HC Deb 29 January 1891 vol 349 cc1299-380

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 2.

(4.25.) Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at end, to add the words— Nothing in this Act shall impose or constitute any personal liability upon any occupier or owner of lands for the payment of any tithe rent-charge, or any other sum which by this Act is made recoverable as tithe rent-charge, and the Court shall not, by virtue of this Act, have any power to imprison any such occupier or owner by reason only of the non-payment of such tithe rent-charge or other sum."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

(4.26.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

I entirely approve of the Amendment, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman who has put it on the Paper whether he has any objection to include in its terms the question of costs, which naturally belongs to it? The question has been raised of personal liability with respect to the person against whom the judgment is levied. If there is to be the personal liability of the individual, that complicates the whole question of tithe rent-charge, because there has always hitherto been the unbroken principle that there should be no personal liability imposed. The question of costs is a very important one, as the costs may amount to more than the sum to be levied.


The right hon. Gentleman is now discussing his own Amendment which is on the Paper. He is entitled to ask a question with regard to the Amendment now before the committee, but not to discuss his own Amendment.


I was proposing to do away with the necessity of my own Amendment if the right hon. Gentleman would consent to my proposal. I was making these remarks preliminary to moving an Amendment to that of the right hon. Gentleman, but I would rather that the right hon. Gentleman would do it himself. If necessary, however, I will move an Amendment including the question of costs. I have taken the course I have entirely with the view of saving time.


I was under the impression that this Bill would have the precise effect which the right hon. Gentleman desires to secure by his Amendment, and with verbal Amendments I have no objection to the words being inserted. I thought, however, that the question of costs was not raised at all by the present Amendment.


What is wanted is a declaration as to personal liability.

(4.30.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

If I might suggest it to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, the difficulty would be met by changing three or four words in the Government Amendment, and the question of costs clearly defined thereby. The Amendment I suggest is the omission of the words "which by this Act is made recoverable as tithe rent-charge" in the third line, and the insertion, instead thereof, of the words "recoverable or payable under this Act," and the omission of the word "only" in the last line but one. The Amendment would then read as follows:— Nothing in this Act shall impose or constitute any personal liability upon any occupier or owner of lands for the payment of any tithe rent-charge, or any other sum recoverable or payable under this Act; and the Court shall not, by virtue of this Act, have any power to imprison any such occupier or owner by reason of the non-payment of such tithe rent-charge or other sum. If this Amendment is adopted I shall be pleased to withdraw my Amendment dealing with the same matter.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "which by this Act is made recoverable as tithe rent-charge," and insert the words "recoverable or payable under this Act."— (Mr. S. T. Evans.)


I am in the hands of the right hon. Gentle- man. Possibly it would be more convenient thus to amend his Amendment than to deal with the question of costs in a separate proviso.

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

My own impression is that the existing provision of Section 2 is quite sufficient to prevent any question arising over the words "recoverable as tithe rent-charge." I do not know that any Amendment is necessary, but if it be thought better, I should be willing to add the words the hon. Member has suggested. I agree it is desirable to deal with the whole question in one proviso.

(4.33.) MR. S. T. EVANS

May I point out that as the section stands the words" or any other sum by this Act recoverable "would seem to apply to the sum recoverable from the tenant by the landlord only.

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

Supposing the tithepayer does not pay the tithe, and is made bankrupt, and in the course of the bankruptcy proceedings declines to answer a number of collateral questions, can he be committed for contempt of Court? That has happened in Ireland, and may happen in England, if we are not careful.

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

He cannot be made A bankrupt, for no personal liability is imposed under the Act.

Amendment put, and agreed to.

Another Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in line 5, to leave out the word "only."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'only' stand part of the proposed Amendment."

(4.36.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I do not see any reason for leaving out this word. If a man resists a bailiff or County Court officer he is amenable under the County Court Act, and liable to a fine not exceeding £5. I think the word is necessary, to make it clear that imprisonment cannot be imposed for non-payment of either tithe or costs.


No one would argue that if a County Court bailiff were assaulted the person assaulting him should not be amenable to justice. But it seems to me that if the word "only" is retained, although you cannot imprison a man for non-payment of tithe or costs alone, you can do so for that nonpayment in conjunction with something else.


I am satisfied that the word is necessary, in order to call particular attention to the absence of the power of imprisonment in respect of a refusal to pay tithe or costs.


It must be remembered that the tithepayer is not to be put under new penalties. The tithe owner will reap great benefit by reason of the use of the County Court bailiff, and we must take care that the tithepayer is not made liable to any heavier penalty than he is at present. Why should he be made liable to heavier penalty simply because the County Court bailiff is substituted for the tithe owner's agent? For resisting the latter he was liable to a fine of £1, for resisting the former, you propose to make the penalty £5. Do you wish to make him subject to imprisonment for doing that for which he cannot now be imprisoned?


Certainly not.


Then leave out the word "only." You must take care you are not giving any additional jurisdiction under this Act. I have looked upon this Bill as transferring the duty of tithe payment from the tenant to the landlord, and as substituting the County Court bailiff for the tithe owner's agent. These are the only two things the Bill professes to do. You ought, in my opinion, to leave the tithepayer in the presence of the County Court bailiff exactly as he is in the presence of the tithe owner's agent. You ought not to make his position worse. I cannot see why you should not omit the word "only." If you have not the power to imprison the tithepayer now, you ought not to acquire it under this Act.

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

I should like to know whether the Attorney General contends that if a tithe payer assaulted a bailiff, and immediately afterwards paid his tithe, that such payment would free him from liability for the assault? I take it the omission of the word "only" would not touch the question of assault upon an officer of the Court in the execution of the order of the Court.

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

If the Attorney General sees no such contingency possible as we fear, why will he not strike out the word and leave the matter to be dealt with by the ordinary law?

(4.43.) SIR R. WEBSTER

Assault is not the only case that might arise. Take the ordinary case of a man resisting the bailiff, and doing something short of assault; you cannot deal with that offence by imprisonment unless you bring it under the ordinary County Court Act. If anybody can show that the retention of the word does any harm I will consider the matter further. I am convinced its omission will do harm, for I think we ought to be sure that the clause is so framed as not to give an opportunity for argument.

(4.44.) MR. S. T.EVANS

I will put in one sentence, my objection to the word "only." If anybody reads the clause with that word in, he cannot but come to the conclusion that although a man cannot be imprisoned simply for the nonpayment of tithe and costs, he may be imprisoned partly for that and partly for something else, e.g., resisting the bailiff. Any other offence for which he may be made amenable to the law should be entirely distinct from the non-payment of tithe. I think the above would be the conclusion arrived at by any layman.


I have a very important question to put to the Government. Is this clause intended to reserve to the County Court Judge the power of committal to prison for contempt? The Amendment places in the hands of the Court the mere operation of distress, but the question is, does it carry with it the very indefinite and oppressive power of committal for contempt. We are now handing this matter over to the Court, and we ought to know precisely what powers the Court will possess. In my opinion we ought to insert words excluding the power of committal. If under the present Act a man is sent to prison for contempt, no one knows when he will come out again, and, therefore, if you are not careful you will be putting the tithepayer in a very uncertain and dangerous position.

(4.46.) SIR R. WEBSTER

The right hon. Gentleman appears to have forgotten the statement I have twice made. The tithepayer is not made subject to contempt for non-payment, and this clause will distinctly prevent any such point ever being raised as far as the County Court is concerned. But suppose that a bailiff is sent to serve the order of the Court, and the tithepayer bars his house, or is guilty of the violence which prevents the bailiff executing his duty, then he is amenable to the ordinary law, under which the County Court bailiff can summon a man so acting, and take him before the County Court Judge. He may, too, proceed against him for assault. We intend the same remedy shall apply in the case of the tithepayer. I am perfectly candid with the House. I repeat there will be no imprisonment for nonpayment of tithe or of costs, but I cannot imagine that any reasonable person would wish that the bailiff shall be subject to a different rule while executing his duty under this Act, than the one which applies to the performance of his duties under the ordinary Act.

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

I do not think that this Amendment carries out the views either of the Government or of my hon. Friend, and I am sure the wording of it will have to be carefully studied before the Report stage. For instance, you have in it the words "the Court shall not by virtue of this Act." The Court will have no power "by virtue of this Act" to imprison, but is it to have the power by virtue of any other Act? Surely, the Attorney General will agree there is reasonable doubt on that point, and that it might involve litigation. We ought to make perfectly clear the meaning of the Government.

(4.50.) SIR R. WEBSTER

The reason why those words have been inserted is that this Act for the first time brings the matter into the region of the County Court, and that being so, we thought it right to indicate that the County Court Judge had no power of committal under it. It may, I admit, be necessary to omit the words "by virtue of this Act." But I do urge that the word "only" is necessary to show we are dealing with the question of non- payment as distinct from that of misconduct.

(4.51.) MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)

I think that is an additional argument for the omission of the word "only." If a man be guilty of violence he is subject to imprisonment under the ordinary law, if the offence be of a criminal character. But you are introducing a composite offence. You may couple with the non-payment the offence of resisting the bailiff, and for that this clause will give the power of committal. If a man bars a window, or does any act of that kind, it may be a guilty, or it may be merely an unnecessary act. If it be a guilty act, by all means let him be punished; but you ought not to make the barring of a window and the refusal to pay a composite offence. If the former act is an offence at all it can be dealt with under the ordinary law, and it does not need an Act of Parliament to make it punishable, but if it is not an offence under the ordinary law you ought not to make it so now by reason of coupling an equivocal act with the refusal to pay. Again, the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolver-hampton as to the words "by virtue of this Act" had struck me. If they convey no hostile intention, they certainly seem to leave the way open to grave misapprehension.

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

It seems to me the retention of the word "only" clearly violates the rule laid down to guide us—namely, that you cannot by this Bill put any fresh penalties on the tithepayer which are not embodied in the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. You are now substituting the County Court bailiff for the tithe owner's agent. If the latter were assaulted when collecting the tithe he had his remedy at Common Law, but because the duty is now to be performed by an officer of the County Court you are adding the penalty for contempt of Court, despite your pledge that you would not do so. I shall certainly support the Amendment.


Has the hon. and learned Gentleman conceded the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolver-hampton?


I have undertaken to consider it.


Then I think I need not dwell upon that point. But I must say I do not think it desirable in these days to increase the power of the Court to commit for contempt. It is perfectly clear that if you pass this clause in the form in which it now stands you will extend that power. At present, if a farmer refuses to pay, and actually resists the distress, the only remedy is to try him before a jury. Now, you propose to give the County Court Judge the power to commit. See how extensive is that power. If any officer or bailiff of the Court be assaulted in the execution of his duty, the person assaulting him is liable to a fine not exceeding £5, on summary conviction, and it is also lawful for the bailiff to take the offender into custody with or without warrant. There was no such power or remedy before. We have been told that the remedies under this new Act are not to be heavier than those under the old, but by leaving the clause as it at present stands you are violating that promise. I do hope the Government will agree to omit the word "only."

(4.57.) SIR R. WEBSTER

The right hon. Gentleman has exposed the fallacy of the whole argument in favour of the omission of the word. We are not making the penalties heavier. But will any reasonable man say that if a rescue is attempted in the case of goods seized under a judgment of the County Court for tithe, the person so acting is not to be subject to the same jurisdiction and punishment as in any other case of rescue. Surely this is only a reasonable method of protecting the County Court bailiff. For mere non-payment of tithe the clause clearly provides that there should be no imprisonment. I repeat, I think the word "only" must be retained to make our meaning clear.


You may depend upon it there will be very great prejudice against what is called "County Courting" yeomen farmers in these matters. When the previous Bill of the Government was discussed, nothing caused more unpopularity than the provision for introducing the County Court system. It was called a Bill for County Courting farmers. If tithe payers think this Bill is to be used for the purpose of County Courting them, it will cause the greatest odium, and there will be the greatest resistance to it. I see the Postmaster General smiling. I do not suppose, in view of the orthodoxy of his sentiments, that he would have any indisposition to County Courting the yeomen of Wales. They, however, have an objection to the County Court process. This Bill is one for County Courting for the first time the yeomen of Wales. What the Government have, I think, wisely done by this Amendment, is to try and explain to them that they will be no worse off by being County Courted than they were before. You must show that there will be under this Bill no process against them more severe than exists at present. The argument of the Attorney General just now amounted to this: if you County Court other people, why not County Court these people? That is just what we are contending against. At present a tithepayer cannot be taken up without warrant and fined £5, as he can be under Clause 48. It is quite true that Clause 48 has nothing to do with contempt, but has to do with resistance to the levying of tithe. If there be resistance to the levying of tithe, as, for instance, by the driving off of cattle, Clause 48 will come into operation, and the man may be taken up without a warrant and fined £5. This being so, you make tithe recovery a County Court process. Unless you make this Amendment full and complete, so as to remove any extraordinary operations of the County Court process, you will still remain subject to the charge that you have County Courted people who were not in a position to be County Courted before. I quite recognise that, as far as the non-payment of debt is concerned, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman tends to remove any misapprehension; but I say that if you are to remove from the minds of these people the fear that they are to be County Courted, you must show that the operation of the Bill will not be heavier than is that of the present law.

(5.5.) MR. W. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)

As I am not a lawyer, the Committee will pardon me for asking a question. Are we to understand that for such an offence as barring the door or removing cattle you are going to make these people liable to imprisonment or fine? The Attorney General asks why these people should be dealt with differently from other people. There is every reason why they should be. In ordinary cases where these provisions of the law are put in force men have broken contracts or have contracted debts. Here things are entirely different. There are thousands of cases in South Wales that might be brought forward. In one parish you find clergymen receiving stipends of £100 a year, and going to another parish for service. In another parish you find no clergyman and no Church, and in another you are told that the vicar has never been seen there. Is it reasonable to ask that men in such parishes, when they receive nothing for the payment imposed upon them, should be dealt with in the same way as those who ordinarily come before the County Courts?


This matter has assumed a very important bearing. The question has been asked: What is to bring the recalcitrant tithepayer under the provisions of the 48th section? Take the case of a neighbour of mine in my own parish who has persistently refused to pay tithe because he will not admit the justice of the claim of the tithe owner. He is supported by sympathising friends. The County Court bailiff may take it into his head to say—"You are resisting the officer of the law, and I will take you into custody." Well, we have had over and over again tithe disturbances in Wales dealt with before a jury, but we have never hitherto seen placed in the hands of a County Court bailiff the power, on his own initiative, of taking a tenant farmer into custody, and having him tried there and then without a jury. This is, as I have said, a very serious matter. We have 40,000 small yeomen who, as soon as this Act is passed, will renew their protests against the payment of tithe, and who will certainly object to having that protest stamped out by a County Court bailiff.


I think we are entitled to some answer as to whether the effect of this clause is to take away the protection of a jury from the tithepayer. If so, and men are to be simply taken up by a bailiff and fined or imprisoned by the County Court Judge, it is a very serious matter indeed. It comes dangerously near the Acts we have applied to Ireland. If you remove the jurisdiction from a jury, as it would now be, and allow the County Court Judge, without a jury, simply on the allegation of the plaintiff, to say that the case is one which should involve imprisonment, it is a serious matter indeed. I should be glad to hear from the Attorney General whether, in his opinion, cases which now go to a jury would, in the future, be dealt with solely by the Judge? I put to him the case of a riot, and ask him whether the rioters could be dealt with in that way? Instead of proceeding against them for riot, could each individual be taken up, fined, and imprisoned under the 48th section?

(5.12.) SIR R. WEBSTER

I did not rise with reference to the question of the hon. and learned Member below the Gangway, because his observations were not germane to the Amendment. We are not now dealing with riots or disturbances, or any matters of that kind, but with the specific matter as to the person who ought to pay for rescuing the goods. I maintain that that particular person could be summoned under Section 48. But to say that the effect of that section would be to do away with a jury in proceedings for riot, or would render it possible for 10 or 15 or 20 people to be taken before the County Court Judge, is putting a case which never could have occurred to anyone except for the purpose of endeavouring to show that the clause had some latent vice in it. The clause does not touch the case of riot or general disturbance, or the case of shouting, or anything of that kind. That belongs to the general law, and the clause merely deal with a rescue of goods or an assault on the bailiff.


