259 judicial. With reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton), and the speeches we have heard from representatives of Wales, if I may offer a word of advice to them, it is that they should sever the question of Welsh Disestablishment from the question of English Disestablishment. I think it is unfortunate that in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leicester the two questions are involved the one with the other; and it would be far better if the question of Welsh Disestablishment were made the subject of a separate Motion. When it is thus raised I shall heartily support it, for I believe the case for Welsh Disestablishment and the appropriation of Welsh tithes to education or other national purposes has been abundantly established and ought to be supported. No doubt we shall have to go into Committee on this Bill; but unless the Government alter the Bill as materially and as fundamentally as they altered the Bill of last year, I do not think there is the smallest chance of its passing into law. If they want to save the time of the House I strongly advise them to throw a great deal of their cargo overboard. If they confine their Bill to one or two clauses, one clause throwing the liability for tithe upon the landowner, and another clause giving the County Court power to equitably revise the rent-charge, then they might pass their Bill. But in the form in which it is now framed the Bill does neither of these two things. The occupier is left with all the grievances complained of, his burden is practically as before. A Bill which leaves the remedy of distraint and other remedies extant against the occupier, and which gives no equitable revision of the tithe, is a Bill so useless and so injurious that if a Division is taken I shall certainly vote against the Second Reading.
§ *(11.35.) THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES,) Cambridge University
The right hon. Gentleman always interests the House, and never more so than when he is replying to himself. He has devoted the body of his speech to explaining away, as far as he can, that cordial approval which he bestowed on these self-same propositions when they were before the House last Session. The right hon. Gentleman is frank; he says 260 it is only recently he has found salvation on this subject; possibly what happened yesterday may have contributed to it; and I still cherish the belief that if he had spoken early yesterday we might have found him in the same mind he was in last August, when he assured the Government of his cordial support in passing these very propositions which he assures us now are impossible and untenable. The Amendments proposed last August by the Attorney General are not merely substantially but they are verbally identical with two of the clauses of the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman objects to-night—Clauses 3 and 6. And what said the right hon. Gentleman then? He said—What I desire is that the Government should introduce a clean Bill, if I may be allowed to call it so, such a Bill as that circulated in the form of the Amendments of the Attorney General. We will then consider that Bill, and deal with it as containing a principle we on this side of the House approve of, namely, that the tithe shall be put on the owner, and not on the occupier. It further contains the principle that the tithe shall be reduced when rents and profits are not adequate to meet it. We approve of that, and also of the principle that in future the power of distraint should be abolished.Well, Sir, that is the Bill of this Session. We have adopted the very words which at that time met with the warm approval of the right hon. Gentleman, although I am bound to say they were not viewed with equal approval by the right hon. Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan); for I believe he was almost a martyr, or at least a confessor, for the principles he then expressed, and to which he has now converted his right hon. Friend. I am unable to follow the particular circumstances which have led the right hon. Member for Derby this year to sit at the feet of the right hon. Member for Denbighshire; but the fact is evident. There is only one respect in which the Bill of this year departs from the Amendments of the Attorney General; that is in the clause by which the Assessment Committee are substituted for the County Court for valuation purposes. Those who are familiar with county business will see how considerably the Bill of this year benefits the occupier of the land as compared with the Bill of last year; because this Bill makes it possible to bring down 261 tithe to the level of the rateable value, which is formed on the basis of the land having paid a certain profit over the rental value instead of bringing it down to the net profit, which does not allow any margin of the sort. If the right hon. Gentleman has at heart the interest of the tenant-farmers, with whom he occasionally endeavours to coquet, though I think not very successfully, he should find in this clause an additional reason for supporting proposals on which he bestowed such encomiums last year. I do not know that I need occupy more time with the objections of the right hon. Gentleman; we may leave the speech of the one year to reply to that of the other. I think I have shown that the controversy is not so much between us and the right hon. Gentleman as between himself and one of his many former selves. For a moment or two I will refer to a few other speeches, though I am most unwilling at this hour to follow my hon. Friends and neighbours of Wales, who have made this discussion a sort of happy hunting ground for airing their views on Welsh disestablishment. I was glad to hear the words of counsel the right hon. Gentleman gave as to keeping separate questions distinct from each other; but I fear his example may, before long, be in the opposite direction. The Mover of the Amendment and others appeared to me to labour under a strange confusion and conflict of purposes, which made their speeches more interesting as psychological exercises than as contributions to serious debate. We have had hon. Gentlemen objecting to the Bill because it is a tithe owners' Bill, and we have had others objecting because they say it whittles away the property of the tithe. Not un-frequently we have heard hon. Gentlemen make use of both of these mutually destructive lines of argument as reasons for opposing the Bill. Most of the speeches which we have heard have answered each other; and it has been characteristic of more than one speech delivered below the Gangway opposite that it has answered itself. It is said that this Bill ought to be opposed because it will diminish what is called the national property in tithe, and we are told that this is national property because it belongs to the National Church, and then we are 262 also told that the Church is no longer to be regarded as the National Church. We are told that the State ought to take possession of the tithe because it belongs to a National Institution, and in the same breath we are told that the Church is not a National Institution. Such are the mutually destructive arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and constitute the stock-in-trade of the usual disestablishment speeches we have listened to. But the hon. Member for the Bye Division (Mr. Stevenson) has discovered another pretext which excites our interest and cariosity more than the others with which we are more familiar. He told us we were to regard the tithe as not paid by the tenant—and there, I think, he was right—as not paid by the owner—and there, in a certain sense, he was also right—and then he proceeded to deduce from these established propositions the theory that the tithe is paid by the community, and therefore it was possible the community might become the recipients of the tithe. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is a landed proprietor; if he is, I trust he is not a mortgagor. If he is the proprietor of property subject to mortgage, he might as well declare that he does not pay the interest on the mortgage; it is paid by the community amongst whom he would otherwise spend his money. I remember he introduced this argument last year, and it struck me as one of the most interesting curiosities produced from the brain of hon. Gentlemen carrying on the search for novelties in politics. The speeches delivered by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have been very valuable contributious to the discussion. The hon. Member for the Maldon Division (Mr. Gray) has spoken with a vigour and independence which Her Majesty's Government are ready to honour and value; but though he made several suggestions as to the direction in which this Bill might be improved, he spoke generally in favour of it. The point he urged in regard to the separate assessment of buildings and land, and the deduction of the rateable value of buildings, is one the Government regard as well deserving consideration. There was another point he urged in the coarse of his speech with regard to the Board of Agriculture being allowed to appoint an arbitrator in the fixing the value of the tithe rent-charge which also appears to the Government 263 to demand very careful examination. In the same way some of the suggestions of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Farquharson), although perhaps not so practical because a little more ambitious, are yet suggestions the Government are glad to have heard, and which will receive the attention of the House in Committee. There have been two speeches made in the course of the debate in regard to the Welsh part of this question which I should like to notice. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said Wales was unanimous against the Bill, and that if this Bill were forced through it would justify a Separatist movement for Wales.