The hon. Gentleman cannot ride off in that way. If he would read the clause he would argue the matter more carefully—and he will do so if he wishes us to assent to the Bill. He says the clause only applies to the conduct of the individual against whom the claim is made, and cannot be applied generally to a number of persons who may have been concerned in the rescue of goods. But the clause says— If any rescue shall be made, or attempted to be made, of any goods levied under process of the Court, the person so offending, and so on. It applies not only to the person against whom the claim is made, but to every man who is present on the occasion of the rescue of the goods. It does not require a lawyer to understand that; therefore the hon. Gentleman should be more careful in his language. The clause says— Under process of the Court the person so offending shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £5, to be recovered by order of the Judge or on summary jurisdiction, and it shall be lawful for the bailiff of the Court to take the offender into custody and bring him before the Judge. I say that applies to every one who may be concerned in a case of this kind. The right of a number of people to have their cases brought before a jury will he taken away; and unless the Government are prepared to remove this difficulty, I shall strongly oppose the establishment of County Court jurisdiction at all. It has been understood that the principle of the Bill is not to place the tithepayer in a worse position than he is in now.


Let me put a case which is constantly occurring. Supposing 25 persons join in a rescue, will the Attorney General say that the bailiff and other officers cannot arrest everyone, and have them each fined £5, or, in default, have them imprisoned?

(5.17.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

The argument comes to this: that if the officer of the Court is attacked by 20 people the Court is not to protect him.


After the clause read by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, I would ask whether the Attorney General is of the same opinion? When I put the case of an assault happening, the Attorney General admitted that the exclusion of the word "only" would have no effect. If an assault is committed, a person would be liable for having assaulted the bailiff, and could be imprisoned, not withstanding that the account was paid. The Attorney General suggested that there might be other charges. There is only one other thing that could be made the subject of this procedure, and that is a rescue, which stands on the same footing. If, as the Attorney General asserts, the retention or omission of the word "only" is immaterial, the Government should concede the omission to those Members of the Opposition who do not regard it as immaterial from their point of view. Whose interest is it to get the Bill passed without delay? If it is that of the Attorney General, surely he should give way on this point.

(5.20.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 189; Noes 138.—(Div. List, No. 21.)

Words, as amended, added.

(5.35.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I now beg to move the next Amendment standing in my name. I may here say that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has kindly shown me another sub-section which he has had drawn up, and it is so satisfactory that if the right hon. Gentleman will move it I shall be glad to withdraw my proposal.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at end to add— All rules made under this section shall be laid before Parliament within three weeks after they are made, if Parliament is then sitting, and, if Parliament is not then sitting, within three weeks after the beginning of the next Session of Parliament, and shall not have effect until after the expiration of one month after they shall be so laid."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I propose to submit the sub-section referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I should state that the present County Court rules are not laid before Parliament, although those of the High Court are. What I propose, is to place the rules under this Act on the same footing as the rules of the High Court.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Another Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at end to add— Every rule of court made for the purpose of this Act shall be laid before each House of Parliament within forty days next after it is made, if Parliament is then sitting, or, if not, within forty days after the commencement of the then next ensuing session, and if an address is presented to Her Majesty by either House of Parliament within the next subsequent forty days on which the said House shall have sat, praying that any such rule may be annulled, Her Majesty may thereupon, by Order in Council, annul the same: and the rule so annulled shall thenceforth become void and of no effect, but without prejudice to the validity of any proceedings which may in the meantime have been taken under the same."—(Sir M. Hicks Beach.)

Agreed to.


I now beg to move the following Amendment—namely, to add at end of line 3 the words— Provided always that the total costs to be allowed to the tithe owner in any case within Sub-section (2) of this section shall not exceed the costs specified in the Schedule to this Act. I would remind the Committee that on Monday I had an important Amendment, and a suggestion was thrown out then by the right hon. Member for Bury to the Government, namely, that in the case of persons such as the small freeholders, the Government should put the costs to be incurred under this Act in a Schedule. It was said to be impossible that the costs should be the same under this Act as under the existing Acts, because the proceedings will not be similar to what they have been, but I think a Schedule which I have prepared will meet the difficulty. That Schedule is as follows:—

On all proceedings for the appointment of an officer under Sub-Section (2) of Section 2— s. d.
If the sum ordered to be recovered does not exceed £5 2 6
If the sum ordered to be recovered exceeds £5 5 0
Upon every distraint by such officer—
If the sum ordered to be recovered does not exceed £5 2 6
If the sum ordered to be recovered exceeds £5 but does not exceed £10 3 6
If the sum ordered exceeds £10 5 0
For every day possession is lawfully kept 2 6
Upon every sale under such distraint, for every £1 or part thereof distrained for 1 0

I think the Committee are strongly of opinion that the small freeholders should not be placed in a worse position than before, because the distraining tithe owners have to go to the County Court. It is conceded that the main object, and almost the sole object, of the Bill is to make the landlords primarily liable to the tithe owners. In order to effect this object there need really have been no alteration in the procedure in the case of occupying holders. And I do not think that hon. Members opposite will be inclined to vote for a proposal to increase the cost to the small freeholders, especially seeing the period of distress through which they have had to pass, and therefore I hope I shall obtain considerable support for the proviso I now venture to propose.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 3, at the end, to add the words— Provided always that the total costs to be allowed to the tithe owner in any case within Sub-section (2) of this section shall not exceed the costs specified in the schedule to this Act."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."


I am sure the hon. Member opposite will see that it is absolutely impossible for me to deal with a schedule of this sort, which I have only seen five minutes ago. If he had been able to place it on the paper a day or two ago I might have given a definite expression of opinion in regard to it. I am anxious to make a statement on the subject, because since the discussion which took place the other day I have carefully considered the matter, in conjunction with those who are responsible for the framing of this Bill. This is what appears to me to be the position of the matter. The hon. Member on Monday last moved a proviso— That the total costs of orders and proceedings in any case within Sub-section 2 of this Section, shall not exceed the amount of costs recoverable in a like case under the Tithe Acts now in force. I was unable to accept the proviso, because as I then pointed out, the procedure under this Bill is different to that under the existing law, and therefore it is not possible to say that the fees should be the same. Under the present system the first fee charged is 2s. 6d. for the notice, but under the system proposed by the Bill, the first fee charged would be 1s. in the pound for the plaint in the County Court, and then there is 2s. in the pound for the hearing. These are different charges, and cannot be governed by the same scale of fees. I think it would be only right to leave this matter of fees, as far as regards the initial proceeding, to be governed by the existing County Court rules. ["No, no."] Hon. Members dissent from this; but let me point out that there would be no real loss to the tithepayer or the tithe owner by this being done. I must say that it does not appear to me to be a matter injuriously affecting the tithepayer more than the tithe owner. He has to bear the costs in the first instance, and although he may obtain a judgment to recover, he may find it impossible to do so. He runs some risk of losing his tithe, and it appears to me that it is only right that he should be considered, and that, in the interests of both parties the costs should be made reasonably low. Take the lowest of all, a case under £1. There the initial fee under the present system of notice would be 2s. 6d., while under the County Court system it would be 3s. But you may say, take a case of £2. There the initial fee would be 2s. 6d. under the present system, and under the County Court process it would be 6s.; but you must remember that the tithepayer gets a quid pro quo for any excess in the fees for the initial proceedings, because now the tithe owner may distrain after 21 days, by giving a 10 days' notice, so that he may be required to pay within 31 days. Under this Bill he gets three months before any proceedings are instituted, and then there is the chance that the County Court may not sit for a little time after the three months, so that there may be some further delay. Therefore, he will obtain a very considerable delay in the payment of the debt and costs, as some return for the increased fees. But when the plaint has been made, and the hearing has taken place, of course the next process would be distraint under the existing law. What we might do is this. We might lay down in the Bill that the fees, charges, and expenses, in or incidental to any distress under Sub-section 2, to which the hon. Member refers, should not exceed those which for the time being are by law chargeable in cases of distress under the Tithes Act. You would in that way, I think, materially reduce the cost in many cases, as compared with what might be the cost under the present County Court system of poundage. The hon. Member has suggested that the cost should be laid down in a Schedule. It appeared to me there is the objection that it stereotypes the cost, which would be exceedingly inconvenient. It is contrary to the action Parliament has recently taken with regard to the matter. By the Act of 1888, amending the law relating to distress for rent, the Lord Chancellor is empowered from time to time to alter the Court rules in regard to the fees, charges, and expenses incidental to distresses.


That is distress for rent.


I am advised that it would apply to cases of distress for tithes as well as cases of distress for rent. I think if some words were introduced into this Bill by which the fees and charges incidental to distress for tithe could be thus regulated, it would be far more convenient than attempting to fix it by schedule. I have shown that it is in accordance with what Parliament has already done. I believe that what I have proposed would relieve the tithepayer from undue costs, and would meet the point raised by the hon. Member himself on Monday, so far as that point can be met consistently with the adoption of the County Court process. Therefore, under the circumstances, I hope the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.


We should be glad, now that the right hon. Gentleman is here to-night, to hear him before this discussion is ended. However suspicious characters we may be, at all events, he is one of the great defenders of law and order, and it cannot be supposed that the Amendment is proposed in the interests of disorder. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Hicks Beach) has used a very curious argument. He has said, it is true, that the yeoman farmer may be mulcted in these fees, but he has a great advantage from the delay attending the County Court process. This additional burden is to be placed upon the tithepayer, who in Wales may have to walk miles and miles to a County Court. What is it the right hon. Gentleman offers as a great concession?—that the costs of distraint shall not be greater than at present. That does not touch the objection raised. The objection is to the costs before the destraint. The cost now is half-a-crown, and no more. What the costs are going to be we do not know. We only know that the minimum is to be 3s. in the £1. The right hon. Gentleman has kept his figures very low, so as to keep them near the half-crown. But if you take tithes for £10, the costs would be 30s. and you might easily go up to £5 and £10, without any exaggeration at all; and the costs will often be twice as much perhaps as the amount of the tithe levied. By Clause 3, 5th subsection, you are going to summon not only the owner, but the occupier, who will have to travel over the mountains of Wales to the County Court. There will be all the trouble and expenditure which is now represented by the simple payment of half-a-crown, which is levied with the tithe rent-charge. Unless the Government are prepared to put the matter straight, we have no option but to vote against the County Court jurisdiction altogether. It is quite clear that this would be a case of the greatest possible injustice. The tithe owner will benefit by having a low Schedule, because he will not have to advance the money. Let me point out how careful the Legislature was in former times. The costs in the case of tithe have always been put on an exceptionally low scale; and where a man succeeds, he receives half as much costs as he would in the case of a distraint for rent. The Legislature has always considered that the costs in connection with the recovery of tithe charge should be exceptionally low. We ask you to take care that it shall be so by Schedules to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has said that Schedules are not convenient things, but I would remind him of the very valuable Schedule to the Corrupt Practices Act introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury. If you intend to keep these charges down, you must put the maximum for them in a Schedule. If you do not wish to use these Courts as a screw, if you desire that the costs should be minimised, if you have really at heart the interests of the tithepayer and the tithe owner, then you will put in a Schedule a maximum that will keep down these charges. Otherwise, the object of the hon. Member for Maldon will be defeated, because the costs will amount to more than the percentage which he proposes to take off. It may be that the land will not yield the tithe charge plus the costs. This is a question both of the tithe owner and the tithepayer. The Government, if they like, may make out their own Schedule. We do not assert, as I understand from my hon. Friend, that this Schedule is perfect. We are quite willing that the Government should present their own views in their own Schedule, but all we ask is that fair and proper terms should be settled.

(5.55) MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)

May I suggest, as this question of costs is likely to give rise to considerable difficulty, that the Government should promise to give, later on in the Bill, some substantial compensation to the tithe payer in respect of the costs incurred by the County Court process. It seems to me extremely unfair that the tithe owner is to have everything in this Bill, and that the tithepayers are to be saddled with extra costs. Unless the Government can give us some compensation, I, for my part, shall resist this chance of extra cost.

(5.56.) MR. H. H. FOWLER

The suggestion of the hon. Member is well worthy the consideration of the Government. What I want to point out is that this matter does not lie between the tithe owner and the tithepayer, or the clergyman and the farmer; it is a question between the public and the Treasury. We must take it out of this local dispute, so to speak, as between the tithe owner and the tithepayer, and put it upon its true footing. I think if the Committee will look at this from the position of the hon. Member who has just spoken, it will be seen that it is not fair to add this additional burden to the tithepayer. Of course I feel the force of the objection that the Government cannot settle the question off-hand; but if they accept the principle that a Schedule shall be inserted, then Members on either side will have time to consider the scale, and the Treasury Authorities will consider what would be a proper and legitimate sum to charge. At present County Court fees are exorbitant. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) will be prepared to support the proposal for a Schedule.


The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks Beach) admits there is hardship in the increase of costs, because he says there is an equivalent in the Bill for the tithepayers, inasmuch as the tithepayer will have the use of his money for an extra three months. Whereas the right hon. Gentleman says the money can now only be recovered in a month, under the provisions of the Bill it cannot be recovered for four months. But what is the value of this equivalent when we come to examine it? Take the illustration of a man being sued for £1, the costs would be 3s. simply for Court fees, and there would still be the cost of witnesses, one of the witnesses being probably a clergyman, who under the present County Court regulations would be entitled to £1. So there at once is a sum of 23s. As an equivalent the right hon. Gentleman says there is the use of the money for three months more than now; but taking it at its highest the interest on the £1 for three months would only be 4d.


There is some misapprehension in the minds of hon. Members; the question of witnesses in no way arises upon the stage we are now considering. If the tithepayer desires to dispute the charge, he will do so at the first stage, and if he desires, he can call witnesses; but witnesses will not be necessary, and a hearing will not be necessary to empower the County Court to authorise a levy of distress.

(6.3.) MR. S. T. EVANS

If the Attorney General thinks no witnesses' costs can be added to the County Court proceedings, he is wrong. The plaintiff is entitled to be there, and his agent, and you must have somebody there to speak to the assessment. Perhaps the Committee would like to hear what the costs were in a very small County Court action which actually occurred. The amount of £1 10s. 10d. was sued for in a County Court, and the amount being under £2 there were no solicitors' or barristers' expenses; there were simply costs to witnesses and Court fees, yet the costs amounted to £11. It was a case in which witnesses came from Brighton to attend a County Court in Wales, and so it might happen in a case under this Bill, and without professional expenses the total costs may amount to eight times the sum sued for. The right hon. Gentleman went through the plaint fees and the hearing fees, but I do not see why there should be either; this is not in the nature of proceeding or judgment for a particular sum, but an application for the appointment of a receiver or officer under the sub-section with which we are now dealing; it is not like a case of entering a plaint to recover a sum due, it is simply an application. Of course disputes may arise, but it is in a simple case an application to appoint an officer of the Court to distrain. The right hon. Gentleman says the proceedings subsequent to the application to the County Court will not be more costly than the process now is, but all the County Court proceedings will have taken place before, and heavy costs we are afraid will be saddled upon small owners. I am sorry that a copy of the Schedule was not handed to the right hon. Gentleman, but here is one I will hand him now. I shall be satisfied if the Government will concede the principle that costs shall be specified in a Schedule of the Act, so that the Committee may take care they shall not be exorbitant. I suppose there will be no difficulty in postponing the consideration of the Schedule? The Schedule I have prepared may not be perfect, but it is a Schedule applicable to the case, and I have not heard of anything that I have not taken into account. I only ask for the concession that there shall be such a Schedule, and that the Committee shall have control over the costs. I do not want to cause delay, but we must fight out the question of costs on every stage. The Government have been reasonable until now, and after the moderate speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I hope the concession will be made.


My objection to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is that it did not go far enough, that he only touched the fringe of the question. The costs will certainly be very much larger than he has suggested, though the 1s. in the £ for plaint, and 2s. hearing fee, is no inconsiderable sum, 15 per cent, of the sum claimed. The Attorney General says there will be no hearing; but I do not see how he can say that in the face of the Bill. The Bill says— Before any order under this section is made, there shall be such service on, and hearing of, the occupier in addition to the owner, as may be prescribed. If the tithe owner is to be heard, how can you escape from the costs of a "hearing?" And those acquainted with County Court procedure know that hearing will involve substantial costs. A man will be very foolish if, in a case, say, of £20, he does not employ a solicitor, and the costs of such employment will probably amount to £10.

(6.12.) MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouth, W.)

There are two grounds upon which I may appeal to the right hon. Gentleman that he should give favourable consideration to the proposal for a Schedule. In the first place I would point out that an entirely new and exceptional duty is being cast upon the County Court, a duty entirely foreign to any the Court has now to discharge, and therefore there is no reason why the scale of costs applicable to the ordinary business of the Court should apply to this exceptional process. Then another ground is this: In fixing costs for recovery of tithe by Act of Parliament we shall be following precedent. It has always been so fixed; it has always been considered a special matter, and there is no reason why we should depart from the practice now. This is an initial stage the appointment of an officer to distrain, and a small sum should be fixed. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will see this is an exceptional and special matter, to be dealt with from a tithe point of view, and not from the County Court point of view.

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

Although we desire security for the tithe, we do not want to inflict a penalty in the way of costs. Without expressing an opinion as to the scale, I hope it is possible to give an undertaking that a Schedule shall be added.


I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Warmington) there is precedent for fixing the scale of costs in these proceedings, and I see no difficulty in so doing. As to the analogies relied upon by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir M. Hicks Beach) with regard to fees in cases of distraint being fixed by the Lord Chancellor, that is only an alternative method to adopting a Schedule. A Schedule has been adopted in other cases. The reason for empowering the Lord Chancellor to draw up a scale of special fees was, that under the old practice it had been left very much to individual caprice or local custom to regulate charges. The avowed object of giving the Lord Chancellor the power so vested in him by legislation was to decrease the expense of levying distress. No one pretends here that the cost of proceedings will in any way be lessened, therefore it seems to me the analogy upon which the right hon. Gentleman relied entirely fails. There has been an absence of support to the position the right hon. Gentleman has taken, and indeed, I think, the right hon. Gentleman expressed no more than a vague belief. I hope, in view of the evidence given and influenced by precedent, he will give up that belief, and listen to the proposal that a Schedule should be forthcoming at a later stage.


It is a fallacy to suppose there will be no costs unless the tithepayer resists the claim; the plaintiff must prove his case and must have his witnesses. When a tithepayer is unable through poverty to pay the money, he will as usual with a defendant in that position, let the proceedings go by default, not adding to the costs by appearing and losing his time. A schedule, undoubtedly, would minimise costs, though the details of that schedule we cannot now discuss.

(6.17.) COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)

It seems to me there is considerable misapprehension about this sub-section. It does not refer to plaint or hearing; so much of the discussion on the proposed Amendment as refers to costs prior to judgment is therefore irrelevant. Sub-section 2 provides that the order shall be executed in the usual way when the land is occupied by the owner, so first there is the order of the Court, and then in this Sub-section 2 we deal with how the distress is to be levied. Therefore all the discussion of the cost of proceedings up to the time of hearing has nothing to do with Subsection 2. Should we not confine ourselves to Amendments proposed to lessen the expense of procedure after the order is issued?


I understood we were dealing with the costs as a whole, but this technical objection ought to have been taken to the first Amendment, for that raised the whole question. Surely it is better now to dispose of this question of costs.


The Amendment proposes that the total costs to be allowed to the tithe owner in any case within Sub-section 2 of this section shall not exceed the costs specified in the Schedule; but the costs under Sub-section 2 can only be costs arising after the order is issued.

(6.20.) MR. S. T. EVANS

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is entirely mistaken. How are you to get the order? The order is to be got by application to the County Court, and then the sub-section says the order being given is to be executed in a certain manner. There must be an application to the Court, and you must go to the Court for the order in Sub-section 1.

(6.22.) SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I have not answered the numerous appeals made to me, because I feel that the occupants of this Front Bench ought only to occupy a certain amount of the time of the Committee, and I think so many demands have been made on that time that I did not wish to add to the claim. I do not hesitate to say that I adhere to the view I expressed on Monday last, and that I think the Government would be well advised if they accepted the solution of the difficulty that has arisen in respect to costs. We are not now discussing the amount of the costs, or what should be in the schedule, but I think, in the interest of everyone concerned, there should be some limit placed upon costs. There is a special reason why limitation should be made by schedule. The public certainly will be benefited by the Bill in the avoidance of scenes necessary to be avoided, and if the public are benefited then the public can make a little sacrifice. The result of the limitation of Court fees in the schedule will only be a slight diminution in the receipts of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represents the public. But nobody will suffer. The charges in the County Court are high; they are now a profit to the public, and if you diminish them in the interest of the public nobody will suffer and everybody will gain. I do not see how the House can take charge of the matter without the introduction of a schedule; and I would ask the Government to consider whether, in the interest of the public, they could not take this method of meeting the wish that the costs should he made as small as possible?


I endeavoured to point out the objections that appeared to me to exist to framing a schedule of costs in reference to the Bill, and I felt other objections I did not mention. There was the possibility of a discussion occupying a large amount of time on the matter of shillings and sixpences in a schedule of costs. I am very anxious to meet the wishes of the Committee in dealing with this Bill, and I think I have shown it. If I understand, as I hops I am to understand, that Members on both sides will approach this question of a schedule of costs, not with the desire of using it as a means of obstructing the passage of the Bill, but with a desire to frame a schedule which shall be fair to the public at large, and to enable the new system of tithe recovery to be properly worked, I am very willing, on this understanding, to meet the desire for a schedule. But I would suggest to the hon. Member for Glamorgan that the schedule he refers to would raise very considerable difficulty, and I do not wish in any way to be understood as accepting the principle upon which it is based. He makes a difference in the fees he proposes should be charged for the initial proceedings for sums over and under £5, but there he stops, excepting that with regard to fees for an order for distraint he goes up to £10. I think he will see this will be a complete divergence from the present County Court system. I will do my best—before the Report—to consult the authorities who have charge of this matter, and place a schedule on the Table for the consideration of the House. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be content with that assurance, and that he will not press his Amendment, which would come in very awkwardly at this point.

(6.31.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's assurance in satisfaction of my Amendment, and am prepared to withdraw it for the present.


I presume the schedule will apply to all costs, and not merely to the costs arising under Sub-section 2?

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

I am not quite clear as to whether the schedule will be limited to the costs recoverable by the tithe receiver from the tithepayer. I understand the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman to apply to the County Court fees, and to have no reference whatever to the costs recoverable by the receiver. Further more, it seems to me remarkable there should be a reduction of County Court fees in favour of the tithepayers only. I trust that if there is any reduction at all it will apply generally, for it would be very hard indeed that the poor debtors—tradesmen and others—should be called upon to pay higher fees than the tithepayers.

(6.34.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

I would suggest that, as many of the amounts payable are very small, there should be some system of grouping devised, and a scale of costs applicable to the grouping drawn up. I find, from a Report I hold in my hand, that in the case of some tithes lately sold four landowners paid tithe which in the aggregate came to only 14s. One landowner paid 5s. 6d., another 2s., and so on. In cases of that kind it is very necessary that a very low scale of costs indeed should be adopted, and that where proceedings are taken for the recovery of several of these small tithe rent-charges in one parish, one proceeding only should be taken and made applicable to the recovery of all the sums. These small tithe rent-charges are very numerous. I could mention a case where there are 573 tithe rent-charges in one parish not exceeding 20s., and 371 charges less than 5s. When you are to recover small amounts like these by the process of receivership through the County Court you are met with very great difficulties, and in fixing the costs it is very desirable they should be kept as low as possible.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


May I ask whether it would be open to me to add, as an addendum to the schedule, that in no case shall the total amount recoverable exceed 5s. in the £1?


Before you answer the question, Sir, may I say it would be much more convenient if the hon. Gentleman waited until he sees the schedule.


I am afraid I should be precluded.


I cannot say now whether it would be in order on the schedule for the hon. Gentleman to move such an Amendment.

(6.38.) MR. RANDELL (Glamorgan, Gower)

The County Court has power, if it certifies that a case is one of public interest, to award costs under Scale C. Those costs are extremely large. For example, in one case, where the amount recoverable was three guineas, the costs amounted to £19 10s.; in another case, where the amount was £5, the costs were £34; and in the third case, where the amount in dispute was £5, the costs were £41 5s. Will the Government take into consideration Subsection 119 of the County Court Act, and practically make it inoperative?


No definite pledge can be given. Of course, what is inserted must depend upon the form of the schedule, but the point the hon. Gentleman has raised will not be overlooked.

Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."


While the clause was under discussion I did my best to improve it. I regard it as a settled principle that when the principle of a Bill has been approved on the Second Reading it is the duty of every Member in Committee to make the measure as good as possible. But now that the clause has been amended, I am bound to say I retain the opinion that this substitution of the County Court for the old process of distraint combines the maximum of irritation with the minimum of result. That is not only the opinion of the tithepayer, but of the tithe owner, as expressed in a paper issued under the direction of the Council of the Tithe Owners' Association. A good deal has been said about costs. I gratefully acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has made concessions; but to talk of this Bill, as far as Wales is concerned, as a measure of conciliation, as the hon. Member for West Kent did, is foolish. What will happen in Wales when this Bill comes into operation? It is quite true you will not have the scenes you have at present, but you must remember there are 40,000 freeholders who are also occupiers. Most of them, if not all, are Nonconformists. I suppose it is agreed that some of them are conscientious persons who will refuse to pay tithe upon the same ground as their fathers refused to pay church rates, namely, that they object to the application of the tithe. Do you think that when this Bill passes such people will be more ready or willing to pay, or that the Bill will improve the relations between the parson and his parishioners? If there is one thing which a Welsh farmer, in common with a good many other people, dislikes more than another it is to be County Courted. Again, it is to be borne in mind that County Courts are held in towns where it is much easier than in the country districts to organise hostile demonstrations. Tithepayers will be summoned long distances, and when you have got a judgment of the Court against them, you will be exactly in the position you are in now as regards the enforcing of that judgment, except that the tithe will be collected through the County Court instead of through the agents of the tithe owner. I venture to say there never was a time when the relations between Nonconformists and Churchmen were so strained as they are at the present moment. You cannot, by a Bill like this, remove that strain. So far from the Bill improving the relations between the Nonconformists and Churchmen in Wales I believe it will only make matters worse, and sooner or later bring about the disestablishment of the Church, which the vast majority of the people of the Principality demand.

(6.48.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 140.—(Div. List, No. 22.)

Clause 3.


The object of the Amendment I have to propose is to provide that the reduction in the amount of the tithe, whether it be two-thirds or one-half, may take place without the necessity of an application to the Court. I do not now wish to raise the question what the amount of the reduction should be, or whether it should be Schedule A or Schedule B. The principle of the Amendment is simply this: as the Bill now stands recourse to the County Court is necessary before any remission of tithe can take place. The words of the section run— Where a sum is claimed on account of tithe rent-charge issuing out of any lands and the Court is satisfied, that if the sum claimed is paid, the total amount paid on account of the tithe rent-charge for the period of 12 months next preceding the day on which the sum claimed became payable, will exceed two-thirds of the annual value of the lands as ascertained and entered in the assessment for the purpose"— then there shall be a reduction. I desire that on the production of a certificate from the Surveyor of Taxes the reduction shall be made there and then, without recourse being had to the County Court, this not being necessary where there is no dispute between the parties. Possibly it may be said if the parties agree to the reduction there will be no necessity to apply to the Court, but that is not so under the Bill, the tithe rent-charge becomes chargeable, though it is not exacted. I do not see why the remission should only be made when the Court is satisfied. If a tithe owner wrongly refuses to allow a remission, yet the tithepayer will have to pay the costs of going to the County Court, because recourse to that Court is necessary before a remission can be made. I do not wish to raise the question as to whether the standard should be a half or two-thirds, or whether the assessment should be for the purpose of Schedule A or Schedule B; my object is to render recourse to the County Court unnecessary for the purpose of obtaining a remission. That can be done by accepting the certificate of the Surveyor of Taxes, as fixing what the tithe should be. I hope, therefore, Sir, you will put the question in such a form as will permit the subsequent Amendments raising the questions as between Schedules A and B, and as between remissions of one-half or two-thirds, to be moved.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 4, after the word "Where," to leave out to the end of sub-section (1), and insert the words— The tithe rent-charge issuing out of any lands in any year exceeds one-half of the annual value of the lands, as ascertained and entered in the assessment for the purpose of Schedule A to 'The Income Tax Act, 1853,' the tithe owner, on production of such certificate as here in after mentioned, shall remit the excess of such lithe over one-half of such annual value, and such excess shall not he recoverable."—(Mr. J. Bryn Roberts.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


It is most inconvenient that the Amendment should be moved in this form, because, although the hon. Member says he does not wish to raise the question of the half or two-thirds, or of Schedule A or Schedule B, yet his Amendment distinctly raises both those questions. I would suggest he should not press this, but raise his point upon a Motion to omit the words "and the County Court is satisfied." But, however, not dealing with the questions of schedule or proportions of remission, but simply with the question whether the remission shall be by the Court, the hon. Member must recollect it is perfectly possible for tithe owner and tithepayer to come to an agreement without the intervention of the County Court at all. Both will know by the fact of the surveyor's certificate having been given what the position is and what the amount of the tithe ought to be; and the tithe owner would not be such a fool as to take the tithepayer into the County Court for a debt he could not recover, because he would undoubtedly be saddled with the costs. If, however, there is any question in dispute between them as to whether there should be any remission or not, then the County Court must decide. Under Sub-sections 5 and 6 any questions which might arise as to a special apportionment of the tithes, or as to two or more rent-charges issuing out of the same lands, would have to be decided by the County Court. Also under Sub-section 7 arises the question of lands used or laid out for the purpose of building. There are Amendments on the Paper desiring to enlarge this exception from the clause. It is, therefore, obvious that the Court, having these functions to perform, must interfere if there is any question at all between the parties. If there is no question, if they agree, then the matter can be settled without intervention of the Court.


I do not wish to press the Amendment, but I desire to avoid unnecessary reference to the County Court. My position is this: That under the Bill as it is drafted the tithe is due until an order of the Court for the remission is made.


The tithe-owner can give a receipt in full for it if he chooses.


No; the amount remains until the remission is made by the Court. My only desire is that it should be made clear that only that amount is due which the County Court is directed by law to declare. If there is any dispute as to the amount, of course the decision of the Court must be invoked. Of course, the other sub-sections referred to by the right hon. Gentleman would have to be altered if my Amendment were carried. But inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think that reference to the County Court would not be compulsory, I am content to withdraw my Amendment.

(7.12.) MR. H. GARDNER

In reference to the assessment of the Income Tax Commissioners being taken as the standard of reduction, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what would happen in a case of the description I am going to put before him, for on the view taken depends whether I shall consider it necessary to propose an Amendment? As I understand, the case for reduction is to be based on the assessment of the Income Tax Commissioners. I speak now of the case of a small yeoman or small owner cultivating his own land. If he is assessed under Schedules A and B, and has proved to the satisfaction of the Income Tax Commissioners that he has made no profit, the Commissioners are constrained, and in frequent instances they do so, to remit the Income Tax for the year. Now, the whole of this clause turns on the assessment of the Income Tax Commissioners; and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in a case where a man proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioners, that he has made no profit on the land, and the Commissioners have therefore remitted his Income Tax, whether that will be taken into consideration by the County Court in the reduction of the tithe rent-charge? It must be obvious to the right hon. Gentleman that if the assessment under Schedules A and B is taken as the foundation of the tithe rent-charge and that assessment has afterwards been set aside, the Income Tax being returned by the Commissioners, then it is obvious that you are going to make the reduction of the tithe rent-charge on an utterly false basis. I have known such cases, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman when such cases occur will these facts be considered in the reduction of the tithe rent-charge?