A Separatist movement in this House, I suppose by Welsh Members. But having fired off his minor pieces of artillery, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to tell us this is a punitive measure. Looking at the Times I do not find that word in the report of his speech; but he used the expression. Well, I shall have an opportunity next week of addressing a Welsh constituency, and I may tell the hon. Member that the first and foremost measure to which I will call attention, as a claim of the Government on the confidence of the Welsh people, will be this very measure he so describes. I feel sure that any audience in Wales before whom the effect of the measure is fairly stated and not misrepresented and garbled by those who make it their business to misrepresent, and who live by misrepresentation.—["Oh, oh!"]—I am making no reference to any Member of this House—I have never known any Member to be guilty of that—I am sure that any audience in Wales would regard this measure as a boon, and by no means as punitive. Unfortunately there are those in Wales who in the vernacular Press make it their business to misrepresent; indeed, one of the qualifications for a Radical candidate in a Welsh constituency at the present time appears to be that he should not understand the arguments by which he is recommended to the electors. Although I am not master of the vernacular tongue, I, for my part, am prepared to tell the Welsh people the truth about this Bill; and I am sure that 264 fair-minded men, of whom there are hundreds of thousands in Wales, so far from considering this as a punitive measure will regard it as a measure relieving the tenant-farmers from a grievance of which they have long complained. No doubt it will be punitive to the agitator, for it will deprive him of part of his stock-in-trade. I do not however, think that pity is likely to be excited for those who, having fostered and aggravated that grievance, are now doing all in their power to prevent its removal. I have only one word more to say, and that is with reference to the speech delivered two days ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Denbighshire. He went down in hot haste and, addressing his constituents, he declared the tenant would under this Bill be put in a worse position, an infinitely worse position, than before; that he was liable to be put into the County Court, to be mulcted in heavy costs, to be turned out of his holding by an officer of the Court in whose clutches he would remain until he paid the uttermost farthing. I wish my right hon. Friend had read the Bill before he made such an astounding statement. My right hon. Friend enjoyed some reputation at the Bar. He must know that a more outrageous distortion of the whole provisions of the Bill was never attempted.
§ *MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
The right hon. Gentleman is quoting from an abbreviated report of my remarks. I was referring particularly to the 6th clause and to the occupying owner.
§ *MR. RAIKES
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman will not accept the responsibility of the report. I have no doubt the most friendly reporter is sometimes obliged to abbreviate the reports of my right hon. Friend's speeches. But I am not able to give way altogether, for whether the right hon. Gentleman refers to the 6th clause or any other clause of the Bill, I should like to know how he can possibly justify the assertion that the tenant is liable to be put into the County Court and mulcted heavily in costs, because it is the owner who is to be put into the County Court, it is the owner who will have to pay costs, not the tenant. I know my right hon. Friend had no wish to misrepresent the Bill; but if he had he could not have done it more thoroughly. It is only right to expose 265 such misstatements in this House when they are made by a man of light and leading in Wales like my right hon. Friend. The system adopted in the Bill, the system of collecting from the owner not the occupier, has been the immemorial custom in Scotland. It has been in existence, I believe, almost ever since the Reformation. We have the experience of the most practical people in the world to guide us, and we see the Church of Scotland existing under these conditions, and retaining the affection and sympathy of the people. Certainly it cannot be denied that the Church of Scotland exercises a powerful influence in the social life of Scotland. This is the system we are putting into operation, and I believe our proposal will meet the approval of the House of Commons as a body, and that we shall be followed by some of the Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own Party. Where is the Leader of the Liberal Party? He is, I presume, where the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was last year. He has not yet found salvation by listening to the eloquence of the Member for Denbighshire. The Bill, I believe, will be appreciated by the great majority of the people of the country, not as an attempt to aggrandise the Church, not to improve the position of landowners, but a serious effort to place the burden on the right shoulders, and relieve those who plead scruples of conscience against the payment of a just debt. We shall have the satisfaction of knowing that we have placed in a position of security this property, which I believe to be the property of the Church, but which equally requires to be guarded and defended if, as others say, it is property belonging to the nation.
MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid)
I desire, Sir, to be allowed to make a personal explanation. In the heat of debate last night I made use of an expression in reference to the hon. Member for East Bradford which, as reported in the Times, is not correct; but which in any case, because of its personal nature, I regret having used.
§ (11.55.) The House divided:—Ayes 289; Noes 164.—(Div. List, No. 39.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday 24th April.