I do not think it would ho possible to consider that case. The remission of Income Tax is made to a person not as owner, but as occupier. He pays the tithe as owner; the interests are different altogether. It is not as owner he obtains remission of Income Tax under Schedule B. Of course, if the circumstances were such that not only was a remission given, but the assessment was reduced, then he would obtain a reduction in the tithe rent-charge.

(7.15.) MR. H. GARDNER

The right hon. Gentleman has not apprehended the facts. Here I have a letter, the writer of which is occupier as well as owner in Hampshire, and he says for the last three years he has had his Income Tax under Schedules A and B reduced, because he had made no profit or rent.

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

One matter I should like to point out. The object the hon. Member has in view by his Amendment, leaving out the two matters he has not dealt with, is that in as few cases as possible recourse should be had to the County Court. It is obvious on the face of it that the tithe-payer will be in a position of humiliation if he has to seek relief from the County Court. The right hon. Gentleman says that an amicable arrangement may be arrived at, but it must occur to him that amicable arrangements will be more frequent when the tithe owner is an individual than when the tithe owner is a, corporation, therefore it is with a view to meeting the cases where the tithe is owned by a corporation that some such Amendment is highly desirable. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to consider this view before Report stage is reached, in order, if possible, to exclude the intervention of the Court in as many instances as possible.


I cannot preclude the operation of the County Court where there is a dispute between the parties, whether they are private individuals or Corporations.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

(7.18.) MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maidon)

Whether the Committee may agree to the Amendment, which stands in my name, or not, at any rate the Committee will not be surprised that those of us who think that under exceptional circumstances consideration ought to be given to tithepayers, are making strenuous efforts to get their view recognised in this Bill before it becomes an Act of Parliament. We have been told throughout the numerous discussions on this difficult tithe question during the present Parliament that at any rate the Government would allow free discussion of all points suitable to the Bill. Many of us have not been so determinedly opposed even to some parts of the Bill we thought were wrong, because we trusted that the opportunity would arise of placing our grievances before the House, in the hope that some further relief might be given to the tithe-payer under exceptional circumstances beyond what the Bill proposes. I am sanguine that there are many Members in the House at the present time who think that perhaps after all I am not a spoliator, not anxious to rob the Church, not desirous of acting in any unfriendly spirit towards the tithe owner and the clergy, and perhaps there are more Members now than there were on former occasions when I pleaded from this point of view, who feel that some relief might be given to tithepayers. To hon. Members who agree with me I think I may say we may congratulate ourselves upon having advanced at any rate so far as that, for some reason or other we have a clause in the present Bill, a clause we may spare a moment or two to analyse presently, which provides that under certain circumstances there shall be a revision of tithe. That has broken the ice. There was a time when all our arguments were met with—"You made a bargain in 1836 and are in honour bound to abide by it." I always thought that an extraordinary argument to use when at the same time a Bill was introduced which certainly tore up one part of the bargain of 1836, there can be no doubt about that. But still there remains force in the impression there is, that generally speaking, it is wrong to run back from bargains made. No doubt there is a great deal to be said about bargains that have been made, but I have before endeavoured to show to the House that tithe rent-charge is not in all respects on all fours with a mortgage, or an ordinary rent-charge, and I think that I have succeeded in doing so. I dare say it may be described from a legal point of view as a first charge upon the land; but there is this about it, that it was never intended—I am certain of this, and I am strengthened in making the assertion by something the President of the Board of Trade said the other day—I am certain that neither the original donors or the framers of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 ever intended, or dreamed I might say, that tithe would occupy the relative position it unfortunately does to day to the income many landlords derive from many of those unfortunate farms to which I am alluding. Now, why I said I was strengthened in the feeling that I was right beyond dispute in making my assertion, was, because the Member in charge of the Bill, the President of the Board of Trade, in his speech in December last, in moving the Second Reading, said this:— I must say that, in my opinion, neither those who originally gave the tithe, nor those who framed the Act of 1836, intended that the tithe rent-charge should deprive the owner of the land of all interest in his property. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will say, "Yes, but that is quite different from your Amendment." Well, there may be a difference; but I am sure that if we put the Government on their defence, and ask them to show that under this clause as it stands the existing state of things would not to a great extent continue, I think that it Would require all the talent of the Front Bench to prove that assertion. It would be very difficult for the Government to prove that if it were passed as it stands there would not be a certain number of cases in which the tithe rent-charge would swallow up the entire annual pecuniary interest in the land from which it is derived. If that is so I do not think I ought to be considered too sanguine if I hope that by and by when the question has been sufficiently debated some Member of the Government will rise and say my Amendment is accepted. Because I have got this admission from the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. I find my task much easier than before I had such an admission. If the clause is passed in the form in which it stands, let me give an illustration of what will certainly take place. Suppose a small farm owned and occupied by a yeoman farmer. There are buildings and so on put up by him; this means money, and we must give consideration to this state of things. Supposing the assessment, under Schedule B, on this little farm is £15, and that is the annual value. Suppose this is made up of £10 tithe, and £5 is what is usually called in connection with this subject "beneficial" rent. Under these circumstances there would not be a farthing of relief for this man. Now, can the President of the Board of Trade, can any Representative of the Clerical Party, can the noble Lord (Lord Cranborne), who speaks so forcibly, pretend that this wretched £5 would leave any pecuniary interest, any income after the necessary repairs to buildings, and the incidental expenses always connected with ownership of land, and especially where the man is the cultivator of his land? When this £5 has to do all, will you say that in such a case regard is paid to the intentions of the original donors or the framers of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, which attracted the respect of the President of the Board of Trade? I might talk about larger farmers, but I know if I wish to appeal to the sympathies of hon. Gentlemen opposite I had better rest my case on the yeomen farmers and small owners. I want to interest those hon. Members who think that large landlords should beignored on all possible occasions. The hon. Member for Leicester regards the landlords as first cousins to the redcoated barbarians he talked about in a former Debate, but I appeal to the hon. Member, does he think it is well for the House after these numerous and protracted Debates on this tithe question—it is no good mincing matters, we have discussed every possible suggestion over and over again—is it well to leave the small owners to this position? We may be perfectly certain that if the House determines to pass Clause 3 as it now stands, that the point of relief fixed in the Bill is the last inch the Government will give way, we may be perfectly sure there will be no chance of reopening the question for these yeoman farmers for many long years. For this reason I propose my Amendment—not that my sympathies are confined to the small farmers—but because practically this is the last chance. The House has discussed the question now in all its bearings, and if the clause is passed, and we determine after all that the tithe owner shall be allowed to take his very last pound of flesh, then on little farms only this miserable pittance of £5 will be left for repairs and all the incidental expenses of ownership. I know I shall have the heavy artillery bearing upon me presently. I shall be told I am still harping on spoliation and so on, but I am not submitting anything so extreme as a proposal which has been made from the Government Bench itself. Then there was another proposal—one that would have gone much farther than that which I propose. There was the proposal which came from the Front Ministerial Bench when the Government had to face the difficulty as to how the larger sum should be taken, from the lesser. The Attorney General, when a former Tithe Bill was in extremis, got up and said he would take as the test of relief, or of what the tithe should be, net profit in the case of men farming their own land. Spoliator as I am supposed to be, I should never, upon my own suggestion, have thought of proposing anything of that kind. According to that plan, whenever the annual balance-sheet showed no balance on the right side, the whole of the tithe would be swept away. No doubt we shall see once more trotted out the old argument that by accepting the Commutation Act the tithe owners gave up innumerable millions, but that argument, I am quite sure, has never been substantiated. I will not go into that now. If there is anything in the argument, my hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire can cap it, by showing what the tithe owner gained by the arrangement as to rates. I know of a place in Essex where the tithe was apportioned at £892, and to that was added £537, to enable the tithe owner to pay the rates, and it must be remembered that in those days they had been accustomed to having rates run up to 10s. and 15s. in the £1, and even more than that. I am stating this to show why it is fair that we should ask for more extended relief than that proposed in the clause. There are lots of other cases of that sort, and they will be the most useful arguments to be brought forward as little additions to anything we may hear to-night about the great loss the tithe owners had to put up with through the Tithe Commutation Act. I do not desire to take up the time of the House unnecessarily, but I recognise this as almost my last chance on the point now before the Committee. If we do not carry this, we shall be giving our consent to a principle which is quite contrary, in the admission of the President of the Board of Trade himself, to the intentions of the original owners of the tithe and of the framers of the Act of 1836.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 8, to leave out the words "two-thirds," and insert the words "one-half."—(Mr. Gray.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'two-thirds' stand part of the Clause."

(7.38.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

The hon. Member opposite addressed a compliment to us on this side of the House when he said that we were most of us interested in the small owners. He was quite right in the remark, but at the same time we are all more interested in the many than in the few. We are more concerned with the interests of the nation than with those of individuals, and it is on that ground that a good many of us believe that the Government have gone too far in this clause. It strikes me that they are digging a pit for themselves which will occasion difficulty hereafter. The hon. Member expects to hear a good deal of useless iteration as to the settlement of the tithe in 1836, and he says there is no bargain which is beyond the possibility of reconsideration. That may be, but we have to remember that on this occasion you have the nation on one side and individuals on the ether. I say that no lapse of time can lessen the claim of the nation to property which has been affirmatively acknowledged to be national. No circumstance ought to stand in the way of the interests of the nation, and it is because I recognise tithe as a most valuable property of the nation in time to come, that I am opposed to the clause as it stands, and to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon. Perhaps, however, enough has been said on that point. I should like to call attention to some practical difficulties which may arise if this clause or the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon should be carried. The hon. Member has spoken of the annual value. What makes the annual value? Surely, good farming makes it, and bad farming detracts from it. Well, if a man by bad farming reduces the annual value of the land considerably, and if it is found that, in consequence of that, the tithe has pro-portionably risen to more than half the annual value, is the nation to suffer on that account? The probability is that litigation would arise in regard to the cause of the depreciation. No man would see himself robbed through the idleness, or want of enterprise, or want of skill, shown by the occupier of the land, How are you to deal with experimental farms and charity farms, or farms belonging to industrial schools and lunatic asylums? There is a great charitable scheme now being started by the General of the Salvation Army which will require a number of farms to be taken. I see in Sub-section 3 it is proposed that the Income Tax Commissioners shall, on the application of the occupier or owner of the land, ascertain the annual value under Schedule B., and inform the applicant of the same. Well, when these lands are devoted to charitable purposes there is no annual value at all. Again, there are many farms let for three years, or even longer, at a nominal rent, the owner expecting to get an increased amount afterwards. The value of the land is small, and the tithe in these cases can easily rise beyond half or even two-thirds. I do not see any mode of dealing with these cases, and I think these are practical difficulties which ought to be encountered. I return to the point that the Act of 1836 gave to the people of this country a certain share and interest in national territory which is to hold good for all time, and I maintain that no change of circumstances ought to deprive them of it. We hear a good deal said about depreciation of agriculture, but this is not the time to argue the matter. All I will say is that I do not admit that the depression of agriculture is inevitable or permanent, or that it is necessitated by the position of this country. Holding these views, I protest against the two-thirds standard as laid down in the clause, as well as against the Amendment.

(7.46.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North West)

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down declares that tithe is national property, and should be treated as such. I deny that doctrine, interpreted as it is by the hon. Gentleman. Tithes belong to the Established Church of this country, and are meant for Church purposes. To apply them to other purposes is, I maintain, spoliation. I support the Government in the matter of this clause. No doubt many tithe owners have thought the clause a severe one, but is there not a good reason for it, and one that has been given by some hon. Gentlemen opposite—that we must look to the interests of the nation as well as those of persons? Well, looking at the interests of the nation, I believe my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is wise and right in proposing this clause. He is wise and right, because he hopes that even the small modicum of relief which is to be given by this clause will prevent land from going out of cultivation. The hon. Gentleman opposite has no idea of the condition of many parts of England. If he will go down even to Kent, to Essex, and other counties in the east, and especially to the small holdings in Lincolnshire, and to Hampshire, Berks, and Wilts, he will see a state of things that will surprise him. There he will see land that once paid so well in wheat, but on which it does not now pay to grow wheat at all, and, as I understand, my right hon. Friend endeavours by this clause to keep that land in cultivation and to encourage owners of land not to throw it up but to hold on to it, even though they can only get a small amount from it—only sufficient to pay the necessary expenses of repairs. The hon. Gentleman does not know what are the necessary expenses in regard to land. Does he realise the efforts being made by landowners in regard to labourers' cottages? Does he know that labourers are infinitely better housed than they used to be? Will anyone take a farm nowadays, unless the buildings on it are sufficient, and in good repair? The Government are anxious not to destroy in any way the power of the owner to continue this work; nor to destroy in any way the solemn right to pay tithes; nor to deprive the clergy of any part of their income, unless under the circumstances described by my right hon. Friend. Had the Government thought fit to go as far as the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Gray) that might have been another matter. I understand that the Government feel that they cannot go beyond the lines of the Bill; but whatever their decision I shall gladly support them, because I believe they are showing an anxious desire to do what is in the best interests of the tithe owners. It cannot be for the interest of the tithe owner that land should go out of cultivation, for then he will get nothing. I am fortified in this view I take by a Memorial I hold in my hand—a Memorial sent to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade as well as to myself from the Chichester Diocesan Conference. A Committee was appointed to inquire into this question, and in their Report they say— This Committee hereby express their approval of the Tithe Bill, and their gratitude to Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bart., M.P., and the Government for having introduced it; and they would strongly and respectfully urge upon the Government the desirability of holding fast to its provisions in all particulars, thus carrying the Bill as it stands into law. This is countersigned by no less an authority than the Bishop of Chichester. I mention this Memorial to show that there are clergy who think this a fair and right proposal looking to all the various circumstances of the case. We are anxious that, if possible, a fair and right settlement should be come to, and we shall feel in passing this Bill that we are doing justice to the tithe owner and to the tithepayer. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend and the Government will stand firm by their proposals.


This is a very interesting Debate. There is considerable diversity of opinion on both sides of the House, and therefore I think the matter is favourable for a satisfactory settlement. My hon. and gallant Friend has made a speech which, I think, contained all the conflicting views, but I am quite certain what his own view is. He has come to the conclusion that he will support the Government, whatever they propose. That is his view, quite irrespective of the principles involved. My hon. and gallant Friend began by an indignant attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester for holding that tithe is national property and ought to be proserved as such. The hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that a very wicked doctrine, and thought it involved the principle of spoliation. But I adhere to that wicked doctrine. I would, however, remind my hon. and gallant Friend that the author—I will not say the original author, but, at all events, a most distinguished promulgator of that doctrine—was tny noble Friend the Member for Rossendale, who delivered himself of those sentiments in the town I have the honour to represent. My noble Friend was after wards attacked by a posse of bishops, archdeacons, and other clergy, who demanded of him what he meant as a. great Unionist statesman by enunciating such an abominable doctrine; and my noble Friend wrote a letter a few weeks afterwards endeavouring to explain away the mortal sin of which he had been guilty. Therefore, I hope that under the circumstances my hon. and gallant Friend will have some charity and mercy towards the hon. Member for Leicester. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has read a document purporting to come from the Diocese of Chichester. They are all most amiable people, as I know, in the County of Sussex, but I would appeal to the hon. Member for Maldon to tell us what the clergy of Essex have said on this subject. I have seen a statement in which they denounce this Radical Government as more atrocious in their conduct than any Government that ever existed in this country. In fact, if this meeting of Essex clergy had taken place in Ireland, I am not sure that it would not have been proclaimed and suppressed. It certainly would not have been allowed to take place on the stage in Paris. My hon. and gallant Friend, who is a great vindicator of the Church, approves altogether of the principle of this clause, and says the Government would willingly have gone further, but, I suppose, they had the fear of the bell, book, and candle before them, and that it was only a certain length they dared to go, so as not to appear before the world as the jackdaw did in the Ingoldsby Legends.


"And nobody was a penny the worse."


I beg your pardon. I have seen a picture of the jackdaw, and he certainly looks as badly off as other people might be supposed to look if, instead of being excommunicated, they were dissolved. I understand from my hon. and gallant Friend that the principle of this 3rd clause is that it robs the Church moderately. The only question is, how much is it right to rob her? That has always been in the history of this country a moot question. The position of the landlords, historically, has been that they will support the Church on the condition that they may be allowed to rob it moderately. You find that the history of Church property has been a history of moderate robbery inflicted upon it by the landed interest which supports it. One of the things done in the interests of the Church was the legislation which took place in reference to leases, and which ended in great advantage to the Church; but in the House of Lords the landlords came forward and demanded compensation, or a renewal of the leases. Well, that was a very moderate robbing of the Church. Therefore, I say, do not let my hon. and gallant Friend ride the high horse in this way when he says, "I am for the Church, do not let the Church suffer." He is only for robbing it to the extent of one-third. That is the extent to which my hon. and gallant Friend's conscience goes; but, on the other hand, the hon. Member for Maldon would rob the Church to the extent of one-half, and even he is more moderate than those who would rob it to the extent of two-thirds. The difficulty seems to be in what way we are to get at the exact amount. Now, Sir, what the House has to determine on this occasion is what should be the exact measure. I was a little astonished to find that people engaged in politics should have become so demoralised, that even the innocence of the noble Lord the Member for Darwen (Lord Cranborne) enables him to assent to this Church robbery to the extent of one-third. It only shows that he assents to this proposal of the Bill, against which he has hitherto had nothing to say. The only question is to what extent we shall go. There is my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, who, with a virtue little short of that of Cato, is interested in the reversion of the tithes, and he says that, under all the circumstances, the tithes must be executed in favour of that reversion. Now, I am sorry to say I am not quite capable of that extent of virtue, and I do think that in this question of the tithe, the agricultural interest is entitled to some consideration. I should therefore like to know what are the views of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture on this subject. It would be very interesting to know what his notions are as to the exact extent to which this robbery should be carried in the agricultural interest. I apprehend that in the exercise of his function in regard to agriculture, rather than of any episcopal function in looking after the interests of the Church, he will tell us what are the exact principles on which the Government have come to the conclusion that one-third is the exact amount which ought to be taken from the Church—one-third, neither more nor less. Doubtless, he can explain the recondite and profound principles which have induced the Government to arrive at this conclusion. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex has referred to the question of agricultural values, and has made allusion to Hants. I reside in Hants, and speaking as to the small amount of land with which I am personally acquainted, all I can say is that I do not see how, in the case of a man with land occupied by himself, upon which he loses and cannot gain, you will be able to deduct two-thirds of the annual value. But putting aside the rather high-flown, although logical, principle of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, and looking merely at the justice of the case, I do think that when the tithe exceeds the value of the land it departs altogether from the popular and natural understanding as to what the tithe was. The tithe never was understood to be the whole value of the land, and even Melchizedek would have been astonished at hearing of a tithe which absorbed the whole value of the land. Therefore, I say some reasonable deduction ought to be made where the tithe is so excessive and the value of the land is so small. This may be a perfectly logical principle, but at the same time it is fair in dealing with those matters; and unless I am convinced by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture that the agriculturists are not entitled to this consideration, I shall certainly vote with the hon. Member for Maldon.

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

I think we may be quite certain about one thing with regard to the right hon. Gentleman opposite—namely, that he will always make a very humorous speech, that he will always speak in opposition to the Government, and that generally we shall find him speaking more or less away from the point. With regard to the condition of agriculture, I think I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman on that point. I do not believe that even in Hants the state of things is anything like what he wishes us to suppose. Doubtless we have passed through a period of great distress. He does not seem to have had the opportunity of judging what the condition of agriculture really is. Perhaps he has lingered too long by his fireside to know what the condition even in Hants has been. For my own part. I propose to say one or two words upon the Amendment now before the House. A. great deal has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon about the intentions of the Act in 1836.


The original donors of tithes.


That would be going back a very long way indeed. I am content to go no further back than the Act of 1836. It is said that the framers of that Act never could have intended that the condition of agriculture should reach such a point that the tithe would swallow up all the profits of the land. But it is impossible for us to ignore the state of things which has been brought about, nor to overlook the legitimate expectations of those now alive or their immediate successors. The real question for our consideration is, what are the legitimate views and expectations now entertained? I should not for one moment shrink from going into the question of how much the tithe has gained or lost from the cases that have been referred to. But this has already been gone into, and therefore I do not propose to trouble the Committee upon it especially, as I have already dwelt upon it on two previous occasions. What I will submit is that we must have some consideration for the poor tithe owners. In many cases the tithe owners are but poor men, and we ought not to take from them a single penny more than is just. Justice we are bound to do in this House to all parties, and we have no right to be generous with the tithe owners' money. Looking at it from the point of view that the tithe is national property, we must not be generous with the property of the nation, even for the purpose of benefitting the tithepayer. Therefore I submit that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sussex was perfectly right in saying that the only good reason for making a remission of the tithe is in order to keep the land in cultivation. It is obviously to the disadvantage of the tithe owner, as to everyone else, that the land should go out of cultivation, and I am prepared to go all lengths to keep the land in cultivation, even although by doing so I might for the time being diminish the revenue of the tithe owners. That, as I understood it, was the spirit in which the Government introduced the Bill of last Session. What was preserved was the full profit of the tenant, and so much of the profit of the landlord as was necessary to keep the land in cultivation. The Government had now gone further. In my humble judgment they have gone a little too far. I am sorry they have gone to the length of the remission to the extent of two-thirds, but I may say this in their behalf, that under the Bill of last year there was not sufficient margin to cover the cost of cultivation to the landlord. Perhaps I have just used a wrong word. What I mean is that the landlord's legitimate expenses in keeping the land in cultivation probably amount to so much that the remission clause in the Bill of last year would either have left him or the tenant out of pocket. At the same time, I think the fraction now fixed by this Bill is rather too high. On this side of the House we held different views last Session, but the Government has established a sort of half-way house between us. They have proposed a sort of compromise; and I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon should be always asking for more; he ought to be satisfied, I venture to say respectfully, with the compromise. It seems to be a fair arrangement which commands nearly universal support on this side of the House; and considering the extreme poverty of the tithe owner, and the way in which the Government have endeavoured to meet my hon. Friend, I hope he will withdraw his Amendment and allow this part of the Bill to be passed.

(8.17.) SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)

Sir, in my opinion this tithe belongs to the Church. I am not a member of the flock that meets there, but I go heartily with the Church on this occasion. This property belongs to the Church. ["To the nation."] The Church is for the nation. You propose to confiscate it for whom? For the benefit of the landowner. The hon. Member asks us to legislate for the extreme cases of a certain number of insolvent landowners. They must do as other insolvent landowners have done before them—sell their land and invest the money in some more profitable way. I do not see why we should rob the Church for the purpose of benefitting in many cases improvident landowners. Many of these landowners have bought their property within the last 20 or 30 years, subject to this obligation of tithe. They were prepared to meet the liability then; and now, when that liability is somewhat onerous, they come to Parliament for relief. I see no reason for doing so. I believe, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby has said, that it is an absolute case of robbery. With regard to the gentleman who owned gardens, may I remind the right lion. Gentleman that he has forgotten an ancient principle of his own. I remember once showing him the balance-sheet of a farm, and it proved that I, the owner, was not farming profitably. I remember that the right hon. Gentle- man remarked that I had put nothing down for enjoyment of the farm, and that had I done so, he believed the balance would have been largely on the other side. Why I mention this is that I Relieve farming very often depends on the fancy of the individual. One individual may cultivate in such a way that there shall be no profit, and then, if there is no profit, he is to be relieved of one-third of the tithe at the expense of the Church. ["No."] It is so. The whole charge is now to fall on the landowner, and the tenant farmer will take land irrespective of the tithe paid by the landlord, merely considering what rent he can fairly pay for the land he is going to cultivate. As the land owner will have to pay the tithe rent-charge, it will be to his interest to look after the cultivation of his farm where it is let, though very often, I regret to say, landlords do not trouble themselves about it. They allow the most careless cultivation you can possibly see. I am speaking in the interest of the tithe owner and the tithepayer when I say that I do not see on what principle the Government make this proposal. As the Government are prepared to take a little from the tithe owner, no doubt the hon. Member thinks it a splendid opportunity to take a little more. But I think it ought to be remembered that if there is any argument at all in favour of robbing the tithe owner, it can only be this, that you are going to place the payment upon the landowner. The consequence of that will be that the tithe owner will have much less difficulty in collecting his rents, and, the expense of collection being less, it may be said that therefore some contribution should be made to the landlord because he is hard up. I, on the other hand, do not think that we ought thus lightly to part with what is national property as long as there is the Church of the nation. I, for one, will vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member.


We have heard a great deal of robbing the tithe owner, but I am one of those who look upon this Bill as a great deal more robbing the tithepayer. Our arguments have never been met; in fact, the tithe at the present moment is a great deal too high. In this Bill there is no relief whatever to the tithepayer. The noble Lord (Cranborne) referred to the poverty of the owners. I dare say they are in a bad way, and very much pressed. I am sure we have every sympathy for the clergy, just as much as the noble Lord (Cranborne). But it is very cheap philanthropy on the part of the noble Lord to say, "The tithe owners are so poor, therefore pass this Bill." In other words, help them out of the pockets of the tithe payers. This two-thirds has been described as a concession, but now we know from the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Barttelot) that it is nothing of the kind, but that it is proposed to prevent land from going out of cultivation. Any hon. Member acquainted with land will know as well as I do that it costs the landlord a great deal to keep his buildings and property in repair, and when you have the tithe exceeding two-thirds of the annual value of the land, you may be assured that the remaining one-third will not be more than enough for the maintenance of the property, leaving no profit whatever. This so called concession is nothing but an inducement to landowners to become bailiffs I do not understand on what principle this concession is made. The good landlord, who has laid out thousands of pounds in the maintenance of his property, is to have no benefit whatever under this Bill; while the bad landlord, who has neglected his property, is to be the man to whom you are going to be generous out of the pockets of the tithe payers. That is going the wrong way to work. If the tithepayer is entitled to a reduction, it is not the bad landlord who ought to benefit, but the good landlord. I believe, and I have always said, that at the present time the tithe is 25 per cent, too high. I think the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon will enable more landlords to gain what is called this concession, and as it will improve the Bill, I have great pleasure in supporting it. (8.28.)

(9.0.) MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)

It seems to me that the ultimate destination of the tithe rent-charge is not a matter with which we need trouble ourselves at the present moment, so I can quite appreciate the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, who, considering that the tithe rent-charge is national property, wishes to preserve it. The hon. Gentleman has declaimed against confiscation and spoliation. I hope he will continue in that frame of mind when real projects of confiscation and spoliation come before us. Whatever be the ultimate destination of the tithe rent-charge, whether it is to be confiscated by the nation or to remain as now, payable to private owners who have given good value for it in the market, or else to the clergy, who, in return for receiving it. have been charged with very valuable and important responsibilities, it surely is the duty of the Legislature to take care that tithe rent-charge is as easily collected as possible, and that it shall not press with undue severity upon anyone in view of the the altered circumstances since the settlement of 1836. Any steps taken by the Legislature to make the recovery of the tithe rent-charge more easy than it was before does not appear to me any reason why the amount thereof should be diminished. There will, no doubt, be a sentimental advantage in favour of the tithe owner, but I hope the result of the second clause will be to remove a great deal of the objection of which we have recently heard so much. In passing that clause the Government have only acted rightly in the interest of the tithe owner, the tithepayer, and the country at large. But the passing of that clause affords no reason why the third clause should not be passed. If I thought there was any moderate or immoderate robbery of the Church in this clause, I certainly would both vote and speak against it. Again, if there was any robbery of the tithe-payer, I would vote against it. It is not for the Legislature to do wrong or violence to any man or any interest, but it appears to me the effect of this clause will really be in certain cases, no doubt, to diminish somewhat for a time that which the tithe owner may demand—to diminish it for a time in the hope and reasonable expectation that in future years he will get all to which he has hitherto been entitled. This reduction is not to be made invariable. It is a reduction to take place only under certain circumstances which occasionally arise; it is not a reduction to benefit bad and do harm to good landlords, as the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray) endeavoured to make out. The reduc- tion has only to do with the condition of the land. The Legislature has to look at existing circumstances, and it finds that corn-growing land is not cultivated at all. The reason is that it is not worth the while of the owner of the land to cultivate it, when there is a first charge on it called the tithe rent-charge, to an amount which he can scarcely hope to produce by the cultivation of the soil. The land goes out of cultivation, and the tithe owner who seeks for his remedy by distraining can find nothing to distrain upon. If he takes possession of the land he finds he has got a white elephant. [At this point Mr. Gedge walked several yards in the direction of the Gangway. The Chairman was conversing with Mr. H. Gardner.] I am afraid I was rather interrupting you, Mr. Chairman, and, therefore, I have moved further away. [Cries of "Order !"] Well, I will put it the other way: I could not get on while the Chairman was conversing with the hon. Member, as, of course, he has a perfect right to do. [Renewed cries of "Order !"] I do not wish to say anything that is out of order, and when I have collected my thoughts I will proceed. The point I was endeavouring to put before the Committee is, that under the present circumstances the tithe owners, who are for the most part the clergy, are suffering very considerably from the land going out of cultivation. I have known land that no one would take and pay the tithe rent-charge and other givings, let alone anything to the landlord. I therefore say to my friends, the clergy, many of whom have written me on the subject: It is very much better in many cases to take half than to stick out for the whole. Holding this view, I very heartily support the clause. I confess I should have thought three-fourths was a better fraction than two-thirds, and if the Government had seen their way to introduce the fraction of three-fourths in their Bill, I should have supported them with greater cordiality than I do now. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby does not like the present plan of the Income Tax being the standard, and that he prefers that the County Court should be made, so to speak, a Land Court. That would be a very expensive process. If the County Court Judge were called upon to settle this question, experts would be called on each side, and a large array of counsel and solicitors engaged. The cost would be very great. As to arriving at the cost through the occupier's book, every one who knows anything of farmers knows that is impossible. I have never met a farmer who keeps proper accounts; and, therefore, to ascertain the profits through the occupier's books would be most difficult and costly.

(9.10.) MR. HENEAGE (Grimsby)

I desire to explain in a very few words why I prefer the Amendment to the provisions of the Bill. But before offering that explanation I am constrained to demur to the statement of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Gedge) that farmers do not keep accounts. There is proof that farmers do keep books, because they very often appear before the Income Tax Commissioners and are allowed remissions on showing that they have not made any profit. But on the present occasion we are dealing with hard cases, cases where land will go out of cultivation if some reduction of the tithe is not made. I took a great deal of trouble last year to find out what is the case of tithe throughout the greater part of England, and I found that tithe represented its own name, that is, it is more or less one-tenth of the income of the land. But there are a number of very hard cases indeed, cases in which it is almost impossible to pay the working expenses of the land or to get any rent for the land after the tithe is paid. These are the cases with which the President of the Board of Trade proposes to deal in this Bill The only question between those who advocate two-thirds and one half is which of the provisions will meet the hard cases and which will not. What is proposed by the Bill is that a discretion should be given to the County Court Judges, who will take all the circumstances into consideration, to remit in cases where the tithe exceeds two-thirds of the annual value, either the whole of the excess or any part thereof, or if he thinks proper, none at all. The supporters of the Amendment desire to extend the County Court Judge's discretion, and I assert that there are many cases where the tithe is only one-half, which are very much harder cases than cases in which tithe is two-thirds. Let us take the case of two farms, both of 100 acres. Suppose that in one case the annual value is 30s. an acre. That will be what the landlord receives. He has to pay tithe out of that. If the tithe is 20s. an acre he will pay £100 out of the ,£150 he receives. That leaves him a margin of £50. Suppose that in the case of the second farm the land is let at 10s. an acre, and that the tithe is 5s. an acre. In that case the landlord will receive £50 and pay £25. I ask whether the landlord with a margin of £50 is not in a much better position than the landlord with a margin of only £25. Unless the matter is to be dealt with so that all the hard cases come within the limits of the clause we had better have left it alone altogether. It is no use indicating that tithes will be remitted in some instances unless you are going to do some good by such a measure. Many of us believe that if the discretion of the County Court Judge were extended to one-half, all the cases that need abatement would come within the purview of the clause, and we think there are a great many cases in Essex and Hampshire and in other counties which will not receive any benefit whatever under the provisions of the Bill as they now stand. It is said that to make the clergy give up any portion of the tithe is spoliation and robbery. But let us look at this question from a practical point of view. All clergy are not paid by tithes; some receive their remuneration from the glebe land. What has happened in their cases? In order to let their farms they have had to abate their rent 30, 40, and 50 per cent. And yet we are told that if one of two clergymen in adjoining parishes derives his income from glebe land and the other from tithe, while one has to give up half his income, we are not to take away from the other 5 or 10 or 15 per cent., because he is paid by tithe. I deny that there is any virtue in the word tithe any more than there is in the word glebe. The only question is whether the Government will yield this point and make a good job of the clause, or whether, by sticking to their own figure, they will avoid giving satisfaction on the one hand, whilst they depart from the principle of keeping the tithe intact on the other. The question is not what the amount of tithe is, but whether, after the tithe has been abated, there is a margin left which will pay rates and taxes and enable the land to be cultivated. If there is not, there is a risk of the land going out of cultivation, and the tithe owner runs the risk of losing the whole of the tithe. Will not the Government, therefore, leave the question to the County Court Judge, who, if he finds there is no ground for the abatement, will not give it? If we cannot trust the County Court Judge in one case we cannot trust him in another. I for one am very strongly in favour of keeping intact the property of the tithe except in these very hard cases, but I say if it is worth while to depart from the principle of keeping the tithe intact we ought to take care to bring within the purview of the clause all the cases which influence us in departing from it. I would therefore press my right hon. Friend opposite to yield to the appeals made to him from all sides of this House, and extend the discretion of the County Court judge to "one-half."

(9.20.) MR. H. T. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)

I rise to say a few words in support of the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I do so with considerable reluctance, because I cannot disguise from myself the fact that those who do so may find it hard to defend themselves against a charge of confiscation of property. But if it is so with regard to the Amendment, it is also the case in reference to the Bill. I do not think that those who supported the Government in their legislation in 1887 with respect to judicial rents need be very squeamish in this matter. I support the Amendment as a Tory because I believe it to be a case of absolute necessity. I should be most unwilling to tamper with the rights of property,or to create a precedent for confiscation, but I cannot help looking at things as they are. It has been said that we are altering the Act of 1836, and that that measure was a final settlement of the tithe question. I am a laudator temporis acti, but I cannot contend that a measure passed nearly 60 years ago, and which was adapted to the circumstances of that time, must be adapted to the circumstances of the present time also. I have myself for some time believed that the ultimate settlement of the question will be found in a revalua- tion of the tithe, but as far as I can see there is no chance at present of that being undertaken. I regard the the argument of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sussex (Sir W. Barttelot) as conclusive for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon. I believe the adoption of that Amendment to be necessary in order to save from absolute ruin a portion of the agricultural community. I cannot think it ever could have been contemplated by the Act of 1836 that the value of the tithe might exceed the value of the land to the extent recognised by the Government, or to the extent covered by the Amendment of my hon. Friend. Anxious as I am to maintain the rights of property, and conscious as I am that what we are doing now may be said to be injurious to those rights, I shall certainly vote with my hon. Friend (Mr. Gray) if he goes to a Division. I cannot but think, however, that the course we advocate can be pursued without any confiscation at all. I cannot see why some compensation from some source or other could not be given to those who are to be deprived of their property in this way. It has been proposed that compensation should be given from the Consolidated Fund, but that has not been generally accepted by the House. But, whether from that source or from some other, a very moderate amount of compensation might be found. It would operate only in a very small number of cases. If the Government can propose some way of compensation, they will not only smooth the passage of the Bill, but will undoubtedly earn the goodwill of those who, I maintain, have some right to consideration.

(9.26.) MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)

In considering this Amendment, we ought not to forget the principle of the Bill, which is not to transfer any money from the tithe owner to the tithe-payer, but to alter the method of recovery in a way that shall be just to all parties. It has been admitted by the mover of the Amendment that the tithe is the first charge on the land. If it is so, it seems to me, that the only justification for its remission as proposed in the clause is the public ground that the land may otherwise be driven out of cultivation. Therefore what the Government have to show, is, that the reduction they propose is necessary, in order to prevent that being done in certain hard cases. I have listened in vain for figures to show that it is necessary to give a greater reduction than is proposed by the Government. The margin proposed by the Government seems to me perfectly reasonable, and in considering the clause we must not forget what the tithe owner gives up under it. It is not merely a remission for one year, but where the land goes out of cultivation he gives up the right to recover two years' arrears of tithe on its being again cultivated. That seems a very substantial quid pro quo in adjusting the conflicting claims of the tithe owner and tithepayer. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) has spoken of the discretion of the County Court Judge, but I would point out that the clause gives him no discretion. When it is shown what is the difference between the tithe rent-charge and the two-thirds of the assessment under Schedule B, the Court "shall order" the difference to be remitted under the clause. It is therefore imperative on the Court to make the reduction. I would further add, it is very undesirable to give the Court any discretion. It is very desirable, in the interest of peace between the parties, that tithe owner and tithepayer should know their rights exactly, that they should not be driven to the County Court in the hope that they may get some assistance from the exercise of the discretion of the Court. The Debate has shown that there is no reasonable ground for increasing the amount of reduction proposed by the Bill, and I hope the Government, in justice to both parties, will maintain the proposal they have made.

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

I venture to think that the reasons advanced by hon. Gentlemen on the other side are equally applicable to the Amendment and the clause. For myself, I shall certainly vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I confess I have some difficulty in doing so, because in that part of the country with which I and some of my friends around me are acquainted, meetings have been convened by clerical tithe owners and resolutions arrived at denouncing the proposals as sacrilegious plunder, and so on, while, at the same time, other meetings have been held by tithepayers unanimously condemning both the proposals of the Government and the Amendment as futile, reactionary, and a waste of time, both parties being in absolute unanimity in stating that they will never, under any circumstances, vote for a supporter of the present Government. I shall certainly vote for the Amendment, nor do I think it necessary to express any further reasons than those which have been given for doing so.

(9.33.) MR. C. T. ACLAND (Cornwall, Launceston)

I have always maintained, and I do so now, the principle that tithe is national property, and on that principle I cannot sea why we should consent on the part of the nation to a reduction of the tithe beyond what is absolutely necessary. Why go beyond that to give relief in a very small number of cases, and a relief which in any case can only be partial? I quite believe there is reason for doubting whether the Act of 1836 still remains an adequate settlement of the question of tithe, and that if we went into the whole question good reason would be found for coming to some other arrangement than that which at present exists for ascertaining the value of the tithe. But I am certain that no increased reduction, such as is proposed by the hon. Member, will meet the case of the yeoman farmer, of whom he has spoken with so much sympathy, or any other class. I believe there are hard cases spread over many parts of England, where freedom from present heavy burdens is necessary, and I quite admit there is a great deal of land in a condition from which all who wish well to the interests of the nation desire to see it relieved. But I do not think the proposal of the hon. Member for Maldon will meet the difficulty; and I hope the Government, although they may be in a somewhat uncomfortable position between the tithe owner and the tithepayer, will stand by their proposals. In order to keep the land in cultivation, and, at the same time, in order that the tithe owner may get something, I conclude that the Government have sound reason for going the distance they have, and I shall therefore oppose the Amendment.

(9.35.) SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)

It will seem perfectly clear to anyone who has listened to the Debate on this Amendment that the difference between the proposal of my hon. Friend and the proposal of the Government is little more than the difference between tweedledee and tweedledum. ["No!"] My hon. Friend says "No;" but, as a fact, the remission in either case will refer, not to a very large number of cases throughout England, but in either case the remission will refer to cases where hardships have undoubtedly been proved. I am one of those who strongly object to any tampering with the rights of property, and I shall assent to either of these proposals with reluctance, and only on the ground of extreme hardship proved. I entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby when he most ingenuously confessed that this proposal—both of these proposals—involved a certain amount of robbery of the Church, or, as I would rather prefer to put it, of confiscation of the property of the tithe owner. It is true that in one case the robbery—or what the right hon. Gentleman calls robbery, though he votes for it—would be in a moderate degree, and in the other case in a somewhat larger degree; but still, as the Bill stands, and unless a further Amendment be carried, which I am informed cannot in order be moved, unless such an Amendment be carried involving compensation, in either case there is a certain amount of objection to the principle involved in this proposal. I am perfectly prepared to admit that if compensation were possible—if the Government would suggest that either from the Consolidated Fund or from the fund at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, or from any other source compensation could be afforded, then I would say, however this Amendment is decided, there would be no further danger in it. The proposals of the Government might be carried, or the proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon. But I do ask the Committee to recognise that in either of these proposals there is an act of confiscation, and I do think that this Legislature has never yet, with its eyes open, consented to an Act that is one of confiscation without compensation. When we take up land for the purpose of street improvements we do not simply take that land from the owner—we give him compensation. It has been said that in such a case the principle of betterment should come in; but that does not in any way apply to property in tithe, for the remainder of the tithe does not become of greater value. The right principle is that disclosed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) in relation to another Amendment. When he was speaking, I think with regard to the schedule of costs, he pointed out that the public itself benefited from the Bill, and therefore he said in this connection that the public might well make some little sacrifice for the Bill. I venture to suggest to the Committee that the public might make some little sacrifice, in the way of compensation from the Consolidated Fund, to obtain this valuable effect—that the land would not be allowed to go out of cultivation because the tithe presses too heavily on it. In support of this proposition, to which I claim the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, may I point out that whichever of these proposals is carried, the tithe owner will be mulcted in a certain amount of property, and, further, there is no doubt that the landowner will be liable for the first time to a new charge upon his property. It has fallen upon the property before indirectly, no doubt—but now there is a direct liability upon the landowner. Therefore both the tithe owner and the landowner are called upon to make some sacrifice for the public weal, and I venture to think that the public might consider this proposal for compensation in the interests of the two parties. One other consideration I venture to submit. It is an undoubted fact that the agricultural depression of the present day is mainly, if not entirely, owing to causes from which the whole of the community have derived a benefit. It is very largely owing to the free competition of foreign corn and foreign agricultural products. Therefore, I submit that the community at large does benefit, first of all, from the agricultural depression that has brought about the necessity for such a Bill as this; secondly, from the new liabilities to be laid on the landowners by the Bill; and, lastly, from the sacrifice which the tithe owner is called upon to make in these proposed remissions. If all these changes be for the public benefit in these three forms, then I say that the Government will be justified if it asks the Committee before this Bill leaves us to recommend some means of finding compensation for those who will be injuriously affected by the Bill. I, therefore, shall be prepared to support the proposals of the Government in regard to the cutting down of the tithe owner's property; but I do hope that the Government will consider the suggestion I have made in regard to compensation, and I feel certain that should they see their way to accept it they would have the approval of the community generally.

(9.40.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON

I do not propose to follow the line of argument adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for North Kensington, who addressed himself to an Amendment that he has on the Paper, but which, I think, it is not competent for him to move. The Amendment we are considering at present does not involve any question of principle. The principle is conceded by the proposal of the Government. If the Government had not made their proposal there would yet be a question of principle to decide. But this is only a small question of the difference between two-thirds and one-half, a difference of £ s. d. amounting to one-sixth of the total amount. The only question now is, which of the two proposals is most practicable and will be most beneficial. If the Committee were discussing a question affecting some distant planet, then the stern and pitiless logic of the hon. Baronet the Member for St. Pancras and of the hon. Member for Leicester might prevail. But, fortunately or unfortunately, the world is not governed by purely logical, but by practical considerations. We have to consider to what extent each of the two proposals before us is most likely to meet the special circumstances of the case. These proposals are not of a general character; they are designed for the purpose of meeting special incidents of the prevailing depression, of meeting exceptional cases which appear to call for exceptional remedies; and they must be judged from that point of view. If we look at the matter from that point of view, it will be found that the proposals of the Government are not sufficient to meet the requirements of the case. What is meant by the annual value under Schedule B? It is arrived at by adding together the rent and the tithe rent-charge, and by deducting from the sum total one-eighth of the whole. How is that principle applied to the cases which have to be considered in the event of either proposal being adopted? A paper has been circulated giving a list of 20 farms, situated in Berkshire, Hampshire, and Wiltshire. Those farms amount to 10,000 acres, with £1,700 of rent and £2,300 of tithe rent-charge. But if the proposal of two-thirds, as suggested by the Government, is adopted, the amount chargeable will really be in excess of the sum forthcoming, and there will be no remission at all. On the other hand, if the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Maldon Division were carried, there would be an actual remission, and the proposal would be operative. I am not, however, particularly enamoured of either proposal. We desire not so much an Amendment of this character as the incorporation of the principle of a general revision of tithe; but of the two proposals before the Committee I prefer that of the hon. Member for Maldon. We have to deal with certain special hard cases, in which the land is actually being thrown out of cultivation. It is not a proposal which affects the larger landowners, but it affects in a special degree the yeomen farmers, the men who own their land.

(9.53.) MR. JEFFREYS

I confess I have great misgivings as to the wisdom of this clause at all. I regret that the Government have thought it necessary to insert it in the Bill, because, in the first place, it distinctly interferes with the right of property as it exists in the tithe rent-charge. Indeed, if the Committee look at the Paper they will find that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire goes even further than this proposal of the Government for interfering with the tithe, and proposes that the rent in those cases shall also be reduced. Both the tithe owners and landowners are thus being attacked; and I think it is a matter of regret that this unfortunate precedent should have come from the Conservative side. I have a great deal of sympathy with the poor tithepayers; but I wish that the Government could have found a plan of relieving them in some other and better way, as, for instance, by a different manner of calculating the corn averages. It seems to me that the last speaker did not make a sufficient difference between the proposal of the Government and that of the hon. Member for Maldon. It is said that Schedule B is Schedule A plus the tithe, and the proposition of the Government is that when the tithe exceeds two-thirds of that sum then remission is to be given; but the hon. Member for Maldon says that whenever the tithe equals or exceeds Schedule A then the remission is to be given. So I understand the proposition. It is perfectly clear there is a great difference between the two proposals, and, as the lesser of the two evils, I shall support the plan of the Government. There are, I am sure, few cases where the remission will be necessary, and their number may be easily ascertained. There is not sufficient ground shown for the interference with the rights of property, and I regret the Government should have introduced the proposal.

(10.0.) MR. T. H. BOLTON

In my opinion, we Radical Members are bound to vote against this Amendment, and we shall stultify ourselves if we do not. We have been contending throughout these discussions that tithe is the property of the nation, and that, with due regard for existing interests, it ought to be applied to public purposes. A proposal has been made by the Government for alleviating the pressure of tithe in certain hard cases, and we did not object; but now there is a further proposal which means, if it means anything, an unnecessary whittling down of the public property. The landowner is in a fortunate position in respect of tithe. If tithe were an ordinary rent-charge, and it were not paid, the land would be sold to provide for it. In regard to tithe the land cannot be sold, and distress can only be levied on the produce of the land. Now, when the landowner is in difficulties he comes and asks for abatement and consideration. There is a disposition to grant an abatement to a certain extent, and he ought not to look a gift-horse in the mouth. After all, the proposed remission is nothing more or less than a concession. We are providing machinery by which the rent-charge shall be recovered from the landlord, and to propose to reduce the charge further than is suggested out of generosity by the Government is to take unjustifiable advantage of the desire to treat the landlords leniently. We have got to face in the future the large question of tithe redemption—the sale of the tithe to the landlords—and we must bear that in mind when we are asked to make concessions. It has been well said by previous speakers that no such cases of absolute hardship have been made out as to justify any concession beyond that proposed by the Government; and it seems to me that we should display an amount of generosity that would be unjust to the public at large if we acceded to the Amendment. I differ from gentlemen opposite who say that the tithe is the sacred property of the Church, and ought not to be touched. It is public property, and has been declared over and over again to be public property. If you go back to distant times you will find that tithe was largely applied to other than Church purposes. The poor had a large interest in it, and it was devoted to other secular purposes. I shall support the Government on this point, and I trust that my Radical friends on this side will not allow any desire they may have to punish the Government in the forthcoming Division to induce them to desert the principles they have so frequently expressed.

(10.5.) MR. BEADEL (Essex, Chelmsford)

I am not disposed to admit that tithe differs from any other kind of property. I should be very much indisposed to take land or Consols or any other property from individuals on the assumption that they were national and we have no more right, in my opinion, to attack tithe than we have to attack any other description of property. I was much struck by the observations made by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton). Certainly, as far as I can form an opinion, the hon. Member never used a spade, even in his younger days at play on the seashore, and never possessed an acre of land in his life, or he would not have made some of the observations he did. Those who are acquainted with agricultural land know what sufferings landowners have undergone, and what efforts they have made to keep tenants on their estates. I admit they have done so from a selfish point of view, knowing that if they let the land go out of cultivation they lose more than their rents; but the effect of their action has been that the largest amount of labour has been employed on the land, and the greatest amount of good has been done to the community at large. I know Members opposite glory in thinking that the landed interest has been reduced to such a low ebb. [Opposition cries of "No!"] I have heard many of them say they rejoiced to see it, and that rent ought to be the very last consideration. I have heard the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) say that rent was simply the surplus. ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] Hon. Members cheer that. Then they agree with him that the landlord is not worth any consideration, and that the great object should be to take that which he had hitherto possessed and give it to someone else. I am not prepared to approve of such a view. If I may do so, I would ask the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray) not to press his Amendment to a Division. I feel as strongly as anybody the difficulties in which the small farmers are placed with regard to tithe. I know that the result of the free importation of corn in Essex and other counties has, in many instances, been to put wheat-lands out of cultivation altogether. I could quote a case of a farm which used to let at £300 a year, and now cannot be let at all. Such instances could be multiplied over and over again. I do not approve of the Tithe Bill, and wish the Government had never brought it, in; but, still, I think it my duty as a loyal supporter of the Government to vote against this Amendment, because I believe they must sooner or later be convinced that it is of no use to trifle with this question of the land, and that they must bring forward some measure with the object of putting the farmer in a better position. Before I sit down I would appeal to the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. H. Gardner) on this question. Nobody knows better than he does the position of many of the tenant farmers in his Division, and I think he will shake in his shoes when he comes to meet them face to face.


I think it is high time, after the speech we have just heard, that some one should make clear the attitude of the Welsh Members on this question. The form, Sir, in which you will put the Question will be "That two-thirds stand part of the Clause." On that Question we intend to vote "No" with the hon. Member for Maldon. Judging from the aspect of the House, I cannot help thinking that we shall be successful. If we are it will then be open to us, holding as we do with my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bolton) that tithes are a national asset, to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Carnarvon Burghs, or the hon. Member for Merthyr, against the whole clause. Before I sit down, I would express a hope that we may get some words of light and leading from the Treasury Bench on this question. It looks to me very much as though there is a conspiracy of silence in that quarter of the House.

(10.14.) MR. H. GARDNER

An appeal was made to me just now by an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Beadel), who said I should shake in my shoes when I met the farmers of my Division. I can assure the hon. Member I stand firm on my feet with regard to these farmers, and that I shall stand still firmer when I have voted for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon. Every impartial person who has listened to the Debate, when he considers the technical nature of the subject, and the diverse opinions which have been uttered, though he will be somewhat confused, will come to the conclusion that the Amendment of the Government is universally condemned. The Amendment especially interests hon. Members who come from agricultural parts of the country—and I particularly notice that hon. Members on this side who have opposed the Amendment do not represent any county constituency; if they did, I fancy they would take a wider view of the subject. The hon. Member for Leicester talks about tithe being national property. Well, I do not yield to anyone in my advocacy of that principle, and in contending that it is in the power of the nation to, allocate it to any other purpose when it chooses. I shall, therefore, on this, as on all other occasions, do my utmost to prevent the tithe from falling away from the nation altogether. But I would point out that there is such a thing as agricultural distress. I am aware that the noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division has re-assured the House as to the condition of agriculture—that is to say, he re-assured himself; but I doubt if he re-assured the hon. Member for the Maldon Division, or the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture. I should like to hear something on the subject from a higher authority than the noble Lord. We assented with pleasure to the creation of a Board of Agriculture, and I do think that on a subject like this, which so nearly touches the interests of the agricultural constituencies, we ought to hear what is the opinion of the President of that Board. Hon. Members who look forward to the creation of a peasant proprietary in this country should not overlook the possible effect of an increase in the number of cultivators upon the continuance of tithes and the probability of their being abolished altogether, as they have been in other countries. For my part, I agree with a good many hon. Members who have spoken this evening in condemning the clause of the Government altogether, and I do so for the reason that it stereotypes tithe, and pledges us, as it were, to the admission that two-thirds of the annual value is legitimate tithe. I speak for the farmers of Essex, when I say we do not admit that two-thirds of the annual value is fair tithe. It has been said, over and over again, that tithe should not be one-fifth the annual value. The Government, however, ask that we, as a Legislative Body, should agree with them, and put it on record that we who represent agricultural interests consider that two-thirds of the annual value is legitimate tithe. With that proposition I entirely take issue. The cases which will be affected by the proposal are few in number. An hon. Member mentioned 100 as being the probable number that would be affected, and I agree with that estimate. I believe that if you adopt two-thirds of the annual value as your criterion, you are leaving out a large number of cases of hardship which should be attended to. And I do not agree with your taking the Income Tax assessment as a standard at all. I should think it a much wiser course to have some Court of Appeal, as the Attorney General suggested in 1888, when he proposed that the County Court should have the power to consider what charge land would bear without being put out of cultivation. To adopt the Income Tax assessment would be to prejudicially affect many thousands of yeomen farmers who have made no profit during last year. In Kent alone, the number of small cultivators cultivating their own property is very great, and these persons, I am sure, are a class which we all wish to maintain in its present position. In the case of these persons, when they can prove to the satisfaction of the Income Tax Commissioners that they have made no profit from cultivating their farms during the year their Income Tax is remitted, but you still take that assessment in carrying out this clause and estimating what tithe should be paid. I ask the Government what they propose to do to remedy what appears to me to be a flaw in their proposal for dealing with the small yeomen who cultivate their own land; and I trust that before the Debate closes we may have some statement on the point from the President of the Board of Trade or the President of the Board of Agriculture. I said I was opposed to the clause altogether, and I see that I am in good company in that matter, for I find that gentlemen on both sides of the House condemn it in every way. A colleague of mine opposite referred to a meeting which had taken place in Essex—a county in which, as everyone knows, this tithe question is of pressing importance. It is in that county where there is so much derelict land—and if anyone who doubts the fact of land being over-burdened with tithe will do me the honour of giving me an hour or two in conversation, I will give him any number of instances to prove the truth of my case. Well, the Chamber of Agriculture of that county have passed a resolution absolutely condemning the proposition of the Government. That was on the side of the; tithepayer, but how about the tithe owner? I find that the clergy have held a stormy meeting, in which this 3rd clause of the Bill was strongly condemned, one reverend gentleman describing it as iniquitous, and declaring that, "It would fan the fire of tithe agitation in Wales, and help to kindle it in England." I have not the slightest doubt that that gentleman was a strong supporter of Her Majesty's Government. I think we may take it, therefore, that this clause of the Government has been condemned on all sides alike, whether by tithepayer or tithe owner. Under these circumstances, I shall certainly vote with the hon. Gentleman opposite, though I will not for a moment admit that the road he takes is absolutely the true one. He may be right in some cases, but he is wrong in others; and, altogether, this shows the slipshod method in which the Government have dealt with a very difficult question, and how much wiser it would have been to have adopted the course suggested by their own Attorney General in 1888.


In the remarks in which the hon. Member for Maldon introduced this proposal he made considerable reference to the position of the yeoman freeholder, and appealed to the Government in his interest. On the other hand, we have been appealed to on behalf of the poor clergyman and the tithe owner, and, for my part, wishing to decide the matter without regard to sentiment, I believe that the clause strikes a middle course, and does justice, us far as possible, between tithe owner and tithepayer. I have listened carefully to the Debate, and have considered many communications that have reached me from all quarters of the country, and I believe that the Government propose to do what is just as between both parties. One evidence of that is that the extreme advocates on either side do not agree with the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), in the very amusing observations he made at an earlier part of the evening, said that this was no Party question, and I think he was quite right. He went on to how that, being no Party question, it was one on which he was able to give an unbiased judgment. In giving that judgment, he first declared that both the proposal of the Government and that of the hon. Member for Essex were robbery of the Church; but later on he an- nounced himself as a greater robber of the Church than we were, and justified himself on the ground, which appears to be a perfectly adequate ground for the proposal in the clause, that he is in favour of preserving the corpus of the tithe, while making the necessary revision in case of hardship. That is a very sound opinion; but what then becomes of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman as to robbery of the Church? The Government have endeavoured to carry out what appeared to be the general desire of the House of Commons, namely, that the tithe rent-charge should not exceed the net profits derived from titheable lands by the landowner. Adopting that principle, we have had very considerable difficulty in making such proposals to the House as would carry it into effect. In the present Bill we propose that the gross assessment under Schedule B of the Income Tax shall be the basis of the calculation of what the net profits of titheable land are. Some hon. Members object to such a proposal as giving too much to the landowner. But it must be remembered that the assessment under Schedule B is a gross assessment, and if we are considering the net profits of the landowner it would be obviously unfair to take the gross assessment as the criterion of that matter. Therefore, the Government propose to deduct 33 per cent, from the gross assessment as a rough estimate of the cost of repairs and management of the estate. It is obviously to the interest of the tithe owner himself, as well as of the landlord, that the tithe should not exceed this point, because if the landlord be not able to keep his land and the buildings on it in such a condition as to hold the land in cultivation, the tithe owner would be in a very awkward position. He might lose very much more in such cases than he would do under the provisions of the Bill; in some cases he might lose even the whole of the tithe rent-charge. Several hon. Members have argued that the deduction which the Government propose is not enough; but I have heard nothing to convince me that the proposal does not do enough for the end which the Government have in view. If hon. Members wish to take the gross rent of the land, and make a division of it between the tithe owner and the landowner, then there would be reason for the more far-reaching proposal of my hon. Friend. But that would be an extremely dangerous principle for my hon. Friend to adopt. It would certainly lead to such a proposal as that placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for Northampton for a division of the rent between the landlord and the tenant. I do not desire, I am bound to say, to give the slightest justification in anything we may propose to the House for a measure of that kind. The hon. Member for Kent, in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Essex, said that he did so with some idea of compensating the tithe owners to some extent from public funds for the tithe rent-charge which they would lose. I hope no hon. Member who votes for the Amendment will endeavour to salve his conscience with that idea. It would be utterly impossible to make successfully a proposal to the House of Commons which would involve charging the taxpayers with payment for the losses of the tithe owners. I hope the Committee will adhere to the proposal made by the Government. I would venture also to point out to hon. Members behind me that if they are successful in defeating the Government's proposal they will do so with the aid of votes which will be turned against them in the next Division. I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon that half a loaf is better than no bread.

(10.37.) SIR W. HARCOURT

I think that the last sentences of the right hon. Gentleman are an admirable commentary on his statement that the question is not a Party question. A more distinct Party appeal to settle a question, which he said was not a Party one, I think I never heard in this House. The right hon. Gentleman has put forward a singular claim for the merits of his proposal. It is that, inasmuch as everybody has disapproved of the proposal, it must be a good one.


I said the extreme advocates on either side.


In that case every hon. Member who has spoken this evening from either side of the House is an extreme advocate. The right hon. Gentleman accused me of having formerly taken a different view as to the diminution of the tithe. But in the proposal of 1889, which I supported, the net profits from the land were to be assessed by the County Court Judge. Does anybody pretend that that proposal would not have done much more good than the present one? How many hundreds and thousands of people would have gone before the County Court Judges to prove that there were no net profits whatever on their farms, and the tithes would then have gone by the board? I very much regret that we have not had the views of the President of the Board of Agriculture. He represents that great interest in every sense of the word, yet upon this proposal he has not had a word to say. Why, he might have risen and with his eloquence tamed the rebellious spirit of his supporters. He might have enchanted them, like Orpheus with his lyre. I appealed to him, for he was here until very lately; but now that the time has come to defend the policy of the Government, exit the Minister. I am very often convinced by the speeches of the President of the Board of Trade, but I am not upon this point. He tells us that this figure of two-thirds which he has hit upon is exactly so much of an allowance as will enable the landlords of England to keep the land in cultivation, and from that point of view it will be of benefit to the tithe owner. That is the only justification which has been offered for this proposal. Will it do what is expected? Everybody knows it will do nothing of the kind. My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, in his very clear statement, has given us some figures which show that in the cases of hardship he has adduced in regard to certain farms which he has taken as models of injustice the tithe greatly exceeds the rent, and that in those cases the proposals of the Government make no reduction in the tithes at all. Everybody knows that this must be so in a great number of cases. What, then, becomes of the "live and let live" principle on which the Government propose to come between the tithe owners and the tithe-payers? The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me if, in selecting between the two robbers—or, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman behind me who supports the proposal would rather I should say the two confiscators—I prefer the confiscator who does some good to the one who does none; and if the principle maintained by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade be a good principle—that is to say, if it be a principle that will allow the land to be kept in cultivation, I think the proposal of the hon. Member for Maldon is a better one than that of the right hon. Gentleman, because it will at least do something towards contributing to the end which the right hon. Gentleman says he has in view. I do not wish to delay the Committee longer. So far we have had a very interesting Debate, and we have now to vote on the question whether we approve the proposal of the Government. When we have expressed our disapproval of that proposal we have a large choice of the courses we ought to take. In fact, I never knew so large a choice offered to the House. We have every kind of proposal before us. The hon. Member for Leicester does not propose to cut down the tithe at all, and he would vote against the Government, and probably will vote against the hon. Member for Maldon. In this way we have all kinds of permutations and combinations to choose from. This is the result of the Government breaking down a principle. The Government have the landowners behind them, and when they do get the landowners in that position they feel that they are bound to give "a sop to Cerberus" of some kind or other. But the sop they have thrown has not put Cerberus to sleep, and that is the only object of the sop. This is a great question— in fact, I may almost say there is no larger question than the tithe question. Her Majesty's Government have endeavoured year after year to deal with it, and they have done so by wretched expedients, propounded one after the other, and all inconsistent with each other; and now, having broken down the principle of the Act of 1836, and determined to take a little slice off the tithe for the benefit of the gentlemen with whom they act, they propose to take off a slice which, as far as we can see, is not big enough. But we are not responsible for this, and I will conclude by saying that in the Division which is about to take place I, for my part, shall vote against the proposal of the Government.

(10.49) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

My hon. Friend has asked why the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture is not here, and why he has not made a speech on this subject. Well, Sir, I can explain why the Minister for Agriculture is not here. He is one of the extreme men who were denounced just now by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. Probably the Minister for Agriculture goes even further than the hon. Member for Maldon, and would have a larger slice of the cake if possible; therefore, he does not like to speak against the hon. Member for Maldon, and I shall look with the greatest interest to see whether he gives a silent vote against him. Last year I put an Amendment to the Estimates on the Paper to reduce the salary of the right hon. Gentleman; but I did not happen to be in the House when the Vote for the salary of the right hon. Gentleman came on, and so he got his salary. But certainly if when a question like this is being discussed the right hon. Gentleman does not favour the House with his opinion, nor give it his advice, I consider that we ought not to pay him £2,000 a year in order that he may be at liberty to slink out of the House when his assistance is needed, or to give a silent vote. Really, Mr. Courtney, I thank my Maker—[Laughter]—well, I have a Maker—I say I do thank my Maker we have at least a Septennial Act, and, therefore, that this Parliament will come to an end at some time. But I believe, when I consider the divers blundering proposals that are here submitted, that if this Parliament were to go on to the extent of the Long Parliament we should not have a shirt on our backs, because we should give everything to the country gentlemen and those who support Her Majesty's Government. I confess I have lot got up in defence of the Church of England; indeed, I should like myself to take away every farthing at present owned by the Church, because I regard it as national property; but I cannot help smiling when I observe the friends of the Church and the friends of the landlords falling out about the plunder. They plunder the public as long as they can, but now they find that an election is not far off, and that it is dangerous to attempt to plunder the public any longer, they try to plunder each other. We are told when any raid is committed in Africa it is to put an end to slavery, and when any proposal is made to benefit the landowners the yeomanry of England are trotted out. We are, therefore, told that this is to benefit the yeomanry; but, if so, why does not the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade tell as he will limit his proposal to the occupying owner? If he did that there would be some point in it; but that is not the object of Her Majesty's Government. What they want to do is to benefit the landlords of the country; it is as clear as possible. He tells us that the land will be thrown out of cultivation, and that it is thrown out of cultivation on account of the tithe, and that when the rent does not amount to one-third of the amount of the tithe the tithe is to be taken—out of whose pocket? The tenants'? Not a bit of it. It is taken to fill the landlord's pocket. Take the case of a £50 farm, let to myself, and say the tithe comes to £40. The right hon. Gentleman says that a portion of the tithe shall be taken from the tithe owner; but when he finds that his ancestors bought this estate, he finds also that they bought it in order to have a second charge on the land, and not the first charge. The first charge must be the tithe, and belongs to the country. A great deal has been taken away from that first charge already. It was much higher at one time, but has been reduced by landlords' Parliaments. To tell me that because a middleman who stands between the owner of the estate and the tenant of the land has not enough they ought to reduce the first charge is merely to say that they ought to reduce the interest on the mortgages on their property whenever they have not sufficient margin to keep themselves after paying the mortgage. Now, why do I oppose this proposal? It is not, as I have said, in the interest of the Church quoad Church, but because this property belongs to us. We look forward to the time when we shall have a majority in this House, and shall be able to lay hold of the whole of these tithes. We consider they belong to the public, and we object to any part of our property being reduced, because it goes into bad hands at the present moment. For my part, I intend to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon. What is that proposal? It is that the words "two-thirds" be left out. When that vote is carried, if it be carried, and someone proposes other words be put in, I am not sure that I shall vote for them. In fact, I should prefer to leave the sentence as it then would be, namely, nonsense. To the end I shall vote against the clause entirely. That is the view which I think ought to be taken by every intelligent Radical who is utterly opposed to the Bill, utterly opposed to the proposal of the Government, and utterly opposed to the proposal of the hon. Member for Maldon.

(10.57.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I mean to support Her Majesty's Government on this question. I think the hon. Member for St. Pancras took a very practical view of the matter. I believe that if we defeat the Government the result will be to set up the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon, and it is because I strongly object to that that I support the Government, whose proposal is not in itself an unreasonable one. The bargain of 1836 was a very favourable one for the landlords, as under it they obtained a settlement of the question whereby the tithe has not only decreased, but decreased in the sense they desired in 1836. There are certain exceptional cases in which the tithe falls extremely heavily; and I think the President of the Board of Trade has put forward a reasonable proposition when he says it has reached a point which renders it impossible to cultivate the land. I regard the proposal of two-thirds as a reasonable one, and on that ground intend to support the Government.

(10.59.) MR. C. W. GRAY

I congratulate myself on the course taken by this Debate, because although it has been upon one of those questions which are very likely to cause some warmth of feeling, I think everyone will agree that it has been discussed without a shadow of ill-feeling. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, in his concluding remarks, asked me to accept the proposition of the Government rather than the means aimed at in my own Amendment, and he suggested that if I succeeded in carrying the Amendment the votes which helped me then might be turned against me in the next Division. I am not to be frightened by a bug-bear of that sort. I choose to answer that request in the words which the right hon. Gentleman himself used the other night—words that bid fair to become famous. Parliamentarily speaking—"I mean business." I intend going to a Division upon this Amendment. At an early stage this Debate was thrown into confusion by the varying meanings attached by different speakers to the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby declared it to be an endeavour to deprive the tithe owner of one-half of his property, while the Government propose to deprive him of two-thirds. I hope that no one, be he champion of the tithe owner or of national property, like my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, will for one moment think I am proposing to take away one-half of the tithe owner's property. I did not think it necessary to enter into any lengthy explanation of the Amendment, because I thought it was generally understood that what I meant was that the tithe owner's income out of the land should not exceed that of the landlord. The Government proposal allows it to be double—a proportion which, I think, is very excessive. Take the case of a farm the tithe on which is 5s. per acre, and the beneficial rent to the landlord 2s. 6d., any one would ask, will that be affected by the Government proposal or by my Amendment? I answer emphatically "No;" neither proposition would touch that. Although the rent of a farm may have been 30s., and has sunk down to 2s. 6d., while the tithe remains at 5s., it is not proposed to give any relief in that case. My proposal is simply this: In a case where the rent is below 2s. 6d. and the tithe is 5s. I propose that the two sums shall be put together and divided, so that the tithe owner shall not take a larger share than the landlord. I am not proposing to touch the corpus of the tithe, and I hope the hon. Member for Leicester will bear that in mind. We only touch the question in these extreme cases, and for the year only, as directly the annual value of the farm rises the original arrangement is reverted to. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade alluded to what he thought was in my mind when I put my Amendment on the Paper. But he did not accurately describe what was in my mind, because I do not desire it to be believed for one moment that I thought this was a good way of meeting the extreme cases. I am not at all fond of Clause 3; I hardly know whether it is possible to point to an hon. Member who is in favour of it. But from the very first time this vexed question was talked about I was led on to hope that there would be in the Bill some point at which I could argue in favour of relief in these extreme cases. I hold that the principle of relief should have been very much wider. If my Amendment is passed there will be thousands of cases of excessive hardship left, and these will not be nearly touched by it. But I, as it were, made a bargain with the Government that if they put in a clause of this sort I would not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. This promise I made in the course of the Second Reading Debate. I do not like the way in which the relief is proposed to be given, but I must put up with it. The hon. Member for Leicester opposite has approached this question from a national point of view. He declares that tithes are national property. I do not dispute that a great deal of tithe rent-charge was years ago given by generous donors to the Church; but I would call attention to one fact—that there is a great deal of land in England to which this Amendment will apply—land which has been reclaimed, and which has only been subjected to tithe by legislation. I am told by good authority that in the Fen districts of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and Norfolk, there is something like 1,000,000 acres of land which have been brought into cultivation in this way, and on which tithe has been imposed by Parliament. My Amendment would apply to cases like these, and certainly it cannot be said that in such cases we are disturbing any gifts made by original donors. I regret very much indeed that I cannot accept the request made by my hon. Colleague the Member for Mid Essex, that I should withdraw my Amendment. I know perfectly well, were I to do so, that I should be falling back from the position I have taken up in the County of Essex on this question over and over again. I may be right, or I may be wrong; but I am determined, so long as I have the honour of representing an agricultural division, to try and represent honestly the interests of a large class of farmers in the Eastern Counties, who are affected by this question. If I lose the Amendment through the action of the hon. Members for Leicester and Northampton, all I can say is that I should advise those hon. Members when the General Election comes round not to devote their talents to try to persuade the voters in the Eastern Counties that they have adopted the right policy.


The Committee have heard a good deal as to in whom the property of the tithe is vested. Some hon. Members say it is Church property; others claim that it is national property. But to whom so ever it belongs no reason exists why there should be an unfair or unjust application of the money. Remember that the landed proprietor does not want this Bill at all, and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester does not desire any dishonest application of the tithe. The tithe owner will benefit because he will get his tithe collected free instead of having to pay, as he has done in the past, 5 or 6 per cent.; but the landlord will have the burden transferred to his shoulders, and he will have to pay this percentage for collection from his tenants where they are under agreement to pay the tithe. Now, my opinion is that originally one-third of the tithe was devoted to educational purposes, one-third to the support of the poor, and the remaining third to the Church; but during the last 54 years all had gone to the Church.


Order, order! I do not observe that the hon. Member has approached the Amendment.


I am happy to be able to support the Amendment. I think it most undesirable that land in Essex or anywhere else should be thrown out of cultivation. We have seen the evils of derelict farms in Ireland. I hope that before the Division is taken the President of the Board of Trade will send for his Colleague the Minister for Agriculture, as the Committee is entitled to an expression of opinion from him.

(11.19.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 178; Noes 124.—(Div. List, No. 23.)

(11.32.) MR. S. T. EVANS

I beg to move to leave out from "and" in line 9, to "mentioned," in line 11, and insert "an Assessment Committee appointed by the County Council of the county in which the lands are situate." The Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who are the tribunal to whom the Government have entrusted assessment for the purpose of this first sub-section, belong to one class. I find, from a book which is an authority on the Income Tax Acts, that the Commissioners are taken from the Land Tax Commissioners, and that such Commissioners are persons who act as Justices of the Peace. So far as the Principality of Wales is concerned the County Justices are not a satisfactory tribunal for assessing the value of land where the landlord class, to which they belong, have a direct interest. The object of the Government is to make an abatement in favour of the landlords, and we think an authority like the County Council would be better able to decide the points in dispute, and the County Councils in the Principality will probably in a short time be the owners of the tithes. Notwithstanding the importance of the Amendment, I will not further detain the Committee at this late hour.

Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 9, to leave out from the word "ascertained," to the word "the," in line 11, and insert the words— By an Assessment Committee appointed by the County Council of the county in which the lands are situate."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)

Question proposed, "That the words 'and entered in the assessment for the purpose of Schedule' stand part of the, Clause."


It is well we should bear in mind that the County Council, or the County Rate Committee as it at present exists, never has been in the habit of dealing with such matters as are contemplated in the sub-section. It is very probable, too, that the Members of such a Committee as the hon. Member suggests would not have sufficient local knowledge of the value of the particular land which is required to enable them to make a fair assessment. There is another fact which should not be forgotten, and that is that the Commissioners of Income Tax are largely guided in their decisions by the Surveyor of Taxes, who certainly is entirely independent of any influence of the County Justices. I trust that, under the circumstances, the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.


I cannot give a silent vote in favour of the Amendment. I feel that any tribunal that is to determine anything in connection with this exceptional legislation should command the confidence of the country. I thoroughly endorse the observations made by my hon. Friend (Mr. S. T. Evans), that however estimable the County Justices may be, personally they will not command the confidence of people in making any assessment in matters in which they are themselves directly interested. Whether rightly or wrongly, the spirit of the times has been rather to take away from the jurisdiction of the County Justices, therefore I extremely regret that the Government should think it right to place in the hands of the Justices so important a duty as determining the valuation of the land. The difficulties which the President of the Board of Trade sees are only difficulties in detail. I venture to think the collective wisdom of the House would be equal to the task of so arranging the details necessary to carry out the hon. Member's Amendment.


I hope the Government will seriously consider the suggestion of my hon. Friend. You are about to place the landowner and the tithe owner in a very awkward position, for in every county you are going to give a Committee of Landowners the absolute discretion to consider and decide, without appeal, whether they will or will not whittle away the tithe. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the relations between the clergy and the squire will become extremely awkward unless you set up some better tribunal for the consideration of this very delicate and important question of the assessment of the land.

(11.38.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS

I demur to the suggestion that the Assessment Committee proposed by my right hon. Friend have not the local knowledge which is possessed by the Justices of the Peace. I believe an Assessment Committee appointed by the County Council would have a great deal more knowledge than the County Justices. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the County Justices are largely led by the surveyors. They are so led because they have not the local knowledge which the surveyors have. On the other hand, the County Councillors come from all parts of the county, and are elected by men who know the value of the land of the county.

(11.39.) MR. S. T. EVANS

On the question of local knowledge allow me to point out that in their Bill of last year, the Government suggested that the County Court Judge, who has no local knowledge of any kind should fix the value of the land.


The tribunal fixed by the Bill of last year was the Assessment Committee of the Union.


Then it was the Bill of the previous year. There have been so many Bills that I really forget in which the County Court Judge was constituted the tribunal. I maintain there will be found no difficulty in the appointment of an Assessment Committee as suggested in the Amendment. The County Councils now assess the counties for the purpose of the County Rate. If they are competent to frame assessments for rating purposes, surely they are competent to appoint a small Committee of their number with local knowledge, in whom the people who have elected them will have confidence, and who will form a very much better tribunal than the Government are setting up.


What is the practical effect of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? He proposes that these Assessment Commissioners should consist of gentlemen holding good positions in the county, men who are appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, or by the Executive. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are only consistent in one thing, and that is their hatred of every species of representative Government. My hon. Friend proposes that the County Council should appoint this Assessment Committee. The County Council stands between the squire and parson. It is independent. It is elected by the people of the county. Of course a Committee appointed by the Council commands the respect of the county. But would a Committee consisting of Magistrates command respect? I know there are many like me, and I have not the slightest respect for any Magistrate in the country. [Cries of "Oh, oh !"] I mean the Great Unpaid of the country. I have no respect for them. I have no respect for their decisions, and I think it a monstrous thing that they should sit on the Bench as Magistrates. That view is shared by the majority of the inhabitants of the country, and yet the Government actually come forward and propose that this Committee should consist of these Magistrates plus a number of persons appointed by themselves. This is the Government who passed a County Government Bill. They talked about giving Local Government to the country, and they go swaggering about and saying how honoured the country ought to be by having such a great Ministry. [Laughter.] Oh, they have said so, and you have said so. People can say anything—the question is, who believes them? Self praise is no recommendation. We see what this best and noblest of Governments do in regard to representative government. They absolutely refuse to make use of the very County Councils they brought into being. They prefer to use the County Magistrates and nominees of themselves in a matter which essentially concerns the county. There is only one reason why I hesitate for a moment to vote with my hon. Friend and that is that I shall have to vote against the Government. The tribunal under the Bill is to consist of country gentlemen, and I am satisfied that their decisions will sow discord between the squire and the parson in every parish. I should like to sow discord between the squire and the parson. ["Oh, oh !"] Yes, and then I think the poor labourers and others would get their rights. The reason why I am not influenced by these considerations to vote in favour of the Government and against my hon. Friend, is that I want, as far as I can, to preserve intact the rights of the people in these particular tithes. I believe there would be the grossest jobbery on the part of these country gentlemen. Everyone looks after his own interests in the world, and I do hope my hon. Friend will go to a Division in order that we may discover who are for and who are against representative Government.

(11.52.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 162; Noes 94.—(Div. List, No. 24.)

It being after midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make a Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.